We flew into San Juan a day earlier, and spent the night at the Caribe Hilton. Normally when staying either pre or post cruise, we stay at either the Embassy Suites (1 night stays) or the Marriott Stellaris (2 night stays), but I got such a good deal on the Caribe Hilton ($165. per night), I figured we'd give it a try. We were not at all impressed with this hotel, difficulty checking in (only had 2 people working, with a line 20 or so deep, plus our room was not ready (was promised an early check in, but room wasn't ready until after 3pm). The room served it's purpose for 1 night, but was very dated & in serious need of an upgrade.
Sunday morning we took a taxi to the pier ($22 w/tip) and arrived about 12:30. I must say, Princess was extremely organized this time (unlike previous years, where this part was utter chaos). As soon as we got out of the taxi, a Princess rep was there to tell us where to bring our bags, and then where to check in. Once we got inside, we were told to go directly to the Priority Embarkation, as we've made it up to Platinum status. From there we stopped at the duty free shop inside the port to pickup 2 cases of water, and up to our stateroom, where we arrived about 1:00.
We were in a mini-suite on the Dolphin level, stateroom D220. We freshened up a bit, then went upstairs to the Horizon Court for a buffet lunch, which was delicious. By the time we got back to our stateroom, our luggage was there waiting for us. After a relaxing nap, we completed the muster drill, which for us was in the Princess Theatre on level 7, and were ready to begin our cruise vacation!
Our first stop was St.Thomas. We chose to go into town and do some shopping. As we always do when here, we had a delicious lunch at Glady's cafe, did some more shopping and returned to the ship.
Next stop was Tortola. We did an excursion thru Princess to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. The sea was a little rough, but it was a sunny warm day, & we enjoyed our time there.
Antigua was our next port of call. We did the "Circle Antigua by sea w/lunch" thru Princess. We did this excursion 5/09, and were just as delighted with this sailing. Gary and his crew were just as funny as we remembered, and are excellent hosts, as well as being wonderful ambassadors on their beautiful island.
St. Lucia was our next stop. We booked "A day at Jungle Beach w/lunch", again thru Princess tour desk. In all fairness, this has never been our favorite port of call. When we got downstairs & found the meeting location for our tour, we were met by "Zita", who promptly shoved a waiver that we had to sign, otherwise we would not be able to go on the tour. I was not comfortable signing this, as it asked for alot of personal information, including names/addresses/phone for our "emergency contacts". My thought is this, I am on a tour thru Princess, who is responsible for us. In case of an emergency, the tour would contact Princess, who has all of our personal information, including emergency contacts.
I was not comfortable giving this information to somebody I didn't know, especially in a foreign country. After speaking to the Princess rep on site, we were told to just sign it, that's it. But "Zita", who was quite rude, again told us we were not allowed to go on the tour. We explained that we were not diving or snorkeling, just enjoying the beach a bit, but she didn't want to hear it. 3 other couples were feeling the same way, and after going back to our Princess rep, we were able to cancel this tour & not be charged. She tried to get us on another tour, but all other "beach" tours were sold out. Turns out, inclement weather soon followed, and we heard an announcement on ship that all St. Lucia tours were cancelled, & all passengers were being refunded. All was not lost, as we were able to go up to the spa & got massages, which was wonderful.
The last port of call was Barbados. The weather was crazy here, clouds, rain, sun, all in the same afternoon. We booked "Five star sail & turtles w/lunch", thru the Princess tour desk. Like in Antigua, we've done this excursion prior, because we've always had such an enjoyable time. Unfortunately the 5th time was not so good. Besides the fact it rained most of the day, there were too many people in too small an area trying to look at the 2 turtles who decided to come & visit. After being kicked in the head 2x's, we decided to get back on the catamaran & wait for lunch, which was very good. Because the rain came again, the usual beach stop was passed over, and the captain took us to another beach area just past where our ship was docked, but was unable to get close to the beach (as in the past). It was quite deep (as the kids were doing back flips off the back of the catamaran), so it was a fairly decent swim to get to shore. I have asthma, so I was very afraid it would be too far for me, so we had no choice than to sit on the catamaran until it was time to go back to the ship. The crew this time was definitely the most lame, and unwelcoming we've ever experienced on this excursion. Would definitely not do this one again. It doesn't sour my extremely favorable impression of Barbados though, as this is one of my favorite islands to visit.
The last full day was at sea. Sunny, 84 degrees. Enjoyed the British Pub Lunch which was held in the Crown Grill. We both enjoyed Fish & Chips, which was absolutely delicious. We then did a bit of on board shopping (last day sales of port t-shirts: 2 for $20), attended the art auction (didn't purchase anything, I like to just go for the enjoyment, plus free champagne!), and went up to enjoy the pool for awhile. We packed up & had our luggage outside our cabin before we went to dinner.
While onboard, we really aren't into the shows. We've done these on other sailings, and feel they are all pretty much the same. We enjoyed the casino, and the spa, plus frequented the pool after our port of call excursions.
Both my hubby & I are fairly easy to please when it comes to food. We really enjoyed the dining choices on the Caribbean Princess.
We ate twice in the Crown Grill, which is absolutely fantastic. I had filet mignon & hubby had NY Strip, which were both cooked to perfection. There were numerous side dishes to choose from. During our 2 visits, we enjoyed loaded baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, & grilled asparagus. The service was impeccable, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meals. All other meals we had in either the Horizon Court or the Caribe Cafe. Princess does an especially good job with their breads & pastries. In my opinion, these are closely compatible to the ones we've enjoyed on previous Celebrity cruises. The buffets always have a good selection of pasta/meat/sides available, so it's really hard for somebody not to find something they like. I also like that Princess has free ice cream now, as in the past it was always an extra charge.
On disembarkation day, Princess was very organized, which was not the case on other cruises, including Princess, that we've done. We enjoyed our last breakfast onboard at the Horizon Court, easily found a table, then went downstairs to the Wheelhouse bar to wait our turn to leave the ship. This was most enjoyable, as this was a place only for platinum + members to relax & wait for their luggage tag color group to be called. Coffee & pastries were available as well. Initially we were scheduled to disembark at 11:00, to catch our 1:20 flight back home, but were welcomed to leave around 10:20. We went downstairs, got a porter, and easily found our bags. There was a bit of a line for US Customs inspection, but it did go fairly quickly, and we were then outside hopping into our taxi for the ride back to the airport.
We both enjoyed this cruise. The ship itself is in good shape, no obvious need for repair in the staterooms or public areas. The crew was very nice, and always had a smile. These folks work so hard, especially the room stewards and dining staff. I can't say enough on how wonderful these people are. We look forward to sailing with Princess again next year, and highly recommend Princess to anyone looking to have an enjoyable cruise vacation at a fair price.