I have been cruising since the eighties, and have been on numerous cruises on many different cruise lines. This was my second cruise on princess, and probably my last.
There were three adults in my party, and we arrived a day prior to sailing in fear of not being able to get out due to weather. We live in the northeastern United States.
We arrived by taxi at the cruise port at about 1:30 pm after returning a car rental to the Fort Lauderdale airport. The taxi fare was approx. $20 due to traffic. A porter met us at our taxi and quickly took our luggage.
Embarkation was for the most part flawless. We were there at what I consider to be a peek hour for boarding. We stood in line for about 15 minutes. Once inside the terminal and at the counter we were boarding the ship in less than 5 minutes! Princess has the embarkation process down to an art. To date, they are the only cruise line that I have checked in online prior to arrival, and actually accepted EVERYTHING that was entered online! All they needed to see were our passports. They had our "sea passes" pre-printed, and we were on our way; EXCELLENT!
Once on board, we found our way to our cabin without any assistance from the crew (even though it would have been appreciated). I have read other reviews of this cruise on cruise-critic who thought the service was excellent. My opinion differs. We found our cabin (D310), and called friends to meet pool side. At 3:30 pm they had the boat drill. In light of the recent Costa incident, Princess, and I'm sure all of the cruise lines falling under the carnival umbrella; changed their procedures. While I think it important for passengers to know where to go in an emergency, and how to put on the life vest, I think this could be briefed. We had finally gotten away from dragging the life vests to the boat drill, putting on the life vest, and standing for what seemed like an eternity before completing the boat drill. While we didn't have to stand, and were seated in an air conditioned environment, we STILL had to go get the vest, and put them on at the end of the briefing. A demonstration by the crew would have sufficed. The airlines don't make you put them on. How many planes have gone down in water, and flotation devices and life vests were needed? Still they don't make you put them on. I am a former Air Force pilot and have been dropped in the ocean with noting but a life vest and small raft until picked up. I remembered how to put on and inflate the vests. There is no need to have passengers walking down stairs with the potential to trip over the straps. Just demonstrate Princess! Don't panic over the Costa incident.
(The Ship)...The ship is beautiful. I have not seen as many pools on a ship as I did this one. I later learned it had just come out of dry dock. The public rooms are beautiful as well. I have two complaints with the design of the ship. Those who cruised prior to 1990 will understand what I am saying. There was a lot of "up and over" to get to some public rooms on this ship. I have not seen this in the modern age of cruising. My other complaint is the elevators. The elevator banks were confusing right up until the last day of the cruise. They didn't all go to all levels, and when called for, they were often missed because you were on the other side from where they arrived. Now, Princess appears to be wanting the "large ship but small ship feel." I go on large ships to feel like I am on a large ship. If I wanted a small ship "feel," I would cruise on a small ship. The problem with their concept is passenger to space ratio. There were lines and full public rooms everywhere! I often felt claustrophobic due to low ceilings, and no windows in some of the public rooms. This being their flag ship, I would hope the concept changes or improvements are made on future ships.
(Dining) I must say the food was good on this ship. I have been on a few cruise lines that have had excellent food. Most often I lose weight on cruises because I don't care for the food. The food was properly prepared, but I found it odd that there was no chicken served. We had assigned dining. Our waiter was OK; did the job; but was by far not the best waiter I have had at sea. I had the feeling that the tips were already made, and I just have a job to do. One evening we saw other passengers with an appetiser that we would have wanted. We asked and our waiter said it was not on the menu, but was available. What else was not on the menu that we did not know about? Bottom line, ask. My biggest complaint about dining was the wait to get in to the dining room. We had late seating. Several evenings; including formal evenings there was a line to get into the dining room where passengers waited up to 20 min to get in! When the maitre d was approached, he stated, "The dining room opens at 8:15. I can't help it if passengers show up early for dining." I'm sure there is a better way to make his point. My reply was his name and that statement would show up on my critique, and the restaurant manager would be notified. The next evening they opened early, and the maitre d made a point to let me know. I made a point to let him know that this would not excuse the other evenings spent waiting. Lastly, I SO hope they get rid of the baked alaska parade. ALL the cruise lines need to find better ways to attract customers. I personally don't care to have my dinner interrupted by singing waiters and waiter assistants.
(Entertainment) The entertainment on-board was far below what I expected. The singers and dancers were the worst I have seen on any ship (singers were both pitchy and flat). The comedians were not good. In my opinion you get the bottom of the barrel in talent on cruise ships anyway, they didn't qualify to be on a ship. The illusionist was "ok." I would not pay to see him. The quintet was just ok as well. As you can see, I try and attend the entertainment on board. The movies under the stars is a great concept. I enjoyed SOME of the concerts during the day, and the movies at night were relaxing and enjoyable. Just add some butter to the popcorn please. Someone in my party complained about the lounge chairs; that the padded chairs could only be found around the movies under the stars pool. While Princess is unable to please everyone with the concerts played during the day on the screen, this annoyed the person in my party. Had the comfortable chairs been offered at other pools, the individual would have preferred to be at the other pools.
(Service) The service was just below my standard on this ship, and I am a "do it yourself" kind of guy. Cunard has the best service on large ships in my opinion. Celebrity is a close second. While I understand that everyone has different experiences and opinions, I just thought the service overall was not good. The cruise director and his assistant were just plain annoying. It was hard to find someone to order a drink if you didn't go up to a bar. Tables were not cleared in a timely manner in the buffet area so that you could find a seat (again crowded public area), and the crew needs to stop "pointing" and escort passengers to the area they are seeking.
(Disembarkation) I haven't seen lines like I saw for disembarkation since the mid 90's! First, I filled out the departure information on the second day of the cruise, and personally handed it to the customer service desk personnel. The young lady looked at it, and said, "perfect." My luggage tags never showed at my cabin. I found my cabin steward (Jay), who had never introduced himself, and I didn't even know what he looked like. I just recognized his name from the card left in our mini suite. He informed me that he didn't receive any for our cabin, and to wait until 6pm to see if they arrive, NOT. I thanked him, and went right to the customer service desk where an officer was handing out luggage tags. I waited in line of course, and once there explained my situation. No "I apologize" "I'll look into it", or anything. he just asked when I wanted to disembark. I gave him the time I thought best in order to catch my 11 am flight, and he proceeded to give me a later time that indicated flights departing after 2:30 pm. I just took the tags, and decided we would go to one of the earlier lounges to disembark earlier. That was a good thing because we barely made our flight. We got off earlier, found our luggage in the bag tagged area, of course no other luggage had been touched in that area because they had not disembarked yet. We then got into yet another line for customs. Now, Princess does not control customs; however the princess employee "queuing" the line constantly took from other lines to go to the customs agent in our line. We stood for 45 minutes to get through customs! Unheard of now days, and unacceptable!
(Overall) Overall, I would rank Princess third in the mid range major cruise lines behind Celebrity and RCCL followed by NCL and Carnival. I don't plan on cruising Princess again. The design of the ship in this modern age, lack luster customer service, and poor entertainment gives me no choice but to give them a mediocre rating.