Hello to all. I'm an infrequent poster on this board. I did write a number of weeks ago as to a seemingly high number of negative reviews and a general decline in dining and service in the mainstream cruise industry. So here's my second attempt at a review from the CB from its 7/17 to 7/26 voyage(I wrote a whole review then somehow wiped it out while posting).
Cruised with my wife, son age 21, daughter age 22 and her boyfriend age 22. Have cruised on Home Lines, Carnival and RCI from 1985 to present. This was our 6th cruise and first on Princess. Two inside cabins, Riviera Deck(14). R252 forward and R721 aft.
Embarkation: Fabulous in Brooklyn. Miles ahead of Manhattan. We drove down from Connecticut just after rush hour on Friday morning. Unloaded vast amounts of luggage with the stevedore, parked literally in minutes and boarded the ship within 30 minutes thereafter. We were having lunch on the Lido by 1:00. What could be better?
The Ship: Beautiful and well maintained as most people report. We particularly like the small club venues(Club Fusion, Explorer's, etc..) for live music and entertainment. The Princess Theater is always full and some complained about the lack of adequate seating. Having read this Board carefully, we knew to get there early for seats and we had no trouble on any night. We also especially enjoyed the smaller adult pool area, Deck 15 aft. Great view of the ocean, seats in the shade and sun(we do shade), hot tub one deck above. It was almost felt yacht -like within the vast confines of a 116,000 gross ton ship. The main pool areas, as usual on most ships are jammed. This is especially the case on the CB with its added passenger cabins. We needed to secure our places aft in the adult area early as seats were gone after 8:45am. This ship does have air conditioning issues. Fortunately for us, cabins were fine as long as we kept the AC on the lowest settings. Inconistent AC in various areas including portions of the casino and at times, the Horizon and Caribe Cafe buffets, even the Palm Dining Room, especially with the sun shining in at 6:00 pm dinner. In mingling with other passengers, we did hear complaints about cabin AC issues as well. Its strange how this issue seems to pervade this ship. I did email Princess in advance of the voyage about it and received an email response denying any AC issues.
Dining and Service: Except for a major issue noted below that arose on the last night of the voyage, dining quality, dining service and service at all levels throught the ship exceeded our expectations. We chose traditional first seating dining. Our waiter Edgar, and his assistant(who's exact name escapes me so I do not want to mis-state it) anticipated our every dining wish. They could not do more for us. Edgar brought extra crab legs, lobster tails, and especially made sure my wife and daughter, both of whom do not eat red meat, were happy with their selections. The food quality in the dining room was really good to excellent as was the Horizon and Carribe buffets. Certainly better quality than Royal Caribbean and significantly better than Carnival. This is subjective of course. I don't know where the negative reviews on Princess food quality come from. Only my wife's turkey scallopini selection was not very good and had to be sent back. Edgar brought a vegetarian choice that my daughter had originally ordered and they both found it to be excellent. The desserts were really very good and the Baked Alaska on the last night was excellent. Edgar indicated to me that the end of cruise surveys are really important and we of course gave dining the most excellent of reviews. We also extended additional gratuities to our waiter and assistant for their fabulous work. Daughter and her boyfriend went to Sabatini's one night. They said it was worth it, very filling and very good though not the best meal ever, necessarily. We all went to the Crown Grill one night. They were surprisingly out of the Brazilian Lobster Tail(which is an additional charge) so for those of us that wanted that and "settled" for steak, our waiter brought us 4oz lobster tails and we made our own "surf and turf". It was really very nice and very good. Golden Fleece on Carnival still remains the best ship speciality restaurant though, in our opinions. Cabin stewards were excellent. They got to know us quickly, always left the "correct" number of towels and pool/excursion towels. Cabins were very well kept and clean. We hardly saw the stewards after the first day yet all the service was wonderfully provided. Could not ask for more. Unlike especially Carnival, the crew top to bottom greet you with eye contact and a smile and are eager to please.
The Cruise: By the first night, the ship was shaking back and forth due to being on the edge of a tropical depression and by day 2 at sea, although sunny, we encountered gale force winds. It caused rapid shaking of the ship rather than large rolls. This was tolerable to us but some passengers appeared to be seasick. The movement did cause a number of falls on deck. Though we enjoyed a sunny day at sea, given the past history, we were not hopeful as to being able to dock in Bermuda but by the evening of day 2, the seas calmed and we docked in Bermuda the next morning uneventfully. We took a cab to Governor's Beach which the kids said was the best they've been to even compared to beaches they've experienced in the Caribbean. Then, it was on to San Juan, not our favorite port. During breakfast, the Captain announced that there were near gale force winds in the port, that he had ordered two tugs and would reassess when and whether he would enter the port. We were delayed about 20 minutes and then entered and docked. The cautiousness of the Captain and caring attitude in keeping the passengers informed added a great sense of security and trust in his experience and competence. Safety was the priority and he made that clear. It always amazes me that some people would complain about missing a port due to sea conditions. In San Juan, we decided to try something different. We took a hotel room at the Marriott to have a beach day. Fairly nice beach, nice pool area. Nice hotel all around. San Juan defeated us as the rains came at 1 pm and never stopped. We laughed about it. Its only money. We took naps in the room(nice Marriott special bedding) and went to the casino after only about an hour or so at the beach and pool. So it was an experience of a sort. Went back to the ship about 7 for the late dinner at the Crown Grill mentioned above. We've been to St. Thomas several times, which was the next port. We repeated the St. John Beach and Snorkel excursion through Princess. The ferry called the Island Girl was late picking us up to depart and was late picking us up to return to the pier. We had reduced time at the wonderful beach and spent time waiting in the hot sun at both ends of the ferry trip. This was uncomfortable and aggravating. We made appropriate comments in our excursion survey requested by Princess. The next port, Grand Turk was very crowded at the pier because the Carnival Liberty was also in. The shopping in the controlled area at the pier was excellent. The beach right there was so crowded there were no lounges or cabanas available. We sat at the Margaritaville restaurant and nursed several Pina Colata's while the kids went into the crowded water. In retrospect, we should have taken a cab to a beach elsewhere but at least the shopping worked out. Of note, there was a bridge announcement on the last night at 1:30am apparently dispatching appropriate crew to a fire alarm. About 10 minutes later, there was an additional announcement for this crew to stand down so very thankfully, the incident ended. Questions in the morning to the Purser were answered vaguely, although we were told there was a minor incident in a crew area that was immediately taken care of.
Problems: The safe in one cabin had a low battery and was never fixed despite two attempts. This was only a minor inconvenience. Here's the problem. On the last night, after going back to sleep following the bridge announcements to crew, groups of teens were shouting and swearing and running up and down the hallway near our aft cabin on Deck 14. We scolded them outside our door. When the conduct persisted, we called security twice between 2 and 4am. At 4am we went to the Purser's desk. While we were there, there were kids banging on the grand piano in the Piazza. Here's what got us. We demanded to speak with someone in charge and spoke to the night manager. While he was apologetic, he said there was little he could do "since there were 800 kids on the ship." This was entirely unacceptable to us. We said sufficient security personnel should be available and dispatched to control this type of behavior. He said they try to talk to these kids but it doesn't really help. I did not ask for nor was I offered an account credit. I didn't care about that aspect. I felt very badly that my family was disturbed by all of this. Where are the parents? Some of these kids appeared to be drunk as well. They were shouting, cursing but slurring there speech. We basically got no sleep and as we were slated for express walk off at 7:30, the last night was ruined.
Final Comments: Before the events of the last evening. we were already talking about planning another cruise on Princess. Our experience was unfortunately somewhat tainted, following a wonderful cruise on a wonderful ship. I will write a letter to Princess. Time will tell as to our decision making. Please feel free to ask questions. Please note this incident is not reflected in the summary ratings of the cruise itself but obviously is a major concern to us.