Thoughts: Emerald Princess Southern Caribbean December 9-19 2013

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#1
Lake Stevens, WA
1,194 Posts
Joined Dec 2010
I just got off the Emerald Princess this morning after the 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise. I will have some more detailed thoughts once I get home, but here are a few quick impressions:

The good:
- Of the Caribbean itineraries I've been on, this one would easily be my favorite. Lot of different islands to visit, three of which I have not been to before. I wish I had more time to visit some of them, but the variety is nice. The Dutch islands are my favorites, but then again I come from Dutch heritage.
- The ship is in good shape, and seems to be quite well run. Service was, for the most part, good as well.
- The weather cooperated for the most part, and aside from a couple of passing showers in ports and on the sea days it was pretty nice. Definitely better than the winter crud we got away from with this cruise, but that wouldn't be hard.

Not so great:
- I don't know what it was, but for some reason the breakfast food on the ship wasn't so great. The other meals were fine, but a lot of the breakfast food in both the Dining room and the Horizon Court seemed off. MDR service also seemed slower than usual, especially if we opted for a shared table. The waiters seem to be stretched a bit thin.
- A lot of the entertainment seemed skewed toward an older demographic, and my traveling companion didn't care much for most of it. I tend to be less picky about that type of thing, but it sure seems like nobody on the ship had heard of any songs written after 1985.

Other notes:

-The seas did get a little rough during the sea days, but that seems to be nothing unusual for these crossings. Water temperatures at the places we did beach days/snorkels was nice. I had heard it can get a little colder during the Winter, but it was nice.

- After a couple of cruises with them, I have to say I am not a big fan of the updated MDR menus. Sure the old ones got a bit stale, but I could usually find something I liked every night. With the new ones I feel like I'm ordering off the always available side half the time.

- In spite of a few nitpicks, I have to say that overall I really enjoyed the cruise, and wouldn't hesitate to book this itinerary again. My traveling companion would probably prefer a younger group and would probably stick to 7 days. I'm thinking that if we did this again we would probably have to consider something like one of the Oasis class ships or (gasp) Carnival. We do have an Alaska cruise booked in May on the Golden, and are eventually looking at a Mediterranean cruise in the next couple of years, but those ones are so port intensive I don't think the ship matters as much.

More details on this when I get home. Spending the night at a hotel near the port, and flying home tomorrow.
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#3
Massachusetts
1,534 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Thanks for your review. I really like the southern route. I wish that Princess would do more 7 day southern route cruises.
#4
Irvine, CA
8,380 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
Thank you for your thoughts. I would love to hear more about the islands you visited. Hopefully, it isn't too rainy when you get home.
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#7
New Hampshire
2,319 Posts
Joined Apr 2007
I wish that Princess would do more 7 day southern route cruises
It takes so long to get to Aruba that it would not be practicable. You would only get one or two ports, & back to FLL.
We do love Aruba!
Steve
#8
Santa Rosa, Florida
1,965 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Originally posted by DivineMST
Who was the maitre'd on your cruise.
We were on the Emerald Princess Nov 29th - Dec 9th, the Maitre d'Hotel was Jose De Amaral Florencio.
#11
Coastal North Carolina
6,595 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
I think the length of the cruise combined with the time of year you sailed, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, probably explains why the older demographic. We have done both of Princess' ten day Caribbean itineraries (love them!) a couple of times, in January, February or March, and can tell you the crowd is much younger.

Alaska attracts a lot of first time cruisers and families and as you correctly stated the Mediterranean is very port intensive so pick that one based on itinerary. After touring during the day, coming back for a shower and dinner and a show, you will be too tired to notice the other cruisers! We did a Med. cruise this year on the Royal Princess in July and there were many families and extended families on board. Entertainment was very good too!
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#12
Palmdale, Ca
31,533 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
Thanks for taking the time to post your initial thoughts regarding your cruise. I'm looking forward to reading your additional thoughts. Safe travels home.....

Bob
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#13
Raleigh NC
24,458 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Thanks for the report!
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#14
Florida
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Thanks for the info ..
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#15
Michigan
878 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
We too were on the 11/29 - 12/9 sailing and I have to agree with the OP. Our only complaint was the selection of items on MDR menus. Most nights we had a hard time picking something.
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#16
Easton Pa.
108 Posts
Joined Oct 2003
We Were on the 12/9 sailing also and our party of 6 loved the food most nights we had trouble deciding what to eat service in the MDR was great but it did take about 1:45-2:00 to eat. We also ate at the Crown on the first night this was fantastic as always. My complaint are little ones but here they are.

1 Treadmills dont open in the gym till 8am I understand why but then do not close off the entire promenade deck for cleaning at 6am? This didn't happen everyday but did mess up one of my workout days and since I loved the food these workouts were needed.
2 Sale tables everywhere in the Piazza no room to walk around or get around some of the slower (older) passengers mentioned above. On the last day the passenger choir was singing in the Piazza and one of the prime viewing areas was taken up by 2 tables selling t-shirts.
3 Our room steward appeared to have 17 rooms the poor guy worked non stop I don't know how he kept so pleasant.
4 Ship was decorated beautifully for the Holidays but know snow in the piazza this time as there was 3 years ago when we did the same cruise no big deal but we were really looking forward to it.

We booked a partial Panama for next 12/7 on the Island so we are still satisfied Princess cruiser overall a great cruise.
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#17
1,304 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Originally posted by Vexorg
y
- A lot of the entertainment seemed skewed toward an older demographic, and my traveling companion didn't care much for most of it. I tend to be less picky about that type of thing, but it sure seems like nobody on the ship had heard of any songs written after 1985.
They're making progress in leaps and bounds. Ten years ago, they rarely played anything more progressive than about 1950. The music sure isn't why I got hooked.

If you go again, try Skywalker's for something newer. Still lots of 80's but you can request something else.
#18
Lake Stevens, WA
1,194 Posts
Joined Dec 2010
OK, now that I am back home and have an actual keyboard available, here are a few more thoughts on this particular cruise. This will probably end up being in several parts since I'm still pretty jet-lagged:

Travelers: Accompanying me on this trip was a friend of mine who frequently accompanies me on various trips, mostly shorter ones along the West Coast. This is the first time we've tried doing anything longer than a couple of days together, and I have to say that it might have been a bit of a learning experience for both of us. I'll just say that in retrospect, ten days of sharing a 160 square foot room on a constantly rocking boat might prove to be more challenging than you might think, even if you think it might be challenging.

Pre-cruise: Nothing too unusual here. Usually when I fly down to Fort Lauderdale it's on a redeye, which I specifically wanted to avoid this time around, so we flew out on a flight on the Saturday afternoon before the cruise (which departed on Monday), getting into FLL just a little before Midnight. We flew Delta from Seattle to FLL via Atlanta, and when a flight delay on the ground in Seattle put us about a half hour behind schedule, we found ourselves cutting it a little closer than we wanted on the connection (and made it to the other gate with about 2 minutes to spare.) The rental car place at FLL apparently ran out of boring cars when we got there so they had to bump us up to luxury and we got a Cadillac CTS (nice car, but not something I'd want to drive regularly.) We stayed at the Westin Beach Resort, which turned out to be a very nice place (especially for $97 per night on Hotwire, plus mandatory $25 valet parking if you have a car,) albeit with one caveat: For some reason, the bathrooms in the hotel rooms have a window that opens up to the rest of the room, and the shutters don't have any sort of lock on them, meaning that whoever else in the room wants to look in could do so pretty much at will. This ended up not being an issue for us, but you might want to make sure you really trust your traveling companions before you book this place. For the day before the cruise we didn't do anything too spectacular, mostly we hung out on the beach. I did end up making a trip over to the jetty on the north side of the channel (at John Lloyd Park) to watch the sailaways, and saw Nieuw Amsterdam and Royal Princess sail out, but the Allure's departure was delayed for some reason, so I didn't see it leave.

Embarkation: Princess had sent out a mail prior to sailing asking passengers to arrive at designated times for staggered boarding. Even though I had priority embarkation as a Platinum CC member, we ended up not making it to the port much before the designated time for our deck (1:30) mostly due to the rental car shuttle from the airport taking quite a long time to get there (Pier 2 was the last stop for the shuttle, and there were 4 other ships in port that day, which seems like a lot for a Monday.) Once we got there, we were on the ship fairly quick.

Cabin: We were in cabin E708 for this sailing, an obstructed oceanview. I haven't been in a lot of obstructed OVs before, but I'd have to say that this one wasn't too bad all things considered. You have about half the window blocked, but there's nothing in the way of the other half, and you still have a pretty decent view. Our steward (Jeffrey) took care of things efficiently, and the one maintenance issue we ran into (a flickering light in the bathroom) was taken care of quickly. I thought the bed I had was quite reasonable, but my companion wanted two eggcrate toppers on hers, and even then never slept all that well due to various issues. There were a couple of times I thought the room was a bit warm for my liking, but for the most part it was fine.

More to come later...
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#19
Lake Stevens, WA
1,194 Posts
Joined Dec 2010
Continuing with this:

Dining: As I said in the summary, for the most part the food was good, but service in the MDR (anytime) tended to be slow at times, and for some unknown reason the breakfast food (in both the MDR and Horizon Court) wasn't up to the usual standards, to the point that I generally just waited for lunchtime to eat. We didn't have too much trouble getting tables in the MDR as long as we got there early enough to beat the rush, but we did see some significant lines for the MDR a few times. We were even able to get tables for 2 on both formal nights. Ultimately we ended up only eating in the MDR 6 out of the 10 nights, mostly due to not wanting to dress up on the other evenings. For lunches, we mostly ended up at the International Cafe, which was generally quite good (the pasta they had at lunchtime a couple of days might actually be the best thing I had on the ship.) The quiches in the IC were quite good as well, and I had them several times. We didn't eat at the specialty restaurants; My traveling companion doesn't like steaks or seafood, so there's basically nothing she would actually eat there.

Entertainment: I thought the entertainment was for the most part OK, but my traveling companion didn't care much for it at all, deciding that it was basically all intended for old people. Even Skywalkers (the place I figured she'd be most likely to fit in) didn't seem to bother playing anything newer than 1985 (she was looking for more modern stuff.) For the most part, we stuck to the MUTS movies (I don't remember all the movies on MUTS, but some of the selections available included Pacific Rim, The Wolverine, Despicable Me 2, World War Z, White House Down and a number of Christmas movies. Football games also tied up MUTS a fair bit of the time as well.) A few other movies were shown in the main theater (Star Trek: Into Darkness is the only one I can recall right offhand.)

The casino: I think I lost about $25 on the slots, but didn't play much. In general, the slots seemed very tight. The slot pull organized by the CC group managed to come out ahead by $3 per person, which is the first time I've seen one of these not lose its collective shirt.

Ports\Excursions: As I said, this would easily be my favorite Caribbean itinerary that I've done. Each of the ports had interesting stuff to do and see. We did three excursions through the ship: In St. Thomas we took a ferry to St. John to snorkel and hang out on the beach at Trunk Bay (very nice, but we didn't get much time there,) then did some shopping later on (where I ended up buying a new watch.) In Dominica we did a snorkel at Champagne Reef (also very nice) and in Aruba we splurged a bit on the Atlantis submarine excursion (probably my favorite one of the three, but all were enjoyable.) In Grenada we just wandered around on our own and browsed around the stores, and in Bonaire we took a taxi with a number of other passengers for an island tour. Out of the ports on this one I'd have to say Bonaire was probably my favorite one (it reminds me a lot of a more developed version of Grand Turk, albeit without the big tourist-trap at the dock.) I would love to visit Curacao again (probably my favorite Caribbean island) but this one was still a very good itinerary. I think for various reasons we both could have done without the two extra sea days at the end, but that just goes with the territory. I think I'll have to seriously consider doing a land vacation in the Southern Caribbean (probably somewhere in the ABC Islands) one of these days just to get enough time at some of these places to properly explore.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this, and would not hesitate to book this itinerary again. I suspect my traveling companion would prefer something different though. If we did another Caribbean cruise together, I think she would be more inclined toward something like one of the Oasis class ships. We've already got an Alaska cruise out of Seattle booked in May (which isn't my first choice of destinations, but the price is good and we don't have to fly anywhere for it) and we're tentatively looking at possibly doing a Mediterranean cruise sometime in 2015. Hard to say what will actually happen with that one though, since we've already put off tentative plans to do it in 2014.
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Star Princess - LA to Vancouver: May 2003, Eastern Caribbean: April 2005, SF to Vancouver: May 2015
Ruby Princess - Eastern Caribbean: March 2011 (Review)
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#20
Ontario
4,554 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Thanks Vexorg for the updates. I thought of doing the same excursion in St Thomas, but like you I think the actual time in St John is too short.

Good to read that the food at the IC is so good.