We are platinum members and this is our seventh time on Princess Cruise Line, 3 of these cruises were on Caribbean Princess: 2005, 2008 and 2012. I noticed a lot of changes since 2008, especially on Deck 5. Gone are those nice sitting area around the Future Sales Office. In its place are Vines Bar and Lobby Shop. The International Café is now open 24 hours a day, serving cakes, sandwiches, sometimes soup and salad, as well as premium tea, coffee and specialty coffee. This is the place to go after midnight.
Premium Coffee card is now available for $29 plus tips. I found this a good deal. This allows you as much premium coffee/tea as you wish, plus 15 cups of specialty coffee (such as latte, cappuccino and espresso) per card. If you did not use up all 15 cups, you can take your card to your next cruise but you cannot get the premium coffee/tea anymore. That entitlement finishes with your cruise; only the specialty coffee you didn’t use is portable. This worked for me since I found the regular coffee served in the Horizon Court undrinkable. My biggest complaint is that premium/specialty coffee is no longer served in the Dining Room. So in order to enjoy my premium or specialty coffee, I have to make a stop in the International Café first. I found this very stupid and annoying. Princess doesn’t make it easy for you to use your coffee card.
About this cruise: I love the itinerary and weather was very good, except in Halifax when it rained pretty much the whole day. Food was mediocre in the Dining Room, and awful in the Horizon. I never thought I would say this about Princess. On the fifth day of this cruise, I just wanted to get off the ship, which never happened to me before.
We flied to New York, spent 3 days there, and then boarded the ship. Embarkation (around 1:15pm) was smooth. We were in our room within an hour. The followings are summary of our port visits:
Halifax, NS – We visited the Tourist Information Centre (inside Halifax Seaport) as soon as we got off the ship to get a map and some touring tips. Rented a car and drove to Peggy’s Cove, had lunch at Shaw’s Landing, and then drove to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Dinner that night was in the Specialty Restaurant “Sabatini’s”. The dining experience was disappointing. It was not the way it used to be. The comprehensive “sampling” full course dinner was gone. Food was not any better than the Dining Room and service was extremely slow.
Because it was windy, rainy and cold in Peggy’s Cove, we were there for only 30 minutes. We left when all the tour buses arrived and drove to Shaw’s Landing shortly past 9am. We were the first customers there. The Seafood Chowder served was not heated through so it was unappealing but the lobster’s roll was very good.
Saint John, NB – We hired a taxi to tour the city for $50/hr. Princess charged $129/pp. Our tour took 5 hours, including a lunch at the Caves Restaurant. Since there were 4 of us, we cut our costs in half and also had a very enjoyable day. The tour covered The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Reversing Falls in Fallsview Park, Martello Tower, Bay of Fundy, St. Martins and Sea Caves. Try to reach Sea Caves around 1 – 2 pm when the tide is low.
We had the best Seafood Chowder and Fish & Chips in the Caves Restaurant. We would miss this fantastic lunch if we had joined the Princess Excursion, which would not give you enough time to have lunch there and the line-up for take-outs were long.
Bar Harbor, ME – We were told to go to the Explorer’s Lounge at 7am to clear U.S. Custom but the Officers were at least a full hour late. So it was a zoo with people everywhere on deck 7 very early in the morning and we also had to tender in. Since this is a tender port, we booked the Princess Excursion to the Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain. This tour costs $59/pp for a half day tour. The view up Cadillac Mountain was great and we could see our cruise ship at a distance. The tour finished around noon, and we walked around town before we had an early dinner at a restaurant called Testa. They had an Early Bird Lobster’s dinner for $25.95/pp, which came with New England Claw Chowder, side salad, 1 ¼ lb boiled lobster and blueberries pie. Everything was good.
Boston, MA – We had been to Boston numerous times so we just took a cab to Quincy Market and hanged out there. We paid $15 flat rate one way for a cab for 4 of us. Princess charged $15/pp for a return trip.
Newport, RI – This is also a tender port. We took the Princess Excursion again to visit the Mansions in Newport. The excursion included admission fees to The Breakers & Marble House. This was just a half day tour for $79/pp and was quite enjoyable but very rushed. When we got back to the pier, we had lunch in a restaurant called 22 Bowens Bar & Grille. We ordered lobster again and enjoyed it very much. After lunch, we went to St. Mary (where John F Kennedy got married), but the church was closed. We also went to Trinity Church where George Washington used to worship every Sunday. All these sites are within walking distance of the pier.
We had to wait over an hour to tender back to the ship.
Disembarkation was very organized and relatively smooth but getting out of the city of New York was horrendous. There were traffic congestions everywhere.
Overall, this was a disappointing cruise. Food in the Horizon Court was awful and mediocre in the Dining Room. Dining in Sabatini’s was not worth the additional cover charge. Service in the Dining Room was slow and below standard. Staff on board seemed unhappy and did not try to make any connection with their guests. There was no more sommelier in the Dining Room. Our waiter took our wine order and he knew little about wine pairing. He was professional but seemed tired and overworked. We never met our Headwaiter until Thursday, 2 days before disembarkation, working obviously on his tips. The silver lining for this “who cares” attitude was that the photographers no longer bothered us. The CP Singers & Dancers were bad singers but the Comedian Rodney Johnson and Magician Garry Carson were entertaining.
I have one more booking with Princess for the Christmas holiday in 2013. We’ll see what it’s like on board of Emerald Princess. I don’t think that we will cruise with Caribbean Princess again.