We are experienced cruisers and have cruised on Carnival three times and Royal Caribbean twice. Check-in at the pier was flawless and fast. Being able to bring wine and water onboard was a huge plus and having the duty-free store right there made it real simple.
Embarkation was fairly simple. A security staffer took charge of the wheelchair and we were brought right aboard the ship in a matter of minutes. When we did get aboard the ship, it was like walking into a standard hotel - nothing to jump out and "wow" us as with Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
Unfortunately though, this has to be the worst experience as far as the ship itself is concerned. Our stateroom was averaging 78-80 degrees and not the "meat-locker" cold we've been accustomed to on other ships. We complained regularly and all the technician would do is come and plug in a computer and adjust the pressure and say it should be okay in an hour. With so many people complaining about the air conditioning I am surprised he didn't look into an iced-over evaporator coil! He did not appear to be the swiftest tech on the boat. There were many areas of the ship that were just too warm and we would walk through sections of cold air into sections of warm air, even in the same corridor. As a result of the very warm room and lack of adequate air circulation, both of us got sick on the cruise. We probably should have contacted the chief engineer to get better satisfaction. Even our cabin steward was complaining how warm the ship was! But we did notice the ship was kept very clean with hand sanitizing stations abundant throughout the vessel. We also noticed the hallways seemed to be much narrower than on other ships, probably by up to a foot.
Internet service was spotty and difficult to connect to from the stateroom, even while docked. I had to bring my laptop to the Internet Cafe "manager" and he did something to it which has screwed it up now that I'm home. I'm not convinced he knew what he was doing and was just guessing. While I was able to connect from the stateroom after his "fix," I was unable to do so from San Juan airport and have to dig deeper to find out what he tweaked and un-tweak it. One night the entire Internet connection was down, even from the Internet Cafe itself. A lot of passengers in the Cafe were quite upset.
The ship's television system is quite archaic by today's standards. We are unable to view or purchase excursions via the TV as with RCCL or Carnival, they did not have any local television stations (from a major American city), and we are unable to check our bill from the television as we were able to do with other cruise ships. They need to implement an interactive television system.
We found the casino to be very small compared to casinos in other ships, but on a positive note, there were three non-smoking days in it.
Disembarkation was okay. The front desk told us that the other couple we were traveling with would be able to be with us in the handicapped waiting room (casino) but the people there said emphatically, no. Yet we did see other groups of five and six waiting with one wheelchair guest. It seemed the right hand didn't know what the left was doing. But, once our color/number was called, the security personnel escorted us straight off, bypassing the lines. This made for a very easy disembarkation process.
We couldn't help but notice the stores onboard were somewhat small and didn't have the variety of wares that were offered by Carnival or Royal Caribbean.
The photographs are posted by location and shooting time versus what RCCL had on the Adventure of the Seas where they seem to be employing a facial-recognition system and all photos taken were placed into the guest's portfolio removing the need to scan hundreds of photos to find the one taken of you. I mentioned this to the photo manager and he was unaware of this system. Also, the other ships we have been on had photo labs aboard to process film. This ship had the processor removed.
Now for the positives: The food was excellent and despite our preference this time for "anytime dining" we managed to have the same waiter and assistant waiter for five of the seven nights. They were a good team and the service was impeccable, both in the dining rooms and throughout the ship. Towards the end they knew our likes and dislikes and did their best to accommodate our wishes.
The itinerary was excellent and despite my wife being in a wheelchair, the tour operators were more than accommodating and she was able to enjoy the sights of the respective ports. We're hoping to take in the rest of the Lesser Antilles Islands on our next cruise.
Security was more than competent in assisting wheelchair travelers on and off the ship and did so with great care. In Aruba they even used a robotic-tractor-like machine to get the travelers down the stairs since the stairs were steep due to the tide. Kudos to them for their care and attention to details.
The service staff in the Lido buffet were always looking for tables to accommodate the wheelchair and many of the staffers there even offered to get food for my wife so she wouldn't have to fight the lines herself while semi-incapacitated. As for the Lido Buffet itself, we found the food to be well prepared and tasty, but the layout was just too confusing and it was difficult to go from one side of the ship to the other without having to go outside.
The entertainment was okay -- not as good as Carnival, but better than Royal Caribbean. The singers and dancers were very talented folks however and had great voices. It's just some of the shows themselves were a little slow and not quite as "glitzy" or as lively as we've come to expect. The galley tour was one of the highlights and the act that the Executive Chef and the Maitre d' had on stage was hilarious. We wish more ships had this amenity.
We ran into many past Princess cruisers who unanimously stated this was by far the worst one they've been on, for many of the same reasons outlined above, and one woman had cruised on Princess 30 times! Overall we'd have to rate this cruise about three out of five stars at best, and that may be generous. While there were absolutely many positives, the failure of the air conditioning and warmth of the cabin was a huge negative as was the "archaic" television system and the hassles of getting on-line via the ship's WiFi.