I've broken the review into what are hopefully, easily readable categories.
Our Ages: 52 & 58 respectively
Occupations: Executive professionals
# of Cruises: 7 (Norwegian and Celebrity)
Pre-Cruise: Stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66 - not bad, good location, stayed in a tower room. However, didn't think it was good value for the money.
Embarkation: Very efficient. Arrived at 11:15 - we were in our cabin by noon. However, we had to locate it ourselves as there weren't a lot of staff to assist in providing directions.
Disembarkation: Also efficient.
Cabin: A mini-suite on the Dolphin deck. Accommodations were fine, however, I wouldn't spend the money on a mini-suite again as we didn't find it to be much different than a verandah cabin. The only discernible difference seemed to be the extra closet space and bathtub.
A word about the uncovered verandah - it's probably a personal preference like many other things, but we weren't fond of it. When others were out above us, it felt intrusive. Aboslutely no privacy. Also, we were particularly bothered by the cigarette smoke. Maybe it was just this cruise, but it seemed like we were surrounded by smokers.
As a matter of fact, this particular cruise seemed to have a lot of smokers. We'd be sitting out on a lounger, two people would sit down beside us and light up. We had to move many, many times. We finally went to the front desk to inquire about Princess' smoking policy and they weren't clear themselves. They thought smoking was only allowed on the Port side, or was it Starboard?! Not very impressive. This issue became a sore point for us.
Dining/Food: Overall - average.
We requested a traditional dining reservation as soon as we booked the cruise in March and were wait listed. Went to see the maitre'd as soon as we got on board, but were unsuccessful in securing a reservation. We had no choice but to do Anytime Dining. It wasn't for us. I know others love it, but we like knowing that we'll have a table at a fixed time each night and quite enjoy having the same wait staff.
Often, we had to wait for a table. You're given one of those square discs that lights up and asked to come back when it goes off. Some nights the wait was 5 minutes, other nights, almost a half hour. The anytime dining felt rushed as the staff seemed frazzled and confused by the concept. One course was barely finished before they whisked away your plate and put your next course in front of you.
I found the food itself to be average - sometimes bordering on bland. Salt and pepper seemed to be the only seasonings that the kitchen was familiar with.
We did try Sterling's which was good but the dining room/restaurant itself wasn't anything special. You kind of feel that you're sitting out in a food court like environment. Plus, as the steaks are being grilled over an open flame, the smoke alarm went off all through the meal which made for an unpleasant experience.
We did, however, love Sabatini's. Worth the upcharge. If you want to dine here, make your reservation as soon as you get on board.
Sterling's and Sabatin's aside, the food overall was fair to good. Plentiful, but fair to good. Celebrity does a much, much better job in this area.
Entertainment: Didn't experience much here with the exception of one broadway style show and Bert Stratton in the Crooner's Lounge. The former was average but Bert was exceptional. If he's on your cruise, get a seat early, sit back, and be prepared to have a good time.
Shore Excursions: We didn't book that many as we tend to do our own thing. We did go on the half day, champagne catamaran/snorkelling tour in St. Thomas to St. John which, at $79 was quite good. We booked a two person kayak on Princess Cays - not good value for the money.
Service: Hit and miss. Our cabin steward was exceptional. The wait staff in the two speciality restaurants, also, exceptional. Dining room and buffet staff - a very few good ones, the others were fair to poor. The front desk, at least the individuals that we encountered, were ill-informed and disappointing. When we went to see them after our experience at Sterling's Restaurant, they couldn't seem to care any less. They just shrugged their shoulders, and said "well, what can you do?!"
Overall: Well, we feel that a cruise is what you make of it. And, when you're at sea, disconnected from reality, and don't have to think about anything more than where to go for dinner, how can that be a bad thing? There are plusses and minuses with most things. We experienced more minuses on this adventure but not enough to ruin our wonderful time together.
Everyone has personal favourites. We met many people who were loyal Princess cruisers. We just won't be two of them.