Q – Dear Traveltruth – Greetings from Australia. I know that Aussies have a reputation for telling the truth in a direct manner. Hence these comments and question. I found your site by accident on the internet. But I sense I will get a truthful response.

My dear husband who is now in a wheelchair and I took the chance to see what cruising was like from Melbourne to New Zealand on the Dawn Princess a couple of weeks ago and were quite shocked by the experience.  Everyone said how great it was for them and how great it would be for us and we are left amazed that others see us as people who would like over salted food reminiscent of someones rather poor wedding reception; overzealous crew who push you daily to spend more than your pay packet would allow and elderly fellow passengers using more wheelie frames than I saw in all my 15 years working in aged care. 

Your excellent travel site doesn’t mention Princess Cruises, and I gathered there must be a reason.  I have since looked up a myriad of Cruise sites including an American complaints site and I have realised that not only are we not alone in our perceptions, but that many, many more travellers have had worse experiences.  I got really sick with a chest infection mid cruise and therefore could not drink as much as I wanted, I am no alcoholic, only we discovered it was the only way to cope with the lack of any activities of interest to us.  We are professionals in our mid 50’s, so carpet bowls, Barry Manilow concert movies and bingo are of no interest.  However, we were very much alone and I can see that this crusieline  must be making millions on the retirees of southern Australia.  They all loved it!  Our stateroom was good and clean and we had a balcony.  We ate at every port and survived on the bread rolls on board which weren’t bad. I see that things could have been much worse.  However, we were hassled by the waitering staff for the misdemeanour of complaining that we disliked the food, to the point of being followed! ( Yes, I realise that’s paranoid)

It seems from my reading and this experience that there is a lot of disparity between cruise lines and even within their cruise ships, however we also feel really ripped off by our travel agent who basically lied to us about the cruise to make the sale. Does anyone ever get any response other than to thank you for the feedback? Its not that we are money hungry, its just that awful sinking feeling of being taken for a ride (no pun intended).  Are there any cruise lines who actually have great food and good wines and don’t charge an arm and a leg extra to enjoy them?  Do they all cater for the elderly or the children whatever population is the biggest? 

A –  So sorry your first cruise experience was a net negative. This happens more often than you might imagine as the mindset seems to be “let’s sample cruising and not spend a lot to see if we really like it.” That leads to travel agent misdiagnosis, an industry problem of biblical proportions. Your case is a bit different because it sounds as though you were given the werong information from the beginning.

You are correct, there is not much mention of Princess Cruises on this site. We see traveltruth as a voice for the upscale consumer and we deal exclusively with the world’s top ten rated lines. Princess is not one of them, nor is Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Costa, MSC, or Norwegian Cruise Lines. Sadly, had you sailed one of the lines on our  “World’s Top Ten Cruise Lines”  list, you would have had a totally different kind of experience including beautifully prepared foods using fresh, local ingredients, a nice variety of alternative dining options, and a collection of chefs with true skills and the desire to cook each dish to order. Your cruise on the Dawn Princess was designed to be affordable and to appeal to a very mid-range cruiser with mass market expectations. In the States we would say it was a “blue collar cruise”.

If you write to Princess you may get some sympathy and a future cruise credit. We doubt that is what you want. You ought to share your feelings in writing with your travel agent but we doubt seriously that you will receive any financial compensation. We like your characterization of “complaint sites” related to cruising. There are a great many of them but virtually all of them have been seriously infiltrated by those with a vested interest in the outcome of their comments. For the future, we would recommend that you work exclusively with an Australian member of the Virtuoso or Signature travel networks. Their consultants work with a very high-end clientele and should be familiar with characteristics of the five-star fleet. Unfortunately, travel agents are unlicensed opinion givers whose advice can easily ruin a vacation experience. But if you ask the right questions, you will find a true,professional consultant fully capable of  turning your travel dreams into reality.

The average three-four star mass market cruise line is charging about $150 per day for an outside cabin without air. The Top Ten Cruise Lines, rated Five-Stars, are normally going to come in at $500-$700 per person, per day. You get what you pay for despite all the marketing hype and phony deals designed to make you think otherwise. If you wish to stick to mass market pricing, you will find better food on Celebrity.

There is a compromise. Try looking at Oceania Cruises, particularly their Marina and Riviera. They are not inclusive but the ships, Riviera has not been launched yet, are high-level four stars with some excellent dining options. The age of one’s fellow passengers is more determined by the length of the cruise. The crowd on a ten-night or longer sailingmay average as much as ten years older than the same ship doing a seven-night sailing. Many of those still working cannot or will not take off more than a week for vacation.

The reality for you is that you would need to spend about double what you spent on your cruise to experience the level of service and food quality that we think you really desire – and deserve. We would urge you to cruise again on Crystal, Seabourn, or Regent Seven Seas. But for the very best food, you may want to look at the Europa.


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