We are from Florida, so getting to the ship is a 30 minute ride to Port Everglades. Also, we had a very nice informal get-together of our cruise critic roll call. It was very nice meeting everyone. It would be nice if Princess made a little formal get-together for groups of 25 or more like Celebrity does - a little goodwill goes a long way….
Embarkation/Debarkation - simple and easy; very orderly and we were on the ship within 15 minutes of arrival; bags checked outside $5 tip to the guys. On return, disembarkation was very organized and we were outside in 20 minutes from our color being called. Princess has a silent departure system - they do not call colors over the PA system - you must go to your designated location to disembark (with your specific color tag) - which worked just fine.
Room: We had a balcony cabin BA category on the Lido Deck. This is the same deck as the Buffet and all of the pools, etc.. directly below the Spa area - in our opinion perfect location. The sacrifice is the balcony, as it is a little smaller than the lower decks. It did not impact us at all, and no one can look down on you from above. Also, you can avoid riding up and down in the elevators and it is very easy if you forget something. The room was average size; a bit smaller than other balcony cabins we have had on other lines, but the issue we had was with the bathroom. The bathroom was one of the smallest bathrooms we have ever had on a ship. We are average size people though my partner is 6'2" you could barely turn around in the shower. If you drop the soap you will not be able to bend down to pick it up. If you are a "larger" individual it could be difficult situation. Our cabin steward did a nice job and was non-intrusive and handled some minor needs of ours.
Food - This is always a major point for us as we have been spoiled by Celebrity food over the years.
Dining Room - First we had anytime dining which in my opinion seems like more trouble than its worth. People with reservations, others with beepers, tables of varying sizes, etc..; too much trouble in our opinion. We could not get the traditional, so we made a standing reservation in DaVinci for 8:00 PM.
I happened to run into Adrian of Romania (waiter) in the buffet and as it turned out he was in anytime dining. Adrian and Daniel of Hungary (assistant waiter) did a wonderful job taking care of us all week. We also made sure they were properly taken care of with a little extra besides the ships automatic tipping system. We really wanted to sit at a table for eight, as it is nice to share daily experiences with other passengers, but that seemed to be a problem in anytime dining, as most sat with family or by themselves. One night we were asked if we wanted to sit at a table for eight (Adrian's station), rather than have the usual table for two - we said we would be happy to sit at a table for eight. Well, here we are - the two of us at the table for eight and they never sat anyone else with us. Needless to say, we ate at the table for two the rest of the week, which was fine. Food in the dining room was very good to excellent with only one exception - Caribbean night on Wednesday. Make your reservations for the specialty dining that night as dining room choices were so-so. Also at the Captain's dinner, order a double order of lobster tails (as they are small) but the huge prawns that came with it were excellent. Also, a standout was the pasta with fresh little neck clams in a cream sauce. Adrian split an order for us and served it between the salad and main courses. Desserts were always very good.
Specialty Restaurants - We ate one evening in Sabitini's ($20 PP charge) and it was excellent. They supply all of the appetizers (literally all and as much or as little that you want) and you choose soup or salad, entrée and dessert. I had the veal chop and my partner had the Chilean Sea Bass both were excellent. Service was also wonderful - waiter (name escapes me) and Marcos (assistant waiter) both from Argentina did a great job…
Buffet - There was always something to eat at the buffet. Some of the food was a bit boring and could use a bit more imagination and flair and we would have liked to see more themed luncheon buffets i.e. - Mexican, Italian, Asian, etc.. Yet we always had a full plate, as we took a little of this and that. Also, we brought our own trays to carry our food, as this carrying of plates and drinks separately were difficult (learned from past cruises). We received lots of positive comments about our trays - it was like inventing the electric light bulb. Pizza was freshly baked and excellent. Also, layout of buffets could be improved as you have people moving in different directions in a small area causing a bit of confusion. Also, ice cream should be free all of the time not only between 3-4PM in the buffet. Don't miss the sail-away seafood buffet from 5-10 PM. It was very nice and we had Lobster claws, Shrimp and Crab - we had it as an appetizer and then we went to dinner in the dining room, or you could stay for dinner, as Prime Rib and other dinner items were also available.
Casino - Very nice and spacious area. The slot machines are very tight and pay little. The Blackjack, Three Card Poker and Let it Ride dealers very nice, especially Joy and Yordan.
Entertainment - The comedians were very good and the illusionists were excellent. We had seen the illusionists on a prior cruise. The little trios and bands around the ship were also very good.
As for the production shows - Princess needs to send away that sad show "Destination Anywhere" - no rhyme or reason, lack of sets and overall poor concept though dancers and singers worked very hard with really awful material. It was an embarrassment.
The second show "Motor City" (Motown review) was better and at least made sense and was a well organized production. The dancers and singers did a very good job.
Ship Layout - Ship was a bit of a maze as it is not laid out well. Many areas are cut off by the dining rooms and kitchens being placed in the center of the ship rather than at the end. This forces you to go up and down (elevator/stairs) a bit, until you get use to the ship. That is why we also really like the Lido Deck for our cabin, as mentioned above.
Spa/Pool Area - Forward area has a "For Adults Only Pool" wonderful, as we had 750 kids on the ship for spring break. Pool was nicely heated and had two Jacuzzis. Spa area very nice and a wonderful steam room and sauna with showers part of the spa area, and free of charge. Ports - St. Maarten is still the best for shopping (and we have been to most of the islands). They have the best prices on liquor, jewelry and cigarettes. St. Thomas wonderful for beaches and snorkeling - (Tip: go to Trunk Bay in St. John for snorkeling - absolutely beautiful). Grand Turk is a newly developed port and was surprisingly interesting. They do not have a real town on the island. Where the ship arrives, they have a few stores and an area called Margaritaville. We chose to do the snorkeling/swim with the stingray excursion on Grand Turk which was very nice and the water/snorkeling was beautiful. Upon our return, we entered Margaritaville and found lounge chairs and a huge double pool, at no cost to use, with a wave runner area set up at a nominal fee, Drinks and food are available. We each had a nice cocktail ($10 ea) - a little pricey, but they supplied so much for free. We really enjoyed it and the beach was available too at no cost for the amenities. Very nice indeed…
Senior Officers/Captains Circle Hostess/Cruise Director - We saw them once at a get together - never to be seen the rest of the trip. The Cruise Director was always seen in suit and tie and not very visible around the ship. Previous trips on Celebrity had Senior Officers/Captains Club Hostess/Cruise Director very visible to passengers.
Miscellaneous - Many reviews had mentioned rocking of the ship and stabilizer issues. We must say that we had no problem with the ship with regard to rocking.
Regarding gratuities - We personally like the old fashioned way of tipping people based on service and have in many instances exceeded the recommended amounts based on quality of service without automatic tipping. Yet, people do not think they need to give gratuities on a cruise and that is why we now have automatic gratuities. On this cruise, we heard of people complaining and trying to have the gratuities removed from their bills - shame on them. These service people work so hard and deserve what they receive. As I mentioned earlier, several of the service people went above and beyond and were rewarded with additional amounts accordingly.
Conclusion - Overall a very nice and relaxing trip and we would go on Princess again, though we would like to see some of the suggestions above implemented to make the line truly outstanding. For the mid-priced cruise lines, this is as good as it gets and is still a great value for the dollar.