Background Information I traveled on this cruise with my dad (80) who is in excellent shape. I am 39. I am from Manhattan and he is from Brooklyn.
Hotel Info (if any) We did not stay at a hotel since we are from New York.
Ship Info I choose the Caribbean Princess because of the itinerary and the price. I had been on the Caribbean Princess once before, in October/ November 2009 and had a good, but not great time.
Activities I am not an outdoorsy person nor am I a 'lay out in the sun' person or an athletic person due to a recent injury. I like to participate in trivia and the art auctions or any lectures on the ship.
Service The service on this ship, from the waiters, room steward, sales people in the boutiques, front desk/ purser's and bar attendants especially Vines and Club Fusion were A+. I never once encountered a bitter employee or had a snarky remark from an employee. The employees bent over backward to make my cruise experience MORE than enjoyable.
Port & Shore Excursions San Juan was a lot of fun. We docked at Old San Juan so getting off right in the center of town was great! It was fun strolling the streets and checking out shops. Although I had been to OSJ before, I visited two places I had never been before on this trip that I would recommend. La Bombanerra didn't have the best pastries I ever ate but the experience of eating in a 100+ year old luncheonette was great. I also walked by La Lechonera, which is beyond the Sheraton when you disembark the ship. There is a take out shop with a pig being roasted in the window. The restaurant next door has free salsa lessons at 7PM. I did not try the pork but I heard it was fantastic. I had such a great time that I almost missed the ship. My watch stopped at about 3 PM and the ship was all aboard at 730, when it started getting dark. I only realized the time because I went to make a phone call and the time was mentioned during the conversation. I would recommend a tour of the rain forest if you have not been to Puerto Rico previously. The tour will be all day but it is well worth it. Also, the quality of the larimar in Puerto Rico is quite good.
St. Thomas is a shopper's (particularly jewelry) haven. It rained most of the morning but I braved the weather. I had been there last year so I was still shopped out but I still did the usual walk up and down the streets to see if there was something new that I missed on my last trip (there wasn't). If you travel to the Caribbean during the hurricane season (6/1 to 11/1, bring a windbreaker with hood, a baseball cap and a small umbrella). I walked all the way down to the end of shopping area and there were some locals selling homemade food. I bought a simple beef patty for $2 that was fantastic. St. Thomas is a good place to get liquor as AH Riis has everything you can imagine. I also went to some smaller liquor stores and sometimes their prices were less and sometimes more. It is only a dollar or two difference so I don't waste my time shopping around. I do try and buy rum in each port I go to making sure the rum is actually produced in that country. I was surprised that about 25% of the shops were closed during my visit because June is considered low season. However, there are more than enough stores to keep you busy while the ship is in port, especially if you make a purchase, as buying anything takes a while because of the time it takes to bargain (I absolutely hate that). Rule of thumb: if the item is $4K, you can get it for $700 to $1K. I always use the 75% off rule for purchases, especially the larger ones.
St. Maarten was similar to St. Thomas. I did visit the Courthouse and sat in for about 30 minutes on a case. The public is free to do this. The case was in Dutch but there were bits of testimony in English so I did enjoy it (I am a lawyer in NYC). I then walked along Front Street and checked in some of the shops. Not much new here but I did like the 'boardwalk' area that had some restaurants overlooking the water. Next time I am here, I will do a tour. I bought 2 bottles of some homemade coconut banana rum in plastic bottles with some handmade painting of flowers and fish on the front. It was quite good. I also bought a bottle of Rum Jumbie (the bottle shaped like a guy with a real straw hat on him). Someone from the CC Boards recommended I do so. At one end of Front Street, I stopped at The Guavaberry Factory and bought a bottle of Mash Up (strong but good) and had a cup of the Frozen Guavaberry Rum Drink. Other than the brain freeze, it was excellent and at only $6, highly recommended.
Grand Turk was a great day. I spent the entire time at Jack's Jack. I met some people from the ship that I had recommended to go there and they also had met another couple so we all drank and ate the day away. Jack's is a beach hut that is a bar and grill. It is right on the beach about 7 minute 'beach walk' from the Princess Pier/ Margaritaville. For anyone who wants to beat the crowds and prices of Margaritaville, go to Jacks. Jacks has a volleyball set up on the beach and you can rent snorkel equipment and chairs just like at Margaritaville. Jack and Janet were great hosts and I had such a good time. Leroy on the grill makes fantastic burgers and jerk chicken. I highly recommend the rum punch. The water at Grand Turk was the most beautiful I had ever seen. To get to Jacks, go through the large store at the pier and immediately turn left and walk along the beach. There will be a red flag and a volleyball net and there you are! You can even see the red flag from the ship. It looks farther than it is.
Stateroom I was in room R314, which is port side on the 14th floor, Riveria deck approximately mid-ship. I had been upgraded from a BF guarantee to a BD. I was quite happy with the room other than there was a good amount of noise from the deck above, the Lido deck. Directly above us, according to the deck plan is the Pizza Grill but I seemed to hear a lot of chairs scraping. The balcony of the room was fully covered which was nice as two days, it was raining part of the day. I did miss the size of the Caribe Balcony, which was twice the size of this Riveria balcony. Contrary to others, the A/C worked just fine. There seemed to be a lot more TV and movie choices on the tv in the room which was good because I like to wind down the night with a movie or take a nap to a tv show.
Dining No complaints here. Although the Horizon Court was never my favorite, there were enough choices for me to make a decent low fat, low calorie meal. The MDRs were a LOT better than last year and the staff bent over backwards for me when I asked on a nightly basis for plates of steamed veggies. I did not dine in the Crown Grill on this cruise but did last year. It was fantastic and should not be missed.
Entertainment I saw all of the production shows on my last trip so I cannot comment on them as I skipped them this time around. I did see the hypnotist, Tim Triplett and the comic, Phil Tag. Both were very entertaining. Tim had a second show where he explained hypnosis that was quite enjoyable. I also loved the culinary demo. I did not get to do the galley tour as I had something else planned but on my next cruise in September, I hope to finally see the galley. The band, Exotique was simply amazing and they really got the crowd going. Both lead singers really have fantastic voices. I was glad to see a lot more live music being played in the public area as compared to my 2009 cruise. That was a major complaint back then. The Princess Pop Stars and Karaoke was fun to attend even though I did not (and should not) participate. The one negative on the entire trip was the art auctioneer. He was rude to his staff and slightly condescending to the audience. Not many people bought items the first two auctions and he acted like we were crazy not to. It was if he had never done an auction and had slow sales (get real). He should be on a production show because his dramatics were just unreal.
Summary The trip far surpassed my expectations. My October/November cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess was good but this trip was fantastic. The food was a LOT better than last year and the service was easily twice as good.
Disembarkation Left the ship exactly at 9AM as noted in Princess Patters. Went through customs quickly (no lines whatsoever). We waited for our car service under a covered walkway and was home by about 1015AM.