This was our first cruise after cruising to Hawaii! I guess that we took it way too soon after such a wonderful trip! However, now that we have been home a week, we are starting to see how good this cruise really was. At first everything was in comparison, but now we are seeing things as they really were.
The Caribbean Princess is a fantastic ship. It is a sister ship to the Star and Golden which we have most recently cruised on and as a result, it was extremely easy to get around. This makes starting the cruise very easy and much less stressful in trying to locate certain venues in the first few days.
Once again, with the assistance of our Princess Cruise Vacation Planner Sharonda, we were able to get our booking done with the minimum of effort. She is worth everything they pay her and more because she thinks of things that we often overlook. We were able to book a mini-suite for right at half price of the regular fare listing. Believe me when I state that that was a very limited time offer and we jumped upon it. After getting everything planned all that was left was to set back and wait for the day. However, as so often happens with our bookings, we received an email informing us that as repeat customers with a mini-suite selected, we were being offered an upgrade to a full suite for a nominal fee. When all was said and done we ended up in a suite on the Riviera Deck. While the location was great for this cruise as there was very limited activity on the Lido Deck directly above because of the Fall Season, it would not be nearly as great on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise where the Lido activity would increase exponentially. Time of the year makes all the difference. I would recommend a Vista Suite anytime you cruise on the Caribbean Princess.
We booked air fare on American Airlines and we chose to pay for the Main Cabin Extra add-ons which move you forward in the cabin for the increased leg room and early boarding option. It was money well spent on all of the flights to and from NYC. By making these arrangements early (around 3 months in-advance), we were able to save some money versus booking at the last minute.
Upon arrival at NYC, which by the way was our first time, we stayed out by LGA at the Comfort Inn LGA. Then we utilized taxis to and from downtown Manhattan to take our Gray Lines "8 hour Manhattan Experience tour”. When you are told to use Yellow Cab Only and we should have followed it. As our drive into Manhattan in a non-yellow was $52 (no tip for a rip-off) during which he only used surface streets with all of the stop-lights and took just over 1 hour to arrive at our destination. That evening, after hailing a Yellow Cab, the return trip was only $35 and travelled by way of Freeways for the most part. I gave the Yellow Cab drive a $15 tip, since he tried to do his best. I felt he deserved the large tip to compensate him for good service. Why not? Well, why not!
As for the Gray Lines "8 hour Manhattan Experience tour”, what they describe in the brochure is not what they deliver! They stick you on a Hop-On Hop-Off bus instead of the luxury Motorcoach promised in the sales pitch propaganda. It was like driving around the island of Manhattan for 6 of the 8 hours in bumper to bumper bus/taxi traffic. The day was overcast, drizzly and rainy which didn’t help any and for those of us who chose not to sit upstairs in the mist and rain, well you couldn’t see one heck of a lot. Meanwhile we drove past almost all of the scheduled stops because there was no place to park the Hop-On Hop-Off bus or we were in a rush because of the slow-traffic. They state that you will have Exploration Stops at: Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Wall Street, South Street Seaport, Grant’s Tomb, Central Park Garden, Little Italy, World Trade Center and finish at Rockefeller Center. In actuality we stopped at 3 of the listed stops. South Street Seaport the best part, since it included the Hudson River cruise onboard a very nice tour craft. We also stopped at Little Italy for lunch and since the tour ended at Rockefeller Center you can’t call that a stop. It is where they dump you off and you’re told "Th-th-th-that's all folks!" and they give you the boot! Unless you are part of the 8 hour tour, then they give you your coupon for the "Top of the Rock”. Aside from the river cruise and the Top of the Rock, it was a bust!
After spending a couple of hours at the Rockefeller Center’s "TOTR” we walked down the street a block and a half to a highly recommended NYC restaurant named "City Lobster & Steakhouse” for a couple of drinks to unwind and a fantastic dinner. We arrive early for our reservations, which I had made 2 weeks before since it was going to be Friday night in NYC. We had planned on waiting at the bar, but were immediately seated and a window table away from the front door. We couldn’t have picked a better table location as it offered everything we were looking for. After ordering cocktails and appetizers, I couldn’t wait to try the oysters Rockefeller, which by the way, were prepared perfectly. My wife had her taste buds set for the Lobster Spring Rolls and she said they were fantastic. For our entrées, my wife had the scallops and I had the lobster stuffed with crabmeat. The dinner and evening was everything we had hoped for and couldn’t believe our good fortune to have selected this restaurant. The service was great, the food was better and of course the cocktails were relaxing. I do believe that if we were ever forced to go back to NYC this would be our restaurant of choice.
Early the next morning we shuttled back over to LGA and found the Princess Representative right where we were told she would be. We ran into another couple with the same last name as ours that were going on the same cruise. Roger and Sharon Baker are a very good-natured couple and we saw them quite often during the cruise. The motorcoach arrived and after getting our luggage loaded everyone got onboard for the 1¼ hour ride to the ship. As always, Princess Cruise Lines had everything lined out and things went extremely smooth. We were at our suite within 30 minutes after getting off the coach. We were greeted with a beautiful arrangement of exotic flowers, complimentary mini-bar and a bowl of fruit! Later the Complimentary Champagne and Chocolate Covered Strawberries arrived! This is why we upgrade to suites whenever possible.
After settling into the stateroom, we waited on the luggage to arrive. That is right, once we checked the luggage at the airport into PCL’s care; we didn’t see it again until it was delivered to the room. We gave into hunger and headed up to the buffet for a light lunch. Upon returning to the room there was our luggage. Now came the dreaded unpacking and putting everything away. By now it was time for "Muster” and like good little cruisers off we went! After Muster, we stopped by Sabatini’s to make our reservation for dinner that evening.
Sail-away was very enjoyable as we watch the skyline of NYC fade into the distance and we watched the Statue of Liberty drift by right off of our starboard balcony. Now came the relaxing on our wonderful full deck with a glass of the complimentary Champagne and "Chocolate Cover Strawberries” and of course the large basket of fruit. Wow! That really makes you feel special. "Sail-away is always a special time as it is the beginning of an adventure and culmination of months of planning and anticipation!”
Later that evening we had a special sail-away dinner at Sabatini’s. This has become a habit with us and one that I have grown to look forward to. We like to try something new on cruises and it was no different this time. We chose the Salt Incrusted Rockfish for two. The Maitre’ D presentation was wonderful and the meal was absolutely great, but way too much food. The dining experience was over 2 hours of enjoying appetizers (Calamari in a Cone), pasta with mushrooms and of course the main course and don’t forget the wine (Chateau St Michele Riesling). This was just as special and the service was simply superb. Highly recommend this to anyone! After dinner we were too, late for the 8:15 show in the Princess Theatre so we stopped in the casino and made a small contribution. Then it was out to the Piazza for the String Quartet and a nightcap. Now was time for a good night sleep on that very comfortable bed.
Morning came and we welcomed it with a coffee and orange juice delivery to our room at 7:00AM. (So as to not become repetitious, this was an every morning occurrence.) (Note: I always carry a stack of $2 bills for tipping for special service even though I have prepaid the gratuities. This they don’t have to share with anyone else and they remember!) Since this was the only sea day of the cruise, it was a rather leisurely day. After shaving and showering followed by dressing, it was time for a perk of booking a suite and that is "Breakfast at Sabatini’s”! This was a very slow paced breakfast and time to get to know the Maitre’ D and wait staff. They were very friendly and make breakfast special. Whenever excursions allow, we try to eat there for the relaxed atmosphere. Lunch was a lite affair from the International Café which consisted of an herb encrusted roll stuffed with Mozzarella and Prosciutto and a crescent roll stuffed with ham and cheese. The afternoon was broken by the 3:00PM Snowball Bingo game in the Club Fusion. Boy do they make a great Bloody Mary. After that it was time to start getting dressed for the first of two formal nights on the cruise. We went down to the Piazza where we had our pictures taken in our best bib-and-tucker before heading in to the Island Dining room where we had Anytime Dining for the opportunity of meeting new friends. This night was no exception. One of the couples was Joe & Barbara who were so friendly. Again with dinner we ordered a bottle of Chateau St Michele Riesling. Dinner & conversation ran so long that we missed the 8:15 Show at the Princess Theatre. We settled for the casino and more entertainment in the Piazza before turning in for the night.
Monday was our first port day but there was time for Sabatini’s before debarkation in Halifax, NS for our tour. Like so many we had booked one of the morning tours of Peggy’s Cove. Once there, it seemed and if all of the ship was there, but it was still an interesting place to visit. There must have been at least 15 buses in that little parking lot. Then it was back to the ship for lunch and afternoon Snowball Bingo. Then one of the highlights in Halifax was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pipe Band boarded our ship for a 4:00 PM performance in the Princess Theater. It was a delight to see them in their uniforms and play. I highly recommend you see this show if ever doing this cruise to Halifax. After the show we returned to our room to clean up and dressed for dinner (nothing formal, just casual). At the Islands Dining room again, we were assigned to a table and guess what? Joe & Barbara were there also along with Don & Crystal and Jim & Joan. This proved to be quite a combination, as everybody seemed to hit it off quite well. Our waiter Manaldo & his assistant Melan were just as crazy as the eight of us. They asked if we would please come back to their area and particularly table 279 the next night. Everyone agreed that it seemed like a good idea. Guess what time it was? Too late for the show again. Oh well, I guess that we were not meant to see the shows. We stopped in the piano lounge and listened to the music and had a nightcap.
Tuesday was St. John’s, NF and another beautiful day. Early morning tour so we grabbed a bite at the Horizon before scooting off for the sightseeing. We saw the incoming tide at the Reversing Rapids before heading off to St. Martin’s and the Bay of Fundy! Lunch was the most delicious "Seafood Chowder” you could ever find. Then back to St. John’s and the outgoing tide at the Reversing Rapids. Tides in the Bay of Fundy can rise and fall by as much as 50 feet. Upon returning to the ship and our room to clean up before dinner, I started hearing a lonesome bagpiper playing songs down on the pier. Going to the balcony we could see the lone piper standing "at attention” playing for the cruisers. Almost every balcony had people on it listening to the beautiful music. I could learn to really like the pipes!!
Then the ship began to thruster away from the pier, so it was time to cleanup for dinner. Around 5:30PM the crew (the 4 couples) began to gather in the Lobby Bar before going in to dine at 6:00PM. We asked for and were seated at table 279 and had another wonderful dinner with pleasant companions. (After that the table was reserved for us!) This is what make "Anytime Dining” so great, if you find good partners you can form a group and if not, then try another table. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! We didn’t even pretend to try to make the show, because everyone was having too much fun.
If it’s Wednesday, then it must be Bar Harbor (Bah Hah-bah as the locals pronounce it). Here we had booked a tour away from the cruise line. Acadia Nat’l Park Tours was our selection, but wouldn’t you know it, our wonderful government had shut the park down. Every entrance had a uniformed park ranger there with a barricade across the road to keep everyone out. I counted 14 rangers at the roads accessing the park stopping entry. With that many rangers they could have opened the park without any trouble, but OH NO! They weren’t going to do that. The tour company gave a $10 reduction to the $35 fee and we had a wonderful tour around the area coves and bays sightseeing. This proved to be the place where I preformed my "4 point landing” when I miss-stepped off a curb. Other than my feeling like a fool, the only major damage was to my best camera which is now in need of a funeral. Even though I could have broken something or sprained an ankle, I was very fortunate because the Lord was looking after me and there was only a bruise on one knee. So as a result, I missed the opportunity to get any more pictures that day. Some of the sights that we saw at Bar Harbor were: Seal Harbor where Martha Stewart lives and the Rockefellers have a boat house. We past Asticou Azalea Garden, a must see while in the area. We did not stop here so you need to see this on your own. There were two other stops and each had bathroom facilities. Although we were disappointed we could not go into the park, the carriage roads and beautiful arches were pointed out as we drove past. Park Tours you did a great job adjusting your tours while giving us a wonderful 2 1/2 hour history lesson. Thank you and well done!
After the tour, we took advantage of being in Maine to have a fresh caught Maine Lobster at Testa’s Restaurant. We had their "Early Bird Special” which included: an appetizer of Black & Green Olive Tapenade with fresh rolls, a Bowl of New England Chowder, a 1 ¼ lbs. Lobster and a piece of Maine Blueberry Pie with Ice Cream! Then we stopped for me to buy a Bar Harbor polo shirt as a souvenir. Then it was downhill (literally) to the tender location and back to the Caribbean Princess. This day was great even if the park was closed and it was cloudy and rainy because of the tour guide and of course the "EBS” at Testa’s! Once on the ship, we went to the room and I told my wife about my diving exhibition and we doctored my scrapped knee. This was the first that she knew about my fall. From then on she kept a closer eye on me on the tours.
I excused myself and I went down to the Future Cruise Office to pay our Future Cruise Deposits! This is to confirm our interest in future bookings and provide us with Cruise Credits!
Even though we went down to dinner and met with the crew, we just didn’t feel like eating too much after our "lunch”. However, it didn’t stop us from having a drink prior to dinner. It was another great evening as after two previous nights, we were visited by the Island’s Maitre’ D and the Head Maitre’ D of the ship to let us know that they had heard about this group that seemed to be having so much fun that they just couldn’t stay away!! We gave all of the credit to our waiter Manaldo & his assistant Melan. They made it so much fun to dine in their area! By now it was going on 8:30 and time to make room for late diners. HAHA!
Next came Thursday and Boston, MA. This morning we had a later tour so it was back to Sabatini’s and a relaxing quiet breakfast. I don’t remember what my wife had, but as for me, I had Waffles, Sausage and Eggs (OE). Man was it good. In Boston, using our small pocket point & shoot camera we got some really great pictures of Boston as we drove around and through it. As our tour guide said as we drove through the Harvard University campus, "When asked where you went to college, we can say that we went thru Harvard!” But don’t mention that is was just for a drive-through. There was a historical walking tour that when I was younger would have been fun to do, but not at my age and particularly after my dive! So we settled for a bus tour!
The only stop on the tour was the City Market. Well neither of us are shoppers so we decided to stay on the bus with the driver and we learned a lot more about the city from a Bostonian’s point of view. Finally back at the ship, it was time to get ready for the last formal night of the cruise. I really got to put my new Tuxedo through its paces for a second time. My change of attire was to go from a Black Bowtie to a Red Plaid Bowtie. While the wife got to choose between 2 outfits that were completely different from the first nights evening gown. Boy, I can say with all modesty, that my wife of 51 years is still the best looking woman there is to me! She has put up with me and all of my antics and ideas for all of these years! Before our last Formal Night dinner, we had our pictures taken again on the curving stairway from the lower level of the Piazza.
We sat with our crew again for dinner and it was Lobster Tails & Tiger Prawns. At the end of dinner, we discussed the next night dinner arrangements. My wife and I had decided that we were going to eat at the Crown Grill Steakhouse, so we invited any of them to join us, but they declined. After leaving the dining room, I stopped by the Crown Grill to make reservations for our last night of the cruise. Then we made our way to the Club Fusion for another try at Snowball Bingo which by now was up to $2,100. Well, obviously we didn’t win!
Our last port of call was Newport, RI and while it was nice, we would have preferred another sea day instead of it. It was our second tender stop and personally I am not fond of tender stops. While we saw some beautiful shore line and many new mansions, our tour was of an old musty, damp feeling and dark stop called the Elms! Having been to Natchez, MS and toured the Antebellum Plantations that are so beautifully decorated, the Elms was a major disappointment of the rich trying to be "French” or whatever from what looked to be the Napoleon era!
We couldn’t wait to get back on the Caribbean Princess where we began to pack our suitcases before getting cleaned up for dinner at the Crown Grill. I was able to corner our room steward during the packing process and gave him a little something extra for service above and beyond the ships prepaid gratuities. They deserve the extra because of the great service.
After returning to the ship, we showered and cleaned up before heading down to the Piazza for the last evening aboard the Caribbean Princess. While walking around, we stopped by the photo gallery to view our pictures that we had had taken on the two Formal Nights. If I do say so, we are a handsome couple. We selected several pictures, five to be exact, which we purchased. Now the decision as to which we frame and which we post in our Cruise Album! We stopped by the Piazza for a cocktail before heading back upstairs to get ready for dinner. This was the time to double-check the room for the few last things that needed packing before we sat our luggage out in the hall before going to dinner. This is always a sad time, as things are drawing to an end and in the morning, it’s over!
We asked the other couples from the previous night if they cared to join us at the Crown Grill, but there were no takers. At dinner, we ordered an 8 oz. Filet medium and a 14 oz. Ribeye medium rare with loaded baked potatoes, pan seared mushrooms followed by Lemon Meringue Custer Cups! Now that was a really good Ribeye and it was grilled just perfect! We finished with a cup of coffee with the desert. Then we made our way to the Club Fusion for the last try at Snowball Bingo which by now was up to $2,400 and would be given away no matter what! Well, again we didn’t win but it was a lot of fun! Better luck next cruise!
It was around 10:30PM when we turned in for the night, what with disembarkation early the next morning. We arose around 6:30AM dressed and performed the last room check for anything that we might have forgotten to pack in our suitcases the day before. We slipped up to the Horizon Court for a quick bite to eat before heading for our disembarking site to await our color & number to be called. One of the nice things about having a suite is the site is located in the Club Fusion and provides pastries, juice and coffee while you wait. Our color & number were called just ahead of schedule. We were able to make our way off of the ship without problems and then we came to the luggage area to claim our luggage. First off you have to find your suitcases among the several thousand other pieces. "We have learned to bring along some brightly colored and marked duct tape for wrapping around each suitcase." This greatly simplifies the situation. As we approached the luggage area, I spotted a porter with a cart and motioned for assistance. We quickly found and loaded all of our luggage on his cart and proceeded to the immigration checkout. Then we proceeded to the motorcoach that was to take us to LGA to catch our American Airlines flight. The porter deserved a nice tip which he received. This service is worth a lot as it would be quite difficult for Betty and me to handle all of our luggage by ourselves.
Upon arrival at LGA, I tipped our driver/baggage handler for his service as he kept us entertained during the one hour drive to the airport. He did a great job of finding everyone’s baggage in those holes under the coach. Then I rented a $5/cart at the airport to transport the luggage over to the check-in station. There I received assistance in checking the 3 pieces of luggage for the return flight to Tulsa. Now there was nothing to do but wait the 2 ½ hours for our flight. We ate burgers at the 5 Brother’s Grill and they were quite good. Then we headed for the security check-in where we received the "new” process which allowed us to keep our shoes, belts and watches on. I forgot to remove my cell phone so I set off the alarm. Quick fix and then I was cleared. I actually believe this was the first day of this process. We Like It!
We loaded, departed and completed the flight to DFW airport. Upon arrival we were getting hungry and stopped at a place named "Saltlick Barbeque” and boy was it good! We had seen it on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives before so it was worth trying. Now the last leg of the flight to Tulsa. At Tulsa after getting our luggage, we caught the shuttle to Fine Airport Pkg. There we got our car out of hock and drove to our normal stop on the west side of Tulsa, the QuikTrip in Sand Springs for a cup of coffee. We arrive home around 11:00PM and quickly got ready for bed. A successful and enjoyable vacation and cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess.
Time to start planning our next cruise!