We are not greatly experienced cruisers (2 cruises total) but we are very experienced international travellers. Frankly, this cruise, or Princess, left us a little disappointed. First the cabin. The cabin was roomy, and had an excellent closet space. The balcony was mostly unusable for two reasons, weather (it was too cold for moste of the cruise) and the smoke. There were a number of people in the staterooms below us that used the balcony as a personal somking area, and the smoke came into our balcony and cabin. I understand that Princess is going "smoke free" in early 2012, so that problem should be solved. Our steward was competent and friendly, but no special services. There was a card we filled out to have fruit in our room, but it took three tries, and we finally received the fruit two days before the end of the cruise. This was supposed to be refreshed every day, never was.
Dining: We chose the traditional dining at the late seating, 8:15 PM. The dining room was nice, and the food was good, but not exceptional. Our waitstaff was generally competent, but seemed to be in a hurry, and tended to forget some things. I had to request iced tea two or three times to get it on several nights. Our biggest complaint was that we felt rushed by the staff at the end of the meal. We had a very nice and interesting group of table companions and wanted to linger over dessert and coffee to continue talking, but the plates and cups were picked up from in front of us and the staff seemed to be in a hurry for us to leave. This may be due to the schedule and working hours of the staff. We found out that they work 12 hour days 7 days a week with no breaks for 8 to 10 months. They also didn't get to have their dinner until after everyone had left the dining room and they had cleaned up. One note on the dress standards: apparently "Smart Casual" means anything better than cut offs and flip-flops, and formal means "anything in dark colors". We saw many variations, but no one was denied entry into the dining room. The food in the dining room was unremarkable, the buffet was good, but still the usual buffet. The anytime choose your own time dining was the same menu as the traditional dining, and the food also average. After visiting with several other more experienced cruisers, it seems that Princess is trying to persuade us to go to the "premium" restaurants on the ship at extra cost. We tried the Crown Grill one night and both the food and service were excellent. The extra cost was modest ($25 pp) but still extra.
Ports: The selection of ports of call was very good, unfortunately time at any of these was a little too limited. This was worsened by the ship not being docked as scheduled for any ports, usually 30 to 60 minutes later than advertised. Adding a 30 to 60 minute wait on the days when we were tendered, made the visits a little too brief. I'm sure the line could plan to arrive on time and stay a little later. We did not use any of the Princess tours, but conversations with our dining companions covered the range from Fabulous to " I slept on a bus for 4 hours and don't know where I went".
Conclusions: It was a nice, relaxing cruise, but 12 days might be a little long for some, the ports and experiences seem to run together. Overall, the service was competent, the food good, and the ship good. We did not feel that any part of the experience measured up to our experience on our Mediterranea RCL cruise.
One point of note: We signed up for, and were selected to attend the "Chef's Table". This was an outstanding experience. We were served an exceptinal 10 course meal, with proper wines, by the executive chef and maitre'd. There are probably few restaurants in the world that could equal this dining experience. Also, although we do not usually take in the "shows" on a cruise, we attended the "cooking competition" between the exec. chef and maitre'd one morning while at sea. The "demonstration" was both informative (chef) and hilarious (maitre'd). It was wonderfully entertaining and hilariously funny.