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The Night the Lights Went Out at Sea -- An Emerald Review


rdsqrl
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18 Dec – 2 Jan

FLL-LAX via the Panama Canal

 

This review is a very limited survey of a very wonderful cruise aboard the beautiful Emerald Princess.  I have been through the old locks, but this cruise was doing the new locks, so that’s why I chose it, despite every port being a repeat. 

 

Okay, you got me:  that is not why I chose this cruise.  After an immensely stressful fall semester, I wanted to do absolutely nothing but lie in the sun and read as many novels as possible, with only a short break for a martini and dinner  – and so this cruise was perfect.  Plus, for reasons that are inexplicable to me, it was being offered at a much cheaper fare than any of the other Christmas cruises. 

 

I will end the suspense right now:  I achieved my goals.  I read 15 novels and came home with an awesome suntan, sufficient to cause major pangs of envy in all my friends and colleagues.   Even the archetypal sorority girl in the first row of my 9am Soviet history class was impressed:  “Dr. ____, that’s, like, an amazing tan.”    Mission accomplished.  миссия выполнена. Mic drop.

 

So, given the above, you’ve probably guessed that I didn’t get off the ship at all.  And you’d be 99% right.  Instead, I’m just gonna talk about the ship/cruise itself. 

This will be self-indulgently long.  Read or don't read, your choice, but you don't get to complain!

 

Embarkation.

Delayed because the previous cruise took longer to clear immigration.  I think we started to board around 12.30 or so?   A plurality of passengers in the Elite lounge appeared to be on the older side.  The upside to that:  never a problem finding a lounger by the pool! 

 

Have you ever noticed that you’re seated around dozens of people in the boarding lounge, in this case for at least 1.5 hours, and yet you never, ever see those same people again on the ship?  I’m just saying, it’s weird.  And sad – because there was a really good-looking guy who appeared to be unattached and yet I never laid my beady little eyes on him again.  And believe me, I looked . . .  (There’s no ring on it, so I still browse.  See Beyonce for additional information.)

 

Once aboard, I headed to my cabin, which appeared to be available, unpacked the carryon, and then headed to the buffet for the first salad of the cruise.  The Emerald has the World Food Market set-up, and the salad bar met my high standards.  As did the chocolate chip cookies.  And the carrot cake.  And, especially, the chocolate chip cupcakes.   Drink servers in the WFM were exceptionally attentive throughout the voyage.  I liked the new furniture and, with the “extra” seating in Planks/Steamers, there was never a problem finding a place to sit. 

 

After lunch, I made a pedicure appointment for late that afternoon and then hung out on Deck 7 to watch them load provisions onto the ship.  This has become my new favourite embarkation day activity.  It beats some of the entertainers I’ve seen aboard.   Plus, there's always a dog and I love dogs!

image.thumb.png.187e32b49f154b11c02d47a4eb45cbeb.png

 A keen observer will note the uniforms and think there was a cold spell in FLL.  There was not; this is a photo of the dog in San Francisco taken from the Grand.  I do not have a photo of the dog in FLL, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

 

We were delayed leaving, since we were delayed boarding and also in loading supplies/luggage, but eventually we set off on our adventure.  This would be an excellent place to insert a beautiful photo of sailaway, wouldn’t it?  Well, someone forgot to charge her camera before she left and forgot to bring the battery charger.  When I turned on the old Canon, it showed a frighteningly low percentage of battery power.  So, I made the executive decision to save my photo-taking for the Canal transit. 

Edited by rdsqrl
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This Cruise, Every Day Is A Sea Day. 

The ship is in good shape, but I did notice some wear and tear in places that I hadn’t on her older sisters, Grand and CB.  In particular, the elevator metalwork (doors and panels) have taken a beating.  But mostly she’s shipshape.  And clean.  Which is really what you want in a ship. 

 

My cabin was B735.  Everything worked, my neighbours were quiet, and my cabin steward was fantastic.  Rick or Nick or something like that.  Nice guy, who pretended to not mind that I slept til 10 every morning, thereby probably holding up his finishing work before lunch.

 

The bed was so comfortable that I’m annoyed I didn’t smuggle it home in my luggage.  I mean, I have other clothes at home; I coulda left those and instead taken the bed. 

 

Loungers by the pool were readily available – probably because the first half of the cruise, it was Hot Hot Hot out in the sun.  I mean, broiling.  But, in a chemistry/physics equation known only to Princess, no matter how hot the sun, the pool water remained unwarmed.  But the poolside shower water:  hot enough to parboil a lobster.  Ah, Princess, I love your dramatic inconveniences.  

 

Dining and Food – Oh My.

I had late Traditional, but interestingly enough, my assigned table was in DaVinci, not Botticelli.  Luckily, I noticed this ahead of time and went to the right place.  Second seating was at 7.30pm, which was definitely better than the 7.15 on the CB last summer but still too early.  The line at DaVinci was looooong, but the doorman went up and down asking for anything to step out who had TD, so I was led to my table quickly.  It was all the way over on the side near the Club Class, so we were able to use the Club Class entry and avoid the appearance of barging on by the lineup.  Club Class has fancy gray tablecloths and what appeared to be the good wineglasses, and a “fancier” floral centerpiece.    I’m not sure those things are enough reason to pay extra for a top-tier minisuite.  

 

At first, all seemed well . . . [cue ominous music] . . .

 

Edited by rdsqrl
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A charming girl pulled out my chair and smiled and introduced herself (I promptly forgot her name) and identified herself as the assistant waiter – as I order a lot of wine (thank you for the Gold Package, Princess), she was my new best friend – I want to say “Marcella?”  I noticed everyone else at the table had menus already.  Okay, fine, I was the last one to be seated and we’re not the only table so I imagine the waiter will be over in a moment.  And I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Much like Vladimir and Estragon.  Unlike them, I did not wait in vain, but I felt myself envying them, as my own Godot turned out to be the Worst Waiter in the World.  He was not only a bad waiter in terms of his job performance – there was the added bonus of his personality:   rude, sullen, unfriendly.  He just cast a general pall over the entire dining experience.  We’ll call him Rene.  Because that’s his name. 

Here are some of Rene’s greatest hits: 

 

**I smiled and said hello and paused before ordering for him to say hello.  Silence ensued.  I ordered and he snatched the menu out of my hand before I had time to close it. 

 

**Everyone had menus already when I sat down.  Rene was MIA.  He returned and everyone still had menus except me.  He pretended not to notice and went around the entire table taking orders until he got to me.  I asked him for a menu and he oh-so-graciously handed me one he had just collected from my tablemate, then stood over my shoulder tapping his pen on his notepad while I read it. 

 

** Appetizers were delivered to the wait station by our assistant waiter, and Rene served the entire table, except me.   He then went around the  table with the pepper, getting to me and started to pepper the tablecloth until I said, I think you forgot to give me my plate.

 

**The experience of waiting tables was apparently physically painful to him as he did everything he could to make it as quick as possible.  He flung plates upon the table as though he were in Vegas dealing out cards for a speed blackjack tournament.  Before you had even half-finished  your app or salad, he was setting down at your place the silver for the next course (even if it meant reaching over and round your hands/arms as they conveyed food from plate to mouth).  When asked for recommendations (which I began doing just to annoy him, since he clearly hated to engage in conversation), he would simply repeat the name of whatever dish you asked about or point at a dish at random. 

 

Two people at the table (it began as a table of eight) switched after the first night to Anytime, so we were down to 6.  He removed a leaf and the table size shrunk to 6.  Another couple at the table tended to dine in specialty restaurants so were only there about every other night – Rene would stand at the table on the nights they weren’t there and announce plans to remove another leaf and turn the table into a table for 4 the next night.  He said this with a slightly bloodthirsty air; one got the distinct impression that he’d like nothing better than to shrink the table down to the size of a plant stand, leaving no chairs and only the bud vase with its limp alstromeria to mark the erstwhile presence of 8 annoying passengers who had the temerity to dine in his section.  I don’t mind telling you, I was afraid to walk the decks alone at night. 

 

Another diner and I each spoke to him separately and I went to one of the white-coats, but nothing changed.  We decided to make it a joke and I’m sure our (okay, my) derisive comments and downright snarky rudeness about him were overheard by him, but I was past caring.   A scathing letter, as well as post-cruise comments, have been conveyed to Princess.  In the interim, if you’re aboard the Emerald and on that first night, your waiter’s nametag says Rene (because he sure won’t introduce himself!), run fast and run far . . .

Edited by rdsqrl
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But What About the Food?

Overall, it was a B+.  The one entrée I sent back (to the silent but still clearly expressed fury of Rene) was what would have been a delicious dish marred by the addition of balsamic vinegar to the sauce.  I love balsamic, but on lettuce, not on fish.  Escargot was available by request but off-menu – although unbeknownst to us because that would have meant Rene would have had to communicate information.  I don’t eat it and I don’t recall how the escargot lover at our table ended up with her fix; she must have seen someone at another table being served, or perhaps our assistant waiter mentioned them. 

 

Two major disappointments:  the gingerbread soufflé and the goat cheese soufflé.  Clearly the soufflé chef was not up to par.  Maybe he was thrown off his game by the cold pool water.  Both desserts were pallid, almost looking under-cooked.  The GCS tasted fine but without that nice browned top, it lacked a little zazz.  The gingerbread soufflé not only looked uncooked, it totally lacking in actual ginger and completely flavorless.  Such a shame – you look forward to one dessert all year and then, blech. 

But everything else was just fine.  No one starved, that’s for sure! 

 

Entertainment.

The first half of the cruise was packed with shows in the Princess Theatre.  After Costa Rica, *poof* -- the entertainment choices dwindled down.  There was a good comedian, Ken Boyd, and a singer whose name I’ve forgotten, in the Frank Sinatra style.  Unfortunately, his promised Sinatra-only show was cancelled, superseded by a re-do of the previous night’s Magic To Do, which had had to be cancelled due to technical difficulties. 

 

Sea days, there was always live music out by the main pool for about an hour/hour and a half, and then the Skywalker’s DJ would come out for a couple hours and he was very good about playing requests. 

 

There was a string quartet (or duo?  Never actually saw them, only heard them) which played in the piazza and were very good. 

 

Trivia was fun and well-attended.  Our group won twice – as usual, the key is having a mix of British and American players.  Especially for the Christmas song trivia!  Our final win netted us Princess wine bottle stoppers, which would be awesome, should some time in the future, I ever have an unfinished bottle of wine hanging around the house. 

 

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Canal Day.

This was the worst weather of the cruise – cloudy and at least one good tropical downpour.  But since the star is the Canal and since you can’t see the transit if you’re lying supine on a poolside lounger, I guess the lousy weather was a good thing. 

 

If you’ve been through the old locks, the new locks hardly seem like locks – they’re so roomy, it’s like going from a Toyota Corolla to a Ford Expedition – and you could have fit both of them on either side of us in the lock.   

 

Gatun Lake:

IMG_1113.JPG

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Miscellaneous.

There were no barrel chairs.  There was bar soap.  There were Elite canapes on offer on the final formal night only, although I had totally forgotten about them until the order form appeared the evening before, so I don’t know if the form was overlooked or they really were only available on New Year’s Eve.

 

Formal nights were the first day (second evening out), Christmas day, and New Year’s Eve. 

 

So, the lights went out one evening.  About 10-ish, I think?  I was sitting in the Internet café and they blinked off and on – shutting down the computer, of course – then went off again.  And I mean, total darkness.  It seemed to take an age, but was probably less than 5 seconds, before emergency lighting came on.   Let me tell you, emergency lighting does not include full illumination in the ladies room, once you close that little stall door!   The captain was on the PA keeping us updated, and they didn’t take any drastic measures like closing any bars  (in fact, the Crooner’s pianist kept playing/singing, albeit without any amplification), so it was just a nice exciting little diversion. 

 

The Internet was ridiculously, unacceptably, excruciatingly slow.  Princess’s cant about Medallion Net is getting to the point of deceptive marketing.  

 

More annoyingly, my Kindle refused to load the log-in screen for Medallion Net on this ship.  I’ve never had that trouble on other ships, so I’m totally blaming the utter slowness of the Emerald’s  connection.    Which brings me to my one port “visit”:  I debarked in Puerto Vallarta solely to nip across to WalMart and download a new batch of books (and buy toothpaste.  I don’t know why, but every cruise, I run out of toothpaste.  Believe me, Crest is not my idea of a fun, unique souvenir from an exotic foreign port.).  The internet at WalMart in P.V. is free, shockingly fast, and comes with the delightful pleasure of seeing cheap American wine being sold for a sum in pesos that looks like the downpayment on a small car.   I did buy said wine, by the way, and easily brought it onboard with no comment from the security, who were too busy confiscating barrels of tequila from the gaggle of frat boys ahead of me.

 

The new port in P.V. is a gigantic pain in the, um, stern.  First, there’s the little golf-car-like tram you have to ride to the port building.  You then walk through what appears to be a giant shopping mall.  It takes forever.  Finally, you emerge into the sunlight, where you then walk about 500 feet out of the port to the road, then a few yards down the road to get to the main busy street.  While the ship itself is practically in Walmart’s parking lot, this tram-ride and trek has now brought you about half a mile away, so you have to walk back that half a mile, along the incredibly narrow sidewalk hard alongside that very busy roadway.   However, on the bright side, by the time I got back to the ship, I had lost 15 pounds in water weight from the long, sweaty walk in the full sun.  After that, the cold pool water felt good.  Okay, that’s a lie. 

 

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Disembarkation.

Was quick for me, but I understand there were delays later in the day – my time was 8.45 and we were called at 9.05.  With the wait for immigration, it took one hour to get from Club Fusion to my seat on the bus.  I elected to take the Princess transfer to LAX, and the drive was unmarred by traffic.  From the plane, I got a nice view of the Emerald as the plane took off over the Pacific and then turned to the south to head east and back to real life.    

 

So, as usual, the line for immigration stretched out along that balcony running parallel with the ship.  I was idly watching the forklifts come and go when I saw movement in the water – yes, there was a dolphin jumping around in the water between the ship and the pier!  He was only there for a moment and then disappeared, but it was very cool.  Like he was waving bye-bye at me. 

 

It was a lovely cruise; I thoroughly enjoyed myself and got a lot of novels read and had some good food and came back totally refreshed.   I bought two FCDs, so where to go next . . . ?  

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Thanks for posting. I had a similar waiter on my Caribbean Princess partial canal cruise last month. I switched from traditional to anytime. Three of my tablemates speaking in Spanish amongst themselves added to my desire to make the switch.

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11 hours ago, rdsqrl said:

A charming girl pulled out my chair and smiled and introduced herself (I promptly forgot her name) and identified herself as the assistant waiter – as I order a lot of wine (thank you for the Gold Package, Princess), she was my new best friend – I want to say “Marcella?”  I noticed everyone else at the table had menus already.  Okay, fine, I was the last one to be seated and we’re not the only table so I imagine the waiter will be over in a moment.  And I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Much like Vladimir and Estragon.  Unlike them, I did not wait in vain, but I felt myself envying them, as my own Godot turned out to be the Worst Waiter in the World.  He was not only a bad waiter in terms of his job performance – there was the added bonus of his personality:   rude, sullen, unfriendly.  He just cast a general pall over the entire dining experience.  We’ll call him Rene.  Because that’s his name. 

Here are some of Rene’s greatest hits: 

 

**I smiled and said hello and paused before ordering for him to say hello.  Silence ensued.  I ordered and he snatched the menu out of my hand before I had time to close it. 

 

**Everyone had menus already when I sat down.  Rene was MIA.  He returned and everyone still had menus except me.  He pretended not to notice and went around the entire table taking orders until he got to me.  I asked him for a menu and he oh-so-graciously handed me one he had just collected from my tablemate, then stood over my shoulder tapping his pen on his notepad while I read it. 

 

** Appetizers were delivered to the wait station by our assistant waiter, and Rene served the entire table, except me.   He then went around the  table with the pepper, getting to me and started to pepper the tablecloth until I said, I think you forgot to give me my plate.

 

**The experience of waiting tables was apparently physically painful to him as he did everything he could to make it as quick as possible.  He flung plates upon the table as though he were in Vegas dealing out cards for a speed blackjack tournament.  Before you had even half-finished  your app or salad, he was setting down at your place the silver for the next course (even if it meant reaching over and round your hands/arms as they conveyed food from plate to mouth).  When asked for recommendations (which I began doing just to annoy him, since he clearly hated to engage in conversation), he would simply repeat the name of whatever dish you asked about or point at a dish at random. 

 

Another diner and I each spoke to him separately and I went to one of the white-coats, but nothing changed.  We decided to make it a joke and I’m sure our (okay, my) derisive comments and downright snarky rudeness about him were overheard by him, but I was past caring.   A scathing letter, as well as post-cruise comments, have been conveyed to Princess.  In the interim, if you’re aboard the Emerald and on that first night, your waiter’s nametag says Rene (because he sure won’t introduce himself!), run fast and run far . . .

 

Thanks for the great review.

I always love reading your posts!

 

 

We had a waiter last year on the Pacific that must have taken classes from Rene.

I would say that it WAS Rene but the name was different (I have mercifully forgotten it) and that same waiter was still on the Pacific this New Years when we sailed her again.

I told the headwaiter and wrote  a scathing letter to Princess (we've sailed 30 some cruises and he was by far the worst waiter we've ever had) but there he was again this year. He was NOT our waiter, though.

We , like you, also didn't switch tables but we'll never make that mistake again.

We'll be on the Emerald in two weeks so THANK YOU for the warning!

 

 

 

10 hours ago, rdsqrl said:

Disembarkation.

Was quick for me, but I understand there were delays later in the day – my time was 8.45 and we were called at 9.05.  With the wait for immigration, it took one hour to get from Club Fusion to my seat on the bus.  I elected to take the Princess transfer to LAX, and the drive was unmarred by traffic.  From the plane, I got a nice view of the Emerald as the plane took off over the Pacific and then turned to the south to head east and back to real life.    

 

So, as usual, the line for immigration stretched out along that balcony running parallel with the ship.  I was idly watching the forklifts come and go when I saw movement in the water – yes, there was a dolphin jumping around in the water between the ship and the pier!  He was only there for a moment and then disappeared, but it was very cool.  Like he was waving bye-bye at me. 

 

It was a lovely cruise; I thoroughly enjoyed myself and got a lot of novels read and had some good food and came back totally refreshed.   I bought two FCDs, so where to go next . . . ?  

 

 

We've also been warned about late boarding and late disembarking.

How was the Princess transfer to LAX?

Did they take everyone to their airlines terminal or did all of you get dropped off at some central point?

It looks like we're going to have a lot of luggage and need to be dropped off as close to luggage collection as possible.

 

Edited by chamima
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Very enjoyable review. Our upcoming cruise to Hawaii will be our first on Princess, also planning to bring a few novels and not do much else except for some easy tours in Hawaii. We usually do active port-intensive Caribbean cruises and this will be our first cruise with more than 2 sea days. We have Anytime Dining but will be on the lookout.

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