First of all this is actually 2 back to back 7 day cruises not 1ea 14 day cruise as is sold. This equates to being at sea for a large amount of the time because the ship has to return to Ft Lauderdale in order to disembark some passengers and the taking on of new passengers for which ever leg of the trip that will start anew. Alone that's a 2 day at sea trip coming and going (4 days). Now add on the days, not shown in the itinerary as "at sea". Those days would include your departure day and days between ports of call. So for example after you've experienced your first 2 at sea days you have 60 hours out there and the clock can still be running as you haven't reached your port of call yet, that's shown as an arrival day.
The con to this package is that because of the travel time some ports of call end up being rather useless. Example: San Juan Puerto Rico. We arrived at about 4:30pm local time, by the time we got clearance to disembark, port officials got there, and we were allowed to leave the ship we had just over 2 hrs of day light left and all of the historical sites close at 6:00pm local time. How much of such a wonderful place can you see under those conditions? Next time I sail I'll be looking at the 10-12 day packages where the ship doesn't have to report back to their home birth every 7 days.
No Smoking rules: While many of you will applaud the new onboard smoking rules for us smokers it's like being placed in a less then second class pier group. Yet I do agree with some of the rules and was able to abide by them but it came at a real cost in enjoyment. On the Grand Princes there were only 4 smoking areas available to less than Platinum card holders or Suite occupants (they have one more in a restricted lounge) and on at least 2 occasions all of them were closed, blocked off, clear on the other end of the ship and more often than not un-manned with no onboard services what so ever (drinks/food etc.). Another really annoying issue is that when reading their policy on Princes.com it states that permitted smoking areas are well marked. Sorry they are not. Like most of the information one can obtain aboard ship your best and most reliable source of information comes from follow passengers thru trial and error. When I asked a Senior Purser (Officer) about their "well marked smoking areas" he told me that they were marked, by ashtrays. The most centrally located smoking area was on deck 7 Portside of the ship also known as the Promenade deck. The ashtrays are hung on the bulkhead just outside of very heavy outward swinging doors but hidden from view by large equipment lockers. One can look up and down that deck and not see one of the 3 ashtrays located there. Oh yes, 5 percent of the passengers crammed around 3 ashtrays being pelted with heavy doors and knocked to the bulkhead. Did I mention there is no seating around these ashtrays? Additionally, and somewhat funny, there were ashtrays on some of the elevator landings which are definitely not located where you can smoke or anywhere close to one. Tell me again about the clearly marked smoking areas. If you're a smoker I'd look at other options as all of the Cruise Lines owned by Carnival have the same policies in effect. Other independent Cruise Lines have retracted these restrictive rules due to the loss of revenue.
Ah, then there's the "Deluxe Anniversary Package" Cost $445.00us, paid in advance back in June of 2012. It was our 30th anniversary and I wanted to do something special for my wife, after all she did allow me to live for thirty years. I had her all pumped up with all of the niceties she was about to experience, the Champaign, the chocolate covered strawberries, flowers, the plush robes and the Breakfast in bed just to name a few. Several of these items were to already be in our cabin when we boarded. There was nothing. I asked our Steward about it and was directed to the Pursers desk. I decided to give them another day and see what happens. On the third day I went to the Pursers desk to inquire; yes it was noted on my account but obviously not incorporated into anything that was going to make it happen. The Senior Purser would look into it and I could expect things to happen by that afternoon. Well it took another day but a few items did trickle in, a second trip to the Purser 2 days later produced the robes on day 4. The breakfast was yet another issue and generally needed to be ordered 24 hrs in advance. When we booked (June of 2012) I had it scheduled for day 2 of the cruise at 8:30am but by now that time frame was long gone. Again off to the Pursers desk I went to be told that the reason I hadn't received it was that I hadn't chosen my meal from the menu. Sorry I told her, there was no menu, it was a flat package deal. This is what you get. Well the web site could be wrong, even the room Portfolio (book about onboard services) could be in error. So she convinced me to contact room services. I returned to my room, called down to RS and no there were no choices. So I had them send me up a copy of what the "menu" contained. It matched verbatim, the web site, Portfolio and what I had talked to this Jr. Purser about. When I returned to the Pursers desk, for the fourth time now, I went armed with three documents that all stated the same thing, and when I was supposed to have received it. She still wanted to argue the point. That's when a Senior Purser came out of the back office and I looked at him probably with, at the least, frustration on my face. He came over to intervene. That's when it happened. As I was explaining to him about the meal and the menu issue and showing the documentation she jumped in saying "I never told him that." She blatantly lied, right to my face. Then she stormed off. The Gentleman looked at me and there I was defending myself and position. Showing him my documentation and again asking when I would receive it. He said he'd have RS give me a call and set it up, they called, and I placed the order and would receive it in 2 days, which was ok due to ports of call. When it came I was asked for a coupon. What coupon? That's when I found out that for the meal and other onboard services included in the package I should have received three coupons for various venues such as our couples massage. The framed portrait we didn't even bother to attempt to redeem. We'd had it and I would have paid another $445.00 not to have gone through this at all. A full report was filed but no satisfaction was received what so ever. By now what could they do anyway?
International crew: While the front line Porters, servers and general staff were friendly, cheerful and looking after your every wish as best they could, they were also a wealth of information about their home countries and cultures, which covered the world and made for very interesting conversation. But the second tier staff as often as not, didn't speak English at all and could make things frustrating in ways never dreamt of in any other situation. As an anniversary gift I had bought my wife an expensive gold chain with a very nice pendulant and matching ear rings to ware during formal night. As she was putting on the earrings the ship rocked and one dropped down the drain. She was so upset. I told her I'd get it back and called down to get someone to retrieve it. They sent a plumber right up. I guess by the time he got his information the situation had turned into a plugged drain. Yep, he turned on the water full blast smiling as the sink emptied as quickly as possible. I reached over his shoulder slammed off the water and tried to explain the situation. He didn't understand a word and by now my wife is in tears. The last thing you do when you drop jewelry down a drain is turn on the water. Finely I retrieved the second earring and pointed at first to the one in my hand and then pointed to the drain. He finally got the idea and luckily the lost one was still in the trap. The point here is that you may have to be resourceful when dealing with some of the crew you may encounter.
Room service: what can I say? A bowl of chili served with a fork, cheese burger no cheese, Glass of milk with that Danish in the morning; expect a tiny creamer, oh but you have glasses in your room we were told. Like yes I want that 2 ounce shot of milk in a glass. NO, bring me the 2 glasses of milk I ordered on your form. Salt and pepper, what's that? They screwed up our orders 6 times in a row. The funniest was when I called to complain about 50% of an order missing; an Officer from the kitchen shows up at the cabin, yes officer, who went off chasing down a bucket of ice and we still didn't get our Irish Cream. It went right over his head. But you have that 15% gratuity and $3.00 room delivery charge.
Oh, that bed; short and so hard it hurt me to lay in it. I know I didn't get a full nights sleep durring the entire cruise.
I kept hearing about this "Total Escape Esperance" but never figured out what they were talking about unless it was some of the on shore excursions.
Would I recommend this to others? I think not. The entire episode lacked any appearance of communication or organization from the time you booked passage to the time you disembarked the ship. Can I get a do over?