The good. First off - the itinerary was great: Grand Turk, La Romana, St. Thomas, St Kitts, St. Vincent, Barbados, Trinidad, Curacao and Aruba. Plenty of tour options. Secondly- wireless Internet was great because we could log on using my laptop in my cabin.
Some of the staff really shone -great photographer, Adi. Vladimir and Derek in the Explorers lounge. Cabin was spotless. Great cabin steward, thanks Ernesto.
Finally - they had a good selection of wines by the bottle with reasonable prices in the dining rooms which may have masked a problem that I heard many other passengers complain about - more on that later.
The disconcerting. Linens looked stained and tattered. No bagels for breakfast. No regular bread for a sandwich at the buffet. Salad condiments were cut back. Faucet in cabin sink literally came apart one afternoon. Decks usually had abandoned glasses and garbage laying about. Perfume store clerks were haughty and snotty. Waiters had trouble with understanding English and sometimes speaking it too. Staff seemed to want to give passengers a good experience but seemed perplexed about how to do it, or they were simply not empowered to do so. The ship was not as lovely as the Island, Sun or Tahitian.
The bad. The tour staff was not terribly helpful about the ports and operating hours during the holidays. I asked a tour staff member about the weather forecast for St. Thomas as it was raining and we were scheduled to be there in 2 days. He replied "it has to be better than this". An opinion is not a helpful answer to a factual question - doesn't really help with planning. Also, there was not any briefings in the Patter about holiday closures and nothing was mentioned about the Carnival festival in St. Kitts and much of the island's activities/sights closing early - would have been helpful.
The ugly. To sum it up the food was substandard (compared to the 5 other Princess cruises I've taken - heck even to the 4 Windjammers which were not known for the cuisine). They didn't know how to prepare beef. One night my duck was so tough I began to hum "rubber ducky". Even a steak knife didn't work. This is why they probably had a decent wine selection- to take the focus off the inferiority of the food and preparation.
At the steakhouse, 2 out of 3 meals went back to the kitchen. Even after being returned the lamb was too gamey and fatty to eat. Not a great value for the additional $20 you pay per person for a "superior" dining experience.
And onto the entertainment. Many activities that passengers were interested in (Karaoke for instance) only had a few sessions (3 for a 14 day cruise- one which was at prime dinner time 7:00)several passengers complained about this. The cruise staff was self-absorbed and seemed to care less about the passenger's experience - they were out to please themselves and one-up each other. Personally, I get enough of that behavior at work and want to get away from it on vacation.
Finally - this experience I am still ticked off about. The day before disembarking the Internet cafe was full of people printing their boarding passes. The print queue got messed up and there was not any manager there to fix it (only they have access to the print queue). Many passengers were running out of time on their packages to print their passes while waiting for the rudest person on the ship to arrive (the Internet Manager, who was rude and condescending to several passengers, implying that they didn'tknow how to print a document), and fix the issue. One hour and a half later, I finally had my boarding passes printed - about 6 of them because the Internet manager did not clear the queue properly. I went to the pursers desk and wasted another 20 minutes of time arguing with them about getting a refund for the printing issues. They said they could not help and I needed to contact the Internet Manager when he was back on duty. Really? I spent 90 minutes on an activity that should have taken 5 due to a problem with your ship's equipment and staff scheduling and now they want me to spend additional time on a problem that amounts to the ship refunding a whopping $2 for a platinum status cruiser who spent over $3000 in cruising costs? Who is the passenger here?
Anyhow, my family is set to cruise in May on the Crown in the Mediterranean - I hope this upcoming cruise will be back up to the Princess standard we are used to.