We began our cruise by staying at the Courtyard Marriott on Seabreeze. This is our third time staying at this hotel. We got a package, where we get breakfast on the day of disembarkation. This is basically a buffet, continental breakfast, something quick. But good price for the 2 of us. The hotel seemed to be going through some changes, being adopted by new mgmt. Elevator still sucked. It's slow, and there's no indicator when it arrives at the floor to let you know if it's going up/down. They were being serviced when we arrived. We took Southwest down from BWI. Our flight was delayed both ways. First, almost an hour because they had to de-ice the plane. We also had to wait for it to arrive from Columbus, which was in the path of the storm. On way back, 20 minutes because of snow, again. But our pilot made up great time coming in to FL, and it was a smooth ride. We arrived ahead of schedule. We did Early Bird check-in with the airline, so we could board earlier. Southwest doesn't assign seating, so apparently this was the way to do it? I thought it was a waste of money really.
Boarding the ship on Saturday was pretty smooth. We had our muster drill, and they didn't rush through it which I liked. We got a coffee card and soda package. The next morning we arrived at our first port. We knew where to go to leave, but for other people I didn't hear an announcement telling you what deck to go to for disembarkation, which I thought was weird. And no note of it in the Patter either.
Our first stop was in Princess Cays, which is in Eleuthera, apparently where the British Royal Family used to vacation. It was very nice. We made sure to leave early to get a good spot on the beach. The weather was warm and calm, not too windy and very pleasant. They had a BBQ lunch, but I am a vegetarian so I opted for the fruit bar they had. I didn't bother to see if there was anything at the buffet. But for those who do eat meat, it seemed pretty good from smell and well set up. The fruits were so ripe and juicy and sweet, I will really miss it. It was that way on the ship too. Even for the drinks they were fresh, and not the small or somewhat dried up stuff you might find sometimes. The pineapples were dripping and soft to the bite. The island staff are locals, but because Princess owns the island, they weren't pushy about you buying stuff and all spoke English.
The next day was a sea day. As far as smoking is concerned, they had revised their smoking policy. There were places onboard, but you have to know where they are if you want to avoid walking all over the place. No more smoking on balcony at all for even cigarettes, which is ridiculous I think. I can see pipe or something more ashy like a cigar, but it's pretty low chance for a fire with normal cigarette. This was a pain. There are more smoking areas than what's indicated in their newsletter. You can still smoke on 7 on the starboard side, and in back of ship on 16. Tradewinds was somewhat enclosed, and not as windy as other deck areas reserved for smokers. You cannot smoke on all of 16 on the starboard anymore. It's just over at Tradewinds. You can still smoke in casino. But areas are greatly cut down, not in the lounges anymore (except for the smoking lounge.) The smoking room was relatively nice, albeit small. It was swimming with cigar smoke most of the time. Considering it's like the only place on ship you can smoke if you want to avoid wind, I thought it would be nice if it were larger and more ventilated. It was pretty packed most of the time. Purchasing cigarettes onboard there was limited options too, so plan ahead, and you can't get matchbooks at the bar anymore.
There were people complaining of motion sickness onboard, which didn't really bother me but it did my partner. We faced some heavy winds and there was the normal pitching, but not as bad as it can be at sea. Some people really said it was the worst they'd known. Onboard we enjoyed the pianist and calypso band the most (Mix of Moods). The ship band wasn't really good, pretty average. Other performers featured in piazza were very good as well. Other than their rock band, everybody else was great as far as the entertainers are concerned. Even the singers/dancers were great, and not like the average type of music etc you can come across on a cruise. For example, the calypso band did cover work, but they brought their own harmony and individual style to it which made them such a warm and enjoyable performance. They were pretty popular. There was a jazz couple, we went to listen to them once and thought they were green in their style, not as good as they potentially can be. The onboard orchestra was good. They had big band music, and sounded great. There was a comedian midway through, he performed on 2 nights. His first show on these nights was better and was more fresh. He was funny, but overall I think he would have been better if he wasn't "kept on a leash" and had to keep material toned down. Princess seems to keep its entertainment clean, not offensive or too risque - as it can be on Carnival for example. The love and marriage gameshow was that way - what they call "Battle of the Sexes". There were mostly older people onboard, which we've seen before as we sailed on Ruby twice. But this time around I just seemed to see more of it and how it affects the cruise vs past trips. For example, the entertainment (big band stuff) is geared around them and while it can be a higher quality, it's somewhat boring for a younger group, which we are in our 30's and 40's. There was alternative entertainment, for example in M.U.T.S (poolside theatre) they had a Killers concert, football etc. I felt disappointed by the older group onboard. It was the grumpy, gripy old. Cheap, bummers to be around. There was a great deal of this. Then there is the older, sophisticated group who are really interesting to be around.
Our next stop was Curacao, which is the largest of the ABC islands. We just walked around in town. In terms of shopping this was the best place because it is larger and more developed. I think it's cheaper therefore commercially for them to import, because the prices were better than Aruba. In town it's fairly typical for island ports, and not much to see unless you take a cab. Aruba was nicer, more clean and charming. But there wasn't much to see because it is a small island. Dining: we went to the dining room only once, during formal night. Service was slow, and our head waiter gave both me and the lady next to us the wrong plates. Not the personal 5 star experience that should be expected (it's Princess!) and especially from our own waiter. I'd heard from some other people that service was "hit and miss" that unless you sit in your regular section or something you may not get good service. Some other people said service was great. However we've yet to be impressed by dining room experience on Princess. We ate in buffet most of the time, and found the food to be just as good. My boyfriend ate on the Bavarian night (lots of meat) and he said it was dried out and not really tasty. Which I was surprised about. Perhaps it's the style of the food that didn't appeal to him. Me personally I wasn't really impressed with the desserts. I love a good cheesecake, but didn't find the desserts very gratifying and flavorful. The cookies were crunchy and not soft and chewy in International Cafe. They were better upstairs, even though they're premade. As well as the breads. They taste that way. Nothing was really rich or decadent about any of the desserts, just a small treat after dinner if you want it type thing. Other than the cookies, desserts WERE good in International Cafe, and better than upstairs. We went here most the time. This is definitely a hidden gem on ship, similar to the sanctuary. My boyfriend went to Vines, and he greatly enjoyed it. The sushi was great and they offer you lovely tapas complimentary, or cheese and fruits. I bought some cosmetics onboard. The representative seemed knowledgable about products and gave me good advice about what'd be suitable for me. Which is pretty hit and miss for women, customer service being few and far between or appropriate for what you'd like shopping wise. And I'm sure many other women understand what I'm saying. Weather on ship was windy and cloudy much of the time. You had to get out early (8 or 9) to get a good spot or decent sun on the deck. After noon it was cloudy and intermittent. My perception from staff was that on Crown they were more relaxed and less on their game and ready to help you than on Ruby, what we'd experienced earlier. Upstairs aside from breakfast not much service for you. I saw socializing and neglect of their section. I'm not sure why but it wasn't real impressive. There were several times at dinner we got tired of waiting for basic water that we got up and got it ourselves, and had plates sitting in front of us. We attended formal night. Photographers looked pretty bored most of the time. People were dressed up but not taking a lot of pictures. I overall feel it was a less relaxed and luxury, pleasant experience than I had on Ruby. Part of that is weather, part is demographics and part is how inconvenient and a hassle they make it if you want to smoke.
We did a tour, Island Highlights. We went to some natural formations and a lighthouse, which for the price I thought was a waste of time. The local guide did his best but overall was pretty disappointed. First stop was to Baby Natural Bridge, which is the smaller of 2 natural bridges. Natural rock bridge. The larger bridge washed away 2 wks earlier. There were black rocks there, probably from volcano that were strewn around. And a very small walkway near dangerous tides coming in. Not much to see. Then we visit a rock garden, which was kinda neat and you can walk up to a platform and take pictures. This was the only bathroom break on tour, and like the gross bathroom you find at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. There was no soap! You'd be smart to bring tissue before you leave. Apparently Aruba produces water from the ocean, so it's costly and they charge you for the toilet. Next stop is Lighthouse, and 2 mos ago somebody jumped from the top and now noone can go up and take pictures! I picked this tour because I thought it would be good for pictures, but not real good if highest point of the island (lighthouse) you cannot access for that. Then we have a beach break which was cut short 30 minutes! I can only guess because of their busy schedule that day, even though we paid for more time. Rushed was not real enjoyable. The beach was great too, calm and perfect weather. If you want you can take a taxi or bus back to pier, which seemed pretty accessible because there's major hotels in walking distance. I bought a coffee cup in town. I forgot that the light ones are crap, they're a sand composite. There was better shopping in the terminal. I complained about our tour. There were similar tours, and all of them say "photo opp" for lighthouse. What point is there to go even if it some historical building if you can't go in. Therefore we sat there for 10 minutes, and no worthy pics. The woman at the tour desk was basically saying oh well it's a small island so I'm sorry Maam perhaps there's not much to see. But not tell you about changes to what's available so you can be ripped off $110. There was also a large national park in town, which seemed very interesting.
Directly near the port unless you do shopping there was not much to see. There was a casino and movie theater in town that was a big tourist draw for them. Central sewage is not real good, the water smelled along one street. Some parts of the Caribbean it's better or worse. It wasn't real bad, but kind of gross in town. You're better of going somewhere if you want to experience what the island has to offer. There was the Blue Curacao factory and an aloe farm here, as well as some other tourist things that could be interesting. But there were no tours available when we got onboard, they were pretty sold out. If you do want to see something, there were guides at port for private tourism. Probably you can experience more than the "cattle run" type things the ship offers, and it seemed fairly safe and nice place that I would feel comfortable using it. But I wouldn't want to be here at night. We had the longest stay here, we didn't set sail until 10 pm. There were some cute restaurants in town if you wanted to experience local cuisine. There is a floating bridge in town, so be mindful of this and wear proper shoes. The streets are cobblestone and uneven.