This was our third cruise, the second on Princess. Our first Princess was on the Grand in 2002.
Pre-Cruise We arrived in Los Angeles a day early and booked the transfer and hotel with Princess. They did a great job. We were met immediate at LAX by a Princess rep who grabbed our bags off the conveyor and walked us out to the shuttle stop to the Marriot. The next morning, they came to our room at 10:30 and took our bags. Got on the bus at 1:30 and at 2:00 we were at the port in San Pedro. Grade: A
Embarkation: We filled out all the passenger information online weeks before we left. So we had express check-in when we arrived. It was seriously no more than 15 minutes from the time we stepped off the bus until I was standing on our balcony in our stateroom. There at least 4 buses checking in at one time. Princess did a great job with us & express check-in! Grade: A+
Ship This is a GREAT ship! It's similar enough to the other Grand class ships that you know your way around. But there are enough differences to still feel new. Even with 2,700 people on board, we were never in a crowd. Decks are laid out very well and plenty of room. Grade: A
Service You couldn't pass a crew member without him saying "Good morning" and smiling. Without exception. The dining room waiters seemed a bit more business-like than they do in traditional dining rooms (we had anytime dining). Bartenders were always prompt. The casino staff was extremely pleasant. Grade: B+
Food The food was very good. I'm no gourmet, so I guess when you get to a certail level it all seems good to me. We ate in each of the 4 specialty resteraunts. The Sante Fe is about the same as any upper end Tex-Mex place you'd see in the states. Good food, but nothing spectacular. The other three were very good. The buffet menu was changed every day and for dinner included many of the items from the traditional menu in the dining rooms. Not cafeteria quality buffet food. Ice cream was good, but I don't like having to pay for ice cream. The girl working there said it used to be free but the line of kids stretched all the way across the Lido deck when it was. Grade: B+
Cabin We had a Lido deck balcony. I find the finish of a Princess cabin nicer than a Carnival cabin. Little things like the wood accents, refrigerator, etc. The balcony was great. I'll find it hard to cruise without one. Bathrooms on Princess are, however, more cramped than on Carnival ships. But we weren't hurting for space. Grade: B+
Onboard activity You could do as much or as little as you wanted. There was the golf chipping contest, hairy chest contest, blackjack tournament (I won), slot tournament, dance lessons, bingo, horse racing.... the whole gammut. Or you could sit in any of the very quiet pool areas. They had a deck party one night. If you were bored on this trip, it was your own fault. Grade: A
Entertainment We saw one of the two main shows. It was very good. We spent the other nights watching comedians in some of the other lounges. One comedian was not funny, but the others were. The lounge bands were pretty good also. Grade: B+
Dis-embarkation This took a while. It wasn't a Princess issue, it's a INS/Customs issue. Princess did a great job of staggering the departures and getting you your luggage after you made it through INS/Customs. It wasn't an unbearable experience, but it wasn't quick by any means. Grade: B
Ports are what you make of them, so I won't grade them. We stopped in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. I will say it would have been nice to stay in ports a little longer. Maybe it was due to time required to get to the next port. Not sure.
Overall This was another great Princess cruise. We had a great time and booked an open booking for a future cruise while still onboard. We also enjoyed our Carnival cruise. I won't say one line is better than the other, but they are different experiences. We like them both and will cruise on both again. Princess does a great job and gives you enough choices to really make your vacation whatever you want it to be. Overall I'll give this cruise an A-.