Length: 965 ft
One of the newer and larger Princess ships with many activities, good for familiesBest For People Who Want
A roomy ship with ample choices for alternative dining, wide-ranging fitness programs; true onboard weddings as well as vow renewal; programs for children of all ages, tweens and teens; balcony cabins and mini-suites; plenty of nightlife choices, extensive golf and snorkeling programs.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Small-ship cruising, extensive room service menu options, enrichment lectures, all-inclusive shipsOnboard Experience
Emerald Princess entered service in May, 2007, a true sister to the Crown Princess and a near sister ship to the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess presented in 1998, once the biggest cruise ship at sea, though that didn't last for long. Emerald Princess comes in at a heftier 113,00-tons and carries about 410 more passengers at a capacity of 3080. Therefore, as opposed to the eerily empty feeling you can get aboard the spacious 2700-passenger Grand-class vessels, on these ships you get more of a feel of "abuzz with activity", akin to the 110,000-ton Conquest-class ships of Carnival that can hold as many as 3400 passengers.
However, thanks to shrewd layout, multiple dining venues, four expansive outdoor deck areas (1.7 acres!), multiple sports facilities, four pools, and nine hot tubs, passengers are rarely concentrated in any one area. Meanwhile, the mega-ship amenities included for those who can never get enough dining, entertainment, spa and fitness choices, means the Princess ships of this class make the best of everything for ships in this size and price range. Their programs for younger passengers are exemplary, and their Lido buffet dining spot is open around the clock.
One new feature which is a first for Princess with the sister Crown Princess is the Sanctuary, an adults-only spa-like space on the upper-most forward deck featuring quiet music and surroundings of lush greenery referred to by Princess as a "pocket of tranquility". There are outdoor cabanas where one can receive full massage services from the onboard Lotus Spa, or there are casual neck and shoulder massages available. The space also offers signature beverages and light meals such as smoothies, energy drinks, flavored waters and lemonade. A menu features fruit skewers, lettuce wrapped spring rolls, and spicy tuna.
An adjunct to the Sanctuary is the Thermal Suite, an area within the spa offering steam saunas infused with aromatherapy essential oils such as eucalyptus or lavender, a dry sauna, rainmist showers and heated ceramic "zero-gravity" beds to rest upon after your steam.
Another new feature is a spiced-up atrium known as The Piazza, featuring the a 24-hour International Café with sandwiches, tapas and special coffees available for very reasonable prices; and Vines, a wine bar where one can get expert advice from the on duty sommelier and sample a variety of fine wines by the glass. On the Piazza stage, various entertainers will appear seemingly out of nowhere to amuse and entertain you; jugglers, close-up magicians, tumblers and an assortment of costumed oddities.
Emerald Princess also offers "Movies Under the Stars," a huge (300 sq. ft) flat panel rear-projection video screen and 6900 watts of sound power to show up to four different near first-run films daily outdoors above the pool. This was such a hit on Caribbean Princess that the concept was added to all the large Princess ships. On some ships they hand out headphones to viewers to alleviate complaints from nearby cabins.
Having offered the first wedding chapel at sea (with the Captain doing the honors) on Grand Princess, Emerald Princess also offers true marriages at sea, as well as vow renewals. A complete professional digital photography studio in the F/X Digital Photo Center is perfect for those all-important wedding photos. The medical center is one of the most advanced at sea, the first to offer real-time teleconferencing support from a leading national cardiac care center in the United States.
The most incongruous, and arguably pleasing, factor about these mega-ships is that the public rooms aren't much bigger than those on much smaller ships giving it the feel of a much smaller ship than it really is. The one oddity of the "Grand-class" design is the compromised privacy of most balconies that extend out from the ship in a pyramid-like stacking arrangement which allows people from several decks above can look right down into your "private" enclave. From the Deck 11, for instance, you can watch other passengers on deck nine and ten balconies. Deck 10 occupants can in turn observe their counterparts on the Deck nine.Decor
Unlike the theme park atmosphere of some other cruise lines, the décor on Princess ships extends an understatedly elegant and refined atmosphere, with hand-painted murals and etched glass partitions in the dining rooms. Little apparent expense was spared on materials, with rich fabrics, beautiful woods, and marble everywhere, all topped off with a $2 million art collection aboard each ship. The cabins are tastefully decorated in soft, inoffensive shades -- beiges, creams and muted pinks.Public Rooms
The main gathering spot, the three deck tall, open Piazza, has boutiques, the 24-hour International Café, the Internet access room, the Vines wine-tasting room and and passenger services, all connected by circular glass staircases and glass elevators. It's the best people-watching place on the ship, especially when there's a string quartet playing a piece you adore, but watch out for the street performers who will sneak up on you and make you a captive audience of two. Among the nearby public rooms are the casino, entrances to the two open-seating dining rooms, and the shore excursions desk.
We favor the maritime-themed Wheelhouse Bar, full of memorabilia and paintings, not to mention comfortable leather wingback chairs, a small dance floor, and a piano singalong motif that will make you want to use it. The safari-themed Explorer's Club offers cabaret, trivia competitions, art auctions, and between-meals dancing. The gigantic Casino contains some 285 slot machines and gaming tables beyond counting. You can relax in the Cigar Lounge, or recline in leather chairs while perusing any of hundreds of books in the beautiful library.
The main showroom, the Princess Theater, presents production shows, cabaret, comedians and magicians. With seating for 1600 we found it unusually cramped with airplane-like seats jammed together and not enough footspace to allow for fast escapes during a brief production show set changes. Once you're in there, your stuck for the entire show unless you sit on the aisle. The upside is that everyone has a great view of the stage.
The Club Fusion Showlounge offers live dance combos for various kinds of music, Latin or Rhythm & Blues. Karaoke contests and theme-parties such as a "'60s British Invasion" also happen nightly. Later on, it doubles for a secondary disco for those who get light-headed scaling the heights to Skywalkers, the real disco on high at the stern of the ship. Unlike the smaller Grand-class vessels, however, Skywalkers is no longer suspended high in the air. It lies on Sky Deck and now has a large balcony included for smokers and those who favor the wind-blown look.Cuisine
What can you say about a ship that offers three main dining rooms instead of the usual multi-tiered, bigger than life one? They are more intimate and definitely quieter, but the decor is not likely to elicit a "wow" response either. There are three dining rooms, two dedicated to "personal choice" dining which means open seating and country-club casual dress nightly from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. For the more traditional minded, the third dining room, deck six aft, offers the standard cruise line seating, early at 6:30 and late seating at 8:15 (subject to change). Diners are assigned tables and tablemates, and are serviced at the same time and by the same waiters every night.
Unlike many cruise lines, Princess does not have an executive chef designing the recipes for the entire fleet. Each ship has its own executive chef who is responsible for the menu creation. This means cuisine is more tailored the region the ship is cruising, a nice touch. It also gives the chef the ability to change food selection according to passenger response. In talking to the executive chef on board, we were told that the best food is served in the open seating restaurants (though the menus are identical in all three main dining rooms) because of the ability to cook food as it is ordered, rather than according to a pre-determined time schedule. Our food always arrived hot and perfectly prepared.
The ship offers two alternative dining spots carrying cover charges. First is Sabatini's Trattoria where guests are required to try a little bit of everything on the menu, the only choice being your main course. The second premium dining option is Crown Grill, featuring chops and seafood, and the one we preferred.Restaurants
The three principal restaurants, the Michelango, Da Vinci and Boticelli Dining Rooms, seating just over 500 passengers, feature hand-painted murals and etched-glass partitions. The drapes and carpeting in the main dining areas absorb sound efficiently enough to preclude diners having to holler across the table to one another.
Personal Choice Dining offers either traditional cruise dining (In the Boticelli), with a set seating time (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and the same waiter and tablemates each evening, or new restaurant-style seating, allowing passengers to dine when and with whom they choose, with each party seated at its own table, as at a restaurant ashore (offered in the other two dining rooms). Restaurant-style diners may be seated in either of the two elegant main dining rooms any time between 5:30 and midnight. Many passengers are understandably grateful for this reprieve from having to hurry to dress for dinner in the traditional way after a long day ashore.
Sabatini's Italian Tratorria dining begins with focaccia bread and olive oil. next comes a wonderful selection of Italian antipasti, complemented with Sevruga caviar, delicious seafood salads, homemade pastas, and soups. Salads are tossed before your very eyes, and soup ladled into fresh bread bowls. Seafood predominates on the list of main courses; there are lobster, langoustines, tiger prawns, Chilean sea bass and scallops, with red meat dishes also on offer. Save room for the exquisite Italian pastries that will be wheeled before you toward meal's end. The service charge is $20 per person.
The Crown Grill, featuring Angus beef and seafood specialties all custom-prepared in an open, theater-style kitchen, is the restaurant most preferred. The courses are served traditionally; salad, appetizer, soup, main course and dessert. The difference is in the quality and careful preparation. Using our meal as a sample, the carpaccio of pine nut-coated lamb loins with gooseberry chutney was the most unusual and delicious carpaccio I have ever tasted. Soups and salads include rockfish chowder or marinated goat's cheese. Main courses include a four-ounce Maine lobster tail, or for an additional $9.99 you can have an entire 24 to 32-ounce lobster, split and either grilled or steamed (your choice). Other main courses (no extra charge) are steaks of every traditional cut, lamb rack, pork, veal or beef chops; and seafoods including mussel pot, striped bass and tiger prawns or Australian barramundi. The recommended dessert choice is the chef's sampler which includes a small portion of every dessert offered. Service charge is $25 per person.
The Horizon Court is open 24 hours per day, with menu service at night, plus casual breakfast and luncheon buffet. There's also a festive pizzeria. For $100 per couple, you can book the Ultimate Balcony Dinner, to be served by a butler who discreetly makes himself scarce behind drapes or out in the hall between courses. The ship's photographer snaps a complimentary photo while you're eating.
At night, the Horizon Court restaurant is transformed into Cafe Caribe, offering a self-service buffet of tasty hot food in a very casual setting. Once seated there is full waiter service at fully set tables for drinks or anything else you may need. The courses change nightly, and it stays open until 4:00 a.m. (when breakfast begins). There is no service charge.
Room service on Princess ships is probably among the most limited you will find in this price range. They will not serve you a hot breakfast unless you opt for the $25 per person champagne balcony indulgence. They will bring you hot coffee, juice, rolls, cereal and yogurt. Lunch and dinner include the usual club sandwich, hamburgers and apple pie. There is no option to choose from the dining room menu, even during regular dinner hours. If you want a hot, fresh pizza they are delicious and enough for two people, but there is a $3 delivery charge.
The International Café in the Piazza offers a number of tidbits for just $1 apiece, including shrimp salads, tapas style hors d; oeuvres, and the best "service charge" items on the ship, the six scoops (choice of three different flavors) of real Italian gelato for a mere $1.50. You won't mind paying since the portion is more than enough for two people and includes toppings.Service
While Princess has a well-deserved reputation for good service securely footed in its British roots, truly personalized service may be too much to expect on a ship this size. That noted, cabin stewards and waiters are both efficient and personable. And rote processes that should be standardized and well executed on other ships but often fail miserably, such as efficient disembarkation, are generally practiced and polished to the point of excellence here.Tipping
A charge of $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account for dining and stateroom personnel. This applies to all passengers, adult and child alike, whether or not they choose traditional or personal choice dining. The amount may be increased or lowered at the Purser's Reception desk during the cruise.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion. Every room service delivery must be signed for, and next to the signature line is the opportunity to add a gratuity - hint, hint.Entertainment
With a dozen or so venues for nightlife, you're virtually assured of finding something that floats your boat, to coin a phrase. There's no faulting the lavishness of the production shows, which feature extravagant special effects. The performers in the cabaret are a talented bunch. As stated, the theater itself is rather cramped and not easy to escape unnoticed.
The Internet room on these Grand-class ships do not qualify as "cafés" as there are no café-style treats available. Another drawback is the limited number of wi-fi wireless enabled areas on the ship, pretty much limited to the piazza area. It is too bad to see a modern ship without Internet access in the cabins. The connection speed was spotty, but usually fast enough to be workable. Tech support was almost invisible, but fellow passengers are knowledgeable enough these days to help in almost any situation.
The casino has all of the standard slot machines, including nickel and even penny machines - a great way to waste away your day with little risk to your pocket book. There is craps, roulette, blackjack (also face-up blackjack), and other table games. The most noticable new attraction is a video screen driven Texas Hold'em table where up to eight players compete against each other, but the antes and raises are limited to $3 to $6 per round. This can add up when all the palyers are involved, but it keeps the pots reasonable enough in size that it's unlikely anyone is going to pull out a six-shooter to snatch the pot and ride out of town.Cabins
are built out from the body of the ship so as to permit bigger staterooms. 710 of the 1300 staterooms have balconies, ranging up to 257 sq. feet, but the balconies are not very private, as they're in plain view of the occupants of the cabin on the next deck up. Standard inside staterooms are 160 sq. ft., while outside cabins range from 168 to 210 sq. feet. Mini-suites with private verandas are 325 sq. feet. Vista Suites, called mini-suites on other Princess ships, range from 515 to 800 sq. feet. Sun and Dawn Princess offer larger minisuites for less money.
Closet space is minimal except in the suites; leave some things home! There are launderettes available on nearly every passenger deck, with coin-operated washers & dryers, ironing boards and soap and softener for sale in vending machines.
All staterooms have color TV with CNN and movies, a radio and small refrigerator, suites have spacious bathrooms with storage space and hair dryers, but any cabin of balcony category or less has a tiny bathroom with "huggy" shower curtains and barely enough rack space for towels for two.Fitness/Spa
It is rare to find such ample fitness facilities, especially when you add in the Sanctuary and the thermal suite which serve as extensions to the existing spa and offer many of the same services and more. The thermal suite is offered for $10 per day, or at a reduced price for the entire cruise, reduced even further for pre-paying couples. Costs will be pro-rated if you decide to join mid-cruise.
The four pools, including a "swim-against-the-current" lap pool, are uniformly gorgeous, thanks in no small part to colorful mosaics and surrounding palm trees. Low marks, though, to whoever decided to put the separate jogging track right above the spa, as the relentless thundering of hooves overhead isn't terribly conducive to one's enjoying her massage or beauty treatment. Even though prices are substantially higher than ashore, spa services are very popular, especially in the afternoon. You'll occasionally have to stand in line for some of the more popular workout apparatuses in the gym. There's a wrap-around promenade deck for long walks, a golf simulator and 9-hole putting green, and courts for basketball, volleyball or tennis.Attire
Seven- to 14-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for dark suit instead of tux, while their distaff companions often prefer dressy pants to gowns. The rest of the time, think smart casual. Formal attire is only required in the traditional dining rooms, though most people opt to dress up no matter where they are headed that night.
Our family recently completed a 16 day Transatlantic cruise on the Emerald Princess.
Ship - The Emerald is a beautiful ship, multiple restaurants, bars and lounges. We had a balcony stateroom (usually have a mini-suite but they were almost double the price of a balcony stateroom on this cruise) which was a little cramped for three persons. The third bed dropped from the ceiling so it was not in the way except if one had to use the restroom during the evening. We especially enjoyed the Adagio lounge on the 16th floor at the back of the ship. This was probably the most geriatric crowd we have ever encountered - I would estimate the average age to be in the 75 year range. Many "typical" New Yorkers aboard, and if you don't mind hearing how great they are, or being told by some how to do things you will survive just fine.
Ports - The itinerary was a great one - left from Copenhagen and visited Oslo, Glasgow, Dublin, Belfast, Iceland, Greenland (missed due to weather), St. John's NF and St. John NB. Iceland far exceeded any of our expectations - suggestthe "Golden Circle" excursion. Skip the Blue Lagoon as it is over rated. We also did an excellent excursion to Culzean Castle in Scotland - much better than Edinburgh in our opinion. We had eight sea days which, unless you keep occupied can get a little boring.
Entertainment - We thoroughly enjoyed the singers and comedians they brought on board. The ship's Broadway shows were also quite good. The biggest disappointment was the lounge performers. There was a piano/singer in the Crooners Bar that was absolutely terrible - he had no idea of how bad he was, but he sure was loud and off-key. There was a European band called Cactus Jack that played primarily in the Explorer's Lounge. If you like american music with a distinct European accent they are your cup of tea. Also was a duo named Allan & La Donna - to be avoided at all costs!
Staff - Overall the cruise staff were OK, but many did not seem to enjoy being there. We found the wait staff at Da Vinci to be very personable. Cabin stewards were disinterested. The Captain was one of the most friendly we have encountered. The Cruise Director Lee Childers is exemplary - outgoing and extremely helpful. On of the CD staff (Karen from the UK) ran a lot of the games, including trivia. She was the consummate drama queen, even breaking into tears when a passenger criticized her.
Food - On the whole the food was pretty typical for Princess. The Da Vinci anytime dining restaurant started out poorly but continuously improved through the cruise. I would rate their food a consistent 7 out of 10. The Horizon Court food on the other hand is poor (very). Two or three times a day you have to avoid the "Charge of the Overweight Brigade" to get to the buffet. Anyone whom wishes to see why our country is in such poor physical shape only has to take a cruise. Watching 200+ pounders carting around two or three heaping plates of food will send you to the gym in a heartbeat. I would be hesitant to rate the Horizon's food? above a 3 out of 10.
Summary - To me there are no bad cruises, only a few bad moments. We always enjoy Princess or Celebrity cruises and this one met our overall expectations.
We celebrated our 33rd anniversary on the Emerald. Joining us were our two daughters, ages 23 and 18. This was our 5th cruise, 3rd on Princess, and the 2nd for the girls.
Embarkation: We took a shuttle from the Best Western Oceanside, Ft. Lauderdale Beach, and arrived at the port at about 11:30 a.m. and were in our room by 12:15, a very quick and efficient process on the part of Princess.
Stateroom: We booked cabin C752, aft. The good: the ever-so-slight rocking of the ship and the sound of the wake was very calming, the view is awesome, and the privacy from cabins above was a definite plus. The not-so-great: (1) the hike - while we appreciated the benefit of exercise, the long walk to the cabin was a pain after a long day in port; (2) lack of a real breeze on the balcony; we missed the ocean breeze felt on the port & starboard side cabins. Also, due to the lack of moving air, the tobacco smoke coming from our neighbors was a little annoying at times. Our cabin steward, Saul, from Mexico, attended to our every need witha friendly smile and willingness to please.
Crew: We did not encounter any rude or unfriendly crew members in our 7 days on board. Everyone was always ready with a smile and a friendly "hello", really amazing considering how hard they work.
Beds: We found the beds to be perfectly fine and comfortable for us. We did not ask for or need an egg crate, and we were provided with four comfy pillows.
A/C: I was anticipating inefficient A/C, so I packed a fan, but never had to use it because the A/C was fine, and we even had to lower it a few times. The A/C around the ship was comfortable for the most part, and I only found myself needing a sweater once at dinner in the dining room.
The Emerald: She is a gorgeous ship, very clean and elegant. We found the staff regularly walking around tidying up, polishing, sweeping and otherwise keeping her ship-shape. Navigation around the ship decks is fairly easy, once you figure out the "can't get there from here" hot spots. The mid-ship Piazza is particularly spectacular, with featured entertainment, the International Café, Vines wine bar, and retail shops, making for a great gathering place. By the way, good deals can be found in the ship's stores. I got a great price on a Citizens watch as a birthday gift for hubby.
Dining: We had Anytime Dining, and never had to wait for a table. One evening, we just showed up around 7 pm, offered to sit with others, and were seated immediately. For the other nights, we made a reservation in the morning, arrived at the dining room at the appointed time and, again, were seated immediately. Food and service were both great, and even our picky daughters were able to find something they liked on the menu.
Crown Grill: This is where we celebrated our 33rd anniversary. The steak and filet were both great, and the service as well. DH showered me with gifts, and the waiters brought a cake and sang "Happy Anniversary". Interestingly, the restaurant was not crowded at all, perhaps because it was a port day and the passengers were exhausted from the long day in port (the ship was only scheduled to leave Cozumel at 7 p.m.).
Horizon Court: Standard buffet fare. The staff members were helpful in finding seating and serving drinks. The buffet gets crazy at prime times, so we avoided it on a couple of occasions by having breakfast in the dining room, light lunch at the International Café, or even room service.
Caribe Café: We dined here one evening because we didn't like the Caribbean menu in the dining room. This was a nice alternative to the dining room – informal, but with more class than Horizon Court. The atmosphere was nice, with real napkins and tablecloths. The food was good, but the desserts were great!
International Café: I have to say, of all the food on the ship, this was our favorite. They serve light lunch fare, perfect for a light snack after a morning excursion, or even a continental breakfast, as well as sandwiches, quiche, salads, pastries, and even cookies & milk in the afternoon. I never got around to the gelato – I'll save that for next time around. The addition of entertainment – whether pianist or string quartet – makes for a relaxing mid-day break.
Wheelhouse Bar: You'll find a pub lunch served on Tuesday and Thursday, with some of the best fish & chips you'll find anywhere. Also tried the cottage pie, which was good, but seemed to have more potato than meat & veggie.
Note: If you are celebrating a special occasion, call for your dining reservation, tell them you are celebrating, and a card will appear in your mailbox. Give this card to the maitre d, and a cake and singing waiters will appear at the end of the meal.
I was surprised to see the Baked Alaska parade done in the anytime dining rooms. This was a special treat on the last night, which also happened to be hubby's birthday. So not only was there Baked Alaska, there was also cake and singing waiters for the birthday boy.
Pizza: Delicious and always a favorite for us, though it's still a mystery to me why they charge $3.00 to deliver it to your room.
Trident Grill: Hotdogs were memorable, burgers were just okay.
Entertainment: Time got away from us, and we missed some events. Here's what we did see:
"Grand Adventure Showtime": We could have skipped this. It was just really just a run-down of the week's happenings by cruise director, Tim Donovan, with a little music, dancing, and comedy.
"Princess Pop Star": A favorite of ours, as our younger daughter was a contestant and proud to say, a finalist!
Noteworthy musicians we heard included the band "Evolution" (daughter did the "live" karaoke with them), the Polonia String Quartet, the pianist in the Piazza, and for you loyal Bert Stratton fans, he was in residence, as well.
We did not catch the big production shows, but found comedian, Troy Thirdgill, to be hysterically funny!
Casino: Sucked up our money like a vacuum. Need I say more. Gladly, there were a couple of smoke-free nights in the casino.
MUTS (Movies Under the Stars): Get out there early for a good seat. I like MUTS, but always fall asleep during the movie – it's that relaxing.
Pools: As with MUTS, get out there early before the chairs are one, especially on sea days. We plan our pool & sun time for early morning, before 9:00, stay until lunch and leave when it gets really hot and crowded. I particularly like the quiet location of the aft pool, but the re-design of the aft pool area on the Emerald has eliminated a good deal of seating as well as the precious shade from that on the Caribbean Princess. I really miss this.
Princess Cays: Again, we're morning people, so we tendered over early, got a chair in the shade, snorkled and swam for a while, and went back to the ship. We skipped the barbecue this time around, so no comments there. The water was warm and beautiful, and we saw a ton of fish. For snorkeling enthusiasts, go to the left of the pier, down to the second outcropping of rocks, for the best fish sightings.
Jamaica: Jamaica has gotten some bad press lately, and I didn't know what to expect. I decided to book a tour with a reputable guide, so went with Mark Morris, who took us on his Dunn's River Falls/Highlights tour. Mark was friendly and his love of Jamaica was very obvious. He took the time to call everyone by name, and especially remembered that I wanted to go to his dad's pottery studio and try some authentic jerk chicken at Scotchies. Mark took us around in his clean, modern van, giving a little history along the way, providing an attractive picture of Jamaica that those who don't leave the port could never experience. The chicken at Scotchies was delicious, and his dad sold us some beautiful pottery. Dunn's River Falls was a thrill, but not an easy climb. I am happy to say that we made it out with only a few scrapes. The girls finished the trek to the top. However, when I saw the final steep slope of rocky ledge ahead of me, I decided I had enough and got off at the second "escape" route. Not a bad feat, since I only decided to make the attempt at the last minute.
Grand Cayman: We did the ship's Catamaran Stingray City tour. This was a really great experience. There were maybe 60 people or so on the boat, with a friendly, experienced crew of 2. However, due to the number of ships in port (4), the sandbar was packed. While we had a good number of rays to play with when we arrived, the appearance of more fully-packed boats, made the rays scatter off to find new food sources. The catamaran's sails were then raised, and we had a pleasant, relaxing ride back to port.
Cozumel: We went to Tulum with the ship's excursion. I have been there previously – once, back in 2002. The girls' main reason for coming on this cruise was to see ruins, so this was one we couldn't miss. However, a lot has changed in 8 years. The little roadside pit stop has turned into a large brick & mortar building with restrooms, snacks, drinks, and every sort of tourist trinket you can imagine. The stop has gone from 15 minutes to about 35. No more box lunch on the bus, either, because Tulum has now become a bit of a tourist trap, with restaurants, a Subway (are you kidding?!!!), and a whole bunch of vendors. The ruins at Tulum are still spectacular, but this time around I have to say it was really overrun with cruise passengers. That fact, combined with the oppressive heat and humidity, meant that once the narrated tour was done, we took a few photos and headed back to one of the restaurants for lunch, drinks, and then the bus. Fair warning: the margaritas in Mexico are lethal! Maybe it was the combination of the heat, dehydration, and an empty stomach, but after a few sips, that potent potion went right to my head and knocked me out for the rest of the day. My girls found me to be very amusing.
I find the history of the Mayans fascinating, and the next time we do ruins, it probably won't be on a cruise.
Disembarkation: Princess has an amazing procedure for this – very efficient. We were given colored tags for the luggage, which we left out the night before and given a time and place to wait to disembark. We left the cabin, as instructed at 8 am, went for a leisurely breakfast in the dining room, arrived at 9:30 to wait for our tags to be called, which was about 10 minutes. We proceeded off, collected our luggage (which was easy to find due to our own easy-to-find IDs on each piece), and headed out for a taxi to our post-cruise hotel. Note: Be sure to follow the signs for taxis, and don't do what we did, which was to follow the guy who said he had transportation for us. Once we realized he wanted $11/pp (!!), we said no thanks and headed back to the taxi sign. It was a quick ride to the hotel – from ship to hotel, less than 20 minutes. Perfect ending to a great cruise.
On Mother's Day, we set off on the Emerald Princess, the sister ship of Ruby and Crown Princess. These jewels of the Princess Fleet are all built in Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani Stabilimento di Monfalcone, Italy. The Emerald is hull number 6131, launched in 2007, as the bronze plaque on Promenade Deck 7 portside states. Her name is beautifully emphasized by the emerald green and gold Tiffany inspired ceiling of the Atrium Piazza. After sailing on the Ruby Princess last year and the Star Princess last month, we looked forward to this cruise and returning to Princess and its terrific food and service.
Maitre d' Nicola Furlan was on board and we anticipated a great cruise, which we always do, since a positive attitude seems to produce happy results --- great expectations usually result in great cruises.
EMBARKATION Traffic on I-95 on Sunday is light and we arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale at 11:45am, and were quickly through security. On the pier, we checked our luggage and immediately inside the door was wheelchair assistance. After filling in a short medical form, we went directly to check-in. This procedure only took five minutes, sinceVincent does pre check-in by computer. Thus, we were in our stateroom C303 in less than 15 minutes (curb to cabin).
THE SHIP The Emerald Princess is a cookie cutter duplicate of the Ruby Princess, which we described on this site in 2009. However, certain facts deserve repetition: the Emerald is 113,000 tons; 952 ft. long; 159 ft in the beam which includes the bridge wings. By the way these overhangs give the ship a hammerhead shark silouhette when seen from her prow in port. Her height is 195 ft. and she has 19 decks. The rear spoiler holds the Skywalkers Nightclub. There are 1,539 cabins with 80% having balconies. There are 25 wheelchair accessible cabins (16 balconied, 4 ocean view, and 5 inside). Alas none with automatic door openers. Passenger capacity is 3,080 and this cruise there were 3,200; Crew numbers 1,200 --- a very nice passenger to crew ratio.
Decks 1,2,3 and Gala deck 4 are reserved for ship's crew, except the Medical Center which is located on deck 4, fortunately we did not use it!
Plaza deck 5 forward has cabins and a laundromat. Midship is the Atrium Plaza with a circular mosaic floor and music stand, where Monika (Poland) played an excellent repertoire on the white Grand Piano; and, John Kingsley a young gitarist pleased all with his unique riffs. The International Cafe` is located here serving terrific espresso, pastries, tea sandwiches and freshly baked cookies --- try the oatmeal ones. Vines, the wine and cheese bar, is also here and close by there are the Escapes Travel desk, Future Cruise Sales and the Internet Cafe`. Here are also the Michelangelo Dining Room and the Art Gallery.
Fiesta deck 6 has the boutique shops, the Gatsby Casino & Speakeasy Cigar Lounge. Midship is the Da Vinci Dining Room and all the way aft is the Botticelli Dining Room. The Dining Room murals are lovely including one of Bacchus with his grapes in the Da Vinci. On deck 6 forward are the Conference Center and the Princess Theatre, which is the height of simplicity, with unobstructed view from any seat.
Promenade deck 7 forward there is the Balcony of the Princess Theatre with the last three rows reserved for the handicapped. Midship are the Wheelhouse Bar, the Library, the Crooner's Bar and the Promenade Galleria. Toward aft are the Crown Grill (a specialty restaurant), the Explorers' Lounge and Club Fusion.
Emerald deck 8, Dolphin deck 9, Caribe deck 10, Baja deck 11, Aloha deck 12, and Riviera deck 14 are all cabins with a laundromat on each deck. Laundry services are so reasonable that we do not use the laundromats; however, perhaps those with children and a lot of laundry would find the laundromat faster and less expensive.
Lido deck 15 has many passenger venues --- forward there are cabins then midship are the Mermaids Tail Bar (nice mosaics here), theTrident Grill, Neptune's Reef pool and hot tubs; toward aft are the Ice Cream Bar and the Pizza area, and the Calypso Reef pool and hot tubs. Aft are the Horizon Court Buffet and the Terrace, and Outrigger & Cafe`Caribe.
Sun deck 16 has the Movie Under the Stars, a giant outdoor screen showing sports events (the first evening Red Sox vs NY Yankees), concert videos, and movies (one evening Avatar was shown, with complimentary popcorn and fresh cookies served). Many watched from lounge chairs with lap robes. Aft is Sabatini (the other specialty restaurant) and Adagio (an Italian Aperitif Bar). Forward are the Lotus Spa & pool, the Fitness Center and the Wedding Chapel.
Sports deck 17 forward is the Sanctuary (cover charge for quiet private sunning). Aft is the Youth Complex with Chill Out, Fun Zone, Off Limits, and the Video Arcade.
Sky deck 18 and Star deck 19 have Skywalkers Nightclub, the Princess Cybergolf, the Jogging Track and Center Court.
On the Emerald Princess there are three sets of lifts (elevators) one set forward, one midship and one aft. She is well kept and elegant in every way. This ship has a nice lay out and easy access to all areas. There is even an Oxford Dipper to assist the handicapped in and out of pools. Excellent!
CABIN Cabin C303 is wheelchair accessible with beige walls, walnut wood trim and blue and white carpeting. When entering on the right is the large bathroom with a 4'x4' shower and a double wide folding shower seat. There are safety rails all around, one small sink and small shelves for amenities. The only improvement we could see would be that for the commode to be higher for handicapped. Then, there is a kingsize bed flanked by two long bureaus, each with a shelf, four drawers and a reading lamp.
When entering on the left there is a parking space for the wheelchair, a triple armoire with one section of shelves and a personal safe, and two sections for hanging clothes. Next, there is the TV, refrigerator and a long desk/vanity with lighted mirror, a desk chair, an upholstered barrel chair and a small glass top table.
The far wall is all glassed with matching sheers and draperies, facing the double deep balcony on which are 4 chairs, a table and a chaise for Vincent's stargazing: During the early evening hours on this cruise Venus could be seen in the western sky as the most brilliant object in a moonless night. Beautiful! Our steward was Jonathan and he was both polite and very efficient.
FOOD & SERVICE Our expectations from Princess Cruises are high and we are happy to report that they were met. Service comes down from the top and Captain Marco Fortezze runs a tight ship especially keeping to the schedule. He also throws a very nice cocktail party where he graciously and patiently greets every passenger and poses for photos. A product of Genoa, Italy; he has the sea in his blood. Hotel General Manager Graham Kelly is quite friendly and accommodating. The dining facilities are overseen by Maitre d' Nicola Furlan, who welcomed us back with open arms. This elegant man gave us beautiful Table # 433 located in a quiet corner by the window in the Da Vinci dining room: marvelous! Nicola also recommended us to Head Waiter Francesco Memeo who greeted us every evening and made sure that everything was just perfect. Thank you, Francesco! Our excellent waiter was Stefan Radojikovic and his assistant Aldritz (Speedy) Adriano who has a memory like an elephant: on Monday at lunch he remembered our table number, and Vincent's preferred wine after only seeing us once.
Our meals were nicely served and courses were evenly paced. The menus are standardized across the Princess line --- the Corporate Head Chef Commendatore Marzi has done a fabulous job of providing variety. This was the first time for us that the executive chef on board was not Italian ----Christophe Belin from France put a delightful twist on the soups, while simultaneously producing exquisite Italian favorites such as the following: Fettuccini Alfredo, Ossobuco, vitello tonnato, etc. etc. etc. However, we were disappointed in the pizza served on the Lido Deck 15, it was too hard and dry: Princess Executive Chef Antonio Cereda (now on the Caribbean Princess) closely watched both how the dough was prepared and the toppings, thus producing some of the best pizza afloat. This time the pizza left something to be desired. The salads were great, and so were the desserts and the fresh hot crunchy rolls and breads!
We used the Bell Box (Room Service) for Continental Breakfast and it was always prompt. One morning we had the special Champagne Breakfast in our stateroom: Quiche Lorraine, bacon, smoked salmon with cream cheese, onions and tomatoes on brioche, juice, coffee, hot chocolate and a carved cantaloupe filled with wild berries and whipped cream, a basket of delicate breads and Danish pastries and the grand finale was a small bottle of Champagne from Epernay, France. What a way to start the day.
At lunch Head Waiter Francesco Di Tullio was so kind and always helpful. We especially enjoyed fried calamari with marinara sauce. Needless to say the food was something to write home about.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Tim Donovan has a lively group and he is quite funny himself. The Emerald Singers and Dancers are peppy and they have a nice production show Motor City a tribute to Motown Music. The Comedy Club featured the hilarious Kevin Hughes and his "relationship humor." There were classical concerts with the Polonia String Quartet and even London Pub Night. There are Bingo, Culinary Demonstrations with Maitre d' Nicola and Chef Christophe, Trivia, Dances, Gatsby's Casino Texas Hold'em Tournaments, and movies just about everywhere on board. In other words there is just about something for everyone.
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale Sail Away 4:30pm Day 2. Princess Cays Arrive 9:00am Depart 3:45pm Day 3. At sea Day 4. Ochos Rios, Jamaica Arrive 7:00am Depart 3:30pm Day 5. Grand Cayman (tendering) Arrive 7:00am Depart 3:15pm Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:30pm (tardi) Best shopping forr T-shirts, Embroidered dresses and perfumes. Day 7. At sea Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 7:00am Debarkation Begins.
DEBARKATION This was one of our simplest landings. We had a complete delicious breakfast in the Da Vinci Restaurant at 7:00am. We then went back to our stateroom, collected our hand luggage and went down to the Gatsbys Casino on Deck 6, where there was wheelchair assistance. Our color brown had already been called, so we went to baggage pick up and were through passport check and off by 9:00am Simple and easy.
COMMENT This was our thirteenth cruise on Princess ships and nice one; two more cruises will make us Elite members of the Captain's Circle (the "frequent floaters" of Princess). Now we are Platinum members with some benefits such as Vacation Protection (travel insurance) upgrade, complimentary Internet package, Preferred Check-In and Debarkation, special robe in the cabin, etc. With the Elite membership we will have additional benefits such as complimentary laundry and professional cleaning services, shoe polishing, complimentary Mini Bar set up in the cabin, deluxe canapes selections and upgraded bathroom amenities. We look forward to our next cruise on Princess which will be in November on the Crown Princess.
We have also booked our next three cruises: Celebrity Solstice on Aug. 1st, Liberty of the Seas on Sept. 5th and Norwegian Epic on Oct. 2nd. Happy Cruising!