Princess Cruises Reviews

Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 17


Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.

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Princess Cruise Ships

61 Reviews

Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe

Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.

37 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal

Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.

27 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

33 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe

Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.

39 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.

15 Reviews

Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.

62 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.

79 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico

Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.

23 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal

Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.

12 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe

3 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii

2 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Group.

11 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.

35 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

13 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

68 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America

Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.

32 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
4.16
from 550 reviews

Cuisine

Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms

Staterooms

Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities

Nightlife

Shore Tours

Itinerary

Alternative Dining

User Reviews

550 User Reviews of Princess Ships
Panama Canal
Publication Date: April 28, 2009

Our cruise to the Panama Canal on the Island Princess. From Ft. Lauderdale to LA, CA was our 26th cruise and 10th on the Princess line. I am in my 70's and a retired College Professor.

We booked 15 months in advance and were told the ship had very few staterooms available both by our travel agent and by Princess' main office. I got a total of 14 people to go along with the understanding Princess would upgrade us, but they never did. I chose and inside cabin because I feel we are only in our rooms to shower, change and sleep. The ship has MANY places to sit and view the outside better than the best suite. During the 15 months I called Princess many times to check on this or that so I was always in contact with them and up on what was going on. I chose to have Princess arrange my flight to Ft Lauderdale from LA, CA. I felt that if there was trouble with the flight Princess would wait or make alternative arrangements for us. I could have found a better price and time

myself, but chose to have Princess do it.

As the country's economy slumped, more staterooms and better prices came available. I am not sure Princess passed on the better prices to us.

Princess booked us on the red eye American Airlines from LA to Miami. We left home at 7 pm for the 10:30 pm flight. An hour trip to the airport and the two hour early arrival the airlines/airport requires. We arrived in Miami at 6:30Am. A Princess Blue Coat Representative met us in the baggage area and escorted us to an area to wait, miles away from anything. No food and few chairs were available. We waited there 5 hours until the bus arrived. This was not acceptable. Princess really dropped the ball here. There was a small group of grouchy old people by the time that bus came. We have never been treated so poorly. I think a better plan would be to go a day early and have less frustrations.

Princess no longer gives you a book of vouchers that includes every ticket you need. You have to go on line and print them out or have the travel agent do it for you. What I received from Princess 45 days before we were to leave was: Cruise Answer Book, Passage Contract, Pre-Cruise Check List, Travel Care Book (I would recommend using Travel X insurance) and a Shore Excursions sheet. That's it. Not even an Airline ticket!!! I recommend taking along your "Booking Confirmation" sheet just in case or What if!!!!!!!!

I had printed out a Boarding Pass and the Embarkation went very fast, maybe 30 min. We went to the Horizon Court for eats. Then to our room to change. Our room was on the Carb deck. Here is information that is helpful to all. On the stern there is an outside balcony with cover and lounge chairs the width of the ship, a great place to relax and see where you have been. This deck if you go all the way forward has a outside balcony or should I call it a viewing platform on the front of the ship. My wife couldn't find it as there is a fire door (that will open easily) in front of the outside door.

Here are some things you might take: Electric Power Strip like for your computer, LCD clock, and all kinds of Battery Chargers.

Our ride was very smooth but we didn't have any bad sea days. No need for sea sick pills.

I think the condition (paint, carpet, and general use areas) of the ship is very good. The mattresses need replacing, I asked for an egg crate rubber mattress and was very comfortable.

Places that show cutting back by Princess:

Room Stewart now has 18 to 20 rooms they care for without an assistant. (Less service), Dining Room waiters have 5 tables to serve, our table had ten people. All dishes with beef now use choice meat cuts instead of Prime cuts and smaller helpings. A positive move in the dining room is that the presentation of each dish is more artful. They have fewer production shows for evening theater entertainment (lots of repeat shows) The Horizon Court on all ships is hectic and unorganized. The Island is no different. Early dining makes it easy to find a seat in the Princess Theater after dinner. The Chapel is no longer a chapel, but a computer lab. I listened in on a couple of classes but was not impressed.

Golf: The pro sounded like he knew what was going on. I went to the virtual golf course and talked a while with him, but I didn't take a golf excursion.

Another small complaint was that Princess has converted the rear pool into a "Sanctuary" a place you can go for peace and quiet. The cost $20 all day. They will nickel and dime you to death.

There are several Laundromats and the cost is a dollar to wash, a dollar to dry, and a dollar for soap.

The outside main pool was very busy when the weather was good, The inside pool always had chairs available.

Ice Cream: Now here is something I want to talk about. All Princess ships have an ice cream bar now and each scoop costs. In the Horizon Court at 3:30 pm they give ice cream away for an hour, as well as fresh made cookies.

Our first stop was Aruba. We walked around town for a couple of hours and then decided to hire a van for a tour of the countryside. Ships cost was $50 and our cost of doing it on our own was $5 each. We got together with 4 others.

The next day we were in Cartagena. We took the ship's tour #325 as it was a mile or two for the freelance tour operators' location (too far to walk).

All day the next day we traveled through the Panama Canal locks. View it from Carb Deck forward. It started at 7:00 am until 4:30pm. A tripod might be a must for this. I saw the first group of locks on the bow and the last from the stern.

Our next port was Costa Rica. I gathered a group of 8 that wanted to do a shore tour on our own. I bunched three adventures together and walked to the independent tour operators and bargained a price of $20 each. We saw Macaw, Panoramic scenic drive, Reserva Biologica Carara, Wild Monkeys, and the Mangrove boat trip. The boat was another $35 each. Our total cost was $55, and the ship's cost over $250 per person.

The next day we were in Nicaragua and we did a self tour of Granada and Lake Nicaragua and on the way back to the ship we stopped at the center of the town of Rivas all for $25 each. It was great. At this port one of the crew got off the ship and played soccer with other crew at the local park. He had a heart attack and died. A sad moment!

Some passengers returned to the ship with the Noro virus from eating and drinking at local spots in town and it spread throughout the ship fast. The Island Princess took prompt action to stop it.

The next day we were in Guatemala. This was our favorite country. We again did a self tour to Antigua, the jade factory, the Mayan textile weaving and the Auto Safari. This cost us $30. there was an entrance fee of a couple of dollars.

All of our self tours lasted the full time the ship was in port. I told all the drivers we wanted to be back to the dock one hour before sailing time. These self tours need someone that speaks Spanish to go along. It is cheaper if you do the translations and don't need the translator.

Our next day was to be at Huatulco, Mexico, but because of the global flu scare, the captain did not stop anywhere in Mexico.

The temps were in the 90s and 100s with 100 per cent humidity to this point. As we sailed north it became steadily cooler. The last day there was no one around the pools. In LA it was in the high 60s.

Princess takes out tips for the crew day by day automatically at the rate of $10.50 per person. I think I would like to do my own, and yes I could, but it takes extra effort to set that up.

The disembarkation went smooth. Princess does have getting on and getting off down pat.

If I were to complain, it would be a complaint with the home office as everything on the ship went smoothly.

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Western Mediterranean
Publication Date: April 25, 2009

CRUISING BIG STYLE! MERVYN HANCOCK JOINS THE GRAND PRINCESS FOR A TRIP AROUND THE MEDITERRANEAN.

We whizzed through the dock gates at Southampton with some apprehension, on the weekend after the children had been returned to their classrooms after a half term break! We knew that our cruise ship, The Grand Princess, would be filling up with mainly adult passengers, but wife Sue and I also knew that there were three ships in dock, ready to embark on the first of the 2009 season's Mediterranean cruises, and that the total number of souls taking part in this adventure would total over 7,000.

I expected chaos, but was pleasantly surprised at the slick and efficient operation which saw our car parked, luggage hoisted onboard, and being established in our cabin within the space of 20 minutes. Not bad considering the ship had only docked five hours earlier and was due to set sail again in just 120 minutes.

The Grand Princess had sailed from Fort Lauderdale in the USA and brought over a cargo of Americans, 240 of which would remain with us for the 14 day voyage to Spain, Italy, France and

Monaco, and prove to be most amiable travelling companions.

With almost 20 cruises under our belts, Sue and I were considered to be veteran sailors, but nothing prepared us for the vastness of our amazing ship, which dwarfed everything else we encountered, and only needed six walks around the promenade deck to complete a mile! Two other giants set off before us, following more or less the same route, and the numbers and variety of people waving from their balconies as they sailed past demonstrated how cruising has now become a vacation that's affordable for almost everyone.

Indeed, there are so many cruise ships plying the world's oceans at the moment that it is possible to embark on a holiday that costs around £60 per person per night -- and don't forget that food, travel, accommodation and entertainment are all thrown in. Not many, if indeed any, hotels can match that. And with another ship, capable of holding over 5,000 passengers, due to be launched in a few months, competition and prices between the big operators can only get keener.

Thus far, Sue and I had stuck mainly to the smaller ships, which are capable of getting into a bigger variety of ports, but the Grand Princess was a lady with a lot to offer.

We were allocated a mini-suite on deck nine, midships, and very near to the countless elevators which swept passengers up and down to various dining rooms, theatres, bars, salons, pools, gyms and shopping areas.

This was like being in the middle of a large town, with so many places to visit that, at first, we were quite mesmerised by it all.

Should we lounge around on our private balcony in the sunshine, and take advantage of the 24 room service, find a lounger on one of the vast decks, or risk piling on the pounds in the dining areas, where food and drink were available throughout the day and night? Or should we wander around this veritable metropolis on the high seas and simply soak up the atmosphere? We did both, and enjoyed every minute of it!

Princess Cruises offer a really useful dining plan too! You can either choose traditional dinner, with the same companions each evening, or go for "Anytime" plans where you simply turn up when you are hungry, sit alone or join others, and if that doesn't suit, there's a 24 hour buffet offering more or less the same choice of food.

Lobster, steaks, pasta, exotic dishes specially created by top chefs, mouth watering sweets, cakes and other delights were eagerly demolished by an appreciative audience, who seemed to still find room for the afternoon treat of home made ice-cream!

We deliberately stayed away from the eating areas during the morning and afternoon, because it was simply too tempting.

Entertainment was available from early morning to the wee small hours, although no one tried to force anyone to join in! Two main theatres -- as lavish as anything on shore -- offered variety shows, while music and dancing could be found in many other parts of the ship. Many of the Americans favoured the huge Casino, while the discotheque at the very top of the vessel was mainly occupied by people seeking sanctuary, as there weren't many youngsters onboard to take advantage of the nightly boogy-woogying!

Many of the onboard cabins had their own veranda – a trend which is becoming more and more popular, and available as the ships get bigger. Ours had a bathroom with tub and shower, walk-in wardrobes, a Queen-size bed, separate sitting area with a comfortable settee and chair, fridge and two huge televisions – one for the lounge area and the other for the bedroom. Programme choice was limited, but who wants to watch television with so much else going on?

Bargain prices for the initial cruise mean that many people can now take advantage of what used to be, a holiday for the "well off" and often a once in a lifetime experience. But you do need to be aware of those "extras" which seem to crop up a lot more often on the bigger ships, especially those operated by the Americans.

Gratuities are the main taking point among the British passengers – many of whom opted to remove the "discretionary" charge of around £7 per night per passenger -- including children -- which is automatically added to each bill. We were told that this cash is distributed among the crew to people like the cabin steward, waiter and backroom workers, and makes up a large part of their wage. I have no doubt that this is true, but it does beg the question of why they need to rely on such a substantial tip, and whether it should be imposed even before you meet many of them! I do prefer the system operated in the Fred Olsen ships, where you tip individuals at the end of the voyage, and give them what you think they deserve.

Onboard prices for drinks include a 15 per cent gratuity, and by British pub standards are expensive. I paid £10 for a can of draught Guinness and a medium glass of red wine, and even the soft drinks were around £1-40p, although you could buy a "soda package" which allowed you to drink as many as you like.

Another moan on many ships is the charges for "shuttle buses." Often the vessel docks away from the main town and city centres, and you have to pay to get from the port to the shops. Organised shore excursions also add up to hundreds of pounds, so you need to watch that credit card. You don't actually spend money onboard, as everything is charged to your shipboard account and settled at the end of the voyage. My own bill – modest by many standards – came to $1100 or around £730 for two weeks, which included two shore excursions, tips, drinks, cover charge for an onboard steakhouse and some duty free items.

We were looking forward to three of the eight ports of call -- Rome to see the Vatican, Naples for a visit to Pompeii and Monte Carlo to see the preparations for the famous Grand Prix. At all three the local "businessmen" were awaiting the tourists to extract as much money as they could from our short visits. Like £14 for a pint of lager in Monte Carlo, £8 for two ice cream cones in the Vatican, and an attempt to get £5 for a cone of popcorn in Pompeii! But the tours were well organised and worth the money.

Bargain hunters were out in force in Gibraltar, and with cigarettes costing £14 for 200, and spirits as little as £4-50p a litre, it is no wonder that some thoughts turned to smuggling! Don't try it though. You are allowed the old duty free allowance, and customs officers await you at Southampton. We opted, instead, for a wonderful fruity curry in the local pub, run by a cheerful Cornish woman, at normal prices – a real change from the very expensive Euro zone!

Glorious weather followed us most of the way, and we even sunbathed on our veranda through the notorious Bay of Biscay, which was flat calm.

Many of our fellow passengers were on their umpteenth cruise with Princess, and looking forward to even more adventures. On my part I would happily book another trip on Grand Princess, and despite those extra charges, cruising is still -- pound for pound -- one of the best bargains around.

Mervyn and Sue Hancock travelled with Princess Cruises onboard Grand Princess which is offering a selection of cruises from Southampton throughout the year. Contact reservations on 08453555800 for details.

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Mexican Rivera
Publication Date: April 25, 2009

EMBARKATION Departs from The San Pedro World Cruise Terminal -- Berth 93

Got to the parking lot at 12:40pm. Pay upon exiting. ($84.00 for a 7 day cruise). We were in line inside the building at 1pm after giving a porter our luggage (group of 4). First filled out a public health questionnaire and then proceeded up the escalator and got to the check in desk at 1:05pm, very quick procedure. At 1:15pm we were in the line for security, no need to remove shoes. Hand luggage went through x-ray scanner. Stopped for the ship's photographer for an embarkation photo. At 1:20pm inserted cruise card for security photo. We were in our cabin (great midship location -- B437) by 1:25pm. The elevator was very fast.

Saturday about 2:30pm we met up with our fellow Cruise Critic roll call members in Skywalkers Lounge.

At 3:30pm we were in the Explorer's Lounge for Muster station D General Emergency station drill.

SHIP The ship is beautiful and shipshape.

This was I believe the first Princess ship bound for the Mexican Rivera of the season that did not end up at any Mexico ports due to the Swine

flu. We got close to Mexico on April 27th before turning around and heading north.

OUR CREW Everyone was terrific. Captain Tony Herriott from England, Passenger Services Director (PSD) Shelia Griffin, Cruise Director (CD) Josh Dayboll, and the cruise staff Alex & Trevor. Our favorite bartender was Clint in Club Fusion.

CABIN We had a balcony cabin BC category. We were in a great midship location real close to the Panoramic elevators, but not that close that it was a noise problem.

Our cabin steward was Florin from Romania who was excellent in keeping 1 of 19 rooms stocked and cleaned. Luggage arrived very fast just after Muster Drill.

ACTIVITIES We went to the Champagne Art auction and listened to Rachel describe how Princess can offer art so reasonably. When the Patter says all in attendance receives a free work of art, well, it has to be shipped to you for around $20.00. You can't take it with you, and so it is really not free.

We went to listen to Jing the acupuncturists talk one day. It was very informative. We caught the end of the Captain's talk on Navigation at Sea one day in the theater.

We played Bingo, wooden horseracing, and trivia a few times, and we learned something new each time. We went to tequila tasting in the atrium, then to Explorer's lounge for guacamole and chips.

We really enjoyed the many activities. There is so much or so little to do on a cruise -- so it is up to YOU.

We attended the champagne waterfall and had our photo taken.

We went on a Scholarship at Sea program Princess Theater Backstage Tour which was truly phenomenal. Loved this up close and personal tour, we learned a lot of what has to go on to keep us passengers entertained. They all do a terrific job.

ENTERTAINMENT We went to see 3 great production shows -- Piano Man, Do you Wanna Dance, and I Got the Music, which were great and featured the La Passione String quartet.

The crew talent show is not to be missed. We saw the passenger feud game show, saw one show of Pop Star where passengers perform, enjoyed the music of Passion, and Los Brilliantes Mariachi's.

We loved comedian Kevin Jordan (flashlight man), he performed in the Princess Theater and another evening for those 18 years+ at an R-rated show in Club Fusion. Saw him both nights.

Dan Bennett, a comedy juggler/musician -- we did not care for him.

Steve Morris, a musician/comedian was ok the first night and the second night a little better. I understand the comedy, but wish he would just finish a song. Loved the music, the comedy was just ok.

Wavelength (Scott-Band leader/bass, Rich-guitar lead vocal, Phil-drummer, Chris-guitar) the wonderful band from Vancouver Island, Canada -- they played 4 types of shows for our seven day cruise; small venue rock at the sailaway party and in The Explorer's Lounge, an unplugged acoustical concert in Explorer's Lounge as well as a concert with the Princess orchestra, keyboardist Trooper, and La Passione strings in The Princess Theater. We attended the So You Wanna be a Rockstar with passengers singing the lyrics and Wavelength playing in The Explorer's Lounge. This was our very favorite music for the week and the highlight of our "girls" cruise. They are billed as a 4 piece classic rock band. They played every night except one when they had the day off. I guess a day off is in order. They have a MySpace page (Wavelength Roxx) and currently no web site.

The music in the Princess Theater was under Doug Tann, the singers were Becky Allen, Collin Mackenzie, Eric Ruiz, and Benjamin Perez. They were all very good, but we especially liked Becky and Benjamin.

Roger Carr played on the baby grand in Crooner's, and he seemed to have a following every time we passed by.

There are movies in either the Princess Theater, Explorer's Lounge or on your stateroom TV. Some of the movies on this cruise were Slum Dog Millionaire, Last Chance Harvey, and The Curious case of Benjamin Button, Defiance, and Body of Lies, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Tale of Despereaux, Australia, Quantum of Solace, Valkyrie, Revolutionary Road, Frost Nixon, Mall Cop, Not Easily Broken, The Reader, & The Dark Knight.

DINING Marcello Berardi is the Executive Chef and Jacques Ghennai is the Maitre D Hotel.

Hours in the International dining room for breakfast were 7am-9am and noon to 1:30pm for lunch.

You may make reservations for anytime dining if that is the dining you have by dialing 3463 on your stateroom phone or push the dining button on the phone.

Early traditional was at 6:00pm in International & Vivaldi and late at 8:15pm in International only.

Sterling Steakhouse is $15.00 per person (we did not go here). Sabatini's is $20.00 per person. (we did not do this; heard it was very good, but make sure you go when you are really hungry).

Sabatini's offers a full array of appetizers, pastas, Italian entrees, etc.

We attended afternoon tea one afternoon. You can go anytime between 3:30pm and 4:30pm. It was held in the Pacific Moon dining room.

Our dining room waiter was Emmanuel from the Philippines and Jr. Waiter was Adelin from Bulgaria. Our head waiter was Michael from Jamaica who was so accommodating. We were at table #47.

On the last morning of the cruise the International dining room hours were 6:30am to 8:30am. Horizon Court Buffet opens 5:30am to 9:00am. Lobby bar, Crooner's, and Calypso open for cash sales.

Chef's Table is a brilliant insight into the workings of the kitchen. French champagne and hors d' oeuvres served in the galley during rush hour followed by a multi course tasting menu at the VIP chef's table. Includes wine pairing at $75.00 per person. Space is limited, call the dining hotline (we did not do this).

Our formal nights were changed to reflect our changed itinerary -- to Sunday, April 26th and Wednesday, April 29th.

Sorry, hope you are still with me. I try to be as accurate as possible and informative as well.

Room Service: Sandwiches-club, roast beef, turkey, tuna salad, & veggie. Garden salad, Caesar with chicken, & chef salad. Balcony dining is 7am-11am for breakfast or 5:30pm-10pm for dinner. The champagne breakfast is $32. per couple and includes the following: Heidsieck monopole champagne (1/2 bottle), oven fresh breakfast patries, cold smoked salmon, medley of fresh fruit and forest berries, and bacon & onion quiche Lorraine, & coffee, tea, or milk. The dinner is a 4 course meal for $100. per couple.

Spring water 1.5 liters in the stateroom is $3.50, 12 oz. cans of coke, diet coke, or diet sprite are $1.95. All are 15% gratuity added.

Complimentary stateroom breakfast is done by a door hanger found on your bed in the evening. Choices are juices, fresh fruit, yogurt, cold cereals, breads & pastries, preserves, beverages. Service times are from 7:30am to 10:30am.

Complimentary fresh fruit can be delivered to your stateroom via a door hanger. Choices are apples, bananas, kiwi, oranges, & pears. (we never had room service).

Crooner's Bar: I think the bartender said there were 32 martinis; I tried to taste them all. Most of the Martinis were about $7.48 with the gratuity.

Fountain soda program with souvenir tumbler is $4.25 per day plus 15% gratuity. Unlimited fountain soda for the duration of the cruise, you get a sticker on your cruise card. (my cabin partner did this, and found it great).

MISCELLANEOUS Computer internet rates were .75 cents/min. & $3.95 for 1st time connection fee. There are packages also that drop the price per minute.

The Captain's Circle party was on formal night on April 29th. The passenger(s) with the most days on our cruise had 704 days with 78 cruises. Wow! Debi was our circle hostess.

The Ultimate Ship Tour offers a limited number of passengers the chance to participate in a behind the scenes tour of the ship for $150.00 per person. (some of our fellow roll call members did this and loved it).

Future Cruise Sales consultant was Ann; you put a $100.00 deposit down per person for a future cruise and receive shipboard credit for your next cruise. No need to book a particular cruise date, though you may if you wish.

We attended the onboard outlet sale held in the Santa Fe dining room, which was packed almost the entire 3 hrs.

The washers and dryers were $1.00 each; I did a load of wash and hung the rest to dry.

Had a great cruise on The Sapphire despite not going to Mexico. The crew went above and beyond. There were several Princess employees onboard cruising for their vacation and we enjoyed getting to meet them.

DISEMBARKATION -- May 2, 2009 We went to the International Dining room at 8:10am, done at 8:50am. We had all our hand luggage with us so our room steward could clean. Orange 3 was supposed to meet in the Casino at 8:40am, we were still eating breakfast. Went straight to gangway at 8:55am as orange 3 had already been called. The luggage was all lined up according to which color tag you had. It was all very organized. We were handed a traveler's alert health notice issued by CDC and we handed in a customs declaration form. There was no passport control as we never were in a Mexican port. We were in the car at 9:10am, saw Prime Time shuttle, plenty of taxi's, and the Super Shuttle.

Thank you to the whole crew of The Sapphire Princess.

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Amazon
Publication Date: April 10, 2009

Warning: This is a long one!!!

My partner and I returned from our 2-week Amazon cruise ten days ago. I read many reviews about the Tahitian and Pacific Princess, as well as other Princess ships, and was not ready for the experience we had. As the moderator alluded to, I know we all have our own "subjective" experiences, which makes them ours, not anyone else's. I certainly don't want to step on toes and offend anyone, but on the other hand, feel the need to share our own personal experience. I will only share some of our issues, not all.

We arrived in Manaus, Brazil after a wonderful stay at the Conrad in Miami and a nice flight into Manaus. It was pouring down rain when we arrived, muggy and wet, but it was wonderful. Gathered our luggage and met the Princess man and followed him to the bus.

Our bus was delayed, as we had to wait almost 2 hours for another passenger to try and "prove" he was on our list, and was supposed to take the bus (only a 25-minute ride).

The bus ride was fairly uneventful. My other

half and I sat in the front of the bus. There was a driver and a "guide." The guide tried to break the ice, I guess. He began telling jokes. He slammed Christians, Muslims, Catholics and Mormons, and then he attacked women and last but not least -- yep, gays. He was laughing and rolling his eyes telling the audience on the bus about two Asian men who had to "push their beds together" and he referred to one of them as a "mam" instead of a "man." While he never used the word "gay," he didn't need to! His disrespect and lack of tolerance for gay men and women was apparent. It was awful. He was attempting to work up the riders and get a reaction out of them. I finally, very loudly said, "SO, WHAT? THEY'RE GAY. WHAT'S YOUR POINT?" He looked down at me and said, "Well, anyway," and went on to something else, later shooting me a nasty look. I heard a couple of passengers behind us agree with me.

Got off the bus and went through the terminal, checking in. The process was smooth and efficient. Left the terminal and walked down the pier to the ship. There were no signs pointing us in the right direction. We stopped, and looked -- nothing. It was pouring rain, so we followed the folks in front of us, not knowing they were Princess employees and boarding in the Employee Only section. Of course we were then scolded for trying to board where they board! Walked back out, and looked around and there were no indicators. It wasn't our first cruise, so we walked forward to the other entrance, which was the correct one. I turned around and said to my partner, "This isn't Celebrity." I couldn't have been more right.

On Celebrity, we're always greeted with welcome champagne or juice. The staff is up there, and they offer a warm welcome or "Welcome Back!," always asking how many cruises we've been on, who are we, where are we from, etc. There was nothing there -- no welcome, no smiles -- nothing. We found the elevator and then our cabin. This was around 2 PM. There was no "sanitation station" either. On Celebrity, staff is always walking around with hand sanitizers and even monitoring staff who walk into the food venues, insisting it be done. Not so on Princess. Not one staff member saw to this. There were limited hand sanitizers and at one point, I noticed the one I was attempting to use was empty. I mentioned this to a staffer walking by, she shrugged her shoulders and kept on walking.

You know how your cabin attendant is always there? You can't come or go without a cheerful, "Hello, Sir!" Ours was nowhere to be seen, until a few hours later. Throughout our stay, he was always friendly; however, he did forget a morning clean and an evening clean/turn-down. No worries, he was still pleasant and tried hard.

After dropping off our carry-on bags, we went to the Maitre'd to check on our table for 2. We reserved this cruise 6-months prior and were on a waitlist for an early seating, table for 2. We walked into the lounge to see the Maitre'd. The woman at the front did not offer us a number, but said to come back at 3:30. We left to check out the ship, and buy our Spa Pass for the duration. We came back at 3 PM and looked around. There were more people in the lounge. I saw people holding cards with numbers and then realized we should have been given one, but were not earlier. I felt like we were "shooed" away. No big deal. We got our number (#27) so we waited about 2-hours to see the man.

We were talking with other passengers ahead and behind us, still excited, of course. We saw the Maitre'd "bump" (the new urban hand shake) other passengers, and they walked away smiling and laughing, thanking him. We walked up there and his countenance was grim, almost intimidating. I was respectful and tried to compliment him, the ship, etc. and he broke in with, "What can I do for you?" I asked about our table and waitlist. We were waitlisted as number 10 before the cruise. He just shook his head, and said, "No, I'm sorry. We have a table for you at the late dining." I asked once more and shared with him our wait list number, my low blood sugar, short of pleading with him -- and asked nicely. He said, "No, but I'll put you on my list and let you know if something comes up." We waited -- and waited.

Interestingly, both couples before us were higher on the waitlist (one was 15 and one was 22) and BOTH (assuming) heterosexual couples received their tables for 2. We later learned that there were empty tables in the early dining. We ran into the Maitre'd several days later and he said we could show up every night and wait and see if a table was available, but he wouldn't guarantee anything. I guess it was his attitude and the fact that two other couples got what they wanted, and we were lower on the wait list. The Maitre'd told us that over half the ship on our cruise had also sailed on the cruise prior, which was the same itinerary as ours, but in reverse; although the cruise was not sold, solicited as or booked as a 4-week, but as 2 separate or back-to-back cruises, and those who sailed the 2-weeks prior had preference in dining over us! How is that fair?

As a result, we did not eat any dinners in the Club Restaurant. First time ever that we did not eat in the main dining room; we were very disappointed. We ended up eating at the two specialty restaurants, Panorama Buffet or on shore every night. We did have a couple of lunches in the dining room. The wait staff and Maitre'd, as a result, received $0 gratuity from us. We gave it to the staff in the specialty dining. The Panorama Buffet only offers plastic plates, very limited drink station and no trays! Celebrity offered more refreshments, trays and glass/ceramic plates and bowls. Celebrity staff is always there to assist you in bringing your tray to your table, without asking! Also, Princess does not brew fresh coffee ("urn coffee" lol). Their coffee is syrup, but not bad for concentrate. Brewed coffee is a charge.

We found Princess to have nickel and dimed us. Others have seen that on Celebrity. Perhaps all ships are doing this now.

Room service menu? They only offer cold sandwiches and chips, chocolate cookies or fruit. Breakfast was only Continental. Juice after 11 AM? That's a $3 charge. Pizza (the only hot item delivered to your cabin)? That's a $3 charge. Ice cream? $3. We stayed in a Mini-Suite too (very similar to a Sky Suite on Celebrity). We thought there would be an enhanced room service menu and amenities, not so. No flowers, champagne, stationary, nice robes, pillow choices, canapés. So we just bit the bullet. I found it odd that one could pay close to a thousand more and not receive anything additional (besides square footage). Again, not the case on Celebrity. In the comparable Sky Suite on Celebrity, one formal night we enjoyed filet mignon and lobster, wine (and all the courses) in our Suite! There was no charge for this. In a standard Concierge Class stateroom on Celebrity, one can order cheeseburgers, pizza or other good hot meals, at no charge.

The first night we were pretty amazed, as we saw the Captain come down to the Panorama Buffet and what looked to us, unashamedly flirt and try to make a pass at one of the female food workers. Hmmm, does Quid Pro Quo apply to Maritime Law? Incidentally, on our last night we were eating in the Steakhouse and the Captain walked by with the trampy woman who worked in the sundry gift shop (yes, my partner had a run-in with her attitude and lack of service and I witnessed her talking to another passenger about how a certain, famous man could "share her pillow"). We became close with a few employees (as most of us all do) and when we asked our waitress, she told us the Captain was "always trying to sleep with the female employees." Nice, huh? He was married she said. Of course that's not the point. While I'm digressing about the Captain, three times on the cruise, while he would make his morning and noon announcements, he said, "This is Captain ____ from the Command Bridge. The time is 9 AM (or 12-noon) according to my very expensive Cartier Watch!" Tacky.

The food in the Panorama Buffet was good. Breakfast never changed, it was the same every day. The dinner buffet was generally the same food items they were serving in the Club Dining Room (main). In our opinion, the food on Celebrity was 100% better in the specialty restaurants, as well as the service, ambiance and presentation. The lunches we had in the dining room were not as good as Celebrity. The buffet was not nearly as extensive as Celebrity, BUT the food was good, sans the desserts. Celebrity gets the nod there. Also, Celebrity does not charge for pizza, ice cream/dessert, juices, etc., as their room service menu is extensive; and they offer hot cooked to order, breakfast/lunch and dinner.

Our mini suite was large. On the surface it looked beautiful, but the closer we got, it was very tired and worn (sagging and rips in the wallpaper, three doors were not level on the hinge, one drawer was off). I don't believe there has been any restoration since Princess purchased this ship. The bed was actually very comfortable. The antiquated TV needed to go (circa 1988). No clock in the room! We don't have to have one, but it's nice to look at the phone and see if you're running late for dinner, etc. Who wants to wear a watch on vaca?

The Pacific Princess is a nice-looking ship. Dark woods and deep blues, reds and greens throughout. We really didn't have any complaints with the ship itself, we were pleased. My partner commented that it looked as if it was decorated by Bombay.

On Celebrity, the staff is always cleaning. Man, we see them running the vacuums and polishing / sanitizing the rails ALL the time. Not so on Princess. We witnessed that once.

On Celebrity, we return from an excursion and they have hot or cold towels and water / lemonade / hot chocolate. Not so on Princess. Nothing...and they don't even ask, "How was your tour?" "How was your time on shore?" etc. Hell, there wasn't even a "Hello! Welcome back!" We felt like we were just being herded. We continued to get the feeling that it was "all about them", not us, the passengers.

We really enjoyed the tours on Princess. Another cool thing is they have a naturalist or a lecturer (Hutch was his name) who provided daily lectures on the ports. He was also televised, so we could watch him from our cabin, which was nice. Of course, they play old re-runs of "The Love Boat", which was fun, especially as the original Love Boat was the "Pacific Princess" (but of course a different ship). Didn't watch too much TV, but what little we did, the programming was good with decent movies, etc.

The mini fridge worked! I liked that they kept the ice bucket in the fridge (no water in the room either, unlike Celebrity). The fridge was empty so we could put our juice and booze in there-that was nice.

We purchased 2 spa passes at $140 each, which was a good deal. There is a section at the bow of the ship which held a small Thallossotherapy pool and 16 padded chaise lounges. This private sun deck / spa area was only for passengers who forked out the dough, it was supposed to be private, and I think for the most part it was. It was great to come out here, as we never had to haggle or "reserve" a chaise. It was quiet and private. Adjacent to this private deck is the men's and women's locker rooms. The men's locker room was very nice. There were lockers, a changing area, deluxe showers and a 'men’s only' steam room. I guess what bothered us the most was the male entertainers would come in and use this area as their own personal dressing room! Several times we witnessed two or three of the staff coming in to: shower, shave, steam, etc. and LEFT A MESS!! One time, I found myself cleaning up after one of the "stars", I think his name was “Luke". He was a pig. My guess was they got ready in there, so they wouldn't have to clean their own stateroom / bathroom? Makes sense, but still wasn't appropriate in my opinion.

On one particular morning, we were almost run over in the buffet line by a crew member's family who came on board for the day (to eat and visit). We heard them introducing his family to other staffers on the ship. This was in St. Lucia I believe. Later in the day, around 3 PM, the ship getting ready to sail at 5 or so, and we were in the men's locker room showering from our deck time and steam. The staffer and his male friend (or brother) came in. The staffer introduced him to one of the entertainers (the "pig") and they exit to the private deck! We were getting dressed and could hear one of the men yelling off the ship to someone way down below on the dock. He did this three times...he was yelling to get someone's attention down below. I finally walked out to the deck, and sure enough-it was the family member of the staffer. Nice. Good impression too. There just didn't seem to be any boundaries with some of the Princess staff.

We both purchased spa treatments, and they were very good. Interestingly, Princess uses the same vendor as Celebrity for their Spa staff and treatments. All were very nice and the prices reasonable. The products were by Elemis.

Pacific Princess doesn't have the huge theater, it's a Cabaret Lounge. So the performances are up close and personal, which would be fine if they were better. We walked out of 4 shows, attending only 6. The numbers which were not lip-synced were off, just not that good in my opinion. The view was cut off because it wasn't stadium seating. It was hard to see anything. Waaay too much make up, most of them looked like clowns, and very animated for a close, intimate theater. We stood up in the back on two of the shows, so we could see. The comedian was excellent in my opinion.

The gaming was OK. We scored at slots and the 2 or 3 times we went in there, only witnessed one smoker. It wasn't that bad otherwise. Friendly staff in the Casino.

We had a disagreement with Ronnie at the Excursion Desk. Without going into detail, he lied to me. After walking up to our cabin, I called back down there to share with him feedback. He would not budge. I asked for his supervisor, he told me he had none, and that he was the "highest we could go." Of course this was not the truth, and we were given a partial credit. My point is, WHY did we have to escalate? Par for the course I guess.

I could go on, but won't. I think in all honesty, we would have put this into perspective much easier, if the service was on par with what we are used to. I remember being on the roll call board (on another site) for Princess before the cruise and saying good things about Celebrity and the other Princess people getting pissed off. I remember one person saying, "Celebrity is Stuffy-stuffy-stuffy!" . Well after this past cruise, I guess I am stuffy and I like stuffy, lol. Never really considered that.

Our experience was very negative, but primarily because of the service. A provider of hospitality doesn't have to offer the same menu, agenda or novelties that the next one does, but without the extra level of quality *service*, it's very difficult to get past what you feel is lacking. I felt like the staff just didn't care, in all honesty. We were confident in our opinion that Princess was doing us a favor, by letting us on their ship. They seem to only look out for themselves. To them, "it's just a job." Our experience with this cruise line / ship was the last we will have. They say, "The old dog only bites once." Well, once was enough for us. I know this is not everyone's opinion, but sadly it was ours - from the beginning to the end.

We disembarked the ship on Friday and were sitting in the Miami airport. Both whipped out hand-held phones and started surfing for cruises on Celebrity, and we just booked a Celebrity Infinity cruise for this September. Hoping this re-affirms our faith in cruising, and so relieved to be going back to the =X=.

I think if we started out with Princess years ago, we either would not expect anything different or we wouldn't see the value, and would have stopped cruising. With the exception of one Carnival cruise in my former life, we have always sailed with Celebrity and it is such a different and wonderful experience to us. I'm sure they're not for everyone, but we absolutely love the Celebrity service, amenities, venues...everything!

Thanks for reading. Sorry for the length, but I hope this provides insight to anyone who is interested. To those who have sailed Princess and love them? I mean you no argument or discord. Enjoy!

On a scale from 1-10 -- Pacific Princess, line and ship:

Service Overall: 1 Food: 5 Entertainment: 3 Venues: 4 Cabin Attendant and Housekeeping: 7 Food service staff (sans Maitre'd): 4 Excursion Staff(desk): 1 Tours/Excursions: 9 Purser(s): 5 Spa services: 8 Overall: Won't be back

Happy Sailing everyone!

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 30, 2009

This was a 10 day Southern Caribbean Medley cruise.

We had an obstructed view cabin E504 which had a good view and was mid ship.

We had Anytime Dining and made a standing reservation for 6pm at Da Vinci dining room. We found the buffet to be better for breakfast and lunch. The food in general was typical cruise ship fare, nothing spectacular.

We had seen 2 of the production shows on other cruises, and we felt the entertainment was mediocre.

The crowd was older -- and there are lots of penny slots in the casino. The movie selections were very good.

We enjoyed all of the ports. In Aruba we took the bus to Palm Beach, then we went to Eagle Beach. We caught a taxi back to the ship.

In Bonaire we did the ship's tour to Klein Bonaire, where the snorkeling was superb.

In Dominica, we booked Bumping Tours for the Roseau Valley Treasures tour, which was a great day!

In Grenada we took a water taxi to Grand Anse -- the spices at the beach and at the port were the cheapest (not in the town). The beach was gorgeous, but

there are vendors who bug you.

We went to Emerald Beach in STT, having been to Sapphire and Megans Bay previously. It is convenient to Crown Bay and like a mini-Megans Bay.

Princess Cays started out chilly, but turned out to be beautiful. It never got crowded because so many older folks did not want to tender.

After 10 days I didn't want to leave. It was a great cruise.

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Australia
Publication Date: March 5, 2009

I have just returned from a cruise on the Sun Princess. You can find my detailed review here.

Photos of the ship can be viewed here.

You can email me at mauro2303@hotmail.com if you have any queries and I'll try to answer them for you!

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South America
Publication Date: February 14, 2009

Princess Cruises -- Air Deviation Fee Scheme This was by far the worst of our many trips (including 15 cruises) all over the world. Princess booked us on a very tight flight connection and would not change it unless we paid hundreds more in "Air Deviation Fees." We declined and suffered the consequences. As feared, we missed our flight and had to make it on our own to South America to catch the Star Princess at her second port of call. We incurred considerable expenses which Princess refused to reimburse us for, claiming it was a "legal" air connection. We did not get our luggage until returning home on the 18th day.

This was our first cruise on Princess and we would not consider using their services again. A quick search of the internet will disclose many of the questionable business practices they employ including the "Air Deviation Fee" scheme they used on us. We believe that their scheme works like this. A customer books a cruise and makes the final payment. About 20-30 days before departure Princess issues the air schedule. The customer notes that they have many short and/or tight

connections and expresses his concern. Princess tells the customer that it is a "legal" connection, but they will change it for an "Air Deviation Fee" (One man we spoke with on the ship paid an additional $1400 to get an acceptable schedule.) Since the customer is now in the penalty phase of the booking, Princess will keep all or most of the customer's money if they cancel.

AVOID THIS COMPANY AT ALL COSTS.

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Mexico
Publication Date: February 7, 2009

Cruising with Kids to the Mexican Rivera.

Our family of four just went on the Sapphire Princess in February. When I was researching the cruise I found very little information about traveling with kids. So this might be a long review, but I assure you it will help your family have a great time.

We flew into Burbank, CA because the airfare was incredibly cheaper. Then we took a taxi to the cruise ship port. About $120 one way. Still cheaper!

Embarkation It took about an hour. Very straight forward. Get there around 2:00-3:00 and the lines aren't as long.

Hint: They have a new rule. All luggage must be checked at the ship's dock. You can only bring onboard luggage the size of a carry on. So, for us, that meant the suitcase that had all of our summer clothes and swimsuits in it could not be brought onboard the ship. Thankfully, I was surprised it did not take long for our suitcases to be brought to our cabin. Impressive!

Cabin We always choose an inside cabin close to the middle of the ship for several reasons. First, the motion of the

ship is not as noticeable. This trip was worse than others. Second, it's not as noisy during docking at the ports. (We were on Aloha deck and we didn't hear much of anything.) The last reason is that it's dark, so you can sleep in or take a nap during the day.

Note: Since our room didn't have a window, it was rather warm at night. The thermostat was set as cool as it would go, but it was still too warm for me and my husband.

Our cabin was small for a family of four. But it was manageable. The cabin was divided into two parts. The dressing area was to the left as you come into the room. It had a large spacious closet, with about 30 wooden hangers, a floor-length mirror (open that up and there were shelves). It also housed the lifejackets and safe. The bathroom is also in this area. Nothing fancy, but adequate. Stand up shower, commode and sink area. There are no plug-ins, but ample storage for two adults' toiletries.

The sleeping area was next. It was small. There were two single beds with two nightstands in between them. On each nightstand was a lamp. On the opposite wall there was a large mirror, TV -- in a cubby, which was hanging from the ceiling -- and a large desk and chair that covered the length of the wall. There was also a small refrigerator and small decorative round table. Each night the steward would come around and pull down the bunk beds from the ceiling. The kids loved sleeping up there!

Soda Cards Our family decided to buy the two kids all you can drink soda, "mock tails" and ice-cream cards. $60 something dollars. Mom and dad utilized the cards more than the kids did. We got free soda and drinks (non-alcoholic) as often as we wanted. We aren't big drinkers anyway, but this allowed us to enjoy something cold and refreshing for free. Carlos was the waiter that made the best mock tails and he never questioned us. I tipped him a little extra at the end of the cruise.

The Fun Zone was an area of the ship designed just for kids. The kids absolutely loved it! They didn't want to leave. Registration is on the first day. They will need your photo I.D. to keep on record, and to utilize when you pick up your kids. We only used the Fun Zone during sea days from 9-12 and 2-5. It is also open from 7 to later at night. They will provide you with a comprehensive list of events that the kids would get to do everyday. They weren't sitting around watching TV. They actually had things for them to do -- from arts and crafts to exercise games.

Dining We had fixed seating at 6:00 p.m. in the International Dinning Room. The kids enjoyed the experience and even tried all the unusual foods, like escargot, and liked them. Okay, I didn't tell them what it was before they ate it!

Hint: When there was entertainment at night that we wanted to go to, we told our waiter "Robert." He then worked harder and faster to get us out of the dining room before the 7:15 show. That way we didn't have to wait around for the 9:30 show. That was too late for the kids. It was extra work for Robert, but he pulled it off every time!

Photo Ops Take advantage of the photo ops around the ship most nights. We had pictures of the whole family taken on the formal nights. It doesn't cost anything but some of your time. At some backgrounds they took 10-20 photos of our family. They took individual photos, couple, siblings, father with kids, mother with kids and entire family shots.

Hint: Gather your photos every night. Look through them and only keep the "possibilities." Then wait until the last day to choose only the best of the best. You can get a better deal when you buy in bulk. They were pricy, but they put them on a CD for you to take home and there was no sitting fee. Christmas cards here we come!

Food We usually ate our meals in the dining room. We chose to eat at the buffet one morning and were very disappointed. But the food in the restaurant was much better. We would eat at the buffet for sweets and snacks during the day. Most of the meals were excellent. There were a few nights when either the steaks were overcooked, but were corrected right away, the lobster was too salty, or the soup was not blended.

Hint: Ask the server. He or she knows what is best that night. Trust their judgment.

Snacks You have to try the homemade ice-cream! It was excellent and my children ate it three times a day.

Hint: They have free cookies and milk at around 3:30 to 4:00. But they also serve free ice cream at the same time at the buffet. YUMMY!

Ship The ship itself was lovely and grand without being over done and gaudy. There was more than enough things to keep us busy -- Shuffle board, walking track, paddle tennis, 5 pools, tours and activities, and shopping.

Hint: I would suggest you wait and make your ship purchases later in your trip. They had 75% sale on the last day at sea.

Entertainment Our family enjoyed the music productions. Very good. But, they were not what I was expecting. I thought it would be more of a Las Vegas style show. It was more hip hop, jazz dancing. Still very entertaining. The singing was average, but the dancing was awesome. They really put all their energy into each show.

Hint: Get to the showroom at least 20 minutes early to get a good seat. It filled up quickly 10 minutes before the show.

As far as the piano player, singers, etc., we didn't really go to any of those shows, and the one we did see, we left soon after it started (below average!). We did see the comedians. One was from the Beach Boys many years ago. Funny! The other one was Dan Bennett. Hilarious! He was a comedian and juggler. Spectacular! He wasn't necessarily kid-friendly, but it mostly went over their heads anyway. What he was talking about, a lot of it went over my head too! A must see!

Weather We traveled in February and it was cool on board the ship with the wind blowing all the time. I packed sweatshirts for everyone and we used them just about everyday, whether in the dining room, on deck and even in port. Better to be safe than sorry.

Attire We always made a point to dress for supper as they suggested -- even with the kids. But I did see many kids wearing flip flops and shorts to supper.

Disembarkation We were amazed at how quickly disembarkation went. They only looked at our passports and the children's birth certificates once. They didn't ask questions or even look through our bags. WOW! Twenty minutes and we were out of there!

A few more helpful hints:

I brought a shoe organizer, per someone else's tip, and discovered it was a great idea. I was not able to hang it over the bathroom door, but I was able to hang it, with a hanger, in the closet. We stored bathroom items, shoes, sunscreen and everything else to help stay organized. The kids loved having their own little pockets. We ordered two Princess robes to wear around the room. I noticed on the first night that the bedrails rattled when they were touched. Every time the kids kicked them, it woke me up. So, I figured out that when it was time for bed I used both belts, from the robes, to tie the kids bedrails together. I'm talking one bed's bedrail to the other bed's bedrail. Yes, the belts were in the middle of the room and in the grownups' way, but it decreased the sound of the bedrails jiggling and clanging while the kids slept. Bring an extension cord. There are only two plug-ins at the desk area. Sound machine. This really cut down on sounds you would normally hear outside the door, and the kids moving around. Motion sickness pills. I really thought since the ship was so large that there would be little motion. I was wrong. Over open water it was quite rocky. Things would even roll around and one night the hangers were banging in the closet!

Extra Useful Hints Bring plenty of small bills (ones, fives and tens) on your trip. We ran out!) Bring trash bags or Wal-Mart bags to put wet or dirty items in. Bring clothes pins to hang wet swimsuit in the shower. Bring Lysol spray to clean handles and door knobs or in case someone gets sick. The passenger services desk will make one free complimentary phone call for you. Ask for the complimentary robes. Utilize what the ship has to offer. If you're not sure about something, just ask! The passenger services desk will make change for you.

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by Mary & Vincent Finelli
Publication Date: January 24, 2009

Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Mary & Vincent Finelli Western Caribbean January 24, 2009

We booked our 40th (ruby) Wedding Anniversary cruise on the Ruby Princess -- very fitting. The Ruby is a most elegant ship; while berthed in Port Everglades, she is unmistakable with the distinctive logo of a Princess with flowing hair. She is the newest of the fleet and a credit to Fincantieri, her constructors. Captain Tony Draper (Scotland and Cornwall) is a very personable and erudite gentleman -- We look forward to sailing with him again in the near future.

Embarkation The Ft. Lauderdale Port is a highly secure one, so on the way to the pier allow time for up to 30 minutes for security checks. We arrived at 12:45pm and had wheelchair assistance; we were through check-in, which is done by separate counters for each deck. This system makes the lines shorter and faster. We were on board by 1:15 and in our cabin. After checking on our dinner arrangements with our old friend Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone, we reserved a table for two at 6:00pm each evening. We were off to the buffet, Princess pizza served

out on the Horizon Terrace. Excellent! Then we went back to our cabin to rest until the boat drill, which was well organized and orderly. Our station was the Wheelhouse, where we were comfortably seated. Princess does not make passengers line up in the sun facing the elements on the Promenade deck as other lines do, rather it assigns public areas inside the ship for muster stations.

Ship The Ruby Princess (Hull # 6150) was built in Fincantieri, Cantieri Navali, Monfalcone, Italy, like her sisters the Emerald and the Crown Princesses. Her inaugural cruise was on November 8, 2008, thus making her only three months old. She is 948.0 ft long, 118.1 ft wide (165.7 ft including stabilizer wings), with a draft of only 27.88 ft. The Ruby Princess is 113,561 tons and her height is 219.8 ft, with a total of 18 decks and a passenger capacity of 3,150 (3,175 this cruise), with a crew of 1,200 from 54 countries around the globe.

Decks 1, 2, 3, & 4 are for crew only -- except for the Medical Center on the latter.

Decks 5, 6, & 7 are all public areas. Deck 5 aft has the Michelangelo Dining Room, with the wood panel walls and sconces for lighting; in the ceiling there are miniature lights that twinkle on and off like stars. The room is elegant in a subdued manner. The walls have murals of Italian pastoral scenes. Next, midship is the impressive Piazza, an atrium three decks tall, with a waterfall and a huge Tiffany light covering almost the entire ceiling. The floor is a mosaic of arcs and circles. This is a popular gathering place with a Cafe` serving specialty coffees and delicate pastries including marzipan "Pasta Reale" (miniature fruits), etc. There is also a wine, cheese and sushi bar which encourages sampling of many savory delights. Forward on Deck 5 are a Laundromat and cabins.

Deck 6, all the way aft is the Botticelli Dining Room and toward midship is the Da Vinci Dining Room. Here, midship are located the Reception desk and the shops, then the Gatsby Casino and the Speakeasy Cigar Lounge (this tiny area keeps the Casino smoke free). Forward is the Princess Theater with a red Austrian tucked curtain and red and gold embossed seats. There is a clear, unobstructed view of the stage from every seat. Bravo! The Walnut wood walls add to the understated elegance of the theater.

Deck 7 aft has the Club Fusion, the Photo Gallery, the Explorers Lounge (nightly live shows and music) and the upscale restaurant Crown Grill. Midship there are the Wheelhouse Bar and a well stocked Library with convenient hours. Forward is the Princess Theater balcony with a reserved area in the rear for wheelchairs.

Deck 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, & 14 are all passenger cabins.

Deck 15 has the Horizon Terrace, the Cafe`Caribe and the Horizon Court Buffet. Next, midship is the Calypso Reef and Pool, Pizza and Ice Cream Bar, Neptune Reef and Pool, Mermaid's Tail and Trident Grill. Forward there are other passenger cabins, Thermal Suites and the Lotus Spa.

Deck 16, all the way aft is the upscale Sabatini's Restaurant which is bigger and more impressive than the Sabatini's found on other classes of Princess ships. Here, midship is "Movies Under the Stars" giant screen, and forward are the Lotus Spa, Fitness Center and Aerobics, and the Wedding Chapel (8 weddings this week). During dinner in Sabatini's, we spoke with one of the brides, who was having the reception dinner there, and she expressed high praise for the Princess royal treatment.

Deck 17 has aft the Chill Out, the Fun Zone, Off Limits and the Video Arcade for the young ones, midship the Sun Terrace, and forward the posh Sanctuary, an exclusive relaxing oasis, a "Pocket of Tranquillity," with a nominal charge of $10.00 for a half day or $20.00 for a full day pass.

Deck 18 aft has Skywalkers Nightclub.

Deck 19 aft has Cyber golf.

The ship overall is stylish and elegant with lovely murals like the "Reef Scene" on Deck 16 by Morandi Studios, Sassuolo, Italy (a white on white tile design with accents of the palest pastels, all portraying a dream of an underwater scene). Also in the stairwell in this same area is a painting of two Kimonos in red and black on a gold background. There are many lovely decorations on board to enjoy, interspersed with fresh floral bouquets and live orchid plants.

Service and Food Passenger Services Director Dirk Brand has everything under control. The ship is immaculate (CDC Sanitary Inspection score is a perfect 100) and the service is snappy. The passengers are most acutely interested in the food, of course. Here Princess excels, the Executive Chef Manlio Cuzzolin (Mortegliano, Italy) is excellent. Princess accents Italian food with pasta courses served daily. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and cheeses that add variety and elegance to the menus. Plating was exquisite and the Always Available list featured the following: Shrimp Cocktail, Salmon Fillet, Fettuccine Alfredo, Steak, etc.

Appetizers included Spring Rolls, Fried Calamari, Fresh Fruit plates; Soups included both hearty like minestrone and cream of asparagus and delicate broths, as well as cold ones. Salads were dressed lightly or at the table. There were at least two pasta courses (i.e., Puttanesca, Four cheese rigatoni). Vincent liked the spaghetti alle vongole, especially. Entrees were varied and included meat (beef fillet and prime rib, lamb and veal), fish (lobster tail, crab legs, shrimp, cod, etc.), fowl (chicken, Cornish hen, duck, etc.) and vegetarian (stir fried oriental vegetables, egg plant Parmigiana, etc.).

Dining service onboard is under Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone who epitomizes elegance and style. Service in the Michelangelo was terrific. There are several options with anytime dining selections available. Specific restaurants were for personal choice times and others for fixed times. Our waiters every evening were Sopha and his assistant Panche under the direction of Head Waiter Rui -- impeccable. There is also "An Evening At The Chef's Table" which includes a galley tour followed by a multi-course tasting menu with Exec. Chef Manlio, all for the culinary connoisseur ($75).

We were also very happy to encounter Asst. Maitre D' Pasquale Marino once again. We have cruised with him several times and are always so surprised that he remembers us by name -- he's very personable. All of the crew made us feel very welcome. Approximately one third of the passengers were repeat cruisers on Princess. That is a great testimonial to the fact that Princess is doing an excellent job.

Cabin Baja B301 (deck 11) is a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony decorated in blues and aquas with beige cabinetry trimmed in pecan wood. When entering on the left there is a huge bathroom with many safety rails and a 4'X4' shower with a folding seat. There is a large sink and two small shelves for toiletries. Next, there is a king size bed flanked by two low bureaus with reading lamps. The far wall is all glass with a sliding door to the balcony on which are two chairs and a small table.

When entering on the right there is a huge full length mirror, a triple armoire with two sections for hanging clothes and one section with shelves and a personal safe. Next, there is a long table with a TV console, refrigerator and a cupboard. A desk chair, two beige leather barrel chairs, and a coffee table complete the furnishings. On the walls are two large paintings of the Lake Region of Italy. Our Cabin Steward was Wirot who was helpful and efficient all through the cruise. Just terrific!

Entertainment The "Best Smile At Sea" goes to Cruise Director Lisa Ball -- energetic and friendly, she keeps everyone onboard hopping. We cruise to relax and rest, and there are plenty of nice quiet places to sit and enjoy the sea: The promenade has deck chairs conducive to reading and the library is well stocked! There are several areas with pianists or small combos. Princess Patter reports daily the many events at different venues from the Piazza to the Theater, from the Club Fusion to the Explorer Lounge. In the Piazza there are always demonstrations (cooking, flower arrangement, etc.), music and dancing (music each evening with a violinist, piano and bass, and we especially enjoyed the violinist and Magdalena the pianist). Princess Theater had two excellent production shows: "The Great White Way" pairing musical song hits with dance numbers, and "Once Upon A Dream." Every cruise Maitre D' Generoso does a Champagne Waterfall, tall and terrific, and a cooking demonstration in the Theater with Chef Manlio, very entertaining! The Chinese New Years Eve was celebrated on Jan. 25th; this is the year of the Ox.

In the Explorer's Lounge were comedians, and a lively music group. There are Bingo and Slots Tournaments, Basketball, Shuffleboard, and Table tennis, etc. There is something for everyone.

Ports of Call 1-24-09: Fort Lauderdale, FL -- Sail Away -- 5:00pm 1-25-09: At Sea 1-26-09: Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive 8:00am -- Depart 4:00pm 1-27-09: Grand Cayman -- Arrive 7:00am -- Depart 4:30pm 1-28-09: Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive 7:15am -- Depart 5:30pm 1-29-09: At Sea 1-30-09: Princess Cays -- Arrive 8:30am -- Depart 3:30pm 1-31-09: Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Arrive 7:00am -- Debarkation

Debarkation Princess handles debarkation very nicely. We had wheelchair assistance from our cabin, down to the Gatsby Casino where first come, first served ruled. After about a twenty minute wait we were assisted off and were through passport check, customs and outside by 9:00am, and were at home by 10:00am.

Conclusion This was our eleventh cruise on Princess ships, thus with four more cruises we'll graduate from Platinum to Elite members in the Captain's Circle program which will mean more benefits and perks for us: Preferred Service Package (shoe polishing and complimentary laundry/dry cleaning service), Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up, Upgraded Bathroom Amenities, Complimentary Wine Tasting, 10% Boutique Discount, and other VIP treatment including a special cocktail party with the Captain. These are in part the incentives that make Princess one of our favorite cruise lines. Happy Cruising!

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Panama Canal
Publication Date: January 17, 2009

Five of us (2 brothers and their wives, and a sister) travelled together -- between us we had 2 balcony mini-suites next to each other, and an interior cabin. The former were spacious, clean, had ample storage space, and a very generous balcony which easily sat all 5 of us. Service in our cabins was excellent and we really enjoyed being able to place a fruit order each day, which was delivered to our cabin (however the interior cabin suffered from lack of attention in this regard).

The whole ship seemed clean and well cared for and the staff was friendly and helpful. We particularly appreciated our 2 servers in the Provence dining room where we had the "late" seating.

Food onboard was excellent, considering the huge amounts the kitchens had to produce. With the Provence, the Horizon buffet, and room service we never went hungry. We tried the "specialty" restaurant Sabatini's one night and enjoyed the quiet ambience and incredible attention. However, the food was not especially better than what we had in the Provence. So for $20 each extra, we weren't sure it was really worth it.

Every deck seems to

have its own laundry room with about 8 washers and dryers and 2 irons. Soap is for sale and is not too expensive, and neither are the machines. Mornings are a busy time for laundry -- late afternoon is better.

The library is so well stocked that we all regreted lugging books from home in our suitcases.

Internet service is excellent with about 12 stations in all.

Our best shore excursion was "Costa Rica's Favourites with Lunch," with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide in a beautiful country.

We found Princess to be as efficient and competent as any well run hotel and as good as any other cruise line we've traveled on. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend either Princess or the cruise through the Canal (from LA to Fort Lauderdale).

That being said, there were a few areas that concerned us:

Shortly after we boarded we realized that our 2 balcony cabins were on the "smoking" side of the ship. Nowhere in the literature had we noticed that Port side is "smoking." Fortunately for us, neither of our immediate neighbours were smokers, but we did meet another passenger who had a rather unpleasant altercation with the smoker in the cabin/balcony next to his. Next time, we will ensure we are on the non-smoking side of the ship.

Princess offers a variety of shore excursions for each port varying from the sedentary to the energetic. Three of us opted for the more energetic ones and we had issues with some of them. Princess, who seems very safety conscious as far as the ship goes, seems unaware of the laxity of standards on some of their excursions.

The "Huatulco river float" warned of the necessity of our donning life jackets and helmets, so one of our party didn't bring his sun hat, thinking it superfluous, only to find that just the life jackets were distributed and consequently he had to spend an hour or so on the river in the hot sun, hatless.

"Colonial Leon and Bubbling Mud Pots" resulted in our being let loose in a field of hot springs erupting through a layer of mud with the only supervision being 10 year old local children who spoke only Spanish. One of our group received a bad burn to one foot when it sunk into super-hot mud where the group was walking. This resulted in several trips to the ship's well-equipped and staffed medical centre. Although the usual medical fees and costs were waived, the injury had a serious dampening impact on the rest of the cruise for those involved.

The tour through the "Mangrove Tunnels" in Cartagena meant that we were punted (4 to a canoe) around a mangrove swamp (from which all the birds and beasts had fled) in a very decrepit, leaky, tippy, dug out canoe perched inches above the filthy water, by a guide who spoke not a word of English.

Princess needs to send its staff out to re-check some of the excursions it offers!

Princess movies offered in the large theatres were a disappointment in both the selection (too many chick flicks) and the timing (usually middle of the day when we are either at lunch or just returning from a shore excursion). Given the number of "at sea" days, better movie entertainment would easily be possible.

We only went to one of the "Scholarship at Sea" lectures and were treated to a dull lecture, read off a power point display, that was far too reminiscent of my grade 10 geography class.

The ship's photographers, while professional in their finished product, were often intrusive to the point of harassment.

We would have preferred more time in each of the ports -- some of which we were only docked at for half a day -- which was not enough time for sightseeing as well as shopping.

And finally, our shipboard account -- delivered to us on the day before departure -- was full of unexplained "codes" and was almost incomprehensible. It might save frustration in the long run to stop by the passenger service desk every day to check the account and verify all the entries.

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