Embarkation at Port Everglades
We (me, my wife and son) flew into Fort Lauderdale airport (FLL) a two days before the cruise and rented a car. Upon returning the car at FLL the day of the cruise I became aware that Budget, National and I believe Avis offer a free bus shuttle to Port Everglades. I also noticed that Thrifty rent a car has a site right outside the entrance to Port Everglades and offers a free shuttle. While the cab fare with tip runs a reasonable $17.00 per car load there may be a total cost advantage by renting from one of the companies that offers the shuttle. Also, if you fly in to FLL and head right over to the Port avoid the $11.00 per person bus shuttle if you have a party of 2 or more -- cheaper and faster to take a cab.
We arrived at the terminal 1:00PM and were on the ship in 10 minutes. Can't do better than that!
Impression of the Ship
We have been on 4 prior cruises (Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Crown Princess) and found the Grand Princess Appearance was on par with all the other newer ships. One thing is for sure -- there is plenty of staff on board the ship. Everywhere we went and everything we did had plenty of staff on hand to assist you. Our room steward Ricco was very friendly, efficient and accommodating to our needs.
Overall we were very pleased with the food selection and quality. As full suite passengers we eat breakfast each day at Sabatini's which had a limited menu but standout service. The buffet food was very typical of the large ships but stood out for the availability of staff to help carry trays and pour beverages. We eat lunch most days in the buffet and enjoyed nice salads each day. Dinner was anytime and we eat in both DaVinci and Michangelo dining rooms. On all occasions the food was tasty, beautifully presented and served in a non rushed fashion. Each evening we had a great set of waiters who were readily available and anxious to please. We eat one night in Sabatini's and had a wonderful meal with truly outstanding service.
Our shipped docked within a ten minute walk to Old San Juan. We walked the streets of Old San Juan and visited the Fort San Cristobal. A very pleasant three hours at San Juan all achieved without the expense of booking an excursion or transportation.
The distance from the ship docks to Philisburg is a very manageable 15- 20 minutes on a sidewalk leading into town. The town is your typical Caribbean port city. The city is pleasant to walk around but the same old shops and offerings. We decided to go to Maho Beach to watch the planes come in over the beach. For fans of aviation this is a real treat as the planes (including a 747) come roaring in just a few feet over your head. Here's a tip -- The taxi buses leaving from the ship charge $11.00 per person each way to Maho beach. At the tourist taxi/bus stop in Philisburg the cost is $9 per person each way. A block outside the main drag the same taxi/bus service used by the native people charges $2.00 per person each way. There is a steady stream of these taxi/buses and you simply just flag them down and get off where ever you please.
The distance from the ship docks to downtown Charlotte Amalie is a reasonable two miles. We like to walk after breakfast so we headed off on the two mile walk. Big mistake -- there are sections of this walk where there are no sidewalks. While most of the walk is on paved sidewalks you walk along side a very busy road and the air pollution was terrible. A very unpleasant walk to say the least. Charlotte Amalie had the best shopping on the trip and is especially good for purchases of fine jewelry.
A fine way to relax and end a trip.
The best part of the cruise! We enjoyed all the performances in the Princess Theatre and though the Princess dancers and singers were simply terrific. We also found the String Quartet and the comedy shows in the Vista lounge to be very good. Entertainment in the various lounges was fun and we spent time in each one. Finally, the Duo Push show that appeared in the main atrium twice a day was a lot of fun to watch and shouldn't be missed.