Once a cruise was the decided-upon venue for our family reunion, we selected the cruise line based on the dates we needed - Spring break for the school-age children in the group. The choice was made for us - Crown Princess it was! Only one of us had sailed Princess before. Most of us have cruised many times and pretty much knew what to expect - pretty tiny rooms, good food (and way too much of it!), slight discomfort disembarking/embarking at ports and a wait to get off when the cruise was done.
I tried to get our group to follow the guideline from another cc member on a review I read to 'wait a few hours before embarking at FLL' - but another family member started hustling everyone into cabs and that was that! The port was really crowded at 1 and that could have been avoided. We also caught more than one couple trying to casually sneak into the line and called them short on it. So, DO WAIT A UNTIL 2 or even 3 before getting on the ship at FLL - avoid the loooooong lines! Disembarking at the end of the trip was very smooth and hassle free. Princess really has that down to a science now. Our flight was late, so we left the ship about last. Perfect!
Get a coffee card if you are a coffee drinker. I waited 'til day 3 and ended up not using the whole thing. They give double shots for the same price as single shots, and plain coffee is free! We don't let our children drink sodas, so opted to not get them soda cards. They were fine with that.
I think this ship is going in for a remodel at the end of this year, and it is really getting shopworn. We used the stairs v. the elevators the majority of the time, and some of that tread is getting thin! The ship just looks 'tired'. Beds were NOT comfortable. Ask for an egg carton foam for your bed. The steward will say "Oh, I don't think we store those anymore." but hopefully will get you a couple, anyway.
Bring ear plugs if your spouse snores. Bring clothes pins to keep your swim suits from blowing off balcony chairs as they are drying.
Here are the cons of the trip: Toilet overflowed due to plumbing problems on 3 decks. That was really awful; do I need to explain?! The food was 'meh' - some of our party never got what they ordered on any given night, and my meat was ALWAYS overdone. The waiter could not seem to remember special diet concerns, either. The worst thing about the dining room is a big one: They put plates/utensils that are on the table but that you don't use BACK INTO THE BUFFET STORAGE TO USE THE NEXT TIME. This has to be a health code violation. When I saw our waiter do it (we ate dinner in dining room every night, and breakfast in dining room most of the time; I DESPISE buffets!) I checked to see if the breakfast waiters did it, and some did. If cruise lines are wondering why people get sick on their ships - HELLO! I told the headwaiter, but who knows? I know cruise lines are saving money by cutting corners...
Another incredibly annoying practice is that people hog chairs by throwing beach towels/personal belongings on them starting at 6 am! If we wanted to use deck chairs, I hooked a clothespin on a couple of them, and waited to see if anyone sat in them over the next 20-30 mins. If not, I got fresh towels and seated our family there. NOBODY EVER CAME TO CLAIM THE CHAIRS. Oink Oink, people. There would be plenty to go around if nobody did this, but HEY! Thanks for reserving those choice chairs in the shade for us! Same thing happened for Movies under the Stars - there were only a couple we wanted to see, but same thing happened with the blankets; people would stake out loungers and then never show up.
Buffet food was leftovers from dining rooms a lot of the time. But I swear it tasted better the next day! The lamb dishes were good and some other dishes were surprisingly tasty. Desserts are always great on cruises.
PROS: The ports. Cayman, Roatan, Cozumel, Bahamas - all great and everyone who went off ship loved them. Go early, go back and eat lunch, go back if you'd like. Our room steward was great. We had so many extra requests, and he did them all with a smile. Our room was spotless, as were all 6 rooms. If you can swing a mini-suite, go for it. Everything in the room is nicer - balcony is bigger.
I do have to say that we prefer Royal Caribbean. We'll try them again next time - which will be not to far off!
I did a computer class while on board, and have used the skills I learned there all the time! We did a few classes, saw a few shows and really enjoyed them. The shows we participated in were the best.