Another wonderful cruise aboard Princess, this time the Caribbean Princess on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary.
We arrived Friday night and stayed at the Comfort Inn Cruiseport - Airport South, on Stirling Road in Hollywood, FL. The room was clean and comfortable, with shuttles both from the airport and to all the cruise ports.
We surrendered our two checked bags to the porters and got in line at 11:00 AM. The terminal doors opened at 11:30 and we went to the Caribe check-in line. Even though we had all our papers filled out on-line, the Express check in line was longer! We quickly moved through the regular line. Then through Security, posed for our embarkation photo, onto the forward gangplank, and up the elevator to check out our room. It was ready for us, we dropped the bags on the bed and stood on our Port side balcony at 11:51 AM. Twenty one minutes after the terminal doors opened and we were all set! We met our room steward, Francisco. He was exceptional all week, whether it was extra ice, towels, robes, he reappeared magically and kept us well stocked.
After a stop at the Horizon Court buffet, we went to Sabatini's where the Conceriege was set up, to make the week's reservations we wanted, namely "Movies Under the Stars" and Sterling Steakhouse. These filled up very quickly, if you'd like to try any of them, do make plans early on board. The movies were a fun experience and the Sterling Steakhouse was one of the best meals we've ever had, anywhere. The sail away Princess Patter said there would also be a makeover show, "If They Could Sea Me Now", sign-ups were in the Lotus Spa. The cruise was only one week, so Barb thought there wasn't anything they could do for me! Got my Coke sticker, for me it's a good deal. Here, we have to comment on some of the other reviewers notes that they had trouble getting soda with the cards. I never did. I'd just ask the server or bar staff for a large Diet Coke and I got fine service all week. Didn't have to carry my insulated cup around with me, just took my large soda back to the room and refilled the cup regularly. Maybe I just ran into good servers, but all week long, any bar or server filled my order quickly.
Barb is the coffee person in the family, and the Lobby Bar on Deck 5 was the place for her. Servers Maria and Gabi were great all week, the coffee was fresh, and you could self-serve the regular coffee and go, or have them make up one of their excellent flavored coffees.
Sunday was the first of two straight sea days. There is a 10:00 AM lecture in the Princess Theatre with Cindy, the Port and Shopping Advisor, for our stops in St. Thomas and St. Martin. It was also rebroadcast over the TV, but since this was our first time in these ports we found it informational. The street maps furnished in the "All Ashore" flyer before each port were helpful in getting around, finding taxi stands and locating sights we wanted to see. As before, we knew the Princess "preferred" shops were being pushed, but our yellow highlighter marked up the maps enough for us to find pretty much everything we wanted.
We have to mention one store here. In Phillipsburg, St. Martin, on Old Street is a shop called "Island Arts of the Yoda Guy." It's owned by Nick Maley, the artist/creator of the Yoda character in the "Star Wars" films. He commutes between here and Antigua, and has unique memorbilia and his own original artwork and prints at very affordable prices. We got an autographed photo of Nick working on Yoda on the set of "Star Wars" and he personalized it for one of our grandsons' who is a huge "Star Wars" fan.
Also on Sunday is the first Art Auction of the cruise. We found it to be a fun way to relax and learn a little about various artists. We had read the pro and con arguments of cruise lines holding art auctions, but they don't last all day, it's just another offering on their plate. Later in the cruise we bid on one painting we liked and can't wait for it to arrive.
We chose Personal Choice dining in the Coral Dining Room and enjoyed our dinners there. If we went at a very busy time, we might have to wait for a table for two, but it gave us a flexible schedule where we didn't HAVE to be at dinner right at a certain time. Our wait staff, Sandro and Maria, both from Mexico were very pleasant, remembering our names and drink preferences.
We took one tour in each port. On St. Thomas we did the "Best of St. Thomas Island Tour," an open air bus up and down the very steep roads on the island. Our tour guide, Harold Rabasset, or "Panhandler" as he was known locally, was fun and took pride in showing off the sights of Megan's Bay, St. Peter Greathouse and Botanical Gardens, Mountain Top and literally birds-eye views of Charlotte Amalie harbor, with all the cruise ships docked in port. A view not to be missed.
On St. Martin, we took the "Under Two Flags" tour, an air-conditioned bus, with Eram as our guide, from the dock through Phillipsburg, around Cole Bay to the French town of Marigot. Here the tour stops at an open air market square with tents set up for souvenier shopping. We wandered through the tents but on the street, behind the bus parking lot, found the La Vien Rose Cafe. They have tables and chairs under red umbrellas and serve the best coffee, espresso and cafe au lait. There's seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner upstairs. Barb got her caffeine fix and we relaxed and watched the comings and goings in town. It's only a 45-minute stop, so we're going back by taxi next time and exploring the shops and dining places. Back on tour we went by Grand Case with it's beach and fishing village. Our guide told us there's 136 restaurants in this small town. Evidently nobody cooks at home! On past Orient Beach and Dawn Beach, and past the remains of a village that had to be moved a few years ago, due to changing tides. It looked familiar as Eram pointed out that the former village was used in the final scene of the movie "Speed 2" where the "out-of-control" cruise ship crashed right up the main street. Back into Phillipsburg, where you could get off the bus for shopping or stay on and Eram would return you to the dock. We got off, wandered around, bartered here and there, before taking the water taxi ($3 per person, one way) back to the cruise ship dock.
One note here about each island. Our Caribe cabin was on the port side of the ship and directly faced each harbor. Beautiful views sailing into and out of each port.
We passed on going ashore at Princess Cay. We've been there before and opted this time to stay on board and enjoy the ship and our balcony as our cruise neared it's end. We spoke with a staff member who had tender duty that morning, and 2300 people had tendered ashore by 11:00 AM to enjoy the beach and sea.
During the cruise, there were always fun shows to see, some better than others, everyone has there personal preferences. Some good specialty games, The Marriage Game, the Princess Price Is Almost Right game, dicey horse racing, trivia, bingo, etc... The "Princess Idol" tryout shows were fun, when the singers were good, it was enjoyable...when it was bad, it was great! Hey, it's a cruise, do as much or as little as you want.
We liked the Caribbean Princess a lot. The crew seemed to be working well together in most places. There were new ports to explore, so we enjoyed them and especially enjoyed the sea days. For us it was just right.