The Pacific Princess, at 30,277-tons and 680-passengers, along with a sister ship the Ocean Princess, was acquired in 2002 from Renaissance Cruises. It is by far the smallest ship in Princess' fleet. We only had approx. 590 passengers on our cruise. We weren't sure what to expect on a small ship but with only 2 days at sea during the 12-day cruise, how bad would it be. Well, what a pleasant surprise! The size of the ship affords it access to some smaller cruise ports and allowed us to continually meet up with friends and people we met during the cruise. We were almost on a first name basis with some of the performers and when it came time to tender into some of the smaller cruise ports we were usually on one of the first tenders going ashore even though we were not on a tour. There never appeared to be a wait for anything; buffet, tendering, entertainment seating, passenger services etc. It seemed that everywhere on the ship was easily reached by either the forward or aft elevators of staircases. Passenger demographics on this cruise were mostly 65+ in age with Princess Gold, Platinum or Elite status. However, the ship is 12 years old and is due for a refurbishment in the near future.
Our stateroom, #8041 on deck 8 was a mini-suite and the largest comparable mini-suite we have encountered yet on any line. Usually you have to squeeze between the foot of the bed and the dresser but three people could have passed shoulder to shoulder in this suite. Standard king size bed with able storage in more than 16 drawers and open shelves. There is a refrigerator to house the wine you are allowed to bring on board at each port. Our balcony was more than 15' long and allowed for two reclining chairs, 2 ottomans and a small table. Lighting was sufficient to read by. The only downsize was the small flat screen TV which made viewing difficult from some areas of the room. The mini-suite we had on the Diamond Princess had 2 larger flat screens with a privacy curtain to separate the sleeping from the sitting areas.
The Pacific Princess offers one typical fixed seating restaurant, a buffet on the aft 9th deck and two specialty restaurants. The main dining room features mostly tables of 6 or 8 with a few larger tables for bigger groups. There are a few tables for two but these must be requested well in advance of the first night's dining. Service was prompt and efficient but the dining room was noisy for our tastes and you always felt rushed thru the meal. There is a good variety of offerings each night with several theme nights such as Italian, French and Mexican. Later in the cruise we discovered a wonderful freestyle dining option called the Bistro which was adjacent to but separated from the buffet area. It was not publicized but Princess is apparently trying to offer an alternative to the fixed time dining. The Bistro was by far our favorite place to eat. It was quiet, intimate and offered a wonderful view of sunsets. Most nights there were only 4-5 tables occupied. We thought the food in the Bistro was also better prepared though the selection was slightly less than in the main dining room. While our table in the main dining room was also located right by a window, dirt trapped between the panes of glass clouded views of our departures from some ports. This was not a problem in the Bistro. One small downside of breakfast in the buffet was the absence of fresh berries even though they were plentiful in most ports visited.
We weren't sure what to expect in the way of entertainment of a small ship. Here was another pleasant surprise. Entertainment was in the Cabaret lounge and was like theatre in the round. There is no stage but rather performers sing and dance in a U shaped area surrounded by the audience. You won't find scenery changes on a small ship but the entertainers made up for that and more. Backed by a 4-piece band with some pre-recorded backing tracks, the Pacific Princess singers and dancers treated us to 4 great musical performances such as Do You Want To Dance, Shake Rattle and Roll, Motor City and another one featuring songs from the 30s and 40s. There were two shows featuring a great pop opera singer, Chris Riggins, who sounded like Bocelli. On other nights, a comedian and a magician entertained. There are two shows nightly to accommodate early and late seatings. We frequently ran into the singers and dancers throughout the cruise.
The ship visits 9 ports during the 12-day cruise; including the departure port of Civitavecchia (Rome) and destination port of Venice. Our favorite ports on this cruise were Portofino France, Sorrento Italy, Valetta Malta, Corfu Greece, Kotor Montenegro and Korcula Croatia. These offered independent walking tours or multiple excursion options where walking wasn't possible (i.e. Sorrento for the Amalfi Coast). If you have never been to Kotor, this was probably our most favorite on this cruise. You approach the old walled city thru a 20-mile long fjord-like passage with great views. There is a moderate walk (800+', 1100+ steps) up to the old fortress which offers magnificent views of the town and the end of the fjord as well as groups of goats grazing on the hillsides. Corfu is another great place to visit. Climbs to the new fortress and the old fortress and lighthouse also afford great views of the city and the shops along the narrow streets in the old city are a treat to visit. Least favorite ports were Cannes, France and Venice. Both of these ports were congested and car traffic in Cannes, due to the Film Festival, made crossing some streets near the festival difficult. Cannes was a last minute substitution for Nice.
This was a great cruise from the standpoint of the ship, service and ports visited. Princess does a good job of providing a middle of the road cruising value. They seem to excel at moving people from one location to another such as the transfers from airport to/from ship or tender operations. Service was always prompt and friendly. We are now converted to small ship cruising and look forward to enjoying another cruise on the Pacific Princess or her sister ship.