We were excited about taking a Christmas Cruise, believing that it would be special. However, in our opinion, it fell far short of anything special. Christmas Day at sea was incredibly flat and we truly were disappointing. There were four of us travelling together and our ages varied from 37 to 71 and although we enjoyed our trip, we all felt it wasn't as exciting as we had envisions. We took an Alaskan Cruise last year and everything about that cruise was 90% better than this one. Please be advised however, that we only have that particular cruise to compare with - although one of our group members has other cruises to compare with. We will stay at this point that we will cruise with Princess again but likely will try others. The issue is, however, if you stay with one cruise line, you build up perks for the next cruise - so it becomes more difficult to change to another cruise line. Question to ask is whether this is important or not and if it is, how important is it.
Embarkment: Booked transportation from the hotel through the cruise line and won't do that again as it took an incredibly long time to board the buses (3), load luggage, travel to the ship and line up to embark. It reminded us of the long lines at Disney World! We believe it would be faster (much) and cheaper to take a cab to and from the ship and to do it on your own.
Cabin: on 10th floor and we were satisfied with our cabin and very large balcony. Our Steward kept the room spotless and did everything he could to make sure we were well equipped with whatever we needed. He was warm, gracious and happy and always interested in our day. The job is a thankless one and I think we all should give more attention to them as persons and as well to express our gratitude for what they do...if they do a good job.
Service: Some really great and some not so much. Activities like games, flash mob dance, etc. were led by excellent and enthusiastic people. Personnel Devinci were excellent, from Michelangelo's not as much, from Horizons was really mixed and other areas relatively good. As mentioned, our steward was truly wonderful.
Food: The food was hit and miss with some exceptional items and some not so great. "They" say people gain a couple of pounds a day (?) but my husband lost 4 and I remained the same. So if you don't make food the central part of the cruise, you needn't worry about putting on weight.
a. Michelangelo's Dining Room (where any time diners could eat prior t0 7:30 p.m.)was extraordinarily slow and on some nights, some of us just got up and left. b. DeVinci Dining room (fixed dining time) appeared to be more efficient without rushing you, and appeared to have better quality of staff. We had any time dining but when they were too busy at Michelangelo's, they would bump us up to DeVinci.
c.The Horizon Buffet wasn't the best although there were lots to choose from. Personally, I primarily ate the fruit, porridge and salad because I found the other items too greasy to consume. Will admit the buns were good!
d.Other areas: We didn't eat at the speciality restaurants that cost $25.00 extra per person so can't comment on the quality of food there. Near the pool they offered pizza which we didn't try and ice cream that believe it or not, didn't care for. We did like the bakery in the piazza but tried not to indulge there too much. What we didn't like was that we had to pay for a so called better cup of coffee if we wanted to have a coffee with our dessert item from the bakery. Drinks from the bar were expensive.
Entertainment: We all thought that the entertainment was very flat and frankly boring. a. Theater - The Princess Cruise Productions were very antiquated and although we don't fault the singers and dancers, we do question the producers thought process in creating these productions. We did, however, enjoy the comedians and the some of the Christmas program that included letters to Santa and Santa's 'response'! b. Piazza - truly a hit and miss! We enjoyed the steel drums but then when he appeared over and over again, it became a tad repetitive. Enjoyed the dancers but it was too short and they left the ship. The piano player (over and over again) was very uninspiring and not great. A cruiser took to the piano one day and was fabulous. Should have hired that person. Other areas: illusionist and others were nothing to write home about.
Activities: Games and Mob Flash Dance were fabulous and helped make the cruise much better - thanks to those cruise members who had energy, humour, laughter and creativity!
Excursions: Personally, we don't like to book excursions through the ship. On this trip one of our party did at the last minute and it worked out but it still was more expensive than if they had done it on their own. We find the ship excursions are too crowded, too expensive and too impersonal. If you do your research, you can find great tours before hand on your own. Also, you can find approved tour guides at port side and should be less expensive, more intimate and more relaxing. If you do it this way, I think the key is to book through approved people at the countries information center....at least that is our experience.
Shopping: Well this is a dicey subject! For those who are interested in buying expensive jewellery (get it less) than you likely will appreciate what the ships and ports have to offer. You likely also will appreciate the information sessions offered on board for onboard and port shopping. However, we quickly got tired of it and as it wasn't high on our priority list, we bypassed as much as we could. We did like the clothing offered on board and purchased a fair number of pieces and were very happy with that.
Costs: The cost for the trip was quite good but we didn't appreciate the nickel and dime approach to some areas. All inclusive resorts (and we have done many) include alcohol in the package but on the cruise ship are charged for and are expensive. There was also an up charge on coffee and soft drinks outside of the restaurants and of course the specialty dining rooms to the tune of $25.00 each. I mention this because people should be informed if they haven't cruised before. One irratating aspect of cruising is that they take photos for every occasion, post them and encourage (lol) the purchase of them. You constantly pass them on your journey somewhere else and at the end of the day, if you don't buy them, they are thrown away! What a waste and we found the costs for the pictures very expensive. We suggest that if they reduce the price, they likely would sell more and there would be less waste. Personally, we would be willing to pay a bit more for the cruise if there was less nickeling and diming involved.
Appearances of Public Rooms and the Piazza: Excellent
Overall: We were a tad disappointed but we believe life is what you make it and we are people that choose to have fun so that is just what we did. We met wonderful people including crew members, we participated in whatever we could with great energy and humour and we embraced the journey - worbles and all. We will do it again so please use our comments as a guide, only, to make your trip even better.