The best time we have ever had in our lives!
It was our first cruise. Our first "real" vacation. We tried to postpone in light of September 11, but couldn't unless we wanted to lose all of our money. Insurance doesn't cover acts of terrorism. So much for our travel agent saying "it covers everything except your not wanting to go." We will pay closer attention to our insurance policy next time and we will look elsewhere for insurance. Lesson learned. We boarded our flight September 22 to go to Fort Lauderdale. We breezed through security and that made us feel more insecure. Obviously it turned out ok. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 10:30p and stayed at the Marriott. It was free for us and next to Port Everglades. Bonus! My sister and her boyfriend had booked with us and it was a first cruise for us all. I can honestly tell you we had two entirely different vacations. Both were fun and wonderful but she packed everything she could into her cruise while my husband and myself took it a little easier.
On Sunday we got to the port around 11:50am. The line was a bit long but we were in our staterooms by 12:30pm. We had express check in and apparently that means you have no paperwork to fill out. You still have to fill out the Bahama Immigration form again even if you sent it in. Thanks to a previous poster I had photocopied that form and they accepted it so we breezed right through. We had been upgraded to the Caribe deck with the bigger balcony and it was fabulous! My husband had decided to go get "supplies" for the week so he got back off the ship and a Princess baggage handler drove him to the nearest liquor store and back! The Princess crew laughed when he said, "I heard this could take a week" when he embarked again. We had a starboard side balcony and it's great if you want to see Cuba. If you are more interested in watching the ship go in and out of ports with the exception of Grand Cayman get on the port side. My husband's dinner jacket arrived shortly after we checked in and it fit perfectly. We used the cruise lines recommend formal wear provider because my husband didn't want to lug that around. My husband and I went to dinner without my sister and her boyfriend. The Horizon court was open and they ate too much to go to dinner. We had traditional late seating and loved it. We may try personal choice next time for variety. Dinner was good and I ordered the Love Boat Dream based on other cruiser's reviews. Sorry, but it wasn't that good and being a chocolate lover I was a bit disappointed. However, I did try it again 2 days later thinking I had an old one previously. Wow! It's fabulous. Not only was it wonderful but I swear it got bigger each time I ordered it! It's my favorite dessert on the ship. Later that evening my sister and I enjoyed the adult's only pool and hot tubs to ourselves while my husband enjoyed 3 card poker in the Atlantis Casino.
On Monday we let the crowd go to Princess Cays before we disembarked. It was wonderful. A nice beach day. Previous posters are correct. If you want a more wild time go to the left when you get off the tender and for a more quiet time alone go to the right. I did both. A wonderful beach to walk on alone or with someone when you go to the right. Find the local merchants and they will get you a deal on rum or shirts or whatever. I found the most wonderful sipping rum from Cuba and a couple of nice Cuban cigars for my husband. Won't break your pocket book. Take your sunscreen.
Monday, my husband and I ate at Sabatinis. Great food and they bring you one of everything on the menu. Not kidding! If you don't like seafood, I wouldn't recommend going. I don't care for seafood but I want to, and went with an open mind. I was blown away. It's great food.
Tuesday we were at sea and it was formal night. My sister took in all the shows and ship stuff she could and had a great time. I was a bit more relaxed and loved it. Did the wine tasting and it was fun. Had never done one before. A bit of shock when my husband and I realized we were the "experts" at our table. Every bottle we had tried with the exception of one we had both experienced before. If you know a lot about wine I would recommend you skip this portion as you will probably find it a joke. My husband and I are not experts but found it for beginners only. I enjoyed the experience but would enjoy going to a real wine tasting. You can't taste a $6.95 bottle of wine that sells for $22.00 on the ship and call it a good value.
Wednesday was Grand Cayman the day I was most looking forward too. It was the best!! I did not book an excursion based on what I read on the posts. I took my chances once I got off the ship. I was looking for Captain Marvins and couldn't find them anywhere. I decided to go with Kelly's since they were right there off the ship. We arrived at 8am and ended up booking with Kelly's at half the price you would have booked through Princess. Kelly's left at 9:15am. Captain Marvins showed up at 9:10am and I was a bit upset because of the reviews I've read about how great they are and really wanted to book with them. Kelly's was awesome. I had a ton of respect for the guides as they had done it so many times they had the stingrays named. The guides were friendly and knowledgeable. Our particular tour had a lot of folks from the Carnival Triumph as well as a few from Grand Princess. It was entertaining listening to the comparisons. Listening to everyone, I knew I had picked the right ship for our first cruise. Stingray City is awesome. I felt like I was a child again. The guides gave individual attention and made sure everyone had a good time. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Thursday, Costa Maya. A good day to schedule your spa treatments. No reason to go ashore unless you have an excursion booked. Unless you need a souvenir shot glass get a massage. Jimmy JJ Walker was the comedian that evening and part of his opening was asking how many people had a good time in Costa Maya. Just before the boo's there was a brief silence. It wasn't just us. Set sail at 7p, finally!
Cozumel on Friday. It was ok. My sister loved Xacaret. She said the snorkeling was awesome. It did rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My husband and I being Northwest natives loved it. The lighting show off of our balcony each night was beautiful. Cozumel was ok, we are not Mexico fans so I don't want to destroy it for someone else. I thought it ok, my husband less so. Friday was another formal night and we had a great time. Took in another show and it was nice. We are not broadway show kinda people but we weren't turned off either.
Saturday was a day at sea. For the first time we decide to have lunch in the dining room instead of at the Horizon Court. Lunch was awesome and our next cruise we will eat in the dining room instead. Not that the Horizon Court was bad, the dining room was better! We had a wonderful dining experience there.
Sunday disembarkation did not go off well. Not the Princess fault. There were some rude passengers that just didn't get to immigration in a timely manner. They were called upon several times. I felt bad for those that had early flights. Myself I had to meet them at 6:15 am because my last name letter fell in A-F. I was there and even though you don't have to have a passport to get through if you want to get through quickly get one. Read the directions on your disembarkation letter and follow it completely. You will get through faster. Anything else is "not needed!" Oh, if your flight is leaving that day from FLL plan to spend that day at that airport. If your travel plans include Delta Airlines try for an alternate (morons, long story). After the incredible service you will receive on Princess, Delta will seem like a bad cab ride.
We had the best time and truly relaxed. It's hard to vacation in this nation's time of crisis but believe it or not you can do it and it's welcome relief. I loved our vacation and so did my husband and sister. We have a holding booking for our next cruise.
The only tips I can think of that haven't been covered previously are have some slippers if you have a balcony. Myself, I didn't get pressured to buy products at the Plantation Spa. I had my first pedicure there and it was wonderful. We did talk about everything but what she was using on my feet and calves. Maybe that had something to do with it but I didn't buy a single product from there and was treated wonderfully. My sister got a haircut and her makeup done and she looked beautiful. They do a wonderful job. She said she didn't feel pressured either, however she did buy some products just because she liked them. The same happened with her boyfriend. I didn't think the drinks were overly priced but I'm sure that will depend on where you live in the states. If you enjoy wine with dinner get it off the ship. Research your shore excursions you can find a nice one for less money than the ship will charge you. Skip Costa Maya. Maybe if there is a passenger rally we can get Belize or similar on that itinerary. If not the ship is a great place to stay. I at first did not believe other posters who said "if you don't have a good time it's your own fault." I do now. The fact that we could enjoy ourselves so much and take a break from what's happening in America right now was not even imaginable. You can, and probably should. You're not un-American for doing so.
Getting on a plane is a tough choice, once you get to the ship you will feel fine and appreciate the time away from it all.