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Chris n' Zoe

Age: 38

Occupation:Buyer

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Tahitian Princess

Sailing Date: March 20th, 2006

Itinerary: 10-Day South Pacific

My self and my partner booked this holiday well in advance and we paid over $7000 for this trip (Not including day trips and incidentals) We are both from the UK and like our other UK companions had to travel to Heathrow and then take a 10.5 hour flight to LAX. We stayed in the Hilton over night and then flew from LAX to Papeete (8.5 hours). We arrived at the Tahitian Princess at 11.30Pm in the evening with no dining facilities except for a poorly prepared buffet bar. Hungry and Jet lagged we went to bed.

Now as stated above we planed this in advance, months in advance. We filled in all our details on the internet as requested by Princess. But we still had to fill and re-fill all our details on our travels to Papeete. Why?

I am going to discuss the boat part of this cruise in this review as like I said above you can find all the information regarding islands on the internet.

ENTERTAINMENT.
Well I will be honest here. Except for the Casino we never ventured to any of the shows as we had more important things to do on our Holiday evenings!!!! So I can not comment on the ENT’s staff or shows.

The Casino staffs were great and we had a good time losing some of our money. The Staff in the Casino were actually better mannered and trained than in any of the other areas and gave us the respect and service we expected on this cruise.

DINING
The Panorama Buffet was ok but not brilliant. Could have done with at least a proper selection of ‘2 meat and veg’ but we ate here a lot due to the above comment of the evenings.
We never ate in the dining room except for the last Lunch time so I can not comment on the dining room.

We did how ever take up the $15 and $20 per head in the Steak house and Sabitinis.
The Steak house meal, which was on my Birthday, was great and the staffs were so wonderful. It was worth the total of $70 extra for wine and food.

Sabitinis was a very bad experience. We dined in this restaurant on the first formal evening. We were told that on this evening there were doing a sample of everything on the menu!”! This ruined our meal as we don’t like everything on the menu and there were about 6 courses in total!!! In the end we only managed to take two bites out of our main course and had to retire as we felt sick after all the other items. This cost us $70 with drinks and was not worth a cent!
We were not the only couple leaving the restaurant a bit let down!

As for the senior staff in the dining areas they need to have some training in customer service. We were not treated well at all by senior members of the team and it was evident that they looked after the people they thought would look after them or spoke their dialect. The Manager should be demoted and go back to basics as he was an ignorant person and looked down on us! I may look like a young person but I am 38 years old and except to get a decent service when paying $70 on top of the $7000 to eat in their restaurant. *Princess you need to seriously look at this problem!

The Pizzeria also became a regular haunt for us due to the above comment of the evenings but again the senior members of staff need to learn that they to are staff and are to set an example to the other staff by offering its customers a service.

One example was one evening we were just finishing our Pizza and we wanted a drink from the Bar. I attracted the attention of the Head waiter and asked for two drinks but was meet with the reply.” I am off to the captain’s party so can you wait for the other head waiter” with which we waited 10 minutes for a drink! Now I know you Americans would not have accepted that! And we Brits don’t expect that type of service either, again $7000.00 plus to get this service.

We did not use any other place to eat so can not comment. To sum it up I strongly disagree with the $200.00 we paid on our account for gratuities as I believe that the people who deserve this gratuity don’t get it and would rather give it to them myself. The dining staff certainly should have not had any as we did not get the service that the gratuity thanks them for. The senior members of staff need to re trained in customer service and pass this on to the staff.

CABINS AND ROOM SERVICE
We stayed in cabin 7000 forward at the front of the ship. We paid a little bit extra for this room and was worth it as you are facing the front and get to see all the views on your balcony as you are travelling. The room is no different than the other baloney rooms but it was fun watching the front of the ship go up and down on the currents. At night when it was clear you have the most amazing view of the stars as there is no lights on the front decks as the control room was right above us, so you had no reflection of light and could see the sky really clear. Even with the control room above we experienced no noise at night from them and the room was quiet except for port days when we docked or left a port as you do have the bow of the ship with the anchor etc. This did not bother us as we were up early anyway and it was fun to watch how it all works.

The rooms are clean, tidy and comfortable. A bit smaller than other ships but this is a small ship so we adapted to this.

The room attendant or steward was a hard working person. He never had a day off, only having the afternoons as a break and it did not matter how busy he was he would always stop to make sure we were ok and had everything we needed. All the room stewards on board were courteous as we passed them. I believe they should at least have a day off sometime during the cruise. Many thanks to all the room stewards on board.

*Princess make a note that the senior team from restaurants should have a day doing what these guys do!!

This is another example of the gratuity system. People who offer you a service and work hard should be thanked more than others. The pot wash guy in the kitchens is another example as he to worked hard and we felt he did not get much time off the ship.

Room service was good and we made the most of this when we needed. Again the room service staff gave that extra smile and service and was tipped accordingly. *Princess. Put these guys in the restaurant!

SHOPPING ON BOARD.
There are 2 shops on board offering gifts, jewels, clothes etc. We only purchased minor items as we got all our gifts and jewels off the ship in ports. The reason is we feel we wanted to support the local people for letting us use their islands and they rely on our support as an income. Without these islands, Princess would not have cruises there!

The gift shop staffs were friendly and helpful when we needed to buy certain items.

The Pearl shop manager however must be related to the senior members of the restaurant.

My partner was interested in a diamond and pearl ring they had on offer but the person running the shop made no effort to say hello or ask how we were and was only interested in the American customers. We tried a couple of times to attract his attention but he continued chasing the American couples. At one point he even did not move out our way so we could get to another display. In retail you should not judge a book!! Every person in the shop is a potential customer. I would like to say to this person that you lost a sale of approx $1500 and I brought my partner a fine pearl and diamond necklace from the locals on shore! With which I can claim back any taxes I paid! Better value than your items on board. My advice to passengers… Shop around on shore as it works out cheaper once you get your refund off the local customs.

Buy an Inch! And buy crap! Again I advise buying from local shops and jewellers!

EXCURSIONS
Before I continue I would like to say that the islands we visited were wonderful and the locals were brilliant except in Papeete Market where we had heard of 5 attempted pick pocket thefts from fellow cruisers. How many actually succeeded we don’t know as Princess Staff would not tell us. Things like this happen in all major towns and cities world wide… look after your valuables!! You can find all information regarding each island on the internet so I won’t waste much time explaining them, except to say explore and enjoy as they are wonderful. If you can afford it book an over water bungalow at Le Meridian.!! More of that later.

While Princess offer the comfort of having ready made tours these are expensive. After having two tours we found it better value to travel independent. It is down to your own circumstance. The organized tours you are with fellow cruisers and are safe in the knowledge Princess will look after you on these trips. But that’s why we pay for travel insurance!! We had very informative and interesting tours with local taxi drivers that cost less than what Princess offered and the locals know the best hideaways and beaches and for that little extra tip they will tell you the best places. We found some gem beaches while on this cruise. At Bora Bora we had pre-arranged an over night stay in a water bungalow at the Le Meridian and boy did we feel the difference between the service on the ship to the service we got from staff at the Le Meridian. We were looked after from the moment we arrived to the moment we left… well worth the $730.00 we paid over the internet for a premium over water bungalow. We were on a holiday and felt we had to invest this for the experience and it was the best 24 hours we had on holiday. It was worth every cent! *Princess. Make a note. Send your President of the company to this hotel to see what other companies offer when you pay for the luxury of a 5 or 6 star hotel. When he gets back get him to train his senior staff members in customer service.

We did not get to see Raratonga due to bad swells and after speaking to members of staff on board this appears to be a regular thing to happen. Why does Princess continue to sail all the way down to these islands knowing that there is a chance of not getting a shore. The weather conditions were not bad but because the swell was high it was cancelled. I agree with safety so I accepted this but it keeps happening! So for excursions I advise you decide before you go what you want and plan ahead. The internet has all the information you need regarding these destinations and the locals are only to glad to help you out. We searched all the forums for advice and found this helpful. If you wish to use the Princess trips book early via their website as some of the trips sell out very very fast. * Princess. Review your ports for this area!

RECEPTION / PURSERS DESK
The reception offers things like change for the laundry (Deck 7), currency exchange (better value with your bank), accounts and billing and complaints. We found these guys to be related to the senior members of the restaurant (Princess is one big family!) We had a problem with my credit card but did not know until they decided to send me a bill with an outstanding amount for $90 demanding payment! I went to the desk and they told me my card had declined. I asked them what they could do and all I got was that its not their problem call my bank. *Princess. Make a note. My bank was over 8000 miles away; my bank was 10 hours ahead of us. You charge $5 a minute on the phone. When was I supposed to bloody make a call to my bank! We were in the middle of the Pacific stuck on the boat for 3 days as you missed the port of Raratonga.

I managed after to call my bank at the next port and they told me that Princess were authorising my card everyday! So they stopped it as they did not know for sure who it was and why. I also found out it was authorising more than I was spending. Why? There is no mention anywhere to warn UK passengers that Princess charge your card daily.

I sorted the card out with the bank, paid my account off with Princess and never used the account again except for the occasionally drink. There are cash points in the islands and we got a better deal on the exchange rate. Use local currency from the cash points and then when you have finished Princess convert back to dollars for you. We actually found it was a better deal for UK passengers. £1 = 1.71cfp / £1 = $1.73. advice to UK companions is get cash direct from cash points and then go on board to get $$$ and use this in casino. Saves 6% charge on account on board and the £ to $ on the ship was 1.50. Bad exchange rate.

The staffs on the desk were unhelpful and did not help me at all. It was embarrassing to me to try and stand there to explain to them what had happened and even then they refused to accept it was anything to do with them.

I got the feeling on this cruise that because we were UK, Young looking (even though I am 38) and not parading around with all the bling bling we got looked down on by all the senior members of staff.

*Princess. On the subject of bling bling. I have been taught that you do not attract attention to yourselves by showing off your wealth unless in an appropriate manner like a formal evening or function. One cruiser lost her big fancy diamond ring in the Spa pool! Not heard to date if they found it but this is an example of what I am saying, also don’t judge a book!

BARS
Again due to our evening activities we did not venture much in the evenings to the bar but when we went to the casino we used the bar waiters who appeared well dressed and presentable. But once again Princess’s Family came out and we experienced bad service from the senior members of the bar! One day I went to the bar in the casino and the senior bar tender was reading a Princess Platter and it must have been really really interesting that day as it took him 5 minutes to notice me sitting right in front of him. When he did eventually request what I wanted I got a cold look off him as I only wanted a glass of sprite on my card. Now I know you Americans again would have shouted at the guy, but I am English, I am reserved and don’t like to complain too much. (This review is the most I have complained.) That’s no excuse for the service we have had! A customer comes to the bar you serve them fast and friendly.

Pool bar was the same. Waiters were friendly and kept you filled up with drinks, but go direct to the Bar and get a smile off the senior members!! Are these guys on the pill or was it PMT. I have never never had such a bad service at a bar, even in some of the working men’s clubs in the UK serve you with a smile. Guys, if you don’t like the job. GET OUT!

DIS-EMBARKING
Where do I begin? We were warned before we went that on the final day we were to be out of our rooms before 10am and the suitcases were out by 10pm the day before. Warning: Pack a very large carry on day bag. It’s a long day to be hanging around in the same clothes. We made use of all the facilities on board including $15 day spa pass (showers can be used free in the spa before you go) and we had to pay cash for all items purchased on the final day as they close all accounts at midnight the night before. We were finally called at 8.15pm to go to the airport.

Warning: wear light clothes for the airport. It is hot and there is no air conditioning, we were warned about this before we cruised so we were prepared for the 1.5 hour wait in the check in line.

Now we live in the UK. That is 8000 miles away. In the interary for us was a stop over in LAX for a quick shower and change of clothes at the Hilton with which we had vouchers for. When we arrived after 2 hours in a hot sticky airport and 8 hours on a very full plane we approached the Princess Rep and said who we were. We were not on the list! She said Princess had cancelled the tickets as we were due to check in for our UK flights. This was part of the intinery!! And not one rep or person from Princess had contacted us regarding this! Were the reps at LAX related to the senior members of the restaurant, OH NO... I forgot that Princess is a one big happy Family. So we had no change of clothes or shower and we had to hang around LAX for another 4 hours before departing on a 10.5 hour flight which was delayed by 1.5 hours. We got back to Heathrow and found we were late back so we had to dash over to Gatwick to make our return flight back to Jersey CI. Again no chance to change clothes etc. In total from 8.00pm on Thursday to 4.00pm on Saturday UK time we had not much time to have a shower wash or anything. In total we travelling 44 hours and Princess were not involved any where along the way. Why did they cancel our showers!!! We paid for them!!

ONCE YOU HAVE LEFT PAPEETE AIRPORT YOU NO LONGER LOOKED AFTER BY PRINCESS!

OVERALL
If I had a chance of getting off the boat in the middle of my cruise I would have! But we had paid $7,000 for the cruise and were 8000 miles away from home. The holiday was no better than 10 days in a Pontins Holiday Camp (For members of the USA, please see www.pontins.com to what Pontins offer, And I am sorry to Pontins for comparing them to Princess)

We have learned a very very expensive mistake and will never use Princess again. I would have rather used the money and visited these islands independently and advise any UK member to look around before going on this cruise. There are better cruise lines out there offering a chance to get to see these beautiful islands. Better still try and travel independently to stay on the islands as they are fantastic.

Princess has left a very sour taste in our mouths after this cruise.

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