This was my wife and my 12th cruise and second with Princess. The last Princess cruise was the same itinerary but on the Sapphire Princess in early March 2012. Again Princess did not let us down on a great cruise. We enjoyed it immensely as we expected since we had a great time on the last one.
Embarkation was the slowest I think we have endured on a cruise. We arrived about 10:00 to a very short check in line and then were directed to the auditorium to wait out the boarding. We did enjoy talking to people sitting by us and amazingly the people next to us ended up being our assigned table-mates. We did not get on until about 1:00. The good news was that the cabins were ready upon boarding.
If you like sea days you will love this trip. Several relaxing days to unwind from your cares, four eventful days in Hawaii, and then several days relaxing until you reach reality; a perfect itinerary for a great vacation.
The first sea day out was windy and cold. The next day was sunny and warm. After that it was hit and miss. Each day had partly cloudy weather with occasional showers. We usually managed to find a sheltered place on the deck under a few hours of sunshine so we were not disappointed. Of course the weather can be different for every cruise but I mention the weather on my cruise (late March -early April) because that is about the best you can expect crossing the Pacific in Spring. When it is cold but you want to be out, try the jucuzzi at the top back of the ship. It is hot and the view is great.
Our cabin was A745 which is at the very back of the ship. We had an inside room but within 20 feet was the door to the deck. I loved it. We rarely splurge for a balcony since we are only in the room a short time and I would rather spend the money on more cruises. But having the deck so close was great. Since I usually get ready before my wife I could just walk out the door to the deck rather than wait in the cabin. The Lido deck buffet was really close also. I recommend getting a cabin close to a deck. Of course being at the top back of the ship means you really feel the movement of the ship but we like it. Lots of kids on board and it looked like they had fun. All were well behaved.
The food was the same as other cruises; good. I don’t see how people say things have gone downhill. In our 12 cruises over 15 years on five different lines we haven’t noticed much difference. Celebrity is a little better overall in my opinion but Princess was not far behind. Remember if you eat something you did not like on a cruise, it is your fault. There are numerous choices so just keep trying things until you find something you like. The hand-tossed pizza on deck was OK but not great. The grill on deck with burgers, chicken, brats, fries, (and onion rings after 6:00 pm) was really good. The buns were amazing. We ate at the Crown Grill ($25) once. The steak was better than the dinning room but the lobster and sides were the same. Overall probably not worth it.
The dining room was good. I think the best things I had were appetizers. Try them all if you can’t decide. I don’t know if it was a good investment but I bought the deluxe soda card which allowed unlimited ice-cream shakes, virgin pina coladas and a lot of other non-alcoholic drinks. It was expensive at $7.50 per day but was a real treat. The servers never minded giving two drinks at a time either ;) Service around the ship was superb. The only objection I had was that the deck hands would put the lounge chairs up starting around 4:30 or 5:00. Just ask for chairs to be brought back if you need them, they will do it. If you want something on a cruise, be sure to ask. They may be able to accommodate you. No fair complaining if you didn’t ask. The ship was older but in very good shape, you really had to look to find anything amiss.
Our dining time was late assigned dinner. On this cruise that was scheduled for 7:45. It worked out perfect. There was usually a 30 minute show at 6:30 in one theater and then a 40 minute show at the other theater at 7:00. Unfortunately the theaters are at the opposite ends of the ship but luckily both on the promenade deck. The trick was to walk out doors along the deck to the other theater and bypass all the crowds. So you could see both shows before dinner and then go to watch the Movie under the Stars at 10:00.
Our last cruise we saw lots of whales and I heard this year the whale count in Hawaii was high so we hoped to see a lot. We saw several but not that many. I heard they are more active earlier in the year. Or maybe we were just not that lucky.
We rented cars on Kauai, Hilo, and Maui through CarRentalHawaii.com They just arranged the rental through regular agencies like Alamo, Thrifty, etc. They were less than half the cost of going to the agency directly. We didn’t rent in Honolulu but I noticed there is an Enterprise rental a couple blocks from the ship and a shuttle service, there may be others too. You do not have to go to the airport to rent as other reviews have said. Renting on the other islands was a hassle because you have to take a shuttle. If you get lucky and catch the shuttle without much waiting you are lucky. In two of the three ports we had to wait about 45 minutes to get the shuttle. So renting and returning a car can knock off almost two hours of port time. Of course it makes the rest of the time more useful but it is a trade-off. I reserved tickets to the Arizona Memorial through Recreation.gov; yes you can now reserve tickets. Unfortunately the boat to the Arizona was shut down that day so the tickets did not help. There was still lots to see at Pearl Harbor though.
Debarkation ran about an hour late. It is funny how people can’t wait to get on the ship during embarkation but can’t wait to get off at the end.