Caribbean Princess Cruise Review by gsdfan: First Cruise that far exceeded my expectations and hopes
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First Cruise that far exceeded my expectations and hopes
I just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Caribbean Princess. I flew from Washington DC to Houston Hobby airport (very smooth direct flight) on Sat, Jan. 18, and our group took a private limo ride from the airport to the cruise port. There was a delayed boarding for a couple of hours as the ship was going through extra thorough cleanings to ensure there would be no issues from the Norovirus. I was perfectly ok with that - the delay was minimal in the overall scheme of things and it set the right tone (in my opinion) of a Captain and crew showing the correct priorities (no one in their right mind wants to be on a ship with a serious outbreak of Norovirus - just ask other recent cruisers!!) I have commented about my cabin (positively) separately, so won't discuss that here. I will also comment about my excursions separately. I want to mention here specifically two items: the dining room experience, and the entertainment on the ship experience.
First, the dining room. We More signed up for a set dining time of 5:30pm in the Coral Dining room. While the time might appear a little early to some, it worked perfectly for us. We were back from daytime excursions in time for dinner, and it gave us plenty of time afterwards to enjoy the nightly entertainment without going to bed at extremely late hours and/or on a full stomach. We had a team of three waiters who served us each night, and we were able to get to know them (and them us), and it added an extra dimension to the dining experience I had not anticipated. First, I had (somewhat cautiously) indicated on my cruise preferences that I am lactose intolerant. I had no idea how the cruise line would interpret this; I was simply hoping for some additional help in translating menu choices so I would not make "unfortunate" choices that my digestive system would remind me about for several days later........(smile). Our senior waiter, Martin Petrov, introduced himself to me the first night we dined at our set time, and it rapidly became apparent to me that he took my request seriously, and was committed to ensuring that I not only did not make "unfortunate" choices, but that if there was not a sufficiently appealing option on the menu, he would go to the chef(s) and get them to create something that was a gourmet level dish. As a result, for the entire week each dinner was comparable to eating at a 5 star gourmet restaurant, and I didn't have to worry about hidden butter or dairy products that would cause me problems. Martin has a great sense of humor, so we were able to laugh about the process, and I truly enjoyed the discussions, choices, and the results. I was awed by his skills and commitment to my enjoyment of my meals - I have never been treated like that, consistently over several days, at every meal. Our second waiter, Ric Dela Cruz, was equally personable, committed to the highest quality of service, and became our "trusted advisor" on wines appropriate for each course, as well as (for the others at our table) what dishes might most appeal to each individual. (I was the only one with any dietary restrictions). We rapidly found that when we followed his recommendations, there were no regrets!! Our third waiter, Vira Ovcharava, greeted us the first night with a big smile, smooth and professional service, and proceeded to get to know us as well as Ric and Martin did. Each night we dined we felt we were with friends who were also professionals at their jobs. The three working together are truly one of the best "serving teams" I have experienced in a highly rated restaurant, and the marvel is they keep it up night after night as they truly enjoy their jobs and the people they are serving on the cruises.
Ship Entertainment: Before this cruise I did not understand the lengths to which the Princess line goes to provide high quality entertainment throughout the day and evenings, every day of the cruise. Every place I went on the ship, there was some type of entertainment going on - appropriate to that area of the ship. I found I looked for the musicians, singers, and dancers, in each of the public locations set up for that type of entertainment, as they were GOOD!! It was great fun to be watching some musicians and/or singers in a particular area, and suddenly see some Princess dancers start dancing to the music. Passengers were always encouraged to sing along, and/or dance as well, so it was up to the passengers to decide to what extent they wanted to participate. And every evening there were several types of entertainment available - I usually got to see two or three before I had to quit for bedtime - musical shows of every type, comedy shows, magic shows, etc. The overall quality of the entertainment was consistently high, and they make it easy for passenger interactions. Several of the comedy/quiz show types needed audience participation, and everyone played along and had a great time. I went to more shows in one week than I have in years on shore, and have to admit they were all great fun and left me wanting more!! Less
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Cabin review: E204
I was in cabin E204, on the Emerald Deck (8), with an "obstructed view". I thought this meant I would be "in the dark" for the cruise, with a small, cramped cabin. As I didn't expect to be spending much time there, I thought it would be "ok". To my surprise, I found it was a large, roomy stateroom, and the obstructed view just meant that there was a lifeboat near the bottom half of my window. I still got plenty of sunlight during the day, and could see perfectly well out the window. The suitcases easily stored under the bed; the closet had plenty of space for hanging clothes; there was a closed closet with shelves for things that needed shelves, and there were plenty of small drawers for those items I wanted in a drawer. What a great start to the trip!!I didn't know what to expect from the bathroom, but it also was surprisingly (and efficiently) roomy. I am new to cruises, but I found Emerald Deck 8 to be extremely well placed for access to all the other floors of the ship that I was going to through out the week. I did notice that I could hear one of the bands starting up at night, but I found I only heard it when I was "up" and awake. When I went to bed it never kept me up, or woke me up, so the soundproofing was adequate.
Port and Shore Excursions
Salsa & Salsa
What fun! We learned to make several types of salsa, several types of margaritas (with and without alcohol), and dance some salsa steps. The salsa was delicious (if I do say so myself), and the margaritas were highly drinkable [yes, I tasted everything I made :-)], and while I can't say I am now proficient at dancing the salsa, I do have a much better idea of where to begin when the opportunity presents itself! The additional feature I did not expect at all, is that we were able to have an incredible view of the ocean from the top balcony floor of the restaurant, so while we were "hard at work" it was in an incredible caribbean island open-air environment. The staff doing all the "training" were very entertaining as well as being good instructors, and they clearly enjoy conducting this type of "tour". The entire "tour" is about three hours; afterwards we had time to enjoy the town a bit before heading back to the ship. I must admit that we didn't linger in the town very long - I was ready for a nap after enjoying a couple of margaritas!!
We booked an independent tour for our day in Roatan, Honduras, and were taken in a bus over to Little French Key, a privately owned island where we could spend the day swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, enjoying the sea breezes and beautiful ocean views in a shaded cabana, etc. We also signed up for an elective trip to the local zip line, and proceeded to come down the mountain on one of the longest and highest zip lines in central america (which I did NOT know before we went, but certainly agree with after finding that out!!). What a perfect day! The zip line was a definite highlight experience (next step - skydiving!!); they also offered scuba diving but I did not sign up for that. Instead I went out on the snorkeling boat, and enjoyed floating around the coral reef which is in amazingly good condition. A delicious seafood lunch was included - and drinks of all types were available. Service was excellent the entire time we were on the island. We also did a bit of kayaking - the types of boats you sit on. They have changing rooms available if you don't show up wearing your bathing suit, or want to change to dry clothes after swimming. Restrooms of course, and an outside shower to get rid of sand and salt. As you might imagine in the caribbean, the ocean waters were beautiful, and it was a delightful place to spend a day on, in, and around, the ocean. The owners live on their island, and bring in day visitors so they are present and available for any questions or concerns a visitor might have. They are true "host and hostess", and enjoy seeing their guests enjoy themselves.