My husband and I are in our late 50s. We live in northern Illinois. We've cruised a total of ten times now—6 of those have been on Princess. We were travelling with my sister and her boyfriend, both of whom are in their early 60s. This was my sister's first cruise. Her boyfriend had cruised before, but not for about a decade and never with Princess.
We flew Southwest Airlines from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale. Our weather was fine. We were glad that it was not the week before when we'd been hit with the blizzard. We arrived in FLL in the late afternoon and effortlessly caught the LaQuinta shuttle to the hotel. We got into the hotel and then headed over to the nearby shopping center for a few supplies. I am a Diet Coke addict and cannot imagine cruising without my bottles in my mini-fridge. It was chilly that evening and I was in my jeans and fleece jacket. And I was still cold. We all were a little panicked that our weather might not be stellar. Those fears were needless, however! We ate at the Miller Ale House and then just burrowed into our rooms for the night.
The LaQuinta has a reasonable breakfast in a sunny room downstairs. We had signed up to take the shuttle at 10:30 over to Port Everglades, so we had plenty of time to relax that morning. The shuttle worked wonderfully and we were at the port sometime before 11:00.
This was our first time as Platinum cruisers, so we were able to wait in the less crowded room. I think there was also a table with coffee, juice, and rolls somewhere off to the side. My sister and her boyfriend (blue-carders) were able to check thru with us. That was nice. I wouldn't have waited in the platinum lounge if we could not have been with them.
I think we were on the ship by noon. We dropped our bags and went to eat in the buffet.
We were in an ocean-view on the Plaza Deck—P230. About a week before we cruised I had read a long thread on the Princess Board about my exact cabin. AND IT WAS NOT GOOD! (Called "Worst Customer Service Ever". http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1354840&highlight= )
Whatever problems they were experiencing in this cabin a few weeks earlier were in no way evident to us. The temperatures were fine and there were no problems with plumbing.
My only complaint would be with the furniture placement. Our headboard was under the window. We expected that. But the double bed was shoved flat up again the side of the room. Where there should have been two small bedside tables there was one large one—and it was off to the other side of the bed. So the person sleeping on one side of the bed would not have a table or lamp and would be forced to crawl over the other person. In some cabins they have replaced the two tables with one large one and we got stuck with this. We turned the table (thus making the drawers inaccessible) and that gave us enough room to push the bed over a few inches so that my husband could get out on his side during the night. I therefore had a sideways end table with two bolted-down lamps over on my side.
But our steward, Romulus (Andy) from the Philippines was cheerful and did his job well all week. In the big picture, I cannot complain.
We always request late seating in the traditional dining room. As I previously mentioned, we were travelling with my sister and her boyfriend and really thought we would be assigned to a table for four. We were surprised when we checked on our dining room assignment to learn that we were at a table for six in the Botecelli dining room. My first instinct was to get it changed---I kind of wanted the time to just be about the four of us. But we all decided to go to dinner the next evening and see how it went. We had a delightful couple in our age group from California at our table on their first cruise. We had a great time with them all week.
I was in general pleased with our dining room service. If I am not cooking---I'm happy. I was surprised that we had to reorder our standard drink (ice tea every night) with our assistant waiter. I'm used to this just appearing at my table every night after the first dinner.
So what has happened to the Love Boat Dream? Maybe my memory has blown it out of proportion, but it just wasn't as good as I remember. I'd been telling my sister (her first cruise and all) how special it was. It no longer is.
Princess Cays: This was my second time here. The first time we had rented clamshells. This time we knew better---there were plenty of chairs to go around in both sunny and shady spots. What a great first stop on a cruise!
St. Marteen: We did the America's Cup Yacht Race. What a lot of fun. We had several 20-something folks on our yacht with lots of stamina. They were able to do all that was expected and won us the race.
St. Thomas: This was our third or fourth time on the island. We went out on a catamaran to Turtle Cove. Water was a bit colder than I had expected, but it was great.
Turks and Caicos: We did the eco-kayak excursions. There were two of us per glass-bottom kayak. The guy in charge bordered on being a drill sergeant, but it was still pleasant. By the time we returned from the excursion it had begun to rain a bit. The beach at the port looked beautiful, but our one brush with bad weather kept us from it.
Never really encountered any lines to deal with. Tables in the main section were sometimes difficult to find, but tables back in Cafe Caribe were always available.
This was my first time with the International Cafe. It was just a short walk from our room. I had my share of salads and those little desserts (2 or 3 at a time was good!)
Pizza was good and I am glad they have added the soft-serve ice cream. Having someone to run the machine is good—this can sometimes turn into a mess on Carnival.
Entertainment and activities on ship during the day:
I really feel that this was lacking. I need to look back thru my scrapbooks at past cruises, but it did not feel like I had as many choices as before. Outside of some pool-side games, about the only thing that existed was Trivia. I like Trivia, but I want more choices. I remember playing Pictionary, golf putting, and shuffleboard on other Princess ships. I think Pictionary was offered once—WHILE MOST PASSENGERS WERE OFF THE SHIP IN PORT. Of course the prizes these days are not so great either. When our team of 6 (unrelated folks) won trivia we were given a bottle of champagne. For six people who are not together! And this really doesn't work for those of us who do not/can not drink. It make me long for the days of luggage tags, luggage straps, mugs, wallets, etc.
Entertainment at night:
We had two comedians (Phil Tag and Jim MacDonald) who were really hilarious. We made a point to get to the Explorers Lounge in good time to see them.
We attended all three singer/dancer show. The last one, Once Upon a Dream, was really cool with the interesting technology used in the set designs.
There was both a juggler and an Italian magician. They were OK, but I would not go out of my way to see them again.
We were not overly impressed with Lisa Ball. I've had better and more engaging CDs. If she was the person who set the daytime entertainment schedule, I am even less impressed.
After ten cruises of making fun of the art auctions, my husband and I decided to attend one. We have a wall in our dining room that has needed a print for awhile. Long story short---we bought a piece by Viktor Shvaiko. It is a street scene in Italy that we found very attractive. I'm not sure if I believe any tales about the investment quality of the work, BUT I JUST LIKE THE WAY IT LOOKS! It will always remind us of this particular cruise. (I added to my husband: If we actually had a bar area in our house, I'd probably get one of those ever-present dancing olive prints too!)
Leaving the ship:
We had breakfast early in the MDR and were off the ship before 8:00. I think we had our bags, had caught a cab, and were in FLL by 8:30. We had an 11:05 flight via Southwest that we easily caught.
We bought future cruise credits the first day we were onboard. By the next day, these appeared in our room. They were really on top of the process.
As Platinum cruisers we could have had some free internet time. I even had my Netbook along. But as it turned out, we had no real desire to access our emails or anything else! So we skipped this perk entirely.
I'm always up for questions....fire away!