The new Caribbean Princess is well worth sailing on! We would go again in a minute!
We sailed on a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise, visiting St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Princess Cays.
Princess has this down to a science. We arrived at Port Everglades Cruise Terminal 2 at 1 p.m. and were on board by 1:15. HINT: Complete the pre-boarding paperwork online and save time during embarkation. Check your pre-cruise documents and www.princess.com for details. This is well worth doing in advance, as you can then speed through embarkation. When your documents arrive in the mail, they will have a sticker that indicates "Express Check-In" and you can then use the special lines set up for "Express Check-In" passengers.
In a word, beautiful! Although the ship holds 3,100 passengers, they have designed it with passengers in mind, because you never feel crowded! In my opinion, the highlights are:
1. "Movies under the Stars," an outdoor 300-sq. ft. LED movie screen (like in NY's Times Square) that shows movies and other things like concerts and sporting events (we saw Tina Turner's 24/7 Concert).
2. The Lotus Spa and Gymnasium, a beautiful complex on Deck 16 at the front of the ship overlooking the ocean. I use the treadmills every day on a cruise, and this is the first ship where I NEVER had to wait for one. It has about 20 of them, along with a full range of other cardio machines (e.g. Stairmasters) and a full selection of weight machines. The spa is beautiful and is operated by Princess, not an outsourced company. The personnel are friendly and the massages are terrific. And there's no sales pressure to buy their products (in fact, no sales pitch at all). HINT: For best selection, book your spa treatments online, before you board. Check www.princess.com for details.
3. Princess Theater, with great views no matter where you sit. We always sat in the last few rows of the balcony, and still had good sight lines. The shows were good, and the selection varied each night.
4. Internet Café, with easy-to-use PC's (just run your guest card through the card reader) – I never had a wait, although sometimes the response time was slow due to satellite transmission, I guess.
5. Outdoor areas. Spacious pool areas (5 pools!) were busy but never seemed crowded. The great promenade deck was never crowded, and is a great place to sit and read.
We selected Personal Choice Anytime Dining and could not have been happier. I had read some reviews where some people had problems, e.g. long waits. We had no problems whatsoever! HINT: When you get on board, immediately make specialty dining reservations. If you want a reservation for Sabatini's Italian Restaurant or Sterling Steakhouse, go there as soon as you board to make reservations. Also, if you want to eat in a main dining room, call the Concierge line (on your cabin phone) and make a reservation several hours before dinner (we called each morning). By following these methods, we were able to eat where and when we wanted...with no problems at all.
A few nights we ate at Horizon Court/Café Caribe (they are connected). They serve the same food at dinner as the main dining rooms, although it is buffet style. The food was good, but the service was only fair and this is an area that could be improved. We never bring formal attire on a cruise because we don't like to get dressed up on vacation...so this is an informal alternative dining venue if you want to leave the nice clothes at home!
There's great pizza outside on Deck 15; we often had lunch there (OK, so we went to the Horizon Court buffet right afterwards too...it is a cruise, after all). They serve burgers outside too, which were OK but not as good as the pizza.
We ordered room service breakfast every day by filling out the card and hanging it on the door the night before. It was always on time (sometimes early) and good!
We were very fortunate to have Emilio as our room steward -- one of the best cabin stewards ever!
We splurged and chose a mini-suite for this cruise after having booked one on the Grand Princess a few years ago. It was a very spacious cabin, with a sitting area (full-size couch), two TVs and a bath with a full-size tub, as well as a great balcony with a table and two chairs.
The balconies on this ship are built in wedding-cake fashion, and the mini-suites are at the bottom...meaning that the balconies above can look down on yours. We noticed that most of the time, people were not on the balconies above, and we did not feel like our privacy was being invaded even when they were outside. So the question becomes, should you trade balcony privacy for a nicer cabin? Our answer is to go for the nicer cabin...we would absolutely book a mini-suite again! We spent a lot of time on the balcony, especially in the late afternoon and early evening when we would have a few cocktails there. Great sunsets...don't miss them! I noticed too that some mini-suites are cheaper than regular balcony cabins, so check pricing and you may be surprised! HINT: If you want to remove a chair from the balcony and add a chaise lounge instead, just ask your room steward!
There were three sea days, which is great! We had full days in St. Thomas and St. Maarten (go on the America's Cup Sail in St. Maarten -- it is a lot of fun). We called at Princess Cays on the last full day of the cruise and it's nice to just relax and wander on the island. There's a good BBQ buffet at lunch there too.
Without a doubt, excellent, even considering the below-average service we had in the Horizon Café. Princess employees were always professional, friendly, kind and helpful. This is quite a tribute to the staff, especially considering that the crew had been together for only about a month!
In Summary: We would sail Princess again, and would not hesitate to take another cruise on the Caribbean Princess.