DW and I booked this cruise about 18 months in advance. I was a little anxious as we had never been on such a small ship. We generally sail Princess, so if my side seems slanted it's because we really enjoy the line. I started by asking on these boards what I should expect on the small ship. I want to thank everyone for their information, and wanted to share what I experienced. I realize this may not apply to all sailings of the Pacific Princess, and of course you may have different experiences depending on what you do. I hope folks find some of these comparisons useful.
Embarkation -- this was the biggest shock. We got to the ship around 12:30 (may have been a little later, we were picked up from the hotel at noon and taken to the port with other passengers [we purchase transportation from Princess]). We walked in and right up to the front desk. This compared to going into a big room and standing in line with hundreds of others as we embarked. There was no line to wait in as we embarked on the small ship. There were a few times I had to look around to guess where we had to go to the ship. Because we weren't following a line of people. We stopped for a picture (easier to stand and smile) then went aboard. We were in our room by about 1pm (may have been earlier). But that was the first biggest thing. Lack of lines.
The one annoyance, and it wasn't because of the ship, was Princess' desire to mess with the dining times. We thought we booked the right time, but it turned out it was later than we thought, which to us made a difference. So we went to the dining room and changed the times. There is only one dining room aboard the ship, and you only have the choice of early or late dining (or the buffet if you wanted).
Speaking of the buffet, one of the nice things was the open air balcony area at the back of the buffet. We could usually find a place to sit out there and enjoy the ocean or the bay we were sitting in, while we enjoyed lunch or a snack. I didn't find the buffet to be like the big ships. Maybe not as many choices, but never overly crowded. DW usually went to the buffet for breakfast. While I went to the dining room. I do enjoy the dining room for breakfast. Mostly because the waitstaff brings me food, and all are friendly, but also I get to meet some new people that I normally may not see.
The shows were a good time. We didn't see all the entertainers, but I thought we saw many of them. The main production shows were very crowded. I did find we had to get to the lounge a little earlier, so we could get the seats we wanted. If we weren't as selective we could have arrived later. There was ample seating. One of the challenges was that the seating was not tiered. It was instead set off. The Cabaret Lounge was pretty level. It didn't impact the enjoyment of the show, but I could see where it might be an issue depending on your size and the size of the people in front of you.
Another issue (but wouldn't stop us from travelling on this ship again) was the gambling. DW and I like to gamble during our trips. The casino was small. I was ready for that. They had a total of four gaming tables. They did have about 20 slot machines (it could have been more, I'm just estimating and my estimates may be low). The casino was always non-smoking. It was right next to the casino bar which had an area for live music and sitting next to the bar. The disadvantage to this set up is that while playing cards you can easily hear the acts at the casino bar. Not all of the acts were great.
The other impacted area was Bingo. Not because of outside distractions, but the group of people playing was small. This meant smaller pots. Usually 30,40,50 and the coverall if not won in the amount of numbers was 70. The bigger ships of course have bigger pots.
One thing that might make a difference to some is that there were no art auctions aboard this ship.
One of the really neat things about being on this ship, was we got to see people from the meet and greet on other areas of the ship. Or someone you met during an excursion or some other activity you would see elsewhere. That hasn't been my experience in the past. I seemed to rarely see folks that I met in one place at another on the big ships (or maybe I just didn't notice when I did). This of course has a down side. If a person annoys you (and I'm sure I annoyed some people, I admit I can be annoying) it's difficult to get away from them.
This isn't really a review, just observations of the differences between big and small ships. We loved our cruise, the people we met, the service, and the food. I have nothing to say in the negative about those things! We would gladly take this cruise again. But others may get in the way. We bought our future cruise credits (we did it through the Princess@sea app).
I guess we need to find our next journey. Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. Below is a comparison shot. The P&O Britannia was docked beside us at Martinique.