First, let me give some history of my group. There was 5 of us in our own group. A couple who I've cruised with before and it's their 4th cruise. Then there were my cruise mates, 3 single gals and we've cruised numerous times before. This being our 4th on Princess. We were also part of the Scuba Cruise 2009. She's an awesome group leader and it's our 3rd cruise with her. Very well done. It was a 10 day Caribbean cruise going to Princess Cays, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua. I have been to Princess Cays, St. Thomas, St. Kitts and St. Lucia before. I liked them so well that I didn't have a problem with repeating these ports/islands.
Our vacation started with arriving to Ft. Lauderdale on Oct. 31st, 4 days early. The couple and I planned to do a 4 day pre cruise in Marathon, Florida. We want to see the Keys and go scuba diving in Marathon. We stayed at the Miami Airport South Marriott the night we got in. Then we were on to Marathon. We stayed at the Flamingo Inn. It's not a large hotel but it has approx 20 rooms. It's very quaint, clean and cost effective. Wild colors but that was the cuteness of it. It was very cool. And I would stay there again. After our 4 days, we ventured back to Ft. Lauderdale to meet up with our other 2 single gals friends. They could not come early with us. We stayed at the Springhill Suites Marriott hotel. It was fine. Cost effective, clean. But one thing I've noticed with many hotels. They do not have safes in the room. I was surprised as both Marriott's we stayed at did not have safe's. Also, this hotel offers shuttle service for free going to the pier. And offers pick up at the pier to the airport for a fee that I forgot to write down but I believe it was $8 pp. They have a certain time they leave and neglected to tell us. We thought we had it booked for 11am. As it turns out, they leave at 10:30 am. We had gone shopping over at K-mart for some goodies we needed prior to boarding the ship. Thank god we came back at 10:30 or we would have missed the shuttle. They had to wait for us but it was not our fault. And upon returning to the Pier after the cruise, they are constantly coming/going to the airport. Otherwise, no complaints. Not sure how many folks know this but there is a great inlet webcam for Ft. Lauderdale. You can control the cam when not in use by someone else. You can pan and zoom. It's at Mortgage Mobile.com website. Point to this is that your families can watch as you sailaway. They can zoom and try to find you. Carry a sign. It will be easier. But it's very cool. We left the hotel at 11am and were on the ship by 12:45 pm.
The embarkation took a little while but not that long at all. Everything in order. It was the waiting in the terminal until they called out group that took so long. Don't recall having to do that before. We booked a mini suite since there was 3 of us to give us extra room. We got to our room about 1pm and it was ready. Very clean. We proceeded to decorate our room and then off to lunch. We went to the buffet. Now, my cruise mates disagreed with me but I didn't feel I saw the variety of food like previous cruises. Maybe it was my perception but that's how it seemed. Especially for breakfast. It got boring real quick. We had a group sail away meet/greet at the Adagio lounge that Suzi arranged. Nicely done and a chance to get aquainted with new members to the group. Then we had sailaway with out group. We picked a private spot on the ship as we had friends looking at the webcam and another friend taking photos for us as we sailed away. It was a blast. The webcam is great everyone.
Our first port of call on 11/5/09 was Princess Cays. The last time I was there was 2005. It's a lot better now. A little more built up. More stuff to do. We beached it and snorkeled. Ok snorkeling as it's been abused. But it was ok. Easy getting there via lifeboat and easy getting back.
Our next day, 11/6/09 was a sea day and formal night. The pools were nice and not to over run by kids. They played Mamma Mia on the MUTS. It was perfect. Light and fun. Great for relaxing. And then formal night was good. I love dressing up so I was fine.
Our next port on 11/7/09 was St. Thomas. I've been here before and went to Magan's Bay. I was not impressed in 2005 when I went there. It was as beautiful as the photos but dirty on the beach. One of our friends had gone to St. John's before so we all decided to do that. We went to Trunk Bay. We caught a van that took us to the ferry. The van/taxi fare to the ferry was $11 and the same back to the ship. The ferry fare r/t was $10. And the taxi to trunk bay and then back to the ferry was $6 each way. . That place is awesome. It has a protected reef area that is guarded by lifeguards. And trust me, they will get you if your caught standing on or abusing coral. I was very glad to see that. Lot's of marine life. Saw a Stingray, trunk fish, cowfish, Flamingo Tongue's. It was a great day. And then back to the ship for shopping. At the dockside of the ship, there are large lizards that live in the rock areas. Very cool to see.
Our next port on 11/8/09 was St. Kitts. I've been here before too. They have great shopping so allow yourself some time for that. We went scuba diving here with Kenneth's dive center. The group used them last time and they were good this time as well. We saw turtle's on our dives. Great time.
Our next port on 11/9/09 was Barbados. I've never been here. We were docked but it's at a commercial cargo type terminal. You have to take a shuttle bus to the outside area for the shopping but also to catch buses for excursions. We went scuba diving again here with Eco Dive shop Barbados. I really liked our DM, Andrew. He was slightly conservative but I didn't have a problem with that. Some others in the group did but since I was diving 3 ports in a row, I wanted a conservative dive profile. He is quite thorough so if you have any medical issue's your going to disclose, you better bring a Doctor's release that you are ok to dive. Seriously. Mention Tylenol or any meds or illnesses and you might be land bound. And truthfully, this seems to be an issue at dive shops at the ports. They are all being very careful and I recommend bringing a Dr's release if you have medical issue's. I had a great time diving here. We saw Sea Horses and all kinds of critters. He also took us to a shallow area outside of the Boatyard and there are tons of purposefully sunk boats. It was very cool. And speaking of the Boatyard, our one friend that is not a diver, went to the Boatyard for the day. She absolutely loved it. The taxi cost to the Boatyard was $3. And admission to the Boatyard was $10, it included a beach chair with umbrella, 1 drink and the ride back to the ship. She was very happy.
Our next port on 11/10/09 was St. Lucia. I love this port. It's so beautiful. The Pitons are amazing. And they have quite a bit of shopping there too. We all went scuba diving again and were able to bring our snorkelers along as well. We used the Island Divers dive shop for St. Lucia. They picked us up at the dock where the ship was. Very convenient. Our first dive was Superman's Flight. Absolutely awesome. It was a drift dive of sorts but beautiful with amazing visibility. Loved it. And our 2nd dive was good as well. I felt very comfortable with this dive shop. One thing they do that the other shops did not was the way they used their 2 divemasters in the water. One DM led the group and another brought up the rear so that those of us doing photography, we didn't have to worry about being left behind with the divers that don't do photography. It was a great system. Then once back on land, we decided it had been such good dives, that drinking was in order. They have the Piton beers there. Very inexpensive. And good.
Our next port on 11/11/09 was Antigua. We were late docking as the Carnival Freedom apparently did not like her "berth". She was directed towards one berth, then stopped and negotiated a new berth. Not very nice I thought. Now I had done a lot of research on this port to try to decide if I would dive or not. I didn't hear any good things about diving there. It's a very shallow island. So, my little group decided to make it a beach day again. The rest of the dive group went diving. They were unhappy with the diving. Said it was quite rough and poor visibility. So glad I did not go with them. Instead, we caught a taxi and asked to be taken to a beach with amenities. We ended up at the Long Bay resort/beach. The taxi fare was $8 each way. Once there, we got 4 lounge chairs with 2 umbrellas for $19. Worked for me. The water was warm. But the snorkeling was horrible. Apparently there had been a storm the day before and the bottom was all stirred up. But relaxation was had. There is some shopping but not much. And not many deals. They don't want to deal much there. They do have bathrooms there in the bar area. It's pretty country side getting there. You see the poor and not so poor. The area right next to the pier/dock was nice and they were willing to barter on items you wanted. But go out a few blocks, very poor and run down. But overall I enjoyed it.
Our last 2 days were sea days, which I love. Time to relax before going back to real life. We spend it poolside relaxing.
On 11/14/09 we arrived back to Ft. Lauderdale. We saw the Oasis of the Seas. It's Royal Caribbean's newest/largest ship. She is huge. But too big for me. And I don't care for the open rear end. I would not sail on that ship. I would be worried the whole about a storm with that open rear of the ship. Disembarking was fine. No problems there except that I did not want to get off our ship. Lol. Overall, I love this ship. For the amount of people on board, over 3000, it never felt like 3000 people. There was plenty of room and no issue's on that.
Shows—Did not see a one which is rare for me as I love the shows. But was too busy. They did have an on deck party for the Ruby Princess. It was her first birthday. So there was music, dancing and cake. That was fun.
Dining--- The dining each night was fine. The food quite good. The buffet had good food, just to me, not that much variety. Especially breakfast. But the little gem of the ship is there is a little bistro type place in the atrium area. They have the most wonderful Chocolate Croissants. Watch out, they are addicting.
Photos--- Well, what can I say. They still have not updated or changed how they do this. They still print everything and charge ridiculous prices. One day maybe they will figure it out. Only bought one photo. The Embarkation photo. We had friends take photos of us on the stairs for formal night.
Casino--- I did not partake but my friends did. They said it was a tight casino and they lost much more then they won. Usually it's back/forth but they lost most of their money for the night within 10-15 minutes of sitting down. No fun in that at all.
Spa--- did not partake this cruise. I'm tired of spending so much money there. It's too pricey. I can save my money and then come home and get 2 massages of better quality for the price of their 1 massage. Shops--- great little shops on board. Not tons of stuff but enough to have fun looking at. And the sales we're pretty good.
Mini Suite Room—Our room was D709 and was very nice. There was 2 twin beds and the sofa converter. My roommate that slept on that said it was incredibly comfortable. I slept on the one on the Tahitian and it was horrible. So we were all glad it was decent to sleep on. It has the 2 TV's which is awesome. Both in variety and that everyone can view them. Balcony was roomy enough. Now, the worst part. I don't know if we've ever been next to Smokers before. At least we've not had a problem of smelling them if we did. This time, we had smokers to our left. It was absolutely horrible/awful. You could smell it and it made the balcony a nightmare. We could rarely go on it if they were smoking at the same time. I have allergy issue's and HATE smoke in general. So I was not on the balcony as much as usual. It left me angry and resentful. They should ban smoking in the cabins on all ships. It's not fair to those passengers next too them that don't smoke!
That's it. I hope I have remembered and covered everything. It was a great cruise, great ship and I would sail the ship & itinerary again.