This was our 5th Princess cruise. We had elected to sail on Holland America last time as we had not particularly enjoyed the last Princess cruise we'd taken. We chose this latest cruise more for the itinerary than anything else, knowing though from reading previous info on this itinerary that we'd likely miss at least a few ports.
We flew to England arriving August 31st and spent three nights at Carey's Manor in the New Forest. A perfect start to this trip. We caught a cab to Southampton early Friday afternoon. Embarkation was pretty swift although there was some confusion at first of what line to get in as we had a full suite. I think it took us all of 20 minutes to actually arrive and board with our bags showing up not long after.
Cabin & Room Steward: Our cabin steward was Alfredo and he looked after us very well for the entire cruise. We were in suite R410. Very comfortable, loads of storage, loved the whirlpool tub - although I only decided to use it in week two and could not at first as the stopper wouldn't stay down. We reported it and it took a few days to get it repaired. But, once it was, a nice luxury. There was definitely noise from above the cabin due to the location. From past reports, I'd been aware prior to the cruise that this might be a problem. But, husband suffers badly sometimes from seasickness and did not want a suite either forward or aft - stomach normally handles mid ship best. This cabin is under the entry/serving area of the pizza outlet and you could definitely hear tables and chairs being scraped across the deck. Fortunately, normally after 11pm at night there was no noise so it wasn't really a big deal for us. I think this was in part that it was a northerly cruise so not many up on deck due to the weather. I don't think I would book this cabin for somewhere like the Caribbean as I think the deck above would be more active and the cabin much noisier. The internet connection in our cabin was available most of the time. Slow which was expected but consistently available. I'd taken my netbook with me and was able to stay in touch with home on sea days using it. The free laundry perk was great, especially on a two week cruise. We also enjoyed the fresh fruit delivered every other day.
Ship: Nice dEcor - we liked the dark wood in places like the Wheelhouse Bar. Overall, we found the public areas to be clean and well maintained. We did notice far fewer hand sanitizers throughout the ship in comparison to HAL's Eurodam where they seemed to be everywhere. Didn't spend much time outside on deck due to the weather. Only used our balcony a few times for the same reason. Even though there were a number of days at sea and bad weather forcing people inside much of the time, the ship didn't seem overly crowded in the areas we went. The Captain was Nick Nash. He visited one of our Cruise Critic Meet & Greets and we found his updates throughout the cruise over the speaker system to be quite humorous. A lot of passengers seemed very critical of him for not getting us into some of the ports but we felt he kept us and the ship safe in what at times were very windy conditions.
Dining: We had early dining in the Botticelli dining room at a table for four and were placed with another couple of similar ages to ours. Meeting and spending time with them definitely added to our enjoyment of this cruise. Service was OK but nothing to rave about. My husband and I both feel that over the years the food quality on Princess has declined and this trip did nothing to change that feeling. It was just OK. We did enjoy the tasty quiche we had twice from the International Cafe. Weren't impressed at all with Horizon Court or Cafe Caribe. We had dinner one evening in Crown Grill which was nice but fell far short of the quality of food and service we experienced in the Pinnacle Grill on HAL's Eurodam. The highlight of both food and service was definitely in Sabatini's. As suite passengers we had the benefit of breakfast in Sabatini's each day. What a pleasure. The food was excellent and the service from Pedro, Nilesh, Yana, Jules and Jose was second to none. We had dinner there two nights. Food was very good. Is a tasting menu where you select your salad or soup and main course and then you're offered tastings of everything else on the menu. Way too much food and you definitely need to exert self control and not eat too much! It's a lovely restaurant and the staff there were the best.
Entertainment: We went to a number of shows in the Princess Theater and they were enjoyable except we and others we spoke to felt the two lead females and males did not have very strong voices and detracted from the shows overall. We loved Diane Cousins' performances and went to both her shows. We enjoyed the International Cruise Show and appreciate staff from various departments taking the time to participate in something like this for the passengers. The comedian we saw was Tom Biscoe and the audience seemed to enjoy the performance we attended. We did not enjoy the resident band on this cruise. Again, we thought their voices were quite weak. We also noticed one evening the lead singer kept looking at the screen of a computer next to him like he was reading the lyrics. Maybe he wasn't, but that's what it seemed like since he was definitely unsure of the words. We'd noticed other passengers commenting about this too. We went to a few of the Trivia competitions and they were fun. Toward the end of the cruise at 11pm one night in the Piazza midship there was a party with a number of the cruise directors staff dancing with passengers and the resident band doing their best to play oldies from the 60's & 70's. It was good fun.
Casino: My husband and I both like going to the casino for a few hours each evening and during sea days because except for when we cruise, we seldom are able to go to one. For the 14 night cruise there were only two non-smoking nights (formal nights after 6pm) and with 8 sea days as it happened, this really was not enough for those passengers who dislike smoke or have asthma etc and so avoid being around smokers. It was interesting to see that many of the smokers were not even playing, they were sitting at the tables near the bar, drinking and smoking but that smoke carried over into the playing areas. We met a number of passengers who wouldn't go to the casino at all because of the smoke. Perhaps Princess makes less money on non-smoking evenings, I don't know. But, we definitely took more of our play fund money back home with us rather than donating it to the one arm bandits.
Spa & Fitness: My husband and I each enjoyed having a facial (had to talk him into it and he went under protest but later admitted he enjoyed it) and I was going to have a pedicure but didn't find the time.
Ports: We'd both been to Cornwall a few times so didn't do any tours, just spent a few hours walking around Falmouth. In Dublin we did one of the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tours which we enjoy taking in various places we visit, getting off at different places and just wandering around. We were disappointed not to get into Reykjavik but understood the problems the weather caused. We thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected day we had cruising along the coast of Greenland to Qaqortoq, especially the area around what we were told was the town of Narssaq. Beautiful. Qaqortoq was interesting and my husband especially enjoyed trying to communicate with an old gentleman in the fish market. In St. John's Newfoundland we just walked around for a few hours and had lunch at a little local restaurant called Velma's. Best fish cake since leaving home. The waitress who served us there was a hoot. We had only booked two excursions and they were for the two ports we missed.
Disembarkation in New York was easy except that there was definitely a shortage of taxi's available for passengers and the line was long. Took almost an hour to get one. Next time will book a car service as we've done in the past.
Miscellaneous: We enjoyed the funny culinary demonstration and the galley tour on our last sea day. I developed a bad cold a few days into the cruise which caused a problem with my asthma so I visited the medical facility. They were very nice and professional, examined me, put me on a nebulizer, provided medication etc all at what I thought was a very reasonable price. Was very impressed with the facility and the staff there. There were many more entertainment opportunities that we did not go to and I think the Cruise Director Sam, Deputy Cruise Director Fernando and the rest of their team did a great job ensuring passengers had plenty to do, especially during the extra days at sea.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise and returned home rested. Will our next cruise be on Princess? Probably not although I'm sure we will cruise them again in the future.