We just got back from a week on the Emerald Princess. We had a great trip. 2 Grandparents, 1 Daughter, 2 Grandsons, 13 and 10. This is our 4th cruise, 3rd with Princess. Our daughter and her two boys were on their 2nd. Embarkation - We arrived at the terminal about 10.30, expecting to get on the ship around 11.15 but were delayed due to extra cleaning. One of the staff on board told us they a Virus on the sailing just completed. If you are familiar with the boarding procedure then you know they board by group #. We were group 1. Once they called us it took about 5 minutes to get signed up and on board. Lunch on deck, a few drinks, Listened to some music and the sailaway party. The main band was called Evolution and they were great. Played a huge variety of music throughout the day. Cabins - Checked out the cabins right as we got on board. We had a balcony Cabin, C 259 and they had an inside, C 257). The cabins were as advertised and the steward, Jonathan was great. Cabins were always cleaned in a very timely manner. The showers are in fact tiny. The bed was terrible. Had I been a prisoner in a state prison, I think I could have sued the state and won for cruel and unusual punishment. We even had the extra pad put down. Having said that, it did not keep up from sleeping pretty well every night.
Food - We at dinner in DaVinci 6 nights. We did have to wait about 10 minutes on the first night to get a beeper and then came back in 30 minutes and sat right down. The service was great everywhere all week. Without exception the staff was friendly and courteous and well versed at taking our money!! My wife and I took this same cruise in Jan, 2009 and the food this trip was way better. With few exceptions it was very well prepared. We ate all of our breakfasts at the buffet and it was easy to find things that were to our liking. Yes, the buffet was crowded at times, but no problem. Lunch was usually pizza, hamburgers or hot dogs which are always good. Of the 6 nights we ate in Davinci, we only had to wait 2 nights. The last 4 nights of the cruise, there was no wait more than 5 or ten minutes and not a problem. We also had a few snacks from international cafe which was very good. Food and beverage service was very good, everyone friendly and helpful. There are $2.99 drink specials after 8 which is worth looking at. Martinis at Crooners were pretty tasty!! The ladies had tea which they said was great.
Kids Club - The boys went to the Kids/Teen Club right away. The younger one stayed with us most of the week. The 13 year old found a group of like minded kids and hung out with them most of the week. Except for meals and couple of shows, we hardly saw him at all.
On board activities - Mostly, we sat in the sun during the day. Watched a few movies had a few boat drinks and enjoyed the sunshine. Most of the music we heard was very good and great variety. We saw the comedian in Explorers one night, he was hysterical. Delta had lost his bags and it really got him going. We also saw the magician/comedian, thought he was funny as well. Did not see any productions. Everyone is correct about saving chairs. It does seem a bit overdone. We always were up early had breakfast and hit the deck so never had any problem. But the chairs did seem to be gone by 9, at least close to the pools on any of the levels. I did not see the Princess staff move any towels or clear off any chairs all week. Not sure of the fix to this but it must be a problem if you sleep late. Someone else mentioned that the cruise director and staff were not that visible and I think I would agree with that. The Cruise director we had last year seemed to be everywhere, enjoying himself as well as the passengers. We used the gym a few times. There were available tread mills and ellipticals when we were there, but the other equipment could use an update. Good experience.
Ports Blown out of Princess Cays. One of the staff said that had happened twice in the past 8 weeks. Bad luck for us. St Marteen - We did the Segway tour in St. Marteen and if you are interested I would not book it through the ship. It was $89 and was supposed to last two hours As it turned out, it lasted 70 minutes, including the ride from the ship to town. There was also supposed to be a stop for "refreshments" but no time. I talked to the tour operator and she said that they had been trying to get the ship to change the description. She also told me they charge $45 for the same thing. You ride slowly up and down the boardwalk with the "guide" and that is it. If you want to do this, I recommend that you walk up to them and negotiate directly. The guides were very friendly and helpful. Also, there were 5 ships in port including the Oasis of the Sea, with Princess coming in last. I was amazed how "un-crowded" things felt considering how crowded it was. Hung on out on the beach for a few hours, rented 2 chairs, 1 umbrella and 5 beers for $20. Seemed like a deal to me!
St. Thomas - Booked the ½ day Champagne snorkel cruise to St. John through Princess. Had a delightful time, although it is a 20 minute ride to get to the boat. The crew of the Adventuress was energetic, friendly and interested in making sure everyone had a good time. Seemed like everyone did. Reasonably good snorkeling but saw several Rays and Turtles pretty close that was great.
Grand Turk - Rainy, cloudy day. Stayed close to the ship at Margaritaville. In the pool with the kids, then back to the ship as it was going to rain harder.
OK, so here is my only complaint of the whole trip. We signed up for Express Check for our bags. On the form they tell you that if the airlines says to charge you baggage fees, they then will charge you. I told them we should not be charged because we were Frequent Flyers. In fact I told them that twice. Of course they charged us the baggage fees of $45. My big problem is that they cannot give you any evidence that the airlines actually charged them. I was told the information came over in a "file" from the airlines and that they could not give me a copy. Princess says that they are "sure" the airline will take care of it but I'm betting I'm out $45. Having said that, the $20 Princess charges to check your bags for you seems worth it to me. They took them away Saturday night and we picked them up at home.
Check out - We opted for Walk off. Since we were packing pretty light at that time, we walked down the stairs. The line did seem stupidly long, but honestly we were off the ship and through customs in less than 20 minutes at about 7.30 in the morning.
Overall, we had a great trip, lots of fun and time to be together. I'd definitely sail Princess again.