We left our house in the Bronx at about 10:45 a.m. and made it to the pier with little traffic by 11:30. We accidentally checked 2 of our carry on bags, but I chased the cart and the porter was friendly as I took them off. He said our luggage would be at our room about 2 hours later. It wasn't. We proceeded to the check in where we showed our info, got our cards from a very friendly counter agent and were directed to a holding area. We were given a number which we didn't need as we had priority embarkation as we are Captain's Circle members. We went to a little holding room where we were told we would wait until 12:00pm. We waited and watched Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel for about 10 minutes until the door opened up and they let us on. We were on the ship by 11:50am. Never got to finish the episode...sigh. Once we got on, we went right to our room, which was Caribe 210. This cabin had a very large balcony on the Port side. We have been on 3 Princess cruises before and this was our biggest balcony. It had 2 upright chairs and a table, and two lounge chairs and a little table where you could put drinks, etc. At this time, we met our cabin steward, Raul from Mexico City. He was very personable and hard working. I gave him a $20 up front and he was very appreciative. I asked for an egg crate for the bed. He said he didn't know if he could get it, but he would try his best. It was there by the second day. I had a bad back for about 1 month before we left for the cruise. By the third day, my back felt great. Thanks, Raul! After checking out the room, we went to the totally un-crowded buffet. There weren't too many other people on the ship yet, so it felt like we had the ship to ourselves. We had plenty of chairs and tables to choose from and we went outside above the Terrace Pool right behind Sabatini's to have our first meal. We overlooked the Manhattan skyline and it was very nice. We then toured the ship which we had seen the year before. We made a point of going to places we hadn't gone to last summer. We went to the gym, the spa and other deck areas. For sail-away, we enjoyed the sail-away party on the Lido Deck for a little while. A Coast Guard helicopter was buzzing around above the ship waving and putting on a show. After a few cocktails and songs by the band we then went up above Skywalker's to the mini golf course. It was very windy up here, but well worth it. When we went under the Verazanno Narrows Bridge, it almost felt like you could touch it. After sail-away we went back to our room to get ready for dinner. We had anytime dining, so it didn't matter what time we got to dinner. This was good as we still hadn't gotten our luggage after being on the ship for almost 7 hours. Our luggage arrived as we were getting ready. Being that we had anytime dining, it wasn't that big of a worry as we knew we could wait a little longer in case it didn't arrive. Our garment bag with our formal wear didn't arrive until we were almost ready for dinner and we were worried about it, but it did come.
We had Anytime dining and we love it. We don't have to worry about being there at a certain time. On the first night, we went right to the Da Vinci dining room and were seated right away. We were seated with a great head waiter whose name we forget and Christopher the assistant waiter. It was a table for 2 and away from the other tables. Most tables for 2 are pushed up next to other people, but if you ask there are a few away from other tables. Christopher remembered us from our cruise on the Crown last year. He is very personable and friendly and a pleasure to have as an assistant waiter. We tried again throughout the cruise to get a table with him, but were unable to. On the first formal night, it was a little hectic getting a table. This is the night with the captain's party in the Piazza. It seems that right after this party, all the people with anytime dining go right to the dining rooms. This was the time we experienced a wait. They gave us a beeper and told us about 20-50 minutes. We went to the bar at the International Cafe, had a drink from Margarita, and waited for about 45 minutes and then got beeped. This was not a big deal as we like to have a pre- dinner cocktail. This was the longest night we had to wait for a table. On most nights we did have to get a beeper from the DaVinci dining room or go down to the less crowded Michelangelo dining room. It seemed that this dining room, located on deck 5 was always less crowded. I don't know why?!?! As on all of our Princess cruises, I thought the food was very good. We never had a bad meal and everything was very flavorful. This is coming from a Sicilian who grew up with Italian grandma cooking all the time. Was it as good as grandmas-no, but then again, nothing is ;). I surprised my wife with the Ultimate Balcony Dining one night for our anniversary. We really loved this. I got Surf & Turf and they made her special vegetarian meals. It really is well worth it. Our waiter, John from Romania, was really nice and he came and went as necessary with each course. For $100 per couple we got a huge delicious meal, a small flower arrangement (which was very nice and lasted through the rest of the cruise), a small bottle of Moet champagne, and a photographer came in and took about 20 pictures. One of them was ready and brought to us in a frame before we were even done with the dessert. We would have bought a few more of them. I will get to why we didn't in a few minutes. The cruise director was Tim Donovan. I recall he was actually supposed to get on the next cruise (7/23), but things must've changed. One of the welcome aboard planners even had the CD listed as Kelvin Joy. Tim was good, but he was not at most of the events we were at. Some people complained he wasn't visible enough. I can't say that as I was not at all shows at once and do not know where he was. We were lucky enough to have my pal Sarge on board. He got on the week before in San Juan and got off on our cruise in San Juan to go on a break. I do not know if/when he is getting back on. If he is on, don't miss him. He's very funny and a hell of a guy as well. We mostly went to Princess pop star which is kind of like their version of karaoke meets American Idol. I am a musician and like to see aspiring singers or just people looking to have a good time. After those kinds of events, we went up to Skywalkers a few nights and had a good time. We don't dance but there were many people dancing. We are in our early 30's and there were many people our age, a bit older and much younger (early 20's) as well. It was a good mix and it seemed to be a good time had by all.
Sea Days: On sea days, it was a bit of a challenge to get a lounger. I should add that we don't want to be sitting right next to someone or in the middle of a group of people. If you don't mind that, you won't have a problem. We also tried to find chairs in the shade, which we usually ended up finding, but they were not near the pool. This didn't matter as we are not really pool people. I went in once on the Terrace Pool and it was a little cloudy and started to rain after we sailed away from St. Thomas. There were four sea days on this cruise. We mostly just lounged around. We caught some of the movies on the Movies Under the Stars. We used the internet a few times and I think I am still waiting for a good connection. Most of the people were very polite and well behaved on the ship. You do get rude and impolite people no matter where you go, so I guess we just have to deal with it.
Port Days: Our first stop was in our favorite place on Earth- Bermuda. We have been to Bermuda many times on cruises. We went on 2 week long cruises that stayed in Bermuda and a few that stopped there for a day. Bermuda is beautiful, safe, and very easy to get around on. We got engaged in Bermuda on a 7 day cruise aboard the Celebrity Zenith in 2001. We bought a 1 day bus and ferry pass for $12 each. We took the ferry to Hamilton and walked around and did a little shopping for about an hour or so. We then hopped on the 7 bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach. There were lots of people here, but we didn't feel crowded. It was a beautiful, sunny, and warm day and the water is the clearest you will see. The walk back up the hill can be very challenging for someone with walking issues and there is a shuttle that takes you up to the top for a buck. We decided to walk it as we do on a cruise to burn extra calories. I still gained 6 lbs (it's already gone), but imagine if we didn't walk or take the stairs everywhere. San Juan was next after a beautiful sea day. We got off the ship a little later as our rain forest tour was pushed back to 1:30 instead of 11:00. This was ok as we got off easier and customs wasn't hectic. We literally got on a quick moving line, walked through club fusion and didn't even stop as I showed my passport to a customs agent. It took maybe 2 minutes time. When we got off we walked around a little by the pier, but we then had to quickly get in line for our tour. The rainforest trip was good, but I was expecting more of a trip into the heart of the rainforest by foot. We stopped at a few observation points and were able to wander around for about 20-30 minutes at each spot. I guess I understand that if they take all those people into the rainforest, it can interrupt its natural balance. We didn't see any wild life except for a rat in one of the museum-type buildings. I don't have to leave NYC if I want to see rats, lol. We got back to the ship around 5:30 or so and just got back on to get ready for dinner as we were starving and tired. We did have a little snack on the Lido deck before going back and getting ready for even more food. After dinner we went to the top deck for a nice nighttime sail-away. We had never sailed away at night and it was a nice change. Next was St. Thomas which we had been to on cruise a few years back. I planned a nice trip to St. John as we had never been there before. My wife is a huge Kenny Chesney fan and he lives on the island so I knew she would want to visit here. We took a cab to the ferry in Red Hook. We bought ferry tickets and were told to follow a line that was leaving. We gave our tickets to a gentleman who asked for them. I thought something was odd when the boat attendant was asking for people's lunch orders, but I figured maybe there was a group of people together on the ferry that were ordering lunch. When the ferry got to St. John, the attendant then started confirming lunch orders and said he counted 2 extra people and 2 less lunches. This is when I asked him if we were with an excursion group. He said it was and asked if we were with the excursion. I was very confused, but it seems that the person at the booth misguided us to the wrong ferry. We got on a ferry that was designated for an excursion. He jokingly called us stowaways and told us to be careful where we think we're going or we might end up in Timbuktu. This is very true. Learn from my mistake and make sure you are where you have to be. From here, we took a cab to Cinnamon Bay. We literally were the only ones on the beach for the first 20 minutes and then we shared the whole beach with maybe 10 other people that seemed miles away from us. It was unreal. The water was calm and the views were breathtaking. As I said, my wife is a huge Kenny Chesney fan and you can see his new home while swimming in Cinnamon Bay. It was really something special for her. We then left the beach and went looking for Mr. Chesney's favorite hangout on the island, Woody's Seafood Bar and Grill. It is about a 1 block walk for the Ferry Terminal. It was a tiny little bar that seated about 10 and it was cramped. There were Platinum Cd's on the wall and my wife was so excited to see them. We had a few beers, tried to buy some souvenirs but were told they were sold out, and then went back to the ferry. We got on the right one this time and got back to the ship about 2 hours before sail away. We had a few drinks (OK, I had a few buckets of beer) before dinner as we watched some Movies Under the Sun. Our last port of call was the beautiful Grand Turk, of the Turks and Caicos Island chain. We have been here before and love it. It seems very similar to me as Princess Cays. It is basically just a beach day as the island is very undeveloped. Right at the cruise terminal is a shopping center with different kinds of souvenir type things as well as liquor and perfume type shops. We didn't really buy anything, so I can't comment on prices. There is also Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville to the right of the pier. This is a big open air bar area with a huge pool with a swim up bar. We spent about 2 hours in the water at the beach and then we went to grab a very expensive bite to eat with a few drinks. The banana daiquiri was amazing and my wife said the Margarita was good, but a little weak. We then decided to try out the pool, which we didn't do the previous year. We were glad we did as we loved it. It is very shallow. We bid adieu to Grand Turk. As my wife showered while we sailed away, I stayed on the balcony and helped my other passengers yell at people who were holding up the ship by arriving back late. They didn't seem to mind as they just took a leisurely stroll towards the ship with 3000 other people waiting. The crew members from the island who released the mooring lines were telling us to come back soon. How I wish I could be there now!! Getting back to the photography incident- We (my wife, really) normally buy almost $150-$200 in pictures on our cruises. This year we did Ultimate Balcony Dining and they send a photographer to the room and he took like 25 pictures. We got one free that night which was very nice. The next day we went to the photo booth and asked about them. One of the female clerks behind the booth led us to the computer screen and started showing them to us. No sooner did she start showing them to us and she starts making fun of my wife's smile. She was saying "What a cheesy smile" And "Can you be showing any more teeth?" Most people comment on what a beautiful smile my wife has and this one is trying to sell us something and starts insulting her in the process. I walked away after I looked at her and said "Good, I guess you don't want me buying them then". My wife said that after I walked away the girl knew I was PO'd and started trying to do damage control and say "Oh, actually this one looks great". She didn't realize it was one she had already insulted us in. I am one who normally lets most things slide off of me, but this annoyed me and I wrote it on the comment cards and I plan on writing Princess to let them know. I am not expecting anything out of it other than to get it off of my chest. I for one always was in favor of asking people to take a nice posed picture of us whether it be in the dining room, the atrium or getting off the ship. This year we got really great ones and so did the people whom I reciprocated the favor for. So thanks to this smartaleck clerk, who may have done this to other people as well, made my wallet that much heavier. If you are going on the Crown or any other cruise, remember this-Your cruise is what you make of it. If you go expecting perfection, you will be let down. If you go expecting a great time, relax and let the little things slide, you will have a blast as we did. Enjoy and have a drink for me. Tell Sidney in Club Fusion I said hey. Cheers, F