I was traveling with my wife, our son (12) and daughter (15), and my wife's mother. We were met at the airport for our transfer, though the two guides who helped us seemed a little confused about who was going where, and navigating the airport. The bus took us quickly to the port, where we were shepherded to the counter to check in. The whole process from plane to stateroom was fairly smooth, though was interrupted with the predictable stop to have our photo taken just before hitting the gangplank.
It was a couple of hours before our luggage arrived outside our room. We had two rooms, adjacent, starboard side, admidship, with balconies on Baja (deck 11). The rooms were a little bigger than I had expected, hearing forever how small the staterooms could be. One room had twin beds and in the other, the beds were pushed together to make a queen. Both rooms had a creative solution for a third bed--a bed that dropped down from the ceiling and hung suspended. When stored, there was no clue that a bed was up there. Our room steward provided outstanding and personalized service, as well as a very pleasant disposition. His objective was our comfort and enjoyment.
On arrival we had lunch in the Horizon Court, a buffet line with acceptable but not impressive food, though there was more than ample variety. We had breakfast there every day but one; the breakfast was typical of what I've had at resort hotels though the pancakes were a bit gray rather than golden brown. There was no omelette station but I found out on the third or fourth day you could order an omelette. One morning my son and I had breakfast in the Davinci room, which turned out to have a menu listing a subset of the same food offered on the buffet, and with fairly mediocre service. My omelette looked as though it were artificially colored, and the inside was soggy. We usually went light for lunch, returning to Horizon Court, having pizza by the pool, or having a bite at a port of call. We opted for the Traditional plan for dinner, in the Davinci dining room and at the earliest time at 5:30. I was very reluctant to take this time but the tradeoff worked well for us, allowing more flexibility for evening activities even though you had to be back on board a bit early from shore visits. We noted that other folks who had the "anytime dining" option were often waiting for a table, pager in hand, as we were leaving the dining room. Our party was matched with an older gentleman on his own to complete the table for six. (It was his sixteenth cruise on Princess.) The variety and quality at dinner was very good, save for one evening where my pork tenderloin was far from tender. One evening my wife and I set off to have dinner at Sabatini's, one of the specialty restaurants (additional charge of $20 per person which they refer to as a "cover charge"). The theme was Italian, and despite the fact that the executive chef was Italian, the restaurant seemed to us more of an imitation of an Italian restaurant (we both said "Disney World" at the same time) rather than the real thing. But the food was top-notch, except for the fried calamari which seemed like it came out of a bag from the freezer. One nice feature was that if you order a bottle of wine but don't finish it, they will hold it for until you come back the next night. There were other specialty restaurants but we didn't try them. I had a slice of pizza at the pizza shop by one of the pools. It was above average, what I interpret to be New York style, and piping hot. All food was included, except beverages such as sodas ($1.95 a can) and alcohol. The alcohol was very fairly priced ($7-8 for a martini) though every drink I had was a weak pour.
Entertainment was mostly high quality. We saw David Cats, a magician, who had some great tricks but seemed to have some trouble telegraphing the climactic moments of many tricks (the "prestige"). His specialty seems to be slight of hand. We saw two nationally known comedians, Darrell Joyce and Phil Tag. We also saw two shows by a juggler so famous I cannot remember his name. There were several recent-run movies showing on the huge outdoor screen by a pool as well in the theater, and also in-room, though I didn't have the patience to sit and watch a movie. We wanted to see The Marriage Gameshow with passenger volunteers as the stars, but couldn't find a seat in the bar. We listened to a pianist/singer for a set in the Crooner's bar, who had a very deep repertoire (selections from Phantom of the Opera, Hank Williams, and originals) though tended to the over-dramatic delivery.
We went on a few shore excursions which were booked through Princess and provided by third parties. They were generally well organized and delivered what they promised. This included the dolphin encounter at St. Thomas, snorkeling at Princess Cays (a private beach owned by Princess on Eleuthera in the Bahamas) and at Grand Turk. We also visited Sint Maarten on our own, shopping in Phillipsburg and then taking a taxi to Marigot, the capital of St. Marting, the French side. Princess Cays was the only stop where lunch was provided if you leave the ship for the day, and was a simply cook-out style buffet.
The ship does not miss any opportunities to upsell you on additional services. Our first encounter with staff on our arrival was an offer of a "soda package" for our kids--unlimited sodas for the trip at $50 per person. Our kids are not big soda drinkers so we passed, but we asked in vain about a wine package that our neighbors had purchased on the same ship on a cruise of the Med. Perhaps that was discontinued. The place was crawling with photographers, though we found that it was truly a good opportunity to have family photos taken at prices and quality that are comparable to what you might pay at a local portrait studio. After dinner one evening I ordered a cognac, and the waiter asked if I wanted two shots or three. When I said "one," he seemed to disapprove. They have a secluded adults-only area at the front of the ship called the Sanctuary which requires a fee to enter, and offers a step up on the luxury ladder for your typical deck potato. However, there is no extra charge for room service meals (unless you get the private full dinner served on your balcony).
We signed up our kids for the kids activities in each of their age groups but after one evening of that they didn't want to go back. They said it was "day care." It was little more than providing a place to congregate with some game tables and video games. This situation might be OK for young children that require supervision, but after the first day we just gave our kids the run of the ship and they had a ball. We met another family from Toronto with kids the same age and they hit it off for the rest of the trip.
There are four pools, including two for adults only, a few hot tubs, a gym that exceeded my expectations for size and equipment, yoga and pilates classes at an extra charge, and a fairly full-service spa and salon (also extra charges, of course).
My sense was that this was a slightly above-average cruise, but at at average of $1290.00 per person (cost for booking, cruise only) was an excellent vacation value. I would compare it to resorts we've stayed in for $450 per room per night.