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.
Let me tell you a few things about our wonderful week on the Caribbean Princess from 10/16-23 in the hope that they may make your next cruise better or bring back some good memories of your own. Since so many reviews have been written, I will steer clear of an exhaustive review, but will give you our impressions based on our unique experience. First and foremost, I have never had a bad cruise, and certainly this was a great one. I greet each cruise with much anticipation and my expectations are always exceeded. For me, the best part of the cruise experience is not the ship or the food or the entertainment, but the people. The camaraderie and espirit on a ship is simply wonderful.
With that, here are our thoughts:
OUR GROUP: Bob and Kathy (40s) and Judy (MIL), all from suburban Indianapolis. We are all veteran cruisers of Princess, Celebrity, RCI and Carnival. We are pretty typical midwesterners--we appreciate good service but are low maintenance; we like good food, but are not gourmets; we like to be entertained, but have two left feet when it comes to dancing; we dabblein games of chance on board, and occasionally would like to win.
EMBARKATION: Nonstop Indy to FLL morning of cruise and in line by 11 a.m. We had filled all forms out online. CSR passed out form asking us to sign and confirm that we did not have flu-like symptoms (form was more descriptive!). We heard later that if you indicated yes, you could be quarantined to your room. The doors finally opened at noon. Even though there were probably 800-1000 in line by that time, things moved very quickly. Once the doors opened, we were onboard in 15 minutes.
CABIN: We were in Aloha 740 and 744. These are inside aft, Cat. JJ. This was a "bonus" vacation for us. The fall rates were so low that we decided to cruise on the cheap. With credits and discounts, we were able to cruise for $50 a day. Of course, the MIL paid more for a single, but still very good. We chose this cabin because we had been in this location on the Grand last year and really liked being able to walk out the back door to the aft pool. Guess what? When Princess inserted the Riviera Deck between Aloha and Lido on the Caribbean Princess, that eliminated the backdoor on Aloha. As a result, we had to double back and go up the stairs to go out the back. No big deal. As for the cabin, it was identical to Grand and Golden insides except that the closet/bath area had been redesigned and was a bit more functional. Of course, everything was in great shape. We especially appreciate the refrigerator and safe. We brought a few drinks of our own and added to our stash during the week. We met Ruben, our steward, and requested fresh fruit and robes, which were quickly brought. One note...two essentials are an alarm clock and an extension cord. The only clock in the room is on the phone, which is on the desk. While it is great to sleep in, if you have an inside cabin, you have no idea what time it is with no natural light. the extension is needed because there are few outlets, especially in the bath.
POOLS: The Personal Choice concept applies to the pools more than anywhere else. There are four pools/areas, each of which takes on its own personality. All have hot tubs adjacent and bars close by. The forward spa pool has a very "resort" feel, with marble and stone figurines and fountains, tiered wooden benches and a very quiet sedate tone. This pool also is accessible from the spa and gym. No kids...very upscale. The party pool has the ubiquitous pool band (Cruze Control in our case), pool games and two levels of lounge chairs. This is where we spent most of our days. (Tip: when you are cruising, watch along the bow of the ship for flying fish to skirt along the water.) We are not huge party people, but found lots of great people on the upper deck and kept coming back every day. The service also was absolutely great. We did not find any drop off because of the automatic gratuity. MIL had a drink sticker and had no problem at all with it either. (Bar tip: Dos Equis and Beck's were $12.60 for a bucket of 5....cheaper than at my local bar.)
The MUTS pool showed movies all day and night. In the morning, there were cartoons, then older movies during the day and first run features at night (more later). This was very nice for those seeking an alternative. The only problem I noted was the volume level. The MUTS pool is adjacent to Horizon Court, i.e. many outside tables are located there. If you like to enjoy breakfast outdoors around the pool, you must endure the decibel-drilling shrill of cartoon laughter. Not a complaint, as there are other places to eat, but Princess may want to consider turning down the volume or having a quiet time until 10 or 11 a.m. (at some times, they ran a volume-free video of deep sea diving or other nature film....very engaging without the noise).
Finally, the Aft pool presents a very peaceful alternative, especially for those wanting to avoid the sun. Since this pool is located under the "shopping cart handle" aka Skywalkers, there is usually shade. If you want a nap, I guarantee this is the place. It is mesmerizing to sit aft and watch the wake of the ship....you will be asleep in 6 minutes or less!
DINING: We usually do PC, but elected for the late seating this time because of the increased pax load. We really enjoyed it. This is not a knock on PC, which we still appreciate, but there is something very nice about getting to know your tablemates and waitstaff over the course of the cruise. We will probably do fixed seating again for this reason. We also enjoyed late seating because it gave us a chance to see an early show, have a nice dinner and then see a later show. As well, we were never rushed to get ready for dinner and could enjoy sunsets. That was a very nice pace. As for cuisine, we found the food to be very well done. We always found many good choices, our selections were well prepared and the service was impeccable. On several occasions, I ordered an additional entree to share. The portions are small enough so that this is possible and encouraged. Highlights? That is a matter of personal taste, but the fettucine is excellent, and we usually ordered that as a side to split. The Beef Wellington and lobster were wonderful. Desserts were very good, although the selection seemed to be a bit more limited than on prior cruises. As far as the MIL is concerned, as long as the Love Boat Dream is offered, everything else is irrelevant. We also had dining room lunch and did tea on a previous cruise...each of these should be done once if you have the chance.
Cafe Caribe is a wonderful addition. We did not fully understand the set-up until late in the week, but there is a completely different menu in here for lunch and dinner from Horizon Court. Especially for lunch, it is far superior. On one lunch occasion, the Mexican-themed lunch included fajitas, chili con carne with huge chunks of beef and garlic shrimp...outstanding. The nicest thing about Cafe Caribe is that it is a serving line....you pick up a plate and proceed in order through a line. The only problem is that the line is convex, so that you cannot see what is being offered. Princess could solve this (and save a lot of food) by posting the menu at the start. Otherwise, people tend to grab the first thing offered and then find other items down the line.
Finally, since I promised not to dwell on the negative, I will not talk about Horizon Court or the coffee! (Note to coffee drinkers: go to the lobby bar on 5 in the morning for complimentary real fresh-brewed coffee.) If you do go to Horizon for breakfast, bypass the lines and go to made-to-order omelet station on either side of the eggs. It takes a few minutes, but it well worth the wait. The pool grill and pizza parlor are both consistently good. (Note to Princess: Add some additional "ballpark" choices for poolside munching, e.g. popcorn, hot pretzels, nachos.)
Finally, we dined at Sterlings. While others raved, I found the cut of meat to be no better than in the dining room and the service not as attentive. Please note that others did not share this view. It was good for a change of pace, in any event.
ENTERTAINMENT: This was the highlight of the cruise. The selection of lounge acts was outstanding. In our case, Fernandez (a hypnotist), Scott Weyler (a comedian) and Bert Stratton (piano man) were tremendous. We did not miss a show. Each had us captivated. The quality of these entertainers amazed us and was far greater than we had seen on previous cruises. We had heard a lot about Bert on these boards and he certainly lived up to billing as a first-rate entertainer and very personable musician. See www.bertstratton.com. The others were new to us, but will certainly be making the circuit on other cruises. Because the entertainment is such a hit-and-miss thing, we hope that our experience is evident that Princess is raising the bar with the level of entertainment generally.
Three other notes in this regard. First, the International crew show should not be missed. This was begun to fill time when the ship had extra sea days during a recent hurricane. It features crew member performances a la Star Search. Great show. Second, the cruise staff was very good at encouraging passenger involvement. This is a fairly young staff (Graham is gone; James Lay is in charge), but they make up in enthusiasm what they lack in polish. Third, the production shows just don't cut it. We went to them. They were technically proficient, but wholly uninspired. I wonder if time has passed by the need for these. It just seems that Princess may be better off investing its entertainment budget in other directions...for instance, I would love to see a play on board or more individual entertainers. I should also mention here that Kathy and Judy were pleased to find nickel slots and gave them quite a workout in the casino before finally surrendering to the inevitable.
SPORTS: A somewhat off-topic note. The selection of TV channels is very limited. The treatment of sports fans is even more limited. Churchills, the former sports bar, is now a cigar bar. As a St. Louis Cardinals fan and NFL fan, I was disappointed to learn that I could not see the NLCS or NFL games on the cruise (Monday Night Football was shown, as was the ALCS). In talking with a crew member, he explained to me that this is a common complaint of passengers. Princess has a satellite, of course, but they choose not to buy the feed. Instead, they get ESPN International. As a result, you can watch Spanish soccer games till the cows come home, but little else. Princess does not understand Americans affection (affliction?) with our brand of football. Princess, get a clue. This is a moneymaker. Pax will go to Churchills and pay for drinks while watching football. On an even-more off-topic note, I am surprised that the TV system does not offer pay-per-view options like this. Since this ship is sailing exclusively in the Caribbean, the satellite coordinates would not be an issue. This could have been a revenue producer for Princess, just as it is for almost every hotel. For a new ship with a dedicated sailing path, Princess dropped the ball on this technology.
MUTS: Of course, you can't go on the Caribbean Princess and not have an opinion about Movies Under the Stars! I was really excited about this. In fact, it probably was the reason we booked. After going, I can say (1) I loved it at times; and (2) the presence or absence of MUTS will probably not impact future cruise decisions. In other words, it was nice, but not that nice. The highlight for me was watching the Monday Yankees/Red Sox game. There were probably about 500 or more pax packed into the area--there are three levels of seating plus the pool. We were in San Juan that night, next to the Celebrity Century (those people had cruise ship envy!). I also watched the Tina Turner concert one night. The picture is incredibly crisp and the sound is exceptional. Still, I am not sure Princess has figured this out completely yet. As noted, the noise in the morning is a real problem. I noted that people seemed to stay away, and I think this is a reason. As well, the movie selection was curious. During our cruise, the only "second run" films being shown were Shrek 2 and 13 Going on 30. The former was shown at least six times. By the end of cruise, I was thinking that immigration wasn't going to let us get off the ship unless we could recite the dialogue. In the morning, Finding Nemo was shown every day as far as I could tell. The afternoon movies were a hodgepodge of old dramas, etc. Old movies are great, but when I am sailing under a bright Caribbean sun, something more upbeat might be appropriate---Vacation, Caddyshack, Cool Runnings, Stripes, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, etc. Something where the plot doesn't matter, you can watch for ten minutes and move on if you choose. Also, a few hours of music videos would be great. These were shown only at dusk. Let's just say that MUTS is great technically, but Princess still needs to work on the application.
OTHER ACTIVITIES: I could write a book about everything we intended to do, but did not. Scholarship at Sea included Ceramics by the pool, computer classes, wine tastings, etc., but we never got off our b..ts! Our tablemates went to the art auctions and were very pleased with their purchases, as well as the way things were run. We did the galley tour before and wished we had again. Karaoke was high on the to-do the list, as was Princess Idol, the passenger makeover show, bingo, trivia and Skywalkers. We did do an open booking for a future cruise...a no brainer.
INTERNET: As a dedicated surfer, the new facilities were a welcome change. Unfortunately, the satellite was down for most of our cruise. Still, the facility is top notch. The 35-cent rate is reasonable. The staff was helpful when a billing adjustment was required. (Wow, the purser's desk was helpful!) The speed is slow, but this was a nice improvement.
GYM: Wow. 20 treadmills looking out over the bow from 16 stories high. If that doesn't inspire you, nothing will. Each unit also has a flat screen TV monitor (wireless headphones upon request). There also are stairclimbers, rowing machines, weights and a bunch of other stuff that I don't know how to use! There was never a wait. Lots of free classes too.
PORTS: Everyone has different ideas about what to do, so let me offer what we found helpful. First, San Juan was substituted for Princess Cays, and was a 4 to 11 p.m. call. We had low expectations, and they were met. Old Town is gradually being cleaned up, but there is not much to do on your own after dark (and before 10) here. If you have this itinerary, you can walk to Old Town, look at the craftsmen, grab some free rum drinks and return to the ship for dinner. In St. Thomas, we took the ferry to St. John and ultimately to Cruz Bay. This is paradise. Do this on your own. It is cheap, easy and safe, and you can take your time. St. Maarten is undergoing restoration downtown. Don't let the construction throw you. Take the water taxi and enjoy a nice walk through the shops....even I enjoyed it. Of course, I especially enjoyed it because there are vendors selling $1 Heinekens about every block. That makes the shopping experience quite enjoyable!
DEBARKATION: Easy and quick. We had a night flight out of FLL, so we waited to disembark, but were called by 9:30. No problems.
POST-CRUISE: If you spend the day in FLL, I recommend dropping your luggage at the Marriott Marina (or renting a car) and taking the water taxi to Las Olas. The water taxi is like a tour boat ($5 RT) and takes you past some beautiful homes on the Intercostal waterway. You can get off at Stop 12 or 18 for restaurants and shopping. This is a great way to spend the day if you have a later flight.
Embarkation: we arrived at 2:45, so we went through very quickly.
Cabin: Inside, was quite adequate, lots of closet space, comfortable queen bed and refregerator, good reception on TV.
Entertainment: Fabulous, lots to do day and night. We had to eat early so we did not miss any shows. (shows ran from 7 pm to l2 midnight). Dancing: GREAT, we dance a lot and there was always venues to dance. We did not go to the skywalkers since it was a younger coud with "headbanger" music, not suitable for ballroom dancing.
Food: Very disappointing since other pricess ships were better. The buffet food was cold, and looked like a mess of leftovers. We usually ate in the dining room. The food was inconsistent. The chicken kiev and lobster tails were wonderful, however, the filet was ordered medium and arrived bloody red, when sent back another filet was delivered very well done, so much it was tough. The same thing happened when I ordered prime rib one evening. They never offered cavier or baked alaska, cherries jubilee or creme bruule', as they had on other cruises. Breakfast was the ordinary fare. Lunch was horrible inthe dining room and buffet. The selections were lots of casserole type dishes. They served the same rolls every night. On other cruise lines, the bread and rolls were varied every evening to coordinate with each evening. This was very disappointing. They offered too many unconventional foods like rabbit, duck, pheasant, liver, sweetbreads and buffalo. I would have preferred some more conventional foods to choose from.
Service: Our cabin stewart was fine, there was a bit of language problem, he did not understand when I tried to explain I wanted more shampoo and less conditioner. Also, the pillow were very hard and I wanted softer ones.
The waiters and busboys were very rude, and acted as if they were doing us a favor by serving us. They were disappointed when we told them we did not drink except for water. They forgot items, got the orders mixed up and some waiters had a language problem, undserstanding each other. I asked for extra vegetables one night and the waiter did not understand me. Some evenings the food was long in arriving. We wanted personal choice dining. We had to call the concerige and make reservations ahead of time. (times were 6 and 8:30) This is not personal choice dining, this is the same as lst and 2nd seating.
Boutiques: The usual fare, chains by the inch, t-shirts, magnets, perfume and hats. Nothing too exciting.
Overall: the ship was beautiful, clean and the entertainment and activities onboard were wonderful. It's a shame the food and service did not match up.
Ports: Been done, did that, we stayed on board except for St Maarten. We were not told that Island was renovatiing. You had to walk on lumpy sand, with pipes, bricks and garbage everywhere!
Embarkation gets an A+. Easiest yet. Arrived at the port about 11:30, doors opened at 12 and was enjoying the ship by 1:15 or so. Luggage arrived quickly and everything anyone checked was delivered with no problems. Liquor packed in luggage arrived safely. Didn't attempt to put it in carry-ons but heard that worked, too.
Ship: A+ Fantastic ship. Loved the fact that there were Adult Only pools. YES! So much to do while on board we just couldn't do it all.
Cabin: A We splurged and got a balcony. Don't know that I'll be able to cruise without one now. We were on Riviera Deck so ours was completely covered. It was smaller than some of those below but they were partially exposed so I think it's a trade off. Closet space was amazing and luggage all fit under the bed so the entire cabin useable. Air temp seemed to work fine although in port the first day we were worried. Refrigerator is a cooler NOT a refrigerator. It will keep something cool but not cold. We tried leaving the door open to improve circulation but nothing worked.
Food: C (and that'sgenerous) We had read the food was diappointing and, unfortunately, that was the case. Buffet food was cold and blah. Same thing reworked day after day. First cruise I've been on where I wasn't even half tempted by the buffet offerings. Dining room food was pretty much the same (perhaps a bit better) and at least hot. Service is non-existent in buffet area. No one pouring your drinking for you here. It's pretty much self-service. Those who ate in the specialty restaurants said the food was wonderful. Maybe that's the ploy - you're so desperate for the food you expected you'll pay extra?? We opted for pizza one day (fair) and hamburgers another just for variety. Hope this improves because we loved the ship but won't sail her again if food doesn't improve.
On Board entertainment: James, the cruise director and his assistant, Lisa get A+. They did a great job with everything. We enjoyed the lounge entertainment - especially the pianist. Didn't take in the shows so can't comment on those.
Excursions: St. Thomas: Too independent island tour - $20 - B Guide wasn't too helpful or informative
Had him drop us off at Coki Beach. Had read that cruise ships book Discover Scuba at 8:30 and 1:30 so we booked independently at 11. Had the place and the instructor to ourselves and saved $30 each. Highly recommend Coki Beach Dive Club and the Discover Scuba experience.
St. Maarten Rented a jeep (somewhat of a hassle) and drove to Simpson Bay for the 3-hour Jet Ski tour and snorkel. Again book independently, saved $25 on the Internet and had a private tour. Snorkeling was disapppointing but we loved the jet ski ride. Once he saw we could handle the jet skis, he turned us loose. It was fantastic. Gave us different perspective of the island and we saw things (like Marlon Brando, Robert Redford and Sly Stallone's homes) that no one else saw. Jeeped to Marigot but missed Orient Beach. Maybe next time. Rated the jet ski experience A but the snorkeling C.
Nassau: C Skip the town unless you just want to be able to say "been there, done that" . Head over the Atlantis! Water taxis are only about $3 and it doesn't cost anything to look around Atlantis. Don't miss the aquarium.
All-in-all this was a great cruise. Food was secondary to the ship and the ports of call so it didn't matter that much to us. If good food is priority for you, this is NOT your ship!
Dodging hurricanes in Florida, we managed to board the Caribbean Priness as scheduled at Port Everglades. The internery changed from eastern to western due to hurricane jeanne, but that did not bother us as this was our first visit to the region anyway. When jeanne turned west later in the week, we got 2 extra days at sea.
The boarding and unboarding process was quick and painless.
The ship is beautiful. We had a balcony cabin on the Aloha deck, and it was great. Having a balcony was well worth the extra money. We could look down directly on the balonies on C and D deck, which was probably somewhat annoying to those folks.
The service on the ship was outstanding in every regard.
The buffet food was pretty good for a buffet. The dining room dinners were excellent.
The Movies Under the Stars outdoor cinema was lots of fun. I was even able to watch Monday Night Football on it.
To be sure, there were lots of people on the ship, but we never felt crowded, and we were always able to do whatever we wanted.
The only bad partof the cruise was when we were unable to return to port as scheduled. There are only 6 ship-to-shore phone lines, and 3000 people tried to use them all at the same time to change their travel arrangements.