I was following a thread on one of the cruise line forums where the subject of inaugural cruises came up. I have been on only one inaugural (Caribbean Princess) and while it was nice to experience that "new ship" smell, the experience left me reluctant to consider sailing on an inaugural in the future.
There were two major issues. The first was that the ship was rushed into service. The mechanical aspects were all perfect, but crew training and logistics clearly needed a lot of work.
The second, and perhaps more upsetting issue was that there were large numbers of VIP's and invited guests on board. It was very clear that these people came first and paying passengers came second. I expect that to some extent and can live with it. Several incidents, mostly in the dining room but a few in other areas, made us feel second-class.
We got a neat little keepsake. Of the cruises we've taken, the inaugural cruise of Caribbean Princess was the only one that failed to meet our expectations.
We've only been on one and I have mixed feelings about it like you. To say they are rushed into service is accurate as I have often been amazed at the risk the cruiselines take when building new ships.
They sell those cruises over a year in advance while the ship is still under construction. They have, maybe, $600 million in a ship and they want it selling cabins as soon as possible. Can you imagine the losses and bad publicity if that ship is only one week late for it's first sailing? Wow! Two thousand people's vacation ruined! Lawsuits flying every where. Refunds galore. Discounts on future cruises abound. Now imagine if it's a month late?
On ours, they were still painting the bridge. The hand dryers in the public restrooms didn't work. The activities schedule was always inaccurate. There were a few minor problems but it was still a good cruise.
Your statement, "The second, and perhaps more upsetting issue was that there were large numbers of VIP's and invited guests on board. It was very clear that these people came first and paying passengers came second. I expect that to some extent and can live with it. Several incidents, mostly in the dining room but a few in other areas, made us feel second-class." describes our experience on the Carnival Pride in January 2002 to a T! At that time, I said never again!
I have been on a couple of inaugral cruises.......would not do it again. Service issues (dining room) mainly were the issue. It does take a few months for a ships crew to comes up to speed and be comfortable doing there job.
I'm sure that we'll never sail any ship that hasn't been "broken in". Too many potential bugs for me. And an inaugural cruise would have to be the worst of all, as was the case in Okie's unpleasant experience, with all the celeb freeloaders getting so much of the attention.
This year we'll be cruising on a new ship, but she will have been sailing for nearly four months by the time we go on board. We don't anticipate any difficulties. We also sailed on Carnival's Paradise in 1999, a few months after she first set sail, and had no problems there.
But back in 1978, I took my very first cruise on a vessel touted as the "newest cruise ship in the world". She was the Cunard Princess (now sailing as the MSC Rhapsody, I believe), and it wasn't pretty! The experience, I mean.
One of her engines kept breaking down. They did repairs in San Juan, causing us to stay there an extra day. We then made it to St. Thomas okay, but then the troubles began again.
Long story short, we had to make unscheduled stops in Tortola and finally in St. Croix (where we were told that the ship would be returning to San Juan without us)! All 800 or so passengers had to disembark, and Cunard flew in several planes to take us to Miami (even though we had originally left from Port Everglades). They then took us to P.E. by bus. One elderly man, who had driven to Florida from Michigan because of his fear of flying, nearly cried when he learned that the only way for him to return to his car was by air.
I wonder if it's too late to put my complaint on the Gripes board. <G> Anyway, the next time I got on a cruise ship was nearly 20 years later!
We too sailed the inaugural of the Pride, and we too said,,,"Never Again"! One of the main things we were upset about, was that they were filming a commercial, or documentary, or something, so would simply close off an entire dining room, lounge, or whatever, rush in their actors and actresses, (the beautiful people) and film for an hour or so with no regard for the REAL passengers at all. That really soured me on Carnival in general, and the Pride in particular. (Haven't sailed Carnival since, and probably won't)
We sailed on the second sailing of the Celebrity Century in Dec. 94. All kinds of glitches with the computer system, and the crew. We complained and were offered very minimal compensation for being their guinea pigs, so as unhappy customers, ended up not sailing Celebrity again for 5 years.
I HIGHLY recommend not sailing a new ship (especially if it's a new class of ship) for about 3 months after the inaug.
I am surprised more of the cruise lines don't offer cheap deals on their inaugural cruises, with passengers understanding they are on at those rates to be "crash dummies".
After recently sailing on the Sapphire Princess during her inaugural year I wouldn't do that again either. She had staffing difficulties, turbine problems, and was just plain too big for the ports on the itinerary. Will be much more picky about the ship in the future.