On Mother's Day, we set off on the Emerald Princess, the sister ship of Ruby and Crown Princess. These jewels of the Princess Fleet are all built in Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani Stabilimento di Monfalcone, Italy. The Emerald is hull number 6131, launched in 2007, as the bronze plaque on Promenade Deck 7 portside states. Her name is beautifully emphasized by the emerald green and gold Tiffany inspired ceiling of the Atrium Piazza. After sailing on the Ruby Princess last year and the Star Princess last month, we looked forward to this cruise and returning to Princess and its terrific food and service.
Maitre d' Nicola Furlan was on board and we anticipated a great cruise, which we always do, since a positive attitude seems to produce happy results --- great expectations usually result in great cruises.
EMBARKATION Traffic on I-95 on Sunday is light and we arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale at 11:45am, and were quickly through security. On the pier, we checked our luggage and immediately inside the door was wheelchair assistance. After filling in a short medical form, we went directly to check-in. This procedure only took five minutes, since Vincent does pre check-in by computer. Thus, we were in our stateroom C303 in less than 15 minutes (curb to cabin).
THE SHIP The Emerald Princess is a cookie cutter duplicate of the Ruby Princess, which we described on this site in 2009. However, certain facts deserve repetition: the Emerald is 113,000 tons; 952 ft. long; 159 ft in the beam which includes the bridge wings. By the way these overhangs give the ship a hammerhead shark silouhette when seen from her prow in port. Her height is 195 ft. and she has 19 decks. The rear spoiler holds the Skywalkers Nightclub. There are 1,539 cabins with 80% having balconies. There are 25 wheelchair accessible cabins (16 balconied, 4 ocean view, and 5 inside). Alas none with automatic door openers. Passenger capacity is 3,080 and this cruise there were 3,200; Crew numbers 1,200 --- a very nice passenger to crew ratio.
Decks 1,2,3 and Gala deck 4 are reserved for ship's crew, except the Medical Center which is located on deck 4, fortunately we did not use it!
Plaza deck 5 forward has cabins and a laundromat. Midship is the Atrium Plaza with a circular mosaic floor and music stand, where Monika (Poland) played an excellent repertoire on the white Grand Piano; and, John Kingsley a young gitarist pleased all with his unique riffs. The International Cafe` is located here serving terrific espresso, pastries, tea sandwiches and freshly baked cookies --- try the oatmeal ones. Vines, the wine and cheese bar, is also here and close by there are the Escapes Travel desk, Future Cruise Sales and the Internet Cafe`. Here are also the Michelangelo Dining Room and the Art Gallery.
Fiesta deck 6 has the boutique shops, the Gatsby Casino & Speakeasy Cigar Lounge. Midship is the Da Vinci Dining Room and all the way aft is the Botticelli Dining Room. The Dining Room murals are lovely including one of Bacchus with his grapes in the Da Vinci. On deck 6 forward are the Conference Center and the Princess Theatre, which is the height of simplicity, with unobstructed view from any seat.
Promenade deck 7 forward there is the Balcony of the Princess Theatre with the last three rows reserved for the handicapped. Midship are the Wheelhouse Bar, the Library, the Crooner's Bar and the Promenade Galleria. Toward aft are the Crown Grill (a specialty restaurant), the Explorers' Lounge and Club Fusion.
Emerald deck 8, Dolphin deck 9, Caribe deck 10, Baja deck 11, Aloha deck 12, and Riviera deck 14 are all cabins with a laundromat on each deck. Laundry services are so reasonable that we do not use the laundromats; however, perhaps those with children and a lot of laundry would find the laundromat faster and less expensive.
Lido deck 15 has many passenger venues --- forward there are cabins then midship are the Mermaids Tail Bar (nice mosaics here), theTrident Grill, Neptune's Reef pool and hot tubs; toward aft are the Ice Cream Bar and the Pizza area, and the Calypso Reef pool and hot tubs. Aft are the Horizon Court Buffet and the Terrace, and Outrigger & Cafe`Caribe.
Sun deck 16 has the Movie Under the Stars, a giant outdoor screen showing sports events (the first evening Red Sox vs NY Yankees), concert videos, and movies (one evening Avatar was shown, with complimentary popcorn and fresh cookies served). Many watched from lounge chairs with lap robes. Aft is Sabatini (the other specialty restaurant) and Adagio (an Italian Aperitif Bar). Forward are the Lotus Spa & pool, the Fitness Center and the Wedding Chapel.
Sports deck 17 forward is the Sanctuary (cover charge for quiet private sunning). Aft is the Youth Complex with Chill Out, Fun Zone, Off Limits, and the Video Arcade.
Sky deck 18 and Star deck 19 have Skywalkers Nightclub, the Princess Cybergolf, the Jogging Track and Center Court.
On the Emerald Princess there are three sets of lifts (elevators) one set forward, one midship and one aft. She is well kept and elegant in every way. This ship has a nice lay out and easy access to all areas. There is even an Oxford Dipper to assist the handicapped in and out of pools. Excellent!
CABIN Cabin C303 is wheelchair accessible with beige walls, walnut wood trim and blue and white carpeting. When entering on the right is the large bathroom with a 4'x4' shower and a double wide folding shower seat. There are safety rails all around, one small sink and small shelves for amenities. The only improvement we could see would be that for the commode to be higher for handicapped. Then, there is a kingsize bed flanked by two long bureaus, each with a shelf, four drawers and a reading lamp.
When entering on the left there is a parking space for the wheelchair, a triple armoire with one section of shelves and a personal safe, and two sections for hanging clothes. Next, there is the TV, refrigerator and a long desk/vanity with lighted mirror, a desk chair, an upholstered barrel chair and a small glass top table.
The far wall is all glassed with matching sheers and draperies, facing the double deep balcony on which are 4 chairs, a table and a chaise for Vincent's stargazing: During the early evening hours on this cruise Venus could be seen in the western sky as the most brilliant object in a moonless night. Beautiful! Our steward was Jonathan and he was both polite and very efficient.
FOOD & SERVICE Our expectations from Princess Cruises are high and we are happy to report that they were met. Service comes down from the top and Captain Marco Fortezze runs a tight ship especially keeping to the schedule. He also throws a very nice cocktail party where he graciously and patiently greets every passenger and poses for photos. A product of Genoa, Italy; he has the sea in his blood. Hotel General Manager Graham Kelly is quite friendly and accommodating. The dining facilities are overseen by Maitre d' Nicola Furlan, who welcomed us back with open arms. This elegant man gave us beautiful Table # 433 located in a quiet corner by the window in the Da Vinci dining room: marvelous! Nicola also recommended us to Head Waiter Francesco Memeo who greeted us every evening and made sure that everything was just perfect. Thank you, Francesco! Our excellent waiter was Stefan Radojikovic and his assistant Aldritz (Speedy) Adriano who has a memory like an elephant: on Monday at lunch he remembered our table number, and Vincent's preferred wine after only seeing us once.
Our meals were nicely served and courses were evenly paced. The menus are standardized across the Princess line --- the Corporate Head Chef Commendatore Marzi has done a fabulous job of providing variety. This was the first time for us that the executive chef on board was not Italian ----Christophe Belin from France put a delightful twist on the soups, while simultaneously producing exquisite Italian favorites such as the following: Fettuccini Alfredo, Ossobuco, vitello tonnato, etc. etc. etc. However, we were disappointed in the pizza served on the Lido Deck 15, it was too hard and dry: Princess Executive Chef Antonio Cereda (now on the Caribbean Princess) closely watched both how the dough was prepared and the toppings, thus producing some of the best pizza afloat. This time the pizza left something to be desired. The salads were great, and so were the desserts and the fresh hot crunchy rolls and breads!
We used the Bell Box (Room Service) for Continental Breakfast and it was always prompt. One morning we had the special Champagne Breakfast in our stateroom: Quiche Lorraine, bacon, smoked salmon with cream cheese, onions and tomatoes on brioche, juice, coffee, hot chocolate and a carved cantaloupe filled with wild berries and whipped cream, a basket of delicate breads and Danish pastries and the grand finale was a small bottle of Champagne from Epernay, France. What a way to start the day.
At lunch Head Waiter Francesco Di Tullio was so kind and always helpful. We especially enjoyed fried calamari with marinara sauce. Needless to say the food was something to write home about.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Tim Donovan has a lively group and he is quite funny himself. The Emerald Singers and Dancers are peppy and they have a nice production show Motor City a tribute to Motown Music. The Comedy Club featured the hilarious Kevin Hughes and his "relationship humor." There were classical concerts with the Polonia String Quartet and even London Pub Night. There are Bingo, Culinary Demonstrations with Maitre d' Nicola and Chef Christophe, Trivia, Dances, Gatsby's Casino Texas Hold'em Tournaments, and movies just about everywhere on board. In other words there is just about something for everyone.
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale Sail Away 4:30pm Day 2. Princess Cays Arrive 9:00am Depart 3:45pm Day 3. At sea Day 4. Ochos Rios, Jamaica Arrive 7:00am Depart 3:30pm Day 5. Grand Cayman (tendering) Arrive 7:00am Depart 3:15pm Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:30pm (tardi) Best shopping forr T-shirts, Embroidered dresses and perfumes. Day 7. At sea Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 7:00am Debarkation Begins.
DEBARKATION This was one of our simplest landings. We had a complete delicious breakfast in the Da Vinci Restaurant at 7:00am. We then went back to our stateroom, collected our hand luggage and went down to the Gatsbys Casino on Deck 6, where there was wheelchair assistance. Our color brown had already been called, so we went to baggage pick up and were through passport check and off by 9:00am Simple and easy.
COMMENT This was our thirteenth cruise on Princess ships and nice one; two more cruises will make us Elite members of the Captain's Circle (the "frequent floaters" of Princess). Now we are Platinum members with some benefits such as Vacation Protection (travel insurance) upgrade, complimentary Internet package, Preferred Check-In and Debarkation, special robe in the cabin, etc. With the Elite membership we will have additional benefits such as complimentary laundry and professional cleaning services, shoe polishing, complimentary Mini Bar set up in the cabin, deluxe canapes selections and upgraded bathroom amenities. We look forward to our next cruise on Princess which will be in November on the Crown Princess.
We have also booked our next three cruises: Celebrity Solstice on Aug. 1st, Liberty of the Seas on Sept. 5th and Norwegian Epic on Oct. 2nd. Happy Cruising!