Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Judy Best Eastern Caribbean December 3, 2006
Caribbean Princess, sailing 7-nights from Fort Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean ports of St. Thomas, St. Marten, and Princess Cays, December 3 – 10, 2006
This was our 13th cruise, but our first on Princess. We are business people in our late 40s, married over 25 years, and traveling as a couple without our children. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, this ship, and this itinerary.
Flight/Hotel: We flew in the day before our cruise on Delta without any problem. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Airport/Seaport, because they offered complimentary shuttle rides from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the cruise terminal. That worked great, and the hotel was very nice, so it was a great pick. We had a great pre-cruise dinner at a restaurant across the street from the hotel, 84 Thai Food, which we highly recommend.
Embarkation: We always arrive at the port early, because we like getting on the ship as soon as we can. Hundreds were in line before we were finally allowed into the terminal shortly after 11:30 a.m. This was the morning the Freedom of the Seas had returned to port with sick passengers and staff, so we were required to fill out a health form declaring we had not been sick in the past two days. They had lines with two agents each for each deck, with another line and two agents for those with preferred check-in. The only delay was caused by those passengers who had arrived without their online information completed. We received our Sea Passes, and we were up the stairs for our embarkation photo, our security photo, and on the ship. Our rooms were ready for us, so we dropped off our carry-ons to begin our cruise vacation. Our room steward, Nazario, did a great job keeping our stateroom in tip top shape.
Buffet: Our first meal, all of our breakfasts, and most of our on-board lunches were in the buffet. For most of the week, the staff served guests in the buffet to help us avoid getting sick on the ship. This was a slow process, and some guests still tried to serve themselves, slowing us all down more, as the staff had to intervene. We were thankful for the hand sanitizers placed throughout the ship, but especially in the buffet and dining rooms. The food in the buffet was fairly typical buffet fare.
We were assigned to late dining, but we decided we wanted to experience Princess' Anytime Dining, so we requested and were granted that dining after embarkation. We really liked it! With traditional dining, we always felt bad if we didn't go to the dining room any evening. With Anytime Dining, we simply went to the dining room of our choice, and requested a table to share, and we were seated each evening with delightful dinner companions. The first evening we enjoyed dinner in the Coral Dining Room with three other couples, including Gail and Rich, who we'd met online before the cruise. The third evening was formal night, and the dining rooms were very busy. We had dinner that evening in the Palms Dining Room with a lovely lady, Anne, who was traveling alone. The other four evenings, we had dinner in the Coral Dining Room with various couples. We usually ate between 7 and 8:15, but we ate at 6:15 on the second formal night, because we had learned from the first formal night that the dining rooms get busier on formal nights, especially as the evening gets later! The dining room food was excellent, but some of the desserts were disappointing.
The second evening we had dinner reservations in Sabatini's ($20 per person charge), and the last evening we had dinner reservations in Sterling's Steakhouse ($15 per person charge). We made reservations for both upon embarkation. We could smell the wonderful cooking from Sabatini's as we passed on the Promenade deck or as we enjoyed a drink in the Wheelhouse Bar. We got to taste so many amazing courses, and some of our favorites were ones we would not have ordered normally. There was way too much food, but it was a great evening. I was glad we had booked this early in the week before we were stuffed from all the great food on this ship.
We had heard several complaints about Sterling's, mainly that the food was not prepared properly or that service was slow. Our reservations were for 7 p.m., and the restaurant was only about half full. Our steaks were perfect, and the service was excellent. I had the small filet prepared medium, and my husband had the Tenderloin prepared blue. We had never heard of that term, but the server indicated that was extremely rare, as my husband prefers it, and the steak was absolutely perfect. We had chocolate pecan pie and cheesecake for dessert. The cheesecake on the entire ship was marvelous!
Entertainers: We had four comedians. Steve Morris did two really funny shows. We looked forward to seeing Adam Ace, as we had seen him perform on another ship a couple years ago, but we were really disappointed that he was doing the same old show. Time for some new material, Adam! John Ferrentino was funny, but Roger enjoyed him more than I did. We heard that Troy Threadgill was really good, but we missed that show. Kimika was a British husband and wife singing, doing a little comedy, and he was an amazing guitarist. I really enjoyed his playing, but could have lived without the singing and comedy. We enjoyed the Piano Man, but we'd heard such great reviews, it didn't meet our expectations. The second production show was better. A hypnotist was aboard. I volunteered, and I was surprised when I opened my eyes to see I had made the cut, because I had expected to be sent back to my seat as he eliminated people. It was fun being on stage, but someone else will have to tell you if the show was enjoyable, since I didn't experience that. We didn't go to the International Show, but again heard really good things the next day about it. Ray Coussins played amazing piano in the Crooner's Bar, but, by the third or fourth night of listening, it became evident that he was playing the same songs over and over again. Cruisin' Steel was a steel drummer who was also amazing. He moved all over the ship, playing in different lounges and different dining rooms at different times of the evening. There were also two bands, two trios, and two different DJs on the ship, but none of these appealed to us personally. Our favorite hangouts were the Crooner's Bar and the Wheelhouse Bar for before and after dinner drinks. Find Shane in the Crooner's Bar (or wherever he is on the ship), and you'll get the best and warmest service guaranteed!
Dance Heads: This deserves a category of its own. A blue set that hides your body except your head, then your head sits on a cartoon body that dances to the great tune of your choice, while you bob your head in time to the music and perhaps mouth the words to the song if you know it. This is recorded and makes a great recording to take home with you. We didn't record one of our own, because we were just too cheap, but it was great fun to just sit and watch folks record their own.
Pool Decks: Lots of chairs in the sun and the shade, so we never had a problem finding chairs wherever we wanted to hang out. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find this was the first ship to ever enforce the rule prohibiting chair saving. Deck attendants removed anything left on chairs for over 30 minutes, and a lost and found table was manned on the pool deck where they could then go to find the items that were removed. Great job, Princess!
Pool and hot tubs by the Movies Under The Stars was where something loud is almost always playing on this screen, so you must either be interested in what's on the screen or making your own loud fun in the pool. I found this not to be a good place to relax unless I was interested in what was playing on the screen. Neptune's pool where there's always some kind of music playing was more to my liking for relaxing. The Adult Only Pool area was always busy with adults, and, again Princess did a great job of keeping the kids out. The Kids wading pool was just off the kids area, and the parents had to be with the kids when they got in this pool.
Movies Under The Stars: Wonderful! Here's where you have to arrive early to get chairs, because if you wait until showtime or after, it's unlikely you'll find a seat. The pool bar and the Scoops ice cream bar are open for concessions during the show, but the deck attendants deliver complimentary popcorn and candy to the guests. Lap blankets are on the chairs, but it was still warm enough in the evening that they were unnecessary, although a lovely touch. There was something for everyone all week, i.e. kid's movies, sports games, concerts, adult movies, and the onboard Survivor competition.
Deck Parties: From the Sailaway party to the last deck party, the social hosts did a great job keeping things hopping, with great music, line dances, Congo lines, decorations, streamers.
Champagne Waterfall: This was our first, so we really enjoyed seeing the maitre'd pyramid the rounded champagne glasses on a table on the floor of the atrium. The atrium floor was filled with guests, with other guests pressed against the stairways and the overlooks from the floors above. Everyone looked so great in their formal attire, snapping pictures, that it felt like a night at the Emmy's or something else special. The band played, the guests through their pop-out streamers, and the champagne flowed, as guest after guest stepped up to pour the next bottle of champagne. All the while, servers were moving through the guests distributing glasses of champagne. Of course, lots of dancing, including another congo line. A wonderful wrap up event on our second formal evening.
Cruise Director was James Lay. He was visible and accessible all over the ship, and he did a great job keeping the action flowing with great laughs. He says he'll be the cruise director on the Emerald next Spring.
Two wine tastings on this trip. The first wine tasting was early in the trip for $9.50 per person featured reasonably priced wines and basic cheese and fruit. The second wine tasting was late in the trip for $25.00 per person featured higher priced wines and more interesting canapés, including caviar. We enjoyed both! The maitre'ds did an excellent job of providing interesting details with touches of humor. Salute!
In Princess Cays, we rented a cabana and snorkeling equipment, and we both enjoyed a restful day on the beach and in the water.
At St. Thomas, we shopped and toured with Sunny Liston, ending our day at the beautiful Sapphire Beach. At Sapphire Beach, we had a Grouper sandwich and a burger.
At St. Marten, we took Lord Sheffield's Pirate Ship Excursion. We had a group of a bout 20 sailing peacefully to Mullet Bay, where we swam and snorkeled and floated with noodles. We enjoyed snacks, an open bar, grilled chicken and ribs, a fruit tray, and, oh, yeah, did I mention an open bar. A wonderful day!
Disembarkation: This didn't go very well on our week, but I don't know if it was caused by the cruise line or customs. The last color, which happened to be ours was called after 10:30. When we got to the floor to leave, a huge crowd was waiting to exit. We stood in line from the ship, looped back and forth three times in a line in the terminal, waiting to show our passports to customs, then another long line to get to our luggage. Once we got to our luggage, we easily found ours and exited the terminal, and jumped right into a taxi. We've never stood in lines to exit before.
Flight/Hotel: We spent one night post-cruise at the Holiday Inn at 4216 Ocean Drive A1A. This is an older hotel, which has seen better days, with outside doors, but their management works hard to make your stay great. The wind was blowing pretty hard during our stay, shaking our windows and doors, and a guy was outside washing his truck talking to someone else. These noises were disturbing us pretty good, but not enough to complain. Within a couple of hours of checking in, the front desk manager called to ask if we were happy with our room, and my husband mentioned this problem. The maintenance man was up within ten minutes to check the problem. He called the front desk to recommend a change to a room on a higher floor, where they did move us. That room was perfect. I was happy with their attention and response. The higher floor gave us a great oceanview, and we took a quick walk on the beach that evening that was very pleasant, despite the strong winds. We walked about 4 blocks to Commercial Street to eat at Athena's Grill on the Sea, a great Greek restaurant that we've visited once before, and we enjoyed just as much this time. We strongly recommend this restaurant as well, and they have belly dancers on Friday and Saturday nights!
Feel free to email me with question at judyjbest at hotmail dot com. And, in a few days, my pictures from this cruise will be posted at http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest.