My wife and I decided to take a little vacation this January and this cruise fit the bill. This was my first experience with Princess (my wife's second) but it wasn't my first cruise. Including this voyage I have enjoyed (some more than others) eleven over the last five years.
The embarkation went fairly well, we arrived at the port at about 12:30 due to our hotel's shuttle service. This meant that we were right in the thick of the rush, fortunately the line moved so we were in the building within 40 minutes. Security was fairly quick and we were to the check in agents desk about a half an hour after that. No pictures are taken at the desk, they do that when you board the ship. This causes a slow down but you will get on eventually. I was happy to find out that they don't start the embarkation until the cabins are ready so you can go straight there and drop off any carry-ons. Speaking of carry-ons, you can bring unlimited soda, water and one bottle of wine per person. Also if you are like me, you can bring a pocket knife with a blade 2 3/4" or under.
The general decor of the ship is pleasing, my wife commented that it was one of the nicest first impressions she has had, elegantly styled and spotless.
We had a inside cabin that is well thought out. The cabin has the washroom and closet separate from the sleeping area. This gives a good place to store your luggage with lots of room for hanging clothes and keeping light to a minimum during late night trips.
The ship has five fresh water pools; two all access, two adult and one teen only. The theatre is just that, it has just seats with fold out tables. There is not much room in the seats but drinks are served. The shows are the normal variety, on our cruise we had a comedians, magic show and the regular Broadway type shows. This is always a very subjective review as each show can be good or bad depending on who is performing the act, who is watching it and their level of expectations. I can say that most of the performer's on our specific cruise were good and met my expectations.
For me the thing that really makes a good cruise is good food. The food in the dining room at dinner has been excellent. All food ordered was presented well and was flavourful. Breakfast service in the dining room was more limited, there is one special along with the anytime list that doesn't have eggs Benedict on it. The buffets are quite good, they buck the trend of having separate stations. I find this to be better as you only line up once so when you sit down to eat the food is still warm. I don't use the buffets that often but when I did it exceeded my expectations. The one thing I really appreciated was the ship always had one buffet open. On just about every ship I have been on lately you are lucky if they have a pizza station or a few cookies out when the shows finish. I like a snack in the evening and having real choice is great. We were fortunate that there was no Norwalk scare on my cruise so the buffets were not reduced to crew serve only. The only thing that I can gripe about (and it is minor one) is that the free beverages are not self service. I always find the lemonade too sweet and the ice tea too bland so I like to mix them. It is still possible but more difficult. Tea, coffee and water are still self serve.
The ports of call on this cruise were St. Thomas, Sint Maarten, Grand Turk and Princess Cays. This is another subjective part of the review. If you have never been to these ports they can be very exciting, but with the exception of Princess Cays, I have been to all of them many times so I just found other things to do than the usual sightseeing. I can say that Sint Maarten is a better shopping port than St. Thomas and Grand Turk is still best as a beach day. This time I did go to Maho Beach (the one where the airport runway is right at the edge of the sand) in Sint Maarten to watch the planes land, and to watch the Darwin candidates hang on to the fence while the jets take off. Unfortunately with the proliferation of monster ships in all the ports of calls nowadays the ports are all over run with cruisers. This is not going to change anytime soon so it is best to get away from the ports and find smaller venues to explore.
Disembarkation was fairly unobtrusive; the thing that I enjoyed on embarkation day was a bit of a pain on disembarkation day. To get the cabins ready for the next passengers you have to be out of your cabin by 8am.
All in all this was a good cruise; I can recommend this ship and would sail with Princess again.