Husband and I had taken this trip 5 years ago, and thought it was time to do again with friends. We live in the Northeast, so come to Ft. Lauderdale a day before embarkation. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express-Convention Center, as we did last year. There's a great restaurant across the street (Giorgio's) and breakfast buffet at the hotel, so very convenient. There is a shuttle to the cruiseport, $8/person, which we signed up for, but there was a mix-up, and we had to take a cab instead. So $16 (including tip) for the 4 of us, instead of $32 for the shuttle van.
We booked a balcony cabin on Caribe Deck, #317. We like this level, because we hear no noise from the Lido deck, and the balcony could fit 4 deck chairs, with room to spare.
We had booked this cruise for the Panama Canal, and for complete relaxation. In years past, we've booked Caribbean cruises for the various ports, but this time, the canal was the main focus. To prepare going into the canal, we spent time onboard going to some lectures by Dr. Tom Ryan, and would recommend to anyone taking this cruise. It was fascinating to learn about the history of the canal. We viewed going into the canal from Deck 10-there are 2 unmarked doors at the front of the ship, leading to a deck, where we stood, watching the locks at work. We were on the deck at 5 AM, and still did not get front-row views, so earlier would be even better.
Dining: we had traditional seating at 5:30, at a table for 6. In years past, we found that tables bigger than 6 people were impossible for conversation, so we stick with 6 people. 5:30 is too early for us, so maybe we'll try anytime dining next time. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want- 2 of us wanted escargot every night for appetizers, spoke to the maitre d the first evening, and escargot was served every night, although it was never on the menu. Husband wanted blueberries for breakfast, and got them each morning, although they were not at the buffet table. If you are a coffee drinker, invest $30 and get the coffee card. We got fresh brewed coffee in La Patisserie on deck 5, and cappuccino at dinner. We find the regular coffee the ship serves intolerable, so the coffee card was money well-spent. We went to both specialty restaurants: Bayou Cafe was a waste of our money. It's advertised as Cajun and Creole, but there was no spice at all. Sabatini's was a good choice, and all 4 of us enjoyed our meals. On the last night, we had a bottle of wine left in our room, so brought it to dinner. Although we had purchased almost 20 bottles throughout the cruise, our waiter said she'd have to charge us a $15 corkage fee for the one bottle we had brought with us. Tacky!
Entertainment: there is a new stage show "On the Bayou", which was very good.
We also saw "Piano Man", which was good also. Princess has great live music on the ship, from classical to pop combos in the bars, so something for everyone.
We usually see at least one Movie Under The Stars, but this year, nothing appealed to us.
Disembarkation was a breeze. Princess charges $14/person for a bus to the airport, so again we took a cab, which was $16 including tip.
The cruise was just what we expected: attentive staff, interesting passengers, a fascinating tour of the Panama Canal, and plenty of sun and relaxation.