My husband and I are both 32. This was our 7th cruise and 7th unique itinerary, our 3rd cruise with our daughter who is 3, our 2nd cruise we’ve taken with other family members, and our 1st cruise with Princess Cruises. Our others have been 3x Carnival, 2x Disney, and 1x NCL. I am a travel agent that specializes in Disney and Cruises, so I do a lot of research prior to traveling. We love cruising and wish we could sail all ships and itineraries. We are slowly working our way around the world by sea! We’d like to try out other destinations on their own, but the value of a cruise gets us every time.
Travel to Embarkation Port:
We currently live in San Diego, so we are able to easily drive to the Los Angeles World Cruise Center. This time, we did Disneyland the day before our cruise. Being it was Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort, on Friday nights they host Mickey’s Halloween Party, a special ticketed event. We thought this would be a good opportunity to try that out and see how our daughter would like Disneyland. So, we drove up to Anaheim the night before the cruise, partied, and stayed the night near Disneyland.
We stayed at the Best Western Plus Pavilions, just outside of the Disneyland Resort. This hotel is one of very few that has free parking and we only spent $120 for 1 night. I found this to be a good value, for the area. In comparison, Disneyland parking is $17 per day. With our special event ticket, we did get free parking at Disneyland, but the parking structure was at least a mile from the hotel.
The hotel was nice enough. It compared well, on the interior, to another Best Western Plus that we stayed at this summer. The exterior looks like a normal roadside Best Western or other inn/motel. There is no breakfast advertised, but they did have apples and bananas in the afternoon when we checked in and yogurt in the morning when we checked out. We didn’t use the hotel for much other than sleep and a shower. One thing to note is that the A/C wasn’t running in the room when we dropped off our luggage. Normally you probably don’t need it and when we entered it felt cool, despite it being an abnormal 100F degrees that day. Unfortunately, by the time we returned to the room that night, it had gotten a little warm and humid in the room. We were exhausted from our evening at Disneyland that it almost didn’t matter, but we turned on the A/C and slept relatively comfortably that night.
In the morning we showered. They had ‘upgraded’ soaps, so they say, but they seemed pretty normal and in really tiny bottles. There was enough for us to use for 1 day, so it fit our needs. There was a hair dryer, an instant coffee maker with a few small coffee and tea packets to choose from, a cooler type of mini-fridge, and a nice TV with local HD digital cable which included various Disney channels ( a nice touch for a preschooler).
Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro… We drove ourselves and parked at the pier. Had we stayed in a hotel in San Pedro the night before, we could have gotten free parking at a hotel. I had done the math and it wasn’t really worth it to drive to San Pedro after a long evening at Disneyland. My normal plan is to arrive at the pier around 10:30, good thing we did! When we arrive at the pier, we wanted to drop our checked luggage with the porters. To do this we had to circle the entire parking lot, which included driving past a decommissioned battleship which for some reason slowed down traffic, the berth for Norwegian Sun which also slowed down traffic, large delivery trucks who didn’t seem to know where they were going and slowed down traffic, and finally we got to berth 93 which is right next to the entrance of the pier, where the Crown Princess awaited our arrival. This trip felt like an eternity! We dropped our bags with the porter and our carryon with our family who had taken the shuttle from their pre-cruise hotel (Doubletree San Pedro). They were able to schedule their shuttle to the pier for quite early. I’m not sure of the official start time but they picked 10:15 or 10:30. Knowing that the Doubletree has early options, I feel comfortable with staying there for future LA departures.
Anyhow, we tried to escape the baggage drop and get into the parking lot, only to have a crossing guard halt our path for an eternity while he let everyone walk across. The parking lot wasn’t full at all, maybe this is why they have ‘cheap’ parking? $12 a night for parking at the pier, or anywhere in LA, is not bad! Miami, is up to $20 a day, and I think Port Canaveral was up to $15 a day. Long Beach, around 10 mins away, is $17 a day! In Florida, you can find cheaper offsite lots that are safe to use. In LA and Long Beach, you aren’t quite as lucky and have to either stay at a hotel with parking or fork out the $$ to the port authority. We parked, loaded our daughter into the stroller, grabbed our remaining carryon bags. When we got to the crosswalk… the guy wasn’t paying attention and we had to fend for ourselves to cross. Oh the irony!
Then there was check-in. For one, it seemed weird that you could enter the cruise building and check-in to the ship before you even go through security. Now that I think back, we were able to check-in at Long Beach before we went through security. In Florida, it seems the other way around. The security is probably all for show anyway, right?! Then there were all these ladies working the port. Oy! First they were all very eager to point you into the right direction, which was mostly nice. But there was this one lady who was rather demeaning about it all. I enquired to find out if Elite level passengers have a special check-in, she asked to see my papers and declared that I did not have ‘preferred’ markings on my boarding pass and should proceed with the rest of the masses. OK lady. When we finally checked in I did receive my Elite card, for being a fully certified travel agent, so that’s what matters. After I had the card in hand, I got plenty of special attention. Getting the card, was a whole experience in itself. One, apparently we made things difficult for the lady checking us in. We didn’t bring our full passport book, we only brought our card. The only foreign port we were visiting was Ensenada, which is a few hours drive away from our house. So, it seemed to us, the risk of losing our passport book infinitely outweighed our likelihood of needing it. Two, this lady is either new or has never entered data on a computer before in her life! The ‘fancy’ scanners for passports couldn’t scan our cards. Yay technology! Then, because our daughter is 3 and we weren’t going to need to fly internationally with her, she didn’t have a passport book either, just a birth certificate. So, this lady had to manually enter all the dates from our documents. She must have needed glasses or something because part way through, when she had to enter my husband’s info a second time because it didn’t save… she declared, that’s weird, they have your birthdays listed as the same date! This is after she said her son and I have the same birthday in AUGUST, the date she now mentioned was in OCTOBER. I was like “um, I think that is the expiration date”. “Oh I see now, yes it is”. D’oh! 100’s of people must have checked in, in the time it took us to. We probably could have been in group 1 to board, but we ended up with group 2/3. Actually, once I had my Elite card, I could have entered with the rest of the loyalty members with priority boarding, but we were happy enough with group 2 and wanted to stay with our family.
Either way it didn’t matter much, because boarding didn’t start until Noon! I was somewhat surprised by this, as other cruises seem to start with the special groups no later than 11:45am. The PA system in the building was horrendous. The announcer would come on and you could only catch a few words he said. Between a few of us we could match up our words enough to get an educated guess at what he was telling us. When the group numbers started, that was very clear, as people started moving in large herds.
The photo process was interesting. Not sure if it is a Princess thing, or just the way this port building was laid out. We didn’t get a photo taken until we traversed toward the gangway. The security team would scan your card and take your photo with a handheld scanning/photo taking device. It was very efficient, since all they need for your card is a headshot. The group photos were taken, onboard the ship as soon as you stepped inside on deck 7, after they scan you onboard.
Most of our grief was due to the lovely city of Los Angeles and it’s Port Authority. It’s surprising that they don’t have a parking garage at the port. Having a garage would open up more space for traveling lanes around the berths. Having to circle the whole port to get to your ships berth is quite annoying. The other big issue was check-in. We are giving the lady the benefit of doubt; we must have been the first people with passport cards to cross her path. We use them every cruise, and have never had an issue. The start time for boarding, wasn’t that late, and can be excused because Princess Cruises tries to uphold the policy that all staterooms are ready at time of boarding. All other cruises we have taken, it is 1:30PM or later that rooms are ready.
Embarkation Grade: 3-4, a bonus point is awarded for having our room ready to drop our carry-on bags and stroller!
We didn’t partake in any of the specialty dining at Crown Grill, Sabatini’s, or the Crab Shack. However, the crab shack did pique the interest of my husband and he’d probably try it next time. It was offered at least 2 nights of the cruise, up in the buffet area. They closed off a portion of the buffet and used the seating there. We tried the gelato at the International café for $1.50. It wasn’t as good or creamy as some gelato we’ve had before, but it was still tasty and they gave us 2 small scoops of 3 flavors, 6 scoops total.
We often did the buffet for breakfast, which was typical breakfast foods, nothing to complain about, except maybe the eggs, which I’m sure are that weird egg mixture in a carton. For that reason, we did eat in the dining room for breakfast 2 mornings to get my real egg fix. A cruise is not complete until I get Eggs Benedict, which wasn’t on the menu but they will make it if you order it.
For lunch, on sea days, we did the buffet because they had a themed buffet back in café Caribe, which seemed to be the only place you could get any kind of ethnic foods. When we were in port, we had lunch while we were out exploring. Next time, I‘m going to pay more attention to the themes listed for the buffet at dinner and try those out, as we really did enjoy what they had to offer. The foods were all fresh and kept warm. I also noticed the food was all served from French looking cast iron cookware, I do believe that helps keep the food warm without drying it out under heat lamps.
On the last full day, when we went swimming after Ensenada, I finally got to try the pizza on the pool deck. It was good and I would like to try some of their other specialty flavors, they only serve 3 types of pizza a day, 2 of which are standard flavors: Margherita and Pepperoni. It was definitely better than other cruise line pizza we’ve had and it was served as a full 16”+ pizza, rather than smaller personal sized pizzas. I think I saw that they had 3 full pizza ovens, so I would guess they can keep up with the demand.
In the mornings, when we didn’t feel like the dining room or buffet, we’d try out the International Café. We didn’t have enough days to try it out for lunch. Unfortunately, the times we were there in the morning, all they had was pastry. So we got donuts, two of the mornings. They were good, but not quite as good as a fresh donut from a bakery. On future cruises, I would like to eat brunch/lunch here and try the egg sandwiches. I am assuming they make them later in the morning? Or maybe one has to ask about getting one? Either way, I never saw them at the times I was eating at the IC nor did I see any signage saying they’d make one. I know I know, I should have asked! But one does reach a point, on a cruise, where more food choices are not necessary! I do at least.
So, that leaves us with the dining room. At dinner, since we were on with a group of 7, I was somewhat coerced a few nights to go to the dining room, when all I wanted was a slice of pizza. I did manage to skip dinner two nights. The first was San Francisco, as we didn’t return until almost 9PM and the second was on the last night.. .when I finally reached the point in which I physically was so full I couldn’t eat any more! I had zero hunger for almost 24 hours. Haha!
OK, so the dining room was fabulous. I only had 1 meal that was not so great: the “short ribs”. Every time I’ve had short ribs, they have been amazing… this time they tasted a lot like pot roast! The only appetizer I didn’t care for was the spring rolls… they had no flavor. No garlic or ginger, just slimy cabbage. I did try some other items that were good and very different from my every day palate. The first night, I tried an app called ‘Red Snapper Mojito” which was like a ceviche served in a small martini glass. It was very fresh and similar to eating Sushi, but it was cut into tiny pieces and marinated in a lime juice mixture. Another night, I tried a chilled goat cheese soup. I can’t remember everything I tried, but here are a few of the entrees that were good: Fried Chicken.. yep I did it and it was good! It was offered as a “home style favorite”. I also tried their famous Fettuccini Alfredo which is made with homemade fresh pasta.. .yummy! I also tried a vegetarian dish which was a cheese and leek tart, I think. I ordered a Kalua Pork dish as back up. Actually, it was the other way around. I got the tarts as back up because I was wary about luau style pig, it can be pretty fatty. Both were really good so, joke was on us and we ate more than we should have. Our Executive chef was from Italy, so one night there were many Italian inspired dishes on a menu designed by the chef. I had the fresh gnocchi in red sauce a try and it was fabulous.
Oh the desserts! One of the best parts of cruising because we rarely treat ourselves to rich desserts. I ordered soufflé one night.. I don’t know why I do this, but I do it on every cruise and I really don’t care for them… maybe I think that the next person that makes one will “WOW” me. Aside from that, I loved everything I got. A few of the nights they served our desserts and then also offered us Petit Fours… omg… why more food?! The best dessert of all was part of their new ‘Chocolate Journey’. I thought this was rolling out to the fleet next year, but we were lucky and it had already started on our ship. The night I took my journey was a chocolate hazelnut stack thing. It was AMAZING. If you’ve ever tried a French style chocolate with a hazelnut and chocolate filling.. it tastes just like that! If I ever have to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it might be that dessert. The second chocolate journey night, I was much too full from our afternoon snack in San Diego to eat all my dinner, the thought of dessert made me a little ill, but it sounded delicious as well.
Dining Grade: 4-5. Food was all very good quality, we just want more variety.
Our room steward was good. He didn’t do anything spectacular but he did a great job at getting our room put together. Even if we left early for a quick breakfast, our room was always done up by the time we returned. He was speedy and sneaky, as most time I didn’t even see him in the hallway, yet still our rooms would be done! He even made our daughter a couple of towel animals, which others did not receive and we figured they must be a feature for more family friendly cruise lines. We didn’t have many requests, but whenever we did he was very quick to fulfill them.
On a few occasions we had the pleasure of utilizing the bar staff. One time was during the Captain’s Circle get together, where the drinks were free, but the service was still great. We ordered a few cocktails, not on the trays going around, that night and they all came out quickly. The other times we used the bar was during several Happy Hours on board. I don’t see this often, but for 1 hour here or there, they would run a Buy One Get One free happy hour! On our sailing it was 3PM each day, and it got pretty crazy in there. We highly recommend the 24K Gold Margarita. Both times, my husband and I shared 1 order, and it came out as quickly as you’d expect, for such a crazy promotion.
We only had to visit guest services twice. The first time, I was asking about the Treasure Hunt booklets on the first day and the guy had to go hunt for them?? The second time, was the last morning, when we noticed a charge from the dining room that we didn’t think we had made. Turns out we didn’t make it, but our family in another cabin did. So we got that switched over after a long debate with the nice woman at guest services. Thankfully she was able to point out what had happened to us and we were all eventually able to understand the situation. We all booked the cruise during a time when a free bottle of champagne was offered. When I used our voucher it was the same Champagne as what was offered, so it didn’t appear on our bill, as it was fully comp’d. The next two cabins traveling with us selected a different, lesser priced bottle of sparkling wine, so they were credited the amount of the original bottle and then charged for the bottle(s) they ordered. In the end, everyone’s wines were free, so yay for Princess!
The first night or two, our dining staff seemed very busy and rushed and we didn’t get our dessert until 15 minutes before the next dinner was to start! The first night, we barely made it to the show. The second night we actually missed the one show I wanted see, boo!
The next nights were much smoother and our orders went in more quickly. They were very nice and often offered to bring more food than we could ever eat. Be careful mentioning that you are deciding between two entrees! It is very likely that both will show up. :) I do feel like, when a young child is present, that they should put a higher rush on getting their food out. One evening, our daughter fell asleep before her food could get there. Some nights it was quick and others her food was slow to arrive. As always the servers in the dining room are also out and about during the day. We saw our assistant server several times in the buffet, getting drinks for everyone.
Service grade: 4
Princess Cruises has beautiful ships. The overall theme of the ship is Italian inspired with nautical touches. There is marble and a Tuscan stone look throughout. The lounges and bars have a classic look with dark wood throughout. The Piazza is central to the ship and is where the service desks, shopping, café, and is where 2 of the main dining rooms are located. The art gallery, library, a few of the lounges/bars, and the casino also have access from the Piazza area. Most of the ‘action’ on the ship is on deck 7 and in the Piazza.
The stores on board were filled with very nice things, but were not filled with many things I was interested in buying on a cruise ship. Good for the pocketbook, I suppose!
There are 3 dining rooms and I believe we visited all 3 for various reasons. They all looked very similar. Our assigned dining room was Botticelli. It was on deck 6, aft, and the only way to access it was from deck 7 aft. That was slightly annoying, as everyone had to use the same set of stairs or elevators at dinner time. A small plus for this dining room, is there were bathrooms located within the dining room behind the front desk! This was great to have when our daughter decided to drink a gallon of milk and water during dinner and had to use the bathroom 3 times.
The buffet on the Lido deck has two areas. My husband and I utilized the Café Caribe in the back more than Horizon Court. This was partially due to Café Caribe being a little less busy because it is all the way AFT. The other reasons, I will cover in the dining section of the review.
We did use the ship pools at one point. We went in the pool near the Movie Under the Stars screen which is the Calypso pool. It was the afternoon of the Ensenada port day, and it was nearly empty for the whole time we were there. The pools were very deep and had a short wall surrounding the pools, with an area for overflow of water. I found this nice because it keeps small kids from running straight to a pool and jumping in. The pool was a little chilly, but it was also a warm day, near 80F degrees.
The main theater was a little small for the amount of people that seemed to want to use it for the shows at night. But, I do appreciate there not being giant support poles blocking to view of the second level seats! That is one of our biggest complaints from other cruises we have taken. The seats were comfortable and there are hidden trays in the arm of the seat. The lounge that had many of those support poles, had many tv screens installed around the whole lounge, to broadcast what is being done on stage and to show the BINGO screen during games of that nature.
The library had many books and a few games to play. The future cruise sales desk had some computers with information on how to book a cruise, there were also puzzles stacked in the corner. They also had a limited supply of mini-brochures. So, if you are interested in shopping a new itinerary to book onboard, I suggest you go there early.
The internet café was filled with empty seats. One, internet is slow at sea, and two the Crown Princess is one of a few of their ships that is/has WiFi installed throughout! I wasn’t aware when we boarded, but quickly learned of this feature. You can use your computer, phone, tablet, etc to access the ships intranet. On there you will find operating hours and a list of most activities. We found that some activities didn’t make it onto the internet Patter, so it’s best to double check between both. But, it is nice to not HAVE to carry around your daily Patter with you.
Public Areas Grade: 4-5
We saw a few of the main entertainment shows and performers. Unfortunately, we missed all 3 of the main production shows. We were able to see the comedian and also the comedic acrobat twice. We enjoyed both quite a bit. The singers I heard throughout the ship were good. I especially liked this mariachi style trio that performed in the Piazza.
Our cruise director and his staff were both funny and entertaining. We enjoyed all the activities they put on for us. In fact, the Cruise Director, Billy Hygate, did a song routine before the comedian put on his set, one night. It made me wish I went to other shows, to see if he did anything else that was entertaining.
On the last night, the cruise entertainment staff and crew put on a talent show and it was very funny. A few crew members come out and sing songs and in between the CD staff do little skits that are pretty funny. I hope this show varies ship to ship as it is one of the more unique events we saw on board.
As I mentioned we saw the acrobatic guy twice. He was both funny and did balance/strength tricks. The first show of his that we saw was in the Piazza, which was a teaser for his full show in the lounge a few nights later. Both were very good, the manner in which he did his jokes was very entertaining. The stand-up comedian performed in the welcome show and then later on in the big theater. Some of his jokes were the same in both shows, which was disappointing. He was funny, but in a stereotypical kind of way. I didn’t get to see the hypnotist in either the Piazza or the theater/lounge.
Entertainment: Hard to judge, but I will give it a 3-4 based on what we saw.
As I mentioned elsewhere, the Cruise Director and his staff were great. We enjoyed their personalities, when we had a chance to see them. In the mornings, I would sometimes watch the Wake Show, to see what was going on and what the different staff members had to say about their particular part of the ship. It was mildly entertaining, and better than doing the ‘nothing’ that occurs between 6AM and 9AM. The show repeats every 60mins or so. If you watch continuously for long enough, you will see it all.
There were quite a few events that I wanted to attend, like trivia, Zumba, Movies Under the Stars, Spa Raffle, Arts & Crafts, Casino demonstrations, art auctions, Captain’s Champagne waterfall, group games like Pictionary, Navigation and other seminars. But the timing was almost always not in our favor. We were either out on a port adventure of our own for the day, or the kids club was closed and we didn’t want to drag our 3 year old to an event, or it conflicted with something like dinner! This all helped us realize that anytime dining is the way to go on most ships. As much as we like dining together, in the future, Disney Cruise Line may be the only cruise line we do assigned dining, ever again!!
A few of the events that we did get to and I can recommend are the Navigation @ Sea seminar…. If you like history and learning about how cruise or other ships function, this is for you! I didn’t get to stay for the whole thing, because… the kids club closed at 5 and the seminar ran longer than that, and it was my turn to go pick up our daughter. We also saw the Culinary Demonstration. Sit in the front for the best aromas! We thought this would just be a good ‘live’ cooking show type of demo, where we might learn a thing or two about making a dish. What we didn’t know was how funny it would end up being, I highly recommend checking this out. We did make it to ONE whole trivia game, and I liked it a lot, the trivia was actually a bit challenging and had a good variety. We also went to one BINGO game… snore! It was all electronic, done on a tablet type of computer.
There were plenty of other activities that weren’t as interesting to us, like dancing classes. The classes ranged from ballroom type dance to country line dancing and tap dance.
There was music playing all over the ship. There were piano players, a house band, and a mariachi trio. Never did I hear loud or obnoxious singing or music, so that was nice! We didn’t make it to Karaoke because it always started close to 11PM.
Activities/Enrichment Grade: 4-5, lots of choices, just wish I had more time!
I started the cruise with good intentions. The first morning after setting sail, I woke up early, so I decided to get my exercise clothes on and find a spot to run or go to the gym. First, I went to the spa and fitness area and found out nothing opens there until 7am. What?! On other cruises the gym at least opens at 6am! So, I had to go hunt for the running track. It must be the best kept secret on board. There is a deck called ‘sports deck’. It must be there right? Nope. That’s where the youth centers and adults only areas are located. So I go up one more, to the ‘sky deck’, this must be it! Nope, that’s where the night club is located. I go up one more… to deck 19. Finally, I find the jogging track, mini golf, and basketball court. This area is nearly invisible to anyone looking or not looking for it and I believe only 1 out of 4 elevators goes this high. It is out of sight out of mind, I guess. I ran two miles that morning, which was 32 laps. The track was quite short and not terribly wide, especially when an older lady decided it was her right to do her power walk straight down the middle of the track! I had to carefully maneuver my way around her each time I needed to pass.
This is the only day I ended up going there. Too bad too because I had meant to go back and try the 9 hole mini golf. The golf, however, looked hard; there were no bricks or other barrier type material to keep the balls on each hole!
Since the gym didn’t open7, which was also when the rest of my family was up, I didn’t return to use any of its facilities either. It looked nice, when we took the tour! I didn’t go without exercise this trip. 4/4 of our port days were spent walking all over the place. I think in San Francisco we walked nearly 10 miles!
There were fitness classes and Zumba demonstrations, almost daily, but the Zumba was at 9… directly after breakfast. They idea of trying to workout/dance after eating eggs benedict was less than appealing. Next time I will try harder to get to the Zumba class, as I’ve been curious to see what it’s all about!
The lack of accessibility of the fitness knocks its grade down a bit.
Fitness/Recreation Grade: 3
Our daughter loved the Pelican club and couldn’t wait to go back each day. She probably would have rather stayed in there all night than come to bed and stayed in there for entire port days rather than get dragged around by us! We happened to see that there was a count of 30 children between the ages of 3-8, that were on board the ship with her. That is a pretty good sized number, so whenever we dropped her off at the club, there were always at least a handful of other kids there.
The pelican room was a good size room and they had plenty of activities ready for them. They played games, did arts/crafts, sang songs, watched movies, built with legos, and had regular play time as well. There was an outdoor area as well, but I’m not sure if they used it. At the start of the cruise we got 1 large printout of the week’s activities. In the past we had seen that each day had its own Princess Pelican Patter. It was nice to get a basic layout of the week ahead, so we could plan our days to the schedule our daughter was given for activities.
There were 3 mandatory pick up times each sea day. Noon, 5PM, and 10PM. We have no problem picking our child up and eating meals with her, but this was a bit of an inconvenience. 5PM was 30 minutes before our assigned dinner time and the club didn’t open again until 6PM. So, we had to drag her to dinner with us and when she got bored, someone would have to run her up to the kids club, in the middle of our meal. On port days, you were supposed to book your time in the club by the night before. We only did this on the day we were in Ensenada and it worked out well.
Kids Club Rating: 5.5 from our daughter, 4.0 for us.
Tips and onboard expenses aside, the price of our cruise was less than $100 per person per night. We also got $50 OBC and a bottle of $60 champagne per cabin to enjoy on board! For an inside cabin, I might like to pay a bit less than what we paid, but it was still a great deal for the product we received.
Price grade: 4
We had an interior cabin A717, Aloha, Deck 12, Category ID. We were 1 cabin away from the AFT elevators. We selected this cabin location to be ‘near’ the kids club, which was AFT on deck 17. We were also 2 decks lower than the LIDO deck where the buffet was located, for easy access to drinks and food in the early morning. We also needed a cabin that had room for 4 and also had similar cabins next door, for our family that was traveling with us. Given the limited choices we had, this was the best pick. The location of the cabin to the elevator bank and stairs was perfect. The location to the spots on the ship we spent most of our time was a bit of a walk. We took stairs when we could, but there were times, with the stroller for instance, that using an elevator would be more efficient, but the waits at peak dining times were bad, due to our closeness to the buffet.
The noises from the area in our direct vicinity were minimal. The noises from the thrusters, early in the morning when we arrive at port, or leave in the evening were quite loud. Lucky for me, I tend to get up early, even on vacation. We had some early starts to our port days and the unexpected wakeup call helped in those situations. Our daughter slept through the vibration every time. It wasn’t that loud or disturbing, but just enough to wake you gently if you were in that stage of a sleep cycle.
The layout of the room was fantastic. Looking at the floor plan, I was worried that it would feel cramped. Our daughter is only 3, so she doesn’t take up too much space and her bed was only down from the time after dinner through breakfast the next morning. Our luggage fit easily beneath ONE of the twin beds and we found a spot to prop up the stroller in the closet. Speaking of the closet, it is great! I thought I might be bothered by the lack of doors and openly ‘messy’ look of seeing hangers and clothes all the time, but the openness greatly outweighed the messiness. There was room for twice as many clothes as we brought to hang up. We could have used more hangers, and meant to ask for more, but we didn’t run into our steward in time for it to be worthwhile. He was ninja sneaky the first few days of the cruise.
Then there is the bathroom. It can always be bigger on a cruise ship, but I don’t have many complaints. I felt the layout was nice. I am smaller than most, so I could comfortable move about. All three of us were inside the room brushing our teeth one night, so that alone is impressive. The shower did seem smaller than some, but I think one always thinks that when they see their shower on a cruise. :)
The hair dryer leaves something to be desired, but did in fact dry my hair. It takes a while to get going, but once it reached full heat, it seemed to dry quickly. The air temperature in the room was nice and the control on the wall appeared to work well for what we wanted. The TV, we didn’t use it too much. We mostly caught a movie in the morning while getting ready for the day and at night after picking our daughter up from the kids club. There is a double plug at the desk, in which we could really only use 1 at a time, due to the size of the phone charger adapters. We managed to reach behind the TV and plug in our second phone. We had a double charger, but only one device would charge at a time, they probably have a way to limit the amps going to each outlet.
The cleanliness of the room was great, I didn’t notice any areas that were in need of great repair. Though, one of the drawers on a nightstand didn’t work. We had 3 others to use and lots of other shelves and storage spots to stick all our random pieces. To help organize a little, I did bring an over the door organizer to hang on the bathroom door, it worked great for the items I use more frequently.
Cabin Grade: 4/5, 5 for an interior cabin.
Being a local, we would normally do self-assist disembarkation and leave the ship ASAP to start the drive home. One: We had a 3 year old and a stroller to contend with, so while we probably could have managed a self-assist, it was easier to have Princess take the bags off for us. We would have picked the earliest time, but Two: we had family that wanted to take the 9am exit because their shuttle wasn’t until close to 10am. We all ended up with 9:15am, which was good except we had to wait to get off with everyone else. Luckily we found a spot in the International Café to sit. We were supposed to be in Club Fusion, deck 7 AFT, but we had some matters to attend to at guest services and people wanted to use their coffee card punches. All the while, the line for US Customs was getting longer and longer!
Boy have we been spoiled in the past! It was what it was, but it was a good reminder for us, that it is worth it to take an earlier departure! The wait wasn’t horrendous and the view down the side of the ship was entertaining for the time we had to wait in line. Turns out the luggage is transferred to/from the ship using this forklift/crane type of machinery, with nets underneath to catch bags that might fall into the water. *Gulp!* I wonder how long they had done this without nets in place before the first bags were lost!! I may have been better off not seeing that.
Disembarkation grade: 3. I would have liked an announcement over the PA about when groups could get off the ship.
There was a high level of older clientele onboard. I think this is generated by the time of year (October, kids in school) and the itinerary (mainly US coastal cities). I also realize this is not a ‘family’ branded cruise line, so it’s not like we expected there to be a ton of younger folks. We also don’t frequent late night events onboard, so it didn’t bother us much at all. But, I do think this attributed to the high usage of the elevators and possibly the somewhat subdued nature of the programming and crowding at the 8PM show time.
The portrait photographers were only out for what felt like limited time. The earliest they would start shooting was 5PM and our dinner was at 5:30. Some nights they didn’t start until 6PM. So, if we wanted photos with our daughter we had to rush, on specific nights, to get ready before dinner started. Also, certain backdrops, like the white background, were only available on formal nights. I think they did this to promote their photo studio, in which you could get black and white portraits done, with no sitting fee, but you had to make an appointment. We got a few regular portraits that came out well, which was a nice and easy way to chronical our family for 2014.
The negatives that we experienced on this cruise were not deal breakers in the slightest. We had a good time and got to visit cities that we have not been able to before. We would gladly sail Princess again and I look forward to trying more adventurous itineraries and different ships.
Given what we paid vs what we experienced, this cruise was a great value. For less than $100pp per night, we got fantastic food, our daughter had a blast in the kids club, and we got to visit wonderful California ports, even if one of them is where we currently call home. My daughter and I usually go to the San Diego Zoo during the week, so my husband doesn’t get to go as often, so it was a nice treat for him and for our family that has never been to this Zoo.
Value Grade: 4