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Great first cruise
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Being first-timers, we have nothing to compare it to, but we found our cruise on the Emerald Princess to be very enjoyable. Embarkation and debarkation were smooth and quick, not at all the chaos we'd been led to expect. The staff were excellent, the food was great and so was the entertainment. We visited six ports and enjoyed them all. We had a bit of rain and rough water, but that's hardly Princess' fault, and, unlike some horror stories we'd heard, nothing went wrong with the ship and no one got sick.
We had an inside cabin, which would have been boring had we spent any time in it. However, we just slept there and spent all our time on deck or in the various lounges, so I'd recommend an inside cabin as a good way to save money. The cabin was large enough, and very queen (refreshed twice daily.) There was individual temperature control, which worked very well.
We took four tours booked with Princess, and one we found on our own. Advance booking is less trouble, but More
on-the-spot is cheaper. I think next time we'd book fewer tours in advance and more on the spot. The "official" tours were all as advertised and quite satisfactory, just a bit overpriced.
We travelled to and from Fort Lauderdale on Southwest -- right on time, friendly and efficient. We stayed for one night at the Marriott Cruise Port/Airport hotel before boarding the ship. I think everyone there was going on a cruise. The place is fine but there's no other reason to stay there. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We wandered the town in the morning, it's rather bedraggled, then took the eco-kayaking, bird island, snorkel and hike tour through Princess. This is billed as a "most strenuous" tour but is really quite moderate -- half an hour of hiking, 45 min of snorkeling, and a 20 minute hike to the top of a fairly steep hill. We're in our sixties and had not trouble -- not for those in wheelchairs or walkers though.
We started with a fast ride in a speedboat to the kayaking area. The kayaking was in a mangrove swamp on sit-upon kayaks and was fun. Seat backs would have helped! Another speedboat ride to the snorkeling. Snorkels and fins were provided free of charge and we saw quite a bit of coral and lots of fish. A drink of rum punch finished off the tour. Really a fine afternoon!
We toured the island by bus then went to the caves. It was a rainy day, but that didn't matter in the caves! The caves are spectacular and well worth the trip. There is a modern interpretive center, and some beautiful gardens.
This is one tour that is worth booking in advance. We talked to a couple who just took a taxi to the caves. They were told there was a two hour wait and they didn't have time. We went straight in with the pre-booked tour.
Nice beach, not much else. The weather was very windy, so we didn't get to rent a little sailboat as we had hoped. The swimming was good though, and we did a little snorkeling. There was also a good barbecue. The ship stands offshore, and you go in by tender. That was fun, especially since the water was quite rough.
Romney Manor was a bit disappointing, basically some very nice grounds and a store selling Batik. There was supposed to be a demonstration of batik making but that didn't happen. This is a tour that would probably be cheaper to book on the spot and would likely yield similar results.
The fortress was impressive with a great view.
We spent the whole day on a tour: "Sulphur Springs, the Pitons, Scenic Cruise & Lunch", booked through Princess. This tour is expensive, but worth it. We saw the whole island, had lunch at a restored plantation, and enjoyed a great long ride in a catamaran that took us right back to the ship. There was swimming on the way back, but you had to provide your own equipment if you wanted to snorkel.
We looked at the town in the morning -- lots of diamond shops, not too much else. In the afternoon we joined a tour of the island that stopped at Coki Beach. This was excellent value for $25, and about half the price of the equivalent tour booked with Princess. Coki Beach is right next to Coral World, and has a place to rent snorkels etc. We did that, and saw some coral, lots of fish, and even one stingray. It was a Sunday and lots of locals were there, adding to the festive air. We'd been told to expect to be harassed to buy things, but that didn't happen. We had a great time on our first locally booked tour. There's no worry here about getting back to the ship --- the tour operators don't collect any money in advance, you pay when you get back.
Same tour as above. We went to the top of the island and saw great views, not to mention the largest souvenir shop I've ever seen!