This was our 6th cruise with Princess and they keep getting better and better! We had a group of 20 family/friends and all arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day prior to the cruise and stayed at the Ramada Inn Cruiseport/Airport. The hotel was very friendly and clean - packed with passengers sailing on the Emerald. The hotel offers a fantastic free breakfast and shuttle to the ship. We were on the second group for the shuttle and arrived at the pier about noon.
Embarkation was fast - although the line appeared to very long it moved exceptionally fast. The way Princess does their embarkation makes the process very simple - just look for the deck you are on and get in that line - and within a matter of minutes, you're on your way!
This is the first time we had an aft balcony cabin on the Caribe deck and my husband now says he is completely spoiled!! We have read reviews both pros and cons regarding these cabins and so we decided to give it a try. It was incredible! So quiet and we always felt as though we were the last ones to leave the island. The balcony was very large and had 2 lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs and a table. We did not notice feeling any additional motion in this cabin than we have midship. It was a great choice and we will definitely try to book this cabin on all future sailings.
Our group had anytime dining and never had a problem with it. Some nights we would eat at the Caribe Cafe and found the food to be wonderful and very similar to what was being served in the dining room. The staff would help us carry the trays to the table and serve drinks - very efficient and we never had a problem finding a table. The nights we ate in the dining room, we would call in the morning for a reservation and because we had such a large group - we would be seated at 3 tables, although they were all side by side.
We attended most of the shows and the only down side is that the theater cannot accommodate all the passengers wishing to see the shows, so you must arrive 30-45 mins. prior just to get a seat. I have never understood why Princess does not have a larger theater to accommodate the passengers better. The shows were all fantastic - Billy Vader was hysterical, LiveWire was incredible as always...the hypnotist had us laughing so hard our sides hurt (although our son was part of the show, which made it even funnier)....We found all the staff to be very friendly and helpful throughout the cruise.
The internet was not working at all until this last day and that did create some frustration, however, Princess did not charge for any use on the last day. The wireless connection did become available a few days earlier, although it was very slow.
The ports of call were fantastic as always. In Barbados we booked the Mount Gay rum and Banks beer tour through the cruise line. It was a waste of time and money....we have been to Barbados before and was not impressed and had the same feeling this time. They do have a nice shopping area at the pier however.
St. Thomas we had chartered 3 sailboats (2 through Interline Sails and 1 with Rumbaba). We sailed with Interline the previous year and they were fantastic. This year we also tried Rumbaba and Captain Bobby was truly incredible! The food was the best we have ever had.....while we were snorkeling, he grills filet mignon, ahi tuna and mahi mahi....there are no words to describe how awesome this was. Everything was homemade - when we first got on the boat, we were given homemade banana/blueberry bread which was delicious and things kept getting better and better. All 3 boats "raced" to St. John and we had the best time ever. Once we returned to Red Hook, we walked across the street to Duffy's Love Shack, which is a must when going to Red Hook. We took a taxi back to the pier and had no problems whatsoever.
St. Lucia - we had booked the tour through Princess for the all day tour which took us on a tour to the Pitons, with stops for numerous pictures, and at a Plantation which was very information and gorgeous. We were given lunch there and then continued on to the volcano....really enjoyed the land portion of the tour. Once we reached the Pitons, we boarded a catamaran for the ride back up the coast. St. Lucia is truly a picturesque island and this excursion - although a little costly - was well enjoyed.
This was our first time to visit Antigua and it has become one of our favorite islands! Gorgeous...we did not have any tour scheduled but once we were off the ship, we took a taxi/tour to Nelson's Dockyard and this was one of the best tours every. The beauty of this island is indescribable and our "host" was phenomenal. The time went by way too fast for this very, very gorgeous island.
We could not dock at St. Kitts due to high winds so we were lucky enough to have another day at sea - which we love.
Princess Cays has expanded and is truly delightful. The BBQ is great and the watermelon carvings are something to see. We all enjoyed the time at Princess Cays once again.
We truly hated to see our cruise end...we have never taken a 10 day cruise before but the extra 3 days truly make a difference. The ship, crew, entertainment, food, everything was spectacular. We hated to have to leave.
Leaving the ship was very well organized - some delay in receiving clearance but that may be due to the fact the Caribbean Princess was also in port. We had a shuttle to the airport (purchased through Princess) and this went very smoothly. The hard part is once you arrive at Ft. Lauderdale airport, you cannot check in until 2 hours before your flight so people are sitting, laying anywhere where there is room. Very, very congested...once we could check in - we had no problems at all.
This cruise was truly wonderful - we all took advantage of the future cruise deposit because that is the best way too place your deposit. We will once again be looking forward to another awesome Princess cruise!