I just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Caribbean Princess. I flew from Washington DC to Houston Hobby airport (very smooth direct flight) on Sat, Jan. 18, and our group took a private limo ride from the airport to the cruise port. There was a delayed boarding for a couple of hours as the ship was going through extra thorough cleanings to ensure there would be no issues from the Norovirus. I was perfectly ok with that - the delay was minimal in the overall scheme of things and it set the right tone (in my opinion) of a Captain and crew showing the correct priorities (no one in their right mind wants to be on a ship with a serious outbreak of Norovirus - just ask other recent cruisers!!) I have commented about my cabin (positively) separately, so won't discuss that here. I will also comment about my excursions separately. I want to mention here specifically two items: the dining room experience, and the entertainment on the ship experience.
First, the dining room. We signed up for a set dining time of 5:30pm in the Coral Dining room. While the time might appear a little early to some, it worked perfectly for us. We were back from daytime excursions in time for dinner, and it gave us plenty of time afterwards to enjoy the nightly entertainment without going to bed at extremely late hours and/or on a full stomach. We had a team of three waiters who served us each night, and we were able to get to know them (and them us), and it added an extra dimension to the dining experience I had not anticipated. First, I had (somewhat cautiously) indicated on my cruise preferences that I am lactose intolerant. I had no idea how the cruise line would interpret this; I was simply hoping for some additional help in translating menu choices so I would not make "unfortunate" choices that my digestive system would remind me about for several days later........(smile). Our senior waiter, Martin Petrov, introduced himself to me the first night we dined at our set time, and it rapidly became apparent to me that he took my request seriously, and was committed to ensuring that I not only did not make "unfortunate" choices, but that if there was not a sufficiently appealing option on the menu, he would go to the chef(s) and get them to create something that was a gourmet level dish. As a result, for the entire week each dinner was comparable to eating at a 5 star gourmet restaurant, and I didn't have to worry about hidden butter or dairy products that would cause me problems. Martin has a great sense of humor, so we were able to laugh about the process, and I truly enjoyed the discussions, choices, and the results. I was awed by his skills and commitment to my enjoyment of my meals - I have never been treated like that, consistently over several days, at every meal. Our second waiter, Ric Dela Cruz, was equally personable, committed to the highest quality of service, and became our "trusted advisor" on wines appropriate for each course, as well as (for the others at our table) what dishes might most appeal to each individual. (I was the only one with any dietary restrictions). We rapidly found that when we followed his recommendations, there were no regrets!! Our third waiter, Vira Ovcharava, greeted us the first night with a big smile, smooth and professional service, and proceeded to get to know us as well as Ric and Martin did. Each night we dined we felt we were with friends who were also professionals at their jobs. The three working together are truly one of the best "serving teams" I have experienced in a highly rated restaurant, and the marvel is they keep it up night after night as they truly enjoy their jobs and the people they are serving on the cruises.
Ship Entertainment: Before this cruise I did not understand the lengths to which the Princess line goes to provide high quality entertainment throughout the day and evenings, every day of the cruise. Every place I went on the ship, there was some type of entertainment going on - appropriate to that area of the ship. I found I looked for the musicians, singers, and dancers, in each of the public locations set up for that type of entertainment, as they were GOOD!! It was great fun to be watching some musicians and/or singers in a particular area, and suddenly see some Princess dancers start dancing to the music. Passengers were always encouraged to sing along, and/or dance as well, so it was up to the passengers to decide to what extent they wanted to participate. And every evening there were several types of entertainment available - I usually got to see two or three before I had to quit for bedtime - musical shows of every type, comedy shows, magic shows, etc. The overall quality of the entertainment was consistently high, and they make it easy for passenger interactions. Several of the comedy/quiz show types needed audience participation, and everyone played along and had a great time. I went to more shows in one week than I have in years on shore, and have to admit they were all great fun and left me wanting more!!