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About renman22

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Park City, UT
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Paul Gauguin, Azamara, Celebrity
  1. Thanks for your response. Of course I realize the cost/quality equation in all of travel (and life for that matter). I guess what I was trying to say that there needs to be at least a minimal amount of quality and care at any price. I guess if I were going to make a comparison with our recent cruises it would be with Celebrity. Aqua is some more expensive but in my opinion well worth it.
  2. My wife and I cruise a good bit and I read CC fairly often but seldom post. I am often amazed how personally folks react to criticism of their favorite ship, cruise line or whatever. Given that opinions are like anatomical parts (that is everyone has one or more) I try to take opinions, including my own, with a grain of salt. Having said this I thought I would share some observations that we made as a result of our recent Mexico cruise on the Ruby. We have been cruising for decades and are Elite level on four or so lines including Princess. It has been a few years since we have cruised with Princess so we decided to see what is happening on a line that once was our default. Our more recent cruises have been on smaller ships (Azamara, Oceania, Paul Gauguin etc.) although we have also been on a number of Celebrity ships. Again, the following are merely OPINIONS and are not meant to offend anyone. My only hope is this might be helpful for folks who have not sailed with Princess or people like us who have been away for a couple of years. Embarkation We left from San Pedro and Princess did a really good job. They were well organized and kept everyone informed about the procedure. Since we were in the first boarding group we were on the ship no more than five minutes after the procedure began. Upon boarding we were directed to our cabin which was the first time I can remember that happening. Princess gets very high marks for the beginning of the journey. Cabin We have had everything from ocean view to owner's suites. On this journey we chose a balcony and were quite satisfied with our accommodations. The design is a bit dated but the cabin was well maintained and clean. We were recently in Aqua Class on Celebrity and I have to say that the Ruby cabin was larger and had much better closet and storage space. Ship It has been a while since we were last on a Princess ship and we have not sailed on the newer ships so we don't have anything other than our past experience on which to rely. The Ruby is an older design but to Princess' credit, it was well kempt and maintained. The attention to detail on the ship was good, but we were reminded rather immediately of some design problems. There are a number of smaller public spaces (piazza etc.) that simply could not handle the number of passengers. There were several evenings when we wanted to listen to the Mariachis (who were Great!) when there was literally nowhere to sit on any of several floors overlooking the space. In general (again my opinion) Princess is far behind other large ship lines in providing comfortable places for people who want to read or just relax. It seemed that Princess wanted us to do or buy something and it just did not feel at all oriented to those who wanted to relax. It is important for me to note that I walked at least five miles everyday and simply missed nice places with comfortable chairs where we could read and listen to music. Also in my younger days I played for fifteen years in a rock band, and my activity level is no different now than it was then. I add this personal note so that a reader wouldn't think that I am some old cranky guy! Food This is where I was most surprised, and unfortunately not in a good way. We travel extensively and enjoy all types of food. I am however, not a food snob and what I generally like is quality, well prepared and timely served food. Breakfast and lunch at the Horizon Court were problematic at least to us for the entire cruise. The space was always crowded (we went at different times) and the layout of the food court was like human bumper cars. There was no flow and it was at best confusing. The choices were limited (I think because of the small size of the area) and in my opinion it just wasn't very good. One of the hallmarks of our past Princess cruises was the quality of the food, but this was not a high point on this one. We ate a couple of night meals at the Horizon and I have to say the quality was better. It was less crowded than during the day, but still had more folks than I can ever remember on any cruise line. We had early seating and we ended up dining there only once. It took over two hours to be served and the food was often stacked up and not immediately served and as a result was not very hot. It is really important to note that it was not the fault of the waitstaff; they really tried. The problem in the dining room was the problem all over the ship which was a lack of staff. Our hard working waiter had six or seven tables and very little help. There is no way that any staff member could have served adaquately the numbers they were assigned. We passed by the anytime dining line on several occasions and it seemed exceptionally long. We ended up dining in the Crowne Grill three times and found the food, service and ambiance to be outstanding. I realize one pays extra for this experience, but the differences shouldn't be as enormous as they seemed to us. Other Observations and Other Stuff All cruise lines want to sell you stuff; photos, jewelry, spa etc. Princess, really, really wants to sell you stuff and are very aggressive about it. We had photographers often block egress and badger us when we politely told them we were not interested. The "sale" level on the ship seemed exceptionally high. An example of our overall experience can be found on a couple of sea days when we went in search of a deck chair. I honestly don't get involved in the "chair hog" discussion because I have usually been able to find a place be. On several occasions during this cruise we went to a couple of the large upper decks where we found all but six or eight deck chairs stacked and stored. On each occasion we found a deck hand and were amazingly told that they had been instructed not to put the chairs out and even more amazingly we were told that they really did not want us to use these large normally well used spaces. I asked a supervisor and was told that the reason for this was "complicated." It was incredibly strange and something we have never experienced. The Bottom Line (remembering that this is just one person's opinion) Princess seems to have made some intentional changes to its corporate identity. I don't exactly know where they want to fit in the rapidly expanding cruise industry but it felt different to us than did our past many cruises. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I guess what felt the most different aspect of our cruise was the cut back in service. The ship seemed to be always crowded and waiting in line for everything took a bit of getting used to. In the end, we actually had a good time on this cruise. Our cabin steward was great and we enjoyed the Crown Grill immensely. This cruise on Princess probably will, however, be our last. There are fortunately many cruise choices these days and I feel that there are other lines that fit us better. Again my intention in writing this is not to offend or unduly influence potential travelers. Cruise lines are, like every other business, profit oriented and I am not one who pines for the "old days." Everything and everyone changes, and moving on in sometimes a good thing. We honestly enjoyed our decades of cruising on Princess and made some lasting memories for which we are grateful.
  3. renman22

    Celebrity Since 1989

    My spousal unit (wife) and I cruise a good bit. We are elite level on 4 or 5 cruise lines with a preference toward Oceania, Azamara, Paul Gauguin, and Celebrity. I read cruise critic but seldom post because folks seem to take everything so personally and seriously. Having said this, I thought I would take a chance and share a few thoughts concerning our just completed 7 day on the Equinox in specific and Celebrity in general. My first cruise with Celebrity was in 1989 shortly after it came on line and I have been on all of the ships (I think) over the years. Bottom Line First: I still think that Celebrity is the best value in the cruising industry. The line has evolved and not all of the changes have been ones that I have liked. I have, however, always understood that cruise lines are not 501©(3) entities and their goal is to show a profit. In the early days Celebrity was a pretty “quiet” experience and felt a bit more upscale than it does today. There were more intertainment options (string quartets etc.) and the service seemed a bit more personalized. The cost on the other hand was (in 2017 $) significantly higher. Again, on the whole, when compared to lines in its class, given the quality of product received for the price paid, Celebrity is still one of the real bargains in cruising. Random Thoughts: 1. The line between RCI and Celebrity is not as clearly defined as it once was. On our Equinox cruise last week we noticed that there was significant selling/pressure of stuff like photos, art, and extraneous offerings. I get why this is done, but don’t especially like it. I would prefer to pay a couple of hundred more dollars to avoid this practice, but I understand that in an age of “add on” travel expenses this is just the way business is done. Celebrity ships have better public spaces/comfortable seating areas than does RCI, but the differences don’t seem as great as they once did. 2. We have booked cabins ranging from veranda to the Royal Suite, but without question prefer Auqua Class. Although some perks have inexplicably diminished even those that have insignificant costs, the Blu dining experience makes it all whorthwhile to us. As with any review of anything these are simply personal preference and opinion. I realize that the menu in Blu is not to everyone’s liking, but I find it comparable to any of the more expensive lines with whom we have cruised at a significantly better price. 3. Celebrity seems to attract a broader clientele than it has in the past (which is not necessarily a bad thing). We don’t cruise much in the summer months so I can’t comment on kids cruising although I have never seen any “gang” activity on Celebrity and I like seeing all ages. Last week was an older crowd (and I’m no spring chicken). Again, that’s not a bad thing and much has been written about the utilization of cruise lines versus traditional retirement facilities, which makes sense for some people. There are, however, what feels like a significant number of folks who are looking for a different cruise experience than am I. Of course that’s what makes the world go round and we all vote with our pocketbooks and feet. Celebrity, to me, feels a bit less like a upscale vacation than it once did. Again, it’s just my opinion and nothing more... Our cruise last week was really fun even though the ports were excessively crowded. I guess there are presently fewer ports available for more ships. Anyone who thinks the cruise experience is anything like it is pictured in the brochures will be disappointed, but as a great bang for the buck, our week on the Equinox was close to unbeatable. Our cabin steward in Aqua was as good as we have ever had on any line and the food in Blu was the best of our many visits. Celebrity has changed since 1989; as it should have. I think we all have a tendency to become a bit critical about things we do a lot but given that none of us are the final arbiters of what a cruise (or anything else for that matter) should be like, on balance a Celebrity Cruise is a great (if imperfect) vacation. It will not be our last.
  4. We just returned from a great 12 night Baltic cruise. We were in a PH suite and think we ate in a specialty restaurant 9 times. It all depends on flexibility and space but we found the staff to be very accommodating. The food was great!
  5. We want to take a 2 day private tour for 4 to St. Petersburg. Any positive or negative reviews for deciding between Allure, TJ, SPB, or Denrus? Looking for a flexible company in case we would like to stay longer at one site or change itinerary. Any advice on what should be avoided (not worth it) or a must visit?
  6. renman22

    Aqua Class

    Just my 2 cents, but Blu is the reason we sail on Celebrity. We prefer smaller ships (Azamara, Paul Gaugin, Oceania etc.) but also like the amenities of larger ships. We have been sailing on Celebrity since the year it started and really have liked the addition of Aqua Class. We have never had anything less than a great experience with the food in Blu. I realize it may not be for everyone, but for folks like us who appreciate a more intimate "smaller plate" experience it hits the spot. The great thing about cruising and travel in general these days is that there are so many good choices.
  7. renman22

    "Club" Dining---Pure snobbery or a good idea?

    I read cruise critic but seldom post because of the vitriol that is often expressed. My wife and I are elite level on four or so lines, Princess included. I got my first real job in the 6th grade and worked my way through college and professional school and feel as if I have some idea of what things cost and what things are worth. I think of myself as the antithesis of a snob. We enjoy cruising but are both a bit on the shy side and like to read and take time to ourselves. I worked in a very public environment for decades and now prefer tables for two and we don't take part in many activities. It has nothing to do with snobbery and everything to do with personal preferences. On our last Princess cruise (17 day Panama Canal) there were no tables for two at either sitting so we ate every night at the buffet (which by the way was pretty good) or at one of the specialty restaurants. This is one of the reasons we have not cruised with Princess much lately and have enjoyed Aqua class on Celebrity. I for one welcome the prospect of being able to sit at a table for two and am willing to pay extra to do so. This has nothing to do with anything other than being willing to pay extra to get a specific service. I guess I really don't understand the "class" issue. I would love to travel on a private jet, but I am not mad at those who can and don't feel as if they are taking anything away from me. I realize that there are those who want to make this an example of equivalency but I just don't understand it as such. I simply wanted to add another take on what I hope will make Princess more appealing to folks like us.
  8. renman22

    Equinox-Left Behind

    We are just off the 10 day Equinox Caribbean and after about a million cruises someone actually got left behind. Long ago we were on a cruise and the pilot boat deposited a dad and little girl, but this was a first. Our cabin steward (Lloyd) who was outstanding, told us that they had packed the family's stuff and would be sending it along. I know how the system works but in all of our years of cruising this was the first time that someone really "missed the boat." Parenthetically this was a good if a bit uneven cruise. We like Aqua and found the cabin service and the food and service in Blu to be as good as we have ever had. On the other side of the equation the ship felt really crowded and the general service varied from not great to non existent. We have been cruising with Celebrity since 1991 and still think that for a mass market line, it is still a pretty good value. Change is inevitable; some for the better and some for the worse. Based on an adjusted CPI it is less expensive to cruise now than it has been anytime prior. Cruising is a multi billion dollar industry and shareholder return is for better or worse the name of the game. We try to be as positive as possible, and let our feet do the talking if we don't like a line. Time only moves forward regardless how much we might mourn for the "good ol days."
  9. [quote name='cruiser fanatic']The embarkation staff do not work for Princess. They work for an outside company contracted by Princess. No excuse for poor communication but they may not be trained very well in customer service. The same thing goes for all of the major cruise lines.[/QUOTE] Let me be clear.....there was NO ONE representing Princes (contract or otherwise) at the parking lot, only port workers. Having run several companies, contract workers are infact subject to the responsibilites of the hiring company. I am aware that all cruise lines do the same thing, but that is not the case in this situation. Once again, NO ONE respresenting Princess was around; this is not acceptable for any business!
  10. We arrived at the Houston terminal around 11:00 and saw that there were police stopping all traffic. Given what has been going on, we assumed that this was a security stop. The police, who were very polite, told us that the port was not open and that we were being directed toward a large parking lot. He apologized that he did not have more details. Upon arriving at the lot, we were told by the port folks that everything was fogged in and that they (again very politely) said that they had no further information. Long story short; after hanging out for a while, enduring long restroom lines and thwarted in my efforts to find ANY Princess representative I was told by a port person that her experience led her to believe that we were at the very least hours away from boarding. She gave us directions to an interesting boardwalk area. We had a nice walk, found a very accommodating coffee shop and hunkered down with several other Princess refugees. I personally must have called the two Princess numbers 10-15 times hoping to get any information. With the exception of Krista, all of the Princess reps pleaded total ignorance, almost to the point of absurdity. They all "knew nothing" (Col. Klink) and suggested I call the update number which when actually called said at the end of the message there would be specific information. Well, at the end of the update message was silence. I received one text at 12:15 and then no more until after 4. No one can control the weather, but that is not what this post is about. Princess did an abysmal job of basically anything. On three occasions I had to explain to their rep. what was going on and then request that they contact the help desk for further information. Almost comically, two of them came back and said that the wait time was going to be 30 minutes or so and that they were not sure they wanted to do that. I assured them that they did, and when they finally returned they simply told me that they were "monitoring" the situation. We are all adults here and are responsible for insurance etc. Once again this is only about the abject failure of Princess to give any support to its shore side passengers. We are elite level on four or so lines and have endured hurricanes, mechanical, and various other issues. In all of these experiences never was their such a lack of information or simple concern. This is no way to run a business.
  11. I've never responded to the "dress code" wars, but after reading some of the posts, I feel compelled to offer a simple observation. Originally my spouse and I started booking Aqua simply because of the casual dress code. We cruise a good bit and are elite status on four or five lines. Our choice of lines also often reflected dress codes (i.e. Paul Gauguin, Azamara, etc.). It has been many years since I have dressed up for a cruise; which is simply a personal choice. What I don't understand, however, is why anyone wants to force another to dress in a certain way. Now before someone tries to point to cutoff jeans etc., I think most folks know what appropriate dress is, and those who don't won't be swayed by regulations of any type. If a couple, family, group or otherwise wants to dress up, I think it is great. It happens all the time in Blu and I am always sincerely happy that some are dressed up and that I am casual. Everyone has the right to choose how their vacation dollars are spent, but to leave Celebrity because the line no longer forces folks to dress a certain way kind of boggles my mind. I like Celebrity. It is not perfect but over the past 30+ years it has been a good value and I/we applaud the management for this move.
  12. renman22

    Price increase for Drinks mid cruise

    FYI......Azamara, Oceania, etc. all provide bottled water at the gangway for all ports...
  13. I don't post much, but thought I might offer a few opinions concerning our recent seven day cruise on the Freedom in specific and Royal Caribbean in general. One of the reasons I don't post more is that often opinions are seen as attacks by (and I guess, on) RCI loyalists. My wife and I have cruised RCI since the eighties and are Diamond members. We are at the top tier of three other lines and enjoy trying different adventures. During the past few years our preferences have been toward Azamara and Paul Gauguin on the smaller size and Celebrity and Oceania on the larger. We have always enjoyed Royal Caribbean and our week cruise fit into a family visit to Orlando. So.....once again these are just opinions and not meant to offend or unduly criticize anyone. Rather, as a consumer who is fortunate enough to be able to travel fairly often, the following are the "good, bad" and even maybe a little bit of the "ugly." Departure The Coast Guard evidentially sprung an inspection so we were a bit late boarding. The staff was terrific, keeping everyone informed and we were impressed by the professionalism and pleasantness of everyone involved. Everything was smooth and impressive. Cabin and Condition of the Ship Since we were late in booking our cabin selection was limited. One of the new panoramic staterooms was available and although we like balconies etc. we decided to give it a try. In a word it was Fantastic! It was as large as the old mini suites and the floor to ceiling windows were unique. It was one of our favorite cabins ever. Our cabin steward was great and in general the ship showed its recent refurbish. Service Here's a "not so good." Service on the Freedom was very uneven. The main dining room seemed significantly under staffed and although our servers really tried, they were simply overwhelmed by the numbers. Most of the employees put on a smile but as someone who has hired a bunch of people (when I had a real job) there did not seem to be a great deal of going the extra mile. I don't know about staffing numbers, but again, a lot of workers seemed stretched. Food We are not "foodies" so we don't require much more than good quality, a little variety, and pleasant service. The quality was OK in the main dining room and Windjammer, but it was again somewhat overshadowed by the sheer numbers. Service was slow and food was subsequently often cold. In the Windjammer we experienced several situations where they just ran out of food. Once when I asked one of the servers why this was happening he replied that we should just try something else and that he was too busy to replenish. My question (unasked) was "too busy doing what?" It was part of a strange vibe. Entertainment We don't go to the shows much in that the genre seems to be unchanged over the years. From what we heard, most folks thought the entertainers were high energy who cared about what they were doing. It seems to me that the number of lounge entertainers has shrunk, but that is an anecdotal observation. The ice show is still pretty interesting given it is presented on a cruise ship! Random Thoughts The one word that kept popping up for us was that we often felt that the Freedom was really, really crowded. The venues, elevators, and public spaces were uniformly packed. We have been on many large ships but I have never felt as crowded as I did on this trip. Our fellow travelers seemed to endure the numbers with generally good cheer. We did experience a group of smokers who decided to go to a non smoking venue to smoke because they thought the smoking area was too crowded. Of course this type of "I am the center of the universe" behavior is in no way confined to cruise ships. Finally In the end, we had a really fine time. The Freedom is a big, nice, interesting ship that is in very good shape and offers a lot of options for dining and activities. Listening (and reading) some of the criticisms I think we sometimes long for an experience that has been tempered by many years and changes in the vacation industry. Cruise lines are first and formost for profit businesses. For what we paid, we got a pretty good bang for our cruise buck. I guess it is all about expectations. I often feel sad for those first timers who thought that the brochures (which lead folks to believe that there are only about twenty other people on the cruise) were in anyway accurate. Our week on the Freedom of the Seas was just about all we could expect; and therefore pretty fun and a pretty good deal.
  14. renman22

    Great Downgrade

    Actually this is for an upcoming cruise.
  15. renman22

    Great Downgrade

    My spouse and I are pretty well traveled cruisers (elite level 4 lines including Azamara and Paul Gauguin). We are finally getting around to Oceania and are very excited about our upcoming cruise. Last week we got an offer from Oceania to downgrade to an deluxe oceanview for a 70% refund. We usually prefer a balcony but this was an offer too good to turn down. It is interesting that we have never had an offer like this on any of our other cruises. I guess I am wondering if this is a common occurrence on Oceania? We were able to keep all our specialty dining reservarions and OBC. It was an incredible deal!