Background: Third Spring Break Cruise in a row to the Caribbean for my wife and I. Previously cruised on the Crown Princess in 2008 and on the Caribbean Princess in 2009.
Pre-Embarkation: We traveled to Fort Lauderdale via the Cruise Connection Bus Service from Clearwater. We arranged this service at a discount through Princess and were very satisfied with all aspects including timeliness, cleanliness, and comfort. This was a large tourist type bus with a restroom and movie screens. We stopped in Fort Myers for a break at a local McDonald's.
Embarkation: We arrived at Port Everglades Pier around 12:15 P.M. and within a half hour were on the ship. We had about a ten minute wait outside the terminal and about a ten minute wait in chairs inside before we were called for check-in. I would rate the overall procedure as excellent.
Ship: We had previously been on the Crown Princess out of San Juan and found it to once again be in great shape. We enjoy the layout of the ship with activities centered around Decks 5-7 and 15-17.
Stateroom: Our cabin was on the Emerald Deck 8 center ship. The room was a obstructed view outside cabin. When looking out our window the view was partially blocked by a lifeboat. We had a similar cabin two years ago on the Crown and the only noticeable difference was a flat screen television. We did have some noise problems from the Explorer's Lounge which was directly below us. When any bands were playing you definitely could hear the bass sounds. It was fine at all other times.
Dining: We signed up for anytime dining and divided our time between Horizon Court/Cafe Caribe and the table service restaurants. We also ate at the International Cafe, Hamburger Grill and Pizza Grill. We also went to the Wheel House Bar for English Pub Lunch on one of the sea days and did afternoon tea at the DaVinci Dining Room. On this cruise dined in the main dining rooms on formal night. In comparing the food quality over the last three years we thought that the buffets have gone down in quality while the main dining rooms seemed to be better this year. The International Cafe and both the Hamburger and Pizza Grills continue to be very good. One thing we found very interesting was that the prawns on the last formal night were much better that the lobster tails.
Service: We received good service from our cabin steward. I asked for ice to be kept in the bucket in the refrigerator at all times and it was throughout the whole cruise. Each night you received turn down service with chocolates left on the bed. Our room was always clean. The only complaint I had was that for the first time since we began cruising they ran out of pool towels. Clean towels have always been put in the cabin at the end of the day. One night we were told that no more pool towels were available and that we would have to get our own around the pools. When we tried, it took about five people to find any towels. Dining room service was the best we've had on our three cruises.
Entertainment: This is where things start going downhill from our past cruises. We enjoy taking in as much of the shipboard entertainment as possible. In past years we have never had a problem with finding something to see in the evenings. This year many shows were repeated. While we would find one show to go to, in the past we have always been able to go to two or three different things each night. Princess has obviously cut back in this area. There were three production shows, one hypnotist, and two comedians that we saw. The three shows were Motor City, What a Swell Party, and Destination Anywhere. Hypnotist was Joshua Seth. Comedians were Rollin Jay Moore and Troy Thirdgill. We did enjoy them all but wish there was more entertainment in the lounges besides house bands and Bert Stratton. Bert is good once but you can't go see him every night.
Itinerary: This was our least favorite of the three Caribbean routes we have taken. The four Western Ports were not as enjoyable as the Southern Ports we have traveled to before. The long winter had a major effect on this route and even though we stopped at all four ports, water temperatures in general were much cooler that what we experienced before. What is more remarkable is that the crew said our week was the best weather week since Thanksgiving! The Crown has missed ports numerous times through the season.
Ports: See the Ports Review Section. Princess Cays was a disappointment with cold water, too many people, and not enough loungers.
Disembarkation: We had signed up for the Cruise Connection bus back to Clearwater. We got off of the ship last along with the few back to back cruisers. We left at about 10 AM, picked up our luggage in the terminal, went through customs, and were able to load right onto our bus. Again, as with Embarkation the whole procedure was very efficient and we would give it an excellent rating.
In summary, we did enjoy the Crown and this cruise but in no way did it compare to our last two spring break experiences.