First, let me say that this was our first cruise of what I think may be many.
I am pretty sure that all the cruise lines go out of their way to make you feel welcomed, wanted and important. Princess is probably no exception.
Embarkation: Smooth and faster than checking in at the Motel 6 on a Saturday night with a six pack of beer and your hottest girlfriend. It was totally painless. From pier to stateroom took 10 mins. Lots of smiles.
Hint: Do all of your paperwork before you get in line as this will save time.
State Room. We were in D226. Close to the bow. The room was large enough to hold two people, 6 bags of luggage, 3 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of Kalula, and two bottles of Rum. Yes, we brought our own booze on board for room consumption only. No questions asked at check in or luggage scan. The refrig in the room is kind of small but held two of the bottles of wine nicely. The safe is a nice touch as well. The room steward had the two single beds moved together as one queen size bed. Very comfortable and no problem with the small space between the beds as it was covered by a bed sheet. Within 5 mins of arrival at our room, our steward (Hector) met us and introduced himself.
Hint: Close your blinds if you have a window when naked or in any other position as the window washers do not announce their arrival. Also, I think there is less movement with a berth closer to the mid section of the boat. Speaking of movement, if you are a bit queasy about motion on board and your ability to eat dinner, I suggest you schedule your seating for the first seating (about 6:00pm) as the boat is just underway and there is little motion.
Dinner Seating: Take second seating if you do not want to cut your shore time down. First seating on Dawn was about 6:30pm. We chose second seating so we did not have to rush back to the ship. This worked well as we could return to Dawn, go tot he pool or spa, get cleaned up for an 8:30pm dinner. Note: You will have a huge appetite by then. If you can't wait to eat, get a light snack in the Horizon Court.
Hint: First seating---less ship motion. More casino time. Second seating--more shore time, less casino time. Also, bigger crowds with second seating.
Hint 2: Try to be back before they start to pull the gang way apart. Great laughs for those watching you run down the pier but high anxiety for you if you do not think you have enough money to fly to the next island. Islands:
Trinidad: Not to much to say as we (the men) scheduled a fishing charter. Had a great captain and will supply the name upon your request. So, e mail me at Strat630@aol.com
Barbados: A fine time was had by all! We got off the ship to an army of taxi cab drivers. We were very fortunate to hook up with a young fellow named Andre. Andre took us to a plantation, the Gay Rum Factory and to the beach. He left us at the beach for a couple of hours, picked us up at got us back to Dawn in time for rum drinks at pool side. About "Andre". This was our first experience with the taxi cab drivers everyone talks about. We liked Andre from the start. He was well dressed, with shirt and tie, clean shoes. His cab was spotless The best thing was that his presentation was not threatening or intimidating. We told him where we wanted to go. He told us how much and after we negotiated a slightly lower cost we were off. Note: His service was so good we tipped him to a level above his initial asking price. Look for him on Barbados. He is about 6 ft tall, slender, neat dresser and...is getting married to a girl named "Eve".
Antigua: A bit disappointing. The street at the pier is loaded with the usual shops so be careful and do not be afraid to negotiate. Taxi Cabs: Watch out!! If I guy named "William" approaches you, DO NOT get in his cab. Licensee # TX 141. We had a bad experience with this cabby. We negotiated a price with him but as we started out in his cab, he told us if he gave us a good tour (not, if we enjoyed his tour) we give him big tip. This was the start. He is a terrible driver. We could not hear his talk as his car was noise, also dirty. We had agreed to go see Nelson's Dock Yard and a beach. As we were getting out at the beach, William demanded payment even though we were 30 mins from the dock. We should not have but we did pay him. Upon reflection, we felt we had been stiffed. William said "this was the end of his tour" and he would be back to pick us up and take us to the dock. We read that as...he picks us up and with more money he takes us to the dock. This was not what we had agreed to when the day started. Because of his attitude and since he had our money we were afraid he would not be back. As a result, we hooked up with another cabbie to takes us back. This new cabby was great! A real gentlemen. Because of the consequences of missing the boat we felf justified in not waiting for William.
Hint: Pick your cabby carefully. Antegua is a beautiful island. We wished we could have seen more.
Tortola: Ahhhhhhh. The best of the islands we visited. It is small and only has a population of about 12,000 Key areas to visit. Pusser Landing and two beaches on the opposite side of the island. I do not recall the names but they are listed in the AAA Carib Travel Booklet. No Taxi this time. We knew there was a Hertz Rental within walking distance of the Dawn. So...we rented a Jeep with A/C for $45.00 per day. With 4 people this was bargain compared to renting a taxi all day. The map for Tortola does not have many roads so it is easy to find you way. You will find many spectacular views from the tops of the mountains as you drive.
Hint: Hertz does not have the usual airport type counter in Tortola. We found the experience of renting in Tortola as funny as a three ring circus. Forget your Hertz #1 Gold card. Will not get you anywhere as this Hertz is an"independent" franchise. Just hope their "word processor" is working so you can be on you way in a reasonable amount of time. Also, not many cars so be quick. We did see an "Avis" sign in town as well. Also, be very careful about getting back to the ship in time for "sail away" as we ran into a "rush hour" traffic jam that almost made us miss the boat.
St. Thomas. Shopping center of the Caribbean. Lots of store right at the pier. We did not see much need to go into the old part of the city. We booked an excursion here. "The Trunk Bay snorkel" It was fun. The water was a bit cloudy but the rum on the way back to Dawn was awesome!
San Juan: Saturday, disembarkation day. Getting off the ship was almost as easy as getting on. Read the instructions that Princess gives you carefully. If you follow their instructions you will be on your way quickly. We were in the 10th group to get off. We spent the time having breakfast and walking around the ship one last time. As we got on the pier a baggage porter met us and took us to our bags. Our bags were group in an area with about 200 others. I have seen tips about finding your luggage fast by attaching color ribbons and puff balls etc so you see them easy. This is a great idea. We will use it next time.
We booked the shore excursion to the Inter-Continental in San Juan. Got a late flight home? This is the excursion to book. Princess will bus you to the hotel. You have full use of their facilities. Pool,Jacuzzi, beach. They supply towels and rooms for showering and getting ready to fly home.
Hint; Bring your own shampoo as the supply in the room goes quickly
Other suggestions: Rent from the ship, two-way radios. This is great for families or just two people who like to wander around and then still find each other. Rent for $8.00 per day or bring your own.
This was a great vacation for us and our friends who went with us. I know that I expect to cruise again in the future.