We flew in from Atlanta on the day of the cruise - which is a first for us! Our flight out was at 9:42 and we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 11 am. After finding our luggage we went to the Princess desk for our transfer to the port (another first for us, ship transfers) and we're on our way to the Port by 11:30. The transfers were well-organized and friendly. The one thing to note is that unless you hire a porter for your bags you will be conveying them to the desk, then to the bus yourself. And when boarding the transfer bus you will have to take care of your own carry on. There were two elderly getting on before us and each of them were struggling up the steps on the bus with a large carry on bag.
When we arrived at the port the line was really, really long! The nice thing about the transfer is not having to worry about your bags getting to the ship (well, not worry TOO much). So we dutifully went to the end of the line, filled out our Health Questionnaire, and proceeded to wait. A kind gentleman working with the line noticed my boarding pass and said "you are Preferred - you don't have to wait in the front of the line" and told us to go to the "other" entry. Well, there was no "other" entry and after a few wrong starts and with a group of other Preferreds we found our line before security where they shoved aside all of the "regular" people and let us go through first. I wasn't really excited about doing this because it seemed a bit rude to me but was in a group by then just moving along. It would be nice if the Preferred status was handled in a quieter manner with a little less fanfare.
We went straight up to the counter, were checked in quickly and on-board in our cabin by 12:00. We checked out our first inside cabin (hmmmmm) grabbed the Patter and headed down to the Dining Room for a nice quiet lunch. There were very few people there and we sat at one of those tables for 2 that seat you next to other couples. We chatted with 3 nice couples and had a good lunch.
After lunch we headed out to explore the ship which is the sister to the Caribbean Princess which we had been on last year. The ship was in excellent shape and very clean and well-maintained. We headed back to our cabin and met our room steward, Freddie, who was nice and courteous. He did a fine job throughout the cruise but wasn't exceptional in any way. We asked that the beds be moved into twins to give us more room, and for the mattress toppers to be put on each. He had it all done when we got back pre-muster. Muster was no big deal and our station was in the Princess Theatre. After muster DH battled the crowd and took the life preservers back to the cabin while I headed to Crooner's - the Martini Bar - to watch sail-away. Since we've done this departure many times before we decided to stay out of the heat and sun and begin our vacation relaxing.
We had Traditional Dining at 6:00pm with two other couples who were very nice. We normally do anytime dining but we tried traditional this cruise. It was a little early for us to eat and because we were the first seating we always felt pressure to finish and leave so the next shift can come eat. We would be chatting away with our new friends and the waiter, Noppy, and his assistant would be clearing the table in front of us...we took the hint and left. He was a good waiter but again, not exceptional. When asked for anything special he seemed annoyed but got over it quickly. The food was always good but not remarkable, the service quick and efficient and the company wonderful. On two nights we chose to miss our assigned dinner and ate at Cafe Caribe and it was very good. There are many choices of vegetables there and that made our night sometimes.
A note on the cabin - the twin bed setup worked really well for moving about the cabin. Since it was our first time in an inside, I was concerned about the lack of light (I sleep with a nightlight) and when the lights were off it was dark in there for sure! But still some light coming in from the outside hallway through the cracks in the door so it was fine. But, surprisingly, DH and myself slept the best we had in a long time! It was either the dark or the single beds but we will definitely do some experimenting when we get home! lol
We always found lots of things to keep us busy and on the sea days there were many activities we went to, including the Pub Lunch which was very good.
Our worst experience on the ship was for our Anniversary Celebration at the Crown Grill. Our waiter was Sebastian from Poland and he was abrupt, hard to understand, unfriendly, rushed, and just plain rude. I did not feel welcome there or treated well. We had sparkling water to drink and after Sebastian poured the final bit of it into my glass, the other waiter came over and quickly filled the glass with tap water - ick! Since Sebastian was watching I know he was aware of it and only shook his head and walked away....when this has happened other places, they have replaced the sparkling with a new bottle. No mention of it was made. We will not dine there again. It was not a lovely anniversary dinner. The food was excellent though.
The other problem was with Vines. On the Caribbean Princess Vines was a quiet wine bar that served tapas with your wine. The focus was on the wine and the servers were all well-trained and efficient. We really enjoyed the ambiance and the lovely wine. On Emerald the focus in Vines is the Tapas and Sushi bar where people of all ages and manner of dress come in to eat. It is like a cafeteria. We did do the wine flight but were surrounded by loud, noisy people going back time and again for sushi. Maybe a split between the two might be in order? The wine bar is nice with just maybe a snack but please focus on the wine again?
We did the EZCheck for disembarkation - our first time. We received our instructions and luggage tags the evening before, put our luggage out and at 8:30 am we went to the Crown Grill and disembarked with a very small group about 8:45. We did not have to claim our bags to take through Customs. We boarded our transfer bus and were at the airport by 9:30. Our flight was not until 12:30 - and was delayed by weather - but when we arrived in Atlanta our bags were there! Best $40 we ever spent!
It was a very nice vacation, the Emerald is a beautiful ship and we had a wonderfully relaxing, stress free time.