Our group consisted of 3 Swiss and one German person between the age of 40 - 45. For one of us it was already the 15th cruise and for the others second, third and sixth. All of us cruised with Princess for the first time.
Booking/Pre-Cruise options: In my point of view it's a shame that passengers from outside of the US or Canada don't have the possibility to book on line. The possibility to book shore excursions ahead is great. Although I have heard that this resulted in certain excursions being unavailable for people to book on board. I would think to have a certain contingent put aside for people who don't have internet access might be a good idea. Advance booking for Spa-Treatments is also commendable. But I'd appreciate a price list for that. Who want's to buy the 'cat in the bag'?
Embarkation at Brooklyn Pier: We arrived at the Pier by taxi around 1pm. Although it was suggested to arrive at a later time for a speedy embarkation, we found the process to be very efficient. It took us about 30 minutes until we were standing in our staterooms.
Stateroom: I have sailed on a few cruises before - mainly with the German Cruiseline AIDA which of course has much smaller ships. This was the first time we have treated ourselves to a stateroom with balcony. I don't think we would ever want to go back to inside rooms again. We enjoyed that very much. The rooms were big enough and very pleasant. Nicely outlined. The bathroom was sufficient. We stayed on the Riviera Deck (14) near the stairs mid ship. It was very convenient to just have to go up one deck to arrive at the pools and the Buffets and it saves a lot of walking by being in the center of this big ship.
Staff: Our cabin stewart was a very pleasant man from India. He took good care of us. We have to say though that the front desk staff leave a lot to be desired for. One of our travel companions accidentally left his credit card in the copy machine at home and only had his copy with him. He did however give them all the required creditcard information beforehand with his Board manifest. Still he had to go back to the front desk four different times until they finally accepted the copy! According to him the staff was quite unfriendly. The other friend lost his cruise card on the second to last day of the cruise. It took them three different cards before he finally could go back into his cabin. To get the Soda-sticker was another hassle. He was sent from front desk to bar and back to front desk to the lobby bar and that guy said that he needs a list from the front desk… When we refused to no longer be sent back and forth he finally went to get the list himself. The rest of the staff was very friendly.
Food and Drinks: We did not try any of the speciality restaurants, so no comment on those. We had Anytime Dining and chose to eat at the Palm Dining room (aft) because we figured it would be less of a hassle to get a table there. From the three nights we ate there we had three different waiters. None of them was worth mentioning. The service was slow. So we decided to try out Coral Dining room and were pleasantly surprised by the happy waiters we encountered there. The food was good - not excellent but tasty. To my taste the food at the Horizon Court Buffet was bland. One thing worth mentioning were the salad dressings. We thought they were disgusting. Whenever we had the chance on land, to eat a salad was on my itinerary. We opted for the soda-pass. It costs US$ 38.25 plus 15% tips. You will get a small sticker to put on the cruise card. So whenever you order a soft drink (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or Ginger Ale) you just present the card and will get the drink 'for free'. For people who don't drink a lot of alcohol this might be a good investment.The cocktails were delicious and with prices between US$ 4.75 and US$ 6.75 in our opinion surprisingly low priced. Entertainment: We don't much care for magicians and comedians so we never attended those shows, although they have attracted huge crowds..We did go to see the three big production shows at the beautiful theatre. Getting a seat was never a problem. Those shows were great. Wonderful singers and dancers as well as fantastic costumes. The show that stood out though was 'Piano Man'. We also were quite entertained by the fellow cruisers efforts to become the next 'Princess Idol' and we enjoyed the 70' and 80's Trivia games. To finish off the evenings we would usually go to see the rock band 'Wavelength' who also accompanied 'wannabe'-Rockstars for two evenings. They rock pretty good and we especially liked the unplugged night. We also made a few trips up to Skywalker nightclub. For some reason there were hardly ever many people there. The DJ seemed to be enjoying his music much more than the guests. He would play 4 party songs which brought flocks of dancers onto the dance floor, only to kill the moment with some rap- or hiphop which drove the people away. What a shame because the club is really nice.
Excursions: We didn't book any of the offered excursions because we thought they were completely overpriced but decided to explore on our own. In Bermuda we took a taxi to Hamilton - which was beautiful but since it was Sunday, all the shops were closed. We then proceeded to Horseshoe Beach which at first seemed a bit crowded but if you walk a bit behind the rocks you will find the most beautiful bays with hardly any people. In San Juan/Puerto Rico we walked around beautiful, colorful old town. They have loads of stores and souvenir shops. In the evening we went to Señor Frogs. Since there were two other ships in port that day (Norwegian Spirit and Freedom of the Seas) there were tons of young people in the place partying away… In St. Thomas we took a cab to Megan's Bay. We were surprised that they charge US $4.00 to get to the beach. It was worth the trip but there were a lot of people there too. The water was crystal clear and very warm. Beautiful place. Grand Turk was a bit of a disappointment to us. We were the second ship in, after the Carnival Liberty. Consequently in Margaritaville - a partyplace right at the port - all pool chairs were already taken by those folks and our ships people were left to sit in the grass - that felt a bit like being second class citizens. Margaritaville to us seemed to be like a moneymaking kettle farm. Great music but very loud and loads of young people screaming and drinking away in the heat. We later heard that normally there's only one ship in port so I guess it would be much nicer to visit. According to the postcards from this island there must have been some idyllic places to visit.
Shops: Every day they have special offers on sale, like T'Shirts, Watches, jewelry, Swarowsky, and so on. We would have appreciated the opportunity to buy some small snacks like peanuts, chips or candy or even beverages in the shops. There is a store which sells aspirin, toiletries and stuff like that though. We were hoping to get a wider selection of stores on a ship this size.
Photographs: As usual they take your picture at embarkation, whenever you get on land, at dinner and so on. They cost US$ 12.99. If you have your picture taken in front of the gorgeous backdrops for portraits, they cost US$ 25.00. We were very impressed by the way they positioned the clients to get the most flattering pictures.
Spa: There is a wide selection of treatments to choose from. I treated myself to both a manicure and a pedicure. The staff there was very friendly and the service is good. The only thing that puts me off a bit is the fact that they try their hardest to get you to buy the stuff they treat you with. If you don't do that they are not very happy. I stupidly let myself be talked into buying some stuff which doubled my bill in the end. I know that's my fault and I need to work on saying no…
Ship condition: The ship is in excellent condition. I read in other reviews that it showed signs of 'wear and tear' but they were not obvious to us. We did see staff members varnishing the railings and cleaning up after everyone quite frequently. There is absolutely nothing to criticize there.
Disembarkation: The organization was impeccable. We were supposed to meet in Coral dining room at 9.15h and were out by 9.30h. There were no lines, no hectic, no confusion. The suitcases were also easy to find.
To sum it all up, it was a very nice vacation. Although, compared to our other experiences, there were a few minus points to the pretty picture. We would recommend Princess cruises but would probably go for another cruiseline next time.