While we enjoyed our cruise, we will not be traveling on the Caribbean Princess again anytime soon, especially if she sails from San Juan. There are too many people on this ship for the size of the public rooms, and it ... Read More
While we enjoyed our cruise, we will not be traveling on the Caribbean Princess again anytime soon, especially if she sails from San Juan. There are too many people on this ship for the size of the public rooms, and it appears that Princess is heavily marketing the ship to first time cruisers, some of whom appear to be unfamiliar with normal shipboard etiquette. We were also very disappointed that Princess sold this as a 14 day cruise, but then repeated the entertainment and menu for the second week.
Travel to the Port/Embarkation
This was one of the two worst embarkations we have ever experienced, and by far the worst embarkation we've ever had with Princess. We took a taxi to the pier and arrived to chaos. There were one or two people with Princess uniforms, but no one was providing any instructions. It turned out that you were supposed to wait in one medium length line to drop off your bags (and be hassled for tips by the porters) and then get in a much longer line to enter the terminal building. We counted well over 400 people waiting when we got there, in a long line that snaked through the parking lot in the baking sun. We've traveled with Princess to many hot places, but there was no sign of their customary shade canopies or ice water. We waited in line for over an hour just to have our passports checked to be allowed into the building. Preferred boarding did not apply until you entered the building. We later heard speculation that blame for the long line was with US Immigration, who sent only two people to check passports in order to send a message to Princess for a problem that had occurred on the prior cruise. There were in fact only two agents checking passports at the door at first. Later, there were four, but they stood two in front and two behind, so the line did not move much faster because there was confusion about which passengers had already showed their passports to the two agents in front. In any event, after a long hot wait, we were finally allowed inside the building and preferred check-in was quick and painless. However, there was another long line at security and then we stood in another line for another passport check at the bottom of the escalators to get on the ship.
We had a balcony cabin on Riviera deck. It seemed smallish, with just adequate storage space for 2 people who are not big packers. The bathroom was small, and the shower was microscopic, with only a soap dish and no place to put any toiletries in the shower. Our steward took good care of us, but ice seemed to be available only on request. There was wireless internet access in the cabin but cell phone service was generally available only in port, contrary to the ads.
We had traditional second seating for dinner, where the food was good to very good and the service was excellent. We did not eat in the alternative restaurants. We ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet, where the food and service were fine but the buffet layout is lousy and the seating is inadequate for the number of passengers. Sometimes one side of the buffet was closed down at 2:00, before many people had eaten lunch, resulting in very long lines on the other side. The toasters in the buffet did not actually make toast - they struggled just to heat the bread. Lemonade was only available during lunch and only if you ask someone to fetch it for you and only on sporadic days. A Mexican buffet one day at lunch in Cafe Caribe was excellent. The International Cafe had good coffee, pastries, and light lunch selections.
One of the tickets for a pre-booked shore excursion was missing from the envelope delivered to our cabin on embarkation day - something that had never happened to us on Princess - but it was quick and easy to fix. Front desk service was excellent. The internet manager ran hot and cold. One day when we sought help with a solution to their software problem, he threatened to charge us $75 if we went even one minute (at 50 cents a minute) over our plan. In general, I thought that many of the crew members that we came across in hallways, especially the room stewards, seemed tired and unhappy. On other Princess ships, I've been impressed with the smiling greetings that you get from everyone, but not on this ship. It took a day and a half to get a fruit bowl in our cabin, also a first for us with Princess. Something that was mildly annoying was that the crew seemed to change their mind on a daily basis as to whether the line for getting off the ship was on the right or the left. We had been told that Tortola would be a tender port, which affected the plans we made for that port, but when we got there we docked instead. There also seemed to be more maintenance issues on this ship than we've experienced on other Princess ships - there were sinks, toilets, and elevators out of service for days on end.
The most striking thing about this ship is the number of people on board. Although the ship is otherwise largely the same as other ships in her class, this ship has an extra deck of cabins, resulting in 500 more people than the public rooms are suited for. The photographers on this ship are especially aggressive, and portraits are taken most nights on deck 7, resulting in the hallways being half blocked off in three different locations. You will be well aware of just how many people this ship holds when you try to walk end to end on deck 7 in the evening - it is gridlock (and you will be forced to walk through the smoky casino or walk outside).
Our biggest disappointment was that this cruise had been sold as a 14 day cruise, but we were treated as if we had booked the same 7 day cruise twice, even though the itinerary in the second week was different. The menu and the entertainment were repeated the second week. Getting off the ship to tour in San Juan on turnaround day was subject to a bunch of rules about when we could get off and when we would be allowed back on the ship. To get back on, we figured out how to skip the long line of embarking passengers in the parking lot (although nobody told us that was even possible) but still had to wait in a long security line. Halfway through the cruise, we were given new ship cards and instructed to make new arrangements for our table in the dining room. We received a log of the cruise that covered only the second week. Some of these were minor issues, but ones that passengers shouldn't have to face halfway through a 14 day cruise.
The other issue that we experienced (a first for us in over 20 cruises) related to the behavior of other passengers. It appeared to us that Princess must have heavily marketed this cruise on a discount basis to first time cruisers, which is fine, but Princess needs to be aware that the behavior of some of the new passengers may deter some of their longtime customers from coming on this ship. People played boom boxes on their balconies and out on the open deck and yelled on cell phones on balconies. People routinely walked in and out of shows, seemingly always from the middle of one of the front rows, halfway through performances. In the hallway outside our cabin, most of the inside cabins had 4 people in them. Those passengers must have found the quarters too close for their comfort, because they seemed to spend most of their time standing in the hall talking, laughing, yelling, and running, sometimes for hours at a time and sometimes very late into the night. At times, it was difficult to get out our cabin door and down the hall. Groups of teenagers congregated in elevator lobbies and on the stairways, sometimes with boom boxes, and sometimes leaving behind empty plates and glasses and discarded food. We constantly saw kids sitting on the stairs, but never saw a crew member ask them to move. There was also a lot of smoking on the nonsmoking side of the ship.
If you normally rely on the book swap in the library (or the library itself) to provide you with reading materials, forget it on this ship and bring everything you need. The library is tiny and the book swap is virtually non-existent.
The embarkation day show was a flamenco guitarist from Puerto Rico with 3 dancers. This group does not travel with the ship and plays only on the day in Puerto Rico. The show was very good, but much of it was conducted in Spanish (undoubtedly because of the high percentage of Spanish speakers on board).
Carl Strong, who used to open for Gladys Knight, was funny as a comedian and a great singer. The production shows were good, with lots of energy. One show focused on Caribbean tunes and songs in Spanish. The house band, Elements, was terrific, especially when playing faster stuff. In the Wheelhouse, they seem to have been instructed to play elevator music, which was a bit of a snooze and a waste of the lead singer's energetic dancing. The steel band was good too, and the entertainment in the atrium was good. James Michael, the "bad boy" magician/cage fighter, was entertaining, but Rollin Jay Moore was only OK. Bert Stratton, a pianist who made weird faces, would have been better if he'd just played it straight instead of acting like Jim Carrey, but his sing-alongs were fun. The Geraldo Sa quartet was just so-so. The crew show was excellent. Gary DeLena was pretty good the first time but not as good during the farewell show.
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary, and we weren't disappointed. Shore excursions were very well run.
We were told that we could not take our own bags off the ship because of US Customs rules. We had to be out of our cabins at 8AM. We waited a few minutes in a public lounge and then were called to get off. Finding our bags and getting through US Customs was quick and easy.
The itinerary was great and the accommodations, food, service, and entertainment were all fine (apart from repeating the menu and entertainment the second week), but there are simply too many people on this ship. After factoring in the disappointing behavior of many fellow passengers and the hassles of embarking in San Juan, we won't be back on the Caribbean Princess anytime soon. Read Less