This was my 12th cruise, but first with Princess. I love cruising and have enjoyed all my previous vacations with other companies. We cruised for our anniversary, and brought along our 3 year old son. I wanted to enjoy our vacation, so I ... Read More
This was my 12th cruise, but first with Princess. I love cruising and have enjoyed all my previous vacations with other companies. We cruised for our anniversary, and brought along our 3 year old son. I wanted to enjoy our vacation, so I tried repeatedly to overlook the negative details, but they were too many to overlook. We tried to bring issues to the attention of the staff, but our complaints were ignored and we were repeatedly lied to and patronized. Princess recently paid a big fine for fraudulent record keeping in blatantly ignoring regulations. I think the company has lost money, and it shows in their nickel-and-dime and corner-cutting which is especially obvious on an older ship like this one. Since the list of Pros is shorter, I will start there:
-Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze. SF has a wonderful and speedy port and the experience was the best of all the ports Ive been to (New Orleans, Miami, Galveston, etc)
-The waitstaff were almost all delightful with only a few crabby exceptions.
-Movies Under the Stars was a fun addition to the ship playing movies such as "Princess Bride" and Emma Watson "Beauty & The Beast" with many new family movies.
-The recently updated Kids Club (Discovery) was inviting and fun. Although they frequently watched movies, I can't complain because our 3-yo son loved it and begged not to leave.
-The band on board XtaSea was brilliant. They could hit the high notes in the Bee Gees and low notes in Louie Armstrong doing justice to each song they played. They were versatile and played current music (Blurred Lines, Bruno Mars, etc) as well as oldies. There wasn't a decade of music they left unsung and all of it was great. Being that they are originally from the Caribbean, their Regge versions were perfect.
-Sabatini's Italian restaurant was our best meal on the ship. We were told they completely re-did the menu about two weeks ago. The pasta is house-made and it shows. Everything we were served was phenomenal and authentic. Our only complaint was that we were so full we couldn't finish dessert.... but we found a way. If Sabatini's were on land, I would go there frequently for dinner. If any of the rest of the ship's restaurants were on land, they would likely go out of business.
-The ship cut corners everywhere imaginable. If you plan to cruise with Princess, be sure to bring your own toilet paper and Kleenex. The paper products provided are the quality that you would find in a gas station bathroom. The towels are old and rough with stains and holes. The paper towels in public areas are the brown ones that lack absorbency.
-The hot water system is antiquated, so taking a shower is a series of scalding and freezing. I would have complained, but other passengers said the whole ship was like this, and I noticed it even when washing my hands in the sinks: too hot, too cold, too hot.
-Everything is broken, and no staff is interested in fixing it. The women's sauna and steam room were out of order 8/10 days we sailed. At least one pool was closed at all times, and on several sea days, all but one or two hot tubs were closed for repair. Restrooms around the ship were closed for repairs for days at a time. The women's restroom near the kids club was closed for our entire sailing. Many of the restaurants/bars were out of key ingredients for things they offered for the entire sailing. The countertop in several of the bathrooms was cracked and had been poorly glued back together. The ship was constantly being painted the whole cruise, and that combined with the smell of smoke pouring out of the casino were at times nauseating. The smokers lounge is located directly outside the theater and it's doors don't seal, so the smell wafts into the theater and surrounding areas. I joked with other passengers that I avoided the 6th deck entirely due to the smoke smell and they agreed, if you don't smoke, even the smoke-free day in the casino is unbearable.
-Three times (in 10 days) our room was affected by 'Essential Maintenance.' One of these times involved a 3 hour interruption in the water supply. They left a few bottles of water in the room for this water interruption which I appreciated. Of course, murphy's law, my son had to poop during the water outage, so I used the bottle of water to flush the toilet and wash his hands. When the water outage was over, I was asked to pay for the water we used. Even though we had the unlimited drink package, we were told that this water was not included. After much complaining, I got them to remove this charge, but I was shocked that we were even asked to pay. It felt like the constant nickel and diming.
-The tea library "Leaves" had a hot water station that did not ever contain hot water for our entire sailing. There were also no cups, and all the drawers of various loose teas looked like they hadn't been refilled in a year. We asked staff about them and were either told that the stations would be filled in the morning, or were told that it was out of order. There were no signs, and we found it this way day and night.
-Our balcony door leaked each time it rained, soaking the carpet and anything we had stored near the balcony. Despite repeated complaints, this was never fixed or addressed.
-The partition between our balcony and our neighbors, broke on the second day of sailing. Despite reporting, it took two days for anyone to address the issue and the partition would BANG rhythmically in the wind, all day and all night. Finally, they came by with wooden door stops and wedged the partition into place. When the wedges came out and we asked for a more permanent fix, they came by with more wedges. All of this wouldn't have been so bad, but we were repeatedly told someone would fix it "right away" and it took days. Each time we asked they would apologize, claim someone would come right up, then never show.
-Everyone on the ship is a gimmick to get you to buy something or spend more money. I went to a free "Stretch and Release" at the gym. Turns out this is not really a class at all, it is an infomercial for Good Feet shoe inserts. After a few minutes of stretching, the high pressure sale tactics start. "Normally these are $300... today only $200" The man teaching the class is the head of the gym, with his photo on the wall as you enter. He said "I don't work for princess, I am a paying guest just like you, so selling these is my livelihood" When I declined the purchase, he got angry. Why had I volunteered for the demonstration if I was not interested in buying. Finally, I said "I am sorry, $200 is a bit out of my price range for insoles" and he said "If you are on a cruise, you can afford it- I can't believe I let you volunteer, I always get a sale out of a volunteer, so I have wasted a sale."
-Speaking of the gym, it is smaller than any other ship I have been on, so it was always crowded and dirty. They only had one bottle of wipes for the machines, and it was not attached, so it roamed and was hard to find. There isn't a running track on this ship, though they pretend the 7th deck has one, it is just a shared walkway. 3 times is a mile, but you must go up and down stairs and around banisters. It isn't a complete circle. There were only two classes offered: yoga at 7:30am and PDX-type, both were $12/session. They also had personal training for astronomical fees. Outside the gym, in the atrium area there is a free zumba class daily, but I did not attend so I can't say if they were also selling something.
-The food was inconsistent. They use real parmesan cheese, but fake olive oil. The staff will swear up and down that the imitation crab is real, even when the giant spiraled chucks with the dyed red edge are obvious. The pizza place was OK, but the pizza's were soggy in the middle and undercooked. We started ordering them well-done, which helped, but we were sometimes told they were too busy to cook them well-done. The creme brûlée came out with a soft and mushy top. Most seafood dishes were overcooked and therefore chewy, I also suspect that much of the seafood had been frozen. The hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict came out as a 'crust' I assume perhaps it sat under a warmer too long? I have never seen browned hollandaise sauce. The gazpacho and Ceaser salad were consistently fantastic, and they also did a good job on any kind of stewed dish or anything served cold. In other words, things that are good even if they sit were good. Dessert was mostly good too, but it is difficult to mess up chocolate and sugar.
-Specialty Dining: After having the terrible frozen crab legs in the dining room, we decided to skip the Crab Feast.
The Crown Grill Steak restaurant was OK. My son got a pork chop which might have been the best thing on the menu. It was explained to me that there isn't any fire on the ship, all the cooking is electric (for obvious safety reasons) but steak and BBQ aren't good without fire, so it seems silly to offer something that you know won't be good. (BBQ at the trident grill tasted like it was boiled and then smeared with BBQ sauce)
-This ship offered limited entertainment or activities. I think perhaps it is geared towards retirement age folks, and maybe they enjoy spending money all day? I don't know but 80% of the 'activities' offered in the Princess Patter were sales of some sort. Jewelry, clothing, art, shoe insoles, excursions, acupuncture, spa materials, etc. Even at dinner, they were pressuring us to attend the wine tastings for $25.
-While in port, we had a security officer tell us it would be "5 more min" to board while the moved the walkways for the change in tide. He said this repeatedly for 45 minutes. The women behind me in line had a walker, but was stuck in line with us and no where to sit down. We had a hungry child and the line stretched so long, the prospect of fighting backwards in the line to get out got worse and worse. When we finally boarded the ship almost 90 minutes later, I went to the desk to suggest they consider an announcement when the walkways needed to be moved. They can't help nature, but it is a predictable event. I explained that if we had been told "45-90 min" instead of "5 min" we would have left and had lunch elsewhere instead of returning to the boat. The guy at the desk was patronizing and basically told me it wasn't their problem. The lady with the walker, thanked me for trying to complain, but clearly they have no intention of being honest or transparent.
-When I finally got in touch with the manager of customer service, he pretended to be apologetic, he pretended he wanted to make it up to us, and offered my son a chance to meet the captain. We were so grateful and excited. He told me the time, and I read it back to him. On the day we were supposed to meet the captain, the manager lied and said that we had gotten the time wrong and that he had repeatedly called our room. We were in our room at the time he said he called, which made him back track. Perhaps he called the wrong number, or didn't let it ring enough times... perhaps his accent caused us to get the time wrong. I reminded him that I had read the time back to him, so his accent didn't matter, and he didn't have a response. He just stared at me and said he was sorry.
All of the ports were amazing. The train is Skagway is worth the price. Watch the Discovery Channel documentary on it (on youtube). I would happily go back to Alaska, and all of the ports. I will just never sail Princess again.
While in Juneau, we ate at "Salt" and had the best Salmon of our lives and best local beer from Arkose Brewing Company and even the ling cod was flavorful (not something I would normally say about whitefish). They have a fermented chili aioli that was so good I could have drank it, and they were generous with the truffle oil.
In Ketchikan we really enjoyed eating at the "Cape Fox Lodge" and they offer a $3 tram ride down the mountain. For the experienced hiker, I recommend the Rainbird Trail. You need shoes with good grip, and preferably waterproof, but the views are breathtaking and worth it. No need for a guide, the trail is easy to follow, but strenuous at times. Read Less