Background: We arrived in London on 2 June for a little sightseeing before our cruise set sail on 5 June 2013. There were eight of us in our group and we took the opportunity to visit London, Windsor Castle, and Stonehenge. We had pre-arranged transportation for pick-up at Heathrow and at our Hotel for the trip to Southampton. Transportation requirements took place without a hitch
Southampton Hotel: We stayed at the PremierInn Southampton Quay; we booked this hotel based on previous Cruise Critic recommendations and we're not disappointed; clean and comfortable hotel, friendly staff; reasonable price; good location, and close to cruise terminal. The hotel arranged two taxis for our group and the cost was about 8 British Pounds per taxi. I highly recommend the hotel if departing from Southampton.
Ship Info: This was our 4th Princess Cruise and first time on the Caribbean Princess. The ship layout is basically the same as other Princess ships in the same category and we are very comfortable with that. We like the ease of access to food by the pools such as pizza and hamburger bars. The ship sails with approximately 3100 people, but one never feels crowded.
Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal around 11:15am from our hotel, the trip was short and very smooth. Baggage porters we're standing by to take our luggage and they also reminded us to ensure we had all our travel documents in our handcarry bags and not packed in suitcases, we we're very impressed with this. The terminal wasn't too crowded at the time; but they weren't ready to start processing passengers yet. A receptionist handed out Health Forms and Check-in Letters based on your Cruise Status; Elite (Green) or Non-Elite (Orange). We waited approximately 45 minutes before our letter was called; I venture to say it took no longer than 5 minutes for us to have our room key in hand and head towards security. The security line was crowded and long by the time we got there. One factor that slowed things down was that "Elite"
passengers who arrived late we're allowed to go to the front of the line to go through security. We we're on board and dropped our handcarry luggage in our room by 1:00pm. One of the things Princess has always impressed me with is the fact your room is ready for you by the time you board; in fact on this trip, our luggage was already at the door waiting for us.
State Room: We stayed on the Aloha Deck; Room A705; we like this ship location, the deck is quiet and close to the elevators; which take you right to the Horizon Food Courts.
Dining: We had Traditional Dining in the Coral Dining Room. Although we had requested and had been approved a 6:00pm seating time, our room keys stated 5:30; we spoke to the head waiter and our time was adjusted.
I personally didn't have one back meal in the Coral; food was plentiful, tasteful, and very good. Our waiters Alberto and Jorge did an Outstanding Job; the eight in our group all submitted "Impressive Employee" Cards on them and all gave them additional gratuity at the end of the cruise. One thing I noticed about our dining time was the amount of empty tables. I am assuming people had reserved them, but 95% of the time they remained empty while we ate dinner; plus there was a waiting line of "Anytime" Dining passengers waiting to get in.
We normally ate breakfast or lunch at the Horizon Food Court; nothiing special here; service was good for the most part; the food was plentiful, but the same as other Princess cruises we've taken. We still like the Pizza and Hamburger bar; our friends did have one bad experience with the burger bar when orders Brats; they said they we're awful. However, my wife and I never experienced this.
Services: Our room was always clean and ready for us, although our cabin steward was very quiet and preferred not to interact with us unless necessary; we are okay with this; as long as the room is clean we're happy. The mattresses in our cabin need replacing, but plentiful for storage space.
Shore Excursions: We only took one Princess excursion and that was the visit to Normandy for the 69th Anniversary of "D-Day"; feeling it would be quite crowded that day; we felt more comfortable traveling with the ship excursion. The excursion did not disappoinit and lunch at a very nice golf course (included) was included. We had booked 3 private shore excursions and had no problems; they were always ready for us when we arrived in port and ensured we returned to ship ahead of the required time. We had purchased entry tickets to attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, Blarney Castle, etc on line and before departing for the cruise; this was a big plus and I highly recommend it as the lines to purchase tickets we're very long; we simply bypassed the line and went right in.
Entertainment: My wife and I are layed back and don't expect too much in the way of entertainment; we we're very happy and content with the shows on this cruise. The lounges had trivia each night and we really enjoy that type of entertainment. Zumba, Bingo; Dancing, was all available and all suited our needs.
Smoking: I enjoy a good cigar and the ship does have a Cigar/cigarette lounge.....Churchills. It was never crowded and service was good.
There was one evening when a couple came in wanted to watch the French Open and complained about the smoke; the bartender reminded them this was a "Smoking" Lounge and they left, but not without fussinig.
Disembarkation: Smooth, with a minor customs delay. Our appointed time to meet was at 6:55am in the Coral Dining Room; our number wasn't called until 7:40; our flight wasn't until 12:35pm from Heathrow, so we had ample time. When we arrived in the terminal our bags we're ready for us; the terminal was arranged by the color of your disembarkation tags and easy to find. We walked out the terminal and the buses for the Princess Transfer to the airport was waiting for us; luggage was loaded and we arrived at Heathrow by 9:30am. Sleamless process.
Summary: My wife and I really love sailing on Princess and have very little to complain about; we understand servicing 3,000 people has its challenges; a clean room, good food, drink and entertainment is all we look for and Princess has yet to disappoint us.