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General Ship
It's hard since this is our tenth cruise not to compare this to other ships but first I will try to set that aside then I will do some comparisons. This ship is attractive. It has a lot of woodwork, some nice paintings. But it struck me odd that they have some beautiful bookcases with glass fronts and instead of having objects behind them such as figurines, china or even books, the glass was painted with pictures of these things. Keep in mind that this is a former Renaissance ship and I don't believe Princess has changed it much in that regard.

The ship's public areas are clean although I found many instances where the public ladies rooms were not kept up in the evenings. The ship was inspected in San Francisco before we left and received a 96. When we had the galley tour we saw the steps they take in the food prep areas and in the dining rooms to maintain strict sanitation guidelines. My business is developing training courses and last year I had done one for the National Restaurant Association on food sanitation. The Pacific Princess exceeds all the guidelines. They wipe down every chair arm and the railings in the dining room between each sitting. When someone brings empty dishes to the dishwashing area they must wash their hands before returning. I did learn that the United States has much stricter sanitation guidelines than the rest of the world. Princess had to make some changes on this ship in order to sail into US ports. Renaissance never sailed to the US.

A note for anybody who has sailed on bigger ships and is now going to go to a smaller ship like this - If you don't like a lot of ship movement do NOT get a cabin in the front of the ship. We were at the very front and you feel a lot of movement. Much more than you do in the bigger ships or than you do further back. You can feel the bow going up and down quite often. And if you have any propensity for seasickness this would not be the cabin for you.

The food is average. I cannot site very many instances where something was spectacular but there were only a few cases where food was not very appealing. The french toast (which they had only once) was rather strange with a corn flake crust. The Eggs Benedicts (only served twice) was not very good and the pork one night was very tough. So on the whole I would say the food is average. I think their pastry chef was new. Many of the times you would think he'd taken lessons from Goodyear where his crusts are rubbery and tough rather than flakey and melt in your mouth. It took him to almost the end of the cruise to get them right but then they were much improved.

The buffet at breakfast was average although they only had a choice of two juices - orange and grapefruit. I found this rather odd. Someone in the kitchen (or cruise line) isn't in touch with the world. Not everyone wants a citric acid in the morning. Plus considering how many people are now taking the statin drugs for cholesterol, they should know that you can't have grapefruit (juice or fruit) while taking these drugs.

The lunch buffet was poor. For all but the last day they had only a lettuce salad, two hot entrée's, a potato and a vegetable and the Pizza bar. There were a few little desserts like a small square of cake, a fruit tart, and a pastry. The last day they went all out and had several more types of salads such as cole slaw, seafood salad, potato salad and a few other entrée's.

We only made it to the Steakhouse Grill (one of two alternative restaurants). It was the best food on the whole ship. The meat was very tender and tasty. The "bloomin' onion" was very good and so were the desserts. It uses a different kitchen (galley) than the dining room.

Our cabin steward is very friendly and has kept our cabin clean. However, twice I asked for our refrigerator to be restocked and it never was. I gave up and bought some sodas in one of the port stops. I don't know if this is a Princess policy. But we also never got our bowl of fresh fruit replenished either.

The bar staff was very good and remembered our drink preferences. The restaurant wait staff in the dining room is good but there were many times we had to wait a long time between courses. This was very evident at lunch. Two things could be a factor here. Because of the poor buffet more people ate in the dining room at lunch. Also many of the crew were new to this ship and they were still learning how to work together on a smaller ship. This might smooth out.

One employee stood out - Carlos, our Head Waiter. He was very attentive and invited a small group for a special wine tasting and a galley tour. One night he made a custom Ceasar salad just for our table. Although he kept promising us a flambé for dessert but it never happened.

One thing I did notice was the temperature in the ship was rather cold. Again, this could be because they have been sailing the South Pacific for most of the ships life and now they are coming up to a much colder climate. They might not have the ability to keep the ship as warm as needed. I was rarely warm in my cabin and I usually had to have several blankets on at night and I kept my sweater or sweatshirt on during the day. The public rooms were also rather chilly except for the little corner of the dining room where we were seated at night. For some reason that was a warm area, the rest of the dining room was cold. So I'm not sure what was happening there.

Since this is a smaller ship there are not quite as many things to do during the day but on a smaller ship you have to expect that. That didn't bother us because we rarely take part in these activities anyway.

As I mentioned, some of this could be changing as Princess puts their stamp on this ship. We had a galley tour and were told that they had been using the old Renaissance china and they had just received their shipment of Princess china. It would take them some time to switch over. Also, Renaissance did not have refrigerators in the cabins and the ship's power was 220. In order to put refrigerators in the cabins, they have to switch to 110 or it would be too big a drain on the ships power plant. So there were many cabins (fortunately not ours) without them. This will be taken care of in October when the ship is put out of service for a few days.

Princess has already made some changes such as putting in an escalator from the kitchen to the dining room for the stewards. They also added Room Service, something Renaissance did not have. However, it is only cold items, nothing hot.

I do wonder about communication on the ship. We had a tour of the bridge and while up there we explained to the Officer on deck that for the last several days we could no longer hear the ship's announcements on the television channel designed for that. All the people on the tour agreed. A day later we were at the Purser's desk and told them. Still no fix. Then, the Staff Captain sat at our table for dinner. We again mentioned it to him and the next morning it was fixed. I guess you just have to talk to the right person! (The Staff Captain is second in charge, similar to the First Officer on HAL.)

My husband bought the Anniversary package from Princess and I'm doing a separate review on that. For anybody thinking of getting it, PLEASE read this review.

Now for some of the comparisons. If anyone has sailed with HAL they would probably not be as happy with this ship. Since we have only sailed Princess once before many years ago it's hard to say whether this is representative of all the Princess ships or this one in particular.

We have never had hot or cold hors d'oeuvres in the bars - just chips, peanuts or pretzels. On HAL, all their bars serve hot hors d'oeuvres before dinner. The food on HAL is much better and the desserts, especially the flambé, are wonderful. We missed the little daily newspaper that HAL puts out with key news articles from around the world.

Another big factor is the difference between a suite on Princess and HAL. Again - please correct me if I'm wrong and this is specific to this ship and not all of Princess. HAL goes out of their way to accommodate suite people by giving them extra amenities. You get more than just a bigger cabin. With Princess that's about it. We booked the highest category on the Pacific Princess - the Owners Suite and did expect a little bit more attention because of that. They have a mini-bar that is free (unlike HAL which you do have to pay for). However with Princess what you get in there at the beginning of the cruise is it, they don't restock it as I mentioned above. So the few extra soft drinks you get are not worth the extra money for a suite. With HAL you get beautiful flower arrangements refreshed throughout the cruise, free laundry, and a bottle of wine or champagne from the Captain. With Princess there was one flower arrangement that we had to ask to be removed when it died. And there was nothing from the captain. With HAL you have a private Suite-only cocktail party and dinner with the captain.

You also get priority check-in and disembarkation with HAL. We had to ask for it while we were in line behind about a hundred other people on check-in. Fortunately, they agreed to move us to the front. If you've got a suite, try it. It doesn't hurt to ask. We also mentioned the disembarkation process when the Staff Captain was at our table. The next day, we got a letter from the Captain inviting us to stay in our cabin until our disembarkation was called. Again - ask.

We did have a DVD player and a nice Sony sound system in our suite. But the sound system was not connected and there were no DVD's available on the ship. We thought that rather odd.

Don't get me wrong. We had a wonderful time. And if you've sailed other cruise lines like RCI or NCL this would be a step up in my opinion. We don't let little things like this affect our vacation. Unlike one man who was very vocal at the pool the last full morning because the Jacuzzi was not open at 6:00 a.m. and this had occurred on three different days (out of 11) and he wanted to speak to the captain and demanded a refund (get a life!). I am just sorry we did not take another cabin. For what we paid, this Owner's Suite wasn't at all worth it. I would have been just as happy with a regular suite even though they are a bit smaller than HAL's suites.