Melissa and I are from the Philadelphia area, across the Delaware River in southern NJ.
We were set to sail on CB a year ago, but the sailing was cancelled when Princess pulled her for a few weeks for repair to her propulsion system. This was a great disappointment to us, especially when I realized Princess was leaving San Juan, and we would no longer have the opportunity to sail a 5 island itinerary on any of the line's 7 night sailings.
As conciliation for the last minute cancelation, Princess gave each of us $200 off of a future sailing, which we applied to this year's March 9th sailing when there was a price drop. We got a great price for a balcony stateroom on the much admired Caribe deck. The staterooms on Caribe (deck 10) have extra deep balconies, half covered, half open and thus exposed to the sun. We never got much use out of the standard balcony on any of our previous cruises, so I looked forward to having the extra space and sunlight this time around. I must affirm what others have said. The mattresses are extremely firm. Egg crates are available if you ask soon enough.
In the weeks before our sailing, I'd read some mixed reviews on CB. Some people who had sailed on her complained of wear and tear due to her advancing age. Also, Princess changed CB's scheduled arrival time in Curacao from an already late 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm, after she arrived in Curacao later than scheduled a number of times over the previous few months. These things considered, I wondered how much we'd enjoy our cruise.
When we boarded, I was very pleasantly surprised. We walked directly into the Piazza, which was updated in 2011, and looked very fresh. We took the elevator to deck 10, and found our stateroom (very close to the mid ship stairwells and elevators, a primo location!!!). One of the advantages to a cruise on Princess is that they make the staterooms ready and available to passengers as soon as they board, which is not the case on all cruise lines.
The stateroom was one of the places where I did notice the ship's age. The blue mat on the floor of the balcony had some rust stains, and the wooden rail on the balcony needed stain and varnish. Other than this, the stateroom looked typical of what we'd experienced on our two other Princess sailings. We also noticed the ships age while walking the upper decks, as the carpets showed some wear. The wear of the carpets, and the state of our balcony gave me concern as they were among the first things we saw after we boarded. We pretty quickly forgot these things, as these things are forgettable. Venerable Pam in CA (I hope she doesn't mind me quoting her) said in a post "I've found that even on a great cruise, it's never perfect but the things that aren't perfect fade in importance." These are sage words that every passenger should keep in mind on every cruise.
The passengers on this ship varied in age more so than on our previous Princess sailings. It apparently was spring break for the Canadian school children. It was a joy watching the youngsters with their swimmies having a ball in the Neptune's Reef pool. There were also a number of older high school kids, who were mostly well behaved. Then, there was your typical Princess crowd, mostly 40's and up.
We took great advantage throughout the cruise, day and night, of the food and snacks available at venues all over the ship. Besides the dining room and specialty dining (both of which I always consider exceptional) I was able to satisfy my gluttony at a moment's notice at the International Cafe, Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe, Prego Pizzeria, and/ or the ice cream place, and did so often. This is another great advantage I've taken on my Princess cruises that I really couldn't on most of my RCCL sailings, at least not at the venues that don't charge a fee. Our evening at Crown Grill was well worth the surcharge. With the encouragement of some posters on Cruise Critic, I dared ask for both the filet mignon entree and the lobster entree. I merely supplemented the surcharge with an additional gratuity. This was excellent.
What was not so great for us was the evening entertainment. The performances in the theater by the Princess Singers and Dancers just weren't for us. We didn't give the much lauded Bert Stratton a listen, as Crooners was a bit small on CB, and it looked a bit crowded. MUTS, which is a HUGE draw for us, blew it entirely by showing mostly teen movies at night (Twilight saga, Pitch Perfect eg.) while Academy Award winners Argo, and Lincoln were shown in the theater at 1pm when we enjoy being out in the sun. This was an extreme letdown and leaves me wondering, "What are they thinking?". Argo won Best Picture. Twilight won the Razzi. Duh.
The only other thing that was a small issue was the lack of rule enforcement by the staff at Neptune's Reef pool. On more than one occasion, there were infants being bobbed up and down in the pool. Every time one didn't have an accident in the pool forcing it to close, I thanked Heaven above. There were toddlers wearing swimming vests in the hot tubs, standing on the seats in the hot tub and diving into the middle part, and splashing. There were adults in the pool with beer in their hands. Worst of all, at one point, a high school guy dragged a young lady kicking and screaming into the pool, with the help of one of his friends. None of these things helped me "Escape Completely". I would have appreciated the ship's staff discouraging one or all of them.
This was made up for, though, by other great things happening alongside the pool. The sail away party was fantastic, with dancing on the pool deck to the music of Epithani, one of the two great bands (the other being Solutions) that entertained us throughout the week. There was also Zumba conducted right by the pool in the mornings which was a blast to watch. Most of all, we really appreciated the attentive service by the bar staff, who brought us free drinks such as water and lemonade with a smile (though I made sure I bought at least one soft drink each day and tipped an additional 150 percent to cover the trouble for the day).
Princess handled the port stops well. We were able to tender to Princess Cays with relative ease, though for the return trip we waited in quite a line. A number system was employed in Curacao to alleviate a mad rush off the ship due to a late arrival there. We were off the ship quickly enough. Aruba was pretty standard.
Both Embarkation and Debarkation were great. Sure, there was a little wait to get on the ship, but once people started moving it was fairly quick. I'm thinking maybe 35 to 40 minutes, porters to gangway. We used EZ check to debark. This program allows you to pay Princess to process your checked bags and print your boarding passes in advance of leaving the ship. It saves you the hassle of checking in at the airport or online while onboard, and you don't see your bags once you put them out in the hall until you get home.
We had an extremely enjoyable cruise on Caribbean Princess. Prospective cruisers, don't let naysayers talk you out of sailing on her.