This was the first Princess cruise we'd sailed that offered the new Medallion class experience; had seen on other reviews that people loved it so were looking forward to it. Essentially, the medallion is a version of the Disney MagicBand and has all of the same functions like opening your cabin door, registering your entrances/exits from the ship, charging expenses, etc.; it also includes operations like being able to order drinks and have them delivered to wherever you are onboard ship, tracking other people in your party onboard ship, playing various games, etc. We were told that eventually it will replace all paper on the ship including the daily Princess Patter newsletter, which lists all shipboard activities. All this sound may sound nice enough, but what we also discovered is that some of the personal information encoded into the medallion doesn't really stay personal; in fact, every waiter and even entertainer with whom we interacted had ready access to our names, cabin numbers, and even birth dates (which, incidentally, is all that's required to access your Medallion Internet account). What a surprise it was to have ship staff we did not even know call us by our names and then show us how our photos and other personal info showed up on their devices when we were within a certain distance of them. Don't know exactly how much information they have access to, but as one waiter put it, "We know everything about you!"
Other than this issue of personal data exposure, the cruise went well although the food offerings and quality seemed to have diminished in quality—it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t up to what we had come to expect from prior Princess cruises. We were disappointed especially in the food court as it was so tiny for such a large ship! And on some mornings, it was so very crowded that getting to food was difficult and time-consuming---it really needs to be larger. Dinner offerings in the main restaurants were usually okay, though I can't say any were fantastic (though I did love that chocolate ice cream!); on the other hand, all the wait staff were always very competent, efficient, professional, and friendly and the kitchen really does take food allergies seriously: Thanks to all the wonderful kitchen and waitstaff! Entertainment was so-so: the duo in the Wheelhouse Bar (Jezzebel) were quite good though I'd suggest that broadening their dance music to include a few traditional types of ballroom dance might be beneficial to their audiences; e.g., a typical old-time waltz, a foxtrot or two, a rumba, cha cha, etc. The party band (The Drop), however... music was actually fine but their volume was painful, and we could never remain in their venues without ear pain so never did get to dance to them.
As far as itinerary, there are quite a few ports included (and we could have used more at-sea days to relax!), but each port was of value. We tend to like to visit cities using the "on your own" option and we did this in Cork (Blarney), Dublin, Glasgow, Paris, and also London, sometimes using the cities' hop-on, hop-off bus system to visit museums and other sights. And in each city, I'd recommend the "Big Bus" hop-on, hop-off system over the other companies as Big Bus always seemed to have the most buses and the best schedules; routes were pretty much equivalent..
Prior to the cruise, we arrived in England a day early and stayed at the Heathrow Renaissance Hotel; after the cruise we remained in London another few days and stayed at The Windermere Hotel, near Victoria Station and not far from Buckingham Palace. Both of those places are highly recommended, although they are quite different in that the Renaissance is a huge chain hotel and the Windermere is very small boutique hotel, but both provided excellent service, very friendly and helpful staff, clean rooms, a safe environment, and good food. The Windermere's Pimlico Brasserie was excellent: the chef is a master at cooking dishes to perfection and then serving them in very attractive ways---he's as good at food presentation as preparation. Both were wonderful places to stay.
Overall, the cruise was enjoyable and I would recommend it for its diversity of ports and what they all have to offer; I just have great reservations about how our personal information is being used.
We had a balcony cabin on Lido Deck. The cabin was fine overall, though for some reason Princess has removed the second chair from each cabin resulting in only one chair (but two persons) per cabin; don't know why. The new TV system is nice in that it offers a lot more channels than the old system; however, the TV itself was rather flaky and kept "freezing"; fortunately, our great cabin steward knew how to re-start it. Cabin amenities were as usual except that this time, the toiletries included a separate bottle of conditioner---for the first time in years---and it was much welcomed.
Didn't take any excursions; spent the two days on our own using Dublin's hop-on, hop-off bus system (and we recommend the Big Bus over the other companies, as they seem to have the greatest number of buses).
In Guernsey, we chose the highlights bus tour that drove us around the island and to the Little Chapel of Guernsey---a really tiny (16x9 ft) church with walls and ceiling decorated with pebbles, shells, broken pottery, etc. It's quite cute, and merits a visit; it also has a little gift shop that offers a surprising variety of items. Guernsey is a beautiful and very small island, with flowers everywhere---there's no hop-on, hop-off bus system that we could see, so some type of excursion is recommended.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Didn't take any excursions in Dublin; spent the two days on our own using Dublin's Big Bus hop-on, hop-off bus system---and I loved having two full days here, as there is so much to see. We visited the Guinness Storehouse---highly recommended---as well as Trinity College to see the Book of Kells---also highly recommended. We also toured the Museum of Natural History, which is fondly referred to as the "Stuffed Animal Zoo" because that is pretty much exactly what it is: there are no dioramas, etc., but rather a whole lot of taxidermied animals displayed in glass boxes---it's like the old cabinets of curiosities, aka a “museum of a museum”, but still fun.
In Belfast, we chose to take a bus tour of Belfast City and then visit Crumlin Road Gaol, a Victorian-era prison known as the Alcatraz of Europe. Our guide at the jail, a young man whose name I can't recall, was excellent in recounting the stories of a good many of the prisoners who had been held there including some who were executed via the gallows right inside the prison walls. Walking among the prison cells is a bit eerie as one imagines the faces that have populated those cells, but the entire visit was fascinating and I would recommend it.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Invergordon is a very pleasant and beautiful city, with flowers everywhere and many places to shop and eat;there were numerous (and some very good) street performers as well. Inverness Castle is interesting although we could not enter it; Inverness Cathedral is free, and worth a visit.View All undefined undefined Reviews
In Edinburgh, we took the excursion to Braveheart Country & Stirling Castle. The castle part of the tour was fascinating: we got to explore all the old buildings including the small palace built within the castle walls. It's interesting to imagine the kinds of people who used to live within those walls, and the kinds of lives they led. After the castle, we visited the Bannockburn Heritage Center, whose focus is the most decisive battles in Scotland's history (Robert the Bruce); the center uses a detailed lecture as well as a sort of 3D movie to immerse the visitor in the battles and illustrate how the period weapons were used. For one interested in military history, this could be fascinating; for us, the castle exploration was definitely of greater interest and I would recommend it.View All 9 Stirling Castle Reviews
Did "Glascow on your own" to explore the town.
Our excursion to Stonehenge was part of the transfer from Southampton to the airport. This was a great tour and I'd highly recommend it. Standing in front of that 5,000+ years-old monument is amazing---and though there was no tour guide, there is an audio-guide that works very well to explain everything you see. There's also a nice little museum, a large gift shop, and a decent cafeteria.View All 35 Stonehenge Reviews
Getting to anywhere from the port here seems to take at least 3 hours! I wish we had been able to spend two full days here, as there just wasnt enough time to see much of anything. We got a whirlwind tour of Paris and ended up with approximately 20 minutes to shop at a tiny cart near the Eiffel Tower, with very little from which to choose. Still, seeing some of Paris is better than seeing none. But having two days would allow one to explore not only one of the most famous cities in the world but also the in-/famous Normandy beaches of WWII. I would strongly recommend to the cruise line to allocate an additional day at this port.View All 65 Paris Reviews
Having visited Blarney Castle on a previous trip to Ireland, this time we just took an excursion consisting of a "scenic drive & Irish coffee". Essentially, this is a shopping trip as its final destination is the Barney Woolen Mill shop---a wonderful place to shop for excellent, local woolen goods. If one hasn't toured Blarney Castle AND the weather is so bad as to keep other tourists at bay, then I would strongly recommend a tour; otherwise, the wait to get in and see the Blarney Stone can be 3 hours or longer.