Arriving the night before the cruise, we stayed at the Crown Plaza right out side the cruise terminal. Nice, new and convenient - you couldn't beat the location. Very close to some last minute shopping.
Our cruise started off with the easiest embarkation experience ever. From the time we arrived via cab to sliding our key in the door was no longer than 15 minutes. We met the two other couples we were traveling with and departed for some more last minute wine shopping. Before we left though we stopped off at the spa to register for the thermal suite (more on this later) Walked right off, into a cab and returned with no hassle.
We then checked out our cabin, unpacked and explored the ship. She's in excellent shape, clean throughout and the atrium is stunning. The crew was very friendly and our cabin steward Morvin from India was the best. It took a some time get seated at our first anytime dinning experience in the Bordeaux, but that took care of itself over time and the food was always good. A little rainy and breezy upon departure, but otherwise a great day.
We stayed in a mini-suite Cat AA and felt we had one of the best rooms on the ship. Cabins on either side were occupied with our friends, so we opened the doors between the balconies creating a fairly large common area. Our outside chairs seemed a little dingy with significant paint droppings. We mentioned it to Morvin and he had them restrung with new webbing. This was a nice touch on Princesses part. The room didn't have that brand new feel we got on the Ruby, but I guess that was to be expected. Everything was as clean as possible.
We ate at both the Bayou and Sabatini's. By far the Bayou was the best meal and well worth the up-charge. After pursuing the wine list we asked to speak with the Sommelier Jan Krell who was only a short pager message a way. After discussing what we liked he had something a little special in the wine cellar for us. This personal experience made the meal. In fact, we met him for diner every night there after. Sabatini's was a great meal as well and we would go back to both. We had light breakfast of coffee, yogurt fruit delivered to the cabin every morning. My only negative comment here is the menu has become extremely limited over the years. Frankly, so has the room service menu as I remember receiving full dining room menus (for free) a few years back. Lunch most days at horizon court which was always well stocked and the pizza was out of this world. If you wanted something special all you needed to do is bring your own ingredients. The one disappointment was Irish Pub meal at the Bayou. On previous cruises with Princess this was quite the experience, here it seemed like an excuse to sell expensive pub beers. Pretty much that was all you could get to drink and the food fish and chips was humble. All in all I have no complaints about dining as every dinner was outstanding.
Almost every day my wife and I used the gym and after the second day the crowds thinned out. The equipment was in good shape and the place was always clean. As I mentioned earlier, one of our first stops was the Spa to reserve a spot for the thermal suite. On previous cruises we found this to be one of the best values on board. However, after this experience I may never use one again. The beds were often cold, the showers didn't work properly, and the staff seemed more interested in shutting them down than keeping them open. This was particularly disheartening after I called in advance to make sure they were open and to arrive and find everything turned off. It was annoying!
We spent a little time in the casino were the staff taught my wife to play roulette. She walked a way a winner and our group had free drinks, so all in all this was a good experience. We didn't seem to have a lot of time for other entertainment as some of the dinners went long and we were up early every day. We did happen to see Duncan a musician and comedian. He was really great and boy could he play the guitar.
Getting off was as easy as getting on. After a nice breakfast, we arrived at our disembarkation lounge five minutes early, sat down and cleared to leave within minutes. Less the 10 minutes later we were in a cab heading to the airport - arriving a few hours early.
I could probably go on for days about this trip, but in summary I'll just say it was a five out of five. The crew as nice as could be and everyone was helpful. The ship common area are in fantastic shape although the room was slightly worn. The dinning experiences across the board were very enjoyable. We already put down our deposit for our next Princess cruise.