We were passengers on the third scheduled cruise, April 17-24, 2004, of the new Caribbean Princess, the second of three new Princess ships being introduced. Our cruise was to the Western Caribbean with stops at Princess cays, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel with two sea days. We selected the cruise because of the ship.new and big! We were not disappointed. Will give some highlights of the ship and cruise as well as some hints for those who may be considering the Caribbean Princess.
The ship is big; 112,000 to 116,000 tons depending on what you hear. The captains log listed 112,000. It accommodates 3000 to 3500 passengers which results in a little bigger than normal crowds at some venues but is NOT anything to be concerned about. It is very nicely decorated with lots of Caribbean pastel colors as well as chrome and brass , has an elegant atrium with a light color scheme, and dozens of places to go on the ship, all giving a feeling of being relatively small and intimate. The ship had the fastest elevators of any ship we had ever been on which reminded us of the elevators in Las Vegas casinos.a real plus if you have waited for the slow elevators on many cruise ships. There are a lot of balconies.
HINT: The balconies on the Caribe deck are bigger than the balconies on many decks.
The ship was new but the crew was experienced. We were a little concerned about a new crew when we booked the cruise. Several crew members had transferred from other Princess ships along with others who came from other cruise lines. We even recognized a couple from other ships we had been on. Service was excellent everywhere, especially in the dining rooms.
We selected traditional dining which meant assigned seating for all dinners. There were A LOT of dining options including personal choice dining in one of the three main dining rooms. ( Someone told us that the personal choice dining was so popular that the dining rooms were going to be shifted to accommodate more for personal dining on the next cruise). The buffets ( There were two) were very good. The lines were crowded the first afternoon due to the large number of people and the traffic pattern which was a little different. Open seatings for breakfast and lunch in the Coral Dining room was easy..no lines and no wait. Interestingly, the attendance in the main dining rooms was far less that capacity.probable due to the number of choices: At least two special rooms ( with a cover charge), pizza, grill and two buffets as well as the three dining rooms. All the restaurants were nicely decorated and offered a very pleasant atmosphere.
The food was very good highlighted by lobster night. We thought the selections in the dining rooms where we eat most meals were excellent. The dining room menus featured a wide selection of international foods that were interesting and delicious. The buffet also had a nice selection. Pizza, compared to other ship experiences, was excellent. I like ice cream ( splurge on cruises) and they had some macadamia nut that was special. Food rating.High.
HINT: We tried the Steakhouse, with a $15 cover charge. The steaks were very good but the rest of the meal and the setting were nothing really special. Service was excellent.
Shops on the ship were nice. A good selection of both shops and goods. We made several purchases. The casino was large and well done. ( didn't win). Neither the shops nor the casino were crowded even though there were over 3000 people on board. The showroom, however, was standing room only a couple of times. ( The Caribbean Princess does repeat some shows on a second night so there are four opportunities to see the show). Lounge entertainment was good. ( Lots of lounges)
The ports were the standard ones for the Western Caribbean.
HINT: Be sure to get off the ship at the Princess Cays. The facilities on the island are very nice, including sheltered areas if you don't like the sun and lots of beach for those who do. The scenery and view to the ship from the island are worth a photo. They also had a nice barbecue with good food.
We tried the river rafting at Montego Bay, a nice relaxing ride down a river ( shallow in most areas) on a bamboo raft with interesting scenery along the way. It was followed up with a talk on local produce, instructions on making rum drinks, a jitney ( jitney is a wagon with seats pulled by a tractor) ride to a banana plantation where we were fascinated by a description of banana growth and uses, a lunch, and coconut palm climber. We then went downtown.
HINT: Downtown was neither a place to go nor shop. It could use a lot of development which is unfortunate for the local people.
Grand Cayman was very crowded the day we were there. Tenders are required and the docks were filled with passengers from all the ships, many looking for their tour groups which met on shore. We tried the underwater viewing boat which is a good opportunity to see marine life just below the surface. Grand Cayman is well developed, has a lot of shops and good buying opportunities.
The last stop was Cozumel, with a visit to Tulum probably the biggest attraction. Tulum is well worth a visit if you have interest in the Mayans. Shopping in Cozumel is also very good.
HINT: A shopping area right at the pier has been completed in the last few years. It is clean, safe, and has many shops including duplicates of those downtown. Provides a chance to shop if the tour runs long.
Getting on and off the ship is worth a couple of notes. Getting on ( embarking for the sailors) was a little confusing with express and regular lines. Express was for those who registered on line.and had "express" on their ticket covers. ( we registered on line but had no sticker). Boarding started right at noon and we were in the initial large group so maybe that's why things were confusing. Didn't seem to make a any difference because no one was there to give directions..probably our only real complaint with the cruise. Getting off was very predictable and easy..remember, we had over 3000 passengers.
A couple of other hints..
HINT: There is a parking garage right at the ship, maybe the closest we have ever parked to our ship BUT there is a least one other garage and it not hard to end up in the wrong garage..and it is an impossible walk.
HINT: Booking another Princess cruise on the ship will get you some shipboard credit for your next Princess cruise and the down payment is much less than you would normally pay. The risk is also low: You can change your itinerary and date and are given quite a long time to book ( four years in our case).and you still use your travel agent ( who may be able to better the rates quoted). We had researched future princess cruises and were prepared to take advantage of the nice offer.
SUMMARY: Big, beautiful and new ship with a lot of modern amenities sailing to the Caribbean. We had another very, very nice travel vacation.