My wife and I are in our early 50's and we chose this cruise because it was 10 days long instead of the usual 7 day cruises that we have been on in the past. It always seems like 7 days is just a little too short. This was our first time on Princess and we were interested on how it compared to Royal Caribbean, which is the only line we have cruised on before. The demographic was definitely much older than RCL and probably had something to do with the length of the cruise and it being during the school year. I swear there were only about 6 kids on the whole ship.
Flew into Ft Lauderdale the night before, stayed in a hotel, and was efficiently shuttled to the pier by the hotel. Boarding was efficient, no long lines, and we were aboard and checking out our stateroom in a matter of minutes. Plenty of ship employees offering directions and assistance. We went up to the Horizon to have a bite of lunch and by the time we got back to the stateroom, all the luggage had arrived.
The ship was beautiful as well as clean and well-maintained. Although this ship is the same size as the RCL ships we've sailed on in the past, where the RCL ship is very open, Princess divides the ship up into a lot more separate and intimate areas. First time we've ever booked an inside room and it worked out fine. We've found in the past, we spend very little time in the room and any extra features just go to waste with us. Wall to wall mirrors at each end of the room make it appear much larger than it actually is.
We went with the scheduled 8:15 pm dinner in the dining room because we like to have plenty of time from playing on the islands to get ready for dinner. We had 2 other great couples at our table and thoroughly enjoyed their company the entire cruise. The waiters were great, attentive, courteous, and friendly, with some personality. The food was delicious, well prepared, and there was a good variety.
We ate breakfast everyday in the Horizon and the food was very good. There were several staples that you could count on every morning, but they offered some different items each day as well. We did not go hungry. Breakfast was somewhat challenging when looking for a table to sit at once you had your food. But, we were able to share tables with others, and quite often met some pretty interesting people. Although breakfast was quite busy, we never really stood in any long lines to get our food.
We would often have lunch or snack from the cafÃ© in the atrium. The shrimp salad is awesome and of course, they had all kinds of desserts available from the bakery. Sometimes lunch was pizza or burgers by the pool, which was very good. Get a big plate of fries and finish it off with some soft ice cream from the ice cream bar.
The one place where we feel that Princess fell down pretty severely was the entertainment. After cruising with RCL we were kind of spoiled by the quality of the production shows and the quality of the musicians and groups. Other than the Beatles show, most of the shows were pretty average and mostly lip-synched. We have always enjoyed a good piano bar guy, but the one on this cruise was pretty bad. If you like 30's show tunes he is your man, but his voice is not very good and probably should have retired a few years back. There was one band that seemed to play all the time. They had them play during the day and were the one group that played well into the evening. They were very, very average at best and were way over exposed, as we heard some of their tunes over and over. There was one good jazz band, but they always finished right about the time we were finishing dinner. We got to hear them once for 15 minutes and they were excellent. And this is where the main problem lies. The scheduling was terrible. It seemed like a lot of the shows and music conflicted with dinner and each other. We've never been on a cruise where we had so much difficulty with the schedule. Yes, you usually have to make choices, but that wasn't the case here. The schedule is simply not well thought out. And, I don't know if it's because of the age of most of the folks on board, but any nightlife after 10 pm was severely limited. A bright point was the string quartet that played in the atrium every day. They were quite good.
We made 6 ports on the cruise. We found something to enjoy on each one. We're not big shoppers, so we pretty much turn a deaf ear to all the sales pitches, both on the ship and on the shore. In the past, we've taken excursions through the ship, but this time we decided to go out on our own. I just googled info for every island we were going to visit and decided on the best beaches to visit. Then it was simply a matter of getting a taxi, water taxi, or public bus to take us where we wanted to go. Most of the time this took us away from the rest of the tourists and often it felt like we had the island to ourselves. We never felt uneasy or unsafe at any of the locations.
Princess Cayes -â€“ only stop where we had to tender to the beach. We walked all the way to the end of the beach and were all by ourselves. People have a tendency to walk a few feet from the dock and stop. Walk a little more and you will have a lot more quiet and you can relax.
St. Thomas -â€“ taxi to Koki beach. A little bit more of a locals beach, but absolutely beautiful. White, sandy beaches and some pretty good snorkeling. Bring your own gear and you never have to worry about renting or finding a place to rent.
Dominica -â€“ taxi to Champagne beach. Not much in the way of sandy beaches on this island, but some pretty decent snorkeling. Bubbles come up out of the ocean floor from volcanic fissures.
Grenada -â€“ walked around the town, soaked up the scenery, perused the fort on the hill, and enjoyed some time with the locals in the marketplace. Then a water taxi to Grand Anse, a nice, white sandy beach away from everyone else. No decent snorkeling, but some nice relaxation in the surf. There are so many very nice beaches on Grenada.
Bonaire -â€“ a little walking around the town while we waited for our turn on the water taxi and then we were on the boat and headed out to Klein Bonaire. The best snorkeling and an awesome beach as well. The water is crystal clear and the reef is pristine.
Aruba -â€“ much more commercialized than any other island. But, we hopped on the public bus and for $1.50 it took us all the way to the end of the island where we plopped down on Arashi beach, another beautiful sandy beach. Snorkeling wasn't bad either. We relaxed, away from the hotels and Burger Kings, and pretty much all the other tourists.
The two sea days on the way back to Ft Lauderdale allowed us to relax and take in some of the amenities of the ship that we had missed when we were on the islands. The big screen over the pool is pretty cool. Make sure to have the afternoon tea and absolutely have the scones. Getting off the ship was a breeze and we went ahead and had Princess shuttle us and our luggage to the airport.
Bottom line, it was a nice, relaxing, enjoyable cruise. We never felt on edge or that we needed to be somewhere at a certain time. Probably because we didn't book excursions or worry about the shopping demo's. The food was very good, the service was excellent. I can honestly say I did not have one ship employee act anything less than helpful and friendly. The ship-board entertainment was disappointing, but the islands more than made up for that.