My wife and I are in our early 40's and have sailed on Carnival and NCL. Our best sailing experience was NCL, but we thought we would try Princess.
Embarkation: Wow, Princess has this mastered. Carnival always greeted us with long lines which moved at a snails pace. All the different booths based on your cabin location made check-in a breeze.
Room: We selected a obstructed view cabin and were issued L104, which in many regards was a fantastic room. It had a huge mirrored window overlooking the bow of the ship. There was a decent sized deck in front which we could see, but the mirrored glass prevented others from seeing in. The only drawback was that there was an access door for the public right next to our room. When people when out the door to view the front deck, the door slammed so hard it shook the bed - no joke. At times people were in and out non-stop, but it was only during the day between 9am and 5pm. If we wanted to take a nap it was tough. They close More
access to the deck at night. We were directly under the treadmills from the gym above and only once or twice heard the thuds of people working off the extra helpings of food. Our steward, Richard, was fantastic and very friendly and efficient.
Food: The food was decent. We were not blown away and the food was on-par with NCL or Carnival. We did the anytime dinner since we eat around 6:00 and had no issues getting a table right away. We some some great people during dinner, but also had a table for 2 on two nights with no wait. The dinner staff was hit or miss. Twice we had very good service and twice our staff was seldom seen and dinner dragged out to 90-120 minutes. Not horribly bad since we met others, but it was a long time. We also had the fish & chips at the wheelhouse for lunch once and it was really good.
Overall service: This is where we felt Princess fell flat. The wait staff in the Horizons buffet area were nearly zombies walking around trying as hard as possible not to make eye contact so they didn't have to assist you with anything. They were mostly there to provide refreshments and refills and keep the tables cleaned. There were a decent amount of staff in the area and most times getting a refill or was impossible. Like I said, they walked around with a blank stare would not greet anyone and just looked tired and worn out. Even the deck attendants were decent, but on Carnival or NCL, they were polite would greet people and seem to enjoy what they were doing. Not here on Princess. During the mornings we would be almost worn out from returning pleasant "good mornings" and bright smiles to the Carnival and NCL staff - from the custodial staff to the deck attendants - it was a very nice touch and was sorely missing from Princess. To me, this was the biggest negative we found.
Selling: This also rubbed us the wrong way. The entire first day and the subsequent morning/ afternoon on the ship was fending off sales pitches for the unlimited soda program and the wine tasting. As stated above we were not impressed with the service of the staff, but were caught off-guard several times the first day when a polite person would stop to say "welcome to Princess!! We are happy to have you aboard, you should check out our wine tasting/ soda card/ art auction, etc." and go into a canned pitch. It was more than disingenuous since we learned quickly that the only person who smiled and and greeted us were people trying to sell us something. Even into the next day, the wine tasting was heavily sold. During the days were were getting into a port, the sales were $4 bottles of water, every corner we turned was someone greeting us with a smile and offer to buy water. It would have been nice to have someone greet us without following it up with a sales pitch.
Spaces: We really liked Vines. Lawrence was fantastic and a truly nice guy. We ordered a bottle of wine and received the complimentary sushi and tapa platters. We could also overhear the music from the main atrium.
Sanctuary: Since we heard such great comments we went there about 10 minutes after boarding and reserved 2 spaces for the week - I am 90% sure we were the second group to book. My wife loves the sun and I prefer the shade, but there is no way to split chairs and be together. It would be fantastic if they could rig some sort of umbrella/cabana top or ? to provide shade to those who requested it. The first two days it was so windy it was impractical to to sit out side. It was just windy and a chilly. The area has about 7-10 community seats that you can use under the shade if you don't want to sit in your assigned lounge. This was great since it blocked the wind, but the wind traveling through the mesh roof material that covers the entire shaded portion made a wicked, loud noise that was almost deafening. The service was good there, but based on the times we used it, it was not nearly worth it. We will never book this area again.
Entertainment: We liked East Coast Connection, but as someone else mentioned why a rock back with no "island" music for the pool area? Also, their set list was pretty thin - we heard many songs repeated over and over. Lastly, since we were in our early 40's the music was a bit out of our preference - however the people in their 50's-60's were all singing along and enjoying themselves. An "island music" band would really have been nice. The comedians were pretty good. Less
This island was smaller and much flatter than the previous islands. It was also much less developed and laid back. It was the quintessential tropical island. There were no malls or major hotels just quaint smaller developments. We chose to snorkel with Blue Water Divers. This was a great choice since we snorkeled a 10-20 foot section first then "The Wall" where it goes from 35 feet to 7,000 feet. It was an INCREDIBLE experience and the changes in water color were incredible. After our snorkeling we went to Jack's Shack and had some drinks and the Jerk Chicken. This chicken was incredible! We were getting ready to leave and ran into the couple from the snorkeling in St. Thomas! We decided to hit the bar next door which was between Jack's and Margaritaville for some drink's and hopefully some conch fritters. We scored on both accounts. The beer's were $3.75 vs. $5 at Jacks and $7 at Margaritaville. The conch was really, really good!! There was also some shopping in behind this restaurant which had several locals selling jewelry, sea salts and painting. It was a really good place to stop. This was our favorite island since (except Margaritaville) was not highly commercialized.
We opted to do Bearnard's tour here and were not disappointed. We had Big Joe as our driver and he was funny, informative and helpful. Orient beach was interesting and we sat in front of one of the restaurants. We went swimming for a bit and the water was a tad chilly, but still nice to get into it. We also hit the beach where the air planes fly into and saw a really big jet land as soon as we got out. We had Conch fritters at the sunset bar (?) which were very good. For first timers I highly recommend Bearnard's Tours.
We researched this port a lot and decided on doing a day sail for some snorkeling. Based on the great reviews here and trip advisor, we went the High Pockets, which is a 42'(?) sailboat. Kathleen, the captain and Serena, the first mate were fantastic and provided us a great day of sailing and snorkeling off of St. John's. We saw about 10 sea turtles and a sting ray as well as a ton of other very colorful, tropical fish. We originally booked for the two of us and hoped another couple would join, and a young couple from Virginia booked right before the cruise. They were a very friendly couple and we could not have asked for better company. Lunch was served on the sail boat was was fantastic. I HIGHLY recommend booking High Pockets for St. Thomas.