Warning: This is a long one!!!
My partner and I returned from our 2-week Amazon cruise ten days ago. I read many reviews about the Tahitian and Pacific Princess, as well as other Princess ships, and was not ready for the experience we had. As the moderator alluded to, I know we all have our own "subjective" experiences, which makes them ours, not anyone else's. I certainly don't want to step on toes and offend anyone, but on the other hand, feel the need to share our own personal experience. I will only share some of our issues, not all.
We arrived in Manaus, Brazil after a wonderful stay at the Conrad in Miami and a nice flight into Manaus. It was pouring down rain when we arrived, muggy and wet, but it was wonderful. Gathered our luggage and met the Princess man and followed him to the bus.
Our bus was delayed, as we had to wait almost 2 hours for another passenger to try and "prove" he was on our list, and was supposed to take the bus (only a 25-minute ride).
The bus ride was fairly uneventful. My otherhalf and I sat in the front of the bus. There was a driver and a "guide." The guide tried to break the ice, I guess. He began telling jokes. He slammed Christians, Muslims, Catholics and Mormons, and then he attacked women and last but not least -- yep, gays. He was laughing and rolling his eyes telling the audience on the bus about two Asian men who had to "push their beds together" and he referred to one of them as a "mam" instead of a "man." While he never used the word "gay," he didn't need to! His disrespect and lack of tolerance for gay men and women was apparent. It was awful. He was attempting to work up the riders and get a reaction out of them. I finally, very loudly said, "SO, WHAT? THEY'RE GAY. WHAT'S YOUR POINT?" He looked down at me and said, "Well, anyway," and went on to something else, later shooting me a nasty look. I heard a couple of passengers behind us agree with me.
Got off the bus and went through the terminal, checking in. The process was smooth and efficient. Left the terminal and walked down the pier to the ship. There were no signs pointing us in the right direction. We stopped, and looked -- nothing. It was pouring rain, so we followed the folks in front of us, not knowing they were Princess employees and boarding in the Employee Only section. Of course we were then scolded for trying to board where they board! Walked back out, and looked around and there were no indicators. It wasn't our first cruise, so we walked forward to the other entrance, which was the correct one. I turned around and said to my partner, "This isn't Celebrity." I couldn't have been more right.
On Celebrity, we're always greeted with welcome champagne or juice. The staff is up there, and they offer a warm welcome or "Welcome Back!," always asking how many cruises we've been on, who are we, where are we from, etc. There was nothing there -- no welcome, no smiles -- nothing. We found the elevator and then our cabin. This was around 2 PM. There was no "sanitation station" either. On Celebrity, staff is always walking around with hand sanitizers and even monitoring staff who walk into the food venues, insisting it be done. Not so on Princess. Not one staff member saw to this. There were limited hand sanitizers and at one point, I noticed the one I was attempting to use was empty. I mentioned this to a staffer walking by, she shrugged her shoulders and kept on walking.
You know how your cabin attendant is always there? You can't come or go without a cheerful, "Hello, Sir!" Ours was nowhere to be seen, until a few hours later. Throughout our stay, he was always friendly; however, he did forget a morning clean and an evening clean/turn-down. No worries, he was still pleasant and tried hard.
After dropping off our carry-on bags, we went to the Maitre'd to check on our table for 2. We reserved this cruise 6-months prior and were on a waitlist for an early seating, table for 2. We walked into the lounge to see the Maitre'd. The woman at the front did not offer us a number, but said to come back at 3:30. We left to check out the ship, and buy our Spa Pass for the duration. We came back at 3 PM and looked around. There were more people in the lounge. I saw people holding cards with numbers and then realized we should have been given one, but were not earlier. I felt like we were "shooed" away. No big deal. We got our number (#27) so we waited about 2-hours to see the man.
We were talking with other passengers ahead and behind us, still excited, of course. We saw the Maitre'd "bump" (the new urban hand shake) other passengers, and they walked away smiling and laughing, thanking him. We walked up there and his countenance was grim, almost intimidating. I was respectful and tried to compliment him, the ship, etc. and he broke in with, "What can I do for you?" I asked about our table and waitlist. We were waitlisted as number 10 before the cruise. He just shook his head, and said, "No, I'm sorry. We have a table for you at the late dining." I asked once more and shared with him our wait list number, my low blood sugar, short of pleading with him -- and asked nicely. He said, "No, but I'll put you on my list and let you know if something comes up." We waited -- and waited.
Interestingly, both couples before us were higher on the waitlist (one was 15 and one was 22) and BOTH (assuming) heterosexual couples received their tables for 2. We later learned that there were empty tables in the early dining. We ran into the Maitre'd several days later and he said we could show up every night and wait and see if a table was available, but he wouldn't guarantee anything. I guess it was his attitude and the fact that two other couples got what they wanted, and we were lower on the wait list. The Maitre'd told us that over half the ship on our cruise had also sailed on the cruise prior, which was the same itinerary as ours, but in reverse; although the cruise was not sold, solicited as or booked as a 4-week, but as 2 separate or back-to-back cruises, and those who sailed the 2-weeks prior had preference in dining over us! How is that fair?
As a result, we did not eat any dinners in the Club Restaurant. First time ever that we did not eat in the main dining room; we were very disappointed. We ended up eating at the two specialty restaurants, Panorama Buffet or on shore every night. We did have a couple of lunches in the dining room. The wait staff and Maitre'd, as a result, received $0 gratuity from us. We gave it to the staff in the specialty dining. The Panorama Buffet only offers plastic plates, very limited drink station and no trays! Celebrity offered more refreshments, trays and glass/ceramic plates and bowls. Celebrity staff is always there to assist you in bringing your tray to your table, without asking! Also, Princess does not brew fresh coffee ("urn coffee" lol). Their coffee is syrup, but not bad for concentrate. Brewed coffee is a charge.
We found Princess to have nickel and dimed us. Others have seen that on Celebrity. Perhaps all ships are doing this now.
Room service menu? They only offer cold sandwiches and chips, chocolate cookies or fruit. Breakfast was only Continental. Juice after 11 AM? That's a $3 charge. Pizza (the only hot item delivered to your cabin)? That's a $3 charge. Ice cream? $3. We stayed in a Mini-Suite too (very similar to a Sky Suite on Celebrity). We thought there would be an enhanced room service menu and amenities, not so. No flowers, champagne, stationary, nice robes, pillow choices, canapés. So we just bit the bullet. I found it odd that one could pay close to a thousand more and not receive anything additional (besides square footage). Again, not the case on Celebrity. In the comparable Sky Suite on Celebrity, one formal night we enjoyed filet mignon and lobster, wine (and all the courses) in our Suite! There was no charge for this. In a standard Concierge Class stateroom on Celebrity, one can order cheeseburgers, pizza or other good hot meals, at no charge.
The first night we were pretty amazed, as we saw the Captain come down to the Panorama Buffet and what looked to us, unashamedly flirt and try to make a pass at one of the female food workers. Hmmm, does Quid Pro Quo apply to Maritime Law? Incidentally, on our last night we were eating in the Steakhouse and the Captain walked by with the trampy woman who worked in the sundry gift shop (yes, my partner had a run-in with her attitude and lack of service and I witnessed her talking to another passenger about how a certain, famous man could "share her pillow"). We became close with a few employees (as most of us all do) and when we asked our waitress, she told us the Captain was "always trying to sleep with the female employees." Nice, huh? He was married she said. Of course that's not the point. While I'm digressing about the Captain, three times on the cruise, while he would make his morning and noon announcements, he said, "This is Captain ____ from the Command Bridge. The time is 9 AM (or 12-noon) according to my very expensive Cartier Watch!" Tacky.
The food in the Panorama Buffet was good. Breakfast never changed, it was the same every day. The dinner buffet was generally the same food items they were serving in the Club Dining Room (main). In our opinion, the food on Celebrity was 100% better in the specialty restaurants, as well as the service, ambiance and presentation. The lunches we had in the dining room were not as good as Celebrity. The buffet was not nearly as extensive as Celebrity, BUT the food was good, sans the desserts. Celebrity gets the nod there. Also, Celebrity does not charge for pizza, ice cream/dessert, juices, etc., as their room service menu is extensive; and they offer hot cooked to order, breakfast/lunch and dinner.
Our mini suite was large. On the surface it looked beautiful, but the closer we got, it was very tired and worn (sagging and rips in the wallpaper, three doors were not level on the hinge, one drawer was off). I don't believe there has been any restoration since Princess purchased this ship. The bed was actually very comfortable. The antiquated TV needed to go (circa 1988). No clock in the room! We don't have to have one, but it's nice to look at the phone and see if you're running late for dinner, etc. Who wants to wear a watch on vaca?
The Pacific Princess is a nice-looking ship. Dark woods and deep blues, reds and greens throughout. We really didn't have any complaints with the ship itself, we were pleased. My partner commented that it looked as if it was decorated by Bombay.
On Celebrity, the staff is always cleaning. Man, we see them running the vacuums and polishing / sanitizing the rails ALL the time. Not so on Princess. We witnessed that once.
On Celebrity, we return from an excursion and they have hot or cold towels and water / lemonade / hot chocolate. Not so on Princess. Nothing...and they don't even ask, "How was your tour?" "How was your time on shore?" etc. Hell, there wasn't even a "Hello! Welcome back!" We felt like we were just being herded. We continued to get the feeling that it was "all about them", not us, the passengers.
We really enjoyed the tours on Princess. Another cool thing is they have a naturalist or a lecturer (Hutch was his name) who provided daily lectures on the ports. He was also televised, so we could watch him from our cabin, which was nice. Of course, they play old re-runs of "The Love Boat", which was fun, especially as the original Love Boat was the "Pacific Princess" (but of course a different ship). Didn't watch too much TV, but what little we did, the programming was good with decent movies, etc.
The mini fridge worked! I liked that they kept the ice bucket in the fridge (no water in the room either, unlike Celebrity). The fridge was empty so we could put our juice and booze in there-that was nice.
We purchased 2 spa passes at $140 each, which was a good deal. There is a section at the bow of the ship which held a small Thallossotherapy pool and 16 padded chaise lounges. This private sun deck / spa area was only for passengers who forked out the dough, it was supposed to be private, and I think for the most part it was. It was great to come out here, as we never had to haggle or "reserve" a chaise. It was quiet and private. Adjacent to this private deck is the men's and women's locker rooms. The men's locker room was very nice. There were lockers, a changing area, deluxe showers and a 'men’s only' steam room. I guess what bothered us the most was the male entertainers would come in and use this area as their own personal dressing room! Several times we witnessed two or three of the staff coming in to: shower, shave, steam, etc. and LEFT A MESS!! One time, I found myself cleaning up after one of the "stars", I think his name was “Luke". He was a pig. My guess was they got ready in there, so they wouldn't have to clean their own stateroom / bathroom? Makes sense, but still wasn't appropriate in my opinion.
On one particular morning, we were almost run over in the buffet line by a crew member's family who came on board for the day (to eat and visit). We heard them introducing his family to other staffers on the ship. This was in St. Lucia I believe. Later in the day, around 3 PM, the ship getting ready to sail at 5 or so, and we were in the men's locker room showering from our deck time and steam. The staffer and his male friend (or brother) came in. The staffer introduced him to one of the entertainers (the "pig") and they exit to the private deck! We were getting dressed and could hear one of the men yelling off the ship to someone way down below on the dock. He did this three times...he was yelling to get someone's attention down below. I finally walked out to the deck, and sure enough-it was the family member of the staffer. Nice. Good impression too. There just didn't seem to be any boundaries with some of the Princess staff.
We both purchased spa treatments, and they were very good. Interestingly, Princess uses the same vendor as Celebrity for their Spa staff and treatments. All were very nice and the prices reasonable. The products were by Elemis.
Pacific Princess doesn't have the huge theater, it's a Cabaret Lounge. So the performances are up close and personal, which would be fine if they were better. We walked out of 4 shows, attending only 6. The numbers which were not lip-synced were off, just not that good in my opinion. The view was cut off because it wasn't stadium seating. It was hard to see anything. Waaay too much make up, most of them looked like clowns, and very animated for a close, intimate theater. We stood up in the back on two of the shows, so we could see. The comedian was excellent in my opinion.
The gaming was OK. We scored at slots and the 2 or 3 times we went in there, only witnessed one smoker. It wasn't that bad otherwise. Friendly staff in the Casino.
We had a disagreement with Ronnie at the Excursion Desk. Without going into detail, he lied to me. After walking up to our cabin, I called back down there to share with him feedback. He would not budge. I asked for his supervisor, he told me he had none, and that he was the "highest we could go." Of course this was not the truth, and we were given a partial credit. My point is, WHY did we have to escalate? Par for the course I guess.
I could go on, but won't. I think in all honesty, we would have put this into perspective much easier, if the service was on par with what we are used to. I remember being on the roll call board (on another site) for Princess before the cruise and saying good things about Celebrity and the other Princess people getting pissed off. I remember one person saying, "Celebrity is Stuffy-stuffy-stuffy!" . Well after this past cruise, I guess I am stuffy and I like stuffy, lol. Never really considered that.
Our experience was very negative, but primarily because of the service. A provider of hospitality doesn't have to offer the same menu, agenda or novelties that the next one does, but without the extra level of quality *service*, it's very difficult to get past what you feel is lacking. I felt like the staff just didn't care, in all honesty. We were confident in our opinion that Princess was doing us a favor, by letting us on their ship. They seem to only look out for themselves. To them, "it's just a job." Our experience with this cruise line / ship was the last we will have. They say, "The old dog only bites once." Well, once was enough for us. I know this is not everyone's opinion, but sadly it was ours - from the beginning to the end.
We disembarked the ship on Friday and were sitting in the Miami airport. Both whipped out hand-held phones and started surfing for cruises on Celebrity, and we just booked a Celebrity Infinity cruise for this September. Hoping this re-affirms our faith in cruising, and so relieved to be going back to the =X=.
I think if we started out with Princess years ago, we either would not expect anything different or we wouldn't see the value, and would have stopped cruising. With the exception of one Carnival cruise in my former life, we have always sailed with Celebrity and it is such a different and wonderful experience to us. I'm sure they're not for everyone, but we absolutely love the Celebrity service, amenities, venues...everything!
Thanks for reading. Sorry for the length, but I hope this provides insight to anyone who is interested. To those who have sailed Princess and love them? I mean you no argument or discord. Enjoy!
On a scale from 1-10 -- Pacific Princess, line and ship:Service Overall: 1 Food: 5 Entertainment: 3 Venues: 4 Cabin Attendant and Housekeeping: 7 Food service staff (sans Maitre'd): 4 Excursion Staff(desk): 1 Tours/Excursions: 9 Purser(s): 5 Spa services: 8 Overall: Won't be back
Happy Sailing everyone!
If you are handicapped, do NOT go on this ship and perhaps even the line. While the ship is a pleasant small one, the staff makes zero effort to accommodate the handicapped. For example, in Singapore's large docking area the ship refused several calls from the perplexed port authorities for a wheelchair and a neighboring ship provided one. At all the ports we docked there were no wheelchairs to get to the taxi area unless you booked an excursion. Returning from Kuala Lumpur, I borrowed a wheelchair from a staff member who was waiting for a returnee from an excursion. I promised to get someone to return it the quarter mile or so to the terminal bus area. At the ship, I asked a staff member who was walking towards the terminal if she would take the wheelchair back, explaining the situation. She said she was not going there, walked off and proceeded to walk directly to the terminal. I made a complaint early in the 28-day voyage to the front desk in writing and nothing was done. Letters to Princess have also not been answered.
Now, if you are not handicappedand don't require some physical help, then by all means sail on the Princess lines and the Pacific Princess. Otherwise, the other lines I have been on such as Crystal, Holland-America, Orient Lines and Royal Caribbean have all been very accommodating and desire our patronage.
The New Pacific Princess From French Polynesia to Australia
The new Pacific Princess was formerly the Renaissance R3. We really enjoyed cruising with Renaissance a few years ago on a sister ship to the R3, the R6. Princess has made a good ship even better with its renovations.This was our seventh cruise with Princess, and our greatest Princess cruise to date. We felt like we were cruising with Seabourne or Crystal, both high-price luxury lines. The service was absolutely superb! The accommodations were great. Each cabin category offered spacious staterooms or suites compared with other Princess ships or ships of other lines.
This is a small ship by today's standards -- only 670 passengers -- yet it has most of the comforts of the larger ships and none of the disadvantages. We became acquainted with many fellow passengers during this 16-day cruise. They were an international mix, with lots of Australians, Kiwis, Brits, Canadians, Europeans, and a lovely group of native Hawaiians who serenaded us during sea days in the Casino Bar with melodies from the islands. Additional details about the ship, deck plans, etc. can be seen on the Princess web site.
Wewere always met with a friendly greeting by the staff and crew. The only exception I noted was the Captain. He seemed to dread being around or talking with the passengers. Otherwise, the atmosphere was similar to an exclusive resort. The staff members seemed to enjoy their jobs and took pleasure in pleasing the guests. Add to that the idyllic setting of our ports, and this was certainly a dream cruise. The weather was great most of the time too. Sunsets were spectacular and the seas were mostly calm.
Operation of this ship is shared with Princess' partner company, P&O Cruises. At the end of this journey, P&O will operate the ship [with largely the same staff and crew] mainly to the Australian cruise market until spring 2004, when operation will revert back to Princess for the summer and early fall.
The entertainment on this ship was fabulous. All of the cruise staff and entertainers are from New Zealand or Australia. The cast presented five full shows, and the lead singers shared two additional shows with other entertainers. One of the featured entertainers was byrle Davis, who began her career singing with the Glen Miller Orchestra in World War II. Obviously she is no spring chicken but she was nevertheless fascinating. In earlier days, Ms. Davis sang with old-time greats including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and others. She related interesting antidotes about these famous stars between some of her numbers.
The ship had some enrichment lectures and computer classes, provided Internet access 24/7, and conducted bingo games and lots of other activities. The Lotus Spa and Fitness Center were both well equipped and well attended. The library is spacious, nicely appointed, and well stocked with reading materials. The bars and lounges are also nicely appointed; the top-deck nightclub was a place for late-night partying and great views of the sea during the day.
Princess advertises "Personal Choice" dining with open seating at the various dining venues. That wasn't the case on this small ship. Only the traditional main and late dinner seatings were offered in the dining room. The ship has two alternative restaurants: The Sterling Steakhouse Grill [$8 cover charge per person] and Sabatini's, an Italian gourmet restaurant [$20 cover charge per person]. We found the beef entrées in The Grill to be delicious. Sabatini's was open only on certain evenings but not many passengers felt the menu warranted spending the extra charge. Your $20 got you an elegant and very leisurely seven-course meal. The Panorama Buffet offered something to eat from 4 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., and room service was available 24/7. No one suffered from hunger on this ship.
We noted some changes in the dining room since previous cruises. There is no longer a sommelier or wine steward. The waiter now serves this function. Princess used to offer a separate pasta course. You can still have pasta nightly as an entrée but no separate course. Tureens with hot vegetables are no longer offered either. Some evenings we ordered more vegetables and received a nice variety. A tray with dessert samples is no longer brought to the table after the entrée for viewing. Salad selections in the luncheon buffet were not as varied as in the past. These changes have enabled Princess to serve more people with less wait staff. Fortunately the quality of the food and presentation remains great. The pastries on this cruise were especially nice and the homemade [on board daily] ice cream was delicious.
The casino offered penny and nickel slots as well as the traditional 25-cent and dollar slots. It appeared that the odds on the cheap slots were dismal. All of the slot machines were the same type. One could bet up to 20 lines per spin. Video poker was not offered. The tables for blackjack, poker, and roulette seemed crowded together.
The dress code for this entire cruise was 'smart casual' except for three evenings when formal wear was optional. Lots of the women wore fancy outfits on those evenings, but most gentlemen stuck to the 'smart casual' with a jacket. A few passengers decided not to dress up at all.
Gratuities are now added to one's shipboard account, $10 per day. I was concerned that this method might result in less attentive service but the opposite was true. I guess the staff felt more confident of not getting slighted with this method than the old way where passengers handed out envelopes at the end of the cruise. The service in all departments was really super. The Cruise Director, John Clelford, encouraged additional gratuities for exceptional service. That seemed a bit tacky. The official policy for additional gratuities is that the recipient may retain the extra gratuity if the passenger did not reduce the standard gratuity charged to the shipboard account. Otherwise the extra gratuity was to be submitted to the pool.
A negative aspect of Princess' departures from Papeete, Tahiti is that getting to Papeete independently by air is expensive and flights are infrequent. The Princess air program offers non-stop charter service from Los Angles. This system is unpleasant because passengers must move their baggage from connecting flights to the charter departure gate at the far end of one of the LAX terminals. The charter gate opens only three hours before flight time so there are long lines and the entire check-in and security check process has to be endured again. Then one gets the typical feeling of being a sardine once aboard the aircraft. Maybe that is why the ship cabins/staterooms seem so spacious.
Nevertheless, in summary, the new Pacific Princess offers luxurious cruising at mainline prices. The atmosphere is refined and relaxed. The food is tasty, the entertainment and shipboard activities are plentiful and varied for a ship of such small size, the staff is always cordial and attentive, and this itinerary offered a great chance to see the South Pacific, a bit of New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia. We traveled 4,459 nautical miles during the cruise and visited nine ports in five countries. If you want to cruise on the Pacific Princess before April 2004, you must book your cruise through P&O, the partner company to Princess. I believe that Princess is offering a similar itinerary on the Pacific Princess in 2004. The French Polynesia ports are offered almost year-round on the sister Princess ship, the Tahitian Princess, which does 10-day itineraries from Papeete, Tahiti.