A little bit of background info. Myself (Andrew) and my spouse (Brad) have cruised previously with Princess & P&O. We lead very hectic lives and are always non-stop. When we vacation, which isn't as frequently as we'd like, we like to relax and enjoy each other's company. I call it like I see it and this cruise, IMO, was beyond excellent.
To explain more:
We always stay at the Hyatt Pier 66. Excellent views. Excellent Service. This stay was no exception. I am friends with Ben, the corporate travel manager, who arranged for us to have room 1369. Very high floor. Expansive views. Wrap around balcony. Truly spectacular. We arrived a little after 2pm. Checked in with no problems and headed out to the pool to get some sun. Little did I know Ben had arranged to have Champagne and dessert delivered to our room. Additionally, Brad surprised me at sunset on the balcony with 2 beautiful Tiffany & Co. rings. We call them "Committed but never want to get married" rings. We spent the evening watching the ships and sipping champagne.
Day 1: Embarkation
Used Park & Fly. Arrived to the port around 11am. Got to check in at 1130am. And we were in our cabin (C752) before 12 noon. Awesome job Princess. We explored the ship, did some people watching and enjoyed sail away from our balcony with a bucket of beer and room service. Dinner was in the Michelangelo dining room. We were seated by headwaiter Antonio in Suttipong and Flora's section. This was the start of flawless service. More on this later. After dinner we gambled and spent the evening on the balcony drinking vino.
Day 2: Sea Day
Had a light breakfast. Brad went to the gym. I read. Then headed up to deck 17 to tan the day away. Dressed for formal night. Bleghhh. Had a great dinner and enjoyed the balcony.
Day 3: Sea Day
Similar to the day prior. However we decided to try the Crown Grille. Made a reservation for 830pm and we didn't get out of the restaurant till almost 11pm. Truly a wonderful and exquisite dining experience. Well worth $25PP.
Day 4: Aruba
Been here before. No tour planned. Did some shopping. Found free Wi-Fi at Starbucks. Gambled (and lost money) at one of the casinos. Got back on the ship around 1 and spent the afternoon and evening in a deserted hot tub watching sail away.
Day 5: Bonaire
Took the princess excursion water taxi to Klein Bonaire. Gorgeous weather. Gorgeous snorkeling. Had a blast. I would rather spend every day under water with the fish than every day above water with the humans.
Day 6: Grenada
Was most looking forward to today. And was the biggest let down of the cruise. Last time we were here we booked a Princess excursion that took us on an island tour and then dropped us off at a private resort at Grand Anse Beach. This time we just skipped the tour and took a water taxi over. WORST. IDEA. EVER. Drivers refused to leave until every single seat was filled. Once we got to the beach there were more locals than tourists trying to sell everything from lounge chairs to umbrellas to beer to pot to food to hand made baskets. What was supposed to be a relaxing day turned into being harassed by locals every 5 minutes. Even with our headphones in our ears and listening to music they would come over and tap our feet to get our attention. WE WILL NEVER GO TO GRAND ANSE BEACH AGAIN UNLESS WE GET A PASS THROUGH A RESORT. Just a terrible day and so disappointing. We spent, at most, 1.5 hours there and headed back to the ship. And again, the water taxi wouldn't leave until every seat was filled. Never again!!! Our evening was filled with our usual ritual. A much nicer end to a gross day.
Day 7: Dominica
We love it here. Booked a Trafalgar Falls excursion through Princess. We got up early and met our guide who was sweet, information and funny. Probably the best tour we took on Princess. Went to Mount Bruce (sp?) and the botanical gardens and then the falls. Had a great little hike and got to a great lookout spot. Awesome pictures and surprisingly nice weather for the rainforest. Headed back to the port and purchased some coffee and went back on board and spent the afternoon reading on the balcony. Tonight was the captain's circle party that we avoided like the plague. As much as we would like to stand in a long line to enter Club Fusion and sip on a poorly made watered down drink, we skipped this.
Day 8: St. Thomas
We have been here so many times that we've lost count. We booked a Princess excursion to take us to paradise point via sky ride. This was a total bust. They cram 8 people into the sky ride car, which defeats the purpose because you can't even see out the windows because of so many people. Besides the sky ride, the driver took us all over the island to some tourist spots and I got some great pictures. He dropped some of us off at Charlotte Amalie and we did some shopping and found a great little spot (CafÃ© Amici) for lunch and drinks. Headed back to the ship and spent the afternoon tanning and reading. Loved the tourist spots but won't ever do the sky ride again.
Day 9: Sea Day
Similar to the other 2 sea days. Gym. Tan. Relax. Repeat
Day 10: Princess Cays
Booked a clamshell and floats. Off the ship early. Got a great spot and soaked up the sun. Walked around the island a bit and got some more great pictures. We are beach/sun people and this stop is really one of our favorites. Even as basic as the island is we truly enjoy it.
Day 11: Disembarkation
We chose the walk off for the "able bodied." And I must say apparently Princess uses the word "able bodied" loosely since we saw MULTIPLE elderly couples trying to manage their 6 suitcases. We met at 7am. Was off the ship by 730. And back in our car on the highway at 745.
We have had issues with this in the past yet this cruise was borderline perfect. Food was excellent (although a small amount of dishes either lacked flavor or were just too salty). We ate all our dinners in the Michelangelo dining room with the exception of the Crown Grill and every night was an event to remember. From the food to the atmosphere to the service (which I will explain later). Ironically, on the last 2 cruises we always went to Vines before dinner for Sushi and Vino. This cruise we went twice. Terrible & rude staff. Oh well. We didn't starve. Additionally, we ate at the buffet maybe 3 times during the cruise and the food and service was always great but we just weren't all that hungry after a massive dinner from the night prior. And the International cafÃ© was wonderful as always.
No complaints. Everything was always spotless. They decorated for Christmas while in Aruba. The holiday dÃ©cor around the ship was beautiful.
We booked C752 a year in advance. Love this cabin. Love the location. Love the balcony. An oasis in the middle of 3,000 people. We also had great neighbors. Always quiet and polite. Additionally our cabin steward Angelo was quick and efficient. This was the first cruise where we never went back to the cabin and the steward in there. It was like he had ESP and knew when we would be gone for a long period of time so he could clean it.
We didn't really do a lot of shows this cruise. First night was the "Welcome Aboard" show. We did this last cruise and it was pointless so we skipped it. Next was the "What A Swell Party" show. This was the show on the last cruise that made me want to cover my ears and stab my eyes out. Needless to say we didn't go to this either. Then there was the "Motown" show that we attended and enjoyed. Next was some Pop Tribute show that featured music from Tom Jones, Madonna, Britney etc. We thoroughly enjoyed the singing and dancing in this show. There was a Beatles show twice on the cruise that we had no interest in seeing. Last was some boogie shoe show that we didn't go to. Additionally we wanted to see some of the comedians but never did. Our cruise director was Tim Donovan who was wonderful.
Spa & Fitness:
We didn't use the spa but Brad said the gym was fantastic. Only negative was the useless spa employees who stood around and did nothing. But it's been like that on every cruise so it's no surprise.
Family & Children:
Being a 10-day cruise after Thanksgiving during the school year there wasn't a lot of kids on board. Which was wonderful! I can say that the few kids we saw were all VERY well behaved and a pleasure to be around. Always a nice surprise to be around polite and quiet kids.
Fantastic. Almost every employee we encountered was smiling, polite and friendly. This cruise, above all else, had the best crew. Litva (sp?) at the coffee bar was excellent. Suttipong and Flora in the dining room had just the right amount of professionalism and personality. Always laughing and joking with us while making sure our dinner experience was top notch. And lastly was Antonio, one of the head waiters in the dining room... Unlike the last cruise where the head waiters did nothing except seat people and pose for pictures. Antonio was involved. In addition to our experience, we saw him go to each and every table and make sure everyone was having a nice dinner. With us he arranged our 830 reservations at the same table every night and he also arranged special appetizers/dinners for us without us even asking. We arrived each night to different goodies. Fresh Italian meats and cheese, roasted vegetables, muscles, calamari, etc. The icing on the cake was the last night when we arrived for dinner. He had a bottle of champagne for us, muscles simmering in marinara sauce and 2 filets cooked medium rare as our dinner. All without asking. A+++++ service. He and our 2 servers really made our cruise special and something we will fondly remember. Brad and I both decided before the cruise that if the dining and service was lacking like in pervious cruises we were going to try a different line. Antonio, Suttipong and Flora changed our perspective about Princess entirely and we will sail with Princess indefinitely. I cannot say Thank You enough to them.
We use a travel agent who is wonderful and gives great perks. No complaints.
A few side notes:
There was one afternoon at the coffee bar that they had someone new working. We had never seen him before. Brad ordered our usual, iced coffee with a shot of espresso. The guy working COULD NOT UNDERSTAND what we were asking for. The situation went from frustrating to comical. We repeated ourselves so many times (no exaggeration--at least 6 times) that the customers around us were laughing hysterically and trying to tell the coffee guy what we wanted. But please Princess, PUT SOMEONE AT THE COFFEE BAR WHO UNDERSTANDS ENGLISH. I'm sure he's good at his regular job on the ship, but the coffee bar is not where he should be stationed.
Overall, this cruise had some of the friendliest passengers we have ever sailed with. Very little complaints. A great mix of young and old. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and this vibe really helped with the atmosphere of the ship. It was wonderful to go anywhere on the ship and have fellow passengers say hello and smile.
With that said, we went to the pursers desk on the second day to apply money to our bill and met a man who was YELLING AND SWEARING at a purser. Unacceptable!! I don't care how big you think your balls are, have some respect for the staff. We later found out from a friend of ours on the ship that the situation got so out of hand that the purser went in the back and cried and the captain personally called this gentleman and told him if he didn't straighten up that he would be removed from the cruise at the next port of call. Great Job Princess!!
On embarkation day, we met a woman in the atrium that asked where the Internet cafÃ© was. Brad pointed from the coffee bar to the location. She shouted at him, "I was just there. That's not where it is!" We then nicknamed her RB (can you figure out what it means?). The next day I saw her in the atrium and she asked me where the buffet was. I politely told her it was on deck 13 aft. She thanked me and went on her way. I sincerely hope she found it.
Something happened during the last night/morning. I'll preface by saying I'm a very heavy sleeper. And Brad can sleep through an atomic bomb attack. It was right around 2am and we both woke from a sound sleep and almost fell out of bed. Stuff on the nightstand went flying. Balcony furniture slid. Suitcase tipped over. The Emerald was either taking very sharp turns or a wave hit the ship. Definitely a little scary in the middle of the night.
Usually we leave the ship ready to get home and see our dogs. But this trip was certainly bittersweet. While we were ready to see out dogs, leaving the ship was tough for us. This cruise was pure perfection many thanks to the reasons listed above. We left with memories of laughter, beautiful weather and fabulous dinners. And I am thankful I'm fortunate enough to cruise and can't wait to go again. Thank you Princess and the passengers & staff of the Emerald Princess. We are ready to embark again.
A link to my pictures is listed below.