Embarkation was less than 30 minutes from taxi drop-off to unlocking our balcony cabin. We've always been Princess fans and I couldn't understand the negative comments from other CruiseCritics but this time we experienced some of the issues first-hand. BTW, we're still Princess fans and have booked two future cruises. Most (if not all) of the problems arose because there are 3,000 passengers on a ship designed for 2,500. This creates crowding in all public areas, specifically the Horizon Court buffet and any performance venues. If you want a decent seat, take a book and plant yourself 30-40 minutes early. And plan your breakfast for off-hours when it's not so crowded.
We had a table for 2, early dining in the Boticelli dining room. The service was extremely slow and after the third night - when it took an hour and 15 minutes to get our entree - we didn't go back. Three strikes and you're out. The waiter seemed to be working very hard but there was no cohesive teamwork between him and his assistant. Enjoyed the Wheelhouse Bar pub-grub and Vines Wine Bar.
The Vista Lounge, present on many other Princess ships, has been superceded by Fusion Nightclub. The way it's arranged, it can't be used as a venue for the Capt. cocktail party (champagne only this time) or the returning cruisers' Capt. Circle parties. These were held in the Atrium and it just wasn't worth the crowding and hassle. We only dressed for one formal evening and plan to shun these events in the future. We also will stick to Princess' smaller ships unless it's an itinerary we can't refuse.
But all in all, we had a great cruise. The captain did an admirable job navigating thru 2 North Atlantic storms, one with 80 mph winds and 21 ft. seas. Luckily, we do not suffer from seasickness. We missed St. Johns, Newfoundland due to weather and this created 7 straight days at sea. Princess did a great job of scheduling a variety of movies during sea days in the Princess Theatre as a diversion.
Reykjavik, Iceland: Probably the highlight of our cruise. The ship has a "Golden Circle" bus excursion which we had signed up for. However, we didn't relish being stuck on a bus with 40+ people for 8.5 hours, so we decided to rent a car from Hertz at the regional airport. Great decision! We managed to see all the major sights in the Reykjavik area and had no problem navigating the roads. They were all paved but had no shoulders and we only saw one guardrail all day. The topography is pretty barren and created by volcanic activity. Thingvillir National Park is memorable for being able to walk down the tectonic plate between the continents of N. America and Europe. Also the site of the world's first parlaiment approx. 900 AD. The highlight was Gullfoss (Golden Falls) a spectacular waterfalls for which pictures do not do justice. The geyser area was not as impressive as Yellowstone's; however, Geysir is the namesake of all geysers throughout the world. There was some spectacular scenery in the highlands on the ride back to Reykjavik via Selfoss. We caught the last Hertz courtesy van back to the dock with minutes to spare. Would love to return to Iceland for a longer visit.
Qaqortoq, Greenland. Never did we think we'd ever visit Greenland. The approach with a full moon and our first iceburg sighting of the day was quite memorable. We were tendered to Q-toq and (thanks to other CruiseCritic reviews) knew to hit the one and only gift shop first thing. We scooped up our souvenirs and spent the next 3 hours exploring. The houses are brightly colored and climb up and down the streets surrounding the harbor - and so did we. Quite different from any place we've ever visited. Mostly Inuits but some Danes and other Europeans as well. We had selected a nice French cabernet and some local beer at their grocery but were crestfallen to learn there are no liquor sales on Sunday. The sail-away down the channel was spectacular. At dinner, the Capt. announced that they had spotted a large iceburg 1/2 nautical mile away and he thought photos or videos would be a nice souvenir of Greenland. What a treat! It was a distance from the ship and was hard to estimate as to size but it was approximately half the size of the Emerald. We did a complete 360 around the iceburg so everyone could see. With the setting sun as a backdrop, it was quite a sight indeed.