Firstly we would like to say that we enjoyed the cruise, it was not the best we have been on but we had a good time.
The night before this cruise we stayed over at Crowne Plaza Heathrow, which included parking. This meant that our car was near Heathrow for our return flight. We then got the Princess Coach transfer to Southampton (£35 pound each & using "Intercruises”) at 10am from Terminal 3 and arrived at the ship at 11:20 and having lunch on board by 12:00.
We were advised whilst checking in that the ship would not sail as planned due to the storm hitting southern England and it stayed in Southampton for 2 nights. There were Free shuttle on to go into Southampton but there were long queues (55mins) to reboard on the Sunday! Enjoyed ship, food, activities and being off work!
When left Southampton late on the Monday afternoon of the "St Jude” storm, roughest weather we have ever encountered on a cruise ship so far (felt like being on a roller coaster - sure we were pulling negative g at the top of every wave!) and captain said the waves were half the size of those during the actual storm. However after around 17 hrs it calmed down. Due to the delayed departure the ship missed the stops in Le Havre, Vigo and Azores. Visited Lisbon and Bermuda, neither of which we had been to before and enjoyed them very much. Very calm from Azores to Bermuda, amazing to think we were thousands of miles from anywhere!
We were in Cabin R218, smallish but fine.
For evening meal we mainly ate in the Da Vinci restaurant, mainly sharing a table. We were on anytime dining but found that to book a table we were quite restricted to booking times 5:30; 5:45, 6:00 and 7:30. Also felt restaurant staff pushed you towards sharing tables at dinner - sometimes we did and sometimes didn't.
We prefer the 4 restaurants on the Diamond Princess rather than 2 big ones (Da Vinci and Michelangelo).
Food has changed since our last trip (May 2012) and less steaks on offer at dinner.
For lunch we mainly went to the Horizon Court restaurant, however a few times we just had a slice of Pizza (which was very nice and freshly cooked) as the choices available on the buffet were not great (on one day just about every meat option was pork based great if you like pork…)
We took out the Wine package (7 bottles for $185 up to $29 per bottle), there was no White Mondavi though. We are not big drinkers so with cocktail party etc so not sure if we'd do this again.
We Did the British pub lunch one day (in the Wheelhouse bar)- worth doing. We also had Afternoon tea one day - if you go in later though the staff are eager for you to leave as they have to setup for dinner!
We ate in Sabatinis restaurant - lobster and steak, very good service and excellent food. Hardly anyone in restaurant on night we visited. $25 surcharge each.
International cafe (Deck 5) open 24 hrs for cakes and snacks. However all drinks are chargable, so if you wanted complimentary tea or coffee then you needed to go up to Horizons court on Deck 15 (on RCI they have complementary drinks on the promenade deck on the Adventure of the Seas)
We enjoyed cocktails at $5 each for elite, suite, platinum passengers daily in Club Fusion with snacks. We preferred Skywalkers as the location for this, (which we had on the Diamond Princess) as you could look out to sea there.
We did most of the quizzes and some activities such as sports. Didn't think activities were as varied as when we crossed Pacific.
There was some good entertainment on board: a good pianist, singer and saxophonist/instrumentalist for a couple of shows each. The "House” shows were also good, the only show we did not enjoy was the Magician/juggler.
We arrived into Fort Lauderdale on time and were due to leave the ship at 10:55. However we were very late disembarking (blamed on the US customs and Immigration service) so did not get to our hotel until 14:30 (which was only 20 mins from the dock).
Due to the delayed start & missed ports Princess have offered all passengers a discount against a future cruise.