This was our 28th cruise, our second on Princess. We primarily sail in order to cross oceans and we chose this repositioning cruise to arrive in LeHavre before a long stay in Paris. Unfortunately Princess delivered us to the UK, not where we wanted to be. More on that later, but first the cruise itself.
What we Liked:
Embarkation and Ports Management: Embarking was as smooth as silk, just a few minutes from our drop-off dockside to our cabin. At each port, we were able to disembark and rejoin the ship with a minimum of delay.
Our Stateroom: A101, a suite. Comfy.
Ship Maintenance: In excellent condition.
Information on Ports: The port lectures on TV and the hand-outs were good enough to get us started.
Piano Bar: Perry's show in Crooners was great fun, an insane mash-up between a parody of cruise ship performance versus standard piano bar singalongs.
What We Didn't Like: Well, unfortunately a lot.
Crowded Conditions: At one point Princess was selling this crossing at $79/pp/pd, so the ship was full. When it was too cool to be on deck, everyone jammed into the atrium area and with all the noisy activities, it was a mess. It was impossible to find a peaceful place for a drink day and night. We gave up going to the shows since there were never any seats and people would arrive an hour before show time just to get a spot. We hid in our stateroom.
Entertainment & Enrichment: Other than Perry, the performers were standard cruise ship fare, nothing very interesting. One lecture per day, all on the theme of war on the sea. Boring.
Fitness Center: I go to the gym everyday and use the stationary bike, but there were only 3 bikes and all were constantly used. Compare that to 24 treadmills, more than half empty. Has anyone surveyed equipment usage and made adjustments? Doubtful.
Food: The buffet was very down-market, just a tad above a high school cafeteria with indifferent service, tables not cleared and cleaned, had to beg for utensils. Hamburgers and pizza at the Trident were cheap and gross, really bad fast food. On our previous Princess crossing we found the food in the Main Dining Room to be acceptable, sometimes surprisingly good. This time downhill with some inedible dishes like unrecognizable Pad Thai, and French fries that were consistently uncooked. We had to push too many dishes away.
Service: Sometimes just fine, sometimes indifferent, sometimes smarmy (kowtowing mistaken for good service, while mixing up orders in the dining room), and sometimes non-existent, such as at MUTS where servers hung out at the bar chatting with each other instead of circulating to sell drinks. What?
WORST OF ALL, DISEMBARKATION: We had bought tickets to travel from Ft. Lauderdale to LeHavre. We had arranged for a car and driver to meet us in LeHavre to drive us to the apartment we had rented in Paris. At 9:30 PM on the night before scheduled disembarkation, the Captain made a brief announcement that due to bad weather we would not dock in LeHavre and would instead continue on to Southampton in the UK. Shortly thereafter we received a letter delivered to our cabin that stated that since we had arranged independent travel from LeHavre, the only assistance Princess would provide would be 30 minutes of internet time, a series of codes to make calls from our stateroom, and a shuttle bus to Heathrow Airport. We needed to scramble to find a way to get to Paris from Heathrow or Southampton. The internet didn't work (it hardly ever did since Carnival Corp. has not invested in an adequate satellite connection), and we could not get the phone codes to work. The Concierge was off duty, and the Passenger Service desk was a horrible chaos of people shouting and cursing. The staff told me I was on my own. I pleaded for help and finally i was provided a house phone in the midst of the noise and chaos in the lobby, was able to call British Air and bought tickets to fly to Paris. We did make it to Paris and did get our costs reimbursed through an insurance claim. However Princess offered us no help, no apology, no emails thanking us for our business. Nothing. My impression is that they don't care about us or our patronage. I can take a hint.; I'm not stupid.
So this was not a good crossing. Too many things tacky, down market, and just plain wrong. And the ending was horribly stressful. We did not "Come Back New." We arrived stressed out and angry. No more Princess for us. Too bad.
Large one-bedroom suite. We were very comfortable with all of the space including a nice balcony protected from the wind. We were worried about too much motion and noise at the front of the ship, but it was not bad. The space was not well-designed and much of it was wasted. The suite should be completely changed around and there would be enough square footage for a table and chairs in a real living room. There was a lot of storage space.