A little background first: This was our 14th cruise and our 2nd Princess, we were on Ocean Princess for a trans canal in 2002. We have sailed Carnival and RCCL, are 48 & 47 years old and traveled with 6 adult family members.
We arrived 2 days prior to cruise day and stayed at the Marriott Marina. We stayed at the Marriott a couple of years ago, loved the convenient location and having the water taxi right on the property. We spent the day before the cruise riding the water taxi to Ft. Lauderdale Beach and Los Olas Riverfront. We had dinner at 15th Street Fisheries, which was excellent. Since we come from the San Francisco Bay Area we are spoiled with some of the best food in the world and donâ€™t often find restaurants in tourist areas that make us go wow, but this one did. We each ordered something different and each dish was unique, inventive and delicious. It was a nice relaxing way to begin our vacation, by the time we boarded the ship I was already in vacation mode.
Embarkation Day â€“ After a nice breakfast and a walk to the edge of Marriottâ€™s property to get a peek at our ship we packed up our belongings, called the bell desk and caught the 11am complimentary shuttle to the pier. The pier was already busy with arrivals and some of the later departures. The porters were right there to unload the shuttle, receive their well-earned tips (I love not having to touch the luggage if I donâ€™t have to) and direct us to the line that was already formed by approximately 200 people. The doors opened promptly at 11:30am. We walked across the terminal and found our deck designated check-in counter and chose the NON express line since it was half the length of the express line. We waited no more than 10 minutes in line, were processed within 5 minutes and it would have been only 2 minutes, I kid you not, the big delay was only due to our agent assisting another agent LOL. You just gotta love on-line documents. There were only a couple of people in front of us in the x-ray line, then up the escalator, smile for the camera, up the ramp, another smile for our cruise card photo and OH BOY on to the ship. I looked at my watch and it was 11:50am.
We went directly to our cabin which was the renowned E730 directly above Club Fusion. The extra balcony space was wonderful and the cabin was set up very efficiently. I immediately got on the phone to the concierge to make a standing reservation in the Palm Dining Room. We had been waitlisted and only got to #117 prior to the cruise and prefer the same table and wait staff every evening. I was in the phone queue for approximately 20 minutes, the phone does have speakerphone so I was able to unpack my carryon etc. while waiting. Once my call was answered I had no problem getting a standing 8:15 for a table of eight. Our room steward Isaac, the best weâ€™ve ever had so far, introduced himself shortly after our arrival. He asked what our dining time was, did we have any special requests and was there anything that he could do for us to make our cruise special. We were off to a fantastic start, Iâ€™m not a demanding person but I loved knowing Isaac was very much about customer service.
We have a ritual, like many others, when first boarding a ship. We stop at the pool bar, buy a cocktail for me and a coke card for hubby. We start at the highest point of the ship and with camera in hand explore and snap a picture or two while the rooms are virtually empty. We walk one end of the ship to the other, go down a deck and work our way back. I found the dĂ©cor really lovely, understated but rich at the same time. Thereâ€™s a lot of wood used on this ship which gives it warmth. The floor plans were a bit confusing to me with not all decks accessible both forward and aft. Since we were on the 8th deck, we had to go down to the 7th deck and go to midship in order to get to the 6th deck rather than just going down 2 decks. My dh caught on right away but I found myself retracing my steps on numerous occasions to get where I needed to go. There are many nooks and crannies on board also. It wasnâ€™t until the last day that I discovered a shop with an entrance across from Sterlings. When entering that area from the atrium I had always gone left, never right so never realized it was there. It was actually fun since Iâ€™d browsed the other shops a number of times during the week and this was uncharted territory!
After our little tour we went back to our cabin to chill-out a bit and were pleasantly surprised when our luggage arrived at 3pm. I was unpacked and luggage stored before muster! Muster was promptly at 4pm with our station in Club Fusion of course. Muster was painless and we werenâ€™t required to go to our lifeboat locations so got to stay in the nice air conditioning. We had arranged to meet our Cruise Critic friends at the Outrigger bar at the aft pool. This is a really good place for a get-together; there was enough room, not many other people there and a bar at your fingertips. I enjoyed meeting all the friends Iâ€™d been posting with for months. This is where we watched sail away just a bit after 5pm.
Kurt â€“ Thanks again for the webpage, Iâ€™ll email you the group pics for posting and Chuck â€“ Thanks for the name tags, I donâ€™t know how we would have known who was who without them. Larry & Amy â€“ It was nice running in to you, seems we saw you quite often, we must have been on the same path during the cruise. Rich & Kirsty â€“ what can I say, but GREEN WITH ENVY! Thanks for the Milky Bars, 3 packs of the buttons got me free wine from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas. Thom gave the flight attendant the packs to share and wallah, cocktails!!! Thanks for sharing your birthday with us! PrincessDi â€“ Met Cindy and Jude, saw Steven and Michael who were sitting back observing all of us crazy people. Debs, Mark, Kevin nice meeting you guys, glad the clothing choices worked out! To those Iâ€™ve forgotten, my apologies, it was a bit of a whirlwind when we met, Iâ€™m so glad we had the turnout that we did.
We went to the casino for a bit once it opened that first night. We had received letters after our Conquest cruise that my dh had $300 and I had $50 cash coming based on our play and membership in Oceans Player Club. Iâ€™d heard that Princessâ€™ casino personnel werenâ€™t really too pleased with the system when acquired by Carnival so I had emailed OPC for confirmation and went armed with a reply email stating they would be honored aboard Princess. Not only did we not get any opposition, the casino manager had been looking forward to meeting us since he had been informed prior to the cruise that we would be aboard. So right from the get go, we were $350 ahead. Good thing, the slots were pretty tight folks. I was the heavy one this time but dh did well at the tables playing blackjack and 3 card poker and was able to subsidize me.
Dining - We checked in with the MaĂ®treâ€™d at 8:15 and our table for 8 was ready. We had the same table every night and the only difference between PC dining with a standing reservation and traditional seating was no singing by the waiters. I thought I might miss having little shows, but didnâ€™t miss it a bit. Our assistant waiter was especially good, remembering who had coffee, tea or none; who was a vegetarian, who drank red or white wine etc. We enjoyed ourselves at dinner, the food was generally very good with a few disappointments but hey I figure if I donâ€™t most of my entrĂ©e I deserve two desserts right? We celebrated our 20th anniversary and my brother-in-laws 50th birthday with rousing renditions of Hoppy Annibershury and Hoppy Burseday respectively. After the first two nights we just waved to the Maitreâ€™d as we passed by on our way to our table. There were never more than a couple of people in line and that was only on the two formal nights. The nightmares of PC dining have obviously been rectified. We ate both breakfast and lunch at Horizon Court. The salad bar was a favorite of mine. It was one of the best Iâ€™ve seen aboard a ship. There was a lot of variety and everything was very fresh. The food was good for both breakfast and lunch although it got old by the end of the week. No fault of Princess, just how it goes after 3 meals a day on board a ship. That being said I donâ€™t know what else they could have served, breakfast consisted of every breakfast food known to man and lunches changed every day. I think itâ€™s more about toning down flavors to appeal to the masses. We tend to go heavier to the garlic, onion, pepper flavors, which doesnâ€™t work when feeding 3,000. My hubby loved the pizza! We didnâ€™t eat at Caribe CafĂ© other than a snack now and again however my in-laws feasted on the crab & lobster a time or two prior to dinner and were very impressed. We did not eat at Sabatiniâ€™s or Sterling.
Both Sunday and Monday are sea days with Sunday being the first formal night. I called Monday afternoon for tickets to Tuesdays 10:30 Movie Under the Stars and they were already sold out so get your tickets early. After dinner on Tuesday we noticed that around show time there were empty seats and asked one of the ushers if there were people who cancelled. He said to wait about five minutes until the start of the movie and heâ€™d let us in. Although we couldnâ€™t find two chaise lounges together we stood off to the side until the usher brought us some chairs. It was a really cool experience and think it will be a big hit on the Princess ships. There is something special about lying out in the nice warm breeze under the stars watching a movie. If any of you remember drive-ins with grass you could lay a blanket out on, the feeling is similar with the exception of comfy chairs. The clarity of the screen and the sound system are really great. They also had â€śno-ticketâ€ť events of concerts and sing along Wizard of Oz. The movie was really the only entertainment we went to during the week. We did go to the Captainâ€™s cocktail party which blew my mind a bit. Having late dining we went to the second party expecting to meet/see the Captain and officers. Instead they showed a video of the first party, very weird.
St. Thomas â€“ Since weâ€™d been to St. Thomas a number of times we decided to take the ferry to St. John and hike the Lind Point trail to Honeymoon Beach. We wanted to take the 9am ferry from Charlotte Amalie since we werenâ€™t in any big hurry and had all day to do the hike, swim and ferry back. We specifically told the van driver that we wanted to take this ferry and needed to be dropped off in town. No problem, she said it would be $3. When we finally filled the van and started off she said weâ€™ll go to Red Hook then to Sapphire Beach. We piped in AFTER you drop us off in town. She then tried to tell us that going from Red Hook was the only way to go that time-wise it was faster and dollar for dollar would work out about the same. We knew this but had chosen to take the Charlotte Amalie ferry and insisted she take us downtown. She continued to argue until she realized she was going to have a mutiny, there were 6 of us after all, and if she insisted on not stopping and dropping us in Red Hook she wasnâ€™t going to get paid. She begrudgingly took us to town. This is the only time weâ€™ve ever had a problem with a driver. We walked down to where the ferries were lined up for their morning runs only to find out the Cruz Bay ferry leaves from in front of the open-air craft market at the other end of town. After two sea days and many meals, the walk was good for us! We found the trail head with no problem behind the National Park Visitorâ€™s Center and began our journey. Iâ€™m glad I had taken the map as there were a couple of places with forks in the path that had us disagreeing which way we should go. The path wasnâ€™t as groomed as much as I thought it would be but would not be a challenge for anyone who is looking for moderate exercise. It was really a nice hike, 1.2 miles to Honeymoon Beach, and well worth the trip. The beach is beautiful, we found some semi-shaded area and enjoyed cooling off in the water. There are no facilities, so make sure you take water if you do this hike. We debated about going back the way we came or hiking further to Caneel Beach and grabbing a cab back to Cruz Bay at the resort entrance which is what we did. It was another .5 mile to where the cabs were waiting. Once in town, we stopped and had a snack of conch fritters and cold beerâ€¦yum. We caught the ferry back to Charlotte Amalie to do some shopping before returning to the ship.
St. Maarten â€“ Again, weâ€™ve been to St. Maarten numerous times so we decided to go to Orient Beach and back to Philipsburg for some shopping. We grabbed a cab between 7:30 and 8:00 and were literally the first ones on the beach. It was nice with the exception that the umbrella guys didnâ€™t get to the beach until 9:30ish and being a bright and sunny day we were frying by the time they got it together, I have the peeling forehead to prove it. Weâ€™d arranged for our driver to come back for us at noon which was perfect timing. It was hot in Philipsburg as we walked down the boardwalk so we walked back a few streets from the main drag and popped in and out of the less frequented stores. In fact found a neighborhood grocery where we stocked up for the 50th birthday party we were having in our cabin for my brother-in-law prior to dinner.
Princess Cays â€“ Weâ€™d never been to a private island on any of our cruises so were curious what the experience would be like. The tendering process went well although Iâ€™d gone early to get tender tickets without dh and was told that you can only get one ticket per person and once you were ticketed you had to sit in the Princess Theatre. You couldnâ€™t even leave to go to the restroom. I returned later, around 10, with hubby in tow, were given our tickets and shown to seats where we waited to be called. We werenâ€™t there five minutes before we went to the tender. By the way they never asked for the tender ticket. Upon arriving at the island we went to the right of the tender pier which is a smaller section of beach and had no problem finding shade. Around 11:30 it got really crowded, reminded me of Waikiki Beach. I did a little shopping from the local vendors and we tendered back around 1:00. I doubt weâ€™d do another itinerary with a private island unless the other ports were attractive.
Disembarkation â€“ This was the smoothest, quickest disembarkation ever. Originally they had given us one of the later groups. With our flight time being 11:20am I changed them at the pursers desk for earlier ones and ended up in the 3rd group. We went to breakfast at 7:30 and our color was called before our breakfast was served. When we went to the luggage area ours were the only bags left in that group, there they were standing all alone. It was great! Immigration was conducted after disembarking and was a breeze too. We were at the airport a little after 9am.
Misc. â€“ I canâ€™t say enough about our room steward Isaac. Iâ€™m planning on writing a letter to Princess because he was that good. He seemed to know the exact moment when he could service our cabin even though our schedule changed day to day. We never caught him in the cabin even though weâ€™d return for some forgotten item a bit after weâ€™d left. He was often in the hallway and always had a smile and a good morning/afternoon/evening. We had a towel animal every day (I thought this was more of a Carnival tradition) and on our anniversary he made two hearts and two swans on our bed and had stood the cards we had exchanged as part of the arrangement. The next morning he made a ship out of towels and handmade a sign with the Princess logo and Love Boat written on it. It was very touching. He then called my husband Captain of the love boat after that. Silly little things I know, but it made the trip very special for us.
We had two straight chairs, two reclining chairs with cushions and a table on our balcony. There were plenty of hangers, must have been 20-25 in the ample closet. We did hear the â€śbeatâ€™ from Club Fusion but it ended every night promptly at 1am. It did not disturb our sleep or annoy us. If you generally go to sleep early and/or need quiet this is not the cabin for you. We did feel substantially more vibration on the ship and especially in the aft section than on any other ship. As rolling and vibration, along with that lovely sound of the wake, lull me to sleep this wasnâ€™t a problem either.
The dining room was very cold each evening. Our table was just off the lobby and smoke was drawn in constantly during our meal. If you are sensitive to smoke request a table further in to the dining room.
Have I totally put you to sleep? If you are not totally comatose by now and you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask.
Enchantment of the Seas 10/00
Rhapsody of the Seas 03/01
Carnival Spirit 05/01
Grandeur of the Seas 11/01
Ocean Princess 04/02
Carnival Conquest 03/03
Serenade of the Seas 11/03
Rhapsody of the Seas 02/04-Daughter's Wedding
Caribbean Princess 06/04
<marquee>SUNSHINE DAYDREAM...GOIN' WHERE THE CLIMATE SUITS MY CLOTHES</marquee>