This was the 28th Cruise for my wife and me on 23 different Ships and 8 Cruise lines, mostly over the last 14 years or so. This was our 6th Cruise on Princess and 2nd on the Emerald having sailed on her back in '09. Both times we chose a Lido level Balcony as we like the closeness to the Pool areas, and also like a cabin near an Elevator and in the Mid-ship to bow area. We like the sound of the waves crashing off the bow of the ship and the motion of this area more than the aft.
We flew down to FLL two days early as we have come to do lately and stayed at the Embassy Suites on SE 17th Street. We have stayed there a few times in the past when the rates are decent and enjoy the location for the many restaurants and the good shopping options in the area. It is also a short taxi ride to the Beach area if you want to head down that way. This trip we rented a car for one day from Gold Coast Car Rental, who picked us up at the hotel to get to the rental location nearby and also took us to the Pier the next day when we dropped off the car. The price of the car was less than taxi fares would have been to get to the spots we wanted to visit and the ride to the pier was a bonus.
Embarkation day had us arriving at the Pier just before 11:30am as we typically try to do. Normally the process has been very smooth on our last few Cruises, not quite so lucky on this visit though. Boarding was delayed and the first folks who arrived much earlier did not start to board until about 11:30. They stopped check in for about 20 minutes or so while we were in line and we ended up boarding around 12:30. No real reason was given for the delays. Nice thing is, the cabins were ready and we were able to drop off our bags before getting a bite to eat.
The cabins on this class ship have a very large closet and plenty of storage space to handle everything we brought with us for the voyage. Closet even had enough space to handle a couple of the suitcases with the rest being placed under the bed. Only improvement I would like would be a shower door in place of the curtain and perhaps a bit larger shower similar to some of the newer Solstice Celebrity ships.
The Emerald is very well maintained and very clean. She looked much as we remembered her from our cruise in 2009. The Crew was very outgoing and friendly and very eager to make sure everything went well for everyone on board. The food in the MDR was ample and very well prepared and our waiter Ray made sure we were very happy with whatever was served. Ray and the Headwaiter Luis also took very good care of my wife's Gluten Free issues by bringing the menu for the next evening so she could pick out her selection that could be adapted to the GF issue.
This class of ship does make getting from here to there a bit more of a challenge than some vessels, especially back in the MDR area and on the upper decks but you learn to figure it out as you go along. I do like the ships as a whole, and really enjoy the International Cafe area for a lite lunch or breakfast. On this trip we actually learned to enjoy the MUTS movie area, especially the padded lounge chairs in the area. I did not find it near as loud in the area this time as I have in the past few cruises on Golden Princess, etc.
The Itinerary for this Cruise was Southern Caribbean which included Princess Cays, St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, and Aruba with three Sea Days along the way. The only new stop for us was Dominica where we took a tour with some of our Cruise Critic group with Pepper's Tours. It was a full tour of the island with stops at Trafalgar Falls, Emerald Pool, a nice fruit stand, and Champagne Reef for snorkeling. Cost was $57pp and was well worth it for a full day of activity. We stayed on board at Princess Cays and for the half day visit to Grenada. It was nice to have a quiet ship mostly to ourselves.
Entertainment on the ship was ok overall. The Production shows are very typical and we do not attend many of them, but those that did enjoyed them. The piano player did a nice job and had a big following and the comedians were also fairly good overall. The crew talent show had some highlights and worth checking out in most cases. There were lots of Trivia events on board also which many enjoyed on a regular basis.
Our Cruise Critic group had a very active thread leading up to the trip and had a few things planned for on board. The Sail Away Gathering was lightly attended, which sometimes happens but the Meet and Greet in the Sky Lounge had a nice turnout and some folks also took part in a Gift Exchange toward the end of the get together. We also had a group Slot Pull on the first Sea Day, only about 16 of us took part but we had a good time and ended up only losing $1, pretty cheap entertainment and a good way to mingle.
Disembarkation went very smoothly. We used their EZ luggage system so did not have to find our bags or take them to the airport. They were checked through to our final destination and worked very well for us. It is really nice on Saturdays and Sundays when you cannot check your bags at the airport until two hours prior to your scheduled flight times. You do have to be out of your cabin by 8:00 which is a bit early, but the Lido Buffet is open for breakfast until 10:00am. Taxi to the airport is about $15 plus a tip and a much better deal than Princess transfers, or a little better than a shared van.
This was a very good Cruise on a beautiful ship with a wonderful crew. We booked the Sapphire Princess while on board for a 28 day Hawaii, Samoa, and Tahiti Cruise which goes RT Los Angeles in the fall of this year. Booking on board got us the $150 pp. OBC for this upcoming Cruise.