You can probably find any number of articles or vlogs explaining how to pick a cruise or giving tips for first-time cruisers on selecting a cruise or comparing various cruise lines regarding certain itineraries so that someone about to head off for a holiday on the sea can make an informed choice and, quite frankly, after a while they all look the same, give the same tips, and become little more than a rehash of the same information but with slightly different titles. Not only that, but typically they’re very theoretical in nature, being idealised notions of cruising that may not exactly align with real-world scenarios.
So, this post is also a guide on how to pick a cruise but will use recent, real examples from a couple who simply didn’t pay attention or do any research beforehand and then felt the best thing they could do was publish their ignorance for everyone to see. This cruise and ports review came from the Ship Mate app which pulls in data from cruiseline.com and I’ve anonymised the couple’s name even though they themselves have made their views public and are fair game for criticism. The cruise ship they’re reviewing – and the reason why it was flagged for my information in the app – was the Crown Princess, a ship we’ve cruised on twice and loved both times.
Let’s see how the review starts:
These are clearly unhappy people and at this point there are three things that really stand out (other than the atrocious spelling and grammar):
- They claim that the southern Caribbean isn’t a relaxing place to enjoy white sand and warm water. Now, I’ve not been to anywhere in the Caribbean because I’ve done some research and pretty much the only thing you can do as you jaunt from island to island is relax and enjoy the white sand and warm water (which is why it doesn’t interest us). I’m sure if you’re picturing that area of the world too this is more-or-less your view of the place. But anyway, this couple are claiming it’s not relaxing and it’s their word against hundreds of thousands of repeat visitors year after year claiming it is.
- They state that if they were to cruise again they would choose another line. So we know that the problems must be related to Princess themselves and not the destination since almost all the main cruise lines will hit the same places. To assume that the behaviour of the locals or general levels of relaxation present in a location vary based on which ship is in port would be a sign of madness.
- The ship lost an engine and this is apparently an indicator of ship quality. It might be. But engines do fail sometimes and while it’s an irritation, surely, if there’s one place you don’t really mind this happening then that’s in the Caribbean, home of relaxation. Oh, wait.
Let’s take these points one at a time:
- “Service and Staff: Most worked hard, some avoided” – Some avoided what? Or whom? I think I know what we’re all thinking there. Anyway, Princess are renowned for their attentive service and I’d expect no less from them (even if we’ve had one glitch in our years of cruising with the company). If you were looking for a cruise line with good service then Princess are at or near the top of the affordable cruising options so in this respect the couple, if service was important to them, chose well.
- “Entertainment: The Voice was ok” – Entertainment is not the big selling point of Princess; many other lines push headline shows and big names. In this instance, though, we can see that our cruising couple think that The Voice is okay which implies they have no taste anyway when it comes to what’s entertaining and so Princess were a decent match for them once again. So far, so good, and yet I’ve got a sneaking suspicion things are about to go horribly pear-shaped.
- “Onboard Activities: no rock wall, no puttputt course, there are 5 holes cut into green turf. Average age seemed like 65. This is not a party boat, bed at 9 or 10 and up early for breakfast” – To complain that a ship has no rock wall would imply that you like rock walls and assumed this ship had a rock wall or that rock walls came as standard on all cruise ships. This is where doing some research before a cruise really pays off either from talking to a travel agent or even simply visiting the Princess website in this case.
Now, at first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that Princess cruise ships have rock walls on them but whenever you look into taking a cruise it’s important to read as much as possible. See that link about learning more about rock walls?
Had our two cruisers simply clicked that link they would have known beforehand that it turns out Princess don’t have rock walls because – and this ties in with the other piece of text I highlighted – Princess do not have party boats. No zip lines. No motor racing. No ferris wheel. No getting towed behind the ship on an inflatable banana. Our two cruisers really did not choose the right line here if they wanted any of that.
- “Food and Dining: Decent food, reservations are the best way to get a table, book a day ahead” – All sensible advice that you should know about eating anywhere that’s not a fast food outlet.
- “Embarkation: Slow and tedious” – This is generally a fact of life when cruising or flying or going anywhere for that matter in any form at all that has security requirements and doorways that don’t permit several thousand people to pass through at once. You may think that a fast and fun embarkation is how things should be but really, isn’t it better to have your last moments on dry land as awful as possible so as to make the cruise that much more enjoyable by comparison? In fact, for the best vacation experience you should research which port has the worst embarkation process and only ever cruise from there (as embarkation issues are usually port-related rather than cruise company-related).
With the general complaints out of the way we can move onto their reviews of the ports they visited. Now, of course, unless they were taking excursions with Princess then the issues here cannot be said to be the fault of the cruise line. Although, as we’ll see, they may have taken one excursion with Princess. So far, then, the only reason why our cruisers would pick another cruise company is because they spent money without checking to see if the cruise ship they were boarding was a good one for their needs (rock walls and sleeping in, mainly).
- “Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Much delay, little direction” – I don’t really keep up-to-date with all the new bands but I think Little Direction are a Little Mix and One Direction covers group. I won’t lie: probably not my type of music either but you can’t satisfy everyone all the time.
- “Willemstad, Curacao: To call this a tourist trap is being nice, taxis are a rip-off and unreliable” – The thing about being a tourist and visiting popular places is that they will tend to attract local people and businesses trying to earn some money. Another great example of some poor cruise research from our couple here as it sounds like they were hoping the ship would beach itself somewhere isolated before any stallholders could come rushing along to make a living. Generally, this only happens accidentally when it comes to ships with thousands of people onboard and if this is the sort of thing you’re looking for too then maybe something a bit more exclusive might be a better match for you as well. Taxis being unreliable is what’s known as a universal truth. The rip-off element is hard to criticise without knowing just where it is our couple wanted to go and how much they were told it would be once the taxi driver ascertained just how angry they appeared to be with everything they saw or were experiencing.
- “Bonaire: First stop and to call this a tourist trap is being nice. Don’t waste money on the Klein Bonaire snorkle trip. 400+ people snorkling on a 100 yard stretch of beach. We were instructed to walk up 75 yards and drift/snorkle down a mostly dead reef. BTW no bathrooms so 400+ people pissing in the water. Yummy. Mask and breathing tube $5, no fins. In town taxis are a rip-off and unreliable” – Another tourist trap and another identical complaint about the taxis! But let’s look at that snorkle trip complaint. This is how the Princess Cruises describes the snorkling component of the main excursion: “If you choose, you can participate in a drift or beach snorkel with your guide in the crystalline waters off Klein Bonaire. With the light current back to the beach along the reef edge, the drift snorkel lasts about 20 minutes.” You do have to wonder what our couple were expecting to happen based on that description. Also, twenty minutes does not seem that long a time to go without peeing and I don’t really know how you can tell if someone is taking a leak in the sea unless they’re very dehydrated or have been holding it in so long their face is showing signs of severe release ecstacy or they’ve jet-propelled themselves out of the water; in fact, the only reason you might assume 400+ people are peeing is simply because you are. Ew.
- “Oranjestad, Aruba: […] the public bathrooms were poor. The ladies room had 3 inches of flowing water running out the door. We got off, took a picture and looked for bathrooms, fortunately not far away is a restaurant, $1 to use their bathrooms, on the bright side no one broke their leg stepping off the bus into a pothole […] taxis were a rip-off and unreliable” – It would appear from the last two port reviews that our couple really, really like toilets and find the lack of them a cause for complaint and there’s something to be said for that. Perhaps if this port had been more of a tourist trap and less neglected with potholes there might have been the investment needed to provide those amenities but it just seems there’s no pleasing these people. At least they knew what to expect from the taxis at this point.
So, as we can see researching all aspects of your cruise is absolutely vital when planning a trip away on these wonderful vessels. It’s not enough to just see the word “Caribbean” and put your money down. For our example couple here they would have been well advised before cruising to see if Princess were a party cruise line (they’re not) or whether they had rock walls (they don’t), whether it’s possible for ship engines to fail (it is), whether embarkation at ports is often excruciating (oh yes), whether local people might try to get money off visiting tourists in a horrible display of capitalism (they will), and whether there are photographs of all the toilets on every island a ship might visit (there isn’t, but don’t let that stop you starting that as a project). These people did not pick the right cruise for them.