Overall, a fantastic cruise. we started with a 3 night stay in Fort Lauderdale. We arranged our own airfare and wanted a good cushion in case the flights were delayed - also flights midweek were half the price of weekend flights. Took a limo/SUV to the port, and the embarkation process was relatively painless. Got there fairly early (12:30) and had a pretty quick progress through the various queues.
Got on board, dropped our light luggage in our room and proceeded up to the party on deck. Overall we were really pleased with the Emerald. Despite having so many people on board, it never felt crowded. Never had a problem getting 4 deck chairs together, never had a problem getting seats at the shows. Tendering also had minimal waits. So our biggest worry (too many ppl in one place) never materialized. A lot of this should should be credit to Princess, the ship and amenities are well planned out to maximize space and minimize issues. We thought sharing one coffee bar with 2600 More
other ppl might be an issue - it wasn't.
Our Cabin was an inside, deck 8 - shared with 4 ppl (1 family). Not a huge cabin, but well laid out. Having a "private" closet area next to the bathroom meant that the "closet" area could be used as a dressing room to allow everyone some privacy while getting changed quickly. Our room steward was excellent, efficient and invisible except when passing in the hall with a cheery Hello! I appreciate never feeling like we were in his way...
Food was better then expected. We had lower expectations than in the past, and were happily surprised. We always ate in the main dining room (Botticelli) never tried the "add - on" specialty restaurants. Never felt we needed to - lots of good options on the main dining menu. Waiters still happily add the lobster tail to the Beef Wellington to make a great surf and turf. Speaking of our waiters - they were great - super friendly, efficient, helpful, and made our dinners a real treat. Also very good at recommending wines (we love our wines, bought the gold package on board). The best part of the gold package was that it's good for any wine up to $45, but if you want a more expensive wine they just charge the difference, so we always had great wines and maximized the value of our wine package. We also attended 2 wine tastings on board, which were good, and helped us select a few wines for dinner, but didn't provide as much information about the wines as we would have liked.
Bar Areas - one word... great! Spent time in Crooners (Martini's served with flair) Vines (lots of wine by the glass - served with complimentary sushi or tapas) and the coffee bar. Also the pool area bars were great, waiters were around if needed, but not bothersome.
Overall - service was really good, right across the board.
Port Excursions - we used princess's excursions for Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados & St. Thomas. We were really happy with 4 out of 5 options (turtle, shipwreck snorkelling in Barbados was the only disappointment).
The eco kayaking / snorkeling tour in Antigua was great, the St. Lucia 4X4 excursion was really great, open air so lots of photo's taken. Barbados we took a Ronnie Carrington photography tour which was amazing. St. Thomas was a catamaran tour with snorkeling - also fun.
In St. Kitts we just took a taxi to cockleshell beach which was great, sat at the reggae bar, did some snorkeling and just generally chilled out.
Princess Cays was the one disappointment... Waves were too high (2 - 2.5 m) and tendering couldn't be done in those conditions so the ship kept steaming ahead... missed our day at the beach....Apparently this isn't a very isolated situation.
Entertainment - the broadway shows were good, a couple of comedians were great. Overall pretty good, typical cruise fare. Nothing that I would write home about but fun distractions during the evening. And as noted above, never had issues getting seats for any shows - they filled up but not so much that you couldn't get a seat.
Disembarkation was super easy. We used the princess ezcheckout service (they take care of transferring bags directly to airline) and it meant we left the ship promptly, and were sitting in the airport by 8:30 am - ready for a 12:30 flight... good thing as our flights got delayed - but by being there we caught an earlier flight and arrived home 2 hrs earlier then our flight was scheduled. And the bags arrived with us...
In summary - we had a blast. My wife cruised with Princess twice when she was single (25 yrs ago) and had great memories of her cruises. The Emerald Princess didn't disappoint - we all had a great time (2 parents, two teenage girls). The food was great, people were great, overall experience.... great! Less