Princess Staff Saves a Total Waste
Island Princess Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America
Sail Date: January 24, 2016
Ship: Island Princess
Cabin Type: Balcony
Cabin Number: B314
Traveled As: Couple
Reviewed: 2 years ago
My wife and I spent the better part of a year preparing on seeing and doing "the Canal", only to have the experience shattered by a tired, overcrowded shipboard experience and two wasted excursion opportunities in the most anticipated ports. If it were not for our time sharing the friendship with our ten person travel group, and the service of a several personable ,and efficient, Princess staff members; the trip would have been a complete waste of time and money.
The Island Princess itself was the biggest disappointment. We had sailed her on a trip to Alaska a couple of years back and had a great experience. This time,
was a complete reversal. We were told once on board the ship had been re-fitted recently with additional cabins to add more than 200 people. From our stand point, and other we spoke with, this addition was a mistake. This addition apparently was done at the expense of deck space and public areas, and obviously benefited only the Princess shareholders, not the passengers. The increase number of passengers lead to the boarding process being slow (even with "express" passes), the public food services areas being crowded or congested at most times, slow or over-crowded elevators, the "anytime dining" option for the Bordeaux dining room being non-existent (five minutes into the "8 AM, reservation window" only "before 5:30 or after 7:45" dining times were available), and (we, and others) being shut out of three nights of shows in the Princess Theater because of insufficient seating. The final straw came when the "early, unassisted" dis-embarkment process took almost 45 minutes from muster to stepping foot in the terminal.
While the "re-fit" was done, however, little must have been done to other areas of the ship to spruce it up. There were areas with worn or stretched carpet, hallways that appeared dark or dated, and some sheets and towels that were frayed, even slightly stained. It may well be time for the Island Princess to undergo a complete overhaul, and put on a cleaner, brighter, more up-to-date look in the very near future.
However, as disheartening as the on-board experience was, the Canal portion of the cruise was a disaster.
We booked this cruise knowing it had a generally weak itinerary (four-plus sea days and rather short port calls) because it fit our travel schedule and we wanted to see, and traverse, the canal. But our Princess sponsored excursion was horrific! We spent 13 hours on a scheduled 6-8 hour tour, most of which on an old motor coach over highways and backroads getting to, or away from, a "shopping stop for local handcrafts - most from China. We were then delayed more than two hours near Gamboa - with no water, food or bathroom facilities available - before finally boarding the ferry that was to take us "on the canal". All through the misery we were kept mostly in the dark as to why there were troubles or delays holding us up. It was so late into the day that when we finally boarded the ferry, our included LUNCH was served at 5 PM.
Two hours later, when we finally entered the last lock, it was long after dark and there was no sighting of the new canal excavations which we thought would be a highlight in itself. We reported the problems to on-board Princess excursion staff and a full refund was given ($179. each) before we disembarked in Florida. That was a great gesture, but one wonders "how can you "refund" a lost life experience and the ultimate reason for making the trip"? In fact, our arrival back to the ship was so late that night, ALL passengers were impacted. Sailing time was delayed to accommodate us and the next days arrival and excursions in Costa Rica had to be altered. My Limon excursion, originally scheduled for early morning, was re-scheduled late in the day. I needed to cancel that trip because of a previous commitment made for that afternoon. So three days of (our) anticipated excursion schedule were reduced to a nice tour of Cartagena earlier in the cruise.
Definitely, not what I thought I was buying when we booked the cruise last year.
I thought it best and waited to write this message as to let some of my anger subside, but I guess I didn't wait long enough. This was a trip I regret making. And an experience I would need to share with others thinking about this trip, when asked.
But I said earlier there was staff that saved some of our experience in a positive way. They need to be recognized. While the entire ship's staff worked hard, and probably harder than they needed to considering the extra pressure on public areas, we need to single some out. We had great service from our dining room waitperson, Karyna (table #28, Bordeaux); cabin attendant Constantin, who solved many of the cabin issues; waitperson, Georgio in Sabatini's; Hannah from the Cruise Director's activity staff; and the entertainers we were able to get in to see (especially the on-board cast of singers and dancers - 2 of 3 shows). They saved mass dissatisfaction.
This was our third Carnival Corp./Princess cruise ship experience and unless changes are seen, may well be our last. To us, Princess was a respected brand, a step up. But, this trip showed things have slipped.