This was our fifth Princess cruise and did not live up to the expectations we had based on our previous Princess cruises. We have, to date, been very loyal Princess customers however in a number of areas, we felt Princess was not up to standard on this particular cruise.
That said, we had an excellent cruise, due in large part to the wonderful Antarctica itinerary, excellent food and dining room service, and the great group of fellow passengers we met on this cruise. The highs and the lows -
Embarkation in Buenos Aires Ghastly. Arrived at 2pm (having been advised to arrive after 1pm for "faster checkin") to disorganized mayhem. No effort made by Princess to mark lines/handle crowd control and so lots of people cutting in line etc. Took 1 1/2 hrs just to get to the check in desk and another 45 mins to get on the boat. Facilities were not air conditioned and outside temps (there was a fair bit of standing on line (no seating available) outside during the embarkation process) were 35 degrees Celsius. Bags were in the stateroom when we got there so no issues there. Disembarkation went smoothly and to schedule.
Stateroom Splurged on a minisuite due to large number of days at sea and the desire for a bit more space. Was nice to have the extra space and also a full bathtub to soak in on those cold days at sea. Note for others travelling with children and desiring a bit of privacy, there is no curtain or other barrier separating the bedroom and sitting room areas ie it really is just one large room. Lots of closet space and a good sized bathroom. Enjoyed watching Antarctica from the comfort of our balcony (room steward brings blankets for you).
Housekeeping Disappointed in this instance. Did not receive our complimentary "welcome glass of champagne" and room had not been properly cleaned (found an old lipstick and also a credit card receipt from previous guest, plus room had not been properly dusted in a while). Complained to housekeeping supervisor who was very apologetic and said he would send a bottle of champagne to us. Champagne never never did arrive... Stateroom was kept very clean after our initial complaint though.
NOTE NOISE PROBLEMS WITH AFT MINISUITES ON EMERALD DECK lots of noise and vibration from ceiling mounted speakers in the Vista Lounge below. Lounge is used fairly constantly between 11am and approx midnight so very disruptive, esp when you are paying minisuite rates. Noise problem freely acknowledged by Princess but on board staff seemed unwilling/unable to do much about this.
Public Rooms Lovely and very well maintained. Ditto for pools and jacuzzis. No problems finding pool chairs or a private space to read a book.
Food/Dining Service We did anytime dining. Meals were a highlight of this cruise. Exceptionally good food and consistently excellent dining room service. Superb. Only concern we had was that Princess has done away with the compulsory hand sanitizing dispensers at the buffet and main dining room entry points, which we thought was a bit odd.
Fitness Great equipment, but no staff around to show you how to use it properly! Didn't bother me, but others seemed to struggle a bit with the latest in fitness technology!
Kids Club The main reason we chose Princess over other ships with a similar itinerary had always found Princess' Kids Clubs to be excellent but a huge disappointment. 23 kids on board, ten of whom were in the 6-12 age range. Staff seemed to consider the fact that there were only 10 kids to absolve them from any responsibility in terms of running a proper program. Staff gave the impression of being lazy and unmotivated. At times staff would be watching a DVD while children played freely. This in contrast with our recent Celebrity cruise, where there were even fewer children and staff were actively engaged with them at all times ie if my child was the only one there at a particular time, staff members would be sitting there with her playing a game, or doing art, etc. On Princess, we were just very fortunate that we had a great group of ten kids who got on well and made their own fun so it all worked out in the end, but this is no credit to Princess, who did nothing at all to enhance their experience.
Movies Under the Stars Just installed on this ship, but experiencing technical problems and so not operational for 15 of the 17 days of our cruise.
Entertainment Lots of choice and we found something fun to do every night. Some excellent entertainers, esp pianist Sammy Goldstein, who played requests/singalongs every night in the Promenade Lounge, and Jamm Inc, a dance band. Two of the three productions were ok, the final one (Destination Everywhere) was excellent.
Enrichment at Sea Excellent guest lecturers.
Fellow Passengers Not sure whether it was the Antarctic itinerary or just pure luck but these were the BEST group of fellow passengers we've ever cruised with. A wide mix of people/ages/nationalities/backgrounds, and all very friendly and sociable and enthusiastic about seeing Antarctica. Couldn't have asked for a better group of people to be travelling with.