Emerald Princess Cruise Review by TerpFan*in*SC
- Sail Date: August 2018
- Destination: Alaska
There was a "special group" of 200+ passengers on our cruise and Princess was obviously specifically catering to them. You would have thought the other 2900 of us on board were bottom dwellers they way we were treated by Princess crew members. It quickly became the topic of conversation in elevators, on shore trips, in lines at the dining room (even at 6:30 a.m. on the day of departure) and elsewhere throughout the duration of our cruise. While it seems Princess took great strides to over-accommodate this special group,they offended a large portion of their other passengers.
One cafe was closed off to everyone but this group, however members of this group had free reign throughout the ship. They didn't have to wait in lines, they didn't have to search for seating, as all of this was reserved, and they had their own menu that was not available to other guests. However, the cafe that was available to those of us not in this group had a large section of food devoted to that special group, every day, every meal. This left a very meager and limited selection of food items for the rest of us. When I say that the food selection in the cafes was meager, I am not exaggerating. Salad bar items were typically iceberg lettuce, spring mix, and shredded carrots. Once I saw cherry tomatoes and a couple of times were was a slice or two of cucumber available. Fruit consisted of watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe and honeydew, as well as canned fruits. There was an ample selection of breads and rolls, but the remaining selections were minimal and did not taste very good. For example, their bacon is inedible - it tastes like it has been soaked in liquid smoke. Also, they continuously serve corn on the cob which is nothing more than a mushy mess. Even the cobs were mushy - just gross! Princess should consider checking out their competition and/or hiring an American chef who understands the need for more variety in the food items offered at the cafes: cole slaw, chips, sloppy Joes, sushi, finger goods, nachos, are just a few suggestions.
If you love a certain kind of ethnic food morning, noon and night, you would have been well served on this cruise. In my experience, it is a type of food that many of the people who actually do like it, will only eat on occasion. Needless to say, the lines at the hamburger and pizza stands were very, very long.
Most of the food in the dining room was good and the service was great. One total miss was the Baja fish taco, which was clearly not made by someone with culinary skill. Food trucks have better tacos.
Back to the original point of contention, an overwhelming majority of the ship's passengers were relegated to one cafe while the small group had exclusive access to the other. But, they did not exclusively use that area, further impeding up the limited selection granted to the rest of us. Not to mention, those of us not in the group often had to wait in line outside of the dining room until all of the group members arrived. They were seated and served first.
The explanations given by Princess staff members were inconsistent to say the least. I was told that area was reserved for vegetarians. I said, "Great! I'd love to have a vegetarian selection!" Then I was literally blocked and told I could not enter. I overheard a staff member tell another gentleman that this area was reserved for special people. He turned to me and said, "I guess we're not considered special." Another person was told that the area was restricted because this group did not eat root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc.). A supervisor told another passenger that this group could not eat what those outside the group were eating, due to religious affiliation. I could understand that if it were true, but the members of this group were constantly in the other areas taking the same food items that non-group members were eating. Whatever the reason was, I really don't care. The bottom line is that many, many of us "non-special" passengers were inconvenienced and offended and the staff didn't care at all. Quite honestly, they only have to put up with us for a week, so why would they care? Of course, on Saturday night, hours before departure, the staff and crew became very helpful and attentive (Gotta get those tips!) I had also heard that the president of Princess came on board in Juneau, the day we were in port until 10:30 p.m. Convenient timing. I would have loved to have given her an earful, but it seems she planned on arriving at a time when many guests were off the ship.
The cruise to Alaska is not an inexpensive cruise and it was my first vacation in a long time. For several people I spoke with, this was their first cruise and they were figuring it would be their last. I also spoke with passengers who have other cruises booked with Princess that they are canceling, as well as passengers who had already canceled future cruises while on board.
Princess truly failed its customers this week. Period. As we were nearing the end of our cruise, Princess became known as the ship of "No." and Royal Caribbean's praises were being heard more and more frequently. I've traveled with RCL several times and I must say that I concur. This was my second Princess cruise and I"m fairly certain I won't take another.
Regarding the trip itself, Alaska is a beautiful place. The scenery is breathtaking. If you like to hang out with and talk to the locals, they very much like to talk to visitors and they have great pride in their paradise. Ketchikan was delightful, the Tracy Arm Fjord is simply stunning, and Skagway and Juneau were both great stops as well. We arrived in Victoria BC on Saturday night and many of us who booked the tour to Butchart Gardens were disappointed. We assumed their would be lighting so we could enjoy the gardens, however there was very little and what was available was dim. The excursion was kind of a waste of time and money.
I have mixed feelings about the naturalist. She was entertaining and highly informative, however she spent a great deal of time talking about global warming and its effects on Alaska and the Arctic in general. In my opinion, it seems a little hypocritical to work for a cruise line and complain about how humans are damaging the planet. Also, I'm on vacation to get away from politics and environmental activism, but she frequently espoused her political stance. It didn't seem appropriate for the venue.
All in all, if you have the opportunity to visit Alaska, by all means do so. I love warm weather so I wasn't sure it was for me, but the landscape and the wildlife will blow you away. However, if you choose to visit via cruise, please shop around before choosing Princess. We met people from Norwegian Cruise Lines who were very impressed with their experience, so definitely give them a peek. Note that the larger ships cannot go through Tracy Arm, so be sure to book that shore trip so you don't miss the beauty.
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