First let me say this was my first cruise as a platinum member. I have sailed with Princess 5 times and had a wonderful experience in the past but I was less than impressed with this trip. Here are my experiences. You be the judge. Embarkation was extremely smooth and I was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to a balcony upon check-in. As a solo cruiser paying for 2, ocean view was all I could afford so I was delighted. Room was well maintained and my cabin steward was very quiet but fulfilled all my needs. He tracked down my luggage as it went to my original cabin assignment and always made sure I had anything I needed.
Before we even set sail, we learned our itinerary would be reversed because of Hurricane Sandy but that was no big deal. Then we were slightly delayed due to a mechanical problem but finally got going. It was extremely rocky the first few days because of the storm and many people walked around like they were drunk including me. Our first stop was Grand Caymon. Upon arrival, we were told the stop would be cancelled because the seas were too rough for the tenders so he set sail for Costa Rica. I wasn't interested in seeing any more rain forest so I stayed on board. It was then on to the canal. Due to strikes against the government turning violent, our stop in Colon was cancelled so the stop in Panama was also cancelled. We went through the locks and into Gatun Lake. Narration about the Panama while transiting the locks was excellent. Although this was a partial transit of the canal, I still expected we would cruise the lake somewhat to take in the flora and fauna but that didn't happen. He parked the boat and we sat still for 2 hours, then pulled up anchor and went back through the locks and onto our next stop of Cartagena. Stayed on board in Columbia too just more forests. Onto Aruba. Had dinner in the Bayou the night before having alligator ribs which I believe made me sick so Aruba was not in the cards either as I spent a day and a half in bed. I ended up on a 10 day cruise to nowhere.
Entertainment: The entertainment was just so so. Three of the four production shows were shows I saw on other ships. On the Bayou was fabulous though and could have been longer. They have shortened the shows to 30 minutes so they could have more entertainment but this show was too good to be shortened. They had 3 comedians all of which did 2 shows. C'mon. Is that the only entertainment you can find. They had 1 female singer. I'm told she was so so. That's the night I was sick so I didn't see her. Lots of trivia sessions and bingo most days. They did broadcast the World Series and many college and NFL games on the big screen outside which was pretty cool.
Food:Now this is any area that most people focus on. I ate at both Sabatini's and the Bayou. Sabatini's was very good since changing their format. It's now a regular menu instead of a free for all. The Bayou was just OK. I much rather eat at the Crowne Grille. The Bayou features New Orleans style food which is just ok for me but the fillet was excellent. Cover charge is $20 and if you want lobster, it's $5 more. I think that's a little petty. It's not like the lobster is anything to write home about. Just another way to nickel and dime you to death.
The process they have at the dining rooms is something else and I don't mean in a good way. If you have anytime dining you can expect to wait for 30-40 minutes holding a little pager. By the time you get in, you've missed the show in the theatre. They accept reservations in anytime. C'mon really? Isn't it supposed to be anytime? So what happens is people who have traditional dining call and make reservations in anytime when they're unable to make their dining time or don't like their table mates. Then they get priority over people who have chosen anytime dining. Then they take anytime diners and shuffle them up to the traditional dining room. It just doesn't make any sense. So over the span of 10 days, I was only able to be seated without a wait twice. Ended up eating in the Horizon Court or having pizza or a burger most nights in order to take in the entertainment.
I have to mention we did have a Cruise Critic get together and I met and socialized with many wonderful people during the week waiting out Hurricane Sandy and wondering how our homes faired in the storm while we were out at sea.
All in all, I've had better cruises. Maybe I'm just burned out with Princess and need a change to a different cruiseline for a while. If anyone wishes more info, you can email me at email@example.com.
Happy Cruising. Hope your experience is better than mine.