Just finished a Christmas family cruise from Houston. I've read online the problems with the weather keeping the ship from leaving and returning to the port on time so I was expecting problems. After checking in my luggage I received an email from Princess saying due to weather the ship will no longer be leaving port on Saturday as planned but will now leave on Sunday and to board on Sunday instead of Saturday. So after arriving in Houston Friday night we are now a group of 12 deciding what to do with our unplanned rainy day in Houston. We arrange to get a rental car and add another hotel night to our airport hotel stay at the Doubletree Hobby airport (which I must say the Doubletree went out of their way to help us). After picking a movie to see we get another email from Princess saying the ship is now able to dock and we can board for the evening but it will not leave port until Sunday afternoon. We then cancel the hotel stay and rental car and head for the port. I must say the embarkation was very easy and we get to our room by 6:00 pm. We do not set sail until Sunday at 5:00pm and we receive notice that our itinerary will have to change and we exchange Roatan for Costa Maya. We did enjoy Costa maya but we were looking forward to Roatan as that was the only port we really wanted to see.
Because of the delay we end up with cold weather for the first 3 days of the cruise as well as cold weather for the last 2 days of the cruise. For compensation we are refunded one days cruise fare for ship board credit.
The ship itself is very average and as others have stated somewhat worn and dated interior. We had a balcony room on Caribe deck and enjoyed the large balcony as well as the connecting balconies to the rest of our family. I was expecting 4 chairs on the balcony but instead there were only two charges with foot rests and a table. If getting a balcony room I would highly recommend the caribe deck. The room was typical size but lacked a sofa (only one chair and desk chair). Not sure why princess doesn't have sofa like Royal uses.
The buffet breakfast always was over crowded with long lines and limited table availability. Not sure why they only had one section open for breakfast as it was too congested to enjoy. The food was average and similar to RCL but just too crowded. The pizza was fabulous. Hand tossed new york style and best I have had at sea. The dining room was typical cruise food with some good options and some average things. The service was generally very good and our head waiter Marchin made each meal very special and fun. We did eat a Sabatinis which was disappointing. We did bring several bottles of wine in our checked luggage which made it through without detection and there was no corkage fee ever charged.
Ports: Costa Maya we took a cab to the fishing village beach area and spend the day at one of the small restaurants/bar along the beach. The cab was 2 dollars per person each way and if you ordered food and dring the shade and beach chairs were free. 10 dollar buckets of corona and pretty good food. Turned out to be a good stop.
Belize, we used Butts up for atv and zipline. 75 per person with transfers. We had a great time doing both and much cheaper than the cruise line.
Cozumel we took a cab to Baconos beach club. It included chairs and snorkel for 10 per person. I thought the 10 dollars would be credited towards food purchase but that was not true. The snorkeling was great and the food also very good. The beach itself was just ok but the pool was clean. I felt it was kind of over crowded but there were 6 ships in port. Not sure I would go back as the beach area was small but the owner went out of his way to accommodate our large group. Taxi was 17 each way.
The ship entertainment was above average but seemed to lack many options. The Movies under the stars were old movies and because of the cold weather we never watched one. Overall we did have a good time, the the Princess staff was friendly and the cruise was a good value as the Christmas and New Years cruises are usually over priced. Luckily our ship did make it back to port on time and we were able to walk off the ship at 7:30am and got through customs in 5 minutes. We picked up a super shuttle for 10 of us and made it to the Hobby airport by 8:45am. The lines were very long at the airport but had no problem making our 12:00 noon flight.
In summary, Princess did a pretty good job but the ship is rather old and due for and update soon. I would prefer a bigger promenade area and don't think I would ever sail from the Houston port again due to the recurring problem of weather issues either leaving or returning to port.