I discovered cruising in my fifties and loved it from the start, with 7 delightful journeys prior to this one: Holland American (1), Disney (1), NCL (2), Celebrity (3). I frequently travel solo, as I did on this trip. Hands down this was the best overall experience of all and a big part of that was the fabulous Ocean Princess, which has I fear has spoiled me forever. This small-ish ship (c. 600 passengers) feels more like a ship than a hotel (as the bigger ships do); it is elegant, intimate, friendly, easy to get around, uncrowded,and personal with every amenity that interests me and more dining choices than on any of the other lines I've been on, except for NCL.
Embarkation and travel there:
I had Princess arrange my air travel and was extremely pleased with the excellent price they got and the acceptable airline choices. I arrived in Honolulu 2 days before boarding and stayed in the Outrigger Reef Hotel on Waikiki Beach--an excellent, great value hotel, right on the beach with a small hotel feel. Boarding was amazingly easy...no waiting in line, just walking up an old-style gangway onto the ship. As best I could tell, we were the only cruise ship in the harbor. What a treat compared to the chaos of the big US ports (e.g., San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami).
On-Board Activities and Amenities:
People looking for rock-climbing, constant live-music at the pool,Broadway-style shows, and multiple lively late night venues will not find that on this ship. But everything I am interested in when cruising was fully available and well-done on this ship. I care about the fitness center (well-equipped with only one 10 minute wait for a treadmill the entire cruise; good daily programs, many for no extra charge), the enrichment program (outstanding lecturer, very knowledgeable), and the conduciveness of the ship to just walking about and/or sitting and reading or watching the sea. With respect to the last item, I was very pleased with this ship and surprised that despite its small size (even the stairs and the elevators are smallish), it felt less crowded than any other I've been on. I could always find a comfortable deck chair, by the pool or elsewhere, no matter the hour. The beautiful library is rightfully called (based on my experience) "the best at sea."
Normally I book most of my on-shore activities myself, avoiding the typically high priced, crowded ship-organized tours. But this time I selected the Princess tours and was Maximally Happy! Only two tours I took (those on Boro Boro and on Morea) were more than 12 people. All the rest (and I took one at every port) were highly personal, with superior guides, and outstanding values. The Morea trip (half day on a motu ((small island)) with swimming, bar-b-cue, and music) was about 75 people but did not feel crowded and was a to-die-for day in Paradise. Kudos to Princess for offering outstanding options!
Of the cruise lines I have previously sailed with, Celebrity had the best food by far in the main dining room, though I give NCL high points for the quality and variety of their alternative sites. But the Ocean Princess on my recent trip topped them all. I ate dinner in the main dining room about 75% of the time and never lacked for good choices. The lobster tails were actual whole lobster tails (I had seconds!) and not the disappointing tidbits served on Celebrity. The New Orleans styled crayfish etouffee was one this native New Orleanian would have been proud to have to prepared. The salads were composed of fresh, high quality ingredients. Breakfast and lunches I mostly ate in the Panorama buffet (which on sea days, turns into a table-service Bistro at night). I was astonished at the magnificent variety and food quality there as well. Every day there were, among other things, multiple excellent seafood choices including fresh mussels in the shell and huge bar-b-cued tiger shrimp. Desserts were varied and the pastry outstanding. Yum, yum all around!!