We're an active couple in our early 30's with five cruises under our belt, three with Princess. This is the second time we've sailed out of SF, and have been to Mexico on multiple occasions.
Embarkation: The Embarcadero was backed up with traffic, as usual. On our last trip, the taxi driver used the side streets to get up to the terminal and dropped us off across the street. We wheeled our baggage (carry-on) right into the terminal. This time, our town car driver drove us up Embarcadero, and it was slow going.
When we arrived, Pier 35 was a hot mess. A line of cruisers snaked around the sidewalk. It took about 30-40 minutes just to get inside. Once inside, we filled out the requisite health form and stepped into yet another line for check-in. Unfortunately, we don't have Platinum/Elite or suite status, so we couldn't get into the special (shorter) line. One day.
After making it through check-in, getting on board was fairly quick. We flew through security screening, then a picture for ship security before stepping on board.
Stateroom: We stayed in a standard interior room on the Caribe deck, far forward on the starboard side. We have heard others complain about noise from the Princess theater below, but we didn't have any noise issues. The closet had plenty of hangers and the room was clean. No complaints about our room steward.
Dining: By the time we got on board and schlepped our carry-on bags to our room, lunch in the dining room was over. Horizon Court is not our favorite place to eat, but we head up anyway. The food is typical buffet fare, but the service (or lack thereof) is what stood out most. No one offered us a drink, and we had to retrieve our own silverware. The staff seemed rather harried. Luckily, this is the only time we experienced poor service from dining staff or drink servers. I will chalk it up to turnaround day craziness.
We opted for fixed dining (2nd seating) after having a poor Anytime experience on our first Princess cruise. Our waitress and assistant waiter were superb. Also, the beverage service was great in the lounges and theater.
We ate mostly in the dining room and once in the Crown Grill. I often followed the dinner recommendations of our waitress, and was never disappointed. Since food taste is rather subjective, I won't go into details. But I was more than pleased with the dining room food.
However, I noted a lack of "extras" -- no dessert buffet or Mexican-themed night. This didn't diminish my experience in the least, but my husband did miss his favorite chocolate-covered strawberries usually served on dessert night.
Service: Except for some minor hiccups -- long embarkation lines, long tender wait in Cabo, and not-so-chipper service at the purser's desk the night before disembarkation -- I was in 7th heaven. I had heard that the ship was fully booked, so a few minor issues on a ship with thousands of passengers won't deter me from sailing with Princess again.
Entertainment: Production shows have been shorted to about 30-40 minutes in order to accommodate 3 shows each night. Most were pretty good. We weren't impressed with either of the comedians, though. Rootberry, a juggling duo, was good fun.
Ports (we have been to all of them before):
Catalina -- We spent more time waiting for the tender than we did on the island. It may not have been Princess's fault, because the Catalina pier didn't look like it could accommodate very many tender boats. We walked around a bit just to stretch our legs. Others recommend renting a golf cart to explore, but this didn't interest us.
Puerto Vallarta -- Walked off, took a cab ($6US) to the Malecon, explored a bit and had lunch at one of the beach restaurants. Purchased some small watercolor paintings from a street artist and headed back to the ship via cab.
Cabo overnight -- Easy tender compared to Catalina. We walked around town and negotiated a parasailing trip while on the dock. Parasailing was great fun; better scenery in Cabo than in Puerto Vallarta. Then, lunch on the beach at The Office. The food wasn't as good as what we had in PV, but still satisfying. It was their seasonal re-opening (they are closed in Sept) and the tab was half off, which was a nice surprise. We had planned to jet ski on the 2nd day, but got lazy and stayed on the ship.
San Diego -- Everyone on the ship had to disembark and go through customs, which was relatively fast for US Citizens (the other line was much longer). Walked to the bus stop and hopped on the 7 line to Balboa Park. Explored a bit but bored quickly and headed back downtown. We stopped at the USS Midway, which was a stone's throw from our ship. Great museum with an audio tour included.
Disembarkation: Fast. Ridiculously fast. If you can, walk off with your luggage. I was up at 6:30am and grabbed a small breakfast from Horizon Court to bring to our room. Our meeting time was 8:10am, but we were at the assigned lounge by 7:30am. We were in a cab to BART by 8:30am.