Last fall I was invited by Princess Cruises to attend the christening of their newest ship, the Regal Princess. To sweeten the deal, they invited the entire cast of The Love Boat to participate in the event, along with more than 20 former guest starts of the iconic show of the 70s and 80s. Captain Stubing, Florence Henderson and Charo? There was absolutely no way I could say no. I was also honestly eager to experience Princess Cruises for the first time. I’ve been on several cruises, but never with Princess and looked forward to seeing what sailing with them is like. Sadly, the experience wasn’t everything I hoped it would be and so I feel compelled to offer an honest review of the Regal Princess and Princess Cruises in general.
If I hadn’t been at the christening, I would be shocked to find out that the Regal Princess was brand new. I don’t mean it doesn’t look nice and shiny – it certainly does. But the layout of the ship is so antiquated and confusing, it’s hard to believe it was designed and built in the 21st century. The ship is split between decks so that when I wanted to eat dinner at the restaurant on the 5th deck, I would have to go up to 7 and then walk down to 5. When it comes to recreation areas, they are pitiful. None of the lounge chairs have any kind of shade or umbrellas, so if you are fair skinned you will bake. Wait, I stand corrected. They do have a beautiful and relaxing area with plenty of shade and umbrellas, but you have to pay extra to access it. That nickel and diming was rampant and I was shocked to see that little was free and instead Princess associates a fee with everything. Even when we anchored in the Bahamas, the beach umbrellas were $29 for the day. It’s outrageous and I’ve never experienced that insane level of nickel and diming on a cruise before.
There was also little to do onboard the ship. There were a few pools, a rec center and a casino, but nothing fun, innovative or exciting. No sky diving or bumper cars on this ship no, instead your choices are trivia night with the crew or bingo. I imagine retirement homes have better options.
This is where Princess really lost me and I’m still reeling from the spectacularly bad service I experienced onboard the Regal Princess. At first when I noticed small moments of poor service, I chalked it up to new staff just getting used to things. Then I learned that the Regal Princess had been servicing guests for six months and I instantly lost a lot of respect for the people who worked onboard the ship.
Rather than one glaring example of bad service, my experience was instead a death by a thousand cuts. When I sat down to get a soft drink, the waiter promptly began telling me how much he hated his job. I listened as I went on to tell everyone else the same thing while pouring their drinks. I saw multiple servers get really rude and sarcastic with guests, one senior staff member actually yelling at a passenger. In the gym I made an appointment with the staff and they never showed up. It goes on and on. Like I said, there was no one horrible encounter, instead nothing went the way it should have. In hospitality the guest is ALWAYS right. Even if it means gritting your teeth and saying “Yes ma’am” or “Sir,” but open conflict should never happen. Of course this doesn’t occur in a vacuum and ultimately points towards what is the larger corporate culture.
I saw this lack of respect on display while waiting to board the tender (small boat) to take us back to the cruise ship after spending the day in the Bahamas, our port of call. There was a 45-minute line for the tenders and it was not a fast moving line. As I got closer, I saw one of the cruise ship staff members ask the folks in line not to board the empty tender and instead, his coworkers spent 20 minutes loading beer and wine onto the boat. Meanwhile, guests waited in the intense heat watching as they were shown by the actions of the crew just how unimportant they were. It was shocking and I thought a riot was going to break out amongst the guests around me. But it goes to show how little the crew thinks about customer service.
Food and everything else
Wow, it really seems that I hated my experience onboard the Regal Princess, but that’s far from the truth. We had a decent time, but there are significant problems that need to be addressed. Food is another one. All guests are entitled to eat in the general buffet restaurant as well as at a few other dining rooms without reservations. Here’s the kicker. I selected anytime dining, which means there was no set time and theoretically I could go and eat whenever I wanted to. Except that’s not technically possible. My partner and I showed up at the anytime dining restaurant and were promptly asked if we had reservations. Dumbfounded I said no, this was anytime seating. Turns out anytime seating requires reservations in advance! While yes, theoretically you can show up and eat apparently demand was too high so they switched to an impromptu reservations system. It’s absurd and was just one more disconnect on a ship full of them. I might not have minded as much had the food actually been good, but it wasn’t. It was as unimpressive, unimaginative as anything I’ve ever seen and I doubt the menu has changed much in the past couple of decades.
Having cruised many times in the past, I was shocked at my experience onboard the Regal Princess. The problems were many and by the end of the short three-day trip, my partner and I were more than ready to leave. We weren’t alone either. I chatted with a lot of guests who paid for the cruise, who were there to enjoy a few days away from home and to a person no one was happy with their experience. One gentlemen I met told me that he’s sailed 20 times with Norwegian and dozens more times with other cruise lines and that three-day cruise onboard the Regal Princess was one of the worst he’s ever experienced. That says something.
But it also wasn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had and if it’s your first cruise then you’ll probably like it. But if you have anything at all with which to compare it to, prepare for some serious disappointment.
Have you sailed with Princess Cruises before? What did you think?Add to Flipboard Magazine.