My wife and I decided to check out the best suite Princess has to offer and booked a Grand Suite on one of the newer Princess Mega Ships, the Caribbean Princess. We are Celebrity regulars and just wanted to see if Princess would meet our stringent requirements. We booked a 7 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel and back to Fl.
We booked the Grand Suite which is the equivalent of the Penthouse Suite on Celebrity. There is only one Grand Suite on the Caribbean Princess so I could not be choosey as to the date I wanted to sail therefore we had to book according to the availability of the Grand Suite and of course it was available during peak hurricane season, September 24 to October 1st.
We left our home at 10 am on Saturday for our journey to FLL via our truck loaded with luggage. We used the Park and Fly lot which is about $8.00 a day and includes a free shuttle to and fro the port. I used it on our last cruise and it worked out just perfectly forus. We dropped our luggage off with the dock porters and proceeded into a very busy terminal. We waited in the main line to go through security for about 15 minutes and then I proceeded to the Suite and Elite member line. I waited about 10 minutes in this line and when I got up to window the Princess Rep asked for my tickets, etc and when he say my name he summoned someone from the ship who was there in 30 seconds grabbing our carry-on luggage and whisking up onto the ship avoiding any more lines that day. He escorted us to the Grand Suite. I thought that was a very nice touch and I get the same service on Celebrity so we are even with service at this point. In the Grand Suite were 2 bottles of Champagne. I was surprised to see a bottle of Moet and Chandon which is expensive champagne and exactly what Celebrity placed in my room in May 05.
The Suite was very clean, new furniture and over-all very pleasing to the eye. It seemed half the size of the Millennium PS but I would guess the total square footage was around 1,100 sq feet versus 1,450 on the Millie. The furniture was nicer and newer on the Princess and the PC-work area had free internet access which the Celebrity did not so this was a real plus to me. On the Millennium one can spend a lot of money at $.80 a minute accessing email and the internet.
The price for the Grand Suite was on par with the Celebrity Penthouse or maybe a tad cheaper. The complimentary “minature” liquor bar included 2 bottles of cognac, 2 bottles of gin , 2 bottles of volka and 2 bottles of Canadian Club. The brands were mid range and really not what I drink. On Celebrity you get top shelve liquor and you get litres and they provided me as much liquor and mixers and soda as we wanted. On Princess I was told this is it. In the small fridge I got a few bottles of Perrier, 2 small water bottles and 2 cans of diet coke, regular coke and tonic water. They were not going to be refilled without a charge. On Celebrity there are unlimited beverages in the Penthouse Suite. I asked about the big bottle of water on the counter and I was told it’s $3.50 per bottle even for the Grand Suite. I mentioned to the Room Stewardess that I thought charging me for water in the Grand Suite was a bit barbaric and she said one bottle would be on the house. I kept getting reminded that this wasn’t Celebrity and Carnival runs a tighter budget. Considering my wife drinks 5 or 6 cans of diet coke a day I knew this could be an expensive trip. Luckily I carried on 48 cans for the trip and used the mini fridge to keep them cool. We would do the unlimited sodas for the week but I didn’t want to run to a bar every few hours to get a small glass of diet coke so I am glad I brought the soda onboard. I had no hassles bringing the sodas or 4 bottles of alcohol in my carryon luggage. In fact, when in Cozumel I bought 4 bottles of Patron Tequila and 4 litres of Grand Marnier and when putting the boxes through security I said, its water and the Security Agent said, sure, Mexican Water but she let me take the booze to the room which I thought was nice. If you want a great margarita, try Patron Tequila and half as much grand marnier with margarita mix, a great drink.
There are no Butlers on Princess so everything you want in your room goes through Room Service which was an inconvenience to us. On Celebrity I never had to call and wait on the phone to order food and wait 20 minutes. The head of room service was a very nice gentleman and visited me on several occasions and said he would do whatever it took to make me happy and satisfied. I ordered special lunches everyday not on the menu which the main chefs prepared for me, ie, Indian food, Phillipino, Italian, Mexican. The Maitre’D would coordinate my lunch through the Chef and room service and my dining room waiter would deliver it to my room on a large cart. It turned out to be very elegant and we enjoyed our lunches. The Grand Suite dining room table was pre set by my waiter and the presentation of the food in the suite for lunch was nicer than the “Butler” lunch service on Celebrity.
The room stewardess assigned to the Grand Suite was Mary from the Philippines and she was very good at her job. She acted as our quasi-Butler trying to accommodate all our needs. She was tipped accordingly since I really appreciated her excellent service. I have never had a Room Steward or Stewardess on Celebrity that bested the professionalism of Mary so I think Princess scored well in assigning the Grand Suite the top of the line personnel. I have had Butlers on Celebrity that bested the stewardess service.
The balcony on the Grand Suite was long and narrow and about 200 sq feet without a hot tub or wet bar. Nothing will ever compare to the balconies on the M class ships, 1,400 sq feet with wet bar and hot tubs so I was let down by the size of the Grand Suite’s balcony. There were people above the balcony and when we left ports I had confetti all over my balcony. I also had at least 10 cigarette butts on the balcony from inconsiderate folks throwing them overboard in the wind. When we left Fort Lauderdale people were throwing ice overboard and some would comeback and hit us in the head. I think Princess should do something about people throwing things overboard. On the Millennium nothing every was thrown onto our balcony.
Also not having a second bathroom in the best suite on the ship was a big let down since all the Celebrity Penthouse Suites have at least an extra half bath (C class ships) or a full shower bath (M class). On Celebrity its great that they have at least that half bath or more. There are times when one bath is tied up and its tough waiting for 5 or more minutes.
The ports of call on this western Caribbean cruise we have been to numerous times and once you have seen them a few times it gets boring to get off the ship. We don’t cruise to go sightseeing in the Caribbean, we cruise just to get away and get pampered. We never made it to a show on the ship so I cant comment on the shows.
We went to The Steakhouse restaurant once on the ship and had a great meal and to Sabatini’s once and had a great meal. As good as these meals were they did not compare as far as treatment and food quality to the Olympic Restaurant on the Millie. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both Princess specialty restaurants but they just were no where as elegant as the M class Ships specialty restaurants. The waiters did a great job in both restaurants and were tipped well, over and above the surcharge. The waiters and Maitre D, in my opinion were not the same caliber as the personnel in the Olympic. The food was not cooked at the table, there was no cheese cart and the desserts did not compare. The desserts in both Sabatini’s and the Steak House were identical to the main dining room desserts.
The Captain did invite me to dinner on the first formal night and we sat at my assigned table. He invited another couple to join us which worked out fine. We were invited to the bridge twice and the Captain Romano was most cordial to us. (see pics of us on the bridge and at dinner). I never was invited to his personal quarters for tea or breakfast (as I was on the Millennium) or was I allowed to tour the engine room after asking a few times. The Hotel Director called the Passenger Services Director on Princess visited my room on the first day and we chatted but that was it. On Celebrity I developed a friendship with the hotel director Renato and saw him most days while cruising.
We realized after this cruise that 7 day cruises are not for us. We don’t want to bother with all the packing and driving for seven days so in the future we will book 10 plus day cruises.
The food in the main dining room was very good and on par with Celebrity. I found no problems with any of the food and the desserts were great too. The afternoon tea was great and we went almost everyday.
In summary we had an excellent time on the Caribbean Princess and I would consider going on a longer cruise on Princess in the Grand Suite in the future. It wasn’t as good as the Millennium experience considering the prices are almost on par. It’s getting impossible to book a PS on an M class ship these days since they are so popular but my next cruise will be on Celebrity.
Princess uses the automatic tipping so I had no choice, I used envelopes at the end to reward those outstanding personnel that made a difference in our cruise but I didn’t tip as much as I would have on Celebrity for some reason. I guess I wasn’t as motivated as I usually am.
Pictures of this cruise, bridge tour, captains dinner and the Grand Suite are on my website, just click below or cut and paste:
Well, I can't say a lot of good things about Carib Princess. One thing I can say the Carib Deck balconies was delightful. It was about 9x9 feet in size. However, the cigar smoke made it difficult to enjoy. The cabin decor looks as if the designer took duplicated the "love boat" TV series of 1980s. The cruise director and sidekick were lame and torture to watch. Most of shows lacked talent. I've seen better at my daughter's school. The dining room experience was awful each time.
We started to eat buffet Carib Cafe. No one said that this ship was a retirement ship. Most of the passengers were white and 50+. The food was bland and breakfast was ok. I enjoyed the ports but beware of sightseeing scam in Grand Cayman. We should have remain at the beach. Coz & Ocho was very nice. Oh yeah we saw the Carnival ship way over in the harbor we wanted to jump off and sto on their ship. We said we would do any thing to get off this ship. This ship is boring to the 10th power. Princess cays ajoke as well.
The really good stuff:
- Embarcation was a breeze, since we had pre-registered on-line. We were aboard in 20 mm! Amen. - The cabins are spacious and well-conceived, with a dressing area next to the showers. The showers are not water-saving and feel great! - The food is excellent, the cruise director was dignified, the dining room staff attentive and professionnal. - The tenders at Princess Cays in the Bahamas are fast and take you ashore in no time. - Excellent open buffet on top deck every night, if you did not want to go to the dining room. Tables are covered with linen, VERY NICE.
The so-so stuff:
- No trays in the Horizon Cafe. You got to juggle your plates, go back for more stuff, then go back for drinks/coffee. Staff does not help, does not pour coffee, as was the case on our many Celebrity cruises. - Not enough tables in Horizon Cafe. Every morning for breakfast we had to hunt, and hunt, and hunt down a table, often cleaning up because the staff was busy elsewhere. A major hassle. - The ice machines in the Horizon Cafe didnot work most of the time. Major hassle. - They charge for ice-cream on the pool deck. I was stunned they would nickle and dime passagers that way. That sucked. - They charge for watery, lukewarm hot chocolate at breakfast. Next time I'll bring my own. - They don't have good tea, only Lipton. Bring your own Bigelow for some decent Earl Grey. - Shows were so-so. Comedian/juggler. Another Comedian/Magician and another comedian couple.... I missed the Celebrity Shows, which were more diverse. One of the comedian was very off-color. Is is really necessary to say the "F" word in front of kids? Did that make him funnier??? NOOOOOO. - Water at Princess Cays was murky. Too many people I suppose. If you want nice clear water and snorkeling, you have to walk away from the crowd, down the beach. It's a coral beach meaning put water shoes on your kids, or their feet may suffer cuts, as was the case in my family. We ended up walking away to a spot that had enough sand for the kids to enjoy a swim, pretty far from the tenders area. - We had requested early seating, but we booked the cruise late and there was no space. We solved the problem by showing up in one of the freestyle dining room the first night at 6 p.m. sharp, and telling the Maitre d' that we'd take the same table every night at the same time. He OK it and we did fine. Some people who did not make these arrangements had to wait for tables, and were very sore about that. - The mini-golf is useless. Poorly conceived and built, it's impossible to play. Go figure! - Wish there were more ping-pong tables, for the days at sea. It was always busy! - I wish the Adult pool spa was sea water, not regular water. Sea water is so therapeutic, it's a shame not to be able to soak your tired bones in hot sea water. I'll go back to Celebrity for their sea water jaccuzis, because I always feel 5 years younger by the end of the cruise. - There was no showcase midnight buffet on the last day. Instead, they built a pyramid of glasses that they filled with really cheap champagne. All along ladies were invited to have their picture taken (another way for the ship to make money). The champagne was so bad we took a sip and surrendered the glass immediately to a waiter.
OK, overall, it was a good value, a good cruise on a very nice ship. I would recommend it to friends, with the above warnings.
On Saturday, our family of six - myself, husband, three daughters and a daughter's boyfriend - arrived at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale about 10:45 a.m. There was only a short line, but half an hour later the line grew very long. I was glad to be near the front. We stood in the shade and so did not mind standing. After filling out the health form, we proceeded to the area for our deck, filled out the paperwork, got our ID cards, and off we went to our cabins, a very efficient and painless process.
We had two balcony cabins and one inside on Caribe deck. The showers were not as cramped as I thought they would be; with a little creative maneuvering they were perfectly sufficient. The balcony was double the size of those above and below us, which was nice when the girls wanted to escape their inside cabin and join us outside. Our cabin stewards were friendly and helpful, and our cabin was decorated with balloons for our anniversary. We had lunch in Horizon Court. Like any buffet, there were great and not-so-great food items, but wefound plenty of good food to choose from.
As recommended by others, we reserved our "Movies Under the Stars" (MUTS) and made a standing reservation for Personal Choice dining from our cabin when boarding. The specialty restaurants Sterlings and Sabatinis had to be reserved through Sabatinis in person after 1 p.m. TIP: Confirm your movie the day it's scheduled; the ship's newsletter had our movie listed on a day other than the one I was told over the phone.
Our family chose to meet at the Palm dining room with a standing reservation at 6 p.m. each day for dinner. TIP: If you call the first day to make a standing reservation and decide you want the same waiter and table, call the second day and reserve it. We neglected to do this and did not get the same waiter or table the second night. Our waiter, Carlos, was absolutely outstanding. The fact that my husband and he shared the same last name was an icebreaker. We've never had better service, and even when the dining room was at its busiest, his smile and friendliness never wavered. He brought a cake for our anniversary, too.
Sunday - Sea Day
We awoke this morning to more balloons on our door for my husband's birthday. Our steward said Happy Birthday, and this was apparently by mention through the cruise personalizer, as we did not tell him in person we were celebrating a birthday. We are early birds, so most mornings we were at the gym on the treadmills at 6 a.m. There was no shortage of equipment.
We found plenty of food we liked at Horizon Court for breakfast, and the coffee was perfectly fine. We grabbed a chair by the pool in the morning, in the shade, and spent a couple of hours there. Husband had enough of the pool after about an hour and went to the casino. We spent some time at the auction in the afternoon, which was fun (but I enjoyed the auction on Carnival better, because they had more affordable pieces).
Tonight was formal night. TIP: Give yourself plenty of time for photos before dinner, as the lines for the photographer get pretty long; or wait until after dinner for photos. Tonight I experienced the only item on the week's menus that was a disappointment - the beef tenderloin was dry and overdone. On the recommendation of the waiter (the only night we did not have our favorite waiter, Carlos), I ordered it medium-well, but it came out well done. Of course, I could have sent it back, but there was so much other food on my plate, it was not a big issue. Feel free to order 2 entrees if you cannot make up your mind. David's Cornish Hen was perfect.
We caught the 10 p.m. show on MUTS - "Hitch," a very nice experience. They serve popcorn, but you can also bring food from the Horizon Court or pizza.
Monday - Sea Day
The best pools for peace and quiet, away from all the distractions, are the aft pool and the pool forward near the spa, both adults-only. This morning I had my choice of chairs at the spa pool, where there were plenty of ocean breezes. Morning is the best time to find a chair at any pool; they get very crowded in the afternoon on sea days.
We won a piece of art at the auction today!
Heads up - dining menu change! Monday's and Tuesday's menus were switched. Monday turned out to be Caribbean night, and Tuesday was Italian night. We had chosen Tuesday as our alternative dining choosing to miss the Caribbean menu. So we were a little sad we missed Italian night. We quickly got over it, though, as the pork loin I had was outstanding.
The big show tonight, Caribbean Caliente, was canceled due to a technical problem. They substituted Alexander the hypnotist. I love this show. My husband volunteered to go up on stage during his show three years ago on the Grand, so it brought back memories. It's a riot what people will do while under hypnotic suggestion.
The highlight of our cruise came Monday night, when our youngest daughter entered the Princess Teen Idol contest and won second place. Not too brag, but unlike the other contestants, she sang from memory and not with the karaoke lyrics on the screen. We were so proud of her!
Tuesday - St. Thomas
Our oldest daughter and her boyfriend did the Princess Sail & Snorkel Buck Island excursion and had a blast. The rest of us did a tour with Sunny Liston, which I reserved ahead of time. He met us at the pier with a sign showing our name at 10 a.m., dropped us off for some shopping, then took us on a tour of the island and to Mountain Top. The views were spectacular. The world-famous daiquiri there was overrated and overpriced, and gave me a headache. After the tour (a roller-coaster ride through steep and narrow winding roads), he dropped us at Sapphire Beach, where we snorkeled and swam. He picked us up at 3:30 and took us back to the ship. Sunny was fun, pleasant and friendly. He gave us a fantastic tour and it was well worth the $20 per person.
Tonight was our alternative dining experience. Our daughter and her boyfriend loved Sabatinis, and noted that there is so much food, you shouldn't expect to try it all. My husband and I chose to eat at Sterlings. The food was excellent, the steaks superb, but service was slow. Also, we were not impressed with the restaurant décor.
Unfortunately, we crashed after dinner and missed the Tropical Deck Party.
Wednesday - St. Martin
We arranged for a car rental through "Arthur," recommended on these boards. However, neither Arthur nor his rental station was anywhere to be found, so we chose Best Deal rentals, which also comes highly recommended. For $70, we got a Mitsubishi Space Wagon, a great car for the six of us. Unlike the steep, winding hills on St. Thomas, the roads here were easy to navigate. We drove to Bayside Stables where three of us went on a horseback ride. What a magnificent way to see the beach. They took us for a ride through the nature reserve at LeGalione Beach and down the beach itself. It was breathtaking! After our ride, we went to Orient Beach, which was beautiful and a bit more crowded than Sapphire on St. Thomas yesterday. We went for a quick swim, bought ice cream, then headed back to Phillipsburg for a little shopping and a bite to eat. By this time, we had enough of the heat and headed back to the ship early to mid-afternoon.
Dinner tonight was outstanding, as usual. David had the lamb and I had the prawns. Carlos must have known I did not like a lot of garlic; he steered me away from the pasta pesto dish and brought me a small plate on the side, which was quite good and not too spicy. He always brought our youngest daughter extra shrimp in her appetizer and left us with extra plates of entrees so we could all sample everything.
The girls went to the game room to play Uno after dinner. Interestingly, they reported back that all the Uno cards were missing from every game. It's sad to think that people would steal them - if that was the case. Tonight we used our coupon for two free candids and picked up a couple of photos from the gallery. The photographers have been visible, but not intrusive, which is the way we like it.
Tonight we saw the infamous Bert Stratton in Concert in the Explorers Lounge, which is a bigger venue than his usual performances. He is a terrific entertainer and as others have said, looks a bit like Jim Carey.
Thursday - Sea Day
After our 6 a.m. workout and breakfast, it was another day of relaxation by the aft pool. I got a chair overlooking the stern. The pool is in the shade back here, a great spot to be out of the blazing sun. Everyone went off and did their own things today. David was back at the auction and won yet another piece of art, by the same artist as the previous one, so they will go well together on the wall.
Tonight was the second formal night. We skipped the photos and went straight to the dining room. Tonight's menu featured lobster tails, which were superb. The desserts are pretty great, so be sure to save a bit of room. No matter how full we were, we managed to cram in a soufflé, ice cream, parfait, mousse or that fabulous Love Boat Dream.
We saw Piano Man tonight and were not all that impressed. It was entertaining, but the choreography and vocals were just okay, nothing spectacular.
Friday - Princess Cays
We had so much heat and sun already this week, so we were undecided about how much time we wanted to spend here. We went ashore about mid-morning and snorkeled and we were glad we did. The snorkeling was good and the water beautiful. We were able to get a spot in the shade of a palm tree. TIP: Be on the first or second tender to get your choice of shaded chairs as they go fast. It was a perfect beach day. After returning to the ship, it was time to pack up, as the luggage needed to be out in the hall after dinner for pick-up.
We had our final meal in the dining room this evening. We said our goodbyes to Carlos and nominated him for Princess employee of the month. After dinner we made our last purchases of photos and took a walk up on Sun deck by the spa. Nothing beats the sight of a bright moon shining over the ocean.
We woke up before sun-up and saw the lights of Ft. Lauderdale in the distance, and felt sad having to leave all this behind. We went for breakfast, finished collecting our belongings from the cabins, and headed to the Explorers Lounge where we found comfortable seats to await disembarkation. TIP: Get out of your cabin early to grab a comfortable chair to await embarkation in one of the ship's lounges. We found embarkation to be very smooth. Announcements are made according to the color tag on your luggage. Exiting the ship was quick and painless, and we found our luggage with little problem. The bright colored duct tape on our luggage helped a lot.
We were very fortunate to have fabulous weather the entire week. It was a great way to reconnect with the family and spend quality time together. We can't wait to start planning our next cruise.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Doug Roberts Eastern Caribbean July 22, 2005
Embarkation We stayed at the Sleep Inn in Dania, Florida the night before the cruise. We highly recommend them and they pick up at the airport and drop off at Port Everglades free of charge.
Embarkation was smooth and took about a half hour when we arrived at 11:30 am. After a short wait in line, we were ushered into a waiting room and issued a number. When the number was called we proceeded through security and check-in. The check-in lines were arranged by deck. If you have express check-in, the Princess representative checks your ID, collects the relevant documents, scans your credit card and you are ready to pose for the obligatory boarding photo and then board the ship. A pleasant surprise was that our cabins were ready for occupancy upon boarding.
The Ship The Caribbean Princess is huge at 116,000 tons and 19 decks. It is relatively new, having been commissioned in 2004. The central focus is on decks 5 through 7 which contain a nice atrium, most of the entertainment venues, restaurants, shops, casino, lounges, theater, photo galleryand the purser's desk. Decks 15 through 17 contain most of the pools, hot tubs, gym, sports and recreation facilities. The adult pool in the aft is on Deck 14. The children's facilities are located on Deck 18 and the spectacular Skywalker's Night Club is on Deck 19. One oddity of the ship's design is the Palm Dining Room which is accessible from the aft staircase and elevators only. If you have anytime dining this is a "best kept secret" as the wait times tend to be less than for the Coral Dining Room which is on Deck 7 adjacent to the shops and main elevators. Although with a capacity of 3,114 passengers and 1,200 crew members, never once did we feel crowded, except perhaps in the photo gallery, which even occurred on the Celebrity Zenith, which is much smaller.
Our Cabin Our cabin was an inside cabin on the Aloha Deck exactly at the center of the ship. The cabin was more than adequate to suit our needs and was well designed and laid out. The cabin attendant, who never introduced himself, was attentive and greeted us by name. There was no closet as in previous cabins, but there was a dressing area between the bath and the sleeping area which has very adequate space for hanging clothing, a small cupboard which also contains the safe. The dressing area also contains more than adequate space for storing suitcases. The television has CNN, TNT, Headline News, ESPN, movies, classic television shows and several channels dedicated to ship activities. Beware of the shopping lady, it became a running joke that she was on every channel as the TV automatically turned to that channel when you turned it on. Watching her too much can lead to an overdose of "perky." I would also take their shopping recommendations with a grain of salt as we have found better prices at other establishments in some, but not all cases.
Food Service Food was excellent both well prepared and presented with style in the dining room. Every evening there was a choice of four entrees, soups and appetizers. There are also four alternative always available appetizers and entrees as well as a light "spa" selection and a vegetarian selection. The Horizon Court Buffet is available 24 hours a day with fairly standard buffet fare. Twice during the lunch hour sushi was featured, with a good variety presented. We chose breakfast at the Horizon Court because of the greater variety available over the sit-down restaurant. Decent burgers, including turkey and veggie burgers are available adjacent to the pool on Deck 15 as well as very good thin crust pizza with margharita, pepperoni and a special of the day. We did not choose to eat at either Sabatini's or Sterling's Steakhouse. Afternoon high tea is served in the Coral Dining room on Deck 7 and is good fun. The buffet served on Princess Cays was good featuring burgers, ribs and chicken. But no cheese for the burgers? They also had lots of fruit and salad items available at Princess Cays.
Entertainment and Activities The Caribbean Princess offers a variety of entertainment in a variety of venues throughout the ship. The main theater offered production shows as well as the employee's talent show which was not only entertaining, but great fun. Three very good comedic acts were featured both in the theater and at the Explorers Lounge. Bert Stratton, who receives great acclaim on Cruisemates among some members, is not everyone's cup of tea. While he is very talented, we found a little bit of his act goes a long way. After a while his seeming inability to finish a song wears thin. He was featured in the very tiny Crooner's Lounge on Deck 7 and once in concert in the much larger Explorers Lounge.
The Caribbean Princess offers a great variety of activities and entertainment for all tastes, unless your tastes run to relaxing inactivity which they have well covered also. We participated in the ballroom dancing classes and I was proclaimed by Jason, the Assistant Cruise Director, to be "the Train Wreck in the Hawaiian Shirt." I preferred to call my dancing style "Oaf Dancing." We found the Newlywed Game to be predictably hilarious. The Cruise Director's staff does their utmost to ensure that the passengers have fun. There is a fairly large casino on Deck 7 which also seems fairly empty at most times. The casino offers the requisite variety of table games and slots from 5 cents to a dollar. For some reason, the poker craze has not caught up with Princess. Bingo is also conducted daily as well as the ever popular horse racing game. Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) is at once both a great entertainment innovation with the 300 square foot screen visible even during the daylight and great stereo sound, as well as an intrusive curse for those seeking peace and quiet by the pools as the movies and concerts blare forth all day. There are plenty of places to sun and enjoy the pools and hot tubs out of earshot. While we had no such in tow, the children and teen programs seemed well organized and well liked by the participants.
The Ports The Eastern Caribbean itinerary is not particularly port-intensive for a seven day cruise visiting but two ports, St. Thomas, USVI and St Maarten/St Martin. Additionally, there is a beach day stop at Princess Cays in the Bahamas. The cruise commences with a very leisurely two days at sea with a third sea day between St Maarten/St. Martin and Princess Cays.
St Thomas On St. Thomas we chose Princess' "Ultimate St. Thomas Tour" excursion as it gave a good overview of the island as well as beach time at Magen's Bay. We found the beach at Magen's Bay to be beautiful and delightful for swimming. Showers and changing rooms are available at Magen's Bay. The tour terminated at Blackbeard's Castle with return to the ship on your own. After a leisurely decent down the 99 steps into Charlotte Amalie, we shopped until we dropped. My wife particularly liked and recommends Mr. Tablecloth which offered substantial savings on beautifully crafted table linens. The cab from downtown to Havensight where the ship docked was $4. Havensight also has much of the same shopping available in town.
St Maarten/St Martin On St Maarten/St Martin we opted for the semi-submersible underwater tour with an island tour. The tour, which included a shopping stop in Marigot on the French side, featured a ride on a semi-submersible boat, which features underwater viewing on the lower deck. Once at the reef after departure from Grand Case, a diver attracted fish using sardines in tomato sauce as bait. Once done with the semi-submersible, we continued on the circuit around the island with an obligatory souvenir stop adjacent to Orient Beach and continued on back to the Dutch side where we had the option to terminate the tour in downtown Phillipsburg or go back to the ship. Since it was early, we opted to shop downtown and take the water taxi ($5) back to the dock area. Liquor by the bottle can be purchased at very cheap prices. We tasted the local Guavaberry Liqueur and decided it to be a "must".
Princess Cays Princess Cays is a wonderful beach day to relax and enjoy the water. Various water sports are available and there are plenty of places to lounge and relax. The lunch buffet was well prepared except for the previously mentioned lack of cheese for the burgers.
Debarkation Debarkation required us to vacate our cabins and assemble in public rooms and wait, unlike Celebrity. We grabbed seats in the Crooner's Lounge which along with the Explorer's lounge are closest to the stairwell through which we would disembark. Once called, we passed through immigration and then joined the scrum for our luggage which took about 10 minutes to locate all four bags. We then engaged a porter to speed us through customs. This is not a good time to try to save money as you will wait in line much longer if you decide to tote your own bags. We had opted for Princess transfers back to the Ft Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and we were quickly ushered to the waiting bus which departed as soon as it was filled (about 10 minute wait).
Conclusion We had a wonderful time and plan to sail again on Princess. I would recommend this cruise for just about any age as only the true curmudgeons or terminally jaded could fail to have a good time.
After a lovely voyage on The CARIBBEAN PRINCESS I was highly pleased with all aspects of the ship. The service was great,condition of the ship was excellent.
I saw very little smokers onboard and had no problem at all with 2nd hand smoke either from the balconys or in public areas.. All in all the food was good..dining rooms had fine food...the Bistros were good......but could stand better heat lamps....breakfast buffet was usually on the cool side.
I booked a balconey cabin and was happy I did....was like an extra room.Our steward was very professional and deserved the extra tip above what Princess allocates daily from customers accounts.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Carol Eastern Caribbean May 14, 2005 We had the pleasure to cruise On the Caribbean Princess May 14th, 2005. We were married at home on May 12t. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale one day pre-cruise. I have cruised 5 times previously with Carnival and this was my husbands 1st. cruise. We are both in our early 40's. Embarkation took exactly one hour, we arrived at the ship at 11:00. This was a very smooth process. Now about the ship: The ship is Beautiful. The service was Great. The Food was Great. The entertainment in the lounges was great.
The staff seemed to be mainly Romanian and Phillipino. They worked very hard to please and serve us. I always liked Carnival and would not hesitate to sail with them again. The reason we will sail again with Princess is the anytime dining. We loved it. We had a reservation everynight at 7:00 with the same server at the same table. We had excellent service and never waited more then a few minutes to be seated. I had never been to Princess Cayes and Loved it. We waited about45 minutes to tender to shore and took the last tender back to the ship, This way we avoided any lines.
There were passengers of all ages on this ship and lots of families. The dress was more casual then any ship I have sailed on. The last day is always the worst on any cruise. Finding our lugguge was the worst mess I have ever seen. I wouldn't blame it on the Princess cruise lines. Passengers were just tossing and shoving luggage everywhere. A few patience and a little respect for others would help here. I would highly reccomend the ship to all ages and families. We are cruising on the Diamond Princess to Alaska in May of 2006.
Hope this review helps. Carol
I've broken the review into what are hopefully, easily readable categories.
Our Ages: 52 & 58 respectively
Occupations: Executive professionals
# of Cruises: 7 (Norwegian and Celebrity)
Pre-Cruise: Stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66 - not bad, good location, stayed in a tower room. However, didn't think it was good value for the money.
Embarkation: Very efficient. Arrived at 11:15 - we were in our cabin by noon. However, we had to locate it ourselves as there weren't a lot of staff to assist in providing directions.
Disembarkation: Also efficient.
Cabin: A mini-suite on the Dolphin deck. Accommodations were fine, however, I wouldn't spend the money on a mini-suite again as we didn't find it to be much different than a verandah cabin. The only discernible difference seemed to be the extra closet space and bathtub.
A word about the uncovered verandah - it's probably a personal preference like many other things, but we weren't fond of it. When others were out above us, it felt intrusive. Aboslutely no privacy. Also, we were particularly bothered by the cigarette smoke. Maybe it was just this cruise, but it seemed like we were surrounded by smokers.
As a matter offact, this particular cruise seemed to have a lot of smokers. We'd be sitting out on a lounger, two people would sit down beside us and light up. We had to move many, many times. We finally went to the front desk to inquire about Princess' smoking policy and they weren't clear themselves. They thought smoking was only allowed on the Port side, or was it Starboard?! Not very impressive. This issue became a sore point for us.
Dining/Food: Overall - average.
We requested a traditional dining reservation as soon as we booked the cruise in March and were wait listed. Went to see the maitre'd as soon as we got on board, but were unsuccessful in securing a reservation. We had no choice but to do Anytime Dining. It wasn't for us. I know others love it, but we like knowing that we'll have a table at a fixed time each night and quite enjoy having the same wait staff.
Often, we had to wait for a table. You're given one of those square discs that lights up and asked to come back when it goes off. Some nights the wait was 5 minutes, other nights, almost a half hour. The anytime dining felt rushed as the staff seemed frazzled and confused by the concept. One course was barely finished before they whisked away your plate and put your next course in front of you.
I found the food itself to be average - sometimes bordering on bland. Salt and pepper seemed to be the only seasonings that the kitchen was familiar with.
We did try Sterling's which was good but the dining room/restaurant itself wasn't anything special. You kind of feel that you're sitting out in a food court like environment. Plus, as the steaks are being grilled over an open flame, the smoke alarm went off all through the meal which made for an unpleasant experience.
We did, however, love Sabatini's. Worth the upcharge. If you want to dine here, make your reservation as soon as you get on board.
Sterling's and Sabatin's aside, the food overall was fair to good. Plentiful, but fair to good. Celebrity does a much, much better job in this area.
Entertainment: Didn't experience much here with the exception of one broadway style show and Bert Stratton in the Crooner's Lounge. The former was average but Bert was exceptional. If he's on your cruise, get a seat early, sit back, and be prepared to have a good time.
Shore Excursions: We didn't book that many as we tend to do our own thing. We did go on the half day, champagne catamaran/snorkelling tour in St. Thomas to St. John which, at $79 was quite good. We booked a two person kayak on Princess Cays - not good value for the money.
Service: Hit and miss. Our cabin steward was exceptional. The wait staff in the two speciality restaurants, also, exceptional. Dining room and buffet staff - a very few good ones, the others were fair to poor. The front desk, at least the individuals that we encountered, were ill-informed and disappointing. When we went to see them after our experience at Sterling's Restaurant, they couldn't seem to care any less. They just shrugged their shoulders, and said "well, what can you do?!"
Overall: Well, we feel that a cruise is what you make of it. And, when you're at sea, disconnected from reality, and don't have to think about anything more than where to go for dinner, how can that be a bad thing? There are plusses and minuses with most things. We experienced more minuses on this adventure but not enough to ruin our wonderful time together.
Everyone has personal favourites. We met many people who were loyal Princess cruisers. We just won't be two of them.
Ratings (out of 10)
Embarkation 9.5 Food 9.3 Service 9.6 Cabin 9.4 Entertainment 9.5 Gym 10 Value for Money 9.5 Average age onboard early 50's (my guess only!)
Background: This was my wife's second cruise (Celebrity, Princess) and my third (Carnival, Celebrity & Princess). The ratings above should give everyone an early indication of the fabulous week we had on this magnificent ship.
We flew out of Toronto at 0630 on Friday January 21st arriving in Ft. Lauderdale at 0915. We took at cab ($17.00) to our hotel Holiday Inn Ft. Lauderdale across from the beach. Much has been written about this hotel mostly siding on the negative, however I can honestly say that we have had nothing but good experiences in the few times we stayed there both pre and post cruises. Now if your looking for a 4-5 star hotel this facility is not for you. If you enjoy staying on the beach (like we do) and need just the basics to get by (clean and comfortable) then don't panic if you pull this hotel when bidding on a 3 star beachfront hotel on Priceline. We arrived at the hotel at0930 knowing full well that check in time is 3:00 PM. The staff did there best to accommodate us however there wasn't a room available to give us so early in the morning. So the bellboy secured our luggage in a lock room in the lobby and off we went to enjoy the sights.
We really enjoy Ft. Lauderdale. We took a water taxi through the intercostals waterways (wonderful trip) to Las Olas to shop and have lunch. Sometime in the mid afternoon we headed back to the hotel, checked into a nice large renovated suite on the top floor of the hotel overlooking the ocean and proceeded to get our suits on and head to the beach for the afternoon sun.
Friday evening we met up with fellow CC members Dave and Paula from London, Ontario in the hotel bar for a few (ok more then a few) pre-cruise cocktails.
Saturday January 22nd.
We arrived at the port really early (10:30 am). There wasn't a lot of people there when we arrived but it wasn't long before that changed. There was some initial confusion early on as to where to line up etc but everyone caught on quickly and managed to keep things orderly and follow suit. The doors opened at 11:15 and we found ourselves in our cabin at 12:00 pm. Painless!
Cruise Critic Get-together: We met all our CC Role Call friends at a get together just after the Muster Drill at the Outrigger Bar in the AFT section of the ship. Everyone was wearing Mardi gras beads to help identify ourselves to each other. It was really nice to meet everyone as it felt like we were on the ship with friends already always stopping when we saw each other to say hi and to see if everyone was having a good time.
Cabin: Oceanview (BC) with balcony on the Aloha Deck (A410) midship on the starboard side. This was our very first balcony cabin and now there is no going back. The cabin was clean and smelled fresh. Our cabin steward (Ronaldo) was efficient, polite (Good morning Mr. & Mrs. Rustynail) and did everything I asked of him with a smile. As soon as we arrived I called him to our cabin to give us a chance to meet. Right off the bat I requested 2 chair pads for our balcony chairs (made all the difference in the world!) and two robes. He had the chair pad and robes to us in less then a half hour to which I tipped him well. We also noticed on day 1 that the fridge wasn't working so we had Ronaldo contact maintenance to repair/replace it. The fridge was up and running early on day 2. Great service. The cabin had plenty of storage space to either hang your things and/or place them in drawers. The area was open, large and quite accessible. The one complaint we heard often throughout the ship was the size of the washroom and in particular the shower. I found it to be manageable (I'm 6'2" 220lbs) however I suggest you may not want to drop the soap while in there! We absolutely loved the balcony. It was completely enclosed, private and came with two chairs and a good size table. We sat on our balcony enjoying room service each morning providing coffee, juice fruit and croissants (sorry no write-in hot meals). Often, we'd spend the late afternoon on the balcony enjoying the sunsets and a few pre-dinner cocktails before getting ready. I can honestly tell you that not once did were we disturbed by the smell of smoke while out on the balcony. I know this has been a hot issue with some folks on the boards and was a concern of ours heading into the cruise but the topic turned out to be a non-event at the end of the day. One quick trick we learned from the Princess boards helped us find our cabin quickly. When you exit the elevator/ stairs on your deck and are standing there wondering whether your turn left or right to find your hallway - all you have to do is look at the color of the carpet. Starboard side had blue and pink carpet where the port side had solid blue. It made life so much easier knowing we were in the correct hallway.
We experienced Anytime Dining for the very first time and loved it! Now when I tell you that we had booked a standing reservation for two at the same table (#82) every night at 7:00 PM at the Palm your going to ask how this could possibly be construed as "Anytime Dining". The difference being we did have flexibility to change our mind and end up at Café Caribe if we chose to without causing any grief to our wait staff or tablemates. On a couple of occasions we actually had appetizers (my wife and her seafood) in the Café Caribe before actually heading off to the Palm for dinner. The best of both worlds! I've read many reviews from folks who didn't like PC dining because they felt the service was lacking and the banter with the wait staff was absent. We didn't experience this at all, in fact, our wait staff (Corneal and Marius) was as good or better then any we have experienced to date. The great part about a table for two is that inevitably you end up chatting with people from the table(s) around you. Again the best of both worlds - you could have an intimate dinner for two of you chose or decide to meet and share some great conversation with other interesting people dining around you. The best night all week was when our CC friends Mike and Chris from Michigan sat next to us. It ended up being a thoroughly enjoyable evening filled with great food and good conversation.
Never once saw jeans or a t-shirt in the dining room. Everyone seemed to appreciate and respect the attire rules stating that it's either smart causal or formal. Even on the smart casual nights we saw many people dressing up and looking fabulous.
The quality of the food was generally good to excellent in the dining rooms. I would have like to see more options available however the old 'staples' were always there in case nothing on the daily menu pleased you palate. The lunch buffet was good for the most part offering a variety of hot and cold food options daily. Of course the pizza was terrific however I thought it could have stayed open late to please the hungry 'after show' crowd. The grill was good and seldom had a line-up. Breakfast was good offering a 'made to order' omelet station as well as many other tasty offerings.
Room Service was also prompt and accurate. The food was very good and arrived hot. If you're planning on bringing your own wine on board to enjoy a drink in your cabin I'd suggest you bring a corkscrew. Lat year on the Century each cabin was provided one but no so on the CP. You have to call each time you want a bottle of wine opened and/or fresh wine glasses. This wasn't a huge problem as the service was prompt and courteous but again I'd rather bring my own corkscrew and not have to bother anyone for something I could have done myself.
Sterlings: This was our first visit to a specialty restaurant aboard a ship. Much had been written about the restaurant being exposed to people walking by to which I scratched my head at. My first thought from reading these comments was that Sterling's would be like eating at the food court in a mall with people passing by your table left and right. Our fears were put to rest when we saw the restaurant, realized this wasn't the case and then decided to rush off and book it for the Monday night. Sterling's was a great experience with wonderful food and great service however I don't know if I'd do it again. The steak was sooo tender if melted in your mouth and in itself was worth the price of admission however I guess I expected more when it came to everything else associated with the thought of 'specialty dining'. It wasn't as intimate as I had envisioned and there wasn't many 'extra's' to go with the great cut of meat offered. All in all we were glad we did it. Gym:
The gym was large and excellent! It had a great free weight area with plenty of new good quality free weights available. The cardio equipment all came with an individual TV and headphones so you could watch/listen to your own program without bothering anyone around you. The gym equipment was Cybex and offered a good selection including a cable station. All the equipment was in top-notch shape unlike most of the gym's I've ever been a member of.
We were really impressed with the entertainment onboard the ship. Knowing in advance that this isn't Broadway or Vegas we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the shows offered. I think some people who are disappointed by the entertainment set unrealistic expectations of what the shows should be rather then enjoying them for what they are. The International Crew Show was a must see as well as our good friend BERT (Bert Stratton) in the Crooners Lounge. Bert was off the off the chart....... he captured the attention of most people who dared to walk by. Even if you only sing in the shower Bert's evening sing-a-long was a must do. Music from all era's coupled with some fun and wit made this a highlight for us during the week. The Princess Idol was fun and yielded some excellent talent. We saw only bits and pieces of the comedy acts because of the lack of time however what we did manage to see was first class and funny. Skywalkers was a really cool place to hang out and dance. Even if you don't 'disco' you should take a walk/escalator to the lounge for nothing else other then a great view.
I've read many comments about Movies Under the Stars both good and bad. We booked MUTS as soon as we boarded the ship for the Tuesday 10:00 PM showing of the Bourne Supremacy. We really enjoyed the 'drive-in' feeling of MUTS. The extra padding on the chairs, blankets and popcorn were all nice added touches. The picture and sound was excellent even though the Island Night was going on in the background at the other pool. During the day we often found deck chairs facing the screen where we watched movies like Shrek, Back to the Future and Grease without feeling it was overbearing, loud or in your face. If you chose to read a book you wouldn't even know it was there until you looked up and saw the movie playing. A great addition to the ship! We also watched the Tina Turner concert and thought it was fun to see it while feeling the warm Caribbean evening air and the numerous stars above us.
Overall comments: So much more to say but wanted to get this review out before Christmas 2005. All in all this was an excellent cruise without too many negative remarks to make. The Caribbean Princess is a beautiful ship with so much to offer to all walks of life. Whether it was the art action or bingo this ship had something for everyone. We didn't ever feel crowded in any of the common areas nor did we ever wait for an elevator for any unprecedented amount of time. We seldom heard anyone complaining (other then the shower, see above) and for the most part everyone I think really enjoyed this ship and this cruise. There were very few children onboard but the few that did sail with us were well behaved and a pleasure to cruise with. Also, smokers were really respectful and actually got up from their lounge chairs around the pool to go to the smoking area to have a cigarette.
We really aren't big fans of Cruise Directors in general meaning that we occasionally get tired of hearing their voice either on the TV, over the loud speakers or up on stage however Graham Seymour was as good as they come.
The one negative comment I have is the problem of 'Chair Hogs'. Generally this practice doesn't bother me because we're resourceful enough to find a place somewhere on the ship to enjoy soaking up the sun but this time was different. I witnessed towels on deck chairs for hours on end without even the hint of someone occasionally checking in. This practice was quite evident during the NFL quarterfinals on Sunday. People 'reserved' deck chairs as early as 0700 for a game that started at 3:00 pm. The chairs remained empty all day until almost kickoff time. Now I know a playoff Sunday isn't the norm but I did see this happening often. Princess really needs to address this issue before either someone loses their teeth or ends up overboard.
In closing, I feel that the Princess experience met or exceeded all our expectations. We met some terrific people during this vacation and will cherish this Princess cruise for many years to come. Thanks to everyone for all the great tips and recommendations regarding the Caribbean Princess.
The Port review will be posted at a later date! Princess Cays is AWESOME!
7 day Eastern Caribbean-San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten Room: P303
I had always wanted to try one of the bigger ships, and I'm so glad I finally did. It took several days before the ship map was left in the room. This was also a first for Anytime Dining which is a great addition.
Pre-Cruise Stay: Marriott Beach Place Towers. This is a great beach location not far from Las Olas Blvd. The resort is located in the BeachPlace Mall so there are several shops and restaurants located in the area. The pool is located on the 7th floor. The morning of the cruise we took a walk along the beach before checking out.
Embarkation: Since the hotel had a 10:00 check out, we were at the terminal by 10:30. Passengers were still debarking when we arrived. Check in started around 11:30. I did like the way check in was done by which deck you were on with each deck having two lines with one being for passengers who completed the express check in process. A surprise was waiting on check-in, an upgrade from an inside to an outside cabin. So wewere on board and off to a great start shortly after noon.
Accommodations: This cabin is located behind the Fine Arts Gallery so there was virtually no noise in the hallways. I especially liked the layout of the closet and shelf storage areas. There seemed to be more than enough spaces to put things.
Movies under the Stars: Found this to be one of our favorite areas. This was nice during the day to set and watch movies while enjoying the sun. The movies in the evening were recent films (Spiderman II and I Robot) and that's when they put blankets on the lounge chairs and served popcorn. Other evening treats were the Wizard of Oz, Monday night football, and different live concerts.
Food: Since we chose anytime dining, the Coral and Palm Dining Room were our picks for dinner. The Coral Dining Room was used for breakfast and lunch, which we used several times to try to cut down on the amount of food we were consuming. Since we had early port tours, we used room service for breakfast those mornings. There were also two buffets, which came in handy during the day and in the evening if we found ourselves staying too late at Movies under the Stars. There were several theme buffets (Seafood, Bavarian, Creole, and Oriental). Then you had the normal hamburger grill and pizza. So you always had several things to select from. We found the food presentation and quality to be very good. We just didn't seem to remember to try the alternative restaurants but heard great things about Sterling Steakhouse and the Italian Sabatini.
Entertainment: The comedians are always our favorite and we enjoyed having several of them. The other favorite was Kimika, which was husband/wife comedy/musical act. We missed the production numbers because of other entertainment in the lounges. Club Fusion had different theme musical nights (70's, country, Karaoke, 50's, and Pop) mixing trivia with these themes. Again, you had several different types of entertainment to pick from every evening.
Ports: San Juan was the substitution for Princess Cays. You could leave the ship at 4pm and had to be back on board by 10:30pm. Originally, we had decided to stay on ship but changed our minds and walked thru downtown and did some shopping. This was a nice break in the cruise since we had some rough seas getting to San Juan.
In St. Thomas we took the Trunk Bay Beach and Snorkel. Unfortunately, the ocean was so rough it made for some poor snorkeling. The snorkel probably should have been cancelled. We spent most of the time setting on the beach watching the children bodysurf. Still a very beautiful beach and a nice morning excursion. Not being real big shoppers we just walked around the areas outside the cruise terminal. This was sufficient for us with several of the jewelers having satellite shops here and plenty of the souvenir type things.
We had snorkeled in St. Maarten our last trip so we opted for the Under Two Flags Island Tour. This gave us an opportunity to see both the Dutch and French side of the Island. The shopping areas close to the ship are under construction. With six other ships in port this was an extremely busy area. Again, not being big shoppers we grabbed the normal souvenirs and went back to the ship.
Overall Cruise Experience: Definitely our best cruise yet and so glad we picked one of the larger ships they have a lot to offer. Princess limits the amount of teenagers, which seems to have eliminated problems around the pools and hot tubs, that we've seen on past cruises. We found the staff to be friendly and extremely helpful. Everyday there were new and different things to do and even if you just wanted to lounge around the pool there were several areas to choice from.