Background information: We were a family of 6 - my parents and their 4 40-something children. It had been at least 28 years since the six of us had been together without spouses/children.
Flights: 4 of us flew to Newark and used Princess transfers to the ship ($58 pp R/T). One came by train and another by bus.
New York: An interesting place to drive through on 9/10/11, one day before the 10th anniversary of that horrible day. There were policemen everywhere, police helicopters flying overhead, Coast Guard boats constantly surveying the ship and a large Navy vessel in the harbor (my husband says it was an amphibious transport vessel from the pictures I took). So we felt well protected.
The transfer went smoothly and we were on the ship by 12:30 pm. Our staterooms were ready.
The Ship: The Caribbean Princess is a lovely ship and the largest we have sailed on. We loved walking the Promenade Deck, using the hot tubs, swimming in the aft swimming pool at night and listening to the string quartet in the Piazza. Skywalker's is quite the place to visit and feel high above the ship and the sea. There is the typical fading of carpet in high traffic areas but the ship was clean and bright and lovely to be on.
Staterooms: Aloha Deck, Balcony staterooms A719, A723, A727, which we loved because the balcony partition "doors" can be opened (but they were not flush with the partition so it took slightly from the balcony space). It was great accessing each other through our balconies instead of through the public hall. The staterooms were clean, well organized, had safes with programmable entry codes, refrigerators, and ample closet space. We had requested that our rooms be cleaned to remove cigarette smoke residual odor and all smelled fresh and clean. Our steward Joseph did an adequate job. My sisters had Grace, who was superb. We had requested the eggcrate mattress toppers, which were not on the beds, but after requesting them, they were on by bedtime.
Dining: Breakfast was in the Horizon Court or the dining room each morning. The variety in the HC was very good and we always found something tasty to eat. The selections in the dining room were very good and the service there was outstanding.
One lunch was the "Pub Lunch" which we enjoyed but why charge for tea there? That, we found ridiculous when it is free in the HC. The International Cafe - WONDERFUL. Great salads, quiches, sandwiches and desserts. That's where I would get my good freshly brewed coffee every morning.
Dinner: Traditional dining with the early seating at 5:45pm in the Palm Dining Room. The time worked out well except we missed most port departures because the ship left port during our dining hours. Our waiter and assistant, Rafael and Randy, were very good. We found the menus and the food to be mostly excellent.
Ports of Call:
Halifax, Nova Scotia: We rented a van from Budget, which is about 5 blocks from the pier. We drove to Peggy's Cove and enjoyed the beautiful blue sky, sun and views there. We drove to the SwissAir 111 Monument which we had all to ourselves. It is a sobering, yet beautiful place. Then on to lunch in West Dover at Shaw's Landing. Great food (lobster rolls, chowder, fish & chips) sitting out in the sunshine overlooking the quaint fishing village.
Next we found Fairlawn Cemetery back in Halifax, where some of the graves of the Titanic victims are. Another sobering but interesting place. Then it was time to drop mom and dad off at the ship, turn in the van and do some shopping along the pier.
St. John, New Brunswick: We took a private day tour with a local guide, Roy Flowers. He was an excellent guide who just loves where he lives and what he does. He wanted to show us everything. We saw the Spiral Staircase in the Courthouse, the cathedral, the reversing falls and then headed north towards St. Martins. Unfortunately it was VERY foggy and the views were well hidden along the way.
We stopped for lunch at The Caves restaurant and enjoyed more seafood. Excellent seafood chowder. The best I've ever had. And by the time we had finished eating the fog had lifted enough to view the sea caves. The tide was in so we could not walk out to them.
Next, Roy drove us on the Fundy Trail where we found the sun. Walked down to see Flower Pot Rock, a nice waterfall and to the Visitor Center to watch a 10 minute film on the history of the area. We were so glad to see the coastline. It is lovely. We stopped at a few other sites on the way back to ship. A 7-1/2 hour tour for $300 for 6 people...very worth it!
Bar Harbor: We rented a van here also which gave us the freedom to drive where we wanted to in gorgeous Acadia National Park, but it is a hassle getting the vehicle. I rented from Enterprise (for 3 times the amount we paid in Halifax for the exact same vehicle) whose office is at the Trenton airport, a 20-30 minute drive by shuttle, and the shuttle did not pick us up until 9:00am so there is wasted time there (for the driver...the others enjoyed the shopping).
Acadia NP is just beautiful. It was a gorgeously warm and sunny day. We went to Cadillac Mountain, drove the park loop road, ate a delicious lunch at Jordan Pond House, finished the loop and dropped everyone off to shop while I took the van back. I waited, with others, for 45 minutes for other renters to return only to finally find out they were afraid they would miss the ship and left the car at the dock...wish we all could have done that!
Boston: My one sister and I walked to Boston Common (2 miles) then walked The Freedom Trail. We saw all the historical sites. Amazing how they are dispersed amongst a big, bustling city. The various burying grounds surprised us with graves dating back to the 1600's. Kind of spooky too. We had a lovely Italian lunch at Fillipo's right before crossing the bridge to the USS Constitution. We took the tour of the ship and enjoyed it. We had reservations with Rowe's Water Taxi to get us back to ship. They showed up late and we had a very anxiety-filled boat ride to the pier. They made it right by not charging us...but we ran as fast as we could and were some of the last to board the ship. Too close for comfort. Good thing we both are runners!
The others in the family played it quite safe and did the HOHO Old Town Trolley. They pre-purchased their tickets on line saving a little money and time and enjoyed it very much. Stopped where they wanted to and made it back to the ship with plenty of time to spare.
Newport, R.I.: Another beautiful sunny, but cooler, day. My two sister and I took the bus to The Cliff Walk and did the entire trail (gets pretty rough the last mile) and then walked down Bellevue Avenue to the waterfront. The mansions are incredible to see but we opted not to tour them...the IC was calling with those great salads!
Dad, mom and brother opted to stay on board and have some quiet time and enjoy the ship.
Pros: Very fast embarkation with no lines. Beautiful view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from our starboard balconies. Great ship in very good shape. Good storage space in staterooms. Very good to excellent food. Good service in the dining rooms. International Cafe is superb! Very nice spa and gym. Great itinerary if not too good. Mom and dad were pooped by Newport!
We saw a couple of shows and they were good, not great. The women dancers and singers really outshone the men! Enjoyed the free Zumba classes. The sales pitching was kept to a minimum and the photographers respected a "no thank you" with no further pressure.
Cons: 1) Smokers on the balconies. So glad Princess is changing the rules. We had smokers around us & when they lit up, we had to leave our balconies and shut the doors. Such a shame with lovely fresh air. 2) Princess transfers back to Newark. The bus driver had no clue what airline was at which terminal. He would announce "Terminal A" followed by stopping only if passengers yelled "Stop!" We were on the wrong side of the bus and missed United in A, had to navigate back there with my elderly parents from C with all our luggage. Not a good way to end the trip. 3) Fog horn blowing every 2 minutes all night, but only 1 night thank goodness! Not Princess' fault by any means. Had no idea fog could be that thick and a fog horn so loud. Glad I had earplugs to dispense to family members!
Conclusion: We loved it.