Just returned from the worst cruise I've ever had. Sailed on Princess Emerald over Thanksgiving and I'll never sail them again. Have read many of the reviews about Princess and the Emerald, and here is what I thought. Regarding embarkation - it went very smoothly. There is a reason Princess tells people that the ship won't board until 1:00 - why do people show up at 11:30 and then complain that they had to wait? The staff was very efficient and we had our bags in the room shortly after boarding. We arrived at the terminal at 1:15 and walked right on the ship. The maitre'd was not available to meet with people until 3:00 for dining changes. What's the rush? Show up early and sit or stand until 12:45. It's up to you - but doesn't make sense to me. Everything we received from Princess recommended that you arrive after 2 to get on board quickly. Disembarking went smoothly; we waited until our assigned time, showed up at the theatre and walked right off the ship. Bags were located and a cab hailed down by the Porter. Now, regarding the cruise itself... For the first three nights I didn't even know what I was ordering in the dining room. They spent so much time trying to be clever with the names of their food, they forgot to add taste. Horrible food. It got better, but that's only because of Maine lobster and crab. Otherwise, I can only remember my excitement to see a peanut butter and banana sandwich on the buffet. Yes, that was exciting. The buffet is the worst I've ever seen - in food quality and design. There is no "in" or "out" - people bumping into each other, all lost. In the morning there were always at least 6 people standing in the middle of an aisle waiting for omelets or eggs. And I've never seen soup and lunchmeat for breakfast. On the final day they didn't even have oatmeal! I ordered room service breakfast most days and ate cold cereal. Had breakfast twice in the dining room and WAS NOT impressed. The poached eggs were overdone and the french toast the worst I've ever had. Horrible syrup, as well. The coffee is HORRIBLE. Don't forget to tip your room service staff. The sandwiches on the room service menu were GREAT and the french fries were fantastic. In the buffet, however, salads during lunch were tasteless. Our balcony room on Caribe was lovely and I loved the oversized balcony, but we seldom used it because of the smokers! I would think Princess would designate a smoking side of the ship like Royal Caribbean. What a shame! The design of the ship itself left much to be desired. On decks 5, 6 and 7 you had to go up or down stairs to get back to your destination. How horrible for anyone handicapped. Our cabin steward, John, made our trip. He was delightful. Our water was mediocre - messed up orders regularly, but had a nice personality. We were surprised with his incompetence since he's been with Princess for 12 years AS A WAITER. Hmmmmmmmm. The head waiter was arrogant. The maitre'd was a joy. I injured my back prior to the cruise, so was shipbound and couldn't partake in the excursions and found virtually NOTHING to do on this ship. The activities are horrible. The MUTS was not used, as the majority of the nights they played football games. During the day you couldn't see the screen. This ship is the same size as the Brilliance of the Seas, which we LOVED - but this one felt like a sardine can. People everywhere - and RUDE people on sea days that used extra chairs to put their feet on, leaving NO place for others to sit. And these were the senior citizens who should have known better! The pools are too small, the hot tubs always full. There was no place to escape the sun near the pool decks; there were far too few lounge chairs in the shaded areas. The drink prices are way too high with no daily specials. The lounges seemed empty most of the time - and I'm sure the $7.50 cost of a drink was one of the reasons! We ate at Sabatini's - the lobster was horrible. Caribbean lobster - tough and some kind of weird "sauce" with it. YUK! And.. last but not least.. the top heavy nature of this ship made it the roughest ride we've EVER been on with calm seas. Would I recommend this ship? NO. Will I ever sail Princess again? NO WAY! And, thank you, Princess, for making us rethink ever taking another cruise! Two of our three shore excursions the group took started an hour late and ended an hour early. I inquired with the desk as to why - and never got an answer. We paid $109 for the St. Thomas full day sail - were shorted in time and never got to St. John's beach. In Aruba we were supposed to have 2 snorkel stops - but they were 20 minutes long each. Way overpriced; booked as a 6 hour excursion, it was changed to 5 when we got on board and in actuality was 4 hours. We paid far more than the 4 hour tour and got no renumeration for this shortage. The hypnotist act was fantastic; two of our 15 traveling together ended up on stage. Amazing! We traveled with novice cruisers and they won't ever sail again. Princess Cays was pretty but over crowded and the Chef's buffet was lousy. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being horrible and 10 being fantastic, this is our first 1-2 cruise. What a waste of hard earned vacation time and money. I would like to thank Jessica, the Acupuncturist, however, for the best $800 worth of treatment I could have gotten. I wish I had gone to her in the beginning; she had me pain free and walking after 3 treatments and I've sought out a Chinese acupuncturist here at home to continue. She was fantastic. Princess was not.