We are a couple in our mid-30's to early 40's respectively, from NJ directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia PA. This was my lady's 3rd cruise (2nd with Princess) and my 5th cruise (also 2nd with Princess). After a rough couple of months at our jobs we really looked forward to this break, both from work and from some fairly nasty weather in our area.
We flew down to Ft. Lauderdale a day early for this cruise. We had never done that before, and it turned out to be a real blessing as the Philadelphia area got NAILED with a nasty rain storm the weekend we left. Our flight departed PHL one hour late, hardly affecting our vacation at all. We arrived at our hotel (Gallery One, A Doubletree resort) at around 3pm Saturday, checked in, celebrated the beginning of our vacation, and hit the beach for an hour or so. We then went back to the hotel, and took the water taxi from the back patio of the hotel over to Las Olas for some dining and a nice long walk. We really liked our stay in Ft. Lauderdale. It is a lovely place, and Gallery One is a fine hotel that is not outrageously priced. Unfortunately we were awakened very early by some stupid rowdy spring breakers who were fist fighting and ultimately got the police and emergency squad involved. All this, plus we lost an hour sleep due to daylight savings time beginning.
My lady was bold enough to ask the hotel for a late checkout, and we were able to check out at noon. We shared a taxi to Port Everglades with a couple sailing on Celebrity Solstice (Each couple paid 25 dollars US plus tip). We arrived to find a very long line to check in to the ship. At around 1pm the line started moving very quickly. I'm pretty sure we were onboard by 2. Our bags were waiting for us when we arrived at our stateroom. We asked our stateroom steward to place an eggcrate on our mattress, and she did this for us. Our stateroom, Plaza 328, was a little narrower than our stateroom last year (P309 on Ruby) presumably to accommodate the adjacent stateroom's pulman bed. Between that and our toilet having a raw sewage smell, I was a little disappointed in the beginning. After rearranging some furniture though, and buying a little can of citrus air freshener (a little over $6.00 US but it lasted all week, and it absolutely works) which we used before and after each use of the toilet, we were quickly satisfied with our stateroom. It was a good location, 4 staterooms forward of the International Cafe, which we (especially I) enjoyed at least twice a day. The Piazza and the International Cafe are wonderful areas to relax, snack and coffee up, and to be entertained by musicians, jugglers, hoola hoop dancers, and other cool activities.
After getting settled, we hit deck 15 for lunch. As last year, we started with a dog (for my lady) and a cheeseburger (me!). After lunch, we made a Tuesday reservation at the Crown Grill, checked out the spa (my lady didn't book a massage this time, too expensive!), did the muster drill, then ended up back in the stateroom and even blew off the sailaway party, being so tired from our interrupted sleep the night before at the hotel. That night we ate in the Dining room, tried sharing a table at Anytime dining (only did this once, it lengthens dinner too much), hit the show at the theater with the first comedian, and retired pretty early.
I woke up early the next morning and went to the International Cafe, bought a coffee card for the week (a real bargain, especially if you like fancy coffee drinks), had an early coffee and let my lady sleep in. We ended up in the Dining Room for breakfast when the Captain came on and announced that due to rough surf we'd be skipping Princess Cays. A minor disappointment that was made up for by a lucky spot we found on the pool deck for our extra day at sea. We got a lot of sun, and enjoyed Pizza for lunch by the pool. We did dinner in the buffet that night, and perched on deck 16 to watch "The Blind Side" at Movies Under the Stars. We knew this cruise to bring sweats because it gets pretty cold in the evenings out on deck. Anyway, no popcorn or cookies served this showing, maybe because of the noro-virus protocol that was observed for the first couple days. After the movie, we hit the hay. We were tired.
We got up early the next day, grabbed a couple loungers by the Neptune Reef pool, and had another sun filled day. It's amazing watching the animal like behavior regarding pool chair saving on sea days. Anyway, same as the day before, we lounged and lunched on deck, back to the stateroom for a nap by 2:30. This was formal night, and since we skipped formal wear this cruise, we did the Crown Grill for dinner, which is easily worth the $25.00 a person. They served us awesome appetizers, awesome Filet Mignon, and awesome desserts. We were going to see the second comedian, but realized he was the same fellow we saw last year on the Ruby, so we went to the theatre and saw the extended performance of the comedian we saw on embarkation night. I didn't like him but my lady thought he was really funny. Afterward we retired.
Wednesday we stopped at St Maartin, for a very very hot day. We were unencumbered by the heat, and by the crowds from the Emerald and 4 other ships (including Oasis of the Seas). We walked toward the far end of 'the Boardwalk' and rented two chairs and an umbrella for $10 US. We retreated when we saw some dark clouds, which didn't end up dropping rain. It was a lovely day. We did the buffet for dinner this night, played some miniature golf and watched the sunset, had some romance, hit the outside promenade deck for night time sailaway, and I think this was our first night in the casino. My lady played the slots, won a little, then gave part of it back.
Thursday we were in St. Thomas. This was a short port day, so instead of getting up at the crack of dawn and ferrying to St. John as we originally planned, we instead taxied to Magens Bay and enjoyed our day there. It's very pretty but in my opinion pales in comparison to Trunk Bay on St. John. This was the second formal night, Lobster night, but as I said before we skipped formal wear so I ended up eating lobster claw in the buffet. It was not at all bad. We watched sail away from deck 19. We were very tired by show time, so we skipped Phil Tag's first performance and hung in our stateroom.
Friday we slept in and docked in Grand Turk at around 1pm. It was a miserable rainy day so we didn't spend too much time off the ship. We did a little shopping, then came back on board for a late lunch. Since we didn't enjoy this port due to the weather, we began to regret missing Princess Cays, because there were only two nice days off the ship. Anyway, we did the dining room for dinner this night. We ate at a table for two, with no waiting, quickly in and out with fast service. We went to the casino again. This time I played, lost $40 in about 3 minutes and gave up. My lady lost a little, won a little, then lost some more. We stayed there a few minutes too long and couldn't get a seat for Phil Tag's encore performance. I was very disappointed, but we went to Crooners and I had a couple drinks and listened to some music. This was the first night we stayed up until midnight or so. This was also the night that we both were afflicted with the ships cough/cold. Still, a fun night.
Saturday, our last day, was a sea day. We slept in though, having felt we had enough sun on the previous days, and forfeiting any chance for a decent chair by the pool. Instead, we walked around inside the ship, caught an afternoon movie in the theater ('The Invention of Lying', unfortunately we both slept through it), sat for a short time on the pool deck, and got dressed for our final dinner in the dining room. After this, we saw the final show by the two comedians, packed up and hit the sack for our final night's sleep on board.
Sadly on Sunday we woke up, had a nice farewell breakfast in the main Dining room, then disembarked (it went smoothly enough). I had a nasty head cold on the flight home but I survived. We're back at home now, settling back into reality.
We had a lovely, relaxing time on Emerald Princess.