I have just got back from my first cruise and I am hooked! Firstly the destination, the Caribbean was a brilliant choice for those that enjoy the sun. Sailing for a couple of days and then a different island to visit each day is a lovely way to see some of the Caribbean, each island offering something different to see. I did tours to most of them and did various things from site seeing to beaches, swimming with dolphins, catamaran trips with snorkelling.
Secondly, the ship, Emerald Princess was built in 2007 and is immaculately kept. The atrium which is mid ships and is 3 storeys high offers a resplendent focal point with shops, entertainment, restaurant, passenger services area. Our internal cabin was spacious and well-presented with ample storage, a safe, dressing table/desk, en-suite shower room with toiletries, towels, pool towels. Our cabin steward, Allan could not do enough for us and seemed to work 24 hours a day! There were several pools, one with an outdoor cinema and up to date films. There are self service restaurants, which are open most of the day, I couldn't fault the food at all, it was excellent, lots of polite, helpful staff throughout the boat from all corners of the world. There is plenty to do each day or just sun yourself round the pool. There are also some sit down restaurants, which served excellent food with attentive service. Also, some restaurants you have to pay additional amounts for $25 each and have to book. I understand they were good but did not see the need to pay the extra.
Thirdly, the entertainment. There are several bars each with something taking place from karaoke, bingo, ballroom dancing lessons to groups playing, quizzes etc. there are 3 shows each evening from a comedian, impersonator, singing and dançing. The shows were good but a little disappointing, possibly there should be two a night which are longer than the half hour three times a night. I expected something akin to West End shows, but they were more performances rather than shows.
There are some shops selling handbags, jewellery, watches, duty free goods, clothes, an Internet cafe, tour booking office, casino.
Fourthly the tours we booked through the ship were not cheap but were well organised and we enjoyed the great variety. If you just want to get off the boat you can just go ashore and do your own thing. I understand from others that it was safe and easy to catch a taxi and you can just visit nearby beaches for the day. I was disappointed to see that water was being sold for $2 a small bottle each time you left the ship to go ashore. I think this should have just been handed out for free given that it was hot and the need to keep hydrated. I went swimming with dolphins on Tortola . The experience was wonderful, but felt that the food, which was very slow in arriving, was also very expensive, $14 for a burger and chips! They have a captive audience and you have no option as the trip spans a lot of the day! You were also not allowed to take your own photos as they wanted you to buy theirs at an extortionate price! $35 for one picture on a DVD! All the other trips I took either included food and drink or there was the opportunity to purchase them at a reasonable price from different outlets.
The things I disliked were the automatic tipping added to your bill of $11.50 per day. You can however go to Passenger Services at the beginning of your trip and have this deducted from the bill and tip the people you wish to tip at the end of the trip, which is what I did. The ship does not miss an opportunity to make money, by constantly taking your photo and trying to sell them to you and the cost to use the Internet is not cheap. This can be purchased either pay as you go or in a package of minutes. You have to make sure you log out each time or the cost keeps running, which I found to my cost, when 48 of my 110 minutes was 'used' without me realising! You can purchase drinks packages, such as soft drinks and speciality coffee. The soft drinks package was well worth it as you only needed to have about 2 a day to cover the cost, although the variety is limited and is from the soda fountain and not cans. I think there should be made available a package that includes all drinks, at a reasonable cost and which could be purchased or included in the cost in advance. I also felt there should have been a complimentary welcome drink when you went on board. There was a champagne fountain on one of the formal evenings and complimentary fizz. There were two formal evenings and the rest were smart casual. This was not strictly implemented as lots of passengers did not change from their shorts and T shirts.
All in all it was an excellent and very enjoyable holiday, which I would recommend.