This was our first b2b cruise. We sailed on the Grand over Christmas and New Year, sailing the Eastern then the Southern Caribbean. We flew in a day before sailing on Dec. 21st and stayed at La Quinta Hotel. We booked through Hotel.com so didn't know our room was on the fifth floor which was the smoking floor and we are non-smokers. There was a representative of a shuttle service to the pier in the lobby but we opted out and instead booked our own taxi. Won't do that again. The shuttle cost $8 per person (Star Transit) and our taxi cost $10 but he was very late. We were still waiting for him when the last shuttle van left the hotel.
We boarded in Fort Lauderdale with ease. We were on the ship by 12:30 pm and settled in our room by 1:30. We brought on our own luggage so didn't have to wait for it to appear. We plan to walk on with our suitcases every time because of the convenience of not having to wait for it.
Day at Sea- very rough sea. worst we have ever More
San Juan, Puerto Rico- had 6 hours to explore as much as possible of Old San Juan. Walked around on our own with a list of must-sees we had created before leaving home. Loved the old forts and can't wait to go back to see more of the city sometime.
Day 3 Christmas Day
St. Maarten- had booked with Bernard Tours beforehand for an island tour. Great time and would recommend them to anyone visiting the island. John our driver was very knowledgeable and helpful. He made sure we experienced his island to the fullest. Highlights were Maho Beach and Sarafina's Bakery (great place to test out your French-speaking skills! No worries. The staff understands English). All shops were closed because of the holiday but there were locals at the open air market.
St. Thomas- Booked a tour through Princess to the island of St. John to snorkel at Trunk Bay. Beautiful! Love to go back there again. Was happy to get away from St. Thomas as there were eight ships in port that day.
Day at Sea
Princess Cays- Beach day! Rented a clamshell, snorkelled and relaxed. Sand fleas were horrible and we came away with many bites.
Day 7 Fort Lauderdale
Left the ship and walked to the Cordova Road area to pick up more wine and sunscreen. There is a Walgreen's at the end of Eisenhower Blvd. We made it there in half an hour at a good walking pace.
Loved being able to get back on board when we were ready instead of having to wait with the crowds since we were "in transit".
Day 8 and 9
Days at Sea
Day 10- New Year's Day
Aruba- booked a jeep safari through Princess. Went with La Palma tour operator. We had a small group of people (2 jeeps). We really enjoyed touring the island this way. There was no shopping as all businesses were closed because of the holiday.
Day 11 Curaco
Did our own walking tour. Enjoyed experiencing the floating bridge and walking past all the beautiful colourful houses.
Day at Sea
Day 13 Princess Cays
Rented a clam shell again. Sand fleas were worse than last week. (Will remember to bring insect repellant next time!)
Day 14 Fort Lauderdale
Sampled the buffet many times and really enjoyed the selection. Also tried both Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. Enjoyed Sabatini's and would go there again. For the Crown Grill, once was enough for us.
Botticelli's was wonderful and the wine selection great. Our serving staff was impeccable. They were very friendly and professional but personable as well. This was the only cruise where we sat at a table for eight. We enjoyed meeting new people and came away with great stories but have already decided to go back to having a table for two in the future.
We used a coffee card for the first time and really enjoyed the convenience. The food and service at the International Cafe was wonderful.
We tried Alfredo's on this trip. Did not like it and won't go back. We liked the Prego pizza better.
We also did lunch at DaVinci's and will do that again. It was delicious.
This was the first time we sampled the British pub lunch. Yummy!
The service on this cruise was excellent! No complaints. Our room steward was the best we have ever had, and that's saying a lot since we've always had a good experience. Our waiting staff was fantastic and the maitre d' was very approachable and helpful with all our inquires.
There was a lot to see and do. We watched the movies under the stars, went to the Princess Theatre to attend several shows and enjoyed them all. Our only disappointment was the live reggae band that played in the afternoons and on the top deck for New Year's Eve. They lacked personality and spirit. They didn't seem to be having any fun and it showed.
We had a balcony cabin on the Aloha deck and spent most of our time reading outside. The room was smaller than we were used to as this was a smaller ship. We used room service a few times, often instead running up to get our own food and beverages to bring back to our balcony.
We took full advantage of the onboard library. Very good selection.
One thing we hadn't counted on was the food and entertainment having the same itinerary both weeks. For example, the menu on one Tuesday was exactly the same the following Tuesday. Since we had sampled all the night shows in the first week, there was little for us to do during the second. Not a big deal but, had we known, we might have spread out the activities over the two week period.
Our first b2b cruise was a wonderful experience. We have already begun to plan our next trip- a 2 week cruise through the Panama Canal.