This was our first cruise and my husband and I booked it to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It was everything and more that I had hoped for. Staff was consistently friendly and helpful, though I observed some passengers that were NOT. Seas were good except for one evening but I made it through without taking any Dramamine. And though the ship has areas that did not look brand new, nothing was in absolute disrepair. There were always signs of fresh varnish/paint around. The only area that ever felt crowded was the HC at certain times during breakfast. Otherwise, we could walk down a hall or get on an elevator and never meet a soul.
Embarkation - We flew into LGA the morning of and used Dial 7 car service for transport to Red Hook. Our driver, Henry Bruneau was friendly, very informative and we actually planned to have him give us a tour around the city the day we returned. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene cancelled those plans.
We arrived at the terminal around 11:30, checked in, and waited until a bit past 12 before the gates were opened to board. We found our room quickly, and saw that the "fully obstructed" view was almost "fully unobstructed" as I had expected. A little research of outside photos of the ship had shown that many of the rooms behind lifeboats (not tenders) have windows that are clearly visible. So months before I had actually downgraded our room from a partially obstructed to a fully obstructed and in the process, got a better view. I've posted a view on the Princess threads, "Canada/NE Review "Preview".
We dropped our bags off and went to the Horizon Court for lunch. I didn't find much that I cared for, but the view of the harbor, Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty more than made up for the menu. For the remainder of the cruise, we would eat here only for breakfast. Lunches would be in port or at one of the Lido grills and dinner would be in the MDR or Crown Grill.
We wandered around the ship for several hours, had coffee in the Piazza while listening to live music (something we would do frequently during the cruise). Although there aren't that many chairs in this area, we never seemed to have trouble finding one. It was during one of these times that I discovered the International Cafe's frozen caramel mochas. Very similar to a McDonalds Mocha Frappe, they were divine. I had one almost every day using my coffee card. When we finally decided to return to our stateroom, our room steward, Edmund, met us for the first time in the hall and called us by name. He would contine to greet us with a sunny disposition and by name each time we saw him. I made any special requests by sticky note and they were always filled promptly.
Room/Beds - Yes the beds are firm, but we slept so very good every night. Pillos are a bid inconsistent, depending on whether they are down or foam filled. We ended up requesting 2 more and so slept with 3 each. Nice.... Very roomy closet area, lots of hangers, shelves. Good counter space in bathroom. Shower was small but adequate. Water pressure was consistent. Toilet wouldn't always flush immediately, but eventually. Never had to call maintenance. Rooms are very sound proof. We never heard anything other than the occasional door slamming. In fact, we rarely met anyone in our hall other that room attendants. For a sold out ship, people seemed to be well dispersed.
Dining - We had early seating in the Coral Dining Room and were placed at a table for 8. We and the 3 other couples hit it off from the very first night. We would look forward to dinner each evening as the highlight of the day. Our head waiter Daniel and assistant waiter Dominique provided excellent-plus service the entire week. Daniel was very personable and we grew very fond of him. Our dinners lasted nearly 2 hours every night, but it was primarily due to the wonderful conversation we enjoyed. We ate, talked and laughed and our settings just seemed to magically appear and disappear from the table. Our drinks never got less than half full and any crumbs on the table were removed with each course. Needeless to say, I wasn't looking forward to coming home to do the cooking and cleaning myself. We tipped our waiters at the end of the week above the daily recommended tips. The food was good overall. Some thinks were very good, others disappointing. However, on the whole, everything was flavorful and well presented. It did help that our waiters always asked whether or not we liked something.
Tried escargot for the first time and loved it! Coffee - Room Service good, MDR very good, HC awful, International Cafe very good. Pizza from Prego - perfect. Burgers from Grill Good. Anything from International Cafe wonderful. Breakfast @ Horizon Court - lots of variety and for the most part good. Crown Grill - Excellent steak and sides, though desserts weren't as good as MDR. Service here was slower than MDR, but overall a good experience. Had heard that sodas were weak, but we always received a canned drink, so I'm not sure where that came from. Didn't drink alcohol so can't comment on that.
We celebrated our anniversary at both Crown and MDR on different nights with a card from Princess and a special chocolate dessert with candle, serenaded by wait staff each time. Very nice.
Entertainment - Spent most of our time enjoying each other, either walking the Promenade deck, sitting in the Piazza or watching movies in our jammies (in our rooms ;). Didn't see any of the shows other than comedian Rollin Jay Moore - Hillarious! and the hypnotist. Not sure what to think about that one.... Musicians, jugglers and Hula Hoopers in Piazza were all wonderful. Enjoyed the Wake Show each day, especially the port info. Didn't use pools or casino.
Ports - We didn't book anything through Princess, and only did a couple of sightseeing trolleys. We had never been to any of these towns, so we wanted to walk around and get the feel of the place rather than leaving town to see something somewhere else.
Halifax - Seafood to die for. Harbour Walk neat. Maritime museum a bit disappointing, though the Titanic exhibit was interesting. Citadel boring except for the photo ops.
St. John, NB - Beautiful, quaint town. Lots of little shops, neat farmers market, inexpensive souveniers. Everything is very close to the ship.
Bar Harbor - Wonderful photo ops from the harbor all the way up Cadillac Mtn. Tender process very easy and quick. Seafood and blueberry pie, mouthwatering. Oli's Trolley, good, but wish we would have taken the short tour rather than the looong one. Take the Shore Walk path, to the left of where the tender docks. Took the best pictures of the whole cruise there.
Boston - Took Old Towne Trolley Tours. Alot depends on driver, but most seem well informed. Beautiful city with lots of history. Ate at Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall. Neat place.
Newport - We walked around the harbor area and browsed shops along Thames. It was really hot that day and we were just tired from a week of sightseeing so we hopped the tender back at noon and had burgers on the Lido. Skipped the mansions.
Disembarkation - We changed our time from 10:30 to express walk-off when we learned the night before that our flight had been cancelled due to Irene. The process was quick and smooth. Caught a cab with a crazy driver, made it back to LGA in under 20 minutes, waded through hundreds of people trying to get out of NYC, were put on standby, made it though several more hundred in the security lines, booked it to the gate, and got the last 2 seats on the plane in just over 1 hour 20 minutes from the time we walked off the ship. Took me a day or so to get over that experience so I could start remembering what a good time we had on the cruise.
Princess did a fabulous job in helping us celebrate our anniversary and for that we are forever grateful.