July 2016 - Royal Princess to Europe - Mediterranean
I wanted to start by saying that from the technology and safety perspective, this cruise was absolutely impeccable. The ship itself was fantastic, very well laid out and easy to get oriented in. Next best was the staff - they are really trying hard to make passengers happy, and many of them go extra mile.
Now on to things that were less than spectacular.
1. Food - while food was generally of good quality and variety, the breakfast was always the same, and by the end of the cruise it got to the point I no longer even wanted to eat my breakfast.
2. Entertainment - could definitely use some improvement. Most of the entertainment was boring and designed for older adults. The ship needs to think about offering more entertainment for teenagers and young adults, too.
3. Ports - Princess definitely screwed up on the time the ship was docked in most ports. In the most interesting cities where people would really like to spend more time exploring the culture, the ship left too early, usually around 6pm. The worst departure times were in Rome and Florence - the ship could have arranged for a much longer stay as the round-trip drive between Civitavecchia and Rome, and Livorno and Florence, respectively, is 2.5 hours each. Apparently, Princess wanted to save money by not paying ports for a longer stay.
4. Shore excursions - some very good, others were bland, rushed and overpriced. Some very clear misrepresentations and apparently contracts were signed with less than reputable local tour companies. A mixed bag. Not what Princess used to be years ago.
5. Booking practices - Princess markets 14 day cruise (that's what we bought) but apparently sells it also in 7-day increments. So the ship is like a huge revolving door with large groups of people getting on and off the ship with suitcases. The quality of the 7-day increment passengers is much lower than those who bought 14-day increments (think of Carnival Cruises people).
6. Upselling - while we expected some degree of upselling, this cruises exceeded our expectations in a not so good way. Just to give you an example, a set of about 70 black and white photographs made in the ship's studio was initially selling for $8000. When pressed, the photographer agreed to discount the significantly reduced set to about $2000. The whole proposition was ridiculous because a professional photographer would have charged me much, much less for the same, if not better quality of work.
Overall, the impression was that Princess is only after squeezing as much profit as they can in any way possible while clearly sacrificing the vacation quality and experience of many passengers, especially seasoned cruisers. I am not sure if I will now want to sail with Princess again.