Cruise -- Amazon, round trip from Fort Lauderdale, Pacific Princess March/April 2009
Cabin: 6086 -- BF obstructed view Balcony
The obstruction is a cut out from the hull, providing a sheltered area and an open one -- not a bad situation all in all, although we didn't spend a lot of time out there.Â Location of the cabin is well astern and there is vibration and engine noise when the ship is moving at or close to full speed.Â Otherwise, it was an acceptable cabin.
Embarkation -- we stayed overnight in Fort Lauderdale at the Rodeway Inn Airport, principally because it provides free shuttle service to and from both the airport and the port.Â It is an adequate hotel, and the shuttle service is efficient and well run with sign ups and delivery right to the dock.Â Embarkation was smooth with no issues and we were on board very quickly and established in our cabin.
The ship -- Pacific Princess is one of the former Renaissance ships, carrying a total of 670 passengers.Â She has not been substantially changed or updated since her days as the R-3, and she could stand a facelift, particularly with respect to the soft goods such as curtains which are becoming substantially faded, but overall, she remains a well-designed, well maintained, and elegant ship. In command for our voyages was relief captain Carlo Servillo and he was ever present, very accessible, very congenial, and kept us all well informed on routine matters as well as problems and issues.
Dining - As with her small sisters, there is no Personal Choice Dining Room -Â fixed seating only, with two extra charge restaurants -- Sterling and Sabatinis -- alternating nights, and the buffet is now available for dinner as well, converting to bistro serivce late in the evening.Â Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all available in both the buffet and the dining room. During the day, there is also service at the poolside grill. Â Overall, food was of better than average quality.Â There were some issues with the coffee cards as there wasn't any 'regular' brewed coffee available and the bar staff went back and forth on what they were supposed to provide in its stead, but this eventually got resolved.Â The new featured lemonade was available at the buffet, as well as the usual coffee and tea.Â
Programs and Entertainment - The port lecturer for this cruise was "Hutch" and he was quite expert on this region and was also a welcome presence at dockside on each of our stops with last minute hints and directions.Â There wasn't much else on the enrichment lecture program, and the usual crafts, games, and so on were presented.Â Entertainment included a couple of actually funny comedians, the adapted cabaret versions of the big production shows, and an excellent folkloric show in Manaus with guest entertainers.Â The small casino was fairly well attended and the beautiful and relatively large and well stocked library was heavily used.Â The gym is compact but well equipped and was most in demand in the early morning hours.Â The spa services seemed fairly lightly used.Â The internet cafe was well attended with occasional lines, and service was generally pretty good and relatively fast.
Cruise Critic Events -- Our two roll calls each had a 'welcome' meet and greet event and there was a 'farewell' also, all well attended by both roll call members and ship's crew.Â The Captain attended all three events, as did most of his senior staff and both the current and on-coming Cruise Directors attended the farewell event.Â
We had an 'event' in Dominica -- an accident occurred during docking maneuvers and a line fouled the starboard propeller.Â During our regular stay in Dominica, local divers attempted to free the line, but were unsuccessful, resulting in our spending an extra day in Dominica while divers were flown in from Miami to address the problem.Â Â We ended up skipping Tobago on the outbound trip in order to accommodate the repair work.Â Captain Servillo was exemplary in his dealing with this situation, providing consistent and timely updates throughout the procedure.Â
The Itinerary -- The unquestioned 'star' of the show is the Amazon River itself.Â It is hard to conceive of a river so huge and so powerful that its effects can be seen more than 100 miles out to sea, and until you actually experience it, you don't quite believe it.Â That said -- once you are in the basin, there is a certain sameness -- mud brown river and a green wall of jungle for mile after mile after mile, broken sporadically by small settlements and the influx of 'black' or 'white' tributary streams.Â These create features that form a staple part of the tours -- the "meeting of the waters' -- where tributary streams enter the Amazon, flowing at different speeds, with different temperatures and composition and flowing side by side for some number of miles before being absorbed into the larger flow.Â Many times these meetings are visible from the ship and in Santarem and Manaus they are a significant part of most shore excursions.Â The Amazon is the highway, the food source, and the home of many of the people who live along her banks and the culture and way of life is deeply influenced by the river and its seasonal floods.Â Other ports on this itinerary are fairly typical Caribbean islands -- the exception being Devil's Island in French Guiana which does have a haunting ambiance.Â There was a special showing of the Steve McQueen movie Papillion prior to our call there and it was interesting to see how the film used the locations that we visited.
Ports and Tours -- Fort Lauderdale to Manaus to Fort Lauderdale -- Pacific Princess March/April 2009
(767) 500 5390
(767) 245 0886
Pick up at 9:00 AM
A representative of Antours will await your arrival at the pier and assist you with boarding the tour. You will find us just past the last security check point at the end of the pier, holding up the white & red Antours sign. Â Visit to Emerald Pool in the Morne Trois Piton National Park, optional swim, cruise down Layou Valley to river entry for tube float.Â Rum punch or fruit juice at end of ride.Â Proceed to Mero Beach for swim in Caribbean, can purchase optional barbeque lunch at this location. Return to ship from here. Bring towel, wear closed toe shoes that can get wet, plastic bag for wallet, camera.
EVALUATION:Â Great fun!Â Do not attempt to paddle yourself out of the shallows -- Antours provided 5 'in water' guides for 6 people.Â They tow you out of anywhere you get stuck -- two of the guys on the trip scraped up their arms pretty badly trying to get themselves out of the shallows. Tops of the tubes are rough and abrade your arms.Â There is no need to try and paddle as someone will come get you very quickly.
Nereus Francis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(758) 719 6697
$65/p cash at end of tour
Tour is 5 to 6 hours.Â Pick up at gate of pier at 8:20 AM, departure at 8:30 AM, walk through building, turn right to the security booth, look for sign "COSOL"
Visit banana plantation, fishing villages, Marigot Bay where Dr. Doolittle was filmed. Stop for breakfast of local fish cakes, Johnny cakes, coconut cakes, and different local fruits.Â Mobile bar with rum punch, local beer, water & soda on board, all included.Â Then go to Soufriere for overlook of pitons, then to waterfall and botanical gardens, then to volcano.Â Following volcano, water taxi to Jalousie Beach between the pitons for swimming and snorkeling.Â Following beach, stop for drink and sample of local spice rum, then for local hot bread and cheese for lunch.Â Last stop is 5 minutes from ship, for shopping & souvenirs, then return to ship.Â Bring camera, wear swimsuit under clothes (limited changing room facilities), bring towel, & snorkeling gear
EVALUATION:Â Good tour, Guide Bumpy was terrific - lots of driving on twisty roads -- if prone to car sickness take ginger or Dramamine.Â Very nice small botanical garden.Â Overlook to volcano very strong sulfur smell.Â Short, fairly steep trail from first to second overlook.Â Shopping stop not bad -- no pressure, brief.Â Breakfast stop very good, also stopped mid-afternoon for fresh baked bread -- wonderful!
Meet tour guide in front of KFC opposite the cruise terminal at 9:15 AM, look for name sign.Â Jeep Safari 6 hours. This exciting off-road excursion in search of
adventure will allow you to cover parts of the island and appreciate sights that most visitors never get to discover. We will drive on dirt roads off the beaten tracks, through rivers and old plantations from the Caribbean coast into the heart of the island, reaching a waterfall where you can swim in its natural pool. You will see a variety beautiful of birds. After a picnic snack our journey continues alongside a river where it is easy to notice caimans. A visit to an old sugar mill will be our last stop.Â Wear bathing suit if swimming, bring towel, wear comfortable shoes, light clothing, and hat.Â
EVALUATION: - did not do this as ship missed Tobago on the outbound due to propeller problem in Dominica -- did go with this company for second trip, below.Â Company very accommodating, prompt refund for this trip with no questions asked.Â Emailed to let them know as soon as we had problems in Dominica.
55 93 9973 8951
50% prepaid via Western Union, balance on day of tour
Prepay was via Western Union -- was a little complicated but finally worked.Â Balance was in USD cash on the day
Pickup at pier in two cars, 9:15 AM transfer to riverboat at Richard Hemmington's pier, to meeting of the waters, canoe on floodplain, explore Maica Lake, return.Â Snack and mineral water included.Â
One of the highlights of the trip -- Gil is a delight.Â Saw sloths, pink dolphins, many birds.Â Gil mailed us tee shirts, carry bags, and copies of his bird book prior to the trip.Â Fished for piranhas, caught some, Gil and Junior (boat capt) cooked them up for a snack -- tasty!Â Smaller boat excursion into flooded forest.Â Group after ours (also on B2B) also loved this one -- they hit a tree at some point, knocked it down and were treated to seeing all the critters that lived there which included a colony of bats escaping.Â We saw several pods of pink dolphins, lots of birds and sloths.Â Even more interesting was Gil's commentary of the way of life in this region -- farming during the dry season, fishing during the flooded times and Â how people move back and forth from their homes on stilts to other homes on higher ground and keep their livestock on platforms raised up above the river and move them around on barges, which we were also able to see.
Gil was guide to the author of Thief at the End of the World -- Joe Jackson -- a book about the man who 'stole' rubber seeds for Kew Garden that ultimately formed the basis of the S.E.Asia British Empire rubber plantations and doomed the Brazilian rubber industry -- very good book.Â Highly recommend that and also The River of Doubt about Theodore Roosevelt's expedition in the Amazon.Â
Amazon Mystery Tours
(55) 92 3228-3733
Pick up at pier at 12:30. The port is just like the airport, they haveÂ only 1 security glass doorsÂ that everyone from the shipsÂ has to go through to have access to the city. We'll be waiting there at those glass doors, giving into the port's terminal. We'll have a paper with your names.Â These City Tours are done in comfortable air conditioned vehicle (car or small van) with fluent English speaking driver/guide. Downtown highlights (Opera House, Market, Floating ports) Time permitting - People of the Amazon Cultural Center
EVALUATION:Â Okay tour, Opera House is very impressive.Â We were there over Easter week so no shows or rehearsals.Â Usually there are symphony rehearsals during the day on Thursdays, according to TripAdvisor.Â AC was very ineffective, van was older and we had a large group so it was very warm.Â Interesting tour of floating docks, market area -- old Eiffel designed market is currently closed for renovations.Â Skip Cultural Center -- not worth the time, unfortunately.Â Guide's English was fair, but not great.Â Guide took us to a great shop, sort of across from the Opera House -- very high end locally made arts and crafts -- best stuff we saw in Brazil and about the only place we bought gifts.Â Jean Claude is very good re: communications, price was pretty reasonable.Â Rio Negro Palace looked interesting from the outside, but was also closed due to Easter.
Tel.: (92) 3613-3558/ 1210/ Fax: (92) 3613-1221/ Cel: (92) 9132-1900
50% prepaid, balance on day of service
Mini-Safari with Meeting of the Waters, January Ecological Park, Piranhas fishing and Alligator spotting -- 9AM to 9 PM Private Tour.Â Pick up at the pier, outside glass doors. Pass wooden house on stilts, the main market and Educandos creek.Â Boat across the Rio Negro, to Janauary Ecological Park, canoe among creeks and flooded forests, view Victoria Regia water lilies, proceed to "meeting of the waters" view wildlife, freshwater pink dolphins.Â Â Go by boat to cocoa plantations and natives extracting latex from hevea trees.Â Lunch on board.Â After lunch, fish for piranhas, guide will catch alligator.Â Lunch and dinner at floating restaurant, included.
EVALUATION:Â Very disappointing -- no visit to Cocoa Plantations, no rubber trees.Â Way way too long on the piranha fishing, waiting for sundown to catch alligators.Â Boat was small and uncomfortable with wooden seats.Â Would not recommend -- do the Princess elite tour instead. Did get substantial discount from tour provider due to missed stops.
Meet guide in front of KFC opposite the cruise terminal at 9:15 AM.Â Guide will have name sign.Â Little Tobago tour including glass bottom boat ride, Scenic drive along Tobago's Atlantic coast to Speyside. Here you would board the glass bottom boat and cross over to the Bird Sanctuary of little Tobago.
Once Ashore, we will take you to the Bird Watchers restaurant for a local Tobago lunch (ca. Â 1 pm).Â
There would not be enough time to take you to the Bird Sanctuary in Grafton (they only open from 15.30/15.45). However, there would be sufficient time to take you a little way up the Mount St. George River and go on the look for Caimans and birds in that area of Tobago, which we usually only do on our Jeep Safari.
From there we will take you back to the cruise ship terminal for 4 pm
Tour includes: naturalist tour guide, boat fare and entrance fees, lunch and one beverage at Bird Watchers, beverages on board the transport vehicle
Tour duration 6.5 hrs
The price per person is 90 USD (discounted 5% for 6)
EVALUATION:Â Good tour, although, again, long drive time on twisty roads, so ginger or Dramamine if motion sickness is an issue. Guide was German woman -- very good English, very knowledgeable.Â Walk in bird sanctuary is interesting -- first bit is steep, but has steps so isn't that bad, but not for the mobility challenged, as there are issues of getting into and out of the glass bottom boat.Â Glass bottom boat portion was interesting and done on the return trip, over the coral reef -- nice but rather deep -- more of an area for divers than snorkelers.Â Lunch was excellent.Â We had extra time so the guide included a stop at Ft. St. George on the return.Â Guide was a German woman who has been living in the area for a number of years -- very knowledgeable, excellent English.Â Driver was great -- he stayed with some of our group who didn't want to do the whole nature walk, was very good to them.
(767) 500 5390
(767) 245 0886
Pick up at 9:00 AM
A representative of Antours will await your arrival at the pier and assist you with boarding the tour. You will find us just past the last security check point at the end of the pier, holding up the white & red Antours sign. Â Â Safari Tour Open 4 X 4 of North Dominica.Â Cabrits National Park, Fort Shirley, Portsmouth, Indian River, Purple Turtle Beach
EVALUATION:Â Okay, not great.Â Roads are twisty, trip was at least 90 minutes. Did a small boat on the Indian River -- felt too small and unstable for the number of people we had.Â People were concerned about their safety, but there were no problems.Â Stopped at a 'made for tourist' spot up the river about a mile for a walk around, could also get food and drinks there.Â Bathroom facilities at the launch area were pretty bad -- smelly, byo toilet paper.Â Bathrooms at the landing were better.Â Guide for the river portion was surprisingly well educated re: flora and fauna and provided commentary (including the latin names of things!)Â Cabrits National Park/Ft. Shirley fairly interesting, but all in all, this wasn't my favorite -- might have done better to go in the other direction to the south of the island.Â This was to have been done in an open type 'safari' truck -- it was in the shop so we did in a van, which was probably a blessing as we had AC and probably better springs as well.