A Diamond that fades . . Pt 2

Fiji

The normal high standard of Princess cruising has, in my opinion, slipped somewhat, but for us it started last year when we sailed in the Majestic Princess from Rome to Singapore.
We have completed a total of nine cruises, seven of which were with Princess, so I think we can judge when standards are falling. It makes me wonder if Princess has a new CEO.

This latest cruise to Japan was a cruise that I really wanted to do to show Maureen a ‘foreign’ country outside the norm. The language and the signs could not be worked out, unlike Europe or ex British colonies in Asia.

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We didn’t realise that this was an advert for a game.

DSC01296rWe had lunch in this restaurant – more of this guy in another blog

My disappointment began soon after we sailed.
While changing for dinner on our first evening I switched on the TV to watch the news – neither of the two screens worked. A sign on one screen informed us that there was a technical fault. This technical fault went on and off for days, and in the end every passenger received a $50 credit – it was onboard money to be spent onboard.
Princess was hoping that the TV system would be fixed in Darwin.
The system was never up to scratch for the whole cruise. There was always something not quite right.

When you watched a film, and you wanted to save where you were up to, sometimes the system would remember the position and other times you had to fast forward to reach the point that you wanted.
None of the news channels worked in Japan and we were informed (via the TV screen) that it was due to Japan blocking the signal . . .

Our next problem was the cold water tap in our bathroom – it only gave out hot water. I complained three times, but it wasn’t fixed, so each night we placed glasses of hot water in our fridge to cool down for the morning.
We also bought cold water in bottles at $3.50 a bottle, which we wouldn’t have done if the cold-water tap had worked, because the water is potable.

After leaving Darwin the Crooners Bar ran out of Peroni beer (the Italian beer).

PeroniA day later I found out that I could get it at the Outriggers Bar. A small detail, but why not make sure all bars carry stock that is listed on the menu. A few days later I bought the last can of Guinness in the Explorers Lounge. This time I couldn’t find Guinness in any other bar – why?

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A couple of days later I was told that they had run out of Grolsch, a Dutch beer . . .

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The next one to ‘go’ was Fat Yak

Fat YakMaureen doesn’t drink alcohol, but occasionally she likes a small Champaign, which we have bought during past cruises in small bottles.

KorbelWhen I asked for a single small bottle of Korbel (187 ml) I was told that they had ‘run out’ and that the only Champaign available was in a 750 ml bottle, which was too much for Maureen to drink on her own.

More and more items were ‘running out’ so the question is, why didn’t Princess restock in Darwin – checking stock and replenishing when required is simple, regardless of quantity, every household in Australia does it most weeks. It’s not rocket science after all.

While focused on the bar area – we started the voyage with peanuts for nibbles when buying a drink.
After about a week or so the nuts stopped (they’d run out), and the nuts were replaced with bhuja mix.
Several days later this nibble ran out and were replaced with rice nibbles.
Not a killer in the scheme of things, but don’t you think someone would anticipate a certain amount of consumption with 2700 passengers?
Small things, but who is planning the consumables?

Maureen, being a coeliac is gluten free, so at breakfast in the Horizon self-serve area she ordered GF toast, which is always available on cruise ships.
The GF toasted bread was presented after ten minutes. The ‘toast’ was as hard as a rock and shattered when Maureen tried to bite in to it.
Oddly enough when GF bread was ordered in the dining room in the evening, Maureen asked for ‘well done’, yet when it arrived it was lightly toasted and a perfect consistency and didn’t shatter when handled.
Why the difference?

We did dine once in the dining room for breakfast, but this simple meal took 90 minutes from start to finish. I didn’t wish to waste my morning from 8.00 am to 9.30 am every day, so we used the Horizon buffet area, which allowed us to control the times.

A week before we reached Japan we ran out of marmalade, and I was told that an orange coloured spread was marmalade, one look and I commented that I can tell the difference between apricot jam and marmalade.

On previous Princess cruises I used to buy a ‘drinks package’ at around AUD $55 a day, (May 2017), and this allowed me to drink soft drinks & water, as well as alcohol.
The cost of a drinks package on our latest cruise was AUD $89.60 per day!
This is approximately 63% increase in prices in less than a year. Considering the cost of most drinks, without duty tax or GST/ VAT is very small, why the jump?
I didn’t buy the drinks package, nor did I deny myself during the recent cruise, and my daily drinks bill was around $53 / day, which included the 15% compulsory tips (for my convenience, of course).
Maureen’s soft drink package was AUD $7 a day, which was one and a half glasses of her favourite mocktail. That’s more like it!

Azamara cruises and Celebrity cruises often include a drinks package with their cabin prices, but if Celebrity doesn’t include the free drinks, passengers can purchase an alcohol package at a daily rate of AUD $45 / day.
Princess’ ‘nickel and diming’ program comes to mind. This is not my comment, but one made to me by an American passenger during our recent cruise.

Finally, the Princess wine package – which I only found out about a short time before arriving in Japan. Each evening I would buy a bottle of wine for dinner, and on average I’d consume half the bottle and the remainder would be saved by the steward, for the following evening. The cost of a bottle was between AUD$29 and $31, they had more expensive wines, but too expensive for me.
The wine package was explained to me that for a set amount of $161 I could buy a Silver Package, which allowed me seven bottles, which worked out at $23 a bottle. A good deal as far as I was concerned, but I wish they’d told me earlier.

Reverse wine

We’d become friendly with a couple from Yorkshire in the UK, and they decided to buy the Gold package, which allowed them to buy more expensive wine (up to $45) at a discount. Half way through their purchase time the Diamond ran out of wine between $31 and $45, and they were offered the cheaper wine as a replacement.  Our new friends were not happy.
Later we found out that the Japanese consider cruise wine around $40 a bottle to be a steal, because foreign wine is far more expensive in Japan. The next cruise was going to be a Japanese coastal cruise, and the Japanese would buy the ship’s expensive wine to take ashore.
I am not suggesting that Princess were holding back certain higher priced wine, but it appears that the Diamond had run out of another consumable.
Our twenty-two-night cruise came to an end in Yokohama and the vessel was prepared for an influx of Japanese tourists for the first Japanese cruise of the season.

We bought a back to back package, which means we were staying onboard for the first seven-night Japanese cruise.
The bar menus were changed to reflect USD prices and the drink description was now in both English and Japanese. Various Japanese beer was also listed, only it took two days for some of the bars to be stocked with Japanese beer other than Asahi.

AsahiThey sold Asahi on draft only in one bar, but you could only buy it in half pints, but you could buy draft Heineken in pint glasses, why the difference?
When I asked I was told that I could only buy draft Asahi in half pints . . . . I suppose I could have bought two half pints, but by this time I was fed-up with Princess Cruises policies.
I was told that this is how the Japanese drink their beer, and that it was a Japanese cruise – the small detail was, that of the 2700 passengers only about 500 were Japanese, and the majority were westerners or other Asian nationals, but mainly Americans, Australian & British. Who am I to argue with a barman.

SapporoI did manage to get a few cans of Sapporo, but never saw any Kirin although it was on the drinks menu.

As for the food during both cruises –  in the main dining room I suppose the best that can be said, is that it was uninspiring, and often repeated itself.

DSC01704rI can not remember what this starter was called, but from memory it was rice stuffed inside a tube, of what, I don’t know, but I thought it very bland.

DSC00972rThe menu choice was limited to fish, chicken or meat (not both), and pasta, which is one food group that I don’t like. Pasta of sorts seemed to be on the menu most nights. Cheap and easy.

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Sweet in the main dining room – layers of ice cream, looked fancy, but still ice cream.

For lunch time in the Horizon Buffet, the choice was wider for the main course, with daily choices of beef, pork, lamb and chicken as well as various fish dishes. The main negative with the Horizon was the pudding or sweet dishes. Rice milk pudding and custard, sago pudding and custard, sometimes mixed with chocolate sometimes plain, bread and butter pudding and custard (with and without chocolate), jelly and small cakes.

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Small tarts, cakes and jelly – I should have photographed the sago . . .

The last time I had sago pudding was after the war, during school dinners, when the British Government tried to give every pupil one hot meal day during the time of rationing.
I tried each of them for old time sake, and they were better than school dinners, but to have one or the other everyday was taking nostalgia a little too far.

Quite a number of Australian and Americans were doing a back to back cruises. As time went on more and more passengers that we met in the lift, around a bar or during various waiting periods for shows or trivia, complained about the food, lack of drink choices and the overall drop in service. These comments were not solicited by me, but just came out of the blue.

One American lady, who was an ‘Elite’ passenger, and had sailed with Princess on fifteen cruises and never even considered any other company, told me that the Japanese coastal cruise was her last with Princess, because of the food and overall drop in standards.

From what I heard I was not the only one dissatisfied with Princess Cruises.

The one positive aspect of the cruise was the attentiveness of the staff. Many people commented that the staff were the best part of the Diamond Princess, but that the land-based management had managed to destroy customer loyalty.

Princesses bearing gifts – beware.

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I’ve known a number of PrincessesIsland, Diamond, Dawn, Majestic and have booked future time with Golden (see above picture) & Diamond (again) – see picture below.

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My wife & I enjoyed our time so much with each Princess we thought it only right that we share our good fortune with our friends around the world.

To encourage our friends to join us, I told them that they would receive USD $25 each (USD $50 per cabin) to spend on their second cruise, if they accepted my invitation to join us on a particular cruise.
I also told them that I would receive USD $25 for each person that I persuaded to sample the charms of a real Princess.

Two friends from New Zealand and two friends from the UK flew to Rome and joined us for the twenty-eight-day

Majestic

Majestic (see pic above) voyage from Rome to Singapore, which we all enjoyed. I have e-mails confirming that our New Zealand friends had accepted the ‘refer a friend’ bonus in February 2017.
On returning home we persuaded five local friends to join us for a cruise from Sydney to Tasmania later this year, and I told them of the USD $25 that each would be credited for their second cruise. Four of our friends accepted the invitation in March 2017.

A couple of weeks ago I contacted the cruise company in Sydney and asked why the bonus for persuading my Kiwi & Pommy friends was not showing on my account, because I wished to use my share of the ‘encouragement bonus’ for the Tasmanian cruise. I received an answer and have posted two parts of it below –

Unfortunately our refer a friends program has been discontinued as of the 11th May 2017. This means that we are unable to provide you with the benefits of the refer a friends program.

Remember my UK & NZ friends accepted in February . . . and four of our Australian friends accepted in March.

Please also be aware that the program was only applicable for guests who referred guests who lived in the same country. For example as you live in Australia the benefits could only be applied to friends who also live in Australia. The program was also set up for the past passengers and non past passengers to travel on the same cruise.

I couldn’t find any mention of the closing of the program on their web site, and as recently as last week I received an e-mail advising me that one of our Australian friends (the fifth one) had accepted the USD $25 offer! In fact, I have e-mails confirming that all my Australian friends have accepted the refer a friend offer. Now I must tell them that they will not be receiving the promised bonus.
The other concern is that one can only persuade Australian friends, yet the web site states Australian & New Zealand friends . . .and still has the refer a friend active link on the main web site.
I persuaded one couple that a Princess is worth more than a mere Celebrity – even though they have already experienced two Celebrities, and didn’t wish to change – but friendship prevailed, and now I must cancel their promised cash bonus.

I can accept that the UK couple are not part of Australia / New Zealand, but as the web site specifically mentions Australia / New Zealand as a refer a friend ‘catchment’ area why have the NZ friends not been credited?

As a global popular Princess why would you place restrictions on possible future sales just because someone has friends outside their home area?

Our Princess promises that we will ‘Come back new’, but I doubt that the nine friends that we introduced will come back at all . . . and if they chat to their friends statistics tell us that each one will negatively influence between ten and twenty-five others against a certain princess. The negative influence is not a deliberate act, but comes out in general conversation.

To paraphrase Warren Buffet – it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to lose one.

I sent an e-mail to my Princess, about the whole ‘refer a friend’ system and I received a reply, which stated – Your comments have been noted.

Considering the overall cost of cruising, the amount of money involved is very small, but the principle is huge.