We are a couple in our early 40s, had no kids with us, and this was our fourth cruise, 2 on Royal Caribbean, and 2 with Princess, and first time on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Let me just say off the top that yes we had a great time, and yes I would cruise with Princess again. With that said, there are some things that could have been better to make our good trip into an amazing trip.
I'll get the not so good out of the way first. I read a lot of the reviews here and was really hoping that they were written by fussy, hard to please people, but sadly, I learned that some of the points of complaint in the reviews really was true on the ship. Mainly for us, our biggest issues were the food and the drink service.
Let me just say that I think food is a very subjective thing and differs greatly from person to person based on their taste buds, backgrounds, and other food experiences. Many people we talked to thought the food was fantastic on the ship and were very pleased. Others, not so much, and some very experienced Princess cruisers we talked to felt that the food quality has gone down over the last few years. For me, I had several dishes that I thought were delicious, and many that I thought were just okay. The dining room food was mostly good and I enjoyed my meals there. Was it as good as a fancy restaurant? Mostly no, but a couple dishes were comparable, and over all, I enjoyed all my meals there. The buffet looked pretty and had lots of selection, but much of the food there was very bland, but there were a few selections that we liked. The fruit was always fresh, which was a problem I have had by the end of other cruises, but on this one, the fruit was still fresh even on the last day. My husband, who is a bit more fussy with his food and has gone to culinary school, has worked in restaurants, is an amazing cook, and really knows his cuts of meats was not impressed with the food at all. So that just goes to show how different backgrounds and experiences can come into play when talking about food. With that said, we did try the Crown Grill and I thought it was all very good and comparable to a restaurant that we might have paid the same price for ($25 each). Was it as good as a restaurant where we would have paid twice that? No. So if you go to regular steakhouses, you will probably like it. My husband liked his filet mignon at the Crown Grill but felt it wasn't as tender of a cut of meat as it was supposed to be. Me, I thought it was great to be eating filet mignon because I just don't get that every day! However, he loved the lobster there, and we got tons of food and were completely stuffed by the time we were done. I do have to agree with my husband that one night when we were in the dining room, he ordered filet mignon again and felt the meat was more tender and a better cut than what he had at the Crown Grill, but was very upset that next to it on his plate was powdered mashed potatoes. So, there you go. Just little things liked that could have made the difference.
It is totally true what people have been saying about the drink service on this ship. Very poor. Only a couple of times did we see someone going around taking drink orders in the pool area or the lounges. You pretty much had to go up to the bar and get your own. That's fine, but that is what I do at home if I find myself at a bar, and if I'm on vacation paying for service and having an automatic tip being charged to me each day, then I expect someone to save me the trouble and come to me to take my order, and give me good service so that I might want to spend future vacation dollars with them again someday. Many people felt this is due to the auto-tips ($11.50 per person each day) which makes people not work so hard for a tip. One day at the pool area, my husband went up to the bar and waited for about 15 minutes and could not even place an order for the drinks. They were just too busy to notice him, I guess, even though he was waving and being vocal to try to get their attention. So needless to say, thank you Princess for saving us money on drinks, but we don't understand why you would want to lose sales and customer satisfaction that way. This is something I think Royal Caribbean does much better as they walk around all the time with already made Drinks of the Day to sell. Its not rocket science....its hot, get a platter of yummy looking frozen, icy adult beverages ready for folks on vacation and I guarantee you'll come back with an empty platter and fuller pockets.
We understand that maintenance gets done at sea, but we really enjoy taking walks around the promenade deck for exercise and they were doing work out there the whole cruise and had one half of the ship blocked off the entire cruise. We would have thought they would have at least stopped either on some of the days, or certain times of the day so people could use it, but nope, this was going on the whole cruise.
Now for the good stuff:
After reading reviews I was afraid I was going to be on a gross, decrepit looking ship, but that was not the case. All new carpet everywhere, which looks very nice. We found the ship to be very clean and saw crew polishing and vacuuming all the time. Our stateroom was clean and our room steward was terrific. The only complaint we had was that the glass on the balcony had some drip marks on it that needed to be cleaned but this wasn't a huge deal. The décor of the ship was nice and more conservative with earth tones and not a lot of flashy colors. I thought the artwork of the sea life on the elevators in the atrium was beautiful. If you had a real critical eye and really looked hard, you will find some rust and paint chipping here and there on the outside, but nothing major. I rather look at the ocean than looking for rust spots anyway. :-)
Cruise Director Crew:
We tend to enjoy participating in a lot of the games and fun activities the cruise director crew lead, and found that it was a great bunch of people on this ship. Some talented, funny folks, who never seemed to sleep and were always visible around the ship and always was gracious and friendly to everyone. They work tirelessly week after week trying to create fun for the people on the ship and I wanted to give them due credit for their efforts here. It would have been dull on board without them in our opinions.
On this cruise we went to Princess Cays which is always lovely. The second port was St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where they have a nice cruise port area with high end shops, a nice walkway (about a mile long) to the downtown area which we walked and did a little shopping downtown, and right next to where we docked was the mountain top to go up to by cable car (Pricey at $21 per person) and nice frozen drink selection (we even got samples) and a bird show up there along with an incredible view. We went to San Juan, Puerto Rico where we did the scenic rainforest drive to the Yunque National Rainforest which was fun, beautiful, and educational. When we got back, our driver dropped us off in Old San Juan next to Castille San Cristobal which we checked out and got some great views of the city and even learned a thing or two. Our last port was Grand Turk, which basically was another beach day with a new port area built up with the beach, shops, and Margaritaville, but it was a beautiful place and we did a catamaran snorkeling and beach tour. The original tour we booked was to go to the Horseshoe Reef to snorkel but got canceled so we booked the other one. I don't know where they brought us to snorkel but it was right next to a 7000 foot drop off (don't swim that direction!), but where we snorkeled was about 20 feet deep. The divers would feed the fish and it was neat to see so many swarm around them. We did see lots of fish, just not a huge variety of fish, but on the way to the beach, they served us tons of rum punch and everyone was having a good time by the time we got to the beach! The beach was very pristine and we even found a sea urchin and tons of sand dollars (live ones) burrowed in the sand. Just start digging a few inches with your toes and you will find them. Just don't take them home as we were told by someone in the know that when they die, they smell terrible and will stink up everything. Good to know information right there LOL! It was a lot of fun and ended up being our favorite excursion.
Phew, if you made it this far, thank you kind reader for sticking with me till the end! Hubby wants to try Royal Caribbean again since our last two was Princess, but I'm sure we have many more cruises in our future and Princess will be visited again. Happy travels!