We are a Swedish family of four who went on this cruise to celebrate my husband´s 40th birthday. We went on a Princess cruise for or honeymoon ten years ago and liked it so much, we wanted to bring our children on a cruise as well. They are 8 (boy) and 6 (girl).
For us, cruising with Princess in the Caribbean has a certain "American" feel to it, even though the passengers are international to a certain degree, and the crew most definitely is international. So you may view this review as a "(Northern) European view on American cruising" if you will!
Last time, we booked a cabin with a balcony, but didn´t actually use the balcony very much. So this time, we decided to book an oceanview cabin instead, and spend the money on shore excursions instead. This turned out to be a good decision, since the children were more interested in swimming than in sunbathing, and sun chairs in fairly close proximity to a pool was much more appreciated than looking out over the ocean! Our cabin was located on deck 5, Plaza, which we at first felt was i little "off", away from the pools and the restaurants, etc. But after a day or two, we realized that this was actually a great location. Only passengers staying in the cabins ahead of ours ever passed through the corridor and after all the noise and people in other parts of the ship, it felt nice and calm coming back to "our" quiet little corner of the ship. The fact that we got to walk through the art gallery several times a day was very nice, the children loved looking at the paintings. We were also very close to the International cafe and the atrium, which was very convenient. We often sat in the atrium reading (the adults) and playing DS (the children) when we felt we needed to be indoors for a while.
The cabin itself was a good size, with two regular beds and "wall-beds" that our cabin steward Gaetano would fold down and prepare every night while we were at dinner and fold up again every morning when we had breakfast. The bathroom was quite nice and we didn't find the shower small at all (as we had read in other reviews). The closet and the drawers were sufficient for four people, that is, they were quite large. The mattresses were in our opinion extremely comfortable, not at all hard, as I had read many complaints about. However, we found the mattresses at the hotels we stayed in before and after the cruise a little too soft for our liking, so maybe mattresses are just generally softer in the US than in Europe....We didn't spend much time in the cabin except for sleeping and changing clothes. We also did not have any special demands for our cabin steward, as I have seen in other reviews many have (regarding ice, extra towels, robes, fruit and what not.....) We saw him quite often during the first two days, but being Italian, I would think that he has encountered Scandinavian guests before, and acted accordingly. He was almost invisible but took care of our cabin quite nicely. Scandinavians are generally not very demanding guests, but we are also lousy tippers...... I could get into a philosophical discussion about this, but I wont because there is not enough space. Let me just say that I think it has something to do with our Lutheran, Social Democratic upbringing.....
Our children only speak Swedish, and only a few words in English, so we were wondering what to do about the children's´ clubs, since of course no one in there spoke Swedish (and we didn´t expect them to either, of course!). It turned out, that each child was allowed to bring one parent with them. So I went with our daughter to the 3-7 year old´s club a couple of times. I sat in a corner and translated when it was necessary. She liked doing the arts and crafts that they did, but then she didn´ get much out of it, since all the other kids spoke English and Spanish to each other, which of course left her out. But had she spoken the language, I´m sure she would have liked it. It seemed like they were very well organized with a friendly staff. Our 8-year old was placed in the 8-12 year age group and found it so embarrassing to have to bring a parent, he just refused to go there. The staff said he was welcome to join his sister in the 3-7 group, but that was an even worse alternative, so no kids´club for him...He is a very verbal person in Swedish, who will talk to anyone about anything, so he really felt at a disadvantage when he couldn't communicate. The good thing is, he is very motivated to start studying English in school this fall!
We had anytime dining, which worked out very well for us. We ate in the dining rooms most evenings. Twice, we ate at the buffet, and once at Sabatinis (on my husband´s birthday). The first night , we had our one and only encounter with a less than friendly staff member. It was one of the waiters in the Michelangelo dining room, who was very rushed and wouldn't give us time to translate and explain the menu to the children. He just kept telling us to take the alphabet soup over and over again (and they did NOT want alphabet soup, the was the only thing they knew for certain!). It was unfortunate that this happened the very first night. After that , we didn't go to the Michelangelo Dining Room again, but went instead to Da Vinci, in order to avoid this gentleman. Plus, we only encountered super nice crew members during the rest of the cruise. Sabatinis was a wonderful experience with excellent food (but way too much!). And they only charged half the cover charge for the children. We liked the pizzas, ice creams and hamburgers on lido deck a lot. The buffet had some items that we found strange sometimes, but being a buffet, we always found something we liked.
Entertainment: We saw all the productions shows, since this was something the children could enjoy without understanding English. We felt they were all quite good. Did not see the comedians or the movies because of language difficulties for the children.
My husband used the gym once, and I went to a quite good zumba-class. I checked out two books from the library and finished 1,5 of them.
In all, it was a great cruise. We had a wonderful time and I really have to think hard in order to remember things thet were less than perfect. If we go on a cruise again (and I hope it won´t be ten years again until next time!), we will most likely choose Princess again.