My wife and I just finished our first sail with Caribbean Princess to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We are at our late 40s, and have never been in a land-based resort or cruise ship before, though we travel every year in Europe on our own by car. After our booking and before our trip, I had read most of the reviews and message boards in this site to ensure I have picked the right ship. The reason I chose Caribbean Princess because it's new. I would like to share my experience and answer questions I posted in the message boards.
Embarkation: We stayed one week at WestGate South Beach to relax ourselves. On June 12, we returned our rental car to FLL airport. The car rental company had shuttle bus to take us to the terminal. On arrival, porters took care of our luggages. We went into the terminal to find about 500 people there lining up for embarkation. There were about 20 counters and the service was efficient. It took us less than 15 minutes from the shuttle bus to the stateroom.
Stateroom: We book inside on Baja. The stateroom was clean, new and had wood decoration, with ample closet space. We are very used to one bedroom time share unit of five to six hundred square feet, but this stateroom was sufficient to meet our needs. I don't have any complaint at all.
The ship: Terrific. It was big, clean, beautiful and well organized. The ship was full, so there were 3,400 passengers there. We were able to find our private space, particularly on deck 16 where the spa is. We usually arrive at the Princess Theatre 15 minutes before the show, so we never had any problem finding seats at the front row. Of course, I had seen those coming right on the minute before the show to discover all the seats had been taken. Princess scored A+ in crowd management.
Traditional or Personal Choice Dining: We had first seating at Island Dining Room. We also booked on the first day a table at Sabatani, which unfortunately was cancelled by us due to my illness. I still don't understand how the system works. We had a table reserved for us at Island, but on two evenings, we went to Palm and Coral, because of other reasons, and we were entertained. Apparently, we had an empty table there but we were eating somewhere else. It seems we had the privileges of both traditional and personal choice dining, but those had personal choice dining did not have a table always reserved for them.
Food: Good but not excellent. My wife and I are so used to find dining, so the food on Caribbean Princess was of no surprise to us. Buffets are always buffets on deck 15, and the food quality is far from gourmet dining. We understand what we eat depends on how much we pay, and we are not complaining. We would not go on a cruise because of the food there.
Service: This is an interesting area. Our stateroom attendant was Ferendao from Philippines and dining room waitor and his assistant were Wunchai and Sombat, both from Thailand. Their service was superb, and they were very attentive to our needs. There was one problem, though. Most of the crew members we had talked to were not from English speaking countries. Though English is the third language of mine, I had spent long enough in North America to understand English of different accents. Most of the crew members apparently had difficulties with their English language skills. The only exception was those from the entertainment crews, since most of them are from UK.
Entertainment: Again, what you get is how much you pay. Don't expect Vegas type of entertainment, not even close. The shows were slightly better than those done by students from college of performing arts. They had Princess Idol, a talent show from passengers, which was great and fun. We went to every one of them in Club Fusion.
Princess Key: Beautiful beach with adequate facilities for a few hours of sun bathing and swimming. One big complaint though. We rented two snorkelling package for $20 each. My wife's life vest worked but mine did not. I went for an exchange. The guy at the booth gave me another one and put the one with air constantly leaking back to the pile. The new one I got leaked as well. Since I could swim, I did not bother changing it again. Safety and equipment rental on Princess Key were major concerns to me.
Montego Bay: This is absolutely a waste of time. We should have chosen to stay to enjoy the ship, instead of going ashore.
Cayman Island: We went to the Stingray City with Captain Marvin. It was not easy to find Captain Marvin. Once ashored, we should have turned left and walked 200 meteres to find the big yellow house, where Captain Marvin was. Service was great. The stingray City was the only highlight of all of our shore tour.
Cozumel: Very disappointed. It was hot, hot and hot. The air was polluted because of the construction work. We went to the Atlantis Submarine, which is not bad, but not worth the money. Downtown Cozumel was a mess. I preferred Cancun to Cozumel. My wife bought some tanzanite; the price is better than that in Canada.
Overall, I am glad I did my first cruise with Caribbean Princess. I consider my money well spent, since the $1000 included food, accommodation, transportation and entertainment. Service was not top class, but adequate only. I would not, however, return to a cruise trip in the near future, because both my wife and I prefer driving on the back roads in Europe than joining a big crowd of a few thousand people for vacation. Should we try again perhaps five years later, we would not opt for a ship for the mass market. We may consider at least HAL or QM.