We have several cruises with Celebrity under our belts, but this was our first Princess cruise and my sister's very first cruise.
Embarkation in Los Angeles was smooth. A little wait time. It is done differently than Celebrity; which I tried not to keep doing a mental comparison during this cruise.
Our cabin had a great extended (toward the aft) private balcony. Our mini-suite was home for three of us during this cruise. Space ok, but problems during most of the cruise with plumbing. (toilet to be specific). We are over 55 and get up during the night for obvious reasons. Many nights I would get back into bed and wait to hear the delayed woosh before I could comfortably fall back asleep. It also happened during the day. The problem was supposedly solved several times.
Our room steward was very nice and accomodating, but our room was seldom done up early in the day. It was kept clean and tidy - so no complaints there. Seemed like he had too many cabins and not enough time. Tho we requested an eggcrate from Princess prior to boarding for the fold out sofa bed we were informed there were none available. Our room steward came the first night with a second mattress which he added each night to the sofa bed mattress - which was a great alternative.
We had Traditional late seating dinner and Jaimie, M'd was extremely accomodating. Our waiters the first night were perhaps a bit overwhelmed, so we were happily handed over to Robert and his assistant Dexter who were great. Robert was a top notch professional but very funny and our table (apologies) was probably the loudest. The Hey Baby night of song was hysterical. My sister never laughed so hard.
The ship was clean; public rooms were always at their best; the food was as expected; entertainment was not so wonderful. The International Cafe in the Piazza was outstanding but the menu was basically the same each day. Cookies were scrumptious and the sandwiches and quiche were top quality, the food and service in Sabatini's great. Main dining room menus were just not to my preference/choice, but my husband and sister were fine with the choices. Both Jaimie and our waiter did their best to keep me fed!
With so many sea days there seemed to be a constant crowd in the Piazza area so seating was hard to find. Cruise Director & staff kept activities going all day. Not great pool weather, but DH and sis did use the hot tubs a couple of times. Nightly entertainment not very inviting, but that is with any cruise, hit or miss is to be expected.
At our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet we met terrific people who added to the enjoyment of our cruise. I had delivered personalized invites to the purser's desk as soon as I got onboard and most of the senior staff attended our Meet and Greet. Our Cruise Director had prior commitment but left a very nice voice mail apologizing. Cruise director & staff were top notch.
Breakfast and lunch in the dining room was very enjoyable and is my preference. We did do the buffet some mornings, and it was ok. Late at night if you needed a little something, the buffet has several items to pick from.
The burgers/pizza/hot dogs, etc. during the day on deck were ok. Not something I would look forward to having, but again, my tastes differ from others. Everyone agreed that ice-cream was not really anything like ice cream. None we spoke to enjoyed it.
While the working crew were terrific, the customer service/purser's employees were not as accommodating. In my op 'customer service' from the desk was non-existent. One example: I lost my tennis bracelet, and tho totally my fault, it was met with the same as if I lost a towel, and they refused to take my name/cabin information. I was 'instructed' to keep coming back (wait on line) and check back. Which I did twice a day.
My sister, the 'virgin cruiser' had a great time, and is now officially hooked on cruising. We would cruise Princess again.
Excursion booked thru Princess for NaPali Coast, Zip Lining in Maui and an inexpensive tour in Ensenada to LaBufa Dora. Mostly we explored on our own.
Los Angeles airport was insanity with long lines followed by more long lines. Allow plenty of time to catch your flight out.
interior space adequate for 3 adults. hallway not busy or noisy. no external noise from anywhere. location perfect for going to main dining room and to get to piazza, etc. balcony was extended / curved toward the back of the ship, totally private balcony. plumbing a bit of a problem. self service laundromat easy walk down the hall toward mid ship.
Hilo was our first port. My destination was Volcano National Park. Months prior to leaving we booked a Hertz rental. The entire morning was a mess. We lost valuable time on the island because of Hertz - not one car available when we got to their kiosk at the airport.
There is a four-mile scenic drive near the botanical gardens that is worth the photo stop. We found it after we left VNP.
Honolulu is easy to do on your own. We walked to Kewalo Basin to book with Xtreme Para sailing; public bus to the entrance/driveway to Diamond Head. Be prepared for a steep long walk up the entrance. Then a long and non-paved walk up the mountain. Worth the view, but there are no restrooms or water once you leave the main area after paying admission. We then went to Waikiki Beach where a dip in the ocean was a must do for my travel companions, I watched the bags and shoes. After Para sailing took local bus to Chinatown. I would not rec. the trip to Chinatown, and would not be there after the sun goes down.
Kauai. Due to the excursion we had little time to explore on our own. The NaPali coast was breathtaking, but the scuba dive had no marine life to look at, the inflatable Zodiac raft/boat was OK but a very bumpy ride. Be sure to wear sun protection, for some reason I got sun-poisoning on the front of my legs and it was uncomfortable for days after. I had checked online for doing this on our own, but both time wise and price the ship's excursion was the best bet. Many pax, esp. those who had been on the islands before rented cars and were fine with doing it at each port.
Maui was our only Tendered port. Princess had ample tenders all day and the worst was the line for security to get back on the tender. The town is lovely and easy to walk around, and the park with the banyan tree is very close to the tender area. Easy to do on your own. While DH and sis went on the zip line excursion at Haleakala I went back to the ship and then back to town and shopped. They loved the zip line excursion and personnel.
Ensenada. We had no desire to explore this on our own. The little shopping area in the port area was minimal.
We did a tour ($34/pp) to the LBD blow hole. One stop on the way to LBD was to a building near town which was interesting, but could be skipped without regrets. At one time years ago it was a gambling establishment, and of course vendors/marketplace in the interior courtyard.
The walk from the tour bus (dirt road parking area) to the blow hole is long, and there is a never-ending call to shop from vendors in the street for every single shop going and returning. Quite annoying and some vendors were very pushy. The prices - from a glance - were not anything that enticed me. We did not do any shopping. Make sure to bring your own water. The scenery going and returning to the ship was mostly brown and dirt and the bus ride on a narrow road were something I would avoid doing again.