General: We flew to FLL the day before and stayed at La Quinta. It is a decent hotel for a good price. They also offer a shuttle to the pier for $8 per person. They were also selling vouchers for a return trip from the Pier to the airport for $10 per person which turned out to be a very good decision. You must purchase the tickets in the lobby before you leave the hotel.
Embarkation: We took at 10:30 am shuttle from the hotel to the pier. Check-in lines were short and we were checked in quickly. The boat had not been cleared for boarding yet though so they had everyone waiting in a large area with numbered cards. As soon as the boat cleared (sometime around 12:00 I think), they started calling numbers for people to board. It moved very quickly and we were on the boat and eating by 1:00 pm. The staterooms were open when we boarded.
Food: The layout in the Horizon Court needs work! It is very difficult to move around the different food stations and the temperature of that space is uncomfortably hot. We later realized there was another buffet area in the back of that space that had less people but less variety. We found that space much nicer and without the crowds. In general, the food in the buffet area was good. It was hotter than I remembered from past cruises and they offered a great variety of options. Outside the buffet, we love the pizza and made a point to stop and have a piece often. One day we found "chili pizza" which was really good but they only offered it that one time. We chose late seating at 8:15 pm in the main dining room (MDR) which we really like. It gives you time to enjoy the days (in or not in port) and gives you plenty of time to get ready for dinner without rushing. We found the food in the MDR to be good but not great. However, there were always a large variety of items so if you didn't like something, you could always order something else. Favorites included the spring rolls, tomato basil soup, French onion soup, pad thai, scallops, and fresh salads. Note that fettuccini alfredo is available every night as either an entree or an appetizer and it is excellent. The fresh bread is also very good. Our head waiter Peter was excellent and gave us recommendations when we asked. I was disappointed in the quality of the steaks and highly suggest you go to the Crown Grille if you enjoy a good steak. We ate there on Tuesday and were not disappointed. The waitstaff in the Crown are also top notch (Steve). It is very hard to get reservations though so if you want to eat there, make plans and call for reservations the day you get on the boat. We also enjoyed the International Cafe which always had a nice selection of really fresh salads and sandwiches.
Service: We think Princess has excellent service in most cases. The waitstaff are all very friendly as are the room stewards. Everyone says hello with a smile as you walk around the boat. We had one problem with the temperature in our room however and even though we reported it several times, they were unable to remedy the problem. They did send a technician to the room at least twice but even though they said they did something, there was no change in temperature. We had 4 other parties with us on this sailing and no one else had a room as warm as ours. The last call I made to the purser's desk also confirmed that the problem was not theirs and that they were sorry they couldn't help us. I do plan to include this in my formal evaluation back to Princess so they are aware of the situation.
Ship: The Caribbean Princess is in good shape. I had read complaints of wear and tear but overall, I thought she looked good. I did not see them doing much maintenance while we sailed until the last day when they varnished the railings and had signs all over not to touch them. I did find the main spaces on the boat to be extremely warm. Many of our group shared these sentiments and oftentimes it was uncomfortable in the dining areas. I am not sure if they are cutting back or if they just can't keep up with the indoor/outdoor air exchange. We had a balcony room on the Caribe deck which has the largest balconies for all rooms of that category. It is also a good deck because it is halfway in between most things. I found the atrium space to be lacking -- it is too small for a boat with this many passengers and whenever a group gathered in any of the spaces, it became difficult to get through that area. The pool areas were nice and large enough to accommodate most people on sea days however they do not enforce the "chair hog" rules and many chairs are unavailable even though no one is sitting in them. The Caribbean Princess doesn't have a very easy area to walk if you are one who likes to walk on a track. The promenade deck sort of offers that but you have to go up and down a few stairs to complete the circle.
Entertainment: The entertainment on this sailing was lacking. The Princess singers and dancers were not good and hard to watch. There was a comedian one night and an illusionist one night that were both good however, those were the only shows worth watching. I did like that they offered most shows 2 or even 3 times a night making it easy for people at all dinner options to attend and not have too much overcrowding at any one event.
Bars and Wine: We found the Lobby Bar to be very comfortable and a good central location to meet up with our group during the week. Inna and Liuviu were good bartenders along with Anne Marie. Other servers in other bars that were outstanding include Andrew, Francisco, Desmond and Prince. I do not understand why Princess does not have a standard wine package available on all cruises. I have read on some of the boards that they offer them for 10+ day sailings but then heard from others that they aren't consistently offered. It would be nice to make them consistently available on all sailings so people know what to expect. They did have a nice wine list available however some of the prices were a little high (e.g cheap pinot grigio was $32).
Debarkation: We had 11:15 am flights out of FLL so signed up for an early departure at 8:05 am off the boat. We walked right off without a problem and there were no lines to get our bags and no wait for a porter. We grabbed our things and walked right through customs without issue. The porter took us to the area where the van was waiting to take us to the airport. If you have a flight after 11:30 am, you can sign up for the luggage service ($20 each) that will take your bags from your room the night before and bring them to the airport for you. If we had known that SWA participated in that program, we would have booked a later flight to take advantage of it.
Overall: My husband and I love cruising and have been on 14 cruises including 7 RCCL and 4 on Princess. We enjoyed the itinerary of this sailing and were able to go to ports we had never been before. While we had a great time on this particular sailing, we found that we did not care for the boat very much and will not plan to sail on her again even though she is coming to Texas at the end of 2013 which would be very convenient for us.