7 day Eastern Caribbean-San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten Room: P303
I had always wanted to try one of the bigger ships, and I'm so glad I finally did. It took several days before the ship map was left in the room. This was also a first for Anytime Dining which is a great addition.
Pre-Cruise Stay: Marriott Beach Place Towers. This is a great beach location not far from Las Olas Blvd. The resort is located in the BeachPlace Mall so there are several shops and restaurants located in the area. The pool is located on the 7th floor. The morning of the cruise we took a walk along the beach before checking out.
Embarkation: Since the hotel had a 10:00 check out, we were at the terminal by 10:30. Passengers were still debarking when we arrived. Check in started around 11:30. I did like the way check in was done by which deck you were on with each deck having two lines with one being for passengers who completed the express check in process. A surprise was waiting on check-in, an upgrade from an inside to an outside cabin. So we were on board and off to a great start shortly after noon.
Accommodations: This cabin is located behind the Fine Arts Gallery so there was virtually no noise in the hallways. I especially liked the layout of the closet and shelf storage areas. There seemed to be more than enough spaces to put things.
Movies under the Stars: Found this to be one of our favorite areas. This was nice during the day to set and watch movies while enjoying the sun. The movies in the evening were recent films (Spiderman II and I Robot) and that's when they put blankets on the lounge chairs and served popcorn. Other evening treats were the Wizard of Oz, Monday night football, and different live concerts.
Food: Since we chose anytime dining, the Coral and Palm Dining Room were our picks for dinner. The Coral Dining Room was used for breakfast and lunch, which we used several times to try to cut down on the amount of food we were consuming. Since we had early port tours, we used room service for breakfast those mornings. There were also two buffets, which came in handy during the day and in the evening if we found ourselves staying too late at Movies under the Stars. There were several theme buffets (Seafood, Bavarian, Creole, and Oriental). Then you had the normal hamburger grill and pizza. So you always had several things to select from. We found the food presentation and quality to be very good. We just didn't seem to remember to try the alternative restaurants but heard great things about Sterling Steakhouse and the Italian Sabatini.
Entertainment: The comedians are always our favorite and we enjoyed having several of them. The other favorite was Kimika, which was husband/wife comedy/musical act. We missed the production numbers because of other entertainment in the lounges. Club Fusion had different theme musical nights (70's, country, Karaoke, 50's, and Pop) mixing trivia with these themes. Again, you had several different types of entertainment to pick from every evening.
Ports: San Juan was the substitution for Princess Cays. You could leave the ship at 4pm and had to be back on board by 10:30pm. Originally, we had decided to stay on ship but changed our minds and walked thru downtown and did some shopping. This was a nice break in the cruise since we had some rough seas getting to San Juan.
In St. Thomas we took the Trunk Bay Beach and Snorkel. Unfortunately, the ocean was so rough it made for some poor snorkeling. The snorkel probably should have been cancelled. We spent most of the time setting on the beach watching the children bodysurf. Still a very beautiful beach and a nice morning excursion. Not being real big shoppers we just walked around the areas outside the cruise terminal. This was sufficient for us with several of the jewelers having satellite shops here and plenty of the souvenir type things.
We had snorkeled in St. Maarten our last trip so we opted for the Under Two Flags Island Tour. This gave us an opportunity to see both the Dutch and French side of the Island. The shopping areas close to the ship are under construction. With six other ships in port this was an extremely busy area. Again, not being big shoppers we grabbed the normal souvenirs and went back to the ship.
Overall Cruise Experience: Definitely our best cruise yet and so glad we picked one of the larger ships they have a lot to offer. Princess limits the amount of teenagers, which seems to have eliminated problems around the pools and hot tubs, that we've seen on past cruises. We found the staff to be friendly and extremely helpful. Everyday there were new and different things to do and even if you just wanted to lounge around the pool there were several areas to choice from.