I wanted to write to provide others some insight on a few things not mentioned in the other reviews that might help them decide about Princess if on the fence.
It was Memorial Day weekend, a lot of passengers. Embarkation was slow, but we would not let that affect our attitude. To be honest, we have had good and bad experiences on all cruise lines, we just get through it the best way we can, get on the ship and forget about it.
We made it early enough to enjoy lunch in the dining room...very nice way to start the weekend. Food was great and service excellent. We were able to purchase our drink packages from the beverage attendant, which was nice.
Room steward, extremely pleasant and saw him multiple times every day, always very friendly, helpful and concerned about our happiness, room was kept very well. Actually all of the housekeeping staff was quite friendly and pleasant, always smiling with a nice greeting, we liked that.
Bar Service: We intended to make full use of our drink packages, but found it extremely difficult. The had no mint at 3 bars, no Mojitos!! (Really...in South Florida!!!!) But we finally did find 2 bars that did have mint... Why wouldn't they stock all bars appropriately, just unacceptable. There were 2 areas where we got good bar service 1) Churchills, but it ALWAYS smelled like a large used ashtray in there and 2) the dining room. Very little "service", more time than not we would have to get our own drinks. The worst thing for us though is that they close most all of the bars by 11pm and the martini bar at 12am. The seating areas around the bars were small and taken by that time, people were 5 and 6 deep to get their own drinks...complete madness. Just a huge disappointment for us and reason #1 to avoid Princess.
Food Service: Dining room was great! We loved our servers and food was great, for lunches and dinner, however breakfast is another story. The breakfast menu itself is very boring and uninspired. Just the basics, but for us its about the service and hot coffee kept full. On our last morning, one of our tablemates ordered eggs benedict and 15 minutes later the server announced they were out of hollandaise so could she order something else....crazy. Actually she said she didn't like the sauce anyway, so our server actually created it for her without the sauce and she was happy he went the extra mile to please her. I will say that when a mistake was made, the staff bent over backwards to correct it the best they could and that was appreciated. We did try the buffet on Princess Cays day just to get some variety. We went early, around 7...there were plenty of tables, the food was hot, fresh and plentiful. It was clean and well kept. I know there are a lot of complaints about the Princess buffet lines, but we didn't have any issues. We like the fact that they serve juice and water. A very nice hostess came around and asked if we were happy with our experience...very nice. Our main complaint is the lack of food options past 11pm. We don't stay up late every night, but when we do want to catch a late show, it's nice sometimes to grab a quick bite before bed. The ONLY option is the International Cafe, which has very limited options. You can settle for cold salads or sandwiches, but why should I? There are no late buffets. Even the pizza closes at 11pm. Room Service??? It doesn't exist. We are convinced they "advertise" room service, however there is no menu and they don't answer the phone, so there is really no room service. They offer nothing except empty apologies, we are busy, so many people on the ship.....YA, I KNOW, that is the business you are in, DUH!! Just add staff and leave a small buffet open, problem solved. Another disappointment and #2 reason we may not go back to Princess.
Princess Cay: We were lucky enough to get over to the island by about 9:30, I think we had to 5th tender going over....people behind us were delayed quite a bit and they were getting irate about it, which I don't blame them. The bar service on the island was horrendous!! It look an hour to get the bar open and ready to serve, then a waiter took our order, never came back. DH went and got our drinks from the bar. A second waiter took an order and we asked him to come back with another round, never showed up. We thought we might stay for one more drink but the line at the bar was LONG, no servers in sight, except our original one who was pre-occupied with a group of young ladies, we just said forget it, we can get drinks on the ship and left. We do not eat at the island buffet, it's really unfortunate too because they serve a great lunch, however the fly situation is unbearable to me...just can't do it. However, I must say this is a problem with every cruise line that has a beach day....the flies just hover and cover everything, they are relentless. But many people didn't get over there soon enough to get food (we heard they ran out, seemed to be just unprepared overall for the island day).
Shows and entertainment: Enjoyable, plenty to do on the ship each day, lots of variety...we kept busy.
Casino: Meh, have seen better and worse. Nothing special, not a huge variety of machines, but enough to go in and spend a few $$ each day. Drink service in the Casino was pretty poor at peak times.
Disembarkation was very smooth and easy.
The ship is lovely, it was almost clean (for some reason the elevators always had stuff on the floor that stayed for a long time, days in fact), the staff was very friendly and I would only recommend Princess to anyone with extreme caution, especially if you have expectations about food and bar availability after 11pm and if you have expectations of the Princess Cays beach day (including bar service and lunch).
We know there are people who don't stay up late or who don't get off the ship at all, so our issues won't matter to them, but we still feel that practices in particular are explicitly targeting a certain demographic of people, actually excluding them; those who stay up past 11pm and expect the same service at all hours. Maybe they are trying to keep their staffing costs down, but when it is at my expense, I will spend my vacation dollars somewhere else. We heard from MANY people who are regular Princess cruisers that our experience was not the norm, however they did indicate standards have lowered. Some blamed it on being a short cruise and frankly we are tired of hearing that from any cruise. I don't care how long the cruise is, they cruise 365 days a year, each day's service should be the same high standard, no matter who gets on, who gets off and how long anyone is on. Training is no excuse, that is part of the process. We were not the only disappointed people and we did provide survey responses, I hope Princess is listening....