Chapter 3: The Room, The Food & Officer Eye Candy. (Day 1)
Back when the Caribbean Princess
was out of commission straddled alongside San Juan’s port, there was a Cruise Critic member named MD Sue who saved our sanity by posting updates about the ship as she limped back to life with a new left rear propulsion engine. When MD Sue finally went on her trip, the first one after two weeks of cancelled sailings, she had a forward port balcony room on one of the upper decks with “officer eye candy”. I laughed at her comment and subsequent photos until I realized that I, too, had a similar room and view.
It was great to see the captain give the stink eye to those lazy passengers boarding 30 minutes late. (I kid, the captain is a total sweetheart.)
The Room: C218 – Forward Port BB Balcony
Our home away from home, C218, was perfect. The cabin size is modest but the balcony was massive! All balconies on Caribe Deck 10 truly are 9’x9’. They are partially covered and partially uncovered, which for this itinerary was perfect seeing as we had drizzly mornings and sunny afternoons. The Caribe balconies had two chairs with adjustable lounge chair backings and a small table. I read a few threads about how “awfully small” the tables are. But unless you’re eating dinner out there for two, I really didn’t find a problem with it. It’s enough space to hold a book and a drink. Or two drinks and a pastry.
I did notice that the balcony below ours had nicer chairs, ottomans, and a much larger table. Are these mini-suites?
This is the view from the entryway/closet/hallway. There’s more than enough room for two people to hang out in here. We never used the circular table for dining and I only sat in the chair a few times. The cruise was nearly over until I realized that the light switch for the two halogen lights over the reading desk is next to the wall outlet, and also that there was an outside balcony light tucked behind the curtains.
So, I read a few posts about how awful the beds were. I blew it off and played the whole “it won’t happen to me” card. And oh, it happened. It truly was awful. You can literally see in this photo how lumpy the bed is. The two twins pushed together were concave, like a lower cased “w” from being so worn in. They were a combination of flat, hard, and lumpy. I figured an egg crate couldn’t possibly help this situation any and we decided to blow it off as they were still bearable and anything to sleep on other than an airplane seat sounded great at the moment. I should also note that, as others have mentioned, the pillows are insanely soft and puffy. If you like this sort of thing, great. But they were too puffy for us and we had to nearly fold them over in half to create a firmness that worked for our heads and neck. Again, it wasn’t anything we griped about. We just accepted it and moved on.
Onto the closet…
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of closet space that was given. It really worked well with the room layout. Someone once wrote that you had ample room to get dressed with a dividing wall between you and the room and you wouldn’t have to worry about closing the curtains all the time.
As mentioned earlier, the closet comes with 20 hangars. I tried to immediately hang everything up and spray my Downy Wrinkle Release on it. We folded jeans and wrinkle-free dresses into the vertical cabinet which also house the safe. We created our safe code and put my iPad, wallet, and money pouch in it. There’s tons of room up top where the life jackets and pool towels are. Down below, I had more than enough room to house both large suitcases, four pairs of shoes and my hamper. Voila!
The bathroom was one of the smaller bathrooms I have seen on a ship. We didn’t mind. It has enough shelves to hold some makeup and other toiletries. I always put our toothbrushes in the glass cup they provide. They give you 2 washcloths, 2 hand towels and 2 bath towels along with a floor towel. The shower is a hexagonal tube of sorts and way smaller than other cruise lines. However, instead of the claustrophobia –inducing plastic Star Trek door like Royal Caribbean
, they simply use a fabric liner to close. This liner gets very wet when showering and I found that even if the curtain stays inside the shower (via a very, very small lip on the floor) our bathroom floor still got soaked - towel and all. Just make sure to tell the person you’re with to not step into the bathroom with nice dry socks after someone has showered.
At this point, our stateroom steward knocked on the door and had our luggage. His name was Roberto and good lord, if you are ever lucky enough to be on this deck and have Roberto (from Mexico) as your steward – he is AMAZING. His enthusiasm was off the charts. He was young, peppy, funny, reliable, and apparently a big Lady Gaga fan.
I swear he never sleeps. He’s up in the morning cleaning rooms, during the afternoon, and late into the evenings. We would step out for 60 seconds and he would magically appear out of nowhere and have turndown service completely done with a Patter and two pillow chocolates. I have no idea when he took breaks. We are the type of cruisers that sleep in really late and lounge around so I’m sure he hated that we threw off his cleaning schedule. Nonetheless, he was full of smiles and hello’s whenever we would see him – even if it was in an elevator or on land! I left him a raving review
at the end of the voyage.
Since there wasn’t much of a “sailaway” (it’s a very, very different vibe than a young Caribbean
cruise) we decided to hang out on our balcony while we pulled out of port and later moved down to Deck 7 for better views. I must add that Mike and I are huge (like….ridiculously huge) Titanic fans and I want to warn you that a lot of our photos throughout the trip have a constant Titanic theme. After all, Cobh, Liverpool, Southampton and Belfast were all HUGE Titanic ports. I say this because the Caribbean
Princes s was berthed at 144. And Titanic was berthed at 146 which was right across from us. (Remember the movie? Where Jack won the poker hand and Rose got out of the car with her big hat? Yep, that was Southampton.) Spooky.
Once we gently and quietly left Southampton, Mike and I stayed on Deck 7 and watched beautiful England pass us by. It was then and there that I saw my first official castle…
Can you tell I was a wee bit excited?
You have to understand, I’m from California. The closest thing we have to a castle is the Disneyland castle, Hearst Castle, and the Medieval Times castle. Two of those three are fake. This was the real deal. Everything I was about to see was legit. Not a façade -- like the streets of my first job, Universal Studios. Oh no, this was real. No foam and plywood here.
As the evening progressed, we did the whole lets-walk-around-the-ship thing. The Piazza was perfectly sized and elegant. Though I must say that it’s really trippy being on a Caribbean-themed ship when you’re cruising in a British, cold climate. The whales and coral and palm trees were an interesting sight.
There was a quartet (yay, funding for real musicians!) playing in the Piazza and we grabbed a quick bite from the International Café. I have to say that I expected the International Café to be bigger. Maybe it’s because they use the word “café”. Regardless, a turkey sandwich was enough to hold us over for now. I never got a chance to sample their highly-reviewed cold pasta salads, which I regret.
Dining: aka The Table For Two Fiasco That Wasn’t
One of the first things we do on our first day of being onboard is to visit the Maitre ‘D to request a table for two. I asked a nearby employee where we could meet him and he led us to a short line that had formed inside one of the main dining rooms. Apparently quite a few people had extra “requests” like us.
Here comes the really bizarre/funny part:
The Maître D wasn’t at his wood podium like he normally is. Oh no. This was epic. This was out of a Godfather movie. The Maître D had his own fancy table next to the window. If you saw it, you would laugh. The window was so bright and sunny and he was sitting in front of it, backlit, with two other waiters and the seating chart and paperwork in front of him. One by one, a server would “allow” you to walk up to him to talk to him.
We couldn’t stop laughing because it was so overblown. We felt like we were at a bank getting ready to sit at a table to apply for a home loan! Luckily, everyone who left “The Table” was smiling. When it was our turn, I suddenly wondered that maybe our request was too petty for “The Almighty Maître D”. When we got up to “The Table” and sat down in front of “His Presence”, we kindly stated that we had Anytime Dining and we were hoping that maybe we could wait for a table for two to open up.
He chuckled and explained in a much romanticized Italian accent that it was no big deal for a table for two. You could call ahead and make a reservation or simply show up later in the night when the chaos dies down and there would be plenty open. He didn’t have to write down anything on our card or make any crazy arrangements. I basically just waited in line for a suave guy in a white tux to tell me, “Just show up. You’ll be fine.” We smiled, thanked him, and walked away bashfully with an embarrassing halo around us. And that, folks, is the extent of the drama when it comes to “getting a table for two”. We asked – so that you don’t have to!
We ate in the main dining room that night. Every night of the cruise is “Smart Casual” in the dining rooms except for the second night in (Guernsey night) which is “Formal” and your first Sea Day which was also “Formal”. Since we were “Anytime Dining”, we could eat between 6:30pm-9:30pm in either the Coral or Island dining rooms. We looooooved Anytime Dining. I didn’t mind that we had different servers sometimes. Our servers (except for 1-2 of them) were great . We didn’t have one bad meal on the boat. Also, my goal on cruises is to “not eat chicken”. I force myself to eat something other than what I eat at home. So I think the first night I had veal or lamb. I should also note that due to jet-lag and whatnot, we ate really late that night. We ate at 9pm in the MDR and gosh golly there were lots of 2-person tables available and we were seated within seconds. This would later become a pattern in the cruise.
There are four courses to each dinner, though you’re not required to pick from all four. One would be a tiny appetizer, the second would be a soup (cold and hot) or salad, the third would be the entrée, and the fourth would be dessert. If you order a cold soup (like a chilled mango soup, etc.) they will serve it to you in a cocktail glass with a straw. It’s really odd. It looks like you’re the lush ordering Pina Coladas every night at dinner.
The desserts ranged from various ice cream flavors, floating islands, crème brulee, tiramisu, Princess
Love Boat Dream, cobblers, chocolate cakes, and my all-time favorite – the cheesecake. I don’t care if it’s flash frozen back there. It was GOOD.
P.S. Why do they ask for your room number on some nights in the dining room? Is it a survey? Do they want to keep track of when you eat, or what you eat? I found it perplexing. I should have asked.
Oh, let me also note that Dan Styne was the cruise director. I’m glad the Patter told us, because I never saw him anywhere except an intro or two on our stateroom television when he emceed the beginning of a show.
Movies Under The Stars
= ESPN & “The Iron Lady” (these movies also play in your stateroom television)
“Welcome Aboard Showtime with Comedian Lenny Windsor” (cricket…..cricket…)
: “Boy Voyage Dinner” in the buffet, and I think the fancy MDR menu was “Princess Dinner” or “Captains Dinner”. The titles really didn’t mean anything. The food was darn good in my opinion and anyone who says “it’s cafeteria food” must be a Michelin Chef at home because I sure as heck don’t get to eat veal, lamb, lobster, prawns, steaks and amazing salmon every night of the week. Just sayin’.
The “Ultimate Soda Package”
is $7.00 per person per day + 15% gratuity. You have to drink a heck of a lot of soda. Wowza.
I should also note that my hubby drank the coffee in the buffet every morning and thought it was totally normal. He’s not an everyday coffee drinker so I can understand why people avoid it or bring the Starbucks Via packs. But he’d pipe up if he didn’t like it and he never griped about it.
To those who say the orange juice is gross, I’d have to partially disagree. It tasted like orange juice, but they pour it out of room-temperature plastic pitchers that sit at the drink stations without being refrigerated. Maybe that’s why. We also found it funny that they REALLY push the orange juice on you. My hubby said, “Do you think it’s because they want you to stay healthy?” He may have been proven right when a German server said, “Have orange juice. You need. Yes. I pour. It is vitamin C.” Hmm, okay then.
Next chapter: Chancing Guernsey – Day 2