It wasn't supposed to be this way. We were supposed to be flying in to Puerto Rico. Then we were supposed to be on the Caribbean Princess for a Southern Caribbean cruise. Nine days prior to embarkation we got the emergency e mail telling us that the Caribbean Princess had blown an engine and our cruise was cancelled. Finally, my DW was able to arrange this substitute. It wasn't the Southern Caribbean. It wasn't Princess.
There were seven other cruise ships leaving port the same day. Hotel rooms were scarce. At a considerable premium, (about 270 dollars) we were able to book the Hilton by the airport which included transfers from the airport and to the cruise port. Some of the reviews for the Hilton were less than stellar, but we found our room to be acceptable. There was a LONG wait from the airport to the hotel.
Embarkation the next day went well. They started about 11 am and by noon we were on board, in our already cleaned stateroom meeting our two stewards. They were quite attentive and kept our room clean and supplied with dry, warm towels. We used the shipboard laundry one day, and a bag was twenty bucks. It wasn't a particularly large bag, but it was amazing how much my wife got crammed in there. Unlimited laundry would have been 49 dollars. We made do the rest of the trip.
I thought the ship was in good shape. While on board, they re-lacquered our verandah. I did not notice any torn carpet or draperies. I thought the bars and lounges were well kept. We had our Cruise Critic meet and greet the first day at sea. Kudos to the organizers of the event, and the ship's crew even had some light refreshments on hand.
I liked the activities they had available. I went to about all the Windows 7 sessions that they had. Even the basic ones, I learned a thing or two. I went to one of the Culinary meetings and got some good recipes too. Entertainment varied from first run movies in the movie theater, to magicians on the main stage along with the song and dance routines. I particularly liked the Piano Bar with Roger Carr. He is reported to have about a 5000 song repertoire.
We got booked so late that practically all of the shore excursions were full. You could do just as well though by getting off the ship and negotiating with the taxi drivers on the docks. Ports of Call included San Juan, St. Thomas, Grand Turk, and Half Moon Cay. At San Juan, the El Yunque rain forest was beautiful. St. Thomas, we did an island tour which included stops in town or on a beach at a better price than Holland offered. Turks and Caicos, we drove into town and saw the poverty there. There is a nice museum in town and some neat local food merchants along the water front.
Dining on board: assigned dining times were already taken. We did the anytime dining and it was just fine. we never waited more than 5 minutes and got nice seats at large tables where we got to meat some interesting ship mates. We went to the Pinnacle Grill twice, once for the Le Cirque Dinner. It was okay. We had tried for the Chef's Table, but there was not enough interest so it did not go on our cruise. They had some other specialty up charge restaurants, but we did not try them. The Rembrandt, which was their main dining room, was perfectly adequate for us. I liked eating breakfasts there.
State room beds were comfortable. The couch unfolded into a hide-a-bed. My six foot five son slept there. With a seemingly older guest list, there was always a place around one of the pools. Great hamburgers and even lamb burgers were available at the Terrace Grill.
We did the Express Luggage option with disembarkation. Other than having to get off first, it went extremely well and was worth the added costs. Fort Lauderdale airport on a cruise day is just gross. It is standing room only, and the bath room floors are all wet and yucky. I have been in third world countries and had it much better.
The only negative was the Lido Dining. Service was poor there. They did not get your drinks for you. You had to get your own glasses of juice or tea. The glasses were tiny.
Oh, I should mention the internet. They have a new service. $33 for 250 minutes. Very reasonable. Even on sea days, you could get a computer on board. Hot spots were few and far apart and you had to find them yourself as there wasn't a list. Also, I want to note that on deck six forward, you can open a sea door and go outside for sail away.
So there you have it. I still need to get to the Southern Caribbean.