I have cruised with Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and now Princess. I had been under the impression that Princess would be a step above the others, but after a week onboard, can't really say that.
What WAS impressive was arriving on board to find friendly crew members in the lobby, elevators and on our deck, welcoming us and directing us where we needed to go. My first impression was "Wow! This is going to be great!" First time ever being greeted and helped to that extent.
The ship itself was beautiful, well maintained, and very easy to "negotiate." I have been on cruises before where it took me almost the whole week to find my way around, but not the case this time.
I'm guessing because of the price point, there were not as many children on board as my prior cruises. It was, however, the noisiest cruise I've ever been on. There were teenagers on our floor, who RAN the halls at night. And twice we were trying to get out of the elevators, when as the doors opened, children came rushing in. Both times accompanied by parents, who said nothing to them.
Our cabin was just "okay." My mom didn't like it, (she is a frequent cruiser), and we were surprised at the size of the balcony after looking at the photos online. I would have expected three chairs on the balcony, since they knew there were three of us in the room, but we had to request and wait until late in the day for an extra chair. We had requested robes in the cabin online prior to arrival, and they were not there. The bathroom was standard, the cabin was standard, but the closet space was exceptional, especially for three of us. The refrigerator in the room did not work, and after several phone calls, we got a replacement. Our cabin steward, Jesus, was absolutely a gem, and went above and beyond for us the entire trip.
We had traditional dining, early seating, and were placed at a table with another couple traveling with their adult daughter, who faulted just about everything except the desserts. We only ate dinner with them three times, as we opted for dinner one night at Sabatini's, one night at Crown Grille, and the buffet one night as we were still in port in Grand Turk at dinnertime. The food in the dining room was good, not great, and our server was informed, not terribly attentive, not overly friendly - just okay. The first night, prime rib, I ordered medium and received well done. Had it been undercooked I may have sent it back, but it would have had to be redone and everyone else would have been finished, so I just ate it. The best night was the lobster tail, which was perfect. Two of the three nights there seemed to be a long time between main course and dessert, where no waiter was anywhere near. Not what I expected at all. My mother disliked the food onboard, everywhere. My daughter, a "foodie," loved Sabatini's and the Crown Grille, but didn't care for the dining room or the buffet.
My opinion - dinner at Sabatini's was incredible, well worth the $20 extra. Superb food, service and atmosphere. Dinner at the Crown Grille was not nearly as good; food, service or atmosphere. The ribeye was huge, but tough, tasteless, and served on a pool of wine sauce I didn't care for. Nowhere near worth the $25 surcharge. Side dishes were unimpressive, although plentiful. The buffet was overcrowded, and the food was plain. Seating was sometimes a problem.
The absolute jewel of the ship was the International Cafe in the beautiful Piazza, which served various pastries and salads, and the best gelato I've ever had. After the free soft-serve ice cream on deck the first night, and discovering the $1.50 gelato the next day, I never went back for the soft-serve. What a bargain the gelato is at $1.50! Three scoops of heaven. The coffee shop is right next to the International Cafe, and well worth the extra charge, although it could be better staffed. There were routinely long lines.
As far as the shows - the comedians were fabulous; can't say enough about them, and my mother and daughter both agreed with me on this. The other "variety" type shows were good, not great, for my daughter and I, but my mother is a fan of the "Vegas" type shows from cruises past.
I had read complaints about people saving seats for the shows, so we just arrived early, but all of the shows were full, so if you didn't arrive early, you would have a problem with this.
We purchased a pass for the "thermal suite" in the spa for the week, which was great and a good value. Took advantage of the sauna and steam rooms, and the incredible "stone beds" almost every day. But whoever planned this part of the ship made a huge mistake placing the workout area on the floor above the thermal suite. There's a sign stating "quiet area" when you walk in, but people jumping on the floor above you and dropping weights on the floor is hardly quiet while you're trying to relax! The Sanctuary on the top floor was very nice, and although there was a small surcharge, we took advantage of it several times. My daughter went for a facial, and was happy with the result, but didn't enjoy the smoker's breath from the technician who performed it.
We spent our pool time at the pools on the front and back of the ship, but not the main "family" pools, and didn't attend any of the Movies Under the Stars. Some movies were shown over and over, but the one we wanted to see was only shown once, during a time we couldn't go.
The ship's first stop was Princess Cays where passengers were tendered to a little island for the afternoon. My daughter and I did not go over, but my mother did, and it was as expected. Little booths set up selling straw items, and a luncheon on the beach.
I didn't care for the itinerary overall - too little time spent in each port, I guess. Our first and last days on board were at sea, but the middle of the week went quickly with all three ports three days in a row.
Overall - I would probably cruise Princess again, although I was disappointed it wasn't a little more upscale as it's pricing indicated it would be. My mother would definitely not, and neither would my daughter.