We booked this cruise 1 year before sailing (August 2009) and really lucked out with the weather. It was sunny to partly cloudy the entire week and the temperature was quite comfortable for August. I have been on several cruises, but the rest of my family had never been on a cruise before. Overall, we all had a wonderful, enjoyable time and would definitely sail with Princess again.
We chose this cruise over Celebrity due to the extra port of call. Celebrity left on Sunday from Bayonne, NJ, but had only 4 ports of call and 2 days at sea. The Caribbean Princess had the following ports of call:
Saturday - Depart Brooklyn Cruise Terminal (NY) at 5:00 PM Sunday - Newport, Rhode Island (Tender) Monday - Boston, Mass. Tuesday - Bar Harbor , Maine (Tender) Wednesday - Saint John, New Brunswick Thursday - Halifax, Nova Scotia Friday - At Sea Saturday - Return to NYC at 7:00 AM
Our group consisted of myself (49), my 78 year old mother, my sister and brother-in-law. My mom and I live in northern NJ - my sister in brother-in-law in the Poconos. We arrived in Brooklyn around 1:00 PM. The check-in was seamless and we we in our staterooms within 25 minutes. Great check-in. We used the time before sail away to explore the entire ship, then returned to our balconies for sail away - it was great.
We had two adjacent staterooms on Deck 10 - Caribe Deck (BA Category Stateroom - Oceanview with Balcony - C419 and C415). These were very nice cabins with extra large balconies. From what I could tell - some of the largest balconies on the ship with the exception of those in the rear of the ship. We were mid-ship on the starboard side (right). I picked these staterooms because they were mid ship (less rocking) and far enough from the elevators so that we did not hear any noise, but did not have a far walk to reach the elevators. Great location and I was extremely happy. Our rooms were not connecting, but we had the Cabin Steward open the partition between our adjoining balconies - which worked out great. We used our balconies alot, so I really appreciated having the large space. Each balcony could accommodate 4 chairs and a small round table. It was really nice having all of this outdoor space. I will post some pictures of the stateroom over the weekend.
The room itself was a good size, as well as the bathroom. There was lots of closet space too (a double size closet right outside the bathroom with plenty of hangars). Overall, I was extremely pleased with the stateroom. Our cabin steward (Alfonso) was terrific. We actually looked forward to seeing him every day to deliver our Princess Patter for the next day, turn down our beds, etc.
The food on the ship was good, but I would not say exceptional - which is what I expected having cruised before. This would be my only complaint. We selected "Anytime Dining" and were assigned to the Coral Dining Room on Deck 6. For us, this was the best option as there was no set time for dining. Unfortunately, we only went to the Coral Dining Room twice. Each time, we did not have longer than a 15 to 20 minute wait and the wait staff was excellent and attentive. We usually ate around 6:30PM. Anytime dining has the same menu as traditional dining. We chose to eat most evenings at either the Horizon Court or Caribe Cafe (buffet on Deck 15 in the rear of the ship). We found no difference in the quality of food from the dining room to the buffet. Overall, we felt the buffet was a better choice as we had a larger variety of food to choose from and was definitely more casual with better views of the ocean. Having been on several cruises before, I was waiting for that "OH MY GOD" food moment all week. I did not get that until the last night. I had made reservations for us at one of the specialty restaurants on the ship (Crown Grill) when we first got on the ship (do this early as the specialty restaurants book quickly once underway!). It cost $25.00 per person as a cover charge, but was well worth it. The food was phenomenal and the staff extremely attentive. Our waiter (Eduardo) came to the table with a sample of each cut of beef and explained how each one was prepared. By far the best dining experience all week in terms of service and quality of food. Folks we met during the cruise said the other specialty restaurant (Sabatini's - Italian Cuisine) was just as wonderful and only $20.00 per person cover charge. I have to say this had been what I was looking for all week in terms of food. It was out of this world.
The entertainment onboard was great and offered a variety of options. We were all about relaxing and having fun, so most nights we went to either the cash prize Bingo, the cash prize Trivia challenges and the Princess Pop Star (American Idol as sea I liken it to). One of the comedians onboard was absolutely horrible (Adam Ace). There was another one that was very funny, but I do not recall his name. We did not go to any shows in the show lounge, so I cannot comment on that aspect of the cruise.
If you are a smoker, there are only several areas of the ship where you can smoke - Churchill's Lounge (Deck 6 in the front of the ship - Cigar/Sports Bar), Skywalker's Night Club (Disco - Deck 18 in the rear of the ship up the sky-walk and only on one side of the club) and on Deck 15 on the port side (left) of the ship. I mention this as I am a smoker and those smokers or non-smokers who are considering this cruise may want to go to or avoid these areas of the ship depending upon your personal preferences. You can also smoke in your stateroom or on your balcony. I think the cruise staff prefers that you do not smoke in your stateroom. I did not and chose to smoke on my balcony and not inside the stateroom (I do not smoke in my home - so why start now!).
Here's a list of the excursion we selected online through Princess. We did this about a month or more before the cruise and I highly recommend it. All of our excursion tickets were in an envelope in my stateroom when we boarded the ship in NYC. Some of the excursions sell out and cannot be booked once you are underway on the cruise (FYI)
1) Newport (Tender) - Segway Tour - my sister and I went on this excursion - it was a blast. The Segway's are really not that hard to handle and you get a great lesson before going out on the road. We did this at 8:00 AM and the the company that runs this only takes 6 people out at a time. While it was early, we were grateful as the traffic in Newport was light for that time of the day. We returned to the ship around 11:00 AM. The line to get on the tenders was extremely long (at least an hour to an hour and a 1/2 wait). We elected not to go back to shore and remained on the ship for the rest of the day.
2) Boston (Docked in Port) - no excursion. We did elect to take the $15 per person transfer that Princess offered from the pier to Quincy Market (highly recommend). We rode on an air-conditioned bus to and from the ship to Quincy Market. We shopped in Quincy Market for 2 hours - had lunch at the Black Rose Restaurant (one block from Quincy Market - food was excellent - Irish Pub restaurant and less expensive than the food court at Quincy Market) then took the T on our own and did the Duck Tour from the Science Museum that we booked online before the trip. Princess charged $80 per person for this excursion. We did it for $35 per person on our own. It is 4 stops on the Green Line T from Quincy Market. So, if you are not directionally challenged, I highly recommend to do this one on your own accord.
3) Bar Harbor (Tender) - we were delayed getting off the ship due to the fog, but the tender experience was much better than in Newport. We got off easily without much wait. You do need to go to the Coral Dining room for tender tickets and wait until your color and number is called. We went to the Coral Dining Room about an hour before we were ready to get off the ship and waited on our balconies until a few numbers/colors before ours was called before going to the waiting area - again - highly recommend this strategy. We walked around town (absolutely beautiful town) before going on the Acadia National Park Excursion offered by Princess. This was a great excursion. we toured Acadia and went to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Tour guide was very informative and the bus was air-conditioned and very comfortable.
4) Saint John (Docked in Port) - We chose to Ride the Rapids on the Jetboat. The excursion consisted of a tour of Saint John and the jetboat ride on the reversing rapids. The tour guide, was, well, really bad and the areas of Saint John they took us through was not the best. However, the jetboat ride as so much fun and well worth it. The boat holds 12 people and lasts about 20 minutes. You get soaked, but it was a blast. My 78 year old mother went and laughed the entire ride - bring a change of close though - you will definitely need it.
5) Halifax (Docked in Port) - We chose the Lobster Bake and Peggy's Cove Tour. This was excellent. Our guide (Nicole) was great. Again, another air-conditioned bus - great tour of Halifax. The lobster bake lunch was first in Hubbard, Nova Scotia. The restaurant was excellent and family owned. There was 40 people on the tour and we had the entire restaurant to our group. Fresh lobster and the restaurant owner was very informative and very personable. I could tell he took great pride in his family owned business. The drive to Peggy's Cove was extremely scenic - what I expected of New England. Peggy's Cove was gorgeous!
Day at Sea - spent some time at the Sanctuary ( pay the $10 for a 1/2 day or $20 for a full day if you want to get away from the kids, music and crowds). This place is in the front of the ship and is a haven - plush lounge chairs, great food, attentive service and private pool that is above the Lotus Spa). WONDERFUL!!!
Leaving the ship was a breeze. We were the last ones off as we had no flight to catch. Our departure time from the ship was 10:00 AM. We spent and hour or so at Horizon Court beforehand having breakfast (not crowded). About 5 minutes to 10:00 AM were heard an announcement that all remaining passengers could disembark. We were literally the last one's off the ship. Our luggage was already awaiting in our assigned area and we were in our car within 25 minutes from leaving the ship.
Overall again, we had a wonderful time and have booked another cruise on Princess (this time for next summer on a cruise through England and Ireland for 7 days). In my opinion, the food was good, but now the "OH WOW" moment I had expected. I hope this review is helpful and please excuse any spelling mistakes. Enjoy your Princess Cruise to New England %& Canada - I know you will have a wonderful time!