We booked this cruise about 13 months in advance when there were 4 port stops. A few months after booking they removed Costa Maya as a port without ever giving a good reason. Regardless it was the only time that worked for the friends we went with so the reservation stayed.
Boarding was easy enough. We probably showed up around noon and the lines weren't long at all considering it was Spring Break. The ship itself is pretty similar to the past 2 ships we've cruised on if not a bit smaller. I don't think the piazza was as nice as our RC ship. We had an interior room and it was small in typical cruise ship fashion. We moved around a night stand, table and our bed to open up some space.
Some positives of Princess:
Movies Under the Stars: Blankets and comfortable chair pads. Popcorn, cookies and milk. Awesome experience and good movie selection
Grill: Hamburgers, Bratworst, hotdogs, chicken, fries. Everything I tried there was good.
Pizza: Awesome. Best of any cruise I've been on. They have about 4 huge ovens to keep Pizza coming nonstop until 11pm. NY style slices. Only downside here was that many speciality pizzas they had listed ingredients which were never put on the pizza.
Wine Policy: Ability to bring on about 5 bottles of wine free of charge despite their new policy saved us a lot of money.
Entertainment: Great shows(classics and productions), trivia, contests. Dan the deputy cruise director blew our cruise director our of the water in terms of presentation/entertainment skills.
Ultimate Drinks and More package: Excellent deal. The chocobannana smoothie/shake was my personal favorite. Very good price and the bartenders will often give a drink(coke) plus a smoothie from 1 card so no real need to buy 2.
We went to the Horizon buffet for lunch a couple times and found the selection was quite large but the quality not so great. That would prove to be the theme for Horizon throughout the cruise. Lots of food but none of it tastes very good(except for breakfast).
In fact, food overall on this cruise proved to be a huge disappointment. The main dining room(MDR) has a Homestyle selection each night. I'd avoid it. In fact one night the "Homestyle" offering was fried chicken and french fries. Seemed better fitted for the grill or Horizons. On both Carnival and Royal Caribbean the always available menu had a NY strip. On Princess no such offering.
Our room steward was good. She kept our towels replaced, our room cleaned and she even put our patters on our bed instead of outside our door like most others had them. The only downside was that she never talked to us much and never addressed me by my name when I would greet her. She would just say "good morning" and smile. This was a departure from our last cruise on RC where the steward would regularly engage us and ask us about our day.
Dining room service was absolutely terrible. The waiter never talked, could barely explain the menu and the assistant waiter would often disappear for 15-20 minutes at a time leaving our drinks empty. At no point did they pickup on the fact that our table ordered the same drinks each night. We had to request them each night. Our table was continually one of the last to finish even if we showed up early.
Bar drinks: mixed terribly. Tend to be on the weak side. Some places had old menus with old prices and different recipes for the same drink or different offering all together. This lead to me getting a different drink than I expected and at different prices a couple times.
The overlying theme with Princess was that overall things were good but nothing really stood out as being so good that it deserves a special mention. Certainly not the same as our Royal Caribbean cruise where just about every staff member we regularly encountered recieved a special mention.