This was our first Princess cruise and it turned out to be a great time with some caveats.
We made this a long vacation by driving from Wisconsin to LA and back. We had never made a cross country trip of this length before and it gave us a chance to see the American west from Monument Valley the Grand Canyon, Vegas, LA, and on the return from San Francisco to Mount Rushmore. It was a great experience.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites Airport North in LA for three days prior to sailing while we toured the city. The hotel was great. The original reservations were for the Best Western in Long Beach. The write up seemed good and the prices were lower than the Embassy Suites. We arrived there by driving through a neighborhood that we felt was a bit bad. We arrived at 2:00 pm and were told that check in time was not till 3:00 pm and they could not accommodate us yet. The lobby was filled with loiterers that looked a bit greasy. I went out to the car, we called Expedia, cancelled the reservation and moved to the Embassy Suites.
We arrived at the cruise terminal at about 11:00 am. I was able to park in a handicapped space right next to the entrance (our daughter is in a wheelchair and I was about tem weeks from a left knee replacement). After a bit of searching for the correct door to enter we were processed through pretty quickly and told to wait in a disabled section. They boarded the disabled passengers right after the Elite cruisers.
I felt the buffet food was not quite up to par. I enjoy scrambled eggs with breakfast and theirs were of a strange texture that got grainier as they cooled. It occurred to me that they were using powdered eggs. Several other passengers commented in a like manner. The lunches were OK but lacked variety. I ended up eating most lunches at the hamburger grill which was pretty good quality. There was never a problem with finding seating.
Dinners in the main dining rooms were great. Service was generally good but a bit slow on some nights. This caused us to miss desert as we went to the 7:00 pm show and needed to leave at 6:40 to get a space for our daughter in the wheelchair seating area.
I was surprised that the shows were so short. I expected them to be an hour but they topped off at 40 minutes. The production shows were all 30 minutes. The entertainment was all pretty good but I would have preferred a full length show. Entertainment in the lounges was excellent.
I really liked the Scholarship at Sea program. The lecturer on Hawaii was wonderful. He really knew his subject and was an entertaining speaker. They had another lecturer on Crime Scene Investigations who tried hard but was not nearly as good. I question whether this was the best topic for a Hawaii cruise. The only problem I had was that they scheduled all the lecturers at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. This made it impossible to attend everything (such as the Bridge lessons, Ukulele lessons, etc.).
We have been cruising for several years and Princess was tops at providing a large number of activities.
Our cabin was one of their accessible cabins. This was the first time we have been able to book one as they all seem to go pretty early. The room was larger than normal and had larger doors. This was very helpful. Despite this, the cabin led to my major complaint. We were told (by Princess) that the beds were in twin configuration and could not be changed. Additional bunks could be pulled down from the ceiling. It took some discussion during the booking process but we were finally able to arrange a folding bed for our daughter. On the last day the steward asked if he could start making up the beds early while we were at breakfast. When we returned to pick up our luggage the beds were pushed together in queen configuration.
Disembarkation was not the best. On other cruise lines wheelchair parties are pulled out and moved forward. Apparently Princess does provide assistance to passengers who request a loaner wheelchair. We were handling things ourselves. After seeing crew members push chairs forward we asked if we could join the disabled line but were told no. Juggling a wheelchair and carry off luggage is difficult. It was made more so as I was only two and a half months away from knee replacement surgery.