My husband and I decided to spend the holiday season after Christmas through New Years (December 27-January 6th) in the Caribbean. We’ve been on a few cruises before. Our most recent cruise was in the Mediterranean (see post 20 Years of Travel #13: Mediterranean Cruise). When searching for which cruise line to take, many people recommended going on a Princess cruise. As we did with our Mediterranean cruise, we booked a Princess cruise through Vacations To Go, which was super easy and efficient (shout out to Ernie for assisting us).
On first appearance, we were really impressed with the Crown Princess ship. It was far larger than any ship we had been on before. I was still having to consult the ship map to navigate my way on the final day. Our room was spacious with a balcony. The Crown Princess had so many wonderful features, including many pools and hot tubs, multiple dining options and bars, a spa, fitness center, library (with books and games), a casino, entertainment venues and an outdoor movie theater. I am sure there were other wonderful features that I am not mentioning as well. As we wandered around the ship that first day, it all seemed like it was the beginning of a dream vacation.
But how do you know if the cruise or cruise line is bad or if cruising is just not for you? Please, if you have been on multiple cruises I would love your input on this, because my husband and I are seriously starting to believe that cruising is not for us, and maybe it isn’t.
I’m sure we have all heard some horror stories regarding cruises, like the most recent cruise in the Caribbean, where hundreds of passengers got sick with a contagious virus. Our cruise was not that bad, but it wasn’t the dream I had been hoping it would be. We did have some good moments. We enjoyed the company of the people we sat next to at dinner; got to see some movies we had been wanting to see (see picture on the right); got plenty of sun and fresh air while relaxing on one of the many deck chairs; was thankful for the housekeeping staff who were amazing and always kept our room clean and comfortable; appreciated the helpfulness of the guest service individuals; drank the best cappuccini at the International Cafe every morning (see picture below); and enjoyed every island visit that was made on this cruise.
The cruise didn’t start off so well for me and many other passengers. We were in rough seas for two days. We actually could not get to our first port because of that, so I spent two miserable days on a ship that was rocking back and forth constantly. I had never suffered from seasickness before and the Dramamine I had with me did absolutely nothing for me. However, one of our kind dinner friends gave me a Bonine tablet, and that worked miracles. Wish I had taken that right away, so I wouldn’t have been suffering for two full days. Missing our first port made it that much harder to overcome seasickness too. A lot of passengers were complaining about not just the rockiness of the ship but also the fact that all the pools had to close because of that as well. I can only imagine how many angry or miserable passengers the guest service attendants had to deal with, and the cruise had just begun.
When we considered the fact that we paid 3x as much to cruise with Princess as we did when we cruised with Costa in the Mediterranean, I’m not sure it was worth it. The drink package was expensive but worth it in the end, but the food was just not great. They had a cafeteria-style restaurant that was open all day long. We tried to eat there a few times, but it was just horrible food – most of it was inedible. Our sit down dinner time every night had great food, but the service was so slow all the time that we couldn’t enjoy some of the evening shows, because we would still be finishing our meals. We often snuck out during the meal to get ourselves more wine, as the wait staff took forever to refill some of our drinks. On top of the food not being great, I had two separate occasions where food service workers argued with me that what they gave me was correct when it wasn’t. The thought it was a bit too ridiculous when I ordered a slice of Margherita pizza, and they gave me plain cheese pizza, even though the sign in front of the counter gave all the ingredients that are suppose to come on a Margherita pizza. It sounds like we are being overly picky, but it was just disappointing. So yeah…we weren’t happy with the quality of the food or food service.
During our Mediterranean cruise, we booked two excursions through the cruise line and enjoyed both. This time, we booked an excursion on our own through a company on one of the islands and one excursion through the cruise line. They were both around $70 a person, and the one we booked through the cruise line was just terrible in comparison. When we got on the ship, we signed up to take a beach/snorkeling adventure in Barbados. Basically, it was a 3 hour excursion that was suppose to include relaxing on a beach, snorkeling with sea turtles and snorkeling to see some shipwrecks. I figured that divided nicely to spending 1 hour doing each item. The excursion started off nice. The beach was beautiful. However, the boat that was to pick us up to take us snorkeling was more than 30 minutes late and then decided not to dock by the beach we were on, so we had to walk a mile through town to find the boat. In the end, we probably only had about 30 minutes total time of snorkeling, which was really disappointing. Then they docked the boat literally on the beach, not at a pier, so the waves made it near to impossible to not fall as you tried to get off the boat. One passenger fell pretty badly. It was not a great excursion. It was maybe worth half of what we paid for it. Luckily, Princess agreed and refunded some of our money, so I do believe they handled that situation well, but I may not book an excursion through a cruise line ever again.
The incident that bothered me the most on this cruise was when we got a notification in our room that they would be doing balcony maintenance the following morning (see photo of the notice on the right). The notice clearly states that maintenance would start at 9am. We thought that would be a perfect morning for us to order 8am room service breakfast, insuring that we would be awake and out of our room by 9am. Our breakfast arrived on time and by 8:15am, my husband and I were in our robes on our private balcony enjoying our coffee and breakfast. That was also when a maintenance worker came onto our balcony without any warning. He actually opened the door right into my husband, as the balcony was pretty small. I personally was mortified as I was far from clothed, sitting there in my robe. We booked the room we did for the private balcony and now our privacy was being invaded with no warning. When we told him to leave that it wasn’t 9am yet, the maintenance worker responded that they were starting early. I know he was just doing what he was told, but that didn’t make the situation okay. I am sure it was awkward for him as well. I immediately called down to guest services and was told that someone would call us later in the day, as the manager was not available at that time. No one ever called. Through our persistence, we did finally talk to a guest service manager, who offered us a bottle of wine for our troubles. Seriously?!! We purchased the drink package. What do we need a bottle of wine for? However, what could we do? That seems to be all they were offering us. They told us we could pick any bottle of wine we wanted, and since we had both been enjoying Chianti with our dinners, we requested that. They said that that was not something they had available but would bring us a Cabernet instead. Cabernet is not the same as Chianti, and that was not a wine that we both enjoy.
There seems to be so many people who love Princess Cruise Lines, but we just don’t understand. We didn’t have most of these issues on our Costa cruise (though that was far from a perfect cruise as well). While we did love exploring the Caribbean islands and soaking in some sun and warmth, I think it will be a long time before we cruise again.
If you have been on cruise, especially a Princess Cruise, please share your experiences below in the comments. Have you experienced similar issues or other issues?