This was the first time my sister & I have sailed on Princess but we are not first time cruisers. We picked Princess for itinerary and port of embarkation. This cruise was to Hawaii sailing out of Los Angeles with 4 days at sea going and 4 coming back. First the good stuff, the seas were great, the ship immaculate and the crew service excellent. Comparing Princess to the other cruise lines we have sailed on, Princess was a huge disappointment. Food preparation & presentation was very good but the menu selection was very mundane and certainly not up to cruise standards. On one formal night we had fish and scallops and as one lady put it, "nothing worth getting dressed up for." On the last formal night we were offered lobster, beef Wellington and Pheasant all at the same time but the rest of the formal nights (3) the offerings were very "blue plate" offerings. Our menu selections even offered meatloaf and pot roast - come on!! On a cruise??
The Horizon Court is very small with a cafeteria single-file line in. At 1PM they would close the other side of the court and we had 75 people lined up outside the door to the pool waiting to get in. The dining rooms are located in the middle of the ship with stairs up and down to get anywhere. There are blind corridors where you have to go up stairs and back down again. The ship is of very poor design and I felt sorry for the people with mobility issues. As I understand it from the "future sales" coordinator, all the Princess ships are designed the same way, what a shame.
The Princess theater is way too small and it has stairs going up and then back down to the seats. We had to be in the theater 1 hour ahead of showtime in order to get a seat and then they often would be full 40 minutes before showtime. The theater entertainment ran from really good to not so good with the production shows high energy but not up to cruise standards.
The Piazza in the center of the ship is way too small with about 20 seats. People sit there all day and read, play cards and eat food that they get from the International Cafe which is located there. When there is entertainment in the Piazza you either have to stand or sit on the staircase. They should utilize the lounges more during the day when there is no one there and there is plenty of seating.
I guess one of the worse things was the daytime activities. Other than the Naturalist who was great we were offered Bible study, make a Mother's Day card (the average age of the passengers was around 70 so most of our mothers have passed away), book review, needle pushers, grandparents get together, sports car enthusiasts get together, lei making (every day), ping pong, antiques lovers get together, Red Hat ladies meet for tea, etc. While there is nothing wrong with these activities, they don't appeal to the majority of the 2,600 passengers on board. We watched a lot of TV in our cabin which should never happen on a cruise. They had a lot of movies under the stars on their big screen by the pool. This was during the day and at night, unfortunately, it was too cold to watch comfortably even with 3 blankets. Sea days are always one of our favorite things but on this cruise it was very boring.
Our cabin was on the Aloha deck under the Horizon Court and from 4:30 - 5:00AM until after midnight you could hear the food/dish carts rolling around. It did not disturb our sleep but if you were a light sleeper, it certainly would.
Compared to Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, Princess doesn't hold a candle to them in any way. Everyone on the cruise we ran into (and everyone was talking) said the same thing. The only people who were pleased were those who had never been on any other cruise line before so they had nothing to compare it to. One couple who shared a ride with us back to LAX said it was their first cruise with Princess and that they would never sail with them again. Unfortunately, that is our exact feelings. We will never sail Princess again. AND, for those of you who do not know this, Carnival owns Princess, Holland America and Costa cruise lines - and it shows!