This was a "sisters" cruise for two of us 40-somethings. We had a splendid time on the Emerald Princess and together. We found the itinerary to be fabulous with 6 ports of call (including Princess Cays) and 3 wonderful sea days.
Flights and pre-cruise stay:
My sister flew Jet Blue (free 1st checked bag) and I flew Spirit (they have a charge for carry-ons and checked bags). She got free soda, I was offered it for $3. We both paid $240 R/T for our tickets. She flew from Boston, I flew from Chicago.
We stayed overnight at the Cambria Suites -â€“ Dania Beach/FLL. Our AAA rate was $99.89 including tax. The king suite was perfect for us, very spacious and clean with a king bed and pull-out sofa. No tub in the room but a very nice shower. Breakfast was not included in the price, but good free coffee was. The room had a coffeemaker, small fridge and microwave. We ate dinner at the Cuban restaurant Las Vegas, which is very close to the property. Also a K-mart within walking distance to buy Pepsi for the voyage. They also provide free shuttles to/from the airport and the port.
Easy and no trouble. Got to the port at 10:45 and had to wait till around noon to board (in Group #1), boarded and found our cabin ready for us. Dropped off our backpacks and went for lunch in the Horizon Court. When we received our bags (were in the cabin after we ate) I found a tear in my bag that was not there after our flight, so I took it to Passenger Services, filled out the appropriate forms to have Princess fix it and they did within several days.
We had E229, an Obstructed View cabin. We were pleased with the view (a post to the far left and the top of a lifeboat) and loved the natural light. A typical cabin with 2 twins and the nice closet space. Our mattress toppers and top sheets were not on the beds as we had requested, but by evening our steward Carlito had everything taken care of. Being forward and close to the theater, we only heard music and rumblings a few times...but it was not bothersome.
Captain and crew:
The captain was Giorgio Pomata. The hotel manager was Peter Hollinson and the Cruise Director was Billy London, who we just loved! He has so much charisma and excitement! The best CD I have ever had. And the crew we found, all around, to be very pleasant, respectful, helpful and happy. Enjoying their jobs. Not as stressed as the crew on the Caribbean Princess, when we sailed in September.
We had the early seating in the DaVinci Dining Room at 5:30. Our wait staff, Andrei and Ayla were wonderful, attentive and personable. The food was good to very good. The best veal chop, one evening, that I have ever had. A couple of nights the service slowed some because the DaVinci became an "Anytime Dining" venue. We were seated at a table for six with two couples whose company we enjoyed very much.
Breakfasts were in the DaVinci on sea days and HC on port days to get going ASAP. Lunch in the HC or the International Cafe. Good selection in the HC with always something tasty to eat and the IC has incredibly delicious and sinful choices to make.
Princess Cays: Quite rough waters getting there made for a Disney-like adventure ride in the tenders. I loved it, my sister not so much! Very windy. I got in the big waves but snorkeling was impossible. Enjoyed the beach chairs but when we saw the sky darkening, we decided to head back to the ship. Good decision. Those on the island got a good soaking! I must applaud the tender operators and how they do their job in these conditions!
St. Thomas: We docked at Crown Bay next to a Navy vessel. Interesting. We used Godfrey's Tours for our day here. He was 20 minutes late picking us up due to picking up other passengers at Havensight Dock, but we had enough time to do some shopping in Charlotte Amalie before heading up to Mountaintop to view beautiful Megan's Beach/Bay and have a "Famous Banana Daiquiri". The bus was a covered open-air type vehicle and Godfrey gave us commentary as we drove along. Our final stop was Coki Beach where there was a good place for my sister to learn how to snorkel and the water there was amazing. The tour cost $29 pp and considered it a very good deal.
Dominica: We went on the "Roseau Valley Wet Tour" with Levi Baron of Bumpiing Tours. It was $47 pp and worth every penny and more. Levi is just an amazing guide with energy, enthusiasm and a deep love for his island. We started off at Champagne Reef where we snorkeled in the bubbly waters. Levi provided good snorkeling equipment. Next we traveled (in a very nice van with A/C) to Titou Groge to test our mettle. This is where part of Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. Not for the weak of mind or spirit. The water was cold, it was dark and challenging but so worth doing. No A/C needed in the van after that experience as we drove to Trafalgar Falls. The twin falls were nice but the real enjoyment came when we got to soak in the natural hot springs and warm our bodies up. Lovely experience. On our drive back to the ship we drove through the Botanic Garden and up to Morne Bruce, where we had a fine view of the ship docked in Roseau. We had a wonderful day with Levi and the other people in our group.
Grenada: Despite it being the "Spice Island" we opted for snorkeling. We went with Native Spirit Diving and snorkeled at 3 different sites. One was the Underwater Sculpture Park, which we found to be the most crowded (ship excursion there also) and visibility quite poor (it had rained heavily the day prior). The next two sites were far superior with more fish and no other boats. I got to see a Spotted Drum, which to me is always a highlight. Had great rum punch on the way back to the ship. Bought an aromatic spice necklace from a girl on the street and hung it in our bathroom ? Enjoyed the welcoming bands Grenada had.
Bonaire: Being an avid snorkeler myself, we booked with The Woodwind for a snorkel trip to Klein Bonaire. I cannot say enough good about the staff and their superb treatment of the passengers on the catamaran. Great snorkeling advice, explanations about the preserve and the sea life there. The only downside was that I was placed in an "experienced snorkelers" group and we were always kept out in 20-30ft deep water. Yes, we saw several turtles and angelfish, trumpetfish, etc. but we were never allowed in the shallower water where we could see better. My sister was in the "beginners" group and they stayed close in. Next time I would say I was a beginner to get a better look at things and be able to take pictures. They served a nice selection of beverages, sandwiches and goodies on the way back. We cleaned up on the ship, ate lunch then went out shopping...fun!
Aruba: We took the Princess excursion "Arikok National Park Hike & Beach". The park was fascinating and a ranger, Rambo (and he looked like one), gave us a guided hike explaining the flora and fauna on the island. It was beautiful and fascinating. Then we drove to Arashi Beach where we enjoyed the gorgeous beach and floating in perfectly clear,warm water. After cleaning up and eating lunch on the ship, I ventured out into lovely Oranjestad for some shopping.
Activities and entertainment on the ship: The comedian Gary DeLena was hilarious. He had us laughing for almost an hour. Zumba was fun and I attended each class, but the ones held by the pool got really really hot. Fun anyway and I am sure it was hilarious for others to watch. It is better suited for Club Fusion, where it was held once, because of the heat factor. The Enrichment Series featured a retired Cal-Tech Professor, Dr. Charles Frazee, who spoke on the history of the Caribbean. Extremely interesting talks with good slides. Because we sailed on Veteran's Day, Princess had a Remembrance Service which was done respectfully and led by the Assistant CD Colin Banyard. We went to the Sing-A-Long with Barrington "Barty" Brown and enjoyed the fun of singing old songs our grandmother had loved. The International Crew Show was also very good. Great talent amongst the crew! And Billy London and his staff had the most outrageously funny skits.
We did not attend either of the "big" production shows but opted to work out instead in the empty gym after dinner. The movie "The Help" played one evening and "Secretariat" during the day, which we loved. Watching a movie at night is great fun with the popcorn, cookies and milk.
Disembarkation: Easy. Got a taxi to the airport.
Overall: WE LOVED THIS CRUISE! The itinerary, the crew, the activities, the ports, the food, the sun....99% of everything.
The only complaints I had were (1) the new coffee cards -â€“ not cost effective if you just want good fresh brewed coffee and dislike the brown stuff served in the HC/dining rooms -â€“ I do not understand, we are fed lobster but can't have decent coffee unless we pay? And (2) Princess needs to place many more hand sanitizer dispensers around the ship, especially at all the eating venues. That's it.