I have the cruise bug this year! After thoroughly enjoying my Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity in May, I decided to go on another one for my fall vacation. My friend Carolyn mentioned she was going on a Southern Caribbean cruise and I thought, what a great idea. I love the idea of "moving" into a room and unpacking only once. It also reduces the extra planning since most things are already taken care of (where to go, where to eat, where to stay, etc), with the exception of what do to in the ports.
After researching the various itineraries between Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, I picked Princess. Tony and I have sailed the Caribbean a few times, but haven't been to all the islands. Princess had an itinerary that included 3 ports we had yet to visit. A travel agent told me that Princess is a great line, almost up to par with Celebrity. Celebrity has spoiled me with their wonderful food, service, and style. With Princess and their "Personal Choice Dining" I liked the idea of dining whenever we wanted to instead of the traditional dining hours. I liked the idea of a relaxed vacation.
I booked our cruise through Cruises Only, the fourth time using this company, after searching with different companies. Rudy was quite helpful. I booked a "guaranteed" room and would know our room (Dolphin deck) a couple of weeks prior to sailing (D746). I booked our own airline tickets and reserved a hotel via Priceline.com. I also contacted a few tourist offices for information and brochures: Grenada, St. Kitts, and the US Virgin Islands.
I was pleased to learn that Princess allows passengers to bring wine and champagne (but no alcoholic beverages) on board. Our plan was to purchase 2-3 bottles while in San Juan and pick up a bottle or two while at the various ports to enjoy in our room. I wish all cruise companies would allow this feature. I am sure it would avoid passengers from smuggling bottles in their suitcases. Besides, cruise ships make plenty of money selling their alcoholic beverages.
Because of the US State Department's travel warning to Caracas, Venezuela, Princess changed the itinerary to delete that port and add Isla Margarita, an island off the Venezuelan coast. I had hoped for another day at sea. Just like my last cruise, I checked out the Cruise Critic (CC) web site for other passengers. CC is a great web site with tons of cruise information and a discussion board. Like the last one, I met several people going on the same cruise. I made plans for a get together on board at 9:30pm the day we sailed, as well as dinner and drink the night before with Fred and Lois. November 1, 2003 Saturday: Our day started very, very early in the morning. Our flight from Dulles International was at 7am, so we had to get up around 4:00am. I didn't particularly care for the early wake up call, but I wanted as much time as possible in San Juan and figured we could nap on the airplane. Fortunately it was a direct flight. We arrived in San Juan on a rainy day. We had a good flight, but I couldn't sleep on board. I never can! We didn't wait too long for our luggage, took a taxi to Condado to our hotel, the Radisson Ambassador http://www.radisson.com/sanjuanpr_ambassador. I had reserved a room via Priceline for $85 plus tax.
We paid $20 for the taxi ride, which included our tip. I was surprised that Ashford Avenue consisted of 2 lanes. I expected it to be a wide boulevard. Our hotel, just a block off the beach, was pretty nice. The area reminded me of Miami. And the views reminded me of Waikiki with all the high-rise buildings. The lobby was noisy as we could hear the casino machines being worked like crazy. I wondered if there were any big winners. Check-in was a little slow, but the man at the desk was very friendly. He also gave us a concierge room, but no access to the amenities with the concierge room. Our room was large and comfortable with nice views facing west. Looking to the right we could see the ocean. The only complaint of the room was the poor lighting.
We had asked about a place for lunch and the man at the desk suggested pizza at Danny's International, just a block west of the hotel. The pizza was excellent! We had one with eggplant and roasted garlic. I had a glass of red wine while Tony tried the local beer. It was raining at the time and many popped in wait out the rain or have lunch.
Nearby was a small grocery store where we purchased some wine for the cruise. It was nice to have this store near our hotel. Also nearby is a Walgreen's where we picked up a few items we needed
After lunch, we took the local bus (B21) to Old San Juan (OSJ). It rained off and on, but not too heavy. It was humid and our days averaged 88 degrees. We shopped a little and found a small restaurant with a bar. Alberto, the owner, made us a couple of local drinks and we chatted with him for about an hour. I was bitten in the legs by mosquitos and Alberto gave me some Off, which was a little too late.
We had dinner plans with Fred and Lois at the Tropical restaurant. It was only a 5-7 minute walk from our hotel. We showered and later had complimentary rum drinks in one of the hotel bars. The bar tender told us all about the local rums. We planned to purchase a bottle and smuggle it on board for the cruise.
It was a nice evening for walking to the restaurant. We met Fred and Lois at 7:30pm and had an excellent dinner with them. The food was great (I had their pork tenderloin with congri (black beans and rice) and yuca (a root vegetable). Tony had a skirt steak, while Fred had veal and Lois had a steak. Everything was very good. The prices were reasonable too. The restaurants web site, http://www.tropicalrestaurant.com/index.html, shows the menu, which has a variety of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes. After dinner, we took a taxi to their hotel (the Wyndham) and enjoyed drinks at the Fiesta bar while listening to salsa. The place was packed with dancers. It was quite dark and very loud. Mike and Patty, also from CC, were supposed to join us, but they never showed up.
Sunday, 2 November 2003: Embarkation - pretty smooth. There was no express check-in line anymore. We were on board within 20 minutes. We could have gotten on board if we had been in another line. The couple ahead of us asked a hundred questions!
Tony had purchased rum at the store near our hotel and put it in his carry on bag. Security didn't take it away. We found the security people didn't take any away unless they were packed in liquor boxes.
We had our photo taken, and then boarded the ship. There were Princess representatives located throughout the ship to direct people to their room. I missed that glass of champagne what I received on Celebrity in May. It's a lovely ship and it didn't look its age. Our room, D746, had a large window, king bed, tiny bathroom, refrigerator, tv. The room was very comfortable. It was a little smaller than the Celebrity Mille (I compared this cruise quite often to the Millie). Our room was port side, and the second to the last room aft. We did a lot of walking to/from our room walking through the La Scala pizzeria and the casino.
Raul was our room steward. He was a quiet man, but excellent. I would ask for wine glasses for the room and he ensured we had some for the wine we brought on board.
After dropping off our bags, we headed to the Horizon court for lunch. I wasn't impressed with the food there, but it was okay. Some of the selections were good, such as the Weiner schnitzel. I found the breakfast foods to be lathered in oil.
We walked around checking out the bars and lounges and getting familiar with the deck plans of the ship. I walked into the Florentine restaurant (5th level) to see about making dinner reservations for the evening. No one was around. I heard a voice, "Are you Monica?" I turned around and it was Mike and Patty. He recognized me from my photo that I had posted on line. We chatted a few minutes, with them before making our dinner reservations at the purser's desk. After, Tony and I decided to go into OSJ. Our taxi driver had pointed out the local bus stop across the street from the pier gate. It was convenient for us and we preferred the .25-cent ride rather than a taxi. I also told Mike and Patty about the cheap ride to OSJ.
We wandered around OSJ and stopped under some shelter as it poured. It didn't last long and we were on our way again to walk around the area. We ran into Mike and Patty who told us about the Pueblo grocery store. I had been looking for it so I could buy another bottle of wine for the room and to check out the local foods. Mike and Patty went off to shop and Tony and I shopped in Marshall's for gym shorts for Tony. He never used them on the trip. We never stepped foot in the gym.
Across the street was the Pueblo grocery store, so we went in to buy the wine. There was Mike and Patty filling their carts with dinks. We all went back to the ship together. Tony's luggage had already arrived, but not mine. I asked Raul for a bottle opener since mine was packed away. We had drinks while Tony unpacked. My suitcase finally arrived so that I could unpack before dinner.
Dinner was at 6:30pm. We chose PC dining where we made our dinner reservations rather than dining the traditional method. Our waiters were Marvin and Dragon, table 88. I had selected M&D based on a few positive comments on CC stating they received excellent service from them. Not so for us! We were disappointed in Marvin who seemed to have an attitude. Dragon was the friendly one (and should be promoted about Marvin) and had to deal with Marvin who was pretty demanding with him. And they are cousins, from Grenada. When we first met them, I mentioned how popular they were on CC. We weren't sure why Marvin acted the way he did. Our dinner mates consisted of Fred and Lois, Mike and Patty and Matt and Kat (who joined us the second night). It was a great group of people.
We had plans to meet everyone from CC at the Riviera pool bar at 9:30pm. Not everyone from CC showed up, except for our group as well as Tina and Rob. We never dined with Tina and Rob, but ran into them throughout the cruise. The bar was busy serving drinks while the band on deck played the night away.
After watching the ship leave port at 11pm, Patty and I headed to the La Scala Pizzeria for a bite to eat. We weren't satisfied with our meals (Sail Away Dinner: seafood turnover in a lobster sauce - mine had 1 shrimp and 1 calamari ring) and were hungry. A few others joined us and we all enjoyed the pizza. The selection choices were limited: Hawaiian, pepperoni, Margarita, and choose your own toppings. Service was prompt and the pizzas were delicious!
Monday, 3 November 2003: St Thomas. Tony and I have been to St Thomas several times, so we decided to head to Magen's Bay with Mike and Patty. It was a sunny day and we enjoyed our time on the beach. We got there by 9am to avoid the crowds. Three ships were in port that day, so we knew the beach would soon be crowded. It's a beautiful beach with soft sand and clear waters. Tony and Mike rented two floats to lounge on while in the water. We could have stayed there all day.
After a few hours, we taxied back to town and window-shopped. Mike's goal was to purchase a t-shirt from a bar. No luck there. Back on the ship we relaxed by the pool while the ship set sail for St. Kitts.
Our first formal night, we had our pictures taken before dinner. Around the atrium, there were 3 set ups for picture taking. The line at the steps of the atrium was long, so we had our photos taken at the other locations. A variety of drinks were served at the Captain's welcome cocktail event. Waiters walked around serving drinks and appetizers.
Shortly after, I noticed there was no line at the one photo place next to the atrium, so I suggested to Mike, Patty, Matt, and Kat that we have our pictures taken. The photographer was in the middle of taking photos, so we walked behind him to the waiting point at the stairs. When he was done, he motioned us to move in. An older man, who was standing behind the photographer (and in the WRONG place), started barking at us for "cutting in line." I immediately and politely said, "Please go ahead." He wasn't satisfied with that and argued with us. Mike charged in stating, "We've all been there [standing in the wrong line]." The old man, which I called him Walter the rest of the cruise, stated, "I don't think you have!" I told him again to go ahead of us, but he was determined to spoil his own evening. He finally walked up with his wife to the photo spot and kept saying rude things to us. He finally just walked away angry and without any photos taken. Tony said, "He sure showed us!" (I saw him once later in the cruise and he had that same "I'm so mad - I hate everyone!" look.
Dinner was the "Captain's Welcome Dinner." I enjoyed the smoked supreme of duck with wild greens and a Cassis vinaigrette, followed by a Veloute of asparagus soup, Caesar salad, and bowtie pasta in a creamy sauce of veal, morel mushrooms, green peas and parmesan cheese. I also ordered a beef tenderloin to taste, but it came out over cooked for me, so Tony ate it since his was very well done.
Evening entertainment in the Vista lounge consisted of Paul Edison, "The voices of Tom Jones, Sinatra, Niel Diamond, Elvis." He was very good! We also had drinks in the Magnum's bar. I enjoyed their Cosmopolitans, and so did Patty.
Tuesday, 4 November 2003: St Kitts. The mountaintops of St Kitts were covered with clouds. I was amazed at the absolutely flat Caribbean ocean. Not a single ripple. The island is lush with tropical plants and flowers. Our group of 8 hired a van to take us around the island ($16.50 per person). We drove to a few places, including the impressive Brimstone fortress, a batik factory set in a tropical setting, and the point in the ocean where the Atlantic and Caribbean waters meet. Along the way we passed small villages, the ruins of sugar cane factories, and goats along side the road. Signs were posted everywhere to "Prepare now" for the next disaster - hurricanes.
In town we were dropped off at the Circus, the center of town where slave trading was once held. We found a small bar and everyone enjoyed the local beer. I peeked in a few shops, but didn't purchase anything. At one liquor store, we tried some rum. Very tasty.
Back on the ship, as most afternoons were the same, we enjoyed the Riviera pool deck and pizza for lunch.
Dinner this night was pretty good: French night. We enjoyed the escargots and Patè de Foie de Strasbourg. Onion soup was offered, but I opted for the chilled Vichyssoise. I make it better at home. Tony had the sirloin steak (which was always available) while I had the pork loin in a calvados sauce. The pork was slightly overdone. Of course, I had to have the raspberry crème brulee! Delicious!
The evening entertainment was Words and Music, an intimate cabaret. It was pretty good, but it's not Tony's cup of tea.
Wednesday, 5 November 2003: Grenada. Our ship docked in the bay, so everyone had to tender in to the port. Marvin arranged for us to travel around the island with his father, Big Joe, for $15 per person. We met him at the pier and we hopped in a van. There was no air conditioning but it was cool enough as we headed into the mountains. We started at the spice market in town. There were many vendors selling baskets filled with assorted spices: Cumin, nutmeg, ginger, saffron, cinnamon sticks, etc. Many vendors approached us throughout the day trying to see their spices. I must have said, "No thank you, we already bought some spices" a few dozen times.
We stopped at one point at a little shop for great views of the mountains and the town of Saint George in the distance. A man at the shop showed us some of their spices, including nutmeg. He explained the process from picking the fruit to the many uses of the nutmeg.
Our next stop was Annandale falls. There were more vendors with their spices. Several women were colorfully dressed with fruits adorning their heads - like Carmen Maranda. Some young men tried to get money from the tourists in exchange for diving off the high rocks into the water.
Big Joe took us to Fort Frederick where we had great views of the town and our ship. The police officer at the fort walked us through the place explaining the history of the fort. It was a very hot afternoon, so I found some shade.
Our last stop was at a small resort south of Saint George. A lovely area, we swam at the beach at the Flamboyant hotel. It's a hotel on the side of a hill (lots of stairs) with a pool, bar area, restaurant, located on a quiet beach at the far end of Grand Anse beach. The views are spectacular as one can see the entire Grande Anse beach and town in the distance. I think this was everyone's favorite day trip. It was my favorite island. For $15/person plus tip for the tour and an afternoon at a beautiful beach, it was great bargain.
Since we knew it would be a full day of sightseeing, I had changed our dinner reservations to 8pm. Joe had picked us up in the afternoon, dropped us off at the port, and we walked around town for a short while. Getting hungry, we headed to the ship, via tender, to have lunch.
Dinner was Italian night. The shrimp, squid and mussels appetizer was very good. Tony had the baked eggplant parmigiana. The veal chops were excellent and probably the best meal on the ship, with the exception of the Sterling Steakhouse. The chop was thickly cut and very tender. For dessert, I enjoyed the Limoncello sorbet and amaretto cookies.
We took in the late show (10:30pm) and saw Chip Romero who was a magician. He put on a good show, but once in a while one could easily figure out the "magic."
Thursday, 6 November 2003: Princess should have skipped Isla Margarita and had another day at sea. We were originally supposed to go to Caracas, but because of their political unrest, Princess chose Isla Margarita instead. Some of us also read in a newspaper on line that money was being laundered through the island for the alQueida. I certainly didn't want any of my American money going to them! Thank goodness it was a short stop (7am to 12:45pm). It was $50 taxi ride to get to the main town, so we went to the beach near the ship. We paid $5 for a lounge chair. I'm sure for the port area, this was one way of making money. Apparently ships rarely sail to Isla Margarita. Next to the pier were vendors selling a variety of things, including a variety of rum and liquors. Tony purchased a bottle of rum, which tasted more of a brandy. It was quite strong!
The ship left at 12:45pm. The pool deck was crowded as everyone enjoyed the afternoon sun at sea. We had lunch in the Horizon court. Again, I wasn't satisfied with the food selections.
After dinner, Chef's dinner (smoked wild salmon, delicious king crab leg; rack of lamb), we went to the Vista lounge to watch "C'est Magnifique," a French musical revue. The dancers wore very colorful and fancy costumes. The best part of the night was the Island night deck party on the Riviera deck. We danced the night away listening to Tidal Wave and Domino. There were also games with prizes. We laughed hysterically at what I called "musical men" instead of musical chairs. About a dozen men lined up back to back, while women circled around them. When the music stopped, the women had to grab a man. Down to 1 man and 2 women, the music played. Just as it stopped, both women grabbed each other! Now, if anyone needs an icebreaker at a party, try this game.
Friday, 7 November 2003: Aruba. I normally don't book a shore excursion with the cruise ship. I find them to be too expensive, especially since one can plan their own tours in advance and share the expenses with one to three other couples. Tony wanted to do the Atlantis submarine tour. After checking on line, I discovered the prices were the same, so I pre-booked this tour with Princess.
After breakfast in the dining room where Tony enjoyed the eggs benedict, we met Fred and Lois and the rest of the tour group at 9:50am in the terminal. On board a small boat, we headed out past the airport to an area where we waited for the submarine to emerge. It was a small submarine, holding 48 passengers. We were a group of 36. Our dive lasted 40 minutes and we saw a variety of fish. Also, two ships had been sunk a few years previously. I spotted a tire, to which Tony said, "That's a tire for an airplane." It was a neat ride, though I was a little nervous being underwater.
Back on the ship, we changed into our bathing suits, met Fred and Lois at the terminal, and walked into town. Aruba has changed quite a bit since the last time we were there (1997?). There were many shops, restaurants, and casinos. Lois and I bought black carrying bags for $5. We saw them everywhere. After purchasing some bottled water, we took a taxi to Palm beach to Moomba hotel to enjoy the afternoon there. Right on the beach was a restaurant with a thatched roof. We were hungry, so we had lunch - Mexican chicken wraps. Talk about Island Time! It was the slowest service ever! The sandwiches were very good, as well as the tropical drinks.
Mike, Patty, Tina, and Rob joined us at the beach. The water was warm and the sun extremely hot. The trade winds can be deceiving: It can cool the body, but the sun, being so close to the equator, can quickly burn. I was in the water for a short while, laid in the sun for ½ hour, and then moved into the shade. Later, all eight of us crammed into a taxi van and headed back to the port. Our ship departed at 5pm.
Dinner this evening was the Captain's Gala Dinner and our second formal night. We had more pictures taken; then we went with Fred and Lois to the Captain's cocktail party. The Captain was introduced, and then he introduced some of his staff. We departed before it ended since we had reservations. Lobster tails flowed freely at dinner. They were a little overcooked, but very tasty. Tony had the beef Wellington, which he said was very good.
The show this evening was a comedy show with Mike Wilson. He was excellent! He had everyone in stitches. Two older couples were targeted because the two men sat next to each other instead of next to their wives on a couch. They took the jokes quite well. At one point, while the comedian wasn't looking, they switched seats: The men moved to the middle of the couch with the wives on either end. That caught the comedian by surprise, but he loved it.
At 11:30pm, the Maitre d'Hotel Nicol Furlan hosted a Champagne Waterfall, consisting of over 600 classes stacked like a Christmas tree. They must have used over 100 bottles of champagne to fill those glasses. Champagne and sweets were served while we listened to music and watched people dancing. The atrium area was very hot because of all the people there.
Saturday, 8 November 2003: Day at Sea. This was a lounge-all-day-and-do-nothing-day. I was glad for this day at sea and wish I had picked a cruise with one at the beginning of the cruise.
We found many people had been hogging up the pool lounge chairs all week that our group decided to meet at 9am at the pool deck to claim our chairs for the day. However, unlike the hoggers, we used them all day and didn't disappear for hours.
While Tony held fort with the lounge chairs, the rest of the group headed to the Vista lounge for a culinary demonstration, then a tour of the galley. The galley was spotless. It would have been interesting to see the cooks in action.
Wanting to have one last pizza on board, I went to La Scala pizzeria to order take out, but was told I had to order it from my room. So, after calling in my order and waiting for the pizza to be delivered, I packed my suitcase. My pizza arrived, so I carried it to the pool deck to enjoy. Tony had a burger at the grill, which he said was very good.
In the afternoon, we watched a pool game: Flip, flop and fly. Guys would take turns strutting around the pool and lap dancing on the female judges before jumping (some were belly flops) into the pool. One judge always scored much lower than the other and the audience booed and hissed at her. In the end, three of the guys grabbed her and tossed her into the pool. She was a good sport.
Before dinner, Tony packed his suitcase. We joined the group at 6:30pm at the Sterling Steakhouse. Fred bought a bottle of red wine for the table and even made a toast to me for organizing our get together with the group. Thanks so much Fred! The appetizers were very good: spinach and artichoke dip with chips, chili, bloomin' onion. The steaks were excellent. I had the 10 oz fillet mignon, while Tony dove into the 20 oz porterhouse steak. Mike had to order another steak as his was overcooked. Service was excellent and the best we encountered on the ship. We didn't mind missing dining at Marvin's table on our last night.
We enjoyed the variety show with the comedian and juggler, but the comedian wasn't as funny as the other nights. After the show, we noticed a large group of people outside on the promenade deck. In the distance we could see the lights of Puerto Rico.
Saying our goodbyes to some of the group, we changed in to our clothes for the next day and placed our suitcases outside our room. It was requested we do this before dinner, but that was too early!
Later, we met Fred and Lois at the Atrium lounge to listen to some music and have one last drink. We met the juggler and chatted with him for a few minutes. He works on board for 5 weeks in a row, and then takes a month off.
Sunday, 9 November 2003: Early wake up call. We had to be at the Vista lounge by 7am to get our customs card stamped. We walked down 1 flight of stairs to find a very, very long line of people. Looking for the end of the line, we noticed it was "wrapped around the ship" twice! After 10 minutes in line and hearing others had waited 45 minutes already and probably had another 30 minutes to go, we decided cut out and have breakfast and deal customs later. There should have been Princess employees to keep things calm, but no one was to be found. I heard later that people were arguing and even cutting in line to avoid the long wait.
At the Venetian dining room, the host took us to a table for 6 and there was Mike and Patty! Tony and I enjoyed one last serving of lox and bagels. One couple apparently ordered a double batch of the lox everyday.
Back to the Vista lounge, the line had dissipated. We walked right in and out in just minutes. Next was the long wait for our group (green 2) to be called. We finally got off the ship at 10:30am. No one even said "Thank you" when people disembarked the ship. Princess Cruises definitely needs to improve on their disembarkation process and their customer service. What a headache! What a mess!
The next headache was finding our luggage amongst hundreds and hundreds of them. Mike and Patty were waiting for us so we could take a taxi together to the Caribe Hilton (http://www.caribehilton.com/ - $65/night via priceline.com). They had plenty of time before their flight. After about 10 minutes of searching, we gathered our luggage and grabbed a taxi to the hotel. We were able to get a room without having to wait till the afternoon. However, it was a smoking room, so Tony turned on the air conditioning to see if that would help.
The four of us headed to OSJ via taxi and shopped around a bit. Later, Mike and Patty went off to the hotel to get their luggage and head to the airport, while Tony and I found a place for lunch - La Bombonera (259 Calle San Francisco). This is a very old restaurant serving good Puerto Rican food. It had the atmosphere of a diner with busy waiters.
Instead of taking a taxi back to the hotel, we took a walk along the water. It was about a 40 minute walk, but enjoyable as we needed some exercise after all that eating on board. The skies were dark with clouds and the wind was blowing a rainstorm towards the island. The waves were pretty high. Near the hotel was a small convenience store where we picked up a large bottle of water. The bottled water in the room cost $7! Back in our room, the air conditioning had not improved the smell of the room, so I talked to a woman at the front desk, who arranged another room for us. Room 823 was much better with a great view of the Condado area.
I wanted to explore the grounds of the resort, so we headed outdoors. There is a lovely infinity pool, a small beach area, and two bars. Also on the grounds was a human size chess table set. Peacocks roamed the grounds and near the guests for bits of food. We had drinks at the bar. I ordered a pina colada, which apparently was invented at this same hotel. I was very disappointed with it. I have a bartender friend who once told me, "Never buy a frozen drink unless you know the bartender. Most bartenders hardly add any alcohol." This was true with this drink. The bartender asked how I liked the drink and I said, "Did you put any rum in?" He added another shot. I switched to a drink called the Hangover. Now that was good!
Back in the room, we relaxed for a while and showered before dinner. I had asked at the Concierge's desk if there was a good local restaurant nearby. I was given directions but wasn't sure if she was correct. She stated it was off the main street near the hotel and a 10-minute walk, the same path we took home from OSJ. We didn't see any restaurants along the way except for KFC. We decided to walk to the restaurant, all along wondering where she meant. After about 10 minutes and starting to sweat from the humidity, we turned back. The hotel has 4 restaurants, so we checked out the menus. All were expensive, especially Morton's. We decided on the restaurant Madrid. The food was excellent! I had their Asopao de Mariscos, a delicious seafood rice soup. Tony had their veal chop. My soup was so filling, I asked for another bowl for Tony to have some. Service was excellent. Luis took good care of us.
We retired early, as it was a long day.
Monday: We woke up to another cloudy day in San Juan. After checking out, we shared a taxi with three others to the airport. It was a quick 20-minute ride as we were going against traffic. At the airport, we had to go through the agriculture check-in area. A woman checked us in without having to go through the x-ray machines. There was another one inside. The line was quite long inside and I missed having the self-service check-in like at Dulles. While waiting, I noticed a small suitcase and shopping back sitting on the side of the line. After about 10 minutes, no one had claimed it. I kept an eye on them, but still no one picked them up. Finally, when an airport employee walked by, I told him about the luggage. He called security. I got out of line to head to the restroom and when I returned, the luggage was gone. I looked to see if anyone in line had them and no one did. I suppose security took them away. Better to be safe than sorry.
We had to change flights in Miami. It's been years since I've been in that airport. We had lunch consisting of Cuban sandwiches (we split one) and beef empanadas. They were delicious! And for airport food, it was reasonably priced. We finally got to Dulles in the late afternoon. We drove home, and then picked up the truck to drive to Den's house, where Lucy had spent the week. She was very happy to see us.
Home again. I love to travel and hate it when I have to get on an airplane to fly home, but it always feels great to be home again: my own bed, pillow, and the comforts of home.
We really enjoyed our cruise and had fun with our cruise mates: Fred and Lois, Mike and Patty, Matt and Kat, and Tina and Rob. Thanks everyone for a memorable cruise!
We enjoyed all the islands (but we could have skipped Isla Margarita), especially Grenada with the beautiful Grand Anse beach and Magen's Bay on St Thomas. We had great weather every day, though it was humid.
I am not sure I'll travel again with Princess. I compared frequently with my Millennium Celebrity cruise. We weren't excited about the food and the service varied among the employees. The food in the dining room was good, but I can't say very good to excellent, with the exception of the veal chop, the steaks (excellent 10 oz fillet mignon perfectly cooked to order) in the Sterling Steakhouse, and the French night appetizers. The buffets in the Horizon court were a disappointment. I found a lot of the food greasy or saturated in oil and I thought the lunch buffets had too much of a variety, but understand we missed a couple of theme buffets such as the Italian buffet.
The entertainment on board was good. We loved the comedian. I didn't see any of the shows on the Millie, so I can't compare or say how good they were.
I think for our next cruise, we'll head to Alaska or the Mediterranean or.
PS: I plan to add my photos and hotel/restaurant information on my web site: http://www.luvtotravel.homestead.com/home.html