So I thought I'd post a quick review of the sailing and stops/excursions of the Caribbean Princess. I'll have photos to post later when I do a picture review but for now I thought I'd whip up a quick review of the ship and how things went.
Due to the propulsion issues this was the shortened Eastern itinerary - Princess Cays, St Thomas and St Maarten. This was our 26th cruise.
I was a little unsure how the embarkation process would go with the medallions but it was quite smooth. We arrived at the port a bit later than we normally do, around 11AM and walked right into the terminal. I received my elite medallion in short order and proceeded upstairs to the lounge. I would say we waited no more than 10 minutes and were directed to board the ship. We were on the ship exploring by 11:30. Dropped our bags off at the room and headed for lunch. Very smooth embarkation.
I was a bit surprised by the food on the Caribbean Princess for different reasons. We ate at Steamers one night. It was very good and the service top notch. Really worth the $12. Didn't get a chance to try the $12 Planks meal - maybe next time. I enjoyed the lunch and breakfasts in Planks - they're free. The Mongolian buffet was really nice - I had that twice. Made to order eggs dishes are always great. I also like the fact that you can cook your own toast in the buffet areas in the morning. It might be picky on my part but nothing I hate more than cold stale bread masquerading as toast. Lunch was also good with lots of options in the Marketplace Buffet. The deserts were awesome all week.
The dining room - well, I hate to say it but it was not up to Princess standards IMO. First off, they've removed the option to pick a free steak from the nightly menu. For those nights when the nightly offerings didn't appeal it was always nice to have the option to pick a steak instead. One night my wife chose to try a filet mignon from Crown Grill while we were in the MDR but the waiter did everything he could to discourage her from doing so. He said it would be a 20 minute wait and he didn't know if the Crown Grill would be busy and he suggested other options that didn't appeal to her. Certainly its mysterious to me why they have this option but then discourage its use especially where one is spending extra money on it.
Also, the menu selections didn't seem to be as good as usual in the MDR. We spoke to one of the head waiters as he was circling the room and asked about the menu changes. The long and short of it was that its a cost cutting measure. When the bean counters take over, service and quality declines are sure to follow. I did have the Curtis Stone option 3 times in the week. They always seem to hit the mark and are quite good. Breakfast in the MDR - not bad. I like my eggs benedict. They're not the best on the high seas (RCI makes the best) but they pass my test. One thing - you have to ask for them - they're not shown on the breakfast menu.
One last odd thing abut the MDR - there wasn't Limoncello offered any night in the MDR that I was there. On the Regal and Royal (our last 3 cruises) it was offered nightly and during lunch as well. This was disappointing. I did mention it to the head waiter one night and kudos to him for rounding it up for me that one evening but I missed the nightly drink and the glass that goes with it. First time I have seen this happen. Another penny pinching opportunity?
Am I the only person who would love to see a scent free area in the MDR, especially on formal nights? Some of them old gals, they really pump the perfume especially on formal night.
Crown Grill - just ok. Didn't get my fries or mushrooms and started eating my steak figuring they'd arrive eventually. They didn't. My Wife's steak wasn't cooked properly. Too bad, I typically enjoy Crown Grill. They seemed rushed even though it wasn't all that busy. Can't give them a passing grade here unfortunately.
International Cafe - awesome deserts here and great coffee and service.
Good service by our room attendant all week. I sensed that she was new as she seemed tentative most of the week but she did a great job.
Had a few cigars in Churchill's and the bartenders down there were awesome all week. Left them a little extra on the last night in their tip jar.
CD staff did a good enough job. We didn't attend as many events as normal but they seemed to be well organized and attended. The comedian was pretty good - we went to both his shows including the R rated one which was packed. For any shows not in the main theatre, make sure you get there early. It was like it was 2 for one day or something. We went to the comedian's show in Explorers and it was packed to capacity 30 minutes beforehand. We only got a seat by sheer luck as we were walking by early and noticed it almost full at 8:30 for the 9PM show. We got the last 2 seats 30 minutes prior to showtime!
We went to one show in the theatre - the second last night. They had the guest Soprano in. I'm not much for opera but she was able to carry that show. We stayed for the entire show that featured songs as wide ranging as Queen to Puccini. Good show.
Princess Cays - despite the fire from a couple weeks previous, there were no visible signs of issues anywhere. They served the typical BBQ fare they always do - burgers, dogs, salad, cookies, small cakes etc. Weather was fine and we rented a clam shell which came in handy. Nice first day. Hot and sunny!
St Thomas - We arrived late at noon and decided to do the "Saint John on your own" excursion from the ship. There wasn't as much there as I expected but we wandered around, stopped for a beer at a local watering hole, picked up a few items in a spice shop and had time for a swim. The ride over in the boat was worth the price of the excursion. Lots of opportunities for pictures.
St Maarten - We did what we always do here. Rented chairs form Miguel and enjoyed a day on the beach with interludes of shopping on Front Street. This area is now 95% restored from the hurricane damage and is still easily my favourite stop. I was disappointed to see that the Belgian Chocolate shop is no longer owned by Beatrix and is only available at the port now. I didn't find the service or quality anywhere near what it used to be pre-hurricane.
Ship Layout and Condition:
Although we travelled previously on the Crown it struck me how similar they are to the Regal and Royal. Just smaller. Smaller dining rooms, smaller Piazza smaller theatre etc. I do like the pool layout on these ships. One can always find a nice quiet area (if that's your thing) at the back of the ship. Finding chairs is no problem and the back pool is something I enjoy. The other pools were busier with activities and MUTS but there were lots of places to enjoy a nice sea day. Ship condition was very good - clean and well maintained.
I enjoyed Churchill's Cigar Bar. I only smoke cigars on vacation and this is a nice spot to enjoy one and get great bar service.
Quick and efficient although the tag was ripped off our suitcase at one point and we had to spend some time looking for it. I was getting a bit concerned since we had to get to West Palm by noon to catch a flight but things worked out in the end. We were there with lots of time to spare.
We enjoyed the cruise, the weather was great and we met some great new friends. Was it 10 out of 10? No, not close. I'd give it an 8 as it was not as good as the Regal was and I have a fear that the bean counters have begun to infest Princess especially in the MDR. Lets hope I'm wrong. But overall, we enjoyed our time on the Caribbean Princess and we're looking forward to out next Princess sailing next March - 2020.
Once I get through my pictures I'll post a picture review of the same cruise.