Previously we have sailed with NCL (Pride of Aloha - great ports, fairly average onboard experience) and on the Disney Magic 3 times (we are true Disney loyalists) so were not expecting to be "wowed" by Princess and had fairly low expectations. The ship was late arriving into Sydney due to technical difficulties the day we were about to sail so embarkation was delayed about 3 hours. We had flown in from New Zealand that morning so after dropping our bags at the port, we went for a walk around the beautiful Darling Harbour and actually saw the ship arriving into the dock around 10am.
Embarkation was at 2.30pm and was a really quick and smooth process. We were promptly through security and onboard in no time. Our first impression was that it was very like the Disney Magic in design (same ship builders) and of a similar vintage so it felt like home. From the outside its a very boring big white ship but inside was beautiful and very elegant. Our stateroom (inside twin) was plenty big enough for us two and comfortable enough. It was very clean also. We grabbed a meal at the buffet and were suitably impressed - I'm not a big fan of buffets and we ended up only dining in the main dining room twice as we preferred the buffet selections (I'm vegetarian and could find heaps of offerings). One thing to note is that it was fairly rough going both out and back into Sydney and my Mum spent virtually 36 hours at the very beginning and end of the cruise in our stateroom feeling very seasick. I was also seasick on the last night too.
We didn't utilize the entertainment onboard - it just didn't really appeal, we saw one comedian or was fairly unfunny - just think of all the email jokes you have received over the last 10 years and that was his routine - he was fab on the piano but just not our "thing". We enjoyed the galley tour on the last day too. We did go to the movie one night - Mamma Mia and enjoyed that also. We did hear complaints from others about lack of entertainment especially on port days for those remaining onboard (lots of elderly people who didn't want to bother with tendering). Speaking of those on board, mostly Australians but also a fair number of New Zealanders and a handful of other nationalities. Mostly older people (50+) but some family groups and some couples. Very few small children. I did hear one teen complaining to her Mum that the teen activities didn't start until 2pm.
As for the ports, Ouvea, Isle of Pines and Lifou were lovely. Noumea was nothing to get excited about and we didn't really leave the ship at Vila but it was a pretty location - we were on a strict budget so didn't want to pay the $30 return in a taxi to town. We only did one shore excursion which was the Penal Colony at Noumea which was very interesting but expensive for what we got ($69) however it was only offered via Princess and could not be done independently. I love to read so made great use of the paperback swap in the library and read a bunch of books. Most days we'd find a deck chair and I'd sit and read and Mum tended to doze or do cross words - there were always plenty of seats available. The only negative was that smokers did tend to smoke on the non-smoking side of the promenade deck which could be unpleasant at times.
Overall a great relaxing, experience though. I would definitely sail with Princess again in future.