We booked this cruise in June 2013 because I thought February break would be a good time to get away from the cold and get some extra sun--I was right about that! We were worried the weather might foul our plans but we made it to Florida just fine. We flew in to Miami, spent the night at a Comfort Inn and Suites near the airport then took the TriRail to Fort Launderdale. The train was $5.00/person, clean and almost empty on the weekend. If you have time and not too much luggage, I would recommend it. From the train station, we took a taxi to the Port. The taxi driver dropped us right near the departure building (in an area I think was actually reserved for buses). There was a line to board but it was moving constantly and before we knew it, we were on the Royal Princess! I thought the staff from the departure agents to the crew on board were very friendly and efficient. My other recent cruise experience was on the Oceania Regatta and I thought the crew on the Royal were just as friendly and accommodating as on the Regatta. We thought the food in the anytime dining room, Symphony, got better every night. I only ordered off the "always available" menu the first night, after that I tried one of the specials each night and I was very pleased. The only night I didn't eat in the dining room was when Horizons was having a Brazilian churrascaria night! I enjoyed the lamb and sausages the best. The turkey gyro meat was also very tasty, but there were too many choices to try everything. Curried shrimp salad from the International Cafe was delicious. We were quite happy with the meals. I appreciated the attention to hygiene in Horizons even though it must be difficult for the crew to ask us to wash our hands when all we want to do is attack the buffet. Eventually most people complied without being reminded. At the end of the cruise, no one was stationed near the hand wash areas any more--we were allowed to share our germs again on our way home.
We also enjoyed the Movies Under the Stars on several nights, the magician and the grand finale performance in the Princess Theatre.--One small comment, the stairs leading down from the upper part of the theatre change to a different height and color scheme on the last step. We stumbled there and I saw other people make a misstep because of it as well. Changing the lighting or the carpet on that small area might be a good safety investment. There was so much to do! The entertainment staff was mostly Australian = very funny. I enjoyed the game shows. I think the Newlywed Game was probably the most popular, if you want to participate or watch you should get to the venue early because it was packed! I borrowed a book I had wanted to read from the ship's library. It had lots of recent publications as well as checkers and chess games. My kids loved Shockwaves and Remix. They preferred dining by the pool: hot dogs, pizza and burgers! My older son ordered breakfast in bed every morning but the rest of us were eager to get up and explore. I love how you can tailor the vacation to what you enjoy.
This was such a relaxing, fun vacation. We're looking forward to another cruise next winter!
Our first port of call was Princess Cays. It was very relaxed. We had reserved the use of a paddle board and an aquacycle online but there seemed to be plenty of equipment if you wanted to rent anything on the spot. We didn't have any problem finding loungers in the shade. There were plenty of places to park your towels and you could choose a sunnier spot if you wanted. The buffet was good barbeque-style food. They even had hand sanitizers here on land--which I appreciated.
I wanted to do the SeaTrek Helmet Diving excursion and signed up online before the cruise. When we got to our room the first day we had to fill out a health form for this excursion and I indicated that I had asthma (just diagnosed last year), turns out, they don't want you down even just twenty feet if you have a lung condition, so I had to sit that one out. Princess canceled the excursion for me with no problem.--I definitely recommend booking your excursions on their website before you cruise. You can cancel up to a day or two before if you change your mind (the cutoff is posted on the ship), and you know if you have a place without waiting in line (since the Excursions Desk isn't open 24hrs a day).
We had also prebooked a trip to Orient Beach with drinks included. When we got there, I sat with our stuff while everyone else went for a walk; when I finally got in the water--what a wonderful surprise! I'm used to water temps about ten degrees colder than what we had so it felt marvelous. My son and I had a blast body surfing! I'm glad there were showers to rinse the sand and salt off before reboarding the bus, but even so, I sent a glob of sand down the drain in our room--sorry Princess Cruises! Our tour guide and bus driver were very funny and informative.
I also enjoyed walking around Philipsburg. One store had really good watch prices. We found an open air market with lots of hats and other clothing items. People were willing to bargain up to a point. And I bought a club soda for $2 and relaxed with "free" internet for over an hour.
St. Maarten was a very enjoyable port.
This was our first excursion on any cruise so we were very excited and arrived early to meet the tour. We needn't have bothered to rush! For others who haven't taken a tour before: I believe the guides want to be sure they have everyone before they leave, so don't stress if you are running a little late. We took a typical island taxi, which is a converted truck with covered, open air benches-quite comfortable, to the EcoTour kayak launch point. There we met our ecotour guides and the trip photographer, learned about kayaking technique, saw the merchandise, and were given snorkeling equipment. We had an opportunity to change and use the facilities before we headed to the kayaks. There is a little sheltered area where you can practice paddling before the group heads into the mangrove preserve. Kayaking against the wind is a little strenuous but there is a break about half way through to learn more about the mangroves. We arrived at the hiking spot, took a break for water and to race land snails (my son thought that was pretty fun) and then walked around a point to learn a little of the history of the cove. We spent the remainder of the time snorkeling before we had to kayak back and meet our bus. The guides pointed out interesting fish and areas we might want to explore. I thought the tour was very well organized and enjoyable!