This was another really great cruise with Princess aboard the Caribbean Princess. A very large ship with over 3000 other passengers journeying to some wonderful Caribbean destinations.
After 18hrs of travelling from our home just outside London, England, with flights on Iberia Airlines from London to Madrid and then on to San Juan, Puerto Rico, we arrived at the ship late in the early evening (6.00pm local time)some what jaded. The flights with Iberia were well below what expected of Spain's national carrier airline on international routes. The service on both flights was poor, the in-flight catering was terrible (nothing at all on the London to Madrid leg) and the in-flight entertainment was a joke. They really need to smarten their act up.
Embarkation was a breeze, and getting off/from the airport transfer bus to our cabin took no more than 15 minutes.
Our cabin on Aloha deck (A735) was clean, tidy and as ever a little on the snug side, but that was what we expected having cruised with Princess a number of times before. Our cabin steward Nora introduced herself shortly after our arrival and arranged for a couple of robes. Nora was one of the best cabin stewards we have had on any cruise we have taken. She was so attentive, polite, friendly and a really lovely person, she looked after us so well and kept our cabin in tip top order, thanks Nora.
Our luggage was a little late in arriving, and we were so tired after the travelling we wanted to go to bed, however after a call to the customer service desk it turned up within 10 minutes.
Having left port in San Juan Puerto Rico at 11.00pm we were on our way to visit, St. Thomas (USVI), Tortola (BVI), Antigua, Dominica, Barbados, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Grenada, Bonaire and Aruba, what a fantastic itinerary.
We enjoyed our visit to all the islands with our favourites being, St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbados, St. Maarten, Grenada and Aruba. We took a number of tours, either organised independently by ourselves before the trip or through Princess in advance, or just mooched around the town where the ship docked. I have added more detailed information about our ports of call under the "Ports review" section.
The service on the ship from all the ships personal was as ever with Princess of a high standard. The customer service desk, bar staff, shore excursions desk, captains circle and the general ship's company were first class. A special mention for the guys and gals in Horizon Court (buffet restaurant) who were brilliant. They were very caring and always friendly and helpful. We really liked having the cutlery and coffee/juice served directly at the table by the wait staff, a nice touch. The food served at this buffet we find is always varied and appealing with loads of choices. I am intrigued when people criticize the Horizon Court food, I just wonder what food they eat at home.
The Cruise Directors entertainment team worked hard and we enjoyed a number of their activities, particularly the Ultimate Deck Party and Trivia quizzes. The overall entertainment programme was varied and very wide ranging from Showtime entertainment, crooner signing at the piano bar, bingo, trivia, sports shows in Churchill's bar and on the big screen, professional dance programmes, the wedding game show and almost everything in between. There was something for almost everyone, although we found some of the activities not to our liking. The Princess singers and dancers tried hard but were a little amateurish and need to sharpen there performances and some of the shows have been on the Princess rota for some time now and need to be changed out. There were a couple of comedians on the cruise and "Carlos Oscar" an American comic was brilliant, we saw his show on 2 occasions, he had 2 sets which were just outstanding. The English comic, and bear in mind we are English, was rubbish, he could just not connect with the audience.
Like a lot of the Princess fleet now the Caribbean Princess features "Movies under the Stars" (MUTS) with a very large outdoor screen at the pool area. This screen and it's sound system plays music concerts and films during the day and evening. The sound of this system is very very loud and in my opinion (and a number of other people we spoke with) interferes with the enjoyment of being around the pool. This facility has moved from what was a great nighttime cinema late afternoon music concert facility, showing a movie once people have finished with the pool, to a loud and now uninviting place to sit during the day. The pool area where MUTS is located was almost always under occupied, I can only assume because people found it too loud.
Our major criticism of this cruise was that is was advertised as a "14 Day Southern Caribbean Grand Adventure" however is was really two 7 day back to back (b2b) cruises sailing on 2 different loops out of Puerto Rico. We have not taken a b2b cruise before and although we visited different ports of call on both weeks our major disappointment was that the menus in the restaurants and the entertainment repeated themselves in the 2nd week. Also that on our return to Puerto Rico after 7 days we had to disembark the ship and go through a scaled down immigration process, get a new cruise card and shipboard account and effectively start a 2nd cruise. This was not explained to us at all when we booked the holiday, or before the trip. None of this phased us but it would have been nice to know what was going to happen before we left for the trip. Come on Princess keep your customers better informed.
Whilst Caribbean Princess is a lovely ship, and has recently (Nov 11) been in dry dock for a spruce up, there were a number of areas that need some attention. In the public areas of the ship these include, marked and chipped paint, mucky and streaky windows, carpet showing signs of age, deck matting worn and frayed, outside wood handrails need varnishing, a number of sun loungers broken and mis-functional and rubbish/trash on the deck water run off areas.
In our cabin there were there some areas that also need attention, these being scratched and marked paint work on the balcony, light fittings tarnished and worn, rusting around the air conditioning inlet, chipped and marked furniture , grubby carpet, squeaky floor by the wardrobe area and the bathroom sink basin overflow pipe was not connected which caused a mishap in the bathroom one day.
Whilst these are not major issues we have noticed what I would describe as a slipping in standards since our last cruise with Princess in April 2010 on Coral Princess.
Disembarkation and Border Agency clearance was very straight forward although there were some lines to get through passport control. We took a Princess tour on our last day, to the Rain Forest in Puerto Rico, as our flights (Puerto Rico to New York and then London) back to the UK were not leaving San Juan until 6.30pm. We were disappointed at Princess's arrangement for our last day as we had purchased in advance from Princess transfers from the ship to the airport, and our options were to take an optional tour (which we did) or be transferred to the airport at 10am, (arriving there by 10.30am) and sit around until 6.30pm for our flight. Whilst I like airports I did not want to sit around there for 8 hours waiting for our flight. When we took a Caribbean cruise with Princess before (albeit 4 or 5 years ago) we were taken to an airport hotel to use the facilities and then transferred to the airport later in the afternoon. I guess the approach now is to sell more excursions.!!!!!!
We had a wonderful cruise and enjoyed the "Princess Experience" and will be back for more cruises in the future.