Each time we go cruising, we look forward to the next cruise even more. My first cruise I thought I would be bored. "Seven days on a ship.What will I find to keep myself occupied." There are so many things going on that the real problem is deciding what we will have to miss. On board activities. A big part of the fun is the ongoing process of meeting different individuals. Trivia contests, usually brunch time, afternoon poolside and late afternoon. were challenging and a way to meet new individuals each day. We chose anytime dining and never had a problem waiting for a table. The first week we enjoyed sitting with different people each day. The second week we had the same table at the same time most days. We were spoiled by the waiter, waitress, head waiter and maitre de, who got to know us and provided extra touches and anticipated our wishes. We felt they were there specially for us. We never ate in any of the specialty restaurants; we were happy with the variety and quality of food in the DaVinci and Michelangelo restaurants. There were two dress-up nights each week. We enjoy them and think the extra effort is worthwhile. I adds pizzazz and glamour to the trip. Everyone is strutting his or her stuff We even had our breakfasts and lunches in the restaurants. Over the two weeks I don't think we ate more than four or five meals in the buffet; although, the Sunday night seafood buffet was good. My wife enjoyed the milk and (hot) cookies girl who came around the pool every afternoon. Because we generally ate late, we tried the sushi bar one afternoon. It was an interesting change; mine was average. The sushi bar also allowed you to order a sampler flight of three wines, which were also average. The International Cafe had a variety of pastries and sweets. Most involved a charge, but they always had a supply of cookies and other treats (sometimes hot), which were free. I don't think most people realized this. They had two wine tastings each week. The one earlier in the week is $9.50 per person and the later one, the MaitreD' Hotel Wine Club seminar is $25. If you are going to choose between the two, the $25 tasting is worth your while. I ended up buying a bottle from the later tasting and having it for dinner. An expensive extravagance, but it was a superb wine. You don't have to drink all the wine at one sitting. Your waiter will recork it and put it aside for your meal the next night. Another activity my wife and I enjoy are the art auctions. From our last cruise I still regret that I hadn't bought more, especially one Quiani oil painting I let get away; my wife says I bought too much. I promised my wife i wouldn't buy anything this trip and I didn't, but we still enjoy the auctions as a form of entertainment. I am certainly not an art authority. I have heard people say art on board is overpriced, but I am satisfied with the prices I have bought on board; it was worth the price to me. The entertainment was uneven. The first and second weeks largely duplicated themselves, so we didn't go to many shows the second week. The production shows were very good and worthwhile. One comedian Sarge put on two shows each week. His first was one of the funniest routines I had ever heard; our sides hurt from laughing. In his other routine he got away from that sort of material; it was mildly amusing. Kimika was a husband and wife duo. He was an outstanding guitarist. She was the focus of what was a bawdy and very funny show that ended with her (short, overweight, Caucasian, Brit) doing a dead on Tina Turner imitation. The best entertainers were Spank, an acapella doo wop group. musing. The highlight of our on board experience was the Chef's Table. Only a few Princess ships have it and it is limited to 1-3 times per week, ten people each time. Sign up between 3-5:00 P.M. on the day you board. We didn't board until later that day, so we were wait-listed, but we were able to get it for the second week. We gathered outside the restaurant where the head waiter explained what was going to happen. From there we were taken into the kitchen where we met the executive chef (Bad start: my wife thought he was dreamy looking, and his Italian accent probably didn't hurt.) He explained how the kitchen worked gave us a tour and plied us with champagne and caviar appetizers. Then we were brought back out into the restaurant and seated at a special table. We were served a special meal, paired with special wines and with all the attention and details that made it a special evening. All the women were given a red rose and the head chef come out to personally autograph a copy of the Princess cook book for each couple and to have pictures taken with him, as a group and with each couple. It was memorable. One thing that surprised us was the visibility of the captain. On past cruises he made the mandatory appearance for the first formal night, speaking down to us from high up in the atrium, but this captain appeared to be everywhere: receptions, walking about, greeting us and others. I was impressed. One negative: the location of our mini-suite. It was almost the sternmost cabin on the port side. Whenever the ship was docking or casting off the thrusters caused a very strong vibration. Usually it was only a mild nuisance, but it did wake us up a few mornings. The ship was big, so our location meant that it was a long walk to anything in the forward part of the ship, the theater or restaurants, for example. Before the cruise we booked Princess transfers. Airline problems meant that our arrival in San Juan was delayed from about 1:30 P.M. to about 7:00 P.M. Of course we were unable to notify Princess, but that was no problem and Princess took care of our transfer smoothly. Arriving that late also meant that there were no lines for the check-in and boarding of the ship itself. The bigger problem was that after we booked our airfare, Northwest changed our San Juan departure time from 10:00 A.M., a time we thought was tight, but manageable, to 9:00, iffy tight. We canceled our Princess transfers for departure; we knew they would not work. We finally decided to take a chance on the roll-off program. We were in the casino before 7:00 A.M. and were among the first ten or so people off the ship, breezed through customs and grabbed a waiting taxi. The streets were deserted. The airport was nearly deserted. We splurged on a porter, who knew our bags had to go through agricultural inspection, thus paying for himself. There was no real line at the counter, but we had printed out our boarding passes the day before, so all we had to do was check our bags. There were only about ten people ahead of us in security. We were at our gate, waiting for our plane before 7:45. It worked. After all our fears, it had been easy. Shore excursions: Two reasons we chose this cruise is that we had never been to most of these islands and the only duplication of islands from the first week to the second week (aside from Puerto Rico) was St. Thomas. Although the itinerary said we would be using a tender in Tortola, that was the only place we were scheduled to do so. There was only one day at sea each week, so early on we decided that we would not do a shore excursion at each island: too expensive, nothing particular we felt we "had" to see or do, too exhausting. So we decided that we would do 4-5 shore excursions, go to the beach 2-3 days and just lounge on board the ship the rest of the time. (Pools are the emptiest when the ship is in port.)Previous to this all of our shore excursions had been booked through Princess. We decided we would experiment and book most of our tours ourselves. This worked out well. These tours were as good or better than promised and we had no problems making connections with the tour operators. The one excursion we booked through Princess was swimming with the sea turtles, $39 each. Recommended. Of the excursions we booked ourselves the only one we had to pay for ahead of time was the dolphin discovery on Tortola, which involved plenty of physical contact with the dolphins and something of a dog and pony show. $79 and again it exceeded our expectations. For $25 each in St. Thomas Godfrey picked us up with his jitney at the ship, dropped us off downtown for some shopping and then took us for a tour of the island. He took us all around the island and to the top of the mountain for a panoramic view and then to the beach where we had the choice of staying until he came back later to pick us up or, after about 15 minutes, of going straight back to the ship with him. I was too worried about the tight schedule and the possibility of missing the ship, so we went straight back with him. That was a mistake. He had those who stayed back to the ship in plenty of time. He more than met our expectations. When we originally booked dolphin discovery and Godfrey the ship was scheduled to be in Tortola 3/27 and St. Thomas 3/28. We didn't realize it until 3/26 but our final itinerary was reversed. (We ended up not having to tender in Tortola; perhaps that was the reason for the change in itinerary.) We were unable to notify either of the two of the change, but they both accommodated us without any problem. The best tour we took was on St. Lucia. While an equivalent Princess excursion was $79 each, we booked a tour with an individual nicknamed Cosol for $50 each. He had 6 or 7 vans and drivers working for him and they all followed a similar itinerary, but we were lucky enough to be in the van driven by Cosol himself. He was a character and kept us entertained from start to finish. He had an island breakfast put out for us at one stop. We made another stop at a resort at the Pitons with a beautiful beach and breathtaking scenery. The drive back was punctuated by a stop for some local refreshments. I recommend him without reservation. In San Juan the ship docks in the middle of old town. We took a free local trolley to Moro Castle and toured the castle. We walked back to the ship and stopped at a local restaurant for a late lunch. Directions are easy and it would be tough to get lost, but pick up a map anyway. It was clean, busy and safe. One last thought about shopping: while the items are tempting, prices are not outstanding. A couple of years ago we bought a costly gold bauble in St. Maarten. When we got home we had it appraised. The jeweler said we got a fair price, not a great price. One way it can pay off is for harder to get items. My sister loves larimar, which is difficult to get at home, but seemed to be plentiful on the ship and on the shore.