The opportunity to sail on Pacific Princess for her 10 day Eastern Caribbean Voyager cruise was a real treat. The ship is lovely, the crew is friendly and accommodating, and DH and I were truly able to 'escape completely'.
We arrived in FLL the night before embarkation after an almost 2 hour delay in our flight from Boston. While it was raining in Boston and clear in FLL, there was plenty of stormy winter weather in between. After retrieving our luggage, we called for the shuttle from the Fairfield Inn & Suites FLL Airport & Cruise Port. The shuttle is complimentary, and was there less than 15 minutes after our call. The hotel was perfect for spending the night before a cruise, with comfortable bedding and a nice complimentary breakfast. Shuttles to three cruise ports (Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, and Miami) were available for a fee - Port Everglades cost is $8pp. We did not use the shuttle, as a relative in the area picked us up. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Fort Lauderdale and visited Total Wine to pick up 2 bottles of wine to bring onboard.
Embarkation was astonishingly simple, in comparison to the other cruises we have taken. We kept driving closer and closer to the terminal, wondering when we would see where to drop off our luggage. Finally, very close to the front door of the terminal were two luggage cages and three porters. The time from when we got out of the car to the time we boarded the ship was less than 15 minutes, and we pulled up to the terminal at 2:15.
Cabin - We were in 6001, a balcony cabin directly on the bow of the ship, overlooking all of the equipment used in docking the ship. As recreational boaters near our homeport, DH and I enjoyed being out on our balcony for every arrival and departure of Pacific Princess during the cruise.
Contrary to some reviews I have read about sailing in this and other bow-facing cabins on the ship, we had no limits on accessing our balcony during the cruise, and we were never asked to keep our drapes drawn during the evening in order to block light from the cabin.
The cabin was very comfortable, with a queen-sized bed, a loveseat, and a vanity/desk. The closet space was ok, but not as spacious as the larger ships. We had a refrigerator. The bathroom was standard and neither of us felt a lack of space in there. Our steward was Peter from India. He was OK, but definitely not the best steward we have ever had. I found it strange that when I left a note asking Peter to empty the refrigerator of Princess products (soda, bottled water), he hid the bottles and cans behind the drapes in the room. We had more positive interaction from the other steward in the hallway near us, a friendly man who always spoke to us and asked us how we were doing.
Ship - Our first walk around the ship to check everything out took less than 30 minutes, another new experience. It is possible to walk from bow to stern on all of the decks, and the two sets of stairs/elevators were plenty. The decor is cozy and elegant, with many inviting corners to sit and relax in. The library (Deck 10) is the largest I have seen on a ship. The walking track overlooks the pool deck and 13 laps equal one nautical mile (1 1/8 miles). I gave up trying to count laps and used one of the two clocks in the area to time my early morning walks. The pool and hot tubs were of decent size, and even when 'crowded', there were never any 'chair hogs' on the pool deck. There are 2 main lounges for entertainment, the Pacific Lounge (Deck 10) and the Cabaret Lounge (Deck 5). The Casino (Deck 5) is small, but has a great lounge.
We saw Captain Justin Lawes frequently during the cruise, and found him to be very friendly. His wife and son joined him for the cruise, and we saw them almost daily as well.
Dining - The options for dining are MDR (2 seatings), Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini's (available on alternating nights) and the Panorama Buffet. We ate dinner at the 8:15 second seating in the MDR on Deck 5 Aft. The first evening we were at a table for 6 with only one other couple. During dinner, Federico Arcos, the Maitre d', came to tell the other couple that their request for the early seating was approved and that DH and I would be then dining alone at this table, unless we wanted to be moved. He was so apologetic about the situation, but we told him that a new table assignment would be fine. The next evening he rushed up to us to escort us to our new table (we had received a card in our mailbox with the new table number) and continued throughout the week to check on our satisfaction with the dining experience. It was great! Our table was served by Martin from Mexico and Katerina from Serbia. These two wonderful people made dinner a positive experience every evening, and they would also greet us in the morning if we saw them at the Panorama Buffet. The food was delicious. We did try the Sterling Steakhouse one evening, mostly because we had been unable to make any specialty dining reservations when we cruised on the Caribbean Princess. It was a pleasant experience, made quite special because Executive Chef Antonio Cortese was preparing a meal for a party of ten at a nearby table while we were there. Honestly, I don't think it is necessary to book the specialty restaurants, as the MDR was excellent.
We enjoyed our breakfast on the deck outside of the Panorama Buffet (9 aft) every morning. It is such a beautiful location that most people don't bother with. To me, it is a highlight of the cruise.
Cruise Critic M & G - Members from our roll call gathered on the first sea day in Sabatini's. It was very well attended and a great opportunity to meet those I had been chatting with since booking the cruise. Maik from Food & Beverage came to speak to us. I was pleased to see him on the last day of the cruise and tell him how tasty everything was - he had a big smile and thanked me.
Ports - See my separate review
Captain's Circle - This was our second Princess cruise, so we were able to attend our first Members' Cocktail Party. We were greeted by Captain Lawes and other staff members and enjoyed the brief presentation by Circle Host Jennifer Baldwin. Unlike the past guest reception on another line, there were pleasant beverage options. I definitely would attend another of these.
Entertainment - We never went to any of the shows. The first evening after dinner we stopped at the Casino Lounge and heard a fabulous singer/piano player named Funch. That was it for us - we went to listen to him every night for the rest of the cruise. He was wonderful as he played and sang and interacted with the audience - he would greet people as they arrived and wave as they departed, and he often had us sing along. Josy from India was our waiter in the Casino Lounge and he was the best!
We attended the Champagne Waterfall Dance Party on the second formal night. CD Peter Roberts did a great job with that. The waterfall is much nicer on the Pacific than on the Caribbean - low key, instead of frenzied.
Disembarkation - All good things come to an end! We chose Express Walkoff with our luggage and were to report to the Deck 5 Atrium at 7:10am. It was a small group and we were told that there would be a delay of 15-20 minutes. In any event, we were off the ship, through customs and in a taxi heading to the airport at 7:45. It couldn't have been smoother. Note: Leaving the cabin with our suitcases was the first time we used the elevator during the 10 days - it was a fine trip!
Final Thoughts: I can't recommend the small ship experience enough! I hope to be able to sail on a small ship again, and would definitely love to be a passenger on the Pacific Princess for another cruise.