Our 20th cruise with Princess, 20 days on the Crown in January/Feburary 2019, was one of the three best we’ve taken with this line, thanks to the creative activity and entertainment options on board. (You can read my review here on CC). Our 21st Princess cruise, through the Panama Canal December 3-18, was, on board at least, pretty much the worst. We felt like second-class citizens because of the way we were coerced and manipulated by the cruise line and its employees.
The problem: we chose late-sitting dinner at 7:30 p.m., which meant if we wanted to see the main Theatre show, we had to do so at 6:45, which meant getting ready for the evening earlier, which meant eliminating the advantage of eating later. To add insult to injury, the post-theatre amusements we so enjoyed on our winter Crown Princess cruise – when they showed up at all – were scheduled before nine p.m., meaning we could stop eating and go, or just not see these shows at all.
The solution: “eat in the buffet or go to Anytime Dining;” in other words, change my evening arrangements to suit Princess and, I’m thinking, save the company money.
Well, no thanks. I can find other cruise lines where this nonsense is absent. But wait, could I find out before final payment date what the show times will be? In a word, no: all decided a few weeks before sailing, on board, not by head office.
Good old Princess couldn’t have designed a better way to alienate later diners if it worked on it for months. Anyone who dined at 6:15 or later was similarly afflicted.
But back to the cruise. Only one of the six ports – San Juan del Sur – was new to us, but we took Princess tours at all but Puerto Vallarta. Detailed information about these excursions was sorely lacking; neither, on a ship filled with seniors, was there nearly enough information, on board or on line, about the walking challenges of the various tours.
The tours themselves were as expected: some pretty good, some very good. By the end of the cruise, hordes of passengers were sneezing and coughing, in part the result of going from buses cooled below 70F to the outdoors with temps and humidity near 90.
Back on board, the food was hit or miss. The World Fresh Marketplace (aka Horizon Court) has been reorganized, for better or worse being debatable. The pizza, Salty Dog burgers and ice cream bar continue their good quality and service.
In our dining room (Botticelli), appetizers and desserts were excellent, but main courses ranged from pretty good to pretty bad, as in too dry, overcooked, or too bland.
Service in the eating places, bars and lounges was excellent; our room steward, as usual, was a gem.
Entertainment was like the food: hit and miss, but generally mediocre. The seven-piece Princess Orchestra was outstanding, as was singalong crooner Kory Simon. But the production shows featured some poor casting in tired productions. The “fly-in” entertainers were, on average, not of the quality one would expect. (Or maybe I’m wrong on that: Princess offered cabin fares below $1,000 for this cruise; you do tend to get what you pay for.
The Cruise Director (whose name escapes me) was at least an accomplished actress, deftly playing the role of clueless airhead. Her staff did most of the work while she mostly told very bad jokes.
Daily activities showed almost none of the creativity or interest we found on our previous Princess cruise; trivia and bingo headed the daily list. An enrichment speaker did well presenting facts anyone could find online.
So, overall, a disappointment, particularly for veteran cruisers like us. If we can’t be sure we won’t be treated like second-class citizens on this line, we’ll give up the free laundry and cruise with other companies.
Comfortable beds, adequate storage, wonky shower, only one chair. Request to clean grime off outside of window was ignored.
After an efficient transfer almost 3,000 passengers were piled up in the terminal, waiting to board. US Customs had slowed to a snail's pace for disembarking pax, so getting onboard was seriously delayed.
Access to the street (and Walmart) is blocked by a new shopping area, reached by a severely uncomfortable trolley. The onboard port lecturer never mentioned this change.
We did a strenuous eco tour to a swamp; nothing wrong with the tour itself, but Princess failed badly in providing relevant information about it, particularly with such a high proprtion of seniors on the cruise.
Tour to Granada, which is not of great interest, but does the best it can with what it has. The bus was super-cooled, the outdoors very hot and humid.
First-class tour to San Jose, with earphones to hear the guide's commentary, plus a good buffet lunch.View All 22 City Tour Reviews
Took the Princess tour to Frank Gehry's BioMuseo, a remarkable natural history museum which tells the story of Panama from the dawn of time. An excellent tour experience in every respect, but for the long, unruly lineup to get a tender back to the ship.
Despite lack of details from Princess, this turned out to be a decent tour which began near the ship and offered an interesting walking component in the old city.View All undefined undefined Reviews