This cruise experience was nothing short of amazing. After having read many of the reviews I was a bit concerned that the experience would be akin to our Carnival experience...something no one should ever have to live through. But, we were pleasantly surprised. Our room was perfect, clean and comfortable, and our staff and crew members were kind, curious and always willing to assist. Dissimilar to some of the reviews I have read here, I never encountered any staff member gunning down the hallway with the intent to run over passengers. The only encounter I had with a hallway issue was a sweet, little old lady with her walker and oxygen tank. There was no way I could get around her, so I walked behind her until I could move past. We had a nice conversation about the cruise and the mileage that she got out of the tennis balls that were fitted to the bottom of her walker. She was a delight.
The food was good in the main dining rooms and the buffets, but it was AMAZING in Sabatini's and Crown Grill, as well as room service. We ate at Sabatini's 5 of the 7 nights and every day for breakfast, one night at Crown and the other evening was room service. Hands down--awesome.
The boat was well equipped and we loved it. With that...here are just some things that you should know when booking this cruise.
1. The gym hours are really limited: (07h00 to 22h00). Given the ports of call, the capacity of the gym, and a number of other scheduling factors, it is not as convenient as some people would like. Extended hours would be nice especially on days when the boat is at port. Furthermore, given the location of the gym, only a small number of treadmills (5) are available before 9h00. Power to all other treadmills is disconnected until 9h00. While it was comical to see other passengers get on the disabled machines, read the signs, remove the signs and then proceed to figure out why the unit was not turning on, it did create frustration. While it's understood there are cabins below the gym and the restriction is due to ensure quiet enjoyment hours for passengers on the deck below, this creates a further bottleneck in the availability of equipment. 20 minute restrictions on cardio equipment (while understood) further detriment the gym experience. If you are an avid gym goer, you may have to sacrifice some port time to get your workout in during off-peak times. That's what I had to do to ward off the harmful effects of martinis and pina coladas.
2. If you are adults, over the age of 18, and you wish to book time at The Sanctuary spa (for the week), try to be on the boat as soon as possible. This is a very popular destination and it fills up fast. They only allow so many reservations for the week, and then it is first come, first serve on a 1/2 day basis. We wanted to reserve chairs at The Sanctuary for the week, but by the time we got there (which was just after 12h00 on the first day) all of the week reservations were filled and we were number 16 on the waiting list. The crew member advised us that next time we should get there earlier and do not go to the stateroom first. Go right up to The Sanctuary, get your reservation then go settle in.
3. While menu items are subject to change, many of dining items in the main dining rooms as well as the specialty restaurants were centred around seafood and beef as a second choice. Sabatini's was mainly seafood, with one beef, chicken, and veal option. The food was AMAZING, but limited in scoop. The Crown was the same. It was mostly beef with one...perhaps two non-beef choices. The buffets always had a vast assortment for any taste buds.
4. Unless you are and avid pop drinker, do not buy the unlimited pop/souvenir cup that they offer you at the beginning of the cruise. Firstly you get another plastic cup that will take up space in your cupboards, and secondly, the cost is 4.50 a day. I don't drink pop, but I do like club soda. In hindsight I was better off with just paying by the class.
The only two things I think that Princess could do to make the experience a bit better is to:
1) Reduce the number of formal nights. On a seven day cruise, one formal night is sufficient. For the vast number of people who do not partake in this evenings, all they do is serve to clog up the ship's main areas while over-dressed people, have their pictures taken on the main stairs--again blocking egress for other passengers. On the formal evenings it as near impossible to navigate the Piazza between crowds and closed areas for pictures.
2) Cut out the picture taking bits all together, or make it such that passengers are not bombarded with cameras and folks in get-ups every time they get on or off the ship. It's brings down the classiness of the experience. If folks want their pictures taken, sure thing, just have a place for that away from egress areas and out of the way of folks who want to get on and off the ship without having to wait for photo ops. While the Princess Paparazzi were all very respectful of our space, it's tiresome having to ward off cameras.
Aruba was very nice, but sadly we were there on New Year's day so everything was closed. This is the perfect spot for the beach as the beaches are gorgeous. However, if you are not a beach-goer be sure to book this port of call during the week, or for a Saturday. Sundays and holidays leave the downtown area rather quite.
The day we went it was 40 degrees C/104 degrees F, so it was too hot to stay on island for very long. We got off the ship around 10h00, took a little excursion, walked downtown and were back on the boat by 12h30. If you like it hot, this place is perfect.
What a fun little island, minus all of the firecrackers in the street going off every few minutes, scaring the poor tourists half to death. It's a custom on the island for New Year's Eve... We did not know that. The first few times we heard it, we thought we were being shot at--no joke.
This was a very culturally diverse place. I'd go back.
This was a nice experience. We did not realise at the time of booking that we needed to take tenders from the main ship to the shore as the island did not have a dock. This was not a major issue, it's just that it creates a bottle neck when trying to get on and off the island.
My recommendations are to:
1. Rent a villa in the Sanctuary portion of the island. The food service, and the beverage service are fantastic, and you have peace and quiet with an A/C cooled villa where you can eat your lunch.
2. Get to the tenders, early to get on and off the island. If you are in a suite, use your fast pass, but remember it does not work on the way back from the island. When leaving the island be sure not to wait until the last minute to get in line. It will be hot, and there is very little shade while you stand in line to load the tenders to get back to the main ship.