We had successfully sailed with Princess three times before and when I found that Princess had a cruise from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal around my preferred date, we booked it without really checking alternative cruise lines. Well the cruise was not a disaster by any means, it was at times a frustrating experience and no way near the quality experience we enjoyed on previous cruises with Princess.
The irritation started with the embarkation experience when our small bus could not get near the unloading area and continued with the slow, long line to actually board the ship once we checked in at the port desk. The next frustration was the confusion and mob scene at the Bordeaux restaurant (anytime dining). After 3 nights, I finally asked dining staff to explain their procedures. There is a new club class that gets priority with its own line, and a line for passengers who have reserved and then a third line for walk-ins (us). We mostly chose to arrive about 7:40 pm after the 7:30 reservations were seated. Waits were never long, but the confusion was constant. There were always several empty tables which we assume were reserved for the non-existent club class passengers. I have a hearing problem and after sharing a table for 8 a couple of times, started asking for a table of 6, 4 or 2. Most nights that request seemed hard to accommodate as they were currently sitting tables for 8.
Due to the addition of an extra 220 beds in a 2015 renovation with no additional public space, public spaces were often overcrowded, The large Princess Theater could not accommodate everyone in 2 shows, so most nights there were 3 shows with the popular 7:30 time being filled by 7:05. For some reason, the late show at 9:45 was not offered on a few occasions requiring us to miss the sunset at 5:45 or sit in the theater for 40 minutes before the 7:30 show.