We normally try to take a Holland America relocation cruise every spring to Europe. We decided to try Princess lines given the Madeira/Barcelona/Rome/Naples/Venice itinerary and attractive price. We figured that Princess and HAL couldn't be that far apart since they belong to the same company. We couldn't have been more wrong. The gap is like that between a Lexus and a Toyota--both fine products from the same corporation but definitely not in the same league.
Embarkation when a cruise line leaves a lasting first impression and the impression that Princess conveyed was chaos and indifference. Nobody was in charge of actually getting guests to their rooms, they simply wanted to move the herd away so that they could deal with others coming on board. The crew greeting guests at the end of the gangway told us we needed to take the atrium elevator (without informing us these lifts did not go all the way up to the Baja deck). When we went to the elevator, another crewman said this was the wrong elevator, and sent us (and a growing crowd of lost, unhappy guests) back to the original starting point. The first set of crew members again pointed to the atrium elevators. Only later, a better-informed crewman had the sense to tell the crowd to proceed to the atrium, take the elevator to the 8th floor, then walk down the hallway to another set of elevators to get to the higher floors. A little communication, or maybe somebody taking the responsibility to get guests to their rooms, would have gone a long way to creating a better first impression.
Once underway, the ship fell into a comfortable routine. Princess gets high marks for their movie selection--both for the Movie Under the Stars and the films streamed on their CCTV. Other onboard entertainment was a mixed bag. Some of the musical entertainment--piano man Funch and the Show Band were top class. Other shows--the dance troupe--were downright amateurish. We had two lecturers--a former UK police official and an ex-RAF man--whose arid presentations seemed geared towards a very narrow specialist audience. The Port Guide was terrific however (other cruise lines should emulate Princess) and I really appreciated the fact that he was available at a "help desk" after his lectures to assist passengers in fine tuning their excursions.
The cabins were on the smallish side but we appreciated the balcony. We initially had the beds set up as two singles but it was definitely more comfortable to place them together as a queen size unit as otherwise we kept bumping into the night stands that are jammed right up against the side of the beds. There were only two electrical outlets in the room, a ridiculously tiny number given the many gadgets that travelers usually have. Travelers should be warned that B236 is directly across from a sliding door that leads to a crew service corridor. It was thankfully not noisy at night but there was lots of banging during the day.
Princess definitely needs to get its act together when it comes to inspecting the rooms before they turn them over to their guests. Our room was missing a metal ceiling panel so we had a view of plumbing, wiring and other service innards. Worse, our AC was not working properly and the room was stifling. We reported the problem to the service desk and we got a cheerful response that "it takes a while for the AC to kick in". We later requested that somebody check out the unit. Several hours later, we called the desk again and "Bernard" told us, "oh, I was hoping they got to that already..." We finally had a service tech who arrived at 9:30pm (he finished just before 11pm), but the entire episode underscored that follow-through is not the Service Desk's strong suit.