This was our first Princess cruise. We have sailed 4 times in the past on Carnival Miracle, Glory, Valor and Freedom and once on Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam. We arrived at the port around 12:15pm and found a huge line outside. Princess personnel seemed as confused as we were. Nobody was sure where the end of the line was or which line to be in. It took us longer to get on this ship (2.5 hours) than it did for all 5 previous cruises combined. Elderly people were forced to stand outside and breath bus exhaust fumes as they waited. Totally unacceptable.
The Caribbean Princess is in need of refurbishment and at 3400 passengers, it is over crowded. There were about 50 children on board with the remaining adults competing for deck chairs and open dining tables. It was almost impossible to get a deck chair anywhere since the crew does not enforce the 30 or 15 minute rules for unoccupied chairs that they set.
Our room was L103 which is on the Lido deck at the very front of the ship with a window facing the front. We had high hopes for this room due to the location. Being able to walk down the hallway to the pools and food is a real plus. The shape and layout of this room is excellent. It is more square than rectangular. The bathroom is the smallest that I have experienced. You can sit on the toilet, wash your hands in the sink, check you hair in the mirror and rinse your feet in the shower all at once with little effort. Motion is very noticeable and in heavier seas there is a huge amount of noise consisting of creaking, groaning, wind and crashing sounds. The crashing sounds were so load that the captain had to assure guests the next day that everything was alright. The night stand drawers kept opening and closing during rough seas. I put scotch tape on them to keep them closed. The treadmills in the gym are directly overhead from this room. We expected some thumping noise during the day from the runners overhead but we never expected the continuous thumping noise at 6:30 am. We brought this to the attention of customer service but nothing was done about it. You can not hear any noise from outside on the Lido deck since the room is at the very front of the ship. The cleaning carts seem to congregate often in the hallway outside this room.
The food is average at best. We used the anytime dining option in the Island Dining Room. Service was very slow. Forget about the reservation system. It fills up fast and you spend a lot of time waiting for table anyway. If you arrive a few minutes before 5:30 pm you will get right in, especially if you are willing to share a table with other guests. Most ships offer a steak as a daily option in the main dining room. Princess offers small, cheap beef tips that sometimes tasted like liver. Being from Wisconsin, I know what ice cream should taste like. The ice cream on ship is overly sweet and tastes fake, worst I have ever had. The lobster tails and prawns on formal night were excellent and most of the deserts were spot on good. The food in the Horizon Court was average and open tables were hard to find. If you got pizza or a hot dog out by the pool near the front of the ship, you usually had to walk all the way to the back of the ship to find an open table if at all.
I thought the entertainment was excellent. There was live music all over the ship at all times. The stage shows were excellent. The only reason I gave it an A- was because of the comedian, Sarge who performed on one of the nights in the main theater. While he was funny, he felt it necessary to swear an awful lot. It was so bad that some people walked out during the show. When one gentleman walked out, Sarge made fun of him. He also made fun of a "code alpha" which is code for a medical emergency when one of the passengers had just experienced a code alpha medical emergency the night before. He also made jokes about the Costa Concordia where lives of fellow cruisers were lost. Very inappropriate. If he needs to swear to be funny then he should be in the adult club where kids are not present. Princess named Sarge as one of their entertainers of the year. Shame on Princess.
The crew is hard working and put in long hours like all ships. Our cabin Steward, Gemma was excellent. My main complaint for the crew is that they do not enforce the rules on the ship. Chair hogs are allowed to leave their deck chairs unattended for extended periods of time with towels, books and shoes on them, leaving passengers milling around in search of a chair. The no seat reserving policy in the theater is also ignored. On Thursday I witnessed two separate arguments between guests over reserved seats and one of them stopped just short of punches being thrown. Finally, the dress code is not enforced in the Island dining room. People were allowed in by wearing smart casual attire on formal night. Get rid of the dress code like NCL if you are not going to enforce it.
The debarkation process was the best that I have experienced. It worked well with almost no lines at all.
Do not miss the tour of the kitchen and the tour of the back stage. There is a cooking demonstration prior to the kitchen tour where the two guys are drop dead funny. They are as good or better than the stage shows. Get there early since the theater will fill to capacity. The back stage tour will take you on stage, behind it and into the dressing room. There were tons of empty seats for this one.
Make sure you listen to the captain when he makes announcements or talks. If he gets tired of sailing he could be a comedian, he is that funny.
If this was my first cruise I'm sure I would have been very satisfied. Being my sixth cruise, first on Princess, I expected more.
Room L103 B-