I always find it interesting reading other reviews of the same sailing and wonder if indeed we took the same cruise. We've cruised almost 20 times on various lines and this was our 5th on Princess. I have to say Princess is my favorite. I'm sure it's not the best but it fits our lifestyle. We're 67 & 70 and like to be active tho not adventuresome. No ziplining here.
To begin, Princess always boards at noon. if you want to just walk on, come anytime after 12:30. Boarding is very efficient and unlike some other lines, you are allowed to go to your cabin and drop off any bags you may have brought onboard. I appreciate that.
The age group on Princess seems to be 50 and up. There are young people who I suspect are on their honeymoon. There are also children but they are well behaved and you never hear them screaming or running in the halls or throwing tantrums in the dining room. Entertainment is geared to the 60 & up group but I believe anyone can enjoy it.
There seemed to be complaints about the entertainment but we loved it all. People rushed from dinner to get a seat because they didn't want to miss the show And from all the standing ovations, I suspect; we weren't the only ones enjoying the shows. The shows average 45 minutes. The thing about Princess is there are usually 2-3 different shows every night and they are timed so you can go from one to another. There was 3 comedians and they were all funny and yet their humor was very different. Only one was aimed at older folks.
The last day of our cruise, the Academy Awards winners were announced by speaker for those who weren't able to watch. And because "Argo" was available, a special showing of the movie was made available. Many took advantage, ourself included. It may not seem like a big deal but it's one of the things that made our sea day even better.
As for dining and the food. We had first seating as we like to get to know our waiters and have consistent service such as knowing what we drink as soon as we sit down. We also always request a large table when we cruise alone and find it always a wonderful experience. We always make lasting friends as well. There were many people complaining about "anytime dining". There was always a long line waiting to get in. We had a table of 10 but only 8 showed every night. Had that couple only released their seats it would have helped, I'm sure. We met 2 people that requested those 2 seats but they technically belonged to the people it was assigned to. Two people actually occupied 4 seats. very thoughtless.
Anyway, anytime dining doesn't make sense if you want to see the shows. Service was very good and very pleasant.
Food was varied and good. There was always the same standbys everynite as well as a variety of choices. The night we had lobster was exceptional. The best lobster we've had on a cruise ship including other Princess cruises.
As for the buffet, I actually thought the food at the buffet was better than the dining room. We had breakfast and lunch in the buffet. They always had a great selection and it was set up in sections so you didn't have to wait in a long line except for some of the hot foods. Pizza, hamburgs, hot dogs and soft ice cream were available in different areas. On certain days, they set up special buffets in a different area or by the pool. These were exceptional but you didn't always know they were there. Last day was a beautiful Italian & cupcake buffet but by the time we saw it, we had already eaten. They had a special sushi buffet on another day. Be sure to check for these. We never went to the tea - a body could only hold so much. One of the things we always enjoyed about the seating at the buffet was how accomodating and friendly everyone is. People are more than happy to share their table. We've never been turned away but always welcomed to sit down. It is part of our experience. Maybe it's just the way of older people. first question is always the same - where you from? and then pleasant conversation. Anyway, we never had a problem finding a seat.
Only disappointment was "laPatisserie". If you're expecting the bakery with sandwiches, etc - it's not there. Only coffee tho they do put out trays of pastry or small sandwiches in the am and pm but not all the time.
There was never a problem finding a lounge at the pool. People didn't seem to save seats so much.
I have to mention, we couldn't find the "secret doors". If you're determined to find them, make sure you get as much info as possible. Actually, we didn't find it necessary. You won't have a hard time finding a good spot to watch. You may get tired of standing tho so grab a chair. Going through the locks takes a long time and the sun can get very hot. People get tired and walk away before going through all 3. A balcony only works if you know which set of locks you're going through and I don't think you can get that info in advance. We went out at 6:00 am but we were late going through so it was a very long wait. Supposedly, this info is also not available in advance.
That was not the only morning we were late. We were also late on another morning which we figure the captain knew in advance. But no announcement was made and people lined up for their appointed tours only to stand another 45 minutes and wait. This was uncalled for.
The ship itself is very nice. Lots of shops for a ship this size. Lots of places to get comfortable and read. They did have a strange situation with the elevators near the buffet as they didn't go all the way and if you wanted to go lower than 7, you had to take another elevator or the stairs.
Since this is so long, I will make my comments on the ports brief.
Aruba - time was short here so we only intended to take a walk. We were offered a 1 hour tour on a very nice minibus for $10 each. We went. Money well spent. It surprised us how hard the driver worked to get people to take him up on the offer. He's parked as soon as you pass customs.
Cartagena - we took a city tour with MareIvy we booked on the internet. She is excellent as well as the tour. We were able to customize our tour and because we had a van, we were also able to go where the buses couldn't.
Panama City - We took a Princess tour of the city. Very good but hot and humid.
Limon -We took a Princess tour to the Dole Banana Plantation and it was very interesting. everyone seemed to enjoy this tour. We were late starting this tour and early coming back - I suspect we didn't get the full tour. Just a warning - it goes to a "hotel" for shopping - it's a waste of time. There is a large market a short walk from the ship.
Ochos Rios - we booked our own tour with Courtney Taylor thru the internet. I highly recommend him. We went to Dunn River Falls and Turtle Farm (Enchanted Gardens). Just a warning - don't do either of these if you have any disability as they require a strong body and will. Lots of steps in the heat. It is a very pretty area tho we didn't walk around as I was beat and the pier is very long.
Over all, it was a good cruise and we certainly would recommend it. Do your research and don't be afraid to book independents as long as they've been recommended. Ironically, the only people late getting back to the ship were on Princess tours. Of course, we waited. A word of warning, it can be very hot and humid.
Disembarkation put simply takes time. There are very few porters so don't bring more suitcases than you yourself can handle. The few available help the disabled in wheelchairs and even they had to wait. We would have loved to use one but no such luck. From the time we left the ship til we picked up our car and were on the road was about an hour. Really not that bad. Only the line thru customs took most of the time.