There were a total of 9 in our party (ranging in ages from 5 to 87) on this cruise and we had an all-around excellent time.
Our one complaint has to do with the Port of Houston (and I'm not sure Princess is to blame for this). Embarkation took much longer than expected. When we were driving up to the cruise terminal we were directed into a vehicle holding area for at least an hour. We never were told what the issue was--I'm not sure if they were just backed up at the terminal with vehicles, or if there was something else. Once we got through this delay, everything went rather smoothly, although there were long lines inside the cruise terminal as well. The captain came on after the muster drill and announced that fog was rolling into the ship channel, and there was a possibility that we wouldn't be allowed to sail until morning. Fortunately, the fog lifted and we were cleared to sail after a few hour delay.
The ship itself is gigantic, and there truly is something for everyone on this ship (especially considering the vast range of ages in our group). It is not quite as formal and fancy as some other ships, so if this is what you're looking for, you may be slightly disappointed. This being said, the ship was very elegant and classy. The piazza has continuous music and entertainment, nice shopping and food and drinks at all hours.
The first two days of our cruise we were under a red-level norovirus alert. I asked our room steward the reason for this, and he said that there were a few people (20, specifically) on the last day of the last cruise who came down sick, and the ship just raised the caution level to prevent an outbreak. It was a bit of a pain to have the servers have to serve us in the buffet lines, and we missed having salt, pepper, etc. on the tables. Also, during the AM television programming they encouraged everyone to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and report to the medical center if symptoms develop. Although this is not what anyone looks for on a cruise, I appreciate the level of attention that Princess took to prevent an outbreak onboard. After two days the alert was lifted and we didn't hear anything else the rest of the cruise.
Our two younger kiddos (age 8 and 5) loved attending the kids club. Again, I appreciated the level of virus precaution that I observed in the club. They made all children wash hands thoroughly with soap and water when they entered the kids club. The clubs had a wonderful assortment of crafts, parties and games, and each day my girls returned with so many goodies that they had made including stuffed animals, picture frames, pinwheels, face painting, and more. The safety and security system was great too, although it is not too fun to always remember a drivers license when picking up kids. All in all, I felt safer leaving my kids in the kids club than at our church at home!
Our oldest child, age 12, did not enjoy the kids club. He only went one time and played video games. The staff was wonderful, and tried to find more activities for him that he would enjoy, but he was perfectly content staying with the grown ups. I think he is just at the age between child and teen, where it's hard to find where to fit in. He enjoyed playing on the putting green, swimming, watching shows and watching movies under the stars. At age 13, he would be old enough for the teen center, and I think he would have really enjoyed that...they have air hockey, foosball, etc.
We enjoyed the entertainment on board. Holley Magic was our favorite entertainer. They put on a really amazing show. Also, the Culinary Show was one of our favorites. The dining staff was hilarious, talented and entertaining. After the show, we got to go on a galley tour. If you plan to attend this show, get there early for seats--it was standing room only. Movies under the stars were a lot fun too. The beach chairs were covered, and you can get blankets and popcorn as well. The screen is large and the sound system is really good.
We heard mixed reviews of the food on this ship, but our experience was wonderful! The breakfast was wonderful with plenty of sweets, savory and unique finds. We loved the variety of the lunch buffet. The food was high-quality and very tasty. The cafes by the pools serve really good pizza during the day. You can order other things like burgers and sausage, but we didn't sample those. Also, there is an ice cream bar by one of the pools with various flavors of soft-serve.
One of our highlights of the entire cruise was our experiences in the Coral Dining Room (table #364). We only planned on dining there on the formal nights, but ended up there every evening but one. We had the most amazing servers...Our drink server knew our kids by name and remembered everyone's drinks and had them on the table each night before we even asked. We sometimes saw our drink waiter in the buffet, and he made a point to come over and greet us, and say hello to each of our kids by name. Our server was very knowledgeable and helpful with menu choices, and worked to please everyone. The head waiter for our section went over and above to make us feel special and make sure we didn't need anything. He went above and beyond every evening, and was so good with our kids! The escargot, lobster and prawns on the 2nd formal night were amazing, and the desserts were works of art, and tasted every bit as good as they looked.
The staff, overall, was outstanding. We were consistently greeted with a smile by every crew member that we encountered, and asked by our room steward and dining servers if there was anything they could do for us. The general "vibe" from the staff was happy, relaxed and cohesive.
Our room was an interior stateroom, and others in our party had a balcony stateroom. We were all on the Aloha deck midship, and we would choose this location again. The staterooms are nothing extra-ordinary, but have a good layout with the closet area separated from the rest of the stateroom. The balconies were spacious with decent furniture.
The weather on our cruise was perfect (other than the brief bit of Houston fog). We took excursions in each of the ports, and booked outside of the ship to save money (good choice). In Cozumel we took a taxi ($22 van each way) to Chankanaab. It is a beautiful park with something for everyone. Several in our group got very reasonably priced massages on the beach, we snorkeled right off the beach, enjoyed pristine white sand and clear waters, my daughter really enjoyed swimming with dolphins (which we booked ahead of time), and several in our group enjoyed the nature walks.
Roatan was our favorite port where we booked an island tour through Victor Bodden Tours (google it if you're interested). Our driver, Big Al, was amazing! For $25/pp for the entire day he took us all over the entire island, and told us about the history and culture of the island. We saw the slums, the schools, the resorts, views from the tops of the hills, dolphins, got to swim and snorkel in some great non-touristy areas, took us to a grocery store and bought some tasty local sodas. Victor Bodden also has a mini-zoo at his house, and for $5 extra we got to play with monkeys and birds. It was another highlight of our trip.
Belize was also a nice port. The tenders are a bit of a pain, and since we booked our tour outside of the ship, we had to wait to get on a tender for about 45 minutes. We booked a cave tubing adventure through "Butts Up Cave Tubing". It was a lot of fun, and really neat to see the jungle and the amazing caves. The guys who led our trip were really kind and accomodating, but we weren't quite as impressed as the other aspects of our trip. A couple of others in our group went on a different excursion snorkeling off-shore and to a private island. They loved their excursion, and would do that again if they returned to Belize. We were glad to have done the cave tubing, but would probably do the snorkeling with the island excursion next time.
All in all, this cruise was wonderful. We were really pleased with the Caribbean Princess and with Princess in general, and will definitely look to cruise with Princess in the future.