SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN MEDLEY Curacao - Barbados - Dominica - St. Thomas
My wife and I are 53 years old. This was our eighth cruise. Our previous cruises have been the Eastern & Western Caribbean on RCL; Alaska, Panama Canal & Bermuda on Princess; and, the Mexican Riviera on HAL.
We made our own airline arrangements. Many reviews extol the virtues of arriving for a cruise a day early. Arriving early has plenty of advantages: you do not have to worry about airline delays; if your luggage is misdirected, there is an additional day for it to catch up; and, you can decompress from traveling before starting the cruise. The disadvantages are the cost of a hotel room for the additional night and if your luggage does not catch up with you before the cruise leaves, the cruise line has no responsibility for getting it to you.
This was our first trip since security for all luggage was put in place at the airports. We did not notice any additional delays going or coming due to the additional security. We used cable ties on our luggage and none of them were removed eitherduring the trip out or the trip back. Announcements were regularly made at the Ft. Lauderdale airport that film should be placed in hand carried luggage and not placed in checked luggage. It seems to me that the announcement is a bit after the fact but this is a word to the wise.
On our day of embarkation there were at least nine cruise ships at Port Everglades. Roughly 25,000 passengers were going and coming from ships. The security measures caused everything to move very slowly. Our airport shuttle was not scheduled until 12:30 but we had to check out of the hotel not later than 11:00 a.m. Someone failed to show for the 10:30 shuttle so we volunteered for the open slots and arrived at the ship about 11:00. We handed our luggage to the longshoreman and watched as it was placed in the transport bin. About 11:30 the doors opened to begin the embarkation process.
There was no express check-in. I wonder if express check-in is being phased out as special check-in lines are now available for Platinum Captain Circle members. Due to the large number of early arriving cruisers, there were fairly lengthy lines for checking in. We had preregistered on the internet which made registration a simple checking of forms and signing of names. We noticed that there was a line most of the afternoon waiting outside of the reception building. I believe that part of the delay was caused by the necessity of filling out a Bahamian customs form. The other part of the delay was the strain upon experienced Princess employees of processing 5,000 passengers for two large ships (Grand Princess and Dawn Princess) at the same time.
The ship and our room
The ship is beautiful and not showing her age (1997) a bit. Captain Mariano Manfuso is in command of the ship. It is amazing to me that a ship can transport 2,000 passengers every week of the year for more than 5 years and still look as good as the Dawn Princess. There is an ambience of comfort, class and reflection throughout the ship. The ship is incredibly well designed as are all the Sun Class ships. There are very, very few moments during the cruise when you have any sense that there are approximately 2,000 other passengers sharing the experience with you. The dining rooms are designed with dividers and level changes mixing tables of different sizes to create a feeling of intimacy even though there are about 500 other diners present.
We were on the Caribe deck, Cabin C414 which is an interior room. The room is small but, considering the amount of time you spend in your room, more than adequate. The room can be made up into a Queen bed or twin beds. The bed was not as comfortable as the beds we experienced on our other cruises. I think the framing used to hold the mattresses and the mattresses themselves may need to be replaced. It took longer than I had anticipated for the first two suitcases to arrive. It would not be until later that evening that our third suitcase arrived. Our room steward told us they were sorting the luggage which caused the delay. It was a minor annoyance when our luggage had arrived at the ship and had been placed in the bins so early. There were no storage problems. The suitcases fit under the bed and there is ample closet and drawer space for clothing.
Each room has a television with limited programming including recurring programs on the ports, shopping and excursions. Unlike the verandah cabins where the desk, dresser, night stand, and television/refrigerator area are all the same height, there is a floor to ceiling cabinet which holds the television at the highest level, the refrigerator at the lowest level, and a shelved section with a door in the middle which contains the safe and a fair amount of storage area. The hair dryer is located outside of the bathroom on the wall next to the desk area. There is one outlet over the desk and that is it in terms of regular outlets. I do not know what a European outlet looks like but there is a strange looking outlet in the bathroom.
The ship is 857 feet long. After looking at the hallway outside of your room and realizing how many times you are going to walk that hallway it is advantageous to spend some time considering your room location before booking your cruise. There is a laundry room on each floor. Each laundry room has two washers, two dryers, an ironing board and an iron.
The food was consistently very good. There were few occasions when the food was outstanding but, more importantly, there were no occasions when the food was not good. There was an excellent variety on the menu every night and all of it was well prepared. I am spoiled, living in the Midwest, by the quality of beef that I have grown accustomed to eating. The beef onboard was not bad, it just does not rise to the level of the beef I am used to eating at home. On the other hand, the quality and variety of the seafood served at dinner was excellent!
There are only so many things you can do for breakfast but each day the kitchen staff was able to come up with something new and interesting on the breakfast menu in the dining room. The menu for lunch included fuller meals that would be considered dinner as well as contemporary lunch items. Again, the variety was excellent and the food was well prepared. To be honest the service at breakfast and lunch in the dining room was not the same quality as the dinner service. However, it was at least twice as good as the service we received at breakfast and lunch in the dining room aboard Holland America's Statendam. We enjoy having breakfast and lunch in the dining room whenever time permits. Being served while meeting fellow cruisers is a lovely way to enjoy breakfast and lunch. The conversations with the other passengers seem to add to the entire cruise experience.
The Horizon Court is a buffet which is open around the clock. It was okay but we didn't think it was anything special. If you were to compare the Horizon Court to the Lido Buffet onboard Holland America, you would find that the Horizon Court pales in comparison. We only ate in the Horizon Court when scheduling required it or we were looking for a quick snack. The Riviera Grill is located outside above the main pool. It serves grilled items - hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, bratwurst etc. We only ate there once and it was fine. The Riviera Grill closes at 5:00 p.m. so that it can be transformed into the Sterling Steakhouse.
We paid the $8.00 charge to eat at the Sterling Steakhouse one evening. The steaks were very good although a couple of the steaks that our group were served contained a fairly high percentage of gristle. The service had greatly improved from our experience in the steakhouse on a prior cruise.
The pizzeria serves a very nice pizza. I have to wonder why they do not have a standard Italian sausage pizza. The pizzeria was quite busy during the cruise and has obviously become a favorite alternative dining venue.
Friendly and efficient describes the overall service. We were walking through a narrow hallway and a crew member was on a ladder replacing an overhead light bulb. As we made our way around his ladder, he wished us a good day and apologized for being in our way in the friendliest tone of voice. This incident typifies the attitude of the onboard staff. Our experience has not been the same on Holland America or Royal Caribbean.
Romy, our room steward, was efficient and friendly. Our waiter and assistant waiter were only average. They were efficient but they did very little to go beyond what was expected. Drinks, coffee and tea, were an afterthought and refills were difficult to get most nights. Rarely, if at all, did either of them attempt to engage the table, offer recommendations, or go above and beyond basic service. Based on our four Princess cruise this was highly unusual. On the other hand, our head waiter, Amedeo, was present every evening to discuss the menu, make recommendations for the following evening, send sample plates to the table, and to be of assistance in any way that he was able.
I must mention our dinner companions: Sandra & Tom, Karen & Harry and Vickie & Rick. They were absolutely wonderful! The satisfaction of the entire cruise was raised to another level due to the camaraderie of the dinner table. A "small world isn't it" story is in order here. Ten to twelve couples on this cruise had been corresponding on a cruise chat board for some time prior to the cruise. The first night at dinner while conducting introductions we learned that a couple of us from the cruise chat group had been seated at the same table for dinner!
Often overlooked are the personnel working the Purser's Desk. These people were always friendly and helpful.
About six weeks before the cruise, Princess sends a list of all available excursions. You can book your excursions at that time (by mail, facsimile or over the internet). We booked a couple of our excursions on the Princess home page and our excursion tickets were included with our cruise tickets. We booked two excursions independently. If you are considering a tour of a town or a tourist site that carries no risk and can be easily reached by taxi, you may want to consider touring independently. Alternatively, if the tour is unusual or runs the risk of delay or physical injury, you should consider booking with Princess. If something goes wrong, and you are on a Princess excursion, Princess will work it out. If you are on an independent tour and something goes wrong you are on your own. However, when the risk is minimal or non-existent, the Princess excursion will cost you more; it will be less personal; and, the delays will be exasperating. We learned that when the situation is right we can see more of what we want to see in less time with a lot less aggravation at a much better price by touring independently. If you cannot decide whether to book a Princess excursion or to tour independently, you can book the Princess excursion and cancel onboard if you choose to tour independently. If cancelled in time there is no penalty.
Paul Burns was the Cruise Director. He has a rapier wit especially with the bingo crowd. Princess has a major problem with respect to managing the entertainment venues. In the past the timing of the shows was brilliantly arranged for traditional seating so that everyone had a couple of opportunities to see the shows. Then came Personal Choice and Anytime Dining. What had been a brilliant arrangement now no longer works very well. The reason is simple - the inherent control of crowd flow based upon dinner times is out the window. Passengers can dine whenever they want and, as a result, they can go to whatever show or shows they want to see whenever they want to see them. More than once I overheard discussions concerning making dinner plans to accommodate show times. This leaves those having traditional dining with late seating unable to find seats at the popular shows. On this ten day cruise we were only able to find seats at three shows. This was particularly disappointing as we both enjoy the entertainment.
After leaving Ft. Lauderdale we spent two days sailing to Curacao. I had intended on spending a lot of time reading during our days at sea. As it turned out, there was so much to do that often the day passed before I realized it. I did do a little reading but a lot less than I had intended. Part of the reason is the infernal deck chairs on the Promenade deck. Every time I sat in one (and I had no trouble finding a chair any time I wanted one) my eyelids shut. It was just amazing!
Each day at sea there were two sessions of bingo. The basic pack of three cards for each of five games ran $20 per session . The sessions get more and more crowded as the cruise goes on because of a roll-over on the last bingo game. The prize reached $3000 before someone won it at the last session.
Art auctions have become as much a part of cruising as bingo. I was pleased to note that the hype concerning the art auctions was greatly reduced from our prior cruise. One of my frustrations continues in that it detracts from the beauty of the ship to have the millions of dollars of art which decorates the ship hidden behind the items available for purchase at the art auctions. These pieces do not even compare to those pieces decorating the ship yet they constantly were covering up the "good stuff".
Our first port was . . . . Curacao
Curacao is one of the Dutch ABC islands, the others being Aruba and Bonaire. On a previous cruise we stopped at Aruba and I determined it was not one of my favorite Caribbean islands. I was pleasantly surprised by Curacao. There is a new pier to accommodate the large cruise ships. We were fortunate to be able to dock at one of the old piers in town. The approach to Willamsted is fairly narrow. Most ships enter through the narrow passage into a harbor area, turn around and come back to the pier. If you are interested in such things you should be on deck. The Costa ship in front of us made that precise maneuver. We, however, simply pulled into the channel and sidled over to the pier. On leaving, we pushed away from the pier and backed out of the channel. An interesting maneuver!
The Queen Emma bridge crosses the navigation channel. It is a pontoon bridge built more than 100 years ago. It swings to the side to allow ships to pass. When it is open there are ferries to transport pedestrians back and forth across the channel. Willamsted is a bustling place. My wife noted that it has more shoe stores than any place she has ever seen. There is plenty of shopping. A block or two away from the main shopping street you will notice unoccupied store fronts. There were enough of them to make me wonder if the economy in Willamsted is suffering or if the store owners have simply squeezed too hard for rent. The main area of Willamsted was relatively clean and the bright pastel colors of the buildings give the place a charming atmosphere.
We took a tour from the ship in the afternoon. The Triple "S" tour - Sharks, Seaquarium & Submarine - was a two part tour. The first part took us to the seaquarium. It is an interesting place that we did not have quite enough time to explore. There are the standard aquarium displays. They also have outdoor holding tanks that were being refurbished. There is also a diving aspect to the aquarium which was not part of our tour. Additionally, the seaquarium has a tourist submarine which was not operating but was available to go into to observe underwater. The tour of the seaquarium finished with a dolphin show. Overall, it was worth seeing but it was not something you have not seen before. The second part of the tour was the submarine. Actually it was a semi-submersible which is essentially a glass-bottomed boat. We were bussed to a resort where the semi-submersible was based. The trip on the semi-submersible is the best that I have been on. The quality of the tour was the narration of the tour guide and the activity on the reef. A very interesting tour!
The Missed Port
The cruise was supposed to go to Isla Margarita which is a Venezuelan island. Due to the unsettled political climate in Venezuela, the port was cancelled and we wound up with an additional sea day and a few additional hours in Barbados.
We had been to Barbados more than 5 years ago. At that time it was one of our favorite islands. We were anxious to see if anything had changed which would cause us to reevaluate our opinion. It had not changed and Barbados is still one of our favorite islands!
We booked an all day excursion with Glory Tours (www.glorytours.org). They were not allowed to pick us up at the cruise terminal so arrangements were made for pickup at Pelican Village. Glory Tours does not have an office at Pelican Village rather the van just pulls into the parking lot to pick you up. Pelican Village is a very short walk from the cruise terminal building.
There were only two couples on the tour and we had a new clean van in which we rode. Ricky was our tour guide and he was informative, charming, knowledgeable and everything you could ask for in a tour guide. Ricky suggested that we go to Harrison's Caves first so that we could get there before the tours from the ship began to arrive. He was successful because when we finished the tour the place was packed! The caves are nice but are the wettest caves that I have toured. The tour is on an electric tram that stops a couple of times for closer investigation and photographic opportunities. I hardly ever miss an opportunity to take a cave tour. Other than the tram there was not much different about this tour from other cave tours. The audio/visual presentation before the tour does a good job of describing the difference between Barbados and the other Caribbean islands.
Leaving Harrison's Caves we traveled through the country. We made several stops for photographic opportunities. Ricky conducted on on-going commentary as we were driving around. We stopped at St. John's Church before crossing over to Bathsheba and Cattlewash where we had lunch. What a breathtakingly beautiful place!
After lunch, Ricky took us to see the painted rocks. The painted rocks is a location where an artist painted rocks on both sides of the road to look like African animals. We then moved on to Orchid World. Orchid World is a large complex devoted to the growing of orchids. They were beautiful!
The last stop on the tour was the wildlife preserve. We arrived just before the animals were fed. Few of the animals were caged. The monkeys, deer, tortoises, and agouti all run free. It is a humorous sight to see the tortoises circling the food like rocks around a fire with the monkeys standing on the backs of the tortoises to get to the food. Then the deer reach over the whole bunch to grab something they want to eat. An interesting place!
Ricky was going to take us back to the ship but we had him drop us off downtown. We had about an hour and a half before we needed to get back. The main part of Bridgetown, Barbados is an interesting place mixing typical city shopping with the tourist shops found in Caribbean ports. I highly recommend Glory Tours. We will be using them again next January when we return to Barbados.
We left Barbados and sailed to . . . . Dominica
Dominica is a third world island. One look at Roseau up close and you know that you are no longer on the beaten path. However, that very lack of sophistication and the undeveloped natural beauty of the island is what is attractive about Dominica. From my lead-in you already know that this island is not for everyone. The island is covered by a tropical rain forest. It receives 350 inches of rain a year. The showers come and they go in typical Caribbean fashion. Be prepared for rain in Dominica.
In doing my research for the trip I found Ken's Hinterland Adventure Tours (www.kenshinterlandtours.com). All of the tours involve some degree of hiking in the rainforest. Hiking in a rain forest is not my wife's idea of a vacation so she chose to take the whale watching excursion offered by the ship. I, on the other hand, chose to go exploring. I took the Middleham Falls & Ti Tou Gorge tour. The information concerning this tour warns - "Persons should be in good physical condition to do this trip, good sneakers or hiking boots must be worn, Shorts and T Shirts are appropriate." Now I can hike with the best of them, however, I had four coronary by- passes four years ago. I made sure I had my nitro pills with me and dressed appropriately for a hike. What I found was that the Middleham Falls tour is a mountain hike on a primitive path through the rain forest that seemed to be at least three (3) miles in length and rises 800 to 1000 feet. This is not a hike for the timid nor the inactive nor anyone with heart problems or likely to have heart problems!!! The hike requires you to climb over boulders, through creeks and streams, and find toe holds in tree roots as you raise or lower your body. The payoff is the magnificent forest you are hiking through with a beautiful 300+ foot waterfall at the end of the hike. I am sure Aaron, our guide, wondered if I was going to make it. I am glad that I took the hike but I would never have attempted it had I known what it involved. It was a wonderful experience but never again!
The second portion of the tour was the Ti Tou Gorge. This involves a short hike. Then you take off anything you don't want to get wet (no changing room or lockers or anything of that sort - leave your valuables locked in the vehicle and wear your bathing suit). You swim in really cold water into what appears to be a cave in a rock wall with overhanging vegetation. Actually it is either a crack in the rock or a crevice eroded by the water. From the top of the water to the top of the gorge I'd estimated it to be 50 - 60 feet. The gorge is very narrow. It is a short swim into the gorge to the waterfall. There are actually two waterfalls - one behind the other. It is a really incredible site!
I highly recommend Ken's Hinterland Tours. They are dependable, knowledgeable and thorough. Our guide was Aaron who was a very good guide and was an expert at describing the vegetation. They do offer less active tours.
My wife was highly complimentary of the whale watching tour. She gave high marks to the tour guides. They saw several whales and lots of porpoises.
On to . . . . St. Thomas
It had been many years since we were last in St. Thomas. Nothing much seemed to have changed. It looked cleaner and better organized than during our last visit. I note that virtually every store in the main shopping area now has a jewelry counter. In the past there was a plethora of jewelry stores. Now, in addition to all the jewelry stores, if you go into a T-shirt shop or a pharmacy, or to buy linens there is the ever present jewelry counter.
We had some extra time and decided to take the tram across from the Havensight Mall. The tram was pricey ($15.00 each) but what an outstanding view! We were pleasantly surprised to find that a lady was giving parrot shows at the top. Overall, it was a very pleasant little side trip away from the hustle and bustle of the shopping.
The next day was a sea day before we arrived at . . . . Princess Cays
It was overcast, windy and cool when we arrived. Our head waiter, Amedeo, had advised us not to rush over to the cay. He said that at about 10:00 the sun might come out and it would warm up a bit. He was wrong about the sun but it did warm a bit. It was still too cool to go swimming and most passengers stayed on the ship. We went over and had lunch. All the food served on Princess Cays comes from the ship. There is a covered cooking/serving area with four buffet lines. Hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, knackwurst, ribs, chicken legs and grilled chicken were served together with salads and desserts. The food was good.
Princess Cays is the private get away for Princess Cruises. It is actually at the Southern tip of Eleuthera island in the Bahamas. Princess does not own the cay but leases it. The area has been created by Princess and was totally destroyed several years ago when a hurricane took it away. There is the ever present gift shop and Bahamians have vending stations located around the cay. There are no roving vendors bugging you to buy something. Princess has constructed several covered areas for both serving food and eating. There is a tower which you can climb to get a great view of the ship anchored in the deeper water. You have to tender in to Princess Cays.
There was an abundance of lounges available on the beach. Speaking of beach, there was no natural beach on Princess Cays. All of the sand has been brought in. Consequently, there is quite a bit of rock both in the water and around the beach. In one area there is a slight covering of sand with solid rough rock underneath. It is a great place for stubbing toes and chafing feet. Princess would have you pre-reserve your beach toys (floats, flippers, masks, water bikes, kayaks, sunfish, and other such items) prior to arrival at the cay. The fees charged are fairly hefty. The fees are not refundable so when you have weather like we experienced you get charged even though you don't play with the toys.
Sailing overnight before we returned to . . . . Ft. Lauderdale
Debarkation was the smoothest of any cruise we have been on. We went to breakfast in the dining room. While eating breakfast our debarkation number was called. We finished breakfast, returned to our cabin, said our final good-bye to our room steward and walked down to the debarkation level (there was no possibility of getting an elevator). I have kept a cruise card from each of our cruises as a memento of the cruise. The new Princess policy is to collect all of those cards at debarkation. We walked through the various check points collected our baggage and we were on our way.
The Dawn Princess is a wonderful ship! She has been tastefully appointed with an understated elegance. The staff is friendly, efficient, and first class. If the opportunity presents itself, we would certainly cruise on the Dawn Princess again. In fact, while aboard we booked a cruise on the Sun Princess for next year at the same time. There are some real advantages in booking while onboard. The down payment is only $100.00 per person and you receive varying amounts of shipboard credit (from $50.00 to $150.00 per person based on the length of the cruise and type of cabin you book). The shipboard credit is in addition to any credit or perks you get from your travel agent. Your onboard booking is transferred to your travel agent. by the time we had arrived home our travel agent had the booking and had mailed us a receipt!
Princess is a wonderful cruise line which does so many things right. When you spend as much money as you do on a cruise and take hard earned vacation time you expect the experience to be something very special. Princess understands this and does not disappoint.
We would be happy to answer any questions. Just drop us an E-mail. Bill & Lu Schwartz
Airport Arrival: Princess representative greeted us at the gate as we deplaned. He gave us directions to the area where the bus was to take us to the ship. He also explained that if we had Princess transfers to the ship, Princess claims your bags and delivers them to your stateroom. If you do not have the transfer, you need to claim your own bags.
Embarkation: This part was a breeze. From the time we arrived at the pier, to when we reached our stateroom, was about 15 minutes. Also, there is a duty free liquor store located between the Princess check-in area and the ship. Beverages available include bottled water, soda, beer, and hard liquor. You may want to pick up some to take on board. When you finally arrive on the ship, many Princess personnel are waiting to serve you. They greet you, assist with your carry-on luggage and lead you to your stateroom.
Note: Make sure to complete all paperwork that Princess sends to you before you arrive. This speeds up the embarkation process dramatically.
Stateroom: Our room was C327 on Caribe deck towards the front of the ship onthe starboard side. If you are going for a cabin with a balcony, ask for one on the starboard side of the ship because this is the side that faces land while in port. On this side of the ship your balcony has great views of arriving and departing the islands. The cabin size is adequate for two people and their luggage. There is a closet divided into three compartments complete with many wooden hangers. One compartment is for hanging longer items such as women's dresses, the second has two rods for hanging shorter items such as shirts. The third has shelving with one shelf holding the room safe. Room has a hair dryer but no clock. Our cabin steward (Nilo) greeted us as we arrived at our cabin, he explained the layout of our cabin, the hours that he was available each day, and what to do if he was off duty and we needed something. Our room was cleaned twice a day by Nilo and was always kept in excellent condition.
Note: When in port, keep your drapes closed to avoid embarrassing situations. In St. Thomas workers were on scaffolding painting the exterior of the ship and they passed by our cabin balcony unannounced.
Public Areas: The lounges on the ship are well designed, our favorite spot was the Wheelhouse Bar. It is decorated in dark wood and has many cozy areas to have drinks with friends. The atrium area has bars on both the 5th and 7th floors including piano entertainers. There is a string quartet that plays in the atrium area every evening during dinner hours. The dining rooms are divided into intimate areas of around 3 to 5 tables. This helps give the feeling of being in a fine smaller restaurant.
Disembarkation: This process was just as efficient as when we arrived. You are assigned colored tags and when your color is called, you leave the ship. Groups assigned to each color are smaller then we have experienced on other cruise lines; this helps keep the congestion to a minimum while claiming your luggage. We flew with American Airlines and they had representatives in the Wheelhouse Bar to check us in for the flight home. American also had luggage check-in at the pier for those people who had transfers back to the airport.
ISLANDS Trinidad: We did not take a shore excursion here. Port of Spain is an industrial city. We walked down a nice tree lined promenade in the main section of the city, a little dirty but nice. If you are looking for some good quality & reasonably priced island wear, shop at Charmaine Charles. The clothing is sewed right in front of you and the clerks/seamstresses are a delight. It is unit 31 in the ship complex that you walk through to get to the city.
Barbados: We had a shore excursion planned to Harrison's Cave, but unfortunately we were on the cruise that experienced engine problems and were 3.5 hours late arriving. Needless to say our excursion was cancelled and our account was credited. Bridgetown has a nice shopping district with all the chain jewelry stores. You can either walk to town or take a taxi from the terminal, cost is $2.00 per person U.S., each way. The distance is about 1.5 miles from the cruise ship terminal.
Antigua: Took the New Waves Snorkel tour here. We were taken on a 85 foot catamaran to a reef on the south side of the island to snorkel. Beautiful island with a deep harbor where ships pull right up to the entrance of St John's, you walk only about 200 yards and you are on the edge of town. Street vendors sell locally brewed, ice cold beer…a refreshing break from shopping.
Tortola: We took the morning shore excursion to the island of Virgin Gorda to see what they call "the baths." This is by far my favorite experience of this cruise. It is a challenging trek, but try to take the path to Devil's Bay. The guide will explain that going on the path requires lots of bending, climbing, and walking through some knee high water to reach the beach, but it is all worth it. Very beautiful scenery. Not much shopping on Tortola, however if you are interested in purchasing spices, lotions, or candles there is a great store called Sunny Carribbee. In addition there is a Pusser rum store selling clothing and of course Pusser Rum, and attached to the store is a small restaurant and bar.
St Thomas: Very easy to get around, many good options for excursions here. We opted to go to Magens Bay, very nice area with a fairly wide, clean, crescent shaped beach. Try to get there early and you will have the beach almost to yourself. Around 11:00 am the tourist start pouring in and things get crowded. A taxi to Magens Bay costs $6.00 per person each way from the ship. A ship to town taxi ride is $3.00 per person each way and you should never have a problem finding a ride, taxis are everywhere. There is great shopping both in town or at the Havensight Mall next to the main ship terminal.
Other Observations: The ship has two-way radios for rent. It might be a good way for families to keep in contact. Cost is $4 per Walkie-Talkie per day.
If you are reserving a balcony cabin, do not reserve a cabin on the Caribe deck. These balcony openings are smaller than on the floors above the Caribe Deck.
We like the watch sale on board. All watches are $69.99 with most retailing for $175 or higher.
Also, look for the Gold by the Inch sale. Custom made chains start at $1.39 per inch.
This cruise was our favorite so far. We would not hesitate to cruise with Princess again. In all, it was a tropical paradise afloat.Dennis Panier
Oh what a wonderful S Carribean cruise the Dawn Princess presented. We left 11/18 on American Airlines to San Jan via Miami. Embarkation was under 6 minutes incuding walking aboard. Luggage arrived in an hour. We were on Riviera deck #349. The BA balcony is twice as wide & high was the BD balcony we had in Alaska on Caribe deck #332. But the door faces the employee elevator & stock room which can make for a very noisy first & last night with luggage moving & banking into the door all night.
The welcome crew included our Head Waiter Genesis from the Venetian dining room which we again received our early seating at a table for 4 which made for an excellent end to the day. Genesis was so surprised when he saw me & then Jerry enter the ship. He told us who our waiter was & everything. He is amazing!
11/19 - First day is at sea, which was very windy & waves were beating the ship like crazy. From floor 12 we enjoyed the spray at breakfast from the bannaster which proved how forceful the waves were.We went down to 5 to sit in Magnum's bar to watch the enormous waves. Then back to change into our suits & out to the pool for the day. The Riviera pool is great with a area that surrounds the actual pool so kids and play safely in the 3" water, which I loved to sit & lay in to keep cool in the 88 degree sun. The pool inside was 11.5 feet at the deep end down to 5 feet at the other.
Then we decided to check out the aft pool which is small, has a glass door entrance, and a Jacuzzi next to it. TOO HOT since no wind was there so up to 15 for the SPLASH POOL. Boy did we learn why it has that name. We were solo trying to keep the towels attached to the loungers in the massive wind. Even my sunglasses blew off my face breaking into pieces. So we get aboard the chaises the lotion up & WOW a wave!!! It was from the 18" deep pool! This 8 foot diameter pool that was rocking back & forth in the wind & waves was splashing us with a refreshing waterballoon-effect of water.
Dressy dinner had me in my pearls, diamonds over a black lace floor length gown, Jerry in his dark suit & the photographers jumping us at the cocktail party. (Lousy photos too, reminds us of those prom shots). Elie our waiter was so attentive that he made for a very enjoyable week of dinners. Our tablemates were from Palm Springs, FL & a napkin was in front of their faces when they said it. They were so enjoyable for a distinguished 15-20 years older couple. Dinner was a look forward to event for all of us. We did have a photo taken that we did buy because we were so windburned that we glowed bright red in the shot!
11/20 - Trinidad was our first island & we must admit that it definitely is nothing to want to get off the ship for. The stink, the water & crap running down the street in these sewer-like reveens off a foot high curb. Wheelchairs had to turn around. And the people that jump you for cabs, tours, crafts - pushy is a compliment to describe them. So back to the ship we went to eat, swim, sun, meet more fun people that adopt us as part of their family: Joe & Judy from Barefoot Lake, FL. which I happened to notice her macaw earrings & that was the ice breaker. We did ports together a lot. Even went to their inner cabin ( wow is that small, with a bed that folds up to the wall above Jerry's head as we drank Bank beer. Princess does allow folks to bring booze aboard to enjoy in the room.
11/21 - Barbados, a step above Trinidad but not much. But they had a tent city of sale stuff with Hawaiian-type shirts for $12 made by a delightful Gracie, who's husband made steel drums with his father who was playing one for us. Gracie's hand sews the shirts, dresses & uses French seams which I watched her do. So we bought a dress for $10 & shirt that match, though we promised not to wear them together as we saw all over the ship. Oh & those braid gals, pushy! How funny folks looked all week in the badly done braids but the beads made it worth it for them I guess.
We did an excursion here that I STRONGLY RECOMMEND to everyone: Harrison Caves - WOW! Stalactites & Stalagmites so enormous it is hard to imagine without seeing. You wear a napkin atop your head that you cover with a hardhat. Then you board a tram that drives through the caves. NO CAMCORDERS but we got to use ours when I told the guide that it was a digital still camera also, which it was, but who knows if we are filming or shooting.
Then you drive to the top of the mountain for a truly dreamlike atmosphere of beauty with the ocean surrounding this very green island. Then we learned about some of the houses we have seen that are titled Chattle Houses. They are bought by workers who work for richer folks & they moves quickly between jobs by removing the roof & the sides collapse & you go. They looked 8 feet square. The islands are mostly BANKS! Chase, Citibank, many foreign ones as well as Price Waterhouse. So we know who owns the mansions atop the mountains...
11/22 - Antigua (pronounced ANTEEGA) and they let you know how to say it! This again was better than Barbados & well above Trinidad. We also noticed at breakfast on the balcony (which was delivered in under 3 minutes) which we enjoyed better than in the dining room, since the staff there must be the new hires. They are slow, uncoordinated, bring wrong food to folks or forgetting what I had ordered to be constantly corrected.
Joe & Judy meet up with us at a shop & she & I are going through magnets as souvenirs for folks. Joe disappears! We walk the street looking for him & after 30 mins he comes back stating that we have to go to the Sony Bldg. I laughed that it was a craft place with a shop selling Sony items tax free next door. There they bought me macaw earrings. What a sweet couple to make me so surprised & happy.
That night at dinner was CARIBBEAN NIGHT. Everyone was tropical in dress, Jerry in is handmade shirt from Gracie & me in my Hawaiian long dress with my orchid over my left ear (taken). The food was fruity, even pina colada soup. They called it soup, but it was a free PC in a goblet with fruit & straw, so I had 3!!!! Jerry went nuts over the Mahi mahi served, I was eating all the appetizers for dinner from shrimp cocktail, papaya plate, to a chicken Caesar salad with fruit in that too, Then Jerry joins me in some PC Soup..... We both ordered 2 deserts from the Love Boat dream (solid Godiva chocolate mouse in a heart shape, NY cheesecake, Petit Fours & Brule. I was full so I carried the Petit Fours back to the room, having to pass through the cocktail party for late dinners who remark what a great hors d'oeuvres & got slapped for touching my desert. We had a laugh over that....
11/23 - Tortola - WOW! From the moment we pulled into the inlet to then sail to the dock everything from the ibis flying over us, to the fragrance of orchids in the air; oh what a difference this made! Why didn't we just cruise here & stay 3 nights? So we did breakfast on the balcony eating the Petit Fours which we just wonderful with a carafe of coffee then upstairs to the Horizon Buffet for breakfast which is loads better than the dining room.
Then off the boat to get to a store called Sunny Caribbee. A gal a work with Jerry wanted him to get her some rosemary bath gel & Pussers rum, so we walked 4 square blocks to locate the shops. Sunny Caribbee is a spice store with a room filled with every imaginable spice know to man. Next door is their bath products with bath gels in fruits & spices, fragrance sprays that a juice based. Nice place that we bought Xmas gifts for our nieces, and something for both of us to bathe in & smell tropical in during the snow. Then to Pussers for rum (3 bottles for $23.85) and back on board since we have an excursion at 1PM-5:30PM. So we change into bathing suits, grab our snorkel bag with towels inside, lube up with suntan lotions & board the safari truck that seats 4 folks to a bench & 5 b bench long, driver in cab of truck. He takes us to the top of the Spencer Mountain to a rainforest, as advertised by Princess. These was lousy since everything was dying. Nothing close to a Hawaiian rainforest where it is raining while you are there & waterfalls, plants & trees galore, We saw 6 spiders in various spots, a tiny lizard run in front of us, a snake was seen by the first 5 in line; so you walk up & down for 1.5 hours. Then you get a small glass of rum punch & then we are off to Cave Bay for beach fun.
WOW the most amazing ocean we've ever been in. Bath water temp, very still waters, very greenish-blue & crystal clear. Itty bitty fish in swarms of thousands are all over & the bigger & bigger more colorful ones also. I saw a yellow & black snake getting a tummy rub in the sand down below then he swims away. A lobster with a claw out of the sand was another find. Then a big yellow & white fish swims right up to my mask, as advertised that Tortola has friendly fish, and BAM! I am hit by a force in the back of my head that knocked my air pipe out of my mouth. In front of me are 2 orange feet!!! Wondering what the hell happened I get to the top & there is a PELICAN looking at me in my mask. He tilts his head dumping water from his beak & then straightens his neck as I watch the fish go down his throat, There were 10 of them smashing head first into the water scaring the crap our of many swimmers. Dinnertime & they don't fear any of us actually floating in the water next to you. This was fun & a memoir forever.
Then we get back to the ship as they awaited us before pulling the gangway. 2nd dressy night & the 20 of us laughing at what we all look like. But in an hour everyone at dinner looking ravishing in gowns, jewels, tuxes, all the fun stuff of cruising, Princess did a huge Thanksgiving cake for the USA citizens & a Thanksgiving dinner that turned into the entertainment of our table. Everything from soup, salad dressing, mashed potatoes, stuffing, even the creme brule was all PUMPKIN! Jerry got the turkey which was dry & no gravy & pumpkin stuffing/potatoes that he pushed aside. I had beef medallions with a ceasar salad that Genesis made for me & it also had pumpkin potatoes that Carlton, our male tablemate clued me in not to eat. He orders the corn chowder to discover it has pumpkin in it. A major pumpkin overkill. Genesis stated to us that he has had complaints about the menu & I told him it was more Halloween than Thanksgiving.
I told you he was the best thing of the Dawn Princess from being the boss of the Horizon Buffet at breakfast, then the Head waiter in the Venetian Dining room in the evening. He tells us he naps a lot between shifts. He has waiters that leave weekly so he is busy training replacements for his dinner staff. I was correct stating that breakfast as well as buffets are training grounds for newcomers.
11/25 - Go home day ......... hugs from various folks saying goodbye from cruisemates to staff who knew us. Off the ship by 8:30 at SJU by 9AM for a 4PM flight that would turn into a nighmarish ending to a fantastic week.
This is a letter sent to the CEO of Northwest Airlines with copies to my TA & to Princess explaining everythng:
I am writing to inform you of our second one-way trip with your airline. After a fabulous cruise, we sat with 200 other folks from 10AM till the 4PM departure time not knowing what we were to be facing.
We arrived at SJU at 8:30AM with no one at the NWA ticket counter with 30 other folks from various cruise lines. Here we discover that NWA has only 3 flights from San Juan 3:45 & 4PM to Detroit & a 5PM to Memphis. So Continental's staff assisted us by paging NWA staff to come to the counter. Then the girl tells us all to go to gate 32 to await our flights. So we all sit for 6 hours till any gate agents show. There a massive line of folks to get boarding passes.
My husband received a letter with a Silver Elite card attached to it 2 days before the cruise, though we only had flow once with you before, one way to Anchorage on September 18th. So the agent upgraded us both to First Class as our 20th anniversary present from NWA. We were thrilled. This way our 2 seats were open for standby folks. She did the same with others too since First was empty. So we are taxiing at 4:10PM and the plane comes to a dead halt in the middle of the runway. There the pilot states he is having navigation errors that need to be corrected. So we sit. Then 30 minutes later he states we are returning to the gate for the mechanic to board and fix the problem & we'd be taking off shortly. At 5PM we learn that the computer broke & another was headed to us from Miami. So we are to exit with our carryons to go to a restaurant for dinner. So now we line to get vouchers for a Metropolis Restaurant, no others, and taxi vouchers. As we approach a taxi outside, they refuse to take the voucher. The land transport gal tells us that this is for Airport Limo Vans only. So 20 pile into the van to got to dinner.
The Metropolis is a Cuban establishment next door to a COCKFIGHTING Arena. The menu is in Spanish so no one knew what we are getting. Our water speaks broken English & didn't understand steak, hamburgers, anything we asked. Then another told us to get the Pepper Steak. So we did as we like Oriental food. Well the meat was grey in color, tasted terrible like it was boiled beef & the peppers were limp. Beans & rice next to it. We pushed it aside hoping to be fed on the plane. Then 50 folks are outside in the rain awaiting a van to take us back to the airport. 1.5 hour wait till one van showed. Then we finally get back to the airport to learn that the crew went to bed at the Hilton & everyone will be staying at the ESJ Towers. So we take our hotel voucher & share a cab with another couple so we can get to bed. This hotel had flooded floor outside our room. A king bed with twin sheets on it Loud people outside on their balconies all night, sparks flew from the thermostat every time the A/C went on in the very hot room & a smell in the place that made us leave a few hours later. The taxi driver refused our voucher so we paid $8 to get to the airport.
We sat till 6:30, with others who were also booked at the ESJ Towers and refused to stay there with the fear of lice, when the crew showed as well as gate folks to allow us on the plane. Talking with coach passengers, we in First learn that they stayed at the Hyatt, Hilton, Intercontinental even the Ritz Carlton enjoying room service with meal vouchers & those of us in First got the disgusting ESJ Towers. We were furious!!!
So now it is 6AM, we still can't use the breakfast voucher since nothing is open, so we get in line for our connecting flight tickets & boarding passes from Detroit on 11/26. Our flight will be at 9:30PM to Cleveland. They refused to change our flight to an earlier one since we were to arrive at 11AM & who wants to sit for 10 hours in Detroit. They stated that we must travel with our luggage. I asked about the partner airline Continental that is a hub in Cleveland if we could fly from San Juan on them & once again we were rudely told to sit down & await the plane we are booked on.
At 7:30AM, since the crew from American Airlines repairing the computer didn't show till 7AM, we depart. My husband & I were happy to be in First Class to get a well deserved meal of quality there, Guess what? Coach food for everyone, just like Southwest. No difference between coach or first class. Plastic pop-top containers holding mini fruit cup, cheese omelet, a tiny muffin that size of my thumb, a zip top orange juice & a zip top yogurt. Even got the plastic utensils with mini napkin. Again it was the same that was served in coach before the cart got into first to serve us. Even the white tablecloths were not available for row 4A-D. The first 3 rows had them. I noticed everyone in first closing up their lousy meal that tasted very strange. So we asked the Steward if he can find cookies, crackers, pretzels even SWA peanuts (as a joke since we need to laugh) and that was First Class's breakfast. No champagne offered to any of us by the staff. In fact a lady in front of us reported the overflowing toilet & smelly bathroom that coach was using as well as first & they closed it sooner than clean it & kept spraying an irritating air freshener over & over again.
Then we arrive in Detroit & have to wait in line again on the busiest travel day of the year, which we were to be home 12 hours ago, to learn that we were to wait till 9:30PM (10 hours) till we could fly home. My husband pulls out that Silver Elite card & the gals then will look to see if HE CAN GET AN EARLIER FLIGHT! What about me???? They tell me I am not silver elite. Then they smile & say they have 2 seats on a 4:30PM flight. He will be 2A & I am 20C. My husband says we sit together & we were first class from San Juan.............We wanted a supervisor. So a lady shows & puts us into 15 E&F on the 4:30 PM Flight. As we are boarding that flight, we hear surrounding NWA employee passengers being moved from coach into first which was half empty.
When we arrived in Cleveland, we asked to have our miles put on Continental One Pass & that was refused since it was on Silver Elite. We do not fly NWA & after this never plan to again. What a way to wreck a great vacation that Princess Cruises provided.
Oh what a wonderful S Caribbean cruise the Dawn Princess presented. We left 11/18 on American Airlines to San Jan via Miami. Embarkation was under 6 minutes including walking aboard. Luggage arrived in an hour. We were on Riviera deck #349. The BA balcony is twice as wide & high was the BD balcony we had in Alaska on Caribe deck #332. But the door faces the employee elevator & stock room which can make for a very noisy first & last night with luggage moving & banking into the door all night.
The welcome crew included our Head Waiter Genesis from the Venetian dining room which we again received our early seating at a table for 4 which made for an excellent end to the day. Genesis was so surprised when he saw me & then Jerry enter the ship. He told us who our waiter was & everything. He is amazing!
Just returned from an exquisite cruise aboard the Dawn Princess - I have no complaints - from the cabin steward - Sebastian - who was more than polite and kept our cabin spotless - always asked us in the evening if we needed anything - extra towels, etc. - to the dinner staff - Gideon and Lito who were always smiling and very pleasant - they made us feel so welcomed each evening at dinner. They were both very courteous and cordial.
Our dinner was always excellant!!!!! It was one of the most relaxing vacations for me and my husband. Alaska, the inside passage - was absolutely beautiful. Our first port was Ketchikan, we had an outside cabin, with balcony - very good choice - when we woke up that morning and looked outside it was like Christmas morning - seeing this charming, colorful town!! At no time throughout the cruise - my husband nor I have any complaints - again, very relaxing and scenery awesome!!!!
This cruise was one of the finest we have taken, second only to a three week cruise of the Mediterranean and West Africa on the Vistafjord, many years ago. I will qualify this by saying that we have toured many times and are familiar with the Caribbean islands, so we didn't do any tours, nor did we snorkel, scuba dive, etc. So if those are your interests, this review might not help you.
Embarkation and Debarkaction
These were easy. We had filled out our forms and mailed them back well before sailing day, so we were "Platinum Express" passengers with a dedicated place for registration. We arrived at 12 and were in our cabin shortly thereafter. One tip: Check your tickets carefully for missing information. Fill it in, and you'll save even more time. Debarkation was rediculously easy. The ship reserved space in the show lounge for Platimun Express members to wait, and then we simply walked and escallated off the ship.
We had a mini-suite. What a luxury! About 325 square feet of living space plus a large PRIVATE balcony. A walk-in closet. A stall shower. A whirlpool tub (about 3/4size.) A commode and sink ina compartment of its own with an entrance from either the bedroom or living room. We entered from the hall into the living room. The bedroom was separated by a heavy curtain, so room service could enter without everyone dressed and ready. The balcony could be reached either from the living room or bedroom. Two TVs (one remote!) a refrigeratpr and a wall safe. Lots of storage space.
We had some troube initially because we had requested a table for two and were instead seated at a table for two. The Maitre'd fixed that the next night and waved off a tip. The service was excellent. The food was fine to excellent. The steakhouse was also excellent. We follow Dr. Atkin's dietary recommendations and had little trouble staying reasonably close to his rules.
The wine list is very good, with a number of high quality wines at reasonable prices, some at US restaurant prices. No Barolo, but a Brunello, and Opus One, as will as a Pichon Longevill ($79).
For white, we recommend the Cote du Beaune ($39 vs $55 at the liquor store.)
The production shows were excellent. The magician was very good, though my wife can't stand magicians as a class. The commedians were forgettable.
First run movies (e.g. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Spiderman) were shown at various times in a large, comfortable theatre.
Geberally good and inobtrusive. We did have a problem with room service, which took a phone call to remedy.
Myself and my companion Linda sailed on the 12 day Tahiti to Hawaii cruise. Here are some of our impressions of Princess Cruise Lines, the Dawn Princess, and her crew.
We booked everything through our travel agent and chose princess to make the flight arrangements and transfers since this was such a long distance and we weren't spending any days before or days after in a hotel. We wanted to be there on time. This was probably a mistake and we should have let our travel agent make these arrangements, since they could have probably gotten us a better price for our flights, and made the timing and duration of the flight home much more convenient.
The flight to Tahiti was a World Airways charter by Princess and was wonderful, but the timing of the flight home was horrendus. We left the ship at 7:30 AM, went on a tour of the USS Arizona and USS Missouri which was over at 12:00 Noon, and then had to wait in a hospitality room at the Convention center in Honolulu until we were picked up to catch our 11:30 PM flight on Deltato Salt Lake City, and then catch a connecting flight to Phoenix and arrive home the following day at 11:45 AM. Needless to say, 28 hours is a long time between leaving the ship and arriving home. I'm sure Princess could have done better, since there are direct flights to Phoenix from Honolulu. yes we could have changed that schedule through our travel agent, but it would have cost us a $100.00 service fee that Princess charges, plus any additional cost of the flight. We now know to book our own flights.
Of the entire cruise though, that is the only comlaint.
We got an outside cabin with balcony, and this was reasonably adequate in size. I highly recommend this to every one thinking of cruising in this type of climate. We spent every breakfast ouside looking at gorgeous scenery or just watching the sea roll by. Our cabin was also very quiet. We hardly heard any machinery noises, and nothing from our neighbors, excepth on the balcony. There was good closet space, a desk, safe, big queen size bed, and the bathroom was OK, but my companion would have liked a tub, but no big deal. With 4 jacuzzi's on the boat, we could always go and soak if we wanted.
Our cabin steward, Annabelle, was fantastic and went above and beyond. Since princess only offers a continental breakfast, and we didn't want to get up and dressed every morning, we would just write in what we wanted that wasn't on the menu and she made sure we got it. Someone gave her a bottle of Champagne, and she doesn't drink,so she offered it to us. We said sure, and when we were ready to open it the next day, she brought us peanuts, pretzels, and Hor'Derves. She also brought us a snack plate the day before departure, all without our asking. Of course our cabin was always spotless whenever she made it up, which was twice a day. She was simply great.
This attitude was prevalent for the whole crew throughout the voyage. They were the best. Even the Pursers office, who's people on our other voyage with Holland America were rather sullen, were cheerful and helpful throughout the trip.
The food was superb. We ate most ou our dinners at the Horizon Buffet, and they alway had a wide variety, with enough choices to please everyone. The Pizza was to die for. The crust was thin and crispy and the topping generous. You could get it delivered by room service, but it was not advertized on the room service menu. The only thing I didn't like about La Scala restaurant was that you could not order iced tea or coffee there. Only the "extra priced" drinks.
We ate once at their steakhouse restaurant with the $8.00 per person surcharge, and the food was worth it, but my Filet Mignon was rather bland, and had very little flavor to it, but was otherwise very tender and well cooked.
A word on "personal choice" dining. If you want to get a table for 2, you must still call that day and make a reservation, or you will be seated with a larger party, because all the small tables will be taken unless you are dining very early.
A quick word about coffee. I hav seen quite a few reviews about Princess that say they don't have good coffee. I am very picky about coffee, and found to my surprise, theirs is quite good. I only had 1 bad cup, and that was in the Casino, and was probably an old pot, since it tasted burned.
I didn't find any extreme measures of commercialism on the boat, with 2 exceptions. The art auction (which we attended several times) and the botiques, whic were constantly having "sales".
I like the fact that they do not pipe all the ships messages into the cabins. If you wanted to hear something you just tuned your TV to channel 33 and turn up the volume.
The entire boat was extremely clean, the tours were excellent and on time, as was the ship at all but one port of call, because she had to wait for passengers to reboard her late at the previous port. (They were lucky because the gangway had already been withdrawn).
Security was very tight going on and off the boat, but very organized and no long delays. Also no delays embarking or disembarking either.
I will put my 2 cents in about having to pay for ice cream. As with everyone else I have read, I think this should be free. I also think they could have more coffee and iced tea stations around the boat so you are not having to run to the Horizon Court for those things if you don't want to pay for a drink poolside. (And from the stern pool, that's a long way.)
This ship was very steady, even in the open ocean between Tahiti and Hawaii. Hardly any movement, even in 8 foot swells and high winds.
All in all, we would highly recommend the Dawn Princess, her staff, and Princess Cruises, except for their flight back home.
I went on the Dawn Princess June 8th to June 15th. I had a great time. You can never have a bad time in Alaska. The Dawn is very clean for being a few years old. The ship is the perfect size not to big not to small. The Star Princess was with us at one port and the entire deck was filled with people. Its just so much more crowded than the Dawn Princess. The Dawn Princes has more deck space compared to the Star. That's very important if your up in Alaska. My cabin was B216 an inside cabin on deck 10. That is near the front. I got a cheaper price because of the inside, but what's cool on the Dawn is that on deck 9,10,11 you can go out on a small deck in the front. Where my cabin was located I was just 3 cabins from it so it seemed that I was not in the inside cabin. Not to many people know about this so it wont be to crowded if your near a glacier. Also, it has some covering if itsraining. I would stand out here before I went to bed. There are so many spots to look out on the Dawn princess. This ship is perfect for Alaska.
The food was just ok this time. Breakfast in the Lido deck (Horizon Court) was great. They always had different items to choose from unlike other cruise lines. Lunch in the Horizon Court was just ok. It has been better before. This is my 4th cruise with Princess and it just seems like they have down graded their food a tad. It could be just the cook or the ship? I did go down to the dining room for lunch once and its was pretty good. I love pasta and that's why I like Princess so much. For some reason they had more of the red source that was a little spicy for me and also, they would have deer and rabbit in the pasta. (Don't like) They also have hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken hamburgers that are very tasty located outside of Horizon Court. Dinner was good. It's very comparable to Royal Caribbean. Just want to mention something. During dinner at the Horizon Court on one side they have a dinner buffet which I always went to after my dinning room dinner. It stays open to 10:30 PM. That is nice because on Royal Caribbean it only stayed open to 8:30 PM. Not only is there a dinner buffet, but beside the buffet is a sit down where you pay $8 for a big steak dinner that comes with salad, appetizer and desert. The steak was so awesome. Its like the ones you get in a nice restaurant such as the Claim Jumper restaurant. The portion is huge unlike what you get at the dining room. Its not crowded at all and is more peaceful and enjoyable. Its totally worth the price at least for one or two nights.
The entertainment is ok. Royal Caribbean is so much better. But if your in Alaska your entertainment is outside. (The beauty of Alaska) Princess is not known for good entertainment. Out of my four cruise with Princes only one cruise had great entertainment.
It seems that the average age is around 30 and above. You always do have an older crowd in Alaska no matter what cruise line you go on which I like anyways. Its a good verity of ages. The only bad thing about this cruise was Princess was pushing the drinks on everyone. Usually Princess dose not pressure you in buying drinks, but this cruise they were. Maybe they want more money since 9-11? (So that sucked) I felt like I was on carnival again.
You will have fun on this ship. Alaska is just an incredible place. This is my 5th time to Alaska and I never get tired of it. So much to see and do. I have always gone in June and the weather has always been nice. I only had 4 days out of 35 days on five cruises that it rained. Maybe I have been very lucky. One thing you need to know about Alaska. It may be nice one minute and within 20 minutes it could be terrible. It is very unpredictable predict. So bring everything from winter, rain gear and shorts.
The complaint that I had was we only stayed in Sitka for 5 hrs and there is so much to do there.
One more thing, If you want to see wild life, then you need to spend time outside. Sit on a deck chair on life boat deck and you will see a whale. If not, then look to your right and there you go. (Kidding) One more thing. At the glacier go to the front of the ship for a few minutes to see the whole view, but then go to the life boat deck and most likely you will be by your self. Everyone is on the top front decks, but the better view is on life boat deck. Your closer to the water where you can see and hear ice hitting the ship and making popping sounds. You will see the glacier on both sides because the captain turns the ship in a circle. Its just so crowded up on front and is not enjoyable. Also, on life boat deck you could just sit in a nice chair and have lunch.
This was my first cruise.......it was a mini cruise- Vancouver to Ketchikan and back to Vancouver on the Dawn Princess. I cruised with three other friends that were also first timers.
Embarkation: Embarkation was at Ballantyne pier in Vancouver. Our cruise was scheduled four days after the Sept. 11th Tragedy in the United States. Because of strict security, the line up to board the ship was quite long with a three hour wait to get into the terminal and another one and half hours to get through customs. We arrived at Balantyne Pier at 1:00 P.M. and were finally onboard at 5:15 P.M. Upon boarding we had just fifteen minutes to get settled in and complete our muster drill. The staff was great during the whole time. They went around with water containers for those waiting outside and did their best to inform us of the length of time to wait.
Cabins: We had inside double accommodations. The cabin was okay, but that did not matter to us. Our concern was getting out and about and enjoying the amenities. It was nice to have a safe in the cabin for keeping cashand valuables safe. The sleeping arrangements were not what we wanted and with a quick mention to our cabin steward Jay, it was fixed quickly to our satisfaction. Closet space was great with room for everything casual and formal. Noise between cabins was minimal and appreciated.
Food: Depending on where you ate the food was good to excellent. We had the first sitting in the Venetian Dining Room which was convenient for evening activities. Our table mates were from the lower mainland of Vancouver and we became instant friends. Out table stewards were great. We were greeted and welcomed by the staff many times. The meals were great with a good selection of each entree. The breakfast in the dining room was well done with not too much or little on the plate. The last night was special with the parade of the baked Alaska.
The Horizon Court was a different story. The lunch buffet was good with a good choice of sushi and simple fare. Our first breakfast there was not as good with a growly cook looking after the egg grill. My friends said that their fried eggs were not cooked enough and the meats were greasy. The second breakfast there was much better probably with a more lively staff. The eggs and meats were better. A nice midnight dessert was a welcome sight after a dip in the hot tub.
The Balcony Grill was excellent. We stopped a couple of times to have a hotdog and fries cooked to our perfection with all the fixins. Better than some of the fast food places in Vancouver.
We went to the LaScala pizzeria on the last day and enjoyed the pizza. The serving was just the right size and that kept us full until dinner. There are five choices of pizza there, but there could have been more selection, otherwise it was great.
Pools & Spas: We hit the hot tubs a few times and out of six hot tubs, only one on the Riviera Deck by the Balcony Grill was hot enough. The rest were also nice but not very hot. We were disappointed to see the hot tubs close early with the crew calling it maintenance.
Entertainment: We saw the musical review in the Princess Theatre. It was good but not the Broadway style show that I expected. I hear about other cruise lines with their Broadway shows and they seem better. The entertainment in the Vista Lounge was far better. They chose four couples from the passenger list to participate in the newlywed game. The cruise directors staff were hilarious and had all the other passengers in stitches. The same was said for the horse races and the $1500.00 jackpot bingo. There was always something going on from the wine tasting, slot machine races in the Grand Casino, Art Auction to Golfing fun on the Plaza Deck. The place to be was the Wheelhouse Bar with live music. The place was packed and very lively. The place not to be was Jammers Disco, I went in there for the farewell party and it was empty. Everybody was at the Wheelhouse Bar.
Grand Casino: It was great place to hang out. We usually sat at the bar and drank while playing video blackjack or poker. It wasn't overly crowded or noisy and that was a plus.
The little bar on the Plaza Deck opposite the Purser's desk was our favorite place to meet. If we got disconnected from our group, we met at that bar. We had drinks with our tables guests in that bar after the formal night. Our bar steward Louis from Mexico was an excellent host. We spoke to him in broken Spanish and English and really enjoyed his service.
Shore Excursions: we only had one stop and that was in Ketchikan, Alaska. It was raining when we arrived but that did not dampen our shopping spirits. The city is small but nice to visit. The people were very nice and friendly in welcoming us. Our stay there was until 5:00 P.M. but we enjoyed our short stay in Ketchikan and returned to the ship early to enjoy an afternoon dip in the hot tub.
We had a beautiful champagne waterfall in the Grand Atrium and as they dismantles it, theyhanded out glasses to everyone.
Princess Patter: It was great to get the patter every day. There were a lot of activities listed to keep us in touch with everything onboard. We knew what movie was showing in the Vista Lounge, what shows were live in the Princess Theatre. It was also great to have news of where we were in the cruise.
Debarkation: This was easier than getting on the ship. We were off the ship and out of the terminal within the hour. We had berthed at 7:00 A.M. and were at home by 10:00 A.M.
Conclusion: Despite the one bad breakfast and minor hot tub problems, we had the time of our lives. It was very sad to be packing our bags on the last night but the farewell party in the Wheelhouse Bar made up for it. We will definitely be cruising again and most likely with Princess Cruises.
Getting to San Juan: Our flights were purchased thru Princess and we were booked on TWA with a transfer at St. Louis. We departed Minneapolis at 6:10 a.m. with a number of others on the flight who had Princess tags in evidence on their luggage, both for the Dawn and Sun Princess cruises. Flight time was good, allowing plenty of time for transfer and boarding. We had purchased the transfer to the ship from Princess and glad we did - very flawless and fast.
Boarding: We had preregistered and filled out all the onboard charging information on Princess's internet site and were glad we did.....took us all of 5 minutes from the time we entered the Port Authority building until we had our papers and boarding/charge cards and were going onto the ship. Very efficient process that was made even faster by our having taken care of almost all the information in advance on the Princess website. We check out the ship with a "walkaround" and grab a light late lunch. Luggage doesn't show up until about 10:30 pm, but no big deal - just had us starting to wonder as itgot later. Ship is scheduled to leave at 10 pm, but that is pushed back a little at a time, as late arriving passengers keep dashing onto the ship. The bridge keeps us all informed via the public address system as to the reasons for the delay in departure and when the "new" anticipated departure time is. Quite a large group of us gather on prominade deck to cheer on the late arrivals - all in good fun of course, and those arriving late take it all with smiles as well. They are happy just to see the ship still there, I'm sure!!! Ship finally departs about 11:30 pm.
Room observations: First time on a Princess ship and we are not displeased by the room. Room is on Plaza deck #242 way up in the bow. Generally this turns out to be fine except we are awakened a couple mornings by the whine of the winches in the bow as the mooring lines are played out at port. The winches are 2 decks above us and probably another 75-100 feet forward, but the sound is quite strong and loud enough to wake a sound sleeper like myself. As a "J" catagory outer room, we find the layout of the room to be fine, if a bit compact - no big surprise on a cruise ship...lol. Closet size was very good for our needs as was the dresser area. Bathroom area is like every one I've seen in a ship - squeezed. Your butt WILL get familiar with the shower curtain...lol.
Cabin steward: Average cabin service and cleanliness, but nothing above average. I did need to have a "discussion" with him, as a couple times he threw away papers from our desk are that he deemed to be garbage - items from excursions that we wished to keep.
St. Thomas Up at 7:15 in order to catch our excursion at 8:20 a.m. Cruise ships Carnival Fantasy and HAL's Amsterdam are in port as well. We took the "New Waves Expedition Snorkeling" excursion to snorkeling sites at Great St. James Island and St. John's Marine Sanctuary. Well pleased with this excursion - good crew and the sites offered excellent viewing of coral, fish, sea turtles, etc. NOTE: Those with any back problems may not wish to take this excursion, as the twin 3.0 litre Mercury outboards on this boat really hammered you across the waves. It was a fun ride for the rest of us, but one gentleman suffered greatly from a very sore back every time we came down hard after a larger wave. Back to the ship and then took a cab to downtown area for $6. Sunday, so not much action around town except at the Hard Rock Cafe area and in the Haversight Mall area near the pier.
St. Kitts Despite things I had read from other traveler reviews, I found St. Kitts very interesting and I hope to come back here another time. The St. Kitts pier was damaged in a hurricane a few years back so all landing was by tender boat. Reconstruction of the pier and construction of new and more mooring "islands" was in evidence. We took the "Off the Beaten Track Island Safari" offered by Princess, riding with 4-6 others in the back of 4 x 4 Jeeps through the countryside viewing sugar cane plantations and the countryside, rainforests and villages. If viewing the countryside closeup and learning some of the history of St. Kitts interests you, then I would highly recommend this excursion. I found this VERY interesting with beautiful views all along the way. We heard grumblings from other passengers about their shopping excursions into town, wishing they had decided to do something else instead. Our guide on the excursion said that sugar cane (government run) may die out in the next couple years, as the government is looking towards development of the tourism industry and condominium/resort complexes and going away from their agricultural base.
Martinique Took the "New Waves Snorkeling" excursion and found it okay, but not near as satisfying as our snorkeling at St. Thomas and St. John. Clear waters, but garbage in evidence at the snorkeling sites. The two excursion guides were very inattentive, with one of them going off and snorkeling on his own away from the group. The other guide did not pay much attention to what was going on - mainly 1/2 snoozing during the time and not noticing that one of the 2 anchors had pulled loose and had the boat swinging around. A few of us who were snorkeling back towards the boat nearly were pinched between the boat and rocks when it suddenly spun around towards us. Only when the boat bounced off a rock and a couple of us yelled up from the water did the guide become aware of what had happened. Tired out upon return to the pier and elected to go on board and rest up on deck rather than walk into town.
Isla Margarita Arrived at the port of Gaumache about 2 hours late, as the ship had to detour for a SOS call during the night. However, it was announced that the ship would depart 2 hours later than scheduled in order to make up for the late arrival. We took the "Macanao Peninsula 4 Wheel Drive Safari" and enjoyed it greatly. Macanao is the very rural, undeveloped half of Isla Margarita. Tour took us thru small villages, dry river bottoms, along the ocean shore with numerous "beverage" stops along the way. We stopped for swimming or sunning at one spot for an hour or so and continued on, seeing the countryside. I very much enjoyed this tour, but would note that seeing nature and the countryside is my kind of "thing", and those looking for excitement might not find this very enjoyable. I did talk to a number of people on the ship who found this port of call to be the most uninteresting of the cruise.
Curacao Whine of the winch motors woke us up to the fact that we were ready to tie up to the Megaship pier outside of the harbor. We elected to have a leisurely breakfast and then to walk the 4 blocks into town. Very bustling harbor area, with ships moving in and out all the time. We took the ferry across the harbor, as the floating bridge was opened up for ships to come in and out of the harbor. ferry is free, by the way. Carol went off and did her shopping, snagging quite a number of excellent buys along the way - least that's what she told me. I took a walk around the government buildings and other parts of town and just took in the sights, along with multiple stops at street and harborside sidewalk cafes. A very enjoyable stop to do as much or as little as you want.
Day at Sea Sun, sea, snoozing, reading, eating...you get the idea...lol
Disembarkation Got up late - about 9 a.m. and went up to the Horizon buffet area and had a nonrushed breakfast and then proceeded to leave the ship...darn. I can't imagine ever having a quicker disembarkation. Time from leaving the ship to getting on the shuttle bus for the airport was no more than 15 minutes at most!! We should have gone and done some sightseeing in San Juan, but we elected to go right to the airport and so were bored for the next 4 1/2 hours before our flight, which in turn was delayed for an hour after we boarded because of mechanical problems.
Ship Entertainment The only entertainment that I did not enjoy was a dance/musical called "Le Magnefique" and that was entirely because it just wasn't my kind of entertainment. Carol enjoyed it immensely. Comedy acts were excellent!!! The piano player on Promenade deck was excellent, but after hearing him for the 10th time as you walked by, he began to wear on me more and more...lol. That is the only negative comment that I will make about any part of the ships layout - that the piano player location was very poor on Prominade deck. To get from the forward area going back, you had to walk right through his area (felt like you were walking across his stage) or make a detour outside, around the area and then back inside. No big thing, but people walking thru his act had to be a big distraction for everyone. The Wheelhouse bar had good entertainment and dancing. One night the ships Activity crew put on "Liar's Club" which was enjoyable, but the Liars Club that we attended on the Norwegian Wind was much better done and much more hysterical. The main theatre song and dance shows were well done, even though you could readily notice that the supporting singing was NOT live, but lip synched.
Dining Room Meals were well done and enjoyable. Quantity and quality were very good and no special requests were turned down. Our head waiter and waiter were outstanding. The asst. waiter was a bit of a fumbler...lol.
Other food and comments If you love thin crust pizza, you will LOVE the Pizzeria!!! I developed a real habit of stopping there about a 1/2 hour before it would close in the evening, and then taking the pizza up top and relaxing in the evening air or watching and taking part in activities there. As one who consumes mass quantities of coffee, I found the coffee on board to be pretty poor. I did find one separate coffee maker near the bar by the main pool which had pretty good coffee in the mornings. I spotted that one by figuring out where the early morning crew was getting their coffee refills from, by following them...lol. Midnight buffets seem to be almost a thing of the past. We had one moderate buffet on Tropical night. If there was any other midnight buffet, we somehow missed it.
The ship itself This was the first time we had been on a Princess cruise, and we were VERY impressed with the ship itself. A very agreeable layout with easy access to most points on the ship. We never felt like we were part of a "cattle drive" when departing at ports or even when going to or from main entertainment events on the ship. Greatly enjoyed the design, layout and decor of the ship. Our previous cruise was on the Norwegian Wind and the Wind definitely suffers by comparison.
Bon Voyage!!! Overall, we enjoyed the whole cruise with a few minor exceptions. The ships crew was excellent on the whole. In retrospect, I might have elected to take one of the shore days to have relaxed more and not gone on an excursion. Age mix on the ship was very wide - from the 20's up into the 70-80's range. I would guesstimate the main age group to be in the 40's on our cruise. The only problem would have been to pick which one NOT to go on!!! Not taking an excursion at Curacao and then having the day at sea right after that proved to be a good move on our part - providing us with a relaxing pace to end up the trip with. Cruise #3 for myself and #4 for Carol.....hoping to hit the Canal next winter if this year goes well for us!!!
ETC: Carol purchased a video tape of the excursion that we took in Isla Margarita. One of the guides was video taping much of the excursion and the people and activities that were going on. The tape did arrive in our mailbox about 4 weeks later, BUT it was of the other 4-wheel drive excursion that was going on at the same time as ours!!! Numerous attempts to contact the tour company and messages left have not even yielded a response as of this date. I'm afraid that money was wasted. Oh well, looked like the other excursion had a good time too! hahahahaha
First, let me say that this was our first cruise of what I think may be many.
I am pretty sure that all the cruise lines go out of their way to make you feel welcomed, wanted and important. Princess is probably no exception.
Embarkation: Smooth and faster than checking in at the Motel 6 on a Saturday night with a six pack of beer and your hottest girlfriend. It was totally painless. From pier to stateroom took 10 mins. Lots of smiles.
Hint: Do all of your paperwork before you get in line as this will save time.
State Room. We were in D226. Close to the bow. The room was large enough to hold two people, 6 bags of luggage, 3 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of Kalula, and two bottles of Rum. Yes, we brought our own booze on board for room consumption only. No questions asked at check in or luggage scan. The refrig in the room is kind of small but held two of the bottles of wine nicely. The safe is a nice touch as well. The room steward had the two single beds moved together asone queen size bed. Very comfortable and no problem with the small space between the beds as it was covered by a bed sheet. Within 5 mins of arrival at our room, our steward (Hector) met us and introduced himself.
Hint: Close your blinds if you have a window when naked or in any other position as the window washers do not announce their arrival. Also, I think there is less movement with a berth closer to the mid section of the boat. Speaking of movement, if you are a bit queasy about motion on board and your ability to eat dinner, I suggest you schedule your seating for the first seating (about 6:00pm) as the boat is just underway and there is little motion.
Dinner Seating: Take second seating if you do not want to cut your shore time down. First seating on Dawn was about 6:30pm. We chose second seating so we did not have to rush back to the ship. This worked well as we could return to Dawn, go tot he pool or spa, get cleaned up for an 8:30pm dinner. Note: You will have a huge appetite by then. If you can't wait to eat, get a light snack in the Horizon Court.
Hint: First seating---less ship motion. More casino time. Second seating--more shore time, less casino time. Also, bigger crowds with second seating.
Hint 2: Try to be back before they start to pull the gang way apart. Great laughs for those watching you run down the pier but high anxiety for you if you do not think you have enough money to fly to the next island. Islands:
Trinidad: Not to much to say as we (the men) scheduled a fishing charter. Had a great captain and will supply the name upon your request. So, e mail me at [email protected]
Barbados: A fine time was had by all! We got off the ship to an army of taxi cab drivers. We were very fortunate to hook up with a young fellow named Andre. Andre took us to a plantation, the Gay Rum Factory and to the beach. He left us at the beach for a couple of hours, picked us up at got us back to Dawn in time for rum drinks at pool side. About "Andre". This was our first experience with the taxi cab drivers everyone talks about. We liked Andre from the start. He was well dressed, with shirt and tie, clean shoes. His cab was spotless The best thing was that his presentation was not threatening or intimidating. We told him where we wanted to go. He told us how much and after we negotiated a slightly lower cost we were off. Note: His service was so good we tipped him to a level above his initial asking price. Look for him on Barbados. He is about 6 ft tall, slender, neat dresser and...is getting married to a girl named "Eve".
Antigua: A bit disappointing. The street at the pier is loaded with the usual shops so be careful and do not be afraid to negotiate. Taxi Cabs: Watch out!! If I guy named "William" approaches you, DO NOT get in his cab. Licensee # TX 141. We had a bad experience with this cabby. We negotiated a price with him but as we started out in his cab, he told us if he gave us a good tour (not, if we enjoyed his tour) we give him big tip. This was the start. He is a terrible driver. We could not hear his talk as his car was noise, also dirty. We had agreed to go see Nelson's Dock Yard and a beach. As we were getting out at the beach, William demanded payment even though we were 30 mins from the dock. We should not have but we did pay him. Upon reflection, we felt we had been stiffed. William said "this was the end of his tour" and he would be back to pick us up and take us to the dock. We read that as...he picks us up and with more money he takes us to the dock. This was not what we had agreed to when the day started. Because of his attitude and since he had our money we were afraid he would not be back. As a result, we hooked up with another cabbie to takes us back. This new cabby was great! A real gentlemen. Because of the consequences of missing the boat we felf justified in not waiting for William.
Hint: Pick your cabby carefully. Antegua is a beautiful island. We wished we could have seen more.
Tortola: Ahhhhhhh. The best of the islands we visited. It is small and only has a population of about 12,000 Key areas to visit. Pusser Landing and two beaches on the opposite side of the island. I do not recall the names but they are listed in the AAA Carib Travel Booklet. No Taxi this time. We knew there was a Hertz Rental within walking distance of the Dawn. So...we rented a Jeep with A/C for $45.00 per day. With 4 people this was bargain compared to renting a taxi all day. The map for Tortola does not have many roads so it is easy to find you way. You will find many spectacular views from the tops of the mountains as you drive.
Hint: Hertz does not have the usual airport type counter in Tortola. We found the experience of renting in Tortola as funny as a three ring circus. Forget your Hertz #1 Gold card. Will not get you anywhere as this Hertz is an"independent" franchise. Just hope their "word processor" is working so you can be on you way in a reasonable amount of time. Also, not many cars so be quick. We did see an "Avis" sign in town as well. Also, be very careful about getting back to the ship in time for "sail away" as we ran into a "rush hour" traffic jam that almost made us miss the boat.
St. Thomas. Shopping center of the Caribbean. Lots of store right at the pier. We did not see much need to go into the old part of the city. We booked an excursion here. "The Trunk Bay snorkel" It was fun. The water was a bit cloudy but the rum on the way back to Dawn was awesome!
San Juan: Saturday, disembarkation day. Getting off the ship was almost as easy as getting on. Read the instructions that Princess gives you carefully. If you follow their instructions you will be on your way quickly. We were in the 10th group to get off. We spent the time having breakfast and walking around the ship one last time. As we got on the pier a baggage porter met us and took us to our bags. Our bags were group in an area with about 200 others. I have seen tips about finding your luggage fast by attaching color ribbons and puff balls etc so you see them easy. This is a great idea. We will use it next time.
We booked the shore excursion to the Inter-Continental in San Juan. Got a late flight home? This is the excursion to book. Princess will bus you to the hotel. You have full use of their facilities. Pool,Jacuzzi, beach. They supply towels and rooms for showering and getting ready to fly home.
Hint; Bring your own shampoo as the supply in the room goes quickly
Other suggestions: Rent from the ship, two-way radios. This is great for families or just two people who like to wander around and then still find each other. Rent for $8.00 per day or bring your own.
This was a great vacation for us and our friends who went with us. I know that I expect to cruise again in the future.