Facts: 14th cruise for myself and spouse. We have sailed on Carnival (4 times), RCL (once), and Disney (3 times). This was our 6th cruise with Princess. We are both retired and in our mid-60s.
Embarkation was, as usual, efficient. With this cruise, we achieved platinum status for the first time and were escorted to the elite/platinum lounge to wait. There was coffee, tea, and some danish. We waited approx. 45 minutes and walked onto the ship to our room.
We had a Caribe midship balcony cabin. Our luggage was delivered by 2pm. We went to lunch in the main dining room rather then going to the buffet. Some friends joined us for this cruise. It was their first time on Princess and we had helped them with the planning. Our room steward, Runion was a delight throughout the cruise. On the first day, we made a few requests. They were fulfilled daily with a smile. In addition to Runion, the steward from the next section of cabins was also very pleasant. Both greeted us by name whenever we saw them. In all of our cruises, we could not recall a better steward.
This was the theme from all the staff. When we sat at the buffet, we tended to sit in the same section. The waiter recognized us after a couple of days with a 'good morning' and a smile. This was also true at the International Cafe. My husband would get his hot chocolate and my coffee each morning while I was getting dressed. The staff knew this after a couple of days.
This was a very relaxed cruise with 8 Â½ sea days. The cruise director and his staff had plenty to keep us as busy as we wanted to be. Of particular interest was the couple, Dave and Lei Aloha from Hawaii. Elua (as they are known) were gracious at all times. We met them the first day at a 'meet and greet'. They were the only representatives from the staff. There were Lei making classes, Ukelele classes, port lectures and guest lecturers. There were movies that had been newly released on DVD. Also some older movies on TV.
The food was good, not great (except for the signature fettucine alfredo). We had dinner at the Crown Grill which was superb. Sabatini's had changed since our last cruise. As usual, it was excellent but I wasn't as happy as I have been in the past. We preferred the dining room for dinner, but used the buffet about one-third of the time. We preferred the buffet for breakfast because there was a better selection. One thing that really bothered me was the additional of a hamburger to the dinner menu in the dining room. It was one of the 'always available' items. In my opinion, it dumbed down the menu and was unnecessary. There are burgers and dogs on the Lido deck.
When in port, we went off on our own. We rented cars at Hilo and Honolulu. We went to Volcano National Park in Hilo and did some shopping at Mauna Loa Macadamian Nut Factory store. In Honolulu, we went to Pearl Harbor and saw the very moving Arizona Memorial. We also visited the USS Missouri and the PunchBowl Cemetery. DH and I then drove to KoOlina to see the newest Disney resort, Aulani. In Maui and Kauai, we opted to get shuttles to the local stores and walked around town. In Kauai, there is a beautiful beach right next to the small Anchor Cove Shopping. We sat there for a while and then went in Duke's on the Beach for a light lunch. In Ensenada, we only got off to enter the terminal building so I could buy my Mexican Vanilla Extract (Yum, Yum).
Weather throughout was great. We had been worried about rough seas for the first couple of days out and the last two days heading back. Although the ship was rocking the first night, it didn't bother us at all - matter of fact, it rocked us to sleep. We did hear some complaints the next morning, but not too many.
Debarkation was again, as usual, perfectly handled. We sat in a comfortable lounge after breakfast waiting for our color tag to be called. We sat about 10 minutes (BTW, coffee was available) and were led out to our luggage. We then proceeded through customs and out of the building to a taxi. Fare to the airport was $55.00.
This was our 3rd cruise to Hawaii and our first round trip from Los Angeles. The two prior cruises had been 10 and 12 day cruises from Vancouver to Honolulu with us having to get home from there. This was much nicer for us and we would not hesitate to recommend it to those seeking a relaxing way to see "just a bit" of Hawaii. I would not recommend this as a cruise to SEE Hawaii.