My wife and I are an active retired professional couple in our 60s, who have sailed on approximately fifteen cruises, the last six of which were all 14-day cruises on three different Celebrity ships from 2003 to 2005. We have always ... Read More
My wife and I are an active retired professional couple in our 60s, who have sailed on approximately fifteen cruises, the last six of which were all 14-day cruises on three different Celebrity ships from 2003 to 2005. We have always reserved balcony cabins when available, and on this cruise we had balcony Cabin A501 which was on the Aloha Deck 12 about midships just below the Lido Deck. We don't consider ourselves fussy or demanding types, and rarely ask for special treatment from the crew and simply "go with the flow" and enjoy the cruise.
After six cruises on Celebrity, and as shareholders of Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Princess Cruises, we decided to book a cruise on Princess to see if this line might be to our liking. We have been interested in trying different itineraries and other ships, and when we learned of this 14-day cruise on the Golden Princess with three ports in Western Europe and three in the British Isles, coupled with a transatlantic sailing to New York, we booked it on rather short notice.
We had only been on the ship a short time when we reluctantly concluded Princess was a very poor alternative to Celebrity, and this opinion was continuously confirmed throughout the cruise. We also concluded that much of this is attributed to serious cost cutting by Princess in all areas of its operation, the automatic tipping policy of Princess, and the obvious attempt to appeal to the less sophisticated cruise passenger, the "McDonalds-generation" passenger, with low expectations, little experience in finer dining and proper food preparation, and one who is happy with the cruise as long as he can heap the food on his plate in the buffet on a 24-hour basis. Our feelings were shared by other passengers with whom we spoke during the cruise.
Princess seems to do few things very well, and in nearly all respects a Princess cruise is not at the level of that which we have experienced on Celebrity. Officers, staff and crew generally seem sullen, with a poor attitude toward the passengers. Crew members seem to have no understanding of service, and make passengers feel as if we are intruding on their time or causing them inconvenience. They rarely speak to passengers and are often inclined to project an attitude of uncaring or indifference. Also, passenger requests are often met with a response as to why it cannot be accomplished, rather than trying to find a way to please. A good example of this is a request for a table for two in the Personal Choice Dining room. In their literature Princess says you can have a table any way you wish including a table for two, but when this is requested, the request is almost always met with an urging to share a table with others, or being told it will be difficult to provide. One evening we asked to have an obviously dirty table cleaned and were told it was already clean.
Purser's desk representatives seem to be particularly hostile to passengers. Examples abound of a poorly run cruise line cutting corners at every opportunity. Unfortunately, the parent company, Carnival Corporation, appears to have "Carnivalized" Princess Cruises, much to its detriment.
The most glaring example of this is the quality of food and dining room service. Princess has initiated many shortcuts in its dining rooms. No wine steward or bar waiter exists, and this is handled by the waiters. Salad dressing, cocktail sauce and the like is not offered at the table, but rather put on salads and seafood cocktails in the galley. Refills on coffee or iced tea are rarely offered. There is no showing of a dessert tray. Courses seem to be brought to the waiter's station all at once and served in rapid succession with no pacing, often resulting in cold items and hot items both being served at room temperature. Menu choices are often unappealing and on numerous occasions we elected one of the mundane "always available" items, such as a cheeseburger at lunch and fettucini alfredo at dinner to avoid going hungry when none of the offered choices seemed appealing. Items ordered from the menu often do not fit the description on the menu. Steaks, beef and pork were of poor quality and delivered overcooked with very poor taste, and a boiled potato dripping with water was served, being pawned off as a baked potato which was ordered. One passenger told me of finding it totally impossible to cut a swordfish steak. Rolls are dry and hard and pastries unappealing and often dry as well.
One serious warning - don't order the chilled "essence of seafood" soup! It is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted and should be removed from the menu. It tasted and smelled like dead rotting fish passed through water. To add insult to injury, waiters often seem uncaring and disinterested, again appearing to result from the tipping system, poor supervision or poor morale.
In the chaos at the serving stations of the Horizon Court Buffet the passenger is expected to pile their food on a large plate, reminding me of my days in an Army mess hall. I repeat, this is coming from a person who will usually eat nearly anything offered, although I expect good sanitation and proper service along with proper food preparation served at the correct temperatures.
Further examples from the dining rooms and the Horizon Court Buffet: Tables and floors are often dirty and multiple tables are cleaned continuously with the same dirty rag. The serving area is always chaotic, with passengers pushing, shoving, grabbing food with their hands, throwing serving tongs into the food and a generally disorganized atmosphere. The same situation applies around the drink stations. Tables are often unavailable. Food on the buffet is often at room temperatures which we found to be true even immediately after it was placed on the buffet such as cold meats and lukewarm vegetables. We tried to avoid this area as much as possible, but it was sometimes the only alternative. Princess made it worse than it might be at lunch, by closing two of the three dining rooms with the explanation there was work going on in those areas in spite of the literature saying two would be open. This left 2,600 passengers with the only lunch alternatives being the totally inadequate buffet and one dining room, resulting in complete confusion in both areas.
Ice cream is only available without charge at tea, in the dining rooms, or by standing in very long lines at the Horizon Court Buffet during tea time. On many occasions we observed the flatware as well as the serving plates used under soups and appetizers being recycled by waiters and used for multiple diners - a serious health hazard. This was reported to management and we were told it has been corrected. Roll baskets and butter are returned intact to the galley, appearing to be reused at later tables. .
One reason we were anxious to sail on Princess was the opportunity to try "Anytime" or "Personal Choice" dining. After 14 days of this, we concluded the drawbacks of this far outweigh the advantages, and we look forward to returning to traditional cruise dining. Princess promotes this concept, and stresses the fact passengers can have any table arrangement they wish. This does not take place in practice, as the guardians of the Anytime Dining rooms are always reluctant to give up a table for two and push passengers to share seating at larger tables. Even when we reserved a table for two, somehow the reservation was lost and we were again asked to join others in spite of the reservation. On one occasion we were led to a purported table for two which was placed no more than three inches from another table for two, in effect a table for four with a slight gap placed between two tables. Also, rapidly seating twenty or so people at one waiter's serving station usually results in very slow and delayed service. Meals are poorly paced, with either a rapid delivery of courses which have been waiting on the serving table or long delays between courses. Another mystery; we asked for a 6:15 reservation in a dining room which opens at that time. We were told only 6:30 and 8:30 reservations were available that evening. Does this indicate an earlier party is eating in 15 minutes or is it because this is really "Princess Choice" and not "Personal Choice"?
Princess does not supply towels at the pool, and passengers are expected to take beach towels placed in their cabin to the pool. Nevertheless, large area of deck chairs are reserved by passengers with these towels, a practice regularly observed also in the theatres and buffet area. I observed two glasses left on the bow deck one morning which were later broken with glass pieces left on the deck for two days. The arms of the chair in our cabin were filthy, and the cigar smoke emanating from the cabin next door often made our balcony unusable. The lectures and programs provided on the ship were severely lacking and there is little of interest offered, much of it at an additional charge. This was particularly unfortunate during six long days at sea crossing the Atlantic when there was very little in the way of entertainment during the day offered by Princess.
A cruise on Princess buys you basically just that - the opportunity to sit on a ship from beginning to end, eat Perkins-type institutional food and pay extra for everything else. Many things we are accustomed to having included as part of the cruise on Celebrity is an additional charge on Princess. A simple example - hot chocolate must be ordered from the bar on Princess rather than being provided with the tea and coffee. Ice cream is never available without charge except at meals in the dining room and at tea, and is offered at a substantial charge all day on the Lido deck.. No juices are available during the day except from the bar, again at a charge. Offline as well as online computer usage is only available at 35 cents a minute.
In one port Princess was offering a 15-minute shuttle service at $12.00 per person round trip while a Celebrity ship docked next to us was providing a free shuttle to the same point. Most lectures and seminars are on a charge basis. Princess not only charges extra for nearly everything but the basics, but has cut corners to reduce expense in every aspect of its cruise offering.
Although Princess seems to impose rules on proper dress it is rarely enforced. Grubby T-shirts and dirty jeans often accompanied by baseball hats were very much in evidence in the public rooms and dining areas. Princess seems to have attracted the type of passenger who insists on dressing as they please without regard to the dress code, and who feel no reluctance to disregard most other rules imposed for the cruise. Although I try to enjoy the cruise without regard to the actions of other passengers, it is difficult to ignore when it is so widespread.
A few other bits: the pastries are most unappealing with only two dry cookie choices being offered in the buffet. Avoid Aloha Deck 12 with the noise coming from overhead in the pool area. Pillow covers went unchanged for the entire 14 days.
With all the negatives, my wife and I tried hard to find a few positives. The ports were excellent and the one Princess tour to Paris was most enjoyable. Embarkation and disembarkation was run smoothly, although once through the check-in process we were herded into a waiting room where we waited to board for about 90 minutes with no explanation.
The entertainment was not on a par with Celebrity, and entertainers were recycled throughout the cruise with one comedian appearing four times.
Our balcony cabin was comfortable, and we liked the closet/bathroom layout, although the noise from the Lido Deck above was disturbing during the day and early morning. The shower stall is very small and difficult to use.
Cruise Director, Richard Joseph, seems to be filling in temporarily and seems much too talented for his present position. Unfortunately, his presence doesn’t seem to be reflected in the entertainment package on the Golden with the exception of his personal presentation on “Ships – Where are they now?” which was outstanding.
I have intentionally not discussed the ship’s layout and features because this has been discussed in other reviews. Suffice to say, we found the ship's layout not suited to handling the passenger and crew load carried by the Golden.
By far the greatest negative was the food; unappealing choices, poor preparation, low quality meats poorly cooked, food served at wrong temperatures and often by uncaring and hurried waiters not following good sanitary practices, a very unappealing combination and the principal reason why we looked forward to the end of this cruise and will never sail Princess again. Read Less