Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 17
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
My wife, Ginny, and I cruised on the Emerald Princess to the Southeastern Caribbean, embarking in Ft. Lauderdale on November 30th and disembarking 10 days later on December 10th. The ship was very nice and the staff were excellent. This was our 8th cruise on Princess and it lived up to our expectations.
Parking and Embarkation We drove from Suntree, Florida, just north of Melbourne, Florida, to Ft. Lauderdale's Port Everglades, about a 175 mile drive South on I-95. This required parking at the terminal which was complicated by the fact that the Emerald Princess departed from a different terminal than it planned to return to after the cruise. It required leaving passengers and baggage at one terminal, driving a couple of miles to another terminal and taking a shuttle back. Internet directions did include the correct parking garage but not the correct pier. I followed signs at the port and it worked out okay but created a little anxiety.
Hint: Take cell phones if you drop off passengers so you can contact them if you are separated. It took about 40 minutes to park and shuttle while fellow passengers were expecting 5or 10 minutes. Our cell phone contacts kept everyone informed.
Embarkation was fairly routine and it took only 15 or 20 minutes to board the ship at about 12:30 PM even though the ship was booked to capacity. We had "preferred" boarding passes but went through the regular lines.
Ship The Emerald Princess is a beautiful, 113,000 ton, 3080 passenger ship. Its venues, restaurants, lounges and dining rooms are all similar to the other Princess ships in its class. A couple of very notable exceptions are the renaming and positioning of the steakhouse, the repositioning of the Wheelhouse Bar, and the Adagio Bar. The Crown Grill is now the steakhouse, a much more elegant and upscale restaurant compared to the Sterling steakhouse on similar Princess ships. The Wheelhouse Bar location was traded with the Crown Grill with both locations benefiting. The Adagio Bar sits next to and nicely complements Sabatini's restaurant on deck 17. The Sanctuary of the Lotus Spa is a new venue on deck 17 but we are not spa patrons so don't have a feel for it. The lounges, shops, and casino are all very nice.
Restaurants There are three main dining rooms with two designated for "anytime dining". We elected "anytime dining" and had our choice of either the DaVinci dining room on deck 6 or the Michelango dining room just below it on deck 5. We had no wait of longer than five minutes for dining anytime during the cruise.
Hint: You can make reservations for "anytime dining". You might also avoid times that are real busy if you do not have a reservation. We always dined about 6 PM without a wait.
Sabatini's, one of the personal choice dining rooms, is a special treat. We have tried Sabatini's on several Princess ships and have always been pleased with the service, food and atmosphere. With the Adagio Bar next door, the two make for a pleasant evening.
Hint: Skip a late afternoon snack before Sabatini's because the amount of food treats in the dining experience are big!
The Horizon Court Buffet, where we had our embarkation lunch, several breakfasts, and afternoon snacks is in the Horizon Court. A very nice feature is that it is open around the clock in some form. A hidden feature is the afternoon ice cream and waffle bars which are open around 3:30 PM.
Hint: Don't give up if you can't find "free" ice cream. It was usually on the side marked as "buffet line closed".
The food in all the restaurants was very good. Occasionally we ordered something to try that we didn't care for, but more often than not the things we tried were very good. I didn't care for the smoked sturgeon, for instance, but the butterfish and tiger prawns were excellent.
Ports We didn't take any shore excursions although there were many for passengers who wished to tour the islands, partake in water sports, or shop. Shopping was available within walking distance from the ship at all the ports. The significant near pier shopping was in Aruba and St. Thomas with St. Thomas having a clear edge in variety. Pier side shopping in Grenada, Bonaire and Dominica was meager, at best. You could get local souvenirs.
Hint: If you want to see or experience the island stops, book a ship's sponsored tour. You cannot properly experience the island or its people with a pier side visit.
Shipboard Life We cruise in the Carribean principally to experience the shipboard life. There are a large variety of activities and venues. The pool areas on the upper decks may be the most popular. There is also the casino which we enjoy. The Emerald Princess had a nice variety of games and slot machines in the casino with optional coinless play.
Hint: Establish the coinless bank system for yourself using your cruise card. It is an efficient, fast and safe way to manage money in the casino.
Disembarkation Disembarkation was fast and efficient. We enjoy every minute of our cruises, but waiting around in one of the public areas in order to be called for disembarkation is painful for us. Spoiled? Yes. Princess provides the option for "drag your own bags off" which is nice if you and every one in your party can manage their own bags. We opted for going to a designated area and getting our bags after we disembarked. Bags were well organized in the pier area and it took just a couple of minutes to find ours. Customs was painless.
Hint: Be timely to your designated disembarkation area. Princess was. Have your cruise card, customs form, and passport ready before they are needed.
Staff Every member of the Emerald Princess staff we encountered was excellent. There were smiles and greetings everywhere. We felt comfortable and pampered.
Conclusion We had a very nice time on the Emerald Princess and will sail with them again for the 9th time. Why? We booked an open future cruise with the future cruise consultant.
Hint: Booking a future cruise on board is a great deal. Great benefits, like shipboard credit and lower booking down payment, with little or no risks.
Friday & Saturday-Precruise
My family includes (husband 43, myself-41, daughter-17, and son-15) we began our trip with a 2 night stay at the Marriott Harbor Beach in Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel was beautiful and the beach was so pretty, nice white sand and warm blue water. We did have a couple of rain showers, but that's par for the time of the year. The kids were so excited as the New York Yankee's were also staying at the hotel.
We arrived at the cruise terminal around 12:15, and we were in our cabins by 12:30. We had booked a minisuite and were planning on the four of us sharing that cabin. Then about 3 weeks before the cruise I was checking prices, and found that the cabin prices, had gone way down. We were able to get the kids, an outside cabin on the same deck without paying any more money! I am so glad we did that, as we are not on the same schedule. Our kids had the time of their life, without parents and no curfew! We were in Emerald 720, and the kids in Emerald 229 (waydown the hall on the opposite side). We loved our minisuite, our balcony was covered, and it gave us a lot of privacy. We had breakfast every day on the balcony. We found that room service was terrific. You can order items, which are not on the menu, and they will bring them. After getting settled in our room we explored all over the ship. We were so surprised about the size of the ship. It was raining so, we had a little lunch, and continued to explore.
Had dinner and then when to the cabin and set on the balcony and continued to have a wonderful evening.
We were very happy with this stop. A day at a beautiful beach! We loved just swimming, and snorkeling around all day. Had a BBQ, and then more swimming. Headed back to the tenders around 2:00, and took a nap, showered, and then got ready for dinner. Had dinner and then went to the Marty Allen and Kate Blackwell show. It was okay; I could of easily done without the show, but still entertaining.
Tuesday-Day at Sea
Slept late, then had breakfast on the balcony. We went around to all the different pools and found that the adult pool aft on deck 16 was best suited for us. We found loungers on the sun deck and soaked up the sun and read until we decided it was lunchtime. Our daughter came and found us, and we had pizza with her outside by the pool. Then went back to deck 16 and swam and read the rest of the afternoon. This was the first formal night, my husband and son were all decked out in their tuxes, and my daughter and I had long dresses. We had our pictures taken but they turned out horrible! We shared a table with four other people and had an enjoyable dinner. Then the kids left to hang out with all their new friends, and my husband and I walked around the ship, did a little shopping, and then went to the casino for about a hour.
My husband was scheduled to dive, and the kids and I had schedule the stingray and snorkel trip with Captain Marvin. The kids and scheduled the 10:00-1:00 trip. This was absolutely the best excursion of all time. We were the only 3 on the boat, with two guides. I could write pages and pages about this excursion. My daughter and I were a bit scared of the stingrays, but got over it with the help on our encouraging guides. They also took us to three different places to snorkel. We saw all kinds of different boats just loaded with people. We were able to snorkel all by ourselves without people floating on top of us. My husband also reports that the certified reef dive was terrific! After we arrived back from the trip, did a little shopping, but we were ready to get back to the ship and shower.
Sat on the balcony with my husband, had a couple of beer and just relaxed until it was time to get ready for dinner. The kids decided not to have dinner with us tonight, as they needed to rest before another long evening. We joined a table for eight and had a lovely evening with these people. After dinner, we went to the London Pub Night Comedy show put on by the cruise director. This show was somewhat entertaining, but again I could have easily skipped it.
My husband went on his first ever drift dive and just loved it. He has been diving in Hawaii, St. John's US VI, British VI, and he thought this was his been ever diving experience. I wish I could be as positive about my excursion. The kids talked me into book an ATV four-wheel excursion over the Internet before we left home. This was a three-hour trip over huge rocks and rough terrain. The kids loved it, so I guess it was worth it. The trail was along side the ocean, and the whole time I just kept thinking about spending time at the beach. We did stop halfway through the tour for about a 10-minute swim. If you were young you would also enjoy this trip. Both of the kids drove their own ATV'S and I rode with each of them half of the time. It was really hot in Cozumel, but not too bad on the ATV'S as you are moving along pretty fast. We arrived back at the ship, showered and met up with my husband, and went back into town to shop, and stock up on our drinks. We did not last very long in Cozumel shopping, as it was just too hot. Went back and sat on the balcony and had a few beers before dinner. Had dinner and then went to the casino. I played the slots for a couple of hours and lost $40.00, my husband stayed longer at the craps table and was ahead about $120.00.
Friday-Playa Del Carmen
We took the tender to shore about 10:00, with our daughter who wants to get her hair braided. We walked around and found a lady to do her whole head for $20.00. She has had her hair braided before, and we paid a lot more. While she was getting her hair braided, my husband I did some shopping. Again we really didn't find anything we needed to buy. My son stayed on the ship and swam with his new friends. My daughter went back to the ship after her hair was braided. My husband and I then went to the beach. We loved this beach; there were restaurant and bars along it. We swam, then would have a drink, swam some more and so on. We went back to the ship around 4:00. We stayed on the balcony for a couple of hours before getting ready for dinner. After dinner we just walked around and then went back to our room.
Another lazy day, at the pool. We had lunch on our balcony, because we didn't want to change out of our suits for lunch. They have a great chicken ceasar salad, they we order a few times from room service. We had a nice dinner and then went to the casino for about a couple of hours. We were so sad to be packing our luggage. But then again we knew that we were so fortunate to have had the opportunity to cruise on the Grand, and to have such a wonderful experience to remember.
Overall- fantastic trip, will go on other cruises with Princess, loved their service. Food was so so, but that didn't bother us. Entertainment was always available if you want it. My husband and I preferred to spend most of our time alone together. Our children loved the trip and have been chatting to their new friends non stopped since we arrived home.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by TerryTwo Southern Caribbean November 23, 2008
First, a bit of useful information. While this was our fifth cruise with Princess, this was the first time I noticed it. I was told that it is like this on all Princess ships. That I cannot confirm. I can confirm that on the Caribbean Princess the color of the passenger cabin walkway carpet side trim is a different color on the port and starboard sides. A light red on both sides of the carpet on the port side and turquoise on the starboard side. A quick glance when you exit the elevator and you'll easily find your side of the ship.
After having written several cruise reviews and read a hundred or so, I have come to the conclusion that they are better left to the professionals for an accurate review of what to expect. Why? There are several reasons.
Look at the number of reviews that passengers write compared to the number of passengers. It's about one in five to ten thousand that write a review. Human behavior being what it is, we are far more likely to write areview if our expectations are not met than if they are. It is almost a certainty that at least one of the two to three thousand passengers will be unhappy. (You cannot find two thousand lottery winners that are all happy that they won.)
Cruise ships try to have something for everyone. I, like most cruise passengers, have little to no interest in some of what they offer. (Personally, it would take a very serious inducement to get me into a cigar lounge.)
We all bring a different experience to the cruise. If you live in Vegas and travel to New York a couple of times a year to see some "real" theater, then you'll probably find the entertainment a bit boring. If, on the other hand, this is your first trip outside of French Lick, you'll probably find the entertainment awesome.
So, if you want to know what to expect on a cruise, or from a cruise line, or from a specific ship, read the professional reviews. What we passengers can, and should, provide are bits of useful information; such as the bit about the carpets I provided at the beginning of this review. With that in mind I offer the following information.
Princess has two post and/or pre-cruise hotels in San Juan, PR -- The Marriott and the Sheraton Old San Juan. There is almost nothing within walking distance of the Sheraton. Nice hotel with a small casino, but very little around it. When we next cruise with Princess out of San Juan in February of '09, we'll try the Marriott. When we drove by it on the way to the Sheraton there appeared to be many more places to shop and dine in the immediate area.
Wonderful cruise to Hawaii for a Thanksgiving. The only thing I have to say bad about the ship is that the casino is very tight. Service was perfect in every way. Food was excellent in everyway. Stateroom service was perfect in everyway. Thanks Golden princess. I just think the casino was very tight and I have sailed on this ship more than once.
Two months got the cruise bug again. This time we are taking two adult daughters and a friend. Booked a balcony guarantee for three and a mini guarantee for us.
In short order we got cabin assignments; Baja 743 for them (second cabin from the rear) and Dolphin 215 for us.
Five days before the cruise, I learn the company I had used to obtain the booking has gone belly up. Triple check and our cruise has been paid for and is secure.
The morning of embarkation, we woke up to a weird cloudy sky. Found out quickly that the hills of North Eastern Los Angeles were once again on fire. The strange thing is this exact same thing happened last year when we took the same cruise. In addition, another large fire broke out to the East.
Got our junk together in record time and all five of us met down at the docks just before noon. We would have been on board in record time, except the wife recognized the person who checked us in as an old friend from 18 years ago. So after all the jabbering, we breezedthrough security and were in our cabin by 12:30.
The sky south of the ship was a bright blue, while everything to the North was a dark gray to black, from all the smoke. Went up for a snack at the Horizon Court. Rather strange to look out one side of the ship to a bright San Pedro, and then turn your head to see what appears to be the makings of a terrible storm.
Went forward on Lido to the pool area to watch Ports-O-Call to go by at "sail away". People were swimming, dancing and really trying to have a good time. Unfortunately, the sky was raining ash from the fire 20 or so miles away. Ash from dust-sized particles to large one-inch chunks of burned vegetation fell on the entire county. While most just brushed their hair off or swiped a towel at a chair, some folks were having a problem just breathing. We were not having a great time so decided to fall back into the cabin and wait for the ship to push back.
Just as we were entering the cabin an announcement came over the P/A from Captain William Kent. The brush fires were so bad, 50% of the freeways coming into Los Angeles from the North were closed this morning and were still closed. 300 or so passengers had not made it onto the ship; the Captain stated he had orders from Princess Corporate to delay departure from 4 PM to 7 PM. So much for the great "sail slower and save fuel" concept.
Went to dinner at 6 PM at the anytime "Santa Fe" room. Another disconcerting experience -- we were seated next to a window on the starboard side that was level with the second floor of the cruise center. Eating prime rib and glancing up every so often to see a longshoreman staring at our family eating.
7 PM came and went but the ship stayed put. Captain came on again stating he had been ordered to wait until 8 PM for the last 17 passengers. As it happens, we ran into a couple of the latecomers that night. They said they came into Los Angeles over the "grapevine" expecting to get to the cruise center in the usual 3 hours. Hit a wall of brake lights, waited a while and finally turned around and drove a couple of hundred miles to get around the problem. The 3 hour drive turned into an 8 hour endurance race. More about this later.
A little after 8 PM we pushed back and eased into the channel. The Captain once again came onto the P/A to say everything is fine and we will get into Puerto Vallarta on time.
This is the first time we have indulged in a mini-suite and it may have spoiled us. Dolphin 215, starboard side about 120 feet behind the bridge wing.
For those who have not had the privedge; bathroom is about three feet longer so a bathtub could be wedged into the space. The tub is rather deep and installed even higher to accommodate the plumbing pipes between tub and deck. Only after getting in and out do I find the hand bar that was hidden behind the towels.
I didn't think the extra 12 feet of "sitting room" would make that much difference. I was wrong. The sofa/couch is a welcome addition and the small table and second chair that have always been in the way in our balcony cabins, now have a logical place to be. Half the time when we are in the cabin one of us is on the sofa.
Being on Dolphin, the balcony is about 9' by 10'. A table, two ridged chairs and two reclining chairs fill this area. A table and two full loungers would have been perfect.
Plenty of storage room, about the same for the standard balcony. Only difference is the TV/refrigerator/sideboard looking thing. Shaped in a half circle on the wall opposite the desk, it has two TV's on the top shelf (one for the bed and one for the sitting area), a large granite counter space, refrigerator and two large shelves.
Need an electrical plug, no problem. Just inside the door, a double outlet near the floor, and in the bathroom a single outlet for low amp devices only. A double outlet at the desk and behind each of the two TV's. Nine outlets, no problem, right? The outlets are so close together and the plugs and transformers for my devices are so large, I can only plug in one thing at a time at any of the locations. I guess that power strip I forgot back at home would have come in handy.
We meet our steward, Rico Lalap, who is pleasant enough. The room is set up as twins, so when we ask for the bed to be changed to a queen, with egg crate and robes, he states he'll change the setup within the hour and will try to supply the egg crate and robes today, but can't promise they will be available. We say anything would be appreciated and more than likely these will be the only requests for the week. By the third day, we have no other requests and Rico has a true smile when we pass in the hall.
I set up the laptop at the desk and soon discover I can link up via Wi-Fi from the cabin. Don't know if the ship has been upgraded or it's because we were so close to the bridge. I don't care, just happy for the convenience.
When the ship was first put into commission, the plan was to have one large traditional dining room with an early and late seating. Four smaller rooms were to be used as P.C. (Personal Choice) dining. For this ship 1/3 traditional and 2/3 P.C. Over the years the concept of P.C. changed to "Any Time" with any nuance that the ship itself instituted over the years. Anyway ON THIS cruise this is what's going on. The Savoy, Pacific Moon and Santa Fe are the anytime dining rooms. The International and the smaller Vivaldi are traditional seating. Bottom line, we have anytime dining and have had to wait every night for a table no matter what time we arrive. Don't know if anytime is on the way out or if Princess just changes what dining rooms do, depending on how many people want traditional.
And now a word about dining room dress code. On the first night we saw someone turned away because he was wearing shorts that were mid calf. Ten minutes later a man with shorts and T-shirt was shown to a table. On the first formal night, a man was turned away from two rooms because he had no tie. The third room he was admitted without a problem. Whatever dress code there is depends on who is working the door.
We sailed South at the normal fuel burning 21 knots and arrived at the scheduled time of 10:00 AM in PV. Other than a walk over to Wal-Mart, we just enjoyed the empty ship. After leaving Puerto Vallarta, my wife spoke with a woman who lives in the "valley" in Los Angeles, a 90 minute drive on a normal weekend. Due to the fires closing freeways, they got to the pier at 8:45, long after the ship had cleared the break water. They flew down to P.V. to meet the ship.
In Mazatlan, we found the old cruise center had some new paint and another room had been added. But the passengers getting off the tram still have to deal with a gauntlet of time share salesmen, vendors and 20 or so men trying to get you into their limo, R.V., taxi or golf cart. Since the cruise center only allows certain sales people in, they must have to pay for the privilege. In other words, the cruise passenger is subjected to the pushiest salespeople I have ever seen with the approval of the cruise center. New paint on the cruise center, calling the clean part of town "Golden Zone" and calling every day hotels "resorts", Mazatlan is still a small industrial city that needs to clean up more than just the streets. Anyway, the five of us went to Stone Island using King David. Several hours of quiet time near the beach with some simple food and a plate of boiled shrimp. Yes there were a few vendors selling the usual stuff. A simple no and they move on. A return trip to Stone Island in the future is not out of the question.
In Cabo, we again opted to stay on the ship. This is the abbreviated stop so anything one plans can only last a few hours. After 1:30, the last passengers returned from shore but we didn't leave. There was a mechanical failure in the life boat's wenching system that was never actually repaired. It took hours to recover the tender/life boat and the ship did not pull anchor until long after sunset.
Princess had again scheduled the Sapphire to sail slower to conserve fuel and return to Los Angeles at 8:00 AM, two hours later than the usual 6:00 AM. Again the Captain had to drop the hammer and head North at full speed. We were told we would dock at 11:00 AM, but due to the lack of head winds we shaved an hour off the time. Our disembarkation group was to meet in the Casino, rather surprised that there were less than 30 people there. As we waited for our group to be called for disembarkation, we watched Christmas decorations being put up about the ship. We were off and on the way home by 12:20 PM.
The ship itself was in excellent condition. Bright paint, only sign of wear I found were the hand rails inside the elevators. Even the carpets looked new. I know the ship is more than a few years old, so I did look for anything negative I could find. Two burned out light bulbs, that's it.
Overall the food quality was good, only excellent quality we experienced was the one night we tried Sterling. Horizon Court food was sometimes cold and on the greasy side. Items on the standard room service menu tended to be dry. Service in the dining room was excellent as usual.
The CD and staff were bright and cheery but seemed plastic at times. Happened by a "repeat" show one night and saw the assistant CD do the exact four minute intro word for word. A number of different stage productions were presented during the week, I don't think there was a repeat performance of any one show. There were a few "comedians" who did 30 minute shows who only had a good 10 minutes of material. Quite a few pax were observed to leave the theatre in the darkness. Dan Bennett performed three shows one night but was sandwiched in between the Newlywed Show and movies; he had to cut his act short due to time constraints. Too bad, his act was the best available for the entire week. I can only assume Princess has cut back on the budget for entertainment and depends more on stage shows, movies and shows costing nothing since the talent is provided by the passengers for talent such as Princess Idol.
Hopefully Princess is paying attention. We have cruised with this line repeatedly because of the attention to detail and quality of product provided in the past. In my opinion, it appears they have started to cut corners as far as food and performers brought on board. As mentioned, they attempted to save money by reducing ship speed. It makes one wonder where else the bean counters have forced cuts.
All five of us had a great time. My 20 something who had turned her nose up at the thought of a cruise quickly planned her day around trivia and bingo. Like her father, she looked for somewhere to hide so she wouldn't have to get off the ship.
My husband and I, together with our two sons and their wives, were on this cruise to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary.
We found the crew very good, as well as our accommodations and catering arrangements.
Our main bone of contention was the 15% surcharge on all drinks, which we found bordering on immoral.
We felt that the stopover in Venezuela was probably to take on board cheap fuel, as few of the passengers and staff went ashore.
I have sent an email to the company on my return from this cruise, but have not been honoured with a reply!
I would certainly not travel with the Princess Line again.
This was our 8th Cruise, 6th on Princess but we have also sailed with Carnival & RCCL. I am 59 and DH is 60. We really enjoy cruising and prefer it to land vacations since you unpack once, but get to see so many different places.
The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship and I noticed it immediately after boarding how everything shined. The Piazza is really lovely, done in beautiful green hues, with mosaic tile floors & stunning staircase. The crew we encountered were all very friendly, the food was the best we ever had -- on any cruise -- and service was great.
Our cabin was aft (B749) and we thoroughly enjoyed it, had great views of the sea & our room steward took good care of us -- no complaints. We had a couple of nites of rough seas leaving FLL, after that they were pretty calm. However, we learned real quickly to put the hangers on the floor so they don't bang around in the closet!
We did anytime dining in the Di Angelo dining room with Marvin our waiter who knew the menu well and made greatsuggestions on what to select for our meals.
The Horizon seemed a little better organized on this ship. Not sure why but maybe the "Enter" & "Exit" at each end instead of everyone wandering all over helped.
We ate breakfast in the dining room 3 times and it was such a treat, especially on disembarkation day. The "Crown Grill" was delicious -- DH had the pork chop and I did the lobster tails and oh, don't miss the desert "Crown Dependence." It is a sampler of all of them!
Even though we are Platinum we do not use the Internet service. We are on vacation and I want to enjoy our time away from a computer. (I have enough of that at work!)
Princess Cay was rain on & off, but we always enjoy a few hours there. In St. Thomas we did a taxi on our own to Coki Beach and it is to date, my favorite beach. Great snorkeling too and don't forget the dog biscuits, the fish love them. Beach chairs, drinks & food are available as well.
Dominica is a beautiful rain forest island & we did an island tour with a private group that was fun, but with a lot of driving up & down hills. It lasted almost 5 hours and that was really too long of a tour for us. Grenada we just walked through the port terminal shops and went back to the ship for some R&R by the pool.Aruba -- What can I say -- this place is beautiful. You can walk from the terminal to all the wonderful shops. We heard that you can take a bus to the beaches for $2.30 round trip. DH wanted to take a taxi for $10.00, but I balked and found the bus terminal, hopped on bus No 10 and off we went. Since I had a map of the island we followed the stops along to "Eagle Beach" and got off. They had chair rentals ($5.00 each) and a tiki hut with snacks & drinks, right across from Amsterdam Manor, which is a resort, I think. Anyway, hadn't been on a bus in years but it was fun.
In Bonaire we did a Princess excursion on the Samur -- a Sail & Snorkel to Kline Bonaire. We had a great time on the beach, it's also a good snorkeling spot. I would recommend them.
As for the entertainment -- We enjoyed "Motor City" in the Princess Theater, and the magician. We also enjoyed the music in the "Wheelhouse."
On sea days we loved to relax by the pools, read, play the wooden horse races, go to bingo and even played "Elevator Roulette" -- not to be missed -- it was a riot! And -- the pool patrol was on their toes! We saw six chairs that had towels, no other personal items, that were left vacant for just over an hour and a staff member removed the towels!
What more can I say? We loved the ship and hope to sail her again soon!
My husband and I had anticipated a fantastic cruise for our 25th wedding anniversary. Instead, we were disappointed.
We booked a balcony mini-suite and discovered the lack of privacy as your balcony can be viewed by anyone above you since the balconies are arranged like stair steps.
Our king-sized bed was actually two twin beds pushed together and we felt the side support keenly in our backs any time we ventured to the center of the bed.
The food in the buffet was not great. The saving grace of the cruise was the dining plan we chose (freestyle dining). The food in the various dining rooms was fantastic and the attendants even more so.
We asked for the "anniversary package" expecting a nice bouquet of flowers, but were greeted by three mass produced "Happy Anniversary" balloons taped to our door. Not much hoopla for your "Silver Anniversary."
The locations we stopped at were very beautiful and the selection of excursions was nice.
My husband and I first thought about Hawaii for our 25th anniversary. Too bad we didn't stick with that original plan and save the cruise for later!!!
Overview – This was our ninth cruise with Princess in eight years, and our second Pacific Coastal Cruise, as we did a northern bound coastal cruise in 2002. I hate to have to say this, but we have found the over-all quality decreasing over the last five years, and we keep on booking our next cruise with Princess, in hopes that maybe the cruise we just were on was an anomaly, but in reality, the over-all quality has decreased, and it is unlikely that we will book with Princess for our next cruise, and will look at other cruise lines. I would like to note that the Senior and Executive Staff on board ship are extremely nice and professional, and the passengers were friendly and help make the cruise enjoyable. We met a young couple from Alberta, and it was nice to see familiar faces when out on excursions and to have other people to talk to.
Embarkation – Princess used to have "Priority Embarkation" services for Platinum Card Holders, but along with other "Premiums" for Platinum Card Holders that they have eliminated, this too appears to have been eliminated. The Embarkationwas about as smooth as your typical Airport Check In Process, with a lack of agents to assist you and the ones that were there, appeared to have little or no previous experience. Luckily, the lines were not extremely long, and after lugging our baggage (No Handlers Available) we made it through check in and onto the ship. Note: Princess used to send you a Blue Plastic Envelope with a Cruise Coupon Book, along with all your paperwork that took the guess work out of getting checked in. Now they have opted for "E Tickets" and the Internet for form processing which made the overall process confusing.
State Room – We had a Balcony on the Aloha Deck (Deck 12) as we always opt for a Balcony or Mini-Suite. The room was dirty and we spent the first few hours using the towels to wipe everything down, as it was obvious that it was not cleaned prior to our boarding. Getting a good Steward will make or break your experience aboard a cruise ship, and unfortunately, we got the absolute worst steward we have ever had. My Wife has a bad back due to a recent Auto Accident, and we had requested three months in advance, via Fax, E-Mail, Postal Mail and The Internet the need to have the Egg Crate Mattress Pad on our bed, along with extra "Down" Pillows and Robes in our State Room. Although all of this was clearly identified in our Pre-Cruise Check List Summary, the Steward and his Manager were oblivious to these requests, and promptly told us they had none available and there was nothing they were going to do to rectify the situation or honor our requests. In addition to our check in issues, our Steward failed daily to fill our Ice Bucket, failed to leave fresh towels, and failed to leave the cards used to request breakfast or fruit. So, we were constantly calling room service for these items which should have been provided as part of the daily service. Additionally, we had two days where the Steward just failed to clean our room at all; even though we used the Service Card when-ever we left our room. We never did receive towels for the pool, which should have been in our room from day one.
Cruise Staff – I have to say the Medical Staff were the best we have ever had. The Doctor was very friendly and professional, and even had a sense of humor. The rest of the Medical Staff were courteous and prompt, along with the Senior Staff that we encountered in the Boutiques and Shops, and at The Customer Service Desk (Purser Desk). The Staff in the restaurants and bars were a different story, and the quality of the talent that Princess hires now has declined dramatically from the first four or five cruises that we had sailed with them. Quite a few now do not even speak English, which made it a challenge to try to have a conversation with them, if you elect to try to do more than order something off of a menu.
The Food –
Dinner – After Eight years of cruising with Princess, they still have the same Menu, and have not changed anything with the exception of reducing down to one small lobster tail from the previous two they used to have, on the night they do server lobster. The Prime Rib was tough and dry, the King Crab was an oxymoron as the pieces were extremely small and you ended up with a plate full of knuckles and only one or two small legs and no claws.
The Horizon Court Buffet – The quality here has gone down quite a bit as well, and what is served here is the leftovers from the previous night, and the overall taste and texture are bland, tough and over-cooked. Breakfast was about the only thing edible, but seating was always a challenge as the place is always packed with no available tables.
Note: Princess only serves Coffee, Milk, Orange Juice, Iced Tea or Tap Water with their meals, as any Soda Fountain Product or other Juices come with a premium price. We had to pay $1.75 for a glass of Grapefruit Juice, and $3.00 for a bottle of water.
Entertainment – On board day time activities are extremely limited, and include such activities as Bingo, Shuffleboard, Afternoon Tea, Ceramics, and a daily movie. Princess really needs to work on getting better activities arranged, especially for the days spent at Sea, as there are just really no activities to keep close to three thousand people entertained. The Nightly activities include a Comedian, the Princess Stage shows presented by the Princess Dancers, and of course, Lounge Bands at the various bars on board ship. The quality of the Stage Shows was poor, as the cast are very amateurish, and the singers were better on earlier cruises that we have been on.
The Cruise Itself – The "First Stop" was changed from it's original destination to a small town on Victoria Island called, Nanaimo. We opted to not do a Cruise Tour here, and ended up staying on ship due to wet weather, and the need to Tender ashore. The "Second Stop" was to be at Victoria, and this was one of the reasons why we booked this cruise, so we could see Butchart Gardens. Unfortunately, although two other ships were docking at Victoria, our Captain opted to not dock there, due to potential bad weather that was to move in by that afternoon. Instead, we stayed anchored in the harbor for the morning and then departed "slowly" to our next destination of San Francisco. On our previous Coastal Cruise in 2002, we were unable to stop at Monterey due to choppy seas, so the Captain continued on and got us to San Francisco a day early in order for us to have two days there. On this cruise, this was not the case, and we just cruised slower to arrive in San Francisco on schedule.
After two days at sea, our "Third Stop" was in San Francisco, and what should have been one of the longest port days, was actually the day that we had to leave the earliest, as we had to set sail at four. There is just so much to do here that it did not do the city justice to have everyone back on board by three-thirty in the afternoon. The "Fourth Stop" was at Catalina Island, and here, the ship did not depart until Seven, which is just way too much time to spend on this Island, as it is limited to trinket shops and bars. The "Fifth Stop" was in San Diego, and luckily, we did have a full day here, as we did not set sail until six in the evening. Unfortunately, as this was also the last day before we had to disembark the following morning, the evening was spent packing and getting ready for the next morning.
Disembarking – We had a flight at 9:45 so we opted to carry our own luggage off and had a Gangway Pass that allowed us to leave the ship as soon as it docked at Los Angeles at 07:30. Unfortunately, although we were in line at 07:00, we stood in line until they finally allowed passengers off at 08:00. By this time, it was complete chaos and with no staff to help keep people in line, it was a mad exodus for the gangway as soon as they lifted the gate, with people who had been hanging out in the various lounges and bars streaming past the people who had been waiting patiently in line for the past hour.
Final Notes – Princess automatically adds on to your bill, $10.50 a day per person Gratuity Fee, that is in addition to an 18% gratuity that is already added on to any drinks or services that are purchased. This I feel should be something that is totally optional, and on their earlier cruises, they gave you envelopes to tip your Steward and / or your Waiter and Staff. Princess used to award repeat cruisers with a Status of Gold, Platinum and Elite, which gave you additional benefits, which included, Priority Embarkation, a Dedicated Lounge for Disembarkation with Breakfast, and Free Internet Service. These services appear to no longer exist, although they do offset your Internet Usage for the first $75, which helps, but due to slow internet service, it is really very easy to burn through $75 of Internet Service.
Photos – Princess prints every single photo taken, and throws away thousands of prints per sailing. Would it not make more sense to lower their price from $25 for an 8x10 to something more reasonable, and not print off all pictures?
First of all, the showers are Not That Small. Just wanted to say that right out there. I'm not a small woman, by any means (Plus size clothing section), and I had plenty of room in the shower. Even DH, who is 6 ft tall, felt comfortable in the shower.
Okay... my review of the Golden Princess. Wow. Great time, wonderful, fabulous, excellent food, service, amenities, venues, and activities. I got writer's cramp filling out all the "You made a difference" comment cards (you fill them out to highlight a crew member that really made your cruise memorable... I think they expect one or two. Yeah. Right.) on the last day. On the bright side, it made me run all over the ship to the various bars, dining rooms, and service counters getting names of people that had truly gone above and beyond to make our cruise PERFECT. Any chance for exercise is good!
Just in case you get to cruise the Golden soon, look for Maria in the Bernini dining room... tell her the Ninja Ducks sent you. Antonio was our waiter, with Cyril assisting... sort of a Portuguese Jackie Chan& Chris Tucker. Angela and Whinn at the Lobby Bar--they just went through barista training (went from damned good to truly excellent), and they make incredible soy mochas! Get a coffee card, trust me on this.
Our room steward, Jaime (a guy; pronounced "Hi - me") was amazing. We think he stayed in the hidden bunk bed in the ceiling of our room so he could pop out and clean up every time we stepped out. Always a smile, always greeted us happily, opened our door for us, found me a vase for the flowers I brought on board, always remembered the extra washcloths that I like to have handy, and found me a great fluffy pillow quickly!
Next, the FOOD. I'm a vegan, and my DH is a vegetarian, so after the first night, we tried the Bernini dining room, and asked for the head waiter. Maria was awesome. She made us a standing reservation for a table for two by the window, where the best waiters would spoil us rotten, and I think she beat the kitchen staff into submission, frequently. After a couple of meals, I just left it in her hands, and we were indulged with the most incredible meals, prepared artistically, with incredible flavors and textures... great variety! It's all her fault that we booked another cruise! Not once did I ever feel deprived of the "cruise experience" by my dietary choices... in fact, our waiter, Antonio, would pop into the kitchen to verify that something that sounded good to me would be okay "Madam, I think that dressing is too creamy... it has cream in it. No, we'll do a nice vinegarette for you, okay?" They made us laugh every night, too! Lovely people.
We also had breakfast and lunch in the dining room (Donatelli's), with only an occasional foray to the buffet. Afternoon Tea is certainly a wonderful experience! The buffet was okay, we did find the sushi buffet one day... WOW, FRESH WASABI!! consider this a warning! it was great. We did grab fresh fruit at the buffet a couple of times, as there was always a great selection of fruit.
Our stateroom: a balcony on the Baja deck, starboard side. Small room, yes, but so cleverly appointed, that we were able to misplace things regularily! Both of our HUGE suitcases fit under the bed easily... I think we could have put three of them under there. Plenty of closet room... more than I have at home, actually.
The safe uses a code only... no card required (we had taken along a card to use just for that purpose; a membership card that would not be a problem to lose/replace). Nice safe, just big enough. Lots of shelves, and a few drawers. The beds. Very firm. Also, as it was two twins shoved together to make a queen, and we did not use an eggcrate pad, the edges of the mattresses that were touching were a little raised, and rather firm. It wasn't a problem, but if I were on a longer cruise, I'd ask for a mattress pad, to facilitate cuddling a little better. The bedding was very nice, and comfortable.
Temperature control seemed very good... we kept our thermostat very low. It was warm everywhere on the ship, unless we were in port, and the gangways were out. Then, it was a bit cool and breezy near them.
I was impressed with the constant maintenance going on. Every day, we'd notice some crew members, somewhere, sprucing up something on the ship! One of the pools was closed one day, as it was drained, scrubbed, touched up, and then refilled. No matter, there was three other pools to choose from! All very nice, warm, and didn't seem over chlorinated to me. The hot tubs were great!! The ones outside were rarely in use, so we had no crowding issues.
We only did a couple of shows... first night welcome show, very nicely done. Later that week, we did a comedy juggler (Steve Patient), he was great! We also attended the champagne waterfall... I got to help pour! and danced afterwards. It was fun. (DH also poured some champagne!!)
The Wheelhouse Bar. Oh, yes... ask the bar tender, Ricardo, to show you his wine cork magic trick! Christian is another waiter that always was cheerful, prompt, accurate, and attentive. There was a latin band there, and we loved dancing there. Just sitting and people watching was good, too!
Let me mention... all the drinks that we enjoyed onboard, whether at the cocktail party (free ones) or bought in the bars/lounges, seemed pretty strong to us. Not at all "watered down"... DH had the "Iced tea" drinks... Long Island and Beverly Hills... and they were almost entirely alcohol. We did notice that the care taken in making drinks seemed a little bit more meticulous in the Wheelhouse, the Lobby bar, the Martini Bar, and the Vista Lounge (all inside bars), more than the bars at the pools, which seemed more crowded, and the bartenders a little more rushed. That may have made a difference. The price was the same, regardless of which bar one ordered at. Oh, and the bartenders did not seem to mind at all if you brought in your own drink, sat and drank it, and then left.
Water was always available. Every waiter and bartender was happy to bring me a glass of "tap" water (free, not bottled) at any time. I was asked ONCE if I wanted bottled water... they must have all told each other that I was happy with tap water, because I always got it after that, without question! It was great to sit in bars and not feel pressured to buy a drink! and, if I wanted a drink, I got a GREAT drink! (no cheap-ass booze, it was all quality stuff)
Unfortunately, none of the photos taken of us onboard were worth buying. There were a few of DH that were good, but none of me. I am not photogenic. DH wouldn't buy any if I didn't look good in them. We did buy the Reflections DVD, though... thought that might be fun.
There was a problem with Noro onboard, apparently. Seemed to us like it was only a few people, and the crew was great... no huge inconvenience, though they did have to cancel our tour of the bridge (shhh...don't tell anyone. We were asked to be discreet about it, but we were invited, yay!), which is a bit of a disappointment. Hopefully, next cruise, we can manage to be invited again.
Hated to leave. Disembarkation was okay, we were off the ship fairly promptly... it seemed longer, as I misread my watch and got us to the waiting area an hour early. Darn. We could have sat at the Lobby bar longer!
Okay, we booked another cruise (open booking)... Princess has spoiled us. Badly. I'm at home, looking around for a waiter to bring me some coffee...