CARIBBEAN PRINCESS May 3 -- June 6, 2014 Eastern Caribbean Cruise By Mary & Vincent Finelli
This was our fourth cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess. The magnet drawing us to this particular cruise was Executive Chef Antonio Cereda and his magnificent cuisine. We met Antonio on our first cruise on the Grand Princess in the late nineties and since then we have had many cruises with him where we enjoyed his cuisine immensely. This was our 106th cruise, spread over many cruise lines; thus, we feel qualified to rate service, food, accommodation, entertainment, etc. In regard to food, we rate Princess ships in general, and Chef Cereda in particular, as the best at sea. Chef Antonio has become a dear friend over the years, we keep in touch with each other via e-mail. When we have a chance, we will happily book a cruise on his ship. The first evening aboard he greeted us at the entrance of the Island Dining Room which made us happy to be back among friends whom we have met before, including Captain Giorgio Pomata and Maitre D’ Mario Propato, and we made new friends such as Room Service Manager Constantin Moise and others.
Ft. Lauderdale Port Everglades is quite easily accessed, the only snag being the overzealous sheriffs directing traffic at the baggage drop off near the terminal. The eager quasi storm troopers take great pleasure in sending all passengers a long distance across the road, disregarding the hardship they cause to the disabled passengers such as ourselves who are both in wheelchair and bringing a walker for in cabin use. Fortunately this time a baggage handler spotted us and directed our van to unload the wheel chairs and the rest of the luggage close by the entrance to the terminal. Thanks to this compassionate person, we avoided the long ride across the road where cars and busses frequently don’t stop to allow the crossing of wheelchair passengers. The lack of common sense seems to have workers impeding the very procedures that they are supposed to facilitate. Sheriffs should realize that getting passengers on board quickly and safely is their responsibility; thus, they should facilitate physically challenged people, treating them as individuals and protecting them from crossing traffic needlessly.
Checking in was simple and fast through the lines for those in wheelchair, Suites and Elite passengers. We were aboard and in our cabin in less than 15 minutes.
This ship lately went through dry dock and is completely refurbished. She is like new: All ship shape clean and fresh. We have described in detail this ship in our 2006 review, published at this web site; therefore, we refer our readers to the earlier review and only state here that she is just lovely.
Our cabin was a wheel chair accessible one on Baja deck 11, number 302. As all the accessible cabins on Princess ships, it is spacious and well designed. When entering on the left is a parking area for the wheel chair and then a triple armoire. The first section has shelves and a personal safe. the second and third sections have two sets of hangers one of which can be lowered to a level accessible to a passenger in a wheelchair. Next, there is a vanity/desk with a TV on top and a small refrigerator in the bottom; there are also a desk chair (without arms alas!), a small round coffee table and an upholstered barrel chair. This type of cabin could use a good chair with arms, a necessity for the physically challenged, or ideally a lift reclining chair!
When entering on the right, there is a large bathroom, with a single sink, many large shelves for personal belongings, and a huge shower with folding seat. Then there is a king size bed, flanked by two bureaus each topped with a reading lamp (which should be closer to the bed, since now one must get out of bed in order to turn out the light).
The walls are beige, with one huge floral painting which evokes visions of Southern France and old masters such as Manet. Monet, etc. The carpeting is a warm salmon color, all of which combine into a clean comfortable relaxing home away from home. Our cabin steward Rolando was superb, although ship policy did not allow a chaise lounge on the balcony. Strangely, since Vincent always successfully requested a chaise whenever we book a cabin with a spacious balcony, except for the last two cruises.
FOOD & SERVICE
On our “Bucket List” for years has been a gastronomic tour of Italy. Now that we are deep into our retirement, we have been able to do a simulated version of this tour on board the Caribbean Princess with Executive Chef Antonio Cereda. Vincent had planned this cruise so that once more we could enjoy the fantastic cuisine of Chef Antonio --- We were not disappointed! The following is a concise summary of his repertoire:
Appetizers: Fried calamari, Waldorf salad with Stilton mousse, trio of seafood citrus w/avocado, prosciutto e melone, game and wild mushroom pate’, warm crab and artichoke dip, quail and venison terrine, and roasted vegetables and salami antipasto, etc....
Soups and Salads: Pasta e fagioli, ministrone all’ortolana, iced peach Bellini, roasted tomato soup, Caesar’s salad w/anchovies and Tuscan style chickpea soup, etc....
Pastas: Fettuccini Alfredo in a crisp Parmesan Basket, linguine alle vongole, potato gnocchi in Provencale tomato sauce, farfalle alla rustica in a cream sauce w/morels and green peas. ravioli di vitello and pappardelle with chicken ragout. etc....
Entrees: Roasted pheasant w/shallots, London mixed grill, steamed cod over lentils, brasato di manzo al Barolo, saltimbocca di pollo, and our favorite Lucullus-- an historical eggplant and capelli di angelli dish. etc....
Desserts: Cannoli Siciliana, Apple Tart Tatin, Baba au Rhum, and of course, Gelato of every kind made on board (nutella, tutti frutti, torroncino, pistacchio and sorbets), etc....
This short list is only the tip of the iceberg, we can not praise enough Chef Antonio and his crew!.
Service is most notable in the dining room of course; Maitre D’Mario Propato has everything in the dining areas under control. Our Head Waiter Agnelo saw to every detail at Table #245 in the Island Dining Room and our waiters Oscar and William were impeccable-- always polite and cordial. Room Service Manager Constantin Moise took special care to oversee prompt accurate and polite service. Mary especially enjoyed her afternoon tea served in our cabin at 3:30pm: a tea cloth, hot scones, tea sandwiches and tea cookies and mini pastries ---all delicious and ONLY ON PRINCESS!
There are all the usual shipboard activities: Bingo, Casino Slots and Games, Trivia, ping pong, pools and other water activities. Of all the terrific shows, by far the best was the Folkloric Show from Puerto Rico featuring guitar virtuoso Juan Carlos and his Flamenco Dancers. His classical guitar selections were awesome. He surely is a guitar virtuoso.
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida USA Departure delayed until 11:30pm
Day 2. At Sea
Day 3. Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Arrive 7:00am Depart 1:45pm
Day 4. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 12:00pm Depart 5:00pm
Day 5. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:00pm
Day 6. At Sea
Day 7. Princess Cays, Bahamas Arrive 8:00am Depart 4:00pm
Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA Arrive 7:00am
In addition to the two motorized wheel chairs, we brought with us a walker which we used in the room, so we asked for assistance. A crew member came to our cabin at about 8:00am and assisted us to the assembly area for wheelchair passengers. From there we proceeded to the gangway, which was much more wheelchair friendly than in previous cruises, then we went to luggage pick up, through the custom and out of the terminal in less than 15 minutes. This was a well organized debarkation. Our son Enzo picked us up with the van and we were home by 9:30am.
This was our 21st cruise on Princess ships and all of them have been great. Some of these cruises have been greater than others, especially after we achieved the status of Elite in the Princess Captain’s Circle. The benefits at this level have been generous: Complimentary Internet Package, with 150 internet minutes for each member free (300 total minutes for both of us); Complimentary Grapevine Wine Tasting; Complimentary Laundry Cleaning and shoe polishing; Complimentary Mini-Bar in the stateroom; Traditional Afternoon Tea, Mary’s favorite; 10% Boutique Discount; Priority Embarkation, Debarkation and Tender service; and Deluxe Canapes Selection, available upon request on formal nights. But most important for us has been revisiting those persons whom we have known from previous cruises and who have always treated us as VIP, in this case Chef Antonio and Maitre D’ Mario. A special thanks to them for making this cruise a special one. Happy Cruising!