The Caribbean Princess has 3100 passengers but it never seemed overly crowded.
Embarkation: Boarding was between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. We arrived at 1:30 p.m., dropped our labeled bags and waited in line to check in. The line moved quickly and the check-in desks were well staffed. We had our boarding passes and passports ready and were given our cruise cards and went to our cabin. Then went to the Horizon Buffet for lunch. By the time we returned to the cabin, our bags had arrived.
Cabin: We were on Baja deck (11) in the Aft (rear) of the ship on the starboard side. I highly recommend when booking a balcony cabin, to ask for one that has a "roof" which I believe are decks 10, 11 and 12. A balcony cabin on the lower decks has no roof, and is open to view from above.
As pointed out in other reviews, the cabins are getting a bit frayed. There were some marks on the walls; the bedding had stains on them that grossed me out; the tiles in the bathroom need to be re-grouted or scrubbed. Otherwise it was clean.
Storage: The cabin had plenty of storage. There were 30 wooden coat hangers pro- vided (I brought all my clothes on my own hangers to save time unpacking); there is a narrow cabinet with shelves and a safe; the 2 bedside tables both have 2 drawers; the desk has several drawers, a mirror and a hair dryer; there is a small refrigerator. Because we drove to the port in Ft. Lauderdale, I brought a lot of extra "stuff" but had plenty of room for everything. The shower is tiny but there was enough storage space in the bathroom for both of us.
Cabin Steward: Filimone was our cabin steward who was every pleasant and did a fine job except that we asked for ice every afternoon at 5 and we always had to remind him. Otherwise he kept the room clean, towels changed, bed made, clean glasses, candies on the pillow, etc.
Dining: We requested Any Time Dining when we booked the cruise. At the time of booking, the Princess agent told us we could reserve our dining times for up to 3 days ahead when we checked in because we were "Captain's Club." That is incorrect. Once on board, we were told that we had to call the Dining Line each morning in order to reserve for that evening. In addition, you could only make reservations for the times between 5 to 5:30 or after 8:00 p.m. All other times were kept for walk-ins. Also, requesting a table for 2 is discouraged. We always got an attitude when we said we would prefer "not to share" as they put it. In fact, one of the female wait staff stuck her tongue at us when she thought we didn't see her! My guess is that the reason they prefer you to share a table is to help the wait staff efficiency.
We requested table 216 in the Island Dining Room each night. Some times they could accommodate and other nights they couldn't because other guests were already seated there. Our waiter was Reuben who was extremely attentive, pleasant and knowledgeable. Both he and his assistant made our evening meals very nice.
The menu choices were pretty good but don't expect gourmet. The menu had lobster tail only one night and filet mignon was offered only one night as well. Both were excellent. I had chicken 2 nights, and turkey once (Thanksgiving). On the last night I had the eggplant fritters that were soggy, and we had the meatloaf that was tasty but sat in my stomach like a lead balloon. I ordered the salmon another night, and it was tasteless. We had Fettuccini Alfredo as a side dish several times. It was fantastic. Reuben brought over the antipasti appetizer without us asking for it. It was delicious. It has prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, black olives, etc.
Horizon Court: This is the large buffet area in which you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Except for one morning, we always did the buffet. There are many choices to suit everyone's tastes, including an omelet station.
Wines: There was a good selection of wines priced from $24 and up. If you don't finish your bottle, the wait staff gives you a ticket that you bring back with you on another night. They will retrieve the bottle for you to finish.
One negative point that has nothing to do with the food: There were several men who came into the evening dining areas in gym shorts, t-shirts and baseball caps. I think that type of dress is suitable for the buffet areas, not the dining rooms.
We did not do either of the specialty restaurants because we did them on previous cruises and wanted to see what the regular menus offered.
For lunch we either did the buffet or had pizza by the pool. We're from the New Jersey/New York area originally and we think that Princess pizza is the best on the sea.
Excursions: Princess offers many choices for all ages. Princess has their own beach area called Princess Cays on the island of Eleuthera. We had enjoyed the beach on previous cruises so decided to take a tour of the island instead. We participated in the Rock Sound, Tarpum Bay and lunch bus tour. The tour guides were inhabitants of the island and were extremely knowledgeable and interesting. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to see the rest of the island. There are many abandoned small homes because people would abandon them when they were damaged by storms. We also had an authentic lunch at a great little place on the beach. Conch is plentiful there and they made us conch fritters and conch ceviche.
Curacao: We came into port at 1:00 p.m. Our excursion was to meet at 1:20 so we wanted to disembark as quickly as possible. There were people everywhere trying to get into lines to who-knew-where? There were no signs to direct us and no crew to organize and guide the passengers.
We took the tour for the Hato Caves and the museum. The caves are great. Be prepared to climb about 40 stone steps to get into the caves. The guide was very informative and explained the history of the caves. At one time the slaves from a nearby plantation would run away and hide in the caves. You can still see the burn marks on the overhead stones above where they would use torches to light their way.
Aruba: We had never been to Aruba before and took the 4WD Island Tour. We had the best time. We rode in safari type vehicles and went off-roading around the island. We were able to get to places that buses or cars can't get to. The tour guides/drivers were fun. We visited one of the rock formations and climbed up through the rocks to the top. (I think there is a weight restriction on this excursion because of the possibility of getting stuck climbing up). We visited the lighthouse, Chapel of Alto Vista, goldmine ruins, and other highlights.
Entertainment and Activities: Because we ate dinner so late, we didn't go to any of the shows. There are many activities scheduled each day. There is something for everyone.
Internet: There is an Internet cafe but I brought my Macbook Air to use in the cabin. There are various plans available and we bought the plan for $59 for 100 minutes. I thought the service was a little faster than other cruises we had been on. For our purposes, this plan was enough for us to check our emails.
Public Areas: Pool areas: There were many children on this cruise because it was over Thanksgiving. Noise was not a problem as there are many spaces throughout the ship where you can get a little peace and quiet. If we wanted to read without distraction, we spent time in the adults' only pool area outside of the Caribe Cafe. There were ample lounge chairs at all of the pool areas, even on sea days.
Lounges and Bars: There are many places throughout the ship to get a drink and relax or listen to music. The drinks were reasonably priced. Gratuity is automatically added to bill.
International Cafe: This area provides specialty coffees and various salads, sandwiches and pastries. We bought a coffee card ($29 for 15 drinks) otherwise there is a charge per specialty coffee. This is a good value if you enjoy cappuccinos, mocha drinks, espresso, etc. Also if you present the card, you can get fresh brewed coffee free of charge. I tried the ham and cheese croissant and it was wonderful, very fresh. We also had the cream donuts, almond croissants, and some of the other pastry items that were terrific. There is no additional charge for the food items at the International Cafe.
Vines: This is the wine bar where you can enjoy a glass of wine and sushi or tapas. We never had the opportunity.
Crew: Overall everyone was generally friendly and helpful.
Tipping: A flat rate for gratuities is included in your bill (except for casino and spa personnel who should be tipped separately). We still felt additional tipping was appreciated if not expected. We gave our cabin steward a tip when we requested additional ice and also at the end of the cruise. We tipped our waiter at the Island Dining Room as well as the matre' de.
Overall: We enjoyed our Princess cruise experience.
Pet Peeve: Charging for bottled water!!!! We previously cruised on Azamara twice and they provided as much bottled water as you could consume, free of charge!!! I can understand the soft drink card, but come on, give us drinking water!!!!