Another great cruise with Princess (our fourth).
We stayed at the Best Western Oceanside in Ft. Lauderdale 2 nights before and 2 nights after the cruise. The hotel is adequate for a pre-/post-cruise stay. It was very close to the beach and a short cab ride to Port Everglades and Ft. Lauderdale airport. But, next time welll choose a place a shorter walking distance to more restaurants/stores/activity.
Embarkation was smooth. After a short wait in line, we were given a colored numbered card, went through their security/scanning process and a took a seat. Since we were there early, we had about an hour wait before they began the check-in/boarding process. But, the time passed quickly, as we struck up a conversation with the folks sitting across from us. The Platinum & Elite passengers were moved through first then they called each colored numbered card. Smoothest process so far out of Port Everglades.
The ship was the largest we've sailed so far. With approximately 3,000 passengers we never found the public areas too crowded, with a couple of exceptions: when the shops set up their table full of wares out in the walk-way area and couldnlt get a lounger by the pool except for the days in port. "Chair hogs" strike again! A sea of loungers as far as the eye can see, occupied only by a towel and a book, flip-flop or hat. I've vowed to myself that on our next cruise I will occupy any chair of my liking that is "saved" and inform the passenger, if/when they return, that there is no saving chairs. Well, enough about that!
There was just so much to do on the ship that you couldn't possibly do everything!
Princess Theater We attended the Welcome Aboard, Motown & Boogie Shoes shows. The Welcome Aboard show featured comedian Billy Vader, the cast & showband, with Cruise Director Lisa Ball. An ok show. We saw Billy Vader on the Coral Princess Feb. 2007 and he was hilarious -- not so much this first show on the Emerald. I'm sure if he was just getting warmed up. Unfortunately, never connected with another of his shows this cruise. Both DH & I loved the Motown show. I loved the Boogie Shoes show, DH not so much.
Crooners We gravitated here most nights for cocktails before dinner and had the wonderful company of other couples who enjoyed the same before-dinner routine. It was here I was introduced to a yummy concoction called the "Jammy Donut". If you like Chambord, try this. Also, I tried many different martinis over the course of the cruise. My favorite is the Lemontini.
Skywalkers Nightclub Nice club, very comfortable seating, with DJ, located Aft, deck 18. It was not crowded at all the night we went.
Explorers Lounge Saw some of the comedy show starring Al Katz. He was very entertaining.
Wheelhouse Bar We stopped in one evening after dinner to enjoy nice music, nice ambiance, comfortable seating.
Street Performers Performances were held on Deck 5 in the Midship Plaza -- various performers with different acts. Always drew a crowd.
Fitness Center Very well equipped and wasn't crowded the one time I used it! I enjoyed walking the Promenade Deck 7. 2.7 laps = 1 mile.
On Deck for the Cure This was held for the Susan G. Komen charity foundation and the walk raised $1,213.
Formal Nights These were held on the first and last sea days.
Dining We chose late Traditional. We ate in the dining room every night and there were a few tables within our view that were empty the entire duration of the cruise. Other tables were occupied less than half the time. Seeing so many empty tables in Traditional dining was the oddest experience, especially since it is usually difficult to be assigned a table in Traditional dining. We had a table for six. One couple never showed up and our other dinner companions said they had been waitlisted for a table of 10 and were assigned to our table of 6. Food was good with a good selection. Our waiter, Ronaldo, and assistant waiter, Juan, were pleasant and attentive. We had breakfast at the Horizon Buffet each morning and some lunches. Tried the Caribe Café (similar to the Horizon) and the International Café. Some different yummy free food fare at the International Café, of course, along with some even yummier desserts, for which they charge a nominal fee. The grill on the Lido deck had great hamburgers and hotdogs. We didn't enjoy the pizza. We tried it several times and it never quite seemed cooked enough in the middle of the pie. I don't know what else I was doing, but I missed the Seafood Extravaganza Buffet in the Horizon & Café Caribe! Well, I heard it was wonderful. We didn't eat in the Crown Grill or Sabatinis.
Ports Antigua: We took a taxi to Dickenson Bay and spent a few hours on the beach. We rented two lounge chairs for $5 each. Beautiful beach. There were water sports available and a beach bar called Tony's. Enjoyed talking to a Canadian couple from our ship and a lady from Livorno, Italy, who was visiting her brother who lived on the island. The taxi driver, Glenroy Burton, Burtonls Taxi Service, was all that his business card stated -- Friendly, Efficient, Courteous and Reliable. He was very pleasant, interesting & talkative. Charged $3.00 per person each way when 4 or more people in the cab ($6 per person when only two people in cab). He was right on time to pick us up for our return trip to the ship. We shared the cab with the other couple we met on the beach. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Another cab driver wanted our fare, but we said we were waiting for Glenroy. The next trip to Antigua we hope Glenroy is still operating his taxi. We'll be sure to seek him out again. After leaving Glenroy, we shopped for a couple of things for the grandkids and headed back to the ship. Sky at noon was partly cloudy, temp 26.5C/79.7F.
St. Lucia: We took the Catamaran to the Pitons, booked through Princess. A nice day for a catamaran ride. Plenty to drink, lots of music, chatted with Stephania, from Italy, who married a St. Lucian. We stopped for a swim which was a welcome refreshing dip into the beautiful St. Lucia waters. Great crew who really knew how to dance! The Captain loved to sing along to the music. We enjoyed the trip very much. Sky at noon was scattered clouds, temp 28.0C/82.4F.
Barbados: We took a shuttle into Bridgetown and poked around in the shops a bit. ($2 per person each way -- they make sure the shuttles are full going out. On the way back, we shared a cab with another couple and the fare was the same.) You can also walk to town. It is roughly about a mile from the pier. We stopped for some refreshment in a food court in one of the indoor mall areas and chatted with a couple from England who were there for an extended stay. We were able to mail postcards from the post office located in the cruise ship terminal. Also, bought some wine for our cabin. Not a huge selection of wine from which to choose, but I did find two bottles of tasty vino. After making my last purchase in the terminal, a sun hat that caught my eye, we headed back to the beach. Sky at noon was fine & sunny, temp 28.0C/82.4F.
St. Kitts: Due to a strong, adverse, force 7 wind, the Captain made the decision to abort this port. We were disappointed, but safety first. Next time we go to St. Kitts, we'll reschedule our "St. Kitts Scenic Railway" shore excursion.
St. Thomas: We took a full van from the pier into Charlotte Amalie. We tried to call friends due on the island, but telephone service was "on the fritz" for a few hours that morning -- pay phones, cell phones and land lines. We finally made a connection and were told our friends weren't arriving until after we were due back onboard the ship. Oh, well, maybe next time. We enjoyed Charlotte Amalie. Shopped, sent postcards to the grandkids and when we stopped for a drink in one of the establishments located in a side walkway, we chatted with many people from various ships. Sky at noon was sunny, temp 25.0C/77.0F. Went back to the ship and sat on our balcony and admired all the beautiful yachts in port.
Princess Cays: We didn't tender to the island since we had been there many times. Chose to stay onboard and enjoy the serenity of a sparsely populated ship. There were plenty of lounge chairs by the pool!
Disembarkation Getting off the ship was smooth. We had plenty of time to have a leisurely breakfast. We were instructed to meet in the Casino and while there was a bit of a delay being called from the Casino to disembark, no matter -- everything was orderly with no crowding near the exit. One of the best disembarkations we've experienced. Found our bags without too much trouble and exited the building to grab a cab. Now the "fun" began! The Emerald Princess and Caribbean Princess passengers were disembarking at the same time in the same section of the port. The cab line was long. We waited about an hour for a cab to our hotel. Thank goodness it wasn't raining, as we were out in the middle of the blacktop with no protective covering. It was hot and you could tell everyone was trying to keep their tempers from flaring, especially when a bus "needed" to drive through the line of people waiting for cabs. I must say, despite this bit of unpleasantness, people in line were talking of their cruise experience to each other and we all got through the wait.
Flight Home We were fortunate that the power blackout from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami didn't affect those traveling from Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Our flight out of Ft. Lauderdale was only delayed a few minutes and we made our connecting flight home with time to spare. All our luggage was retrieved from the carousel and our wonderful neighbor was waiting for us at the airport to deliver us home.
We thoroughly enjoyed our 3,131 nautical miles sailing on the Emerald Princess and would sail her again if the itinerary suited us.