Living on Vancouver Island, we took BC Ferries to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal where our daughter waited to drive us downtown to the Cruise check in at the Conference Center. Unfortunately, her car broke down and we had to take a taxi which cost $85. Embarkation was quick with our suitcases being loaded in a truck as soon as we arrived at the terminal. After completing the medical questionnaire and getting our cruise cards, we were directed to the waiting buses which quickly filled, left and took a long route to Ballantyne Pier where the ship waited.
A rain squall hit as we got off the bus; fortunately there was a tent to shelter us while we waiting for the gangway to be cleared (a wedding party was disembarking). Once on board, there was no one to direct you to your cabin - not a problem as I had looked at the location on website deck plan.
We had a balcony on Aloha deck - an upgrade as we had booked category BE. However, do not book a cabin on Aloha deck unless you are deaf as you will hear the the tables and chairs on the Lido deck being moved. Cabin was typical Princess - lots of hangers and adequate storage. Bed was comfortable but the chairs on the balcony were flaking white paint - a problem we solved by using the pool towels. Surprisingly there was no mini plan of the ship in the cabin as we have come to expect.
We had Anytime dining and ate dinner on the first and third nights in the Bernini Dining Room. There seemed to be more tables for smaller groups (2-6) then on previous cruises. Food was OK but too exotic for our tastes - the first night we ordered the "Always Available" salmon and beef medallions (feature menu dishes were Italian) while on the third night we had the turkey but without dressing and gravy as both contained garlic. Service was OK but not perfect (no offer of pepper). Breakfasts in the Bernini were good although potion sizes were simply too large except for the omelet. Service was very slow for the first breakfast but very efficient for the last one on the 28th. We noticed that the Trident Grill no longer offered chicken burgers - boo. The International Cafe was great for quiche, sandwiches and goodies. It would be nice if two types of quiche were offered daily rather than just one.
Due to the weather conditions (Storm Force 10 winds)from the late evening of the 25th until the very early morning of the 27th, we didn't do much on board except attend the Trivia contests and watched the performers in the Piazza.
Disembarkation in LA was fine. We waited in the Platinum/Elite lounge (Bernini Dining Room) and the Captain Circle Hostess clearly announced the various departure times. The ship was 3 hours late due to the earlier storm and as usual the anticipated times of the departure were missed by up one hour. Immigration had a separate line for Canadians which sped up the process and our bags were waiting in the designated spot. Easy walk to the buses (we had a Princess transfer) where our bags were loaded by Princess staff and we departed for LAX in plenty of time to catch our flight.
Three key items learned:
1. Never book a cabin under the Lido deck
2. Always read your Cruise Personalizer notes carefully and just before leaving for the ship. On this cruise, check in procedures changed and while Princess did note the changes in the Cruise Personalizer, they were not highlighted and we met other passengers who followed the old information and pay extra taxi fares as a result.
3. If you have a flight out the same day the ship docks, consider taking the cruise transfer to increase the odds of making the flight as ships do get delayed.