Itinerary: 7-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise leaving from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and visiting the following locations: St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas (Private Island owned by Princess Cruises.
Rating of Cruise: Excellent, One of the Best Vacations we've had, Can't wait to cruise again, loved relaxing on sea days and being busy on port days
Food: A- Entertainment: B Service: B Ship: A Embarkment/Debarkment: A Ports: A- Cabin: B (as expected)
Fort Lauderdale: For the past few weeks, my husband and I were debating whether to change our flight to Fort Lauderdale to arrive the day before. We were concerned the plane would delay (our flight would arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 2:15pm) and we would miss the ship. We took the chance and made it on time. We took Airtran Airways from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at Fort Lauderdale's airport at 1:45 (30 minutes early). Unfortunately, we waited almost an hour to get our luggage. Many folks complained about this delay even though there was nothing we could do about it. The cruise rep from Princess Cruises came by as we were waiting for our luggage and told us where to go to get the bus transfer to the ship. The bus driver loaded our luggage on the bus and we were off to the ship. The transfer only took about 10 minutes.
Embarkment: We arrived at the pier around 3:15. We did not see our luggage until after 5:00. We waited a few minutes in line at the check-in. We had express check-in and got our cruise cards immediately. The Muster Drill at 4:30 was fast and orderly. We took a tour of the ship and the ship left around 5:10.
Our Cabin: Our cabin was L208 on the Lido Deck (14 floor). This was an inside cabin. The cabin was small as I expected since this is what we paid for. The beds were very comfortable and we slept great almost every night. Our cabin steward Diamond from Romania was excellent and kept the cabin clean and he was helpful as well. Always catering to our needs very promptly. The only regret we had was that we did not bring an alarm clock and you could sleep there forever since it was always dark in our room especially if you did not get up to check a watch to see what time it was. We utilized the wake-up call feature from our phone and that helped up get up early on days we needed to. Hopefully, next cruise we will splurge and get a balcony.
Things to do: Laying out by the pool, swimming, hot tubs, trivia games, bingo, movies, afternoon tea, shuffleboard, internet café, tread mills, other fitness machines, art auctions, wine tasting, gambling, film developing, photo gallery, lotus heath and beauty spa (hair, makeup, facials, "Detox" treatments, stone therapies), aerobics, yoga, fitness seminars, step, scuba diving training, library, golf, culinary and fruit craving demonstrations, volleyball, pool games, massages, basketball, arcade, movies, ice craving, excursions, snorkeling, etc.
Entertainment: "Lights Camera Action" was an excellent show and Uber Rossi was hilarious. "Shake Rattle and Roll" was good in some parts and ok in others. We did not get a chance to see all shows.
Food: Breakfast: We ate at the horizon buffet. There was a large variety of food: scrambled eggs, bacon, bagels, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, different types of cereal, oatmeal, eggs benedict, different types of fruit, etc. I loved the granola cereal and ate that every day. Sometimes, I got something addition to my cereal and that was good, but my cereal was my favorite. My husband loved the eggs benedict.
Lunch: We ate mostly at Prego Pizza. The pizza was excellent and we both enjoyed it very much. The pizza would have been perfect if it had more sauce but we still enjoyed it. We both also liked the burgers at Trident Grill, but we both opted to eat the pizza since we liked it so much.
We dined once in the dining room on Thursday and had lasagna. My husband had the lasagna on the grand princess during a lunch on his last cruise and loved the lasagna. However, this lasagna was ok and it was very cheesy. My husband was disappointed that it was not as good as he had on the Grand Princess. Although, some friends we met on the ship really liked the Lasagna.
Dinner: Both my husband and I are not seafood eaters but found the food in general to be good or excellent. Our favorite dish was "penne alla arrabbiata" made on Italian night. I am Italian and loved the tomato sauce used in all the pasta dishes we had. We loved the desserts especially the ice cream and soufflés. We had personal choice dining and loved it. We loved the flexibility with it especially since we had dinner at different times. We both do not like to be tied down to certain dinner times.
Fruit: The fruit in the dining rooms and the horizon court was disappointing at times. Sometimes, it was not fully ripe. I was expected the fruit to have more flavor. Anytime, the fruit was prepared with a liquor it was excellent.
Dining Rooms: We ate at the Bernini dining room a couple nights and found the service to be a little slow. Most nights, we ate at the Donatello dining room. The service was excellent in this dining room. Some waiters were very pleasant and friendly. Others were nice, good with the service, but not so outgoing. Since we ate at different times, we had different waiters so we did not really get to know really any of them.
Here is a listing of food choices we made each day and how we rated it: Saturday: Sail Away Dinner Appetizer: Seasonal Fresh Fruit w/ Armagnac- excellent, crisp spring rolls- good Soup: Iced Pina Colada Soup- ok Salad: Watercress, Shredded Carrots & Iceberg Lettuce w/ Balsamic Vinaigrette- good Entrée: Nebraska Prime Rib- excellent Dessert: Hazelnut Ice Cream- excellent, Love Boat Dream- good
Sunday: Gala Dinner Appetizer: Seasonal Fresh Fruit- ok (not all fruit was fully ripe) Soup: Chilled Yogurt & Tamarind Soup sprinkled with Grated Lemon Rind-good Salad: Mixed Salad of Arugula, Endive & Butter Lettuce w/ Low-fat Garlic Chive dressing-not very good dressing, Classic Caesar Salad-good Entrée: Homemade Fresh Pasta Tossed w/ Tomato and Grated Parmesan Cheese- excellent, Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin- ok Dessert: Peppermint ice cream- excellent, Chocolate Hazelnut Soufflé- excellent
Monday: French Dinner (thought it would be on Wednesday): My husband and I are not into French cuisine. So, we went to the Dessert Rose. It was very disappointing and a waste of money for the cover charge. I wish we had gone to Sabbatini's instead. Appetizer: Guacamole & Salsa w/ Chips- Excellent for me, but too spicy for my husband Chili Beef and Cheese Empanadas- not very good, very greasy Entrée: Traditional Chicken Fajitas- ok but lacking in flavor
Tuesday: Chef's Dinner (thought it would be Monday) Appetizer: Pineapple Dotted with Honey-Roasted Pistachios- ok Soup: Chilled Golden Delicious Apple & Peach Soup with Rum- excellent Salad: Classic Caesar Salad- Good Entrée: Grilled Skinless Chicken Breast- ok (dry breast) Grilled Dry Aged Sirloin Steak - Ok Dessert: Vanilla Ice Cream- ok
Wednesday: Italian (thought it would be Tuesday) Appetizer: Prosciutto crudo di parma with sweet cantaloupe melon- good Salad: Baby leaf Spinach with Butter lettuce, bacon, pecorino cheese, & pine nuts w/ Italian dressing- excellent Entrée: penne alla arrabbiata-excellent, fabulous, five stars, Brasato di Manzo al Barolo (beef pot roast)-excellent Dessert: Cassata all Sicilian
Thursday: Commodore Appetizer: Golden Fresh Fruit Collection flavored with Kirsch-excellent Soup: Chilled Strawberry Cream Soup-ok Salad: Boston lettuce, Radicchio and Tomato with Balsamic Vinagrette-good Entrée: Ravioli di Ricotta with Fresh Tomato Sauce- very good (but small portion) Dessert: Hazelnut Ice cream
Friday: Landfall Appetizer: Oranges Steeped in Grant Marnier and Mint- Excellent Soup: can't remember Salad: can't remember Entrée: Prime Rib au Jus- good but fatty Dessert: can't remember
Ship: The ship was beautiful and quite large. I thought it was kept very clean and nicely. Whenever we were at a port and I saw our ship near the other ships I was proud of how beautiful the ship was compared to the others. The pools and decks were beautiful.
Internet Café: The computer is very easy to use. My husband spent around $15.00 for so many minutes. It costs .50 a minute. It was nice to email our parents back home.
Fitness Center: State of the art equipment, enjoyed working out
Ports: St. Marteen, Tuesday: St. Marteen was a bit of a disappointment for me. From the ship, St. Marteen looks beautiful. We took at water taxi for $5.00 was is an entire day pass for each person. That was a great deal for us since we utilized this several times. The water taxi takes you to the town's pier (main shopping area) and back to the ship. We went shopping looking for watches and found the best deal on a gold ladies watch at Grand Jewelers. The watch is valued twice as much here in the states. There are many jewelry shops and much to chose from. I was not impressed with the other store that sold stuff other than jewelry. When you get to the pier, be careful to not allow anyone to talk you into seeing their resort in return for giving you some cash and gifts. One lady tried to talk us into seeing a resort. We nicely listen to her and then we told her that we were not interested she kept persistently trying to talk us into it. She was very annoying. Finally, we got away from her. Supposedly, I hear people like them get people to lock into the time-shares and then they later rip you off. People like this lady are usually located in front of the stores you want to go into. My husband learned to walk faster and ignore these people. After shopping, my husband and I took the water taxi back to the ship and placed our purchases in our cabin. We then ate pizza at Prego to save money and then went off the ship. Next, we decided to try the beach near the town pier. Even though it was a beautiful day and the water was clear. The beach is very rocky which makes the sand uncomfortable to walk on and the beach was not so clean. However, it was convenient to the ship. Regretfully, we did not go to Orient Beach or travel and see the French side.
St. Thomas, Wednesday: I really thought it was a beautiful island. We got up early and went through immigration very smoothly. We took a taxi downtown for $3 per person not including a tip. We got off our taxi and met our private tour guide: Timmy from Timmy's Tours. He explained the tour and we reserved our seat for 12:30. He charged us $20 per person not including a tip. We then had time to walk around to the shops and shop. The shops here were better than at St. Marteen. There is a greater selection for good quality t-shirts, memorabilia, jewelry, watches, and there is more shops there. Again, there were annoying vendors and tour guides asking for your business as your walked the streets near the shops. There weren't as bad as St. Marteen. We ended up getting a great deal on a JVC Digital Camcorder at the Royal Caribbean Store. It was around 11:00 and we decided to bring our purchases back to the ship. We took another taxi from downtown back to the ship for $3 per person not including a tip. We placed our purchases back in our cabin and ate Pizza at Prego Pizzeria to avoid having to buy lunch on the island and spend extra money if we did not have to. We then took another taxi back to downtown (same price as above) to meet our tour guide Timmy.
Timmy was a great guide. He was very knowledgeable with St. Thomas. He took us to some beautiful spots on the island for great pictures. One place was on the Mountain top where the world famous banana daiquiri was created supposedly. We tried it and it was good but nothing spectacular. In this location, we saw one of the most beautiful views I ever seen of Magen's Bay. Then, he took us to Coki Beach. He claimed that it was cleaner and beautiful then Magen's Bay's Beach plus there is no fee to enter the beach. Even though National Geographic rates Magen's Bay as one of the top ten beautiful beaches of the world. The tour guide gave us the option to take us there if we wanted. Coki Beach was very clean and the water was clear. We spent $10 dollars for 2 beach chairs. They were comfortable and worth buying. Coki is a small beach and some of the vendors were very annoying and very untrustworthy. One vendor guy would not stop bothering me to buy stuff and then rudely started talking loudly on his cell phone near husband and I. I felt like he was being a jerk because I did not buy anything so he wanted to be in my way. Due to this reason, I wish we had gone to Magen's Bay beach.
Timmy came to pick us up in a couple hours and took us back to the ship. The entire fee for his tour was $20 per person not including a tip.
Princess Cays, Friday (Private Island owed by Princess Cruises part of the Bahamas) This was our Favorite Island and beach. We took a tender to the island. It was very fast and efficient process getting to and from the island.
The fruit was actually great there and the buffet food was ok. There was burgers, grilled chicken and other barbeque related foods.
The beach was very clean and the water was blue and turquoise in color. It was very clear and breathtaking. The vendors were nice and did not bother you to buy stuff. It was a more comfortable and a safer atmosphere compared to the other beaches we went to. We snorkeled near the red pier and there was a lot of fish there. It was really fun. We rented snorkeling equipment (the Deluxe Package that comes with a fish identification card and fish food). This was worth it because the fish came up whenever you feed them.
The last tender left at 2:30 and we had to get ready to pack and eat dinner.
Debarkment: We were off the ship around 9:00. It was sad coming home.