We had only been on one previous cruise, and that was an Alaskan Cruise-tour in August of 2010 on the Diamond Princess. Therefore our basis of comparison is quite limited. We enjoyed that trip and decided to leave the Indiana winter for one week in January 2012 to experience a Caribbean cruise. Since we enjoyed the Diamond Princess, we decided to stay with Princess. One of the advantages was that the layout of the ship was very familiar to us, and getting around the ship was very easy.
We flew into FLL the day before we were to start our cruise. We did not want to risk any last minute weather delays getting to the ship by flying in on cruise day. We had purchased the transfer from the airport to the Embassy Suites from Princess. The transfer went smoothly. Check in was quick and we were quickly in our room. The Embassy Suites was very similar to the one in Indianapolis, so there was no surprise for us. There were restaurants close by for eating. The morning breakfast was adequate and similar to the one in Indy.
On the day of embarkation, a Sunday, the luggage was picked up from our room shortly after 9:00. All Princess transfer passengers were to meet at 11:00 in the lobby; however, the Princess rep did not get there until 15 or 20 minutes after 11. We were given colored tags representing which bus was to take us to the terminal; we were on bus #1. We had to view and identify our luggage in the holding area or it would not be marked for transfer to the ship. I guess this was so that we could ensure our picked up luggage was actually in the holding area and not in some other place in the hotel. We had attached the Princess luggage tag to each piece of luggage; so we did not see our luggage again until it had been delivered to our stateroom.
Information we had been given indicated that embarkation would begin at 12:30. We arrived at the terminal around 12:15. In spite of the very long lines, which I thought would make the embarkation process very slow, the embarkation was a breeze. The line moved along smoothly; we received our key cards and cleared security; and we were on board within 30 to 40 minutes. We knew where our stateroom was because it was exactly two rooms from where we had been on the Diamond. We checked the room out which was identical to the one on Diamond, put our valuables in the safe, and went to the Horizon Court for lunch.
After lunch we had the muster exercise and our luggage was delivered to our room. We unpacked. There was a sufficient number of hangers for our hanging clothes and shelf or drawer space for our other items. The small size of the room and and especially the bathroom was no surprise since it was identical to our prior experience. We picked our stateroom on the Caribe deck near the center of the ship. We did this to minimize the sounds and the motion. This location is also not far from the center set of elevators that go down to the Piazza or up to the deck with the Horizon Court. Our room steward was excellent in cleaning the room, turning down the bed, keeping the ice bucket filled. He always called us by name, Mr & Mrs .....
We thought the food was good. We ate all of our breakfasts in the Horizon Court. The choice was good, the food good, the service for coffee, tea, and juice was acceptable. The servers were polite. For the evening meals we chose anytime dining and always planned to eat at 5:30 in the Michelangelo room. Again the choices were adequate; but the menu was exactly as the one on the Diamond. The wait was minimal the first two nights. We shared a table with really nice people both nights. On the first formal night we were seated with three other couples. We got along so well together we made a reservation for each of the remaining nights for the same time, same table, etc. Our server and helper were outstanding. They were very attentive, timely, and even suggested a menu item to NOT choose. The fish and chips in the Wheelhouse Bar for lunch on the two sea days was very good. The International Cafe had excellent baked goods and salads. We supplemented breakfast with their pastries. The shrimp salad and chicken salad were very good. I thought the pizza was so/so. We enjoyed the soft serve ice cream quite often.
We liked the entertainment on the ship. The two comedians were good; the production shows were entertaining. The production shows were at 8:30 and 10:30; we ate at 5:30 so we could go to the 8:30 shows. If you were not in the theater by 10 to 15 minutes prior to showtime, you could not find a seat. Since we are not night owls, we do not know how the attendance was for the later show.
We liked to dance ballroom style, but the dance floors were small and quite crowed. It seemed like a complete ballroom dance club was on the ship together, so space on the dance floor was hard to find. The musicians were good, so we listened more than danced.
We liked Princess Cays. The weather was great. We found lounge chairs in the shade of a palm tree and spent the day there. The buffet was good for a buffet fixed on shore. There were burgers, hot dogs, brats, ribs, chicken wings, salads, baked beans, dessert.
We did not purchase excursions at the other ports; but we will next time. We are not shoppers, so after walking through the shopping area, we returned to the ship and spent most of the day there. Next time we will definitely do some sightseeing tours. The scenery was beautiful, shopping opportunities bountiful, recreational choices plentiful at St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk.
The weather was good for most of our trip. The second night, the sea day from Princess Cay to St. Maarten, and the night before arriving at St. Maarten was quite windy resulting in a lot of movement of the ship with creaking and groaning at night. That is not the fault of Princess though. We took bonine with us in case we needed it, and it did the job.
Disembarkation was a breeze. It went so fast. Luggage picked up the night before. We met with our group at the specified time. We were led off the ship, obtained our luggage in the terminal, cleared customs, and were on a transfer bus to the airport in plenty of time. Actually we had an 11:30 flight and were at the airport by 8:45. Our group met at 7:50 in the Explorer Lounge.
We are looking forward to our next Princess cruise.