Princess Cruises is part of the Carnival group, which also owns Costa. Its name resonates like an old memory of a television serie, “la Croisière s’amuse” in French, “Love Boat” in the original version, because it was on a ship of this company that the series took place, the Pacific Princess. We are not always very far from the cliché, with the possibility on board of watching episodes of the serie, on demand, on the television in your cabin!
I had already done a few cruises with the Princess company, because one of its strengths was the destinations. I was able to travel through Asia (Diamond Princess), South America (Star Princess), the Baltic and the British Isles (Royal Princess) and India (Majestic Princess).
The last class of ships, of which the Enchanted Princess is a part, is the “Royal” class. They are more imposing ship than their predecessors, but what strikes first when you discover this latest evolution is that nothing really changes at Princess: the most recent ships are structured in the same way as the older ones, everything seems to be in the same place, just a little bigger. And that’s what customers want here: to find a classic, well-known, conservative universe. It is not uncommon to come across passengers who will tell you that they only travel with Princess Cruises.
However, Princess Cruises company communicates a lot about its latest innovation: the Medallion. This kind of token replaces the famous keycard that gives access to your cabin, among other things. Embedding RFID technology, this medallion allows to know precisely where you are on the ship, thanks to sensors placed everywhere on board (there would be more than 18,000 on the Enchanted Princess). Here are a few, right in a balcony cabin…
We can say that the company seems to have bet everything on this novelty. Differentiating services, merchandising such as bracelets to wear the medallion on the wrist, an entirely dedicated smartphone application… all the ships in the fleet have been gradually migrated to this ecosystem. So I wanted to find out for myself what it was all about and if this innovation was worth the detour.
So I opted for a last-minute booking, a cruise on the Enchanted Princess, one of the company’s newest ships, for a 14-night Atlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen, via The Azores (Ponta Delgada), Brest, Cherbourg and Skagen (this last port of call having been canceled due to strong winds). This cruise was also proposed combined with the following one, in the Baltic Sea, to make 25 nights in a row. But the second part has been greatly modified following the withdrawal of the stopover in Saint-Petersburg. Princess Cruises has seen quite a few of its passengers give up on this trip, less interesting than expected, and cancel in large numbers. To replenish the ship, Princess significantly lowered her rates and the transatlantic in a cabin with a balcony was less than $800 (about $57 per night, full board!).
Also rare, there was no penalty for “solo” travellers. The prices announced by the cruise lines are always “per passenger”, and on the basis of cabins occupied by 2 people. So if a passenger is alone (“solo”), the company can charge him the price of the cabin, i.e. twice the advertised price. Sometimes the price is not double, the company taking into account that the second passenger, absent, will not consume on board (meals, drinks, etc.) and concedes a slight reduction, but it is rarely more than 20 %, which still leaves the cost much higher than the advertised price per passenger. On this cruise Princess offered a standard price, without any supplement, for single passengers.
Boarding is sequenced by groups to which passengers are assigned, and which correspond to different arrival times to spread boarding over time and streamline the process. But apparently no one respects these slots…
Registration has been greatly advanced through the application, which allows you to fill in all the usual pieces of information. Only the last checks remain on site: identity, confirmation of the vaccination status and control of the covid test of less than 72 hours. The queue in front of the building is substantial, but the flow of entry never stops. So, in about 30 minutes, I’m on board. My cabin is on Deck 17, just across from the “Retreat”, an adult-only enclave with a pool, bar, and, on the upper deck, 2 hot tubs and plenty of loungers. A rather uncrowded place which bore its name well!
The first bad surprise is a note, left in the cabin, about the internet connection during the transatlantic: the company announces that during the crossing, the quality of the connection cannot be maintained permanently and that there may be have strong slowdowns, even total cuts. This situation is rather classic during transatlantic crossings, and most cruise companies do not bother to warn so precisely. Especially since Princess announces in this same note the refund of internet packages in the form of onboard credit. Amazing. However, behind this announcement there will be another reality.
If the connection is uneven during the beginning of the trip, it will suddenly become almost non-existent after the 4th day. It could be the classic cuts in the middle of the Atlantic, but in this case, the connection always ends up coming back. Not here. Day after day, no connection. The crew tries to hold the official speech, the connection is slow because of the crossing, because the ship moves more than usual. You should know that for passengers to be able to access the internet, they must go through a satellite connection. As the ship moves most of the time, the antenna system is designed to compensate for the movements of the vessel, but also its movements (thanks to the gyroscopes!), such as when it pitches. Only extreme situations (a storm for example) really undermine this system.
In reality, Princess Cruises knowingly lied to its passengers, hiding behind “the curse of the transatlantic”. In fact, it was a change of internet service provider that was the source of this situation. The latter was not able to provide sufficient bandwidth to Princess Cruises and the connection was difficult to make. So, knowingly, Princess decided to lie to her clients, and to hide her contractual difficulties. It is excessively dishonest. All the more so for me because I had chosen this company and this cruise for the main purpose of testing what Princess was so proud of: the best internet connection at sea and the Medallion revolution…
If I had known before booking that internet access would be impossible, I would not have chosen Princess!
And it is with the medallion that another promise of Princess will be undermined!