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Caribbean Princess 3/29/09 Review - LONG


pmcue

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A little background

We are a family of 4. My wife is 50, I am 42 and my two children are 16 and 13. We have done 1 RCCL, 2 Carnival and 1 Princess cruise prior to this one. We all love the beach, sun and snorkeling and enjoy cruises as it allows us to see multiple ports that we have not been to. We chose this itinerary for that specific reason, as we had not been to any of the islands, except for St. Thomas.

 

Arrival / Embarkation

We flew in the day of the cruise and had arranged a pick up at the airport to the port. We landed around 2:00 p.m. and were met at the luggage area by our driver. Luggage took about 20 minutes or so, but we were quickly on our way, after that. As we approached the port, our driver pointed out Johnny Depp’s Yacht, as he was in filming a movie. When we got to port we stopped at Duty Free and bought some Rum, Vodka and Champagne. I put the Rum and Vodka in my carry on and had them bag up the Champagne. There were no lines at all and we checked in and were on the boat by about 3:00 p.m. We were met at the elevators and taken to our rooms. This was a nice touch. This was by far the smoothest embarkation we have ever had, off a plane at 2 and on a boat at 3. Our room steward came by shortly and welcomed us and opened the divider between our rooms.

 

We went to the buffet and it was pretty nasty looking. They must have been using what was left from previous cruise, so we had a burger and pizza which was good. The we checked out the entire ship and got addition room keys for the kids room and for them to have one from ours.

 

Rooms

We had two balcony rooms on the Caribe Deck. We chose this specifically for the Balcony size and set up. Caribe Deck balcony’s are half covered, half open and much larger than all other decks. We knew we only had one sea day so our room would not be used much at all. The room itself is smaller than on Carnival as they have small couches in their balcony rooms, but the Balcony made up for that, as the balcony’s on Carnival are tiny. The room was not as clean as you would expect as we found some old garbage, a bag of chips and the deck furniture was very dirty. There was plenty of storage and closet space. The pillows were tiny and flat, but bed was comfortable. I am surprised they did not upgrade the balcony furniture during dry dock as it was worn and kinda chinsy, but had four chairs and a table. The room was quiet at night with no rooms across from us and no noise from the upstairs was ever heard.

 

Ship

This ship is very large and very diced up. It will take a day to figure everything out, but once you know the ship, it is easy to get around. The piazza area is very nice and a great addition. We used the Café their in the morning for coffee and also got sandwiches to take with us at ports. Also, when we came back from each day we stopped by for Cookies hot out of the oven. The Vines Wine Bar is very pretty, but we stopped there for a glass of wine, after dinner, one night and were the only ones there. In general I think it would have been better suited to have this area just off the casino on 7 and put the shops down on 5, as it would have gotten more use in the evening, but it was a great place to hang away from crowds. We never waited in line for Coffee or Cookies, either.

 

The pool area and decks have plenty of chairs and hidden areas. We checked out the Sanctuary, which was beautiful and tranquil, but there are only a couple of spots with Sun so we chose to take our chances on a chair for our only Sea Day. Also, this was added at the expense of the Paddle Ball, Putt Putt and Walking Track, which is disappointing. Princess, in general, has less activities than Carnival, Disney and RCCL and this just adds to that.

 

The only area that really needs improvement is the Buffett area. Although we never had to wait in line, much, it is just totally unorganized. People coming from multiple directions, no rhyme or reason to where food is. You get a bagel in the corner, then if you want cream cheese, it is with the fruit at the entry way. Unless you know there is a Omelet guy in back, there is no way to get one. We only ate lunch here once, as we were off the ship the other days, and I got everyone breakfast and brought it back to the room, but I just can not see how they designed this and have not changed it, everyone was clearly frustrated and confused.

 

The casino was very crowded at night and a fun area to have a drink. We found the ship in great condition and clean.

 

Food

My wife and I ate in the dining room each night and found the food to be excellent. Good choices each night, with the possible exception of the 3rd night, where they had some strange items. If you are doing a specialty restaurant, I would choose that night. As mentioned we enjoyed the new Piazza Café and took good sandwiches off the ship with us from there each day. The buffet for breakfast was fine, but we are not big breakfast folks. I had Yogurt and Grapefruit each morning, with the kids usually doing a bagel and sweet role and my wife had eggs and waffles. The only complaint was the buffet on the first day, but with all the options, who cares.

 

Entertainment

We went to the Dance show and it was good, my wife thought Very Good. Other than that we hit random acts, the piano guy, Motown Singers, etc… All were good. They need to mix up the Piano act, though. He was the same each night and monopolized the bar area on 7.

 

Teen Club

Let me say my kids had an awesome time. They met friends the first night and enjoyed the cruise more than any other we have been on. That said, however, the teen area is pretty weak. It is very small with out much of anything to do. Even on the Grand there seemed to be a better Teen area. But it did not bother them as they enjoyed it very much. I made them go the first night and that made all the difference as they met there friends then and built long lasting “pen pals”.

 

Sea Day

I got up and worked out. The gym is very nice and plenty of space. If you want to run on the treadmill do not come til after 8 as they keep them closed until then because there are rooms below. Then I got everyone breakfast and brought it to the rooms. If you want Waffles, they are made between the two pools at the Scoops Ice Cream spot (again part of the strangeness of the Buffett area). After breakfast it was up to the deck. This was about 9 and you had your choice of seat and area to relax at. We choose the MUTS pool as there were movies the kids wanted to watch. It is VERY loud here as you can hear the movie, but also the band behind at the next pool. If you want a quiet, kid friendly spot, I recommend the Pirates Pool area. If you have not kids, take the back of the boat at the pool there. My wife and I spent two afternoons out there and it is so peaceful and quiet. We had lunch at the buffet and stayed out at the pool til about 4 or so. We then went on to our Balcony and played cards. We got ready for formal dinner and left the room around 7:30 for pictures. The lines were long so we had two shots and headed for dinner. I liked the fact that they were turning away people that were not dressed appropriately. One gentleman looked nice but had not jacket and he was turned away. Good for them to enforce the rules as it made for a great atmosphere most the trip. If Carnival would do the same, we probably would have been on a Carnival. Dinner was good.

 

Barbados

We slept in a bit as the kids were up late each night. Got off the boat around 10 to go to the Boatyard. Getting off the ship, you board a shuttle which takes you to the port and they wind you through the stores, before you get to the taxi area. This area is totally unorganized and no lines. We finally grabbed a cabbie and told him we wanted to go to Boatyard. Another couple with two kids did the same, and they he haphazardly picked up about 4 or 5 more people on the way out. The boatyard is about 5 minutes away and he spent the whole time trying to talk us into another beach, which was bit more expensive to get to, but in his words “50 times better”. No thanks we went to the Boatyard. It is $15.00, which gets you a chair, drink and activities (water tramp, dock swing, Volleyball, etc) and a ride back to the port. We enjoyed this beach as the sand was beautiful. We ate there, which is expensive, but was good. I had the Flying Fish Sandwich and loved it. My kids did the activities, including Volleyball with the dancers from the ship. My wife and I took a long walk which was very nice as well. There are solicitors at this location and they will come up to you as you walk in and for the first 5 minutes, but tell them not interested and they leave you alone. Do not say maybe later, or they will come back. Back on the ship, with no lines, grabbed a snack and hung out on the balcony as we left.

 

St. Lucia

Up early this morning and off the ship at 8. Had arranged for Cosol Tour and customized it so we spend 3 hours at the beach. This was great. Mac was our driver and we became good friends. He took us to a Banana Plantation, Volcano and Water Fall, stopping along the way for local snacks. Then on to Jalousie Beach, which is between the Pitons. One of the most picturesque beaches I have ever seen. I snorkeled and we laid at the beach and even used the pool, then back to the boat. On our way we stopped for hot out of the oven bread and cheese. Wow, we will never be able to eat hot bread without thinking of this trip. I was nervous about this tour, with the kids, but we customized it for more beach time and it was probably there favorite part of the cruise. Word of warning, if you get motion sickness, think twice, as there are no straight, level roads in St. Lucia.

 

Antigua

Let the kids sleep in and we got off the boat around 10:30. Had planned to go to Darkwood Beach, but let the cabbie talk me into Turner. It was nice and had a local flavor with guys selling aloe and coconuts on the beach and a decent restaurant and bar. More people than I would have liked, but not crowded. It took about 30 minutes to get there. I think I would have liked Darkwood better, as it was less crowded (we passed it on our way), but no complaints.

 

Tortola

We had arranged a Catamaran on Kuralu. I had asked if he would do a custom trip and leave early so we could be back by 3:30 and he did. It was very nice. We sailed out to Little Jost Van Dyke and did some snorkeling and swimming. From there we went on to Jost Van Dyke where they served and Awesome spread of lunch. We then swam in and visited the Soggy Dollar Bar and One Love and walked the beach. JVD is incredibly surreal and peaceful and the bars are a ton of fun. We met two great couples on the boat and had a fabulous, relaxing time away from the crowds. They even had there dog on board as part of the crew. I highly recommend this trip. We headed back and did a little shopping at the port that day. We really liked the port as it is a buss ling downtown area with great local shops and bars. Back on the boat for a nice sailaway on our balcony.

 

St. Thomas

We love St. Thomas and had been there many times. Decided to let the kids sleep in and just hang out at the beach. We went to Morningstar, which is at the Marriott and hung there. Just grabbed a chair on the beach by their restaurant and had a good relaxing time. Played Kadima with the kids and had lunch right there. Took a swim in the pool upstairs and then took their water taxi directly into town. We shopped for an hour or so then headed back to the boat for our last sailaway and dinner. The kids ate with the Teen club, but came in to say good bye to our servers.

 

Service

We liked the quality and laid back nature of the service. Not showing or in your face, but more elegant and efficient. The only complaint was our room steward. He seemed to randomly decide to throw things out, on occasion. Papers or candies, nothing major, but irritating. No towel animals, which may just be Princess. Also, upon return to the boat, they normally have cool towels. But they were always out by the time we returned.

 

Summing It Up

We loved this cruise so much that we actually asked if the next one had any room and were all ready to stay aboard for another 7 days. Unfortunately, it was sold out, but we bought our next cruise on the ship and are looking forward to sailing Princess again.

 

 

 

Lastly, I had heard the dis-embarkation was a nightmare. This could not have been any further from the truth. We met in the casino at 8:30 as asked, were off the boat by 8:35, had our luggage and were on our way by 8:50 and at the airport just after 9. The airport is a mess, granted, but that is not fault of Princess. Getting cabs was organized and quick.

 

 

 

Enjoy

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Thank you for the great review! We will be doing the other itinerary in a few weeks and are looking forward to it. A couple of questions:

 

Did you complain to the room steward about the condition of your room and the dirty balcony chairs when you saw it? If so, did he fix it?

 

Did you happen to notice if the Seafood Buffet was on embarkment day or formal night?

 

Thanks again!:)

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Sailing on the REPO in about 5 weeks.

 

Very concerned about the initial condition of your room. That is

totally unacceptable. Was it fixed?

 

Also, to hear the buffet on departure day looked that bad is very

concerning as that is usually the first thing people hit when they

board the ship after settling in.

 

Question....

 

Where was your cabin located on the Caribe deck? Was the air

conditioning fine? I hear those cabins situated in the middle don't

get very good A/C.

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Here are some answers:

 

1 - We cleaned up the balcony with a towel from the bathroom. It appears as if they must have pressure washed and cleaned the boat when it was in dry dock and / or were doing it in San Juan. There was paint chips and on the tables and chairs. We did get a notice on our last day that they would be working in our balconies at 8:00 am and they opened all the balconies on the deck and appeard to be ready to pressure was them all.

2 - Seafood bufett was both first and second night.

3 - Beds were fine, pillows were bad.

4 - A/C was what I would call okay. We had it set on the coldest setting and it was comfortable, but not cold. We were in c606 and c608.

 

Let me know any other questions.

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Note about AC I saw on another thread....just passing it along.....

 

1) They say that when you open your balcony doors...it automatically shuts off the ac... So to cool off your room you can't open the doors AND crank up the AC...makes sense to me.

 

2) There are Zones...so if a few people have their balcony doors open and their AC is off...it will affect the Zone.... That is unfortunate...if true....

 

HLR

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Thank you for the extensive review! You mentioned passangers being turned away at the dining room during formal night. Did all the male passengers have on suits, dinner jackets, or tuxedos? Were they letting men in with just a nice pair of slacks and button-down, collared shirt?

Thank you ahead of time for your response.

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Hi, to answer the two questions.

 

1 - All of the men had Jackets on Formal night. We were in the set seating so it may have been different in Any Time Dining, but we saw them tell men without jackets they could not come in. This is one reason we cruised Princess instead of Carnival this trip. We enjoy dressing up, every night, and especially on formal night. On Carnival they had not done anything and you had people in Jeans in the Formal dining room on Formal night. I know many people do not like to dress up, which is totally fine. But that is why there are so many options and they should follow the outlined rules, which Patters states Formal as A dinner jacket or dark business suit. That said you did not need a tie.

 

2 - We did not do the buffett at late night. We mostly did it upon returning on the ship. I never saw Chix Fingers, but we did have wings one day and each day they had Guac and Chips and other things to make nachos with.

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1) they say that when you open your balcony doors...it automatically shuts off the ac... So to cool off your room you can't open the doors and crank up the ac...makes sense to me.

 

not true on princess that i have ever seen.

 

2) there are zones...so if a few people have their balcony doors open and their ac is off...it will affect the zone.... That is unfortunate...if true....

 

even without a switch several doors left open can still cause temp problems.

 

Hlr

 

:) :)

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Great review! We jut booked the Caribbean Princess with the same itenerary for Jan of 2010. We, as the OP booked this because we have never been to these islands. (Don't want to go to the same place twice! To much of the world to see without repeating.)

Just curious, since we have never prebooked a cruise while aboard a ship, do they offer deep discounts or is it a rate we can get by just watching the prices and having them do a rate adjustment through Princess?

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Lastly, I had heard the dis-embarkation was a nightmare. This could not have been any further from the truth. We met in the casino at 8:30 as asked, were off the boat by 8:35, had our luggage and were on our way by 8:50 and at the airport just after 9. The airport is a mess, granted, but that is not fault of Princess. Getting cabs was organized and quick.

 

 

 

Enjoy

 

Disembarkation in itself was indeed not a nightmare, but finding our suitcases was... We had cream tags but when we got to the terminal: no suitcases in the cream section. Only after searching trough al the other sections we found them. One now had a brown tag, the other a pink one. Both those tags belonged to someone else, so I wonder how these folks found their suitcases.

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St. Thomas

We love St. Thomas and had been there many times. Decided to let the kids sleep in and just hang out at the beach. We went to Morningstar, which is at the Marriott and hung there. Just grabbed a chair on the beach by their restaurant and had a good relaxing time. Played Kadima with the kids and had lunch right there. Took a swim in the pool upstairs and then took their water taxi directly into town. We shopped for an hour or so then headed back to the boat for our last sailaway and dinner. The kids ate with the Teen club, but came in to say good bye to our servers.

Did the hotel allow you to use their chairs or charge a fee? Last time I was in St Thomas I asked the taxi driver about Morningstar and they said they weren't familiar with it. What was the taxi fare to Morningstar, and how long of a drive was it?

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Just curious, since we have never prebooked a cruise while aboard a ship, do they offer deep discounts or is it a rate we can get by just watching the prices and having them do a rate adjustment through Princess?

 

 

Same price on board as it would be booking with Princess while not on a ship. However:

a) You can choose to book on board and watch p[rices until final payment date.

b) You can book on board and transfer the booking to a travel agaent who may be able to give you a discount rate

c) You can just buy the Future Cruise Credits and book later.

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Thank you so much for your review. Our group is leaving for this same cruise on the April 26th and can't wait.

 

A couple of questions on embarkation. You mentioned Champagne - were you able to just carry this on without "hiding" it in your luggage? I've read on these boards that the duty free shops tend to run low on wine/champagne - was that true in your case? We will probably be boarding about the same time.

 

How much did you pay for the day in Antigua? That and St. Thomas are the only islands we have not planned an excursion on.

 

We are also scheduled with Kuralu on Tortola, I'm so glad you liked it.

 

Thanks in advance for your answers.

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