First, let me say that I did not have a "bad" experience on Princess. I availed myself of many of the amenities and enjoyed them greatly. Overall, the experience well exceeded my past Carnival experience as well as somewhat exceeded my Holland America experience. But alas, it did not live up to my expectations provided by my Grand Princess experience 10+ years ago.
It is the "little extras" that Princess does well. Things like providing ice cold washcloths on the dock before boarding the ship so you can refresh from the Caribbean heat. This was made a startling contrast in Cozumel, where both Princess and Carnival were docked at the same dock location and the Carnival passengers were not provided with the same consideration. Also, when weather made going ashore at port less than inviting, The Crown did show unscheduled movies in the theater and tried to move outdoor events, like ice carving and scrapheap boat racing, to more protected areas. Most live entertainment was repeated over 2 days so if you couldn't make it one day, you could see it the next.
However, in noticing these nice "extras", one began to notice little basic things that had slipped. Cleanliness and upkeep are essential requirements for me, and this, not to extremes. I am aware of the mess that can be made by 3100 people, however a boat intent on carrying that many people should be staffed sufficiently to care for the same. I had always raved to my friends about how clean the Grand was kept - the staff on their hands and knees cleaning the carpeting on the steps late at night or cleaning off the decks every night.
But on the Crown, not so much.
At breakfast, some unidentified brown liquid had been splashed and dried on the wall and marred my view out the window, which had exterior paint flaking off and rust spots appearing around the windows edge. Our shower had dark short hairs (we're all blond) and stains on the ceiling, and by day 3, mold growing on the tile wall grout. Though I suppose mold can't be helped considering there was no exhaust fan for the bathroom. The balcony door rattled all night, no matter how many times it was re-opened and shut and locked down. White paint chips were all over the balcony chairs when we boarded, maybe from flaking paint, and spots where the wall high above the balcony doors were painted previously were a mass of drips. The glass of the balcony railing appeared not to have been cleaned in quite a while. The balcony floor was soaking wet so much so that water puddled through the blue rubber mesh flooring that covered the balcony floor (easily 1/2 inch deep), and the blue flooring was also so heavily texturized that standing on it in bare feet was more than a little uncomfortable. The duvet for the comforter for the bed was ripped at the seams and fraying, and the filling so worn it was lumpy balls of fiberfill.
We took the Galley tour and although the kitchen did look very clean, one of the first hand washing sinks we saw had it's faucet handle just laying in the bowl, and further down, an unusable grill with a sign stating waiting for replacement. The elevator down call buttons wouldn't light until they were pressed repeatedly.
Further, the food standard has also decreased. Food arrived cold on more than one occasion, and the Pub's breading on the fish for fish and chips was a soggy mess. All but one night, we couldn't get through dinner in 2 hours to make it to the shows - not because of the courses, but because we had to wait so long to get food. The fancy presentation effects seemed to be lost on everything but the desserts, leaving just a tiny twig of parsley as visual enhancement on an otherwise fairly empty plate. On a rough sea day when I had a bit of trouble with sea sickness (40 MPH winds and 7-12 ft waves), my "24 room service" menu could not provide something that wasn't heavy, spicy or greasy - no simple soup or jello. One could get free milk in the dining rooms, room service and buffet areas all day, but if you asked for milk prior to 3 pm in the international cafe, you were charged for it.
You may say - yes, but these are all small things. And I would agree with you. However, little small things that pop up over and over start becoming a pattern and an annoyance. Especially when you know they have done better before this.
Would I travel Princess again? Yes, but with different expectations. Sort of like when you really want a good steak but you end up going to the local dive and hope for the best. It may be a steak you'll get, but it won't be the same as from a place that really does steak well.