The Grand Puget Sound Cruise on American Cruise line was our 40th cruise on a variety of cruise lines with ship ranging in sizes from 120 passenger to 5,000+ passengers. We chose the cruise because we wanted to try one in the northwest. The web-site and brochure depicts "Simple Sophistication" and a "culinary experience". Unfortunately it was not our experience. From the minute we arrived to the time we left it was a series of miss-steps, poor food and service.
Embarkation: We were met on the dock when we arrived by car. The staff took our luggage and said it would be placed in our room. We checked in at the gangway and were told someone would escort us to the lounge to await our room to be opened (check-in from 10:am on but rooms to be available at 11:30). We walked on the ship and there was no staff within view. We waited 10 minutes before we started wandering the ship. We found the lounge on our own and got something to drink. We were told we would be advised when our room was available (it was 11:10). We were never advised and at 12:00 we decided to check on our room ourselves. It appeared to be ready so we moved in.
Cabin: 403: The room was a nice size with limited closet space but plenty of drawers. There is no door on the closet. The room was relatively clean but we noticed some large cookie crumbs by the sliding glass door. The curtains were not hanging properly as they were not attached in two locations. The bed looked like a sway back with about a 2" dip in the middle of each bed. The first night we discovered they were probably the worst beds we have encountered on a cruise ship. We could feel the springs jabbing us in the lower back. When I complained to guest services, she said the bed was replaced at the beginning of the season. If that is actually the case they need to purchase better beds. We did convince them to provide a 2" foam topper and that upgraded the bed to "poor". There is no refrigerator in the room so wine we had purchased could not be chilled. Staff said they would keep it in the refrigerator on ship. They did but they "lost" one of the bottles. The room was very noisy. We could hear the conversations in the next room and hallway. The AC worked well.
Bathroom: The bathroom is a typical cruise ship mini bathroom. Despite the brochure saying it is a "full size" bath and showing a tub, it only has a shower. The shower is fairly small but slightly larger than some ships. The glaring deficiency is the lack of a hand held shower head. Due to the size of the shower and the height of the shower head you have to be a contortionist to wash the lower half of your body. The only good thing I can say is that the hot water arrives quickly and the towels were usually soft.
Public Areas: The ship has two lounges and one dining room. The lounges were generally comfortable and had trays of chips and sodas available 24hrs a day. Cookies were also made available twice a day. Unfortunately the early bird breakfast in each lounge were not replenished properly. If you did not get a rolls or juice in the first 15 minutes, you didn't get any. I only observed the juice to be replenished once and that was only after I ran down a crew member and asked for it. (he only brought up OJ but left the other juices empty) There are a couple small sitting rooms, one that serves as the library. The dining room only has tables for 8 and gets very crowded. The tables should only be set for six as it was very difficult to get the large heavy chairs close to the table. There is a very small laundry room with two small washers and dryers. This is completely inadequate for a ship with 175 passengers and does not offer a laundry service. Average wait time for a washer was over two hours. The workout room had 3 bikes and some type of rowing machine, no treadmill.
Service: The service level was all over the board. I liken it to a high school play -a few knew the script, but most were faking it. Nothing clicked. There was no anticipation of your needs and little notice of items that needed attention. If you didn't complain or ask for something, it wasn't done (and sometimes not even then) Sometimes it was easier to do it yourself than to find someone. The office was often empty. It was impossible to reach any staff by the phones on the boat. I tried on 5 separate occasions to reach housekeeping, room service and guest relations only to have the message say they were on the phone and to leave a message, but then when you try to leave a message it would say that no more messages could be left. I mentioned this at our dining table and the other guest tried it with the same results.
The initial Captain was a ghost. We never saw or heard him. The second Captain (Captain Brown) was only there the last 3 days and he was involved in everything and was very personable and approachable. The Cruise Director (Aundrinea) tried very hard and overall did a good job but there were some items that were not well planned. It appeared she had too many responsibilities and some details were just overlooked.
Room attendants: Throughout the cruise all I heard were complaints from other passengers regarding room attendants and that matched our experience. Dirty glasses not being replaced, paper goods (TP & tissues) not being replaced (I had to hunt both down myself) missing towels or bathmats, room or bathroom not being cleaned. (The cookie crumbs in our room were not vacuumed up for 10 days.) I noticed two blood spots our bedspread the first night that should have been obvious to the room attendant but it was never cleaned. Sheets were not changed very often.
General housekeeping: The common areas of the ship were kept pretty clean, however there were spots on some of the furniture that should have been addressed.
Maintenance: I reported our safe not working the first afternoon and then 3 times after that. (Once directly to the maintenance person) It was never fixed. Several other cruisers complained about lights not working and those were never addressed.
Dining Room: Service varied from atrocious to very good depending on the server . It took us several tries before we found Tamara and we sat at her table from then on. Unfortunately even she was at the mercy of the kitchen staff and they were terrible. (The chef and a waiter were replaced during the cruise).
Room Service: The young lady that delivered the breakfast was very nice but almost always forgot something. Despite having a large do not disturb sign on our door we hear someone pounding on our door. I am in the shower and my wife is in her nightgown. When she opens the door a girl (not the same one that delivered our food) pushes past her saying "I need to get your dishes" .The girl grabbed my wife's half full coffee off the dresser, put it on the tray (we had already stacked the rest of the dishes) and left without saying another word. My wife was so dumbstruck she didn't say anything.
Food: Food was definitely not up to the quality I would expect from a cruise costing this much. Lunch the first day all at our table ordered the BLT. Some received a BL (no T) and some received a BT (no L). This was a forewarning of things to come.
The fish the first night was the driest I have ever experienced. I was going to send it back but every person that had the fish was complaining about the same thing. Breakfast the next day took 45 minutes after ordering and potatoes were cold. Several at our table got up and left because they never received their food. The selection of entrées was limited to 3 items and there were nights there was nothing we cared for. Luckily we soon learned we could order a hamburger or steak as a substitute. The hamburgers were dry as a bone. The steaks were excellent. Other meals were adequate but not reflective of a high end cruise but more like cafeteria food. If the food had been served in a restaurant, the steak would have been the only thing I would have ever ordered again. The soups were usually very good. Our table had a game guessing what chef cooked our food. We nicknamed the cooks Overcook and Undercook as the food usually fell into one of those categories. Rice was always undercooked (until the last night) and meat was usually undercooked. Six of us at our table ate lunch or dinner in town 6 times. The fact we would spend $45-$50 a meal per couple to avoid ship food tells a lot. The pastry chef usually did a good job. The deserts were good and the scones excellent.
Breakfast Room Service: Limited selection. Food was average quality except something would always be cold or missing all together. The day before debarkation they missed our entire breakfast causing us to wait an extra 40 minutes and miss the tender into town. It became a game to guess what would be missing or cold in our breakfast order.
Lounge Evening cocktail hour: There was a good selection of hard liquor but the wine selection was limited. The hors d'oeuvres were plentiful but what should be served hot were always cold or lukewarm. We would always try them but rarely finished them due to the temperature issue. The only ones we could eat are the ones that were supposed to be served cold. The "late Bar" included root beer floats and popcorn. Both were very good.
Itinerary: Puget sound is beautiful and the cruise stopped in some great towns. Unfortunately the sailing schedule did not allow sufficient time in two of the towns. In Poulsbo we had less than two hours in town when you subtracted the tender time. (We only had one hour since we missed the earlier tender waiting for breakfast) The sailing times were a mystery as they did not provide for the best experience in the towns.
Excursions: The choice of excursions was somewhat limited and few were without issues. On the beer tasting excursions we were promised four breweries but only reached three. The last brewery we were allowed a whopping 10 minutes to order and drink our beer. Some participants never even had a chance to order.
The itinerary in the brochure would make you believe that the ship stops in Victoria. It Doesn't. You must take a 1.5 hr ferry to get to Victoria BC and a 30 min bus ride to Butchart Gardens. This did not leave enough time in town and since the ship purchased a group ferry ticket we had to leave on a 3:00PM ferry or pay again for a ticket on a later ferry.
Debarkation: While it started out smoothly it soon went downhill. There was 4 busses but no organization as to who got on what bus. The smart way would have been to load by airline(s) but there was no organization. At the airport only 2 busses could unload at each terminal. This resulted in our bus unloading at the international terminal when almost everyone was flying Alaska airline (a 1/4 mile away). Speaking of our bus, items were stacked in front of the exit door, blocking them in case of emergency. An emergency was likely as the driver spent the whole time talking on the phone and continually wandering into the lane to our left.
Few cruises are without some issue(s) but usually the good far outweighs the bad and the cost. This was not the case for this cruise. Based on all our other cruises and the high cost of this cruise, we had high expectations. Unfortunately they did not delivery. There was nothing to justify the cost. We can get better food and service on cruises for a third the cost.