A great time overall on board the ship. The weather was very hot (88-90) most of the time, which affected the time spent outdoors. Neither one of us expected it to be quite that hot in December.
The embarkation process was absolutely abysmal. It took us over 2 hours to get from near the front of the waiting line to inside the terminal. The ship was berthed at Terminal 29 (instead of the normal #2) due to an overflow of 9 ships in port at the same time. It took 40 minutes just to get onto the pier area with the car after we cleared Security to drop off the luggage. It went downhill from there. No parking on/near Terminal 29. Everyone who drove and had to park their vehicle had to go back out of the terminal and over to the mid-terminal area to the nearest parking garage, then take a shuttle back. Another 30 or 40 minutes in the shuttle waiting in the traffic jam. Only one lane open for all traffic turning left onto Terminal 29. All vehicles used the same single More
lane -- buses, shuttles, cars, taxis, etc. Once we got off the shuttle at Terminal 29, it was 2 hours standing in line to get into the building. Even "Elite" passengers, despite inquiring of Princess staff, could not jump to the head of the line, or be let in early. Only one side of a single double door into the building was opened for everyone to use, once it was opened. Some Princess staff or volunteers said the delay inside the building was due to only 2 Immigration staff showing up for work that day to do the off-load check of passengers disembarking. Once inside the building, Princess staff were plentiful and tried to keep things moving along with the hoards of hot, thirsty and tired passengers. Everyone agreed that they had never seen such a poor set-up for embarkation. Terminal 29 looks like a working loading dock, no amenities whatsoever. Cargo containers everywhere. Whatever entity runs Port Everglades should be ashamed of the lack of planning and execution that was more than evident on 12/01/12.
The cruise itself was delightful and all the staff were very pleasant and helpful. Once again, our cabin steward (Ricardo) went above and beyond to make sure our needs were met. We don't know how Princess selects their staff, but as with our Alaska cruise 08/12, we could not have asked for better service all around.
We had terrific table-mates for early Traditional Dining and did not use the speciality dining this time. We went to the two wine tastings, several trivia events, lots of dancing in clubs and Skywalkers, and the productions shows. Everything on board was top-notch.
We like Princess so much, we have already booked two future cruises, but will probably not got out of Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale in the future because of this trip's Terminal 29 debacle. Less
Caribbean Princess Cruises to the Southern Caribbean
D219, AC Mini-Suite. As with other mini-suites, there is abundant room, more than we needed. The ship is showing its age a little, at least in our cabin. The balcony was rusted all the way across the bottom below the Plexiglas (or whatever material) under the railing. The bathroom sink faucet leaked and the A/C in our section of the ship stopped working for a couple of hours one morning. Even though this is a forward cabin, there was hardly any roll/pitch difference than the D523 we were in on an Alaskan cruise.
This was a 4-stop tour; Ayo & Casibari Rock formations, Baby Natural Bridge, semi-sub and California Light House. The rock formation has a big sign in front of it, "climb at your own risk". Steep climb in confined spaces and a steep stairway back down on the other side of the rock. Nice views once up on top.
The Baby Natural Bridge has a nice view with the open water and waves. Took some great photos. We opted not to go on the semi-sub due to the heat and instead spent that hour or so cooling off in a beach restaurant/bar and taking our own walking tour of the immediate area.
The California Light House stop was more of a rest stop than anything else. We paid $1.00 US to use the facilities since the staff person there would not take the $1 local coinage.
We had originally booked for the Trolley Train Historic Tour and Connoisseur Cooking Demonstration, but the cooking demo was cancelled prior to sailing. We then booked for the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Sub & Scenic Drive and kept the Trolley Train because the Sunset Cruise was sold out. However, due to the departure delay from Princess Cays, the shortened time in Curacao only permitted us to do the Semi-Sub. We had to cancel the Trolley Train the morning we arrived in Curacao.
The tour on the way to and from the Semi-Sub was interesting and we saw a lot of the town and local highlights. The tour guide was knowledgeable and informative. The air conditioning on the bus wasn't that great, so everyone stayed hot.
The stop at the distillery was a waste of time. Basically, herding cattle through the facility with a quick stop for tasting the liqueur.
The Semi-Sub was a novelty, but the water was cloudy. The tour guide went overboard in scuba gear and fish food to bring the fish up to the viewing windows for photos. At that point, we had close-up views of several fish and a turtle.
If you love baking in the sun and walking around with wet, sandy feet, this is the stop-over for you.
Not much to do on Princess Cays if you're not a sun worshiper. We took the tender over, had a short walk-around, took some photos, then tendered back onto the ship. The tender process was very smooth and efficient both ways.
The ship had a medical emergency while anchored, so our departure was delayed by about two hours until the passenger was evacuated for transport back to the US.
Recommendation for Princess -- keep the on board store open for a little while in the morning for those who forgot to pack sun screen. It costs a whole lot more (at least double) at the little shack on Princess Cays for a small tube of sun screen.