This was my 3rd cruise on Princess, and the first on Emerald. I understand that the ship just came out of dry dock, but I couldn't really figure out what had been updated other than the Effy jewelry boutique that took up a large amount of the shopping area. I'm not sure why Princess cruises made the decision to give so much real estate to such an expensive jewelry store. The pieces are terribly overpriced for mass produced jewelry in my opinion and they were pushing it hard. I'm not sure if this jewelry line meets the demographics of the Princess customer base, but time will tell.
Embarkation was a breeze- and my daughter and I were on the ship in less than 10 minutes. The Muster drill was rather disorganized and took much longer than previous cruises.
When I embarked on the ship I immediately called for reservations and was informed that Sabatini's Italian restaurant no longer existed. It has been replaced with the restaurant called "share" which comes with a $39 per person cover charge. Needless to say my husband and I did not eat at "share" but we did dine at the Crowne grill and were not disappointed.
We did not have hot water for the first two days, and learned from other passengers that this was a problem for them as well. Air-conditioning did not run cold but this was ok with us as we tend not to like air-conditioning anyway. But for some people it was a real problem. I didn't let this ruin my cruise so I just took cool showers quickly and spent most of my time outside. We were upgraded from an ocean view to a premium balcony room which was nice but honestly I wouldn't of paid the extra money for it. The balcony was almost as big as the room and we didn't use it as much as I had expected.
The ride down was very rocky and there were gale force winds according to the captain. At one point the pools had to be drained and closed because they became unsafe due to the movement of the water in the pools. I was up in the sanctuary area for most of the sea days and the noise from the wind was extremely loud but again I didn't mind- it's a cruise after all and you can expect wind and other kinds of noise. One issue with the sanctuary area is that you can hear some of the loud talkers down at the Lotus spa pool. They really should have a better way to soundproof this since you're paying $40 a day for the sanctuary area. In the main pools there were quite a few kids that were rough housing unsupervised which was a nuisance. Also, pools were pretty deep starting at about 5'3" which made it difficult for the young ones to swim around. There was no dedicated kids pool which would have been a good idea given the amount of children on board. This could've also mitigated the problem with some of the kids jumping and creating mayhem at the same time that adults and other kids wanted to swim. This resulted in most folks hanging onto the edges or trying to swing while avoiding the constant jumping in and pushing of the unsupervised kids. I actually saw some concerning behavior from the kids on the pool deck and became worried about safety and the deck attendance would not do anything. There was a group of kids that was really loud and splashing during the movie at night and one passenger got angry and yelled at them to be quiet. I'm a parent myself, and I really like kids but this just got really out of hand and affected other peoples enjoyment.
My seven-year-old enjoyed the pelicans kids club. In her words- I really enjoyed the kids club. Because we got to go inside and ride bikes and do all these fun stuff. Had a pajama party which is really fun and we we got to do all these fun crafts and play with the Wii, which was where we we have a remote and we dance with that. We also got to do these fun crafts like making Masks and making bracelets and there was also a jungle gym which is pretty fun and you have to take your shoes off to go in , and before you go in the kids club you have to wash Your hands.
The buffet food was unremarkable. There is decent salad at every meal. I agree with some other recent posters that the service in the dining room was excruciatingly slow. One night it took us three hours to have dinner. Staff were not particularly attentive and did not refill drinks in a timely manner. Most of the food arrived cold or lukewarm at best. This was one of the main reasons that my husband and I went to the crown grill for three of the nights. Since this is a Christmas cruise we had expected a special meal on Christmas evening. In fact this was touted as one of the features of the Christmas cruise. We were disappointed that there was really nothing special although there was some bland turkey and cranberry sauce but not the extravagant buffet or dining room event that we had expected. Santa made an appearance and gave our presents to the kids which was a bonus, and my daughter seem to have a great time with that. I still have the coffee shop at the international café, the pastries were outstanding.
Entertainment was lackluster, but pretty standard in mainstream for this cruise line. We were in bed most nights by 10:30 PM so I can't speak for the late-night entertainment or the clubs. With all that said, I still like Princess and have two more cruises booked with them. A cruise is a cruise and it's what you make of it and I like cruising princess. I do think they need to make some improvements as I mentioned.