Emerald Princess 10 Day Eastern Caribbean
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
We were in room A534, which is a balcony room, mid ship, port side. It was a very nice room. The view was excellent at every port and we loved having breakfast on our balcony. We didnt have any issues with our neighbors smoking or anything like that. The bed was horribly uncomfortable as most of the other reviews indicate. We requested, and received, the egg crate topper and top sheet from our room steward, which might have helped though my back wasnt too convinced of that!
Food & Dining
We originally signed up for traditional dining, second seating, which was 8:15PM in Botticellis Dining Room. We kept this seating for a few nights but quickly realized that we were missing a lot of shows. There are two shows every night, one in the theatre and one in Explorers or Fusion, each of the shows is scheduled twice a night at 8pm and 10pm. The people that had the first seating for dinner could eat at 6pm, see one show at 8pm and a different show at 10pm. Since our More
dinner was at 8pm, we could only make the 10pm show. After a few nights, we asked our head waiter if we could switch to the first seating. It turned out that our same table was available for the first seating, so we were easily able to switch and keep the same table and waiters, which was great.
As far as food quality goes, it was random. I was hoping to see a lot more grilled veggies and fresh fish. They did serve fish a few nights, but it was not very good. Once, I had salmon, which was excellent. I had the rockfish, which was okay and the tilapia was just okay. Since I dont eat red meat or pork, I tried the chicken off of the alternative menu and it was very dry, so I didnt have that again. There were a lot of really good soups served; some of my favorites were the black bean, split pea and cream of tomato. The salads were not all that great; there was an overall lack of veggies at every meal. Occasionally, we had grilled zucchini or eggplant, but the salads tended to be a few pieces of lettuce with one cherry tomato. I was able to order green beans on the side and they brought me a HUGE bowl of beans. It was so funny, everyone at my table had green beans! My husband really liked the lamb and on the second formal night we had lobster and prawns. Everyone thought the lobster was dry but the prawns were delicious! The waiters brought over extra prawns and they were quickly gobbled up. The deserts were amazing, sometimes too good ;)
We ordered room service for breakfast on our early port days and had no issues writing in what we wanted, along with checking off the boxes for the standard items. Also, we wrote in the preferred delivery time and the food was pretty close to that schedule.
We went to the International Caf every day for our specialty coffees. We always ordered a large, which came in a paper cup. In the dining room, they only had the glasses, which were for the regular sizes (not enough caffeine for me). We were able to order a large from the dining room, but I think someone had to run down to IC to get the paper cups for us.
We were a little disappointed with the lack of onboard activities on the sea days. Im not really sure what I was expecting, Chris seems to think we never had anything to do on sea days, no matter which cruise line it was. My opinion is that the average age on this cruise is probably 55, and the activities are geared more to that age level. So we had our choice of crocheting, napkin folding, line dancing or afternoon tea. There were also a lot of glorified sales pitches; for example, the free foot analysis is really trying to sell you insoles. We had our choice of multiple sales pitches every day. There were a few games of dodge ball or water volleyball and zumba. I went to Zumba once on the last day of the cruise and was very impressed with the workout that I got; I was pouring sweat by the end and definitely recommend taking a bottle of water and just keep moving for the most cardio benefit. Other than that, we played a lot of board games and hung out at the pool deck and read books.
The shows were so disappointing, probably the worst Ive ever seen on a cruise ship. The comedy shows in the lounges were much better than the theatre shows. There were a couple of good shows in the theatre (Beatle Maniacs band, Rootberry jugglers, and the last production show was good), but overall, it was better to skip the theatre and go directly to Explorers or the Fusion club for their shows. There were a couple of really good short shows (15 min) in the Piazza during the day. Also, the Newlywed game show is not to be missed we ve seen in on all of our cruises and its always hilarious!
We woke up around 8am, got our lattes from IC and went to Horizon Court for breakfast. By about 9:30, our group of four was ready to hop on the tender and make our way to Princess Cays. We went to Michelangelos and picked up our tender ticket, got on the boat and started our journey to the island. About half way through, the engine died and we floated around in the water for about 45 min turning in circles and bouncing with every wave that came by. A lot of people started to feel seasick; luckily, no one threw up but a few were very close, including our friend, Casie. We eventually made it back to the Emerald around 10:30, but Casie was so sick that she needed a break from the tendering scene. It was 11:30 by the time we tried again. By that time, there were tons of people in line to get a tender, so we had to wait. It was probably about 12:30 by the time we actually made it to Princess Cays.
At first, we were concerned because the last tender back to the ship was at 3:15pm, but we soon discovered that 2-3 hours of snorkeling, swimming and exploring is about all you can take anyway. I tried to find the little cemetery on the beach, but did not make it. I walked along the beach until it turned rocky, walked along the rocks for a while and realized that I didnt want to walk along the rocks for as long as it seemed that Id have to, so I cut through the woods, hoping Id find the road. I found a sandy road and followed it for a while but it had a swampy section that I didnt feel like walking through, so I turned around and went back to the Princess area. I decided I should take a dip in the ocean and, almost immediately after I stepped in, I sliced open my toe on a rock or maybe coral. That was the end of my ocean time :) After hanging out on the beach, we went outside of the Princess area (directly behind the first aid station where I picked up a Band-Aid) and looked through the items the vendors were selling. I bought a straw purse and we were done. We only needed to show our cruise card to the security guard at the gate to be let back in.
Besides the tendering incident in the morning, Princess Cays was very nice and relaxing.
Ports & Excursions
We had the most fun at the ports of call. On two of them, we used the Princess excursions and on the other three we arranged our own plans. The Princess excursions were good but pretty crowded. The excursions arranged on our own were awesome and I highly recommend going this route if you can adequately plan ahead, take everything into consideration and try to mitigate the risk of not making it back to the ship in time. We had absolutely no problems with getting back in time, in fact, we werent even close to the all-aboard time except for while on a Princess excursion! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We left the ship around 9am and made our way to the end of the pier to meet up with for our excursion (St. John Champagne Catamaran Sail, Snorkel & Swim). There was a guy at the end calling out for people on tour 810 luckily, Ron remembered our excursion number was 810 and we gave our tickets to the man and got on the open-air bus with 16 other people. There were two buses of people on our excursion. The ride to the catamaran took about 30 minutes and was pretty uneventful. When we got to the docks, we took off our shoes and boarded the boat. The crew was really nice, entertaining and knowledgeable about the islands. Ocean was our skipper and Nate and ? were our crew/servers. It took about 30-45 min to sail to Honeymoon beach where we anchored about 20 yards off shore. We were given instructions on snorkeling and on distress signals, and then I fumbled around with my snorkel equipment until I finally asked Ocean to help me, which he happily did. For people that wanted to hang out or snorkel from the beach, Nate transported them on a dingy and picked them up later. The water at Honeymoon beach was crystal clear and beautiful. We saw a lot of fish, sea urchins and coral. I kept getting too close to the coral/urchin area and eventually had an itty-bitty panic attack and high-tailed it back to the boat. On the way to the boat, I swam through no less than 4 schools of fish. Once at the boat, I hung out on the stairs and talked to another passenger and ? for a while, until a very large barracuda came swimming about 3 feet beside us. We quickly climbed the ladder and got back on the boat! A lot of the passengers saw turtles in the water but we did not. We were able to snorkel for about 1.5 hours, which seemed a little short for the people that did not have a panic attack and come back early, but it was just fine for me!! The ride back to the dock was awesome; we drank rum punch, champagne, rum punch mixed with champagne and more. They served bread, cheese and fruit with the alcohol, and offered us lots of water! The ride back was nice and slow; we didnt feel rushed at all. We took our time, listened to music and danced a little bit. We had an excellent time on this excursion!
After the excursion, we had the bus driver drop us off at Charlotte Amalie and we did a little shopping. Since it was Sunday, everything closed early but Chris was able to buy the swim shirt that he was looking for. We passed up the gazillion opportunities for a taxi ride back to the ship and decided to walk. The walk was a very easy 30 minutes. Once at the pier, we found a little bar that had the Steelers game on TV, so we had a few daiquiris and watched the game before we got back onboard.
Recommendations take cash and credit cards, lots of sunscreen, snacks or lunch
We signed up for a Princess Excursion, River Tubing, Waterfalls & Rainforest Scenic Drive. It started at 11:30am, so we got off of the ship early in order to walk around town. There are a lot of street stands and people trying to sell you things, there are a few stores, but nothing too impressive. There was overwhelming pressure from the locals to buy something, which we assume is due to the fact that Dominicas main business is tourism and we were the first cruise ship in port this year. The town was pretty worn down.
At our scheduled time, we met up with the excursion group at the pier. We hopped on a bus with a ton of other people and started our trek through the island. We drove for about an hour and a half through Dominica. The drive itself was an adventure; there are a lot of really bad roads in Dominica right now. They recently had some massive amounts of rain which caused a lot of damage. On top of that, I dont think that the roads were that great to begin with. Also, driving through the mountain switchbacks was a little difficult even for the people that dont normally get car sick! We stopped to see a waterfall, went for a quick swim and kept on going. When we arrived at the Eco Adventures, we were able to use their bathrooms to change in. Luckily, we had already changed, because this is not a place where youll want to touch anything. We got in line with a ton of other people from our tour bus (and the two other buses that were with us) in order to get about 2oz of fruit punch. While waiting in line, we watched a little Indian dance, which lasted about 5 minutes. Then we got into another long line to get helmets and life vests. Eventually, we made it to the front of the line and received an inner tube.
Our tour guides were so nice and friendly. They instructed us on proper tubing technique and helped us with everything along the way. They tried to put some space between the tubers as best they could as we made our way down the river.
The tubing was mostly calm and leisurely, but there were a few rapids and rocky obstacles. I actually flipped my tube over and landed face down in the water. The water was only about 1-2 feet deep, so I was in no danger. Egnes, one of our guides, was almost immediately beside me, pulling me out of the water and getting me back into my tube. Out of all of the people (approx. 70-75 people with the three buses), there were only two of us that flipped our tubes. The entire way down the river, the guides were right there with us. They blocked dangerous areas and pushed our tubes out of the way, they helped many, many people get unstuck from rocks, sand or just slow moving water.
There was no lunch on the tour, but there was a place to buy food after the tubing was over. Chris and I split a chicken sandwich on donut bread and it was delicious! We got our lunch and hopped back on the bus for the 1.5 hour trip back down to the ship. The advertised time for this excursion was 11am-4pm, but we didnt get back until 5:30pm, which was the all-aboard time on our ship. Sail-away wasnt until 6pm, so we were fine but some people on our bus were nervous about the timing.
Recommendations take water shoes, drinking water, lunch, sunscreen, waterproof camera, towel, cash for tips and for lunch/snacks
We rented a Jeep ahead of time from American Car Rental and when we arrived, there was a representative waiting for us at the end of the pier. We didnt see her at first, but a woman selling tours saw us looking lost and helped us find our car lady! The Jeep was in great condition, a few scratches and small dents, but nothing major. We paid our $100 + $10 for the extra insurance and off we went. It was super easy.
We started off by going to the Butterfly Farm; on the way there we stopped at the Radisson and picked up a couple of extra maps from the lobby. Ron and Casie signed up for the tour, but after about 20 minutes they were still waiting for it to start, so we left. They did get to walk around and see butterflies, which were very pretty. After the Butterfly Farm, we went to the California Lighthouse. Its pretty much just a lighthouse, but it does offer some nice shoreline views. Our next destination was Seroe Crystal (96 meter summit). There is really nothing at Seroe Crystal except for ruins of an old concrete building, but the trip to the summit and the views from the top were worth the trip. The drive was on a crazy dirt road, strewn with rocks and other obstacles. We gingerly made our way to the top and back down without any issues at all.
We then made our way to the Natural Bridge and stopped at the Gold Smelter Ruins along the way. The ruins were really cool: a stone building with some excellent photo opportunities. The Natural Bridge was nice and had a Thirst Aid Station which offered a bathroom for a very reasonable 50 cent fee.
This is the part where the trip got really interesting. Instead of going back out to the main road, we decided to follow the road along the ocean to find the Natural Pool. It was not really a road at all, but a very treacherous trail with large rocks, huge holes and goats to maneuver around! At some points, you couldnt even tell which way the trail went, you just kept going over the rocks, dirt, sand, etc. There was another Jeep ahead of us making the same trip, so we followed them and at many confusing points along the way, we stopped to confer with the other driver. This drive was probably the craziest thing weve ever done. We had a high probability of losing a tire or worse!
Luckily, the other people had a better map than we did (they actually paid for theirs) and by some miracle, we found our way to the Natural Pool. The pool itself is very nice, with a lot of large rocks surrounding it, but the drive is the best part. When we got to the pool, there were only a few people swimming but soon after we arrived, a tour group pulled up and the pool quickly filled with other people. We didnt stay much longer, which was fine because we had to get back to the cruise ship. The drive back to civilization was just as insane as the drive to the pool. There is really no way to describe it as no description can capture the insanity of the drive. The fact that we made it out without damaging our Jeep is astounding.
We arrived in Bonaire around 11:30am, got off the ship, went outside the gate and directly to the Plaza Resort tent. The woman at the tent was very nice and eagerly gave us a free shuttle ride to the resort. When we arrived, she walked us to the correct place to sign up for a day pass. We paid $10 per person and were given access to the beautiful resort. The beach was excellent, there were plenty of lounge chairs, cabanas, palm trees and shade to keep us all very comfortable. We left our belongings on the cabana and didnt have to worry about anything being disturbed. We used the concrete steps to get into the water for snorkeling, as the entry from the beach is very rocky. The steps were perfect and at the top of the steps they have a clean water station so you can clean off all of your snorkel and dive gear.
The snorkeling was amazing. The water was crystal clear and there were fish everywhere you turned. You had to try really hard to not see marine life in the water! One of the best parts about snorkeling here is that all of the fish are in about 5 feet of water, so its really easy to take pictures of them and not require a flash. We used a DicaPac case for our camera and it worked perfectly.
We drank frozen drinks from the beach bar, took a dip in the pool and lounged around between snorkel sessions. It was a wonderful day. Im pretty sure we could spend a week at the Plaza Resort and be perfectly happy. It was very clean and relaxing.
At the end of the day, we walked back to the ship. The resort provides free shuttle service every half hour, but we just felt like walking. It was not more than four blocks on what felt like very safe roads. They drive on the right side of the road, so we had no trouble remembering which way to look before crossing the street!
Recommendations put sunscreen on the backs of your arms and legs if youll be snorkeling. Take towels, we couldnt find any at the resort, but we also didnt ask.
Prior to our cruise, we had arranged for Mandoo to take us on a hike to Honeymoon Falls. When we arrived at the visitor center, he was inside with our name on a sign exactly as he said he would be. There were three other people on our tour, so a total of 7 plus Mandoo. We took a half hour drive through Grenada to the start of the trail to the falls. Mandoo told us a lot about the island on the way. When we arrived, there were places to go to the bathroom and change.
Our hike started innocently enough, we walked down a hill and through some farmlands. Mandoo pointed out various plants and talked about farming. Then we walked down some muddy steps and walked through the woods, over rocks and through creeks until we got to the Seven Sister Falls. The hike to Seven Sisters was moderately difficult; we definitely used our walking sticks. It had rained in Grenada a few days prior, so everything was muddy and the water was high and fast moving. Once at Seven Sisters, we were able to swim and climb on the rocks. Ron tried to swim into the falls but the current was too strong, so he made his way to the rock wall and pulled himself along until he reached the falls. Mandoo motioned for him to climb the wall, which he did pretty easily and then he jumped into the pool of water! Of course, all of the men (and me) had to do it too! It was pretty scary, but we were only about 6-8 feet above the water when we jumped. There was a man there that did a back flip from the top of the falls. His name was Dancing Butterfly and Im sure he was expecting a tip but we didnt bring any money with us.
We hung out at Seven Sisters until the large tour groups arrived, and then we started to head out. Mandoo was very good about timing our stops so that we barely saw any other people. On the way out, I slipped and fell on the top of the lower falls. My walking stick fell down the hill. I landed on my knee and hung on for dear life while everyone gathered around and pulled me up. This is definitely not a hike for the timid!
The hike to Honeymoon Falls was even more intense! Almost the entire hike was up the stream of water coming from the falls. We came upon a little pool with a 10 foot waterfall and I was thinking maybe that was the Honeymoon falls, but nope! We had to climb UP the little waterfall, with water pouring down over us and little places to hold on to. Mandoo was right there with us, pointing to where we should place each hand and foot and grabbing on to our arm as soon as we got close. Once at the top of the little falls, we walked about 20 more feet before we came upon a magnificent waterfall: Honeymoon Falls! The water was so cold, but we all got in and Ron tried to climb the wall and jump in. After 3 tries, he was actually able to do it!
The walk back to the van was just as crazy as the walk into the forest. I slipped and fell in the river and my walking stick #2 went floating away, luckily Ron was there and caught it in time! At the end of the trail, there were men there with buckets offering to wash our feet. Again, we didnt have any money, so Mandoo tipped them for all of us.
After the hike, we got back in the van and drove to a little place where Mandoo is sometimes able to call the monkey over. The monkey must have been busy today because he didnt come but we were able to buy some spices.
The Honeymoon Falls hike with Mandoo was amazing, it was definitely an adventure. It was invigorating, exhilarating, dangerous and more exciting than any tour Ive ever been on! It is excellent for someone that is in good shape with strong muscles; you will need to be able to step up onto high rocks and use your arms to move your body through the forest and rivers. This is not a tour I would take my mother on! Energy-wise, this is equivalent to walking from deck 5 to 15 taking a break and then doing it again. On the courage/danger scale, its off the charts.
Recommendations take sturdy waterproof shoes (Keens were great), drinking water, snacks, possibly bug spray, waterproof camera, towel, small backpack or fanny pack, and cash for tips and spice purchases