My 55-year-old husband and I (53) celebrated our 35th anniversary by taking our first cruise, and chose to sail on the new Caribbean Princess to the Western Caribbean. This was only the second sailing of this beautiful ship. We sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale after flying down from Baltimore. Scheduled ports of call were Princess Cay, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.
Even though it was Easter weekend and there were crowds, embarkation went without a hitch and very little waiting in line. We had a Princess bus transfer waiting for us from the airport to the dock, which went smoothly.
We had a deluxe balcony stateroom on the Deck 15 (Lido deck), and it was lovely. We heard no noise. There was plenty of water pressure in bathroom. Our stateroom was roomy with plenty of storage in a separate closet, enclosed shelving area (with safe), and bedside drawers and desk. There were lots of wall mirrors and the décor had lovely color choices throughout. The cabin had a small refrigerator/bar/TV stand, a desk, and sliding doors to our nice-sized balcony with table and chairs (plastic).
The food was plentiful and I'd give it four stars. The Horizon Buffet and Caribe Cafe were going day and night with all kinds of goodies to tempt all palates -- vegetarian, meat lovers, sweet tooth, lots of fresh fruit etc. The coffee and tea could be better. Our dinner was in the Palm Dining Room on the aft Deck 6, which was a challenge to get to -- one must go up and down to reach it from the forward end due to the open atrium in the middle. The food there was plentiful and they aimed to please, allowing you to order whatever you wanted, even off the menu. Our only complaint: It took too long to be served the main course each time we were there, but if you want leisurely dinner conversation with your tablemates, this is okay.
The pool area had a pizza oven that served great thin crust pizza, and also a sandwich grill for fries, burgers, etc. You could pay extra to eat in the special steak house (the Palm Room steak was excellent), Italian restaurant, and one other. We were more than happy with the "included" food.
The new "Movies under the Stars" is fantastic! The ship has a three-tiered outdoor movie theater with deck chairs under the stars. Sound and picture were great.
My husband's favorite entertainment was Bert Stratton, a piano player/singer who did requests on the atrium promenade deck. You can go to his web site using just his name. He was able to play spontaneously all types of music from the 20s to contemporary. He was a mix of Jim Carrey (antics and faces), Victor Borge (humor and wit), and Lurch. He was very entertaining and engaging, bringing his intimate audience right into the show and "whipping us into a frenzy." Don't miss him.
We loved dancing in the Fusion room to the bands, also in the Explorer Lounge, and on Deck 15 to the Caribbean band. All were great. We did not catch any of the shows in the Princess Theater. Richard Hatch of "Survivor" was there for a talk. There were also "Broadway-style shows" with singing and dancing. It was my understanding that all the props could not be obtained when we missed our port in Grand Cayman, so this was a limited show.
We were plenty busy! We played bingo and my husband won part of a $200 pot. He played in the casino a little, but we aren't big gamblers. It looked like a great casino with lots of nickel and quarter machines as well as $1 and up.
My husband took advantage of the running track, which made him dizzy because 10 times around equals one mile and he runs about four miles. The workout room has lots of equipment and beautiful views of the sea. The new Lotus Spa offers a beauty shop, massage, and facials. My husband won a free makeover, which was filmed and shown on the TVs on board. That was fun.
PORTS OF CALL
Princess Cay: This is Princess' private island and is very nice. We enjoyed the water sports and swimming, and they served a nice barbecue to everyone under pavilions on the beach. There are local craftsmen there selling baskets, trinkets, hats and clothing. "Princess Pirates" in full costume meet you for pictures.
Montego Bay, Jamaica: This was a disappointment, but was not without merit. Tenders are needed to get to shore. The cab drivers are everywhere and relentless in trying to procure you as a customer, as are the shop owners -- much pressure, little relaxation. The port is depressed looking and sad. We visited a small shopping center and bought T-shirts, then went to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville ($4 cab fee each) and had lunch overlooking ocean. My husband went down the large tube slide into the water (no cost). A hamburger is $8. I think we would skip this port and enjoy the ship next time.
Grand Cayman Island: Unfortunately, because of high seas, the port authority closed this port to all cruise ships and we had to skip it. I understand it is the most beautiful.
Cozumel, Mexico: My favorite! The ship lands directly at a dock, no tenders. Lots of colorfully costumed people greet you for pictures or just to enjoy. You exit the dock through a large duty-free shopping center (vanilla, alcohol, jewelry, etc.) into the local shopping center with lots of jewelry, handicrafts, T-shirts, etc., at good prices. The water is beautiful; it's very picturesque.
We took the catamaran snorkeling excursion to two coral reefs and it was fantastic! We went in a large, covered catamaran seating 50, with bathrooms. We saw beautiful seas, underwater coral gardens, colorful fish, and sea turtles. It's several hours out, so wear a shirt or sun block! On the ride back, the crew serves both alcoholic and soft drinks and fruit. They were great. It cost us about $50 each for this Princess tour. We took photos with an underwater camera and hope they turn out.
This went very smoothly with little waiting. Again our Princess bus transfer brought us straight to the airport from the dock.
We loved this cruise and found the ship to be beautiful with a crew that pampers you. Montego Bay was a disappointment, and we were sorry we could not see beautiful Grand Cayman, but safety comes first. The price was fair, at $897 each for a lovely new ship and a cabin with a balcony for seven days. Onboard ship activities were wonderful. We want to go again!