We arrived from Nova Scotia a day early and stayed at Hampton Inn at Plantation. This was a very nice hotel. Due to some mis-communication, we did not get their free shuttle and had to pay $40.00 to take a cab to their hotel. Upon arrival they immediated deducted that amount from our bill. That's what I call service. There is a large shopping center across the street so we went there twice to eat and shop. We took the hotel shuttle to the cruise ship at 1:00 PM and were on board within 10 minutes. Most of the passengers had already boarded. We headed to our mini-suite which was on the Port side and about 3 cabins from the back of the ship (Aft). For anyone who is interested we never noticed any strong movements in the ship or any noises from other rooms or pools, etc. There was a laundramat just three cabins away from ours and the Horizon/Caribe Buffets were six decks directly above us so it was very convenient. Our room was very nice, not cramped at all and the balcony was larger than the one on the NCL Gem (our only other cruise). Our room stewart, Dario, was just wonderful and knew our names by the second day. Service all over the ship was very good and everyone was friendly and helpful.
We didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants so I cannot comment on them. Except for two meals we used the buffet exclusively. The food (for the most part) was very good and plentiful. The first night we went to the Da Vinci dining room because they had prime rib as the main course and it was superb. Service was also very good.
But, there were a few problems with the meals. First of all the only drinks that are free (during meals) are coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water or juice. At no time is fountain pop (soda) free. On the NCL Gem all the fountain pop was free and included with your cruise fee. On this ship you could BUY a soda card for $29.00 for the entire cruise. We stuck to water and tea. The other thing we didn't like was that the juice at breakfast was in carafes full of ice so the juice was diluted. On the NCL Gem there were dispensers for various types of juice and you could get whatever you wanted and it was full strength and cold.
We had "anytime dining" so we just went to the dining room and were able to get a table for two with no problems at all.
ENTERTAINMENT- We were excited about being on a ship with Movies Under the Stars but it was not as good as I imagined. We like football and there were games playing on the big screen but the volume was so loud it was uncomfortable. We were sitting on an upper pool deck which was not even that close to the screen. The next time we planned to take our headsets to cut down on the volume but it rained so all the seats were wet and we didn't bother. Of course the weather is not something the cruise line can control.
We went to see the Hypnotist show and two comediens who were all very good.
Our first stop was Princess Cays where we anchored and they used tenders to take everyone ashore. Lovely spot and we rented a clamshell and loungers for the day. A light shower during the afternoon but it was still gorgeous.
The next day was a sea day and I decided to try to book the afternoon at the Sanctuary which is an adults only area on one of the top decks near the spa. You have to book this daily and it is "first come, first served". I believe there are only about 45 loungers and after waiting in line at 7:20 AM we found out that there was only one lounger left so we missed out! Very annoying. There is a $20.00 fee per person for a full day using this space or $10.00 per person for 1/2 day (either AM or PM). There is also a swimming pool in this area that is adults only.
SPORTS - This is a complete joke and one of the reasons I would not book another Princess cruise. We went to use the 9-hole mini putt and this thing is pathetic. Each "hole" is nothing but a green area painted on the astro-turf stuff. There are no edges to any of the holes so you ball can go anywhere and not stop. There are not cute little obstacles on the course only hills and bumps which make it very hard to play. It is supposed to be FUN not ANNOYING. I could easily see why there were no other people playing it. Once was more than enough. THEN there was the ONLY shuffleboard court which was a deck down from the mini-golf. This was so sad that I don't even know how to describe it. First of all, it was only HALF a court with only one scoring area. It was placed in a small corner of part of a deck where a stairway came up so people were walking across your game all the time. With only 1 playing area, you had to move your playing things back to the other side each time to start again. PATHETIC! I don't even know why they bothered putting this in at all. The NCL Gem had two lovely shuffleboard courts on the main decks and it was great.
The movies that were booked for MUTS were all ones that were at least 2 - 3 years old and the only ones we did think about seeing were on at 10:30 at night so you would have been there until midnight if you wanted to see them. Obviously a personal preference but we get up early and that is just too late for us.
St. Martin was the next stop and we booked another beach trip to Orient Beach and that was very nice. Perfect weather. We did some shopping when we got back. Then it was on to St. Thomas and Magen's Bay Beach. Another beautiful beach although it is in a bay so there are practically no waves at all. The snorkelling was non-existent for anyone who is interested. The last stop was Grand Turk and we had our final beach excursion. This time to Governors Beach. Beautiful spot and good snorkelling with lots of fish. The sand is very coarse here so water shoes are definitely a good idea.
Our last full day was a "sea Day" and we mostly walked on the deck and checked out the shops in-between eating. We were told to have our suitcases packed and out in the hallway before supper so we had to change into our "travel clothes" and pack everything else.
Dis-embarkation was not too bad although it was slow until you got off the ship. We had various coloured luggage tags and had to meet in one of the lounges to be told when we could get off. We had booked our bus to the airport through Princess and I was hoping to be able to stay on the ship for a while since our flight was not until 2:30 but we were off the ship by 8:30 and at the airport by 9 AM so it was a LONG wait at the airport because we had ALL our luggage to look after until we could get checked in at 11:30 AM.
It seems that Princess wanted to make sure that all the "free" things on the ship were not "appetizing" so that people would not participate and instead go to the "paid for" things like bingo, art auctions, the casino, etc. The only free things on the ship that I enjoyed were the pools, loungers and balcony. Compared to our only other cruise, I would go back to NCL because Princess' interiors were just plain boring. Everything was dark wood, golds, browns, etc which was nice but we were used to the brilliant bright colours on the Gem and there was no comparison.
We had a lovely time because we enjoyed the warm tempereratures, warm sands and good food but this is not the ship for us.