My husband (11 cruises) and I (16 cruises) took our 17 year old daughter on her 3rd cruise as a high school graduation gift. First and foremost, we thank our Master Cruise Counselor, Ben Shapiro at Galaxsea Cruises through Dolphin Travel in Grand Rapids Michigan for putting together another flawless vacation for us. Ben is#1 in our hearts and never leads us to anything but wonderful cruise experiences.
After uneventful flights on Northwest Airline, my daughter Katy and I spent 3 wonderful nights in the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale. We booked through Priceline.com for $55.00 a night. The price included transportation from the airport (5 minutes), to the pier (3 minutes) as well as a large breakfast buffet that rivaled our cruise ship buffet breakfasts and a 2 hour nightly happy hour. There were many stores and restaurants in the walking area and as our suite included both a refrigerator and microwave, we were set to eat a few meals in our room. My husband arrived the night before our cruise and the hotel was swamped with late arrivals, so, they told him to take a cab and they paid for it when he arrived. I can't imagine a nicer place to stay for such a reasonable rate. Our rooms were clean and tidy and we enjoyed being able to use their wonderful pool with a breathtaking waterfall and hot tub as well as the hotel restaurant and gift shop. On Saturday morning we could see our ship right outside the hotel. We will definitely stay there again. We were able to meet with several friends we met on the internet at one happy hour but unfortunately slept through the planned get together on embarkation afternoon and never were able to catch up with the group again.
We had express check-in at the pier and arrived by hotel shuttle at 11:30. We had no problem bringing on 2- 12 packs of pop for our cabin. By noon we were in our cabin #R712 and on our way to lunch. I would not suggest our cabin or any cabin near it. We chose it for the closeness to the back pool and buffet area and for that, it served its purpose. Unfortunately, I don't know what kind of activity they were running all night long on the deck above us, but, it was by far the noisiest cabin we have ever had. It was a nicely appointed Princess cabin with everything in its place, making for easy movement for 3 in a cabin. There were over 600 children on this voyage and this was the very first time I was ever really bothered by the little dears.
Entertainment was ok - nothing to write home about and brag, but enjoyable.
We do not gamble, but had to go through the casino several times and it was always surprisingly empty.
I enjoyed the afternoon movies several times. It was a nice relief from the summer heat.
The food was Princess wonderful, but, both my husband and I agreed that we liked Carnival just a tad better.
The pools were always open and clean and it seemed that for the most part the adult only rules were enforced.
The back hot tub never really worked right and was quite cool.
We had #1 service all through the ship and enjoyed our wait staff Albert and Dennis as well as our cabin steward Diamond who made sure that my husband's birthday and daughter's graduation were celebrated with balloons on the door and a cake on the last formal night.
Our cabin although noisy was set up so very nicely that when the three of us were all in the room, there was always room for us to roam, well, except for that teeny, tiny, little, bitty shower..
The ship itself is breathtakingly beautiful. It was spotlessly clean and in well repair.
The jumbotron screen at the pool was ok..you did get a nice cushioned lounge chair and popcorn, but I thought the picture was grainy.
We enjoyed an island tour given by Carr an independent tour guide that we met outside the ship. For $20.00 a person he took us all over the island in his open air truck/tour trolley and stopped for pictures and shopping at all the high points. We have been to the island and I have to say that this was by far one of the nicest tours we have taken.
At St. Martin we docked at the new pier and decided to take in the sites at the pier. There was water and land taxi service, but it was so terribly hot that we just decided to beat the heat at the pool.
Princess Cay as always was beautiful and we enjoyed the cool water and buffet on the beach. I am so glad that it is now almost entirely handicap accessible. What a great experience. The snorkeling was great with lots of fish.
Because we are platinum members at Princess we did have unlimited free internet access. This was heaven sent for our teenager who left her boyfriend at home. It was nice to keep up with the gossip at home once a day.
The ship was decorated wonderfully for American Independence Day which fell on the first formal night. Princess did do a wonderful job making you glad to be an American.
Debarkation was quick and painless. There was a special area set up for platinum guests, but, we did not even get there. Our color was called while we were still eating breakfast and by the time we finished and got our luggage we nabbed a taxi and were checking in at the airport.
After a few more uneventful flights on Northwest, we were home right on time. Onward to the Golden Princes to the southern Caribbean in October and then the Carnival Spirit to the Mexican Riviera in Feb of 2005.