Princess cruisers put money before passengers

Just back from two week cruise to Hawaii on Star Princess. It is our fourth time on Princess and the second on the Star. We are regular cruisers in excess of 20 cruises in total and until now never needed to complain about a cruise company.

Although the ship and itinerary were good and overall we had a pleasant trip we have decided that we would never go with Princess again and fully recommend that people steer clear of Princess. The overriding reason for such a strong statement is the company's "timeshare' approach to sales.

Now I am very use to the growing commercialisation of cruising with company's trying to make extra money from any opportunity, it's now a fact when cruising with the larger lines. However Princess take this to a whole new level and at one point we felt like we were going to get tossed upside down every time we rejoined the ship just to see what money they could shake out of us!

A few examples, my wife had a spar treatment which she enjoyed up until the last ten minutes when the sales pitch kicked in. When she made it clear she wasn't going to buy the product (as she has the product at home) the previously pleasant and cheerful masseuse turned sullen and offish, clearly realising a missed commission opportunity. This was also the case for two couples we met one of whom had their massage cut by 15 minutes when they said "no thanks".

I used the gym everyday and was worried and concerned that in the first eight days I saw elderly guests using machines in flip flops and even one in bare feet as well as one misusing weights. In that time the two gym instructors were busy running "complimentary" seminars (at which they tried to sell products of course) and one on one paid sessions. Not once did I see them taking any interest in the health and safety of their guests.

Additionally, we booked an excursion through Princess (discovered most excursions were nearly double the price of doing the same thing yourself ashore, most company's normally go up to 30% more, but not Princess.) The excursion was a once in a lifetime flight over an active volcano, preceeded by a tour of the island. However after a morning of touring and getting ready for the helicopter flight we turn up to be told we can't go up due to mechanical problems. Totally devastated we returned to the ship ( six of us) not blaming Princess but expecting a refund for the day and some form of understanding. However to our shock their attitude was that we had to pay for the half of the tour we had and they would only refund the part we missed, even though we booked one full day excursion. Not only that to add insult we were told that neither the customer services director or tour manager were authorized to refund us and there was not even "sorry about that please have a complimentary meal" etc. Just out and out poor service.

There are a number of other examples of how they put profit before service but I could be here for a while. Please be assured my review is meant to help people decide what company to choose when taking a cruise, all I would advise is steer clear of Princess as NCL, Caribbean, and the other mainstream lines will make you feel far more valued.

8 Answers

We have seen on this forum and on other sites related to cruising, many comments of charges and fees that have been making their way into the day to day routine of the cruise ships. With that information, we can now better plan and budget our cruise, knowing that there are high pressure sales tactics employed.

The spas on board the cruise ships are private concerns contracted out by the cruise lines. Hence the pressure and the charges. The jewelry stores are under the same format. Shore excursions are also contracted out. Photos too. All these sub trades have to put pressure on the consumer to make their budgets for the cruise.

Service from the cruise lines has been reported to be dropping as the customer service folks are not empowered to make decisions, for one reason or another.

I liked your post as it give another side of cruising some don't usually hear about.

I can't really see where Princess is any worse or better than any of the other majors, with regard to most of your observations. Negatives they are but simply more not so good indications of the majors going the nickel and dime route, in other words their business model today is based upon add-on charges. We also frequent Regent which is what they call an all inclusive so theoretically one isn't burdened with these annoyances, however, we detect a drift even on them toward raising rates wherever possible and eliminating prior benefits. Hardly a day doesn't go by where I don't read of examples of problems guests run into and the lines run into when pursuing the add-on business concept.

Passengers get on board now without experiencing "sticker shock". The new concept leans toward building more and more very large vessels. In order to fill up these ships most lines have adopted a policy of getting passengers on board for a very low initial fee. Those who are budget minded get by and enjoy their cruises by not buying much of anything including shore excursions. Those who desire more amenities, higher quality services and food pay extra. Charging extra for just about everything except the basic stateroom and food served in the main dining rooms and the buffet areas is the norm. Some lines also provide eateries like pizzerias and hamburger grills for no extra charge. The ships function more or less like large floating resorts, with all sorts of premium type restaurants and other meal venues where additional payments are required, not to mention all the boutiques and other retail outlets trying to sell you something. By cutting down the size of, quality of, and service within the main dining rooms and other no extra charge areas, guests are more or less forcibly channeled into the nickel and dime game.The Royal Princess is 3.5 times the size of the Titanic and can hold 4610 passengers, the Coral, about 2000, to procure a vessel like these huge investment dollars are required, in order to get a return on investment huge volumes are necessary. From a profit motive standpoint this is likely to last.

Up until our last Princess voyage in January, the Main Dining Room was still tolerable, this time though, either we experienced a fluke or cost cutting has caught up with Princess rendering their product in the MDR undesirable for us. We have never ran into a situation like this before even though the "hand writing was on the wall" that it was bound to come. In my opinion this results from understaffing of both service and kitchen personnel. Each time we tried to use the MDR we were told there was a 40 minute wait time. They gave us a pager, but on the three occasions we decided to carry on and eat in the MDR the wait was only 10-15 minutes, which was not a problem. We don't like traditional seating for a variety of reasons, one of which is we hate being relegated to eating at either 5:30 PM or 7:45 PM., even if we secure a table for two, we usually try to get there by 6:30 using anytime dining. Rather, the principal problem(s) trying to eat dinner in the MDR was the lack of service and poor quality meals. For instance, there used to be a sommelier to take your wine order immediately after being seated, this practice gave way to no sommelier--instead head waiters were given extra training in wine selection then that gave way to what you have now, wine only if you are lucky enough to get someone's attention and forget about ordering a bottle to be carried over for the following evening, they will lose it for sure. You usually sit there waiting and watching a harried flurry of activity by the understaffed help forging a losing battle trying to keep up. Made dressing up in my tux on formal nights and trying to dine there a joke. So, in order to continue enjoying cruising we make do, by booking dinner in one of the excellent specialty restaurants where the service is superb and meals exquisite, when not doing that we simply going up to the Horizon Court buffet.

I have a theory that there will be a drift completely away from providing MDR service on the major cruise lines in the future. Instead, cruisers will experience more of and larger specialty extra charge venues and expanded no extra charge buffet area service.

Great post, not because it is a bad review but because it was backed up with examples of why you feel the way you do. It is sad that this is what cruising is turning into on the basic cruise lines. You pay for spa time and you get a sales pitch for the spa's brand products, you go to a talk in the gym and you get a sales lecture on products carried in the gym, you try and get off the ship and you have to wait for people in front of you to stop to get photo's taken on the gang way.

Cruising is not what it used to be but it is better then what it is becoming.

Kennicott - I just said the same thing about dining room trends about a week ago in another post... can't agree more that this is the direction things are heading.

Paul, I agree with your assessment regarding the direction of cruising... profit ahead of customer service. It's really a sad state of affairs.

I can comment on the spa, I had the exact same thing happen the first time I used the spa 20years ago. It irritated me then so I never went back. My believe was if I am paying for 60 min I should get 60 not 40 min massage and 20 min sales pitch. The rest of it I just don't pay much attention to it.

Regarding the spa sales pitch, I now launch an offensive at the beginning of the treatment time. When asked what I am there for, I clearly state that I am very happy with the products I currently use and I am there for a relaxing XX minutes. If they persist in making product recommendations, I just say "i'll think about it". This worked in at least one instance. At the end of the treatment, I thanked her for not launching a sales pitch to which she responded "you sounded very satisfied with what you were already doing".

Another strategy that I was going to do was leave my iPhone on the counter with the timer running. I haven't done this yet... yet being the operative word.

While I understand about 10 minutes of the appt will go to getting prepped to start and getting redressed, that's about the upper limit of time out of my 60 minutes that should be devoted to that stuff.

I think that the problems that you mentioned about Princess are true now of all cruise lines. Services once complimentary are now extra charge. While keeping prices of cruise low, they are recouping by charging more while you are on board. Where it will all stop is anyone's guess.

Cruise lines aren't the only ones. Airlines are doing the same thing with their extra charges. One airline even wants to have passengers stand on the plane and not have any seats or you pay extra for a seat. Crazy!


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