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renman22

Reflections on Princess Cruise after taking a few years off......

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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.

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I actually agree with quite a bit of your review-- and anything else is more that I didn't try something, so don't have an opinion. We sailed on the Ruby last January; our first Princess cruise. I was really looking forward to it, but felt disappointed in the overall experience.

 

I also missed the range of public spaces to sit and relax, particularly with an ocean view. I can't figure out why there is no lounge at the bow. And why Skywalkers is unattended (no bar service) all day. Such a waste of fantastic space. And Share is located in one of the most scenic dining spots on the ship, but only used at night (when you most likely can't see the view). It just didn't make sense.

 

I disliked the set up of the HC. It was cramped and the food offerings were 1/3 of some other cruises I've been on --and on our cruise, frequently offered the same foods day after day. The lines for Anytime Dining were way too long, getting a reservation was a production and offered no flexibility of time.

 

We are giving Princess a second chance, so will see how it goes-- but as you say, there are many other lines and I'm happy to return to them or try new ones to see if another suits us better. Our experience was good enough to consider Princess in the future, but so far not good enough to earn complete loyalty.

 

Thanks for your well written review. And how did you get out of the rock band business after just 15 years?? My DH has been in it for over 30, lol

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Interesting about the stacked chairs. We saw that last year on our cruise. I think we were on Caribbean Princess. I just thought it was a quirk. I wonder why this happens.

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we enjoyed princess for several trips and finally had to go to Holland for a better price on same itinerary and more space in cabins......but to me both Holland and princess has come down in level of service.....waiters are very rushed and low staffed........theater shows and activities on Holland are not as good as princess.......

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Enjoyed reading your thoughts. We are also expanding our horizons and recently sailed on Oceania which we enjoyed very much and have been booking more land tours and independent trips than cruises recently. When sailing on Princess (have a Mediterranean cruise booked in May), we’ve learned to tune out the constant selling, only eat breakfast and lunch in the dining room (when available) and will only book in Club Class. The itinerary is the most important booking point for us, followed by date available and price. If there is an itinerary we want to sail and the date is right, we will pay a little more, so lines like Oceania (and hopefully Viking Ocean in the future) become additional possibilities for us.

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Good review. We are in the same boat (no pun). We used to sail Princess regularly and always enjoyed each cruise. But we also got tired of the large ships and moved on to the smaller Celebrity ships, Oceania and we just booked our first Viking Ocean. We have done several river cruises with them.

 

After reading so many positive reviews and comments about the Regal Princess we decided to return to Princess to check it out. We thought the ship was absolutely beautiful and the service was great. I didn’t notice a shortage of crew anywhere except in the MDR especially the hostess area. We had anytime Dining which is the only type we do on any line we sail. This is the only ship where we always had to wait to be seated. I felt their dining room organization was the worst! The hostess was so over worked and over whelmed, she was sullen and almost rude every night. The regal’s buffet is the worst, food was bland and the layout was confusing. I was very disappointed. Like you, we also enjoyed the Crown Grill but only ate there once. Getting a reservation took an act of Congress! I used to love Princess, but sadly I feel this will be our last time to sail with them also.

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Thanks for posting your thoughts. I'm glad there were some things that you enjoyed about your cruise. To the credit of Princess, they have been rethinking the Horizon Court concept. It was better in many ways on the Caribbean Princess after being reconfigured last spring during dry dock.

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Good review. We are in the same boat (no pun). We used to sail Princess regularly and always enjoyed each cruise. But we also got tired of the large ships and moved on to the smaller Celebrity ships, Oceania and we just booked our first Viking Ocean. We have done several river cruises with them.

 

After reading so many positive reviews and comments about the Regal Princess we decided to return to Princess to check it out. We thought the ship was absolutely beautiful and the service was great. I didn’t notice a shortage of crew anywhere except in the MDR especially the hostess area. We had anytime Dining which is the only type we do on any line we sail. This is the only ship where we always had to wait to be seated. I felt their dining room organization was the worst! The hostess was so over worked and over whelmed, she was sullen and almost rude every night. The regal’s buffet is the worst, food was bland and the layout was confusing. I was very disappointed. Like you, we also enjoyed the Crown Grill but only ate there once. Getting a reservation took an act of Congress! I used to love Princess, but sadly I feel this will be our last time to sail with them also.

 

Interesting, your comments about the buffet on the Regal. I have seen mostly positive comments about it being one of the best buffets in both the set up and the food options. We cruised on the Regal in Jan 2017 and found the buffet to be excellent and chose to eat several dinners there as well as breakfast and lunch. Actually found it better than the MDR. Yours is one of the first comments I've read saying the Regal buffet was terrible and the layout confusing.

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Thank you, renman, for your spot-on review. We were on the 1/6 sailing of the Ruby to Mexico, perhaps the same voyage you took. I sadly have to agree with your assessment. We love to socialize, play scrabble, drink coffee, etc at the International Cafe. 95% of the time, there was no seating to be had, anywhere in the piazza. This past September, we were on the Emerald, were there seemed to often be a manager placed at the IC, who was constantly bringing in extra chairs & even a few extra tables from the Michelangelo DR, so we always had seating available. So appreciated that, & so did not appreciate the lack of staff effort in this area on the Ruby.

The food we had in the buffet was awful. I’m someone who’s happy with hotdogs....I do not consider myself super picky. Saying that, the lunch we tried to eat was not worth eating. I must say though, the lox at breakfast was good.

I don’t know if this was just the Ruby, or Princess in general. More staff is sorely needed; staff felt strung out.

I just hope that Princess is reading these reviews.....

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... The regal’s buffet is the worst, food was bland and the layout was confusing. I was very disappointed. Like you, we also enjoyed the Crown Grill but only ate there once. Getting a reservation took an act of Congress! I used to love Princess, but sadly I feel this will be our last time to sail with them also.

 

Well that's the very FIRST time I've ever heard that. Most people rave about the Regal's buffet and rate it #1 at sea. Interesting.

 

Thanks OP for your review. I'm sure your Princess cruise cost a whole lot less than your Oceania, Azamara and Paul Gauguin cruises. You have to weigh that in when reviewing it IMO. For what your Ruby cruise cost, it was reasonable not to have the standards of the higher line cruises.

 

I do agree with you about the main restaurant dining. We rarely even bother to go to the dining room anymore. It's just not worth sitting there for 2 hrs. for mediocre food and service.

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I can see how the size of the crowd on Princess might be a "shock to the system" after cruising Azamara, Oceania and Paul Gauguin ships. How does the cost pp/per day compare with Princess?

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Well that's the very FIRST time I've ever heard that. Most people rave about the Regal's buffet and rate it #1 at sea. Interesting.

 

Thanks OP for your review. I'm sure your Princess cruise cost a whole lot less than your Oceania, Azamara and Paul Gauguin cruises. You have to weigh that in when reviewing it IMO. For what your Ruby cruise cost, it was reasonable not to have the standards of the higher line cruises.

 

I do agree with you about the main restaurant dining. We rarely even bother to go to the dining room anymore. It's just not worth sitting there for 2 hrs. for mediocre food and service.

 

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.

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Thanks for the review. I really like reading the positive and the negative , it makes it a balanced honest review.

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I’m sorry the Regal’s buffet disappointed me. I read these boards often and read so many times that this ship has the best buffet at sea that I guess I went with really high expectations. I’m used to smaller ships where you go to one location for fresh cooked eggs and omelets, but on the Regal the omelet station is in one area and fried or poached eggs is in another location. I also found the pastries to be very dry but the bacon was really good. I think it was the layout that really confused me. By the time I found everything I wanted, my hot food was cold. And yes Oceania and Viking do cost more but they also include a lot of things I had to pay for on Princess. Thankfully there are a lot of choices to find the right cruise line for all of us. I will say this, Princess Cruisers are the most loyal cruisers of any I have sailed with. I’m guessing the perks are fantastic!

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Well that's the very FIRST time I've ever heard that. Most people rave about the Regal's buffet and rate it #1 at sea. Interesting.

 

Thanks OP for your review. I'm sure your Princess cruise cost a whole lot less than your Oceania, Azamara and Paul Gauguin cruises. You have to weigh that in when reviewing it IMO. For what your Ruby cruise cost, it was reasonable not to have the standards of the higher line cruises.

 

I do agree with you about the main restaurant dining. We rarely even bother to go to the dining room anymore. It's just not worth sitting there for 2 hrs. for mediocre food and service.

 

Not necessarily a “whole lot less” depending upon how one chooses to cruise. When comparing what is included on some of the other lines and if you would pay for it on Princess anyway, and also taking into consideration included or subsidized air, it’s interesting in many cases how little per day the difference can be.

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Not necessarily a “whole lot less” depending upon how one chooses to cruise. When comparing what is included on some of the other lines and if you would pay for it on Princess anyway, and also taking into consideration included or subsidized air, it’s interesting in many cases how little per day the difference can be.

 

Comparing apples to apples, Azamara and Oceania are much more expensive. Compare a balcony cabin to a balcony cabin on the same itinerary for the same length of days. The only major things added in are tips, port shuttles, the Azamazing Evening and drinks with Azamara. That doesn't equal the disparity in pricing unless you really drink a lot. The pricing difference is probably seen more in the quality of the food and service.

 

I have no problem paying more for a better experience. I'm just saying that for the price, Princess delivers a good product.

Edited by DrivesLikeMario
sp

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Thank you for your comprehensive and balanced review. I normally sail HAL, Princess, and Celebrity and find they all have positives and negatives and all have changed in the past five years.

 

For a change of pace, I am going to try Crystal this year.

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I have sailed mostly Royal Caribbean and Celebrity - with a little Carnival, NCL and MSC thrown in - and I'm trying Princess (Star out of LA) for the first time in October. The prices are actually about the same as my Dec 2017 Celebrity Eclipse cruise so I'm looking forward to comparing "apples to apples."

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Hi,

 

Thanks for posting your review. I agree that the standards of the major cruise lines have declined over the past few years, but I still enjoy cruises with Princess. I think Princess is a good value for the money and the ships are run very well. During the past few years, I have taken Princess cruises in Australia, Japan, the Mediterranean, and Scandinavia/Russia. I did some incredible and very memorable shore excursions in a variety of wonderful ports. Also, I think Princess has an excellent program for past passengers.

 

Chuck

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I have sailed mostly Royal Caribbean and Celebrity - with a little Carnival, NCL and MSC thrown in - and I'm trying Princess (Star out of LA) for the first time in October. The prices are actually about the same as my Dec 2017 Celebrity Eclipse cruise so I'm looking forward to comparing "apples to apples."

 

One thing that I will say about Princess is they beat X and RCI by light years in the land base customer service and web site workings.

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I noticed all the stacked deck chairs on the Ruby Princess as well. I thought it was odd, since it was a sunny, warm, non windy sea day:

 

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I too appreciated the OP's forthright review. I have been concerned about both a drop in food quality and service by reduction in DR staff it seems. That said, service still seems good in general. As we are about to head off for 60 nights on a new ship for us, I am trying to remain positive that we will find things not changed much since we last cruised (it was on Regal) just over two years ago. So, it's hope for the best, but be prepared for some disappointment. I know I am a broken record on this, but Princess should maintain the standard and pass on necessary price increases not sell me the same product with no price increase and then reduce standards to make up the difference.

We shall see for ourselves in less than a week.

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I know I am a broken record on this, but Princess should maintain the standard and pass on necessary price increases not sell me the same product with no price increase and then reduce standards to make up the difference.

 

Unfortunately the trend is to have both price increases accompanied by a reduction in the quality of the product.

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Thank you for taking the time to give us your impression of Ruby. I believe she will be heading down under in a couple of years so it's good to hear the pros and cons.

 

BTW I'm another person who didn't particularly like the Royal buffet. I soon learnt how to get reasonably hot food at breakfast but lunch or dinner was a challenge. Nice seating though, it doesn't have quite the cafeteria feel that some other ships do.

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Unfortunately the trend is to have both price increases accompanied by a reduction in the quality of the product.

 

Totally agree...but my view is the newbies are willing to pay more, for less.....I am talking about society in general and my 20 something off-springs.

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This is nothing more than a casual observation, but it seems like the "lack of waiters, servers, etc" is merely that Princess - like other entities- pays their employees little. Is the idea of traveling, and working on a cruise ship appealing to you? It certainly isn't to me. I wouldn't do their jobs at three times the pay. Then, you have Princess (most likely) cutting staff wherever they can - and raising prices at will. I would imagine that the old adage of "raise prices until they quit coming- then have a sale!"

 

Not really a great business model - but they will undoubtedly figure that out when folks stop booking cruises.

 

That's one of the prime reasons that DW and myself "usually" go straight to the vacation destination, grab a hotel room and enjoy ourselves. Just did a return trip to England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Here's the kicker - it was a great deal cheaper than the cruise lines. We are, however, sailing on the Ruby in August to fulfill my DW's "bucket wish" to visit Alaska.

 

We'll see how the food is on the Ruby and how the staff is. I don't usually expect "SUPERIOR" service anywhere. I've eaten at 4 and 5 star restaurants in Europe and America many, many times. Still, to this day - I prefer a Cheeseburger and fries - just me, I guess.So it's not as though my "standards" (of which there are few) are any big deal. We booked the Crown Grill (love me some steak!) and I have plans on "tearing up" the buffet and the MDR (anytime dining). If the food is "low-quality" - you will hear it from me here - just like the OP's review.

 

Reviews such as the OP are one way to affect change with these businesses. If they aren't living up to the standards that long time cruisers are used to - raise hell with them. Unfortunately, standards are a "funny thing" these days. I mean, when you see shorts and ball caps on formal nights - well.........

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On my last few Princess cruises, I was very disappointed with crowds and waits. Long lines to get into the Anytime Dining room, and then slow service because as hard as they worked, the waiters simply have too many tables to wait on. The theater was completely filled 50 minutes before showtime. The theater was even filled 30 minutes before port lectures, so either you had to stand, or you didn't get to hear the port presentation. No seats at all in the evening in some of the lounges, and difficulty getting a seat to eat your International Cafe goodies.

 

I feel that Princess (and other cruise lines, too) are putting too many staterooms on ships without increasing the size of public spaces such as dining room, theater, and bars. This REALLY impacts my enjoyment of a cruise. Princess has always been my first choice cruise line, and I'm pretty sure I'll probably some day book another Princess cruise. But for now, I want to try some other lines. The OP mentioned Oceania. What other cruise lines might be a little more upscale (especially in terms of crowds and waits)? I'm willing to pay a little more, but can't afford a lot more. Does anyone have any other suggestions for me for other lines to try?

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One thing that I will say about Princess is they beat X and RCI by light years in the land base customer service and web site workings.

 

Yes, I’d definitely agree with you ;).

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Well said! I like Princess, we’re elite so I am saddened by the decline in this product. On the other hand the Carnival product continues to improve, go figure. We sailed out of Galveston with family, not expecting much but quite the opposite, great food, excellent customer service ,ship amenities were top notch. The cost for an aft balcony half of a Princess or RCL cabin. The cruise director was the best ,most visible we have ever experienced. Leading and organizing activities including disembarkation. Having said all that I have three Princess cruises booked.

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I too appreciated the OP's forthright review. I have been concerned about both a drop in food quality and service by reduction in DR staff it seems. That said, service still seems good in general. As we are about to head off for 60 nights on a new ship for us, I am trying to remain positive that we will find things not changed much since we last cruised (it was on Regal) just over two years ago. So, it's hope for the best, but be prepared for some disappointment. I know I am a broken record on this, but Princess should maintain the standard and pass on necessary price increases not sell me the same product with no price increase and then reduce standards to make up the difference.

We shall see for ourselves in less than a week.

 

If you are doing the 60-day Island Princess South America run, you are very lucky. Arny G will be the piano entertainer in Crooners for that cruise, and he is the best Crooners entertainer on any ship! In fact he is our favorite entertainer at any venue on any ship!

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This is nothing more than a casual observation, but it seems like the "lack of waiters, servers, etc" is merely that Princess - like other entities- pays their employees little. Is the idea of traveling, and working on a cruise ship appealing to you? It certainly isn't to me. I wouldn't do their jobs at three times the pay. Then, you have Princess (most likely) cutting staff wherever they can - and raising prices at will. I would imagine that the old adage of "raise prices until they quit coming- then have a sale!"

 

 

I disagree. These positions on cruise ships earn the people significantly more than they could earn in their home countries. (Of course for many on the staff, this includes the gratuities.)

 

Any positions eliminated does save Princess $$$. They do not have to provide room and board and transportation from and to the employee's home for each employee they no longer need.

 

Princess (and other Carnival Corp brands) feel their main competition is land-based vacations. As long as the cost of a Princess cruise is less than a similar length land-based vacation, cruise prices will continue to rise.

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