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Long Review of Emerald Princess, 3/3/28/10, with Photos

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This is a detailed review of the sailing of the Emerald Princess on 3/28/10 with photos. I am including lots of details, so if you don’t like long, detailed reviews, you better skip this one. Otherwise, enjoy. I am including some photos uploaded from my picasa web album. I have tried to make them larger, without any luck. So, I’m sorry for the size, but I can post the link to my album if you want to see the photos larger.

 

My DH and I sailed during spring break week…we are both in our mid 40s. My fifteen year old twin children were with their dad this week, so did not accompany us, but they have cruised many times and we are sailing again as a family on the Carnival Freedom in June. In fact, although we have sailed NCL, Disney, HAL and Carnival (this was our first Princess cruise), as a family we prefer Carnival and I will be comparing/contrasting this review with what we have experienced on Carnival.

 

I booked this cruise very last minute…in fact 20 days before sailing. I had been watching for an inexpensive, last minute cruise for this week and was looking at HAL Eurodam for a while, but then the price on the Emerald Princess reduced dramatically several times. We ended up sailing for just under $75 a person per day including all taxes for an inside guarantee (we ended up on Baja, deck 11, room 712). Soon after we booked, the ship sold out and one couple on our roll call was even offered a great deal on a future cruise if they did not sail this week, so I guess Princess actually overbooked this week. I think we just hit it at the right time when there were only a few rooms left and they wanted to get them sold. Since we had never tried Princess before, we were eager to give them a try. The fact that they were also owned by Carnival was a plus, because we like what Carnival has to offer. The travel agent also rated Emerald as a five star ship compared to the four and half stars they give to Carnival Spirit and Conquest class ships, so we were eager to see what the differences were.

 

Day 1: 3/28/10:

 

We live in Orlando, so departed the morning of the cruise for the 3.5 hour drive to Port Everglades. We sailed out of this port for the first time last spring break, on the Carnival Miracle. Just a note, there are two addresses listed for Port Everglades, one on 10th Ave., and one on Eller Dr. We put the 10th Ave address into our GPS as well as mapquesting the route last year and ended up on a 10th Ave in Ft. Lauderdale that was NOT at the port. After asking directions, we found we were only about 10 minutes away, but to avoid confusion, use the Eller Ave. address for maqquest and your GPS. We met others on that Miracle cruise who had the same issue, so beware! It is actually a very easy drive…FL Turnpike to I-595 East, which takes you straight into the port. There was very little traffic on 3/28/10 and we were at the port before 11 am.

 

Several on our roll call were doing off site parking, however for the peace of mind, we always park at the port. We like to arrive early and the off site buses to the port don’t start until 11 am. The price for parking at Port Everglades is $15 a day. After first going to the drop-off area and leaving our luggage with a porter, we parked the car and took our carry-ons with us.

 

Even though we booked so late, I did a lot of research on Princess and found that they are one of the few lines (I think HAL is the other one) that actually allows you to bring as much wine as you want aboard the ship. We have never done more than pack a bottle of champagne on previous cruises, but since Princess seems to have no restrictions on wine (I don’t think they allow beer to be brought on board), we went to Total Wine in Orlando and bought 7 bottles of our favorites to take with us. We transported these on board in a “carry-on” small rolling suitcase, which we put through security. No problems at all. In a rolling duffle which we left with a porter, we packed two six packs of 24 oz Pepsi Max (DH is a Pepsi drinker). I had an 8 pack of 12 oz. bottles of diet coke for me. We like to have a soda in the room and it seems ridiculous to pay the $1.95 the ship charges for a can of soda from the mini bar. We still had plenty of drinks aboard the ship, so Princess still made a fair amount from us.

 

Just as we reached the entrance to the check-in building, we were stopped and told that the building was full and we would have to wait for a few minutes. We waited about 5 minutes and then went through security and to the check-in area. As we walked in, we were given a number and told to take a seat. We were told that we could check in as soon as our number was called. Although it was about 11 am at this point, the area was rather full. As has been mentioned in other reviews, the terminal for Princess is pretty shabby. It looks like part of it might be under renovation, but it is not an impressive start to a vacation! A lady sitting across from us went up to ask what the hold-up was and was told that the ship had not been cleared yet from it’s previous sailing, so check-in could not proceed until the ship was cleared. We waited about 30 minutes and they began to call numbers. Our number was 7, so it was not long before we were called. We were then directed to a counter where you checked in according to your assigned deck. We got in line at the Baja counter, but were soon directed to an attendant at the Caribe line who was free. Check-in was a breeze…after presenting our boarding pass (which we printed out from home), credit card and passports, we were handed our sail and sign cards. I was a bit dismayed to see that we had been assigned “any time dining,” but knew this was a possibility since we were waitlisted for second seating, which we prefer.

 

We skipped the embarkation photo as we never seem to take a good one…too harried I guess from the travel, and after a brief stop to have our photo taken for identification with our sail and sign card, we entered the ship. There were attendants directing people as they walked on and we were happily surprised that the attendant, seeing we had a rolling carry-on bag, directed us to our room to drop off our bag. It was now just before noon. We are used to not being able to access our rooms until 1:30 pm, so this was a nice surprise. We found our room, which was located aft, right near an elevator (very convenient for the Horizon Court and Skywalkers) and got our first glimpse.

 

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This photo was taken the last night of the cruise, when we had packed up most of our things.

 

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After checking out the room, which was equipped with a flat screen TV (however you cannot book shore excursions or check your bill from the TV, unlike other lines), small refrigerator, large closet and plenty of shelves, we headed up to the Horizon Court for some food. Horizon Court is located on deck 15, the Lido Deck. Since it is located aft, it proved quite convenient from our room. There are 3 main areas to get food inside the Horizon Court…two are called Horizon Court and the third is called the Caribe Café. We did not find the Caribe Café open too often (my dining guide lists it as being open from 4 am to 6 am for pastries and drinks, although we certainly never went then, and from 5:30 pm to 4 am). I don’t remember if it was opened for the opening lunch buffet or not. We entered into one of the Horizon Court areas and immediately noticed the cramped, closed feeling of the food area. The food area is behind a gate, which can be closed when the buffet is closed. While there were plenty of food choices, it seemed to me that the area was too tight to accommodate the number of people. It was also very warm in there due to the heat from the steam tables. There were lots of choices…sliced cheese, a nice salad bar, plenty of desserts and breads, carved turkey, accompanying veggies, various sandwiches, etc. My husband had some croque monsieur sandwiches, which were ok, but if you’ve had one in France, these did not compare! I had some sliced cheese, a salad, and some sliced turkey and cranberry sauce, which was very tasty. There is plenty of seating in the Horizon Court area, but during busy times, the area does fill up quickly and we found that at peak breakfast hours, we would have to go to the side that was not open to find a seat. We found a seat and soon a drink server came by to offer us a cocktail (tea, coffee, and lemonade are available free in this area). I had the Mango Madness, which was described as a tropical cocktail flavored with mango and DH had the Beverly Hills Iced Tea, which was a Long Island Iced Tea topped with sparking wine instead of coke. Both drinks were served in plastic glasses slightly smaller than the ones that the Carnival funship are served in. The drinks were fine, but quite weak and had a lot of ice. I do not drink hard liquor often, so drinks usually hit me rather hard, but these were very weak. For $6.95 a piece, we felt like we were paying for mostly fruit juice and ice. This turned out to be a theme of most of the specialty drinks on board. We ended up trying quite a few, a Margarita, Dirty Banana, Bushwhacker, Mai Tai, and all were rather weak. All are priced at $6.95. From 8 pm to closing at the bars, they offer a “power drink” special with $2.99 Long Island Iced Teas, frozen pina coladas and Singapore slings. I had a few pina coladas and DH enjoyed the Long Island iced teas. These seemed to be slightly stronger than the regular drinks and as such, a much better value.

 

While we were eating our lunch, a sommelier came by asking if we were interested in booking the Maitre D’s wine tasting, which would be offered the first sea day, Tuesday. We love wine tastings and usually try to do them on our cruises, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity again. We presented our sail and sign card and were charged $25 a person for the tasting, which would be held on Tuesday afternoon.

 

After lunch, we walked around the ship and ended up at Level 5, where the Vines Wine Bar is located. This is a lovely spot and has quite an extensive wine list. They offered a favorite of my husband’s, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which he enjoys because in college he spent semester in Avignon, France, where the wine is produced. He had a glass of that and I had a “flight,” which was a tasting (about ½ glass of each) of 3 different French wines, two reds and a white. My flight was priced at $8.50 and I think DH’s glass was around the same. We loved this place and the waiter was outstanding, asking about which wines we prefer and making suggestions. He offered us the free tapas, which are served when you have a glass of wine here, but since we had just had lunch, we declined. They also offer sushi, free with a glass of wine. We are not sushi eaters, so did not try it, but did have the tapas one day and while they were tasty, they were not a favorite.

 

This is a photo of Vines:

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I noticed the International Café next door to Vines and was impressed by the variety of offerings…little cups of tiramisu, cheesecake, chocolate cake, etc. Even though we had just eaten, we had not had dessert, so both DH and I indulged in a tiramisu, which was wonderful. This area continued to be a favorite during our time on the ship and for breakfast, the café offered muffins, croissants and other pastries, while lunch offerings included shrimp salad, chicken salad, ham and cheese croissants, and soups. They also had freshly baked cookies, which were to die for! Gelato is served for a small fee of $1.50 for three scoops. It looked divine and we always meant to try it, but never did. The coffee bar is right next door and while we don’t drink coffee, we heard from several on the ship that the coffee card was good value.

 

International Cafe:

 

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Coffee Bar:

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I had read that the Crown Grill books up rather quickly, so our next stop was to make a reservation here. The location of Crown Grill seems odd to me….it is on Deck 7, midship, right by the Photo Gallery. To me, it would seem that the premium steakhouse on board should command a more secluded, private area, but having read such good reviews of the restaurant, we wanted to give it a try. We asked the person making reservations what nights would be formal on the ship, wanting to eat in the MDR on those nights. After being told that Tuesday and Thursday would be the formal nights, we decided on Friday for Crown Grill, knowing Saturday would be a sea day and we would not have to be up early. As it turned out, this would be a mistake…more on that later.

 

We then located Sabatini’s, the other Princess restaurant which charges a surcharge, which was not so easy, as it is located aft on Deck 16, in a very private, secluded area. After looking at the menu, we decided that it was not something we really wanted to try, so did not make a reservation there. As it turns out, we would eat there later in the cruise and it was one of our favorite dining experiences, but on this first day, we decided to give it a pass.

 

Knowing that muster was scheduled at 4:30, we decided to go back down to the cabin and see if our luggage had arrived. Our roll call had scheduled a meet and greet at 3 pm, but we were so caught up in exploring the ship, that we missed it entirely. Sorry guys! We returned to the cabin to find all 3 of our bags outside the door, so we took them inside and DH took a short nap while I unpacked. Unlike other cruises we have been on, the closet had plenty of hangers (I had packed some clothes on hangers as well), so we ended up hanging up most of our clothes and using the shelves for folded up t-shirts. We had more than enough storage space for 2 people and did not even use the one cabinet located on in the main bureau. The bathroom also had storage on one side of the mirror with 3 shelves (some ships we have been on have 3 shelves on both sides of the mirror), but it was plenty for us. I also travel with a hanging shoe holder, which I hung on the outside of the bathroom door, since the closet does not have a door. It came in handy for cameras, sunglasses, etc. The safe takes a 4 digit code, rather than a magnetic strip, as we have had on other cruises. We emptied the refrigerator of the cans of soda the ship had stocked it with and left those on top of the counter during the cruise. We then filled the refrigerator with our sodas and the bottle of champagne I had brought on. All of our suitcases fit easily under the bed, so by the time of muster, we were unpacked.

 

Some time during our unpacking, the room steward stopped by and asked if everything was ok. We asked for two wine glasses, which were promptly delivered. He was not overly friendly, but did speak to us when we saw him. We received no towel animals during the trip, which was fine with us, but appears to make or break some people’s experiences!! I don’t know if Princess just doesn’t do towel animals or if maybe they only do them for cabins with children. In any event, it did not affect our enjoyment of the cruise one way or the other!

 

I had also read about the exceptionally hard beds on Princess and had every intention of faxing ahead to request the egg crate, but time got away from me and I never got around to doing this. After testing the bed out, we decided it was not too hard, so did not bother about asking for the egg crate once on board. What did disappoint were the rather wimpy feather pillows. We had two each, but they were very flat. We could have asked for extra, but never got around to it, so I guess it didn’t bother us too much!

 

By now, it was time for muster drill, so we got our life jackets and proceeded to the Club Fusion, which was where our Muster Station was located. How nice to have muster drill inside a nice air conditioned lounge rather then to be squished together out on a deck!! Attendants directed incoming passengers to empty seats and a recording played with directions for an emergency. Crew members demonstrated the use of the life jackets and after trying ours on, we were shortly given the go ahead to return to the cabin. We returned to our cabin and headed up to Skywalker’s to watch sail away.

 

Skywalker’s is the disco on the top of the ship (deck 18, aft). It has large windows and so offers an excellent view in a comfortable, air conditioned environment. One side of the club was reserved for suite guests and had a small buffet set out, but a server directed us to the other side and we ordered drinks. By this time, we knew the “signature cocktails” were rather wimpy, so I had a champagne cocktail and DH ordered a glass of wine. We also asked to see a wine list, just to get a feel for what they sold by the bottle. We were told that Skywalkers did not sell wine by the bottle. The wine list was rather small here. I don’t remember where he got it, but one time DH ordered a “house” wine and it was served from a box. This is also the first look we got at the “power hour” drink prices from 8 pm to closing. Skywalkers (and other bars that we went to) had the menu on the table with the $2.99 offerings for a pina colada, Singapore Sling, and Long Island iced tea (there might have been one more drink on the menu that I am not remembering). As I mentioned earlier, we enjoyed these specials when we visited clubs and bars after dinner.

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This is a photo of Skywalker's

 

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Another view:

 

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Skywalkers offered a great view of our sail away and we relaxed and enjoyed our drinks. Our part of the club was empty. There were a few guests in the suite area, but it was nearly empty as well. After our drinks, we went down to the cabin to get ready for dinner. When we returned to the cabin, we saw that the beds had already been turned down. The Princess Patters would appear later, being slid under our door while we were at dinner.

 

We were waitlisted for late seating dinner, which is what we prefer, but were given anytime dining. We decided to give it a try one night and try to switch the next day if we decided it was not for us. We tend to eat late, so were hoping that most people who had anytime dining would be eating earlier than 8 pm. Wrong!! Two dining rooms are listed as being open for anytime dining, The Da Vinci Dining Room and the Michelangelo. We went to the Da Vinci and waited in line about 10 minutes to reach the front, where we requested a table for two. We were presented with a pager and told it would be about a 20 minute wait. We were told the pager would work on decks 5-7, but not to go past the midship area. We looked in the shops and happened upon the Michelangelo dining room. Thinking maybe that the Michelangelo would not be as crowded, we took a peek and their line for a pager was longer than the Da Vinci had been. So far, our opinion of anytime dining was not a good one. The shops were really no different from other cruise ships…same logo merchandise, liquor area, fine jewelry area, etc., so we went through those very quickly and then sat down in the lobby area to listen to some music. It was pretty close to 20 minutes exactly when our buzzer went off. We went back to the dining room and were shown to a table for two.

 

If you have seen the movie, “Valentine’s Day,” the tables for two are like the ones shown in the restaurant that the couples eat at on Valentine’s Day. A long banquet with small tables spaced pretty close together….one person sits on the banquet and one at a chair. The spacing of the tables was not as close as in the movie, but they were close. So much so, that couples seemed to regularly join in the conversation of the couple sitting next to them, because you could not help but overhear them. So….if you want the privacy of your own table with all the benefits of table mates, this is for you! For a romantic dining experience for two, not so much!

 

Oh, I almost forgot…remember all those bottles of wine we brought on board. Well, I wanted to try bringing a bottle to the MDR. We have never done this before on any other cruise and DH seemed to think it was a bit silly, but since it seemed that Princess does not mind you bringing wine on board, I wanted to test it out. So, we walked in with our bottle and sat it on the table. The waiter had an assistant this night (other nights we were seated in the same area with the same waiter and he seemed to have no help at all). The assistant told us there would be a $15 corkage fee for the wine and gave us the proper glasses and opened the wine for us. He presented my husband with the bottle as if we had ordered it off the ship and even had my husband take a small taste first. DH joked, “What if I don’t like it…do I send it back?” Neither the waiter nor his assistant acted like there was anything odd about us bringing a bottle on board and we actually saw one other man also carrying a bottle. So, I would assume that this fairly common. We ended up bringing a bottle with us each night we ate in the MDR (at Crown Grill and Sabatini’s we ordered from their list).

 

The menu for this first night was pretty good. I started with a cheese plate, which was a bit larger than Carnival’s and had several types of cheese, including some brie, some grapes, and some bread. I’m sorry, but I have very few food photos, so no food porn in this review. DH started with a shrimp cocktail and was a little taken aback by the fact that the cocktail sauce was poured directly over the shrimp, rather than being in a separate area to dip into. But, we both enjoyed our appetizers. I had soup for my 2nd course (I think DH had the same)…don’t’ remember the name, but it was a beef broth with some seafood in it, as I recall. We both had the prime rib, which was served with a baked potato and accompanied by au jus and horseradish. Tiramisu was our dessert. Dinner was good and probably one of the best nights in the MDR. Just as on Carnival, the Princess menu includes several items that are always available, including the cheese plate, shrimp cocktail, and a steak.

 

Our waiter was friendly, but not overly solicitous. We ended up sitting in the same area every night in the MDR except for one and had the same waiter each night except for one, so he did get to know some of our preferences, but it wasn’t the same relationship that you build up with your wait staff when you have the regularly assigned seating.

 

It had been a long day, so we headed to bed after dinner. We are accustomed to the steward coming into the room while we are at dinner to tidy up. We both shower before dinner, so there were wet towels in the bathroom. We returned to find the bathroom just as we had left it, with wet towels and no dry ones for the morning (they just give you 2 bath towels). We then discovered another flaw with anytime dining…the steward has no idea what time you are eating dinner, so does not know when to come into your room at night. We solved this problem the rest of the cruise by putting the “service please” card in our door when we went to dinner.

 

It had been a good first day, but the next day was Princess Cay, so we wanted to get a good night’s sleep.

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Day 2: 3/29/10

 

We woke up after a good night’s sleep. Since our cabin was located aft, we did feel some vibration when the ship stopped in each of the ports, but not enough to bother us. Although the cabin was located near the elevator, we really did not hear much outside noise.

 

We went to breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room. The breakfast menu was certainly one of the most limited we have seen…no eggs benedict except for one day, when it is the “special”. This morning the special of the day was blueberry Maine pancakes, which did not appeal to us, so both DH and I ordered omelets. I had ham, cheese and mushrooms in mine. DH just had ham and mushrooms. The ham was chopped so finely as to be almost unrecognizable, an opinion seconded by the couple seated next to us. The menu listed “bacon rasher” as one of the side choices, so, thinking it would be like a rasher of bacon served in the UK, I ordered it. What I received were 3 pieces of fatty, undercooked bacon. DH ordered sausage with his omelet, which was regular link sausage. I had English breakfast tea and DH ordered orange juice, which was served in a very small glass, slightly larger than a shot glass.

 

He said the oj tasted pretty watered down. Breakfast pastries were offered and DH took a croissant. Half way through the meal, I decided I would like a croissant and asked for one, only to be told they were out. Ok, this is Day 2 of a seven day cruise and they are out? Not to worry, there were croissants available the rest of the cruise, but apparently our server didn’t want to find one! Again, we were seated at a table for two on the other side of the dining room from where we had eaten dinner the previous night. And again, we engaged in conversation with the couple seated next to us, because we were so close. We were not overly impressed with the MDR breakfast and did not partake of breakfast in the MDR again until the last day of the cruise.

 

As we were leaving the dining room, we asked who we should speak to about changing our dinner assignment, since after trying anytime dining, we decided it was not for us. We were given an extension to call and when I called, one of the options was for making dinner reservations. In all my research, I had missed the fact that you can, in fact, make reservations for dinner with anytime dining. So, we decided to make a reservation for 8 pm and see how that worked.

 

We returned to the room to change into our swimsuits for Princess Cays. The steward had already been in to clean the room. We had pre-booked a clamshell for Princess Cays ($24), so knowing we did not have to rush to get a beach chair, we did not feel the need to rush over on the first tender. We got changed and went to the Michelangelo dining room, as instructed, to obtain a tender ticket. We waited a short time until our number was called and then tendered over. DH was a bit dismayed to see that no one was checking the numbers on the tender tickets when you went to board and it seemed that some were not waiting for their number and just boarding at will. Oh well…

 

Tender:

 

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Clam Shell:

 

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Other photos of Princess Cays:

 

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We arrived at Princess Cays and asked where we went to claim our clamshell and were directed to the right of the tender over a small bridge. So, Princess Cays is actually two small islands. At a little shack, we handed over our reservation ticket sheet for the Clamshell, which had been delivered to the room the previous day. In its place we were handed a worn piece of paper that looked like it had been used for months on end to give to the attendant to set up our clamshell. The area immediately behind the little shack was already filled with clamshells, some 3 deep, so that the ones in the back did not have a view of the water at all, but only of the clam shells in front of them. We followed our attendant and walked for quite a way down the beach to a spot less crowded, where he set up our clamshell. It was a hot day and we would have liked to have tipped our attendant, but we had read that Princess Cays did not accept cash, only the sail and sign card, so we did not bring any cash with us. It would be helpful if Princess would let their guests know that cash is accepted at the native stands, which offer hair braiding and some craft items and of course, for tips. So, after only a “thank you” to our attendant, we got settled in our clamshell. It did not take long for us to realize that we were pretty far from the bars, restrooms, gift shops, etc. However, we did have an unobstructed view of the water, which was the trade off. We got settled and soon, DH was looking for a drink. We had not seen any servers in our area, so went to the closest bar and ordered two “Captain’s Bounty” drinks, which were like a Long Island Iced Tea made with Capt. Morgan spiced rum. They were tasty and about the strongest drinks we had the entire week. Princess sends their wait staff and bar staff to the island…the only natives seemed to be the attendants operating the rentals area and of course, the people in the little stands selling native goods. We then returned to our clamshell and spent some time reading and relaxing. Later on in the day, a bar server did make her way down to us. We saw people returning with plates of food from the BBQ lunch buffet served, but we were full from breakfast, so did not even get up to look at the buffet. From the number of people returning with plates, I can only assume there was limited seating in the buffet area. From what we could see, it looked like hamburgers, hotdogs, some fruit, just a regular beach BBQ.

 

The area of the beach where the clamshells are located is to the right when you tender. However, this area of the beach is very rocky…I went out to walk in the water and came back and got my flip flops to wear (I had brought water shoes and left them in the cabin the only day we needed them…isn’t that always the way!). Others were walking into the water, but the rocks underneath were hard on your feet, so this was not the prime beach area at all. To the left of the tender seemed to be a much nicer beach, which is where most people snorkeled. However, clamshells were not located in this area. We live in FL so are used to nice beaches. Princess Cays was a big disappointment and I can only compare it to the only other private island we have visited, Castaway Cay, with the Disney Cruise Line. IMHO, there is no comparison…Princess Cays is a distant second to Castaway Cay. DH says that Disney has years of experience in land based resorts and used this experience to make Castaway Cay a true island paradise. We loved our day there…not only was the beach beautiful, but the island is much larger than Princess Cays, which DH estimated to be about 5 acres tops. In fact, we saw that Disney is now offering week cruises with 2 stops at Castaway Cay, further testament to the island paradise that it is.

 

The last tender from Castaway Cay was at 3:15 pm. At about 2 pm we gathered up our things and walked around to where the shops were. The shops did not have much to offer…again they were very small. As stated earlier, there were a few stalls of island women selling what looked like handmade items, but they only took cash, so we did not really look at those. The line for the tender was already winding its way around the gift shop area, so we got in line and made our way back to the ship. Princess Cays was definitely a disappointment.

 

After going back to the room and changing, we made our way to the Pizzeria, located on Deck 15, midship. We loved the pizza on the Emerald…it was much better than Carnival’s. It was like real NY pizza, with a very thin crust and heavy on the cheese. Also, the Pizzeria never seemed to be crowded, unlike Carnival’s, which always had a line in the mid-afternoon. Scoops Ice Cream Bar is next to the Pizzeria and unlike on Carnival, it is not self serve. There is an attendant to give you your soft serve cones and we even saw milk shakes being made there. The line for ice cream tended to be longer than the line for pizza. After our late lunch, we went for a nap. You know it’s hard work relaxing on the beach!!

 

We went to dinner in the Da Vinci dining room again. I don’t know whether the Michelangelo dining room has tables for two or not, but whenever I would call for a dinner reservation (which I did each morning that we planned to eat in the MDR for that night’s dinner), we were always given the Da Vinci dining room. This time, it was only a few minutes until we were seated. The reservation system seemed to work, so we made the decision to stick with anytime dining. It was not our first choice and in future cruises we have booked second seating, but it was ok for this week. We were seated in the exact same area as on the previous evening (there were only two areas with tables for two in the dining room) and had the same waiter. Again, we brought a bottle of wine with us and he took it without question, brought the appropriate glasses, and had DH taste the wine first, just as he did the previous night.

 

We both had the cheese plate to start with. I had it almost every night and the cheeses varied slightly, but it was always good and I enjoy the cheese with the wine. For our second course, we had a tortellini soup, which was a beef broth with some tortellini in it. It was nothing special, but ok. We both ordered the steak from the “always available” side of the menu. It was listed as filet, but did not really seem to be as tender as filet mignon we are used to. I ended the dinner with cheesecake (DH was too full for dessert). I had a cappuccino and DH had a double espresso. Unlike Carnival, Princess charges for after dinner coffees. The cappuccino was good, but much more than I could drink. DH enjoyed his espresso.

 

The piano bar has always been a favorite for us on cruises, so we were anxious to check this one out. Crooners is the piano bar and is located on Deck 7, midship. It is the martini bar and has lots of specialty martinis. DH enjoyed trying the different chocolate martinis. Brendan Jones, from Australia, was the piano player for the week and we liked him. He really endeared himself to us when someone requested “Sweet Caroline” and he resisted a bit, saying it was always requested and was just not a good song! We tend to agree…this is much overplayed in piano bars. He further endeared himself to us by knowing who Robbie Williams is and being able to play “Angels” for us. He also shared the fact that “Angles” won the award of best song of the last century in the UK! Robbie is not popular in the USA, but is very well known in every other part of the world, so we always enjoy cruising to meet others who know of his work!!

 

Crooners:

 

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We listened to Brendan’s first set. DH tried several of the dessert martinis and said they were good, but I was way too full from dinner to order anything else. When Brendan took a break, we decided to go to SkyWalkers for the “90s Video Vault”. On the way, we passed by Club Fusion. We heard the song, “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan and thinking they were playing a recording of the song, we stopped in, since it is one of our favorite songs. Well, we found out that Club Fusion had karaoke going on and what we were listening to was not a recording of Bob Dylan, but instead a man doing karaoke who sounded exactly like Dylan. It was uncanny. The man just stood there and sang and it was like listening to Dylan. We decided to stay for the rest of the karaoke and most were very good. They were having a contest and to our great disappointment, the Bob Dylan guy lost (if you are reading this, you were ROBBED…you rocked!!). The winner, chosen by audience reaction, was a guy who did a Sinatra song, “Fly Me to the Moon”. He was a showman and ran around the club, really working the audience as he sang. At the end, the MC asked if he was a professional, to which he replied, “no”. He was ok, but IMHO, the Bob Dylan guy should have won! I’m not sure what the winner actually received, if anything. After the karaoke, they did a Disco Inferno where we danced for a couple of songs. The first song was by ABBA, which got everyone out dancing.

 

After Club Fusion, we made our way to Skywalkers, where they were doing a 90s Video Vault and then the Wild Bunch Party. They seemed to play 90s videos the entire time we were there and it was fun to watch. I think this is where I had my first $2.99 pina colada and DH had a Long Island Iced Tea, which was also on the $2.99 menu. The drinks were good and we enjoyed watching the videos until we got tired.

 

Skywalkers at Night:

 

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We went back to the cabin at around 12:30 and were happy to see that since we had put the “Service Please” card in our room when we left for dinner, that the room had been cleaned and we had clean towels.

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Tuesday, 3/30/10, Sea Day

 

We had read about the Pub Lunches offered in the Wheelhouse Bar on sea days, so decided to sleep in, skip breakfast and go for the pub lunch. I lived in England for 4 years, so love pub food and was anxious to try this. So, we left the cabin around 10:30 and walked around until 11:30, when the pub lunch began. There was not a large crowd at all and we were seated immediately. The choices were bangers and mash, fish and chips, cottage pie or a ploughman’s lunch. I had the fish and chips, served with mushy peas. They were very good; the fish tasted fresh and the chips were the big, steak house variety. Accompanied with plenty of malt vinegar, it was wonderful. DH had the cottage pie and liked it as well. They served Guinness beer as well as some other English beers, but we did not try the beers.

 

Fish and Chips

 

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Menu:

 

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Wheelhouse Pub:

 

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DH outside of pub:

 

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After lunch though, we did go to Vines Wine Bar where my DH had some wine. The waiter was so nice there. He remembered us from the first day and remembered that DH liked Chateauneuf de Pape and brought him out another wine to taste that was meant to be similar in taste. I did not want any wine and just ordered water, but the waiter insisted on bringing us out two tapas plates, even though I insisted I could just sample from DH’s plate. The tapas plate consisted of two meatballs…one was BBQ and another was pork, and some chicken wings in a sauce. This was the only time we sampled the tapas and I was not overly impressed with the food, but didn’t want to offend the nice waiter, so I ate the meatballs and let DH eat my wings. While we were there, a lady came up to the bar and pretty much demanded that they give her some sushi. The waiter explained that the sushi was complementary with the wine, but the lady rather rudely insisted she had bought enough wine on the ship to merit some sushi. I don’t know whether they really did not have any sushi at that time (a short while later, a gentleman who did order wine was given sushi) or whether the waiter just did not like the lady’s attitude, but he told her they did not have any sushi ready then and to come back later that evening. Then, the lady went on to question him about what kind of sushi they would have that evening and that she really wanted California rolls. It was just her demanding attitude that was so offensive. This waiter was the most accommodating, nicest person we encountered on the entire ship and this woman was basically ripping him to shreds. It was the basic “ugly American” syndrome and it is not hard to see why some of the international staff on cruise ships get a bad view of Americans from the rude behavior of just a few.

 

However, DH loved Vines and had several glasses of his favorite wine while there this afternoon.

 

We then went and sat out by the pool area. I could usually find one lounge chair. DH prefers to sit in the shade at a table. I went in the hot tub, which had moments when it was not crowded. I do like the pool area on the Emerald Princess. It reminds me of Carnival’s Spirit Class ships and is so much better and makes better utilization of space than the Carnival Conquest Class. There are 2 pools midship, an adult only pool in the forward area, near the Sanctuary and a small pool in the back of the ship along with several hot tubs scattered throughout. The hot tubs were hot and the pools are fresh water.

 

The big screen area is by one of the midship pools and it was rather distracting to hear the movies playing. I wish there was a way they could issue head phones for the movies so that others did not have to hear the soundtracks.

 

We also went and sat out on the Promenade deck and read in the comfortable, padded chairs. This is a lovely area to sit and read and almost feels like you have a balcony! It seems to be under utilized, as we could always find chairs here and it was a very relaxing place to sit.

 

Promenade Deck:

 

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We basically relaxed until it was time to head to the Michelangelo Dining Room at 2:45 pm for our wine tasting. The wine tasting was fun and informative and several different sommeliers presented the six different wines we sampled. For those interested, the wines were Veuve Clicquot, Brut; Pouilly-Fuisse; Chardonnay, Cuvaison, Carneros; Murrieta’s Well Meritage; Siverado Cabernet Sauvignon, and Opus 1 by Mondavi-Rothschild. The big selling point when we booked the wine tasting was the Opus 1, which is sold on ship for $169 a bottle. It was ok, but honestly nothing special. I prefer whites and DH prefers his Chateauneuf du Pape. The wine was accompanied by a canapés platter for each couple, which had lobster, shrimp, salmon, etc. We were seated at a large table for 8. There were some smaller tables for 4. The presentation lasted about an hour and at the end we were given the opportunity to purchase some wines, which were pre-boxed in a cardboard carry container for ease of transporting off the ship. They said if we wanted to enjoy the purchased wine at dinner, they would waive the $15 corkage fee. We did not see many people taking advantage of this special.

 

Canapes served at wine tasting:

 

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I think we got a snack after the wine tasting…we would usually go for some pizza in the late afternoon and then went back to the cabin for a nap before dinner.

 

This was the first formal night, so although our dinner reservation was for 8 pm, we wanted to get ready early to try to have a formal portrait taken and to see the Captain’s Champagne Waterfall, which was scheduled for 7:30 pm. The lobby area really began to fill up as people lined the stairs trying for a good viewing spot for the champagne waterfall. Waiters walked around with trays of champagne and hors d-oevres (we had some champagne and passed on the hors d’oevres) while we waited. They were doing portraits of people with the champagne water fall, so we finally made our way down the stairs to level 5 for a portrait.

 

I then realized I had a run in my stocking so when we returned to the cabin so I could change; DH grabbed a bottle of champagne for dinner. We again ate in the Da Vinci dining room, but this time were seated on the opposite side of the room from where we had eaten previously. We had a different waiter, but the Maitre d’ took our champagne as we walked in and handed it to the waiter, who kept it chilled in a bucket during our dinner.

 

Again, we started with the cheese plate. Escargots were not on the menu, but the waiter told us they had them, so I had that as my second course, while DH had soup. The escargots were as good as any I have had and I noticed the gentleman seated next to us ordered several helpings. We both had the filet mignon as our entrée and it was much better than the steak on the “always available menu”. I think it was served with some vegetables…it could have used a potato. I did see someone order a potato with it, so I guess they had it available, although it was not listed on the menu. Oh well, better to skip the carbs!! For dessert, I had the chocolate brownie with ice cream, which was a bit overcooked, but still good. DH had the double espresso.

 

As mentioned above, tonight we were seated with a different waiter. He did not take our sail and sign card when we sat down, as the previous waiter had done to charge our corkage fee. After our dessert and coffee, we waited, thinking he would bring something for us to sign for DH’s coffee and the corkage fee. After waiting for a while longer, we signaled to him indicating we’d like the check and he indicated that we were good to go. We were not charged a corkage fee on the wine on the second formal night either, so we wonder if this is some unwritten rule on Princess, that coffee and corkage fees are waived on formal nights?

 

Tonight was “80s Retro Night” in Club Fusion and since the 80s is our era, when DH and I met in college, we went for a bit. After listening to some music and dancing, we realized it was now 2010 and we could no longer party like we could in the 80s, so we did the sensible thing and went to bed.

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First Formal Night:

 

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Wednesday, 3/31/10, St. Maarten

 

Today we docked in St. Maarten. We had heard ahead of time that 7 ships would be in port today, including the massive Oasis of the Seas, which I just read broke all records for it’s sailing this week, with over 6,000 people aboard. We have been to St. Maarten twice before, on both the French and Dutch side and decided that we did not need to fight throngs of tourists today and that we’d rather take advantage of an empty ship.

 

We went to breakfast at Horizon Court. They do made-to-order omelets, but also had some pre-made omelets out, so I tried one of those along with some French toast and sausage. DH had two breakfast sandwiches, which are like McDonald’s egg McMuffins. Again, the ingredients in the pre-made omelets were chopped so fine as to be almost tasteless. I am a tea drinker and was pleased to see that there was a nice selection of tea bags available for hot tea.

 

After breakfast, DH went up to Skywalkers to read in the air conditioning. I put on my bathing suit and went to the area in the back of the ship below Skywakers, which has a nice sun area and hot tub and small pool. Since this was a port day, this area was pretty much deserted. I got a lounge chair and then it started to sprinkle, so I went back up to Skywalkers to see DH. He was enjoying his book, but not happy that the bar was closed. I kidded him that he should take a bottle of wine from the room and enjoy it up there, but he didn’t do that! It drizzled off and on this day, but nothing major, so I went back down and enjoyed the hot tub and the lounge chair.

 

Pool area at aft:

 

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View of Aft area from Skywalkers:

 

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We went to Horizon Court some time today for lunch. I got some carved roast beef, which was pretty good, with some salad. I think DH skipped lunch, opting for some pizza later in the day.

 

We pretty much took it easy most of the day until 3:30 pm when we did the afternoon tea in the Da Vinci dining room. Unlike Carnival, which lets you choose your type of tea, here the tea was already made in large silver pots, from which the waiters poured. Waiters then came around with trays of cookies, pastries, and sandwiches. Hot scones were also offered, but to my disappointment, they did not have clotted cream to go with the scones, just whipped cream or orange marmalade. Everything tasted very good though and although the tea time was different from what we have experienced on other lines, it was very good none the less.

 

We had our normal 8 pm dining reservation in the Da Vinci dining room, table for two. Tonight was Italian night. We took a bottle of red in to have with dinner and started with an appetizer of eggplant parmesan, which was very good. We then each had the shrimp cocktail and a mixed green salad with blue cheese dressing. Our main entrée was veal marsala, which was very good. I had tiramisu for dessert, while DH opted to skip dessert and just have a brandy. I also had a limoncello, which was served in a souvenir shot glass. Sometime during dinner, a waiter came around booking people for the second wine tasting, to be held on Saturday, the last sea day. This tasting was only $9.50, so we booked.

 

Tonight was the Tropical Island Deck Party, so after dinner we went to the Lido deck to check it out. It was pretty quiet. Some people were line dancing, but most people were just watching. It was not crowded at all. We watched for a bit and then went up to Skywalkers for the “Tubular 80s Video Hour”. Everyone must have been beat from their day in St. Maarten, because Skywalkers was also very empty. DH had a Long Island Iced Tea and I had a pina colada and we requested some Springsteen from the DJ walking around taking requests. He played “Dancing in the Dark”. We enjoyed the 80s videos, but did not dance. Note to self: wine plus lemoncello plus pina colada is not a good mix! Even though the 80s videos were only meant to last one hour, the DJ kept them going, as the club was pretty empty. When he started playing rap music, it was time for the old people to leave and go to bed.

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Thursday, 4/1/10, St. Thomas

 

Today we had breakfast in Horizon Court. This time we tried the made-to-order omelets and they were much better. They have a menu of omelets available, but will take special requests too. I ordered ham, cheese and mushroom, which was not on the menu, but which they were able to make. I heard others ordering egg white only omelets, so special orders are fine. Horizon Court also does fried eggs and has plates of these on the buffet, it you prefer. I also tried the freshly made waffle, but it had little taste, as well as the bread pudding, which was good.

 

Princess docks in the Crown Bay port of St. Thomas.

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We have only been to the Havensight port before and prefer that port because it is within walking distance of many more shops as well as Paradise Point. But, we wanted to see what Crown Bay had to offer, so got off the ship. Near the ship, we saw these

 

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We appeared to be the only shipped docked at Crown Bay. There was a small selection of stores, the usual touristy type of stuff. Nothing we could not live without. I would have liked to take a cab over to Havensight, but DH was starting to get sick, with a nasty cold, so really wanted to just go back to the ship and lie down. We spent maybe an hour walking around Crown Bay and then returned to the ship.

 

DH went to lie down and I walked around and took some photos. The Proposal was playing at 2 pm in the Explorer’s Lounge so I planned to see that. I had tried watching it yesterday on deck, but all the chairs in the shade were taken and I just could not take the sun for the duration of the movie. I went to the International Café for some shrimp salad and got a couple of their warm chocolate chip cookies to take with me to the movie. I got to the Explorer’s Lounge about 1:30 and had my pick of seats. To my surprise, they were playing an episode of the Samantha Brown show from the Travel Channel, which showed her touring the Emerald Princess. It was fun to watch her on our ship and some other people came into the movie before the 2 pm start time, but it was far from crowded.

 

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After the movie, I walked around the ship and found the Sanctuary area. It looked deserted, but this was around 4:30 pm. I would have liked to try it for half a day, but not enough to line up at 7:30 am to reserve it!

 

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Adult pool located under Sanctuary area:

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Another view of Sanctuary:

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Before dinner, we went to the Adagio Bar for a drink. This bar is just outside of Sabatini’s and we looked at the menu again and decided we should give it a try. We were able to book for Saturday night.

 

After a nice drink at the Adagio (champagne cocktail for me, wine for DH), we went for our final dinner in the MDR (we had Crown Grill booked for Friday), taking a bottle of wine with us. This time we were seated with our “regular” waiter, who we had not had the previous formal night. I started with the cheese plate, which had a type of cheese we had never seen before…it really looked like it had black spots in it. It tasted ok though, but just for curiosity’s sake, we asked the waiter what it was. He had to consult a list, but said it was a port wine cheese. I’ve had port wine cheese before, but it never looked like this! But, it tasted fine. DH started with the creamy tomato soup and enjoyed it. For our second course, I had the starter portion of the fettuccini alfredo. I knew this was our last night in the MDR and I really wanted to try it. It was wonderful and I would not hesitate to order the full portion as an entrée in the future. DH had the starter portion of the ravioli with veal and enjoyed that as well. For my entrée, I had the shrimp and lobster, which was almost exactly as Carnival serves it…a small lobster tail with about 3 shrimp. It was good. DH had the beef wellington. He enjoyed it. For dessert, I had the fruit soufflé, which was good, but had absolutely no fruit in it…it was more like a bread pudding. DH had the carrot cake and an Irish coffee. Just as on the previous formal night, we were never presented with anything to sign for our corkage fee or DH’s Irish coffee, even though this same waiter had charged us for our corkage fee every other night.

 

Usually the big production shows are a real draw for us when we cruise, but none had really sounded appealing until this night. Previous shows had included a Motown review, a comic, and a magician, none of which appealed to us. But tonight’s show, “Boogie Shoes,” was billed as a “contemporary rock show that takes a fun and whimsical look at shoes”. Ok, it was not the shoes that got us, but the contemporary rock. So, after dinner, we went to get a seat for the show. I had read that you should get to the theater 30 minutes before the show to get a good seat. Well, 30 minutes before the show it was us and the couple who had sat next to us at dinner. The men grumbled about getting there so early, but the time passed quickly. Unlike Carnival, the Princess Theater is really movie theater like seating…no nice couches with tables for your drinks, but rather seats that fold up as in a movie theater with a little folding table that pops out of the arm rest (kind of like what you find in a school auditorium) for your drink. How a waiter would even get a drink to you if you were seated in the middle is a mystery…there was absolutely no walking room in the aisles when everyone was seated. We did not see many people ordering drinks at all, so are not sure how this works.

 

The show began and I’d give it a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. There were 4 main singers, two guys and two girls. One girl just could not hit the notes…I was really embarrassed for her. I don’t know if she was an understudy who was only on for that night or if she was always there, but she could not sing. The dancers were good, however they did more acrobatics than dancing. Unlike Carnival, where the backup dancers lip sync to the music, all of the dancers had on mics and seemed to be really singing. Technically the show had some “wow” factors…a motorcycle being brought on stage, fog machine and confetti at the end, but all in all it was not up to par with shows we have seen on the other lines. So, that was our first and last show on Princess.

 

We looked in at the Wheelhouse Bar after the show, as they had a live band, Evolution, playing. It was not really our type of music, so we left and briefly looked in at the piano bar, but decided to call it a night. DH was still not feeling great, so we went to bed.

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Friday, 4/2/10, Grand Turk

 

Today we were not scheduled to dock in Grand Turk until 1 pm. We had breakfast in the Horizon Court. I had a made-to-order omelet and DH went with the breakfast sandwiches. After breakfast, DH went to Skywalkers to read and I went to the Michelangelo Dining room for the “onboard outlet sale”. They had tables piled high with clothing items marked up to 75% off. The items looked like they had been thrown on the tables, with no rhyme or reason, and mainly consisted of out of season apparel. They had lots of yoga pants and warm-up type jackets for women as well as t-shirts from Princess’ Baltic cruises. I got DH several t-shirts from destinations such as Copenhagen, Finland, and St. Petersburg. The t-shirts were $3.99 each and were the same quality as those being sold the following day for $10 each. They had lots of larger sizes, going up to XXXL and it was hard to find XL, but I did find three. They also had postcards and magnets from the European cruises and other apparel. Not everything was on discount and some items were full price, so you really had to look at what you were buying. They also had tables of the evening bags and scarves that always sell for $10 on cruises…these were marked at $10 with no discount. It was quite a large selection and I felt like I left with some bargains.

 

Grand Turk is one of my favorite ports, but DH still wasn’t feeling well, so he stayed on the ship and relaxed while I got off the ship. Our last time in Grand Turk was last June on the Carnival Glory and she was the only ship docked on that day. Today, we were docked along with the Glory, who had docked earlier, so by the time we reached Grand Turk at 1 pm, it was already fairly crowded. Margaritaville was a zoo…there were no chairs available by the pool or at the bar. I went in the gift shop briefly and into other shops in the area. It is the typical cruise type shops, Del Sol, Piranha Joe, International Diamonds, etc. They also have a Ron Jon Surf Shop, which we have in Orlando. I walked around a bit and then found a beach chair and relaxed on the beach for a bit. There was zero chance of getting a drink at the Margaritaville bar, so I was glad I had put a bottle of diet coke in my bag. I had read that if you walked down a bit from Margaritaville that there were other food/drink vendors that offered beach chairs, but I walked down a bit and didn’t see anything at all. After a couple of hours, I returned to the ship and went to get DH for a late lunch.

 

Grand Turk:

 

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Carnival Glory on right, Emerald Princess on left:

 

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Ron Jon Surf Shop, Grand Turk:

 

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Beach at Grand Turk (superior to Princess Cays):

 

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DH wanted to try the grill, so he had a cheeseburger and fries, which he said was good, although small. I stuck to the pizza…it was soooo good. We sat at a table and chair and he ordered a dirty banana and I had a bushwhacker. We were hoping we could find a specialty drink that lived up to the description, but these two were pretty weak. DH then decided to try the margarita, but it too was a disappointment. I think he stuck to the out of the boxed house wine after that!

 

I went back to put on my bathing suit to lay out by the pool and DH got his book and read for a bit until it was time to go in to get ready for our dinner at Crown Grill. While I was by the pool, I saw the guy wheeling the cart with the freshly made cookies….what a nice perk!!

 

We had an 8 pm reservation at Crown Grill. I had been looking forward to this all week for the Maine lobster and we deliberately booked for this night, knowing we had a sea day the next day and could sleep in. As I mentioned earlier, the Crown Grill is located on Deck 7 near the Photo Gallery, which is not exactly a secluded place for a quiet dinner, but once inside the restaurant, it does have enough space that you do not feel like you are out on the main area of the ship. We sat down and the waiter brought our menus and told us they were out of the Maine lobster! What!!! How can that be? He explained that they have no real place to keep the lobsters, so only bring a small amount on board and that they are always out by day 5 of the cruise. If this is the case, then I think the maitre d should inform people of this when they make their reservation. We made our reservation the first day of the cruise and presumably could have had our pick of days. Since we chose Friday, I would think the maitre d would say, “we will be out of the lobster by then,” since, according to our waiter, this happens during every cruise.

 

And, I don’t even want to think of the sanitation issue if they have no tank in which to keep the lobsters…where are they keeping them? Upon hearing that, I do not think I’d want to order the Maine lobster any night other than the first night of the cruise. The waiter went on to say that he had served one man 3 Maine lobsters as well as one Brazilian lobster tail earlier in the week, so unlike the specialty restaurant on Carnival, on Princess you can order as much as you like of any course. How anyone could eat 4 lobsters is beyond me though! The waiter said the Brazilian lobster was just as good and that “he preferred it”. Well, what else was he going to say, since they were out of the Maine? I reluctantly went with the Brazilian lobster as my entrée and DH ordered the filet mignon.

 

I began our meal with the grilled foi gras and scallops, which were ok, but nothing special. DH ordered the tiger prawn shrimp starter, which he enjoyed. We also ordered a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape. The second course was much better, black and blue soup, which was onion soup topped with blue cheese. It was very rich and tasty. You can chose vegetables to accompany your entrée and these are served family style with the entree. We chose asparagus, scalloped potatoes, creamed spinach and mushrooms. My lobster was served with asparagus also, so we really didn’t need the extra we had ordered. The vegetables were all very good. We especially liked the scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach. DH liked his steak, although I felt that the Brazilian lobster tail was pretty tasteless.

 

When we booked our reservation, I had seen the seven layer s’mores on the dessert menu and was looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, it did not live up to the description, primarily because it was served cold. I felt like it could have really benefitted from 40 seconds in the microwave!! Whoever heard of a cold s’more? I guess I should have asked for it to be heated, but was pretty disgusted at this point and did not bother. DH skipped dessert, but ordered a brandy.

 

All in all, the meal was a disappointment. Maybe if the Maine lobster had been available I would have felt differently, but the tasteless lobster and cold s’more was not worth the $34 surcharge (the regular charge to eat at the Crown Grill is $25 a person, with $9 extra for lobster). DH did like his meal though, so maybe if I’d ordered the steak, I would have felt differently.

 

We were pretty full after dinner so I could not talk DH into the Movies Under the Stars showing of Michael Jackson’s “This is It”. So, off to bed we went.

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More of the menu from Crown Grill:

 

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Sides Available:

 

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Main Entrees:

 

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Finally, some photos of the interior of Crown Grill (taken when it was closed):

 

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Here we are:

 

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Saturday, 4/3/10, Sea Day

 

The pub lunch was offered again today, so we skipped breakfast and walked around the ship. All during the week there was different entertainment in the Piazza area of the lobby, ranging from a girl doing a hula hoop to previews of the different shows. Today the Piazza entertainer was a juggler billed as Etienne. He was French and told jokes as he juggled. He was pretty entertaining to watch.

 

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At 11:30 we went for our pub lunch. I had the fish and chips again and DH went with the Ploughman’s lunch.

 

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As I inhaled my fish (it was so good), the server came back and asked if I’d like more. Yes, please! We had not been asked our first time, so this was a nice treat. After we finished our lunch, the server asked if we’d like to try the bread pudding with custard sauce. Well, I’d already had two helpings of fish, but what the heck, I could force myself. It was very good.

 

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Rolling ourselves out of the Wheelhouse Bar after lunch, I then went to the t-shirt sale on Deck 7 of the Piazza. Again, tables were set up piled high with shirts. I found the XL table and picked out several for DH, this time with the three Caribbean ports of call we had visited. These shirts were priced at $10 each, but were the exact same quality as the $3.99 Baltic shirts.

 

We just walked around the ship after that and sat by the pool until our wine tasting in the Michelangelo dining room. This time we asked for and received a table for two. We tasted 5 wines, but they did not give us a card with their names, so the only one I recall is the Kendall Jackson chardonnay. There was also a dessert wine served in another souvenir shot glass, so we ended up with 3 shot glasses during the trip. We also had a plate with cheese and fruit to accompany the wine. We felt it was worth the $9.50 charge.

 

Cheese Plate at Wine Tasting:

 

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Unlike other lines, Princess requests that your bags be put out before you go to dinner on the final night. We are used to having the bags out by 11 pm, so after the wine tasting, we went to the room so I could pack up. We were given a tag of “purple 6”, which was scheduled to disembark at 9:10 pm the next morning from the Explorer’s Lounge.

 

Tonight we had our dinner at Sabatini’s. This was definitely our favorite dining experience on board the ship. Whereas the service at the Crown Grill seemed clumsy and forced, the waiters at Sabatini’s seemed like those of any 5 star land based restaurant. We were seated at a table for two with a window view and told that we only had to choose our entrees, as we would be presented with a small portion of all the starters. I asked the waiter where the lobster tail was from and he indicated it was from Canada, so I ordered that as my entrée. DH had the veal chop. We also ordered a bottle of Chianti.

 

The starters were very good; there was some cheese, some salad, fried calamari infused with lime, which was wonderful, and other things that I don’t recall right now. But, it was all very tasty. The waiter then offered us a choice of two soups. I had the seafood soup with bits of mussels, calamari and shrimp while DH had a chicken and vegetable soup. Both were outstanding. Our entrees were also good. The lobster was very tasty and far superior to the tail I had eaten at the Crown Grill. DH loved his veal chop, but it was huge and he was not able to eat more than half of it. For dessert, we both had the tiramisu crème brulee, which was wonderful and the only crème brulee we had on the entire ship. For $20 a person, this meal was outstanding and definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

 

We were so full after dinner that we went back to the cabin and went to sleep. It had been a wonderful week, but all the rich food had done us in!

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Enjoyed it! Thank you.

But darn it -- all those wonderful photos and narration makes me feel like jumping on a cruise ship straightaway.

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Sunday, 4/4/10, Easter

 

I awoke around 6 am as the ship docked in Port Everglades. There was a strong vibration any time we docked. We had set the clock for 7:30 and got up then and got dressed and went to breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room. The special today was french toast coated in corn flakes, so we both ordered it. It was good. Knowing the orange juice glasses were so small, I ordered one too, so DH could have two glasses. After breakfast we went to our assigned spot to wait to disembark, the Explorer’s Lounge. We waited a short time until our number and color were called and, as we were walking out, I suddenly remembered I had left my hat in the cabin. So, we took the elevator back up to the Baja deck and made our way past all the laundry piled on the floors as the stewards changed all the beds. We made it to our cabin and retrieved my hat and then went back down to wait in a short line to disembark. We found our luggage easily and got a porter to help us, since we had 3 suitcases and two carry-ons. The porter loaded up our bags and we got in the line to clear customs. Another porter forced his way up in the line with his party, however our porter stayed with us and waited in line with us. I don’t know if the other party had a plane to catch or what the deal was, but someone commented to the porter about cutting ahead of people and he laughed it off saying, “I am just filling in the gaps in space.” Whatever. We were not in that big a hurry, but it still is rude for others to just cut in line. I have to say that this Customs line was a lot more official than others we have been through after cruises. This was more like when you arrive at the airport, with the customs official seeing one family at a time and taking the time to really look at your passports. After other cruises, the Customs people are just standing there to take your declaration form and don’t even look at your passport, but this was much more official and as such, was taking longer. We made it through and the porter took our bags all the way to our car for us, for which we tipped him very well.

 

It has been a great trip and after a stop in Jupiter to meet an old friend for Easter dinner, we made it home.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

I am glad that we tried Princess, as I can cross that one off my list. Would we sail Princess again? Yes, if the price was right, most definitely. As we cruise the major lines, I have come to the conclusion that the similarities far outweigh the differences. The only caveat to that is that I will not go out of my way to cruise NCL again, because the MDR food was horrible during our Alaskan cruise last summer. However, our next three bookings are with Carnival, so unless a great deal shows up on Princess, it will be at least a year before we sail her again.

 

Anytime dining worked for us once we realized we could make a reservation, however on the future cruises we have booked, I have requested second seating. We like the familiarity you build up with having the same server each night. It just seems a lot more personable. Quality of food in the MDR at dinner was good, but we didn’t feel it was quite up to par with Carnival. The prime rib in the MDR was excellent, but the steak quality, both the filet offered on formal night and the filet on the “always available” menu, just seemed not to be the same quality as Carnival’s. I also like the sides served wit the Carnival dishes better. It seemed Princess neglected the sides, unless you ordered something specific, like a baked potato. Desserts, while tasty, were also not up to par with Carnival, although I will say that the desserts available in the International Café certainly make up for this. On future Princess cruises, we may skip dessert in the MDR entirely and instead head to the International Café.

 

Besides the wonderful offerings of the International Café, we also enjoyed the pub lunch. Food in the Horizon Court was hit or miss. The breakfasts were good and they had some good lunch offerings, but the presentation of the food in the crowded space makes it difficult to go through. IMHO, Carnival presents the buffet areas better. However, freshly baked cookies are definitely a plus on Princess. What luxury to lie in a pool chaise and have someone come around with freshly baked cookies! I know my kids would have loved this perk!!

 

I think that Princess has better pool areas than Carnival, at least on the Conquest Class ships. The pool areas on Emerald Princess never really felt crowded at all and I think there are more pools and hot tubs on Princess.

 

Princess Cays was a disappointment. I don’t know what it would cost Princess to make the beach where they put the clamshells less rocky and more friendly for swimming, but the current set-up is less from ideal. A family next to us had a clamshell and we overheard two girls around 12 years of age come back from the water and tell their parents, “We are at the wrong beach. This is too rocky!” I would imagine a lot of people with kids would be booking the clam shell only to be disappointed when they find out that to enjoy the water they really need to walk to the other side of the beach, which is not a short distance, depending upon where your clamshell is located.

 

Would we bother bringing wine on board again? The savings when we were charged a corkage fee was less than $5 a bottle from the price we paid at Total Wine and what Princess was charging for the same or similar quality of wine. Even though it was relatively painless to wheel the wine aboard in our carry-on bag, we would probably not do this again. The two formal nights in which we were not charged a corkage fee was a bonus however, and if I do sail Princess again, I might try bringing a bottle on formal night just to test my theory that it appears to be an unwritten rule not to charge the corkage fee (or fee for coffee or after dinner drinks) on these nights. I would certainly be interested to hear of others’ experiences with bringing wine on board during formal nights to see if our experience was simply a fluke or if others experienced the same thing!

 

The area around Margaritaville in Grand Turk is hard pressed to handle two cruise ships. During our last trip here, we were the only ship docked and it was pleasant. With two ships in port, it becomes a zoo, impossible to get a seat, a drink or to do much of anything!

 

I’m not sure why Princess docks in Crown Bay, but Havensight is so much more convenient, as you can walk to a large selection of shops as well as to Paradise Point.

 

However, we still had a great week and if a great deal came around on a Princess ship again, I would certainly take it. Thanks for reading my review. If you have any questions, please ask. I have all my Princess Patters too, so can answer specific questions related to scheduling.

 

 

Final Photos:

 

Dome in Lobby Piazza Area:

 

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Looking down from 7th floor to Piazza area:

 

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Movies Under the Stars:

 

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We never did this, but the chairs look comfy!

 

Club Fusion:

 

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Setting up for Champagne Fountain on Formal Night:

 

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Display in International Cafe: These are made of sugar

 

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Yes, it's chocolate, another display at the International Cafe:

 

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DH on St. Maarten day...it drizzled on and off all day...check out the dark clouds!

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Thanks for the great review. We just came off the Emerald March 21 and this really reminded me of the wonderful time we had that week. Great Pics also.

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Wow, what a review! And this is why I want to retire to Orlando so we can catch last minute sailings :)

 

Thanks for posting.

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Thanks for a very interesting long review......love all the details. It was great to see pictures of the Emerald again. My favorite Princess ship so far.:D

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Thank so much for all the thought & work you put into writing your daily review of your cruise. It has been immensely helpful since we'll be on the Emerald in October. I've taken lots of notes & am now more excited than ever!

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Thank you so much for this reveiw. I will be sailing on her in September and now can not wait!!!!! Thanks again

Teri

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That must have taken such a long time to put together. Thank you for such an enjoyable read. Sounds like you settled into your cruise really well. :)

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Thanks so much for all the kind comments. The review was fun to write. I wish I could get the photos a bit larger...I've seen reviews on the Cruise Critic Carnival site, where the photos are much larger.

 

Anyway, this is the only photo we bought on board the ship, the one taken of us by the champagne waterfall. I scanned this one in and it was the right size!

 

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thank you so much for the great review- I cannot wait until we board her!!!:D:D:D

 

Ditto. It was amazing to read reviews like this. T minus 20 days before I meet up with Buffalofirsttimer4, (my practically next door neighbor who lives 2.5 hours from me).

 

Can't wait!!:p

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What a great review..

 

Yes, the pizza is superb..

MUTS is nice too, they walk around with pizza, cookies (& milk), popcorn and blankets.. nice touch..

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MUTS is nice too, they walk around with pizza, cookies (& milk), popcorn and blankets.. nice touch..

 

Assuming you can find a seat. I was told seating is extremely limited and you need to "reserve" early. Question to OP, how bad was the seating issue?

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What a fantastic review!

 

I feel as though I just took this cruise with you. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

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Assuming you can find a seat. I was told seating is extremely limited and you need to "reserve" early. Question to OP, how bad was the seating issue?

 

Unfortunately, we never made it to MUTS. It seemed to be happening when we were having dinner or enjoying the clubs after dinner. One night we considered the late night showing of Michael Jackson's "This is It," but the movie started at 11:15 pm and we were too tired. I would like to try it next time though, especially if they are walking around with pizza, popcorn, and cookies. I know my kids would love that!

 

The photo I took of the seats was taken in late afternoon when they closed off the pool area to prepare the chaises with the MUTS covers.

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