CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews


Princess Cruises Sea Princess Western Europe July 15, 2006

I am a 24yo cruise enthusiast who has been on 14 cruises on many different cruise lines. During college, I studied the cruise industry. My professional career has thus far focused around visitor centers and hotels as well as various forms of the hospitality industry. If you have any questions or comments about this review, feel free to email me at seth.widdowson@gmail.com One word of warning – even with wonderful modern technology I am still a poor speller and my grammar goes along with that – so best of luck to you reading this review!

Details about this cruise:

This was a seven-night Northern European Capitals cruise aboard Princess Cruises', Sea Princess. It left round trip from Southampton cruising to Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Helsingborg, Sweden. The port days and time at sea were a perfect mix, just enough relaxation time and just enough port time. We booked two Cat BBs located on Aloha deck, staterooms 625 and 627. These were not spacious staterooms but they were comfortable and worked very well for us. We had our wonderful stateroom steward Dante. He opened the partition between the two balconies, a great feature that gave our rooms the feel of a two-room suite. If you can afford two balcony cabins and are traveling with family or friends, this would be a great option. I did not like the chairs on the balcony, they were very flimsy, and you cannot put your feet up. My sister and I ended up swiping some chairs from near Sundaes, the ice cream parlor. The new chairs worked a lot better and Dante even removed our old chairs for us without saying a word. Overall, they were very functional cabins.

Three great things about the cruise:

1. The ports = By far on the best itineraries we have been on. With this cruise being just one week long and full of major European cities, Copenhagen and Oslo were the best. Amsterdam and Oslo's approaches and departures are not to be missed, truly 110% the value of booking a balcony cabin. I would rebook this cruise just to go back to the ports. With so many great cities, one cannot see every thing they want to see in just one visit.

2. MUTS or Movies Under The Stars = Why was this not thought of before now and why is it not on every cruise ship by now? To me MUTS is far better than a rock-climbing wall! After a long day of traveling, the last thing one wants to do is to go sit in a hot show lounge and watch the same old boring Broadway reruns. MUTS gets you out side, relaxing, with great fresh popcorn, and great movies. The perfect end to the perfect day!

3.Personal Choice Dining = This was only our second cruise with this type of feature. Oceania had their version and we really liked the flexibility of it, so we decided to try it out on Princess. We did not try the Sterling Steak House but we did love Café Corniche. The pizza was not as great as it was on the Ocean Princess in 2000. I became very frustrated during the cruise because we could never get the same table twice in the main dining room. It was not until the last day of the cruise when I was packing the cruise docs that I saw that we could have "reserved" a table of our choice every evening. When we cruise on Princess again, Personal Choice will be my choice.

Three areas for improvement for Princess:

1. Service = What a disappointment! I do not know what has happened to the Princess that I knew when we last cruised with them back in 2001, but this was not the same product. Do not get me wrong, I do not have overly high expectations. I just know what is right and what is wrong, when it comes to customer service. You do not role your eyes at a guest when they ask for a water refill. The attendant that patrols the lido refilling drinks should not avoid making eye contact with everyone. I watched one woman follow the attendant around for five minutes before the attendant acknowledged her. We had waiters in the main dining room that refused to converse with us, and attendants in Corniche that said, "Oh, all right," when we asked for Cokes with our pizza! As you can tell, the list goes on. No doubt, you get the point that the service aboard the Sea Princess needs drastic improvement.

2. Food = I cannot quite put my finger on it but there is something seriously lacking with the food quality. Dishes that are known Princess traditions were poorly presented and very bland. For example, the crab quiche was very mealy and had large chunks of processed imitation crabmeat sticking out of it. The lido buffet was just not up to the normal cruise standards, bland food, no refills and poor drink selection. If you wanted cereal, there were no milk cartons. Just milk boxes, similar to juice cartons that you have to puncture and then squeeze the milk out though the straw, very awkward and annoying. These are just observations not complaints.

3. Disembarkation for Ports of Call = This is truly an odd observation. It centers around Princess' handling of an issue, that had they handled differently, would have not turned in to a crisis. We arrived at Amsterdam at 2:30pm. This is only 30 minutes late but passengers had begun gathering in the stairways and atrium at 1:45 and some of the shore excursions were due to gather at 1:45 and leave at 2. At 2:45, the announcement was made that we were cleared and could proceed ashore. Therefore, we - and the entire ship, went to the gangway - yes one gangway. Thus, chaos ensued. Here was Princess' chance to make things right. Unfortunately, they did not choose that option. Instead of explaining to passengers why there was only one gangway being used, and that they were going to let the paying customers of the shore excursions go of first, Princess chose to remain silent. Over thirty minutes goes by and not one non-shore excursions passenger has gone off the ship, we're now to 3:15pm. So, we gave up and headed back to our stateroom. We had purchased hop-on hop-off canal boat tour on our own and had purchased the twilight canal cruise with wine and cheese tasting through Princess.

So at 3:45 we headed back towards the gangway. There was still a very long line but at lest the non-shore excursion passengers were being allowed ashore. We winded our way though the hallways and stairways finally reached the atrium and the gangway. As we swiped our card, a representative from the shore excursions department was shouting at every one the excuse for all the delay. Apparently, there was only one gangway and only one immigration inspector that had to stamp our passports. We were off the ship as of 4:15. With the lack of time, the oppressive heat in Amsterdam, and weary souls we decided to do one loop around the city on our canal buss tickets and then head back to the ship.

I want to make a note, that it was not the incident or late disembarkation that peeved me. What did concern me, was lack of integrity on Princess behalf, regarding how they handled the situation. Upon further investigation with other passengers and crew, we learned this was a regular occurrence when the ship visited Amsterdam. Yes, passport control only allowing one gangway is what held up disembarkation but Princess knew this was going to happen and they did nothing about it. Simply notifying the passengers that this might happen or setting up a disembarkation system similar to tender-disembarkation would have made all the difference.

I will also note that the shore excursions staff did redeem them selves later in Copenhagen. We had initially booked the cruise for a family of four and had all our shore excursions confirmed for a family of four. As life often does, it threw me a curve ball and I canceled my shore excursions when I though I was not going on the cruise. Later on circumstances changed and I was able to go on the cruise. Yet, the one shore excursion that I wanted to go on was closed for booking. I went and spoke with the shore excursions staff about getting to go on that shore excursion and the incident in Amsterdam. AJ, one of the shore excursions team members was very understanding and reconfirmed my faith in Princess. He got me into the tour with the rest of my family and apologized for the lack of integrity in Amsterdam. Thank you AJ!

Final Thoughts:

We are always optimistic travelers and bumps in the road are just part of the journey. For example, our flight from Gatwick to Newark took 12 hours as apposed to the normal 8. Once we got into Newark, our flight to Greensboro was canceled. Therefore, we rented a car, spent a night at a hotel, and drove back to NC the next day. Just another day on vacation!

This was a great cruise and I would recommend it to just about anyone. If you accept the fact that life is not perfect and look for the good things in life, then you are guaranteed to have a great vacation.

Thank you for reading this review. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me as seth.widdowson@gmail.com

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