February 2016 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Houston Roundtrip) Cruise on Caribbean Princess
My husband and I sailed for our anniversary last week out of Houston on the Caribbean Princess. It was our third cruise, second on Princess. This trip was NOTHING like our experience on the Tahitian Princess 13 years ago. We decided to upgrade to a mini suite for the larger shower/bathtub combination. Overall, we had a great time in the ports and enjoyed spending time together. I have never wanted a vacation to end before this trip and could not wait to get off the ship. I am fine with an older ship (only 11 years old) but there is a difference between older and not taken care of properly. Our experience with the food, water quality and stateroom/ship maintenance needs take the forefront. The rest still heavily contributed to our disappointment. If I was a future or prospective passenger, I would want someone to tell me about their experience. We like to give credit where credit is due, here is the "good" and the "bad" of our trip. Good: Transfers/Embarkation/Debarkation: Transfer from the airport to the Four Seasons then to the ship was great. Good service and no issues. The embarkation process was about 15 minutes and our stateroom was ready right away. Debarkation and transfer to the airport was just as seamless and quick. Weather: I know there was no control over this-weather was great and seas were calm for the whole trip. Pools/Deck/Gym: Pools on board were larger than other ships we have been on. They were not crowded and they were clean. There was plenty of space on deck and there were plenty of chairs and towels. The hot tubs were small and full of people-not inviting to us. The ship did not seem crowded otherwise. Gym was nice and we could always find a machine the couple of times we went. Wish there were more classes and that they didn't charge extra for some of them (yoga, boot camp). Specialty restaurants: Both were good. Sabatinis even better. The food quality and service was what we were used to getting on a cruise vacation. The staff provided the best service we experienced on the ship and would rival the best service we have had anywhere. Wine Bar: One of our favorite places on the ship. Wine is always good, but Jack and Arvin provided exceptional service. They were among the few staff members on the ship who were actually smiling. The tapas and sushi were a nice touch. Pillows/robes: The pillows were good and I liked having a robe. The Bad: 1. Water quality: Even though we booked a mini suite, we were unable to use the bathroom from day 3-7 of the cruise. After our second port in Roatan (day 3), our shower and sink water intermittently turned from dark brown, to light brown to yellow....sometimes went back clear but we were already completely grossed out. Once we thought it might be fixed it would happen all over again. We had to brush our teeth with bottled water and use a shower in a standard stateroom downstairs. We asked for and were provided with this "solution". NOT what we paid for. We had about 10 maintenance staff come through over the course of three days. None of them seemed to be communicating and my husband had to "prove" the color of the water. One of them even stated that it was because the sink was colored and had a brown tint (is that any better?). We were told that they had not tested the water and there seemed to be varying opinions regarding what was wrong with the plumbing and/or water supply. I still don't know if they found or fixed the problem. 2. Stateroom: Our mini suite was not only outdated but it was also worn and dirty. The carpet was dirty, the drawers had other people's hair in it, the shower and bathroom tile had black and other mold in the grout lines. The couch was filthy and the bed had indentions where it was worn out. If it was my mattress at home I would throw it away. The furniture was similar to an beaten up motor home. Some of the drawers in the desk were hard to use. I only ended up using one drawer after cleaning it out myself. The shelves in the bathroom seemed to have a film of hairspray or something else on them. The balcony had white spattered white paint on the blue deck floor and the patio furniture. The railing wood was cracking and needed to be re-stained, the ship metal showed rust and needed to be painted. The patio chairs were usable but not cared for. 2. Food: I am not a picky eater and really like all types of food but this was some of the worst food I have ever had. After three nights in the main dining room we stopped going due to food quality and mediocre service. We skipped dinner completely another night. A FAR cry from what we experienced on Princess before. The beef was grey and tough...food was bland (no seasonings or spices even when it said it was "spicy"). Main courses were probably the worst. We were offered to try other dishes but were done with the experience by that point. Appetizers and desserts were OK but not resort quality. We tried the Palm dining room at lunch and it was just as bad or worse. Room service was mediocre without the ability to get the order right (no mayo on sandwiches, etc.). Coffee in all parts of the ship except for the coffee bar (extra cost) was terrible and weak. Could not eat the pizza or the burgers by the pool. Meat carnival cheap and the pepperoni tasted bad. The buffet was also bad with several trips through without anything on my plate. The scrambled eggs were so bad I spit them out, fruit not cut off the rind (especially pineapple and cantaloupe), not many healthy vegetable choices except for a small salad bar. The omlet bar was edible and I'm glad I accidentally found it. Over the entire week, we had three good meals on the ship and they were all in the specialty restaurants. On the first day we completed the request to have fresh fruit brought to our stateroom daily. It never showed up. 3. General ship state: The ship is LONG overdue for maintenance and overhaul even though it is not that old. Needed to be painted (with taping off), including railings, hull of the ship, etc. A lot of rust is showing throughout the ship. Many of the bathroom toilet stalls in the public areas were out of order. Several doorways were being fixed/upgraded and were blocked off. Some repairs by the pool provided a loud saw and drill noise atmosphere as people were trying to nap. Maybe do this on embarkation/debarkation days or take this ship out of circulation more often for these repairs. I know that does not make money...... 4. Staff Attitude/Attention to Detail: We can count on one hand how many crew members actually seemed happy or provided a smile. I can understand if the passengers are not cared for, I'm sure the crew might be treated poorly as well. General poor attitude and no motivation for attention to detail. Too much "selling" for every little thing all week. 5. Internet Fees & Service: We felt we had to purchase an internet package to send emails to our three kids back home. Wow do they overcharge and the service was spotty. Interesting that I have had better (and included or cheap) internet service on an airplane traveling much faster than a cruise ship. 6. Don't waste your time with the Thermal Suite. We paid about $200 to use it for the week and found that they were not keeping track of others who did not pay using the facility. The area was small and I wish they had soap for my face at least in the showers in the private area. They did not keep the eucalyptus going in the one steam room. We saw people from the regular spa area and otherwise come to use the thermal room. This made me not want to book the spa services that I had planned on booking. Spa area did look nice, seemed a little pricey. We enjoyed our time together and found fun in the ports. This is what salvaged our vacation, the first without kids in 7 years. We only booked our excursion in Roartan through the ship. It was a beach day at Tabaya beach. Beautiful setting, great facility, too many people and peddlers. The other two were through ShoreTrips through our travel agent (Belize Cave Tubing-VIV Tours-awesome!) and Viator (food tour in Cozumel-awesome!).
We have notified our travel agent (with pictures) and have completed the online survey form with Princess. The only response we have received was a small OBC for a future cruise if we book by the end of this month. I find it strange that their compensation includes me spending more money. While we were onboard, we did receive a comp night at Sabatinis, two large bottles of water so we could brush our teeth and the use of a small stateroom so we could use the (TINY) shower. Just not what we paid for.