From start to finish, we had a ball. Everything went like clockwork thanks to the good offices of our TA and the good efforts of the Pacific Princess staff. I'll be brief, but we booked our own flight from LAX to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui. Aside from the madhouse at LAX, all went well. The flight was more pleasant than on a previous Air New Zealand trip, partly because there were extendable head rests so this 6'5" traveler could actually get some sleep. We spent a night at the Intercontinental on Tahiti and were given an upgraded room because of a protracted wait for our regular room. Nice hotel, though we used few of the amenities. Check in on the Pacific the next day could not have been quicker or easier. Our BB cabin on the seventh deck was perfectly situated amid ship, 2 flights up the the buffet, 2 flights down to the dining room (you can see where my thoughts lie), making elevator usage generally unnecessary. The cabin itself was what we expected, adequate for our needs with a More
balcony. The bath was a bit tight and I don't know how heavy people can fit into the shower, but that's the way smaller cabins are, so we were not surprised. The bed was comfortable, the satellite TV reception was generally good, even in the middle of the Pacific, and to my joy, on this trip Fox News was available much of the time, a welcome change from the usual fare. The cabin service was outstanding, incidentally.
DINING: The buffet food was what we expected, passable but not remarkable. In the evening tables are set up in the buffet for a bit more formal service with a set menu each night for those who want to escape the dining room clothes requirements or perhaps their boring table mates there. We used the facility 3 or 4 nights when we just didn't want to dress in more than shorts and a polo shirt. The buffet service is not open at night, incidentally. The breakfast buffet had an omelet station and in general provided pretty much standard breakfast fare, except that my favorite, corned beef hash, did not appear every day, a very minor complaint. A greater concern was the lack of table service at breakfast; most of the time, waiters did not provide coffee or juice and spent most of their efforts clearing tables. I found that annoying as I would have to leave my place in order to serve myself. The food in the main dining room at lunch and supper was almost always excellent. My main complaint with Princess food is its lack of proper spice. Jerk chicken has no flavor, Thai soups are lacking in spiciness, not hot spice, just tasty spices. That was the case on a few occasions on this trip, but in general, the food was tasty and in several cases, the curries were extremely well spiced. Thanks, chef. I've never liked Fetuccine Alfredo on Princess, so I didn't try that old standard, but the pasta carbonara prepared by the head waiters was in a word, lousy. Fortunately, their future attempts at pasta were better. But I am being negative here, as the food in general was outstanding. The head chef for Princess was on board for this whole trip, perhaps his presence made the difference, but I tend to doubt it. Incidentally, we did the Chef's Table which was very nice, but I would not recommend it on a small ship as the kitchen is simply too small and too cramped to allow the full experience larger ships permit.
TOURS: I don't know what good it is to address tours on a specific cruise which will not be repeated on any other cruise, but briefly out of pure laziness we did arrange for ship's tours in Moorea and Bora Bora We got our money's worth. On Easter Island a nice highlight tour of 4 main sites was a bit spoiled by a guide who loved his own voice and prattled on about things not having to do with what we were seeing a the time. But that wasn't Princess' fault. We took a side excursion to Machu Picchu, expensive at $2400 each, but well worth the cost. Everything was first class except that Princess forgot to arrange for a sunny day at Machu Picchu itself. But I would highly recommend this excursion for anyone who has the opportunity. Other people went to the Galapagos or took a one day trip to Quito, a really expensive deal at $600 a person, which I doubt was worth the money. In Manta, Ecuador we went out on our own as we usually like to do, and for a total of $4 for a museum fee, we saw as much as those who paid $60 for an organized tour, as a free bus from the pier made a large circle through town, allowing a few stops here and there..
ENTERTAINMENT: Second rate, as is usually the case. I try to avoid the shows as much as possible, but as a concession to my DW attend now and again. The dancers get credit for exuberance, the comedians were funny only rarely, the singer, a female, had trouble staying on pitch. Perhaps I'm being a bit more negative than is deserved, but only a bit more. There was a pianist who was excellent, but he left the ship in Panama to my dismay.
OTHER STUFF: The library was surprisingly well stocked; the exercise room was certainly adequate, especially considering the usage it got with the average age of the passengers being 100 :). The jogging track takes 13 turns to complete a mile and with the wind in my face, it was a bit of a challenge at times. Some women saw fit to remove their tops on the upper deck, 40 years too late, I'm afraid. We didn't try the alternative dining, but those who did said they were pleased. Disembarkation at Ft. Lauderdale was very smooth for us. We were Independents which meant Princess would off load our bags but we would walk off early and on our own. Walk offs who handled their own luggage disembarked even earlier. We left the ship at 7:35, found our bags, cleared customs, caught a cab and arrived at FLL at 8:15 or so, in time to catch our 8:50 flight, as we always have done. Do yourself a favor and hop a cab as it's only $15 to FLL from the ship, a lot less than the bus charge Princess gets. One last thing: my wife purchased an expensive piece of jewelry in Cusco and the receipt said it was at least 35% made in Peru. The US charged no duty on it because of that, a pretty nice deal that you might want to consider. Less