My wife and I joined three other couples on Emerald Princess from Southern California to the Mexican Riviera the week after US Thanksgiving in 2017. For my wife and I this was our first time sailing with Princess. I would like to share ... Read More
My wife and I joined three other couples on Emerald Princess from Southern California to the Mexican Riviera the week after US Thanksgiving in 2017. For my wife and I this was our first time sailing with Princess. I would like to share some of our thoughts.
We drove to LA and spent the night at the Crowne Plaza before the cruise. Hotel was lovely as the room was spacious, furniture was comfortable, staff was friendly, and we could see the port from our room. Room was priced fairly (around $230 and that included covered parking for the week in their garage as well as complimentary shuttle to and from the port) We took a very short walk to Grinders restaurant and their food was outstanding (and surprisingly low cost). Tab for the four of us was less than $50. Food was kind of “elevated” diner food (wife and I both had a Chicken, mushroom, and veg angel hair pasta dish.
On embarkation day, we had a buffet breakfast at the hotel (included in our room rate). Buffet was not as good as the nicer ones in Las Vegas; but, for a hotel in LA, it was fine. While choices were limited, food was flavorful and well prepared. After breakfast it was time for the shuttle to the port. We were a little excited (you think?) and showed up a little too early
Check In Process
Wife and I had not been on a cruise since 2013 (doesn’t seem long but in this technological age it is a lifetime) and that was on Oasis of the Seas. Things have really changed since then and I do not know if that is industry wide (that is my instinct) or if Princess is just that different. I can say their process is very streamlined and organized. They are detail oriented down to the places where they have you sit and wait. People in the terminal were friendly and helpful. One of the things that really resonated with me, not just on check in day, but throughout the cruise, is that Princess really understands how excited people going on a cruise can be and they do not do anything to curb or limit that excitement. Overall, I was so happy with how I was treated by the various members of Princess’s staff.
Embarkation & Staterooms
Again, a real smooth and efficient process. We were on the ship at about 12:45 for a 4:00 PM departure. Our staterooms were ready and we immediately went to check them out and drop off our carry-on items. The Princess Mini Suite is VERY Impressive. As far as staterooms go, this is quite large. The bathroom had a tub/shower, we had a walk in closet, a queen size bed and a sitting area with a couch. The balcony was good sized as four of us could comfortably congregate on it. There were two flat screen TVs (one pointed at the sitting area and one pointed at the bed); although, honestly, we hardly ever used the TVs.
This is an interesting discussion. We tried numerous dining venues and enjoyed most of our meals. On embarkation day, we had lunch on the buffet. This was probably the worst meal we had during the cruise. There was nothing wrong with the food, the serious lack of tables, combined with a state of “Hangryness” did not help things. We hit the buffet three times during this voyage and were pleasantly surprised each time by how good the food was. I thought it was much better than the food on buffets on both Carnival and Royal. That said, we do not usually hit the buffet too often when we cruise.
We had a lot of meals in the Botticelli dining room. I think breakfast and lunches in the dining room are kind of a hidden jewel. It usually isn’t too crowded and it is nice to be served. Food in this dining room was good, well prepared and flavorful. Service was good for all of the meals with the exception of 1. Our last breakfast (and it was the only time all 8 of us had breakfast together) was kind of a cluster. Wrong items were delivered, service was very slow, etc. That said, the food was good, people were very nice, and the dining experience was fine.
Speaking of hidden jewels, afternoon tea is “off the charts”. We did this three times and it was fabulous. The little sandwiches were good and oh my, how about those scones and the freshly made whipped cream. The only downside to tea is the room is a little loud; but, wife and I loved, loved, loved the experience. We really look forward to that on our next cruise.
One day, Princess converted the “Wheelhouse Bar” into a British Pub for lunch. I LOVE British Pub food (on my last visit to the UK, I was there for a week, and I had Bangers and Mash every night). Food was free and beers (I had draft Newcastle) were not. This was one of my favorite dining experiences on the cruise. Bangers and Mash were authentic with the onion gravy (but, no peas) and really well spiced. It really took me back to the UK (so to speak).
“Wheelhouse Bar” also hosted the “Salty Dog Gastro Pub” and all eight of us tried that one night. We divided into Boys and Girls. For the boys, surprise, surprise, we all had the burger. I didn’t like the burger as it was overcooked to my liking so it was dry and there was nothing on it to moisten it. It had a really good spice (and the flavors with the Kimchi and the Jalapeno Pepper) were nice; but, again, the burger was just too dry for my liking. My second entré was a white tomato soup with a small gruyere sandwich. Tomato soup is my favorite; however, I did not like this soup as the tomato was barely noticeable. One of my friends tried the lobster mac and it looked pretty tasty. As for the girls, they had one of everything on the menu and shared. They were having such a good time. Gastropub was reasonably priced at $12 per head.
Burgers I did like were at the Trident Grill. During the week, I had at different times, Hot Dogs, Burgers, and some really good Brats. It is so easy to overcook a brat and lose the flavor; but, grill did a nice job with these and they ranked among my favorite brats of all time. Their fries were also really good. Crispy and sort of like a steak fry. I didn’t care for the Pizza as I liked the crust, but the sauce had a funny flavor to it that overwhelmed me. Wish they had more than three choices but I do understand why they need to have limitations. Never tried the ice cream as I avoid sugared desserts; although, that soft serve looked really good.
“Crown Grill” was disappointing to me. Understand, that my favorite steakhouse at sea was on Liberty (Carnival) as the food was really good, generous, and felt elevated from what we got in the dining room. I compared it to one of the fancier steakhouses from land (where the steaks run about $40 per and you buy all the siders separately). At “Crown Grill”, the experience did not feel elevated and it just felt like they took dishes that used to be on the menu in the main dining room and moved them to the steakhouse. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good; but, it paled in comparison to Liberty. Originally, we had planned at least two dinners at Crown and never returned after the first one.
By far the best meals (we went twice) on this cruise (and I ever had at Sea) were at “Share” by Curtis Stone. This was an actual dining experience. It was a 6 course meal, and the best way to do it is to each order something different per course and then “share”. This was fine dining as the food was not typical fare. So many things were just amazing. The Lemon Prawns, The Scallops, the Lobster over Hash, the Strip, the Pork Ravioli in Thai Sauce, and the Lamb, one of the best two lambs I have ever had. Flavors were so bold. This experience had it all, from excellent service, to flavorful and somewhat unexpected food, two a pair of customer made sugar free desserts for my wife and I. While I love Italian food and look forward to trying it on Grand Princess next year, I am saddened that I will not have the opportunity to experience “Share” on my next voyage.
In Puerta Vallarta we visited Las Caletas and that is one of my favorite all around excursions. It is a pleasant boat ride Las Caletas, the food is great, and I spent a lot of time in the ocean. Had high expectations due to our last visit and was not disappointed.
In Mazatlan went to a resort in the Golden Zone, Playa Mazatlan, and shopped. When we shop, my heart tells me I will be hitting these little artisan shops and will be seeing different things in each one. As soon as we start to shop, my brain quickly remembers that for the most part, these shops are all selling the same things. That said, it was a pleasant way to spend a day.
Cabo is one of my favorite ports and it was the short stay this time. We did the High Sierra Zip line adventure and it was phenomenal (I zip lined upside down). I am terrified of heights but I faced my fear. The staff was outstanding and the day was both physically demanding and a lot of fun.
On Board Entertainment/Activities
Princess is definitely more sedate than Carnival or Royal. This is a positive thing to me as while I like to party as much as the next guy, it is nice to know there are also quiet places to go. Also, I never felt like I was being “sold” things. On both Carnival and Royal, it seemed like every time I turned around, someone was trying to sell me a drink, or anything. The approach was much more subtle on Princess.
Our Cruise Director, Dave, was Hilarious. He sounded like “Mozz” from “The IT Crowd” and he had just a fantastic demeanor. We liked him a lot, and his staff was excellent as well. Wished there was a little more trivia as it seemed like there was a morning trivia and an afternoon trivia. Kaitlyn did my favorite trivias as she would inject some astronomy, comic books, and animal info into hers. We did an escape room one night and that was so much fun. We succeeded and missed the record by about 2 minutes. No spoilers ahead, but, I suggest if anyone goes on a Princess cruise and the escape room is offered, do it.
Saddest day of the cruise. Again, Princess is organized and smooth. This process has not really changed much over the years; but, Princess does it very well.
Lastly, here are some tips
The All Inclusive Photo Package
We bought this and we maximized our value. That said, Princess does not seem very knowledgeable about what you get so I thought I would make that clear to everyone. When I called and enquired, here is what I was told and then the reality.
You get one print, any size, of every picture taken of you on the ship with the exception of Black and White ones. Any extra prints are $10.00 per. At end of trip you get a thumb drive with ALL the digital photos.
The reality is close to that. You do not get a print of anything taken in front of a “White Screen” or any Black and White ones. Included are the embarkation photos as well as the ones taken in port when you first leave the ship. Also, you do not get “any size”. For the posed pictures, you get the 8x10. If you want a smaller size, $10.00. The Thumb drive is really cute. Looks like a ship.
Extra Power in the Staterooms
We had a mini suite with 2 TVs. Behind each TV was a wooden panel. Move the panel and there is an extra plug.
Room Service “Pre Breakfast”
Most mornings we would get up around 6:30 and have a very light breakfast delivered (usually a croissant, some fruit, and coffee/tea) and enjoy that on the balcony as the sun rose. Very nice way to start the day
Princess At Sea
Have to remember this is a web page not an app so your phone will not give you an indicator when things have been updated. The site has a lot of good info, including a digital copy of the patter, and allows you to calendar events, create your own, etc. Patter is uploaded nightly around midnight and it was fun to review that on our phones before sleep and kind of plan the next day. Remember to refresh the web page so you can see your messages. This is a great way to communicate when you get separated and is completely free. Leave your phone on “Airplane Mode” and log into the ship’s wifi. You DO NOT need an internet package to utilize this site.
You can get them at any of the pool areas and can take them ashore. This was different for us as Carnival and Royal had simply left 2 in our rooms, with the caveat of if it is not in the room when you leave, you bought it.
This was weird as they took an hour from us the first night, but didn’t give it back until the last night. Really thought they would give it back to us the night before our last sea day (the night we left Cabo). Not a complaint, just odd to me.
Red and Blue Carpet
When going to your room the first time, look at the carpet when you get in the hall. There is striping that runs the length of the hall. Red on one side and blue on the other. It is very easy to get disoriented on these ships and the carpet color helps you walk down the correct side
Go to 7
You cannot walk the length of deck 6. If you want to go from one end to the other, suggest you go to 7, walk on either the inside or outside to the other end, and then go down one floor to 6. This is really handy when you want to go to Botticelli’s for tea. Read Less