Caribbean Princess Cruise Review by HighDesert34: First Cruise Experience
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First Cruise Experience
I had never been interested in going on a cruise. I was turned off by the idea of large numbers of people crowded together in such close proximity and the lack of amenities found at large destination resorts. Then as I read up (on this site) about cruise vacations I became more interested.
Less than a month ago I had no plans to go on this cruise (or any other). My wife and I were looking at vacation options for us our 2 young daughters and her parents. We were thinking about maybe going to Cancun, Hawaii or some similar destination. We were utilizing the Costco travel website and on a whim decided to check out some of the cruises. This particular cruise had no price advertisement so my wife decided to call and we were told that a "Flash Promotion" was being offered on this trip (need to fill up cabins?) and I was floored when we were offered a priced at about half of what we had seen advertised for other 7 day cruise. We were told it was a non refundable price and they would More only hold it a short time if we wanted it. We decided that we did and immediately booked 2 adjacent Mini Suites on the "Dolphin Deck". In addition to the great price Costco Travel & Princess gave us $250.00 Ship Credit for each Suite. I was concerned that maybe this was an older ship that was not as popular but after reading up on the "Caribbean Princess" I found it had mostly positive reviews.
With the savings we made on the cruise we decided to go to Orlando the week week before and stayed at a great Universal Resort and spent 5 days at the parks before heading down to Ft. lauderdale so it really became a 2 week vacation for the price of one.
Embarkation was pretty smooth, we dropped off our luggage and got in line. After some time standing in line (nothing like waiting in line at Universal or Disney) we were ushered through and in our Cabin in very short order. We were greeted by "Eduard" our Cabin Steward who quickly brought us Champagne and asked how we liked the cabin set up. He also opened the door between our suites on the balcony so we could enjoy what became a "double Balcony" with the 2 suites. I have to say that throughout our trip The room was always clean and set up as we requested. We never ran out of ice water, beverages or fresh fruit. We never had to page him as everything was as we requested. He was absolutely great and while I know that a gratuity is collected on the room per passenger and per day we made sure to tip him a few times through the trip to show our appreciation.
We went top side got a quick bit to eat at the buffet and then joined the sail off party or whatever they call it. It was a little loud for me but the kids liked it and everyone was having fun until I noticed that after we had cleared the channel and out in the open ocean we were turning around! With all the music and noise from the party we could not hear that a medical emergency on board necessitated the return to port. We felt so bad that someone's trip was over before it hardly had begun but were relieved to find out that it had nothing to do with the condition of the ship itself. After a short period at the dock we again departed.
As we left port I took my daughters swimming and was a little put off by the number of unsupervised children that were running around the side of the pool, yelling and jumping or diving with abandon into the pool with little regard for people or other children who were swimming. I really believe that a life guard of some sort should have been present to enforce the rules since the parents were obviously oblivious. During one such rowdy episode I saw an older girl of about 12 suddenly and violently shove a boy she did not know who was walking along the side of the pool in the shallow sitting area. This boy was maybe 5-7 years old and I saw him go into the 7 foot deep end and he did not come up. About that time I heard his mother scream he could not swim and my previous years as a life guard in HS and college kicked in as I jumped in and pulled him out. Fortunately he only swallowed a little water and was fine. The mother of the older girl had been away getting pizza and returned about the time I was pulling the boy out. When she found out that her daughter had shoved him in she became quite irate with the daughter and her little friends and they quickly disappeared and the pool was enjoyable again. The boys parents were more understanding than I would have been when the girl explained that she thought he was playing with them. I do think if an attendant if not a life guard was present the craziness would never have reached such a fever pitch with those children to begin with. Fortunately the rest of the trip the pools, especially the adult only ones were quite enjoyable even if a bit crowded at times.
The next day we were at Princess Cays. We had ordered room service for breakfast which came promptly at the requested time, and every other time we ordered it. We went down early and got in the first tender to the beach which was a good thing as we got to go snorkeling before the beach got too crowded and the water was calm and clear. Rented a sail boat and I was glad I could remember how to sail (grew up sailing but now live in the SW). The wind was off the beach so I had to "Tack" to get back to the beach but it was great fun. We absolutely loved princess cays and enjoyed ourselves immensely!
That night we went to our first sit down dinner in the "Island Dining Room" (anytime plan). We found the food and the service first rate. We returned to the same dining room and with the same wait staff for the rest of the trip we liked them so much and made sure they knew it by tipping them nightly. That small sign of our appreciation went a long ways as we never had to wait for a table for 6 even when it was busy. As soon as the Maître'D saw us he immediately greeted us by name and took us to our table. They took special care to make my youngest daughters 9th Birthday very special and even brought in a singer that sang a beautiful song to her.
My family is in the restaurant business and we know how hard a good wait staff has to work to pull off the type of service we received. We made sure to show our appreciation. I know that good service is already part of the bargain but sometimes a small show of appreciation goes a long ways and the staff go the extra mile for you. I got the general impression that many people did not tip their wait staff but I really do not know what the norm is. Regardless we felt they deserved it.
The next few days we were at St Thomas, where we had a great snorkeling excursion to St. John's Trunk Bay where it was like being in an aquarium with so many colorful and beautiful fish of all sizes swimming along the reef. My only complaint is that we only had about 2.5 hours of beach time. I would have liked to make a day of it. In the future I think I would just go on my own to get more beach time.
We then visited San Juan which is just a great city, so much history, culture and great food to explore! Finally on Friday we went to Nassau which I was not particularly fond of. We arrived with 2 other cruise ships and it was quite the zoo trying to get to our excursion which was an interactive event with Dolphins at the Atlantis Resort. Eventually we arrived and the crowds melted away and we got to have a great experience with some amazing animals. Afterward we explored the resort and we decided to get a bit to eat at the marina where i had to pay $10.00 for a single slice of pizza! Do the math for a family of 6 and a quick snack can cost an easy $100 and they charge those prices with a strait face. I was not a fan of the Atlantis Resort and was glad to be back on ship.
Some of the things that I loved about CP was our mini suite, it was so spacious and comfortable, the food was first rate and the service impeccable. I loved some of the small lounges and sitting areas where one could sit quietly with a book, engage in conversation over a drink or enjoy a great cup of coffee and pastry from the International Cafe. Churchill's Lounge is a great place to enjoy a cigar. I wish I could have sat on my balcony and enjoyed a cigar but understand how others on their balcony may not enjoy it. However we would order up a cheese and cracker plate with a bottle of Scotch or wine and enjoy ourselves just watching the world go by. It's probably the place we spent the most time together as a family with our 2 suites and connected balcony giving us plenty of room. Every morning the steward would bring a pot of coffee and some croissants and we would start our day watching the sunrise (we are early risers) or the ship docking someplace. For me having a large balcony was great and so on the next cruise that will be a major consideration (maybe a full suite?).
Overall I give the ship 4 stars and the crew 5! Less
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