Airport Arrival: Princess representative greeted us at the gate as we deplaned. He gave us directions to the area where the bus was to take us to the ship. He also explained that if we had Princess transfers to the ship, Princess claims your bags and delivers them to your stateroom. If you do not have the transfer, you need to claim your own bags.
Embarkation: This part was a breeze. From the time we arrived at the pier, to when we reached our stateroom, was about 15 minutes. Also, there is a duty free liquor store located between the Princess check-in area and the ship. Beverages available include bottled water, soda, beer, and hard liquor. You may want to pick up some to take on board. When you finally arrive on the ship, many Princess personnel are waiting to serve you. They greet you, assist with your carry-on luggage and lead you to your stateroom.
Note: Make sure to complete all paperwork that Princess sends to you before you arrive. This speeds up the embarkation process dramatically.
Stateroom: Our room was C327 on Caribe deck towards the front of the ship on the starboard side. If you are going for a cabin with a balcony, ask for one on the starboard side of the ship because this is the side that faces land while in port. On this side of the ship your balcony has great views of arriving and departing the islands. The cabin size is adequate for two people and their luggage. There is a closet divided into three compartments complete with many wooden hangers. One compartment is for hanging longer items such as women's dresses, the second has two rods for hanging shorter items such as shirts. The third has shelving with one shelf holding the room safe. Room has a hair dryer but no clock. Our cabin steward (Nilo) greeted us as we arrived at our cabin, he explained the layout of our cabin, the hours that he was available each day, and what to do if he was off duty and we needed something. Our room was cleaned twice a day by Nilo and was always kept in excellent condition.
Note: When in port, keep your drapes closed to avoid embarrassing situations. In St. Thomas workers were on scaffolding painting the exterior of the ship and they passed by our cabin balcony unannounced.
Public Areas: The lounges on the ship are well designed, our favorite spot was the Wheelhouse Bar. It is decorated in dark wood and has many cozy areas to have drinks with friends. The atrium area has bars on both the 5th and 7th floors including piano entertainers. There is a string quartet that plays in the atrium area every evening during dinner hours. The dining rooms are divided into intimate areas of around 3 to 5 tables. This helps give the feeling of being in a fine smaller restaurant.
Disembarkation: This process was just as efficient as when we arrived. You are assigned colored tags and when your color is called, you leave the ship. Groups assigned to each color are smaller then we have experienced on other cruise lines; this helps keep the congestion to a minimum while claiming your luggage. We flew with American Airlines and they had representatives in the Wheelhouse Bar to check us in for the flight home. American also had luggage check-in at the pier for those people who had transfers back to the airport.
ISLANDS Trinidad: We did not take a shore excursion here. Port of Spain is an industrial city. We walked down a nice tree lined promenade in the main section of the city, a little dirty but nice. If you are looking for some good quality & reasonably priced island wear, shop at Charmaine Charles. The clothing is sewed right in front of you and the clerks/seamstresses are a delight. It is unit 31 in the ship complex that you walk through to get to the city.
Barbados: We had a shore excursion planned to Harrison's Cave, but unfortunately we were on the cruise that experienced engine problems and were 3.5 hours late arriving. Needless to say our excursion was cancelled and our account was credited. Bridgetown has a nice shopping district with all the chain jewelry stores. You can either walk to town or take a taxi from the terminal, cost is $2.00 per person U.S., each way. The distance is about 1.5 miles from the cruise ship terminal.
Antigua: Took the New Waves Snorkel tour here. We were taken on a 85 foot catamaran to a reef on the south side of the island to snorkel. Beautiful island with a deep harbor where ships pull right up to the entrance of St John's, you walk only about 200 yards and you are on the edge of town. Street vendors sell locally brewed, ice cold beer…a refreshing break from shopping.
Tortola: We took the morning shore excursion to the island of Virgin Gorda to see what they call "the baths." This is by far my favorite experience of this cruise. It is a challenging trek, but try to take the path to Devil's Bay. The guide will explain that going on the path requires lots of bending, climbing, and walking through some knee high water to reach the beach, but it is all worth it. Very beautiful scenery. Not much shopping on Tortola, however if you are interested in purchasing spices, lotions, or candles there is a great store called Sunny Carribbee. In addition there is a Pusser rum store selling clothing and of course Pusser Rum, and attached to the store is a small restaurant and bar.
St Thomas: Very easy to get around, many good options for excursions here. We opted to go to Magens Bay, very nice area with a fairly wide, clean, crescent shaped beach. Try to get there early and you will have the beach almost to yourself. Around 11:00 am the tourist start pouring in and things get crowded. A taxi to Magens Bay costs $6.00 per person each way from the ship. A ship to town taxi ride is $3.00 per person each way and you should never have a problem finding a ride, taxis are everywhere. There is great shopping both in town or at the Havensight Mall next to the main ship terminal.
Other Observations: The ship has two-way radios for rent. It might be a good way for families to keep in contact. Cost is $4 per Walkie-Talkie per day.
If you are reserving a balcony cabin, do not reserve a cabin on the Caribe deck. These balcony openings are smaller than on the floors above the Caribe Deck.
We like the watch sale on board. All watches are $69.99 with most retailing for $175 or higher.
Also, look for the Gold by the Inch sale. Custom made chains start at $1.39 per inch.
This cruise was our favorite so far. We would not hesitate to cruise with Princess again. In all, it was a tropical paradise afloat.Dennis Panier