First Time Crusing and It Exceeded My Expectations!!
My friend and I recently returned from my first cruise and his third cruise. This was a repositioning cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess. The cruise departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico and we cruised along the Eastern Caribbean, Bermuda and arrived in New York City.
We travel to San Juan several times per year and decided to fly down on the Tuesday before our Sunday departure for the cruise. We spent 5 nights in Sann Juan and enjoyed the beach, art museuem, amazing food, good entertainment, and Old San Juan.
EMBARKATION We arrived at the Pan American Pier in San Juan a few minutes before 11:00 AM. We were greeted by porters when we arrived who took our checked luggage. We got in line and waited until approximately 12:00. At 12:00, they opened the doors and we were allowed to enter the building and sit in chairs according to our place in line. A few minutes later and we were at the counter checking in for our cruise. This process was simple. It was painless and Princess handled it with care, ease, and precision. The airlines could learn a thing or two from Princess. After checking in and receiving our cruise cards, we proceeded to the duty free shop. Princess allows each person to carry up to 2 bottles of wine and/or champagne aboard. We purchased 2 bottles of wine as well as a few other things. We went through security and proceeded up some escalators to the ship. At the entrance to the ship we were greeted by several Princess employees. We were aboard in less than 30 minutes! Upon getting on the ship, you are greeted by countless Princess employees wearing white gloves and welcoming you aboard. These employess are also strategically positioned around the ship to guide you in the right direction. It was a nice personal touch!
Once onboard, we were asked by several employees if we were interested in purchasing a soda card. Although we were not interested in the soda card, we were able to purchase the coffee card at one of the tables set up to sell the soda card. The coffee card is well worth the investment. If you enjoy good brewed coffee, I highly recommend the coffee card. It is approximately $27.00 with the gratuity and you receive unlimited brewed coffee as well as approximately 15 specialty coffees (lattes, etc.). The coffee in the buffet and dining room is awful. The coffee card allows you to get brewed coffee and they serve great coffee at the International Cafe in the Piazza. The other coffee is from a concentrate. After finding our cabin on the Caribe deck, and dropping off our carry on luggage we proceeded down to the Promenade deck where we embarked. We decided to go back out to the duty free shop for some other goods. Before leaving the ship, they had tables set up on the Promenade deck to make restaurant reservations. We immediately made reservations for both of the specialty restaurants.
SHIP The Caribbean Princess is a large ship. It consists of 19 decks. We immediately began exploring the ship and started to find our way around. The ship encourages passengers to complete a treasure hunt on embarkation day and this is a great way to find your way around the ship and see all she has to offer. As I mentioned earlier, this was my first cruise. This ship was immaculate. It was well maintained and always clean. We never noticed trash or litter in any of the common or public areas. We even saw employees polishing all of the handrails on one day. After a day or two, one can easily navigate the ship. There are plenty of signs around the ship to guide you. TIP: the carpets are blue on the starboard side and red on the port side.
CABIN We had an interior cabin on the Caribe deck. We were plesantly surprised that our cabin was ready when we arrived. It was larger than we anticipated with plenty of space to store clothing, etc. There is a large closet as well as a wardrobe with small cubby holes and the bathroom had plenty of space for our needs. Our cabin was always well attended to by our steward, Fillmon. He took good care of us and provided us with ice, etc. On one day, we asked for a towel animal and arrived back later that evening to find an adorable elephant on our bed. Fillmon always greeted us with a good morning, have a good day, how was your day, etc? It was apparent that the employees really care about their passengers.
DINING We chose anytime dining. I like the flexibility of being able to dine when and with whom each evening. I did not feel pressured to rush back to the cabin and get ready for dinner. We ate in the dining room (Island Dining Room) on 2 nights. We always asked for a table of 2 and were seated immediately. The first night was the sailaway dinner and the meal was good. The second night we ate in the dining room was an Italian night and we were disappointed with the food and service. Our waiter was not personable or friendly and I did not care for the food. Many of the options were not really Italian and I did not care for the chicken that night. We did not bring tuxedos or sport jackets and therefore, were unable to dine in the dining room on the two formal nights. On those nights, we ate in the Horizon Court and/or Cafe Caribe. There were plenty of options to choose from and the food was better than I expected. We ate in the Horizon Court each morning for breakfast and were pleased with the food and service. I had read many reviews before traveling about the chaos in the buffet. I did not find this to be true. Also, one could easily order an omelet and your order was taken by a chef near the scrambled eggs and it was prepared and ready within 3 minutes. At times, the buffet area is crowded and you may have a tough time finding a table. The waiters are relatively quick to clean off a table when people are finished. In fact, on one day, we left our brewed coffee from the International Cafe on the table and proceeded to get our breakfast on the buffet and returned to the table to find the waiters cleaned our cups up before we had a chance to eat and/or drink!! Many days we ate in the buffet for lunch and always found the food choices to be varied and adequate. The most difficult time was dinner. I do not eat seafood and there are lots of seafood dishes for dinner in all of the eating venues. Although there are vegetarian items, these items were not always clearly identified in the buffet. Some of our favorites in the buffet included: omelets, suasage, rice pudding, fresh fruit, salsa, guacomole, salad bar etc.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS We decided to try both of the speciality restaurants. We ate at Sabatini's on Tuesday. The meal was fabulous and truly memorable. The atmosphere is beautiful and the staff were extremely attentive and personable. The maitre'd checked on us throughout our dining experience. This is a real dining experience. It is 7 courses! You only choose your main entree. They bring you all of the cold and hot appetizers, great thin crust pizza, and two pastas. I had some trouble finding a main entree and asked for a vegetarian option. To my surprise, the maitre'd said he would speak with the chef. The chef promised to prepare a vegetarian entree for me. When the entrees arrived, I was shocked. The entree that was prepared for me not only looked beautiful, but tasted incredible. It was the best entree of the week. The service in this restaurant was remarkable. Both the maitre'd and our server were pleasant and attentive to our needs. I recommend this dining experience. It is $20.00 per person, but worth every penny!!
We also dined at the Crown Grill on out last night. The Crown Grill is very beautiful and reminiscient of a New York steakhouse. Once again, we found the food to be exemplary and the service unparalleled. It is $25.00 per person. I must mention that I had difficulty with the dinner menus and options on several nights, but I was never hungry or disappointed with anything that I ordered in either of the specialty restaurants. My only mistake was not booking more nights in these venues. On a future cruise, I will not only opt for these restaurants, but perhaps do 2 nights in each restaurant.
POOLS We spent time each day at the pools. We especially enjoyed the Terrace Pool on the aft on the ship. It is adult only and very peaceful. We also spent time near Tradewinds Bar with a group of people we met through the roll call. We generally did not have any difficulty locating a lounge chair, although people tend to save chairs for others despite the signs advising against this.
ENTERTAINMENT We saw all of the shows offerred during the cruise and also went to 3 comedians, hypnotists. We enjoyed all of the productions as well as the comedians. We did not have difficulty finding a seat in the theater, but did have some difficulty finding a seat in the Explorer's Lounge to see the comedians, etc. I advise arriving early for seating in these venues. We found all of the entertainment adequate and enjoyed nightly shows, etc. We spent part of 2 nights in the casino. The casino was rather smoky. We enjoyed the smoke free casino night and would recommend that Princess implement more smoke free nights.
DISEMBARKATION This process was very smooth. We went to our assigned area in Sabatini's at 8:35. Our group was called at 9:00 and we were escorted off the ship. We went into the terminal, found our luggage by our assigned color and number, and went right to the customs official. We were out of the terminal in a few minutes and quickly found our transfer.
OVERALL This was a fabulous cruise. I was impressed with Princess, the ship, the service, food, and entertainment. The captain was quite visible and friendly. He attened our roll call meet and greet and could often be found speaking with passengers throughout the ship. The cruise director and deputy cruise director, Dan and Sam, were friendly and welcoming. They were always visible and accessible throughout the cruise. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to do an open booking for a future Princess cruise!