This was our fourth holiday cruise (Christmas and New Years) and the third with Princess. Year one was Panama Canal on the Island, two was Hawaii on Golden, then last year we tried Holland America and did Panama Canal on the Amsterdam. We decided to go back to Princess because although the HA ship was nicer - Princess seemed to have better food and entertainment.
GOOD - The price was right when I purchased this for us in May and when we got married in October, we decided it would also be our honeymoon. Things started smoothly - embarkation was a dream (especially after having to wait three hours with no food to board HA last year because of a health issue.)
BAD - The ship looked very worn. We were told that it is due for renovation in April and it is none too soon. I'm really getting sick of Princess Bland. My main problem with this ship is the issue with smoke. On all the other ships (in the common areas) - if you just avoid the casino - you can avoid the smell. The Grand must have been built before people became so concerned. The entire sixth deck stunk and the smell spread to parts of decks five and seven. I was only able to eat in the dining room on the fifth floor. I couldn't sit at the bar on five or six to listen to music like I normally do - because of the yucky smell. It is bad enough that you will likely smell smoke in all hallways and on your balcony because the ship is too lazy to require smoker's to confine themselves to certain levels or areas. This ship was the worst! I didn't even get to see Skywalker's because they cater to the smokers.
GOOD - Some of the personnel on this ship were the best I've experienced. Alina from Romania in the Michelangelo Dining Room was a delight! Our steward, Sonia, was top-notch. I also really liked that Princess continued with all you can drink soda cards. HA went with a 20 soda punch card that put me into caffeine withdrawal.
BAD - Services. Couldn't reach room service for over an hour at a non-busy time to order our champagne breakfast. Couldn't reach the Sanctuary for a reservation. (They told me their phone wasn't working but neglected to let the pursur's desk know about it.) We called to report our television out of order and were told someone would be up to check on it. We waited two hours and then went to dinner. Called again and was told that the electrician would be "right up". An hour later, our steward was able to fix the problem and told us that the electrician only responds to true emergencies. Three days later we got a call asking if our TV was still a problem. I was so dumbfounded - I couldn't think of a quick response.
BAD - The ship stopped (blew a fuse). Picture this - we're listening to a comedian make a joke about Carnival's cruise with stranded passengers and five minutes later the lights go out and the engine below us stops.
GOOD - The comedian (Kevin Hughes) doesn't miss a beat - someone shines a flashlight on him from the back and he ad libs for forty minutes.
BAD - The captain tells us that his men have found the problem and it was a fuse. The lights and AC come back on and then he says "I hope you won't hear from me again." I wondered if he had to commit hari-kari.
GOOD/BAD - Entertainment - Tony Cherry and Kevin Hughes were EXCELLENT. The ventriloquist, hypnotist and magician were pretty mediocre. For the first time though -- the musical options were really bad. Ray Coussins pounded on the piano like an elephant walking on it. His constant "flourishes" may have caused non- musicians to think he was talented - but his playing was muddy and torturous.
GOOD - Places we visited. See more below. I was amazed how delightful Princess Cays was. I expected a rip-off, but had a blast. We took mostly taxi tours in the other cities - cheaper and less herding. It did seem that the shore excursions were more reasonable this time. Don't do Santo Domingo on your own though. Some guy grabbed my husband's foot and put black shoe polish on his expensive brown shoes.
BAD - Holiday Celebration - New Year's Eve was not as well coordinated as on other ships. The top deck was a windy nightmare. Ray Coussins was banging uncontrollably in one lounge and the atrium area was crowded and reeked of smoke from the casino.