This was my forth cruise with Princess, the first on this particular ship. We sailed from Southampton which is usually a joy but on this occasion it was a nightmare , Ocean Terminal and three hours to get on the ship, all those green and red colour coded cards, there must be a better way. Once on board at least the state rooms were ready, but the buffet at the Horizon restaurant was not up to the usual standard and we were a little disappointed, not the best start. Our stateroom (B249) was lovely as usual, spacious despite being the cheapest grade, with fridge, hair dryer, twin beds ( friends sharing), lots of hanging space and a very nice shower room, room safe, TV with a lot of choice and all the latest movies free ( unlike P&O). Always kept clean and well stocked by the steward , fresh fruit free but pay for drinking water ( I bring my own). Room service free, breakfast in bed available ( didn't have). The ship is I think quite old but clean and with a style that will be familiar to anyone who has been on The Grand Princess or the Caribbean Princess. On this cruise they were having problems with the public toilets , they smelt odd at first and then packed up altogether, not a disaster as the Stateroom facilities were fine, may have been inconvenient for older or disabled cruisers. The food was not as rich in variety as on other cruise ships we have travelled on, although still well prepared and presented we found there was less choice and slightly less quality, this may be Princesses new standard or peculiar to this ship, we can't know. I do know that as a person who does not ( medically CAN NOT) drink alcohol I was given a vodka based cocktail having ordered a non alcoholic one which made very unwell for 24 hours ( not good). However the service in the restaurant was excellent, making us feel like valued customers, a treat for us. Unfortunately we found the Spa ludicrously overpriced and the spa staff very pushy and felt we were being pressured into booking treatments we didn't want, we didn't buy any even though we usually do. The shore excursions were also totally over priced but fortunately we just got off the ship and made our own way. Rotterdam was a particular gem, a free tour bus takes you from the dock into the shopping area, with an informative guide giving interesting information along the route, it also brings you back and all free. They do not tell you about this on the ship. At Guernsey we simply tendered off (a minor miracle in September, when it is usually too rough) and had a nice few hours shopping ( even on a Sunday some shops are open, particularly good deals on duty free perfume, watches and jewellery), so our two ports were very enjoyable without the extortionate excursions. We enjoyed immensely the musical show in the Princess theatre, with an around the world theme, westend quality, superb. A band played for ballroom dancing, a comedian who was funny (not blue) went down well, and movies under the stars with popcorn, milk and biscuits, as many cosy blankets as you needed was a treat. Disembarkation was well handled and everyone waited in comfort, unlike recent experience with P&O.
We enjoyed our cruise but felt perhaps a little of the shine has gone, replaced by a hard edged materialism, the sell sell sell mentality is unwelcome, bring back the relaxed service where the customer feels special not like a consumer. I will be cruising again with Princess but will be careful to watch them mix my cocktails and I shall gird myself ready for the on slaughter of hard sell.