While a cruise experience matters highly, so also does the value
In addition, I've found that most everyone has a different objective for cruising.
I like to cruise for the entertainment, the experience, the ability to meet other people, the better weather, and the service.
Having cruised 24 times on Carnival, 2 on Royal, and my second time on Princess, I have found that all lines offer similar amenities and differ only slightly in overall experience, and of course the time of year, originating port, and destination can impact the entire cruise.
First, I found that traveling solo with Princess, one pays 150% for the cabin, whereas it's 200% on others
Embarkation at 2 pm was a breeze, although I was issued a cabin upgrade which was not reflected with my luggage tags, therefore leading to delay in receiving my bags until 6 pm. My room steward greeted me and welcomed me aboard, but did not ask if there was anything extra or special he could do (as others have)
The muster drill was identical to others
The cabin was a bit smaller than I was used to, not my opinion, Carnival has larger cabins
Sailaway: pretty standard. We did have a group that gathered to "pose" for the webcam
Took a short tour of the ship to re familiarize myself, and noted there were less places to smoke than other ships. Open deck Lido aft and fore, the Churchill lounge (deck 6,cigars and pipes allowed), casino areas, and a small area in Skywalkers (the night club)
Princess does not allow smoking on balconies
Staff throughout the cruise were exemplary, as usual
Food: Good to great, just as most all are
Drinks: I think they were a bit "stingy" with the wine in Vino's (wine and sushi bar) but overall a bit less pricey than Carnival
Entertainment: Good quality, highly recommend Bert Stratton the piano player, but the venue "Crooners" is not set up to accommodate the large number of people he draws, one night he appeared in the Wheelhouse lounge, larger and more comfortable.
The shows were pretty much the same as I've seen elsewhere (there's a reason they say on American Idol to the non winners "you might be OK for a cruise ship), if you don't have anything to compare to, they may strike you as fantastic
Princess does not offer a turn down service nor do they do the towel animals every night like Carnival, and more than once my cabin was not refreshed if I didn't put the card "please refresh" on the door
Galley tour: having taken a number of tours on a number of Carnival ships, it astounded me the vast number of folks that wanted to tour on this ship, huge lines
Movies under the stars: well done, current run movies and a couple standards (Ferris Buellers Day Off)
Dining: seldom had to wait for more than a few minutes with anytime dining but did not make special requests, such as window, not by a door, etc
The waiters cut the lobster out of the shell, a new one for me onboard any ship
The dining room was especially warm as was most of the ship compared to others I'd been on, and upon mentioning to a few officers was informed that the "older" crowd likes it a bit warmer
Overall, a tamer crowd than I'm used to, and many of the folks I'd met I seldom saw "out and about" the duration of the trip
Had I traveled with someone special, this would have been a much more enjoyable trip, as it was, it was simply a cruise with a low key vibe.
I observed many first timers both by card rank and with talking to them, very few children, would estimate the average age to be early 60's, and most not very extensively traveled