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Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
This was my fifth cruise and the fourth with Princess. I have never been to the Caribbean and was looking forward to seeing the sites. Since I live on the west coast and my sister in the south we arrived on Saturday and stayed at the Hilton that night - enjoyed the happy hour menu and the views of the marina. The trip to the terminal from the Hilton was about 5-8 minute ride and about $10 with tip. Boarding the Emerald Princess was quick and easy; they have this down to a fine science. The staff helped direct everyone to their cabins, which made finding our way around the ship much easier and staff were very welcoming. The ship wasn't full in fact it was only about 2,000 people. On this trip I was cruising with my sister and we were celebrating our birthdays aboard the Emerald. We booked a mini-suite and it was fabulous. Our room steward, Eric, was great and very attentive. Loved the additional space - great closet, bathroom and seating areas - the balcony was also spacious and we More
enjoyed the balcony every day. We were welcomed aboard with a glass of champagne. The welcome aboard and kick off event at the main pool was lively as usual and helped set the pace for a great experience. Our evening dining was in the Botticelli second seating and we enjoyed a table with two other couples. Our dining experience was fabulous and routinely we were the last ones to leave the dining room each night. Our table steward and his assistant were very attentive. We enjoyed dining in the dining room and missed only two nights. A fairly extensive wine list was provided and we did enjoy several bottles of wine. Food in the buffet was good, sometimes a little spotty but overall good. We did enjoy the International Cafe several times, having just a snack for lunch was all we needed and to go by and grab a cookie late in the late afternoon yumm they bake them right there and were warm. I purchased the coffee card and enjoyed a latte (or two) each day. I would recommend that you take a moment (at least once) and enjoy tea in the dining room, it's another way to meet some new friends and it's a very pleasant experience. We also enjoyed the English Pub lunch once and that too was great, along with a glass of good beer or two. We purchased the thermal room package in the spa. We used it only three times and when we did it was very relaxing. The difficulty with this is two points: they over sold the packages and it because of this it was overcrowded and in fact I believe many people by-passed the mandatory check in and entered in off the Sanctuary and secondly we were frustrated that people were "camping out" on the beds and placing towels (holding their spots). All of this could be abated if they had more staff over site of that room.
We enjoyed the pools in the back and front of the ship, pool attendants were great and kept people happy. We did take in a few shows, which were good. The entertainment throughout the ship was pretty good. I stepped into the presentation by the shopping gal who explains and sells to the crowd the stores to go to when in port. Was very disappointed in the over selling and fast talking strategy of this. It seems pretty consistent throughout the ships with this kind of presentation. Oh well, I just know not to go to this again. Disembarking the ships was flawless. Had breakfast prior to leaving and we were processed quickly off the ship. I did note that Southwest has luggage assistance and for $10.00 you can have your luggage taken to the airport and boarding passes printed - a service I would use. Again, I took a taxi back to the Hilton to spend the night and took off early the next day to return to reality. Signed up for future cruise while on board and look forward to another trip on board Princess. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
The tour was great, getting there and back was very difficult. Cozumel Mexico again hot and humid. We had signed up for the Mayan ruins tour which was an 8 hour experience, only it ended up being more like 10 hours. Our group met up in the Princess Theater, we were then taken to the pier and boarded the ferry for the 45 minute ride to La Playa Mexico and the ruins. The trip over was a little warm and the ferry provided a so-so guitarist and singer to entertain us, of course he went up and down the isles for tips after his performance - it was a nice diversion to the very choppy ride. After arriving in La Playa we were escorted to our bus that was to take you to the ruins. Our tour guide David was fabulous. David brought the Mayan ruins to life, he was very well educated about the era , the Mayan people and their life. Very good. Prior to arriving at the ruins we were taken to a souvenir shop for people to purchase items, I was sort of put off by this and of did not purchase anything. Upon arrival at the ruins, we were escorted through another souvenir “village” which also sold food, and for a price you could have your picture taken along side costumed Mayan people etc. We opted to take a little open aired bus to the ruins for $2 each as it was 102 already – or you could chose to walk the .5 mile trek. David had knowledgeable commentary throughout the tour which included about a 1 hour tour inside the ruins. The ruins were beautiful and so was the ocean view. We rode the opened air bus back to the village and enjoyed a light meal and beer (have cash – no credit cards) and waited for the bus ride back and snack which consisted of a bottled water and bag of chips. The bus really couldn’t keep up with the temperature and the air conditioning wasn’t adequate. Also, the toilets on board were not functioning. We arrived back to La Playa after a one hour ride and walked to the pier to board the ferry for our return trip back to Cozumel about ten minutes to five, we boarded the ferry………and waited……………..and waited ……………..and waited. They kept taking count of the passengers. The passengers trickled in slowly, passengers were requesting that the air conditioning be turned on, it was hot inside the vessel with no air-circulating - finally at 5:30 pm we left the pier, only to be called back to the pier to pick up the final two missing passengers. When the young couple boarded the ferry, passengers on board stood up and booed them shouting shame etc. Apparently, the couple was on shore bartering for a purchase and lost track of time. It was now 5:50 pm with a 45 minute ride ahead of us, and about 75% had been on board an hour already. Apparently, the air conditioning went down on the ferry in the morning, and wasn’t repaired before the afternoon return trips. We had 400+ passengers on board this ferry, no air-conditioning – no air circulation. It was stifling inside and people were extremely hot and began to faint, suffering and or showing signs of heat exhaustion. The ferry staff were busy selling water, beer and margaritas to a crowd that was growing angrier by the minute. The ferry staff are not trained to respond to emergencies only to sell product, the captain of this vessel was no where to be seen. People had to purchase water to attend to the needs of their loved ones who had fainted, were posed to faint or were so hot they became physically ill, staff did provide vomit bags for free. The ferry ran out of ice, water etc., people were angry, and demanded that the doors to the vessel be opened to allow air circulation as we traversed the ocean. When they did open the doors, people rushed to them and I honestly thought people could be swept out into the ocean. There was utter chaos. Those whose loved ones had fainted or were experiencing heat exhaustion demanded the ferry vessel staff notify Princess of what was going on and that emergency personnel be on the pier upon arrival. When we arrived people began to rush to the doors for fresh air, again chaos, someone got up on a seat and shouted to the crowd to let the sick off first – thankfully people honored that request. There were no fewer than 8 people lying on the pier by the time I disembarked the vessel. This was a very frightening experience. Who was at fault? Clearly it was the ferry business that didn’t inform Princess of the problems and chose not to repair the air conditioning, the young uncaring and indifferent couple who was late and didn’t really care, and where the heck was the captain of this vessel - no one was in charge! We were refunded half the cost of our excursion ticket, which was fair, the bus trip and tour of the Mayan ruins was great. If you ever wonder how horrific ferry boat mishaps happen in foreign countries I believe it can be attributed to untrained and uncaring staff on board the ferry. The medical center was inundated with patients. We just wanted to get on board, go back to our cabins shower and go to bed. Re-telling the event makes me upset.
Cayman Island was my absolute favorite - gorgeous, clean, friendly!!! Again, it was very hot and humid we enjoyed the local shopping- I purchased some perfume, and jewelry. Prices are good and duty free. It’s a British Island, and citizens do not pay any taxes there isn’t any poverty (no beggars) the country receives revenue through charging off shore banks and hedge fund managers a hefty fee along with a $15.00 charge to cruise ships for every passenger on board when coming into port. We took a 1.5 hour tour of the island with great commentary. All in all a great day.
In Ocho Rios we took the Mystic Mountain Chairlift. Leaving the ship we walked down the pier and met up with our tour guide, rode the bus for a 10 minute commute to the site. Stood in line to take the chairlift up the mountain through the trees to the top and enjoyed the panoramic view of the town, ocean, and of course the mountains. Its very commercial and there are plenty of opportunities to tip, so bring your dollars. I did not like all of the poverty on this island, the town was fairly dirty.