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I doubt the revolution was Kevin Tugwell’s idea, but he’s exactly the right kind of cruise director to make it work. My wife and I first met young Kevin as an energetic and creative assistant CD on a Hawaii cruise in the fall of 2017. We said then, to him and to Princess, that he should be promoted as soon as possible. He was. He’s 31 now, a natural at the job, best we’ve sailed with, perfect for redefining and taking on his employer’s biggest challenge, keeping his passengers engaged. As we said after that cruise, Princess faces a slow but steady reduction in its core audience – Baby Boomers. They’re fading out and dying off, not being easily replaced by the next generations, whose interests are more diverse and whose cash flow is not as plentiful. The blunt end of the problem showed up every night: passengers go to a stage show after dinner, then disappear to their cabins, leaving what amounts to a floating ghost town behind them. In our experience, this phenomenon is most acute on Holland America, but it was afflicting Princess as well. The difference is that Princess took notice and took action. Somebody figured out, first, that scheduling dinner times earlier made more time available for evening entertainment; thus, traditional dining is now at 5:00 and 7:15, with the main shows at 7:15 and 9:15. Second, it follows that if you give your passengers, regardless of age, a good reason to stay up later, they will. Third, if you give them a cause to laugh, to be involved, to have fun, even with participation games that are pretty silly, they’ll happily join in. Bingo: the show-lounge will fill up and the after-show hilarity can begin. Result: a better cruise experience, one you want to come back to, one you’ll talk about to friends and family. Of course it’s nowhere near that simple, but the result was a good cruise experience, 20 days in length, our favorite in recent years, almost worth the 30 per cent per diem premium we paid versus our last cruise with a different line. It wasn’t all a bed of roses; it never is. The fabled Princess head office bureaucracy continues to be mired in an obsolete paradigm. When I phoned, three times, to ask what time the evening shows would take place (after news of the 7:15 dinner) no one had a clue. Could they find out? No. So it was a complete mystery until we boarded the ship. When the NFL playoffs were on, we were told the games would only be shown in three of the public areas, the better, no doubt, to sell drinks from the bars. In truth, they were available on our stateroom TV sets but no one was in a hurry to tell us that. Not the only examples, but you get the picture. Our veranda cabin was fine, but some drawers had been replaced by a cupboard, effectively reducing useful storage space. The new Princess beds were wonderfully comfortable – so long as you stayed absolutely still. Try to change position and your muscles complained; it was like sleeping in a bucket of marshmallows. The sheet-and-duvet combo was hot and heavy, not at all an improvement. I’d give the food a B+, but only that: not good enough. No complaints about the Horizon Court buffet (though more shrimp at lunch would be nice). No complaints about room service breakfast, served as ordered and on time. Ditto the Salty Dog hamburger joint: better menu options and fast service despite long lineups. But in the dining room, erratic service for the first 10 days though much better (at a different table) in part two. Appetizers were pretty bland and boring and entrees other than beef were too often over-cooked and under-sauced. The feeling I expect, that I’m part of a fine dining experience, was distinctly absent. All a matter of taste, to be sure, but I came away from dinner less than fully content. Dining room service has not been improved by the elimination of wine stewards, replaced by the regular table servers doing double duty. That’s an imposition of time and requires more wine knowledge than some servers possess. Saves Princess money, though. By contrast, on the Lido deck bar servers now serve lemonade and food staff serve bar drinks, a resolution of a long-standing conflict. My biggest complaint concerns the hapless shore excursion staff. Once again, Princess can reduce staffing and save money by having tour passengers meet on shore, not in the Princess Theater as on previous cruises. But that system requires staffing on shore and competence at getting hundreds of passengers to the right place at the right time. Too often, particularly during our first 10 days, such competence was lacking or totally absent. Staff members may be to blame but, more likely, it’s a management and training issue. So too is the level of knowledge about the tours themselves: whenever I had a specific question it was apparent that no one behind the counter had ever taken the tour in question. And one more thing: about one in five passengers on this journey was a resident of Canada. Americans (two thirds) had four US-based TV channels in their staterooms, Brits (one in 15) had their BBC, but for us Canadians: zilch. Cm’on, Princess; you happily take our money, so give us some news from home! And how about Canadian wine and Canadian beer? All that said, this was a good cruise with significant positives. The ship itself was clean and in good shape. Beverage service was very good. The day and evening activities, as noted, were varied and creative. The tribute acts (to Elton and Aretha) were outstanding. Comedian Troy Thirdgill was the best we’ve seen on a ship. The song-and-dance troupe performed unevenly but when they were good they were very good. The Princess orchestra, save for a few sour horn notes, showed off its talent. Because we were revisiting 10 of the 12 island ports after a 10-year absence, we took mostly highlights tours, which, once we got to them, were of decent quality. We were particularly impressed to see how well Barbados has is doing, pleased to hear that Grenada’s unemployment rate has fallen, disappointed by economic conditions in Dominica but encouraged by those in various other islands. It is, however, a bit disconcerting to see that St. Thomas – American territory – seems quite depressed once you’re away from the tourist areas. We were impressed by the facilities at the head of the pier in Grand Turk. The island itself is basically a salty pancake, but the beach and shopping area at the port are very well designed and situated. Our worst shore excursion, it turned out, took place in Fort Lauderdale on our day between cruise segments. Our “guide” told bad jokes in lieu of any guiding, the rain came down in buckets, the Everglades airboat ride was a dud, with no commentary and no alligators, and our bus driver got lost three times. Overall, a good experience with fair value for money. Princess still has some work to do but has made good progress in the last couple of years. If the line can continue to engage and amuse its passengers, continued success will be the result.

Princess figures it out

Crown Princess Cruise Review by peter grant

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2019
  • Destination: Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
I doubt the revolution was Kevin Tugwell’s idea, but he’s exactly the right kind of cruise director to make it work. My wife and I first met young Kevin as an energetic and creative assistant CD on a Hawaii cruise in the fall of 2017. We said then, to him and to Princess, that he should be promoted as soon as possible. He was. He’s 31 now, a natural at the job, best we’ve sailed with, perfect for redefining and taking on his employer’s biggest challenge, keeping his passengers engaged.

As we said after that cruise, Princess faces a slow but steady reduction in its core audience – Baby Boomers. They’re fading out and dying off, not being easily replaced by the next generations, whose interests are more diverse and whose cash flow is not as plentiful.

The blunt end of the problem showed up every night: passengers go to a stage show after dinner, then disappear to their cabins, leaving what amounts to a floating ghost town behind them. In our experience, this phenomenon is most acute on Holland America, but it was afflicting Princess as well. The difference is that Princess took notice and took action.

Somebody figured out, first, that scheduling dinner times earlier made more time available for evening entertainment; thus, traditional dining is now at 5:00 and 7:15, with the main shows at 7:15 and 9:15. Second, it follows that if you give your passengers, regardless of age, a good reason to stay up later, they will. Third, if you give them a cause to laugh, to be involved, to have fun, even with participation games that are pretty silly, they’ll happily join in. Bingo: the show-lounge will fill up and the after-show hilarity can begin. Result: a better cruise experience, one you want to come back to, one you’ll talk about to friends and family.

Of course it’s nowhere near that simple, but the result was a good cruise experience, 20 days in length, our favorite in recent years, almost worth the 30 per cent per diem premium we paid versus our last cruise with a different line.

It wasn’t all a bed of roses; it never is. The fabled Princess head office bureaucracy continues to be mired in an obsolete paradigm. When I phoned, three times, to ask what time the evening shows would take place (after news of the 7:15 dinner) no one had a clue. Could they find out? No. So it was a complete mystery until we boarded the ship. When the NFL playoffs were on, we were told the games would only be shown in three of the public areas, the better, no doubt, to sell drinks from the bars. In truth, they were available on our stateroom TV sets but no one was in a hurry to tell us that. Not the only examples, but you get the picture.

Our veranda cabin was fine, but some drawers had been replaced by a cupboard, effectively reducing useful storage space. The new Princess beds were wonderfully comfortable – so long as you stayed absolutely still. Try to change position and your muscles complained; it was like sleeping in a bucket of marshmallows. The sheet-and-duvet combo was hot and heavy, not at all an improvement.

I’d give the food a B+, but only that: not good enough. No complaints about the Horizon Court buffet (though more shrimp at lunch would be nice). No complaints about room service breakfast, served as ordered and on time. Ditto the Salty Dog hamburger joint: better menu options and fast service despite long lineups. But in the dining room, erratic service for the first 10 days though much better (at a different table) in part two. Appetizers were pretty bland and boring and entrees other than beef were too often over-cooked and under-sauced. The feeling I expect, that I’m part of a fine dining experience, was distinctly absent. All a matter of taste, to be sure, but I came away from dinner less than fully content.

Dining room service has not been improved by the elimination of wine stewards, replaced by the regular table servers doing double duty. That’s an imposition of time and requires more wine knowledge than some servers possess. Saves Princess money, though. By contrast, on the Lido deck bar servers now serve lemonade and food staff serve bar drinks, a resolution of a long-standing conflict.

My biggest complaint concerns the hapless shore excursion staff. Once again, Princess can reduce staffing and save money by having tour passengers meet on shore, not in the Princess Theater as on previous cruises. But that system requires staffing on shore and competence at getting hundreds of passengers to the right place at the right time. Too often, particularly during our first 10 days, such competence was lacking or totally absent. Staff members may be to blame but, more likely, it’s a management and training issue. So too is the level of knowledge about the tours themselves: whenever I had a specific question it was apparent that no one behind the counter had ever taken the tour in question.

And one more thing: about one in five passengers on this journey was a resident of Canada. Americans (two thirds) had four US-based TV channels in their staterooms, Brits (one in 15) had their BBC, but for us Canadians: zilch. Cm’on, Princess; you happily take our money, so give us some news from home! And how about Canadian wine and Canadian beer?

All that said, this was a good cruise with significant positives. The ship itself was clean and in good shape. Beverage service was very good. The day and evening activities, as noted, were varied and creative. The tribute acts (to Elton and Aretha) were outstanding. Comedian Troy Thirdgill was the best we’ve seen on a ship. The song-and-dance troupe performed unevenly but when they were good they were very good. The Princess orchestra, save for a few sour horn notes, showed off its talent.

Because we were revisiting 10 of the 12 island ports after a 10-year absence, we took mostly highlights tours, which, once we got to them, were of decent quality. We were particularly impressed to see how well Barbados has is doing, pleased to hear that Grenada’s unemployment rate has fallen, disappointed by economic conditions in Dominica but encouraged by those in various other islands. It is, however, a bit disconcerting to see that St. Thomas – American territory – seems quite depressed once you’re away from the tourist areas. We were impressed by the facilities at the head of the pier in Grand Turk. The island itself is basically a salty pancake, but the beach and shopping area at the port are very well designed and situated.

Our worst shore excursion, it turned out, took place in Fort Lauderdale on our day between cruise segments. Our “guide” told bad jokes in lieu of any guiding, the rain came down in buckets, the Everglades airboat ride was a dud, with no commentary and no alligators, and our bus driver got lost three times.

Overall, a good experience with fair value for money. Princess still has some work to do but has made good progress in the last couple of years. If the line can continue to engage and amuse its passengers, continued success will be the result.
peter grant’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service
Onboard Experience
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

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