As regular Princess sailors I have to say we were so excited to be on a ship that had recently come out of dry-dock. I had read several reviews beforehand that the dry-dock renovations were not extended to the cabins but I was hoping those were isolated incidents. Boy was I wrong!
We had a total of 7 in our party, 1 senior, 5 adults and one teen (17). We had three Penthouse suites in a row on the Caribe deck, C402, C410 and C414 port side. All of the cabins were shoddy at best. Missing drawer pulls, carpet that hasn't been tacked down properly, "funhouse" type mirrors on the closets, nails and screws showing through the walls and headboards, missing doorstops etc. The rooms just looked tired and worn. NOT what you would expect from a recent 26 million dollar renovation, especially when you are paying full price for 3 penthouses!!! The balcony, although spacious, was just gross. It was obvious they had painted the ship because all the overspray landed all over the railing, deck and furniture. It just made everything kinda sticky and rough.
Embarkation was very smooth once we got there. The drive from London took almost 3 hours because of traffic. We didn't realize it at the time but it was the first weekend after school was out (July 23rd) and the roads were packed with families leaving on holiday.
Food on this trip was amazing! We are all vegetarians and there were plenty of choices. We never ate in the dining rooms because one of the perks in getting the penthouse is you get the dining room menus in your room everyday and can order anything off those menus for room service. During nice weather we would order dinner and sit out on the balcony to eat. We did go up to Horizon Court to eat and the food up there was great as well. Loved the chocolate bear claws in the morning. Also, the International Cafe has doughnuts in the morning, Horizon Court does not. I did not discover this until the 2nd to last day, which is probably a good thing.
We did try Alfredo's Pizzeria, it was OK, not great - not bad. The pizzeria on the Dawn Princess is much better. If there is live entertainment going on in the Piazza while you are in Alfredo's it can be very loud and hard to hear your table mates. So beware if you are looking for a quiet dinner!
We received a coffee card from a friend which was so nice, but the specialty coffees are no Starbucks! You can only utilize the card in the International Cafe and one other bar (Crooners I think). The good news is the coffee card doesn't expire and can be used on any of the ships.
Our son (17) used the teen club a lot and liked it very much, met a lot of great friends! The renovations to the Remix area were very nice. I agree with another reviewer that although Youth Security (in the bright yellow shirts/jackets) were very present, there were groups of kids (8-12 year olds) running around from time to time unsupervised.
We visited the new night club one5 once, very swanky! The drinking/gambling age one this cruise was 18.
The shops were nice with the standard fare. Bingo was fun (especially since I won $125.00) and Zumba exercise classes were great. If you want to attend Zumba, which was held in the Vista Lounge, get there early so you can get a spot on the dance floor. It gets crowded and if you are late you will have to dance in the aisles. Zumba was offered on sea days only. Hopefully they will keep it as a permanent offering and possibly move it to a bigger location (although I don't really know where that would be).
The shore excusions were mostly good. The Gibraltar "Europa Point, St. Michael's Cave & Apes Den" was a little disappointing because after we walked through the cave we were under the impression we were going to another area to see the monkeys. This was not the case. The monkeys you see when you are entering and leaving the cave are the only ones you will see. The shore excursion ends after that. It is very hard to see them because that area is so crowded with toursits and buses. Made it hard to see the caves as well because of the crowds.
We took the "La Sagrada Familia & City Drive" shore excursion in Barcelona and although it was very interesting, 45 minutes inside the church is a bit long. Also very crowded. Nice city though it is really very clean.
In Ajaccio, we walked around the town, which is very charming. Easy walking from the ship.
In Malaga, we went into the town center and walked around. You can take a bus for 2 Euro round trip, it is right outside the cruise terminal and takes you near the city center. I did not like the shops in Malaga as much as I did Barcelona but they did have a nice open air market right along the main drive where you can leisurely walk and shop and listen to the wild parrots go from palm tree to palm tree.
In Monte Carlo, we walked from the ship into town. We took the city tour (not with Princess) which was nice, takes about one hour to loop around and has headphones and you can listen in almost any language. It was very expensive though and perhaps we should have done a princess tour.
In Rome we did the "Rome on your own" tour, which is a 1 1/2 hour drive to the city center. This is basically transportation to the city center with a tour guide. We already had tickets for the Vatican Museum and did not know that on the bus tour they will sell you tickets (reasonable price) for the Vatican museum and/or the ho-ho (hop on hop off). The walk from the tour stop to Vatican City is a long one and in the heat not fun. The Vatican museum is crowded and a lot of walking too. Beware that if you need to use a bathroom once inside they are few and far between. We had dressed accordingly because we had read that they do not allow people wearing shorts or tank tops in the Sistine Chapel. This was not the case, probably just too many people for them to patrol, most were dressed appropriately, while others slipped through the cracks. They ask that you do not talk inside the Sistine Chapel and no pictures. They (the Italian police) routinely clapped their hands loudly and yelled for everyone to be quiet. I also saw several people trying to take pictures.
In Naples, we went to Pompeii. I agree with another cruiser than Naples is gross and dirty. Luckily there is a "shopping mall" connected to the cruise terminal. On Sunday's Naples basically shuts down and nothing is open, except for the shops in this area. A couple are cute, some overpriced. The Wine Cave had great wine at good prices from the Amalfi Coast and good Limoncello (Meloncello too!).
Pompeii was crowded but very interesting - lots of uneven walking so wear sturdy shoes. It was sad to see people smoking and putting out their cigarettes or throwing their water bottles in the streets of Pompeii, some people have no class!
Disembarkation went smoothly.
Overall - the ship looks nice due to it's huge renovation HOWEVER Princess should have poured some of that money into the cabins. Not sure I would ever choose this ship again.
One other thing to be aware of, the weather can be very dreary going from Southampton to Gibraltar and back again. So don't just take summer clothes for the other stops. I wish we had packed a few things that were warm as it was downright cold for those days at sea.
Also for those of you who want to see things in the sea (whales, dolphins etc.) there is not a whole lot out there. We are fond of Alaskan cruises for the wildlife so we were a bit disappointed at the lack of it here (of course not any one's fault just pointing this out). We did see some dolphins and flying fish outside of Gibraltar but that was about it.