This was our fifth cruise. It was our first Princess cruise, and we were so impressed. Here is how we rate Princess in terms of food, comparing it to the other lines we have sailed on:
Princess A+ Celebrity A Disney A / A- Carnival B+ Royal Caribbean D-
We were so impressed with Princess. The food on this cruise was better than on any other vacation we have had -- land or sea. If it were a restaurant at home, would we return as soon as possible! Here is why Princess had the edge on all others:
1) Impressive quality of food - not just in the dining room but in the Horizon court buffet as well.
2) Variety at buffets - not just the usual suspects like on other lines! We were delighted with the unique and varied offerings, even at breakfast.
3) Personal Choice dining - Every cruise line should do this. We fell in love with any-time dining. Whenever we were ready, we just went to one of the two dining rooms. We never made a reservation. (We had one wait of 10 minutes on formal night when we got there at 8 p.m., no big deal). We did not like to make reservations because to us, that was the whole point of any-time dining: you have dinner when you want. Some days we wanted to eat at 7 p.m., other days we wanted to go later if we were watching a movie or wanted to see a show. My husband said he would have trouble getting used to traditional dining again. For those who prefer a table for two like we do, Personal Choice dining is the way to go. A table for two was never a problem!
We only made one show, the "Words of Broadway," on the second formal night. We did not particularly like this show because it focused on older Broadway shows from the 1950s that we are not familiar with.
Pools/Deck Chair Situation
Great. For all late sleepers, there were always lounge chairs available. There was great music from the band by the main pool. The port side of the ship was for smokers. The majority of smokers seemed to stay by the solarium pool, closer to the Horizon buffet. We stayed on the port side of the main pool and were never bothered by smoke. There was only one sea day on this cruise, which was good in a way because there was so much to see; on the bad side, we missed our usual last day at sea toward the end of the cruise to unwind.
A+ again. From the room stewards to the dining room staff, we were impressed by the friendly, efficient crew. We met a lot of nice servers in Personal Choice dining. Some people made standing reservations the first night because they loved their server, but we just went wherever they put us in a table for two, and met a lot of great servers that way!
We had room A227 balcony. What I liked about Aloha Deck is that you are not exposed on your balcony like on lower decks. (The floor right below us was not exposed, but those two floors below us on were.) We loved this forward cabin; we felt very little movement, and could not ever hear our neighbor's toilet flushing (as we could on other ships). Our only criticism was the cabin's unreasonably small bathroom and shower. Hubby had problems fitting into the shower. Next time we will spring for the junior suite, which has a bigger bathroom.
We usually do our own thing on cruises, but I had a hard time locating independent operators prior to this cruise, and the ones I did find charged the same rate as the ship, so we stuck with the Princess excursions.
Barbados: We did the sea turtle and snorkel trip (including snorkeling at an underwater wreck). We loved this excursion and recommend it highly. They even took us to a beautiful beach and gave us free drinks after snorkeling. The guides were wonderful; we had a blast. If you go shopping, in our opinion, stay away from the town here. We had a bad experience in town and were hassled. The shopping at the port terminal is better and safer.
St. Lucia: We did the New Waves Snorkel. We snorkeled at Anse Chastanet marine park. The snorkeling was terrible. I got stung, there were riptides, and marine life very limited (except for jellyfish). The only nice thing about this tour is that we sailed by the Pitons. We wished we had taken the whale and dolphin watching excursion here. The shopping at the pier terminal was great. For a wonderful copy of a designer bag, go to the Oasis shop. I got a magnificent copy of a Gucci there.
Antigua: We did the New Waves Antigua snorkel adventure ($39 per person). We loved it, and had a great time. The boat we were on, the Excellence, was beautiful. The crew was great, and it was a good way to see the island, sailing by all the sites on the way to Cades Reef, which was very nice.
St.Martin: We did our own thing here. We took a cab to Dawn Beach (which was listed as the snorkel beach). It was terrible! There was no sea life and we had to leave within an hour because of sand fleas biting us. We took the water taxi to town and found great shopping there.
St. Thomas: We had vacationed here before so we knew what we wanted to do. We took one of those cute trolley taxis to Coki Beach and snorkeled there. The snorkeling was great & the beach very nice. We did some shopping in town and got nice things (took a cab to town).
It was great. We had a 12:15 flight, and had more than three hours to kill at the San Juan airport. I wished we had an earlier flight, because we had NO problems at all at this airport.
Vibe of the Ship
I read in other reviews that cruises out of San Juan have a very Latin vibe, and that Spanish is spoken more than English. That was not true at all on this cruise; all the other passengers we met were from the U.S. or Canada. We did not meet any passengers from San Juan. The only people we got to meet from San Juan were the people at the airport and our taxi drivers, who were very nice.