We had a mixed time with our Southern Caribbean cruise. Of the three cruises with Princess this one has not met our expectations. But let me start with the positives. The shows were some of the best we have seen on a cruise ship. Our room steward Garry was great and waitress Patchee and her assistant Jorge in the Island Dining room were a pleasure when we could get them. I'll explain that later. The Head Waiter Alejandro was terrific and always smiling and the Maitre D' Jose handled our issues with class and style. Snorkling in Aruba was amazing and full of colorful fish and beautiful coral. Curacao was nice but we only had 5 hours of sunlight. The food in the Island Dining room was amazing as was the food in Sabatini's. They have changed some things at Sabatini's as the appetizers were full size not small portions. DON'T ORDER MORE THAN ONE! We didn't follow that rule expecting sampler sized appetizers and left some as we didn't want to ruin our meal. I can say the Buratta alla Panna con Carpaccio di Pomodori (Caprese Salad) for most of us was absolutely AMAZING! Also the pasta dish Penne with Braised Beef was the best I've ever had.
This was our first negative experience with this cruise.
Princess Cays -- Unless you are off the ship early don't waste your money on Snorkel, Clam Shell and Paddle Bike excursion. We thought let's wait until 10:30 to go to the island only to find out there was a ticketing system happening. This is the first time we ever experienced this. In general a good idea, except when nobody checks that you are holding a ticket in the group being loaded onto the tender or in case of some folks holding a ticket at all. However since a tender broke down our experience waiting to get on the island was a mess. TWO hours later we were on Princess Cays and walking over the bridge to get to our Clam Shell only to be told we need to go over to the other side of the island. When we get there we are told this is the wrong section and we needed to go back to the side of the island we came from to get our package. Needless to say we got our package where we were standing. Now it's 1:15 and with lunch closing at 2:00 we all looked at each other and decided to eat. The food was average at best, there was nothing to drink except water, the iced tea and other drinks were out. We heard the bar was running out of drinks as well. We snorkeled, yes I know don't swim on a full belly, the snorkeling was good, getting in the water was an experience since it is fairly rocky. We decided to not do the Paddle Bike since it poured rain for 15 minutes instead we decided to go to the bar and sit on the beach. Guess what, the bars closed at 2:00 so we sat from 2:15 -- 3:30 with nothing to drink as we were NOT going to stand in line for an hour or more waiting to get on a tender. All in all Princess Cays was a disappointment.
When we complained to the excursion desk we were told in a letter that the ship is not responsible for the quality of the excursions and acts only as an agent for the tour company. Hmmmm, Princess Cays sounds like it's run by Princess, the employees on the island had Princess name badges I'm just confused as to who runs Princess Cays.
Curacao -- I can say I've been there and I won't return. However all we did was walkaround the shops so there was really nothing here that I have never seen before. I wasn't excited for any of the excursions so maybe if we had tried a taxi tour we would have been more satisfied. Funny thing is the cheese shop and the Blue Curacao at the dock were the best priced of the places we visited.
Aruba -- Love, Love, Love this place! Here is an island that I can and will return to. Clean, fun and friendly is how I would describe things. We went on the Pirate Snorkling Cruise booked through the cruise. This is a "booze" cruise with snorkeling. No alcohol was served until the snorkeling was over. We snorkeled at the Antilla Shipwreck and two other stops. I was first or second off the boat each time, you don't have to tell me twice to get in the water. I tried the rope swing and failed miserably, FYI, it's not for fat guys. The crew was happy and fun and I would recommend this for anyone wanting a fun time.
More on the Island Dining Room
The young lady (hostess) taking our room number at the restaurant door was just plain rude when we asked her to sit us in Patchee's section for dinner on night 3. When we then made the same request to the gentleman sitting us he didn't acknowledge our request and started to take us to another section of the restaurant. When we explained we wanted to sit in our requested section the response was there are no open tables. Only to find out a table for 4 was being cleared as we were being escorted to a table in another section. We then stopped and told the gentleman we will wait for the table to be cleared. Once again we were met with an attitude that we were inconveniencing him. The next evening we requested the same and were once again not seated in the section we wanted. When we were seated I was able to see that within 10 minutes a table for 4 was open. I just don't understand why when we requested a section we were not given the option of waiting until a table was available. At this new table the Head Waiter Alejandro suggested we put in a reservation and request Patchee's section which we did. Well guess what happened the next night. There was no record of our request and we were once again NOT seated in the section we requested. Only this time we were treated even worse by the gentleman at the door (same man I just forget his name) who when questioned why we cannot wait asked with a brusque tone, "Do you want a table for 4?" and promptly seated us at the table he was taking us to ignoring our request once again. We have never been talked to by an employee as we were by this man on any cruise regardless of the cruise line. We did complain to Alejandro when he asked why we were not in our requested section. He was appalled that our request wasn't honored. To close the Maitre D took care of our issues but it was too little too late.
The buffets were good and bad. We ate all breakfasts and some lunches on the buffets and some days we were happy and others very disappointed. For the most part the food was good. Some days I would say the food ran warm to cold and when we returned for a new plate things weren't much better. However when the food was hot it was pretty good. We were disappointed that the theme based buffet disappeared. What is with the rationing of cream? My dining partners enjoy some coffee with their cream and if they received a splash of cream in their coffee they were lucky and had to ask for more on far too many occasions. They also on more than one occasion were served "clumpy" cream. The funny thing is when we asked about the cream rationing we were told that it is because every two hours the cream must be replaced and to give a cream boat to a table keeps them from monitoring how long cream has been out and that it becomes wasteful. I guess the clumpy cream just "spoiled" faster than the two hour limit.
I would say the layout of the buffet needs some work. Princess would do well to go to a Vegas style buffet and see how they manage traffic.
The Coup De Grace of rudeness
While in line to get Bingo tickets we observed the woman selling tickets treat another customer rudely as this person wasn't sure what option to purchase and was told to make a choice as they are starting to call numbers. We were just dumbfounded as to why anyone would talk to a paying customer in such a manner. When told by this behavior the person we told was not surprised. Obviously this person has a reputation. It makes you wonder why Princess would put a person with an attitude in this position.
Cruise Director Dan Styne
Loved him! He was witty, always ready with a good joke and able to make us smile. He was a wonderful host to the cruise activities and Sean his Assistant was a good match they really played off of each other.
The productions shows were great! We loved the comedian Steve Moris with his sing alongs and his "dumb" jokes. The Magic of Hawley Magic was very enjoyable. The Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Tribute band was not good.