We loved sailing a small and intimate ship. No lines and very little hassle all around. The ship itself at first appeared old, but in an elegant and not a tired way. The dark woods and brass rail stairways are elegant and welcoming. Most important, the cabins and entire ship were immaculate.
Our Penthouse suite was a splurge for our 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration, and was gorgeous and well worth the additional cost. There were five couples in our group, and we had cocktails most nights in our cabin.
For me, the three most important ingredients for a successful cruise are the itinerary, the food, the service. Princess made a prudent choice to reenter French Polynesian waters with its newly renamed Ocean Princess. The itinerary was extraordinary and ideal for such a small and intimate ship. The nightmarish logistics of traveling to Tahiti were met with well thought out including alternatives for passengers arriving at dawn and departing at midnight. Never have I experienced such a flexible and seamless process with passengers from two sailings coexisting on board in a logical and welcoming way. Congratulations to Princess in thinking outside the box and coming up with a solution that helped cruisers acclimate to both pre and post cruise realities.
The staff worked together, and did so seamlessly. From the maitre de, the head waiters, the cabin stewards, the wait staff, the purser staff to the captain himself, they all really showed themselves to be part of a family that cared. The service was exemplary. In most every way, Princess actually provided Crystal Cruise line type service at around one half the price, and did so in a warm and engaging manner. It was the extra smile from the ship painter and mechanic, those that did not interact regularly with passengers that also made a difference. It was a head waiter group that worked tirelessly with the wait staff to make sure all went well. The did not just show up at the table on lobster night or tip night, as is so common on so many cruise lines. The captain walked the ship and knew or group and many other passengers by name. The same was true with the head chef.
Speaking of the head chef, the food was far superior to the offerings we had on a previous Princess sailing a few years back. It was almost on par with Crystal, and put Royal Caribbean, which in my opinion has fallen off a cliff with quality, in the dust. The food was really wonderful. The food was cooked as ordered. Creative and inventive options were offered along with standard good food. The vegetables and the pastas were properly cooked, not over salted, and the food presentation was lovely. The desserts tasted as good as they looked! The waiters inquired of each person at each meal whether the food was properly prepared. The buffet food was fresh and excellent, and the servers bent over backwards to accommodate. Our party of ten attended a dinner at the chef's table, which was well worth the extra cost. The chef was delightful and the friendly camaraderie he showed with the Maitre De made us all feel at home. Most importantly, the food at the chef's table was exquisite. On par with any five diamond restaurant. Our group is very fussy, and the raves for that meal were unequaled elsewhere.
We did not partake in the entertainment, and for most that did, we heard that it was only fair. My attitude is that the entertainment was not a priority. We did not go on a ship to see shows, we went to enjoy French Polynesia. We did not miss having an ice rink or a climbing wall. The small intimate ship, with few lines and incredible food and service more than made up for lack of ice dancers, Broadway numbers, and other high end entertainment.
While smaller ships are not for everyone (Don't bring your kids on a small ship if they need things to keep them busy), Princess really has made their small ship product shine. We will sail with Princess again, if we can find a wonderful itinerary.