This was a 27-day Mediterranean/Aegean cruise including a transatlantic crossing (from Fort Lauderdale to Rome and then Rome to Rome, including Egypt, Turkey, and Greece). We stayed, pre-cruise, at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale – a very nice hotel with a relatively new shopping center containing restaurants and a grocery store just out the back door of the hotel. Transportation to the port was provided by the hotel (for a fee). We had used reward points to stay at the hotel and not used Princess Cruises for the hotel (thus we could not use the port transfers that Princess offered). We arrived at the port around 11:30 a.m. It took about 45 minutes to get through the embarkation process and get to our cabin.
We choose a mini-suite because we wanted a room with more space, a sofa, a bathtub, and a balcony. We had more than enough closet and drawer space. The bathroom was larger than we anticipated with adequate space for our necessities. We had read reviews about the balconies in the mini-suites being uncovered and viewable by passengers on the decks above. However, we used the balcony (which had 4 chairs and a table) a lot and never felt uncomfortable because of the openness. If you sit back toward the cabin and not so near the rail, you are hardly visible to those above you. Our only complaint with the balcony was that cigarette smoking from other passengers filtered onto all balconies. We appreciate that Princess Cruises has banned smoking in rooms and balconies beginning in January, 2012. When we first got to our cabin, we emptied the mini-refrigerator and placed those items on a shelf out of our way but in full view so the cabin steward would know we were not using them. Then we placed our own items in the refrigerator. It did take several hours for the luggage to be delivered to the cabin.
We were a bit disappointed with the library on the ship. There were a few hard cover books, but very few paperbacks available. There was no book exchange for paperbacks and passengers were not encouraged to turn in their paperbacks at the end of the cruise. The library, with 2 chairs, was sandwiched in on one side of the computer room. This was not a comfortable, quiet, well-stocked library.
The information we received prior to the cruise indicated that wireless internet would be available in the cabins. We tried many times to access the internet from our cabin and were unsuccessful. On the few times that it would work, the signal strength was “poor”. We had to take our netbook to deck 5, near the computer room, in order to fully take advantage of the wireless internet connection. Also, AOL access was not possible unless you went through another provider. Even then, at times, you could read your email but not send emails. We did appreciate the free minutes of internet access provided to past passengers (our credit was 500 minutes).
We enjoyed the whirlpools at the back of the ship. However, we thought the Sanctuary was a bit overpriced. It should have been open (without a fee) to all adult passengers who wanted a quiet refuge besides their cabins.
Self-service laundry facilities were available in six places on the ship. It was easier to get a machine if you waited until 8:00 p.m. There were ironing boards as well as washers and dryers and the laundermats were kept very clean.
The transatlantic crossing was extremely smooth with beautiful 75°-80° weather every day. After we left Egypt there was an intestinal virus of some sort going around so crew members were positioned at the dining areas to remind passengers to use the hand sanitizers before eating. Also, as a precaution, crew members began serving the food in the buffet line (and the drink area) instead of letting passengers serve themselves. The food on this ship was OK – but not memorable. There were plenty of alternative choices to the main dining room and many people chose those alternatives. We appreciated the 24-hour buffet because you could always find something to eat whenever you wanted to. Disembarkation was smooth and luggage was easily found once we left the ship (however, we were in the first group to leave the ship at 5:45 a.m.). We had more than enough time to catch our 10:30 a.m. flight back to the U.S.