Pacific Princess Cruise Review by Lovebirdies: Pacific Princess Eastern Caribbean Cruise
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Pacific Princess Eastern Caribbean Cruise
We were looking for a relaxing vacation to truly get away from it all, and we found it on the Pacific Princess. Other than some unnecessary and ultimately disappointing difficulty around our dietary restrictions, this was a great trip. Part of the attraction was that it is a small ship, where you get constant attention and service. We flew to Orlando from Boston three days earlier, both to avoid the risk of weather delays (which would have happened had we flown later), and to visit family and friends. We rented a car and drove to Ft Lauderdale the day of the cruise. Embarkation was a smooth process. We went right to our cabin, which was highly satisfactory. The bed was not great at first but they got us a bedboard and all was well. We loved the balcony and spent a lot of time watching the ever-changing show that was the sea and sky-scape, day and night. The entertainment was good to just OK, and paled in comparison to the draw of the balcony, though I had a great time making a More
complete fool of myself at the passenger talent show. Our luggage arrived in a timely manner, and our cabin steward, Rugnapa from Thailand, was wonderful. Most of the stewards are men, so we had one of only two "lady stewards." Lucky us! We were also well-situated midship so that when we did hit some rough seas a couple of times, we were in a relatively stable spot. The Pacific Princess was the original "Love Boat" on the 70's TV series, which played on the closed circuit TV, fun.
The pool and hot tub were great, as was the deck track - 13 times around is a mile. The exercise room could have been open for more extended hours, however.
The library was extensive, and was the site of Friday night Sabbath services, with kosher wine and challah provided, much appreciated, and gave us the opportunity to make more new friends. Though we are in our 50's, we felt like the "kids" of the cruise, which we got a kick out of.
We only took advantage of two shore excursions, see the excursion section, had a great time.
DIning was mostly good, with some notable exceptions. I have both gluten sensitivity and lactose intolerance. This is a VERY common combination, as many, many people with celiac disease (which I don't have, luckily) go through periods of lactose intolerance. This is very well known, but as we keep discovering in our travels, venues such as this ship, which do great with the gluten free menu, do not get the lactose thing at all! I also have an unusual allergy to yeast, and ran into issues with the reasonable accommodation request that I made to the dietary people in advance. I had so much difficulty getting confirmation that my needs would be met, that we almost didn't book this cruise. I asked if I could bring my own yeast-free bread, since I don't expect anyone to have this available, and to bring my own vegan margarine, since I suspected, correctly, as it turned out, that truly dairy-free marg, though advertised, would not be available. I went back and forth MANY times with them, just trying to confirm that I could bring these items and would be able to store them in the fridge in our cabin, and trying to get the fridge dimensions. During these exchanges, I was given a list of gluten free items that could be ordered for me, and when I looked at the ingredients, almost every item had dairy and/or nuts in it, despite the fact that I'd specified what my (Very common) allergies were. This offer was made more than once, by the same person. I felt she was not paying attention and became concerned that this would be the situation on board as well. This was finally straightened out, and I was assured that the crew was well-versed in managing food allergies, but I was told that I could only ask my maitre'd to toast the bread for me as this situation was to be considered, and I quote, "a one-off," and that I must not ask this of anybody else. I found this turn of phrase offensive. All very silly, as it turned out that there was a public toaster at the breakfast bar. We only made the seated breakfast once, since we wanted to be able to sleep later on vacation.
The breakfast and lunch daily buffet selections were great. I asked several times about getting some gluten-free muffins as they supposedly had a mix, but this never came to pass. I did get gluten-free pancakes one day, and the less said the better, blah. I don't understand why they couldn't get some of the many, many good-tasting products readily available. This was also an issue at dinner. We had great tablemates, and made new friends. Our headwaiter, Feliciano was THE BEST, and went out of his way to accommodate us (my husband also has some unusual food allergies and restrictions), and we can't say that we went hungry at all. The gluten-free selections, while somewhat repetitive, were excellent and very nicely prepared and presented. But it was a bit disappointing to pay top dollar for a luxury cruise, communicate about lactose intolerance WELL in advance, and find there there was virtually no non-dairy, gluten-free dessert available other than albeit tasty sorbets- still it's disappointing to have to see the amazing array of choices and not be able to partake. They were able to make my husband an apple pie, and just served him a slice several evenings, but sure enough, the supposedly non-dairy margarine that they used contained buttermilk, so I was unable to have any. After several requests, they finally tried to make me something using the supplies at hand, and told me that it came out so badly that they couldn't even bring it out, and wouldn't I care for some nice sorbet? Seriously! This was a glaring deficit on the part of whoever orders the special needs supplies as well as on the part of the chef. Some of our new companions were also disappointed that they ordered Kosher foods and only some of what they requested arrived - no soups or desserts at all, though their headwaiter was knowledgable and was able to make sure they had enough to eat, they ended up having pretty much the same fare day after day.
So we weren't the only ones having issues. However, we did eat more healthily than we otherwise might have, and at least I didn't put on any weight during the cruise.
Disembarkation was OK, if briefly a bit harried, and it was unfortunate that we had to get going so very early, but overall it went fine, and our transfer to Herz was right there.
All in all, we would cruise on Princess again, particularly on the smaller ship. Less
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Cabin review: BB7086
I think we were in 7086, with a balcony. LOVED the balcony, spent a lot of time there, would have liked more comfortable balcony chairs. Good location. Cabin steward Rugnapa was wonderful.
Port and Shore Excursions
We took a tour in an air-conditioned, closed vehicle this time which went all around the island. The guide was knowledgable and hilarious, she clearly loved her work. There was one stop at a restaurant/bar where soft drinks and mixed drinks were served, and there was a somewhat co-ed restroom facility which lacked certain expected amenities. There was a beautiful botanical garden there and we wished for more time to explore - the stop was only about 20 minutes long. There was another stop with a great scenic view.
We tried to do some souvenir shopping, but everything in the shops either looked the same or was overpriced. It was too hot to press on so we gave it up and went back to the ship for a swim and a dip in the hot tub.
We had a great experience here, but not through the cruise line. There wasn't anything listed for this island, so we went on the local Chamber of Commerce website, and found the fabulous Yellow Submarine! We pre-arranged this via email, and looked forward to it more than any other excursion, and it didn't disappoint. It was a unique and entertaining experience. This is a boat with a glassed-in deck below, and the top looks like - a Yellow Submarine! They even played the Beatles song as we boarded. This attraction is run by a French couple, and the wife must be a marine biologist, very knowledgable. They were very skilled at taking us out where we could see tropical fish, coral reefs, sea turtles and a shipwreck quite clearly and get great photos. Highly recommended.
Back in port, there was a great ice cream shop, which unlike any other ports of call, not to mention the ship itself, had many non-dairy selections. We hit it twice! Well worth it.
We spent some time on Shell Beach, very beautiful, clear water, covered with shells, but somewhat hidden and hard to find from port, and very expensive to rent umbrella chairs. Clothing optional.
We tried to meet up with some of our new friends so we could hire a cab together, but we kept missing each other, so we went on our own. At the port, we asked advice from a security person, and she recommended that we hire a cab from inside the port, and choose someone who is clearly a registered, legit driver - she warned us against just going out with one of the independent drivers who pounce on you when you leave the port. We took her advice and ended up with a great driver who should be awarded an honorary degree in local history. Our main stops were the Romney Garden and the Batik shop, where we could see a demonstration of the technique, and buy clothing directly from the artisans. We ended up doing most of our gift shopping there, and spent more time there than we intended. Got ourselves each a nice shirt, and got great stuff for the family. The guide kept in touch with us about time, and did the best he could made sure we had enough time to explore the old fort, which was a very moving experience. We had originally agreed on a price for a certain amount of time, and he was very fair with us on the rate for extended time. We also walked around a bit and saw and photographed a downtown park with a unique and lovely fountain.
We had a magical experience on a dolphin and whale watch cruise. The young men in charge were clearly experienced and knowledgable, as well as pleasant, entertaining, and helpful. Soft drinks and a lethal looking mixed drink were offered. We saw an amazing display of dolphin activity, schools and schools of dolphins leaping high out of the water to signal to their friends that there was food there. Feeding time: our timing was perfect. Didn't see any whales, didn't care. The crew in particular was helpful with getting photographs, going so far as to take passengers cameras to the upper decks and take some great photos for them. My husband the photographer was in heaven!
Back in port, we again attempted to boost the local economy with some gift shopping, but in the craft marketplace, the locals have what they surely think is an effective way to make sales, but they have no idea how much business they are turning away with their aggressive approach. We literally were not allowed to browse at all, because they kept interrupting and trying to show us stuff we didn't want. It was relentless. Ended up buying a couple of island logo t-shirts that fell apart in the wash. And we washed them at home, cold/delicate cycle, inside out and hung them to dry!
We happened to dock on a Sunday, when everything was closed except for a couple of straw market stands, so there was little to do. However, we respect the fact that some things are sacrosanct and that not everyone is open for business 24/7. A group of us took an island tour in an open vehicle, the island was beautiful, the driver was very knowledgable though the exhaust fumes were intense at times. We got to see a beautiful mural painted along a wall commemorating an historical event, and there was a rest stop with a great view and extremely clean facilities. There was also a stop at a high elevation with a panoramic scenic view at the site of a restaurant that is undergoing renovations.
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