We have been to S Carribean with HAL once, and this W Carribean with Princess is our second cruise. I traveled with my teenage son from Maryland. We stayed in the Crown Plaza at Port Everglades the night before the cruise which was very convenient. The hotel rate was reasonable and the shuttle from the airport and to the port was convenient and cheap. We booked a post cruise tour of Fort Lauderdale with a new service that Gray Lines just introduced in that area. It is a combination of pax transfer, luggage transfer by Bags to Go, and the Water Taxi tour. It went very smoothly, and costs less than taking taxi or hotel shuttles, etc. The water taxi drops you off at lunch places, and shows the millionaire row with their yachts. Beats waiting at the airport which has no entertainment.
The embarkation was pretty good and fast. We arrived at 12:45PM even though Princess asked specifically to not show up before 1PM. The line was not that long. The longest wait was in the gangway where people have to put their cruise card in the reader and take a quick picture for security purposes. Next time we will get there at 2PM when there was no line at all. The disembarkation was even faster. Just walk down and leave. Most people want to leave before 8AM or walk their own luggage. I don't know how the line was at 8AM. We just followed the ship's schedule and left at 9:30. The slowest part is the U.S. Immigration, about 15 minutes. Nothing Princess can do about that.
As expected for this Spring Break cruise, there were lots of kids and teachers on board. Lots of teenagers too, which my son enjoyed every evening from 11PM to 1AM. I don't know what they do since I am not allowed in that area. I guess I don't want to know. But the activities are monitored by staff, so I guess it is better than leaving them loose in a mall.
We started eating at assigned seats at a table for two. By the third evening we were bored, and moved to the anytime seating sharing a table for 8. Waiting was not an issue as we like early dinner at 6PM. We never went to the buffet because we simply prefer a more relaxed meal, chat, and have good service. Even though it takes longer. But what is the rush? The name of the dishes are more impressive than their substance. And they are pretty small, which is just fine. Let me put this way: no one stays hungry in a cruise, OK! I found the hamburger and pizza weak, not as good as McDonald and PizzaHut. That tells you that this is not a fancy cruise, but a value cruise. Food in general is done on a budget, unless you go to a specialty restaurant. Let's just say that I prefer Legal Seafood or Cheesecake Factory. But we still enjoyed every meal, especially the service.
The shows were OK, but I think that HAL has better shows. I thought the hipnosis show was a little wacky. I am a skeptic, so I don't believe in hipnosis, at least not this way. But it was entertaining. The adult karoake was pretty impressive. We got some real talents here. Dang, some of these folks are TV material.
Now let me go into the port reviews. Let me start with the last port: Princess Cays since its not available in the pull down menu. We found it to be way too crowded. They should allow pax to roam the island instead of confining everyone to such a small area. The barbeque was low quality and the buffet lines were slow. There are always a few pax staring at the potato salad or the hot dogs as if they are making up their minds whether to buy a house. The tendering to and from the island was very slow. They need to figure out something more efficient. They said the last tender back to the ship was 3:15PM. By 2:45 the line was so long that we just went back to the beach because we knew that there is no way they could be done by 3:15. We napped at the lounge chairs and finally got back to the ship around 4:00. The snorkeling right at the shack where they rent snorkeling gear is pretty good. I even found a lobster there.