We've cruised with HAL and Celebrity before but we liked the fact that this cruise did both Christmas and New Years and so we decided to give Princess a try. I have to agree with much of what Bahmexpan wrote in their review especially about the smoking...people are smoking all over the ship and the crew really doesn't care.
It's hard to believe that the ship was launched in 1998 because the decor generally has a real mid 80s feel to it (all that wood and the pastel colours etc) make the ship feel much much older than it is...hopefully the time in dry dock will be well used because we generally like the feel of the ship (although getting to the Boticelli restaurant is way more difficult than it should be).
Indeed the entertainment was hit and miss (and Princess must retire "Stardust" it's just painful to sit through)...especially when Princess boasts about how young its passengers are!!...all the entertainment is way over miked so sitting and listening to almost any of it is next to impossible...and indeed all Ray "Mr. Pianoman" Coussins does is bang on his over miked piano and drive most people away...and this was the first cruise we've been on with no string quartet (again I'm sure that's a Princess thing).
Buy the coffee card and get the fresh brewed coffee at the bar on 5 or 7...the stuff in the dining room is undrinkable (and the cost of the card and the 15 specialty coffees it gets you PLUS all the fresh brewed you can drink) is worth it.
The breakfast buffet is OK but certainly lacks the attention to detail that Celebrity provides at breakfast and after 14 days was really repetitive. Francis and Enrique (our waiters in the dining room were great fun)and the food was generally good but there does seem to be a continual problem with food arriving cold or tepid at the table (several dinners were sent back and new steaming plates always arrived so it is possible). Better wine packages would be appreciated (although we know that this is more a 6 beer for the price of 5 sort of crowd) still more wine packages would be useful and often the dining room doors didn't open until 8:10 (even as late at 8:15) which meant there were often people lined up the stairs (towards deck 7) from 8:00 onwards.
We did try both specialty restaurants - Sabbatinni's was tremendous until the entrees arrived (they were the worst part of the meal) and they seriously need to hire a third team of servers in there as the 6 people working the restaurant cannot satisfy all those diners...the steakhouse was OK but the old Mexican cantina decor (and wicker chairs) will hopefully disappear during dry dock.
We really liked the Princess system of simply 'reserving' excursions and then being able to cancel up until 2 days before port...we changed our minds a couple of times and it's so easy with this system...BUT it means major charges on your folio as nothing can be paid for before the cruise.
Embarkation, disembarkation and tendering were hassle free and without any trouble at all (the only line we encountered was trying to leave Princess Cays)and if we had waited 30 minutes that would have been avoided as well.
We went without many expectations and were pleasantly surprised by much of what we found...we'll certainly sail with Princess again (and I'd like to sail on the Grand again and see what the time in dry dock does for her...the captain did say that no one would recognize her when she 're-emerges')...and hopefully they will fix that "fuse" or "fire" or whatever caused us to lose power and sit for 15 minutes in the Caribbean sea wondering if we were the next "news item".