We loved the ship from the moment we stepped aboard. It had a warm, friendly feel to it, in spite of carrying over 3,000 passengers.
Breakfast was self-service and there was plenty to choose from - fresh fruit, cheese and smoked salmon to bacon and eggs, fluffy American pancakes and even rice pudding. Lunch was also self-service and there was always an interesting variety as well as the staple salads and fruit. It was slightly disappointing that there was not more Caribbean food, since this was the area we were visiting, but that's a very small point. Dinner was fantastic. We chose anytime dining and rarely waited more than 10-15 minutes for a table for two. Had we chosen to share a table, we would have been seated immediately. They have an excellent process when you're waiting for a table - they give you an electronic pager so you can go and have a drink while you're waiting instead of standing in line. Every evening we were spoilt for choice as the menu was so varied. The meat and steaks, as you would expect on an American ship, we're first class and seafood abounded. All four courses were beutifully presented and we felt as if we were dining in a top class restaurant. As the food was so good in the main restaurant, we didn't feel the need to pay extra to try out their fine dining restaurants.
Afternoon tea was a delight and completely unexpected on an American ship. While a pianist played in the background, we were served a variety of little sandwiches and rolls, warm scones, cream and jam and a variety of little fancies, all by white-gloved waiters.
There was a lovely little cafe next to the main piazza where you could get rolls, salads and a variety of little cakes, pastries and ice cream for free at any time of the day or night. We often sat there with a coffee (which you had to buy) listening to the piano player in the piazza. There were lots more restaurants and eateries on the ship that we didn't try - the pizza bar was particularly well patronised.
Like many Brits, we were appalled at the automatic adding of so much a day per person to our bill for gratuities to all staff. On boarding, I immediately went to the front desk and asked for these to be removed. This was done graciously with no fuss and we tipped those persons who had been particularly helpful during the cruise. All drinks and coffees carried an automatic 15% tip. All American cruise ships do this, not just Princess.
The theatre shows were of a very good standard and the ships's singing and dancing group performed numerous different routines. The majority of the ship's evening entertainment centred around music and. if you didn't want to drink in one of the many excellent themed bars, see a show or listen to live music, then that was it. That's not a criticism as there was a huge variety of things to go on board during the day. Movies under the stars was a delight but even better was the fact that they repeated the film in the theatre next day and on your cabin TV the day after so you had three chances to see it. All the films were very recent. While piped music played all day everywhere, it was never intrusive and matched the time of day - lovely, gentile guitar music at breakfast for instance and no music at all in the well-stocked library. A huge criticism we had with Celebirity Cruises was the blaring pop music from every oraface: not so with Princess.
Where they missed a trick was in the enrichment classes. They consisted entirely of spa/health type subjects like healthy eating, losing weight, joint pains etc. The ship had a huge section devoted to art and some classes on art history would have been welcomed. There were no lectures about the ports we would be visiting and no visiting lecturers on any subject. Shame, really.
The Cruise Dirctor, Kelvin, is a Brit and he was hilarious and knew his job inside out. He reflected the overall atmosphere of the ship - fun, but not in-yer-face American. There were about 20% of us Brits on board but we didn't feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of Americans. Those we met were absolutely charming.
We found Princess less formal that Celebrity. There were two formal nights and we were given free champaigne cocktails on the first one. It was disappointing to see that they didn't strictly enforce the dress code, though. One man was allowed in the restaurant in black jeans and a polo shirt on a formal night and some men had open-necked shirts. At times I saw some mini shorts, flip flops and t shirts at dinner - not on! If people prefer informality in the evening, they can use the self service restaurants.
Overall we had a wonderful cruise with Princess and can't wait to travel with them again.