I think of transatlantic cruising as an opportunity to nibble around the edges of Europe while reducing the major hassles: only one long flight, and minimal packing & unpacking -- only our independent 8 night pre-cruise stay in London and Portsmouth required changing hotels.
While Princess waved its bus passengers into priority embarkation queues in Southampton, the rest of us waited in hour+ long lines outside the terminal in chill wind despite priortity boarding passes (platinum members). It was the worse embarkation I've endured in 28 cruises! This was the first time our luggage made it to the cabin before we did!
We were very happy with our decision to book a mini-suite -- to us it's worth the extra cost to have the additional space since we can enjoy being in our cabin. We gained a 3-cushion sofa, small table, extra storage space, and a tub in the bathroom (handy for hanging hand laundry).
For dinner we usually choose 1st traditional dining, and we found our 6 tablemates enjoyable. The food was tasty, but I couldn't rate it very good because it usually arrived only warm -- rarely hot -- and diminished in quality from sitting in the warming dishes too long. Since the veggies wtih dinner amounted to a garnish than a "serving," our waiter obligingly provided extras on request. At breakfast and lunch we enjoyed the "sharing tables" in the dining room. It was a tough choice between the dining room and buffet, because I also enjoy the greater variety at the buffet, especially the nice salad bar at lunch. The afternoon tea rates a special mention -- fresh & hot raisin scones are not to be missed!
We read on Cruise Critic to be sure to catch lecturer John Maxtone-Graham, so we knew to get the to the theater early to have a seat. Scheduling the 2 lecturers back-to-back in the morning was unfair to both speakers, and led to having to be in place more than 30 min. in advance of the program. We always enjoy the production shows with lavish costumes and talented singers and dancers. As on our prior cruise on the Star Princess, we were baffled by the decision to put a production show Motor City in the small Vista Lounge (terrible sight lines), and put solo performers in the bigger Princess Theater. It was hard to appreciate slight of hand card tricks from 30 rows back! The Vista Lounge is terrible for movies, too -- passengers sitting in the higher single chairs block the view of those on the lower sofas, and nobody can see from behind the columns, or from the side alcoves! The juggler had to look up to make sure the objects he threw didn't crash into the low-hanging lights. The Vista Lounge doesn't work well for anything.
There were a lot of activities offered during the day. I would have liked a Scrabble get-together, but this ship lacks a game room (just 4 tables off to the side in the casino). Two small jigsaw puzzles were set up in the library, but there was only seating for 2 people at a time. Too bad the people who design ships don't seem to understand what space is needed! I did enjoy the daily Sudoku sheets, still miss the NY Times newspaper they used to print for us. I liked the chef's demo in the Princess theater and the fruit & veg carving demo in the atrium.
It's 3 for 3 -- I was also timed out on Princess' cruise satisfaction survey before I had the chance to finish!
Armed with info from the internet, we did sightseeing in Lerwick, Shetland Islands on our own: a walk to Ft. Charlotte and then to the Town Hall. The town hall has beautiful stained glass windows with important characters from the islands' history.
The setting in Akureyri, Iceland was so beautiful with the trees in autumn color and the water as smooth as glass. We took a free city bus uphill to the botanical garden, the walked back downhill to the modern church and pedestrian shopping area. There were "photo ops" set up for tourists with giant trolls, a group of polar bears, and a little Viking. I regret not getting out of the city to see the Godafoss waterfall.