Embarkment: Very easy and painless. We did have a bottle of wine in our suitcase and security did not care.
Formal Nights: Always done on the evening when we were at sea all day.
Food: Stay clear of the buffet on Lido deck when you first board. It was a madhouse and people were sitting around the tables talking with empty dishes in front of them. Head out to the pool grill, pizzeria, or the international cafe.
We had anytime dining and we thought the food was good. We ate in the Michelangelo dining (less crowds) and always had a table for two without waiting. The only complaint I had was the service was so slow. The servers would wait for all the tables for two would fill and then bring all our food out a one time. If you got there at 5:30 and the last table filled at 6, every table would get their entrEe at the same time. We arrived one night at 5:30 so we could watch the movie at seven. We did not get out entrEe until 6:45 and we missed the movie. I was so disappointed.
The first night at dinner, we ordered a bottle of wine. We asked to have to cork the bottle for the following night. The girl kept pouring us the wine. You need to make it very clear you only want one glass of wine.
The buffet's food was okay and did serve ice cream every afternoon. There are two different buffet areas and they do serve different foods on each line. The pizzeria pizza, international cafe and the grill by the pool were all very good.
We did the ultimate balcony dining, which included fresh flowers and a free photo. It was well worth the $100. The ships photography came and took appx. 8 pictures. Carlos and Roger were wonderful and attentive to us. They gave us plenty of alone time and were always there when we needed them. The dinner started with canapEs and a cocktail of our choice then it proceeded to a crab pastry appetizer, salad (much too large for this many courses), lobster and steak, fresh fruit and mousse, followed by an anniversary cake and cookies, plus a bottle of champagne. Let it be known the ship will only do three ultimate balcony dinners per night unless they are on the same floor close together. We called the first day at sea and they were all booked for the night we wanted. We asked to be on the waiting list and were called the next day because someone had cancelled. I tried to book the dinner prior to boarding and I went through five different people on the phone when I was informed it had to be booked on the ship even though all the literature says to book prior to leaving on your trip.
Alcohol: My husband and I enjoy margaritas. We tried them at four different bars on the ship and they were all syrupy sweet even when we asked them not to make them sweet. I did not realize they were from a pre-mix. Ask the bartender to make the drink from scratch and to put some alcohol in the glass because I did not even get a buzz from drinking a double.
Laundry: I did not use them but the washers ($1.50) and dryers ($1.50) are on almost each deck. The wash soap was $1 from the dispensing machine. There was a change machine in the room but it was empty. If you plan to use the machines, it would not hurt to bring quarters so it would not be a hassle to find quarters.
Stateroom: We had a minisuite on the dolphin deck. Our deck had the farthest balconies out and closest to the water, which I loved. Yes, everyone could see our balcony but I did not look up. Our steward was interesting in a bad way. He let us know from the beginning the company worked him like a machine. He worked eleven hrs a day, seven days a week. I did not want to hear complaints from the employees especially from the steward on my vacation. The steward addressed and only spoke to me. He totally ignored my husband from the first time they met. The steward only addressed my husband one time because I called the steward's attention that my husband was also present. My husband tried to initiate conversations with him. The steward was matter of fact, no happiness was in his job, and I never saw the man smile or laugh. On my way out I gave the steward an extra tip because he did do a good job. I felt he was ungrateful and snubbed my husband as we passed in the hallway to leave.
There is a full TV and channels guide located in the back of the small hardback blue book in the room plus a small card to carry for all the dining options times and locations. We found this out late into the voyage.
Leaving: We were in the first group to leave at 8:10 am with our luggage. We were in the dining room at 7:20 am, and were able to leave the ship at 7:30. After we cleared customs and out the door, there were two reps from Southwest available to check our luggage and give our boarding passes at the pier. Our plane was leaving at 10:35 so there was no charge to check in our luggage. It was perfect. The cab ride to the pier was $19.50 and returning to the airport was $12.50 which we shared with another couple.
Activities: I was surprised at the small number of activities offered for the 3,000+ passengers. Natalie really stood out to me on the activity staff. She was fun,laughing and always having a good time with the passengers. The comic Kevin Jordan was very good. The productions in the theater will entertain you. You need to get there at least a half hour prior to the show to get a seat because the theater seats 900 people. We played putt putt golf (bring your own golf balls) and had few balls available. The adult pool is in the back of the ship and less crowded. The outdoor movie screen plays movies all day so check the Patter for listings. They do have different kind of dancing lessons as an activity.
Passengers: We had many different ages and nationalities on board. I was surprised at the number of scooters and wheelchair people on board. There were a few I thought that they boarded to die out at sea.
Yes, my husband and I did enjoy the cruise. It was okay but not great. We do about three major vacations per year and I would have to get a really good deal to cruise with Princess again.