After having cruised on a no-name line (first cruise), RCI and NCL, we were looking for a cruise that gave us good value. Because we do not seek the cheapest rate - our minimum requirement is a balcony - we want our money to go as far as possible.
Our second requirement is that we are able to have dinner by ourselves, just the two of us. We found when we cruised with RCI several years ago that there was no option for that. Now they have introduced an any time dining option. We chose NCL because we felt that we could dine as we wished, but actually found that if we wanted top quality food, we had to pay a premium. On one cruise, our concierge even joked that if we tried the main dining room once, we would never return to it. We read reviews complaining about NCL food - our complaint was different - we always had great dinners, but we had to pay extra. When we did the math, we were dismayed. With what we paid for a suite, we should not have had to pay extra for dinner every night.
We were delighted, therefore, that Princess easily allowed us Traditional Dining at a table for two. Then, when we experienced it, we were even more delighted. The quality, imagination and variety of food was excellent. It was difficult to find a night to try the premium restaurants, but when we did, we found Sabatini's even more incredible than the main dining room. Crown Grill was good too.
One thing that no one mentions about the food on Princess is the fact that there are such healthy choices for dinner every night. I practically stayed with Lotus Spa choices - which were great - and I did not come home ten pounds heavier than when I left.
The ship was more elegant and formal than NCL or RCI. I feel that Princess has managed a wonderful balance between mainstream appeal and refinement. It was very comfortable to be on the ship, whether you were casual or dressed up for a special night.
What could be improved? The Internet! There was no WiFi available in my room and I could not access it on my laptop even in public spaces. Based on my previous shipboard experience, I overspent on the Internet package. Accessing the Internet was so constrained and difficult, we did not come close to using up our time.
Also, coffee and orange juice in the buffet could be better. The coffee is not as horrible as some reviews say, but NCL does have espresso machines in the buffet - stocked with Lavazza beans! That is a food tip Princess could take from its competitor. The orange juice is also not up to the standard of the rest of the food on board.
Best parts? The jazz piano of Ron Coleman in the Adagio Lounge every night before dinner. He is a sophisticated interpreter of standards and it was a joy to have a pre-dinner aperitif listening to him. Also, Hutch - the Port lecturer - gave excellent information that allowed people to get a lot out of going ashore without an excursion.
By the way, the ship did offer a GLBT Get-Together every day at 5:15 p.m. My partner and I were the only passengers the first night. We were welcomed warmly by ship crew. We tried two more times, but no other passengers showed up. Kudos to Princess for persevering. We look forward, in the future, to meeting more GLBT cruisers on Princess.
All in all, excellent value for the money. Our cabin steward Marlon was efficient and thoughtful and our waiters, Edgar and Marjoe were highly professional and made dinners in the main dining room a "special" enough experience that we did not feel "forced" to use premium dining rooms. When we did go to the premium dining rooms it was for an even more special experience and we were delighted with them.
Would we cruise Princess again? Yes. Hopefully again and again.