This was my 4th cruise, the 3rd with Princess. I was traveling with my wife (her 6th cruise) and we left a cold Wisconsin a Day early and flew to Fort Lauderdale, we stayed at the Holiday Inn express right near the cruise port. During the day we took the Sun Trolley and rode to the beach. The next day for $8 ea we got a shuttle from the hotel to the cruise ship which was a short ride. Our cabin was an inside cabin (B224) on deck 11. Gabriel was our room steward and did a fantastic job. Through the cruise critic roll call board we had a Meet and Greet on the first sea day. We had about 20 cruise critic members show up and also had the captain, cruise director, assistant cruise director, head of the hotel and head of the bars. It was really a good time and we made many new friends.
We usually had breakfast in the Horizon or Caribe buffet. Dinner was in the Michaelangelo dinning room. Food was good, we were a little disappointed in the fruit selection on the buffet in that they never had any papaya. The service in the dinning room was excellent with my favorite wait team being Anna and Archie, they did a great job. Also Olena the hostess was very pleasant and did a good job of seating us quickly. Many meals were a shared table and we met many interesting people. We did have lunch a couple of times at the International Cafe which is also very good.
Kelvin (cruise director) and Adam (assisant cruise director) were very entertaining. They did a wake up show every morning on the TV which was worth watching. All the trivia and games they did were really entertaining. The shows were well done and just the right length. The comedians were okay but not great.
Our first stop was Antigua, we had arranged a tour through Antigua Adventures it was their Xtreme Circumvent tour. This was on a fast boat, we snorkeled with the Sting Rays, had a nice picnic lunch on a deserted beach, did another snorkel stop and a final beach stop with Rum punch. All the while we went completely around the island and saw many sights. The boat was Captained by Shaun with David and Travis as crew. They made the tour very enjoyable telling us local history, information and sights . This was a 6-7 hour tour, but Captain Shaun had us back with plenty of time to spare to be back on the ship.
On Barbados we went with 2 couples that we met at the M & G and did a day at the beach. Our original plans were to go to the Lobster Alive via taxi , our taxi driver talked us into going to Harbor Lights instead, we got 2 beach chairs and an umbrella for $15 and use of their restrooms, I thought it was a really good deal and the beach was fabulous. I think it was the nicest beach of any of the islands we visited. Our taxi driver was right on time for our return trip.
On St Lucia we did the Cosol Tour, this is an outstanding tour. They split us into groups of 8 per van, we had Sam as our driver and tour guide, he was informative on the local information and history, the tour started with a banana plantation with eating a tree ripened banana which is much more flavorful than what we get here in Wisconsin, we had several stops for us to take photos, went to the drive in volcano, the rest of our group opted to take a mud bath there, stopped at a water fall for a dip in the cool water. Also there was a stop where they had tables full of local food for our sampling. A beach and snorkel stop via water taxi. Near the end we made a stop and got a cheese sandwich with homemade bread that was unusual and delicious. During the entire tour there was the blue van which was filled with soda, water, rum punch and Piton Beer (which was very tasty). I would highly recommend this tour, at the time we took it the price was $65 ea and well worth it. We were back to the ship with plenty of time to spare.
On St Kitts we did a ship snorkel tour which was OK. Also my wife bought some diamond earrings at the Gold Mine store, where we were treated very well and I think we got a pretty good deal.
St Thomas we did a beach day with the couple we meet at the M & G, we got a taxi and went to Coki beach, got a beach chair for $5 ea. It was a bit of a ride to get there about 25 min. but it was a nice beach and a very pleasant day. On the way back to the port the driver made a few stops for some scenic photos. We had the driver drop us off downtown so we could do some shopping. As we were walking along the street the stores had people trying to get us to come into the store almost to the point of physically dragging us in. It was very uncomfortable and we left the downtown very quickly and went back to the ship. We had wanted to buy some bamboo sheets for our bed. Downtown the price was $290, we checked the store at the port and found the same item for $175 which included shipping to our home.
Nassau was our last stop and we did the scenic harbor cruise and snorkel tour through the ship. First we had trouble even finding where the tour met. Then we were herded through a very long distance and busy areas to the boat to take us on the tour. We were split into 2 groups supposedly going to the same place but I never saw the other boat at the snorkel site we went to. We ended up snorkeling in 1-2 ft waves, we did see a large amount of fish, but I would not recommend this tour to anyone.
We also took the Ultimate ship tour which was on the last sea day. The tour lasted about 4 hours but was extremely interesting and we got to see parts of the ship that most passengers don' get to see. This tour included a tour of the bridge done by the captain which was very good. I would recommend taking this tour.
Both embarkation and disembarkation went okay, there were some lines but nothing that didn't keep moving.
In summary this was a fantastic cruise. The Emerald Princess has a great crew and made for a memorable vacation.