The Emerald Princess was our home for 20 days over Christmas and New Year's as we did Southern Caribbean and then Eastern Caribbean cruises back to back. Our family of four thoroughly loved this escape from reality; it really was a fabulous family vacation. We are in our late forties and our children are ages 12 and 16.
My husband and I stayed in a verandah room while our children stayed in an inside cabin directly across the hall. I especially enjoyed the verandah when we were pulling into port to stand outside and take in the sites while still in my robe!
My children could not really be coerced into using the kid zone areas - they were happy to do their own thing.
We had two enjoyable days at sea, before our first port, Aruba. My daughter and I went horseback riding and my son and husband took an island tour on an open air bus. No complaints - but not outstanding.
In Bonaire we booked a private snorkeling excursion with Woodwind Tours. Thanks to fellow cruise critic friends, we found Woodwind Tours a short walk away from the cruise dock. The day was warm and calm. Owner Dee briefed us as we boarded the catamaran and prepared for our snorkel excursion.
We were grouped according to abilities and assigned one of three group leaders. Our family first did a drift snorkel where we floated along with the wind and current while the boat followed us and picked us up after an hour or so. Our children are both very comfortable snorkeling and we had brought our own masks and snorkels. Our guide, Isabel would free dive down deep to point out something of interest - sponges, sea cucumbers, parrot fish, blue tangs - then surface and explain what it was to us. We were encouraged to snorkel on the surface, but our daughter couldn't resist free diving about 20 feet on our second snorkel, to get a better view of a Hawksbill Turtle. Excellent guides and very knowledgeable about Klein Bonaire (an island where there is no development and never will be, with ecologically protected areas for marine life). I would strongly recommend Woodwind tours in Bonaire!
Grenada proved to be disappointing because my son felt sick on the Isle of Spice tour (booked through Princess), due to the curvy roads and lurching buses. What was to be a 3 hour tour, turned into a 5 hour ordeal.
In Dominica, I shopped at some of the vendors and bought a few items made here in Dominica. I went to the second floor of the Fort Young hotel to enjoy a cold drink and some free Wi-Fi. My husband and daughter enjoyed a private tour with Pepper. Great decision to book a private tour.
I did use the self service laundry on our deck on the ship to wash a load of coloured clothes. Two dollars each for a load - wash or dry. That 's a much better price than sending it off to the ship's laundry service! I had to do the final drying in our room - but that is why I brought my handy little travel clothesline that has Velcro straps on the end!
One night as we entered the Princess theatre at the front of the ship, it was apparent there were larger swells in the ocean. I am sure glad my travel agent sister booked our rooms in the middle of the ship where it feels like there is less movement! I enjoyed the Princess singers and dancers who performed "Boogie Shoes". Lots of flashy costumes and talented dancing.
On Christmas Eve, I sat out in the Piazza and enjoy a pot of tea surrounded by beautiful Christmas decorations including lit Christmas trees, a gingerbread village and wonderful ambiance! It was formal night so everywhere you turned one can see ladies in long dresses and men in tuxedos! I myself wore a burgundy satin blouse and long black skirt.
One of the most festive parts of Christmas Eve was when many gathered in the ship's piazza for Christmas carols just before our dinner. It was led by the Emerald Princess singers who really know how to sing and a grand piano. Wonderful!
Dinner was lobster and giant shrimp. It was a wonderful substitute for our traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal. The best soup of the cruise was a blackberry merlot cream chilled soup. Think of raspberry ice cream melted and you get the rich, tasty idea!
After supper and before my pot of tea I hauled my family out of their beds (it was only 8 pm after all) to play a game of Christmas trivia. And with a score of 17 out of 20 we won! Hooray! Our 16 year old was a lock for naming the titles of all the Christmas carol lyrics!
Before all these Christmas festivities began, we spent a day in port at St. Thomas sailing with some Canadian cruise critic friends.
On Christmas Day we did enjoy an interdenominational church service. We also participated in a competitive gingerbread house building competition. A lot of those families augment their houses with extra candy bought elsewhere! It was a fun family activity. For dinner, I ordered the turkey dinner with chestnut dressing. My husband had the halibut, my daughter had the beef with a slice of turkey and my son had the ham. All lovely dinners! After dinner we watched another movie under the stars and it was raining so we sat under cover. They offer pizza in addition to the popcorn, cookies and milk during MUTS! Like I had any space left in my stomach after Christmas dinner!
And because it was Christmas, we had to play some games! We played Qwirkle cubes, Farkle and Bananagrams on the floor of our stateroom. What a wonderful, memorable, warm Christmas!
It felt like we were further north when we were in the Bahamas at Princess Cays. Of course it was still warm enough for shorts and T-shirts, so not winter conditions by any stretch! After breakfast in the dining room we packed up our bags for a day at the beach. We went to the Michelangelo Dining Room to catch a tender to the Princess Cays Island. Because the ship cannot dock at the island, we take a small lifeboat shuttle to the island. We only had to wait about 20 minutes before we caught a tender. The tender ride over to the island was 10 or 15 minutes long.
Once on the island, my husband decided to snorkel and kids decided to play in the sand while I found a lounge chair in some shade. By 1:30, we were ready to head back to the ship.
On the last night of the first cruise, my husband and I had a reservation at the Crown Grill, the Specialty Beef restaurant on board. My husband didn't like that they asked for a second entree choice in case his first choice, lamb chops, did not meet his expectations. So they brought out both entrees, which was simply too much food, and in his eyes, very wasteful. I had a trio of dessert at the Crown Grill and thought it was the best dessert of the whole cruise.
This cruise truly felt like a vacation. As the stay at home parent, I didn't have to cook, clean or prepare meals! Heaven! Our entire family loved this trip!