EMBARKATION: Arrived at the pier around 11:30AM, checked our luggage with the porter, took our carry-on and got in a line where about 500 people were already standing, and thought #*#*! The line however was well managed by Princess personnel and it moved right along. Within about 10 minutes we were inside and within a couple more minutes we were registering. Registration was fast and simple. We proceeded to security, had our bags checked and our pictures added to our ID cards. We then went up the escalator, had our welcome aboard pictures taken and proceeded onto the ship. Since we had already been on the Golden Princess and the layout is the same we knew exactly where to find our room. We unpacked our carry-on, went up to the Horizon Court and had some lunch. We then proceeded to Sabatini's to make a reservation there. You must go directly to the restaurant on that first day if you want to make a reservation there. They start taking reservations at 1 PM so we got there just before then and there were only 3 people ahead of us. We then toured the ship and ended up at the aft pool area, had a couple of drinks and watched the ship leave Port Everglades.
SHIP AND CABIN: The Caribbean Princess like the Grand and the Golden is a very large and very beautiful ship, the only differences being the extra deck of cabins which led to alot of overcrowding during the cruise, the Caribe Cafe which is a very nice touch, and helped relieve some of the main dining room overcrowding. Club Fusion is now replacing the Vista Lounge. It is debatable whether this was a workable alternative as there are many areas in the Club where you do not have a clear view of, or your back to the stage. It also attracts many teenagers who have nowhere else to go. It would be to Princess's advantage to turn Skywalkers Lounge over to the teen crowd during the summer months, as with all the activities in Club Confusion (name used by people while on the ship), it doesn't get much adult business in the evening. That would relieve some of the confusion and overcrowding in Club Fusion.
We had been upgraded from an inside cabin to a Caribe deck balcony. The room was a little bit larger than an inside. The bathroom was the same size as on the Golden; however, nowhere near as large or laid out as well as the Carnival Glory where we had the biggest and the best bathroom we'd ever had. It could be our imagination but the shower seemed larger than on the Golden. There was plenty of closet and drawer space to store everything.
DINING: The maitre d' at the Palm Dining Room was very cordial and accommodating but I would not want his job for 3x the salary. At the end of his shift this poor guy must have to guzzle down a couple of double bourbons. How he keeps from losing it with some of the real pushy people is a real accomplishment. However, the Caribbean Princess needs to revamp their personal choice dining rules. We were told they will only give reservations at 5:30, 7 and 8:30PM. That being the case, they might as well go back to all traditional dining and add another seating. We did not get standing reservations as the only ones available were at 5:30PM. During the week we took our chances and went to eat at various times. The first Formal night we arrived at 8PM and found 35-40 people standing or sitting on the stairs waiting to be seated. In talking we found some of them had been waiting 15-40 minutes, depending on the size table they wanted. We asked for a table for two and immediately were challenged about a reservation. We told them we didn't have one and we were told it would be a few minutes. Fortunately, we only had to wait about 5 minutes and they seated us. After we got to our table and ordered, we looked around and saw a dozen or more tables that were all set up, but empty. There were probably many more but we could not see throughout the entire dining room and wondered why all these people were sitting outside when there were empty tables throughout the dining room. After we ate and were leaving the dining room we still noticed many empty tables and as we exited the restaurant there were still many people waiting and hoping to get in. Several nights later we arrived at the dining room about 6 PM and found the same situation with many people standing or sitting, waiting to be seated. When we requested a table for two and didn't have a reservation the maitre d' was cordial but seemed frazzled and just replied that he would see what he could do. He then asked if we would mind sitting at a table for eight, where there were four people who had just been seated. We said fine. Again as we were eating we noticed at least a dozen empty tables and again as we left people were still waiting outside. It appears that on embarkation day many people made standing reservations. However, it appeared that they only intended to show up 3-4 nights out of 7 (kind of like the chaise lounge hogs). This left the dining room full of empty tables and the lobby full of unfortunate people that had to wait to get a seat.
Princess needs to do away with reserved seating in PC dining rooms and go to the first come first served method. That is the way most of us are accustomed to eating at local restaurants where we live, either you get there early, or wait your turn. But to have 12 to 18 empty tables waiting for people who don't intend to show up and having 30 to 40 people standing in the lobby waiting to get in is completely unacceptable to everyone.
Now on the good side, the service in the dining room was excellent. The waiters and wait staff were excellent and did an outstanding job serving us and taking care of every detail. The food on Princess as always was of absolute perfection.
We ate breakfast and most lunches in the Horizon Court. They had a great selection of food and as always on Princess it was absolutely terrific. We ate dinner three nights in the Caribe Cafe because of the crowds in the dining room lobbies, and found the service and food there absolutely excellent. Although we prefer eating in the dining room for dinner, we found the Caribe to be less crowded and a lot less hassle. The food there is absolutely awesome.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment was fabulous as usual. Previous reviews that we read stated that many people were unhappy with Let's Rock and Caribe Caliente performed by the Princess singers and dancers. However, we saw both of them and left scratching our heads wonde4ring why people were not impressed with them. They did a fantastic job and we strongly advise that you not to miss their shows. Although all of the performers were excellent the ones that stood out in our minds were Scott Wyler, James Michael and Kimika, as must see shows. The various bands and performers in the different lounges were all excellent and as good as we've ever seen on any ship.
LIDO DECK: The chaise hogs were up early and out in numbers, but we noticed that many people were getting just plain fed up with someone's sandals getting a nice tan for a few hours and were moving them and taking over their seats. On sea days the Lido Deck is just packed out around the two pools. The pools had so many people in them you were lucky if you could dangle your legs in the water. But with an extra 500+ cruisers on board you just have to put up with the overcrowding. One major thing that we saw that needs to be addressed and corrected immediately were people being allowed to sit on the edges of the pool drinking beer out of glass bottles. We saw this at least seven to eight times a day and this is an extremely dangerous situation to be allowed to continue. One thing that we looked forward to every day was the band Deep Blue, who played a wide variety of music out at the pool. What a great band! There was also a solo singer who sang to audio tapes. I don't remember his name, but he was very good and received alot of applause.
ST THOMAS: We had not been there in two years and things have really changed. Very few souvenir shops remain, as they've been replaced by many, many jewelry stores with people outside trying to strong arm you in (it's just like Cozumel now). But if gold and jewelry is your reason for going, then you will be in heaven except in our opinion we found better deals in St Martin. Taxi rates have gone up tremendously. We were going to go snorkeling at Coki Beach, which is about 1.5 miles further than the taxi ride into town, but it would have cost us $28 there and back. The ride into town is $6 round trip. Oh, well...it started raining just after we decided not to go, so that solved that dilemma. If you want a deal on sight-seeing tours I strongly recommend Godfrey's tours. He's excelent and is only half the price of the same tours booked onboard. You can find him at Godfrey@Godfreytoursvi.com or www.Godfreytoursvi.com.
ST MARTIN: This has changed in the last two years for the better. A new boardwalk (actually sidewalk) has been added along the beach which is now alot cleaner and nicer than we remembered. There are also new restaurants, bars and shops along the beach. The food is very good and reasonably priced. To my husband's delight, beer is only $1. We think that there are alot better deals than in St Thomas including liquor and jewelry. We did not have any problem with being hassled to purchase things like I have read on other reviews.
One thing I will add as far as shopping. I had never attended the "port and shopping talk" until this cruise. I was so glad I did. Cindy, the Princess Shopping Guru gave us all alot of great information about both ports and some inside information on certain shops. If you have never gone, thinking it a waste of time I would definitely try it if you are going to be purchasing any high dollar items such as camera, jewelry, etc.
In closing, it was a very nice cruise even with the excessive amount of cruisers which made for mass over-crowding. A cruise is what you decide to make of it, and we were not going to let a few irritations ruin ours. It was easier to work around them than to let them get under your skin. We hope that somehow they work out the problems in the dining room so it is not so stressful on the passengers. As for us we will not cruise the Caribbean Princess again due to the overcrowding, but do intend to cruise Princess again in the future as they are a great cruise line, a good value and one of our favorties.