This was our first cruise and we consulted the cruisemates site for comments and reviews prior to the cruise.
Let me start with a quick summary: This was a very, very good, and delightful cruise, and exceeded our expectations in most ways.
The Emerald is an impressive/comfortable ship with excellent service, excellent food, and plenty of activities. Now for some details.
My wife and I are just turned 50 and are celebrating our 25 yr wedding anniversary. The cruise was pretty heavily booked, near capacity is my guess. This was over Easter break, so there were approx 500 teenagers on board out of the 3300 passengers. We have teenagers so we are ok with that, and frankly, they have a separate deck for the teenagers, and they just were no problem at all,I would say they just blended in and were fine. We booked an inside room on the Caribe Deck and the room was perfect for 2 adults. Frankly, we were only in the room to sleep, change, and get ready for the day. We considered the outside balcony rooms, but glad we chose the inside, we just were there as a pit stop. The bed was very comfortable, the room is very functional, and the bathroom, while smallish, get's the job done. Really, no complaints with the room whatsoever. It was quiet, never heard any noise at all. The room was tended to by a room steward while we were out, and she did a nice job and was extremely sweet and polite. I wish we had more people like this here in the US.
Lets talk food. My personal opinion is that the food was outstanding. The quality, variety, preparation, freshness, you name it, they had it and they did it right. We ate in the buffet dining room frequently, and also ate at the DaVinci for Dinners. Great selection, well prepared, I could go on for hours about the food. The only thing I would maybe avoid, the Grill located out by the pool area serves up hamburgers/chicken sandwiches, that was pretty so so, did it only once, the first day.
Main pool areas are popular, thus pretty crowded and a tad noisy for us, we avoided those areas and hung out at the pool at the back of the boat. The boat overall, outstanding. Public areas are very pleasing, the service staff was very good in all depts. These people are highly attuned to every detail of running a modern large cruise ship. They totally have there act together in every dept. Very well run ship.
We made a stop at Princess Cays, a beach day basically, with a lunch prepared and all good. St Martin has some great beaches, didn't care for the rest of it, the downtown shopping was overrated to us. St Thomas was our overall favorite, nice shopping/dining downtown, nice beaches. Could have spent a week on St Thomas and St John. last stop Grand Turk was another nice beach day, we mainly avoided the Margaritaville, it was packed, loud and for the youngsters. Lastly, Ft Lauderdale, we had an extra day and nite, great beach and we did the water taxi's around town. Highly recommend a couple days in Ft lauderdale.
Last paragraph, a few areas I think that could use a little improvement, this is feedback for the Princess CruiseLine. Mind you, this is 1% or less of the total experience, so I don't want to make over much about any of these points. The main pool areas have a live band at one pool and a large screen TV playing concerts at the same time on the other. The noise tends to blend a bit, a tad too much noise in those areas for us. Like most people, our nerves are shot from the day to day grind, when on vacation, we don't want things that grate on the nerves. We attended the Shopping show for St Martin. That was too long(2 hours) and just too intense/hard sell for me. Keep it to 15-20 minutes, and keep it light, and skip all the free stuff. Just hand it out if you want to give it away. My only regret on the entire cruise was going to this show, and my wife wasting time collecting the worthless free trinkets. Finally, we opted out of the CruiseLine sponsored excursions based on feedback on this site. For the most part, the feedback we received from other passengers was that the excursions are a tad overpriced, and not all that great. Some did like them. Take the taxi's on St Martin and St Thomas, they will take you wherever you want to go, and are plentiful. Do not attempt to drive these mountainous islands with narrow roads. Same for bikes, mopeds or other.