I have taken a number of cruises over the years with Princess Cruises, ranging from their original Sea Princess and Island Princess in the 1980s, through to their larger Coral Princess and Dawn Princess right through to 2012. I am quite a fan of the line, as they consistently offer good service, excellent food, and modern ships with a traditional cruise experience. It was with this in mind that we wanted to try one of their smaller ships, as well as cruise in the Asian region. When the chance came up to join a segment of the Pacific Princess' world cruise from Sydney to Hong Kong, we jumped at the chance to sail on this smaller vessel in the region we wanted to.
Pacific Princess compares well to her fleetmates, and despite her smaller size (30,000GRT) she gives little away to her fleetmates in terms of facilities. The alternate restaurants, Sabatini's and Sterling Steakhouse are there, the pool area is spacious and the gym is almost the same size as her big sisters. Having sailed in 2012 on the Coral Princess, she felt very much like a condensed version of that ship. The main facility that we missed is the fully encircling Promenade Deck; Pacific Princess only offering two separate Promenades down each side of the ship, which do not link fore and aft. That said, a dedicated jogging track is provided at the top of the ship to compensate. Pacific Princess also has a very attractive and quite large observation lounge atop the ship (similar to the Crows Nests on HAL ships), which was a relatively under-used feature. We found this a great place to have pre-dinner drinks and watch the sun set.
Pacific Princess is a very comfortable ship, with a well designed layout. Being smaller in size, it never takes more than 5 minutes to get from anywhere to anywhere else, a refreshing change from the mega-ships! Decor throughout is very club-like, and we could always find a space wherever we wanted it. In fact, most of the time we wondered where the rest of the passengers were; this ship never felt crowded.
There is an atrium on Pacific Princess, though it is nowhere near a large as those on the bigger Princesses. Unlike those ships, it is underused as a public space. The bigger Princess ships often have a pianist or group providing music that filters through the public spaces connected to the atrium. This is something that Pacific Princess could benefit from too, and the spaces on Deck 4 could be used to accommodate a piano. Related to this, we found there was a "dead hour" between 6 and 7pm when there was no music scheduled. As we were on second seating for dinner (at 8pm) it would have been nice to have something going on at this time.
We thoroughly enjoyed the ship and the onboard ambience. Crew were very attentive, and the food was consistently excellent. In fact the Panorama Buffet was outstanding. The food here outshone that of the big Princesses we have been on as did the displays, which differed virtually every day. Additionally, being positioned aft meant that it had an outdoor deck overlooking the stern given over to tables. This was our favourite place to have breakfast and lunch. In feel she was very consistent with her fleetmates. We enjoyed the more intimate atmosphere of a smaller ship, and the fact that there were never crowds. It is a pity that Princess are introducing ever-larger ships such as the new Royal Princess; hopefully they may also build some ships in the 30,000- 60,000 GRT range also to continue to cater for those who enjoy small/medium ships such a as Pacific Princess which offer a traditional shipboard ambience without the crowds.