The great customer service began during the boarding procedure in the Port Everglades. Even though you go through long and winding lines, the Princess staff kept the line quickly moving & someone was always available for questions. If your bags are small enough (carry on sized) to go through the x-ray machines they will let you carry them on board yourself. If your bags are the standard size they take them before you enter the building to check-in and board. Never fear, they have your bags to your room in about 20 minutes. This is where those bag tags they provide on the princess.com Cruise Personalizer really come in handy.
The balcony stateroom was very nice! They really did a great job at maximizing the space. The balcony itself was roomy with 2 chairs and a table. The queen bed was split into 2 twins as requested, and each bed had a night stand. The bedding & curtains were new and classy looking. There was a desk with chair in one corner by the balcony, and then an entertainment center containing the fridge, mini-bar, and flat screen TV in the other corner. The hanging closet was open and had plenty of space. They stateroom safe is contained in the closet with shelves and was easy to use. The restroom was very small requiring a step up and then down when entering or leaving, but it served its purpose. The sink had storage space underneath and then shelving to the left of the mirror. The shower had a nifty little retractable clothes line inside so you could hang your swimsuits to dry. The window and inside staterooms were similar in setup. Your mini-suites and suite staterooms are in some cases double in size from the standard staterooms. I only got a glimpse of the one of these. These mini-suite and suite rooms are located on various decks.
The ship has 19 decks and only 2 elevators reach the upper decks above 15. The bottom deck 4 is your Medical Center only. The nurses informed me it is located there since that is the area of the ship that moves the least. Anything below Deck 4 was for staff only.
Your lower decks 5-15 are where the staterooms are located. Deck 5 has the larger Island dining room for Anytime Dining, the Art Gallery, the Internet Café/Library, the International Café, Vines Bar, and the Lobby Bar. This is the lower level of and the Piazza. The Piazza itself is 2 stories tall, and seems to be the hub of indoor activity: there are games in atrium & people just lounge in there to enjoy the view of the beautiful chandelier and elevator sculpture. Fair warning- It can get a little busy in this area around dinner time, and when there is a special shopping experience taking place.
Deck 6 part of the Piazza houses the Passenger Services Desk and the only 2 Princess Kiosks on board. The Excursion, Future Cruise, and Circle desks were located behind the Passenger Services desk. The Princess Theatre is very stunning and located forward of the Passenger Services desk just past the coolest of the indoor smoking lounges- the Churchill Lounge aka the Cigar Bar. The Crowne Grill was one of the specialty dining rooms on-board available for an additional cost per meal, but it was nice that they made this into a British pub on at seas days. The Coral & Palm dining rooms used for the Traditional dining were also located on this level.
Deck 7 contained several bars, Club Fusion, the photo gallery, one store, Sabatini’s specialty Italian restaurant (additional cost item), the upper level of the Princess Theatre, and most notably the Casino. There was also a nice Promenade Deck that wrapped around 3 of the 4 sides of the ship. You had to go up a flight of stairs to walk across the bow of the ship. This was the place to go to have a nice walk.
Your upper decks 15-19 were more casual. There were several pools and hot tubs on the 15th level, as well as the buffet dining, and a bar at each end. The fantastic Pizzeria, Burger & Hot Dog Grill, Ice Cream Bar, Café Caribe, Horizon Court (buffet), and Bayou Café & Steakhouse were also on this level. The only outdoor smoking lounge was on the 16th level and could only be reached by the stairs located near one of the bars on deck 15. From deck 15 you can walk out through the buffet dining room to reach the Horizon Terrace. This was the hidden gem of an adults only pool. A very nice older couple turned me on to this destination. There is lots of shade in this area as well for lounging on the deck. Once you hit deck 15 everyone walks around in their swimsuit. Cover-ups seemed optional. People would even eat in the buffet room in their swimsuits. Deck 15 was the lowest deck you could sit on to watch Movies Under the Stars.
Levels 16-19 were various sun decks with bars, the fitness area, the centers for children of various ages, and the private Lotus Spa and Sanctuary. I never did figure out how to venture onto deck 18 & 19.
Princess had a special sale in the dining room on both of the at days at sea, and those were very popular: $10 Only Sale & Clearance Sale. They also had a couple informational seminars/presentations on what to buy in the Caribbean and gem stone/silver quality. There were also various shows in the Princess Theatre. They also had various games they involved the passengers in. One was throwing paper planes from the stair case in the Piazza through a hula-hoop hung above the baby grande piano. It was fun to watch the people enjoying themselves. There were also 2 art auctions in the art gallery. The makeup store offered a free 5 minute make over. Every day the Lotus Spa staff would be out selling specially priced packages, etc. They really tied to keep everyone involved in something.
Eating on-board was a learning experience. You have to figure out where and when… there are so many options you just have to find the best bet for you. Each traveler has an assigned type of dining based on what they chose using their Cruise Personalizer- Anytime dining 5:30-10 with new companions each night & Traditional dining at a set time with the same companions. Above and beyond this there were places like the Café Caribe, the Trident Grill, the Prego Pizza Bar, the International Café (some items), and the and Horizons Buffet where you could eat any time they were open without incurring an additional cost. The only two true 24 hour places to dine were room service and in the International Café. The best food was by far found at the Anytime & Traditional dinners. They offered multiple courses to choose from & great service. I wish I would have skipped the buffet for this every night instead of just 2 nights. People actually dressed for dinner and it was nice to mingle with new people. Also I totally agree with the “best pizza on the sea” from the pizza bar & the hamburger grill was yummy! They made your burgers fresh to order, but you would also get hot dogs, brats, and chicken. It seemed like most people openly took food and drinks back to their room from all the places except the Anytime and Traditional dining rooms. I really wanted to try the Café Caribe, but it never seemed to be open every time I tried.
The beverages were rather expensive. If you’re a drinker opt for the drink package. It was $49.99 per day for drinks up to $10 unlimited. I did love the Paradise Punch, but once you paid the tip and 15% concession fee it was over $11 a drink. This would be why I only drank 3 drinks the entire voyage 😉 There was a soda package as well for $9.99. This would let you avoid paying $2.50 for a can of pop. Unfortunately none of the beverage packages included bottled water. (I did see some travelers bring cases of bottled water on-board however) With breakfast juice and coffee was free. The rest of the day poured water, lemonade, and unsweetened brewed iced tea was available free of charge.
Now let’s talk service. WOW!! You know learning about the CRUISE standard and seeing it in practice are two completely different things. Every single crew member was polite and kind to everyone. I didn’t witness one instance of a crew member ignoring someone or being rude. In fact it was like Bizzaro Land… they all stopped & said hi to wish you a nice day. Your room steward is very visible throughout the whole journey. Our room was cleaned 3 times a day including the turn down service. My steward was so amazing he worked around our schedules and it mainly because of him I felt so pampered. I would hands down recommend sailing on Princess to anyone. And you know the best little personal touch with crew members is their country is listed on their name badges. It makes it easier to start a conversation & to remember them individually.
Shopping in the Port was nice. We did excursions outside of Princess (yep I ATV’d through the jungle, got to hold some cool animals, and snorkeled at a private beach J), but found out firsthand the port prices were the same if not cheaper than the street vendors. There are 3 reasons I would suggest someone only shop in port in Cozumel: Cost, the fact Princess backs your in-port purchases for 60 days, and doing so avoids the harassment from the locals trying to sell you items. The harassment can get out of hand. When someone is grabbing you trying to drag you into their tent that’s too much!!
In closing, I can also inform that their medical staff is very well trained and they go above and beyond as well. No one warned me the boat rocks constantly and seasickness is a most likely scenario J My roommate and I spent the first night in our cabin ill. I missed the welcome reception and everything which was disappointing. However kudos to the nurse who was nice enough to call us after his shift. He even called back later in the evening to check on us. When we showed up first thing the next morning he was like “Ahh yes, I was expecting you.” Anyone who cruises should take enough Dramamine to last the voyage just to be safe. The trick is to keep up on it and not let the effect lapse.