Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Regal Princess
Sailing Date: December 17th, 2006
Itinerary: Panama Canal
We have sailed with princess on all of
their ship-types Dawn, Grand, Regal, etc. This cruise was scheduled as a 10 day
Christmas cruise through the canal and beyond. (We were especially interested in
Cristobal with the 8-hour port.)
We arrived at Acapulco with great anticipation and a sense of adventure. Then we took the 100 mile per hour bus ride from the airport to the port to be cattle-herded into an un-air conditioned customs area. We stood in a line as more and more people piled up and began to wonder what the hold up was. After having been "dubbed gold passengers" on other voyages, we expected only the best treatment...NO! We were ushered to a person who did not want to check in the whole family and they tried to separate us. Considering three of the four of us were using the same charge account we really wanted to be processed together. After some argument the barely English-speaking attendant processed our family and handed us a paper card with a plastic holder and a bar-code. (We were told later that the ship was too old to use the credit card type passes we'd become accustomed to.)
Well, we boarded and found our cabins. The balconies were about the size of my guest-room closet which can barely hold a suit-coat. The "mini-suite" was smaller than the inside cabin I had on the Dawn in Alaska, and of course, we paid nearly double the price to get the balcony.
The first night out, we noticed the ship not only vibrated, it shook with a force equal to what could only be compared to the old quarter slot beds that, as a child, I found quite amusing. As an adult and very adapted sea-farer, I found it quite disturbing. Obviously a shaft was out of alignment and we had many days at sea ahead.
The second night out, as we returned from our formal dinner, we heard rumbling and scraping above our heads. It turns out that our $7500 cabins were located directly below the sun deck and pools. At about 10:00 a band began playing directly above the bed. We called to see what was up and were tersely told that it was a dance under the stars and we could just deal with it. My elderly parents and I could neither sleep or watch television because of the noise. Now, normally I would have joined the ruckus and gone with it, but after having been treated with indifference and even malice by the ship's crew, I was notably upset.
Food-Ha, What food? The buffet was mostly international cuisine consisting of stale bread and utterly unfathomable dishes. It seemed the chef cooked whatever suited him/her. When deferring to the short-order cook for hamburgers or hot dogs, we were confronted by a young man who sweated like he was in a sauna and visibly drenched the food with his perspiration. So, we tried the alternative food sources only to find them closed or being cleaned. We quite often found ourselves ordering sandwiches from room service.
Excursions, well, let me just say this...READ THE FINE PRINT. We took excursions into Guatemala, Huatulco, Arruba and we were supposed to go to Cristobal, but that is an entirely different thread. We were cattle-called onto a bus and driven to trains or boats that had inadequate seating and poorly trained guides. In Guatemala, we were tutored by our guide on how much more efficient their form of government was than ours...captive audience. In Aruba, we had a nice 10 minute boat ride (promised to be 1 hour) to a beach where we were told we could not use the chairs, bar, restrooms or cabanas. This was supposed to be an all-inclusive trip with drinks, open bar and fruit. Luckily, I was able to con a young merchant into selling us some beverages and food. We then were herded onto a school bus to be returned to our ship, during which the driver gave vital information about the sights we were seeing. Unfortunately, he was either too soused to notice his mike was unplugged or he just didn't care.
The ship...shall I be so bold as to call it that? No, it was more like a beleaguered boat with cabins. It stank like vomit and refuse. I was told early on that it had been sold and was being de-commissioned. The staff was bare-boned and highly lacking in effort. Finding a waiter or bartender was like searching for a diamond in the sand of some beach. There were a few bright spots in the bunch, however, and I found them very helpful. I shall not name names, but there were two exceptional people in Adagio and also in Characters. Our personal table waiterstaff were also extremely nice.
Overall...If you've sold the boat then don't schedule cruises or don't tell the crew. Also, if your best rooms are directly under the pool and dance floor at least warn your patrons that they will either participate or be extremely annoyed. Placing us in two cabins that rate on the highest plateaus of expense in areas where the patrons will be disturbed on a regular basis is simply bad planning. Oh, and by the way, if you promise to make a port and can't, don't stop for forty minutes just to say you actually stopped in Panama. It's quite depressing to look off your balcony at the one port you really wanted to go to and know you can't reach it in time to be back aboard in the forty minutes they allowed, which includes securing the boat and gangways.
I am truly disappointed in Princess, again. I've missed four ports-of-call for some reason or other and it is beginning to be a trend. I even have heard from crew members that many of those missed port excuses were out and out lies. "Fuel, docking expenses, and territorialism" seemed to be catch words when discussing these. Princess needs to decide if they are going to have an elegant cruise fleet, or be the Motel 6 of the seas.