This was my first cruise. My cabin mate has been on several cruises but this was her first Princess experience. We didn't exactly "feel the love" - except from our Room Steward, Iggy, who was always outstanding and always smiling! The ship is beautiful and in tip-top condition. Our balcony cabin on the Riviera Deck Port side was immaculate and extremely well laid out. The open closet area is fabulous. Bathroom was small but not as tiny as I had been led to believe by other reviews. The balcony was our favorite - except when the neighbors started smoking cigars. Would love to see Princess institute a "no-smoking" deck of cabins or side of the ship.
Our service in the dining room was good to very good but everyone seemed tired and bored. The food in the dining room was excellent and very elegant. However, it took a lot of work to get anyone to smile. The Horizon & Caribe Buffet had the absolute worse service EVER. Definitely a NO SMILE ZONE. There were not enough tables and once seated, it would take up to 10 minutes to get water or iced tea. Often times the servers would walk right by our table several times before stopping to see if we wanted anything to drink. By day three I was just serving myself drink-wise. The food was good in the buffet - plenty of salad and fresh fruit and a nice selection of pasta, meat, sandwiches and desserts.
It is quite obvious that the service staff is expected to sell drinks and if you want a glass of water, plain soda or fruit juice in a bar, expect to wait 5-10 minutes for it to arrive. I found this annoying. One night in Club Fusion we waited 17 minutes for two bottles of Perrier. I always got a grumpy face at the International Cafe when I used my Coffee Card for a cup of brewed coffee.
The entertainment was good - Bert Stratton is very funny and engages the audience. The Halloween decorations were amusing. The Halloween Party was kind of lame - it took forever to get going and was disjointed. It seemed like the various assistant cruise directors didn't know what was going on.
Best part of the ship - the Lotus Spa. My friend and I had passes to the Thermal Suite and used it everyday. The staff could not have been nicer or more welcoming. That's the kind of service I expected throughout the ship. Some of them actually learned our names - which on a ship with 3500 passengers is above and beyond; but everyone up there always smiled and asked "How are you?" "Did you have fun last night?" "What are you doing in port tomorrow?"
Overall - I'd cruise with Princess again but they wouldn't be my first choice. I'll likely choose based on itinerary and the ship. Princess did not win me over and I suspect that other cruise lines can match or exceed the service I received on the Caribbean Princess.