This was our second Princess Cruise, the first being in 2009 on Crown Princess. Overall, I was left a little underwhelmed but still had a wonderfully relaxing time.
Princess must have taken onboard the poor quality of the hired entertainers on the previous cruises from Southampton. In reality, it may not be a Princess decision and could have been on recommendations by the Cruise Director. On the previous cruise on the Crown Princess, the CD was American and we were served up with some US based comics, who were well past their preverbial "sell by date". This cruise however, all the entertainment that was brought in was, in the most part, of high standard and ALL of a UK origin. This meant that they were able to adapt to a largely British audience and even change things as they went to suit - something sadly lacking previosuly.
The food onboard is of its usual high-standard and we chose to dine in either the Horizon Court buffet and Alfredo's Pizzaria - the best Pizza I have EVER had in fairness. However, the plastic plates in the buffet, although warmed, simply aloud the food to get cold too quickly due to a lack of heat retention - china plates please!
The levels of service were generally excellent - although the enthusiasm seemed to tail away in the Horizon Court later in the Cruise but not to a level that was substandard - just slightly noticable.
The bar prices were reasonable, given that it was a cruise and included waiter tips.
The Cruise Director, Peter Tredgett cast an immediate impression upon us that he was a little too "happy"..possibly falsely so. However, this proved unfounded as we grew to like him enormously. Professional, courteous,sympathtic, informative and ermmm...Bouncy! a softly sprung Tigger in a white suit I guess....
The Crew Entertainment was superb...highly polished and great value. The four production shows were all of a very high standard, with lots of energy and accomplishment.
The room was pretty standard for a balcony type. However, the balcony itself was a little tired from all the pounding it must take from sea air and spray. Some of them were being refurbished as we travelled - with the minimum of fuss. Although, quite why they were being re-walled just a year after a major refit was slightly odd....
The offship tours were, in general, very expensive and could foten be done with a little effort and research beforehand - much more cheaply. However, you do pay that premuim for the security of having it organised for you I suppose. The one we took to the Stappen Islands was, in actual fact, worth the money because it would have been difficult to arrange by ourselves.
Now the minus points:
The Port Lecturer - Although generally informative his presentation skills were a little lacking. Considering he was supposed to be the "Expert" he was unable to spell or pronounce a couple of the ports correctly. Gravdal became Gradval and Geianger Fjord was spelt Greianger and pronounced, quite bizzarely "Gree - angar". The slideshow was of a poor standard too, something which should have been spotted by Princess, particularly as the Captain, Roger Bilton, not once failed to pronounce things correctly!
Most people who cruise and wish to use the fitness centre, would do so regardless of its location onboard. So why is the gym on the Grand Princess in a glass fronted (Black glass at that) area that spans the whole width of the ship? Surely, it would be better to use that as a panoramic viewing/reading/relaxation lounge and serve drinks and locate the fitness centre elsewhere?
In an age where internet is extremely cheap and affordable, why do Princess (and others I guess) charge so much for internet time. I can get internet free on my cell phone and pay less in a year at home for it that I could get less than two hours for onboard ship. Come on Princess - I know its an earner or you but think of the free advertising you would get from all the social network postings from people on the ship....
The Ports - A full day at Bergen would have been better. Lofoten ISlands could be left off future tours as it was a little disappointing. Svalbard was lovely - very picturesque indeed. Would highly recommend the Stappen Island Bird Watching Tour at the North Cape!