My wife and I just returned today (May 30, 2011) from a 10-day Alaskan cruise aboard the Sea Princess. This was our 10th Princess cruise. We have also cruised with Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Overall, we were disappointed.
1) The ship is getting a little long-of-tooth.
For example, some shabbiness is apparent, and the internet café has such poor bandwidth that internet access is extremely slow and difficult. If you are paying for this service, you won’t be happy.
2) Service gets worse with every Princess cruise we take.
It’s not that the staff doesn’t work at it, but management sets the bar too low. The “Carnivalization” of Princess some years back started it all off. The automatic tip program encourages mediocrity, and has taken much of the incentive away from staff to “go the extra mile”. Unreplenished tissue and missing towels were repeatedly a problem; personal property was damaged through carelessness.
3) The food is getting really bad.
There has always been a big difference between the quality of the food in the “Lido Deck” (buffet) and the dining room. Now the quality of the food in the dining room is mostly fair-poor, and the quality of the food in the buffet is mostly poor-bad. Approximately 35% of the food served is inedible (stale, hard, dry, etc.), and an additional 45% is just of poor quality and taste. That only leaves about 20% of the food as acceptable. A few items within that 20% are quite good, but there are few of those. I have included in these categories breads and deserts. They tend to be in the 20% category...that is, unless they are among the “left-overs” from the previous day...which does seem to happen. For example, we both enjoyed eggs benedict one morning in the dining room. Two days later, we saw a tray of eggs benedict at the buffet. My wife, who is braver (or more foolish) decided she wanted to repeat her positive experience with the eggs benedict; well...it was not to be. The muffin was cold and hard, I saw her crumble it with her fingers. The egg was hard and plastic. The Hollandaise sauce was crusted and stuck-on. It was a horrible change of quality from two days previous . . . a good example of the current policy of utilizing “left-overs.” The Alaska passenger-compliment was quite elderly. Perhaps for that reason, almost all the food was bland. The few exceptions were usually in the “quite good category” (pepper-pot soup, fresh chicken curry, etc.). The beef, lamb, turkey and pork were all quite tough and mostly tasteless. On our trip home after the cruise, we stopped for lunch at a chain-café we like. My wife and I each ordered green salad and hamburgers. The food was excellent. Much better than anything we had eaten during our 10-day cruise...our meat actually tasted like beef!
4) The mattresses (or some of them) need replacement.
Not only are they 2nd rate in style (what, no pillow-top?), but they, like the ship, are a little long-of-tooth.
5) Ship sanitation...what can I say, Sea Princess was hard-hit by Norovirus this trip.
My wife and I had never experienced the “adventure” of this illness before. I would rather not again. My case was quite mild, by my poor wife really suffered. The “haz-mat” folks were in every cabin-corridor. The doctor did show up promptly after we called (in response to a public-service announcement); but of course, he charged for the treatment. My wife was confined to her cabin for 24 hours on penalty of abandonment at the next port. Staff then modified some of their public practices to help prevent infection...crew members handled food-service utensils at the buffet, alcohol-rub was “mandated” (but poorly so) before we could enter the dining room or buffet, etc. Shouldn’t this be the default? My wife started calling it the “poison buffet”; somewhat vitriolic, yes...but she is entitled to her opinions. Public restrooms were sometimes neglected and poorly stocked with toilet paper and such (especially the ones in the vicinity of the theater). And those got quite a workout with so much Noro on board! While awaiting luggage return and departure, my wife saw two large trucks delivering additional medical supplies to the ship. Prudent of course; but would you want your family aboard on the following voyage?
6) The ship’s itinerary
was known ahead of time, of course; but HoonahVillage/Icy Point...really? And only a few hours in Victoria? Of course, to those suffering from Norovirus, the ports of call were somewhat irrelevant. Well, I’ve gone on long enough. While we love to cruise, Sea Princess did disappoint.