Pre-Cruise: We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn for a night before the cruise and it was perfect for a pre-cruise hotel. Great value, great facilities, perfect.
Embarkation: I'd say twenty minutes, maybe fifteen, from arrival to walking through the cabin door. Really efficient,very short lines (we arrived at about 12:15), and the check-in person said that we were in between rushes which was nice.
Ship: The Emerald Princess really is a gem in the sea. The Piazza, the International Cafe, Movies Under the Stars and all the additional features Princess recently added truly shine on this ship. All the public spaces were in perfect condition and facilitated all the many activities well. We worked in the gym quite a few times to help offset all the food we ate ! Many complain about the lack of space in the Princess Theater, but even sailing at capacity, we never had a problem finding seats. We were often able to walk into a show five minutes before shows started with our entire table of 7 (with our wonderful tablemates) and find seven seats next to each other without any issues.
Cabin: We had an oceanview cabin on Plaza Deck and it was perfectly acquainted. Great closet size as always, and plenty of room, despite having three people in it. The bathroom seemed smaller to me than what we experienced on previous Princess Cruises, but it was probably just an illusion.
Dining: The food was excellent on this cruise! We had second seating and had the privilege of sailing with two newlywed couples. This reflected the generally low average age for the voyage--definitely the lowest we've experienced yet on Princess. A great table as always, and the food was outstanding. We never had an unappetizing meal and the food, from the buffet to the dining room, was excellent consistently.
Entertainment: The entertainment was better than expected, but on all Princess Cruises, it seems that between 4:30 and second seating at 8:15, there is nothing to do around the ship. Entertainment resumes around 9 PM, likely because most of the ship does dine around 6, which is understandable. Comedians James Michael and Rollin' Jay Moore were both funny, although the latter brought politics in a little too much and the audience would silence and awkwardly stare at each other. Funny guy, nevertheless. We didn't attend any production shows and usually don't, but there were always alternatives around the ship. We were never bored the full week--nice experience.
Service:The service on the Emerald Princess, as always, was excellent. Our servers Ricky and Emma were perfect and our cabin steward, Lidya, was the best we've ever had. The crew really works hard and deserve an immense amount of credit, and it's really bothersome to see some passengers be so rude to the crew over petty issues, which we saw happen on a few occasions.
Disembarkation: Very efficient. Tags called right when scheduled and we were swiftly off the ship ( ;( ) and on our way to Miami for a daytrip. Then it was off to the airport to fly home.
Overall: Excellent cruise--couldn't have asked for anything more. The food, entertainment, and service allowed us to really escape completely. A great break from reality and high recommended!
Princess Cays-Princess' private island impressed. Our expectations were low, but the BBQ buffet was good and there was plenty to do on the island, from water sports to just lying by the beach. It felt like a resort getaway.
Ocho Rios-Not our favorite port, as the locals tend to be a little too pushy, but they do need to make a living so we understand. Nevertheless, being talked down to and being bothered so much does effect one's enjoyment with the port. We had jerk chicken and a full fish at a local restaurant and walked about a mile or so into town, so far as there were no tourists in sight. Definitely different and quieter down there.
Grand Cayman- A pleasant surprise. Took a tour of the island for $10 PP off the dock for about two hours. Great deal. We went to Hell (which really does look dark and creepy), a dolphin park (We were given about 30 minutes of time to go close to the dolphins, although not in the water, for free), a rum factory with complimentary tasting, and a flurry of other things that I can't remember at the moment. We walked through the town and had a nice lunch on the beach. Very westernized and it resembled a lot like a modern beach town in the US, which was nice but a little disappointing since the real culture of the island can't shine through.
Cozumel- In Cozumel, we took a ship excursion for $79 PP to go to Tulum, the ancient Mayan ruins. We took a 30 minute bumpy ferry ride to Playa del Carmen, and from there took a 50 minute bus ride to Tulum. Once in Tulum, we had a good two hours there, half of which was guided and half of which was free time to explore. It really is breathtaking how such an ancient civilization could be so advanced and accomplish so much in architecture and silence. Must see. We had a lunch that was said to be local, but tasted like something you could find at a cafeteria at home. Great experience, however the excursion was 8 hours and we couldn't see Cozumel.