Okay folks we started our 6th cruise aboard the Emerald Princess on Dec/17/2012 having sailed on Royal Caribbean 4 times in the past on their LARGE ships Oasis Allure, Explorer and Voyageur of the Seas. I will compare the Emerald to my experience on the RCL.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Princess and RCL have really refined the process and they are both very good
Ports Visited: Emerald Princess has very good cruising routes. On this cruise we visited, Aruba, Bonaire, Dominica, Grenada, St Thomas and Princess Cays. All ports were very good and the tours we took through Princess were very well organized. However, the prices we paid for each tour was double compared to what we would have paid on our own. Example the St Thomas tour of Megan's Bay and Black Beard Castle thru Princess was $39 compared to $16 thru the local tour operator at the Tourist Info desk in the port Terminal. The Princess shuttle from Port Everglades to Ft Lauderdale Airport was $19 instead of $11 outside the terminal (go figure). Choice of Ports on Princess was better compared to RCL
Entertainment: Very Good shows and Comedians. Hollywood Movies in the Princess theatre and "under the stars" was a welcome addition. However, shows on RCL were excellent in comparison.Food: There was lots of choice in the Buffet and the main dining room but most dishes had lots of salt and oil. There were NO low-fat desserts nor any low-fat salad dressings. RCL had better food choices and their food tasted better.
Ship Stability & Sea Turbulence: There was lots of turbulence on this ship compared to Allure, Oasis or Explorer. There was practically NO turbulence on the RCL ships. If you are sensitive to motion then you will definitely fall sea sick. Horizon Buffet on 15th Floor was rocking all the time
Cleanliness: RCL staff was cleaning the elevators and bannisters every hour but we did not notice this on the Emerald. Perhaps that could be the reason why about 189 passengers got hit with the NoroVirus Bug on Dec/22/2012. see the following for more details: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/outbreak/2012/decemer27_emerald_princess.htm
Activity on Ship: Lots of things to do on the Ship and Emerald was equally good compared to RCL, however, the Promenade, Boardwalk and Central Park on the RCL Allure & Oasis were out of this world and the Emerald was rather dull and a boring ship at times.
Overall: I would give this ship a 3 star out of 5 and would not take another cruise with Princess again. I love the RCL cruise line and I only tried Princess because it had a better selection of Ports.