I, my husband, daughter and son arrived in San Juan at 1:55 pm and got to the port around 2:10 pm. Lines were not long and we were on the ship and in our stateroom within 10 minutes.
ERRANDS TO RUN AFTER EMBARKATION
After we got on we realized that our cards stated Anytime Dining. We had requested and been confirmed for Traditional Dining, (1st seating) as listed on our paperwork. Spoke with a purser and he suggested we speak with the Nicola, the Maitre 'D. We went straight to our cabin, and I called the room service/restaurant reservation line. Nicola would be available between 3-6 pm in the Da Vinci dining room. Before I hung up, I made reservations for Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. It was now 2:30pm so we went to Sports Deck 17 to register the children for Princess Pelican's and Shockwaves. We quickly grabbed a bite to eat at the Horizon Court buffet before heading down to see Nicola. At 3:00 pm we had a 15 minute wait (others had the same problem). Nicola was very accommodating and quickly corrected the error. As promised, a confirmation card with the correction appeared in our cabin mailbox, along with my confirmation cards for my spa treatments (which I had scheduled online).
We had a mini-suite (that accommodates 4 people) on the Dolphin deck, located on the port side, just before the aft elevators. Because of this location, getting to the Botticelli dining room (Fiesta - deck 6), Sabatini's (Sun - deck 16), the Horizon Court & Cafe Caribe (Lido - deck 15), and the Kid's club area (Sports - deck 17) was very easy. When my hubby and I spoke with Princess customer service on the phone, they had told us we would need to sleep in twin beds, because the overhead bunk bed ladder would drop down between them. When we got to the room we were thrilled to find out the bunk bed was over the loveseat and the twin beds were pushed together! There was plenty of room for all 4 of us. The safe worked well and the shower had more than adequate water pressure. We also felt the vibrations and heard the noise of the side thrusters when we arrived into or left a port, but that was only for a few minutes and it was a low rumble. Other than that, it was smooth sailing. Although the balcony was not covered, it was a great place to hang out. We saw flying fish, and my hubby watched a pod of Dolphins swim out from underneath the ship and perform jumps while everyone on their balconies cheered. (It just figures, both the kids & I were elsewhere at the time.) Our cabin steward, Marius, was wonderful. He always kept our cabin spotless, and the beds would be made immediately after we left our room before breakfast, or would be opened and ready for bed after dinner. If we needed extra towels, or wanted some fruit in our room (or wanted to know what the light switch was over the desk that had the green to red light on it), he performed the task swiftly and always with a smile. (By the way, that light attached to that switch comes on only in an emergency.)
On embarkation day, we had been informed that the Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe were open, so we ate at the Horizon Court. The food at the Horizon Court is always buffet style and has full breakfast selections. Cafe Caribe is also buffet style, has continental breakfast selections, and the each evening the menu changes (Italian, Mexican, German, etc.). The food is good, but if you are expecting to be dazzled, you won't find it here. We did get our Traditional dining - 1st seating as requested; however, this turned out to be a mixed blessing in disguise. I was somewhat disappointed by the fact that we didn't get the chance to sit with other people at a bigger table, a feature I love about traditional dining. I also enjoyed getting to know our waiters, Glen and Charon. Very attentive and will bend over backwards for you. But we did realize at the end of the cruise that perhaps we should have had anytime dining, due to time scheduling with Kid's club and the shows. Food was good in both traditional, and the anytime dining. Each night the menu changes slightly, and the same menu is offered in all 3 rooms. Trident Grill burgers and the pizza were delicious. The chocolate cookies at the International Cafe were yummy (they were always on the counter - free for the taking). Again, if you are expecting to be dazzled, I suggest you try Sabatini's and/or the Crown Grill. At Sabatini's, we placed our main course order, and they proceeded to bring out a sample of each item on the appetizer, and pasta courses. By the time my main course arrived, I was only able to eat two bites of it! The Crown Grill wasn't outrageous with their portions. The presentation and flavor of each dish in both restaurants were sublime. As for the coffee - I must agree with other reviews - some days it was watered down, other days it was very strong. If you want consistently good coffee you'll have to pay for it at the International Cafe.
We saw Destination Anywhere in the Princess Theatre - very good show. We also watched a cooking demonstration with the Head Chef and Maitre 'D - hilarious and informative! The morning show on channel 21 was fun to watch also. We didn't have time for MUTS.
SPA & FITNESS
I had reserved two treatments. - the Aroma Stone Therapy - Highly recommended. Was totally relaxed afterwards and was tempted to sign up for it again. However, after getting sunburned in Bonaire, I ended up canceling my other spa treatment - would have been too painful. Since I cancelled within 24hrs I wasn't charged.
FAMILY & CHILDREN
My son is 6 years old, and my daughter is 12. He went to the Princess Pelicans, and she went to Shockwaves. When the boat is in port, the children are grouped altogether. They both had plenty to do and made lots of friends. My daughter's day consisted of air-hockey, video games, movies, arts & crafts, and board games. My son's consisted of arts & crafts, story time, movies and games. The evenings were reserved for dances, theme night, make your own sundaes, etc. They had a blast! However, if your children want to participate in the evening festivities, it's a very good idea to attend anytime dining, because your children cannot be late. Karen, Christy, Cherry and the rest of the youth crew are superb. An added bonus that is exclusive to Princess Cruise Lines is their Youth Security Team. They are there to be sure outrageous behavior from the kids is curbed, and they look out for safety of your children as well. My hubby overheard some gentlemen at one of the pools gripe about the amount of children on this cruise. One of the youth security staff came over to them and stated simply that this is also the children's vacation and he and the staff will be there it make sure they have a good time. Darnell, one of the youth security team even attended every excursion we went on (and we were not the only family with children). He didn't wear a yellow shirt, but he did wear his name tag. Although he didn't introduce himself, I can't believe this was pure coincidence that he just happened to be on every single excursion we chose (except for Bonaire since we didn't book a Princess excursion). This is peace of mind that your children will be safe and will enjoy their cruise. Because of this, we have booked with Princess again.
SPORTS St. Thomas - We did two excursions this day. First, we took the Coral World Tour. We enjoyed it immensely. We then went on the Historic Harbor and Beach Tour. This excursion was a real treat for my husband and me because the beach they took us to was the same beach we went to for our honeymoon. Honeymoon beach on Water Island! The kids loved it too. An awesome day!
St. Kitts - We took the Scenic Train tour. It was delightful. The children had a ball looking for and counting the different animals they saw on the way. Another great day!
Grenada - When I visited this island back in 1992, I made myself a promise that the next time I visited I would go swimming in the falls. While the kids stayed on the ship (they wanted to go to Kid's club!), hubby and I went on the Grenada Favorites. The roads are windy, steep and narrow, perhaps too narrow for the large bus we ended up on. Getting to and from the Concord and Annandale falls was a bit scary and frustrating. Both the bus driver and tour guide were pleasant enough. I did finally get in a swim at Concord falls - hubby decided he'd take a dip at Annandale. But after the bus couldn't get by a parked jeep (which took eight people to rock it further into the shoulder so we could get by), followed by further traffic issues and then being hounded by the local hawkers in our descent to see the Annandale falls, he had had enough. We will not be back again.
Bonaire - We did not book an excursion. Instead we asked a taxi driver to take us and the kids to the best beach on Bonaire. He took us to Bonaire Windsurf Place located at Sorbon at Lac Bay beach. We made arrangements to have him pick us up at 3:30 pm. What a beautiful place! Very calm, clear, shallow water (about 2.5 feet deep) that extends out for about half a mile before the rough surf begins. We loved the water here. My son was thrilled to walk with me and hubby so far out from the beach and deepest it got was to his chest. We were able to rent a couple of lounge chairs for $6 USD. Although we didn't try it, you can rent windsurfing equipment and kayaks. There is also a restaurant. Make sure you wear lots of sunscreen.
Aruba - All four of us went on the See & Sea Tour. The highlight of this tour is being able to view the ship wreck of the Antilla from viewing stations in a semi-submarine. We would have loved staying on the semi-submarine longer and skipping the rest.
Overall, this was an excellent cruise. Looking forward to our next cruise with Princess in 2010!