Sailing through the Panama Canal was checked off my bucket list.
We selected this cruise through a local travel agent (not our regular agency) because of the itinerary and the deal. We got a mid-ship, port side balcony cabin on B (11th) deck. This was our first Princess cruise and we came away agreeing that it would probably be our last. But first, I will say some of what we did like about our experience.
Our cabin was spacious and comfortable. The balcony was about 5' X 10' with two reclining chairs and a table. The bedding was very nice, we had a 46"-ish TV with good programming choices. It was quiet. Our Cabin attendant, Ernie was perfect.
Food was good (we had only Thanksgiving dinner at our designated seating) and there were adequate choices. Dining room wait staff was very good.
We thought the shows were some of the best and the 800 seat Princess Theater is a great venue.
We enjoyed all our excursions and the narration as we traversed the Canal.
The fitness facility was good and opened at 6AM. We spent over $1000 on spa services and we enjoyed our time there. We were very fond of some of the crew.
Which brings me to my first and biggest complaint, most of the crew seemed disinterested and unenthusiastic. In the interest of healthier eating and for flexibility, we ate almost exclusively in the buffet, generally two meals per day. Most times we got our own coffee or water and were never offered refills. More than once we had to roam around searching for silverware. All staff there were robotic, overwhelmed. We tried to eat at the Salty Dog on the pool deck one night. We and another couple right after us, left when we we not even given eye contact after quite a while. Buffet again.
As one moves around the ship you get the impression that a lot of the crew is not happy. On the other hand the Cruise Director and her assistant were over the top, too hyped with too many questions. "Are you this?" " Did everyone have a that?" If WE aren't enthusiastic, the questions are re-asked. With about a week left, I decided I was not answering any more questions.
A few days into the cruise we were in bed at 8:30PM when someone we hadn't seen before came to our cabin to "disinfect" it. My wife sent them away of course. I can't say we ever were disinfected or what we may have been living with.
We wasted a lot of steps trying to find where we were supposed to be beginning with the obligatory muster which began about 30 minutes after we were allowed to board at 4:30.
We somehow used the wrong entrance to several things so that nobody knew we were there or, so that we often didn't know what was going on.
For excursions we had to assemble way earlier than we needed to. One was at 7:15AM and it was an hour later when we were on the bus. I would like to have that hour at 7:15AM.
On ocean cruises these days, you must know that you are a captive sales prospect but we felt like there was too much selling on this one. If you don't use the dining rooms there really is one other place to eat unless you want to pay extra. Shellfish or BBQ? Extra. Want a big hamburger or a steak? Extra. We paid $419 for use of the thermal spa and a quiet pool area but never found a place to sit at the pool. Most times we went to use the spa there was no space for us. I think we were able three times. The woman managing the spa was visibly money motivated (observing her with her staff) and she often bordered on rude with us.
It was from 7AM when we vacated our cabin until around 11:30 when we cleared customs (that is the fault of our US government and not Carnival Cruise Lines). Probably, though during that time when we were in close proximity with hundreds, we both got nasty colds with extreme chest congestion. We left the ship Tuesday morning. Thursday evening we were fully sick and still are a week later. Many people were handling beverage containers, wandering around in a lounge area and changing seats. There was no hand sanitizer, no sanitary suggestions. We think we picked up the colds there.
So, on balance we had a nice trip but we believe other cruise lines have been better.
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