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Steven Hansen

Age: 58

Occupation:Retired Engineer

Number of Cruises: 30+

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Diamond Princess

Sailing Date: 10-6-2008

Itinerary: Beijing - Bangkok

Beautiful ship - terrible Purser's Desk. They turned what could have been a very good experience into the cruise from hell. Despite several emails to Princess management before I got off of the ship to investigate failed systems aboard the ship, they ignored what was happening on the ship. Would I take another Princess cruise - yes, if the price was right. But next time I will video what goes on to make post on youtube. This ship is the Fawlty Towers of Princess but it is not funny if it is happening to you. Above average. The bakery food (breads, cakes, etc) were well above average. Dining room was average. Clean, well maintained. Some soundproofing issues relative to other ships. Good cabin service. overall above average. The cruise director was a smart aleck. Many errors in bulletin. Overall less than average for Princess, but on a par compared to other cruise lines. Excursions are a rip off because of disembarkation issues and price. I have taken a cruise a year since 1974 (beginning with the old Costa Italia). We have never been ignored or disrespected on any previous cruise's until now. Let me give some examples... We arrived to the ship in Beijing. Boarding procedures and the speed of boarding was good. We had been traveling for some time before arriving on the ship, and we were carrying three currencies - but no USA dollars. We needed to do laundry and the machines on the ship take USA coins. There is an ATM machine aboard the vessel but it was not working at that time. We went to the Purser's Desk to get money for the laundry. They told me that they could not exchange the currencies I was holding (even though they were currencies of the stops the ship was making). Okay. I needed to do laundry. I asked the Purser what could he recommend so that I could do laundry. He told me to use the ATM. I said I would but the ATM was not working. He said to go to the casino and give them a credit card. I said the casino was closed, but would they really run a credit card for $3 ? I just needed to do one load of laundry. He said no, he thought the minimum was $100. I said I did not need $100, but in any event I wanted to do laundry now (the casino was closed). At this point he told me there was nothing he could do for me. I asked that he work with me for a solution. He repeated that there was nothing he could do for me. I asked him just to give me $3, and charge it to my room account. He said he could not because all the money on the ship needed to be accounted for. He told me to borrow the money from another passenger. I said let me talk to your supervisor. He said he was the supervisor (he was wearing a shoulder board with only one stripe so I really doubted that was true). I said I wanted him to put in writing what he was telling me. He refused. I told him I was not going to leave this desk without the $3 I needed to do laundry. At this point we had a pretty good crowd watching. He went away and five minutes later he returned with a $10 roll of quarters which he said he would charge to the room account. I thanked him and left. I went to the Purser's Office the next morning to tell them CNN was not working. They told me CNN was not available in this part of the world. I walked away. I knew the answer was a lie but it was obvious he did not care to deal with the problem, or maybe he knew what the problem was and just wanted to blow me off. [Note: CNN is worldwide, and in Asia is up-linked from Hong Kong]. I was thinking the ship did not pay its bill for the new overhead satellite provider, and the one they had been using was now too close to the horizon to be able to receive the signal properly. CNN came back after we left Shanghai (over two days later). We were having an internet problem on the ship. For me, I make a living trading stock and access to the internet is important. When we arrived on the ship, a notice was posted on the internet cafe saying service was currently down but would be restored shortly after leaving Beijing. One good thing about being a Platinum Captain's Circle Member on Princess is free internet (free means about 250 free minutes or about 15 minutes a day for this cruise). Yes, bad timing as the worldwide stock markets are crashing. Okay. I woke up the next morning to no internet. I went to the internet cafe. No ship staff there. Back to the Purser's Desk. Told internet would be restored by tonight. I said are you sure and could you check?? No he said, he did not have to. The Purser's office knows everything. I walked away and I was blown off again by the Purser's Office. I walked around the ship looking for anyone with shoulder boards to get the real answer. [I was on a bus drivers holiday. I actually own a small ship with similar high seas internet data facilities]. I began to realize that there were no officers in the public areas. I started asking other passengers who were on this ship from Alaska about the internet. They said it has been down almost the whole voyage. Each of them told me a very different story on what the problem was. I asked them who told them what was wrong with the internet and each time they said it was the Purser's Desk. It was now evening on the second day. I went to the Purser's Desk as I had been actively looking all day for a ship's officer to no avail (I am no genius but I am positive they were hiding) - when will the internet be ready. They said sometime tonight. What was the problem I asked? We are checking the systems out said the Purser's Office. I walked away. I knew how my ship's data systems operated and knew this was not true. I was thinking the only reason for this was that Princess did not pay the bill. Was Princess having a cash flow problem?? Now we docked in Shanghai - our first stop. I took the shuttle bus into the city to look for an internet cafe. Spent the day in Shanghai at the internet cafe - so much for a tour of the city. Got back to the Diamond Princess. New sign now at the ship's internet cafe - the service would be up as soon as we left Shanghai. Long story short, the internet was up at midnight and remained up for the rest of the voyage. It was now the morning of the third day aboard the ship. I was upset at the ship and the flippant behavior of the Purser's Desk. I own a ship, and have been on over 30 cruises to date - I know things cannot be and never are perfect. But this was the first time that I felt that I was being treated like a child, my requests disregarded - in short I was being made miserable. Further, I was still upset that the Nagasaki stop had been eliminated (this is another long story) - and for sure it was not because of things beyond the control of Princess. I thought to myself that even if things got perfect now, the first days aboard the ship were so bad that this could not be an enjoyable vacation. I requested in writing for my money back and to be put off of the ship in Okinawa (the destination for tomorrow). I handed this request to the Princess Captain's Circle Representative telling her I wanted to be put off of the ship. 48 hours later, and after we departed Okinawa, Maria, the Diamond Princess Customer Service Manager, called about the letter. I actually do not recall what she said because I realized after the first few words that Princess did not give their Customer Service Managers any authority. I did, however, ask for a response in writing as I wanted to document this situation. Never did receive a reply in writing. It was obvious that her job was to keep saying she was sorry, try to explain what she knew (I also realized that she was in the dark also about what was going on), and try to put on some show that Princess was responsive to my complaints. I further realized that my request to be put off of the ship did not leave the ship (or maybe even her office), and that they would take no action and simply ignore me. The theme of this open letter really relates only to the events of the first three days. I have left out a lot of information about the internet and its impact, other incidents in dining areas, the East European passengers, the deck attendants, as well as other Purser Desk incidents which happened later. It was apparent to me that the Purser's Desk operation was well below standards expected, and that the deck attendants were not supervised (they hid out around the ship). I contacted Princess and Carnival Management while on the ship to convey my concerns about what was happening. I asked that they come to the ship to validate (or disprove) my concerns. Again, due to their lack of response it appeared to me they dismissed me. Then I had my epiphany - I began to understand this behavior was the new wave in cruising on Princess. Princess Cruises has simply chosen to ignore the 10% of the passengers who have needs. Princess saves money by understaffing the Purser's Desk to the point it cannot be responsive, and creating a punching bag layer, namely Customer Service. Princess figures satisfying 90% of its customers is good enough because you can never satisfy everyone anyway.

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