We were 2 active female friends in our mid 50's who decided to take an R & R cruise and neither of us had been to NE/Canada. We booked through bestpricecruises.com after gettting a great rate through cruise-compete.com. we received an additional discount for being NJ residents and past princess travelers (this was my 3rd princess cruise) and booked an inside guarantee, cat M (Plaza Deck 5). We got an unheard of deal that was too good to pass up and we didn't care where we were on the ship. We hoped for an upgrade to a balcony cabin but we were pleasantly surprised to get onto the Riviera Deck 14, a 7 deck upgrade and we were very satified with the inside cabin in the front of the ship. It was quiet and not real close the elevators to hear any noise.
Embarkation at Red Hook was smooth and easy. We arrived a bit early but could not begin boarding the ship till 11:30. We were in our cabin about 12:10. We headed to the buffet and explored the gigantic ship and then unpacked. From then on we were busy from early morning till late at night. Princess has great activities and wonderful entertainment.
One mistake was not making dinner reservations (we had anytime dining)so dinner on the first night was not a pleasant experience. My friend and I do not like eating so late and we didn't get finished till about 9pm. When you arrive on ship and want to eat early, call and make a reservation for 5:45 (the latest you can for anytime dining). They will hold your reservation till 6. We shared tables with other people every night and it was fun to meet new people and share experiences about cruising, excursions, etc. We made reservations for the 2nd and 3rd nights but after that it wasn't a problem to get seated in either dining room.
I thought the food was tasty, but I am not picky and there was always something good on the menu. My favorite night was Thursday with lobster and shrimp.
We ate breakfast and lunch at the buffet and had a snack before bed a few times. We used room service for coffee.
Our cabin was adequate for two ladies with 2 suitcases. Ask for a foam eggcrate, it did make the bed more comfortable. I also asked for feather pillows.
My friend brought wine on board with a corkscrew. She opened the wine in the cabin and used the glasses provided...she carried the glass to dinner and asked for a wine glass at the bar...it was never a problem and no one questioned her.
Drinks are pricey, the cheapest drinks are $3.00 but very watered down, my friend had house rum and diet coke for $3.55. I drank iced water with lemon and lime.
The international cafe is wonderful for light snacking. It's open from 6am - 11pm. It's in the Piazza which is the center of activity on Deck 5 but there are views from Deck 6 and 7. I used a coffee card which I had purchased on a previous cruise (2 for 1 coupon) and felt it well worth it since the coffee in the buffet was awful. The lattes and cappucino at the IC were $3.00 each and extra shots of expresso were free. You could get regular coffee free if you had the card. If you are a coffee drinker it is worth it to have the coffee card, especially the buy one get one free coupon for 30 cups of specialty coffee. They will give you a thermal coffee cup but the card is cheaper if you do not take the cup.
I purchased some internet time on our sea day Friday as it was discounted but there is a $4.00 connection charge which no one tells you about so beware of that. Again, I had a coupon for 15 min. extra time so a 45 min package was $16.00.
The shops on board were no bargain and the items in the $10 shop were really junky.
The ports were nice...we did not book any shore excursions since we wanted to explore on our own and the trips were a bit pricey...we had bad weather in Newport and Boston so we couldn't do much there. Newport has tender service but the town itself is walkable. Boston had a $15 shuttle provided by Princess - we took it because of the nasty weather but you could probably get a taxi or public transportation to downtown. Bar Harbor was wonderful. The weather was perfect and we took the tender and then walked to the public bus which took us through Acadia Park. I recommend the Ollie's trolley for $15 which will take you up Cadillac Mountain...we didn't do it because we didn't know about it and the public bus was crowded and not every driver spoke..we had to take 3 busses to do a 90 minute loop. We got a taste of the park. We did a walking tour with a map on our own and at a wonderful lobster roll at the Side Street Cafe. My friend and I shared it after a local recommended this cute cafe. I purchased some specialty balsalmic vinegar at a shop called Fiery and we had a $1 ice cream at a drug store on the main shopping street. Bar Harbor was really a wonderful place which I would definitely go back to. Saint John was nice too, we took a taxi to the reversing river but unless you go at low tide or do the jet boat, there was nothing much to see so we were glad we didn't pay for that excursion through the ship. We got there by taxi at about 9:30 and stayed about 15 min. The driver took us to the City Market for $10 each and we walked back to the ship from there. Saint John is walkable and that we did. We took a tour of the Jewish Historical Museum after the City Market and a walk through the park. When we arrived in Halifax it was very foggy and then started to rain...we got soaked and had to go back to the ship to dry off and change. By the time we left again, the weather was a bit nicer and we took the public bus FRED to the Public Gardens. If you love botanical gardens, this place was a gem. It was free and we joined one of the Greyline Tours and got the jist of the history of the place. We then walked back to the ship from there.
We checked weather before we went and brought all the wrong things. A rain poncho, rain hat and waterproof shoes are a must, wish we had them. The umbrella I bought in Boston broke almost as soon as I opened it. Bring some long sleeved shirts and jean or long pants if you like spending time on the deck or watching movies. It was quite windy and we couldn't stay outside too much.
We enjoyed all the entertainment and did some dancing. All in all it was a great cruise for the money we paid and I would definitely cruise with Princess again.
Debarkation was a breeze...we left the ship before our scheduled time and found our luggage right away and zipped through customs.