This was our first time with a Princess cruise and quite frankly we were underwhelmed on the service that we "believed" would be present on a Princess ship. I went expecting to be wowed at every turn, and it turned out to be ... Read More
This was our first time with a Princess cruise and quite frankly we were underwhelmed on the service that we "believed" would be present on a Princess ship. I went expecting to be wowed at every turn, and it turned out to be just a "cruise" with nothing special (am I getting jaded??). he price value was just not evident. As my 27 YO son would say.. it was meh..
Embarkation - easy and quick, at this point it was shaping up to be a great cruise. We arrived around 11:30, had our luggage whisked away by the porter and we were walking onto the ship less than 45 minutes later (spent 10 minutes waiting for our number to be called). The lines flowed well the staff was ready to check us in and we felt that we were welcome cruisers. Getting onto the ship there were loads of elevators, and each one had a crew member manning them getting you to your floor. We arrived on the 14th deck around 1 PM, and the rooms were ready. The ship fold out map was a cute touch, we used this a lot.
Balcony Cabin - mid-ship, port side on deck 14 (14620), it is a smallish cabin. The cabin door was the narrowest we have seen on a modern cruise ship. Bed was ready to go in the Queen configuration, and it was a comfortable. We had requested some water for a CPAP machine, and it was brought later by the room steward. The bathroom had a shower, toilet and sink, it was sufficient for 1 person. There was sufficient storage in the cabin for hanging things (tons of hangers). The balcony had 2 chairs and a small side table. All it all it was sufficient for the two of us, it would be hard for more than 2 guests in this cabin (felt sorry for the neighbors 2 cabins down with 4 in their cabin). Cabin was quiet, ‘tho we did hear some scraping of chairs from the dining room upstairs, but nothing that we would consider excessive.
Quick and easy, sat in the lounge, listened to the spiel, and back to the 15th deck for sail away. This was well put together, and was without problems.
Head up to Deck 15, and watch the ship sail away, a fun activity. Check the price of the “Sail-away” drinks before you accept them from the crew. Two drinks in cheap plastic Princess cup, cost us almost $30.
Exploring the ship:
Found this ship quite confusing to find ourselves around. There were few options to move from the Stern to the Bow, one seemed to have to go up and down or more decks to get from one end to the other. The stores were on 3 separate decks and this was confusing. When we get on a new ship we always wander around the entire ship on our cruises, and try to hit every deck and venue. On this ship we felt we were lost most times,. We tended to stay in the International Cafe area, on our Balcony or on Deck 15. We did find a quiet area on the stern of deck 16, where we spent an evenings watching the stars.
We think we passed the Princess Theater once, but we never found it again, as it was not in the normal path of travel, and we missed any activities that were at this venue. There was always some kind of entertainment in the Atrium the Main deck area, but I found it very loud for the size of area they were playing in. There was always an activity going on in this area.
Food: Food was blah in most venues.
Evening - we had anytime dining, but seemed to be able to eat at the same time each evening in the Da Vinci Dining room. We had a different table each night, and the dining room crew was helpful and attentive. My wife is celiac and she was able to get a GF meal that was similar to mine. She didn't like getting chocolate mousse for desert every evening and would have preferred more options. We arrived around 5:30 each evening and found few crowds waiting for dinner. Each night when we left the dining room around 7, and the lines-up were huge (~100 guests waiting).
Food in the Dining room was very good, it was well cooked, and hot food was hot and cold food was cold. The cold soups each night were a delight.
Specialty Dining – BOOK WHEN YOU GET ON BOARD! We tried to get into the specialty dining areas (morning of Day 2), but they were all booked up on the first afternoon, and any remaining reservations were after 9 PM. We did get into the Crab Shack dinner on the 2nd evening (9:30 reservation) and had a great Crab and shrimp dinner. It is funny to see that they just used the Cafe Caribe to host the Crab Shack venue, and put some brown butcher paper on the tables.
Buffet - we ate at the Horizon Court/Cafe Caribe for our lunches and 2 breakfasts.
This is where Princess completely lost my support on their perceived famous service. There was very limited wait staff and the tables seemed to be always piled with dirty dishes. We never were asked if we wanted something to drink (serve your self). Lines to eat were always long, and when you did get in one line, the lone crew member would try to direct you to the other food line, were they said the lines were shorter.
Breakfast - scrambled eggs looked like curdled yellow custard, and had little taste. Bread or toast was hard as a rock and cold. Sausages and Bacon seemed OK. There was some fruit, but it was always seemed to be the same 3 items, pineapple, honeydew, and cantaloupe. Items were frequently out of stock, and no-one behind the counter would get you more.
Lunch – there just seemed to be limited choices. I am more used to getting a larger salad selection, fresh fruits, etc. It just seemed to be limited.
Room Service – small food selection for breakfast via room service, one could get an egg and cheese bun or cereal. I will admit that it arrived exactly at the time requested (1 minute early) and the coffee was hot and the juice cold. This was the ONLY time that we had coffee on the ship that we didn't have to pay extra for.
Clubs and entertainment - we visited several of the bars and found that most of them were dual purpose, and were not only a bar, but an eating establishment as well (extra charge). Entertainment was good in the places we went to.
Shopping: While there are not a large number of shops, they all seemed to carry the normal cruise ship fare (overpriced watches, and Jewellery, mass produced paintings). The Princess logo's material was priced reasonably. The Jewellery and Photo shops used a lot of high pressure sales, and they all wanted you to take the extras.
Spa: Go directly to the Spa, on day 1, to book your treatments. Phoning the Spa to make reservations was an exercise in frustration. The DW was happy with the treatment she received, and said it was reasonably priced.
Ship in General: This is a larger ship, but not well laid out. Moving from one point to another was not as easy one would have assumed it should have been. The men's bathrooms on the 4th, 5th and 6th deck needed work. Tiles on all of them were falling off the walls, and the on deck 5 just stunk.
Tours and Ports –
San Diego - we took a small harbor tour and then visited the USS Midway. Both were interesting, the boat ride was nothing special, it took you around the harbor, you learned where all the fancy restaurants were and which Navy boats were in port. Enjoyed the Air Craft Carrier, that was well worth the $20 admission.
Hint: Use the iPad on deck 6 to book your cruise excursions, quick and easy.
Ensenada – we took the $3.00 bus (return fare) into the town, and walked around for an hour. This is a very depressed area, and there were beggars everywhere (from young kids to old timers). While we did not feel uncomfortable, we spent limited time in town we did some quick shopping, and headed back to the ship. There are some very interesting local shops on the main street. The people in the stores were a delight, and all spoke English. Tried to buy some silver coins at the bank,and alas no-one in the bank spoke English, and I speak almost no Spanish.
Seemed we were one day after a huge party, beer bottles broken glass were everywhere on the ground, and there was lots of confetti everywhere.
Other points - There was an emergency call on the last night of the cruise (around midnight) with the captain calling (on the hall speakers) for security on deck 10. This was followed quickly by a second announcement calling for coded individuals, and seemed quite urgent. The captain did do an all ships announcement at 1 AM stating that they had an emergency in one of the engine rooms (suspected fire) that had been successfully dealt with. Kind of unnerving, but at that same time comforting that they didn't hide anything.
I did want to be impressed by the Princess service, it just was not there. There is nothing to make this ship standout from other cruise lines. Other than the Princess badges, you would never know you were on a Princess cruise. For the money paid for the cruise, it was not a value added activity.
Dis-embarkation - What can one say... everyone wants to be off the boat first. While it was a long line to get off the ship, and customs was closing down the line frequently, we still were timed to be off the ship at 9:10, and we were off the ship at 9:15 at the taxi stop by 9:30.
For the price we paid, we were expecting a lot more. Saddened that others paid ½ to a 1/3 of what we paid, we did not get the value we were expecting. Read Less