This was our first (& last) transatlantic cruise. We have sailed previously to Alaska, the Caribbean & the Amazon with Princess and E. Med & Caribbean on other lines. We choose a cruise for the itinerary with cruise line a very important choice too. We are in our early 60s & not yet retired. The ports of call for this cruise were Funchal, Madeira; Cadiz (Seville, Spain); Alghero, Sardinia; Rome; Livorno (Pisa/Florence), Italy; & Monaco; disembarkation in Barcelona.
We had received notice two weeks prior to sailing that we had been upgraded 7 categories from an oceanview to second highest balcony (BB) category. We were grateful for this as I had taken a walk past our original booking on Plaza deck & found the area to be noisy & could feel the ship's vibrations. Our cabin was located on Riviera deck (#14) midship, allowing us to walk up one deck to the buffet & pool areas. Embarkation was smooth with only a slight wait. We were happy to find our cabin had a walk-in type closet (ample space) with storage area in the form of floor to ceiling shelves w/door (including safe). There were also drawers/shelves adjacent to the bed on both sides as well as the desk area. Bathroom was normal cruise ship size with 3 shelves & some counter space. It was not possible for two people to occupy bathroom unless one was in the shower. Balcony was normal size; however, two decks located over the lifeboat deck (Dolphin & Caribe) had deeper balconies & more furniture & we had full view of these below us several decks. Appreciated full-length mirror and room decor was nice. TV channels were extremely limited (ESPN, BBC & CNN) which were not available most of the TA crossing. There were numerous Princess & movie channels. No condensed newspaper either.
Public areas - We did not utilize bars/lounges (for drinking only), Vines, International Cafe (for specialty coffees), the casino or library (reference books could not be checked out). Smoking was allowed in the casino & we passed through it occasionally & the smell was strong.
Theater - Layout was poor (too small & seating was crowded) & it was necessary to arrive 1/2 hr. prior to show time for production #s & shows. Singers/dancers were excellent & final show was also (Once Upon A Dream); however, we have attended better on other cruise lines.
Dining - We chose anytime dining & ate in Michelangelo DR (Da Vinci was for anytime 8-10 pm & Botticelli was for traditional seating. Dining room service (kitchen) was slow & we would ask for smaller tables to be able to attend events (shows) on time. Went to Crown Grill (specialty) once & food & service were superior to DR. Layout of Horizon Court made it difficult during busy times to get desired food & other buffet (Cafe Carib) didn't have dishes we were interested in. Also lemonade not available in the a.m. (Juices instead), but upon requesting from waiter, it was obtained. We believe that waiter service is affected by the fact that tipping is automatically added to room bill & there is no incentive for wait staff to do more than average service (several times beverages/sugar had to be requested more than once before receiving it). We did not use room service as tipping was required on order form - we like to tip upon delivery. Pizza & soft-serve ice cream (limited choices) were available on pool deck.
Activities - There was no shuffleboard court & ping pong table was in an extremely windy area so we could not do these two outdoor things (our favorites). There was Princess Links (putt course), but again usually too windy. Scholarship@sea lectures were limited to guest lecturer Jules Talarico (a sailor) usually about the sea - would have liked Officer's lectures & other variety (Golden Radio days didn't interest us). Dance lessons were conducted by the cruise director Samantha & she did an excellent job. We don't play bridge & have seen numerous ice carvings, but did find Piazza activities interesting (martini demo, fruit/vege carving demo, floral demo & the dance team of Noel & Victoria). Was hoping for some photography "lessons", but only found one which was a walking tour & found it difficult to participate as too many people trying to crowd small spaces. Trivia was usually in conflict with some other activity we preferred. Unison (band) was very good & they were on deck sometimes & in a lounge in the evening.
Crew - Room stewardess was very good & most staff tried to be helpful. No one was outstanding & the internet manager Andrei Visan was poor. Another pax told me she had gone to him for assistance & was told to come back at dinner time for help which she said she wouldn't do (7-9 pm) & when I let him know of a computer "hung" (as a courtesy), he said he wouldn't address the problem until the next day. He seemed to be only interested in reading his email & not helping pax. Also, on the last day, many people were using the printer & it went down & although we had sent info to the print queue, we never received it as they never fixed the printer (should have had a backup).
Excursions - Princess apparently doesn't frequent some of the ports (Funchal, Cadiz, & Alghero) & the local tour companies apparently were not familiar to them. Minor things occurred on these & Princess did offer partial refunds. See individual port descriptions. Getting stickers for tours was sometimes not easy or quick & involved extensive waiting in the theater or a lounge.
Summary - My husband found the leisurely TA time to be too much as we were unable to find sufficient activities we were interested in (too many conflicting times also). He usually watched movies in the room which is NOT why we go on a cruise. Movies under the Stars is a great idea if one is into movies. I found little activities (trivia or demos) usually or sunbathed. Will we cruise Princess again -- probably only if the itinerary is perfect & no other line offers it.