My husband and I chose this cruise to celebrate our 50th and 55th birthdays on board. We had been on one other Princess Cruise and had a wonderful time and were expecting no less from this cruise.
We found the staff to be very friendly and helpful in all areas of the ship. I do find it makes a difference if you say good morning and please and thank you when you are asking someone to do something for you. Our room steward was wonderful and asked us constantly is there was anything he could do for us. I do have to admit, we tip our room steward and waiters extra because we feel they really can make a difference in your cruise experience and they work really hard. We give them some money the first day and again on the last night.
The food in the dining room and at the buffet was not bad but wasn't great either with the exception of a few particular dishes. It was just good, but not memorable. I guess when you are serving 12,000 meals a day, it's kind of hard to make all the meals extraordinary. We did eat at the Bayou Steakhouse one evening and that meal was wonderful. We also had the great fortune of going to the Chef's Table one evening. It was one of the best meals we have ever had!! If you have the opportunity to participate and don't mind paying the $95 up charge, do it.
We also went to the gym everyday. It was pretty funny that the first few days of the cruise, the gym was pretty full whatever time we went, but as the days wore on, there were fewer and fewer people. There was a good amount of equipment to choose from. Various weight machine, treadmills, ellipticals and a couple of recumbent bikes. There were spin classes, and yoga classes you could sign up for with a $12 per class cost, held on sea days, as well as free zumba classes also on sea days.
There were also line dance and ballroom dance classes held on sea days which were fun.
There were the typical activities such as trivia games, bingo and gambling tournaments. This ship also had a daily lecture about an interesting topic if you were interested in something a bit more serious and they also have a ceramics at sea program where you can paint a bowl.
There were plenty of movies daily both in the theatre as well as Movies Under the Stars. The movies were pretty recent which was nice. We did do MUTS one night and were brought popcorn and blankets.
The entertainment each evening was very good. There were 4 large stage productions, some running 2 nights. There was a comedian, a really great guitarist and a fantastic hypnotist. There was plenty of live music of various kinds around the ship each night at well.
Princess ships also have a 5K Komen breast cancer walk each cruise which we participated in. The cost was $15 a person and you received a baseball cap for participating.
There are 2 free pool areas. One of the areas was very loud, where the kids and families would be. This area is open to the sky, with the perimeter area in the shade. It is also where MUTS is.
If you want a quieter area, there is the Lotus Pool which has an enclosed pool and seating area, teak chairs and quiet music. No children were allowed in here. There is also the area called the Sanctuary. This is a pay per day area with very cushy lounge chairs, a small pool and butler service. We do not spend enough time at the pool to warrant the extra cost, but if you're a sun lover, the area is really nice.
The ports we went to were all really good. We did some private tours that I had organized as well as some Princess sponsored tours. All were very good with the exception of a tour we did in Grand Cayman. It was the Turtle Farm, Hell and Tortuga Rum factory tour. The Turtle Farm was very interesting but not enough time was spent there. Going to Hell was fun but that required all of 15 minutes and we thought the Tortuga Rum Factory was an actual factory visit where we would see how rum was distilled but it is just a store. This wasn't an expensive tour, but not worth the money. You could easily take a cab to the Turtle Farm and Hell for much less.
We also signed up to take the Ultimate Ship's Tour on one of our sea days. This tour is about 3 1/2 hours and costs $150 per person, but you get to go to many places on the ship that you would never get to see otherwise. You're also each given spa bathrobes, chef's jackets and stationary with your names printed on it. Everywhere you were taken, you were greeted by the head person of that area, so we met the head chef, head maitre d', the captain, chief engineer, head of the laundry, theatre director, chief printer of the print shop, and head photographer. We were very happy that we had chosen to take this tour, although once is probably enough. If you intend to do this tour, be sure to take an extra carry on bag to bring your stuff home in. The robes take up a LOT of room.
We really had a great time and would certainly cruise on Princess again. Yes, I do think they have had to cut back on some things in the last few years and cruising is not what it used to be, but it is still a great vacation for the money and it is wonderful to be able to park your stuff in one place and be able to relax after that.