We booked this 2 nighter as we had never sailed from Southampton and only ever done Caribbean Fly Cruises in December/January/February.
The journey to Southampton was a good one and parking was relatively simple but we had asked for a disabled space (due to doors having to be opened really wide to enable my husband to get out of the car) but this was totally ignored and we had to park where the able bodied had parked. Not too much of a problem as we did arrive early and it was not too far to walk to the terminal building.
Check in was fairly slow but this was to be expected as there would be 3600 people waiting to get on. We were on board by 12.45pm (we got there are 12pm) and went directly to our cabin which was very easy to find. On first impressions it looked good but fairly small considering it was a balcony cabin, we have had far bigger inside cabins on other ships. Everything was pristine and looked good. We did not encounter any problems with anything in the room everything worked as it should have done but the loo took a long time to flush, you had to press the button 3 or 4 times but not a major issue.
We took the time to look around the ship before our luggage arrived in the room and were impressed with the majority of the areas around the ship. The sanctuary is absolutely beautiful but very pricey. To use the sauna and steam room it is $49 dollars but we were told it was for the length of the cruise - 2 days, way too expensive.
Beer prices are very expensive $6 for a 440ml can of Boddingtons, $5.50 for a spirit and $1.95 for a mixer plus 15% gratuity on every drink. I personally object to the $11.50pppn gratuity charge added to your onboard account for tipping. Our stateroom steward was really nice and attentive so I would rather have given him the money personally and it not go into a pot and shared out. If Princess paid the staff a reasonable rate they would not have to rely on tips. You pay enough money for your cruise without being penalised by extra charges. The 15% gratuity on drinks is charged whether you have a waiter bring it or you fetch it yourself!!!
We loved the ship but would not go with Princess on principle - its P&O all the way for us as you know what you are paying and its in sterling. Also when Princess take your credit card details at the start of your cruise, when it is converted to sterling from dollars you are ripped off again - P&O charge in £s the whole time so you know exactly what you are paying.
When we booked this cruise we were told there was one formal night and one smart casual. When we got on board we received the Princess Patter in our room and it said both nights were smart casual. As we had taken formal dress we thought we would have stood out like a sore thumb so we checked with the Atrium staff and they said that the Captain was going to announce at Muster which night would be the formal one. At Muster no mention of the formal night so we asked an Officer and were told - We do not have formal nights on a 2 night cruise! We checked again with the Atrium and they said the same. The next night we received our Princess Patter and guess what, the dress for that evening was Formal???? If the Atrium and Officers can't get it right, I now know why on Princess Cruises people do not dress to impress!!
On the evening before disembarkation (the formal night) we rang the Atrium and asked about putting suitcases out at night as on previous cruises this has been the norm. We were told they need to be out by 9 pm! Great, you are still having your meal and you need to run back upstairs and get changed out of your formal gear to put it in your suitcase and then go back in your scruffs to finish your meal - I don't think so. We knew this could not be right so we asked our Cabin Steward and he said put it out when you are ready, be it 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock whatever it will get taken downstairs. Now you know why I would rather have given the tipping money to the Cabin Steward, he knew more about procedure than the more highly paid staff and Officers!
All in all I can only say the ship is beautiful but the way it is being run will not encourage me to go back on a Princess Cruise again. I have had one truly awful experience on Princess in 2005 and a good one in 2011 but this has just confirmed that I will be reverting back to P&O again and I will not deviate again.
Sorry about the length of this review but I thought I would say it is as I see it!!