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Island Hopping in the Eastern Caribbean: An Emerald Princess 5/2/10 Review (w/photos)


Hollybelle

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After 7 nights, 4 islands, 1 nude beach, a dozen complimentary Carib beers, 4 rum punch shooters, 1 fabulous roll call, 2 movies under the stars, approximately 1500 pictures, 1 stowaway parrot, and too many margaritas to count, I can confidently say that this was our favorite cruise to date!

 

Now then, let’s get the introductions out of the way so we can move on to the good stuff! I’m Holly, and traveling with me are three of my most favorite people in the whole world. First up, the love of my life, Brett. He and I are die hard Disney fans and spend most of our vacation time at Disney World. However, we ventured out to sea for the very first time last May and have since logged a total of three cruises, on three different lines (Carnival/RCI/Princess). We have our first Disney cruise booked for next March on their new ship, the Dream. And I can’t wait to merge my two favorite vacations.

 

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Next up are my parents, Rick and Kim (screen name: CruiseCheers). I hold them personally responsible for my new addiction to life upon the sea. Not only are they the most wonderful parents ever, but they make for pretty fantastic travel companions. They’re completely hooked on cruising; since 2007 they’ve been on seven Caribbean cruises and they have the Carnival Dream booked for this upcoming July.

 

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For the most part, my parents have stuck to Carnival cruises. It was the first line they tried and they absolutely loved it. No reason to fix something that “ain’t” broken, right?! Well, while shopping around for a New Year’s Eve cruise, the prices were astronomical, as to be expected. However, we found a crazy good deal for an RCI cruise, so we snatched it up. And that is when we confirmed for ourselves that there are way more similarities than differences amongst the lines. Same thing happened when we were looking to book an Eastern Caribbean Carnival cruise this time around... we booked the Emerald Princess in March when the price was right. I still hold true that there are more similarities than differences, and to be completely honest, I don’t think it’s all that fair for me to pit the lines against one another based on one cruise on one ship in a whole fleet of ships. There are way too many discerning factors for that. One thing I will say though is I really enjoyed Princess. I’ll get into more comparison details as we go! However, I’d say the price will continue to be the deciding factor!

 

Oh yeah, and before I forget… meet Panchito Beakman, stowaway extraordinaire:

 

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He loves margaritas, French fries, and long flights over the beach… but more than anything else he loves visiting his Caribbean roots! Brett rescued him five years ago and he’s stowed away on all our cruises to date. :eek: If he had a passport, it would mirror my own! He’ll fly in and out of this here report a few times, so I figured a formal introduction was necessary.

 

Itinerary

Sunday, May 2: Embarkation

Monday, May 3: Princess Cays (9:00-3:15)

Tuesday, May 4: Sea Day

Wednesday, May 5: St. Maarten (10:00-5:30)

Thursday, May 6: St. Thomas (7:00-3:30)

Friday, May 7: Grand Turk (1:00-6:30)

Saturday, May 8: Sea Day

Sunday, May 9: Debarkation

 

Just a forewarning... I LOVE documenting our adventures. Though, sometimes I have to remind myself that the trip dictates the report and not the other way around. I tend to be extremely long winded, but I try to find a nice balance between text and photos. It’ll take me at least a week (maybe two) to get the report posted in full, but I promise I won’t bail. In the meantime, here are links to some "light" reading (if anyone happens to find themselves seriously bored at work ;)):

 

Our very first cruise on the Carnival Liberty (5/2/2009)

New Year’s Eve aboard RCI’s Monarch of the Seas (12/28/2009)

And for good measure, I’ll throw in my latest Disney report... Princess Half Marathon Weekend (3/7/10)

 

*Also, if you haven’t already run across it, Andy (7x5090g) has written up a fabulous review of the same sailing with lots of pictures and great commentary… http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1188622. The review portion starts in post # 62 on page 4. He also included the Patters (something I won’t be doing), so if you’re interested in those, they’re available at the end of each day’s review.

 

 

Whew! Now let’s get a move on...

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Day 1 – Sunday May 2, 2010: Embarkation

 

We had an early AM departure scheduled out of ATL and didn’t want to run into any of the issues we faced last May when flying out the day of our sailing, so we spent Saturday night at a Country Inn and Suites in Atlanta. We woke up (by the grace of our own personal backup alarms) at approximately 4 am in a hotel whose wake up call service clearly can’t be trusted. I swear we were the first people in the airport... but we weren’t taking any chances on missing our flight.

 

At 7:10 am we were en route on a short 1 ½ hour flight to Fort Lauderdale. I listened to music and thoroughly entertained myself with my camera:

 

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We touched down in the tiny D terminal at FLL and took off to baggage claim. We had some decisions to make... here it is 9:30 am on a Sunday. Alcohol can’t be bought until noon on Sundays in “blue law” states. Acccckkkkkk. What to do? What to do? :confused: Eventually we decided to grab a cab ($20 fare for all four of us) straight to the port and take it from there. We were so early, our driver couldn’t go through the normal drop off channels because the ship was still debarking from its previous sailing. We handed off our luggage to the porters and took off on foot towards Eisenhower Boulevard, looking for the Total Wine & More often mentioned on the boards.

 

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Not even half a mile away from the Princess terminal is a Walgreen’s stocked with anything and everything you might have forgotten to pack. We stopped in there and loaded up on some Diet Dr. Pepper to carry back to the cruise ship. Seeing that it was only 10 am we realized there was no way we could burn 2 hours somewhere waiting to buy booze so we simply hoofed it back to the cruise terminal, dropped off the drinks with the porters and went through security. We were sitting in the terminal with our number 2 boarding passes at approximately 10:15 am.

 

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At 11:55 am the boarding process began, group 1 was called, quickly followed by group 2. We were on the ship within 5-8 minutes of our number being called and in our staterooms before 12:15 (seriously, my first stateroom picture is clocked at 12:12). Talk about smooth!

 

Hallway to stateroom:

 

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Welcome to Interior Stateroom C217 (Caribe Deck-10, Starboard side, way forward):

 

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Anybody else think the stand in the bottom left of this picture is completely a waste of space? We quickly moved it to the back corner of the closet area and it was never in our way again. Speaking of the closet... there was definitely ample space and lots of hangers. Score a point for Princess! The tiny interior rooms on RCI’s Monarch were severely lacking closet space. And in comparison to the Carnival Liberty, the space was probably equal, but the design/layout was a little better on the Emerald.

 

Closet:

 

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Bathroom (I took this shot from inside the teensy-weensy tiny shower!):

 

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It's also worth mentioning... we faxed a top sheet/egg crate request about 3 weeks prior to boarding and both were accounted for upon arrival.

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Not ones to waste time we quickly climbed the stairs to the Lido deck to check her out! Ahhhh... breathe it in while it lasts folks, a big, beautiful, EMPTY ship:

 

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So as we were admiring the ship (or rather taking pictures of one another), this guy walks up to me and says “Are you Hollybelle?” OMG. :eek: Could this be a Cruise Critic roll call friend, by chance? I certainly hope so, cause if not this could get real creepy, real fast! Turns out it was Heath (syobwoc) and his girlfriend (soon to be fiancé), Audra. LOVE them! We actually ended up running into them quite a few times throughout the week. Audra kindly offered to take our picture before we bid farewell. Thanks, Audra!

 

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Glad to see that you've started your review Hollybelle! :p We were hoping that you would start today. I was awake last night (or I should say early this morning) when Andy finished his review!

Hope you have as much fun posting as we will have reading!!

Angel :)

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This getting on first is fabulous for taking ship pictures, and we honestly couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day:

 

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So this was the most we saw of the Sanctuary all week. It really is a beautiful area, but I actually prefer the louder decks and live music to the calm serenity. Plus, paying for the "same sun" really doesn't do it for me:

 

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The Calypso Pool/Movies Under the Stars:

 

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We didn’t spend much time back here, other than to check out some sunsets, but I think the aft pool area is just gorgeous. There just aren't enough loungers:

 

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Glad to see that you've started your review Hollybelle! :p We were hoping that you would start today. I was awake last night (or I should say early this morning) when Andy finished his review!

 

Hope you have as much fun posting as we will have reading!!

 

Angel :)

 

Yay... readers!!! Woohooo! Believe me, I LOVE writing/posting these things, so I'm excited to have readers, especially the kind who jump in and talk to me. ;)

 

Woo-hoooooo!!

May I join you on your travels? :D

 

Welcome drink for Panchito Beakman....

 

Yes please, come along!!! Oooh Panchito and I might have to fight for that one... we're having some serious margarita withdrawals.

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Next we did what any good cruisers do first… found FOOD. We headed to the Horizon Court for some much needed nourishment. Mmmm... lunch! Hello, massive buffet plates (these babies are deceptively huge):

 

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The buffet line was definitely at its busiest on the first day (for us anyway). The serving area is a little tight, but finding a table was never really a problem. And once we did, it was a plus to find them set with silver and have servers offer to get our drinks for us. Points to Princess for that! It was a nice little bonus because on both Carnival and RCI, we were left to get our drinks ourselves and pick up the silver at the beginning of the buffet line. The win for best buffet food/selection goes to Carnival though, with Princess in a close second and RCI definitely trailing.

 

After lunch we split up; Brett and I headed off to find some beer and start exploring the ship.

 

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These bar guys get a big thumbs up for serving us our first official drinks onboard:

 

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We introduced ourselves to the Emerald by taking a little photo tour. I guess it’s becoming tradition, seeing that Brett and I have done this at the beginning of every cruise we’ve taken.

 

Crooner’s:

 

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Technically the following shot is a grainy mess with absolutely horrible lighting... but I just had to post it because Brett humored me enough to take three or four of these. And I love mirror shots:

 

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Explorer’s signage:

 

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I thought the library was perfectly quaint, not to mention well appointed:

 

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Wheelhouse Bar:

 

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This was about as much time as we spent in the Princess Theatre all week:

 

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And last but not least, the Piazza area:

 

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I absolutely loved the decor in the Piazza, and found myself photographing that dang ceiling ALL week long! While the area is smaller than the Liberty’s atrium, I still prefer it.

 

In comparison to RCI and Carnival, I found that Princess blew them both away with regard to aesthetically pleasing design. Not only was the ship beautiful and tasteful, but I noticed a lot of little details in the design. I’m a crazy-loyal Disney fan and if you ask me what Disney does best, I would put “attention to detail” at the top of the list along with a few other things. Disney does the details better than anyone else. When designing something (ride, queue, land, restaurant, etc.), they put so much focus on the little things that it inevitably brings that location to life and enhances the ambience. Princess does a stand up job with the details. From the carpet in the Wheelhouse Bar (yes I take pictures of carpet!) to the MUTS chair covers, I think the attention placed on details really improves the overall impact of the ship. So, kudos to Princess-they certainly kicked RCI’s and Carnival’s butts here!

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We met back up with my parents at the Michaelangelo dining room at 2 pm when the maitre d’ was expected. Somehow Brett and I had been assigned late dining and my parents had anytime. We didn’t care too much, just wanted to be together and at the same table. He quickly told us we could have a standing reservation in the same section of the anytime dining room for 8:15. And off we went! But not before I snapped a picture of the Michaelangelo:

 

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We swung by the International Café for the first of many treats over the course of the week. I came to love this place as time went on!

 

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I wasn’t feeling so hot... so Brett and I headed back to the stateroom for a brief break. I think this is also when we met Lino, our room steward. He was wonderful, always in good spirits and with a smile on his face. In comparing all three lines with regards to service (room stewards/dining staff), I don’t think any one line stands above the others. We have been extremely fortunate to meet so many wonderful crew members on all our sailings.

 

Our luggage finally arrived just as we were departing for the 4:15 muster drill. Our designated meeting spot was the Princess Theatre a few decks below us, so we were able to enjoy the comfort of air conditioning while listening to the spiel. I have to say it was probably the most informative one I’ve been to. Although the cheesy picture taker in me was sad we missed an opportunity to take some promenade side life jacket photos! And yes, I really mean that. :eek: Personally, I don’t mind the muster drill... to me it simply means the cruise is FINALLY underway and the whole week is laid out perfectly in front of us.

 

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So now seems like a good time to break. Next up… our cruise officially sails away and the party begins!

 

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Great review!! :D

 

Drinks for all Colo. Not watered down either ;). Better be quick before OneStarTattoo comes back in here as they will disappear fast :D.

 

I have feelings of deja vu, I've been on this ship so often lately :cool:. It looks different without people.

I love the little details too Hollybelle. Hey! You're going too fast :eek:

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Great review!! :D

 

Thank you!

 

BTW, off topic my partner and I had our best ever land vacation at Disney in 2008. Saratoga Spring, they really know how to take care of their guests at Disney!

 

Disney's customer service definitely ranks right up there with attention to detail!! Brett's parents have DVC and Saratoga is their home resort. We've only stayed there once, but it's beautiful. The Turf Club Bar and Grill makes for a great lunch spot.

 

Very nice - can't wait for more review & pics! We will be on our 2nd 10 Day Emerald cruise in October and this helps the time go by.

 

Oooh... ten days. Sounds wonderful!

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Hollybelle, I have been looking for you to start your review. Didn't know how long you would need to get started so have been checking for a few days now. You made good time...only 1 week after your cruise!:)

 

Princess cruisers, you are in for a treat as Hollybelle does very intense and detailed reviews with lots of fabulous pictures.

 

Brilliant start, Hollybelle! Looking forward to your daily excerpts ((long ones LOL ):D

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Drinks for all Colo. Not watered down either ;). Better be quick before OneStarTattoo comes back in here as they will disappear fast :D.

 

I have feelings of deja vu, I've been on this ship so often lately :cool:. It looks different without people.

I love the little details too Hollybelle. Hey! You're going too fast :eek:

 

 

Oooh... more cocktails. This is turning into one heck of a party! Don't worry, soon you'll be asking me to speed things up. Seeing that the ports are my favorite part of cruising... those days will take forever to post, plus that's when most of the drinking takes place. :D

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Hollybelle, I have been looking for you to start your review. Didn't know how long you would need to get started so have been checking for a few days now. You made good time...only 1 week after your cruise!:)

 

Princess cruisers, you are in for a treat as Hollybelle does very intense and detailed reviews with lots of fabulous pictures.

 

Brilliant start, Hollybelle! Looking forward to your daily excerpts ((long ones LOL ):D

 

You found it, mississauga!!! This one's gonna be a doozie; I'm guessing at least a third of the pics we took will find their way to this thread.

 

And thank you for all the kind words about my previous reviews.

 

Very happy to have found your thread. Love your style!

 

Why thank you, Jennygirl. Please, have a drink and stay awhile! :D

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*Also, if you haven’t already run across it, Andy (7x5090g) has written up a fabulous review of the same sailing with lots of pictures and great commentary… http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1188622. The review portion starts in post # 62 on page 4. He also included the Patters (something I won’t be doing), so if you’re interested in those, they’re available at the end of each day’s review.

 

Thanks for the cross reference. I am now getting all excited again in trying to read this.

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