-Background Information: We are a couple in our 50's -- cruising is our favorite form of traveling. This was our 36th cruise and our 14th on Princess. We've sailed previously on the Caribbean Princess and loved that time -- mostly because of the amazing staff. They didn't disappoint, with a slight imperfection here and there.
-Hotel Info: We flew in the night before the cruise from the SF bay area -- so a long flight. We have friends living in Boca Raton so had the best accomodations of all. (We met these friends years ago on a Princess cruise up to Alaska)
-Travel To Port of Embarkation: We left Boca just before noon and found ourselves in the middle of a auto race / show that entered on the freeway just ahead of us. It delayed us about 20 minutes or so but rather entertaining....all very pricey cars entering the freeway right alongside of us. We were at the front of the traffic stop so had front row seats. When we got to the port, we checked one piece of luggage with the porter and we were checked in and in our room within about 5 minutes. That was the smoothest and quickest embarkation that I have ever encountered.
-Ship Info: As mentioned, I liked this ship from a previous cruise and it did not disappoint this time around. We love the ships with the Caribe Cafe but did miss having an indoor pool, but not a deal breaker. I love MUTS but didn't get a chance to watch too many movies while on this cruise. Overall, the ship was ok in terms of showing her age. You can tell she might be close to dry dock and if not, maybe they should schedule one. Again, this didn't interfere with us having a great time on this cruise.
-Activities: This was one of the better cruise directors on Princess, although I cannot recall his name. We've seen the assistant cruise director on a previous Princess cruise -- not our cup of tea. However, the activities staff was top notch. They really had scheduled something to do at all times. We prefer to relax by the pool and hit the casino but could have kept very busy with everything scheduled throughout the day.
-Service: The service, with the exception of our room steward, was outstanding. We ran into a casino staff member on this cruise that was also working on our last cruise -- what a treat. It was fun to get caught up with him again as he is always so helpful and friendly to everyone in the casino. The dining room staff (something we really didn't experience on the Star Princess last March) was incredible. We had anytime dining and every pair of waiters spoiled us with excellent service. This was repeated by most of the bar waiters and in the Caribe Cafe for dinner.
As above, the room steward seemed to be in a bit over his head. We ordered a egg crate topper and didn't notice it wasn't added until we laid down on that rock hard bed. I couldn't take it more than one night and he did bring one in for us the next day. However, there was always something missing every day -- pool towels, ice, water glasses, etc. The carpet was not vacuumed or maybe the vacuum didn't work well and the balcony had garbage on it when we embarked and it was still there when our cruise was over. He was friendly enough -- just seemed overwhelmed.
-Stateroom -- There were some pretty worn carpets and our stateroom was in need of some TLC -- bathroom tiles were cracked and grout was missing, toilet would overflow sometimes when flushed, etc. I called to have a light bulb replaced and have our shower drain unclogged and this was fixed by the time we got back from dinner.
Also, we had a bug problem in our room. I wouldn't necessarily say they were bed bugs but only bitten when in bed although they didn't bite my husband at all. We talked to the girl next door and she had the same situation -- bites only from within the room. When we reported this, they had the entire room recleaned with new bedding and no more bites.
-Port & Shore Excursions: The Southern Caribbean is my favorite and always enjoy Princess Cays. This time, the water at Princess Cays was freezing and I forgot to pack our water socks, so we found a shady spot near the band and enjoyed the music and a bucket of beer. The food was ok -- although has been better in the past. Curacao, which we've not been to before, was a highlight. We loved it there. We took a tour of the Curacao liquer factory and the Sea Aquarium. I thought it was going to be a bit more beachy but had such a great time that we didn't miss the beach at all. We got back and headed across the bridge and then over to the Rif Fort for a little shopping and refreshment. It was a great little shopping center and felt very safe back to the ship, even walking in the dark.
Aruba is one of my favorite places and we took a tour to the lighthouse and then time at Palm Beach. We soaked in the ocean for a long time. There seemed to be a lot of shells and coral on the beach -- again could have used those water socks but at least the ocean floor was nice and sandy once you got past what the waves washed up.
-Dining: The food on this cruise was world's better than on the Star Princess (was on the Star in both March and May of this past year -- food was not a highlight on that ship). We didn't go to any of the specialty restaurants and were never disappointed with the choices or quality of the food. We had anytime dining but also ate a couple of dinners in the Caribe Cafe -- both were equally as good. I loved the afternoon snacks in the Horizon Court - guacamole and chips and those deep fried shrimp with cocktail sauce were so good. We went to the International Cafe, Trident Grill and Pizza station, too. All were good. The only slight disappointment was the melon they delivered for room service. Otherwise, no complaints at all about the food.
-Entertainment: This was pretty good for a 7 night cruise. I always love the hypnotist -- but didn't see one on this cruise. We are not much into production shows although appreciate all the hard work that is put into these. The comedian was decent and the illusionist was also pretty good.
-Disembarkation: Although disembarkation was late due to a pilot issue (?), we signed up to disembark at 9 AM and were off the ship at 9 AM. So, for us, this worked out as well as the embarkation.
Summary: I really did enjoy this cruise and it did a lot for bringing me back to recommending Princess once again. This was on the heals of a not so good couple of cruises on the Star Princess, which was a disappointment. On this ship, we felt as though the staff really goes out of their way on this particular Princess ship to make sure the guests are having a good time. The food was good and the ship never felt overcrowded. We'd often be walking down the stairs and hallways and wonder where everybody was. There was a nice schedule of entertainment. I think my only suggestion -- and not just for Princess -- would be to sail later in the day and allow passengers to stay onboard longer on the day of disembarkation. I am sure there are port staff and unions involved -- but it would sure be nice to not have to get up so early on disembarkation day.