Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Overall Service. Disabled Travelers. Seniors.
In November 2009 we spent 10-days on the Island Princess cruising to the Panama Canal. We selected this trip primarily because it went into the Panama Canal. Some cruises just stop at Colon Panama since it costs big bucks for a cruise ship to pass thru the Panama Canal.
We saw 109 bird species in 6 countries on the 10-day cruise: City Country # Birds Ft Lauderdale US 9 Oranjestad Aruba 23 Cartagena Columbia 19 Colon Panama 26 Puerto Limon Costa Rica 46 Ocho Rios Jamaica 32 Total 109
In Jamaica we were able to find a birding guide - Wendy Lee @ firstname.lastname@example.org 876-973-4305. Wendy runs the Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife in Runaway Bay, and is a volunteer Game Warden. She is a native of the islands, has a Master's Degree in Biology from the University of Florida. She is of English decent and really knows the birds, butterflies and flowers of the island.
Finding a beach in Aruba near the ship with lots of Beach Glass.
Finding a Mask Boobie rookery on some small islands 3-hours west of Aruba.
Finding a store that sold Aguadiente (Fire Water) in Cartagena.
Seeing a flock ofKeel-billed Toucans and a Black-mandibled Toucan while approaching the Panama Canal. Seeing a pair of Crested Caracaras, a Yellow-headed Caracara, and a Fork-tailed Flycatcher while in the Panama Canal.
Hearing "Kiss-K-dee" everywhere in Port Limon Costa Rica and seeing 5 Kiskadee and Flycatcher species around town, finding a gorgeous Montezuma Oropendola in the suburbs, seeing a Violaceous Trogon and 3 Tanager species in the Rainforest, and getting a good enough photo to identify the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer hummingbird.
Birding the Prospect Plantation near the Port in Ocho Rios Jamaica for 4 hours and seeing 16 endemic bird species, including the very long-tailed Red-billed Streamertail hummingbirds, Lizard-Cuckoo, Northern Potoo, Jamaican Woodpecker, Stripe-headed Tanagers and Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo.
Walking 4 to 6 miles a day on the Promenade Deck.
Relaxing on the heated stone beds of the private Spa.
Smoking on the Island Princess
Princess fails to protect non-smokers from the well-known negative health consequences of second-hand cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke.
Princess makes no effort to enforce the minimal rules they do have. If you point out a violation of the rules to the Pursers office, they will listen to you and do nothing.
There is so much Princess and other cruise lines could easily do to make things better - like have all smoking cabins on the Port side and all non-smoking cabins on the Starboard side; and restrict smoking in public rooms to enclosed designated areas. Celebrity and RCI have taken a step in the right direction by banning smoking in cabins and on balconies, but more is required!
Princess needs to join the rest of the civilized world and highly restrict smoking on ships so that non-smokers are not continually subjected to the stench and health impacts of second hand smoke, the potential of spending many hours/days in a life boat, or worse - cancer from second smoke or death by fire.
I personally favor an absolute ban of any type of smoking on cruise ships – with violators removed from the ship at the next Port (like they do for drug possession or use). My wife and I have decided to boycott Princess until they completely ban smoking on their cruise ships. The perks of being Platinum means nothing compared to the stench of cigarette smoke.
If I Could Do It Over I Would
Consider going on Celebrity since they don't allow smoking in the cabins or on the balconies. The buzz on Island Princess was that Celebrity had better food. Celebrity stops in Colon all day so you could arrange for a bird guide.
We had a balcony cabin on the Port side of Deck 12 (A304). The room was pretty standard with lots of storage. The bed was very hard and by 2am your back would be hurting (we heard other passengers make the same comment).
We didn't use the balcony as much as on other cruises because of smokers in other cabins around and below us polluted the air to the point we couldn't stay out. Also, the people next to our cabin talked so loud you didn't want to be out when they were around – you could even hear them thru the walls.
Some of the cabin furnishings were in need of replacement; i.e., the bedspread had cigarette holes , the duvet was ripped in several areas, and the refrigerator didn't get things very cool.
The Port side balconies are best for birdwatching going from the Atlantic to Pacific thru the Panama Canal, but the best side for seeing the operation of the locks is on the Starboard side.
Food & Drinks
We had one Br, one Lu, and one Dn in the dinning room. Br was OK. The Lu and Dn Dinning Room choices were pretty mediocre, even by cruise standards. A restaurant would soon go out of business with these uninteresting menu selections and tasteless choices.
We avoided the public areas as much as possible because of the stench of cigarette and cigar smoke. Princess encourages people to smoke cigars at the Churchill Bar on Deck 7, but this contributes greatly to the overall stench of the public areas on Decks 5, 6 and 7. We never went in the Casino on Deck 6 because of the strong smell of smoke. The Wheelhouse Bar of Deck 6 Midship was large, comfortable and smoke free.
We enjoyed the private Spa (limited to 20 couples a day) with 4 hot stone beds, 3 steam rooms and 1 dry sauna on Deck 14 Aft. It's a great place to spend sea days and the afternoons of port days – especially since it is No-Smoking! The Rainforest showers are very large with lots of water (in case you don't like the small showers in the cabins). We thought it was well worth the $199!
We used the Sanctuary on the day we went thru the Panama Canal. It was probably not worth $70 per person, especially since someone was smoking a cigar on one of the balconies on Deck 12 Aft that wafted up to the Sanctuary. I did get some good pictures of the locks from the Sanctuary as we sailed back toward Colon (but you could get the same pictures from the basketball court on Deck 15).
They have removed the freestanding smoke stands from the Promenade Deck and from the elevator areas. This seemed to reduce the number of people smoking on the Promenade Deck, but sometimes people with cigars would congregate there anyhow, even though the Princess handbook in each cabin specifically requests that no cigars or pipes be smoked anywhere on the ship except the Churchill Bar. The handbook also says some areas are marked Non Smoking, but we never saw any signs.
We only took a ship's shore excursion in Cartagena Columbia because of safety concerns. It turns our there was nothing to be concerned about. The tour spent 45 minutes at an Emerald store (we didn't buy any). We should have gotten a taxi on our own at the Port to take us to the impressive Fort and Old Town.
At every port, it was possible to get tours at substantially reduced prices from the ship's Shore Excursions.
Carl & Wilma Ball
28 day cruise around Australia. It was a nursing home at sea. All old people. Very boring for young and middle age people. everything was for the older people. If you like to have fun and stay up late don't go because everything shuts down early. Very boring bands also.
-Background- We're a couple aged 41 and 51, and this was our second cruise. We had cruised the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Valor in 2007 and had enjoyed it so much that we wanted to cruise again and try a different cruise line. We were looking for a beautiful and attractive ship from a premium cruise line offering flexible dining and affordable fares, so we chose the Emerald Princess.
-Embarkation- We liked Fort Lauderdale better than Miami. We found the airport very welcoming. We stayed overnight the day before our cruise and found the city very nice and pleasant. We got to the port around 12h30 noon. There was already a long line outside the terminal but it moved quickly and within a few minutes we stood in line in front of the check-in counters that were identified with the deck names. The check-in was a breeze and by 1 pm we were already on board the ship. Our lifeboat drill was held in Club Fusion around 4pm and took about 15 minutes.
-Cabin- We had a standard balcony cabin on deck 12 near the stern of the ship. The walk-incloset was a nice feature. The tiny shower stall had a curtain and bars of soap and samplers of shampoo were provided instead of a dispenser mounted on the wall. We had requested an egg-crate mattress and found the bed and the pillows very comfortable. There was an individual air-conditioning system, a flat screen TV above the minibar, plus a small desk and a chair. We experienced some vibrations sometimes but it didn't bother us. Our cabin steward was very friendly and did a good job.
-Ship in general- She's a very beautiful and attractive ship. The public rooms are all tastefully decorated in subdued earth tone colors and the decor is similar throughout the ship. There's nothing gaudy here, all the spaces are luxurious, pleasant and inviting. The Italian-style Piazza is small but very nice. However, we found the decor in the Princess Theater rather plain. The indoor space is generous and we rarely felt it was crowded but sometimes we had to wait a while for the elevators. In comparison to our first cruise, we found that the ship was pitching and rolling a lot even though the sea was calm, making both of us feel seasick sometimes. The average age on board was 50-60, and really not many kids or teens.
-Dining- We had Anytime Dining and it worked just fine for us. We usually went for dinner to the Da Vinci dining room around 8 pm and requested a table for two. There was usually no wait at all and we always got a table for two without any problem. We were given a pager twice and our table got ready in less than 10 minutes. We found the dining room very nice, cozy and not noisy at all. The service was good and quick, and the food was very good. All in all, Anytime Dining is a well-run feature.
We had dinner one night at Sabatini's. It was really the best meal of our cruise. We got an impressive selection of cold appetizers, hot appetizers, soup and pastas, then the entrée, and it ended with the dessert. Everything was so good and we ate a lot. The $20 per person fee was really worth it!
The Horizon Court buffet was disappointing. The decor was nice and cozy but eating from plastic plates wasn't exactly what I had expected. We also found that the stations area was cramped and most of all we found that the buffet was poor. There wasn't a lot of choice, it was disorganized and not looking good, and there wasn't any mouth-watering cake or dessert of any kind. At breakfast, it was not possible to get an omelet cooked on the spot in front of you. It was totally not like what we had seen earlier on the Carnival Valor and certainly not suitable for a so-called premium cruise line. Having beverages delivered to the table was nice, though.
We liked very much the International Café, located just off the Piazza, where we could sit down and people-watch while sipping our cappuccino. There were a few tables and waiters came at the table to take the order. I bought a coffee card good for 15 specialized coffees for $24 (gratuities excluded). Plus there was a nice selection of croissants, pastries, danishes and sandwiches, most of them free of charge. We also liked Vines, also nearby the Piazza, where we had cheese and wine one night and sushi and wine one other night.
-Outdoor areas- We found that the outdoor space was generous and beautiful. The outdoor promenade on deck 7 was a nice place to stroll and relax. It went all around the ship and had many padded wooden chairs. The terrace on top of the bridge was a well-kept secret and you could access it through exit doors located at the end of the hallways on deck 15. We liked the two adult-only pools and hot tubs located at both ends of the ship. At the stern was the Terrace pool from where the decks rose in tiers. We liked the few outdoor tables on the Horizon terrace (overlooking the Terrace pool and the wake) for al fresco breakfasts and lunches. Better yet, the tables and the padded chairs by the two small fountains on the deck above (outside Sabatini's and Adagio). At the bow on deck 16, the Lotus Spa pool was very nice and had a few padded loungers. It was a little bit hidden and better accessible from the deck above via a flight of stairs. It was designated as a quiet area but unfortunately some people were ignoring those rules while we were there. Also, we found that the swim-against-the-current system was noisy when it was turned on and not very appropriate for that so-called quiet area. We liked The Sanctuary with its plush loungers where we spent an afternoon on a day at sea for $10 per person. However, we thought that there was not enough loungers in the sun (most of them were in the shade or partial shade) and that the noise coming from the nearby Lotus Spa pool could be annoying (we heard some people behind us complaining). During sea days the outdoor decks were crowded. Even the Lotus Spa pool and its two small hot tubs could be crowded sometimes. However, we really liked being able to take a hot tub at night under the stars. We didn't go to the Movies Under The Stars but it seemed pretty popular and fun with the loungers specially covered for the occasion.
-Bars and entertainment- We liked Crooners, the martini bar, for pre-dinner cocktails. Adagio was very nice but it seemed that nobody went there, so it lacked some ambiance. The Skywalkers nightclub was always busy late at night. We saw only one show in the Princess theater so that we cannot comment on that, but we liked the quartets that played regularly in the Piazza. Here's what we paid for some drinks (gratuities not included): can of Sprite $1.95, imported beer $5.75, martini $6.50, frozen margarita $6.75, glass of Rosé d'Anjou $6.75, glass of Pinot Grigio $7.75, glass of Pouilly Fumé $9. There was not many intrusive announcements. However, we found that they were trying too much to draw our attention to shopping with flyers and shopping speeches of all kinds. We even heard at many times crew members asking passengers "Did you go shopping today?". Has shopping become the main reason for cruising today?
-Ports of call- This will be brief because we didn't take any tour. In spite of cloudy skies, Princess Cays was nice and well-organized with lots of things plus a free buffet. In St-Martin, we took a cab to Marigot on the French side and had lunch on the terrace of a French bistro overlooking the marina. Before going back on board, we strolled a bit in Philipsburg. In St-Thomas, we took a cab to the beautiful Magen's Bay beach ($4 entrance fee), and after a while we came back to Charlotte Amalie to have lunch and to stroll a little bit. In Grand Turk, we stayed in the cruise facility which had a good sandy beach just a few feet from the pier.
-Debarkation- We paid $20 per person for the EZCheck service. With that service, we got our boarding passes and luggage tags the day before debarkation, allowing us to leave our luggage in the hallway the night before as usual and collect it at our destination only. No hassle with the luggage in the cruise terminal or at the airport and no need to check-in with the airline. Worth it! On the final morning, we were invited to meet at the Crown Grill between 7h30 and 9h00, we showed up around 8h30, waited there about 20 minutes and then we were escorted out the ship.
Thumbs up for... - the beauty of the ship - Anytime Dining - Sabatini's - International Café - Vines - adult-only pools and hot tubs open day and night - The Sanctuary - Movies Under The Stars - EZCheck
Thumbs down for... - Horizon Court - the swim-against-the-current lap pool located in the quiet area - the importance attached to shopping
Finally, was our cruise on Princess better than our cruise on Carnival? Is it fair to say that Princess is better than Carnival? The answer is probably no. Princess does a few things better, Carnival does some other things better, but all in all it is certainly similar.
A little background, I'm in my mid 40s and DH is mid 50s. This was our 12th and 13th cruise, 7th and 8th on Princess. We have cruised RCL x2, Celebrity, HAL and NCL. We booked this as two separate cruises…a 3 day Coastal followed by the first 7 day Mexican Riviera of the season. We were lucky to snag the aft corner BB Caribe 753 for both cruises.
Embarkation: Nightmare! But nothing we can blame on Princess. Unfortunately the lady that committed suicide by jumping off the back of Sapphire was being searched for the morning of our embarkation so Princess Staff had stopped the line and prevented anyone from boarding. We stood in the Security line for about an hour without moving. Princess staff told passengers that the Coast Guard was doing a "Drill".
Once we got through Security, boarding was a breeze. We found our cabin pretty easily and instantly fell in love with its location and balcony.
Cabin: Wow - what can be said about those corner afts that hasn't already been said? We loved it! The view was incredible. We had a lot of sea days on this10 day voyage and that balcony was perfect. The Cabin was laid out really well, tons of drawers and closet space. Suitcases fit under the bed no problem. The egg crate was already on the bed and robes were in the bathroom for us. Even the shower curtain didn't seem to hug the way it used to.
Ship: The Sapphire Princess is beautiful - absolutely beautiful and not showing any aging at all. We were on the Zuiderdam in May and she was a disgrace. Sapphire was truly spotless. She has so many great hidden areas for reading and relaxing and an abundance of pools. The first couple of days out the pools where far too warm. It felt like you were being dipped in soup. They cooled down a bit towards the end. I think they must have been heated for Alaska and just took time to adjust the temp.
Service: Another WOW - we've been on 5 cruise lines and about 11 different ships - Sapphire crew were the best - everyone that you ran into was friendly, happy and very helpful. Gerry our cabin steward was the best we've encountered on any ship. Bar Staff, waitstaff, officers, everyone was so nice. The staff in the Pacific Moon dining room were fantastic. I ordered a Cappuccino in Lobby Bar one morning and had a bit of a wait…just a couple of minutes, but I had three people apologize for the wait. Honestly, I can't say enough about the staff…..except… the pursers' desk…I'm not labeling them all as bad, but we certainly ran into our share. We had a problem with an internet credit that took 4 trips - over 4 days to the purser's desk to fix and you could tell she really didn't have a clue what she was talking about. The second instance was the billing on the ultimate balcony dinner. We did this with friends - in their cabin - and our cabin got charged for both couples. The men went down to fix it up and thought it had been done and sure enough on the final bill, it was still screwed up and charged to our cabin. The other couple just ended up giving us $100 cash as the Pursers desk was unable to fix it.
Dining: We had Anytime Dining and I think ate in the dining room 3 times. Had reservations each time and no wait. We did the pub lunch which was good, but doing it in one of the fancier dining rooms is a bit strange. The wheelhouse pub is a much better location. Couldn't believe when our drinks server at the pub lunch clearly remembered what we were drinking the night before - great memory - I barely remembered ;)
We had our anniversary dinner in Sabatini's - Fantastic! Alex our waiter was awesome as was the food except for the lobster which was overcooked - knew I should have had the Seabass. But the rest of the meal made up for it including the plethora of desserts he brought us.
Last formal night we dined with our friends in Sterlings. My Filet was very good but hubby's Rib eye had a lot of fat on it.
We also did the Ultimate Balcony Dinner which was superb. We did it for 4 on the other corner caribe balcony. 4 fit out there quite well. They brought a larger table. We had a Goat Cheese Salad, Crab Tart, then Steak/Lobster or both followed by dessert. They start you a cocktail of your choice then with dinner a ½ bottle of champagne per couple. I'd run down to a bar earlier and grabbed a bottle of red for dinner which they gladly served us. Service, food, ambience - all excellent. A photographer also comes up to take your pic and you get a free 8 x 10 per couple. We had about 4 shots to choose from. Cost was $100 per couple and well worth it in our opinion.
Horizon Court was actually pretty good. Anytime they had seafood on the buffet it was excellent especially the breaded shrimp.
Overall, I'd say the food everywhere was pretty impressive.
Entertainment: This part is going to be short, other than Steve Morris, we didn't see any. He was good though. We also attended some of the Karaoke (oh my ears are still ringing) and we won Passenger Feud.
The Ports: Well this was a 10 day cruise for us, with only LA, PV, Mazatlan and Cabo so a lot of sea days! Getting off the ship in LA as in "In Transit" passenger was very easy. We congregated in Club Fusion for about 20 minutes and where then led off. A short walk for someone to check your documents and you were back on board. We decided to leave the terminal and check out San Pedro…hmmm… don't bother. We were directed to "Ports of Call" there really wasn't anything there. We should have just stayed on board and enjoyed the solitude of the ship.
Puerto Vallarta - we just took the white shuttle buses into town $3 each. Easy and quick. We were dropped off outside Diamonds International..of course! We wandered around a bit. There were a couple of nice Silver and Leather shops that the ship recommended. We then went for a beer and walked around a bit more. We ended up taking a taxi back to Walmart to replenish water and pop. We also went to the mall next door to Walmart which was very nice and just walked back to the ship.
Mazatlan - we took a Ghetto Taxi (taxi driver's words not mine) down into the Golden Zone. Wow tons of construction going on and lots of stores added since the last time we were there. The cab driver asked if he could drop us off at Diamonds International as he gets $5 for doing so, we said sure and just walked straight through it. Taxi was $8 for the 4 of us. We walked around a bit, bought some silver jewelry and friends of ours bought some Pewter from a store we bought from 9 years ago - it was good to see they were still there. Went for a beer (starting to see a pattern?) walked around a bit more and then headed back to the ship. There are tons of stores in the port area to navigate through. Mazatlan runs a little shuttle in and out of the port area which is Mandatory and Complimentary. It's an industrial port area so they want you to be safe. Jewelry prices were pretty good in Mazatlan but watch your prices in the store sponsored silver store. They wanted about $160 for a bracelet that I found a few stores down for $72
Cabo - Cabo is a tender port. We got our tender tickets about 8:30 am and within about 5 minutes were being led to the Tenders. It was so hot in Cabo…it had actually been very hot and humid all cruise but Cabo seemed especially warm. We started walking around the Marina area and quickly ran into our friends who had done an earlier excursion… so even though it was only 9:30 am, we needed that beer to combat the heat ;) We shopped a little. Cabo prices were out of line compared to the other ports. Earrings that I had looked at in Mazatlan were starting price of $40 Cabo they were $70. I told him he was nuts and walked out the store. We ended up at Cabo Wabo for Margaritas a little later in the morning and wound our way back around the Marina back to the ship. We bought some Almond Tequila and some Pomegranate Tequila in Cabo and had no problem taking them back on the ship.
Disembarkation: A breeze! No announcements which is nice. You just head to your designated public lounge/dining room and disembark at your time. We were in the Platinum lounge and disembarked on time.
Highlights: Sea Days - we've never done a cruise with this many sea days before, we now know that we love them, so relaxing. We spent so much time on our balcony just watching the wake and the dolphins racing the ship. The Staff - can't say enough. We've never run into this much consistency of good service. The Ship - just beautiful and spotless The Food - shockingly good - especially the seafood on the buffet.
Once again there were problems with a Princess cruise.
Since cruising with another Princess cruise ship in June, I must report that I will not be cruising with this cruise line again.
Their ships are very well kept and clean,and the crew very good,but these problems persist (on this repositioning cruise):Food - very average, and sometimes unacceptable. Their desserts are uninspiring and industrial The coffee is tasteless, even at their coffee house (not free) Poor entertainment, with no main theater shows at all No upper sheet on the beds Breakfast not available in the cabins (at least a full breakfast) Poor movies and bad TV programming The on-deck big screen movies are noisy and a nuisance There is a 15% hotel fee every day per person (meant to cover tips). But tips are asked for on every order as well!
All this I believe is due to cost cutting. The only result is that I will choose another cruise line next time.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Marc Eastern Caribbean August 13, 2009
AVOID THIS CRUISE LINE AT ALL COSTS! The cruise we took was the worst vacation we have ever had. As experienced travelers and cruisers we had a good idea of what to expect. We were disappointed in almost every aspect of the cruise. One expects a certain amount of "nickel and diming" as that is the nature of cruises. But Princess takes this to a bizarre extreme. Every possible way to separate one from his or her money is exploited.
The ship is completely and totally overcrowded. There is no where to go and nothing to do without being crowded by other passengers. The dining rooms, the fitness center, the decks, the pools….everything was crowded. The anytime dining rooms had lines frequently an hour or more. In the buffet areas the dining areas were always full leaving no place to sit. Princess cruises staff actually took up tables while passengers had no where to sit.
Early in the morning passengers would spread towels on lounge chairs since if one waited until late morning there would be no available lounge chairs to use. Eventhough there are signs asking passengers not to reserve lounge chairs, this was never enforced. The pools were always packed, the adults only pools frequently had many children in them.
The staff seemed simply angry. From the cabin steward to the bar tenders to the front desk it was clear that they were overworked, mistreated, or just unhappy to be there. Our cabin steward was frequently AWOL. On more than one occasion we actually had to go to the front desk to request someone clean our room and bring some fresh towels. Our room was not clean when we arrived. My wife actually had to do cleaning in the bathroom area. The towel she used was filthy when she finished.
When calling for room service or any other service the phone would ring, on some occasions 20 times or more. Both times we ordered room service they said they were extremely busy and the service took over an hour. There was never a time when anything was done in a reasonable amount of time. The ship was too crowded.
There are many other examples of poor service and a lack of promised facilities. I rarely write reviews for cruises but in this case I wanted to warn those who may be contemplating booking a cruise with Princess. What is promised in their promotional material will not be delivered. You will spend far more money than you expect due to the extreme "nickel and diming" that is practiced by princess. You will receive poor service.
The food was ok, not great. Trying to get a table in the anytime dining rooms is impossible. Expect to wait in long lines. The buffet areas are so busy that it's very difficult to make ones way through. Fining a place to sit is also very difficult. If you’re expecting gourmet meals served by good waiters then you will be very disappointed. The cuisine is similar to what one would find in a chain restaurant. The service will be far less than one would expect.
We had a balcony stateroom on the Riviera deck. The room was small as one would expect. The balcony was small. There is a plastic pane that is about 4ft high. This piece of plastic was so filthy that one could not see through it. I requested that it be cleaned and was told that nothing could be done. I have been on other ships and this pane of plastic is cleaned each day.
The television would frequently lose its signal. The only stations that would be available were the ones that have promotional commercials. It was actually comical to see them trying to market their cruise showing people in different parts of the ship. In their infomercial nothing was crowded. On the ship everything was crowded.
The bottom line: The room was about what was expected as far as size, but unacceptable dirty.
The onboard activities were lacking. The swim against the current pool NEVER worked not once when we were on the cruise. Each time we inquired as to the reason, we got a different answer as to why it was not working.
The internet cafe charged exorbitant rates to use the computer. The connection was frequently poor, resulting in the need to reboot. The shows in the evening filled up very fast. If you did not get there early, you would not get a seat. The cruise director staff in general seemed to think that we were there for them instead of them being there for us. Plan on entertaining yourself on this ship.
Lesson to the wise: DO NOT PLAN AHEAD FOR SHORE EXCURSIONS. Our itinerary was changed while we were on the cruise and we were not able to attend any of the shore excursions we had booked. Princess re-routed us to ports of call that had limited shore excursions and extremely limited tourist amenities. The alternate route was clearly chosen to save Princess money (i.e. a lot fewer nautical miles traveled). It was clear to us that more desirable ports could have been chosen with no danger based on weather conditions.
AVOID THIS CRUISE LINE AT ALL COSTS! You were warned. The culture of this cruise company is designed to make money and not to satisfy the customer.
For our 17th cruise we flew to Heathrow and took the National Express coach bus to our port of Southampton, bookable on the net, 20 UKP return, and 10 UKP for seniors. Get the bus at the Central Bus Station in the terminal 1, 2, 3 area, follow the bus signage. Book ahead, buses to the ports are full. The trip is a little under 2 hours. From Gatwick it's a little over 3 hours. From the bus station in Southampton it's a 4.60 UKP cab to the ship, and 5.60 going back after the cruise.
We arrived at the Mayflower cruise terminal at noon, luggage handling was fast, and we had our ship card by 12:15. Then there was a holdup in boarding like the old days many years ago. After getting ship cards we were sent to a large lounge with several hundred people to wait to board by colored cards handed out. After an hour and 10 minutes our color was called, with about 50 other people. Then we discovered the reason for the holdup. A minor one was the ship's portrait photographers stopping the line for boardingphotos, which we declined, and kept moving. The major lineup turned out to be getting security photos done to match our ship cards. This is usually done at the ship card stations, and we saw camera cams there but not in use.
The Crown is a classy, well-appointed ship, similar in décor to the HAL and Celebrity lines, not gaudy like Carnival. We were surprised that a ship as large and new as the Crown did not have a soaring open atrium, but an older style closed atrium extending from deck 5-7. It also had the traditional promenade shops and bars along laneways rather than the newer open air street promenade concept.
There is a quiet adults only area with pool, luxury loungers, cabanas, and green foliage called the Sanctuary, with a charge of $10 per half day and $20 per full day. This is similar to the solariums on the RCL Vision class, which are free, and also has a closeable roof in bad weather which the Crown didn't.
We thought the upper level in the Da Vinci dining room would have an open center area allowing tables a view of the lower level, but it's closed in, permitting extra tables.
One nice little special spot we liked was out the back of the Horizon buffet, up either staircase on each side, where there are about 6 nice glass tables with comfy chairs, lovely stern view. The windows in Sabatini's alternate restaurant look out onto this space. These tables are usually occupied, hard to find an open one in nice weather.
Specialty features on the ship include Movies Under the Stars, which are on-deck giant screen movies night or day, extra padded loungers, blankets, free popcorn. Picture was a bit grainy but watchable, Also a miniputt course. No ice rink, rock-climbing wall, surf pool, or kid's water slide.
Nice to have laundrettes, made my wife happy. And the gym was great, large with lots of equipment, some machines you don't often see on ships. Easy to get on even at peak times, maybe because the folks were mostly older. Outdoor jogging track, 1/16 of a mile, was tight for passing people. No dance area by the pool band, strange, but that didn't stop some people dancing between the loungers, great band.
All together the design of the ship or attractions would not make it a “destination ship” for us, but if you love outdoor movies and don't mind paying for a quiet pool area it could be for you.
THE CABIN (inside Riviera deck 14)
We liked the walk-in closet/dressing area, no doors to mess with, and 2 electrical outlets on the vanity, didn't need the power bar this time. We were surprised there was only seating for 1, just the vanity chair, first time for that, our other ships had some type of side chair or loveseat. Our steward said outside cabins have seating for 2. There was a little round table in the closet, but we couldn't see anywhere in the cabin to put it, so we left it there. Widescreen TV, but can't check your ship account or book tours on it. Lots of storage space, robes, extra hangers on request. Hair dryer was on the weak side, not great for thick hair, bring your own if necessary. Good sized vanity. Loved having a fridge!
DINING/FOOD The dining room food was fine, equivalent to the other major cruise lines. About 10 entrees each night including alternates. We chose Anytime Dining which we love, and if you agree to sit with others they can seat you anytime you arrive. We often needed a table for 2 of which there was quite a few, but in some areas they were pushed so close together, a few inches apart, that there was no privacy. If you want privacy, note the table numbers you like, then call Anytime Dining reservations between 8-4 that day, give them those numbers, and they will attempt to reserve one of those table for you. In Da Vinci the private tables are 480, 481, 484, 441, and 437. Call soon after 8 for best preference. Every time we called early we got our request, and once calling later nothing was available.
There are 2 alternate restaurants that charge a $20 fee, a steak house and Sabatini's, for seafood and pasta. We tried the latter, had a combo lobster and shrimp dinner with a variety of starters and appetizers of which you are brought many samples to try, and it was wonderful, well worth the charge.
The food in the Horizon buffet was fine, but at peak times it was more crowded than other ships we've been on, hard to find a place to sit, and the joke among passengers was how long they had to circle to get a table. The staff try to help find people tables, especially if they already have their food. Ice tea always available, great lemonade, harder to find, but if you ask the staff they will get you some.
The pizza joint was good, several kinds rotated daily, nice thin crust. Burgers, dogs, and fries at the pool were good.
The International Café has an assortment of sweets and tapas, some for a fee. Gillatto ice cream is 3 scoops for $1.50. Free donuts, cookies, brownies, etc.
The song and dance floor shows and other entertainment were fine, but for the first time we've seen, shows were repeated on later days, apparently because the theatre can't seat everyone on the ship in 2 sittings, so they repeat in order to give everyone a chance to see the shows. People we talked to did not like that, wanted more variety.
We tried to get to the famous Pulpit Rock http://www.stavangertravel.com/news/pulpit-rock-norway.cfm), jutting out 2000 feet above the fjord, but with an early ship departure, all aboard was 3:30, we ran out of time about half an hour from the top and had to turn back. To get there you take a ferry across the bay which connects to a tourist bus going there. If your ship arrives in time for you to catch the 7:20 or 8:00 ferry, it will connect with the 8:30 bus, and you will be at the Pulpit Rock welcome center at 9:00. It's a hard, uphill climb mostly over rocks, often little ground to step on, not pleasant, about 2 Km each way, and no way to rush it without breaking an ankle. 100,000 people do it annually. If your ship leaves at dinner time you could do it, there are quite a few buses and ferries through the day. Here's the bus link which also includes some ferry times. There is also a bus leaving Pulpit at 1245 which isn't on the schedule. http://www.veolia-transport.no/getfile.php/Internett/Filer/Rutetider/Bussrute_tau_preikestol_eng%20%282%29.pdf
Here's the ferry schedule, all times are departures, for arrivals add 30-40 minutes depending if it's a speed ferry (bold) or not: http://www.tide.no/uploads/documents/Ferjeruter/Rogaland/Ferjeruter_Stavanger-Tau.pdfTrondheim
The ship offered a $5 shuttle to town, very reasonable since the local bus is about 25 NOK or $4. In the morning we did the 6 Km Ladestien (Lade) hike around the bay, pretty and easy. The #3 bus from downtown takes you there and back. Email if you need details. In the afternoon we walked around the town, lots of interesting historical sights to see. The 2 best pedestrian streets are Nordregate and Thomas Angells Gate. Fjordgate is also mentioned but we didn't get to it.
Again the ship offered $5 shuttle rides to town, 3 miles. In the morning we took the cable car up Mt. Storsteinen, lovely views from the top. To get there take the #26 bus from the stop downtown in front of Pepe's Pizza taking you across the bridge past the famous Arctic church. The driver can sell you combo tickets covering the bus both ways and cable car, which costs 120 NOK and saves about $12 over buying separately. The bus was jammed full, almost completely tourists, only a few locals who had a tough time getting off at their stops. The driver will tell you when to get off, but it's quite evident by everyone leaving. To get to the cable car station walk back the bus route one short block, turn left, and you will see the cable car station. Do this as early as you can, when we came down the cable car late morning there were tons of people in a long line out into the parking lot, with a 2.5 hour wait we heard. We had no wait arriving just after 9. Here's the bus system link: http://www2.uit.no/ikbViewer/Content/97797/THE%20BUS%20SYSTEM%20IN%20TROMS%C3%98.pdf
At the top there is a good open hiking trail up to the next peak, Mt. Floya, takes about half an hour, not a bad trail, uphill but lots of good footing, wide open with no trees going up so good viewing, past snowy patches left over from winter (snowballs in July), great views from the top in all directions. And if you want you can continue to the next peak too.
Downtown Tromso was pretty, and the 2 good shopping streets are Storgata and Grannegata. Cokes are 25 NOK ($4), and a simple lunch like a hot dog with drink is about 60-80 NOK. Free internet for tourists in the library, 2nd and 3rd floor, about 6 stations on each floor.
This port is a 30 minute drive from the most northerly tip of Europe, a cliff 1000 feet above the Arctic Ocean called the North Cape (NordKapp). It's a lovely rugged area to walk around, large reception center, expensive snacks, small bottle of water is $7. The ship tour there is $130, and 8 of us pre-booked a van with Verina at NordKapp Taxi for 1800 NOK, plus 215 NOK entrance, totaling 440 NOK pp ($73). There is also a local bus departing 1045 from the tourist office for 100 NOK, plus entrance fee, return trip leaving the Cape at 1:15. Here's the bus link: http://www.veolia-transport.no/timetables-bus/330-honningsvaag-north-cape-summer-article800-384.html
Honningsvag is a cute town to walk around, there are trails on top of the hills, or you can walk the highway along the coast. Cheap internet at the tourist office, one machine, I think it was 1 NOK per minute.
We took the cable car (Funicular) up Mt. Floyen, lovely views from the top. Get there early to avoid long lines. The station is an easy walk from downtown, about 10 minutes. At the top there is a nice network of trails, well maintained, more like roads, over hills, around lakes, very good signage.
Lots of downtown action around Torget, Torgalmenning, Strandgaten. Everything is expensive, and we were told the locals take the short ferry to Newcastle UK to do their shopping. A local TA told us all the internet cafes are out of business, but there were free stations at the library (Biblioteque), which we found.
We did the hiking trail that follows the famous Flam railway, and took the side trail to the Berkenfossen(?) Falls, very pretty. Flam is a small village, just some tourist shops at the dock, and internet.
From the Fjordcenter we did hiking trail A winding 1000 feet up the side of the fjord to the Vesteras farm, good trail, and from there, level side trail B to a great lookout with the ship way below. There are quite a variety of trails from Geiranger. The tourist office will mail you a great map, or get it here: http://www.geiranger.no/map_of_walks_with_descriptions.html
Small village, no serious shopping.
Very well done, off at 9:00, no announcements, you wait in a lounge and the crew tell you when to leave, by color code. Lots of cabs, 5.60 UKP back to the bus depot. Pre-book your National Express bus, people trying to get on were told they were full till mid-afternoon.
After Cruise in London
After taking the National Express bus to Heathrow, we got the hotel shuttle to the Crown Plaza Heathrow in West Drayton just outside the airport. We got the 4 star Crown Plaza on Priceline for $50. Internet rate was 80 UKP, or about $150. All Heathrow hotel shuttle buses are 4 UKP, no freebees here. After checking in, we got a cab to the nearby West Drayton train station (10 UKP), 20 minute ride to London, faster than the Tube from Heathrow. An all day TravelCard pass for all trains, subways, and buses is 7.50 UKP for off-peak travel (after 9:30 M-F, and all day weekends) in all zones 1-6, which covers Heathrow to London. Each trip by itself is 4 UKP. A peak Travelcard for use before 9:30 costs 14.80 UKP. Buy them at any tube, train, or bus station from the machines.
Speed trains run from West Drayton to London Paddington every half hour, take 20 minutes, and at Paddington you can transfer to the Tube. We took the Tube from there to St. Paul's Cathedral, and then back to Leicester Square and Soho, had dinner there, and then back to Paddington for the train to West Drayton. Soho and Chinatown are a hoot to walk around, tons of people even on Sunday evening, every kind of restaurant, café, and club, as well as the stage shows.
And finally, here's one for the books, the licensed cab drive from the hotel didn't know where the train station was, and the cab driver from the train station didn't know where the hotel was. They are about 1.5 miles apart.
Also, wait to get home to change your UKP back to your currency, the rate at Heathrow was about 15 percent worse than at home.
And lastly, at the Crown Plaza we overheard a guest complaining about being charged for minibar articles, and they were told there is a sensor in the bar, and if you move anything it's assumed you used it and are charged for it. Really.
Email us if you need more info: Bob7 (at) Canoemail dot com
-Bob and Wendy Evans July 2009
I went on a Princess cruise this summer. Although these problems may seem minor, what upset me most about this cruise line is they did nothing to fix them or make me feel like I was a valuable customer. When I got home, I mailed this letter to the President of Princess and two other senior level people. I mailed this over a month ago and got no response. If you plan on sailing Princess and have any issues, don't expect them to be resolved or even given consideration for your feelings. Once they have your money, they don't care if you are happy or not.
July 16, 2009
Alan Buckelew President and CEO of Princess Cruises 24844 Avenue Rockefeller Santa Clarita, CA 91355
Dear Mr. Buckelew:
My husband and I vacationed on the Princess Sapphire with the rail tour after our cruise, booking number XXXXX. We are disappointed with our experience. Despite our efforts to correct some of these issues, none of the Princess Tour employees assisted us. Then when I called to talk about it to customer relations, I spoke to Raymond, and he just told me to write an email.So once again, I felt disregarded. Prior to this cruise, we sailed with Norwegian which had superior service and activities. We were looking forward to this cruise line but it will be highly unlikely we would ever sail it again and we definitely would warn our friends and family about the poor customer service. Hopefully, we will get a response from this letter to show that someone at Princess still cares about their customers.
Problems we encountered on the cruise ship
1. The nightly entertainment repeated. On Norwegian they had a different show every night and not just the cruise ship dancers. On Princess they had “Do You Wanna Dance” by the ship dancers on Sunday and Monday and “Piano Man” by the ship dancers on Thursday and Friday. Therefore, two nights on board we did not have new entertainment.
2. We could never sit by a window at dinner. Six of the seven nights we did anytime dining, and every night I asked to sit by a window, they said they don't have two person tables by the window. We don't understand why you don't have a few since you know couples will be on board. If you do, we don't understand why we always were seated as far from a window in the restaurant as possible.
3. One night, after I asked to be seated near a window, they put us against the wall, once again. Moments after we sat down, a couple were being seated near us, when they asked to be moved closer to a window, they got a better table near one. I complained to the maître d' who just apologized. He didn't offer to sit us by a window on another night or make any kind of compensation.
4. The waiter kept trying to sell us items. At dinner one night, the waiter asked us about the breakfast on our balcony about 5 times in a row. We understand being asked once, but a no should end the conversation. At this point it became harassment. I should have said something to someone else but was so aggravated and didn't want to talk about it anymore.
5. The only sit down restaurant's breakfast ended by 9:00 and didn't open for lunch until 12:00. If we did not get there by 8:30, the buffet was our only option for three and a half hours.
6. On the morning of departure, the main dining room didn't open until most passengers disembarked.
7. One day we went to get soft serve ice cream at 6:00 and the woman serving the ice cream said they closed at 6:00. We would understand if we came at 6:10 or if the machine was being cleaned, but neither were the case.
8. All the restaurants had the same menu for dinner so if we didn't want an item on that menu; our only other choice was the buffet.
9. There was no one to talk to about land excursions on the rail portion of our trip on the cruise ship. The cruise ship could only talk about their ports. We don't understand why they couldn't help us with the land excursions of the trip since it is all the same company.
10. No special event – Norwegian had midnight chocolate buffet, Royal Caribbean had midnight buffet as well.
11. Our reserved dinner in the main dining room was supposed to be by a window and it was next to the entrance.
Problems we encountered on land portion
12. We were told it was a rail tour but the majority of our trip was by motor coach. We had rail from Whittier to Talkeetna and the rest was by motor coach (Talkeetna to McKinley, McKinley to Denali, and Denali to Fairbanks)
13. The shuttles from the hotel to town cost money and they were far away from everything. In the land excursion brochure on page 26 it says shuttle is complimentary. In addition, it is a Princess bus so we don't know why it costs extra. For McKinley it was $10 round trip per person and Fairbanks it was $5 roundtrip per person.
14. We asked if we could switch the tour we were given with a lesser priced one in Denali and they would not do it. We did not pick that tour; it was assigned to us so we don't know why we were not allowed to switch to something that we would enjoy. When we went to the park, they switched it for us so I'm confused why Princess refused to do it.
15. The hotel in McKinley had neither air conditioning nor fans in the rooms. It was in the upper 80s and was very hot in the room!
16. None of the rooms on the land portion had a safe to lock up our valuables.
17. From Fairbanks to the airport they would not change the shuttle time. It had us leaving at 6:45 when the airport is 5 minutes away for a 9:30 flight and they refused to make a second trip.
18. There was a luggage fee for the Alaskan Airlines flight that we were not told about before we booked our trip.
19. We had a long layover in Anchorage when there were flights that left sooner to go to Seattle
What upsets us the most is the lack of any Princess employee's attempt to rectify even one of these items.
Lauren and Wayne
cc: Charlie Ball Jan Swartz
We cruised out of Seattle on June 28, 2009 for the Inside Passage. We took this same trip last year at almost the same week and on the same ship.
I have to say that this year was even better than last year. The weather was perfect, the company good and the food was fantastic.
Our cabin on the Caribe deck was nice with the larger balcony. We traveled with 2 other couples and had the balconies all open to each other. Made for great happy hours and was nice sharing the scenic glacier viewing of Tracy Endicott Arm.
Our room stewardess went way beyond expectations and everywhere on the ship the entire crew was pleasant. Our waiters were awesome at dinner service too.
The newly renovated Star Princess was nicely done. The bed was a bit lumpy, and I would have thought with the renovations recently done they would have changed the mattresses out.
We found the embarkation and disembarkation very organized and efficient. We used the Princess airport transfers and those too were very well organized.
The shows were entertaining and upbeat and very colorful. We went to several other activities throughout theship too, and those were also very entertaining. There was no lack of things to do. I only wish that some of the activities didn't overlap into the times of other activities. I would have liked to have done more.
Cruising is truly the best way to vacation. You have your lodging, entertainment and food all right there. You don't have to live out of a suitcase or worry about drinking and driving. All of this and visiting fabulous destinations too. What more could you ask for? Princess Cruise Lines know how to make traveling fun.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Harry F Smith Eastern Mediterranean June 9, 2009
About the Reviewer I am a 49 Y/O married man with 2 kids ages 11 and 12. This was our 5th cruise and 2nd with Princess. I am a Naval Officer. I selected this cruise due to the itinerary and the brand new ship, Ruby Princess.
Embarkation/Disembarkation Embarkation was flawless and fast. We arrived at the Port of Venice at 1130. From entrance to the terminal to boarding the ship, total time elapsed was 30 minutes. Disembarkation did not fare as well. Specifically, we opted for the "self disembarkation" status since we had our own arrangements to get to our hotel in Rome. We were off the ship by 0730 only to discover our luggage had been placed in an outdoor tent way too small for all the luggage in pouring rain. Upon entering the chaos in the tent, we found our luggage sitting in 4 inches of water! To add insult, everyone and their luggage was so jammed packed under the tent, I had to carry each back at waist level tippy toeing around passengers to get out.With all our clothes wet, it meant wearing the same clothes for another 2 days.
Service As in the past with Sea Princess, room and restaurant service was top notch. Our steward and waiter would do anything to ensure our satisfaction. One note of difference, the servers in the buffet area were exceptional. From the moment you sat down till the moment you left, someone was always ensuring your coffee was hot and your juice glasses filled. If however, you tried to get a drink using your free refill card in any show lounge, FORGET IT, servers avoided us like the plague.
Ruby Princess gets failing grades with the pursers' desk, the two Brazilian individuals in particular were no less than awful, acting annoyed if your needs were not simple and quick. In addition, another area terribly concerning was the level of response to a legitimate health concern within the room. Immediately upon initial arrival in our stateroom (235 Aloha Deck) we noticed an overpowering smell of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) like varnish or paint thinner. My wife was experiencing an immediate reaction of headache, nausea and dizziness. Princess staff acted as if there was no smell. It was not until I identified myself as someone with a Masters in Occupational Health that they began taking action. It took 4 hours to get a response to our concern whereby we were offered a temporary alternate cabin for the night. Needless to say, our port day in Venice was ruined.
Itinerary This particular cruise was very port intensive, calling on 10 ports in 12 days including Venice where we were docked a day and a half before leaving. Each stop was very beautiful. What was very disappointing was how early we were required to pull out each afternoon (4:30-5:30). Trips between ports of call taking 3-4 hours by regional ferries (such as Athens to Mykonos) required we take 12-14 hours, crawling at 10 knots. We can only assume Princess wanted us on board to spend money or they were too cheap to burn fuel at a higher rate. With excursions getting back at 3:30 or 4:30, it left little or no time to legitimately explore on your own.
Also of note, when 3080 passengers plus some crew descend upon quaint ports such as Mykonos or Santorini, you will find yourself dodging massive crowds and tour groups of 30 to 40 people, not exactly relaxing.
Food Food was hit or miss, overall I would rate it 3.5 out of five. In general, we found the food in the buffet area for dinner to be bland and lacking. I offer some details of foods not to be missed and foods better left alone.
Foods Not to be Missed: Pizza (YUM!) Fettuccini Alfredo in main dinning room (best I have ever had anywhere) Chocolate cake in main piazza pastry shop Pork Belly in main dining room NY cheese cake
Foods Better Left Alone: Steaks (any and all) in main dining area, they were bland and tough mousse -- they tasted like eating grease chocolate cakes in buffet area (bland)
Onboard Experience Overall Princess gets high marks for keeping 3000 passengers apart using clever tactics such as two show rooms offering the same shows twice in a row so passengers can view both shows over two separate nights. One feature that really, really jumped out at us was how Princess constantly marketed to us. The "Welcome Aboard Show" featured 45 minutes of Princess hocking their wares, showing all the places you could spend additional $$ such as the optional dining rooms, very disappointing. If you are planning a cruise on Ruby, skip the opening show unless you like to be shaken down to spend money. On the first formal night there were no less than six photography stations set up, two blocking main passageways. I made no apologies for waling right through a photo shoot taking place directly in the path of passengers along the main Promenade deck. Spirits, beer and wine are reasonably priced from $3.50 to $7.00.
Concluding Remarks Overall, the trip was nice, but I would caution expecting rest and relaxation. With more time in each port and less being marketing to, the experience might have been more enjoyable and relaxing.