by Steve Artusi
January 26, 2007
This was a 15 day cruise originating in Los Angeles on January 26 to the Hawaiian Islands and back. It was far from enjoyable.
The weather did not cooperate on the five day trip to Hawaii. We hit a storm, heavy seas and cool temperatues. Of course that is not Princess' fault but it added to the unpleasantness we encountered.
We missed two ports, Kauii and Lahaina. We missed the first because the Captain did not want to take the ship into Nawiliwili harbor in the wind conditions we had. From other reviews I have read it seems this is not an infrequent problem. If they routinely miss this port they should tell you before you book.
As a coincidence perhaps, he also told us there was an ill passenger who had to be taken to a hospital. So we sailed to Honolulu where the passenger was taken off by water taxi in some pretty stong winds and rough seas. It turns out the ill passenger was the wife of the staff captain. We cruised back and forth in front of Honolulu until the nurse who accompanied the patient and the staff captain to the hospital was brought back aboard. We then set sail for Lahaina.
We missed Lahaina because the Captain said there was a weather front coming in that afternoon and it would make loading and unloading tenders difficult. He cancelled before 9 am, six hours before the front was due. We had been on that ship seven days by that time and several of us felt he could have told us to go ashore for three or four hours. By this time the wind had died down and the seas were a lot calmer than they had been the day before.
To make matters even worse there was an outbreak of the Norwalk Virus. The steps they took to try to control it made dining a real pain. We were not permitted to serve our own food from the buffet. We were not permitted to put cream or sugar in our own coffee. Salt and pepper shakers were taken away. Everything was served or poured by crew members wearing latex gloves. No tableside deserts were permitted. The traditional pastry display was cancelled.We were repeatedly reminded to wash our hands, use only the restrooms in our cabins, use an antispetic gel each time we went into the buffet line or into the dining room. We were told to avoid using handrails, door knobs and other surfaces where people place their hands. Yet while all these measures were inforced the casino, where people are constantly handling cards, chips and slot machines, opened. The library was open as were the shops on board, the internet cafe, the photo shop and art gallery. People who had the virus were quarantined in their cabins for a period of time. But their spouses or travelling companions were not. They were permitted to roam around the ship.
But the worst part of this cruise was the attitude of many, not all, of the crew. We rarely saw the Captain. He showed up for the sailing party a half hour after the second party ended. He refused to shake hands at the Captain's Circle cocktail party. Not once did he appologize for missing ports. He merely said it was "unfortunate". Very few passengers and many of the crew said they could not understand him. I know his Italian accent was so bad I could not understand him and I grew up listening to my Italian immigrant grandparents.
His indifference to the passengers carries down to some of the rest of the crew. They do some really incondiderate things on this ship.
On several occasions after most of a movie or program on tv was shown on tv something else, usually a promotion for a video tape they were making, would be shown on the channel before what you had been watching was over.
The so called Passenger Service Desk frequently provided anyting but service. Several people who worked there we rude, inaccurate, inconsiderate and condescending.
Several passengers who had as many as sixteen Princess Cruises had been lost in the Captain's Circle computer system and, no matter what they said and no matter what proof of their previous cuises they provided,they continued to be treated as first time customers.
It took them six attempts to properly wash, starch and iron one of my dress shirts.
Our dining room waiter told us on the second to last night that our "extra tips" to him should not be put in an envelope since someone might see it and demand he put the tip into the general pool of tips. He told us to palm it and shake his hand as a way to give it to him. Now this came despite the fact that Princess charges each person $10 a day for that tip fund unless you tell them in writing you do not want to participate.
On the first night of the cruise this same waiter really started pushing the sale of bottles of wine at the table. When I asked him if it was ok for me to make up my own mind on whether I wanted one or not he told me he got into trouble if he didn't produce enough extra revenue.
It is no secret when the first seating for dinner is on a ship. Yet we were about twenty minutes into dinner one evening when the Captain chose to announce the measures that were to be taken to control the virus. Of course he had to also explain in some detail the symptoms while we were eating dinner.
Everyday we were in Hawaiian waters the ship's paper, the Princess Patter, carried a warning about the so called Jones Act. We were told it is a federal law that provides for fines of departing passengers who sail on a foreign ship from one US port to another without first having visited a foreign port. Actually it provides for fines against the ship owner, not the passenger who does this. I watched an argument between a passenger who had had enough and wanted off in Honolulu and a partitularly nasty lady behind the Passenger Service desk. She wanted to charge him for the fine. He kept refusing to pay it. I kept wondering how desperate Princess must be to lie to keep passengers on board an infected ship.
Despite all this not one time did the Capain order so much as a free glass of wine to appease the passengers. By the end of the trip, the hostility between passengers and the people who had to dish our food out was open and plain with passengers telling them they couldn't wait to get off the ship and them telling the passengers they couln't wait for us to get off.
Imagine my surprise when I called Princess the day after I got home and was told they will only deal with complaints in writing and it might take two to four weeks to hear back from them.
I do know two things about this cruise. First is was markedly different from the 24 day cruise I took on the Pacific Princess. That one was a pleasure. Second, I will do my future cruising on a differnt company's ships.