Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Mellocroozr Eastern Caribbean March 30, 2008
Our focus for this cruise was to relax and enjoy the outstanding atmosphere we were expecting on this first trip away from our children (ages 4 & 1). We really bought into the "small ship feel" and "excellent food" reviews (we are I guess what you would call "foodies") and advertising and while we did have a good cruise, we had to really work at enjoying ourselves which is definitely not what we expected to have to do.
Embarkation was flawless, except for the rudeness of some of the embarkation staff which was unexpected and uncalled for by locals wearing Princess uniforms. Some were outright abusive to people, but worse upon debarkation.
Our stateroom was OK. We had a mini-suite which was OK. The room was nice, but the bathroom had a few caulking issues and the sliding door to the balcony was whistling and water poured in on the last day during a big storm. This ship seems so dated in the décor. I could not put my finger on it but I guess you could compare it to buying furniture at Wal-Mart and then walking into a furniture store with a higher end product afterwards. It looked fine at the time but it wasn't until I toured the Westerdam after our cruise that I realized what was wrong with everything. It all looked cheap.
Service Our cabin attendant and the Palm Dining Room Staff were great. The Buffet staff were hit and miss but everyone working on the ship seemed tired. There was no one that really went over and above to WOW us. The cabin attendant remembered our name and he did a great job keeping our room tidy and fully stocked with towels.
As mentioned in many reviews. Princess has a problem enforcing rules -- some with very potentially serious consequences: no unsupervised children in the hot tubs and pool, using hand sanitizers when entering the buffets, shirts and shoes in the buffets, and the not so serious but really irritating no children in the adults only pools, reserving of deck chairs (some sat empty with towels from 8am until noon or longer).
Itinerary We enjoyed St Maarten including the beach being so close to the ship, but found St Thomas expensive and the people not as friendly. Princess Cays is a great day at the beach. The Cabana was a good investment when a brief shower rolled through for about 20 minutes soaking everyone else.
Entertainment The new Piano Bar singer is not very good unless he was singing a Billy Joel song. Sarge returned to the ship in St Maarten and was very funny. We did not see any other shows, as we found it not worth the struggle for seating each night.
Dining This is going to be a sore spot and you will have to excuse me if I rant. Food in the dining room was mediocre at best. The Halibut was so overcooked on the second night that I did not think you could dry out such a succulent fish to the point it was a solid brick. The sauces were never quite rich enough, or flavorful enough. When I ordered my meat rare, it came out rare, but grey on the outside. We gave up dining at our appointed time after the second night until the Chef's night when surprisingly, the lobster was not overcooked.
The Breakfast Buffets were so disappointing and the shortcuts that were taken were noticed by us in a big way. The bread is bad. The on-board bakery needs a good shake-up. The toast bread was dry and old tasting, and all buns lacked a crust. No decent rye. No offence to Americans, who generally had no problem with the bread, but Europeans are really big on bread -- that is, FRESH BREAD. Don't bake it, put it in a plastic bag for the day and then sit there and pretend that it is fresh. It is such an easy thing to do when you have a bakery 2 floors from your kitchen. Bake fresh bread. JAM -- 5 gallon pails of the cheapest stuff they could buy is what is served; and why the salad dressing ladles instead of spoons? Orange and Apple Cocktail? Not juice. Powdered scrambled eggs, or at least that's what they tasted like. The fresh fruit selection was always nice and on a few mornings they had Eggs Benedict available. I think the above shortcuts could have been upgraded without any effect on the budget had they just eliminated the smoked salmon every morning.
On the last evening, after all comment cards had been turned in for the "big draw," (this is the only explanation we could think of for this) we went to the Caribe Buffet for a light dinner. It was very packed and very hard to find seating which is to be expected after a day at the beach. There were no salt and pepper shakers on the tables in most sections. Did they think we were going to steal them? There was no rhyme or reason to the food offerings -- pasta with undercooked cans of crushed tomatoes as a sauce. Jerk chicken which looked like they took the leftover chicken from Princess Cays and tossed in spices, Curried Chicken Salad which had very little flavour and tasted dry -- not quite sure how a mayonnaise-based salad can taste dry, but it did. It was just a mish mash of leftovers. When you walked to the pool areas, all the deck chairs were being packed up, no movie was offered. At one point, both pools were closed but I am not sure if it remained that way. We really got the feeling that Princess was ready to be rid of us all. We decided to grab a couple of pieces of pizza -- which were always outstanding -- and head to our cabin to order a club sandwich from room service. Our final impression and last night on the ship was probably the worst of all the evenings. We felt unwelcome.
I will not be booking another Princess cruise without assurances that this was not typical. We really looked forward to this trip. After (my wife) being on maternity leave for a full year, we really stretched to book ourselves on this cruise but needed the time together. While we did have a nice time, it was in no way due to anything Princess did to make our voyage enjoyable. I will be looking elsewhere for our travel needs in the future.