My wife and I decided to check out the best suite Princess has to offer and booked a Grand Suite on one of the newer Princess Mega Ships, the Caribbean Princess. We are Celebrity regulars and just wanted to see if Princess would meet our stringent requirements. We booked a 7 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel and back to Fl.
We booked the Grand Suite which is the equivalent of the Penthouse Suite on Celebrity. There is only one Grand Suite on the Caribbean Princess so I could not be choosey as to the date I wanted to sail therefore we had to book according to the availability of the Grand Suite and of course it was available during peak hurricane season, September 24 to October 1st.
We left our home at 10 am on Saturday for our journey to FLL via our truck loaded with luggage. We used the Park and Fly lot which is about $8.00 a day and includes a free shuttle to and fro the port. I used it on our last cruise and it worked out just perfectly for us. We dropped our luggage off with the dock porters and proceeded into a very busy terminal. We waited in the main line to go through security for about 15 minutes and then I proceeded to the Suite and Elite member line. I waited about 10 minutes in this line and when I got up to window the Princess Rep asked for my tickets, etc and when he say my name he summoned someone from the ship who was there in 30 seconds grabbing our carry-on luggage and whisking up onto the ship avoiding any more lines that day. He escorted us to the Grand Suite. I thought that was a very nice touch and I get the same service on Celebrity so we are even with service at this point. In the Grand Suite were 2 bottles of Champagne. I was surprised to see a bottle of Moet and Chandon which is expensive champagne and exactly what Celebrity placed in my room in May 05.
The Suite was very clean, new furniture and over-all very pleasing to the eye. It seemed half the size of the Millennium PS but I would guess the total square footage was around 1,100 sq feet versus 1,450 on the Millie. The furniture was nicer and newer on the Princess and the PC-work area had free internet access which the Celebrity did not so this was a real plus to me. On the Millennium one can spend a lot of money at $.80 a minute accessing email and the internet.
The price for the Grand Suite was on par with the Celebrity Penthouse or maybe a tad cheaper. The complimentary “minature” liquor bar included 2 bottles of cognac, 2 bottles of gin , 2 bottles of volka and 2 bottles of Canadian Club. The brands were mid range and really not what I drink. On Celebrity you get top shelve liquor and you get litres and they provided me as much liquor and mixers and soda as we wanted. On Princess I was told this is it. In the small fridge I got a few bottles of Perrier, 2 small water bottles and 2 cans of diet coke, regular coke and tonic water. They were not going to be refilled without a charge. On Celebrity there are unlimited beverages in the Penthouse Suite. I asked about the big bottle of water on the counter and I was told it’s $3.50 per bottle even for the Grand Suite. I mentioned to the Room Stewardess that I thought charging me for water in the Grand Suite was a bit barbaric and she said one bottle would be on the house. I kept getting reminded that this wasn’t Celebrity and Carnival runs a tighter budget. Considering my wife drinks 5 or 6 cans of diet coke a day I knew this could be an expensive trip. Luckily I carried on 48 cans for the trip and used the mini fridge to keep them cool. We would do the unlimited sodas for the week but I didn’t want to run to a bar every few hours to get a small glass of diet coke so I am glad I brought the soda onboard. I had no hassles bringing the sodas or 4 bottles of alcohol in my carryon luggage. In fact, when in Cozumel I bought 4 bottles of Patron Tequila and 4 litres of Grand Marnier and when putting the boxes through security I said, its water and the Security Agent said, sure, Mexican Water but she let me take the booze to the room which I thought was nice. If you want a great margarita, try Patron Tequila and half as much grand marnier with margarita mix, a great drink.
There are no Butlers on Princess so everything you want in your room goes through Room Service which was an inconvenience to us. On Celebrity I never had to call and wait on the phone to order food and wait 20 minutes. The head of room service was a very nice gentleman and visited me on several occasions and said he would do whatever it took to make me happy and satisfied. I ordered special lunches everyday not on the menu which the main chefs prepared for me, ie, Indian food, Phillipino, Italian, Mexican. The Maitre’D would coordinate my lunch through the Chef and room service and my dining room waiter would deliver it to my room on a large cart. It turned out to be very elegant and we enjoyed our lunches. The Grand Suite dining room table was pre set by my waiter and the presentation of the food in the suite for lunch was nicer than the “Butler” lunch service on Celebrity.
The room stewardess assigned to the Grand Suite was Mary from the Philippines and she was very good at her job. She acted as our quasi-Butler trying to accommodate all our needs. She was tipped accordingly since I really appreciated her excellent service. I have never had a Room Steward or Stewardess on Celebrity that bested the professionalism of Mary so I think Princess scored well in assigning the Grand Suite the top of the line personnel. I have had Butlers on Celebrity that bested the stewardess service.
The balcony on the Grand Suite was long and narrow and about 200 sq feet without a hot tub or wet bar. Nothing will ever compare to the balconies on the M class ships, 1,400 sq feet with wet bar and hot tubs so I was let down by the size of the Grand Suite’s balcony. There were people above the balcony and when we left ports I had confetti all over my balcony. I also had at least 10 cigarette butts on the balcony from inconsiderate folks throwing them overboard in the wind. When we left Fort Lauderdale people were throwing ice overboard and some would comeback and hit us in the head. I think Princess should do something about people throwing things overboard. On the Millennium nothing every was thrown onto our balcony.
Also not having a second bathroom in the best suite on the ship was a big let down since all the Celebrity Penthouse Suites have at least an extra half bath (C class ships) or a full shower bath (M class). On Celebrity its great that they have at least that half bath or more. There are times when one bath is tied up and its tough waiting for 5 or more minutes.
The ports of call on this western Caribbean cruise we have been to numerous times and once you have seen them a few times it gets boring to get off the ship. We don’t cruise to go sightseeing in the Caribbean, we cruise just to get away and get pampered. We never made it to a show on the ship so I cant comment on the shows.
We went to The Steakhouse restaurant once on the ship and had a great meal and to Sabatini’s once and had a great meal. As good as these meals were they did not compare as far as treatment and food quality to the Olympic Restaurant on the Millie. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both Princess specialty restaurants but they just were no where as elegant as the M class Ships specialty restaurants. The waiters did a great job in both restaurants and were tipped well, over and above the surcharge. The waiters and Maitre D, in my opinion were not the same caliber as the personnel in the Olympic. The food was not cooked at the table, there was no cheese cart and the desserts did not compare. The desserts in both Sabatini’s and the Steak House were identical to the main dining room desserts.
The Captain did invite me to dinner on the first formal night and we sat at my assigned table. He invited another couple to join us which worked out fine. We were invited to the bridge twice and the Captain Romano was most cordial to us. (see pics of us on the bridge and at dinner). I never was invited to his personal quarters for tea or breakfast (as I was on the Millennium) or was I allowed to tour the engine room after asking a few times. The Hotel Director called the Passenger Services Director on Princess visited my room on the first day and we chatted but that was it. On Celebrity I developed a friendship with the hotel director Renato and saw him most days while cruising.
We realized after this cruise that 7 day cruises are not for us. We don’t want to bother with all the packing and driving for seven days so in the future we will book 10 plus day cruises.
The food in the main dining room was very good and on par with Celebrity. I found no problems with any of the food and the desserts were great too. The afternoon tea was great and we went almost everyday.
In summary we had an excellent time on the Caribbean Princess and I would consider going on a longer cruise on Princess in the Grand Suite in the future. It wasn’t as good as the Millennium experience considering the prices are almost on par. It’s getting impossible to book a PS on an M class ship these days since they are so popular but my next cruise will be on Celebrity.
Princess uses the automatic tipping so I had no choice, I used envelopes at the end to reward those outstanding personnel that made a difference in our cruise but I didn’t tip as much as I would have on Celebrity for some reason. I guess I wasn’t as motivated as I usually am.
Pictures of this cruise, bridge tour, captains dinner and the Grand Suite are on my website, just click below or cut and paste: