My sister and I booked the Hawaii cruise to enjoy a lot of sea days. This was my second sailing to Hawaii and my sister’s fourth. it was also my 10th Princess sailing and my sister’s 20th. We booked a mini-suite because of the extra space and a balcony. Five days before the cruise we received a phone call from our travel agent. Princess was offering an upgrade to a full suite for a discounted price. My sister and I decided to splurge as we doubted we’d ever be offered another opportunity to be in a full suite. We both immediately read up on the suite amenities to not miss a single one.
We drove to the pier, arriving around 11:40 a.m.. The parking lot was crowded as the prior cruise was delayed in disembarkation due to immigration and customs taking too long.
Check-in went quickly. They were notifying everyone that the cabins might not be ready until after 1:30 p.m. due to the delayed immigration checks. We were in priority boarding group C. Group A started boarding a little after noon and we were on board by 12:30. We went straight to the dining room for lunch.
Then we proceeded up to our suite, C423, the Sorrento, one of the penthouse suites.
We were impressed right from the entry way. Marble tile flooring, a large planter with a live plant. Two sets of sliding doors to the balcony.
The cabin is spacious and the balcony even more so. All the fittings and fixtures were upgraded from those in the standard cabins. The balcony had teak furniture, a table with four chairs, two lounge chairs and two side tables.
The main section of the cabin had a desk, a wet bar, a sofa chair and coffee table. The sleeping area also contained a desk and a walk-in closet. Both areas had a television, the one in the living area had a DVD player. A curtain can be drawn between bed and living area, useful when one person likes to sleep in and the other is an early riser.
The bathroom was divided into two areas, one containing the sink and toilet, the other with a jetted tub and a stand-alone shower. Each area had a door to the main cabin and there was a door to separate the two sections. The towel hooks in the shower area will actually hold the towels without falling to the floor at the slightest movement (a problem with the big round towel “hooks” in the standard cabins) There was a container of bath salts for the tub.
The light switch controls both areas of bathroom, so if you want to use just the toilet and don't want light to go into the bed area, make sure the shower entrance door is closed. We forgot one night and I woke up early the next day and was going about my business in the toilet area and as I left I saw light streaming into the bed area, whoops.
Compared to the standard cabins, there is not as much storage in the closet for clothes and not as much storage in the bathroom for stuff, but there are a lot more drawers in various pieces of furniture.
On a prior cruise on the Sapphire I was impressed by the service of a junior waiter in the Horizon Court buffet. I found him there again and he remembered me. I asked where he was stationed at dinner and by the third evening we were able to be seated in his section and then got a standing reservation at one of his tables. He had been promoted to waiter since my prior cruise and he and his junior waiter provided excellent service with enthusiasm and humor. Loreto Sy and his assistant Nenad Jovanovich are both charming young men that I hope will go far.
Food items in Horizon Court need better descriptions. One sandwich did not mention what meat was in it but looked like it might be turkey. When asked I was told it was pork. I do not eat pork. More seriously, one day lunch in the dining room offered Thai Hot and Sour Soup. The menu description did not mention that it contained shrimp. Many people are highly allergic to shellfish. I was fine but the menus descriptions should be updated.
The complimentary dinner the first night at Sabatini's was very good. We shared the salt-baked striped bass entree. It was one of the best entrees I’ve ever had there and quite the presentation.
Onboard activities - Other than the Wake Show we never saw the cruise director Gavin Chandler. Sea day programming was less interesting than other Princess cruises where the CD is much more involved and active.
Lei making, hula and ukulele lessons were offered. The naturalist, John Manka, a retired National Park Service ranger, spoke on the ports of call, whales, sea birds and other related topics. He was informative. I didn’t go to any programs with the other two “guest lecturers” One spoke about bridge (the game, not the structure) and another spoke about global economics.
Zumba was held every sea day. They had three certified instructors on board. The primary instructor’s class was a great workout and fun choreography. One instructor was not good at all. He had boring choreography, did the same basic steps, and couldn’t keep rhythm. I saw him teaching a samba class later in the cruise and saw the same issues there too. He steps were not in line with the music. If you are going to teach dance you should at least be able to dance.
We entertained ourselves predominantly by talking to other passengers and watching DVDs in the cabin.
We won the Wake show three times. The prize is a ticket to a "Cash Vault" machine in the casino and according to reports online there is no way to knock down the prizes unless you happen to try during the pre-set payout period.
One day there was an announcement through the emergency speakers asking for Assessment crew to report to a specific location. About 1/2 hour later there was an announcement standing down from the assessment. During the navigator’s talk later in the cruise we learned that an e-cigarette set off a small electrical fire which set off the sprinkler system and flooded three cabins.
Hilo - we walked from ship to the Liliuokalani Gardens. It was an easy 1 ½ mile walk with sidewalks the entire way. Along the way you can see banana trees and interesting palms. We also saw a number of nene geese.
Honolulu - the Aloha Tower free access to observation deck on the 10th floor offers 360 degree views of Honolulu. We did a walking tour of Chinatown and of the state and city government buildings, all close to the ship.
Kauai - if you want to go to Costco you can take the free shuttle to Kukui Grove shopping center. Costco is across the street from the shuttle stop but do it in the morning as the last shuttle back to the ship was at 12:30 p.m. If miss that you will have to take a cab.
Maui - we did a Princess excursion that did not quite meet our expectations.
Ensenada - we got off early and headed across the bridge before most of the vendors and begging kids were out. We headed left immediately after the bridge and discovered a very nice waterfront walkway that went quite a distance. We saw a boat being brought into dry dock, some interesting sculptures and then a fish market. When we headed back to the ship we noticed at the Carnival ship that they had a dog sniffing people's backpacks as they were disembarking for contriband so we stopped to watch to see if he caught anyone. Sure enough, pretty soon he sat down at an older woman's bag and the government official looked through her bag and confiscated three bananas. We went back to our ship and there was no fruit sniffing dog. Mexico must not trust Carnival passengers but do trust Princess passengers.
Overall we enjoyed our cruise very much and look forward to cruising with Princess again.