A year ago we sailed on Explorer of the Seas from Bayonne, NJ, to New England and Canada. There were several missing details that would have made an enjoyable vacation more enjoyable. Our review for that cruise is still posted.
We decided to try a different cruise line this year and selected Caribbean Princess for the convenience of a New York departure and for the itinerary. We wanted a relaxing vacation and the Bermuda - Caribbean cruise met our needs.
We arrived at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at 11:00 AM and quickly and efficiently passed through security and check-in in a matter of minutes. We were given a boarding number and directed to the waiting area. There were enough chairs for everyone with videos playing touting Princess. At noon boarding began and we were on board by 12:15. Unlike our previous cruises we were permitted to go directly to our cabin to drop off our carry-on baggage and then proceeded to the Horizon Cafe for our first sampling of Princess fare. Embarkation was a snap. The Ship was to sail at 5:00. There was a slight delay for passengers arriving late. The Muster Drill was scheduled for 4:45 and we were assembled in public areas rather than herded to the Prominade Deck and lined up like bowling pins. It was explained that if there were an emergency the likelihood of having to go to the life boats was remote so passengers would be assembled and directed from the safety and comfort of the assembly sites. Makes sense to me! We sailed a little bit late and our vacation was under way.
Rather than a step by step, day by day review, I will summarize our experiences on our vacation.
The ship is very big. There are several pools, several entertainment venues and several dining options. If I returned tomorrow I doubt I could navigate to every area without a few wrong turns. Its not poorly laid out, just large. The room steward told me that from end to end, our hallway was 732 feet long. I sure am glad that every room has a bathroom! The ship was recently in dry dock for some upgrades. She is in excellent shape, public areas are very attractive and comfortable.
We selected traditional dining and were assigned to the Palm Dining Room. There are three main dining rooms each seating about 550 people. We found this arrangement much better than one 1500+ seat area. We could actually talk to our table mates without yelling. Also, there was much more space between tables than on previous cruises. The service was consistent and pleasant. No complaints there. The food was not spectacular but better than we had on our past two cruises. When one night you can have duck, and the next night have lamb and enjoy them both how can you complain? There are set items on the menu as well as four or five new items every evening, good variety and tasty fare. We had lunch and breakfast most days in the Coral Dining Room and experienced the same service and food quality. If you want variety, go to the buffet, Horizon Court, where there is always plenty of selections.
We ate in Sabitini's (Italian) one night and in the Crown Grill (Steak house) another. Both were superb.
Our room, a mini-suite was wonderful. The bathroom was large with a tub, and the balcony very pleasant. We had read about the lack of privacy on the verandas on the Dolphin deck but this didn't bother us at all. Alvin, our steward was extremely efficient and as pleasant as could be, as were all the attendants we passed in the hall.
The entertainment was adequate. Some shows were more enjoyable than others, Almost all had a live band, not canned back-up. The theater was attractive and comfortable. The "side shows" in the lounges were entertaining. Others have cited the constant nuisance of servers pushing drinks. We do not drink and did not find them annoying or overly persistent.
The staff on the ship were always responsive and friendly. Nobody ever said they could not help us. If they did not have the answers they found someone who did.
All of the small problems we encountered can be attributed to the fact that there were more than 3600 passengers on this cruise. Getting a chaise at any of the pools required early arrival or great luck. Lounges were always available but not in better locations near the pools and hot tubs. In the Horizon Cafe you often had to share a table with strangers. This actually was a good thing because we got to meet and chat with some lovely people! Getting your picture taken on the formal nights required patience and additional time.
The staff did a marvelous job of managing disembarkation at all the ports and at the end of the cruise. There was never a problem getting on or off Caribbean Princess.
The bottom line is that we are not fans of the larger ships. Even having this preference we cannot say enough about the efforts of the staff of Caribbean Princess to ensure that our vacation was enjoyable.