This was the last cruise of a very full schedule for us this winter -- we did 28 days on the Pacific Princess to the Amazon and back, then 49 days on the Grand around South America. This 7 day cruise was just for relaxation and to enjoy the ship. This was our 65th cruise on Princess, and 3rd on the Caribbean Princess. Overall it was a very good cruise although it started with an Anytime Dining Surprise.
We were staying at a timeshare in Fort Lauderdale so got to the ship early around 11:00 am. It was quickly through screening, short line to check in, then directed upstairs to the Elite Lounge with coffee and pastries. Just before noon we boarded -- best embarkation we have ever had!
The Caribbean Princess is a nice ship, good layout and we were very glad to go to Skywalkers again (had been sailing on the Grand a lot since Skywalkers was taken off her during the drydock.) The piazza was not crowded during the day and relatively quiet -- although it was pretty loud in the evening when bands played there. No problem finding lounge chairs on deck for sunning.
The Itinerary and Ports
We had planned on doing the Emerald but were getting cruised out so did this 7 day itinerary instead. We have sailed this southern itinerary a number of times so were very familiar with these islands -- our goal was to relax so we did that, didn't even get off at Princess Cays but enjoyed the ship instead.
We had booked an obstructed guarantee and received a cabin assignment a few months later. We were assigned E106 -- deck 8 way forward, actually way way forward so we anticipated that it might be very bouncy. The cabin is considered an unobstructed view but the window looks out at the promenade so people are constantly walking and running by the window and even looking in the window! Surprisingly we only had a few nights when the waves were large enough to cause creaks and groans and bangs and booms when the waves hit the bow -- other than that it was rather smooth. It was a long way to the Horizon Court but very convenient for the Princess Theatre. We were also far enough forward so we did not hear the loud "music" in the Princess Theatre as the passengers in the next section did. This cabin was one of those that could accommodate 4 people so had two fold down bunks on the walls. We have learned to have a twin bed configuration in these cabins to avoid constantly banging heads and shoulders on the fold down bunks when getting in and out of bed. But as usual on Princess our stateroom steward Victor was excellent! All in all we would not recommend E106.
The Food and Service
We had a very negative surprise this trip using anytime dining. The Welcome Aboard letter said to call 6219 for anytime dining reservations. We called and were on hold for about 30 minutes before we gave up and went down to see the Maitre'd to make reservations. We have gotten very used to anytime dining and treasure it's flexibility to be able to eat at different times in the different dining rooms, to have a table for two or eat with new friends, and to be able to make a reservation for a specific time so we can plan our evening's entertainment knowing when we would be finished with dinner. But we never got a chance to speak directly with the Maitre'd, one of his staff at the door asked us what we wanted and when we said a reservation for two we were told there were no dinner reservations on the Caribbean Princess -- none would be taken. Each night we would have to stand in line and if we did not want to "join" and wanted a table for two (we were celebrating my wife's birthday so wanted it special) we would be given a pager and have to wait until summoned. The first night we waited 30 minutes to be summoned, and on the second night it was 45 minutes. Since dinner took much longer than expected we were late to the theatre and all the seats were taken -- so we missed the show we wanted to see. The only explanation we received from the dining staff was that too many people wanted to dine in the dining room so the Maitre'd made it first come, first served -- no reservations accepted. Maybe this Maitre'd doesn't like couples who like to dine together as a couple? What happened to the Love Boat? We have been celebrating our birthdays and wedding anniversary on Princess for many years and they had always made it a very special dining celebration -- this time it was not special at all. We have decided we will celebrate our special days elsewhere next year.
For the most part the food in the dining room was good but the service was inconsistent, sometimes very very slow. The usual Princess dress code was ignored so t-shirts and shorts were common at dinner time. Tables for two were so close to each other that often you were only inches away from the waiters' backsides. It was not the usual Princess fine dining experience. To avoid long waits for dinner we tried the Cafe Caribe and it was delightful, much better atmosphere and service than the dining room
Entertainment was the usual you would expect on a cruise, varied and mostly good. The production song and dance shows were interesting although we can't understand why they like to shine spotlights in the eyes of passengers who are trying to watch the show -- hard to appreciate the show when you are covering or closing your eyes often to prevent blindness! The Caribbean Caliente production show was cancelled because a singer was sick so the movie Argo was shown twice replacing Caribbean Caliente and also the scheduled showing of the movie Lincoln at 10:00 pm. Why Lincoln was cancelled was never explained. The comedian Al Jamal was really really funny and the magician act Hawley Magic was memorable.
Disembarkation was quick and easy, and we were off even earlier than scheduled.
It could have been a very good cruise if the dining room was managed as professionally as it is on other Princess ships. Apparently on this ship it doesn't matter what passengers want, they will get what is convenient for the Maitre'd and that is it. That is definitely not the attitude and behavior that has brought us back to Princess time and time again. It is however the kind of attitude and behavior that will discourage us from considering cruising on the Caribbean Princess in the future. Perhaps it is just this Maitre'd that is allowed to do whatever he wants, too bad Princess allows him to disregard passenger requests and also too bad you never know who the Maitre'd will be when you book a Princess cruise. (Hopefully someone at Princess in Santa Clarita who really believes in trying to be a "consummate host" reads this and does something about it.)