On 3rd September this year my son and I left Southampton for a back to back cruise on the Sky Princess Cruise ship. Back to back means two weeks around the Baltic first and then one day back into Southampton where we didn’t have to get off the ship and then one week around Western Europe, which you could ‘tag’ onto your two weeks or come onto the ship and count as one. This is my personal review and others may not agree with me but I’ve had permission to speak for my son as well who, I know does agree with me because I’ve already talked to him.
We arrived at Southampton, checked in almost immediately and from check in until we were actually in our cabin took somewhere in the region of twenty minutes. Our cabin was beautiful. When I say it was nothing special it was just the normal standard cabin with balcony but beautiful all the same. We had a mini bar which contained whisky, vodka, gin, beer in the fridge, everything we could have wanted and it’s true what they say. We have been lucky. This was our thirty second cruise and the beds were the most comfortable we have ever slept in. In fact, we had trouble waking up in the morning and definitely didn’t want to get up some mornings. We did have a shower curtain rather than a door, but that didn’t bother me in the the slightest. Everyone has their own opinion. My son would have liked a door but I would have found a door a bit claustrophobic.
Dinner that night, certainly wasn’t that great. I had what I would say was pie and chips, staff were rushed, but in all fairness this was the first night so we just put it down to that and took no notice.
First sea day was great. One of those getting to find your way around days. We were Elite and had the Captains get together to look forward to, which was ‘nice’ but you could tell the Officers didn’t really want to be there and I suppose at the end of the day who could blame them.
The Muster Drill. It has changed beyond everything. It’s not brilliant. No more finding your way to the Theatre with your life jacket tucked under your arm praying that you don’t have the cords dangling around your legs and fall over and break your neck on your way. Now you watch the talk while your’e in your cabin and them go to your Muster station and just click your Medallion on their App and that’s it – done.
You have choices of where you can go for breakfast. You have the International Cafe and what was known as the buffet is the World food something or other – forgive my memory here. The International Cafe was another world which we loved. I don’t like melted cheese so I became Mrs. No Cheese to the staff and I couldn’t praise them or the food in the International Cafe enough. What we know as the Buffet – once again – incredible choice of foods, even to the point of Chinese, Indian Curries, for breakfast. It’s a whole new world and wonderful staff. As far as the food is concerned, I’m a diabetic and I’ve never seen such a wonderful range of sugar free foods available.
That brings me to the staff, and this is where I tend to kick off about the staff. Well, not the staff more a lot of the passengers. Every member of staff both my son and I came across were worked off their feet trying to make our cruise wonderful for us. There was nothing those people wouldn’t do for us if we asked. We heard nothing but abuse from a lot of those passengers toward those staff and at one point we both wanted to say These people are staff – not slaves!
One example was a woman who put in a formal complaint against a waiter who didn’t bring her a glass of water quickly enough. Another was on a table next to us who screamed “Where’s my fruit?” straight across the dining room to the waiter who should have brought it quicker.
Maybe I notice things like this because I was brought up by a man who taught me not to behave like that.
The one place Princess should look at was their Shore Excursions Team and maybe think of giving them some extra training. We had booked a Tour before we got on the ship which was a easy Tour. No walking at all which mean’t we didn’t even have to leave the coach. When we got our tickets they were for a walk that included three hours walking across un-even ground. When my son went to the Shore Excursions Desk they told him the Tour we wanted never existed. Here’s where the problem began. The Tour we wanted did existed because we had booked and paid for it back in London and they refused to believe us. So? Where was our money? Thankfully my son had the proof on his phone and they had to find out. Oh sorry they said – we just didn’t update our website. Then it seems other people had the same problem.
The shows in the Theatre were very good. Like everything it depended on your taste and you can’t please everyone but we enjoyed them all. We went to one film shown in the Cinema which was brilliant but only eight people went but the ship was only running at half capacity still. Then you come to the films beamed into your Cabin. An amazing selection of every kind of film you could have wished for. OK you had repeats of Musicals like Mama Mia and The Sound of Music but I’d always be happy to watch those over and over. You could have music beamed in. I think you would have been hard to please if you complained about that one.
We’re not great ones for ships tours. We like to do Private Tours I do admit that and that’s where we found that the Ship was a slight pain and we felt they don’t like Cruisers doing Private Tours because they lose money. We arranged our Private Tours with Companies before we went from here. We knew exactly what to do, where to meet our Drivers and what was happening until the ship decided they had to get involved and the word Mandatory was used. This one particular incident took place in France where we had booked to go to two Private Vineyards in Bordeaux. We knew how and where to meet our Driver Cedric. Everything was fine. Or so we thought – until we tried to get off the ship. We came face to face with an Officer who wouldn’t let us off the ship. You have to have two tickets and go into the village on the shuttle bus – it’s mandatory she said.
“Pardon” we both said We actually have no intention of getting on a shuttle bus and going into the village because it suits your ship. Then this argument started about you can’t get off the ship otherwise. So in the end my Son took the two tickets, stuck them in his pocket, we walked outside found our Driver and went on our way and had the most fantastic day around the Vineyards and Wine Production Units.
We went to a Wine Tasting on the ship, which was no end of fun. My son has a Wine Accreditation when it comes to Wines so knows a lot more about wine than I ever will. I just know the wines that I like and the wines that I don’t so I’d say that he enjoyed it a lot more than me. We went to an Art Auction, which was fun. There was a Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones original for sale which sold for thousands – it could only be my son who had won a Ronnie Wood original at the Rolling Stones Concert recently in London for nothing !
Then we came onto the weeks Cruise. In other words this was a new Cruise and new Cruisers came on board. This is what I suggest Princess Cruises look at very seriously because a lot of Cruises that my son and I spoke to were more than unhappy and Princess couldn’t understand why so I’m going to try to explain via my blog exactly why.
Firstly we were Elite, which means we had special privileges because we had a right to them. Other people had Suites that came with Concierges and everything they could wish for. They had paid a vast amount of money for them and both my son and I respected that. No problem at all. One of the things that we had was a drinks package. Complimentary which mean’t we could have up to fifteen Alcoholic drinks or Cocktails, or soft drinks a day. I think one day I made it up to five Alcoholic drinks. No more, but fifteen is a lot of drinks and there were people on that Cruise who made a point of making sure they got their fifteen Alcoholic drinks in. We know that because we watched them in the bars. We heard them say That’s my fifteen done. That’s fine – until they stand up – drunk – fall into people, fall on the floor and the staff have to run and try to help them up. This was women as well as men. I’ts not a good look Princess. Maybe take it down to ten?
A lot of people stayed on the ship for the second week and that’s where we felt let down. We know that because we talked to each other. We had paid the full price for that week. Suddenly people coming on started to boast about how they had ‘got’ this Cruise for free. It seems that they had ‘won’ it in a Princess Competition. So in effect we had paid the full price for this Cruise and these people had come on for a weeks Cruise for nothing and Princess couldn’t see why people were complaining.
We know nothing about any Competition said the smug little Deputy Hotel Manager until my Son who is no-one’s fool found the date and the place where the Competition had been run. What really annoyed us was that people came onto this lovely ship for a weeks free Cruise and turned it into nothing more than a Booze Cruise, which it wasn’t and it didn’t deserve to be.
The people who had paid couldn’t get a seat anywhere at night in a bar, to watch any of the musical groups, in the Jazz lounge. One night my son and I could only find two chairs outside the shops, and yes, we were annoyed but could Princess see why people were upset – no – people were being asked the same question “What’s it got to do with money?”
Well Princess – it’s not particularly money. It’s your reputation. You turned the beautiful Sky Princess into a Booze Cruise by doing what you did. Anyone who Cruises regularly knows that Cruise Ships have standards. We have Formal Nights, we have Special Restaurants, we do things nicely. You do not dress for a Formal Night or go into a Special Restaurant in your shorts and vest or t-shirt which people did!
The one thing I haven’t mentioned is the Entertainment in the evening. It was amazing. The Ian Bacon Trio were a Traditional Jazz Group and then a Group called Asian Soul. Young people from different parts of Asia but not as we know it. One member came from Timor another from Java. Ask them to play a song, they could do it. Any genre – they could do it.
As I made clear at the start these are my personal views. One of the things I did miss are the old fashioned quizzes where you could win a pen and there was a near fight because someone thought someone had cheated and before I went I said I wouldn’t miss that. Would I Cruise again? Definitely. My son and I are booked to see the Northern Lights with Cunard later this years. I just think that maybe Princess need to re-think a couple of things because there are other Cruise Lines out there, but on the other hand they’re not going to listen to a word I say!