This was my 5th cruise, but my first cruise with Princess. I have sailed with Disney and with Carnival for my other cruises. I absolutely love cruising and being out on the ocean, and try to look at the brighter side of things when things happen because I believe it's what you make it. This cruise tested me and my attitude, that's for sure.
I took my niece for this cruise, this is her 3rd cruise, and it was quite the adventure we will never forget. She was turning 14 at the end of the cruise, so it was a celebration while on board, but I'll cover that in a bit.
We drove to Houston on Saturday, March 5th, and stayed at the Marriott by Courtyard at NASA. It was a nice hotel, and we enjoyed it. No complaints other than there was no "free" breakfast, but we knew that before we booked, and planned on eating lunch on the ship, so it wasn't a concern. Driving into the hotel was beautiful, there were structures of astronauts and planets and lovely palm trees. We stayed in an accessible room apparently, as we had a doorbell and none of our surrounding rooms did, but being a child of someone who requires accessible rooms, I wasn't impressed at anything else in that area, as the doorbell and light was the only thing I noticed that was really different than any other room. The room was clean and very spacious. There was a desk with a chair and also a sitting chair. There also was an iPod dock (something we read about in the advertisement when we booked the room), but it was for older apple devices, as the charging port was the larger style instead of the smaller newer ones. No biggie since we brought our own chargers for the cruise.
We got up and drove to the port, it was an easy drive, about 10 minutes away. We prepaid for parking and saved $5. We dropped off luggage with a porter first, then we had to drive all the way back around and check in with the ticket booth. We were directed where to park and the shuttle was right behind the car waiting to pick us up to take us back to the building. We had to stop at a table and fill out a health questionnaire and then proceeded into line and was quickly checked in. We were handed two ship maps/deck plans with our cabin number on it. We both traveled with our birth certificates, and nothing was ever said about her not being with another adult or not being my child, but I had a notarized statement ready just in case, as well as my marriage certificate, as we have been asked to provide both on previous cruises (but not every time).
Back to back boarded first, and then we were able to board. We went straight to our cabin, R407. It was an inside cabin that was sideways. Pictures I had previously found online led me to believe the cabin was much larger than it actually was. We have stayed in sideways cabins before (on DCL) and it was our favorite, but I was shocked at the size (or lack of) of this cabin. Our cabin steward came and introduced himself. We checked out the bathroom, and I'm still trying to get over how incredibly small the shower was. This was the smallest room, the smallest bathroom and the smallest safe I have ever had. I have a hipster Vera Bradley purse, and it wouldn't fit in the safe. So I tried putting my folder of documents in there, and it wouldn't fit either (it's a regular size folder). I also noticed there was no drain in the bathroom floor (other than the actual shower drain), like I'm used to on Carnival, and I did flood the bathroom several times (even the water didn't have enough room in that shower! Ha!)
We pre-ordered the Sodas and More package, and was expecting the cups to be in our stateroom, but they weren't. Once we unpacked (our luggage arrived while we were unpacking our carry on luggage), we decided to go explore and have lunch. I stopped at a table they had set up for the beverage packages and asked about the cups, and he stated if you pre-order the package, you no longer receive the cups. I stated that that was disappointing and ridiculous. We did receive the cups in our cabin on the 3rd night with a note saying we pre-ordered that, and that we prepaid our gratuities.
I also requested on the last night a cake be delivered for my niece's birthday, they also informed me the door would have some decorations. I brought some just in case, because I noticed every time I spoke with someone on the phone about anything, it was different every time, so I wanted to be prepared. Of course, there were not any decorations, so I hung my own, and the next night, we had the ship decorations added.
We went to lunch at one of the sit-down restaurants and met some really nice people. We had to share the table with 3 other couples. Lunch was good, service was quick, especially the drinks (Carnival I feel fails in this area).
After lunch I stopped by Guest Services to see if there is a limit I could put on my niece's card, and they informed me that isn't how it worked, but I could block some spending from bars, shops and casinos. I just left it alone, as I felt she was responsible enough and we had agreed on an amount. Turns out, there wasn't really anything either of us was interested in buying in the whole 7 days, so she didn't spend a single penny. We were both pretty disappointed with that.
The night before we left, we found out we weren't going to be visiting Princess Cays (VERY disappointing), so we went to the excursion desk to try to find something for Nassau (they replaced PC with Nassau), so we booked the Discover Atlantis tour.
Then it was time to go to the Muster Drill. We had to take our life jackets (you don't on CCL and DCL), but at least the drill was indoors. We also had to try on our life jackets which scared my niece because she already knew about the generator, and being that in depth of a drill, she wasn't used to, so she was nervous.
After that, we went to the "Sail Away Party", but left early because it wasn't much of a party at all, at least not to our standards. We made our last phone calls before putting our phones on airplane mode and got connected to the Princess @ Sea app. You have to find your account number to add people to your list, and you don't get notified of any new messages, so the only thing we wound up using the app for was checking our stateroom balance.
She was pre-registered for the youth club (the teen one, Remix). There were 70 total kids onboard. 70. Out of 3,000 + people, only 70 of them were children. It was spring break in Texas. I had heard that Princess is labeled as "Heaven's waiting room", and after this cruise, we believe it! There were scooters, canes & walkers EVERYWHERE. I have NOTHING against that, like I stated before, one of my parents is disabled, and uses a scooter, and a cane, and I am fully aware of the need for those things, and have respect and courtesy for those people, but I can't figure out how we didn't have power failure at night when all of those things had to recharge! I had never in my life seen so many. We finally made an ongoing joke the whole cruise to see how many groups we could find - knitters, readers, card players, and bar hoppers. (Every single time we went by this one bar, the same couple was there, and in the same seats.. seriously - every. single.time.) This cruise / cruise line / ship is not for young families or children. They seemed to have one CD that they played on repeat the entire 7 days in all of the public spaces, and about the "newest" pop song on it was "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.
We went to dinner in the Island Dining Room (we had anytime dining) around 5:15 and had no wait. The service was good, the food was alright. We went to the 7:00 "Welcome Aboard" show. It was okay. The theater was small to have a ship occupancy of 3,000 + people. It wasn't like Carnival, but more like Disney. Arms on each seat instead of couches, and in one side of the arm, there is a table you can pull out- but if you have any size stomach at all, don't count on using that.
Around 10 we went to the room, basically for a lack of anything else to do. We figured maybe tomorrow would be better since it's a day at sea, usually there are lots of activities happening on those, so we were looking forward to it.
Turns out, every single day was a bore. I am one of those people who cringe when I hear someone say they are bored. I was raised not to say that, and that there is always something to do, but I was actually bored on this cruise.
They had a holiday sale, and the shirts were $10 each. We got excited and ran to the shirt table, to find that the shirts said Western Caribbean, Cozumel, Belize and Roatan. (NOTE - our ports were Eastern Caribbean, Key West, Freeport and Nassau)..... I still can't figure that out. Another day, they had a "special" sale - 2 shirts for $20. IT WAS THE SAME EXACT SHIRTS. And, it's the same exact price!! We are still laughing about that one.
On the "Fun Day At Sea", there were events like golf chipping in the pool, some movies, the shopping spotlight show (which we think should be renamed "The Diamonds International Show" - as that was 95% of what was discussed..... for nearly 2 hours.) The free gifts were some bamboo lei's, a Del-Sol tote bag, 1 shirt, 1 frisbee and a "diamond" necklace.
This night was formal night, and people do go formal pretty well on this ship (comparing to CCL). The lines were SO long for dinner, we decided to go back, get "normal", and head to the buffet. We didn't want to miss the show (that's about the only thing exciting we had been waiting for all day). The buffet was good, and actually, due to menus in the dining room, we ate the buffet nearly every night. One night they had fried chicken on the menu, so we went, and sat next to a lady who informed us fried chicken was one of the worst things you could put in your body, and we had to hear a health speech during the whole dinner. The fried chicken was gross, and we couldn't eat it. We hit the buffet after the show. Note - I normally NEVER miss dining in dining rooms for dinner. In fact, out of 5 cruises, this was the first time I had ever eaten in the dining room, so eating in there nearly every night really says something!! I normally love dressing up and going to the MDR and enjoying the atmosphere, but not here. Not this time.
We went to the comedian's show in the Explorer's Lounge. A lot of shows and games were hosted in this lounge, and if you want to go, get there AT LEAST 30 mins. early to get a good seat (We usually shot for an hour). The comedian was hilarious and the best part of the cruise! We were sad he didn't win Entertainer of the Year (that was happening during this sailing).
We hit the Captain's Welcome Aboard "Party", and saw the "champagne waterfall", and the line of people to take a picture of themselves supposedly pouring some champagne, but the captain actually did the pouring, and it really wasn't a waterfall. It took 12 bottles, so you can imagine how long that took, with people stepping up a small ladder, smiling, pour a few dashes, and then the next person came.
We went to a few game shows they had onboard, Majority Rules, Marriage Game Show, Liar's Club, Yes/No Game Show (our favorite), etc. You don't want to miss the Yes/No Game Show, it's pretty funny watching people try to avoid saying yes and no for 3 minutes, and most people can't make it.
The evening show in the theater was Born to Be Wild or something like that. We sat in the middle of the 2nd row. The rows are close together in that once your in, you don't leave until it's over if you are in the middle. We never sat in the middle again. This show was supposed to be about a road trip and had songs such as "Life is A Highway", "I've Been Everywhere", etc. I'm still trying to figure out why the female dancers dressed as night walkers (thong leotards, SUPER mini skirts, bras, etc.), and danced as if the only thing missing was a pole. My niece turned and looked at me when the thong lady came out during "Life is a Highway", and our jaws were both dropped. Now, the old man in front of us was clapping and cheering, and we thought he may have a heart attack he was so excited. I would have been REALLY upset if my child was younger. I just don't understand the need for that with those kinds of songs, and for a "family" friendly show.
After the show, we walked around the upper decks to see if anything was happening (we usually don't go to bed until around 3 am on CCL and DCL), and usually by 10:30 this ship was pretty well shut down other than the casino and the piano bar.
The next day was supposed to be Key West, but as we sailed right by it, it was decided that it was going to be cancelled. The captain came on the intercom system and said due to the wind we were not able to dock. Trust me, the ship's atmosphere REALLY sank after that!! We ran to the shore excursions desk to find something to do in Freeport now, as we were just going to "wing it" since we knew we would be having lots of fun in Key West and in Nassau, but now, I was determined the rest of this trip was not going to be ruined. Of course, like everyone else, the whole reason we picked this week was for KW and PC, and now that both were cancelled, I was rather irritated that I didn't just wait a week (the next week is my spring break and I was off). I do understand the weather is out of people's control, but I don't understand about Princess Cays. Supposedly the generator was not working correctly and we were informed we wouldn't be able to travel at full speeds, but we did. There was a lot of discussion about that among passengers.
Before the 1:00 port time, there wasn't much going on, Knitters & Knatters, Back Pain Relief, Jewelry sales, Art sales, etc. They announced they would be putting out a new Princess Patters that would start at 1:00 with new activities. Not much was offered different from before, with the exception of a few games (pictionary, etc.) Pretty disappointing day. I had been looking forward to the Stargazing that they have been advertising a lot, and I love stars, but it was too windy, so they cancelled that also. The employee stated they would try it again on our last night at sea, so I was hopeful (NOTE - the last night at sea was gorgeous, and I have never seen the moon shine on the sea quite like it did that night - and NO, they did not reschedule stargazing!!)
For Freeport, the Shore Excursion employee recommended we do the All-Inclusive Beach, and we did. There wasn't an option to not do all-inclusive, and most of the choices were garden tours, history tours, etc., so we jumped on this opportunity even though we don't drink. We met off the ship in the pier, and had an A/C bus ride to the beach (about 20 mins away), and it was only us cruise passengers. It was a BEAUTIFUL beach. They did serve alcohol to an underage kiddo - more than once actually - because he and my niece became friendly (I told her after watching him partake of the drinking games 3 times and downing shots like it was nothing - she is to no longer hang out with him!). His parents were busy doing their own thing - like they did the whole entire cruise. It was apparent this kid has his own room with his little brother and mom and dad didn't have any control or care what happened, as he even talked about the bar staff on board giving him drinks one night when we all had dinner together. (This was before the beach, and I thought he was just trying to be a big shot in front of my niece, I now realize he was probably serious, and he probably drank it!)
We tried to make it to the magic show for 2 of the shows, but couldn't find a seat for the one did in the Explorer's Lounge. Each contestant for Entertainer of the Year performed 2 shows - one in Explorer's Lounge (the place you need to get to 30-1 hr ahead of time), and one in the main theater. Each show was supposed to be different. My niece stood the whole time for this magic show in the back, but I went and sat in the Piazza area and people watched.
The night before the last night, at 4 something in the morning, we awoke to our drawers flying open, hangers banging, and some strange noises. Come to find out, we were in the middle of a pretty bad storm. Most all of us and our neighbors were out of the cabins (pj's and wild hair and all!) and several of us went to the top deck to see what was happening, and then down to deck 7. I have some video of the waves from deck 7, and it was really something! It was a LONG night that night, because by this time, we were so done with this cruise, and now the storm, and we were just ready to go home.
I also wanted to note, there were no towel animals in our cabin. To some, that's probably not a big deal at all, but it's pretty sad for us when it's something you look forward to. The service on this ship was great and overall speedy. I really enjoyed having the Sodas & More package, we enjoyed a total of 73 mocktails over 7 nights, so it was worth the price for us ($8.05 per person, per day). We went to one of the "Fun Deck Parties" one night, and it was literally just me and my niece, and one person walking by.. which I also have on video, because I knew my friends and family back home would find it hilarious, comparing to what we've done before.
Overall, if you are 70+, you will probably enjoy this ship. And I don't mean that to be rude, not by any means!!! If you are looking for nothing to do, you will enjoy this ship. But don't go expecting to have fun in the same sense you would on a CCL or DCL ship (Again - I don't drink alcohol, I'm not some party animal, and I don't go to night clubs... but I do enjoy people watching, getting something to eat, trivia's, games, comedy shows, and so on... not just knitting and origami....) Read Less