We flew to FLL from IAH on Tues. before the cruise left on Wed. and stayed at the Comfort Inn Airport Cruise Port South in Hollywood. They offered free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel as well as from the hotel to the cruise port. This hotel was in a very convenient location. We walked several blocks that night to eat dinner at the neatest place called the Moonlight Diner. The food was very good, the experience lots of fun, and their milkshakes are awesome! On our walk back to the hotel we stopped at K-Mart to buy DH a load of Dr. Pepper to take on board. For him, this was THE most important thing to take on the ship. They don't sell Dr. Pepper on the ship and it's very hard to find in the eastern part of the Caribbean too. So, we loaded up, life was good, and we were ready to take the shuttle the next morning. After a very nice complimentary breakfast, we got loaded into the shuttle and headed to the cruise terminal. There wasn't too much of a line and check-in was pretty flawless. The bad part was waiting after we were checked in. It seems that they give priority boarding to all people who have a higher "status", regardless of how long they (or we) have been waiting. That really chapped me, but finally our turn came.
As soon as we boarded the ship we went straight to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bags, then on to the Horizon Court for lunch. We thought there was a nice variety of food, and that it was very tasty. Of course, at this point you're so excited that almost anything you ate would have been OK. This was one of only a very few places where hand sanitizer was available on the ship. There are always places where you want to clean your hands but can't wash them, so I highly recommend bringing a pocket-size hand sanitizer and keeping it with you all the time. After lunch we headed back to our cabin to get our toiletries put away and start getting settled. They furnish shampoo, conditioner and lotion in little plastic bottles, all spa quality and very nice. They are very generous about replenishing when you get low. The shower has one of those disgusting clingy curtains rather than a sliding door. I hate those so much, but you just manage to live with it.
The refrigerator was full of canned drinks and some kind of fancy bottle of water. We asked our cabin attendant to take them away and she said to just put them on the shelf under the TV. We did and they stayed there the entire cruise. The refrigerator was actually cold, which is rare for us, and the ice bucket was kept in there. There was still plenty of room for those precious Dr. Peppers too!
Even tho there was sufficient (barely) storage space, the cabin and bathroom seemed to have several wasted areas that could have been very useful storage space. The wall-mounted hair dryer was old and heavy and clunky, but at least it worked and got hot. I was just thankful that I didn't have to take my own.
Princess has the best closet areas we've ever seen. We love the placement and arrangement and the spaciousness of the closet/storage area. And although the cabin was a bit cramped and crowded (we were inside on Deck 11), the closet area was great. The TV is mounted on the wall in a corner. CNN was the only news channel it got; no major networks (ABC, NBC or CBS). We didn't like that. The TV is not interactive; can't check daily menus, reserve spa treatments or shore excursions, order room service, check your account balance, etc. They did however have several kiosks close to the customer service desk where you could swipe your card and check your account balance. That was a nice thing, but the one time I went by to do that, the machine I tried must have been out of paper because it never did work for anyone in line who tried it.
The food in the Horizon Court was good, but they didn't have enough variety; seemed to serve almost the same thing for 10 days. I did like the way they had the buffet area set up...one entrance and one exit, and it seemed to keep the area less congested. That's pretty much the set-up on most or all Princess ships. We could find no potato chips anywhere to eat with sandwiches, and the french fries obviously came frozen out of a bag...and they were terrible! Even cheese sauce couldn't make the fries taste good. The wait staff serves the beverages to you in the HC and IC; you usually couldn't help yourself. They had cookies available every day, usually two kinds at a time...chocolate chip, chocolate, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter...every day. One of my favorite desserts was the fruit tarts. They were available every day at the IC and HC, and they varied the fruits sometimes to change up the look and taste; they were awesome. Soft-serve ice cream was available beginning at 11:30 a.m. out on a pool deck, right beside the pizzaria. They serve it in a little paper-type cup or a cone. But we liked to get a coffee cup (with a handle) and get ours and walk around with it. A coffee cup made it much easier to walk around with. It was not self-serve; they served it to you. The pizza was exceptional, huge slices, and they had a variety every day.
The International Cafe (IC) was very nice and conveniently located on Deck 5. They had the most awesome chicken & cashew salad and a shrimp salad to die for. There didn't seem to be a lot of variety there either, but the food was really good. At breakfast they had pastries, donuts, breakfast sandwiches, muffins, as well as yogurt parfaits and a few other things. You could order "standard" coffee there and it was free, but if you wanted anything really good or anything fancier you had to have a coffee card or there was a charge for it. Hot chocolate costs $1.50 too unless you have a coffee card; it's included on the card. We knew that ahead of time and brought our own powdered hot chocolate mix and just got a cup of hot water and made our own. This is the first ship I've ever been on where they charged for hot chocolate...that's getting pretty cheap!!!
One area that's quiet and adult-only is the spa pool and hot tubs. The wave maker in the pool didn't work after the first day and they never did fix it. The lounge chairs there are real padded and comfortable, but it's a rather small area and there are only about 18 or 20 chairs. It's a very quite and serene area. That area is in bad need of some general maintenance, freshening up and painting. This area is sort of beside/below the Sanctuary, which looked to be a very under-utilized area. We hardly saw anyone in there till the last sea day, then it appeared to be about full. The cost to use the Sanctuary was $10 per half-day and $20 for all day, per person.
To get to the gym you walk thru the spa on Deck 16. The gym has plenty of machines, is not crowded, and the equipment seemed to be in pretty good repair. We noticed one problem one day and it was fixed the next. One thing that bothered me was their lack of sanitizing wipes to wipe down the equipment when you're finished using it, and what they did have was not conveniently located for it's use. The only wipes they had were close to the door, where the little sweat towels were. Having to walk there to get a wipe, sometimes another person was already on the machine by the time you could get back to clean it. It just seemed rather unclean to me, and every time I used a machine I wondered how clean it actually was.
The Princess Theatre is very nice...it's cold in there so be sure to take a sweater or wrap. There is no pole or any visual obstruction in front of any of the seats, so there are no bad seats in the theatre; every seat is a good one no matter which level you're on. And I really liked the little fold-out tables in the arm rests; however, I did find some that were pretty nasty and in need of a good cleaning. We spent a little time in the casino and found it well laid out, very comfortable, spacious and not crowded at all, and really appreciated that they had several nights that were no smoking nights.
We dined in the DaVinci main dining room and it was pretty, our service was good, but the food was a disappointment. I've had much better food on some other cruise lines. One night they had something on the menu called "All American Meatloaf" and it was the nastiest looking, smelling and tasting thing I've ever seen. Several people at our table ordered it and they couldn't eat it at all. CrÃ¨me brulee was on the dessert menu every night and it was awesome, and I mean really awesome, as was the cheesecake. I had a NY strip steak one night that I literally could not cut. And my meats were seldom cooked like I ordered them. Prime rib was great tho. Lobster was served on the last formal night, and it came with two huge shrimp on the plate; it was really good. The entire staff and crew all over the ship were very friendly and attentive and would go out of their way to accommodate you in any way.
I dropped by the Future Cruise desk one morning, early on, to get information on future cruises. Although the consultant was not there, information and materials were out on the desk and available to look at and take. The OBC offered for booking an inside or outside cabin was $25, which is just laughable. One incentive to book on board I guess is the reduced deposit, but the way I look at it, you have to pay that money sooner or later, and the real attraction should be what they are actually "giving" you. In my opinion $25 is not much incentive to me.
The miniature golf course up on the sports deck is all but un-playable. It's the sorriest excuse for a miniature golf course I've ever seen anywhere. Words just can't describe how mildewed and nasty it was. Besides the carpet there, the course itself is unattractive and unappealing. The whole ship is in bad need of dry-dock, which I understand is supposed to happen in December. Many carpets need to be replaced, it needs lots of new paint, upholstery and/or furniture replaced, and just lots of general refreshing and up-dating. My husband attended the first veterans gathering and said the ship's crew went all out to make it very nice and inviting and comfortable for the veterans. He has been to several on different cruise lines and he said this one was the nicest yet.
Even tho some of the entertainment was very good, we weren't impressed with the entertainment in general. The two comedians were good (and clean!) and the hypnotist was good. The singers & dancers were certainly talented young people but their shows just weren't appealing to us. Our tablemates all went to the Marriage Match Game Show and they said it was very crude, vulgar, obnoxious and embarrassing...not funny and entertaining like they usually are. We usually go but I'm certainly glad we didn't this time. We were not impressed with the activities during the day. It seemed that the majority of things offered were spa-related...seminars or classes about "burn fat faster", "go home looking 10 years younger", "anti-aging skin secrets", "smile lines gone without surgery", "foot print analysis", "tongue & pulse analysis", "fighting the male and female fat cells", etc....and that's really not what I want in the way of daily activities on a cruise ship. There were some games to participate in during the day, but not a lot to do on port days. Nice music was available all over the ship, some to just listen to and some for dancing.
Princess Cays was a good place. The sand on their beach is certainly not the beautiful sugar white powdery sand found in much of the Caribben, and it wasn't as clean and manicured as I would have expected, but the day there was very relaxing and nice. There was an abundance of beach lounge chairs, plenty of shaded areas, restrooms spread around all over the area, locals with souvenirs available for purchase, beverages for purchase all around (and they were cheaper than on the ship), and various beach rentals available. The lunch they served was good, not outstanding, but typical of a beach picnic I guess. The cruise line puts in a lot of effort to make the Princess Cays day very nice and special.
Disembarkation itself was good, but the waiting was a bit unrealistic. The bus transfers seemed to be a little disorganized. After asking several personnel out on the sidewalk, we managed to get on the bus we were supposed to, even tho they did not have signs or directions for people. And we were incensed that the bus driver got on the speaker and as much as asked people to be sure to tip him!
In conclusion I'd say even tho this cruise was nice and we definitely had a good time, it really did not live up to our expectations. In comparing Princess Cruise Line to the others we've sailed, we were just a bit disappointed overall and will probably stick with the others and not sail Princess again.