We’re a working professional couple in our mid to late 50’s. We’ve taken about 25 cruises and this was our 3rd with Princess. We sailed on this ship during its inaugural year. Plus we’ve been on the Coral Princess for the Panama Canal. Loved that ship. We have sailed the other major cruise lines except Holland America. About 10 cruises have been with NCL as they have the BEST suite perks at sea (private dining room for breakfast and lunch, espresso makers in room, priority for various activities, etc…). Found a good deal for this cruise about a month out and needed a quick get-away. This fit the bill.
Something to consider is that the crew was up all night before we sailed getting the carpeting replaced in many of the public areas. Another passenger told us this was the first cruise coming out of refurbishment. The ship was two hours late leaving port, allegedly due to weather and thus having to wait for cruisers arriving late to the ship. There were also lots of non-Princess workers on board trying to finish the re-carpeting job before sailing. I mention this because we found some of the staff those first days a little less tolerant and friendly than expected. This may have also been the case with the Crown Grill maître d (see review below). He did comment on his lack of sleep due to the re-carpeting.
Embarkation - A
Easy and fast! Princess nailed this. We were in our cabin about 20 minutes after being dropped off at the terminal. Embarkation staff was courteous and efficient. Since this was a short cruise, we packed light and had small wheeled luggage that we took to the cabin and unpacked right away. It was great not having to wait for luggage to be delivered. Tip: Princess has laundry rooms so we ironed several items after unpacking and got that out of the way before the lifeboat drill.
Cabin – B
Had a mini suite on 9th deck towards rear of ship. Very spacious and in pretty good condition. Bathroom had a tub. Cabin had two TV’s, one facing the bed and the other facing the large couch in the spacious sitting area by the balcony. Two high-back reclining chairs with separate foot rests plus a round table were on balcony. This way you can use the chairs with the table to eat on the balcony. That wouldn’t work with lounge chairs.
Some of the cabin-related issues were found were as follows.
There was a really squeaky picture fastened to the wall. The first night we crammed folded paper between frame and wall which helped immensely.
The two TV’s are controlled by one remote. Problem is that when you are lying in bed and turn off that one, the other one facing the couch comes on. That means getting out of bed and going into the sitting area to turn it off. Crazy.
We had to ask steward for robes although we requested them when we completed the on-line registration prior to cruise. He gave us the impression it would be difficult but he would try. He got them. Robes are well-used, light, waffled cotton, no big whoop but I didn’t pack a robe expecting one to be in the room.
Beds in suites supposedly have a plusher mattress with an extra layer of padding but if still not to your liking, the steward can add an egg crate layer to help make the bed softer. We did that as we felt it needed a little extra padding.
One drawer stuck so bad I couldn’t open it (of course after I put some stuff in it). After yanking it with all my might, it opened but I didn’t close it for rest of cruise.
Evidently, the balcony had not been cleaned during refurbishment. The Plexiglas panel below the railing was dirty the whole time of the cruise. Also, there was some work to the ship above our balcony. Result was no balcony light, small pieces of cut off bolts, metal shards and chipped-off paint strewn across the balcony. This wasn’t cleaned up the whole cruise.
Tip: Electrical outlets – All electrical outlets, except one right by the front door (probably for a vacuum) were U.S. 110 volt. Bring an extension cord if you want power to items on both sides of bed. There are two 110 outlets on one side of the bed and one 110/220 conversion outlet in bathroom (plus a couple hidden – see below). Outlets by bed are close to each other so could not insert a cell phone adaptor and a plug together but could insert two normal plugs. Two adaptors would definitely not fit side by side. There is an unused outlet behind each TV we discovered the last day of the cruise. Oh well… Good place to charge electronics and they have enough space to accept bulky adaptors.
Good luck figuring out the TV movie schedule. They give you a guide for Day 1, Day 2, etc…but it doesn’t sync up with what’s playing on the TV. (Day 1 turned out to be the second full cruise day and Day 4 was the day we got off the ship in the early AM.) The layout of the guide makes it very hard to figure out when movies start. It is not a “TV guide” like people see in newspapers. It is just a word list, separated only by commas, for each channel. The movie guide scrolling on the TV is accurate but confusing and slow. Not that I like to sit in my cabin on a cruise and watch movies on a so-so TV screen but it would have been a nice option for our partially rainy day at sea.
Also, the TV’s were newish flat screens, but the cabin was obviously built for older CRTs. As a result the TV’s sat far back against the wall and a shelf railing at the front partially interfered with the bottom of the picture. Picture quality was analog, not digital. We did not see any hookups for external equipment, but did not look hard for them either.
We got an early wake-up call we didn’t request. Kind of a rude awakening as we were up pretty late. First time that’s happened to us. The room steward suggested it was a prank call. Sure sounded official to us, complete with the eastern European accent.
The room steward was a really nice and personable young man whose service was lacking. My husband felt the service was pretty bad, especially for a mini suite, (not that it’s that much, but you do pay more in gratuities for mini-suites and up). Trash not emptied one day, even when full, towels were randomly dispensed (no hand towels one day, only one bath towel another day). Asked if he could bring us wine glasses every day so we could have some wine before dinner (we brought a few special bottles) and it only happened twice and once it was brought after 9pm (and after dinner). Water glasses on ice bucket tray were not replenished. We did ask for them to be replenished and were really surprised when the room steward said this wasn’t something he kept in supply. Wow. Really?!? I can’t remember a previous cruise where the glasses accompanying the ice bucket were not replenished after being used. He never came through with the water glasses so we would grab some from the dining areas as needed.
Not sure if Princess does this, but we did not get any towel animals which we enjoy. Mini suite amenities, besides robes, I guess is only one larger tube of Locus (spa) lotion. That’s it. We were offered fruit in the room via a card we were asked to fill out the second day.
We had to select specific fruit from a short list and then request refills. In previous cruises, once you asked for something it came every day. In some cases you don’t have to ask for it. On Princess, I guess they make the passengers specifically ask for it every day. If you forget, to bad, so sad. My husband would have eaten a few pieces of fruit, but by the time he felt for them it was too late to order. Strange and definitely a step down in “make you feel special” category.
Island Dining Room – A for service, B for food
Service - Really attentive and helpful. Never felt rushed and all staff was courteous. Nice job Princess.
Food – Some of it was outstanding, some of it just OK. Nothing was bad. Food is a matter of personal taste so will not comment on individual items but will say hot items came out hot and cold items were well chilled. Stuff I really enjoyed were the pastas and sorbets. Excellent.
Horizons – Buffet – A for service, B+ for food
Only ate breakfast here and everything was good. As usual, waffles and pancakes were premade and not great, as is the case on all the ships I’ve sailed. Coffee (decaf) was actually OK but at times, was not hot when I got it out of the dispensers. My husband’s coffee was always hot. He thought the coffee was much better than standard cruise coffee. Really nice assortment of breakfast items and with four food stations, never felt crowded and rarely were there lines. Of course at peak breakfast hours, finding a place to sit took a few moments. Fruit was really good, best I can remember having at sea in a long time. Fresh, firm, juicy and sweet (melons, papaya, pineapple).
Tip: Also discovered on last day, let the coffee run out of the dispenser for a few seconds before filling your cup for hotter coffee.
International Café – A
Really nice place to grab something small. I LOVED the tiramisu (better than in the dining room) and the chocolate/vanilla moose. Wow, those were terrific splurges. Did not have the specialty coffees there but there was always folks getting it.
The Crown Grill – D
Really was looking forward to enjoying a nice steak in an upscale setting with attentive staff but this was not the case. Tip: the restaurant reservations phone line closes at 5pm and if you want to try to get into the Crown or Sabitini’s after hours, you go by that particular restaurant. You can also make reservations before boarding the ship, which we got the impression most people did.
We went by the Crown around 6pm after “sail away” asking if there were any reservations. What we have found on other cruise lines is the sailing day usually has light attendance at specialty restaurants. When we went to the Crown, the plethora of empty tables jived with our expectations. We were told that eating there is by reservation-only and the earliest available reservation for the entire cruise was 9:30. I asked about cancellations and was told to check back throughout the cruise. Problem is, if you make a reservation and don’t show up, no big whoop, no charge. So folks might be making multiple reservations and just pick when they want to go.
Anyway, after we cleaned up and went back down, he said he could squeeze us in despite seeing many unoccupied tables and booths in there. He also “jokingly” said if he gets into trouble for squeezing us in, it’s our fault. His attitude was he was doing us a great favor. Crew should never try to make passengers feel bad.
He sat us at a small table for two that was in the middle of everything but we didn’t ask to switch as were told other tables were being held for those with reservations. Many of those tables went unoccupied throughout our meal. Service was not that attentive for an “upscale” experience. The main dining room staff much more attentive, courteous and accommodating.
Salads and soup were very good. Scallops were pretty good. Had to ask for iced-tea twice and it came about 45 minutes into meal. Husband ordered the rib-eye medium to medium well and I ordered a filet mignon the same way. It took about 35 minutes after we finished our appetizers to get our steaks and they were not hot. Mine was dry and well done, his was undercooked and not that tender. He sent his back and at least it was hot when returned. Asparagus side dish was no big whoop, grilled, tough (undercooked?) and somewhat bitter. Mashed potatoes were OK but had an unusually sweet taste. The specialty salt is really good and fun to try. My husband said it really made the steak taste much better, and he hardly ever adds salt to a meal. Molten lava cake dessert was very good according to my husband.
Bottom line, I’ve had much better steaks at Outback (and worse). I remember the steakhouse on the Coral Princess (or maybe this ship – can’t remember) being absolutely outstanding with the best steaks we’ve had at sea. Not so now. When the maître d came by our table to ask how everything was and we mentioned the steaks being over and undercooked, he said he would tell the kitchen staff. He then changed the subject to the cruise in general and I guess they’re trained to deflect attention away from negative comments. Kind of had a slimy feel to the exchange.
Entertainment – A
We only saw the comedy act, the Mariachi Band and the piano bar singer.
Comedy - The two young AA men from LA were a riot. They did some racial stereotype humor (all colors and ilk’s) that was well received by the mostly white audiences. Kind of like a modern vaudeville type act with dancing, comedy sketches and audience participation. They could get some seemingly up tight white men to really “shake their thang”. They were great and Princess should do everything to keep them. They said they are in an upcoming movie with Ice-T so I guess they’re headed to bigger and $$$ pastures. Well deserved.
Mariachi Band – Wow, they were really good and we’ve heard some great ones in Mexico, Texas and California. One especially memorable experience was watching a cruising couple, most likely in their 80’s do Latin dances to their music. She was incredible (great posture and footwork, very elegant). Turns out the couple had been Arthur Murray dance instructors in their 20’s and 30’s. Everyone was in awe. Very, very cool. The band seemed to especially enjoy playing for this couple.
Piano Bar – This guy was incredible and always had the piano bar packed. On the last night of the cruise, he did a Motown Review in the main theater and although we did not go, we heard it was packed with folks dancing in the aisles. Sorry we missed it. Another keeper for Princess.
Theater Under the Stars – D
Wow, what happened here?!? We loved this on previous Princess cruises but they obviously have some glitches to work out. Folks who were watching the 2nd Hunger Games movie were highly disappointed when it stopped mid-way and then travel stuff started playing on the screen while, I assume, they unsuccessfully attempted to fix it. Plus, the booming base they broadcast with concerts made it actually hard to hear the music. Made it especially difficult to enjoy the Beyonce concert (and others).
Pools – A: availability and variety Pool Entertainment - F
I counted 5 pools with 1 dedicated to children and 2 dedicated to adults. The one at the rear of the ship is high up and has an incredible view plus a bar. The one by the spa is peaceful but a little too quiet for my taste. It also is a shallow wave pool for swimming but we never saw the wave machine running.
However, I never heard a band at the main pool. Or any other pool. I was out and about the ship at various times looking specifically for this experience. My dream experience on a cruise is to sit by the pool with a Pina Colada listening to a good Caribbean band. Didn’t happen. What gives? Did I just not get there at the right times? There should be a band(s) playing a lot with 2 sea days and this was definitely not the case. It did rain part of the second sea day but still nothing before or afterwards from what I saw. I guess you could repeatedly watch 25 year-old Tom Cruise movies (Top Gun) or a poorly broadcast concert… Or if you’re into pool games, you see watch fellow passengers do “synchronized” water ballet or watch an ice carving demo. OK activities if you’re a first time cruiser, but poor if you are not.
Gym – A
Set up well with lots of equipment. In front of the ship with a view forward. Could be busy in mornings but afternoons had light usage. Had to practice a dance routine for an upcoming competition and I used the mirrors on one end of the main area during non-scheduled activities (spinning class, posture improvement presentations, etc…). Staff was fine with this as I checked with them beforehand. Of course I used my earbuds so no one heard the song. There were other folks practicing yoga moves solo, lifting weights and doing balancing exercises. There was lots of room for everyone to do their own thing.
Overall – B-/C+
Experience was uneven. Would I sail Princess again? Probably not. This cruise was an adequate experience. A few nice memories (and desserts) but overall, no big whoop. Spoke to folks who felt the same way, many seasoned Princess cruisers. I also spoke to two folks (not together) new to cruising who said they would not cruise again (one of them had soaked carpeting in their cabin and towels were thrown down and they were given slippers. The next day, they replaced the carpeting but the cruisers had to evacuate the room as it had to be totally emptied for the carpet install which took half the day. They were compensated with $25 shipboard credit each. I guess the ship was sailing full as I wondered why they were not given another cabin.) That’s unusual as first time cruisers often love the experience. Too bad for them as cruising is usually a really nice vacation.