October 2014 - Royal Princess to Canada, New England, New York
This was our first Princess cruise ... the bottom line is that we had an enjoyable time in general but experienced several small issues that could be easily corrected.
We booked a mini-suite and found it to be exceptionally spacious with a full-sized sofa, two flat-screened TV's, a sitting chair, a coffee table, a desk and chair, a full bathtub, a separate closet area with tons of wooden hangers, lots of cabinet storage, and a small balcony. As this is a new ship, all of the furnishings were in great shape, with the exception of the lamp shades, which were perpetually askew. I always appreciate when the mini-fridge isn't pre-stocked, so this allowed us to fill it with sparkling water and other beverages we wanted. Things were kept very clean with the only hiccup being one day there was a blood spot on our bed linens (not sure from whom) -- we called to have them replaced which was done. Our cabin steward was very friendly and attentive.
For us, this was a really big ship and we were concerned about feeling like we were always in a crowd, but that really didn't happen. There are enough public areas that are designed to feel like you're on a much smaller ship -- even the main atrium didn't feel cavernous at all. The design "flaw" on this ship is what many people talked about -- there are a number of elevator banks that do not have stairwells near them, so the small elevators are often crowded as you can't just take the stairs in places when you're not going that far up or down. I didn't find this to be a really big deal but people complained about it often -- it just means that you might have to have more patience than you'd like when you're calling an elevator. Also, on some of the decks it can be a bit confusing about how to get from one part of the ship to another.
Food varied, with most of it being very good but not excellent. We opted for Anytime Dining in the the main dining rooms and since we typically like to eat after 8 p.m., there were no big lines, although we usually made a reservation. The main dining rooms were actually the most disappointing food-wise. Surprisingly, the Horizon Court buffet became our go-to place for a good meal or snack! They maintain the buffet really well in terms of cleanliness, food quality is really fresh and delicious with a lot of varied choices, and even iced tea and water are delivered via server. i never like those self-serve spigots that many cruise ships have for the buffet -- not only is it more convenient to have a server bring your beverages but it is much more sanitary as you don't have to rely on fellow passengers to practice good communal hygiene. On our last night we had made reservations for their Crab Shack evening -- they take a portion of the buffet dining room and do big crab pots that servers bring -- very fun. Another favorite spot for us was Alfredo's Pizzeria, which is a little sit-down casual Italian restaurant. We enjoyed the Crown Grill steakhouse.(specialty restaurant) but found the seafood bar to be overpriced and underwhelming. Also -- avoid the ice cream at any venue -- I don't know why, but it was just not good -- surprisingly so.
If you enjoy coffee and tea, purchase the coffee card on your first day. You get more than enough specialty coffee drinks plus all of the brewed coffee and tea you can manage at the various coffee bars on the ship. We particularly liked the iced lattes at the 24 hour International Cafe, where you can always get a sweet or savory snack as well -- just off of the atrium.
My hubby was disappointed in the fitness center -- even though there were three fitness instructors on site and they had a class schedule for the week, they canceled all of the fitness classes except for the last full day of the cruise! He is a spin instructor at home and likes to take spin classes in other venues, plus take other classes and he couldn't. We usually enjoy the spa on a cruise and made sure to make an appointment on our very first night to take advantage of a bonus deal they had for massages (extra time for free). Upon checking in we were each escorted to the locker rooms and told not to leave any valuables in the lockers. We were given no locks, even though the lockers had an electronic lock system. We asked again and were told just to take valuables with us. We were very uncomfortable leaving our clothes in unlocked lockers, but we did. Then I got "shorted" on my massage time, but my hubby got the full time. When I called the next day to tell the manager, she apologized and agreed that if the lockers didn't work we should have been able to just change in the treatment rooms. She also said she'd look into being shorted on my time and call me back, but she never did. Needless to say, we didn't return to the spa -- their loss as we are good spa-goers! Another annoying thing about the spa is that they have some nice relaxation rooms with water features, sauna, etc. but you have to purchase a pass for the whole week. You don't get access to this with a paid treatment and you cannot buy a day pass.
We found the service on the ship to be fine but not really committed. For example, on our first night we wanted to go to Alfredo's and arrived a full half hour before the listed closing time but were told they were closed. When we came back the next day we mentioned this to a supervisor who basically said "yeah, that happens sometimes." That is a representative example of what a lot of the service was like, with a few positive exceptions.
We went to see a comedian in the theater one night -- he was amusing but did a lot of the typical cruise comedy topics. Surprisingly, this theater doesn't have little cocktail tables or even cup holders, so it was uncomfortable to have brought my scrumptious bellini (made with peach and pomegranate) with me and hold it on my lap (but I wasn't letting go of that -- definitely go and get yourself one at the bellini bar).
Wifi is available and, as with so many cruise ships, is quite slow and expensive. However it does work on most places on the ship.
We had some bad luck with ports (not the fault of Princess) -- no whales on the whale-watching excursion in Bar Harbor (50% refund), couldn't stop at the Bay of Fundy (weather) so went to spend two days in Halifax. The second day in Halifax was a bit of a bust as somebody saw a guy with a rifle downtown and they basically shut down Halifax for most of the day and canceled the excursion we were already on the bus to take.
So, all in all, we had a good time on this cruise even though there were some aspects that could use fixing. We would definitely consider another Princess sailing if we were able to get a good deal again!