This was our second cruise, have cruised on Liberty of the Seas with Royal Caribbean previously.
Our first impressions were that the ship was a lot smaller and didn't seem to have all the features that we had on a middle of the size Royal Caribbean ship last year. However it was spotless throughout and well maintained. There was more vibration on the ship than newer models, but in the cabin this was hardly noticeable. Entertainment wasn't great, bit cheesy and lacking in a large theatre like other ships would have. The customers seem to be middle aged on this trip, very few children (which to me is a huge advantage) and it was a little more sophisticated than previous cruises. Compared to the UK, often the dress code seems to be seriously lacking on these USA cruises, with people wearing T-shirts and shorts to dinner. Even on a non formal night, this should never be allowed in a dining room! It was nice to see people wearing formal tuxedo on formal night and there was a good atmosphere at the captains champagne event which was open to everyone in the main Piazza area.
Staff were generally helpful, although this was a bit "hit and miss" some didn't seem to care that much about the passengers and were interested in their own social life with each other. Sammi, the cruise director, was fantastic, energetic and as a native of Alaska, a perfect person to have on the ship.
Princess also have a strange system of charging $11 per person per night for tips, irrespective of service and with no way of distributing in any way. Its a mystery how this is divided, but removes any system of rewarding good service other than paying even more on top of this.
We had an interior stateroom on Deck 10 (Caribe) and it was excellent, much larger than previous cabin on Royal Caribbean - there was a decent space to store luggage and hang up clothes between the bathroom and the cabin, it was quiet and we had an excellent sleep. Cabin attendant was wonderful and nothing was an issue. They do seem to have a few issues with people flushing things they shouldn't which stopped the toilets working some mornings for a few hours.
Seattle was a breeze compared to previous Ft Lauderdale experience, in Seattle we took the bags directly to leave them off (no porters insisting they are the only method of checking in) and then proceeded upstairs to security screening and check in. The whole area was air conditioned and although the lines were fairly long, it was all done in less than an hour. Thanks to pre-registering all the information online including credit cards and so on, it took less than 1 minute to check in! I couldn't help but think it would be worthwhile to ensure anyone who has done this get a faster line than those who spent a good 10 minutes completing their passport info, contact details, credit cards and so on.
There was a short wait outside before boarding was very efficient and we were on board. We came at the time it said for our cabin, others were there much earlier and just ended up waiting outside as the ship was not ready for boarding anyway.
The geographical setting of this cruise was just spectacular, the ports of call and glacier bay especially made this a fantastic trip. We used some ship excursions and some we did ourselves, there was a bit of a saving but not a huge amount. There were huge lines to get off the ship in some of the ports but we waited until about an hour after arrival before attempting to leave.
One thing we really enjoyed was the naturalist commentary from the bridge on lots of interesting subjects, and the park rangers who boarded in Glacier bay, lots of very useful and interesting information.
The only disappointment was the Ketchikan stop of just a few hours was too short to do anything useful, and the Victoria stop was also pointless. Victoria was overcrowded and took a long time to disembark and a bit of a poorly organised show with the official princess city centre transfer - this took over 90 minutes from docking to leave the port side area and resulted in a very short time in Victoria, by which stage it was almost dark.
The buffet area was a big disappointment, compared to Royal Caribbean, the selection was about a quarter of what they had, food was often bland/overcooked as it had been sitting so long.
The formal restaurants were excellent, and all food eaten there was fantastic. Anytime worked very well with almost no wait each evening. Special dietary requirements were complied with no fuss and variety was excellent. Service was a bit hit and miss sometimes with some of the waiters being more interested and better communicators than others!
On deck there is a pizza and burger section, although this only opens in the afternoon, not the evening which was a disappointment that it wasn't possible to get a bit of pizza with dinner at the buffet.
International cafe has lighter snacks available and was a welcome break from the huge portions.
Some of the clientele seemed to be eating like animals both in quantity and the rush to get more food on their enormous plates, I found this a bit of a shock, especially with the physical size and poor health of many it seemed they didn't have a care in the world.
Again, this was well managed and we left the ship within 10 minutes of the time stated on our schedule, bags were waiting in the terminal and the whole process was very straightforward.
If I could combine a Royal Caribbean ship for its features, entertainment, but the refinement, service and customers of Princess I'd be on a perfect cruise.