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Emerald Princess Cruise Review by pandora518

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Emerald Princess
Emerald Princess
Member Name: pandora518
Cruise Date: March 2011
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Cabin Category: BC
Cabin Number: A635
Booking Method: Internet Agency
See More About: Emerald Princess Cruise Reviews | Eastern Caribbean Cruise Reviews | Princess Cruise Deals
Member Rating   3.0 out of 5+
Dining 3.0
Public Rooms 2.0
Cabins 3.0
Entertainment 3.0
Spa & Fitness 3.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Shore Excursions 4.0
Embarkation 5.0
Service 4.0
Value-for-Money 4.0
Rates 4.0
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Ship Facts: Emerald Princess Review (by Cruise Critic!) | Emerald Princess Deck Plans
Emerald Princess Eastern Caribbean March 28, 2011
We booked this cruise on Emerald Princess primarily because we wanted to visit relatives in Antigua and we had missed the window of opportunity for a balcony cabin on the only HAL ship that includes that island. I read a lot of EP and Princess reviews here before we left, some of which we found to be true and others not so accurate, at least not in our opinion. Some of the key points:

* Yes, the cabins are very small, the beds are pretty bad, and the public spaces are quite crowded. However, storage space in the cabin was excellent, everything worked, and we were very glad NOT to be in a suite or mini-suite, where you're on display on your balcony. We recommend booking only a standard balcony stateroom.

* Yes, the bed was horrid, but we knew enough to request the "egg crate" topper. While that had seen better days, our cabin steward lost no time installing it and it did make a difference. Princess could definitely improve the beds and gain points with us.

* The ratio of public space to passenger is really low on this ship, so whenever we were in any public area there were crowds. That was our biggest disappointment regarding this cruise. HAL has far less crowded ships and we definitely prefer them, now that we've tried something different.

* Despite their "scholarship at sea" advertising, we found VERY little in the way of educational enrichment activities on board. There were no cooking classes, and the two crafts "classes" - for which there was an extra (although nominal) charge - but neither offered any instruction whatsoever. We were given materials and left to figure out what to do with them. This is one way {rincess really trails HAL. On our HAL cruises, we've participated in a number of classes and activities that truly taught us something new, and we never paid extra for any of them.

* On our first day aboard, crew members were trying to sell us something all the time. I'd read about this but even then I didn't expect quite so many hard sells. After that day it pretty much stopped except for waiters suggesting wines or cocktails. My DH purchased a soda card for $45, but unless you spend most of your time on the ship (and not in the ports) you'll never drink that much soda. I'm a wine drinker and I brought quite a bit on board, which helped keep the bar tab down.

* If you like old-fashioned teak decks, loungers on the promenade deck, cooked-to-order food on the Lido deck, game rooms or spaces (for cards, scrabble, etc), or peace and quiet on board (WITHOUT paying extra for it), this is NOT the ship for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for good value, good itineraries, and aren't too fussy about the onboard experience, EP will definitely appeal.

* MUTS is a terrific idea and we enjoyed it several times, but the popcorn was simply awful. Bring your own snacks. :)

* Contrary to a number of reviews, we did not encounter any less-than-courteous crew members. Our cabin steward was fantastic. We used Anytime Dining so we had different waiters frequently, but most of them were very good and two were outstanding. Some of the deck waitstaff and others did seem to be bored or weary, but they were always friendly when approached and they know the ship well. It's a very diverse crew, which we enjoyed.

* The food in the dining rooms was, for the most part, good. Not outstanding, but we always enjoyed it. The food on the Lido deck's buffets was generally mediocre, unfortunately, and that applies to both taste and presentation. Nothing (at lunch or dinner) is cooked to order. The sandwiches we tried were all very dry. We didn't even bother to get in line for a made-to-order omelet, as the line was really long. We HATED the way the buffets are enclosed - everyone is always bumping into everyone else, and there's nowhere near enough room to maneuver - and while it's nice to have waitstaff to serve beverages the wait was often too long. We'd prefer the option to get our own. Anytime Dining worked perfectly for us: we wanted to meet new people so we always did "two to share" and never had to wait. Logistically, Anytime Dining is very difficult to manage and Princess did it very well, especially with >3000 passengers. The pizza bar was one of our favorite places for a quick snack: NY-style pizza and always fresh. Skip the burger bar unless you're really desperate for french fries, and the only free ice cream is vanilla or chocolate soft-serve.

* Hands down, Princess wins the award for the most efficient, least stressful embarkation and disembarkation processes, and that includes tendering to ports of call. Kudos to them for nailing this, because at embarkation it really sets the tone for the whole trip and at disembarkation it makes catching taxis/flights/transfers much less stressful. Our disembarkation waiting area was the Explorer's Lounge, where there were trivia and travel slides playing and coffee, tea, and water were freely available.

* Emerald Princess is unusually difficult to navigate. I give the ship's designers very low marks... I suspect that they were trying to break up the public areas as much as possible to permit the perception that they're not as crowded as they really are. But the end result is that it's hard to get from point A to point B, even after 10 days of trying. We carried the map with us at all times and frequently had to refer to it. And even then, we often ended up at the wrong end of the ship... Between that and the cascading balconies that leave suite and mini-suite passengers with neither privacy nor shade, we think Princess would be wise to reconsider this design.

* Contrary to many reviews, people CAN win in the casino: I did, and I'm one of the unluckiest people alive (at games of chance, anyway.) We aren't big gamblers: I especially am reluctant to just throw money away, which is how I generally perceive gambling. But my DH wanted to try the slots, so on the second night at sea we allotted $20 to them. He let me play it and I won $60. On another evening, we again agreed to a $20 total limit, and I won $150. After we'd left Antigua, we again agreed to spend $20, and my DH again let me pick the machine and play. It was a $1 machine and after playing just $9 I won $2700! My philosophy is "take the money and run" so we did just that. It paid for our passage, so we're living proof that people do win sometimes.

* I can't rate Princess Cays, our last port of call, below, as there's no menu selection for it. But I'd rate it a 3 at best. There's no comparison to HAL's Half Moon Cay, which has far better (warmer, less rocky) beaches. Overall it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. However, I do like that it was the last port, as a pure beach stop is a terrific way to end a 10-night cruise.

Publication Date: 04/11/11
Read the Eastern Caribbean ports review by pandora518
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