We have never been on cruise in which we've had a bad time. Cost & value is always a consideration for us and we rarely pay for any optional services or meals onboard. We treat the ship as a floating hotel and book based mainly on itinerary. When reading reviews I realize they are opinions and to decipher how they will affect us is sometimes difficult. I have 35+ years experience in customer service, restaurant, & convention service so I may be more critical in those areas.
Embarkation: We arrived at noon and the lines were long but moving. It took us a hour to get onboard and we didn't have to go through US customs as the next port was Victoria. Everyone was in good spirits.
Stateroom: Lido 257 was an excellent location. It was a short walk to the Spa/gym, buffet, outdoor eating areas, MUTTS, and pools. The steward was not as efficient and detail oriented as ones we've had in the past.
Dining: Breakfast was your standard pre-cooked fare with made to order omelet's delivered to your table. Lox, papaya, and mango were available upon request. No dining rooms were available for breakfast at anytime which led to limited seating. Many ate in the cooler observatory area.
.Lunch was uneventful buffet food as dining rooms were only opened on the sea day for a pub lunch.
Dinner was anytime seating at the various MDRs. The food was pretty poor the first 2 nights but improved dramatically as the cruise went on. Each dining room had a "specialty dish" and we tried the Teriyaki Noodle (not good) at the Pacific Moon and the Osso Bucco (very good) at the Vivaldi. Memorable meals were Lobster tail plus prawns, Beef Wellington, Beef tenderloin medallions, and the Fettuccine Alfredo. Don't order the Veal Scallopine unless you like leather. Service was not very organized and meals always took over 2+ hours. They should just put pepper mills on the table instead of the constant "pepper spiel". I didn't find the staff very enthusiastic. We brought our own wine and were charged a $15 corkage fee. My $25 wine + fee was better than anything they had on the wine list for less than $55+.
Other Dining: Alfredo's pizza on Princess are the best that I have had on a cruise. A good tasty crust and ample toppings made to order. The offerings at the International Cafe were good as well. The burgers and pizza on Lido deck hit the spot while watching MUTTS.
Coffee and Ice Tea was inconsistent in dispensing a quality product. Strength of the beverage varied at all times. It is because Princess uses a liquid coffee and ice tea concentrate
Cruise staff: This is the 2nd Princess cruise in a row in which I found the cruise staff average and indifferent at best. My DW wants Elite status or I would consider going back to NCL.
Activities and lectures: With the cruise being port intensive activities were lacking. I thought with the poor weather and cancelled port a back-up plan would be at the ready. The $10 wine tasting was very good value but the $25 tasting was lacking in expected quality. The free chef's demonstration and galley tour in the theater was great.
Thermal Spa: We made the decision to buy the $100 exclusive "limited to 40" thermal Spa pass for the duration of the cruise as the weather forecast was expected to be poor. The eucalyptus steam bath felt great and really helped my DW who wears the seasickness patch. I would definitely do this again in poor weather or extensive sea days.
Disembarkment: It was well organized at San Pedro and we got off efficiently and was shuttled to LAX in no time.
Ports of Call:
With the heavy rain, we decided to skip Victoria as we have been there many times. Many people that we spoke to went to Buchart Gardens and were very impressed. The inner harbour, Royal BC museum, and parliment buildings are our usual haunts.
We walked 5 minutes to the Magnolia Bridge and took the $2 bus #24 westbound to the $17 underground tour. We asked for a transfer which was good for 2.5 hours. After the underground tour we walked to the wharf area and ate at Ivar's. From there it was a short walk to Pikes Place market to watch the fish tossing. As we've been to the market before, we used our transfers on the #24 eastbound to Seattle center and went to the $19 Chihully Gardens. There was a dual Space Needle and Chihully pass for a little more. We then took the #24 eastbound back to the bridge stop.
We were scheduled to tender at Astora but the seas were too rough. Astoria only has one pier and the Celebrity Century was scheduled for it.
With the government shutdown, Alcareaz and Muirwoods was closed for tours. We took the $2 F Market bus to Union Square and Chinatown. From Chinatown you can catch the cable car back to the Fisherman's Wharf area if you wish. We spent the rest of our visit around the wharf area.
We took the $.50 shuttle ($.25 if you're 62+) to the top of State St. and took the $1.75 #11 bus to Pueblo St. and walked the 4 blocks to the Old Mission. We then walked around the block to the Museum of Natural Science. It reminded me of those old museums I used to visit with my school as the displays were mainly taxidermy. We headed back to town and spent some time tasting on the "Urban Wine Trail". As the shuttles were packed with cruisers, we walked back to the ship. If you want to take the shuttle back to the ship, catch it on it's way up State St. as it will be full coming down State St..