by Doug Roberts
November 3, 2007
Prologue -- Oh, Crap!!! A Hurricane!!!
Princess Wants us to Fly on What?
The airlines continue to nickel and dime us for services that were formerly complimentary. United Airlines charged us $2 per bag in addition to a gratuity to check our bags curbside. Since the inside line was miles long at 4:30 am, we gladly paid the charge. On the plane we paid $10 for two "snack boxes" after determining that they really were not that unreasonable.
Good Afternoon San Juan!!!
The Ship and our Cabin
Our cabin was C701 on the Caribe Deck and included a very large partially covered balcony. We found the cabin to be roomy enough except for the miniscule bathroom. People over 300 pounds would have difficulty fitting in the shower. The alcove between the bedroom and bath provides more than adequate storage for luggage and clothing. For some reason the drawers on the desk and the nightstand took great force to open which is not very convenient. Our steward was named Penta, from Thailand, and provided us with superior attentive service during our cruise, to the extent we gave him an extra tip above the automatic tip placed on our account, which is now $10.50 per day per person.
Overall, we found the ship to be clean and well maintained. The crew was courteous and helpful, the servers were very attentive. Despite complaints from others in these forums, I did not have any trouble or detect an attitude when I used my soda card.
Overall I would have to give the ship very high marks and really not much to complain about.
There were two formal nights, one on the at Sea Day and one on the day between Tortola and St Thomas. It seemed many more people dressed formally on the second night. The enforcement of the dress requirements was spotty at best.
The entertainment onboard was good; we mostly went to see the comedians. The singer in the Crooners Lounge was a female and very good. We did not attend any of the production shows. We did take ballroom dance lessons and brushed up on Meringue and Swing. For some reason, there were no other lessons that week, although there was supposed to be two more.
We found the dining in the main dining rooms to be very good and found no reason to spend the extra for Sabatini's or the Crown Grill. We were on anytime dining and did not have to wait on any night for seating. We did enjoy bringing our breakfast up to the balcony from the Horizon Court Buffet and enjoying it with coffee ordered from room service. The food on the buffet was good, but standard buffet fare. The pizza, served adjacent to the pools on Deck 15 was good thin crust and featured cheese or pepperoni as well as a special of the day. The burgers from the grill were good and made to order. Our major complaint about the food was what was not offered. No escargot and no crème brulee.
Barbados: In Barbados we docked next to the Queen Mary 2, which followed us into port. Princess really dropped the ball on this port because there were no Princess personnel or signs to direct us to our excursions. We only found by chance that you have to go through the duty-free shopping mall to the other side to board your excursion. That information came from QM2 reps at the end of the pier. We went on the "Best of Barbados" tour purchased through Princess, which took us to Gun Hill, a plantation and Orchid World, where Marj found out why she has killed so many orchids. The guide was very good and informative. We topped off the day by shopping in the duty-free mall at the port. The QM2 sailed out prior to us with a great exchange of salutes.
St. Lucia: We next sailed into St Lucia which was by far the most tropical and lush of the ports visited. The QM 2 also called there but had to dock outside the harbor and tender because of her draft being too deep. The P&O Oceana joined us in port. We opted for the "St Lucia by Land and Sea" excursion, again through Princess. This excursion turned out to be a near disaster in the making. We were loaded into a former Japanese transit bus of questionable vintage and mechanical condition. We stalled seven times while climbing the mountains which can be pretty scary. We did not allow this to ruin our enjoyment of this beautiful island. We visited a plantation where we had lunch and when we got back to the bus we were greeted with the engine compartment opened and repair in progress. Our guide, who was good, commandeered a couple of smaller busses who just arrived to take us through the town of Soufriere and to see the volcano. After the volcano, we proceeded in our old bus, downhill all the way thank goodness, to the catamaran for the rest of our tour. The catamaran was dangerously overloaded and neither the crew nor signage gave us any hint where the life preservers were, if they had any. The "placid beach" we stopped at had rough surf and rip tides. Vendors besieged our catamaran on kayak. In general, we found the vendors on St. Lucia to be the most aggressive we have encountered outside of Jamaica. When we got back to the ship we filed a complaint at the tour desk. We were later informed we would get a 40% refund but when we got our bill, they refunded the entire amount. We sailed out of the harbor at Castries ahead of the P&O Oceana amid an exchange of salutes between the ships. The ships were sufficiently close to each other that there were jovial exchanges of shouts of good wishes between the passengers which was great fun. We were exhausted at the end of the day and did not last too long after dinner.
Antigua: We chose a relaxing beach day at Antigua and it was a good choice as we were still tired from St Lucia. We went to Runaway Bay for a nice morning on a beautiful beach, returned to the ship for lunch and shopped in St Johns during the afternoon.
Tortola: We arrived at this gem of an island expecting to be tendered and much to our pleasant surprise we docked instead. Our "Tortola by Land and Sea" tour, booked through the ship, was the polar opposite of the St Lucia tour. The open air taxi bus operated flawlessly and the catamaran had plenty of room and safety equipment. The guides on both the catamaran and bus were well informed and pointed out many of the partying as well as historical ways of the islands, including one place that has wild full moon parties and has many brassieres hanging from the ceiling. For some reason my wife indicated that she really wouldn't want me to go there if we visit Tortola in the future. We did agree that Tortola was added to the short list of islands we would like to visit again for a long-term stay, along with Grand Cayman.
St. Thomas: This was the final port on our cruise and is only 20-some miles from Tortola. We sailed a rather circuitous route by way of St Croix and covered 146 nautical miles that night. Since this is a US territory we had to clear immigration starting at 7:00 am in Club Fusion. The line was extra long, but progressed quickly and we were up in the Horizon Court buffet for breakfast before 8am. We were in St Thomas the year before on the Crown Princess so we took a taxi into town for shopping but decided to ditch a beach stop in favor of relaxing by the pool on the ship. We docked at Crown Bay which is still being developed and only has a few shops opened. It will be a very nice facility when finished. There were no problems with taxis to any point on the island and prices were clearly marked at the taxi stand. Taxis to town were $4. The Emerald Princess was in port at the same time and docked at Havensight. The reason was that the Queen Mary scraped bottom at the second berth at Crown Bay so they need to do a little dredging before they can dock more than one ship.
Aw Shucks! San Juan Again!!!
Surely Miami International Airport is the Official Airport of Hell
Home Again and Here Comes the PCD
Overall I would rate this cruise very highly and would not hesitate to recommend it to others, and I would go back without hesitation.