William W. Gusky
Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Star Princess
Sailing Date: September 13th, 2004
Our September 13th, 2004 Star Princess Mediterranean Mosaic cruise from Barcelona to Rome was our ninth cruise, and our eighth with Princess/Sitmar. Since the acquisition of Princess by Carnival, the downhill slide of Princess quality has steepened. Dining room and cabin service continues excellent, but food quality has deteriorated sharply. Only cruise newbies seem interested in the captain's cocktail party, so I suggest it be eliminated and the cost saving used to reinstate "free" ice cream at the upper deck buffet, since "Scoops" is a frustrating disaster. Not only is the purchased ice cream expensive, but the operators know nothing about creating ice cream dishes. The only time I purchased Princess ice cream, I ordered a banana split. The operator filled a deep paper milk shake cup with strawberry ice cream, and then sliced a banana all over the top of the ice cream so that I had to eat pure banana until it was gone and I reached the ice cream. Princess has apparently ignored my written comment, and I've never ordered since. If you insist on cruising Princess, I suggest you not patronize Scoops, but instead order as much ice cream as possible for dining room dessert. While the new larger ships have many amenities, they have grown too large; tours have become cattle drives. European coaches typically fail to provide sufficient knee room, so that long coach trips are punishing. European tours such as the Monaco/Monte Carlo fiasco and Rome's coluseum have turned into time-consuming queues at inadequate European lifts. Gabby tour guides consume the small remaining time with endless inane chatter, leaving little time for shopping. Although our internet usage was "free" (we're platinum members by now), the onboard internet cafe experience was frustrating for it's slowness and frequent errors - the fault is in the network design, not the satellite connection. Pity those who must pay 35 cents per minute for internet access. In fairness, Princess could not control that our Cannes visit took place on Sunday when shops were closed, and our Valetta visit took place on the Tuesday on which Malta celebrated Independence Day, so that shops were closed. We were unable to purchase Malta's famous gold filigree jewelry or Malta handmade lace.
We signed up for a post-cruise stay at the Rome Crowne Plaza, thinking it would be a high quality hotel. Instead we found it inferior in most ways to U.S. Marriott Courtyards or Hampton Inns. Also, do not think you will easily walk from the Crowne Plaza to the nearby Vatican; Rome traffic is frightening, and the canyon-like streets are not pedestrian-friendly.
Bottom line, early Princess/Sitmar cruises were enjoyable. Recent ones have been disappointing, and we heard many other passengers expressing similar feelings. Princess no longer offers an upscale cruise experience. I don't think I care to cruise again.