We sailed March 13-20 on the Western Caribbean route with a group of 3 couples in three BB cabins on Caribe deck. We had 3, 60 year-olds, a 49er and two college students in tow. I am the 49er and this was my 4th Princess cruise and 6th cruise overall.
Pre-Cruise stay - We flew in the day before and stayed at the relatively new Crowne Plaza Cruise Port hotel. You can see the ships from the elevator and they have a shuttle from the airport and also to the cruise dock. The front desk was extremely pleasant, but the pillows on the beds were just too hard for good sleep. We had a very pleasant dinner in downtown Ft. Lauderdale at a French Bistro.
Embarkation - Went to the Pier 2 at about 12:00 and were on board within 20 minutes. Baggage handlers were very efficient and pleasant. The wait time mostly consisted of the TSA screening. Check-in was quick with no waiting.
Service - Princess was shining in the service category on this cruise. Our cabin steward was extremely efficient and granted all our requests - robes, wine glasses, ice, opening the balcony adjoining door, etc. Service in Horizon Court was the best of my 4 Princess cruises including one previous on the Crown. I could not believe how much the service in the buffet had improved. I have never had anyone bring us our drinks on any of the previous cruises. Dining room service was also great. Service at the specialty restaurants was also personal as well as above and beyond - good small talk, anticipation, handled the wine properly, etc. All the previous cruises I have had one or two issues with service, but I can say that this was all good.
Room and Ship - I still love the layout of the Caribe balcony rooms. Large half covered balcony and great closet space for storage - even golf clubs easily. The ship is looking quite worn with rust showing and old carpets. The drapes in the room were filthy and emitted a bad odor from past cigarette smokers - I am not talking a small odor. We countered this effectively by leaving the balcony door open most of the time. It is time for a refurb on this ship. However, the bed was very comfortable and the temperature good. We had 2 cabins on starboard and one on port side - pick port side for Western Caribbean.
Food - Good in dining rooms although I think they could spice things up just a little - more flavor and I defintely prefer the old menus to the new "homestyle selections" - sorry I can fix meatloaf and fajitas at home. The prime rib the first night was very good. The first formal night selections were extremely disappointing as they were not "special". The deserts were generally outstanding - the Love Boat dessert, chocolate souffle... Horizon Court buffet should be avoided. I can't find anything redeeming about watered down apple juice for breakfast or wrapped sandwiches at lunch. On the other extreme, Crown Grill was very good with atmosphere and service. Everyone who ordered steak was very pleased. The lamb, not so much. Sabatini's was fabulous and I highly recommend an evening here. Service and food were simply wonderful - you try every appetizer and pasta. you select a soup or salad and main entree. The pasta was to die for - kind of a comfort food gourmet style. As usual, pizza and grill on Lido were very good. The International Cafe is a definite alternative to the buffet for foodies. The Pub lunch at Wheelhouse is a good alternative to the buffet. I had the Fish and Chips which were very good, but kind of hard to eat at cocktail tables. Skip the pudding dessert unless you are a custard fan.
Entertainment - Lisa was the cruise director. It was very nice to see that Princess had promoted staff and in addition had a female cruise director - thumbs up. I enjoyed all the audience participation games that were provided from trivia and jeopardy to bingo. The musical entertainment was so-so. I am at a point where I don't want any more 50s music which seemed quite prevalent on the ship. Temperature - the band was mediocre. The first comedian tried very hard and was enjoyable. The second, I think, Thurgill was hilarious. I loved his humor and felt is was the best show of the cruise. There were many dance opportunities for ballroom enthusiasts.
Ports - Grand Cayman - we golfed through the ship which was great. Roatan -Victor Bodden tours - was a good day and comprehensive tour of island. The beach at Mahogany Bay is also very nice and next time I will look into the cabanas here which have a private beach front. Cozumel - we did the Playa Mia Beach Cookiing school with Luis for the second time - outstanding - do this excursion. We also went to the San Gervasio ruins in the afternoon and shopped on our own. I love Cozumel as they really understand the tourist industry. Princess Cays was cancelled due to wind - very disappointing especially as we passed two other ships making their stops. 3 sea days is too many for me.
Passengers - All seemed respectful and friendly on the whole. I will say that the chair hogs were out in full force around the pools and it was bordering on silly. Get out at 7 or 8 am and throw your towels out or you won't see a pool all day.
The Crown is still my favorite Princess ship and the Service was so good on this cruise, I can't say anything negative. The itinerary and condition of the ship were the real drawbacks, but I would do the Crown after refurb with a different itinerary again and I will.