Background: We are a professional couple...him late 30's, her late 40's. This was our 8th cruise together, 6th on Princess. We've previously sailed on the Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Grand Princess, Crown Princess, and Ruby Princess. We consider ourselves somewhat well-traveled usually with multiple trips out of the country each year.
Pre-cruise: We arrived in Acapulco a day early. We had pre-arranged the airport transfer with Hector, often mentioned on various travel boards. His vehicle was old and the AC was just so-so but his cheerful demeanor more than made up for it. We had booked one night at the Crowne Plaza hotel right in the middle of the bay. Upon check-in, we were given a surprise upgrade to an ocean front suite with two balconies on the 8th floor. The hotel has seen better days but was perfectly fine for a pre-cruise overnight. Luckily, we missed the MTV spring breakers by one day. Others told us the noise was quite bad the prior evening. We met some of our CC group for dinner at el Fogon across the street from the hotel. The food was good and reasonably priced. We then shared a ride from Hector with one of the other couples to see the cliff divers. We got there a little late to get a good spot so we weren't able to see the divers actually enter the water, but still, it was something we're glad we decided to do. Something you can't really see anywhere else. The next morning we had arranged for Hector to pick us up at 10:30 am so we were at the pier by 10:45. After waiting about an hour in a small shopping area, embarkation began.
Embarkation: We were led to the embarkation terminal along with about 60 - 80 other people who had arrived early. We loaded our large bags into cages to be transferred onto the ship and then took our hand baggage with us into the Priority Check-in line. This was our first cruise at Platinum Captain's Circle status and thus, the first time using priority check-in. It was a nice perk since the majority of the group was not priority. We were 3rd in the priority line while the other line was quite long. Check-in was smooth and fast and we were on the ship by Noon. We went straight to our stateroom and dropped off our hand baggage and then immediately headed up to the Sanctuary to reserve our spot. We had read on CC that some people had not been allowed to book for the entire cruise on previous voyages and others had said that while they were able to book for the whole cruise, they were not able to choose their loungers. Instead, they had to arrive each morning to choose loungers before the daily users began to choose theirs. So, we did not know exactly what to expect when we arrived there. We were the first ones there and after a minor misunderstanding about the price (the Sanctuary Steward had tried to charge $20 per day...good thing we knew from CC that it should only be $15 per day), we got our choice of loungers for the whole trip. We chose one of the four cabanas on the upper of the two Sanctuary decks. Not sure if it matters, but it seemed like you could choose your loungers only if you booked the entire cruise as well as purchasing the Panama Canal day package ($70 pp), which we did. After securing our seats in the Sanctuary, we headed down to the dining room for lunch.