Our November 15th Southern Caribbean sailing on the Caribbean Princess was our 10th cruise and the second on Princess. Although not a perfect cruise, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of this cruise in light of what it cost.
We has spent a week travelling in Puerto Rico beforehand and as a result we drove in to San Juan that day, arriving at the dock about 5pm. This meant that most of whatever check in "crush" had long since subsided, and we were on the ship in about 10 minutes-a great first impression. (Apparently we could have checked in as late as 9 pm, and that sort of flexibility is a great advantage it seems to me.)
First impressions of the ship were good-relatively new and well maintained. We had booked a balcony cabin for the first time in our cruising lives and were looking forward to that experience. Unfortunately a disappointment was soon encountered, as a number of adjacent cabins housed smokers (including cigar smokers). While sailing out of port and on numerous subsequent occasions during the cruise we (non smokers) were driven indoors in order to escape the fumes. As first time balcony cruisers we never even thought about the possibility of this being an issue, but we will next time. Hopefully if there is a next time on Princess they will have figured out how to separate the smokers and non smokers into port/starboard balcony cabins to ensure as much as possible that neither intrudes on the other in this respect.
Nothing else remarkable to say about the stateroom-cozy, but well equipped (the fridge is a nice touch even if it only kept things cool rather than cold).
Other facilities we enjoyed included the fitness room- well equipped, but can they please put up a sign saying that the treadmills won't get turned on until 8 am due to possibly disturbing sleeping passengers?
Other reviews have mentioned that the ship seems too big. This was the largest ship we had ever been on by a wide margin, and we liked the size-not only because the walking from one end to the other and up and down the stairs tended to help exercise off the big meals, but also because it was too large to get bored of by the 7th day of the cruise.
Speaking of food, we felt that it was a cut above most of the other cruises we had been on (admittedly, we have not been on Celebrity and some of the other lines well known for their food quality). In particular, the buffet restaurants seemed to have better selection, ambiance and quality than the other cruises we have been on. We splurged for Sabbatini's, the Italian specialty restaurant the last night and it was worth the extra cover charge for one evening. We also enjoyed the pizza counter on the pool deck.
Service was excellent throughout the ship. Our cabin steward was particularly good-very engaging and eager to please.
Entertainment was a disappointment I'm afraid. We went to most of the big "shows" in the theatre and in our opinion, if you didn't see any of them you wouldn't have missed much. I think my (now deceased) parents might have liked the lounge/cabaret entertainers (i.e. fairly sedate), but I missed not having a venue on the ship where my wife and I could dance to a band that played the baby boomer music of the 60's to 80's that we grew up with. (We thought this was a "staple" based on other cruises we have been on). We did like the theater under the stars concept however.
Our choice of cruises and cruise lines is largely dictated by the selection of ports. Of the 6 ports on this cruise 4 were ports we had never visited, and all of the ports were well worth a visit. Further details are in the Port Reviews section of this review.
Disembarkation was also a breeze- 10 minutes and off the ship-we barely had time for breakfast.
On balance this was a very enjoyable cruise. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to friends and we will certainly consider using Princess in future for cruising.