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MentalVacation

Caribbean Princess Eastern 5/14 Cruise (and Wedding) Review....in several parts.....

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May 14, 2005 Eastern Carib Princess Review and Thoughts (includes review of Wedding)

 

The cast:

 

20-something non-sailing guests, including 5 children/babies

9 sailing guests

 

DH and I arrived in FLL on Thursday – NWA from Sioux City to MSP to FLL. No problems other than torrential rain in Sioux City and NO jet way. SC is VERY SMALL so we had to make a run for it with ‘the dress’ – the staff at the airport were extremely helpful and approached us with a huge trashbag to put over the garment bag, ‘just in case’….and on each leg of the flight, there was plenty of room for the dress in the closet up front. I didn’t even have to ask or play the “this is my wedding dress” card.  Nice.

 

Transfer to Hotel (Hyatt Pier 66) – quick and easy taxi ride – 15.00 including tip.

 

Hotel – booked via priceline for 92.00 per night. It seems that “third party” bookings have started to develop a third class citizen feel. Family that had already arrived were relegated to the less choice location of the Lanai area (almost a separate part of the hotel, not in the tower you see in the pics – very pretty greenery and near the pool but the rooms and public areas were in SERIOUS need of updating…..which was going on in some places). We lucked out and the desk clerk gave us a 12th floor tower room when we asked. It was smoking, but that was no big deal. Great view of the port…….and the surrounding marina. The room was slightly nicer than the Lanai area rooms, but overall the Hyatt was really not up to the standards I was expecting for a 4 star hotel, and for the prices I saw on their website (or even what we’ve paid on priceline). It looked very dated in the halls and the rooms. We did have a nice bathroom. Unfortunately, the faucet broke, leaking water everywhere on Friday morning. They couldn’t replace it that day and offered to move us to another room. We declined due to our imminent departure the next day. I have to say, the staff was wonderful. The bell staff took charge of the dress and made sure it got pressed and returned and they stored it so DH didn’t see it, and the front desk helped us with a variety of problems that arose with our large group. Of course, the concierge was also helpful with transportation arrangements and restaurant recommendations! I give the Hyatt a C- for look and style but an A+ for service. (Outdoors, the pool areas were very pretty and green)

 

Thursday night we headed down to Las Olas Blvd – about a 10 minute drive. Had no problems getting around by rental car. One note – valet parking is 18.00; self parking is 14.00 at the Hyatt. Just a thought if you are renting a car. My mom did b/c we had toddlers and needed car seats, etc. The concierge suggested “Cheeburger Cheeburger” for dinner b/c we had kiddos. Good choice. It was precisely the environment we needed for kids, fun and not too quiet! **Note – they cook in peanut oil – glad we saw that on the menu before DH took a bite of FFs!** He was still able to eat the burger, but no sides.  Alas…..still fun.

 

Afterwards we went back to the hotel to sit in the hot tub and relax. Very nice. Good daquiris.

 

We made use of the Walgreens that is just over the bridge (could probably walk if motivated) and there is also a liquor store right across the street, and a gas station for little things……..

 

Friday – went to the beach in the afternoon. Lots of waves and not a huge crowd. Those of us who remember Vanilla Ice had a giggle about A1A – beachfront avenue………sad, I know…..

 

FRIDAY NIGHT: Many more guests start arriving……..rehearsal at 6:00 by pool at hotel. Then we were off to the Riverfront to Dan Marino’s Fine Food and Spirits for our rehearsal dinner – catering was 26.50 p/p, gratuity included. Gave us 5-6 menu options and non-alcohol beverages. It was REALLY lively and noisy but good food and a nice restaurant. The Riverfront is at the very end of Las Olas Blvd – lots of nightlife, some shopping and a theater….more on that later. I’d give Dan Marino’s a B – good food and service, but a little rowdier than we had hoped. We had been advised we would be in the “back room” and I guess we thought it would be private. That is what we get for assuming. But again, great wait staff! Back to the hotel and the hot tub to relax and catch up with friends and family.

 

SATURDAY AM (a/k/a – The Wedding Day/Sailing Day): Woke up a 6:30 Before alarm and peeked out on balcony. The ship was in!!!! It is truly enormous and very cool to see! It is literally just across the waterway from the Hyatt, which does make the Hyatt an enticing place to stay, despite comments above…..I ran a while in the fitness center – 10.00 per day charge unless you are a spa guest….thought that was a little cheap considering even a best western or a holiday inn will usually have a treadmill and a bike for guests, but what is a girl to do. I paid it and went on.

 

9:00 a.m.: My makeup artist, Anna, arrived. She did fabulous work and made the morning much less stressful for me. Any FLL brides interested, I can put you in touch.

 

10:00 a.m.: To the lobby to head for the port – bellhops called cabs and got dress ready for me. They even managed to get a limo for some of the guests (I ended up in a VAN) for about 5.00 per person! They were really excited. Panic b/c a guest has left her ID in her hotel –25 minutes away. We decide the only solution is to go get it so she does.

 

10:30 a.m. arrived at port…….had to park rental car (with mom at this point) and trot down LONG parking garage. Nervous b/c we are supposed to be there AT 10:30…..there is a huge crowd of departing guests and others. We are spotted pretty much immediately by Marty with TWE (The Wedding Experience) and directed through the crowd to the crew entrance. There are several other bridal parties already waiting, along with most of our group. It was frankly very chaotic, hot and crowded. Leidys was giving us papers and we had questions in the group and I was still worrying about the guest who was chasing her ID. Turns out we were there in plenty of time, as customs was particularly slow that day. We didn’t board until after 11:30. My hair apt onboard was supposed to be at 11:00.

 

We got our sail/sign cards at this point, without ever showing documentation. We filled out the Bahamas form and a Norwalk virus form and someone scurried away with my dress – they took it about 10 feet inside security and laid it on a table. Somehow these ten feet got greasy dirt all over the bottom of the bag and the very edge of the dress. No one really explained or apologized. I was just thankful it wasn’t worse, but it was just the beginning of the chaos, unfortunately. I had two BMs getting hair done at noon – wedding was scheduled for 1:15 with a 1 hour reception after. We scurried to the salon when we were finally permitted onboard…..another bride was getting her hair done while I was, the girls did their makeup and steamed all of our dresses while I got my hair done.

 

At the same time, DH and his men were taken to the room and shown the ceremony location. The minister (family) came to the salon to describe the new location to me, and how we’d come in. Leidys finally agreed to take me down to see it b/c I was a little frustrated at not being able to visualize it ahead of time. We did this after my hair and while they started on the girl’s hair, before I dressed. I got to see another ceremony going on, which was kind of nice. Back to salon – put on jewelry, took some pictures, got to see flowers. At this point I was asking if everyone else had their flowers and did tuxes fit, etc….I was assured yes, yes, yes. Girls are still getting hair done…..time is ticking away. I finally get dressed and my photog takes some cool pics in the ladies changing room at the spa…….once I am dressed and veiled, my sister is finally done with hair and we get her dressed. Other BM still going…(lots of hair)…..we are now very late due to customs and hair. I don’t realize at this point how late, however……I wish TWE had said “Customs has us way behind – the BMs are going to have to do their own hair” – it would have saved a LOT of grief later…..more on that grief……

 

Finally we are all dressed. We head to the ceremony. Oops. Leidys took us the wrong way. We traverse the entire ship (in heels, veil and all) again, careful not to get dress wet on blue carpeting out on deck……..ceremony was fine…..hot waiting to get down there, but it was shaded once we got there……the best part of the ceremony was DH not being able to push my bands on. Yikes! He got it, but not without a funny look or two.  The other funny/unfortunate/timing problem was the ring bearers – ages 3 and 4. TWE didn’t’ advise the guests of the extent of the delay so the moms/grandmas dressed the kiddos WAY too early and by the time the ceremony was over my nephew had started a striptease out of his uncomfortable shoes, tie and vest…..by the time we did pictures he was barefoot with an unbuttoned shirt! Poor kid. During the ceremony, DH’s nephew and mine decided to destroy the floral arrangement they were standing by……behind me, by the BMs – I see this out of the corner of my eye. I also hear my mom’s cell phone going off! Fortunately they didn’t hurt themselves with the sharp ends of the silk flowers…..we had acoustic guitar…..what I heard of it was great. We sent him sheet music and he played wonderfully. He gets an A. The ceremony overall went fine, except for timing and mid ceremony I found myself thinking “Hey, why doesn’t my mom have a corsage?” I thought maybe she’d taken it off b/c she was holding my 1 yr old nephew. Nope. She never got one, which upset her and me. DH also didn’t get the right color bout, and pretty much all of the flowers wilted immediately upon hitting outside, but otherwise, it was fine. I wasn’t thrilled that all the décor was white when my colors (including my dress) were ivory and pink based. I would mention that if it is important to you in your planning.

 

Post-Ceremony we took some VERY rapid pictures – WAY too rushed and confused and TWE wasn’t very “take charge”……and sadly, during this time, the Best Man’s wife gets a call or took a message or something and finds out her grandfather has died, which was of course very upsetting to her and everyone felt bad. Leidys or someone finally escorted the guests to the Wheelhouse and we took a limited number of bridal party shots and then we waited for Leidys who had promised to come back for us.

 

After what seemed like forever, we just took off ourselves and came down to the Wheelhouse with the photog. He went in and I think they announced us. I’m not sure. The first thing I saw was the cake. I warn you I was VERY disappointed. If you look at my knot.com bio, you will see my inspiration photo (knot id is BrideRedux) – The cake was NOTHING like this….and we paid well over 400.00 for it. I took it in stride, however, b/c what can you do. Iwasn’t about to pitch a fit and ruin our day. We came in and were promptly served drinks. People were sitting down, eating and chatting. We pretty much did the first dance right then……to the music of some sort of Vegas-y vocal act. They weren’t bad or anything. Actually, they were fine, but DH and I both really wanted (and had discussed with TWE, and specifically paid for and requested) an instrumental only jazz combo. Another disappointment. But DH and I had a fun first dance to our requested “It Had to Be You” and then he danced with his mom and we mingled for a very short period.

 

Before I had had a bite of food it was the toast and the cake cutting. At this point I discovered the flavors were all wrong too.  The best man and my sister (MOH) both gave lovely toasts and there was a little more dancing. Next thing I know, the food was all gone – and I really don’t think we got the full hour. Also – we thought the appetizers would be served. It was set up buffet style…..Then suddenly TWE says “it is the last song” and no one has gotten their favors yet (gift bags with toys for kiddos and t-shirts and custom soaps for adults). So they are scurrying to give those out. The BM realizes he has to go get out of his tux and my sister has all her stuff up at the salon (opposite end of the ship) so suddenly people are disappearing and we still haven’t done any family pictures so our photog kicks it into gear….but we were promised about a ½ hour after the reception for more pictures……nope. My sister and nephew never came back to the lounge…..they got escorted off the ship (w/o his ID, which my mom had back at the wheelhouse, where she was told to wait for them – like I said, it was not organized and very chaotic) I didn’t get to tell them goodbye or thank you for being in the wedding.  It left us on a very disappointed note for the wedding. I really think it would all have been solved by TWE saying BMs had to do their own hair b/c of the customs delay. I had taken all the other advice they had given, and I would have taken that as well…..over and over again I had told Leidys that my biggest worry was feeling rushed and disorganized and not getting to spend any time with our non-sailing guests. My worries were very much realized, unfortunately. If I had it to do over again, I would have even done MY hair beforehand, but that was never raised as an issue or a suggestion and I was depending on their experience and expertise.

 

All in all, LESS than impressed with the TWE handling of the wedding. I would caution any embarkation day bride to be diligent. I think all of the problems I had were completely resolvable with some creativity and some planning and some openness about the situation. (Apparently there was also a time where they didn’t think we’d have a band….I still don’t know what happened. I do know no one told me until after the fact, which is probably best, but some stuff should have been communicated)…..

 

Of note, I have articulated my issues to Leidys today. She informed me that their Customer Relations Department will look into each of the issues. I have asked for a refund/compensation for the cake, the band and the flowers and I have made some suggestions for their future handling. I will keep everyone posted on the response I get. She said it may take up to 8-10 weeks. I will finish the cruise review shortly. My hands are TIRED!!!! I welcome questions.

 

PART TWO:

 

Life moves fast these days. We are just back from our ‘wedding-moon’ cruise and we are already house hunting. Yikes. I thought I’d take a break and try to get this review finalized. I have sort of compartmentalized the review into pre-cruise and wedding and then the real business (ha) – the actual cruise….

 

Ok, to pick up where we left off – it is about 3:30/4:00 on Saturday afternoon. I am standing in the Wheelhouse Lounge, less than two hours married and almost in tears. I say my final good byes to my mom and nephew and some other family and friends and am still upset that my sister has already been basically booted off the ship without a goodbye. I honestly don’t really remember what happened next. We must have coordinated with our remaining guests/cruisers to do the lifeboat drill and then we were to meet up with our photographer (one of our sailing guests, and one of the things TWE was helpful with – getting the okay to use our own photographer who is a close friend)……next thing I know we are in our room. I am minus a room key – someone has taken it off the ship – fortunately it was easy to get a new one later (purser’s desk was extremely helpful all week – more on that later!)

 

The Cabin: Up to this point I have not seen the cabin yet. I remember being impressed. (Prior experiences in two oceanview cabins) We were in Aloha 704. The bed was already made as a queen, and there was champagne and cake and tuxedo strawberries and the BALCONY!!!!! Nice. The only disturbing thing relates back to TWE again….sadly. I am not trying to complain overly. We did like some of the experience with them. Leidys is very nice. But there were just so many things that didn’t quite gel. When we got to the port they took our favors and ceremony stuff and also our 7 OOT guest bags and assured us they would be delivered to the guests’ staterooms. The bags were monogrammed and they had the list of rooms. ALL of the bags were sitting in our room on the floor. ARGH. Oh well. We decided to hand deliver them after muster.

 

We enjoyed the balcony for a bit and flopped on the bed for a moment before moseying up to the lifeboat drill (still in wedding dress of course!) It was inside (club fusion) and fairly quick and painless. Met some fellow Iowans and got someone to snap a picture of us in our ‘outfits’ – after it was over we discovered some of our traveling companions and snapped a few more pictures. Then the photog and his wife and DH and I returned our life vests and they met us at our room to take pictures. Somewhere in here we scurried about and delivered the gift bags……..all a blur….also met our room steward and gave him a little extra something and asked for feather pillows. They were there when we returned I think. I know they were there when I went to bed!

 

Pictures: He started with some out on the balcony and he did some shots of the goodies in the room too! Enjoyed a bit of the sail away from the balcony before heading out to take pictures everywhere – all the while taking in the beauty of the gigantic ship! Eventually I will post pictures to accompany the review so you can see what I mean. The floor in the atrium was beautiful….there were mosaic walls outside, and the staircases were sufficiently grand…….

 

BREAK TIME: The feet hurt and the tummy was growling after nothing but two bites of cake, some champagne and one veggie puff since my bowl of cereal at 7:00 a.m.!!!! To the BUFFET: I attacked the shrimp. Dusty and Amy (might as well use their names..) got lots of seafood and DH (Mark) got some fruit and some sort of meat product. I also bought the coke card/cup and refreshed with a little diet coke!!!!!!!! Great deal if you ask me. I got diet cokes at pretty much every indoor and outdoor bar as well as by the pool and in the buffet area. I never ordered one in the dining room, but I know you can. I just had too much wine to bother! Never used the cup either. In fact, Mark regularly went and got the soda for me (he didn’t get the card – his coke was usually laced with rum!) and they didn’t really even look frankly…..

 

Refreshed, we took some more pictures….LOTS more……and then we rested a bit before dinner…….we had 8:15 dining, which turned out to be a little hard on me, despite my own thought that it would be better than early…….I was frequently exhausted or fighting it by the time we were done with dessert…….

 

WAIT STAFF: Top notch waiter and head waiter/maitre’d – JOSE was our waiter and SIMON was his assistant. Both very prompt with water and wine and remembered little details like “no parmesean or ground pepper” and so on. Not my favorite waiter ever, but I don’t think you can ever beat your “first time”.  That said, they were both very good and I had no complaints. Also, DANIEL was exceptionally helpful with special requests…..examples:

 

1. On the first night we asked to have our cake delivered to the table. He went to great lengths to track it down and eventually brought the second cake (from our stateroom)……the next night the right cake eventually appeared, in all its brightly hued brilliance….it was still cake after all, and I do love cake. We ate it one night and had them get rid of the rest.

 

2. Next, either Daniel or Jose/Simon or both had some special apps brought out on Italian night special for our table…..shrimp and calamari and some other stuff. I am sure some other tables got it too, but I note that not every table did. Made us feel special.

 

3. the best thing Daniel and/or Jose accomplished was arranging for a special dish to be served to our table – Bob (FIL) asked about it on Monday and it was served Wednesday I believe. It was apparently very good, and a very unique dish. I passed, but the gesture did not go unnoticed.

 

DINNER:

 

I tried fish the first 5 nights. Then prawns and then prime rib. Each fish was wonderful and I am a pretty picky fish eater. Most of the sides were also very good. I did not have any of the chilled fruity soups but the pina colada one went over very well at our table. The duck appetizer was good, and I liked all of the fruit appetizers. The only night I resorted to the “Always Available” menu was the last night – I gave in and ordered a shrimp cocktail! Oh the sacrifice.

 

Our group enjoyed the always available fettuccini and the Caesar salad. Mark’s mom was a less braver diner – she often opted for the chicken dish or something “always available” – but that is why it is there. I don’t think anyone found something they couldn’t eat or had to send back. Overall, I’d rate the food at a B+ or A-. Italian night was my least favorite, followed by the last night, as far as menu options, but it is largely personal preference.

 

Desserts – Sundaes and cheesecake and the Loveboat Dream are always available and were ordered regularly at our table. But I’d say the biggest hit was the soufflés – there was a different kind each night I think, and each one was very good. We also enjoyed quite a little of the dessert wine one night (whew!) – it was after the first wine tasting. I liked 1.5 of the wines. I half-way liked one of the whites and then I loved the dessert wine. Yummy!

 

*** Side note *** The wine tastings were well worth the money, even if you don’t necessarily love wine. I like spumantes/sweet wines and that is about it, but I am always trying to find something I like so I have an option at dinner parties and other functions. The first wine tasting (9.50 pp – you get 5.00 back if you buy a bottle of wine later that week) was informative and entertaining. I think it is the first or second sea day at 3:00. Only a couple went to the second one, later in the week, but they enjoyed it and everyone benefited from their knowledge in ordering that evening.

 

Post dinner first night: Honesty time – we were EXHAUSTED. We were all talk and no game. We all planned to go to the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I know Mark and I didn’t make it. We were out cold by that hour! But I heard it was lovely. I was just happy to finally get out of the dress and corset!

 

FIRST SEA DAY:

 

Room Service for breakfast every day – doubled as wake up call too! Although we slept in this day (9:30?) we did have some early days in port and the room service form didn’t have a time before 7/7:30 – we simply filled the time in and they were there! Always gave a tip – it was the first time I’ve ever had to sign and indicate amount of tip….that was interesting.

 

10:30 – drug Mark to swing class in club fusion. Led by Tilly and James. James needs a serious, um, well….he needs something…..but I recognize that perky is his job and I don’t hold it against him. We learned a cute little routine and got to try it out – partnered and not. It was fairly crowded, but we managed.

 

We missed the CC meet up that afternoon due to weather/exhaustion and such. We watched a slide show of wedding pictures in our room. Good to know the TVs have AV plugs up front.

 

Also explored the ship a bit and tried out the internet café. 35 cents a minute. Not too slow. Not fast, but not slow. I accomplished the basics for less than a couple bucks each time. I did like the packages available on Carnival, but I could just work towards elite on princess and not worry about it. 

 

FIRST FORMAL NIGHT:

 

Dusty and Amy renewed their vows at 6-ish in the chapel. We got to meet the captain and had some more champagne. It was very nice and I think they enjoyed it. I got to sign the marriage license with my new last name, which was fun! We even got a picture with the captain. After the renewal we had some drinks and went to the Wheelhouse for a swing about the dance floor (ok, I didn’t get one, but a couple lucky ladies did) and some relaxing. Then it was off to dinner, which was very nice……

 

CASINO:

 

I have to say, I’ve tried the casino on all three cruises. I think everyone in our group who gambled (5 of 9) came out ahead – some, like me, by about 100.00 – others by several hundred dollars! This night was good for me. Then I had a bad one and then the last formal night was a good one again! I stuck with roulette all the while. I had good nights at the table with the sailboat chips. The one with the shamrock chips was no good! 

 

BERT STRATTON:

 

After I came out ahead I sought out some traveling companions and found them watching Bert – he was great – in the little bar “Crooners” I think, which is off the atrium on the 6/7th floor. Very cozy.

 

While the ladies gambled, the men played poker in “Jokers” – the game room. They played for change and had a running game all week. The game room was fairly well stocked, although several games were missing pieces that were critical.

 

SECOND SEA DAY:

 

Tried treadmills – pretty cool to have your own TV. Weird to run when ship is moving. I felt like I needed to hold on the whole time!  Very nice workout facility overall. Seemed like many less pilates/yoga/fitness classes than on my last cruise (Carnival Paradise) but that could be partly recollection. I spent much less time in the gym this trip, ironic, considering I have a marathon in 3 weeks….argh. Joyfully, only a 1.5 lb gain!

 

We tried ceramic painting – this was pretty fun. Not particularly cheap, but a fun memento. 20.00 for four coasters. They delivered them the last day, fired and wrapped for packing.

 

We spent a lot of our deck/pool/hot tub time back by the Aft. That hot tub was a lot less crowded and we had no trouble finding deck chairs. I liked the large glass panels on the ship – they seemed to block a lot of wind, which made laying on the deck much more pleasant. Something strange – the hot tub had these little cold jets on the seat which were sort of uncomfortable.

 

ST. THOMAS:

 

To be continued…..

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