Background: We did a family trip (6 adults) for thanksgiving. My husband and I have only sailed previously on Disney Cruise Line to the Caribbean, so admittedly have little to offer in terms of comparison. We chose this ship/itinerary ... Read More
Background: We did a family trip (6 adults) for thanksgiving. My husband and I have only sailed previously on Disney Cruise Line to the Caribbean, so admittedly have little to offer in terms of comparison. We chose this ship/itinerary because of the length (5 nights) and sail date (over Thanksgiving). The fact that half of the group was in driving distance of LA helped us choose as well.
Port: there are no car rental agencies on site. We dropped off half the group and all the bags at the terminal (approximately 1030am), then dropped the car at Hertz in San Pedro. The weather was nice so we walked back to the port (approx 1 mile). Post-cruise, we rented from Avis so had to Uber to Long Beach Airport (about a 20 minute drive). Had we chosen to park a car, it was under $20/day at the port.
Embarkation: tagged our bags with our preprinted tags and the porters took them. We walked into berth 93 with our carry-on luggage (including 4 bottles of wine). The check-in process was pretty quick and the agent checked passports and gave us our keycards and boarding group number. They didn’t take a photo (for the keycard) until we actually boarded the ship. We then went through security and the X-ray scanners. From there, I was directed to the alcohol desk/table to register my wine. Because we were 6 adults through 4 cabins, we had no corkage fee, but I had to have someone from another’s cabin come with me to show we had multiple cabins to avoid a fee. It was actually really easy. Then we waited for the boarding process to begin. There were several folks continuing on from the previous cruise (a 28 day Hawaiian trip!) who were able to reboard first. We had group 4 so had to wait a few minutes. When called, we boarded through the aircraft jetbridge-like walkway up to the ship. There were photographers taking group photos in front of a green screen. When we got to the ship, a Princess employee scanned each keycard and took a photo (no glasses) before allowing us on the ship. We were onboard by 1230pm and headed to the buffet.
Cabin: wasn’t ready until 2pm and our bags didn’t arrive until closer to dinner time. We stayed in B757 which is a balcony cabin in the rear of the ship. The rest of the group were in inside cabins on the Aloha and Baja decks forward. All the cabins were quite roomy. Our cabin had a massive balcony with two chairs and a table, two chairs inside, a small tv (note that most channels showed a loop of two shows or a movie each day all day; if you happen to be sick and stuck in your cabin, you will become bored of the limited selection quickly), a queen sized bed, a small refrigerator, and loads of storage in the closet area as well as the desk/nightstands. The view from the balcony watching the wake was really nice, especially later in the trip leaving Cabo.
Dining: we chose late dining but tried two specialty restaurants as well. Share - was fantastic, I can’t recommend it enough. Our server was Magdalena and she recommended ordering several from each course and sharing. We did that for a few courses but eventually each just ordered what we wanted. Everything was delicious and we’d all go back without hesitation. Crown Grill - also delicious, but honestly the Share steaks were better in my opinion. Still, no real complaints. Botticelli (dinner) - Princess offers some entrees every night and then has special entrees only available on a given night. Again, no complaints, everything we tried was great. On the final night, the seas were rough and I was feeling it, so I ordered the beef consommé which helped tremendously and tasted good. The only negative at the restaurant is the kitchen was really slow, reportedly because they share a kitchen with another dining room. Botticelli (breakfast) - again, slow kitchen, but since Michelangelo doesn’t serve breakfast, I don’t know what the rationale was. The pancakes and the French toast (especially the James Beard cornflake crusted version) were excellent. On one morning where I was feeling sick, I asked our server, Wellington, for a box of Frosted Flakes to take with me and he actually had to go up to the buffet to get it for me. I appreciated the effort on that since I wasn’t able to easily get up there with the seasickness. Horizon court buffet - most of the food was really good. I didn’t care for the chili, but everything else I tried (including some Indian dishes I hadn’t had before) were delicious. Afternoon tea - I don’t like tea, but enjoyed the tea service nonetheless. Servers come around with different pastries and scones with quite the large selection. I would recommend it.
Spa: I didn’t try the workout area but did get a massage. I probably wouldn’t do that again on this ship since my treatment room was right next to the hair salon so was loud, plus faced out to the deck so my therapist kept struggling to get around my table in the small room and kept knocking into the blinds. It wasn’t exactly relaxing.
Wine tastings: we tried two of the wine tastings. The first was an additional $25 per person and included 6 wines and canapés. I would highly recommend the tasting. The one later in the trip was under $10 per person with 5 wines and prepacked crackers and some cheese cubes. I would probably skip that one. Both tastings had sommeliers and servers explaining the wines in detail, but honestly I would have preferred a shorter explanation on most of the wines. Some speakers were long winded.
Entertainment: I only watched one of the game shows, part of an art auction, and a few of the musicians in the lounges, so I can’t accurately comment on most of the entertainment. The musicians were hit or miss.
Ports: we only went to Cabo, so had mostly sea days. Cabo was a 24 hour stay, so some passengers chose to stay in a hotel/resort overnight. The tenders began around 2pm and continued throughout the day/night until 1130am. (Every half hour overnight.) I found the tender process to be a bit disorganized. Again, I don’t have a ton of experience but the line to get a tender was so long, we decided to wait on the ship until 4pm. (Note: this was where we decided to go to afternoon tea to wait it out.) My parents chose an excursion in Cabo to a resort for the day, so they didn’t have the long tender wait that the rest of us without an excursion faced. The rest of us ventured to land around 4pm and yelped taco shops. We enddd up at Tacos Guss, which was just a short walk from the main tourist walkway/boardwalk/malecon. After lunch, we walked around a bit more and over to the mall by the aforementioned tourist walkway. The mall has seen better days but looks like they’re renovating most of the second floor. From there, we kept walking to the end, then turned back to walk around the harbor back to the tender area. Lots of people trying to sell everything from bracelets to cigars to pictures with an iguana, but no one was rude about it; a polite “no thanks” was sufficient. Upon return to the tenders, the line was several hundred people long (approximately 645pm). We were concerned we’d miss our onboard dinner at 745pm, but the line moved fast enough that we were on a tender by 715pm and back on the boat around 730pm. We didn’t choose to return to Cabo the following morning, so we really only spent 3 hours in the town.
Disembarkation: everyone who didn’t purchase Princess airport transfers was assigned a walk off group based on cabin number. With 4 cabins and around 7 bags, this was not a great way of doing things. We spoke to the front desk and they put us all into one of the later groups and gave us some luggage tags to put on our bags. We had to have the bags out by midnight before disembarkation. We had to be out of the cabins by 800am but our group wasn’t scheduled to exit until 945am. We had breakfast at Botticelli and then hung out by a table in the Lido Deck for a while before heading to the Wheelhouse Bar for our meeting location. This process seemed far more difficult than necessary and we ended up waiting about half an hour extra in the bar until we actually got off the ship. Customs was easy (we are all Us passport holders) and bag claim was very quick (likely because most people had to carry their own bags when they walked off).
I struggled to understand many servers/speakers/other personnel. They spoke English, but many had very thick accents.
The deck plan is strange - i continually walked into dead ends all over the ship. I’m not sure if it was a retrofit that caused it or if that’s original. Also, there are many parts of the upper decks that effectively require stairs. There’s only one elevator on the ship that goes to some of the aft top decks but it can be quite slow.
Public restrooms on the main decks were hard to find. The cruise line seems to have chosen to keep the signs small and discreet, but that left me continually asking people where the restrooms were or going back to my cabin regularly.
Compared to DCL, the staff were a bit less friendly (though not rude) and the ship’s upkeep wasn’t as good (though not unsafe). The price for this cruise was significantly less, so I expected some decline in service, but many times I was still left wishing I was on the Disney Fantasy.
Tendering/disembarkation - given that this ship has been sailing for years to ports around the world, I don’t understand why the tendering and disembarkation processes were so slow and disorganized.
Photos - all the photos the ship photographers take are out up on deck. I’m surprised they don’t have a feature where they scan your keycard so you can easily find/access your pictures.
App - there is no app, only the Princess @Sea site. You can message others only if you know their unique id number. Also there are no push notifications so you are forced to continually refresh the screen to see if your family/friends messaged you.
As this was a holiday cruise, there were many kids (especially teenagers) onboard. I actually found them much more obtrusive in this ship than I have on DCL.
The food was fantastic.
There are bars and lounges throughout the ship as opposed to Disney where most are tucked into one part of the ship.
The Piazza (atrium) is a nice place to relax but is a bit small for some of the events they use it for.
Overall, I’ll probably sail Princess again but not in the immediate future. I think it was a fairly good choice for our group, given our constraints on geography and timing. Read Less