Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Brenda D. Eastern Caribbean December 23, 2007
We had a fantastic room Baja 749 corner back balcony. Afternoon sun, on the journey and wonderful moon views at night (ours was a full moon). This Balconey provides you with 2 chairs, and 2 loungers, as well as a table. Our Mom had B752, also a balcony, and the deck was smaller not having 4 chairs but 2. Our daughters had E502 window obstructed but fine.
The ship lacked the wow factor one feels when boarding a Princess ship. It was nicely decorated for Christmas but nothing fantastic with the actually design of the main foyer.
The staff seemed very average. We booked anytime dining. First night we ate in the Palm. The greeting was nothing exciting. The Baramondi? (South American fish) like Perch was awful. I am from the coast and love fish but not smelly fish! Very short menu and very non attentive staff. No napkins on your lap and no real pampering.
Each meal was so, so. Nothing was available that wasn't on the menu, as it was in the past. Waiters in the dining rooms wereso average with no personalities. Personalities were in the two fee-charged dining rooms. Sabatini's and Stering's Steakhouse had waiters that actually had personalities and the food had the taste of cruises of the past. I think dining in the regular dining room was the biggest disappointment.
Nightly Entertainment: Why have an 800 seat venue for 3000 plus people and only 2 shows? Also there was no real wow to the theater as seen on other cruises.
What is the deal with no trays in the buffet area or cafe? While you are busy pumping hand sanitizer, the staff is shoving you a napkin with silverware and a plate and send you on your way. So try negotiating your way through a buffet line with no tray. Not fun. It is actually ridiculous. Also once you find a seat, the waiter will reluctantly get you coffee, but some might show you where you should get your own.
After midnight the ship pretty much shuts down other than the casino. No entertainment at the small lounges or anything other than the disco was an option. Sarge was the best entertainment. The dancers were really a sad group -- nothing like a real show as I have seen on Royal Caribbean.
Some minor details that we missed was the lack of towel folding in the cabins and lack of dining staff entertainment that we had been used to. We always thought it was pretty neat when the staff would sing and dance for you on theme nights.
I guess the best was the weather, then the room. The staff worked as though they were just following the motions. The cocktail servers were swarming, as they have a quota to make and then get time off. Wait staff just served -- nothing special -- no conversation, nothing special. Rooms were clean and the bed (2 twins pushed together) was ok, but as time went on the split between the two became more noticeable.
We found the trip fine with the weather, land trips, and our room, as well as the family group. But if we were just the two of us, and we didn't have the great weather or the nice room, it would have been a long and boring trip.
We will try another line as the staff and the food are an important part of the experience for us.
L 204 Lido Deck. Noise everyday. Unable to nap during the day.
Ship's personnel gave me the run around and no change. Hair was on my clean bath towels (not ours), dry food stains on plates, lip prints on water glass in cabin (not ours), plastic glass was cracked on the side, the tender was over-packed with standing room only in Grand Cayman (not the ship's tender, but rather an independent one. Old people were hanging on for their life.
Had $25 credit for myself and my wife. The ship kept it. I've been on sixteen cruises, first time Princess, and last time. Hope for better luck for everyone else.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Bill Bounds Eastern Caribbean April 1, 2007
This was my 5th cruise in as many years with all cruises being on different lines - Disney, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Costa and now Princess. This cruise fell well below expectations in most areas and I can't foresee hopping on another Princess Cruise anytime soon. With that said, we still had an enjoyable time, just not as enjoyable as some of the other cruises that we have taken.Food
Overall, I rate the food mediocre. We choose "Anytime" dining and the food served at dinner in the dining room was significantly better than that served at the buffet or at the restaurants during breakfast & lunch.
Much of the food was extremely bland. At the buffet (both the Horizon Court and Caribe Café), many of the entrees had little taste, with the exception of the beef dishes. Breads ranged from good (multigrain rolls) to poor (croissants - hard and pre-packaged). Desserts uniformly looked great and just as uniformly were tasteless. The exceptions being the cheesecake, oatmeal cookies and the trifles. The pizza served poolside was okay (good crust, so-so sauce) and there were/arealways burgers, hot dogs and fries which were consistently okay.
Couple of real irritants - soft serve ice cream is available only at the Scoops ice cream stand for an additional charge ($1.50 and consistently long lines). No complementary juice or lemonade was available during lunch or dinner, unless, again, you wanted to pay additional for it.
Overall food Rating: CKids Facilities
One of the reasons we have gone on 5 cruises in the last 5 years has been to insure that my 9 year old daughter has a lot to do and an opportunity to make new friends. She has always loved the various kids' clubs on all of the cruise lines and looked forward to this one.
We cruised during our spring break week (April 1-8th) and expected a lot of children onboard, which proved true. Unfortunately, the cruise appeared to be significantly understaffed for the number of kids (the number of kids has never surprised the other cruise lines during the previous years' cruises), and the kids' clubs came off as quite disorganized.
The first evening orientation meeting was not only late in starting, but severely skewed to addressing the teens - ironic given that almost the entire audience of kids and adults had pre-teens with them! We were specifically told that the kids' club area would be open following the orientation only to find that only the teen's area was open, and yes, I specifically asked one of the counselors whether it was open for my 9 year old. So we went to the Kids' club area, along with a bunch of other pre-teens and parents only to find the entire area dark, locked and inaccessible. No counselor in sight.
The next morning began poorly with the Kids' club opening a full 10 minutes late. Not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but given my daughter's anticipation and the fact that it took another 20+ minutes to actually get checked into the club, it was irritating. The whole thing seemly poorly run and organized.
Bottom line is that my daughter went back to the Kids' Club the following morning and that was it for the cruise. In her words, and I quote, "they don't have much to do there". Again, I attribute this to the poor counselor/kid ratio and with half the kids, it may have been a completely different experience, but my daughter and I were severely disappointed with the club.
Overall Kids' Club Rating: DCabin
We had a balcony cabin, which was very nice and keep clean and tidy by Alberto, our cabin steward. He was quietly efficient, which was perfect. Like a good waiter, he was around when we needed him and invisible when we didn't.
We had a continental breakfast delivered to the room several mornings. It was always delivered during the requested times.
Overall Cabin Rating: AMiscellanea
A couple of notes to let people know about the other aspects of the cruise. First, I go on cruises to relax and unwind. To me, that means enjoying quiet time, reading a book, people watching and enjoying time with my family and friends.
I thought that the music played on the pool deck was a bit too loud - couldn't really hold any conversations without resorting to yelling. You may ask why I bothered to stay on that deck (a reasonable question) and my reply is that my daughter was frequently in the swimming pool and I needed to be close by. If they could just tone it down a bit…
I don't gamble, so I won't be able to offer my insight on the casino. My girlfriend, however, did enter the slot tournament and won $500!
The "Movies Under the Stars" - Princess' Cruises giant TV in the back pool area was an unexpected highlight of the cruise. We ended up attending 3 nights of movies on the big screen. Free popcorn is provided along with blankets. A nice addition to cruising.
I only attended a few of the other evening entertainment - namely the comedians. They were generally good to excellent. I didn't attend any of the "big" gala events, so no opinion is offered.
Princess Cay, the private resort in the Bahamas, was enjoyable. I think that these private island/resort areas are routinely popular because they play into what most people think of the Caribbean - an idyllic beach, somebody to bring you drinks, food, etc. The food was typical cookout fare - hamburgers, hot dogs and the like. I thought the rental "float" mats were a bit pricey at $8 for what works out as a couple of hours. I was most irritated that the soda stickers that the kids buy onboard ($30.80 including tax/gratuity!) were not usable on the island.
Overall Miscellanea Rating: B-Summary
As I said at the beginning, we still had a good time on the cruise. I'm a glass half full kind of person, so it would take a lot for me not to enjoy any cruise. I thought that I was "nickeled and dimed" a bit too much and overall my expectations were not met.
My favorite cruises still remain Royal Caribbean and Costa. I might be willing to try Princess again if I was traveling only with another adult, but would definitely not elect Princess with my daughter accompanying me.
Overall Rating: C+
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by mikepowie Eastern Caribbean April 1, 2007
We just got back from our first cruise: on the Caribbean Princess during the first week of April. My overall impression of the Caribbean Princess experience is difficult to summarize, because, while positive, my recommendation is heavily qualified by some of the experiences we had on the ship. We did lots of research before this cruise, and I must say, many of the Cruisemates reviews were very helpful
Background Information. My wife (26) and I (31) decided to take a cruise for our honeymoon after we got married this past fall. Neither of us has cruised before, the times were good and the prices were right. As such, this review is more catered to first time cruisers. My wife is a teacher, so we are limited in when we can go on vacation. We considered a shorter cruise on Celebrity Century, but thought the full week on Princess would be nicer, the ports on this cruise seemed more interesting, and the price was only marginally more. While we managed to have a nice honeymoon, cruising on this ship during spring break issomething I believe honeymooning couples should really avoid, unless you want to be surrounded by children.
The rest of this review will be mostly about the ship and my critique of the product put forth by Princess, but I think it's important to explain why our experience was only good and not terrific. There were—according to the cruise director staff—upwards of 1,000 children on the ship and YOU FELT IT! Kids throwing temper tantrums in the public rooms; kids in the adult pools (the staff did try to remove them, but it's a little hard when it's the parents bringing them there); kids running down the hall, slamming doors, and yelling to their friends down the hallways (It's a ship, not a sound-proof hotel. That meant our afternoon naps were interrupted constantly.). Unattended eight year olds playing on precious gym equipment. We returned to our room at half past midnight and a boy—maybe 9 or 10—was playing on the stairs, running around, bumping into an elderly couple and us, completely left to himself. What I found most offensive, I think, was that many families acted as though the ship was their living room. Shouting across rooms as though no one else exists. Kids throwing dinner rolls from one table to another in the formal dining room, while their parents sat at another table completely unaware and unconcerned.
My favorite: despite a note by the ship physician about a small Norovirus outbreak during our sailing and that we should take all necessary precaution, one woman evidently thought it appropriate to change her child's diaper on an upholstered couch outside a public lounge. My point is not to lament the fact standards for raising children have changed or that our society has gotten coarser. It is, however, to state that if this is typical of the Caribbean Princess, we will not cruise on such a ship again. While Princess genuinely put together a nice product, this drawback—which permeated the entire cruise—is something that I cannot see beyond. I expressed such feelings on the customer feedback forms they provided at the end of the cruise. I only hope they receive enough such comments to consider how they want to position themselves as a cruise line. If families are the most lucrative for them, then they should, in my opinion, abandon their "Love Boat" vestiges so that people know what to expect.
Embarkation: We flew down early Sunday morning (the day of the cruise) from Washington National to FLL on US Airways. I know this was somewhat risky, but we figured we had enough time to be rebooked if something happened, and being early April, the risk of really bad weather seemed rather remote. Fortunately, we had no problems. Unlike our return, the trip down was very nice. We arrived at FLL at about 10am. We collected our bags and waited in line for a taxi for about 5 minutes. The fare to the Princess pier in Port Everglades (with a nice tip) was $20. We had four suitcases and tipped $6 for all of them. I mention this because I read some conflicting accounts of this interaction. I take it as a given that such people should be tipped. I saw no signs saying "tipping not required", but my wife says she did. We were on the ship by 12:30 or so.
Much has been written about the ship, and I am a first time cruiser, so I have little with which to compare it. I will just say that public rooms are very nice, clean and well maintained. Here's a brief overview of the bars/lounges: the Wheelhouse bar is never crowded and a very attractive place to get a before/after dinner drink. Skywalkers is a nightclub—a nice venue with loud music, but empty when we were there. Club Fusion is a multi-tasking lounge. Princess Theatre seemed adequately large for the shows. Yeah, you have to get there early for a good seat, but you could show up beforehand most nights and get some seat. Dining rooms were nice enough.
The stateroom was a little less nice, I thought. It was perfectly fine, but seemed to show a little bit of wear and was of slightly cheaper construction than the public rooms. One thing for first time cruisers: the bathroom is tiny. It's functional, but tiny. I knew to expect small, but I was a little surprised by how small. Think of it as an airplane bathroom with a shower. You'll manage, but it's tight. The rest of the room is as I expected: smaller than a hotel room, but adequate. On the other hand, our balcony on the Caribe deck was larger than I expected, and larger than most on the ship (I would say 8' x 8'). We did not particularly mind it being partially exposed. Our cabin steward, Tony from the Philippines, was excellent. Based on what I had read, this was not a surprise for us. Cabin stewards seem to do a nice job, more or less uniformly. It's so nice asking for something once and without fail, it happens. Spoiled
Service: Based on everything I had read and heard, I expected good service on Princess, and by in large, we were not disappointed. Look, I understand people have different expectations, and experiences with different personnel may completely justify different conclusions. Granted, I don't have other cruise ship experience, but I have traveled quite a bit, dined in more than enough fine dining restaurants throughout the U.S. and some abroad. It's hard for me to imagine a vacation for comparable costs within the U.S. and receiving the same level of service. My impression was that most of the staff—dining, purser's desk, stewards, waiters, entertainment staff—work very hard to please passengers, or at least meet reasonable expectations.
Another thing I was worried about based on the reviews was the hard selling of products. In our experience, it was completely tolerable. Let me state that I hate having to deal with that stuff. While I think I am polite about it, I hate having to tell a sales clerk multiple times when I am buying a shirt that I don't want to open a store charge account, or that I don't want the extended warranty on a CD player that costs $50. I found this not to be a problem on Princess. For a birthday gift, I reserved a Swedish massage at the spa for my wife. She reports a nice massage with no hard sell, not even a soft sell. Yeah, they take your picture, but it was only during 1) embarkation, 2) St. Maarten, 3) St. Thomas 4) on the second formal night in the dining room and 5) at Sabitinis (we actual received a free one for ordering the $100 balcony dinner). It only takes a second if you say "sure, we'll pose" and I never had someone ask me if I wanted to buy them. Before shows, waiters do come around asking for cocktails and drink orders, but most times I didn't order anything alcoholic, or ordered a Diet Coke using my coke card (which was $32 with gratuity), and that was fine. Other than once or twice having several waiters cover the same area (probably by mistake), did it ever seem a little excessive to me. I was happy this was not an issue for us, because I had read conflicting accounts.
Food and Dining: I think this aspect of cruising is the hardest to get uniform opinions on, because expectations vary, taste buds aren't the same, different items on the same menu vary in quality, and where you eat on the ship matters quite a bit. That said, I thought the food was always acceptable, and often rather good. Not the best I've ever had in my life, but a week of very good food for sure. The buffet, yeah, it's a buffet. Kind of what I expected. I expected something better than the one in the cafeteria in college. I expected perhaps something on the order of a mid-price Vegas buffet. Perhaps there was less selection, due to being on a ship, but it was roughly comparable. Not what you would get at the highest end buffets, but adequate. That said, we rarely ate there. We got room service for breakfast at least 3 times, and found that a satisfying way to eat, especially since we had a balcony. We also ate in the dining room for breakfast twice, which I thought was worth it. Depending on the day, we either skipped lunch, ate at the Prego Pizza by the pool (I would classify the pizza as being of the style of—but a notch lower—Bertucci's), or had a very light buffet lunch. We did this so we could indulge in the dining room at dinner, where we ate every night except twice. Once, we ate a Sabatini's, which like most reviewers I highly recommend, and once we had the $100 Ultimate Lobster Balcony Dinner, which I also recommend for people celebrating truly special occasions. It includes cocktails, a half bottle of Moet & Chandon, canapés, about four courses after that yeah, over the top. We brought our own bottle of wine and were not charged the customary $15 corking fee (the two other bottles we brought were charged in the dining room, but hey, that's completely fair in my mind). They did something special for my wife, who is basically a vegetarian. Too much food, and the only complaint was that we had to not eat half of each dish in order to get to everything and I was still overstuffed. Our waiters, Miguel and Michael, were terrific and we tipped them extra. It's not the kind of experience I would ever like to get used to, but we were glad we did it. By the way, I weighed in after returning and somehow managed to lose a pound or two on the cruise. My wife claims she gained a pound. I credit working out in the gym (which had enough machines that I never had to wait more than a minute, and I only worked out during sea days), taking the stairs all time (we took the elevators literally twice), pacing ourselves until dinner and not snacking.
Formal Nights: I personally am of the mind that such events are times to make oneself presentable, and it is not priggish to expect that of others. Now, I have close friends and relatives who would find dressing up for such an event pretentious and bourgeois. Well, they spend their vacations hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains for a week, not going on cruises with formal nights; and if they did cruise for some reason, they would make themselves presentable, or at least scarce and eat at the buffet on formal night. I wore a dark suit and my wife wore dressy cocktail dresses. It ran the gamut. Based on what I read, I expected some people not to be wearing a tux, a suit, a jacket, a tie or even long pants. I was not mistaken. There were people in the dining room in jeans. You would see people in shorts and T-shirts walking around people in tuxes and suits in the main atrium. It didn't really surprise me, but I just don't get it. If one wants to make a statement, fine, but being lazy and inconsiderate and still otherwise concerned about one's appearance enough to suntan and wear your new T-shirt with "St. Maarten" written in a mock Tommy Hilfiger logo does not bestow "rebel" status upon you. It cheapens the experience, but certainly something I can live with. In all fairness, lots of people did dress up, including many children. That was nice to see.
Activities and Entertainment: another area where opinions differ widely. In general, I thought it was good. Nothing terrific, but it made the evenings sufficiently entertaining. The way I see it, the transportation to the ports, the lodging and the food more than make up for the price we paid for the cruise. So, I viewed the entertainment as free. Realizing such things are subjective, here is my feedback. Comedian Steve Moris was awful. We saw him the first night and thought, "Uhhh, is this the entertainment?" If he didn't have a nice-guy persona, or if people had actually paid to see him, I am confident he would have been booed off the stage. Fortunately, things improved. Comedian Tom Briscoe in the Explorer's Lounge was pretty good. He does the 40-year-old-slightly-overweight-married-with-children material and it works well. Moris tries that too, but Briscoe actually has something called a sense of humor. Definitely a fine way to spend 45 minutes. Adam Ace is very good—a little more high-energy. And despite a real bite to his humor, he seems to have a wide appeal. Certainly would have paid money to see him at a comedy club. Saw him in the halls a few times. Nice guy. Saw Ed Fernandez, the hypnotist. I think if you see him twice, you realize the volunteers are really just playing along. Totally unconvincing and a little tedious. I've wasted time in worse ways, I suppose. Saw "Piano Man". Let's just say that while Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka and Liberace albums aren't exactly in my CD player at the moment, the show was reasonably well done. Lovena Fox has a nice voice and has a pleasant on-stage personality, but her performance seemed a bit ho-hum, but it was still decent. A small-time performer named Bruce Smith looks better than he signs, and he exudes a smarmy conceit that quickly becomes apparent. I doubt he will be performing solo for long based on the lukewarm reception. We were curious to see Bert Stratton after all that has been written about him. I didn't know what to expect, but I imagined someone older. He looks (and acts) like a cross between Jim Carrey and Jerry Lee Lewis. High-energy would be an understatement. I actually found his on-stage demeanor slightly off-putting. He can certainly play a tune, but I guess I don't see what the big deal is. That said, for those that love him (and he has quite the loyal following), there are tons of opportunities to see him. The guy does work very, very hard. I give him credit for that. Didn't see "Caribbean Caliente".
Played in the casino a few times, which was generally fun, perhaps because my wife did rather well and I did OK at craps and blackjack. Don't know what to say here. It's a casino on a ship. I've been to Vegas several times: it's not a Vegas casino, but it has enough table games to keep things busy. Having a non-smoking night was nice. And I am glad to see that you can always find a $5 table, and occasionally a $3 one. I was expecting higher minimums. I don't get why they have all this space dedicated to slot machines that nobody uses. I wanted to play Texas Hold ‘em, but all they have is a place where you play other players on a computer. Please. Also, I don't understand why they don't hire a couple of cocktail waitresses to pass out free drinks. They do that in regular casinos, and you would think that would bring more people in. I suppose I shouldn't complain, since I guess if they made it more appealing I would spend too much time there. The dealers were generally nice, but not all. Here, I would rate their friendliness as comparable to Vegas.
Ports/Excursions: Much has been written about St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Princess Cays, so I will try to keep it brief. I won't pretend 7 or 8 hours on an island makes me an expert. We booked excursions on St. Thomas and St. Maarten through Princess. In St. Maarten we did the Butterfly Farm and Orient Beach. I thought Orient Beach was the nicest beach I've ever been on—much nicer to swim in than Princess Cays. In St. Thomas we did the Turtle Cove Snorkeling Adventure after a morning or sightseeing and some shopping. A crew of three met us on the dock and we went snorkeling on the boat, called the Dancing Dolphin (they have a website). We saw fish, sea turtles and reefs in clear blue water (the weather was cooperating). And had lots of rum punch on the way back. A great time, affordable and highly recommended. Both St. Thomas and St. Maarten have lots of shopping. The real bargains seem to be very cheap liquor and cigarettes. For example, a bottle of Stolichnaya Vodka for $5.75 in St. Maarten. Yeah, cheap. I bought my wife some Caribbean Topaz in St. Maarten. Princess Cays wasn't too impressed, but it was fine since the weather was nice. A decent way to spend a few hours at the beach, but the line to tender there and back was long, and it really didn't seem much better than just hanging out on the ship at the pool when all said and done. The cookout on the beach was slightly less good than just eating at the buffet, and the line was a little on the long side. And there were lots of flies swarming around the food, though that bothered me less than some others.
Miscellaneous Advice: here's one, courtesy of my wife, for women (and men) with long hair that has probably been stated previous: bring your own hairdryer. Most evenings she gave up after about 25 minutes with the wall hairdryer and still had wet hair. Pretty bad. I was able to use the self-serve washers usually without a wait. We found that convenient, especially since you tend to change underwear frequently on the trip. We flew Spirit Air on the way back (first and last time with them). Didn't enjoy the fact that you have to pay $10 for each checked bag over one. We had liquids in all bags, so we couldn't just carry-on the smaller bags we brought (we had actually packed two each so we wouldn't exceed the new 50 pound limit). US Airways still allows two. Also, FLL is a pretty bad airport. The line for the women's bathroom extended 20 people long outside the bathroom for hours. They had one place selling food and sodas inside the terminal (a 20 ounce soda was $2.50). We knew Princess service had spoiled us, so we didn't need to be reminded upon disembarkation, but we got the cold water to the face nonetheless.
Final Thoughts: As I stated a few times in this review, I was happy with Princess as a cruise line and what they offer. As someone who wasn't sure I would cruise more than once, I feel confident I will again. That said, I don't recommend this particular ship or itinerary to those seeking refuge from large numbers of children (at least during holiday periods) running around and loud multigenerational families acting a bit like the ship is their private yacht. At times, it felt like a trip to a posh Disney World resort, and that's not what I wanted. The services, food, facilities, etc. were all sufficiently upscale for me to feel like I was in luxury. Perhaps other premium lines, like Celebrity or Oceania, which I gather are more adult-centric, are the way to go in the future. I will continue my research before I book again. That said, I did get the sad-to-be-back at work syndrome on Monday, so I know I had a good time.
And I like to keep in mind this experience: during the second sea day when the raucousness of the children was reaching a crescendo, we met a 60ish gentleman in the adult pool. We told him it was our first cruise, honeymoon, etc. His kids were grown, but like me, he had to cruise during vacations because his wife is a schoolteacher. He said that it was his second cruise, but it might as well have been the first. He had cruised previously on a Western Caribbean trip on Carnival. He told us that the service, amenities and behavior of the passengers on the Caribbean Princess were so much nicer and not like the awful, noisy, slobbish behavior that he experienced on Carnival. He was delighted to find a cruise line he liked, and that there was a difference. It put our poo-pooing into perspective, especially when we saw the Carnival Glory in port at St. Maarten.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Judy Best Eastern Caribbean December 3, 2006
Caribbean Princess, sailing 7-nights from Fort Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean ports of St. Thomas, St. Marten, and Princess Cays, December 3 – 10, 2006
This was our 13th cruise, but our first on Princess. We are business people in our late 40s, married over 25 years, and traveling as a couple without our children. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, this ship, and this itinerary.
Flight/Hotel: We flew in the day before our cruise on Delta without any problem. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Airport/Seaport, because they offered complimentary shuttle rides from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the cruise terminal. That worked great, and the hotel was very nice, so it was a great pick. We had a great pre-cruise dinner at a restaurant across the street from the hotel, 84 Thai Food, which we highly recommend.
Embarkation: We always arrive at the port early, because we like getting on the ship as soon as we can. Hundreds were in line before we were finally allowed into the terminal shortly after 11:30 a.m. This was themorning the Freedom of the Seas had returned to port with sick passengers and staff, so we were required to fill out a health form declaring we had not been sick in the past two days. They had lines with two agents each for each deck, with another line and two agents for those with preferred check-in. The only delay was caused by those passengers who had arrived without their online information completed. We received our Sea Passes, and we were up the stairs for our embarkation photo, our security photo, and on the ship. Our rooms were ready for us, so we dropped off our carry-ons to begin our cruise vacation. Our room steward, Nazario, did a great job keeping our stateroom in tip top shape.
Buffet: Our first meal, all of our breakfasts, and most of our on-board lunches were in the buffet. For most of the week, the staff served guests in the buffet to help us avoid getting sick on the ship. This was a slow process, and some guests still tried to serve themselves, slowing us all down more, as the staff had to intervene. We were thankful for the hand sanitizers placed throughout the ship, but especially in the buffet and dining rooms. The food in the buffet was fairly typical buffet fare.
We were assigned to late dining, but we decided we wanted to experience Princess' Anytime Dining, so we requested and were granted that dining after embarkation. We really liked it! With traditional dining, we always felt bad if we didn't go to the dining room any evening. With Anytime Dining, we simply went to the dining room of our choice, and requested a table to share, and we were seated each evening with delightful dinner companions. The first evening we enjoyed dinner in the Coral Dining Room with three other couples, including Gail and Rich, who we'd met online before the cruise. The third evening was formal night, and the dining rooms were very busy. We had dinner that evening in the Palms Dining Room with a lovely lady, Anne, who was traveling alone. The other four evenings, we had dinner in the Coral Dining Room with various couples. We usually ate between 7 and 8:15, but we ate at 6:15 on the second formal night, because we had learned from the first formal night that the dining rooms get busier on formal nights, especially as the evening gets later! The dining room food was excellent, but some of the desserts were disappointing.
The second evening we had dinner reservations in Sabatini's ($20 per person charge), and the last evening we had dinner reservations in Sterling's Steakhouse ($15 per person charge). We made reservations for both upon embarkation. We could smell the wonderful cooking from Sabatini's as we passed on the Promenade deck or as we enjoyed a drink in the Wheelhouse Bar. We got to taste so many amazing courses, and some of our favorites were ones we would not have ordered normally. There was way too much food, but it was a great evening. I was glad we had booked this early in the week before we were stuffed from all the great food on this ship.
We had heard several complaints about Sterling's, mainly that the food was not prepared properly or that service was slow. Our reservations were for 7 p.m., and the restaurant was only about half full. Our steaks were perfect, and the service was excellent. I had the small filet prepared medium, and my husband had the Tenderloin prepared blue. We had never heard of that term, but the server indicated that was extremely rare, as my husband prefers it, and the steak was absolutely perfect. We had chocolate pecan pie and cheesecake for dessert. The cheesecake on the entire ship was marvelous!
Entertainers: We had four comedians. Steve Morris did two really funny shows. We looked forward to seeing Adam Ace, as we had seen him perform on another ship a couple years ago, but we were really disappointed that he was doing the same old show. Time for some new material, Adam! John Ferrentino was funny, but Roger enjoyed him more than I did. We heard that Troy Threadgill was really good, but we missed that show. Kimika was a British husband and wife singing, doing a little comedy, and he was an amazing guitarist. I really enjoyed his playing, but could have lived without the singing and comedy. We enjoyed the Piano Man, but we'd heard such great reviews, it didn't meet our expectations. The second production show was better. A hypnotist was aboard. I volunteered, and I was surprised when I opened my eyes to see I had made the cut, because I had expected to be sent back to my seat as he eliminated people. It was fun being on stage, but someone else will have to tell you if the show was enjoyable, since I didn't experience that. We didn't go to the International Show, but again heard really good things the next day about it. Ray Coussins played amazing piano in the Crooner's Bar, but, by the third or fourth night of listening, it became evident that he was playing the same songs over and over again. Cruisin' Steel was a steel drummer who was also amazing. He moved all over the ship, playing in different lounges and different dining rooms at different times of the evening. There were also two bands, two trios, and two different DJs on the ship, but none of these appealed to us personally. Our favorite hangouts were the Crooner's Bar and the Wheelhouse Bar for before and after dinner drinks. Find Shane in the Crooner's Bar (or wherever he is on the ship), and you'll get the best and warmest service guaranteed!
Dance Heads: This deserves a category of its own. A blue set that hides your body except your head, then your head sits on a cartoon body that dances to the great tune of your choice, while you bob your head in time to the music and perhaps mouth the words to the song if you know it. This is recorded and makes a great recording to take home with you. We didn't record one of our own, because we were just too cheap, but it was great fun to just sit and watch folks record their own.
Pool Decks: Lots of chairs in the sun and the shade, so we never had a problem finding chairs wherever we wanted to hang out. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find this was the first ship to ever enforce the rule prohibiting chair saving. Deck attendants removed anything left on chairs for over 30 minutes, and a lost and found table was manned on the pool deck where they could then go to find the items that were removed. Great job, Princess!
Pool and hot tubs by the Movies Under The Stars was where something loud is almost always playing on this screen, so you must either be interested in what's on the screen or making your own loud fun in the pool. I found this not to be a good place to relax unless I was interested in what was playing on the screen. Neptune's pool where there's always some kind of music playing was more to my liking for relaxing. The Adult Only Pool area was always busy with adults, and, again Princess did a great job of keeping the kids out. The Kids wading pool was just off the kids area, and the parents had to be with the kids when they got in this pool.
Movies Under The Stars: Wonderful! Here's where you have to arrive early to get chairs, because if you wait until showtime or after, it's unlikely you'll find a seat. The pool bar and the Scoops ice cream bar are open for concessions during the show, but the deck attendants deliver complimentary popcorn and candy to the guests. Lap blankets are on the chairs, but it was still warm enough in the evening that they were unnecessary, although a lovely touch. There was something for everyone all week, i.e. kid's movies, sports games, concerts, adult movies, and the onboard Survivor competition.
Deck Parties: From the Sailaway party to the last deck party, the social hosts did a great job keeping things hopping, with great music, line dances, Congo lines, decorations, streamers.
Champagne Waterfall: This was our first, so we really enjoyed seeing the maitre'd pyramid the rounded champagne glasses on a table on the floor of the atrium. The atrium floor was filled with guests, with other guests pressed against the stairways and the overlooks from the floors above. Everyone looked so great in their formal attire, snapping pictures, that it felt like a night at the Emmy's or something else special. The band played, the guests through their pop-out streamers, and the champagne flowed, as guest after guest stepped up to pour the next bottle of champagne. All the while, servers were moving through the guests distributing glasses of champagne. Of course, lots of dancing, including another congo line. A wonderful wrap up event on our second formal evening.
Cruise Director was James Lay. He was visible and accessible all over the ship, and he did a great job keeping the action flowing with great laughs. He says he'll be the cruise director on the Emerald next Spring.
Two wine tastings on this trip. The first wine tasting was early in the trip for $9.50 per person featured reasonably priced wines and basic cheese and fruit. The second wine tasting was late in the trip for $25.00 per person featured higher priced wines and more interesting canapés, including caviar. We enjoyed both! The maitre'ds did an excellent job of providing interesting details with touches of humor. Salute!
In Princess Cays, we rented a cabana and snorkeling equipment, and we both enjoyed a restful day on the beach and in the water.
At St. Thomas, we shopped and toured with Sunny Liston, ending our day at the beautiful Sapphire Beach. At Sapphire Beach, we had a Grouper sandwich and a burger.
At St. Marten, we took Lord Sheffield's Pirate Ship Excursion. We had a group of a bout 20 sailing peacefully to Mullet Bay, where we swam and snorkeled and floated with noodles. We enjoyed snacks, an open bar, grilled chicken and ribs, a fruit tray, and, oh, yeah, did I mention an open bar. A wonderful day!
Disembarkation: This didn't go very well on our week, but I don't know if it was caused by the cruise line or customs. The last color, which happened to be ours was called after 10:30. When we got to the floor to leave, a huge crowd was waiting to exit. We stood in line from the ship, looped back and forth three times in a line in the terminal, waiting to show our passports to customs, then another long line to get to our luggage. Once we got to our luggage, we easily found ours and exited the terminal, and jumped right into a taxi. We've never stood in lines to exit before.
Flight/Hotel: We spent one night post-cruise at the Holiday Inn at 4216 Ocean Drive A1A. This is an older hotel, which has seen better days, with outside doors, but their management works hard to make your stay great. The wind was blowing pretty hard during our stay, shaking our windows and doors, and a guy was outside washing his truck talking to someone else. These noises were disturbing us pretty good, but not enough to complain. Within a couple of hours of checking in, the front desk manager called to ask if we were happy with our room, and my husband mentioned this problem. The maintenance man was up within ten minutes to check the problem. He called the front desk to recommend a change to a room on a higher floor, where they did move us. That room was perfect. I was happy with their attention and response. The higher floor gave us a great oceanview, and we took a quick walk on the beach that evening that was very pleasant, despite the strong winds. We walked about 4 blocks to Commercial Street to eat at Athena's Grill on the Sea, a great Greek restaurant that we've visited once before, and we enjoyed just as much this time. We strongly recommend this restaurant as well, and they have belly dancers on Friday and Saturday nights!
Feel free to email me with question at judyjbest at hotmail dot com. And, in a few days, my pictures from this cruise will be posted at http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Dean Eastern Caribbean January 27, 2008
My wife and I sailed the Caribbean Princess on Jan 27-2008 for a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise. This was our 5th cruise, 2nd with Princess (2 with Carnival, 1 with RCCL) and we sailed with a group of 8 other people. Age ranges were from mid 30s to 70s Our overall experience was a very positive one shared by all of our travel mates.
A couple of positive points that stand out for us:
Embarkation -- We arrived as a group via taxi at about noon and were through the entire check in process and in our cabin at about 20 after 12. Very fast!!
Another thing we liked was the way the sections of Lido and Sun deck were like independent areas of the ship. Depending on which area you were in you couldn't hear any noise from another area bleeding in. Hard to explain but if you were at the spa pool you would not hear any of the movie sound that was just a short walk away. Or if you were watching the movie you couldn't hearthe band playing at Neptunes' pool just a few steps away. It felt like each of these parts of the ship were very independent.
We ate in the dining room every night, late seating. Our server was good, lots of selection. The food was excellent. Only a couple of the entrees during the week were less than impressive. The sea bass and prime rib were a little disappointing. We also tried the buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner and always found there to be lots of selection, excellent quality with different theme nights every night; Italian, Octoberfest, Seafood just to name a few.
We did afternoon tea in the dining room and were very impressed. Burgers, pizza and hot dogs on the deck were yummy.
If I had to pick a couple of things that could be improved on, I would say the buffet layout is one. There is no real flow to the buffet. You can enter from two sides which causes a lot of traffic jams when it's busy.
The day spent at Princess Cays is the other item for improvement. The beach and water are lovely, the bbq lunch was very good, loads of shade and loungers, but the last tender back to the ship is at three p.m., which really means you have to start packing up by 2 p.m. to get in line for the tenders. Princess Cays is their own private island. Why can't we stay until 5 p.m.? Give us all a little more time to enjoy it.
These items hardly affected our overall enjoyment of the cruise. We all had a great time and would highly recommend the ship and the line to anyone who wants to cruise.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by B Hayden Western Caribbean January 20, 2008
I was very pleasantly surprised with the inside cabin's space. Huge closet and storage.
Meals were superb. First night service took over an hour to bring the entree but after that night, service was great. Wasn't very personal though as we always had different waiters.
On the down side, the women's restrooms ALWAYS had one stall that was closed for maintenance. Lines all the time.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by F.R. Lewis Eastern Caribbean September 23, 2007
We have been on 2 Royal Caribbean and 5 Carnival Cruises; this was our 1st Princess Cruise. We drove to Ft. Lauderdale and took the Park and Drive package at the Ramada Inn Airport/Cruise port, which worked out very well. Our cruise was Eastern Caribbean on 09/23/07.
Embarkation We arrived at the port at 11:15 and got on line at 11:25. While waiting on line they provided cold drinking water and there were benches along the wall. We arrived at our cabin at 12:25 and received our luggage at 2 P.M.
Cabin We had cabin L306, a balcony cabin on the Lido Deck. This had to be the smallest cabin we ever had. The location was great. There was enough storage space for the clothes and the luggage. The bathroom was a typical cruise ship bathroom. Since we were on the Lido Deck we had a covered balcony, the balconies on the Dolphin and Emerald Decks are open (not covered). The décor is plain and somewhat practical. Our cabin steward Vicki was friendly and very efficient.
Muster Drill I have to mentionthis, though necessary it is a royal pain in the lower extremities. On the Caribbean Princess it was amazing, our muster station was in the main theater, comfortable, air conditioned, and we were able to sit. WOW!
Dining We liked the option that we can either do traditional or anytime dining; as long as you do not reserve a table for anytime dining you do not lose your traditional seating. We only did anytime once, we had table 270, 1st seating at the Island Restaurant. David and his assistant were superb and friendly. Our tablemates were fun and great to be with. The food was ok, some days better than others. The buffet restaurants were better than some, always crowded, usually shared a table, which we liked, we met many different people and enjoyed the conversations we had. One problem, though, if you wanted to go from one side of the restaurant to the other, you had to leave the restaurant to cross over. The Caribe restaurant had a buffet from 11 P.M. to 4 A.M. for those who "craved" more food.
Room Service A free service, you just tip the room service steward. Just be careful, you don't always get exactly what you ordered.
Specialty Restaurants We booked Sabatini's on Sunday for Tuesday evening. Our waiter was Allesandro, very friendly, funny, and an excellent waiter. You get small portions, BUT many different appetizers, thankfully they were small or we would have been in big trouble. We were there from 6:15 P.M. to 8:45 P.M. The cost was $20 P.P. and well worth it. This is a must do "event." We met people who ate at Sterling's and were not impressed.
Ice Cream I mention this because people complained that it is not free. In the Horizon Court, at both ends on one side you can make your own, free sundae, from 3:30 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. OK, happy now?
Entertainment Though no Carnival, the shows were good. There were two production shows, the first "Piano Man" was good. The second was so-so. The main problem was the evening shows and entertainment was scheduled so that you had to choose one. The dance bands were continuous, but the comedians, game shows, were scheduled poorly. MUTS, Movies under the Stars, looked great, but we did not see this at night. During the day while we were swimming we watched the movies, which was interesting.
Islands The only thing I want to talk about is Princess Cays, their private island. This was reached by tender. Again Princess proved up to the task. We met in the main theater where you sit and wait to be escorted to the tender, quick and painless. The island is beautiful, we snorkeled and had a great time.
Disembarkation We were in no hurry so we let them take our luggage for us. We were scheduled to meet at the Wheelhouse Bar at 8:30 A.M. At 8:32 they came for us, by the time we left the ship, found our luggage and went through immigration, it was 8:50 A.M. Barely 20 minutes, fantastic.
Overall The ship is sedate, quiet and laid back. Not for everyone, but the service was very good, our fellow passengers were friendly and fun to be with. My main complaint is that you CANNOT review your account on your TV; you must go to Passenger Services. The food could have been better and a bit more selections. I might try another Princess ship in the future. We did enjoy the cruise and do recommend this ship.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Ed Fait Western Caribbean June 10, 2007
My wife and I along with two grown sons sailed on the Caribbean Princess on June 10-17, 2007. Let me begin by saying that this is our second cruise experience. Our first cruise was ten years ago on Carnival Cruise Lines. My wife and I were very pleased that we booked a balcony room. We thoroughly enjoyed having a balcony, and we were glad that we were on the Aloha Deck as we had a roof and no one looking down on us.
My sons stayed across the hall in an interior room which was obviously much cheaper. They didn't seem to mind it because they could come to our room whenever they wanted to. The showers and the toilet were both improvements over our previous cruise. The rooms was plenty big enough for us, and our cabin steward was excellent.
We were quite surprised at the number of swimming pools and hot tubs, and were surprised that the pools had fresh water in them instead of salt water like our last cruise.
We ate at Sabatini's and found it tobe a five star experience and well worth the $20 fee. The evening entertainment in the Princess Theater was very good, especially the comedians. We had asked for traditional dining and were too late to get it. The anytime dining worked okay for us though. We especially liked being able to sit as a family without someone else at our table. The food was always good, and we really liked all the seafood that was available throughout the week. We really appreciated the generous onboard credit we were given when we booked our cruise.
However, there were some things about our cruise we were not happy about. When we booked our flight we included air transportation. On the trip to Ft. Lauderdale we flew on Delta Air. Our seats were not good. On the first flight we had the last two seats on each side of the plane. This was an unpleasant experience for all four of us, especially for my son who had to face the continual opening and closing bathroom door. The transfer flight to Ft. Lauderdale was only slightly better as we were a few seats up from the very back. Interestingly, our return flights seats were very good as we were near the front of coach section. Could it be because we changed the original flight plans that Princess made for us (at a cost of $90 per person)?
When we got to Ft. Lauderdale Airport we were not happy with the transfer service. We had to wait a long time to move out to the loading area. Then we had to go outside and stand in the hot sun for quite a while and wait for our bus. We noticed the lady from Princess who had taken us out stood across the street in the shade. Carnival took us outside very quickly to a waiting bus.
The check in at the ship seemed very slow to us. Why did we complete information ahead of the cruise online only to have confusion over credit cards? We didn't get on the ship until 4:00 PM (our day had begun at 5:00 AM). It would have been nice to have had a little more afternoon time on the ship. It took over two hours to get our bags to our cabin. Carnival was about a half hour.
It seemed to us throughout our entire cruise there was a tremendous effort to push alcoholic drinks. We don't drink much and found the constant questioning, “Do you want a drink?” to be annoying. The first night seafood buffet which was recommended by staff was a disappointment, as the lobster claws and crab legs were cold. We would have preferred warm. We also thought that the ice cream on the deck should have been free.
We would also suggest that a laundry room be put at both ends of the hallway, as we had to walk a very long distance to iron clothes. We found the staff in the dining room to be efficient, but not overly friendly.
Perhaps this is because their tip is automatically charged to your account, and the fact that we had a different waiter at every meal. We have no problem with the dining room dress codes. However, at every dinner meal there were people not following the dress code. This includes the two formal nights. If you are going to have a dress code enforce it. If you are not going to enforce the dress code then don't have it. My wife was disappointed that there was a charge for cappuccinos. We had no such charge on Carnival. Lastly, my wife was very disappointed with the lack of aerobics classes in the gym. Only one was offered for the entire week. Carnival had a class daily. Also, there a charge for other classes like pilates and spinning?
Here are my comments on our four stops:
Princess Cays- Princess Cays was a beautiful island and we had a thoroughly enjoyable day. It was very nice that Princess provided cold, fresh water for everyone to drink. They served a nice lunch on the island. This was truly a day at the beach!
Ocho Rios, Jamaica- We went to Dunn's River Falls in the morning at it was very nice. I would say though that the falls is harder to climb that the excursions make it out to be. I would not recommend it to any with any physical ailments. That said, we were not impressed with Ochio Rios. When you walk the streets to shop you are approached every fifty feet by a drug dealer or begger. We did not like this at all.
Grand Caymen Islands- We had planned on going to Seven Mile Beach but it rained all day so we didn't go. The rain kind of ruined our shopping too. We went back to the ship early.
Cozumel, Mexico- We went to an adventure park for rock climbing, zipline, and snorkeling. It was fun. The shopping here was very nice. My wife got some good deals on jewelry. You can bargain prices at most of the stores. Interestingly, many of the stores offer you a beer or a shot of tequila. I do not recommend any drinking. We saw several people being helped to get back on the ship.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess By Annette and Irving Rudy Eastern Caribbean - February 4, 2007
This was our first cruise, and our overall experience far exceeded our expectations. This cruise was the closest we could ever get to the perfect vacation. The ship was exquisite, our inside stateroom was equally elegant, the service was superb, the food was equivalent to eating in a fine restaurant, and most of the entertainment and activities were first-rate.
We are both business and health care professionals, ages 57 and 60. While Annette is the more easy-going spouse, I tend to be more particular in my travel preferences. My positive reactions to this cruise speaks volumes for its high quality and good value.
Flights and embarkation
We were unable to book our own flights to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale a day earlier due to heavy bookings for the Super Bowl, which was taking place on our day of departure. Princess came through with a good schedule, although the transfers at Newark (inbound on Continental) and Chicago (outbound on American Airlines), made each trip much longer than a direct flight.
The heavy Super Bowl air traffic caused an arrivaldelay of just over an hour, and the Princess airport-to-pier transfer was handled very efficiently, bringing us on board at about 3 p.m. -- an excellent time to avoid line ups (there were none) inside the cruise terminal. Pre-registering our passenger information on-line helped speed things up, and the entire embarkation procedure took less than five minutes.
The ship and staterooms
The Caribbean Princess can only be described as an elegant ship. It's less than three years old, and still looks brand new. We saw little evidence of wear and tear from the constant flow of 3,100 different passengers every week. The ship is finished throughout in beautiful wood paneling with gold trims and a liberal use of marble; the bars, lounges, dining rooms and buffet areas are tastefully decorated, and even the elevators and vast carpeted staircases provide the feeling of a luxury hotel.
What also really impressed us about the ship was its sheer cleanliness. Every area, including its many washrooms and all public areas, were always spotless.
We took an inside stateroom, having heard that it's the best value on the ship, since you have the same food, same facilities and same entertainment as people paying much higher fares. (For example, about $600 more for a balcony room). We weren't disappointed. Our mid-ship room was finished in rich wood veneers and wood trims, along with a wall-to-wall mirror behind the bed, and had better lighting than any hotel room we have ever stayed in. I counted 7 recessed lights in the ceiling alone. There was ample room, and we never felt that we were getting in each other's way, especially since we spent very little time in the room. (We heard that passengers with balcony rooms tend to spend more time on their balconies and eating in their rooms, and less time using the ship's facilities.)
The bedroom itself was about 10 x 11 ft., with the hallway, closet area and bathroom accounting for roughly another 50 sq. ft. The closet area was well designed, at least six feet wide with lots of room to hang clothes and store luggage. The bathroom, although compact, was well-finished, well-ventilated and functional. The shower (with a great showerhead) posed no problem, although a large passenger might have a problem with its dimensions.
Our friendly stateroom steward serviced the room twice a day, and it was always left in immaculate condition. We really enjoyed finding the towels changed and the bathroom cleaned for a second time each day, and the little chocolates left on the pillows of the turned-down bed.
The stateroom has its own air-conditioning thermostat, which was very practical, and we never found that any area of the ship was either too cold or too hot. One of the best features is that the staterooms seem to be very soundproof. We never heard a sound from any adjacent rooms, and seasoned cruisers told us that the soundproofing was much better than on other ships they have traveled on.
The acoustics elsewhere on the ship were also very good, for example in the large dining rooms, where noise was never a problem.
We also found that the ship never felt crowded, and we almost never encountered line-ups or long waits,which is amazing on a ship with 3,100 passengers. (Perhaps half of the passengers were always on their balconies!)
Facilities and entertainment:
There was always plenty to do on the ship. We started each day with a walk on the promenade deck or visit to the fitness center. The fitness room is huge and well-equipped, with a large selection of Cybex weight training equipment, free weights, at least 20 treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, etc. This room is in the best location on the ship: top deck, right at the front, with large panoramic windows for a super "Captain's view" of the ocean. It's worth a visit even if you don't plan to work out. In fact, it's one of the most under-utilized areas on the ship.
The pools are very attractive, and the Neptune pool at mid-ship seems to attract the largest number of users. It's fairly busy in the mornings, but it's easy to find a lounge chair during the afternoons. Shaded areas are at a premium, but we always found some area to sit in, and moved closer to the pool as the day progressed. At first I thought the pools were "wave pools," but it seems that the water moves around due to the movements of the ship. While I was never seasick during the cruise, the only time I felt a bit queasy was in the pool, possibly due to the water's sometimes intense movements.
The "Movies under the Stars" outdoor screen at the Calypso Pool is an interesting concept, but we never sat through an entire movie for a couple of reasons: during the day, most movies seemed geared towards children, and in the evenings there was great entertainment indoors.
The Princess Theatre offered one or two different shows every night. We saw two "Broadway style" musical shows, one of which (Piano Man) was really great, plus a show with a comedy hypnotist (Fernandez) that was hilarious. Another evening, a magnificent singer was on stage, and comedian Scott Wyler kept us in stitches at another show. Each show seems to run a standard 60 minutes, and if you want a good seat, get there at least 20 minutes in advance.
A superb jazz singer entertained on various nights in the Wheelhouse Bar. An excellent Caribbean band, Onlyne, played and sang every day at the Neptune pool, and often appeared in certain lounges at night. Same for Cruisin' Steel, a one-man steel drum singer and musician.
A couple of the comedians weren't fantastic, but we always found something else interesting to do.
Food, food and more food
We ate only two meals at the buffets: on our day of arrival for a late lunch, and on the afternoon after visiting the beach at Princess Cays, only because the dining room had already closed. While word has it that the same food in the dining rooms is available at the buffets, we didn't find the quality to be the same, and it was not as relaxing as having table service.
Since there is so much choice, buffet plates tend to be a mélange of many different foods that don't really belong together. Making individual choices in the dining room seems to make the food taste better, and in the rare instance where we didn't like something, the waiters were always happy to replace it with something else. This very accommodating aspect of eating in the dining room was a big plus.
If you prefer buffet-style food, one very positive aspect is that the view from the window tables in the buffet area is spectacular.
We chose "anytime dining" for dinner, and never had a problem getting a table or the waiters we wanted. One suggestion: find a waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter that you really like, and build a relationship with them during the week. The waiters enjoy chatting with the passengers, and you may find that service improves as the week progresses. We did this for breakfast and lunch in the Coral Dining Room, and dinner in the Palm Dining Room. A large proportion of the waiters and stewards were from the Philippines and Mexico, displaying a strong work ethic combined with excellent customer service training. The top notch service we received from the hard-working staff really added to our overall experience.
Each of the two art-deco style dining rooms holds about 600 persons, although only the Coral Dining Room serves lunch.
The food was usually delicious and always plentiful. A three-course lunch was sometimes much more than we could handle, and how about five courses for supper? Highlights of our dinners: roasted rack of lamb, lobster tails (I ate four!), delicious grilled jumbo shrimp, a variety of fresh fish dishes, excellent low-cal salad dressings, cheesecake and other great desserts.
We never ate in the specialty restaurants, since the food in the dining rooms was much better than we ever expected. Other passengers said they immensely enjoyed the specialty restaurants, where they were served huge meals with many courses.
Wine prices were very reasonable, such as a Caliterra Chardonnay from Chile ($26), Rosemount Estates Chardonnay from Australia ($28), and the best of the lot: Pouilly-fuissé Gerald Duboeuf 2005 from France for $32. Liquor prices in general are not too high: a very good Mexican Beer, Dos Equis, was $3.95; flavored martinis were $6.50.
One of the best values on the ship is the large glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, which seemed to be available only from the waiters at poolside: $2.75
The pizza at poolside is not too great, and the hamburger/hot dog/fries stand didn't look much better. But who needs it after all the great food in the dining room? And forget about paying for ice cream at poolside. There are always different flavors of ice cream available as a dessert choice in the dining rooms, at lunch and supper.
One last note: the buffet lunch at Princess Cays was not very good, so get to the beach early and head back to the ship for lunch!
Areas for improvement:
If this review sounds a bit too positive, we should mention that Princess could make some improvements to enhance passengers' overall experience and safety:
*Smoking is still permitted in various areas of the ship, which is strange, considering that 75% of the population in most industrialized countries no longer smokes. It's also a great hazard, judging by the serous fire caused by a cigarette onboard the Star Princess in March 2006.
The Princess Answer Book says smoking is not permitted in the show lounges, but at least two show lounges reeked of smoke so badly that we never set foot in them. And in the Wheelhouse Lounge (great jazz singer), although there is a separate smoking section, the bar is also a smoking area -- and it's right next to the non-smokers! Passengers, and sometimes staff, smoked on the promenade deck, on the upper decks, and adjacent to the pool area. The casino was a smokers' den. And of course, passengers are still free to smoke in their rooms, in their beds and on their balconies (where that Star Princess fire started). The only solution is to restrict smoking to enclosed "safe areas," only for smokers. Let's hope the cruise lines finally see the light of this growing trend.
*We noticed that the two lifeguards at Princess Cays, both employed by Princess, were napping at mid-day, and faced the sand, not the water, when they were awake.
*Pricing for casual Internet use is excessive: It cost us close to $12 to send a very short e-mail ($6 for 8 minutes, plus $4 registration fee, plus 15 percent service charge). If you type very slowly, wait until you get to St. Thomas: 10 cents a minute with a $1 minimum.
*We were able to block out most of the incessant sales and photo programs on the ship, but we felt the ship went too far by setting up tables in the atrium filled with watches and jewelry. The elegant atmosphere of the ship is compromised by this daily "bazaar atmosphere," since the atrium is the jewel of the ship and provides much of its class.
We picked the Caribbean Princess because it was one of the few ships that received mostly positive reviews in CruiseMates. It's a great ship, with much to offer, so don't hesitate to book a cruise. Bon voyage!