Tom & Mary Milano
Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Sea Princess
Sailing Date: November 27, 1999
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
My wife and I live in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and are able to drive to the port. We arrived at the pier in Miami at 12:30. We parked, checked in at the Sea Princess terminal and we were in our cabin by 1:05. The entire check in experience was the smoothest and most professionally handled of any of our cruises. Everyone was very polite and very attentive and tried to please us in every way. We boarded the ship with a real good feeling; a wonderful way to start a cruise.
We are first going to tell you about the negative aspects of our trip. During the ensuing week these negative feelings were completely reversed by the overwhelming friendliness and attentiveness of the entire crew of the Sea Princess, and it turned out to be one of the best and happiest of our cruise experiences.
FIRST, THE NEGATIVES:
Our cabin, D 740, had a huge window that almost extended from floor to ceiling that made it possible to have a wonderful view of the ocean. It was well appointed but quite small. Later, after our luggage arrived, when we put our things away we realized that the closet was also small and just about adequate. The drawer space was also limited. We looked around for our coffee table and realized that the bench type seat by the desk was our coffee table. Also by the side of the mirror at the desk, was a hair dryer, almost obscured by the window curtains. We thought this kind of strange but we soon found out why when we looked at the bathroom. There was no room for a hair-dryer. The shower and bathroom were very small and we barely had room for our bath articles. It was so small they had to put the hair dryer by the desk. It became smaller when we hung the heavy white bathrobes they gave us, on the hooks on back of the bathroom door. When I sat on the john, my head was touching the robes. The shower was also very tight quarters. I told Mary, I better be careful about putting on weight because if I gained another five lbs. I might have to take a sponge bath instead of a shower.
POOL SERVICE NEGATIVE:
After making a get acquainted tour of the ship, we decided to attend the sail away party on the pool deck. We ordered a drink but weren't served any napkins. I asked the bartender for napkins and he handed me a box of Kleenex. I said I didn't need a Kleenex, I wanted napkins. He then informed me they didn't use napkins but used Kleenex instead. At first I thought they hadn't gotten their supply of napkins and were doing the best they could by using Kleenex, but that wasn't the case. Every bar on the ship had bar napkins except for all the pool areas, where you got Kleenex. This policy continued throughout the cruise.
The main showroom itself was a major disappointment. It is laid out like a movie theater, without a balcony, with almost the same type seats. The seats were arranged approximately 20 seats in a row and very little isle space in front of the seats. Mary & I usually order an after dinner drink while waiting for the show to start. We were surprised to find here was no drink service in the entire showroom. If you wanted a drink you had to get up and find the nearest bar and get it yourself.
Mary is petite and I try to get her an isle seat, which lessens the chance of her being blocked out by the person in front. We got an isle seat, but with this type seating, every time someone wanted to sit in our isle, we had to stand in order for them to get by. It seemed every few minutes we had to stand to let people in and then had to stand again when they wanted get out. The arm rests of the seats had a retractable table on one side, to be used as a place to put one's drinks, like the airlines do. It really is a Mickey Mouse arrangement. When the people who got their own drinks were finished, they usually put them underneath their seats on the floor. There must be a better way. Princess sacrificed the normal comfortably spaced seats and convenient cocktail tables when they eliminated the balcony and condensed the seating to one level in order to accommodate more people. . Our first night's experience in the show room left us with a very bad impression of the Princess Line. It made us feel they were willing to sacrifice passenger comfort for a few additional seats. A very poor arrangement.
THINGS TAKE A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER:
After experiencing the above negatives the first day of our cruise, I thought we made a huge mistake in booking Princess. In fact, I told my wife that as soon as we got home, I was going to call our cruise agent Gari Senderoff of South Beach Cruises, and cancel the cruise on the Grand Princess we had booked for May 7th, 2000. I'm happy to say, this wasn't necessary because of the 13 cruises we have taken in the last 3 ½ years, this cruise aboard the Sea Princess turned out to be one of our BEST.
As I usually do, as soon as he was available I checked with the head Maitre `d to verify our dining room seating. We always request a table for two. Unfortunately, our cruise agent for this cruise did not give the dining room manager our preference soon enough and when we got our dining room assignment we were seated at a table of 6. The line waiting to have their table assignment changed, was very long. When my turn came, I explained my problem to the Maitre `d and showed him the fax that was sent, even though it had the late postmark. As odd as it may seem the Princess table assignments are done in their home office in California, which makes it very difficult to make many changes in Miami. The Maitre `d went out of his way and arranged for us to have a table for two. He said it wasn't a very good location, but it was the best he could do. I accepted it.
The dining rooms are the best laid out dining rooms we have seen on any of our past cruises. Princess did an exceptional job. The tables are of varying sizes and shapes. Square, round and oblong. And they are so arranged that they create separate, private, dining areas. Many of the tables have a glass petition between them which cuts down on the usual noise. Very innovative.
The food is just average. The menu was generally weak, especially the first two nights. But despite this, we eagerly looked forward to dinner every night. That is because we had a trio of help that made each evening meal very special. Our waiter was Merito, our asst. waiter Rey, and our Maitre d` was Vincenzo. Usually, we don't see the Maitre d` till the end of the dinner when he usually stops by and says hello and welcomes us and makes sure you know who he is so he will get tipped at the end of the cruise. Not Vincenzo! Our first night in the dining room he came by our table and introduced himself and told us he wanted to make this trip special for us and to please let him know what he could do for us. My wife loves pasta, so she asked Vincenzo if it was possible to have a little pasta as an appetizer. When Vincenzo heard this his eyes lit up and he said to leave everything up to him.. Every night after that, Vincenzo cooked a different pasta appetizer for us. He made Pasta Marinara, Pasta Puntenesca, Pasta Carbonaro, cheese & meat Ravioli and on the last night he even made us an Antipasto. We couldn't believe it. We enjoyed the pasta so much that we seldom finished our main course, which was just as well, because it wasn't that good. Vincenzo, Merito and Rey gave us so much personal attention and service that we completely overlooked the negatives and had a truly wonderful dining experience. In fact, the third night, the Head Maitre`d came by and said he could now move us and give us one of the better locations in the dining room, but we told him, no thanks. We were so pleased with the service at our table, we didn't want to change. At the end of the cruise I gave Vincenzo the biggest tip I have ever given a cruise Maitre `d and he deserved every penny of it..
Because of the special attention and exceptional service we received from our group of servers and the overall atmosphere of congeniality of the dining room setting, we began to mellow and to see everything in a different perspective. We have never seen a happier crew and it was reflected in all their actions.. We noticed that every time we passed a crew member, wherever it might be, they would acknowledge us with a smile. If we asked a question of one of them, they would eagerly respond and were very helpful. They seemed to go out of their way to pamper and cater to us. This is really what cruising is all about. Being pampered and catered too.
THE SEA PRINCESS:
The sea Princess is a beautiful ship. It has two stunning atriums with floating stairways and outside elevators and all the many amenities that the newer ships have. The floating stairways intertwine with each other and present the guests with all kinds of exciting and interesting views. One of the major differences with other cruise lines, is how Princess use's these area. They use these areas as activity centers for all kinds of various entertainment and as the focal point of the ship. Wherever we wanted to go, we first went to the atrium nearest our level and then decided how we would get to our destination. As we did this, we witnessed all kind of different activities going on. Sometimes, small intimate, groups of people being entertained by Paul Burton, maybe singing the Gershwin classics or maybe some Broadway Show tune. While on another level of the same atrium, a member of the entertainment staff would be hosting a game quiz for a group of passengers. And then on another level, groups of people shopping at a table sale. And on all the levels many beautiful seating areas where people can sit and relax while watching all the activities. There is even a cappuccino bar on one of the levels. The atriums seem to be a meeting place, like a town square, where people come to congregate and meet other people. On the last formal night of the cruise at the Grand Plaza Atrium, a huge crowd gathered to watch, Maitre d`Hotel, Beniamino Acler, assemble some 600 champagne glasses in pyramid form and then pour champagne into the top glass of the pyramid, creating a spectacular champagne waterfall. The Atriums are truly two beautiful areas.
Each evening before dinner, after walking to the main atrium and viewing all the scenes I have just mentioned, we would then continue on to the Wheelhouse Lounge. This was a delightful lounge, appointed in old style, deep rich mahogany panels, highlighted by soft over all lighting and low table lamps and a 10 ft. Model of an old ocean liner in a glass case. A really beautiful room and our favorite. We love to dance and the duo of Phil and Nancy played much of the music of yesteryear that are our favorites. Nancy had a great voice and played the songs people wanted to hear. We looked forward to going there each evening before and sometimes after dinner.
THE HORIZON LUNCH AREA LOUNGE:
We seldom attended the usual Sock Hop night on past cruises. But we decided to join in on the Sock Hop which was to take place in the Horizon Court. The Horizon court is the Sea Princess lunch room. It is a ell appointed room in a beautiful setting. At night, the central part of the room which has a bandstand and a large circular dance floor is used for dancing. The music is furnished by Pele & Company, a very accomplished and versatile group, that produced a very good beat. We had a great time and even joined in dancing some rock' and roll, which we had never done. We can't believe we did it, but it was a lot of fun and we had a great time.
I first must comment on the Cruise Director Alastair Green. We have been fortunate to have had a number of top Cruise Directors on our previous cruises but none can equal the energy and creativeness and enthusiasm of Alastair Green. He was dynamic. He seemed to be all over the ship. When you awoke in the morning he was on the TV, with his staff member, Lucia, hosting a two hour wake up show. It was not only remarkable that after seeing him at 1:30 in the morning that he was once again his cheerful and delightfully amusing self, but you could tell he was totally enjoying himself. He always had just the right words when introducing an act of when he was ad- lobbing or when he was performing. He is an exceptional talent and he helped make our cruise memorable.
Needless to say, Cruise Director Alastair Green's entire staff was exceptional. He seemed to impart the same enthusiasm to each and every member of his staff. We never saw any signs of one of his staff trying to outdo the other. Everyone of them, regardless of what they were doing, worked as a team to do the very best job possible to ensure that the passengers would have a great cruise. He should be commended for molding such a productive & entertaining group.
THE PRODUCTION SHOW ‘GLAMOUR' in the main showroom were just average. We thought we would like the second production show, ‘Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance,' because it was billed as the songs of famous Broadway Shows and we very much enjoy listening to the hit tunes from the great Broadway Musicals. Unfortunately, they really missed the mark. Out of the thirty some odd songs that were used, we only knew four of them. The majority of the songs were not the hits that we know, but the secondary songs of the musicals, that are seldom if ever heard. We mentioned this to other people to see if we were the only ones who felt this way, and they all agreed with us that they didn't know the songs either.
THE VISTA LOUNGE :
The Sea Princess has an alternate show room, called the Vista Lounge. It has everything the main show room is lacking. An intimate setting, very comfortable seating, good drink service and very good lighting and sound. Where we felt the production shows were just average, the single performer acts were exceptional. If ever you have a chance to see Greg Bienheim perform, don't miss the opportunity. He is a dynamic performer from Australia. Mary & I were privileged to have been in the audience at the Copacabana, in N.Y.C. , when Tom Jones was at his very peak and we both feel that Greg Bonham is even more exciting. His voice is unusual in the fact that he can hit the highest of notes and the lowest of notes with equal ease. And his selection of songs was very different and unique and most appealing. He also played the trumpet and I do mean played. If you closed your eyes you would think you were listening to Doc Severson. We feel he is one of the best single acts we have ever seen.
Another great act was Peter Matthews. He is really an off the wall entertainer. If you have seen his act you will know what I mean. He is a comedian, juggler. For the first 10 minutes we thought him boring and crass but as he continued on we became fascinated with his character. We realized not only didn't we know what he was doing, but he didn't know what he was doing either and that was the strength of his act. He actually made most of it up as he went along. Using the audience members and the isles and the walls of the room as his props. He had a great wit and was very entertaining.
The comedian Glenn Hirsch also did a very nice job. He had a disarming delivery and was most enjoyable.
We should also mention that the Sea Princess has two show orchestras. One for the main showroom and one for the Vista Lounge and they both were exceptional. A very talented group of musicians.
I am only going to mention one port, the port of Cozumel. We have been to the western Caribbean at least six times in the last 3½ years but we have never gone into the shopping center, San Miguel. We enjoy the beach and when we arrive in Cozumel we usually pay a hotel that has a pool and beach access and serves food, for the use of their facilities. This time it was a little cool and we decided to go into town for the first time It was a delightful experience. We were really surprised at the beautiful shopping areas. We enjoyed walking along the main street and seeing the many different Mexican items for sale. After awhile, just off the main street, we came upon a beautiful indoor-outdoor Mexican restaurant. We sat outside in the tiled patio area, with a number of Psalm trees shading the area, while a group of musicians, played romantic Mexican music, serenaded us. It was a very special, romantic lunch. Mary purchased a beautiful hand painted Mexican dress. We will again be going to Cozumel on the Grand Voyager this coming Valentines day. Mary is going to wear her Mexican dress when we go ashore and we intend to have a wonderful lunch in the same restaurant.
We thought it important to let people know of the exceptional service we received on our recent cruise aboard the Sea Princess. Speaking of service I must mention our cabin steward Armando. He kept our cabin in immaculate order and catered to our every need. They don't come any more efficient than this young man. The caliber of service on this ship reflects mightily on Princess management. It is obvious from what we observed that Princess puts a very high premium on training their personal in all aspects of catering and pampering their guests. It shows in every area. Exceptional service converted a potentially dissatisfied customer, like Mary & I, into an advocate of the Princess line. We are now eagerly looking forward to our May cruise aboard the Grand Princess to the Eastern Caribbean.
We would be happy to answer and questions you might have, especially those from first time cruisers.
May your next cruise be your best,
Tom & Mary Milano