We were a party of 8 (4 brothers and wives/SO) and just returned from the January 19th sailing of the Caribbean Princess. This was our 14th cruise but first on Princess. Last 3 cruises were on Celebrity Solstice, HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam and Celebrity Eclipse so there will be comparisons.
We arrived at the port around 10:30. Easy check-in but they were late boarding and it was 12:30 before they began embarkation. We were onboard by 12:50 and eating by 1:00.
The 4 couples were in the Emerald Mini-Suites on deck 8. My wife and I were in E731...the last cabin aft on the starboard side. As others have said, this is a great cabin with extra large balcony (which was great for the 8 of us to have the Ultimate Balcony Dinner on). These were the largest and best designed cabins we have ever had. We loved the large bathroom, closet area away from the door, and full size sofa. I was concerned that the cabin might be showing its age but it was in great shape. The bed was not the most comfortable I have had on a ship but it was not as bad as some people have said.
I don't like the blue plastic flooring on the balcony as much as the cover on other ships. After our UBD there were crumbs (yep...we are pigs) on the balcony that got down in the little holes in the flooring and would be hard to get out unless they pulled up the flooring. Also, we like to open up our balconies to make one big balcony but it is very confining on the CB with the little doors being the only thing to open. I much prefer the Celebrity and HAL balcony where a large partition actually swings back in toward the cabin and opens up everything around the railing.
In the future I would ONLY want these mini-suites on Emerald Deck as the Dolphin deck mini's have the uncovered balcony that can be viewed by everyone above.
We really thought the ship was beautiful and well maintained. Very attractive colors and decorating. Some of the clubs and areas are dark but still pretty. The only real area we saw that needed attention was on the balconies down under the glass railing. It was rusted and needed some work. While we loved the look of the ship, we did not really like the design and flow. There are so many "dead-ends" where you "can't get there from here". While walking, the best way was just to go the piazza via deck 7 and find what you needed from there. The elevators were also somewhat confusing as some went only to certain decks. While the CB was really beautiful, we liked the overall design flow of the Celebrity Solstice class better and the more open feeling with higher ceilings. The top decks on the CB seemed really cut up and not much flow.
Excellent and friendly all around the ship. Our cabin steward was Aries from the Philippines...did not talk much but very efficient. We had anytime dining so did not really get to know waiters but one made a great impression...Steve in the Crown Grill from Hungary. He was one of the best waiters we have ever had. Everyone we had contact with was helpful, friendly and always said hello. We said it must be difficult to always appear cheerful when everyday is "Groundhog Day" to the staff.
We did not go to every theatre show but here are some we saw and our impressions of overall entertainment:
Hawley Magic -- A married couple that apparently had gone far on America's Got Talent. While they were good it seemed every illusion was a woman in a box disappearing and reappearing. Little interaction with the audience. Okay...not great.
Walk Like a Man -- Tribute to the music of the Four Seasons and they were excellent...one of the best shows we have seen on our many cruises. If they are on your sailing be sure to see them.
Born to be Wild -- Production show featuring popular music from the past several decades. Okay but the male vocalists were not that strong. But fortunately it was just singing and dancing and none of the dialogue that is so corny.
Comedian Scott Wyler -- Had a real dry sense of humor and a lot of one-liners. Okay but have seen better on cruises.
Epithani -- Party band that seemed to play everywhere. Pretty good, especially on Motown and soul songs.
Dan Styne CD -- One of the best cruise directors we have had. Really had good rapport with the audience and was funny and unscripted.
Tempo Quatro -- Unfortunately did not discover them until the last evening but they were excellent. Played a lot in the Wheelhouse Bar.
Sugarcane -- Two piece Caribbean music and were good.
Other -- We did not attend any of the game shows, bingo, art auctions, or MUTS. We attended one karaoke. Unfortunately most were good singers because we go to hear the really bad ones that THINK they are good. We found that the seminars were always about a subject like weight loss, teeth whitening, back pain, etc. where they could get a captive audience and then try to sell you something.
As we all know this is subjective. Overall food was good but I did not think it was as good as our last 2 Celebrity cruises or our HAL cruise. Some thoughts.
Dining Rooms -- We had anytime dining with good service and for the most part food was good...not spectacular but we don't expect that. The last evening was one of the worst menus I have ever seen and it was hard to find anything that looked good. I don't know why they pack the menu on some nights with great choices and then have nights with meatloaf and hamburger.
Crown Grill -- Excellent...one of the best specialty experiences we have had. Steaks were very good and service from Steve was top-notch. I wish we had gone the last night after seeing the dining room menu.
Sabatini's -- Good but not as good as Crown Grill and service a notch below also. I had a very large veal chop that looked delicious but was full of fat and kind of tough.
Ultimate Balcony Dinner -- All 8 of us had paid in advance and did this on our large balcony the evening in Curacao and finished up as we were leaving port with the moon on the water. Service from Ariel and his team was superb. He met with us early in the cruise to finalize the menu. We received a cocktail of choice, canapes, champagne, crab in puff pastry appetizer, large salad, surf and turf, a beautiful and tasty selection of mousses with fresh berries, special cookies and coffee. They also included a very nice arrangement of flowers for each cabin and an 8x10 photo...a $25 value. It was really a nice experience and worth the money with all that is included. Since they have to deliver the food it is not quite as hot and fresh as the dining room but we would definitely do it again.
Chef's Dinner -- Two couples were selected to do this but my brother and I with spouses elected not to sign up. We were honestly shocked that the other brothers were selected since 38 cabins signed up and it is limited to 10 people. And this was our first Princess cruise. Perhaps they were selected to give a real "Wow" impression to take home. I believe the other couples selected had done it before on other Princess ships. My brothers said it was one of best experiences they ever had on a cruise and would not stop talking about it. It as funny that the 4 of us who elected not to do it ended up at a table next to them in the dining room. Once the maitre d' found out that we were not participating he brought our table two very large plates of the main course of meats...delicious. And, very nice of Mr. Florencio to do.
Horizon Court / Caribe Cafe -- This is one area we felt Princess really needs to improve on. The selection leaves a lot to be desired and the quality is hit or miss. Also, the serving set up is horrendous and much too small and confined for a ship of almost 3,500 passengers. It was mass confusion trying to get to the food. And the seating area is also too small for a ship this size. Most of the time trying to find a seat here was like trying to find a seat on a lifeboat on the Titanic. Celebrity has by far the best buffet set up with numerous serving stations rather than lines. And HAL, while not as good a set up as Celebrity, is much better than Princess in our opinion. Hopefully they are correcting this on Royal Princess.
International Cafe -- What a gem. We found the desserts here much better than the dining room or buffet. And the soups, salads and sandwiches were fresh and tasty. The specialty coffees were also good.
Trident Grill / Pizzeria / Ice Cream Bar -- Visited each...pizza is the best at sea. Burgers and dogs pretty good too. Wish they had more scooped ice cream like Celebrity rather than soft serve.
Pub Lunch in Crown Grill - Served several times during sea days. Fish and Chips a little greasy but still a nice experience and change of pace...and we did not have to fight the crowd in Horizon.
BARS / CLUBS / LOUNGES
We really liked Vines...and they have some great complimentary tapas when you get wine. Spent some time in the Club Fusion, Explorers, Wheelhouse and Skywalkers. We found them all to be nice venues. We discovered Skywalkers is a great place during the day to find a quiet seat to relax and read. Crooners is really part of the Piazza and always seemed to be full.
Really did not spend much time at the pools but they always seemed crowded. With such a nice balcony we found we spent more time there than on deck. We did like to lie out around the aft pool, especially the "wings" that were large enough for two loungers on the deck above.
Selected this itinerary because it went to Aruba and Curacao, which are hard to visit on a 7-day cruise from south Florida. Stayed on the ship in Princess Cay. Just walked around Curacao. On Aruba, we booked the Sonny Binn's tour on the internet. It was an entire island tour that lasted over 4 hours for only $30pp. We had 4 to 5 stops in a new, very well air-conditioned mini-bus. Well worth the money and Sonny was one of the best tours we have done on any island.
We really enjoyed the Caribbean Princess and will most definitely consider Princess in our future cruises based on itinerary and pricing. I personally slightly prefer the overall Celebrity (Solstice class) experience due to a lower number of passengers and higher space ratio. It seemed hard to find a quiet place to sit on the CB because every place seemed crowded. But, I was very impressed with the Princess product. I kept reading how Princess was not the same as the past and nothing was as good as it used to be. Well, all I can say is it was a wonderful cruise with a great staff that goes out of it's way to serve you.
There are always going to be little things that you like better on one ship or cruise line but the overall Princess experience was all that we had hoped for. The Royal Princess may be in our future as it looks amazing.
Thanks for reading this long-winded review.