I have only cruised on NCL prior to this Princess sailing. I found the two very similar for our needs. We have found that traveling with our DD creates a much different vacation then when my DH & I go alone. We were delivered to the port in Brooklyn in a limo-van in the mid afternoon. It was the busiest time at the terminal. Long lines that kept moving. Had to wait maybe 30 minutes to board. We skip almost all photo opportunities with the ship photographers in an effort to get where we are going.
I stopped at the Service Desk immediately to try my luck at getting a spot in the Ultimate Ship Tour. The attendant said it was already full. I was fine with that since it was so late, but was upset later when they advertised in the Patter that people should sign up before 4pm the next day in order to have a chance to go. Apparently they weren't doing the lottery system on this sailing. We then went to our cabin (dolphin deck 301) I was happy with the mini-suite. We booked this trip relatively late. The only other balcony at the time was near the nightclub and I didn't want the noise when my DD needs to be sleeping. Booking the mini was a wonderful choice. I loved the open balcony with space to relax. We enjoyed room service breakfast out on the balcony almost every day. I also like having my DD in a separate area. We brought a dark sheet, non-marking hooks and binder clips to create a separator between her sleeping area and ours. That worked great! Also brought magnet clips based on a suggestion on the CC boards... great way to keep the important papers where I could find them (on the walls). Since I've side tracked myself into the best things I brought, here are a few more: - travel mugs for morning coffee or tea that is bigger than a tiny cup. - light up alarm clock. - Dramamine - window cling for our balcony glass wall (allowed us to identify our balcony from shore) - reusable water bottle - extension cord/plug extender. This helped with all of the various chargers we used each night, plus the laptop.
Food - I found the buffet food to be similar to NCL. Nothing exciting, but I can always find something I like. My 9 year old DD lived on hot dogs from the grill by the pool. I also enjoyed the burgers & pizza from these pool area eateries. The themed buffets were inconsistent. The oriental buffet was lacking, it didn't even have rice! The Mexican one was good. We had anytime dining but since we were trying to eat as a group we tended to be at either the Coral or Island dining room at 6 each night. Our group of 12-18 were seated at 2 tables each night. We really liked Rey in the Island dining room. He was very good. The food in the dining room was fine. After having the beef on the 1st formal night that tasted like liver, I stayed away from most beef main courses. I'm not a foodie and don't like seafood, so I felt limited in my dinner options in the dining room. But I did eat 3-4 courses a night and usually finished what I ordered. As I mentioned above, we had room service for breakfast most of the trip. They were always early and everything was correct on our order. I followed someone's advise to order 2 cups of tea for one person and they delivered a carafe of hot water with multiple bags. The International Cafe was all that everyone says it is. Great free treats! My DH and others in my group raved about the milkshakes from Scoops. When I tried to get one the blender was broken, which happened multiple times on the trip.
Activities - - As expected on this full ship the week after school let out, the sun & pool decks were mobbed on the sunny sea days. It's disappointing to not have loungers but we found places to be or went back to our balcony. I also like to sit on the edge of the pool. No lounger needed. - We registered our DD for the kids club, but she never went. The orientation guy must have been new as he read his list to us, including the stuff about diapers and toddlers after we told him we only have the 9 year old. He didn't try to interact with my DD during the orientation so I wasn't surprised that she wasn't dying to go back. We tried to sign her up for the Jr. Chef program, but that was full, we were 1st on the wait list, but never called. - Went to 1 show "Piano Man" singing and dancing. It was fine. Nothing exciting.. - Went to the Hypnotist show with Tim Triplett- I thought it was hysterical. My DD enjoyed it too. It was clean except for the joke the CD said at the beginning. We even tried to attend a show the 2nd night, but it was in the lounge and already full by the time we arrived. - Went to 1 of the comedian shows at the lounge, he was funny. But it sounded like the 2nd comedian was funnier later in the week. But we didn't see him. - Walked around the Promenade deck multiple mornings for exercise. I enjoyed the exercise and got used to passing slower walkers or staying to the right for joggers. It'd be nice if the CB had a separate jogging track. - Formal nights - The dining attendants were inconsistent. They sent one of our pre-teen girls back to her room to change out of nice flip flops. But then we saw others later in flip flops and even jeans in the same dining room. - Photos - I had planned ahead to have a casual family photo done while on board. We did the contemporary white background and were very happy with the results. It would have been better if we could have understood the photographer better. But we had multiple prints to choose from and didn't need to do any other studio shots. I bought the cruise book package through pan-raven. We'll see how that works out. - Since the kids in our party didn't go to the kids club, they were bored quickly on the last 2 sea days, especially when it was cloudy and rainy. I created a scavenger hunt for them. That worked well. They enjoyed going in pairs to find things on the ship. We also went up to Skywalkers one afternoon. That gave 3 of the kids some space to play without bothering anyone. We enjoyed reading with the great views up there. - Internet - my DH set up our account with ease. We used the WiFi from our room. There were times when the connection died. But it was in typical busy times. Evenings and early mornings were fine. Even some dinner times on sea days worked well! - On the last sea day we attended the Chef's demo and Galley tour. It was free. The chef & Matre'd were so funny. The captain came and made salad too. It was in the theater then we all filed our way to the galley behind the Coral dining room. I couldn't believe they let us through there. There wasn't anyone telling you what was what, so you figured it out on your own. But it was neat to see some of the behind the scenes. I recommend this! Even with all the waiting to get through the galley it only took 30 minutes after the demo.
Room: - We barely ever saw our cabin steward, Iggy. He did a fine job. Met our needs without needing to be tracked down. I thought our room was clean and well kept. Much like any other 6 year old hotel or cruise ship room. - Our room was very close to the elevators in the front of the ship. We could hear the ding of the arriving elevator, but I don't think we heard very much foot traffic. - This was my first balcony. I loved it. I liked that it had no roof. Although on the rainy days that sent us inside. - It was nice having the living room area for the kids to play in during the day or to watch a movie. - Plenty of closet space and shelf space for the 3 of us. We didn't actually use all of the space. The bathroom had more than enough space for all of our stuff also.
Disembarking: - We were supposed to be out of our rooms by 8am. We decided to go to the buffet without our carry-on bags. So we didn't get back to our room and leave it until after 8. I was a little surprised that our steward checked in on us around 8:05. -We were scheduled to meet in the dining room at 8:15am. We arrived close to that to a standing room only dining room. We waited 5 -10 minutes then they announced our tag color/number. The lines to get off the ship and to go through customs were minimal. Found our luggage and were waiting for our ride by 8:40.