We were a group of 3 (2 boomers and 1 Gen Y) well-seasoned travellers. As far as cruising goes, this is our second one with Princess.
TRANSFER & EMBARKATION
We flew from Toronto to Copenhagen through London, and upon arrival at Copenhagen airport, there were only 2 kiosks open at Passport Control. Once we retrieved our luggage, we were met by several Princess reps. Transport to the dock and the embarkation process were smooth, and our luggage arrived at our mini-suite intact within an hour after we set foot into the room.
Our mini-suite was the same size and setup as the one we had on the Golden Princess, except that the beds were more comfortable, the carpets were brighter and cleaner, and we had LCD tvs. Our room steward, Ionel, was polite and provided very good service up until we gave him our extra tips the day before disembarkation. On the morning of disembarkation when we asked him a question, we noted a tone of sarcasm and impatience in his response.
This ship compared to Golden Princess (pre-renovation) is newer, brighter, and cleaner, but MUCH more crowded (1,000 more passengers). It generally felt crowded in the Atrium, the buffet areas (more to come), and at the stairways heading to the gangway dor shore excursions.
Speaking of buffet areas, Horizon Food Court and Cafe Caribe were absolute nightmares! Throughout our 10-day trip, there was only one morning where we were able to find a table for breakfast, and we tried going there at different hours ranging from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. We were constantly walking with our trays bumping into people with the same purpose, while our food turned totally cold. The same goes for lunch, although the weather permitted us to sit outside, where there were a few more tables available. As far as service goes in these buffets areas, it appeared that a number of servers did not want to be there, and when we asked for lemonade, we were given excuses like "we are not supposed to serve it out here". The food itself was ok, and there was a wide variety.
The staff at the Trident Grill (where hot dogs and burgers were served) were unfriendly at best, and they practically threw the plate at you. Would it hurt them to smile?!
We wanted to try the pizza after we read a lot of good reviews about it, but found it disappointing - it was dripping with oil, and, in our opinion, there was way too much salt.
We really enjoyed our specialty coffees at the International Cafe. The gentleman that always served us did a superb job with our orders, and was very pleasant and courteous. Another lady server, however, Rowena, was extremely rude and gave another customer a really hard time...thank goodness we never had to go to her for service!
Our experience in the dining room was superb! We did anytime dining, and our waiters, Antonio, Joszef, and Dame, were absolutely amazing in that it seemed they could not do enough for us, and were practically waiting on us hand and foot. The gentlemen made sure we had enough food to eat, offered more variety if we wanted, and made recommendations as to what to pick out of the many choices. They were entertaining as well, always making us laugh and making our dining experience very relaxing and enjoyable. We cannot praise them enough! Even the people who greet you at the door at the Da Vinci dining room (maitre d and hostess) were extremely helpful and accommodating! Talk about service with a smile! They really made you feel welcome.
It was nice to have Movies Under the Stars, although it got cold and a bit wet at night for us to enjoy the outdoor theatre; however, blankets were provided.
We were appalled at the lineup at the Shore Excursion Desk during Day 1 (at sea) of the cruise. On that day, most passengers would be inquiring about, planning, booking, or even cancelling/changing any shore excursions, and yet, there were only 2 people stationed at the counter (there was room and computers for at least 2-3 more staff). Thank goodness we had booked our shore excursions online ahead of time.
While Princess seemed to promote booking future cruises for passengers onboard, the availability of staff at the Future Cruise Sales Desk proved otherwise. Half the time there was nobody there to even answer questions, and when someone was there, she was at the computer with her back to the customers. The setup was better on the Golden Princess, where the representative was facing the right direction to address the passengers who may appear interested.
A NOTE OF CAUTION REGARDING THE PURSER'S DESK:
The final statement of onboard expenses for each passenger is not provided until the early hour of the morning of disembarkation. One word of caution: mistakes are not uncommon in these charges. We learned from experience to ask for a detailed list a day before the final statement was produced, so that we can go through the details and verify that the charges really belonged to us. As an example, we were charged for bottles of wine and beer in a dining room that we never dined at. Bear in mind that these mistakes need to be corrected before passengers leave the ship, and you can imagine the line up! Again, as with other counters, staff did not seem to be assigned according to need. We noticed that during the last 2 days of the cruise, there were only 3 representatives at the Purser's Desk while the line up was a mile long. We decided to wait until after midnight thinking that it may be better, only to find 2 people working, and we had to wait 90 minutes to be served. Even if we chose to disregard the wrong charges, we had to line up at the Purser's Desk anyway because, for some unknown reason, we did not get our disembarkation luggage tags. During peak hours on the last 2 days, there were still only 3-4 reps working. From the number of cruises that Princess runs, do they not realize what peak hours are for each type of activity?! On the 3rd day of the cruise, we noticed there were 6 people at the Purser's desk twiddling their thumbs.
We cannot comment on any of the nightly entertainment, as we were too tired from the shore excursions. Be sure to use the days at sea to rest up, as this is a port-intensive cruise!
Disembarkation process and the transfer to the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen were well organized, fast, and smooth. The Princess reps at the hotel were informative and helpful.
TIP: Do not miss John Lawrence's lectures on each port in the Princess Theatre (if you miss the live lecture, you can watch it on your tv). A lot of interesting information about the port, its history, and the currency were given.
We really enjoyed each port, and our favourite port was Tallinn (Estonia) - the beauty of the city was beyond our expectations. We also lucked out with the weather, except for a little drizzle in Stockholm and the last day in Copenhagen. At St. Petersburg, we were docked at the new terminal, which made the drive to the city center a lot shorter. We took shore excursions at each port and booked a private tour through Princess for St. Petersburg. The car for the private tour was a Mercedes sedan, but it was pretty crowded for 3 adults in the back. We highly recommend going to an amber factory/exhibit in Gdansk, if you are at all interested in shopping for genuine jewellery at a reasonable price. During our one-night stay over in Copenhagen, we booked a tour through the hotel where we visited Amalienborg Palace and the Little Mermaid.
The entire cruise experience was good overall, and we may most probably choose to go with Princess again.
Close to panoramic elevators in middle of ship; ample closet and cabinet space; quiet location; great view from balcony; comfy bed, pillows, and comforters.