We took this cruise which sailed on April 11. It was myself, my husband, our four children (ages 3, 5, 8, and 10) and my mom. I was a bit hesitant to do this cruise with the kids, because I didn't think there would be many other children on the ship and I didn't want to be the one family on the whole ship that was disturbing the peace and tranquility of all the other guests! Once we got onboard, I was happy to find that there were a total of 32 children registered for the kids club, which was the perfect amount! Enough so that my kids had people to play with, but not so many that the kids club was ever crowded.
Embarkation was quick and easy. We arrived at the pier at around 1:15, and were on the ship within thirty minutes. There were no long lines to wait in. After we checked in, we just sat in a waiting room while we waited for them to call our embarkation number.
My first impression of the ship was that it seemed smaller than all the other ships we have sailed on. I'm not sure if that is actually true, or if this one is just laid out in such a way as to make it seem smaller and more intimate. There aren't many huge open spaces. Even the atrium area is much smaller than what we are used to seeing. Which wasn't bad at all, just different. There were never any areas that felt crowded, except for the buffet at lunch time. Our cabin was nicely laid out, with plenty of storage. The closet area was huge. Personally I would have preferred a smaller closet and a larger bathroom. I liked the bathrobes, we asked our steward for them on the first night, and she brought them the next morning.
We really liked the international cafe. The doughnuts in the morning were always fresh and delicious. For the rest of the day, the cafe has great paninis and a different soup every day. The soups were hit or miss. The cream of potato was the best. The desserts were really good, and they were in very small portions so we never felt bad about getting more than one.
We had anytime dining, which I wasn't excited about at first. I pictured us having to wait in long lines each night, but that is not what happened. The dining rooms take reservations in the morning at 8:00, and when we remembered to get a reservation, we would just walk right in at our appointed time. On the few days when we forgot to get a reservation, the wait was no more than five or ten minutes (usually we went around 6:30 or 7). Half of our kids chose to eat in the dining room with us, and the other two preferred to eat in the buffet and then go to the kids club, which opened at 6:00.
The kids club was pretty good. My eight year old wanted to be there anytime it was open, because they had a Wii. My ten year old daughter loved all the crafts. My five and three year olds were not so into it. One complaint I had is that often the activities listed on the daily schedule were not what the staff actually had the kids do. So a few times my kids were disappointed when they went to the kids club specifically because they wanted to do a certain activity, and then when they got there they weren't doing it. Alot of times it seemed like they just had the kids watching a cartoon. The ladies in the kids club were very nice and patient with the kids.
The indoor pool was a lifesaver. We did not use the outdoor pools at all because it was always cold and windy. All the pools were nice and warm, like 88 degrees. None of the pools were ever crowded, and we were often the only ones in.
Two of the best things on the ship are the pizza place and the ice cream bar. It was seriously some of the best pizza I have ever had. Thin New York style with lots of cheese. The ice cream is soft serve and they offer sprinkles if you want them.
We did not do any shore excursions through Princess. In Hilo we rented a car and went to Volcanos National Park, the Pana'wana Rainforest Zoo (that might not be the real name, but it started with a P) and Akaka Falls. I felt like we made excellent use of our time. We got to see alot and we didn't feel rushed. The hike down to the waterfall was easy for the kids, and very pretty. In Kauai some of us went "tubing the ditch" (very fun but the water was FREEZING!) and some of us took the Kauai Plantation Railway. My two young boys, who are train nuts, loved the train ride. It took about 40 minutes, and it stopped halfway so we could feed goats, pigs, and chickens. Then we went to Lydgate Beach Park which was wonderful. There was a HUGE playground for the kids, and the beach was perfect, with a walled off area with no waves for the kids to swim in. In Oahu we rented a car and went to the POlynesian Cultural Center (doing it ourselves rather than through the ship saved us literally hundreds of dollars). It was a very fun, educational day at the center. We spent all day there and still did not see everything that was offered. Don't miss the canoe show, where all the islands do a dance while floating by on canoes. Also the canoe rides were a hit, and fishing in the Tahitian village. Skip the shaved ice, it is snow cone style. In Maui we went to Ka'anapali Beach near the sheraton at Black Rock. It was a very pretty beach and we saw a few fish and several sea turtles. There was no food nearby, but we walked about a mile and a half and had great sandwiches and fried rice.
We loved all the sea days. We were never bored. I loved the lei-making classes (get your tickets early!). Movies Under the Stars were fun (but it is cold out there at night). There was a good variety of movies that were shown during the two weeks. The juggling show was very good, so was the ventriloquist. My kids were disappointed that this ship does not do towel animals in the cabins.
Overall, a wonderful vacation!