This was my 2nd cruise (first one was May 2010 on Carnival Dream) and my husband's 4th cruise (all Carnival). First of all we LOVED Carnival in May it was so much fun and exciting and we didn't even get that great of weather. I was very excited to go on this cruise with a larger group of people. I am 27 and my husband is 28. On this cruise I was pregnant (woo!) so I guess I had a little bit different of a cruise experience. My husband really doesn't drink so he was fine. We were on this cruise to enjoy our friend's wedding. They got married on the ship on sunday before the rest of the vacationers were allowed on the ship. It was a wonderful ceremony and they did a great job for a reception in the one night club.
All in all we definitely had a wonderful vacation, so much so that I cried when it was time to go home (hormones). However, if we had to choose between Carnival and Princess based on overall experience on the ship I would pick Carnival hands down. People complain about Carnival having "tacky" ships...well i thought Princes was TRYING to look too "country club"... but it didn't come off rich at all it just looked cheap. I'd rather just have the "fun" look of carnival. The ship's layout was VERY choppy. I thought the buffet lines were cramped and I was not impressed with the selection of food. I expected Princess' food to be top notch and it was still on the same caliber as Carnival (I'm a food snob). I will say i was impressed that there were more fish options and LOVED that they had LOX for breakfast (yes i know I shouldnt' eat that but i couldn't resist). I did enjoy the freedom of Any-time dining but we still ate around the 8-830 time frame so it didn't matter. Some of our wait staff was not pleasant and took FOREVER to serve us. The food selections for dinners were not that impressive and actually very dissappointing but still tasted ok. The Steakhouse was WELL WORTH the $20. It is basically like going to Ruth Chris for $20.
I like to workout and enjoyed the gym every morning at 630am. I did not like how the "track" was not one complete circle unless you go up and down steps and was closed sometimes in the early mornings.
Yes we saved chairs. Early bird gets the worm. get over it and don't be lazy. After breakfast at 730ish we would scope out the two chairs we wanted, leave to get our suits on and be back in our chairs as soon as possible. We had no problems with the decks being crowded. We chose to be at the pool that had the band. Seriously? who goes on a vacation to watch a movie at the pool? I wish there would have been more games and more of a party atmosphere but I guess that would destract the masses from their card games.
Since I was pregnant, I decided to purchase the Ultimate Drink Card for about $70 after taxes. I do not think I drank enough pop or mock-tails to pay for the card but i did enjoy having it. Actually, it seemed easy to smuggle alcohol on if you wanted to....so if I were to do it again, I would have put some Rum in a large water bottle, get on the ship and use the card to make my own strawberry daq & pina coladas. just saying!
I will say the caliber of people on the ship was DEFINITELY different than Carnival. 60% were so old!....i have to give them credit for enjoying life and going on cruises...I hope to be just like them. and the other 40% seemed to be early 30's to middle aged. There were not many kids but of those that were on the ship they seemed to enjoy themselves. Everyone on the ship definitely tried to present themselves nicer than on Carnival. There were not as many "sloppy" people on this ship - which i appreciated.
We went to the casino a few times, they only had TWO nights where they did not allow smoking. How annoying is that!? We saw both comedians. They were funny but kept the humor very PG. Although i'm not sure what kind of humor would make some of the people on that ship laugh....they must have to first remove the sticks out of their....nevermind. We did not go to the shows because I'm sure they would have been cheesy. I usually like full musicals or broadway performances. The cruise director did try her best (along with the annoying english kid -- why is Brittish humor just NOT funny!?) but it is hard to work with a bunch of old people. The party on the deck the one night was NOTHING like the Carnival party....everyone sat in chairs. They totally could have filmed a "Sit & Fit" excercise DVD. Princess was nice enough to play the NFL playoff games on the screen outside and it was even nicer to watch the Steelers embarrass the Baltimore Ravens and all the fans that were on the ship. Word of advice to everyone--never make comments about the Terrible Towel it never ends well for the opposing team :)
Our room was always kept very clean (not by my husband) by Normin. He was excellent. For some reason Princess doesn't give you robes -- which is surprising. So we asked Normin for one and he got it right away. The shower in our stateroom was sooooooo small! My husband is 6'3" and towered above the shower head and barely fit in the shower at 220lbs (of muscle -- he made me add that)! It was also extremely difficult for ladies to shave their legs (so i used the trashcan as a stool - FYI).
The ports were excellent. I thought I wouldn't enjoy Princess Cays but I did. And my Drink Card worked there since Princess ran that beach. It was also nice not to have to spend extra money. The beach was nice, chairs were free and beach volleyball is always a blast! St. Maarten was by far my favorite! Great party atmosphere! Great Shopping and my husband was able to find some great cuban cigars. St. Thomas was also nice we went to Megan's Bay and Emerald Bay. Both do not have a lot of amenities so bring a book and be prepared to pay for chairs. We did not go into town to go shopping. Grand Turk was beautiful but the weather wasn't great. Most people only stayed for a short bit or went to Margaritaville. Friends of ours rented skooters and went all over the island stopping at locals bars and had a blast doing that.
To recap. It was a great trip but I think we are Carnival cruisers. I would like to try Royal Carribean next to see if it is a mixture of both cruiselines.
One bit of advice...Ft. Lauderdale airport was a CLUSTER the day you get back. if you have a later flight, you might as well pay the express checkout for all your luggage and take a taxi straight from the port to Ft. Lauderdale beach and hit up LuLu's and some other places along the beach. We waited in line for an HOUR just to drop off our bags at SouthWest because our flight was not till 7pm and then took another taxi out to Ft. Lauderdale beach