This was our first cruise, with the last two of our five kids graduated from college, so it was time for us to try something new.
We had researched a number of cruise web sites. Here, we have to thank all those who wrote reviews of their experiences. They were invaluable and made us better educated shoppers, and we enjoyed our cruise experience more because of you.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day early after making our own flight arrangements. We got a non-stop from Detroit and the cruise arrangements would of had us playing airplane hop-scotch and arriving just in time to sail.
Our pre- and post- cruise stays were at the Best Western Marina and Holiday Inn Express, respectively, the Holiday Inn was the better of the two, in our opinion. A large shopping center is on 17th, and we stocked up on some carry-on items there.
All your comments about Princess' embarkation procedures were correct, it went very smooth and we were on the ship directly.
We dropped off our carry-on bags in our cabin, Caribe deck, port side, met our room steward Nilo, and headed out to explore. Our requests for robes, extra ice, a foam "egg-crate" pad on the bed were already done. Nilo was superb all week, we never knew how he did it, but our room was kept super clean and stocked with everything we needed (and the chocolates on our pillow, which we didn't need, but enjoyed anyway)!
Our cabin was a category BB stateroom and the layout was fine for us, plenty of storage under the bed, 20+ wooden hangers in the closet area, three small shelves in the bathroom, for some personal "stuff". We brought a power strip for the desk and it worked fine. Our balcony was half covered, with two loungers, two chairs and a table, it was one of the best parts of the cruise. It had more than enough privacy for us, The most a Baja balcony occupant could have seen were my toes at the foot of the lounger!
The pocket map was a great help and we learned the ship quickly. Barb picked up the "bar-hop" card and I got the Coke sticker. Barbara did get to all fourteen bars, got her card stamped and got her gift.
In no particular order:
We found the food above average, Horizon Court was very good, and our Personal Choice dining was the Da Vinco dining room. We requested a table for two and our first night's servers were Katryna and Pavel (both from Poland). They were an exquisite part of our trip, remembering our names, drink preferences and all their guests enjoyed a excellent level of service.
We liked the ports of call, on Princess Cay we headed to the right side of the beach, like many of you suggested, plenty of chairs in the shade. Grand Cayman was interesting with the cars driving on the "wrong" side of the road, Costa Maya was not much more than the "created port" many of you reported. Cozumel was interesting with five or six other cruise ships in the harbor that day. It was fun seeing all the different cruise lines tote bags swinging through the crowd, and stopping off for a drink and visiting with cruisers from the other ships. Early in the cruise, before we reached Grand Cayman, the ship's Port and Shopping Advisor, Michael, gave a lecture, re-broadcast over the TV regularly. After visiting the ports we realized it was a pretty smart thing to do. Along with the 4-page daily "Princess Patter," we would get another 4-page "All Ashore" before each port. The local info and map were very good. Granted, we knew they were identifying their "preferred" shops for us, but it was still helpful. At each port there are many stores with raffle contests, some just require a filled out coupon, other, you have to "guess" the number of loose gemstones, or something else in the store. There were very nice prizes from diamond tennis bracelets, to tanzanite rings, t-shirts, etc...A good tip for Michael's first lecture, get there early and sit in the first few rows, he tosses things into the audience, and while a few frisbees made it our way, things like t-shirts, rings, cigars, etc....went down front. We brought a yellow highlighter and marked stores or attractions on the maps and it made it easier to find our way around.
Tim Donovan, our Cruise Director, and his staff, Kelly, Liz, Drew and the rest, were always about the ship, running many activities. Those not to be missed were "Jeopardy", a hilarious version of the "Weakest Link", the "Newlywed-Not-So-Newlywed" game, daily trivia, British Pub night, the Island Deck Party, and the passenger talent show. The dicey horse races and the auction to "own" a horse and decorate it for their "Derby" brought out the "horse trader" in a lot of folks.
The Internet links were fairly quick, I was able to logon to our Yahoo mail account, check and send messages to our family and friends, and it didn't cost as much as I thought it would.
One thing we noticed, was the line at the Pursers desks on the last morning as people got a listing of their shipboard account. The looks on their faces was a perfect definition of "sticker shock". Barb and I stopped by every other day or so, picked up the list, and it allowed us time to review it and if necessary make corrections, and not when we were trying to get off the ship.
Disembarkation was smooth, and even with one of the last color tags called, we were off the ship and in a taxi to the Holiday Inn Express in about two hours.Our overall experience was wonderful, the Grand's staff was a huge part of that feeling. We would like to try other cruise lines also, but Princess' cruises will be on our itinerary on a regular basis.