I love long sea days, so I looked forward to trying a TransAtlantric crossing for the first time. The last half of this 20-day trip is mostly at sea and I loved it. Big hint: if you are sailing from Europe to the US in December, book a port balcony cabin if you want the sun. We booked Baja 708 on the port side and soaked in a week of beautiful sun every day. The weather on all crossings varies, of course, but it is also true that the starboard side was shady every day, so keep that in mind. We had two rough sea days out of 20, and I thought that was pretty good, considering this was December on the Atlantic.
The Norovirus broke out in Venice, when we boarded, and this meant that the buffet meals were time-consuming. Passengers could literally not touch anything. You were given one plate when you entered the buffet line and a staff person placed anything you wanted on your plate. A salad could take five minutes to have someone else construct, one item at a time. The drink stations were the biggest problem, as 3,200 people all wanted their coffee differently every morning and no wait staff- no matter how cheerful- can handle this for 20 days in a row. This all sounds petty but it is amazing how annoying this became after a few days. We were overjoyed when we were finally allowed (on day 18) to make our own salads and coffee.
The virus is serious, of course, but we didnt get it, no one we met on the ship had it and there didnt appear to be many people missing from the diningrooms or activities, so it is hard to evaluate the true impact the illness had on this trip.
The ship is very simple, which may or may not suit your tastes. There are no rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks or deluxe swimming pools. On the other hand, the Movies Under The Stars had an excellent mix of old movies and new, the ice cream bar stayed open late, the beds are very comfortable, the cabins are silent, the hot tubs that were open were immaculate and the main dining room staff was very good. Our room steward was a typical Princess steward: discreet, thorough, fast, always friendly and quiet.
The ports were all great (see below)but beware of the transfer shuttle Princess sells in Barcelona: they charged us $32 for (literally) a five minute bus ride, when local cabs and buses were plentiful and cheap. I know they have to make money somewhere, but this was a blatant ripoff (the only one we experienced on this trip, and we did take quite a few cruise-sponsored excursions.) Live and learn.
I loved this trip but it was too long for my husband, who likes a port every day and lots of choices on things to do. If you like drowsing in the sun, watching movies under the stars, reading on your balcony, eating ice cream and taking your time over dinner, then a long TA voyage like this might suit you.
Boarding in Venice was fast and simple, and even the self-debarkation in Galveston was quick and painless. All in all, despite the Norovirus, the slow buffet lines and the rough sea days, I loved the ports, the sunshine on the port balcony and the quiet. I will definitely do another TA crossing.