My husband and I booked this cruise specifically for the great price and the fact that we wanted our fifth cruise with Princess under our belt so that we would move up to the next loyalty level for our longer European/TA cruise next year.
This was our first cruise since moving to Florida and it was so much easier driving to Ft. Lauderdale rather than flying. We booked the Hampton Inn & Suites in Hollywood through ParkSleepFly.com which offered a free shuttle to the pier and back again and where we could leave the car for the week. Great hotel and the price was excellent. The shuttle to get to the ship didn't leave until 12:30pm and was late due to the large number of ships in port (9 that day!) But the driver was good. We didn't take the shuttle back to the hotel as it was just quicker to take a taxi. In the future, I think I would take a taxi back and forth.
Embarkation, as always with Princess, was a breeze. Once we finally got to the pier and our ship, we were in our cabin within 20 minutes. Love the Caribe deck with the larger balcony and for the first time we were toward the back of the ship and loved being closer to the aft stairway. Our room steward, Ricky, was the best we have ever had. Nothing was a problem for him and everything requested was taken care of almost immediately.
We were anxious to see the changes to the ship since we had last been on her, and we were not disappointed. We love the new piazza area with the International Cafe and Alfredo's pizza. Love the look of the ship without that old shopping cart handle, and the new nightclub, the One5, is one of the nicest spots to spend time in the evening after a show. Lots of cozy seating, a nice setup where you don't have to be right next to the music and can actually carry on a conversation. The dance floor, however, is very small, but most nights it was sufficient.
Dining: For breakfast, we ordered room service three mornings. The usual continental breakfast items; however, Princess has now added an EggMcMuffin sandwich to their breakfast room service menu, but we did not try it. Delivery was prompt and nothing is nicer than starting your day having breakfast on the balcony! Ate breakfast two mornings in the buffet which was standard food and two mornings in the dining room, which again was just OK.
We usually ate lunch up on deck and had either pizza or the hamburgers/hot dogs. Thought the pizza was not as good on deck as it has been in the past. Seemed like they just weren't cooking the crust long enough. Had the pub lunch one day in the Crown Grill and the fish and chips was delicious!! Will definitely add this to our must do on every cruise!
Dinner in the main dining room was good to great. Some items, like the beef dishes were excellent, other items, particularly the fish left a lot to be desired. One individual's fish at our table smelled so fishy she had to send it back. We ordered the linguini with clam sauce and it was tasteless. The lobster was underdone. Service was fair to good with no outstanding waiters/servers during the whole cruise. Was very disappointed in the end of meal service...many nights we had dessert and coffee never came until way after we were done, or we were not offered coffee all. Other nights we had coffee and waiting a long time for our desserts.
Best dinners were the night we went the Crown Grill where the service and the food was outstanding and the night we ate in Alfredo's Pizza down in the piazza. Now that is good pizza!!! They offer five different pizzas but you can easily customize your pizza and put on or take off whatever you want. The crust is thin and crisp and the topping are fresh. The nice thing is you can walk over to the International CafÃ©, get some soup, and bring it back to your table in Alfredo's as a starter. Then when you are finished with your pizza, you can return to the IC, pick up a decadent dessert and a coffee (if you have a coffee card or want to pay for it), and finish your meal at Alfredo's. The restaurant is quiet in the evening for dinner, but is busy during the day for lunch. We loved it so much we returned the following day for lunch but did not have to wait long for a table.
Entertainment was just OK. On one night we saw a really good magician in the Princess Theatre and a so-so production show, Motown City, in the Vista Lounge. Don't understand why these two weren't switched to the other venue. The magician would have better in the smaller atmosphere of the Vista Lounge (don't know how the people in the back of the theatre enjoyed the tricks) and Motown City was way too complex and in-your-face in the lounge. Lots of hamming it up in Motown City too...actually thought the singers and dancers might have been better in a daytime soap! Lots of other things to do, however, all around the ship and we were never bored.
Excursions: We had already been to all three ports so the ports were not the highpoint of the cruise. Were only in San Juan from 4-10 PM so we got off for a short time, headed over to Barrachina's for a delicious pina colada, wandered around a little bit and got back on the ship. Couldn't see eating in San Juan when we were already paying for dinner on the ship!
In St. Maarten we booked a really great tour with Bernard's Tours. Our driver, Rudy, took us all over the island...went to Orient Beach, shopping in Marigot (don't miss the French Bakery, Serafina's...OMG...the best pastries and sandwiches, ever!!!!), stopped at Maho Beach to watch the planes arrive/depart. This was awesome and is a not-to-be-missed in St. Maarten.
In St. Thomas, we did a half-day sail on the Fury with Captain Mike. Nice sail out to Turtle Cove where we snorkeled and saw some turtles, rays and lots of fish. The sailboat was in great condition, with a good crew. They served snacks and soda, beer and rum drinks and rum punches after snorkeling. Then we just spent some time doing some shopping for liquor in Havensight. Hint: Prices at all the liquor stores is the same. Don't wear yourself out trying to find a deal.
Sea days were wonderful. The weather was great and I never had a problem finding a lounge chair. Of course, the lounge chairs around the pools were usually filled but it was easy to just go up a deck and find one. My favorite spot...where Skywalkers used to be attached to the ship. There is now a nice area all the way on the back of the ship, up on deck 16 where you can grab a lounge chair and watch the wake to your heart's content.
Overall, we didn't let the small things ruin our cruise. We had a wonderful cruise that we shared with old friends and new friends. To me, that's what it is all about.