Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Sailing Date: January 7, 2007
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation from Ft. Lauderdale went very well. We got right through the line and were on the ship by about 12:30 PM. Relaxed and had lunch before going to our staterooms. We were traveling with our son, daughter, and her husband. We didn't get our bags delivered until about 6:00 PM which was unusual from our past cruise experiences, but this was our first cruise with Princess.
Room: Our room steward seemed nice and we were looking forward to a good week. The cabin was a decent size, but the beds were very uncomfortable. The mattresses must have come off an older ship and been placed on the Caribbean Princess. There's no way that mattress was any less than 10 years old! We had an ocean-view cabin with a slightly obstructed view. We were please with the size of the window and what we could see. We hate to feel as though we're in a small box, so we always get ocean-view rooms. Our room steward wasn't as good as what we have had in the past. Sometimes our room wasn't made up for hours. We're used to things being taken care of in less than 15 minutes after our leaving. We were also disappointed in the fact that there were no 'towel animals'. I know it seems like a small thing, but we had been talking up this experience to our son, who had never been before.
Food: We went to the Cafe' Caribe for the seafood bon voyage party. That was something my daughter wanted. We were shocked. I read in a previous review that the staff was serving people and slowing down the line. Definitely not! There was an elderly gentleman (and I use that term very loosely) who was standing behind the buffet line sticking his hands into the crab legs and shrimp and placing them on his plate. It was definitely not appetizing. The staff observed him, but did nothing to stop the behavior.
We had dinner in the main dining room. Not anything exceptional, but not bad. We felt that we got better food and service on the other cruise lines that we had sailed with before: Carnival and Celebrity. I was disappointed in the 'New York' cheesecake. I get cheesecake from Carnegie Deli and this was absolutely not in the same ball park. It wasn't 'New York style'. I'm not sure it was even cheesecake. The entire family left it uneaten. There was a great chocolate dessert one night which my son-in-law said made up for it though. He ordered two :)
My daughter and I went to tea twice while on the ship. Not what we were expecting. The food was served on large trays carried by waiters, not on small plates placed on the table. We determined that they must do this so that they can 'recycle' it the next day. The only 'tea' in the dining room was Lipton, even though they had Twinings upstairs in the buffet. Odd! When we asked for other tea, you would have thought that we wanted them to go to a tea plantation and pick it. They finally brought some out in a tea chest that was quite acceptable: Earl Gray, Twinings, etc., but we were made to feel that this was most decidedly above and beyond what we should expect for service.
The food got scarier after that. Things that were on the buffet were sometimes there for three days in a row. I know that we saw the baked apples from the Bavarian themed night for at least three other meals. The last formal night, my husband ordered prime rib for dinner. It came with an ear of corn on the cob that had definitely been prepared on Princess Cay at the cook-out earlier that day. This was not what I would expect from anyone used to serving food. Having catered before, I have always made sure that once food goes out, it should never be brought back and re-served to any guest. Kitchen help, staff is ok, but never guests. The final straw for the food was when they served baked beans on the breakfast buffet the final morning of the cruise. Again, definitely left over from the cook-out on Princess Cay.
Ports: We thoroughly enjoyed St. Thomas. Magan's Bay was beautiful and relaxing. The tour guides were knowledgeable and helpful.
We were not as impressed with St. Martin. Perhaps it was just the shore excursion that we took. Will probably try again on another cruise.
Entertainment: We were not impressed with most of the entertainment. We were looking forward to some great singing and dancing. Not! The comedian was terrible. There was a husband/wife couple who sang jazz in one of the clubs that were outstanding, but because of the limited smoking areas on the ship, the club was full of people who had no interest in listening to the music. They would come in, state they just wanted to smoke and proceed to be so loud that you couldn't hear the lady sing. And she had a great voice and style! Too bad. They really missed a treat. M.U.T.S. was awesome. Probably the best thing on the ship.
Service: We were greatly disappointed with the service we received. Our cabin wasn't kept clean. The main dining room staff was adequate, but I have received better service in mid-priced chain restaurants. The staff in the buffet area was more interested in flirting with other staff members, than with meeting guests' needs. If you wanted a drink, you basically had to trip someone to get their attention. We counted one day at lunch. Six employees made 30 minutes worth of circuit around the dining area without speaking to a guest. And these were the people selling the drinks. Wouldn't you think they would at least ask if you wanted to buy something?
Our conclusion was that the lack of concern about the ship's cleanliness and staff's service must come from the top. The only other explanation for such poor service is the automatic gratuity. Perhaps if staff felt that they needed to connect with passengers to get a tip, we might have gotten better service. I have always tipped above the recommended amount. This trip, I was tempted to reduce my gratuity.
Disembarkation went very well. We opted to carry our own luggage off. This went pretty smooth, except for people who had their luggage carried off and then tried to get off with the people carrying off their own. I give credit to the ship's staff for telling them that they had to wait, but they should have made them return upstairs. They were definitely in the way.
My son has stated that he will never go on a cruise again. That we had made it seem better than it actually was. My daughter, son-in-law, husband and myself will never cruise on Princess again.
My husband and I are taking another cruise in April 2007 on Carnival. We're treating ourselves to another vacation because the last one was so terrible. In all good conscience, I can't recommend Princess cruise line to anyone. In fact, I will do my best to discourage it.