The ship is beautiful, and the crew kept it immaculate. It can take 2650 passengers, and 1120 crew. It really only seemed crowded on the day we disembarked.
We arrived about 2pm, and there was no wait at all. Pulled right up to the curb & a porter immediately came to take our luggage. All our luggage was up to our cabin by 5pm.
All the food was great! For dinners, traditional seating is 5:30 and 7:45 in the International DR. They also have a first seating for Traditional in the Vivaldi DR at 5:30. Then the Vivaldi is open for Anytime Dining 7:45 to 9pm. The Santa Fe, Savoy and Pacific Moon are all open for Anytime Dining from 5:30 to 9:30.
The Horizon Court is open for dinner 5:30 to 11pm. After 11pm, the International Cafe in the Atrium on Deck 5 is open, and of course, there is room service.
We had anytime dining, but found waiters we liked at the Vivaldi, Ion and Ephren, and the Head Waiter, Sergio, always accommodated us. We came there one night with another couple, and got a table with Gil and Anna, and we liked them, too. It was the night of our Ukulele concert, and Gil sang 'Tiny Bubbles" to us. Even without reservations, Sergio would see us and seat us right away.
My favorite dinner was one night when I had Cognac-Flamed Cajun Style Crawfish in Vol-Au-Vent with Newberg Sauce for an appetizer, and Broiled Lobster Tail and Louisiana-Style Crab Cake for my entree. I also loved an appetizer they had one night with crabmeat and apple, over melon balls, which was served in a martini glass. Tasted as good as it looked! On Italian night, the Penne Arrabiata was delicious. I ordered a small portion for the pasta course, but should had ordered the large for my entree- it was that good! Clarence's favorite was when they had lobster, and our waiter brought him 2 plates. Even though the lobsters were not big ones, they were very tasty and tender.
Every night they offered a Vegetarian Dish, as well as Grilled Salmon with Herb and Lemon Butter, Pan Seared Chicken with Thyme Jus, Half Pound Sirloin Burger, and Spice-Rubbed Tri Tip Roast Beef, in case you didn't like the day's entrees. We did eat in Horizon Court a few nights, usually after we were in port all day, and the food was great. Lots of variety. The staff helped older people by holding their plates and dishing up what they wanted, and taking them to a table. When it was busy, they would carry your plate and find you a table. The dessert line was a separate area, which was helpful.
We had the Ultimate Balcony dinner, which was fabulous! We had our choice of Lobster, Filet Mignon or Surf and Turf (we chose lobster), and a pre dinner cocktail. It also came with Â½ bottle of Champagne & canapes, and the dinner was super. Our waiter, Bogdan, and asst. waiter, Javier, set up a square table on our balcony, and brought a vase of roses. They would serve us a course, and then leave us for about 10 minutes. I don't know where they went when they were not in our cabin. It took about 2 hours, and it was so romantic. Our Room Steward, Michael, made the towel swans when he turned down our bed.
Clarence was invited to the Chef's Table dinner ($95), which he said was entertaining, informative and delicious! He was invited back during the 8 sea days. He now has 2 Princess cookbooks from the dinner!
The only disappointment we had was the Sterling Steak House. I booked it for Clarence's birthday dinner, the 1st sea day after Hawaii. First, the Head Waiter must have trained in NYC in the restaurants that specialize in attitude. It was a shock to us because all the other Head Waiters, especially Sergio, were pleasant and welcoming. So it didn't start off as well as I had envisioned. Of course our waiter, David, was very nice, and the food was good, but I should point out that we had steak and filet mignon in the dining room that were just as good. They brought Clarence a Princess Dream dessert, and sang "Happy Birthday" to him (Michael does have a great singing voice, maybe that's why they hired him). We just did not feel it was worth the extra charge.
Princess ScholarShip at Sea was very entertaining, as well as educational. Our favorite lecturer was Gary Shahan, because his lectures on WWII, the Pacific Islands, Route 66, Getting to CA and others were so entertaining. He told us he taught High School Social Studies, so he was used to keeping folks attention. He was always happy to give you more information if you saw him about the ship, and we took his advice on several islands. Dr. Sharon Faff did Cultural and Naturalist lectures, as well as on the ports. She also came up to our second CC get together, and answered questions about French Polynesia for us. Because there were so many activities scheduled every day, these lectures were televised the following day starting at 6pm, and we took advantage of that many nights. There were lectures by Dr. Edward Glick (politics) and Dr. Gordon Jones (bridge), as well as one by the 1st Engineer, Nicola Cummaro, about the technical side of the shipboard operations. There were Culinary Demonstrations by Executive Chef Nilo Palma and Maitre d' Hotel Beppe Castino, and a galley tour. They had a backstage tour, and pastry, fruit/vegetable, ice carving, martini and bar demonstrations. These were all free. You could take the Ultimate Ship's tour, which was $150, and would receive a terrycloth bathrobe (priced at $100) pictures and other things (we didn't get on that one). Or you could read books from the well stocked library.
Ukulele, Hula, Grass Weaving, Lei Making
They had Beginner ukulele lessons, and the ship has 40 ukuleles they provide for the classes. Spenser, one of the cruise director staff, taught the beginner class and was so patient. We did a concert on a sea day after we left American Samoa. Quite a few people wanted to continue the lessons, and had bought ukuleles in Hawaii (or brought them from home). Spenser and one of the performers, Trevor Night, conducted advance classes, and Spenser also ran another group of ukulele beginner classes the second half of the cruise. They did a concert as well.
The person that was supposed to teach the hula was transferred to another ship at the last minute, so a passenger that learned the hula in February on the Golden Princess, Cathy Moran, volunteered to teach a class. We learned 3 hulas and had a lot of fun. This also resulted in a performance in the Atrium. They also had the grass weaving and lei making, but we did not get to those.
They had trivia-two or three times a day, bingo-once or twice a day (jackpot got up to $4000 by the end of the cruise), Wii games like archery, bowling and dancing. Seminars put on by the spa/salon staff, like 'Stress, longevity & Chinese Medicine", Zumba class, Bridge (lectures and play), table tennis, shuffleboard and casino tournaments, sales of every type of merchandise, and line dancing class. They had a Scrap Heap Challenge, Sexy Legs contest and of course, the big "Crossing the Line Ceremony", the day we crossed the equator on the way back to L.A.
For people that love to dance, this was your cruise. They had "beginner" ballroom dance classes, but it was not really for people that didn't know how to dance. It was for people that already knew how to dance and wanted to brush up on the International style of the dances, Rhumba, ChaCha, Samba, etc. or learn new moves. We took the 1st one, and did our best, but were hopelessly lost. Another couple ended up helping us (they were instructors in CA), as they were used to real beginners. But there were many people that went to every class, and danced every night, and they were great to watch! They had at least an hour of DJ (usually Spenser) playing ballroom dance music, and 1 or 2 bands played music for them to dance to every evening. The Sapphire Princess Dancers taught classes too, tap, disco, and others. Dancers rule!
Wonderful music, all over the ship. We had the Dave Blazer Orchestra, Superfly, Grooveline, Richard (piano), Souvenir Duo, the Diamond Strings, and of course, the production shows with the Sapphire Princess Singers and Dancers. Ron was the DJ in Club Fusion and in Skywalkers. They also did two groups of the Princess Pop Choir with concerts in the Atrium. They had the Princess Pop Star competition, a Passenger talent show, and a Crew talent show. The Crew show was really great- standing room only from about 6:30pm for the 9:30 show. The highlight of our days in French Polynesia was the Tahiti Ora Show. The Tahitian Dancers and their band came on the ship and did a show at 9pm on the night we first arrived in Papeete, and a 2nd show the next afternoon at 3pm, before we left. It was awesome! You can certainly understand why Fletcher Christiansen and his guys went back! Of course, standing room only 3 hours before the show. In Honolulu, a local group came on the ship, 'The Halau Hula Olana Show". We had great comedians, especially "Matilda" the Jamaican Diva, with Patrick Murray (ventriloquist), Sarge and Jeff Nease. Great singers/performers like Trevor Night who did multiple shows with stories and music (he plays guitar, ukulele and piano), a tribute to John Denver, and a talk about horses (I wish we made it to his horse talk but were packing). Les Lankhorst did a tribute to the Crooners, (Frank, Dean, et al), and Michael "Banjo" Young (he also did a Master Class for the ukulele players), Vocalist Denise Hooey and hypnotist Kellie Karl. There were more entertainers, but we did not get a chance to see all of them.
This was a wonderful cruise. We didn't think any place could be as beautiful as Kauai, which we love, but Western and American Samoa, and especially Bora Bora and Moorea, are lovely, and the water is even more gorgeous. No pictures can do it justice. The people were so friendly and we really felt welcome. When we left American Samoa, there were people on the pier calling to us "Safe travels!" Come back again!" We love you!" and people on the balconies called back to them. We had fun in Papeete, and the people there were friendly and we got to try out the little French we learned. We LOVED the sea days, and there were many more things than anyone could possibly do. Clarence and I both read three books each, and spent a lot of time on our balcony. We had room service bring us coffee, juice and croissants almost every morning. Although they have a wonderful gym (we even worked out there twice!) I mostly enjoyed walking on the top deck, or when it was too sunny, the Promenade deck. Sometimes the Promenade deck was pretty crowded. Anyone that really wants to walk for exercise should watch some NASCAR to work on their passing strategy. It was great to walk there between 6 and 7 pm while everyone was at dinner.
A couple of notes: The internet service, which is notoriously slow, is non-existent in some parts of the Pacific. Sometimes for more than a day, like before we got to Samoa. If you need confirmations for tours, print them ALL out before you get onboard. If it's possible, print whatever you need for the day you get off the ship 2 days before we get to L.A. The internet cafe was mobbed on the last sea day. And of course, the internet was V -E-R-R-R-Y Slow.
One half of the casino was smoking, the other non smoking. It was possible to walk through the non smoking side and still breathe. They had a couple of non smoking nights in the whole casino.
Clarence reports that the service was friendly at Churchill's Cigar Bar. The bartender, Ricardo, and the waiter, Mark, were very personable. He went down to relax probably half of the nights of the cruise. They have good cigars there, like Monte Cristos, but they are pricey. Unlike wine and liquor, Princess has no restrictions on cigars, so bring your favorites!
The ship's tours were minimal in the South Pacific, so unless you want a "circle Island tour", and book up online VERY early, you will be taking an independent tour. On Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti, there are tour operators right on the dock, and everyone we talked to that took a tour that way was very happy with what they received. We had a SUPER time with Mata Tours (swim with sharks, sting rays/lagoon/beach) on Bora Bora($75). Some tours were set up ahead of time, by fellow CCers, and we appreciated their research and signed up for them when possible. Most of the ports/excursions are now in a separate section except for Apia, Western Samoa:
In Apia, on the dock, they had an absolutely wonderful group of men and women that did traditional Samoan dances for us for about an hour while we got docked and cleared. It was such a warm welcome! Then, in the evening, they had the fire dancers do a performance for almost an hour before we left. We LOVED Western Samoa.
We did the Polynesian Explorer Tour, which was set up by fellow CCers. ($119) This was a good tour. Tupu, who is a chief, gave us a wonderful explanation of the Samoan culture as well as all the natural sights. We stopped at an artist's compound, and saw all the carved wooden structures he makes. We also saw how they make all natural coconut oil (and bought some- great for massages!) and there was a rest room. We continued all over the island, and by lunchtime we were at a dock where 2 small boats ferried us over to a private island about 10-15 minutes away. These boats were not exactly what we would call handicap accessible. They had planks laid lengthwise in the boat, which had palm leaves over them, and you just sat down on them. The water was beautiful, and we saw sea turtles on the way. On shore, we swam until lunch was ready (they did not provide snorkels but many people brought their own). It was the traditional Polynesia Feast, with pork, chicken and fish, taro (not poi), the fish in citrus and coconut, and all the trimmings. We ate on banana leaves which were used to cover the food while cooking, and had coconut water (in the coconuts) to drink. We had time after lunch to swim, and they had fruit for dessert. Back on the little boats, back on the bus, and covered more of the Island. We stopped at Sopoaga Falls, and Tu Sua and Tu Le Sua, places where we got pics. We had about an hour of rain when we were near the falls, but who cared, we were wet from swimming, and it was warm rain. By the time we got back to Apia, it was sunny again. We shopped on the pier, Clarence finding a lava lava he liked, and I found a license plate for another CCer that collects them, and other souvenirs.
A note for the shore excursions: If you have a mask and snorkel, or at least goggles, I would bring them. Some tours had them, some did not. And you never know when you might be on a nice beach with the water calling to you.
All in all, we felt this was a superb cruise. We wonderful service from all the Princess crew and staff. It is a shame you can only give Kudos to 5 people on the survey they send you after your cruise. We would be happy to do this cruise again.