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We are a couple in our 40's. This was our 5th cruise, 2nd with Princess. Embarkation was a breeze. We were there early, they started the process at noon, by the time we signed up for the ultimate ship tour, dropped our carry ons in our cabin, we were in the buffet by 12:30. I felt that even though this is the largest ship in the Princess fleet, it was very easy to navigate your way around. Many of the places were in the same general area as they were on the other Princess ship that we were on prior. The only place that seemed crowded, was in the casino in the evenings. Other than that, it seemed as though there was ample space. Even at pool side, there were many people there, but didn't have any difficulty finding a lounger the staff was very attentive and plesant. Not once did I run into a rude worker. They were all very attentive and polite. Our room steward, Raymondo, was wonderful!! Our cabin was always clean and tidy, and was able to do this without any interuption to us while we More
were in our cabin. We spent alot of time there as we would rest and sometimes take naps between shore time and the evening meal. We were in cabin C7523! Amazing! The corner aft balcony was a dream! Relaxing on the large balcony with a drink was sooo relaxing! And listening to the wake in the evening as we were sailing was awesome! The cabin itself was nice by ship standards. Of course the bathroom/shower was small, but adequate. There was normal wear and tear to the carpeting. The bed was actually pretty comfortable. We (for the first time) actually were barely able to notice the seam where the 2 beds were pushed together. And no, we did not have an egg crate. I have read postings in the past where people complain about having difficulty with their cabin being too warm. Well, we must have had a very compliant group on board, at least in our area and they didn't leave their balcony doors open, because in my opinion, the room temperature was fine. I was a little chilly at times, but my husband was always comfortable. (but I'm always the cold one)
Dining was another great experience! Frank, our waiter, and Jamie our assitant waiter were very professional, and entertaining. Jamie was quite an outgoing young man. Singing as he came to the table, and always a smile on his face. I Love the cheesecake they serve for dessert! I had it every night except for the night that they had teramasu (sp). The last night of course, they had the baked alaska, not a big fan of that. Frank, knowing my eating habits, brought me a piece of cheesecake without even asking. I had never seen anybody not seated in the dinning room because of how they were dressed until this cruise. As we were walking into the dinning room, a young man, in his early 20's maybe, that was dressed in long kaki shorts, was leaving and saying, "I didn't know the dinning room was formal!" I found that to be entertaining in and of itself, to think that dockers and a polo shirt would be "formal" to him! We packed some alcohol in our checked luggage and it arrived in our room without difficulty. We had even bought some beer at port in Tortola and brought it back on the ship without a problem in our carry on. Though we did notice a table set up by the elevator when you got back on board, and they were actually taking the alcohol from the people that were getting back on the ship. It was mainly liquor, I didn't notice any 6 packs of beer sitting there. We didn't go to any of the shows. One of the comedians, and one of the productions was the same as the ones we had when we were in Alaska last summer. We took part in the Ultimate Ship Tour!! That was a very worthwhile experience. There were 10 people on our tour. We started backstage of the shows, went to the galley, including the area where they prepare they vegetables and meats, medical center, laundry, printers, photography area, engineer control area, funnels, and ended on the bridge where we had champagne as we talked with the captain. I may have left out some areas, but its hard to remember them all. We were treated to personalized stationery, a plush bathrobe, chefs jacket, and pictures. All included in the tour.
We thought it would be nice to do the EZ check for our return flights! This was really the only glitch in our trip though it all worked out well. Made us a little nervous though. When we received our paper work and luggage tags for this process it only had our boarding pass for boarding in San Juan, not for our connecting flight in Atlanta. They also had my husband and I separated on the airplane. Didn't quite understand that either since the booking was together. I called the desk and they said we needed to come down. Of course the line was fairly long, but they went through it at a pretty good pace. They told us that this is normal, and we would have to get our boarding passes for our connecting flight when we arrived in Atlanta and that maybe the airline would be able to fix the seating arrangement when we arrived at the airport in San Juan. I didn't understand why they wouldn't give you the boarding pass for the whole trip. I thought the whole idea of it was to avoid the lines at the airport and to have them handle your luggage. That was a bit of an irritant to us. They said our luggage tags were correct, and that they would arrive in Kansas City. We weren't to sure about that since the boarding passes only got us to Atlanta. Luckily, when you do the EZ check, you disembark the ship fairly early. We were off of the ship by 8:30, found our luggage without difficulty, went through the long customs line that moved very quickly, which by the way when we handed the agent our passport, he stated he didn't need it. We then found a taxi, which was not difficult since they are lined up waiting for you when you get off the ship. I don't know how the Princess transfers are, but I can only assume that it would take you a little longer to get to the airport since they wait to fill the bus. Anyway...since we arrived at the airport early, there weren't any lines at all! Amazingly! No waiting for the USDA inspection, or at the airline counter, which, they were able to fix our seating arrangements, and print our boarding passes for us for the connecting flight in Atlanta. We had a semi-long line to go through the security area at that point, but it moved along well. Our flight didn't leave San Juan until 3:20, so we still at this point had a little less than a 5 hour wait. But I am very glad we arrived early! I would say by 11:00, there wasn't anymore seating available. The terminal was very crowded with people sitting on the floor and standing in the walk way. VERY CONGESTED! People were frustrated with the situation and one lady was downright rude when she was told a seat was taken. (the person that was sitting there next to her husband had just gotten up use the restroom.) The lady that was going to take the spot said, well that's just too bad! At least by the time the other lady returned, they began to board their flight. In the end, our luggage DID arrive at our final destination just as they stated it would.
All in all, it was an amazing trip. If you expect nothing but perfection, then you will be disappointed. There are always going to be little issues, but most can be resolved quickly and easily. If you go with the flow, then you will have an amazing trip aboard the Caribbean Princess. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
This was a port where we experienced the live and learn! Before we left on this cruise, I was doing my research and decided I wanted to go to Valley Church Beach. My hubby wasn't as sure as I was about getting a taxi, and going to a beach and then relying on them to come get you at a set time. Especially by ourselves. So we compromised, and from the roll call, I knew that there were others that wanted to go there. So we agreed that if we could find another couple to go with us at the meet and greet, that we would go. I booked the day at the beach through the ship just in case for backup. Well, our meet and greet was a dud! Only one other couple showed up. They were very nice people but I don't think they were the ones that wanted to go to Valley Church, so off to the ships beach trip! Well, we got off the ship and met the beach tour! Can you say CATTLE CALL!!! It was terrible! There were hoards of people. Right there I knew I wasn't going to enjoy a crowded beach. My husband saw the disappointment in my eyes, and he agreed to cut the losses of this booked excursion, and take me to Valley Church. We got a cab, cost us $55.00 round trip. (They wanted $65.00, but had no trouble talking them down) We set a time for him to come pick up and we were off to a relaxing day at the beach! And you didn't pay him till the end of the return trip. Beach chairs were only $5.00 each, and an umbrella for $10.00. They had a small bar, and drinks were VERY reasonably priced. For $5.00 we got 2 drinks. This beach did have people walking it offering their jewelry for sale, and while I was in the water somebody asked my husband if I would like a massage. He told them no....I would have done it!....Oh well....it was still a wonderful day! It was a beautiful beach with the palm trees and shells! This was not a fine soft white sand beach. It was more of a coarse sand that actually resembled coarsely ground shells. the cab driver was there right on time! He took us back to the taxi area right outside the port. We did a little shopping. There were stores in buildings, and then if you went around the corner you had a straw market. Very fun relaxing day! If we ever go back to Antigua, I would definitely go back to Valley Church Beach!
After feeling comfortable with taking a taxi to a beach in Antigua, we canceled our beach excursion through the ship, and did an independent beach here as well. Again we bargained with the taxi driver, he wanted $50.00 round trip to take us and we were able to talk him down to $40.00 Our driver took us to Rockley beach. It was wonderful! But...it is called rockley for a reason. There are quite a few large rocks in the water. They are smooth rocks, but you still have to be careful with your footing. The water isn't very deep at all! I was quite a ways out there, and it still didn't even come to my shoulders. For $15.00, we rented 2 chairs and an umbrella. They gave you a receipt and the $15.00 was redeemable at the bar for drinks. Very nice and relaxing, and was not crowded. When we were on our way to the beach, I saw a store that I wanted to go into. So on the return trip, we asked the cab driver how much extra he would charge to stop there. He just said "tip me and I wont charge any extra" So not only did he stop, but he stayed with us to help us get around in this busy area since we had to park a couple blocks away from the store. He probably did it so that he wouldn't lose his fare, not that it would have been a problem with us, but it was nice since we weren't familiar with the area. He then returned us to the port area, we did a little more shopping in that area and then returned to the ship.
I have to say I was slightly disappointed with St. Lucia. I had heard so many wonderful things, and many people commented on how St. Lucia was their favorite island. Maybe we just had our expectations set too high. By recommendations from Cruise Critic we booked Cosol for this island. It was a very good island tour! And I would recommend them if an island tour is on your agenda for St. Lucia. They had 12 of us in the van, and it was comfortable. Didn't feel crowded at all. Baptist was our driver. Great personality and kept us entertained. I hope Cosol was joking when he said not to mention your drivers name! At least that's how I took it. The traveling bar was there I would say at about every stop. They had beer, rum punch, and I what I believe was homemade spiced rum. And if alcohol wasn't what you were wanting, they had water and coke products. I enjoyed the homemade bread and cheese that was offered at the end of the tour. Word of warning!!!!!! When we were stopped at the location where Baptist picked up the bread, there were kids, peeking inside the van windows and asking for money. The side door was open and the gentleman sitting next to it gave what I assume was a dollar bill to one of the kids, the child then motioned for his friends to come over because there was money to be had! So then we not only had one child begging at the van but several! All in all a good excursion, but maybe I would check out something a little more active if we ever go back.
We booked through the ship a sea lion swim at Coral World. This excursion was alot of fun, and if all goes well, we will take another cruise that stops there and we can have the kids participate in this as well. We were able to purchase a CD of pictures that we can print ourselves for $29.00. Well worth it as there are a bunch of pictures on this CD. After the swim, and picking up our pictures, we walked over to cokie beach. The beach itself was nice, but as we were walking down there we were greeted by a local that was more than willing to help us rent a chair, rent snorkel equipment and the such. We thought that was nice until he offered to sell us drugs as well. Not something that interested us at all. after boarding our taxi/van, he took us back to the port. They had a nice clean shopping area right there next to where the ship was docked, as well as taxis willing to take you where you wanted to go on the island. they had a sign that had set pricing for the cab ride. All we wanted to do was to find a grocery store to pick up some drinks, the cab driver said he could take us to a grocery store, but there was a small convenience store that was about a 5-10 minute walk. Which I found to be nice that he would tell us that instead of just taking the fare.
We had booked an independent tour with Patouche. They are the reason I rated this stop a 5+! They picked you up at the port, then took us on a catamaran over to the baths at Virgin Gorda, you stopped, and then snorkeled the rest of the way in. The tour guide of course went with you, and then showed you around the baths, and told you the history of it. This catamaran could hold 24 people, but on this day, only 2 other people had booked this tour. Very roomy! Very comfortable! It was almost like we had booked a private charter! They had beer, rum punch and water that was included in your tour. OK...the reason I booked this tour, is because on the web site, it stated that if you weren't a good swimmer, or if you have never snorkeled before, it was great for beginners. They offered floatation devices and on the web page it said that if you didn't feel comfortable snorkeling/swimming in, you could ride in on the dinghy. I had never snorkeled before, but I'm a strong swimmer and didn't have any difficulty with it. My husband, who is not a strong swimmer, opted to take the dinghy ride to the beach. They were bringing the dinghy in with our cameras and beach items anyway. But this is something that bothered me for about 2 seconds. They told my husband, that if there had been more people on the tour then they wouldn't have been able to accommodate him on the dinghy. We booked this because we had that option for him. At least it said that on the web page. What if there would have been more people? Would they have made him stay on the catamaran? But, I am grateful that my husband was able to ride over and enjoy the baths. It was nothing that deterred from the pleasure of the excursion. I completely enjoyed the snorkeling. Lots of fish, and even saw a stingray. After touring the baths area, our guide Branson, (he was awesome! Very informative) He swam back to the catamaran, and we had an hour on the beach. Branson then came back to the beach with the dinghy for us to put our bags in and the ones that didn't want to swim back to the catamaran rode back in the dinghy. To me, I felt it was an easy swim but that would depend on your swimming ability. We then sailed back to Tortola, and they had a taxi driver waiting for us. The taxi ride was included for getting there, but the way back was $6.00 per person. Well worth the money! It was beautiful! One of my favorite excursions on this trip! Thank you Clive (the captain of the catamaran) We enjoyed your company and conversation. Just wanted to make sure we mentioned the names of the people that made a great and lasting impression! We had the taxi driver drop us off in the shopping area across from the port. We purchased some more beer, then went over to the straw market that was on the same side of the street as the pier. Bought some things to bring back home and then boarded the ship. Again, we didn't have any trouble getting beer back on, and again they had the table where people were getting their alcohol taken away.