We usually cruise on the smaller ships of Seabourn or Windstar and this was our second cruise on a mega ship. It is unusual for Princess to have a 3 night cruise and we made plans on the spur of the moment to give the line a try, one week before the cruise, securing the very last stateroom. I was hoping for a mini suite but gladly reserved the ocean view stateroom at the very aft of the ship on the 14th. floor. When we pulled into the parking lot we looked in awe at the enormous ship waiting for us. We parked the car, took our carryons, and got in line with our passports and boarding passes. It was a little more chaotic than the well organized Celebrity checkin from last year.
We were guided to our room and found it of average size and fairly well appointed despite a tiny bathroom. We unpacked and preceded to explore the ship which was in tip top condition, although not as glitzy as the Century. The first thing I did was to make reservations in the two specialty restaurants which was a smart move as Sabatini's was fully booked prior to sailing. We had a nice lunch on deck with a well stocked salad bar, a carving station and some pastas and other hot dishes which we passed up. I was told to save my appetite for Sabatini's where we could only get a 7:30 reservation.
After lunch we went back to the room to prepare for the required muster drill, although we were surprised that they never did a roll call which we thought was required.
We dressed casually that night for Sabatini's which is the intimate, wonderful Italian restaurant where the service is great and never rushed. Basically you just order your entree and they bring trays of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, choice of soup I think, pizzas, freshly baked breads and homemade pastas. I was very impressed with the selection and we tried to taste everything. By the time the entrees came we were really stuffed but kept on eating like the troopers we are. The waiter picked his favorite desserts for us and they were equally delicious, accompanied by cappuccino and espresso. The wine list was well priced although fairly limited but we were quite happy with the $30+ bottle of fume blanc we selected. The meal was well worth the extra $20 per person and a wonderful start to our cruise.
I ordered coffee and tea to be delivered to our room the next morning and delivery was punctual. Since we were already dressed, we went upstairs to check out the breakfast buffet which was a deck above us. This particular room was empty as most people had opted for the larger buffet in the center of the ship. We found the back of the boat to our liking, from the small adults only pool surrounded by a bar, with ample deck seating to Cafe Caribe which was a breakfast buffet in the morning, serving Caribbean influenced specialties at lunch and dinner. The only downside to staying in this area was the designated smoking area, which was often expanded by the smokers at the bar. There were a few times when people had to be reminded that they were out of the smoking area.
Another standout on this ship was the pizza parlor at the other end, near the main pool. We are originally from NY but were duly impressed by the quality of the thin crusted pizza, which could rival most pizzerias. We did not try the hamburgers or hot dogs. All kinds of food are available 24 hours a day and we were surprised to see people sitting down for a second dinner at 11:00PM. The bars were intimate and the drinks fairly price. Fusion nightclub on the very top of the boat was for a much younger set but we took the escalator up to take a look anyway before making a rapid exit.
The second night we ate in the main dining room and were seated with three other congenial couples which made for an entertaining evening. I cannot say enough for the personal choice dining as we do not like to be told when and with whom to eat and the thought of sitting with the same people each night does not appeal to us. The food in the main dining room was fairly good, simple but well prepared with a nice selection. The service could have been better and the wine steward did a disappearing act. We had much better service on Celebrity.
We went to the show but were not impressed with the quality of the performers or the show itself. The level and variety of goods in the "boutiques" was standard, unimaginative and not of the highest quality and the number of liquors for sale was small.
The day we stopped at Princess Cay in the Bahamas, we opted to stay on the boat, as we live in a beach area. Having the boat mostly to ourselves was delightful and we did not miss standing in line for the tenders. I did hear that the wait was not very long after the first few tenders had departed. We also heard that it was very hot on the island, with little shade.
The third night we ate a quiet meal in the Sterling Steakhouse. The change of pace from the bustling buffets was welcome, service was good as were the steaks. The side dishes were memorable and service was adequate. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our three night mini cruise and for such a large ship (3100+ passengers) there were plenty of nooks and alcoves and quiet areas.
Debarking went fairly smoothly because we had carryons. They don't let you carry your large suitcases down the stairs and I imagine it would have taken quite a bit longer to get off the boat. The elevators are too small to take everyone down so many floors. There was a minor delay going through customs but for their part, the Princess employees were efficient in getting everyone where they had to go. We were among the first off the boat and getting to our car and paying for our parking was a breeze.