This was our first Princess cruise chosen because of the itinerary - Manaus on the Amazon to Fort Lauderdale via Devil's Island off French Guiana. Flying to the USA on BA was fine but US Immigration lived up to its unwelcoming reputation.Getting to Manaus was always likely to be difficult and so it proved with a charter flight from Miami to Manaus. Tickets arrived for most UK passengers only four or five days before departure with a letter informing us that the overnight at a Miami hotel was scrapped and instead we would fly at 00.50! In fact the Omni DC10 (aged) took off at 03.30 allegedly due to a row about a diversionary airport in Brazil. Omni's normal business is flying US troops to Iraq and the standard was as you would expect from this. We were lucky to get off the plane quickly in Manaus (which only has 737s coming in) and were on the ship by 11am with mini suite ready. Some however got to the ship after 2pm. This was the only bad experience of the cruise.
We knew Pacific Princess was a small ship and had only 580 passengers on board. Facilities match the size and are more than adequate. Service standards compare well with Celebrity which we know best and the special efforts for Xmas and New Year were very good.
On-board entertainment was as expected for the size of ship and the small scale shows more than adequate. The Cruise Director was somewhat reserved until he got on stage. The Italian Captain and Welsh Staff Captain were very visible. The Captain's briefings were humorous and welcome.
Food in both the buffet was generally good and sometimes excellent with special attention paid to Xmas and New Year. The Executive Chef was very visible even singing in the Christmas Concert and New Year Deck Party. We dined in Sabatini's once and also the Steakhouse. We preferred the latter although Sabatini's had its own appeal.
PORTS - Manaus - we took the Amazon Village tour and journey to Meeting of the Waters. Well run and satisfying. Boca de Villaria is a small village that the ship visits and we brought books and pens for the small school. Tourism is doing some good here. Santarem is a significant city and unfortunately our forest tour was cancelled as the roads had been washed out in the past week. We visited Devil's Island on Xmas morning and were lucky to have a day suitable for tendering - not often the case. Fascinating island for a short visit. We visited the following islands in the Caribbean - Tobago was pretty average; St Lucia was interesting; Dominica was fascinating. The final island call was St Barts where tendering had to be suspended because of a bad swell for several hours - so a very short trip to a very expensive island!
Speaking of expense clearly tours and drinks etc billed in dollars have become much more expensive of late thanks to the sickly pound. We just did not think about it -or tried not to!
In summary we had a memorable cruise and would heartily recommend the Pacific Princess and the itinerary (memories of the charter flight have been erased!) The mix of passengers was memorable and without exception everyone we met was as happy as us. Flights home on American airlines - Miami-Boston- London worked well with no delays.