October 14, 1999
To whom it may concern:
We have recently returned from a cruise through the Panama Canal on Sea Princess. We wanted to write a letter to inform you of the many problems we encountered during the planning and duration of our trip. We had hoped that this trip would be a trip of a lifetime but instead it turned into a nightmare in many respects.
Initially, we reserved and paid for a stateroom that our agent handpicked for us with our needs in mind. We overheard the conversation our agent had directly with a representative with Princes Cruises and we circled our stateroom (C427), which was on level 9, in the middle, and with a private balcony. Our choice was based on engine noise and consideration of placement to minimize possible seasickness due to the motion of the ship. Any layperson would know that more ship movement would be felt in the cabin assigned to us(A634) than in the cabin we were originally told had been reserved for us. Our intelligence was insulted when we were told by the purser's office that there is no difference in movement anywhere on the ship.
Shortly before the cruise we received a message from AAA telling us that we had been "upgraded" and that we had no choice of cabin, nor could we be told what stateroom would be assigned to us. After questioning three agents with AAA and making several phone calls we met with a dead end and were only given the run-around. Basically we were told that we had no say in the decision! Apparently we had no stateroom assigned to us until one week before the cruise and it was two levels higher, on the other side of the boat, and near the stern rather than in the middle.
Also we were given a stateroom that had a serious ventilation problem and had a strong odor or urine/ammonia in the head throughout the cruise. The odor got worse as the cruise progressed and nothing could be done to deal with this serious problem. In addition, the people we talked with, who had also been given supposed "upgrades," were given cabins in the rear or front of the boat when they had requested middle cabins.
Our travel arrangements also did not meet our expectations. We were told we would not have to handle our luggage until we arrived in Acapulco and instead had to secure and move it ourselves in Dallas, where we were given incomplete information regarding the location of our connecting flight. Consequently, there were 32 confused people (many of them elderly and some handicapped) who had to lug their luggage from one terminal to other without knowing exactly where they were supposed to be going. There was really no excuse for that kind of mix-up and it was exhausting and frustrating for those of us involved in it. We had the same kinds of problems with handling our luggage when we disembarked. Because of all the confusion and wasted energy and time, it would have been much simpler for us to travel on our own rather than part of this "supposed" escorted group tour. The same is true of our flights. Had we had the opportunity to arrange for our own flights we would not have been subjected to flying with a charter service that did not seem safe or secure to many of us (Miami Air from Dallas to Acapulco). Although the weather was a factor that no one could control, many of us would have been more confident flying via a larger more comfortable and "safe-feeling" airplane.
When we arrived at the Sea Princess we found the stateroom to be spacious and comfortable even though the location was inferior to that which we had chosen. Our steward gave us excellent service. He was also honest and told us that the stateroom had a history of having a bad odor, when the purser's office failed to help us. His honesty was a welcome relief from dealing with some other staff members.
In addition to the problems already mentioned we had numerous problems that we will list by category:
Safety and security:
Other minor problems included food that was often lukewarm, rather than hot, at the Horizon Court buffets and the overall mediocre quality of food. In addition, we were annoyed by the constant hawking of items for sale on the ship and for the high prices charged for certain items. Examples of the latter include $2.95 for water, $6.99 for a small container of insect repellant, $1.29 for five cough drops and $1.50 (plus service charge, "for your convenience") for a small glass of grapefruit juice. Other things are even more minor, but make of the fabric of the whole cloth of this travel adventure. They all are part of why we would be unlikely to take another Princess Cruise. Likewise we have advised our friends to avoid the line and have written about this travel experience on our travel site on the Internet.
We were not surprised when we returned home and looked up the ratings for the Sea Princess on the Web (@cruise2.com) and discovered that it failed in its sanitation rating. We were also not surprised that the other ratings for food, entertainment, etc. matched ours. However, we were grateful for the reality check.
We think we are entitled to something for the inconvenience, unpleasantness, unhealthy conditions and discomfort that we experienced as a result of cruising with the Sea Princess, let alone the doctor's bills that we have had to pay as a result of this cruise. However, we do not want a coupon for money off on a future cruise, as we will choose another line for cruises we want to take. Unfortunately some in our party said they would never cruise again and others said they would never cruise with Princess. We are aware that most people do not take the time or energy to write a letter. We wanted to do so because we think you are entitled to the feedback.
We think a cash compensation would be nice.
We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Tom and Marie Grant
November 1999 - UPDATE:
We received a standard form letter in response to our letter. With it was a nontransferrable gift certificate for money off on our next cruise. In response to that, we wrote another letter.