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 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!