This first Princess cruise of ours was a departure somewhat of our recent pattern and we choose this cruise based on the itinerary in lieu of going on one of the newest ships.
One thing I will also say before getting into the particulars is that I doubt we will ever be the kind of people that mainly stick to one cruise line. I know the perks you get for being loyal to one line are nice, but we like to have some variety. They all have pluses and minuses in my opinion. That being said, we very much enjoyed our cruise and will try to lay out what we like and did not like.
Positives for Princess/CB:
- Food Quality-I know that there is a lot of subjectivity to this, but we felt that the Princess food was the best we have had on a cruise.
o The Pizza was as good as advertised. Is it the best Pizza ever? No. Was it much better than RCL? Yes. It was 1000 times better than NCL Pizza which I did not even consider to be edible.
o Our favorite meals were the Beef Medallions(DW) & Fettuccine Alfredo(me).
o Loved the baked Alaska on the last night and the passion fruit souffle on the first night.
o The International Cafe was great and we hit that quite often.
o I am a vegetarian and overall I thought the available options were pretty good.
- Service levels-Overall we felt the service from the staff was much better than recent cruises on other lines. I would say marginally better than RCL and again much better than NCL where we thought the service was terrible.
o The head waiter we had was very good. By far the best head waiter we ever had. From our experience we used to get a token visit from the head waiter a few times a cruise, but on this cruise he came over every night and made sure we were ok and always remembered exactly who we were when we saw him.
o One of the baristas at the IC was amazing. He would really go all out and paid special attention to detail when preparing our coffees and teas. It wasn't that the other baristas were not doing their job, it was just that this one barista was overly exceptional. We did one of those recognition cards at the end of the cruise for him.
o Our waiter in the MDR was actually kind of slow and the people next to us repeatedly got their food from a different waiter 15 minutes ahead of us. However, he was still better than the servers we had on out last NCL cruise and it seemed like we got the slowest guy from looking around the room. Maybe he had too many tables or was new....he was a nice guy though so we did not complain about it.
- Coffee Card-I was on the fence about getting this and I am so glad I did. Aside from the espresso drinks, we went to the IC and got a ton of iced coffees and teas which did not require a hole punch and that made this a very good value.
- The SPA-I know this can be hit or miss depending on who does the service, but DW had several massages and raved about the therapist doing them...one of the best she has had. Also DW thought the Bamboo massage was a big hit(Be warned-this should only be for people that like DEEP tissue massages)
- Pools-there were more pools than what we have seen on other ships so they were not that crowded if you wanted to go in the water. (Deck space/chair hogs were another story though.)
- Condition of the ship-I was pleasantly surprised how good the ship looked considering the age. Seems like Princess does a better job at upkeep than other lines.
Negatives for Princess/CB:
- BEDS!!!-Wow, I know this has been talked about a lot but the comfort of the bed we had was absolutely horrible. We had an old mattress and even with the egg crate added my DW and I had terrible back pain because of that bed. This is completely unacceptable and Princess needs to speed up the replacing of these beds.
- Entertainment/shows-We felt that compared to other lines the entertainment was a bit lacking and that there was not as much to do on this cruise. Also, the one show we went to was abysmally bad. The lead male singer was like a scary cross between William Shatner and Will Farrell and the performance was frightening to say the least.
- Evening schedule with respect to late dining. We like the concept of anytime dining, but on our last couple of cruises did not like the way it was executed so we went back to traditional dining this time. Early dining is much too early for us so we had to go with the 8:15 time slot. Well, the entertainment and other nightly activities were not scheduled to accommodate that dining time as all. For example:
o One night we wanted to see the movie at MUTS. Well the times for the 2 hour movie were 7:00pm and 9:30pm. How are we supposed to do that without being very late to dinner or the start of the movie?
o We wanted to see the comedian and there was not a late show after dinner at all. If we have to get ready for dinner at 5:30 to see the comedian what is the point of having late dining?
- Chair hogs-I know this is a problem on all cruises, but it seems worse on the CB for some reason. I did not see a single instance of staff removing towels from reserved chairs after the supposed 15 minute deadline.
- Sanctuary scheduling-I am not sure what the solution is, but scheduling this is a mess and as a result we did not use it. DW just wanted to go a couple of afternoons and it seems crazy that you need to get there at 6:30am to schedule a 12:30-5:00pm time slot. Perhaps they need to make this space bigger and to create some sort of reservation system that can be done in advance for specific days?
Other Observations(Not really negative or positive per say):
- Gym was kind of small compared to other ships we have been on. The equipment was decent though and in fairly good shape so I was able to get by.
- Cruise director and his staff-They were "ok"...not bad, but not great either.
- Cabin-DW thought it was a bit small and the mats out on the balcony were dirty and stained. Our shower also broke but they fixed it in a couple of hours and it was fine for the rest of the cruise. Bottom line is that it was just "ok" as well. I think it seemed smaller because our last two cruises we had a deluxe balcony(RCL) and the wave balcony(NCL Epic) so they were both larger than what we had here.
- We ended up skipping Princess Cays because there were like 40-50mph winds and the captain thought it was too risky to tender. It did not bother me at all since that meant we would arrive in Curacao at 8am instead of 2pm and I was not especially looking forward to the "beach day" on PC. I know some people like PC, but I literally did not hear one other passenger complain about missing that port. It seemed like most people were glad to have the extra time in Curacao.
I probably missed some stuff, but can't think of it at this point. Bottom line is while we thought there were positives and negatives to our cruise, we liked Princess and would probably cruise with them again. If we could have the food/service of Princess combined with some of the bells and whistles of RCL/NCL that would be perfect for us . At this point we would likely book either Princess or RCL for our next cruise, with Carnival being an outside possibility(their recent troubles notwithstanding).
Did a private 3 hour tour with Bully who had been recommended several times on the Aruba board. Bully was great and took us to all of the key things to see in Aruba. We would recommend him to anyone that wants a more private tour of Aruba
The tour was pretty good. The stop at the Curacao distillery was a bit rushed. We enjoyed the stop at the chi chi sculpture store and got a demonstration by the sculptor/owner.