October 15, 2005
We just returned from a wonderful 7 day cruise on the Caribbean Princess. The itinerary included Princess Cays, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We traveled with 3 other couples, 2 of us flew from Buffalo, N.Y and the other couples who live in Florida met us on the ship.
We arrived at the port after a short cab ride from the airport and even though the line was long, embarkation went pretty quickly. If I could make one suggestion to everyone reading this, it would be to read the information you received from Princess and keep a folder with all your travel documents and have them ready. Most of the delays we observed were due to passengers who are not prepared when they got to the counter.
After finding our room and meeting our room steward (Elena from Romania) we proceeded to the welcome aboard buffet. The buffet line is a little hard to manage at first because people are entering from both ends and of course since many of us haven’t eaten anything except the bag of pretzels on the plane, people are a little aggressive. The buffet will never again be as crowded as you see it on the first day of the cruise.
Our Impressions of the Ship:
We reserved balcony rooms on the Caribe deck, (our room was C735) toward the back of the ship. The balconies on this deck are larger and more private than other decks. We could actually look down on balconies below us. We were pleasantly surprised at the size of the room, it was quite roomy with plenty of closet and storage space. The refrigerator conveniently held the 3 liter box of wine we had packed in our luggage. I don’t think I need to mention the size of the bathroom since that has been covered in great detail in other reviews. We knew what to expect so it wasn’t a problem unless you dropped the soap. The bathroom is stocked with hotel size shampoo, conditioner and lotion from the Lotus Spa. During the cruise, these were constantly restocked.
It’s a little hard to navigate since all elevators do not go to all floors. We suggest you carry your pocket guide and memorize which set of elevators you used to get to your restaurant. This may mean walking past the closest elevator to your room and using the mid-ship elevators.
We really enjoyed the adult pools and hot tubs. We found the pool by the movie screen much too crowded and loud, but that is personal preference. If you don’t like crowds, there are lots of quiet areas where you can relax and read a book or take a nap. It would be hard to find a lounge chair around the MUTS pool, but no problem in other areas.
We found the public areas tastefully decorated and very well kept. The only evening the atrium seemed crowded was the formal night when the photographers were set up. We liked the fact that they had several photographers and backgrounds so that the lines weren’t so long. This was actually the first time we had our picture taken because of the lines we encountered on previous cruises.
Our room was in the aft section and even though we didn’t seem to encounter any stormy weather, we felt the motion of the ship quite a bit on this cruise. Even in other parts of the ship it was noticeable. Our group is not prone to seasickness so it didn’t really bother us, just something to note.
Because of our dinner time and the fact that most of the movies and shows on the MUTS screen weren’t of great interest to us, we didn’t go down in the evening. We did, however watch the football games on Sunday. The screen is awesome and I would try to do that on a future cruise.
Our Impressions of the Dining:
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court/Café Caribe daily. There was a large variety and we enjoyed most of our choices. The food was not very hot though, and there could have been a few more drink stations available. We ate dinner in the Caribe Café the first night (seafood extravaganza) and the crab legs were actually frozen. The water from the drink stations is filtered and tastes just fine, you really don’t need to purchase the bottled water they are trying to sell.
We also tried the pizza and the grill items and we liked them. The challenge is to find a table once you have your pizza, or hot dog or burger. Seating is really at a premium in this area.
The remainder of the cruise we ate dinner in the Palm Dining room. We had signed up for anytime dining, but after our first night, we arranged a standing reservation for our group of 8 for the remaining nights. Even though the head waiter couldn’t give us a 7:30 reservation (he put us down for 8:00) he said if we arrived at 7:30 he would “try” to get us in. Our table, with our waitress, Oana, from Romania was ready for us each night after the first. The head waiter did not even walk us to the table after the second night, just nodded and waived us through. We all enjoyed the food in the dining room and there were lots of choices. Oana would offer to bring another choice from the menu if you were anything less than enthusiastic about your meal. One person in our party mentioned crème brulee, which we had early in the cruise and she quickly summoned the chef who arranged to have it ready for us the next evening.
The only negative I have to say about the meals is that they were never hot. I have nothing but good to say about the service we received and we all left a little “extra” with Oana on our last night.
Our impressions of the Ports:
Our itinerary was changed so that we went to Princess Cays first. We weren’t in a hurry to leave the ship so we had to walk a bit down the beach to find an open lounge. There is plenty of seating and trees and grass tiki huts for shade. We’re actually glad we didn’t spend money to reserve a cabana, we didn’t need it. We didn’t eat the barbecue but it looked and smelled good. When you are leaving the ship, workers will be trying to sell bottled water, implying that there is none on the beach. This is not true. There are water containers all over the place and it’s the same water you drink on the ship. One couple reserved the floats with the hole for your face and were disappointed. They were quite heavy, and way too much work. Otherwise, a nice relaxing day at the beach.
St. Thomas – we reserved a parasail adventure through Shoretrips.com and loved it. We also bought tickets on the Skyride and didn’t think it was worth $15. Another couple booked a trip to Magan’s Bay through Princess and said it was the best beach they have ever seen and not to be missed. Our last couple did the “Bob” adventure and had a great time. We’ll have to go again so we can do the things we missed this time around.
In the future I’ll probably hop in one of the numerous taxis available as you exit the ship.
You are in port all day, so there is plenty of time to go almost anywhere and be back to the ship in time.
St. Maarten – This was the only place where we all booked the same tour and it turned into a disaster. We booked the “Under two Flags” bus tour through Princess. The tour highlights the Dutch and the French sides of the Island with a stop (45 minutes) on the French side. The short stop didn’t give you much time to do anything except have a drink at one of the numerous cafes. We all headed back to the bus and after traveling about 2 blocks, our bus driver jumped out of the bus, closed the doors and got in a taxi heading the opposite way. Needless to say, passengers started to panic and a few folks went to the front of the bus to get the doors opened. Once the doors were opened some people tried to get police assistance through one of the vendors at a souvenir stand. After about 15 minutes, our bus driver arrives back at the bus and without explanation, and after letting the passengers back on the bus, he continues the tour. He did at one point apologize for the “minor inconvenience.” I’m still not sure exactly what happened but after numerous complaints at the tour desk, all money was refunded. I cannot even imagine what the driver was thinking because I am sure the drivers depend on tips and obviously he didn’t get any that day. Perhaps this experience ruined our perception, but we didn’t see too much on this Island that would call us back.
We loved this cruise. You can do as little or as much as you want to do. We only attended one show, Piano Man, and I wasn’t that impressed. We did enjoy Bert Stratton and stopped to listen a few nights. We won a little money at the roulette table, so we liked the casino, but even though you can’t see the smoke, you can smell it as soon as you walk in. We didn’t encounter problems with smoke anywhere else on the ship. The no smoking signs seemed to be well observed. We liked the easy listening music in the Wheelhouse Bar and our waiter was fun. Our room was immaculate and the beds were very comfortable. We encountered only good service, and everyone was friendly and happy to help. We had the gratuities added to our shipboard account and gave some extra to our room steward, our waitress and our “wine guy”. I would definitely recommend this cruise.