My wife and I Cruised with Princess cruise line for the first time on 10/8/11 on the Caribbean princess out of Brooklyn. We have cruised with several other cruise lines previously, but we have to say this was by far the best cruise yet.
First, leaving from red hook was easy and convenient since we are from Long Island. A minor problem with the directions to the cruise terminal on the Princess website should be addressed by Princess, the directions are very confusing. That being said, leaving from Red Hook was still easier than leaving from the passenger ship terminal in Manhattan. We arrived at 1:00 and the check in process was quick and efficient. The lines were short and moved quickly. We went straight to our cabin, and our luggage arrived a short time later.
We had an inside cabin on the plaza deck. This turned out to be a very convenient deck to be on. The gangway is located on this deck in the ports the ship docks at. Just a short walk off the ship, and an easy return to our cabin once back on board. The Island Dinning Room (anytime dinning) is on this deck. Additionally the international caf, a 24-hour snack bar is also located on the plaza deck. Our cabin was located near the art gallery and was one of the quietest ship rooms we ever had.
We signed up for anytime dinning which also proved to be very convenient. We ate in the Island dinning room most nights. You are encouraged by the maitre d to share a table, which we occasionally did, and were never disappointed. When we chose to have a table for two, the wait was never more than 15 minutes. The food was probably the best prepared, tasting and presented on any of our cruises.
We chose to eat in Sabatinis Italian restaurant On Sunday night. There is a twenty-dollar cover per person in this restaurant. The menu was a little disappointing. This is actually more of a seafood restaurant than an Italian restaurant. Being Italian, I had a hard time finding any actual Italian food here! We were served a small plate of spaghetti with red sauce that was barely passable for authetinic Italian food. I chose the lobster tail dinner, and my wife had a chicken dish, which were both good, but not very Italian.
On another night we ate in the Crown Grill, which is the ships steak house. Here there was no disappointment. The cover of twenty-five dollars per person was well worth it. Several different cuts of beef, pork and lamb were offered as well as some seafood choices. The black and blue soup was very good as long as you like blue cheese. Everything in this restaurant, including the deserts, is a step above what is offered in the main dinning room.
Friday was the day at sea and several interesting free activities were offered. We were able to take a tour of the galley and a back stage tour. Unfortunately, too many interesting events were scheduled around the same time that morning which made it difficult to do more than one or two things. The crown Grill was open for lunch that day serving an English pub menu. Most people chose the fish and chips which was good but not worth waiting on the long line we saw in the afternoon. Get there early and there will be no line.
Entertainment- Comedian Al Katz was very funny but only did two shows in the beginning of the week. He disembarked in Bar Harbor and another comedian Miguel Washington finished out the week, also with two different shows. A magician act turned out to be a little cheesy; I think he needs to stick with performing at childrens birthday partys a little longer before trying to entertain a cruise ship audience. The production shows were your typical cruise ship shows. No complaints with any of their shows. Some very talented singers and dancers.
Newport- we just walked around this town and shopped. We have been to all of the U.S. ports several times, so most of the tourist attractions we have already been to. Had great weather here as well as the rest of the week also. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in this town to fill your day. If this is your first time to Newport, then the mansion tour/drive and cliff walk would be good choices.
Boston- chose to spend day shopping at Quincy market. We took a cab, which cost us about $15. It would have been less and a faster trip, but the occupy Boston protesters were slowing traffic. We later learned from other passengers that they were able to walk to a bus stop near the ship and for about $2 also went to Quincy market. We then took a subway ride to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. A shuttle bus runs every 20 minutes from the subway station to the museum. Democrat or republican, you will find the displays interesting. That was about $12 each to get in.
Bar Harbor- again chose to walk around the town to shop. Take an Acadia park tour if you have never been there before. Some passengers went on a whale watching boat but came back from a long boat ride without seeing any whales.
Halifax- we rented a car from enterprise, which is just a short walk from the pier. We first drove to Peggys Cove and spent some time there. The weather was great and we were able to get some great pictures. From there we drove to Fairlawn Cemetery where some of the Titanic victims are buried. I found on the Internet, a listing of the victims buried there, many of those have never been identified. Most of the grave markers only have a number and the date they died. The printout I had gave a description of the victims, how they were dressed and what if anything was found in their pockets. This made the whole experience a little more interesting (and somber). From there we drove to the Maritime museum, which has a Titanic exhibit. Really not worth the cost of admission unless youre a real maritime buff.
Saint John- we walked around town and went to the local mall and farmers market. We did not make it to the reversing falls. This was probably our least favorite port.
One complaint- one morning we found our cabin door decorated with balloons, a happy anniversary banner on our door and a card! It was not our anniversary. We told our cabin steward this and he said he just puts the decorations where he is told to do so. Later I noticed a name on the greeting card, which I brought to the desk. We had made a cabin change about a week before our cruise. Apparently the couple that was assigned to our cabin before us was celebrating their anniversary. It seems that the staff that arranges the acknowledgements of anniversarys and birthdays are not kept aware of room changes or upgrades. So on the day my wife was celebrating her birthday, no acknowledgement! I went to the desk and was told the decorations were probably sent to the room we had been previously booked in. Princess needs to communicate a little better between their office and their ships.
Casino- as with most ships, the slots were a lot looser the first couple of days. We spent some time here every day and ended up slightly ahead for the week.
Pizza and hamburgers poolside on deck 15 were excellent. As close to real New York style pizza as you can get outside of New York.
Ice cream bar- they only offer soft serve vanilla or chocolate ice cream in cones. Maybe because of the volume of ice cream being given out, the ice cream was never fully frozen, so as soon as the cone is handed to you its already melting onto your hand. The few times I went here I had to throw the cone out since it was making such a mess. A cup of ice cream is not an offered option here but should be.
Daily happy hour- from 4-7pm all of the bars offer a $3.99 drink special. Only problem is the four mixed drinks are the same everyday. They offered a pina colada, Long Island Iced tea and two other drinks.
This was the first cruise line that allowed us to carry on board a bottle of wine each. This was a huge plus for us to be able to enjoy a glass of wine of our own choosing for just the price of the bottle. The dinning rooms will charge you a $15 uncorking fee if you bring the bottle to the dinning rooms. We avoided this by just poring a glass in our cabin and carrying it with us to dinner.
Overall as I said before, one of the best cruises we have taken so far. The ship was nearly full with about three thousand people aboard. (30 children) Never did I feel like the ship was crowded. With just a little common sense you will be able to get a seat in the theater, or restaurant by arriving a little early. I saw people complaining because they couldnt find a seat in the theater at show time. Really people? The weather was fantastic all week. I failed to bring my bathing suit since I thought I was cruising New England and Canada in October. Many people on the ship did not make that same mistake and enjoyed the pools onboard most days.
Princess will not be doing this itinerary next summer, but will do the same cruise starting in September 2012. Since we had such a good time we are already considering repeating this cruise next year.