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113 Princess Emerald Princess Family Cruise Reviews

This was my family's 18th cruise, 1st with Princess. Other cruises have been with RCCL, HAL, NCL, CCL, DCL, and Commodore. In a word, this one was -spectacular!! It began with our flight on Southwest to Ft. Lauderdale the day before ... Read More
This was my family's 18th cruise, 1st with Princess. Other cruises have been with RCCL, HAL, NCL, CCL, DCL, and Commodore. In a word, this one was -spectacular!! It began with our flight on Southwest to Ft. Lauderdale the day before our cruise. I had accumulated lots of free drink vouchers which put the 10 out of 19 in our group on that flight all into a cruise vacation frame of mind. The hour and a half flight was good, as was the shuttle to the Hyatt Place, Airport North. We had arrived before check-in time, which put us coming in while the crowds of Saturday cruisers were coming out. So the hotel staff secured our luggage and we set out to explore the Harbor Shops just around the corner. We found, to our delight, a great little place called Joe's Cafe and were made to feel right at home. The food and service were great and the prices were very reasonable. Later, back at the hotel we found our accommodations, well, very accommodating. Clean, well appointed, and comfortable. They have great beds!! So it was off to the pool to relax and digest the great lunch and anticipate tomorrow. Another visit to Joe's for banana splits was a nice way to end the day. After a good night's sleep, we came down to the lobby to find it overwhelmed with anxious guests. So we opted to walk over to Joe's Cafe for breakfast. Great choice- Again! We chose to pass on the free shuttle to the port because of the crowd, and spend the ten dollars for a cab ride to the port which proved to be a wise choice. The wait and the ride took less than ten minutes. We arrived at the terminal around 11 am. Crowded!! We were too early. But at about 12:15 our number was called and we were on the ship in about 15 minutes. Our inside cabin, D511, which was already prepared for us was just as advertised. Small, but comfortable, with exceptional closet and storage space. So we dropped off our things and headed up to the Lido to eat our first of many excellent meals. We found the food and service to be good to excellent in all of the dining venues, with the meal at Sabatini's topping the list. (More later) We had chosen traditional early seating with our group of 19 and were seated at three separate tables being served by the same waiter. Jose and Laura were great as servers. No problems. Since escargot did not appear on the menu all week, he even arranged for us to have some at our second formal dinner- yummy! It was my parents 50th anniversary, so they brought out a little cake and sang for us too. It was very nice. The shows and entertainment were the weak spot on this cruise, with most being OK at best. But a couple of the comedians redeemed the week's schedule with a few of their performances. Just a few words on the 4 ports we called on. Princess Cays- The tendering operation was the negative about this port. Too many people for too few tenders. It took an hour and a half to get off! Once you were on the island it was great. But this was now overshadowed by the tendering process back to the ship. Not good!! St. Maarten- We docked and enjoyed the water taxi ride to downtown. $6 round trip. The bracelet they provided allowed you back on the taxi as many times as you wished to ride. Be ready for some vendors on the beach but it wasn't bad. St. Thomas- We took the $9 per person cab ride over to the $4 per person beach day at Maagen's Bay. WOW!! The water was beautiful and the scenery was great! The food at the little counter service restaurant was overpriced but sufficient for the day. We had arranged for our cab driver to come back and get us in the afternoon and he arrived 10 minutes early to get us. After a little shopping, it was back to the ship. Grand Turk- Margaritaville is the main attraction here. If that's not your thing you do better to stay on board. Its a very small island with little to offer without the Jimmy Buffett MegaPlex. Giant, winding pool, plenty drinks and loud music and partying. Sea days on board were very relaxing with an array of activities. Bingo, pool games, trivia, wine tasting, lectures, etc. The MUTS (Movies Under the Stars) was a nice feature. Comfortable lounge chairs, cookies and milk, popcorn, pizza, a nice variety in movies. What's not to like? Sabatini's- This meal was the best of the trip. The meal was presented with your choice of entree, but everything else was brought out automatically. Antipasti, Fried calamari, 2 pastas, about 12 things in all, then entrees, Lobster, scallops, veal, giant prawns. Then dessert. Fabulous!! Disembarkation was typical. Colored luggage tags provided the night before allowed for some organization. No real problems getting off except for the sadness that comes at the end of every cruise. Overall impression was- A beautiful ship, Very good service by a great crew, Great food, One of the better cruises we have taken. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
This was our second cruise. We cruised before on Liberty of The Seas with Royal Caribbean International. We were excited about trying a different line. After a good flight with American Airlines (yes you heard me correctly) from Heathrow ... Read More
This was our second cruise. We cruised before on Liberty of The Seas with Royal Caribbean International. We were excited about trying a different line. After a good flight with American Airlines (yes you heard me correctly) from Heathrow to Miami, we stayed one night at the Intercontinental West Miami. A very nice choice. Usually, I like to arrange all of my own transfers and tend to rent a car but this time we opted for the total package with Princess and it was very relaxing not to have to stress about directions and getting to the pier on time. Embarkation at Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades was less than pleasant. A dreary cattle-shed with long lines and attendants pushing metal sofas across the lines to cut you off in order to manage the line. Very chaotic. On reaching the counter, there seemed to be a scramble as the line ended and it was a case of pushy people jumping in to get checked in before you. I found this whole experience so much less enjoyable than Miami. Once onboard, we found the ship to be beautiful. Immaculate, spotless and very upscale. Whilst smaller, i found the Piazza more tasteful than RCI's Royal Promenade and I enjoyed the fact that you could walk down a passage on Emerald and not know what was around the next corner. My wife found the layout of this ship very annoying whilst I liked it a lot. Others have complained about decks not running all the way through. Here's a tip; step outside on deck 7 and walk front to back on the Promenade Deck then go back inside and use the next set of elevators. Our cabin was smaller than RCI but very nice and the drop-down bed from the ceiling was very innovative. Our cabin steward Jose Jr was first class and kept the room spotless. Princess have a complimentary fruit bowl and you can order fresh supplies daily; a very nice touch. Our only real complaint was that the buffet was chaotic and as others have said, had no sense of organisation. One breakfast time I even heard an English cook lose his temper and use the F word to one of his Phillipino colleagues and clearly in earshot of passengers. I'm not a prude but this is totally unacceptable behaviour. The food was pretty good in quality but totally disjointed in layout and having two buffet areas just added to the sense of confusion. The food overall was good. Evening meal buffet was a joke....vegetarian sushi which was warm and wrapped in filo pastry? No sauces or ginger condiments. Ghoulash next to piri piri prawns? I found the buffet to be way way below the standard we experienced in the Windjammer on RCI. That said, evening formal dining in the main restaurants was very good. I never had a cold meal and we both agreed that the filet medallions which were always available were of a better cut than those served by RCI. Service tended to be slower on a table for two. On two nights we sat on a table for 8 and service was spot-on both nights. We ate at Sabbatini's and had pre-dinner drinks in the adjacent Adagio bar. A lovely evening. 8 courses so go there hungry expecting to eat a lot. You order main and dessert but the rest they chose for you and serve silver-service style tableside. The only slip-up was when our waiter announced the pasta course and then left us for several minutes allowing the plates to go cold. When he returned with the trolly, my wifewas about to mention it when he apologised and produced two hot plates. Attention to detail was excellent. The food quality was sublime. The truffle ravioli and the veal chop are to die for. I must contradict a previous post; there in NO charge for the ice-cream bar, the delicious pizza bar, pop corn or the poolside Trident Grill....it's all included in the cruise price. We found Tim Donovan and his cruise staff to be outstanding. The London Pub Night was a bit corny but I loved it. Good clean old fashioned fun. The staff gave it 100%. The service staff could, on accasions be a bit surly. Others have mentioned this. I agree, Most were brilliant, but there were occasions when some were bordering on being frosty. Our daughter is nearly 5 and she went to the Princess Pelican's most days. This is located aft and is a really big facility. There is a two-storey adventure jungle, computers, a crafts table. The staff were wonderful. Baby-sitting is available in the club from 2200-0100 and is $5 an hour charged in 15 minuted increments. One evening we paid $3.75 only. The children have huge bean bag beds to sleep on in front of a big tv. My only criticism is that on the first and last night of the cruise there is not after hours sitting. They will try to accommodate your wishes but the first night is for registration only and the last night they close at 10pm. We saw two comics onboard but did not see the production shows. As others have said, the photos were pure extortion so we gave them a miss. I found onboard drink prices to be cheaper than RCI but not by much. A 16oz Bud Light was $5.46 including 15% gratuity. A cocktail was about $6.75 and measures were very generous. All-in-all we had a great cruise and despite the minor criticisms, i have no hesitation in recommending Princess. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
My wife and I decided to treat ourselves to the September 14 Baltic Cruise on Princess' Emerald Princess. It was our first time on Princess, having cruised several times before on HAL, Celebrity and Cunard. These are just some ... Read More
My wife and I decided to treat ourselves to the September 14 Baltic Cruise on Princess' Emerald Princess. It was our first time on Princess, having cruised several times before on HAL, Celebrity and Cunard. These are just some comments and observations which I hope will be of help to any cruisers planning on taking this cruise. Embarkation - Took place in Copenhagen. Transfer from the airport couldn't have been smoother - you come out of Customs and the good folk from Princess are right there to steer you to the bus to take you to the ship (buying the transfer is, in my mind, a very good deal - a taxi will cost you at least $60.00). After a short 20 minute ride you're at the terminal and after a very brief wait, you're checked in and boarding. Unlike HAL, the staterooms are already ready so you drop off your hand luggage and go and have lunch. Shortly thereafter the luggage arrives. On Board - Life Boat Drill is painless. Unlike HAL and Celebrity you are mustered to different collection places in the ship, and given the "chalk talk" as to how to use your life vest, etc. No standing on the Promenade deck at lifeboat stations, no attendance roll taken. Very quick, very efficient. Stateroom - We took the standard outside stateroom. A little smaller than HAL but better organized. Closets don't have doors which creates tons more space when you're hanging clothes. Shower is tiny (don't try and turn around) but beats trying to get in and out of a tub. Stewards are friendly and conscientious and, unlike some other lines, always seem to be immediately available! Dining - We opted for the traditional dining, second seating in the Botticelli Dining Room. The service was as good or better than Celebrity or HAL, as was the quality of the food offered. (I know there have been negative comments re the food on Princess, and don't know if this being the last Baltic cruise of the year had any impact but we just had no complaints). We didn't try one dish we didn't like, although I've got to admit that by the 2nd formal night (i.e. Lobster tail night) the menu was so predictable that the waiters were astounded that we ordered something else! Particularly notable were the desserts - a myriad of them every night, and since we had trouble choosing, our waiter on his own took to bringing us one of each to try! Definitely bad for the waistline (but great for the Soul!) We didn't think Lunch in the Cafeteria was as good as on HAL or Celebrity. Many cruisers have commented on the strange design of the food "pods" where everyone ambles in and then buts in and out of line at each station with no rhyme or reason, and it is definitely annoying. I thought the overall quality of the food was below standard, but as an offset there were many more options than on the other lines. And, since you serve yourself, portion control is in your hands. No one went hungry, for sure! My negative note on Room Service here - Princess, unlike HAL and Celebrity has an extremely limited Room Service Menu (except for those in the full-price suites). The one night (after Stockholm) we were so bushed that we just didn't want to get dressed and go upstairs to eat , so we had to rely on Room Service. Somehow a Club Sandwich and a Hamburger just didn't do it for me for dinner! I definitely think Princess should re-think this policy. Entertainment on board seemed to be at least or probably above average for this type cruise, and people seemed to be having a good time everywhere we went. I can't comment much more, although the comedians all seemed to be British, which is kind of 'you either like it or you don't' kind of thing... Ports of Call- Copenhagen - it's a beautiful city, but hold onto your wallet! The whole impact of a low dollar plus high European costs becomes evident immediately in the airport. I grabbed a small bottle of Coke at a 7-11 - $5.00! Everything else was commensurately expensive. For my money, try and stay in the City Center if you can, the Airport Hilton is tired and shows it. The carpet in the halls smells reminiscent of a Motel 6 and the rooms, as a table mate so aptly put it, looked like they were furnished by the lowest bidder, IKEA. We thought we'd try the weekday lunch buffet at the Hilton Lobby, until we translated the price and came up with $60 per person! The city itself is lovely and you can see everything you want to by taking the Hop on- Hop Off bus from just past the Central Station.If memory serves the cost of the bus tour is $25 p/p. Stockholm - Just the approach to Stockholm is a show in itself, working your way through an archipelago of some 25,000 islands until arriving at the Swedish capital itself. Don't miss it, particularly at departure!! Stockholm itself is constructed on 14 islands and is very easy to visit. Important note!!! Don't, don't don't get a tour. Get off the ship and head straight for the Hop on Hop off BOAT (not bus) ! The boat makes the great circle that stops at every possible tourist destination and the distance between each part is so small that you're never disoriented. You can literally see four destinations at a time from any stop. If you're in a hurry to get to the VASA museum, you can go there first, and you'll be way ahead of every tour group. Same with the other stops. Don't miss the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace daily. Helsinki - We took the ship's tour - a big mistake. On top of it being a lousy day, the guide spent the whole tour on what was basically a stream of consciousness babble about all the qualities of Finland - how much a teacher makes, why (s)he makes so little, why it's all worth while, etc. etc. The first 15 minutes or so were vaguely interesting but all this was done at the expense of telling us next to nothing (or nothing at all) about the buildings and landmarks we were passing. She was limited to such illuminating discourse as "There's the Railway Station".. "There's another view of the Railway Station", although we already knew that the Railway Station had won an important architectural prize when constructed. Possibly the worst was when we were finally at last left for 35 minutes on our own in Alexander II Square ("Finns don't like Russians") we were never even directed to the important Russian Uspensky Orthodox Cathedral ("Finns really don't like Russians"). Tallinn - A real gem of a medieval city. Don't make the mistake we made and believe the guide books which tell you that you can walk from the ship to the center of town in about 15 minutes - it's true. You can then stroll around this beautifully maintained medieval city on your own and shop (there is genuine good amber and some decent paintings everywhere), but be aware that a lot of the walking when you get to the city gate is steep uphill. It's worth about 2 hours tops, and you can be back to the ship easily in time for lunch and perhaps a well-deserved after-lunch siesta. St. Petersburg - What can you say? This is the absolute highlight of the trip, and rightfully so. One important note - I don't know if Princess has finally given up on their telling people that are on independent tours other than the ship's tour that they would not be allowed to disembark until AFTER the ship's tour had cleared - they certainly still put that warning in all their daily publications. However, I was ready for a fight about this and called the ships' desk the night before to enquire about that policy, and was told that we could disembark as soon as the gangway opened at 7:00 or so. We went down at 6:45 and shortly thereafter the gangway was opened and we disembarked, with no problem from Princess staff. I don't know if this was because this was Princess' last Baltic cruise of the season - I suspect that with the fuller Summer Cruises they may still try and stick independent tour participants with late disembarkation. You should be aware that the independent tour agencies such as Red October and DenRus all have opinion of Counsel that Russian law in no way mandates which group should disembark first, so be aware and prepared for this. Another note - the information you are given states that Russian Immigration requires a photocopy of the information page of your passport - I don't know if it was just us, but the Russian authorities gave it back to us without even looking at it. You do have to fill out a small immigration form (do it VERY CAREFULLY) and you are then given a little red card when you go thru immigration. Be careful and don't lose it! There's a hefty fine for those who do. It's small and you may not even see it at first, since the Immigration officers stick it inside your passport when they return it to you, so look for it and hold onto it. We used DenRus for their Economy Tour, and cannot say enough favorable things about it. We were on the go from 7:00AM to 5:30 PM straight, and saw virtually everything there was to see given the limited 2 day time frame. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and competent and I think it's the best money I've ever spent on a tour. (Note - my daughter took the same tour three years ago and used Red October with identical results. so I think you can feel comfortable using either agency). DO NOT use the ship's tour - you will spend much more and get much, much less in return. We watched the ship's tours hopelessly in line at major attractions while we breezed through! Gdynia - We almost didn't get off the ship, but decided to take the advice of previous cruisers and take the train from Gdynia to Gdansk and we're delighted we did. It's a little bit of an adventure since the Railroad people speak no English, but still well worth doing. You get a taxi from the pier to the train station (about $15 US). Change $20 or so US into Polish Zloties - then buy a RT train ticket for 18 Zloties). The train (a holdover from Soviet days) takes about 30 minutes and drops you at the Central Station in Gdansk. From there, it's only about a 5 minute walk to the Old Town, which is a straight,level street of over a mile lined with absolutely breathtaking Medieval homes and buildings and teeming with commerce, restaurants, etc. It's so well maintained it almost looks like it's something Disney created, but this is the real thing, and photo ops abound. There are plenty to places to stop and rest along the way. We both thought Gdansk was Well worth doing. Oslo - Our only other bad weather day. Took the ship's tour which wasn't as bad as the other ones but still not worth the money to our way of thinking. We got to see the Viking Long Boat museum which is very impressive and some other points of interest. Oslo is clean, green, and very, very expensive. Edvard Grieg park is a real letdown, since the "monument" to Grieg is a horrendous collection of some thousands of steel pipes which hang down and create a horrible noise when the wind blows. The obligatory castle is right where the ship docks, and you can explore it yourself. You can look at the City Hall (another 'point of interest') from the ship, a large brick monstrosity which has been deemed the ugliest building in Norway too. Save your money and, if you're so minded, get the Hop On Hop Off Bus to take you around. Disembarkation in Copenhagen - Again, painless, although Princess is very remiss in not giving passengers vital information regarding what is expected of them. We knew from experience that the suitcases had to be packed and left in the hall by 'x' time, but nowhere was the time laid out. I finally caught a steward and learned that it as 10:00 (not midnight as in other lines). But the morning disembarkation was very rapid and orderly. Note - if you had bought the transfer from the ship back to the airport you will have saved yourself not only considerable $$ but also a 40 minute wait in line to get a taxi. Bottom line - a marvellous ship and a wonderful cruise. Would do it again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Sailed on July 15th, 2009 from Copenhagen on Emerald Princess.We had 8 passengers including a 12 yo and 15 yo.We each had a mini suite on Dolphin deck well worth the money!This was our second time in a mini and i don't want anything ... Read More
Sailed on July 15th, 2009 from Copenhagen on Emerald Princess.We had 8 passengers including a 12 yo and 15 yo.We each had a mini suite on Dolphin deck well worth the money!This was our second time in a mini and i don't want anything else.Ship was clean and gorgeous, staff was wonderful.Food was good, not exceptional but, met our expectations as we havenow taken our 14th cruise. Entertainment was good, Troiska Dancers werecanceled this cruise and 2 prior as the Russians think we all have swine flu.They currently do not allow the dancers aboard, what a disappointment.Magician was really great and preformed 3 times, comedian funny!John Lawrence is the port talk specialist and is on until Sept.Don't miss his talks, he is very good and knows everything!We loved Stockholm and did the Vikings and royal armory tour, nice.Don't miss the Vasa Museum. Try to get up at dawn and watch as yougo through the Archipelago into port. Heavenly sights oh my God!!! It takesabout 3 hours total through this passage way, have camera ready.We booked a private tour 2 day, in St.Pete's. book with Alla Tours.Incredible!!! Our guide(Irena) had a masters in art history, she was amazingand wore us out and we were on the moderate tour! She knew everything as wasa doll. She got us into places before the crowds came and knew were to go toavoid long lines. So worth it!!! ONLY $350.00PP based on 8 in a private van withac. It was fairly new very clean and driver had bottled water on the bus. everywhereyou go to sightsee there are lots of people especially at the Hermitage so takeAlla Tours and you won't run into this. They are on the web. You don't even pay themin advance!! It is based on trust that you pay on day 2 in the morning on Visa or cashbut bills must be crisp and clean.  They met us just outside customs and we were on ourway. You DO NOT NEED A VISA as long as you have a pre arranged organized tour thatis with an approved Russian tour guide like Alla. There is no need to book Princess excursionsas they want you to do. The tour company will email you a print out of tickets and that alongwith your passport and tourist card that the cruise will provide is all you need. They say you needa photo copy of passport but they did not want it in customs. Be sure to have one anyway and DONOT wait to have a copy made on board. My god the line was miles long as everyone forgot to do it!Currently you will have your temp taken as you disembark in Russia on day 1. They swipe it with an infer redthermometer and you go on your way. They are paranoid of the swine I am telling you!!!Estonia was really neat and charming we did the shopping excursions with some sightseeing.Finland was lovely and we did our own thing using an all day bus/trolley pass we bought right atthe port. There is a tourist info on shore. Go to the market of the Esplanadi, great fresh berries andsome nice rabbit fur scarves hats etc. Did not have the heart to buy fox fur that is everywhere. SAD.Poland was wonderful but do not need to go again. We did the Tri city tour. Very nice but you do not get a refreshment in Sopot as described, Sopot is really really nice. Wish we could have stayed for a few hours.Gdansk is neat but to me was a large tourist trap with every store selling the same junk. Though the townis a must see. Cobblestone streets everywhere, be ware if you are not stable on your feet. One in our party misjudged her step and broke her ankle. Took cab back to ship and doctors xrayed and cast it for her.She spent the rest of trip in her cabin. sad.  This is not a trip for anyone feeling unbalanced with their footing.Norway was just amazing!! Again, get up earlier and you will see some Fjords and scenery that was evenmore beautiful than Alaska. Yes really!!!Must go to the Vigeland sculpture gardens,free (all nudes). Just wonderful and great flowerseverywhere. Take the hop on/off tour bus on an all day pass. What a great system so easy to go all over thetown. They are at the ship as soon as you arrive and stop every 30 mins at all stops including the ship.Just super for about $35.00 each. Norway is not affordable for anything so do not shop here.25 % vat on all purchases. Expect to pay 4 to 5 times than your are used too. Mcdonalds big mac,fries and cokeis currently $23.00. However they make $30 per hour at the counter as an employee. Oslo is now in the top3 most expensive cities in the world. Sight seeing entrances are either free or a nominal charge.Too bad it is a short stop in Olso, I could have stayed for a week.We had great weather the whole time except 2 short rain showers. Temps are 50's to high 70's.Expect rough seas in some parts others are so smooth you cannot tell the ship is moving.Disembarkation was super fast in the earlier hours, everyone must be off by 8:00 am. It gets crowdedat 7:30 to 8:00 so leave early if you can. The airport is very crowded please allow like 3 hours to check in.We went through 3 security check points and had no time to eat. There are a lot of taxis if you depart on Saturday.They said cabs were hard to get so we booked a private transfer for 8 of us at $35.00 each with world airporttransfers on line. They came in a motorcoach bus for just us, hilarious. Amazing how many cabs werethere even though they insist you can't get one. Again I think it was because it was the weekend and we gotoff early, sorry we did not take the Taxi as we could have gotten to the airport before the 3000 passengersalso got there!!!We did stay at the Marriott pre cruise and loved it!!! So pricey, stay on the concierge floor, well worth it for thefree high speed computers 24 hrs and the great breakfast and cocktail hour. also free bottled water in the frigin lounge. Great views of the canal from the lounge too! Restaurants nearby at Tivoli just 3-4 blocks away.We took the train from the airport to Tivoli Central station then walked. Easy but take a cab as cobblestone streets are toohard to pull your luggage across and it was hot and humid. There is nothing to see from the train anyway as we thoughtthere would be. Canal tour available every morning in summer right from the Marriott. we loved it!! only 1 hour 15 minride. Perfect for families. Cheap trip as well. We did take a taxi to the pier from hotel,however they now have a shuttlethat costs but was already booked full. So sign up in advance for shuttle. Taxi was about 150 DKK total for 4.taxis are always lined up at the hotel door. Also there is a shopping mall with restaurants about 6 blocks fromhotel, nice walk along the canal to get there. They had a nice grocery store where we bought wine to bring on board.Kids ate at McDonalds which they loved! about 2 times the cost as here. i could go on forever but must go for now!!PS Cruise director staff was annoying!!! The only bad thing about the whole trip.      Also you can exchange currency on this neat machine before every port      at the piazza. Get the coffee card if you want fresh coffee from the cafe in      the piazza each day. Starbucks at sea!! yummy coffee drinks of all kinds.  Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Rather than a full review, I'm going to note some things I would have liked to know before I went. We usually avoid ship excursions, so I'll have some comments on what we did. Bring binoculars (we did to that). Shipping is ... Read More
Rather than a full review, I'm going to note some things I would have liked to know before I went. We usually avoid ship excursions, so I'll have some comments on what we did. Bring binoculars (we did to that). Shipping is heavy in the Baltic, and there are lots of interesting things to see.  We were docked next to the HMS Illustrious in Tallinn, and passed a surfaced submarine on the way to Oslo, for example. Binoculars brought lots of things into view. The lounge to the rear of deck 18 is usually quiet during the day, with great views and no music (during the day). The port lectures by John Lawrence are excellent, with not much on shopping.  We should have gone to more of them. The currency exchange machine on board does not offer best rate, and charges $3.50.  Avoid it. In Stockholm & Helsinki, take the cruise bus into town at around $12 RT.  In Helsinki, the cruise through the waterways leaving from Market Square is half the ship's price, and for the same basic route.  In St. Petersburg, we reserved a private car with guide and driver from Den Rus for two days at a cost of $698 for the three of us. They tried to upsell us on a western car, but we liked the Russian Lada (no air conditioning).  Our guide and driver were excellent, and we could go where we wanted, and change plans at a moment's notice.  Den Rus will also suggest that they design a tour for you, at a cost.  I recommend figuring out where you want to go, and working out the details with your guide.  We were very happy with what we got. When we got to the Hermitage, for example, there was the usual huge line for individuals.  Our guide looked, pulled out her black book, made a call, and the next thing we knew, we were somehow entering through the exit.  We're not quite sure what she did....  And, of course, we could see what we wanted there, rather than follow a forced march with a group. I recommend Den Rus highly. When I gave the driver less than I intended as a tip, I emailed Den Rus from the ship.  They replied: "Tell us how much more you want to tip, and we will give the driver the money.  Send us a check when you get back home."   Tallinn is an easy walking city from the ship, assuming reasonable fitness. No need for a tour.  There is no ship bus in Gdynia. To avoid a tour, take a taxi to Gdynia train station ($10).  Cabs just outside will try to sell a $100 trip to Gdansk.  Walk a few hundred yards to the port entrance.  Cab drivers there will try to sell a tour, too, but will take you to the train station if you persist.  From there, take the  commuter train (track 1) to  Gdansk Glówny (About $1.25).  There are ticket machines.  There is no need to validate the time-stamped single ticket.  The thinner ones need to be cancelled in the machine at the entrance ramp to the platform.  It is a 40 minute trip.  Everything in Gdansk is an easy walk from the main train station. The first ATM in Gdynia did not like my American ATM card.  Fortunately, I also have a German one.  However, there were other ATM machines in the area, one of which probably would have worked. In Oslo, the ship docks in easy walking distance of most everything.  Again, no need for a ship excursion. I recommend the national art gallery, which had more paintings I liked per gallery room than most I've been in. No admission fee, so if Norwegian art isn't your favorite, you can turn around and walk out immediately.  Now, we jumped ship in Oslo, rather than going back to Copenhagen.  I'm writing from Oslo.  Tomorrow, we take the train to Bergen, which is supposed to be one of the best train rides in the world.  You might think about that. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We were a group of 3 (2 boomers and 1 Gen Y) well-seasoned travellers.  As far as cruising goes, this is our second one with Princess. TRANSFER & EMBARKATION We flew from Toronto to Copenhagen through London, and upon arrival at ... Read More
We were a group of 3 (2 boomers and 1 Gen Y) well-seasoned travellers.  As far as cruising goes, this is our second one with Princess. TRANSFER & EMBARKATION We flew from Toronto to Copenhagen through London, and upon arrival at Copenhagen airport, there were only 2 kiosks open at Passport Control.  Once we retrieved our luggage, we were met by several Princess reps.  Transport to the dock and the embarkation process were smooth, and our luggage arrived at our mini-suite intact within an hour after we set foot into the room. Our mini-suite was the same size and setup as the one we had on the Golden Princess, except that the beds were more comfortable, the carpets were brighter and cleaner, and we had LCD tvs.  Our room steward, Ionel, was polite and provided very good service up until we gave him our extra tips the day before disembarkation.   On the morning of disembarkation when we asked him a question, we noted a tone of sarcasm and impatience in his response. EMERALD PRINCESS This ship compared to Golden Princess (pre-renovation) is newer, brighter, and cleaner, but MUCH more crowded (1,000 more passengers).  It generally felt crowded in the Atrium, the buffet areas (more to come), and at the stairways heading to the gangway dor shore excursions. Speaking of buffet areas, Horizon Food Court and Cafe Caribe were absolute nightmares!  Throughout our 10-day trip, there was only one morning where we were able to find a table for breakfast, and we tried going there at different hours ranging from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.  We were constantly walking with our trays bumping into people with the same purpose, while our food turned totally cold.  The same goes for lunch, although the weather permitted us to sit outside, where there were a few more tables available.  As far as service goes in these buffets areas, it appeared that a number of servers did not want to be there, and when we asked for lemonade, we were given excuses like "we are not supposed to serve it out here".  The food itself was ok, and there was a wide variety. The staff at the Trident Grill (where hot dogs and burgers were served) were unfriendly at best, and they practically threw the plate at you.  Would it hurt them to smile?! We wanted to try the pizza after we read a lot of good reviews about it, but found it disappointing - it was dripping with oil, and, in our opinion, there was way too much salt. We really enjoyed our specialty coffees at the International Cafe.  The gentleman that always served us did a superb job with our orders, and was very pleasant and courteous.  Another lady server, however, Rowena, was extremely rude and gave another customer a really hard time...thank goodness we never had to go to her for service! Our experience in the dining room was superb!  We did anytime dining, and our waiters, Antonio, Joszef, and Dame, were absolutely amazing in that it seemed they could not do enough for us, and were practically waiting on us hand and foot.  The gentlemen made sure we had enough food to eat, offered more variety if we wanted, and made recommendations as to what to pick out of the many choices.  They were entertaining as well, always making us laugh and making our dining experience very relaxing and enjoyable.  We cannot praise them enough!  Even the people who greet you at the door at the Da Vinci dining room (maitre d and hostess) were extremely helpful and accommodating!  Talk about service with a smile!  They really made you feel welcome. It was nice to have Movies Under the Stars, although it got cold and a bit wet at night for us to enjoy the outdoor theatre; however, blankets were provided. We were appalled at the lineup at the Shore Excursion Desk during Day 1 (at sea) of the cruise.  On that day, most passengers would be inquiring about, planning, booking, or even cancelling/changing any shore excursions, and yet, there were only 2 people stationed at the counter (there was room and computers for at least 2-3 more staff).   Thank goodness we had booked our shore excursions online ahead of time. While Princess seemed to promote booking future cruises for passengers onboard, the availability of staff at the Future Cruise Sales Desk proved otherwise.  Half the time there was nobody there to even answer questions, and when someone was there, she was at the computer with her back to the customers.  The setup was better on the Golden Princess, where the representative was facing the right direction to address the passengers who may appear interested. A NOTE OF CAUTION REGARDING THE PURSER'S DESK: The final statement of onboard expenses for each passenger is not provided until the early hour of the morning of disembarkation.  One word of caution: mistakes are not uncommon in these charges.  We learned from experience to ask for a detailed list a day before the final statement was produced, so that we can go through the details and verify that the charges really belonged to us.  As an example, we were charged for bottles of wine and beer in a dining room that we never dined at.  Bear in mind that these mistakes need to be corrected before passengers leave the ship, and you can imagine the line up!  Again, as with other counters, staff did not seem to be assigned according to need.  We noticed that during the last 2 days of the cruise, there were only 3 representatives at the Purser's Desk while the line up was a mile long.  We decided to wait until after midnight thinking that it may be better, only to find 2 people working, and we had to wait 90 minutes to be served.  Even if we chose to disregard the wrong charges, we had to line up at the Purser's Desk anyway because, for some unknown reason, we did not get our disembarkation luggage tags.  During peak hours on the last 2 days, there were still only 3-4 reps working.  From the number of cruises that Princess runs, do they not realize what peak hours are for each type of activity?!  On the 3rd day of the cruise, we noticed there were 6 people at the Purser's desk twiddling their thumbs.  We cannot comment on any of the nightly entertainment, as we were too tired from the shore excursions.  Be sure to use the days at sea to rest up, as this is a port-intensive cruise! DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation process and the transfer to the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen were well organized, fast, and smooth.  The Princess reps at the hotel were informative and helpful. TIP: Do not miss John Lawrence's lectures on each port in the Princess Theatre (if you miss the live lecture, you can watch it on your tv).  A lot of interesting information about the port, its history, and the currency were given.  We really enjoyed each port, and our favourite port was Tallinn (Estonia) - the beauty of the city was beyond our expectations.  We also lucked out with the weather, except for a little drizzle in Stockholm and the last day in Copenhagen.  At St. Petersburg, we were docked at the new terminal, which made the drive to the city center a lot shorter.  We took shore excursions at each port and booked a private tour through Princess for St. Petersburg.  The car for the private tour was a Mercedes sedan, but it was pretty crowded for 3 adults in the back.  We highly recommend going to an amber factory/exhibit in Gdansk, if you are at all interested in shopping for genuine jewellery at a reasonable price.  During our one-night stay over in Copenhagen, we booked a tour through the hotel where we visited Amalienborg Palace and the Little Mermaid. The entire cruise experience was good overall, and we may most probably choose to go with Princess again.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Our family traveled with the Emerald Princess from April 9th through April 19th to the Eastern Caribbean. This was our 2nd time on this ship.  In June, 2007, we took this same ship for a 12 day Mediterranean cruise.  That was only ... Read More
Our family traveled with the Emerald Princess from April 9th through April 19th to the Eastern Caribbean. This was our 2nd time on this ship.  In June, 2007, we took this same ship for a 12 day Mediterranean cruise.  That was only Emerald Princess's 3rd voyage.  While the itinerary on that cruise was fantastic, we were not completely impressed with Princess and the service on the ship. However, since then, Princess has definitely gotten the 'kinks' out and this was a flawless cruise for us.  Emerald Princess is a heavily balcony-oriented ship with 8 decks of all balcony rooms.  However, there are only staterooms on those decks with no activities.  However, if you want a bargain I recommended passing on the balcony rooms and staying on Plaza deck.  The rooms on this deck do not have balconies, but from a convenience and access viewpoint, this is definitely the deck to stay on.  Because of our family size, we always get an oceanview room for my wife and I and an inside room for our boys.  Our room was right off of the art gallery.  From their you stroll right onto the main plaza/ atrium area.  Everything is theresidewalk cafes, front office, library, shops, dining rooms, etc.   The atrium area often has live music (string quartet, piano, etc.) and it is so nice to be able to walk right over on the same level. It also a great spot to just bring your laptop and sit. This saves you many, many elevator or stair trips from the all-balcony decks to get somewhere where there is something going on.  Emerald Princess has held up very well in the 21 months since we were last aboard.  However, the golf putting green in the back of the ship was in a shocking state of disrepair. Everything else, though, was immaculate.  We did Anytime Dining and made a reservation each day, which worked out fine. The service in the dining room was excellent.   Almost 1/3 of the passengers were from the UK, which gave our trip an international feel.  Our first stop was Antigua on Easter morning.  We quickly went straight to St. John's Anglican Cathedral for Easter Services.  We really enjoyed this service which was a completely, by-the-book Anglican service with a flair of Caribbean music.  The large, well-dressed congregation was extremely welcoming.  If you're on a Caribbean island on a Sunday, and if you are a churchgoer, this is a very interesting experience to get exposed to a different culture and style of worship.   After a return to the ship for lunch, we took the Princess-sponsored excursion to Bird Island National Park for kayaking and snorkeling.  This was an excellent afternoon outing and the inlets and lagoons were a perfect, tranquil setting for kayaking.  Our next stop was St. Lucia and we booked the Cosol tour (private). St.Lucia is a beautiful island (right out of Pirates of the Caribbean or a King Kong movie) and Cosol is THE BEST was to see it. It is about a 7 hour tour.  You are transported in 12 passenger vans so we shared the day with another family (there are 4 or more vans that caravan).  The tour includes a banana plantation stop, Soufriere, sulfur-spewing volcano, Pitons, etc., plus a stop for home-made Caribbean treats. The beach in between the twin Pitons is a spectacular spot and has great snorkeling.  On to Barbados.  We used Glory Tours which was a complete disappointment.  We booked this in January and were instantly charged US$253.    Our driver was a nice gentleman, but not an experienced tour guide. We felt like we would have gotten the same tour by just walking up to any taxi driver. He whisked us off to the Eastern shore to see Bathsheba, which is a very beautiful spot.  We drove by several sites (old sugar mills, plantations, etc.), but not a single stop or explanation at these.   Then we drove back to a beach called 'Brandon's Beach', which is only a 1/2 mile distance from the cruise ship! (in fact, you are right next to the harbor (industrial-like in appearance) and the ship itself).  This beach they was just OK, but is heavily used and has some trash, etc. We could have just skipped this part and walked there ourselves! I had to ask the guide to show us downtown Bridgetown and the government buildings on the way back to the shipHe wasn't even planning to.  The van we were transported in had no seatbelts or air conditioning.  The tour operator (Sarah Taylor) told us we would get a partial refund because of the condition of the van, but never put it through. I forwarded her e-mail to our credit card and made it a billing dispute to get my money back.  We do not recommend this tour company at all.  St. Kitts was our next stop. This is a beautiful islandthe south part is a bit more arid than St. Lucia or Barbados. We did a half day "Capitol Tour and Beach Splash" with Grey's Island Excursions.  We saw Basseterre and stopped for a couple of spectacular photo spots and then on the Cockleshell Beach at the south tip of St. Kitts with a great view of Nevis. This is a great snorkel spotwe retrieved 3 beautiful conch shells. One the way back we saw the wild monkey's which populate this part of the island.  Our guide on the way home was Mr Sackville Grey, a retired engineer and brother of the company's owner.  Mr. Grey worked for one of the St. Kitts sugar mill companies.  He is a very charming gentleman and gave us an excellent tour back and a very interesting overview of how sugar is made.  Next to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.  We arranged for an all day sailboat trip to St. John and Virgin Islands National Park through Interline Sails (Omar van Ruyens).  To do a full day snorkel trip to St. John for 5 people was about $420 through the ship.  We paid $575 for a 7 hour sailboat trip manned by a 2-person crew ( a much better value!) to two spots on St. Johns (Hawksnest Bay) and Great St. James Island with lunch and drinks included.  This was the highlight of our cruise and I strongly recommend this option if you visit St. Thomas. Our boat left from Red Hookthe only problem is the $100 round trip taxi fare!.  The taxi's on St. Thomas are unionized and the rates are fixedvery expensive, but there is no other option.  Havensight Mall is the best place to shop of all the ports we visited and the place to buy souvenirs.  Also, you pay in US$ with no credit card fees for foreign currency.  Our last stop was Princess Cays.  This was the only 'downside' of being on a ship with 3,000+ passengers.  We waited about 45-50 minutes for the tenders to bring us over.  Princess Cays is a very nice island and a picturesque stop, but the quality of the beach is not as good as Holland America's Half Moon Cay.  Half Moon Cay has one of the most pristine, beautiful beaches I have ever seen. We rented a clam shell, which was a very good investment to have shade from the intense Caribbean sun. We enjoyed the BBQ on the island.  Waiting for the tenders to go back is alot more pleasant because one just 'hangs out' at the great beach.  Returning to Fort Lauderdale was a bit chaotic.  Apparently the port crew (or someone) took the luggage off in reverse order (meaning that the first scheduled group's luggage was not even off the ship when they were scheduled to disembark, so everyone disembarked late).  We had a 1 p.m. flight from Miami Airport and we started to get concerned about 1 p.m.  Some of the crew was blaming it on customs, but I learned otherwise. Finally after talking to a crew member, I learned that our luggage was already off (even though we were scheduled at the endwhy didn't they just tell us so we could get off?)  We finally disembarked on our own (before our group was called) almost 90 minutes past our scheduled time.  Then there were 5 or 6 ships in port, so the taxi scene was very hectic and disorganized with no queue at all.  Tax's were taken by the most aggressive and outspoken passengers. Returning to home port in Fort Lauderdale on a Sunday is not a good plan.   This was our second Princess cruise and we left with a much more positive impression of the cruise line.  We have taken 5 cruises with Holland America and enjoy the more middle-age crowd and more families that you find on Princess.  Holland America tends to attract a much older group of cruisers.  Great trip, excellent ports, and an overall excellent way to spend Easter vacation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Background- Our 12th cruise- DH & I - mid 50's and DS 15; prior on Princess, RCCL, Cunard. We chose this cruise for the ports and return to Princess after service issues on recent RCCL cruises.Pre-Cruise- Flew to Miami from NY day ... Read More
Background- Our 12th cruise- DH & I - mid 50's and DS 15; prior on Princess, RCCL, Cunard. We chose this cruise for the ports and return to Princess after service issues on recent RCCL cruises.Pre-Cruise- Flew to Miami from NY day before. Took a cab ($80+tip) to Hyatt Place in FLL near port. Special rate of $105 for King suite w/sofabed. Room fine for one night. Had dinner next door at Outback; better than our local one. Walked to Total Wine for 4 bottles to bring on board. Excellent selection. Difficult to choose only 4 bottles. Bought water and liquid toiletries at Publix next door. Breakfast next morning was crowded ar 8:30. Left for port at 11:15.  Free Shuttle was packed, so we took a cab to the port for $6.Embarkation- Luggage loaded and short wait at 11:30 outside of building. Once inside, another short wait and onboard and in our cabin by 12:15PM. Kudos to Princess for great organization.Cabin-Aloha 530 BC, port, mid-ship. Originally booked BA on Caribe Deck. Noticed a substantial price drop for BC before final payment. Since trip was port intensive, balcony size not an issue. First thing we noticed- flat screen TV. We were on the Caribbean and Crown Princess in 2005 and 2006 -an improvement. Robes already in closet and room sparkling clean. Contacted our wonderful steward, Charlie for some minor issues- convert twin beds to double, nasty odor in refrig., egg crate and more hangers. All taken care of and refrig. swapped out next day. First time we noticed a Steward actually cleaning our balcony every day. He even folded a few stray articles of clothing. This was the best cabin service of all cruises and lines. We did notice some cut-backs. Our bar soap was not replaced until we threw away the old, small slivers or asked for new ones.Dining- Embarkation lunch in Da Vinci Dining Room. First time a DR was open for lunch on any of our embarkations.  What a treat. Not many knew it was open. Just a few tables occupied. What a way to start the cruise. Excellent service and food; salad, grilled salmon and apple pastry for dessert. The waitstaff frequently asked in we wanted a beverage. This became a theme on the cruise. We sensed that they are now trained to "sell" beverages.  Not subtle, as in the past, but almost a hard sell. Really noticed it in the DR at lunch and dinner. Almost appeared their performance depended on selling wine, beer, cocktails or they had a quota. We purchased beverages when we wanted them. We had traditional dining, early seating in the Botticelli Dining Room, Deck 6 Aft at a table for 3. The only way to get there were the aft stairs or elevators. Lucio was our Headwaiter, Noel our waiter and Riccardo assistant. All three are from the Philippines and are outstanding. Lucio left for vacation after our sailing.The food was very good and Noel could sense when an occasional dish was not to someone's liking. He suggested alternatives and insisted we try something else, even when we were stuffed. We found the food extremely salty on the Crown in 2006. On the Emerald, broth-based soups and beef dishes were too salty for our tastes.We always found tasty dishes; most fish entrees were very good.We celebrated my birthday on Sunday night with a cake for 1. It was delicious. Our serving team serenaded me. Other dining options: Room Service Breakfast- adequate for early port days. Prompt, usually arrived 15 minutes before requested time and orders were 100 percent correct. Coffee was fine. Dining Room Breakfast- We were pleasantly surprised. The service was excellent. On prior Princess/Cunard cruises, DR breakfast was a nightmare -poor, rude, slow service and mediocre food. This time,friendly, efficient service and orders correct. Special requests met with a smile- kadota figs, strawberries , eggs benedict without sauce. Food was fresh and hot. Pastry waiters always circling around. Kudos to Emerald Princess staff for several great breakfasts. Lunch- Wheelhouse Bar on sea days offers a pub lunch similar to those offered on Cunard. We love them. No different. Cottage Pie and Fish and Chips outstanding. Service was prompt and friendly. Pizza by the pool is still outstanding. Had a slice when not out all day in port. Horizon court always great for fresh fruit, salad and other goodies. They still have the ice cream on one side at 3:30PM daily. DS was there daily, when not in port. I finally tried the food in the International Cafe. The shrimp salad and spinach quiche were excellent. We had unused punches on our coffee cards from our Crown cruise. We used up more punches on delicious iced white chocolate mocha and grabbed a cup or two of fresh brewed java when leaving for ports. The hot cappuccino was also great.Lunched twice in Sanctuary- great fruit skewers.Dinner at Sabitini's' was excellent. Portion size cut down, so you are not so stuffed. Lobster tail, veal and chicken great entrees. All appetizers fantastic, as was the service and wine. Sanctuary-I rushed to book my cruise-long chaise at 1:15PM. I got chair 17 out of 20.The cost was $15/day for the cruise.That was my birthday gift. I chose a chair in the shade, under a "fake" tree. The attendant service was superb.I was always greeted by name and my chaise was "made up" for me each morning with a thick towel. Although port intensive, I still managed to visit daily, even if only for an hour. It was convenient to the lap pool just downstairs, my favorite. Entertainment-We skipped the production shows. Comedian, juggler and hypnotist were good. I volunteered and was hypnotized. A treat were the two nights the show band played jazz in Adagio. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
My wife, son and I arrived the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn Plantation. The hotel is a pleasant place to stay, providing you with breakfast and it is within walking distance of the Broward Mall n case you have any ... Read More
My wife, son and I arrived the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn Plantation. The hotel is a pleasant place to stay, providing you with breakfast and it is within walking distance of the Broward Mall n case you have any last minute shopping needs. We appreciate that they have a shuttle that will pick you up from the airport and it will also take you to the cruise terminal. Embarkation was smooth. We were quickly able to get on the ship and familiarize ourselves with the ship's layout prior to the muster drill. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship with a number of nice features (e.g., Vines the wine bar, the Sanctuary, and the International Cafe that serves pastries and light sandwiches). The sail away party was fun. The first two days of the cruise were sea days, which we always enjoy. We get excited reviewing the Princess Patter and identifying the activities that will be available the following day. Our son enjoyed the kids club and other kid activities (i.e., Nintendo sports). O.k., I enjoyed the Wii sports too, particularly when I had the high score for bowling. My wife and I tried and enjoyed a number of the activities. This included the dancing lessons; lectures on the islands; demonstrations in the making of towel animals, martinis, and animals out of fruit; dicey horse racing; movies; trivia; and art auctions. We found the cruise director and staff to be energetic and personable, the best of any of our cruises. We also took advantage of the books and games in the library. With respect to the shows, we enjoyed the juggler, comedians, and shows in the Princess lounge. This was a change for us as we had not watched many of the shows on our previous cruises. I enjoyed watching the final four on MUTS (giant movie screen near one of the pools.) Nothing could be finer than watching your team win the national championship while you are enjoying a beautiful evening under the stars with crew bringing popcorn and pizza to you. My wife enjoyed the movies that were shown on the ship. We found the itinerary to be an excellent one. Aruba was the first island on the itinerary. We did an ocean snorkel through Princess that we thoroughly enjoyed. On the excursion, we went to two different locations, one of which was a ship wreck from WW II. The ship next sailed to Bonaire where we did a shore snorkel. The coral and fish were awesome. We next went to Grenada. We were excited that the Sea Princess was also in port, as this had been the first ship my wife and I had sailed on. We booked a trip through Princess to a spice garden and rum distillery and were pleasantly surprised. The next day found us in Dominica where we did the river tubing. We had a blast and the tour operators did an excellent job keeping folks safe. On St. Thomas, we decided not to plan anything in particular and to relax. We ended up taking the tram up to Paradise Point where we had a beautiful view of the island. We also did a little shopping. After another great day at sea, the last day of the cruise was spent on the private island. It was a little cool, but we still found a way to enjoy ourselves. In general, the food was good. We had traditional dining, second seating. We are always apprehensive as to our table assignment and the waiters that we will have for the entirety of the cruise. We were pleased with how things worked out on both counts. Our family was assigned to a table of wonderful Canadians. It was a pleasure going to dinner every night and to discuss what folks had done during the day. Also, it is always a pleasure when you spend time with people who are truly out to enjoy themselves and do not get caught up on things to complain about. Our waiters Ross and Mark did an excellent job, providing good recommendations and demonstrating a sense of humor. The food in the dining room was great. I enjoyed the steaks and lobster while my wife enjoyed a number of shrimp dishes. We enjoyed having breakfast in the Horizon court as there were always things we enjoyed such as French toast, Eggs Benedict, and Fresh Fruit. We enjoyed our two lunches in the dining room: my wife particularly enjoyed the vegetarian option (stuffed pepper). We had an awesome lunch of fish and chips at the Wheelhouse Bar one day and always enjoyed the burgers and pizza by the pool. I think our son could have gotten by on just burgers and cookies. For the first time, we tried one of the specialty restaurants (Sabatini's) and were not disappointed. The eight appetizers that came with the meal were fantastic, as were the main courses and desserts. Disembarkation went quickly and efficiently. We have already begun to discuss where to take our next cruise, probably Hawaii or the Panama Canal. In summary, it was a great cruise in which the food was good, the crew was friendly, the ship activities were enjoyable; and the islands were amazing. Sure there are a few things that Princess could improve on. However, we found it easy to enjoy ourselves and can't wait to sail again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Emerald Princess March 30 sailing in a nutshell: Highlights: 1.The ship - beautiful and spotless2. The Chef's Dinner worth every cent 3. River tubing in Grenada  Disappointments: Booking a Caribe ... Read More
Emerald Princess March 30 sailing in a nutshell: Highlights: 1.The ship - beautiful and spotless2. The Chef's Dinner worth every cent 3. River tubing in Grenada  Disappointments: Booking a Caribe balcony cabin and finding ourselves next door - and downwind - from chain smokers. The entertainment Longer-cruise demographics Cruises of more than 7 days seem to attract a much older crowd, which can mean a low-energy level THE BASICS: WHO WE ARE: 60 somethings from Ohio who aren't ready to pack it in at 8 p.m. (most times, we aren't even ready for dinner then). By comparison, it seemed like we were the youngsters on this cruise.  WHY WE CHOSE THIS CRUISE:  We like Princess, wanted the chance to do the Chef's Table, the itinerary included less-often-visited islands - yet the ship left from a mainland port. EMBARKATION: VERY SMOOTH. We arrived early - about 10:30 a.m. and were given a number and allowed to sit inside the terminal. By noon, there were hundreds in the holding area but with numbers, embarking was orderly and fair. THE SHIP - Beautiful and well-cared for. (Beware, however, because the deck on the non-Mutts side gets very slippery from wet feet, and we witnessed people slipping). CHEF'S TABLE: By 12:30 on boarding day, we had called the dine line from our room to ask for a reservation - that's why we went to the terminal early.  Everyone apparently is told they will be put on the waiting list. By 1 p.m., we were in line to hand a written plea to the maitre'd.   This 10-day cruise had three Chef's Tables  - all on port days. We were among the lucky ones to get on the list early enough to get a seat.  Interesting point: Almost everyone at our table of 12 had heard about this special meal from the Internet/Cruise Critic. Dinner at the Chef's Table ($75 per person) was a 3-plus hour indulgence, which started with a galley tour, hors d' oeuvres and champagne and ended with a shot of lemon liquor made on the ship. In between, we had veal cooked (and tableside carved) two ways - a shank and tenderloin. We had pate foie gras with truffles, caviar, asparagus risotto topped with lobster claws and sorbet with vodka, plus several wines, dessert . . .the list goes on.  The chef and maitre'd made it all very special.  BEST REGULAR FOODS:  Pizza! You can see the bakers hand tossing the thin crust constantly to meet the demand.  The Wheelhouse fish (on sea days only) was as crunchy as Arthur Treacher's. The almond croissants in the International Cafe at breakfast are a surprising treat.  The fruit soups are like smoothies. The rotisserie chicken in the Caribe Cafe is a welcome break from saucy foods. Do not hesitate to order the creamy pasta Alfredo as a side at dinner (even though it is listed daily as an entrEe). FAVORITE SHIP VENUES: VINES - the wine and sushi bar.  Excellent sushi for just $1 each LOTUS pool - a great place to get refreshed - it seems to be warmed and for adults  only Our balcony when the smoking neighbors were not around. (Smoking is only allowed on one side of open-deck areas. Why can't balcony rooms be assigned as smoking or non-smoking? (Husband lost a lung to a fungus infection, so we are extra sensitive about taking care of the remaining one. ) TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT:  In anytime dining, they steer you to share tables, which is fine much of the time.  But there were times when we just wanted a bite to eat alone. However, there are some sets of tables for two that are only 4-6-inches apart from another "table for two."  Not exactly intimate. You either be rude and ignore the folks or you talk with them as though you were table sharing. ENTERTAINMENT: There were two good bands, including Hindsight, but they didn't play on the deck much - usually about 45 minutes at sail away.  There was a piano  player in the lounge named Barty, whose music might have been popular at the Waldorf Astoria in the 1950s.  (Two years ago we were on the Caribbean Princess where the open-lounge pianist had a standing-room only crowd).  Other venues were just slow.  We went into the Adagio two nights after dinner and it was almost empty. We went into Sky Walkers one evening at 7:30 for a before-dinner drink and there was not a server or bartender in sight.    The most fun we found was karaoke because there were a couple of really good singer/passengers aboard. DRINKS: The drinks are expensive - in the $6.25 to $6.95 for wine and alcohol. Plus, they automatically add 15 percent.  That adds up (our bar bill was nearly $800). But some of the wait staff didn't seem happy with just 15 percent. They always looked to see if we left extra.  If we didn't, they disappeared. If we did, they came back too often. It should be pointed out that Princess is good about letting people bring beer and wine on board. Never a hassle. PORTS: A PLUS of this cruise. Aruba is beautiful.  The beaches and shopping in St. Thomas are always great (We managed to find a steel drum CD of gospel songs like Amazing Grace). The river tubing in Grenada was so much fun. The water was warm and shallow and there were lots of helpers. The ride up the mountain in a mini-van bus was treacherous.  Perhaps we should have done more in Bonaire than roam the shopping area near the port. This city may want tourists, but public restrooms - if they exist - are impossible to find, so think twice about drinking too many of those $2 beers at the bar near the port unless you are heading back to the ship. FINAL FOOD PERSPECTIVE:  Would we rate this the best ever food? No, but let's put it into perspective. In 1988, we took a 7-day Princess cruise on the original Sun Princess and saved the menus. There is no comparison. The selection then was superior. But we paid $1,100 each, essentially what we paid this time for a 10 day cruise on a much superior ship. That 1988 rate did include airfare to San Juan, which we would value at about $250, based on fares at that time.  So assume $850 pp as the comparison since airfare was not included in the  2009 price.  While the food in 1988 was wonderful, there was no all-day pizza, no 24-hour buffet, no hot tubs and only one pool. And that $850 price paid for a bottom-level outside room, which consisted of one very small portal. Our $1,100 this time bought a balcony, four pools, multiple hot tubs and eating venues.  In summary, cruising is a value that has only gotten better with age. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
My husband and I have been on 11 and 13 cruises respectively, and of this number, two and three have been on Princess. We were traveling with our dear friends, leaving many feet of snow in our hometown of Spokane, Washington. The four of ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 11 and 13 cruises respectively, and of this number, two and three have been on Princess. We were traveling with our dear friends, leaving many feet of snow in our hometown of Spokane, Washington. The four of us range in age from late 40's to early 50's. Hotel: We stayed in Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise Port South and were happy with our stay. The free airport pickup and cruise port drop off went smoothly. There was a massive amount of people going on cruises so we were pleased it went so well. Embarkation: We took the 12:30 shuttle to the Emerald Princess and encountered a huge line to get on the ship. It moved so quickly, however, that we probably were on the ship in 30 minutes or less. Once through the security you went to the line that corresponded to the deck your room was on. I think it was so quick that our credit card did not quite register at this point and a couple days into the cruise we got a note requesting us to re-register it again. Room E305: We headed to our room to drop off our carry on luggage. This is an obstructed view, but we could see over the lifeboat, which was just to the right of the window, and to the left were cables and what not. We were very happy with it. We were not happy to find out that the deck 7 door to outside was directly under us and it slammed at all hours. Also, this room is directly across from the service area elevators where they bring in the luggage and room servicing carts. There was a lot of noise to say the least, and I was glad I had earplugs. There was a lot of motion and creaking in this room also. Dennis was our room steward and always did a superb job. Horizon Court and Caribbean Cafe: We enjoyed a buffet lunch the first day and though crowded found a seat in the Caribbean Cafe area. The food was just okay, but the cookies on this ship are to die for. I had my share, and I am sure someone else's share too. We ate here for breakfast a few times and some snacks here and there and found it to be fine. Sanitizers were always offered, and although I heard later in the cruise we had some Noro scare, I did not notice that they changed much. I truly appreciate their efforts to keep the germs at bay. Muster Drill and Sail away: Our muster station was the casino, and it was all done very quickly and efficiently. I usually hate this part of the cruise but it was the least irritating I have experienced. We had an informal get together with our Roll Call members at the Terrace Pool immediately after, and we enjoyed meeting those I had chatted with online. We all watched as the Emerald Princess started on our wonderful 10-day journey. Princess did arrange a room (Adagio) for us to meet again a couple days later, but they do not do any thing else special for CC members. The Ship: This is a beautiful ship, and we had fun exploring it. I loved the piazza and especially the International Cafe, which had the most amazing food items. I miss the Shrimp Salad immensely. If I had not read these boards, I would have thought it a place you had to purchase everything, but most items were free. It took till nearly the end of the cruise to really know my way around, and even then, I am not so sure. That is the fun of it though, it seemed like something new was always around the corner. Entertainment: I loved the production shows, and am so amazed at the talent of these young people to memorize all the songs and dance moves for four production numbers. The sets and costumes were amazing. How they can do all this in the space they have is mind-boggling. We especially enjoyed the band Exotique. We also enjoyed the comedians Kevin Jordan and Carey Long. The magician, Jeff Peterson, was also a comedian, and we liked him too. Sadly, we were not able to get to all the things we wanted, as there is only so much time and energy in a day. Dining: We had any time dining and we chose to make a standing reservation in the Michelangelo with Aureial and Fernando. They were superb and our food was always served quickly and efficiently. They allowed us to tweak our time each day between 5:30 to 6:30 and still have these servers and table 228. I am not sure her job title, but the young lady at the door to greet you Marillia(SP) was such a joy to see every day she made it always extra special. She is from Brazil and had the sweetest personality we encountered on the ship. I don't know how her mother can ever part with her for these cruises. The food we ordered was always wonderful. You would have to be very picky not to enjoy something off the menu. It varied enough to please all in my opinion. I especially loved the cheese and bread plate, which I always ordered as an appetizer. The love boat dream found its way to our table most nights too. It does appease the chocolate lover in me. The escargot on the last formal night, though not on the menu, was also delicious. All you had to do was ask and they tried to accommodate you. Room Service: We only tried this once for breakfast. Warning: I wrote in hot chocolate, which is free in the dining room, and was charged $1.95. Did not realize this so just wanted to let others know. Antigua-Jan. 22: Up to a beautiful sunny day. We had booked Eli's Echo Tour privately and got off a little early to look around. People wanting us to use them for a tour bombarded us. They were all very nice and no thank you was adequate. There were all kinds of shops to explore and then we met our tour. We went out on a boat with Tony and Serge and a couple others, but I can't remember their names. They were all really good to us, and we enjoyed the beautiful blue water and seeing the island from the water. We pulled in to Great Bird Island and enjoyed a hike to the top. These were spectacular views. We swam a little and then ate a wonderful BBQ chicken lunch. My husband said it was the best! Then off to Hell's Gate Island and we had a rugged climb over sheer rocks, but it was exciting and amazing. This was one of our favorite things. Then off to snorkel and it was a little cloudy but fun and quite a few fish. We enjoyed our day with the crew and their rum punch had quite a kick. YUM!!! Barbados: The Emerald Princess docked in Barbados Jan. 23. The ship docks in quite an industrial area and you are picked up at the ship by buses and taken over to the port terminal. This is where it got quite ugly. They had about 6 or 7 buses to take around 3000 passengers over which would have been walk able but you were not allowed to do so. We went to get off and people were backed up the stairwell and held till each bus would fill and move on. It was awful and we were running to catch Glory Tours as we got off later than expected. We were possibly 15 minutes late but so were the others that were going on this tour. As you left the terminal gate you are bombarded with tour vendors wanting to take you on tours. I asked for Glory Tours and a man said they left but then I hear a shout and a man holding a Glory Tours sign was there. He said other vendors would try to take their tours if they can by saying this. Jamal(SP) guided us to a bus. I told him we were on the Best of Barbados and the others were on a different tour. He said he would take us with the others. We went very quickly to the Harrison Caves. Jamal drove very well on these curvy roads, but very fast. At the caves Sarah, the head of Glory Tours, talked to us about not being able to do our tour as promised as she had to take an Expedia group that day. We were to go with Jamal and have the Wild Life Reserve cut out. I was disappointed, but stuff happens,and we understood. The good parts now: The Harrison Caves were so fantastic. We live by the Lewis and Clark Caverns and we thought nothing could compare to them but we were wrong. This was amazing. We were 160 feet under in caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites with the ceiling being 150 feet above us. Water ran in little streams all around it. WOW it was great. We rode in a tram and were able to get out for great pictures. Amazing excursion. Jamal walked us behind the caves outside to a lush tropical area and we were able to see the monkey I so wanted to see at the Wildlife Reserve. I wish we could have walked around this area. It looked like it had paths and tails. So gorgeous. We were off for an island site seeing tour of beautiful countrysides and ocean views. Then to a cozy lunch at a small eatery seeming in the middle of nowhere. We had flying fish sandwiches and a drink. We were able to change to our swimming suits here. Jamal gave a wonderful narrative and we were with only 6 other people so it was a lot of fun. Then we went to a lovely beach and loaded in a glass bottom boat. Jamal went too and drove the boat also so we knew he was good friends with the boat driver. We only went a short distance to an area where several other excursions were. There was no reef just a sandy bottom but we saw 3 turtles total and that was really amazing. They are so regal. They feed the fish so this attracts them. I was amazed at the puffer fish. I have never seen so many at one time. We were a little concerned with safety as other boats come and go and they are not as safety conscience as I would have liked with starting their motors very close to people. We brought our own snorkel gear but they do have masks and snorkels on board. No fins. Off then a short distance to a sunken ship and there was a massive amount of fish here. You literally could not see through them there was so many. We sampled a little rum punch and then back to the beach where there were bathroom facilities. We loaded in the van and back to the port. Jamal was quite entertaining and sang to us often. He was a great guide. I loved Barbados and our tour was wonderful. St. Lucia: We booked the Island Tour with Serenity Tours for today. We met them and had to wait a short while as our guide for the day, Ernie, had to pick up a family at a hotel before us. They were really nice to hang out with, and with them that made 6 of us on this tour. Of all the places we went this was the most beautiful. The flowers and plants were amazing. We wound around curvy roads out of Castries and saw amazing sites. Banana plantations and other little towns along the way. We stopped at a little house that was a little bakery of some of the best bread I have ever tasted. Ernie got us this to taste and also earlier a fresh banana. We went to a beautiful waterfall at Toraille Fall and Botanical Gardens and then wound our way to Souffrie where we saw an amazing view of the Pitons and went up to the Drive in Volcano. We were amazed at the boiling, steaming, water covering this crater area. It smelled of sulfur and it rained on us here, which happens because of the volcano. A lunch stop was made at a restaurant and we had the Creole Feast, which was very good. We had an incredible view of the Pitons during lunch. To our dismay, in the end, we headed straight back to the ship. I asked about the snorkeling part that was to be included in our tour, and they realized this was a miscommunication on their part. John the owner, who is just so wonderful, apologized profusely and insisted on refunding us one of our ticket prices. I was sad to miss this as it is suppose to be wonderful snorkeling, but there was not time at that point. Even though this happened, I would HIGHLY recommend Serenity Tours. They were very professional and at all times asked if we were having a good time and the answer was always YES!!! Customer service is very important to them, and I was impressed over the refund even though we argued that their tour had been well worth the money even without the snorkeling. St. Kitts: Our tour was with Thenford Grey. We were to meet at 10:00 but our ship got there a little early and we saw him a little after 9:00. He was taking a tour at 9:00 and had a no show so he let us take it earlier than we were scheduled. This was so wonderful as it was Thenford Grey himself and not one of his employees. He was just such a gracious man and easy to understand as he had a headphone mic that projected over the entire bus type van. It was 5 star driving in that highly air-conditioned, big windowed vehicle. We toured through Basseterre and then on up to Romney Manor-Carbelle Batik and saw the lush gardens that surround the place they sell Batik clothing. We saw a great deal of animals running around on this tour including cows, goats, pigs and monkeys. They seem to randomly cross the road where ever and when ever. Next was Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. It was so many structures, and we are sure it went far below the ground in tunnels too. We enjoyed the views and imagining what must have happened in the 1700's. We had plenty of time to explore all over the area. We then headed to the other side of Basseterre, which is drier, and there are plenty of plans to develop huge housing and resort areas here. We went to Cockleshell Beach and were able to eat and swim and snorkel. My husband said the snorkeling was not great but the water is beautiful and we enjoyed a walk along the beach. Back to the ship and said goodbye. appreciating the wonderful day that Thenford gave us. St. Thomas: We had a little shopping time before our St. John Eco Hike tour booked through Princess. We took a very rough ride on a ferry type boat over to St. John. Several tours were on this vessel and then we split up once on St. John. We met up with our guide Scott. The hike was nice and informative, but I felt for $84 we should possibly have had water supplied and a snack. Honeymoon Beach was beautiful, which is where the hike led to, and my husband found a little area where snorkeling was pretty good. We had an hour at the beach and then walked a bit more to a resort area and caught a cab back to the ferry for a calmer ride back. The tour stated we would have a botanical tour at the resort but this did not happen. We were not suppose to even go into the resort, but I had to use the facilities and was allowed to do so. We had fun, but of all the tours this was our least favorite. I do not feel like the description on this tour that Princess lists is very accurate. Princess Cays I love this stop. We were possibly the second or third tender over and we walked down to the snorkel area and got in the water as quickly as we could. It was amazing visibility and the best snorkeling site we had on this cruise. The water is a little chilly here, but not that bad. We enjoyed the beach and the sun, and lunch was wonderful. We walked along the rocky beach area and saw many of the escargot we had had the night before. Such a peaceful day and though rain greeted us as we sat our belongings down upon arrival, the sun came out and it was HOT HOT HOT! We loved it. Debarkation: We were sad to pack our bags and leave, but this was a very organized debarkation. We ate up in the Horizon Court and then took our carryons to our designated wait area in the Explorers Lounge. I'm sure it was not more than 15 minutes and our group was allowed to proceed off the ship. Found our luggage easily and through customs with no problem and into a cab in minutes. I think we were at the airport by 9 or 9:30. Well-done Princess!! I can't wait to go again, and we would love to do this itinerary again as one time just won't be enough for us. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
My wife and I are from Michigan, in our early to mid 50's, and my 17th cruise and DW's 18th cruise. Our fourth cruise with Princess and booked number five (14 Day RT Hawaii for 2010) while on board to take advantage of the OBCs. ... Read More
My wife and I are from Michigan, in our early to mid 50's, and my 17th cruise and DW's 18th cruise. Our fourth cruise with Princess and booked number five (14 Day RT Hawaii for 2010) while on board to take advantage of the OBCs. We traveled with my brother and his wife and two other couples we met on a cruise five years ago. We stayed two nights pre-cruise at the Marriott North on our own as the other two couples booked through Princess and were staying here. I rented a car at Budget at the airport as they have a drop off near the pier (on 17th St) and provide a free shuttle to the ship from there. The Emerald is a beautiful ship and looked familiar as we sailed two years before on the Caribbean Princess. I do like some of the additions such as Vines for wine and fresh Sushi; International Cafe for pastries in the morning and light lunches etc. later in the day (this is also the Coffee Bar) and we loved Adagio Bar next to Sabitinis on Deck 16. We usually met here for a cocktail pre dinner and enjoyed the light piano music and the fact that it was never crowded. Only thing that needed work on board was the 9 hole Putt Putt course. For only a couple years old it was really beat up. Must have been built by the low bidder as it is falling apart already. We had a balcony cabin port side on Lido Deck which is very handy for the pools and buffet areas. Also right near is the Ice Cream/Pizza Station which also had waffles in the morning. The pizza was the best I have ever had on a cruise ship, especially since I like thin crust style. Our Cabin Steward Antonio was quiet and very efficient and took great care of our cabin and requests throughout the cruise. I had asked ahead of time for the egg crate and top sheets and they were on our bed at arrival. The eight of us ate late seating traditional as usual and had a nice table in the back. Our waiter Fin was wonderful and always in good humor even though we kept him hopping with multiple dinners and desert choices for many of us. His assistant was also very good and took care of all of our drink and wine orders with a smile and a cheerful tone. Food in the dining room was above average for Princess and portions were very good sized. Fin was there to handle any and every issue with how the food was prepared for us. The Maitre D' was also very attentive and arranged for calamari for the table twice and a special request for escargot on another evening. They also had cheese plates for us on many nights as an added appetizer. They all made it a wonderful dining experience and even the other two couples (who are loyal RCI Cruisers) thought everything was very well done. We had room service on the island days and was always delivered on time. Enjoyed breakfast and coffee on the balcony these mornings as we prepared to head ashore. International Cafe is a great stop for a light lunch with great salads, shrimp, and desert choices as well as the option to get ice cream (three scoops of 3 diff kinds for $1.50). Our stops included Antigua where we went to Dickenson Beach in the morning, Barbados where we hit Accra Beach, St Lucia where we did a Cosol Tour which was wonderful, St Kitts where we went to S. Figate Bay which was very uncrowded and the Shipwreck Beach Bar was a rustic looking gem, and St Thomas where we had arranged on line to do the Snuba located out at Coki Beach. We shopped a bit in the afternoon on the islands. We had a very active Cruise Critic Group on line before the cruise and we met on a number of occasions throughout the voyage. We had a Sail Away party at Outriggers Bar back by the Terrace pool and probably 25-30 people stopped by for a chat. The first day was a Sea Day and we did a small Cabin Crawl. The next day was also at sea and some met for formal tea and then Princess had arranged a Meet and Mingle for us up in the Adagio Bar from 4:30 to 5:30. They closed the area for us and arranged for the bar and servers to be there. Drinks were paid for by those who wished one (or two). We also met on Day 9 for lunch in Da Vinci and we had over 20 people who attended this event. All in all a great time with fellow Cruise Critic sailors. In summary this was a great cruise on a beautiful ship. The crew were all very friendly. If you give them a smile and a hello, they always responded in same. Some had mentioned an issue with this on prior reviews, but I believe "you get what you give" and this proved true through the cruise. Disembarkation was very smooth. We had to be out of our cabin by 8:00 and breakfast was served until 9:00 in the Horizon Buffet. We then went to our assigned meeting location and were escorted down to our bags right on schedule. We were off the ship by 9:30. If you are doing your own transportation to the airport, I would advise getting a porter to haul your bags. It gets you through the lines faster, and they have a special area to take you to get a taxi much faster than if you do it on your own. Worth the tip in not having to stand in the large taxi line for those who did not use a porter. Can't wait to get on the Golden Princess next year to Hawaii as it is being upgraded this spring to include Vines, International Café and some other improvements. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was ... Read More
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was pretty painless. It was much like at a ride in Disneyland. Lots of people but moved along fairly quickly. We were issued our cards and before long were in our cabins. We had C406 and the boys had an inside across the hall C408. We were pretty much smack dab in the middle of the ship. The room was certainly big enough. The closet was huge and also the cabinet with the safe had additional shelves for storage. The bathroom was fine and again, more than enough space for all our stuff. We never had a problem with the size of the shower or the shower curtain contrary to what I had read often on this board. We had a balcony, partially covered and would say that I would not cruise without one. We spent a lot of time on our balcony. We really enjoyed watching from our balcony as we came into ports in the morning and also sitting and enjoying the views leaving the ports. We also enjoyed having a drink or coffee on our balcony and just being able to relax a little and enjoy the warm weather and fresh air. Ship: The ship is simply beautiful. Having never cruised before, I can't compare but I thought it was stunning.......and, well really, really big. It took me several days to figure out what was where and which way to go to get there. The staff that take care of the ship do a wonderful job at keeping everything immaculate everywhere. It was nicely decorated in the main areas for xmas and they had a nice display for when Santa arrived for the children as well as snow "falling" on xmas eve. Pools, MUTS, Gym: We had three sea days and I was up early (as usual) to find a pool lounger on all of those days. It was very interesting to be up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. relaxing with my book and watching the chair hogs scout out their spots. These were not people choosing a chair for themselves. They were reserving 4, 6, 8 chairs, throwing a towel or a pair of shoes on the chairs and then disappearing for hours. Understandably, there were a lot of families on this cruise, but does every family member really need a chair? Maybe they should all get up early and get there own and actually use it. The first day was at the very back of the ship which is a fairly quiet area and pretty peaceful. The other two days I choose a lounger near the MUTS screen, once on a lower deck and once on an upper deck. It was nice to be able to watch a movie while laying in the sun. This is a very, very busy area. I literally felt like a sardine......it's an obstacle course to get through the chairs and people and there is no room between the loungers. We did not sit and watch a movie in the evenings but often walked by and there were lots of people enjoying the big screen. I think the MUTS is a pretty cool idea. I went to the gym on a couple of occasions when it opened at 7:00. There were lineups and it was quite busy. I thought that it was nicely equipped and maintained. Decided to just walk outside on the Promenade deck after that. The track that is on the top deck of the ship is a nice feature, but it was too narrow and short for my comfort. It felt like you were always bumping into or trying to avoid other people. Also, way too hot up there for me. There were lots of people using it throughout the day. Dining: We had the late seating in the dining room at 8:30. I have to say that the meals we had in the dining room were absolutely wonderful. All the food was just so good and nicely prepared. I had several of the fish dishes and all were fantastic. Some of the favorites were the seafood stew served in puff pastry, grilled rack of lamb, sea scallops on ratatouille, French onion soup - yummo!! Also the king crab was delicious as well as the lobster. The lobster tail was served with two or three massive prawns which were to die for. There was lots of variety of appetizers, salads, soups and desserts in addition to the "always available" menu. I would definitely say the food on this cruise was far superior to any 5-Star All Inclusive that we have been to. We almost always had breakfast in the DaVinci dining room. You could always order things like bacon & eggs, pancakes, etc from the menu. There was a different breakfast feature each day. Eggs Benedict one day, an asparagus and fontina cheese omelette another day, and so on. Also, as soon as you were seated a waiter would appear with a tray of fresh pastries. I am having withdrawal from the fresh, warm donuts sprinkled with sugar. We tried breakfast once or twice in the buffet but were obviously spoiled from the dining room as the food in the buffet was only what I would say mediocre at best. We also had the odd snack from the buffet, but honestly, the food is so much better in the dining rooms there wasn't much point in eating at the buffets. We also had lunch a couple of times in the Wheelhouse Bar, very nice fish & chips. The other thing I have to rave about is the afternoon tea. My younger son and I stumbled on this quite by accident, but I must say, sure glad we did. Tea is served in the DaVinci Dining room every day from 3:30 - 4:30. There were a few times we missed due to being in a port, but this became one of our favorites. Very formal, white glove service and some very interesting table companions each time. Tea would be served and then trays and trays of delicious little sandwiches, pastries, and the absolute best scones I have ever had. Fresh and warm, served with jam and clotted cream. It was my son that couldn't wait to go to tea every chance we could. I also had a few lunches from the International cafe. They had a nice selection of salads and sandwiches. I found it somewhat frustrating that one day, these items would be "free" and then the next day, the items had a charge. There were items clearly marked that were extra such as the gelato and chocolate dipped strawberries but the lunch items were a guessing game. The coffee here was also pretty good. This is the only place on the ship that actually uses real cream for coffee. Everywhere else on the ship they use milk. I am a diehard coffee drinker and found the coffee practically undrinkable anywhere else. Coffee in the dining room was okay.......but I just don't like milk in my coffee. The coffee card was a good deal for me and I would recommend it. I think I went through three of them. Shows/Casino: Unfortunately, we made it to only one show. A comedian in one of the lounges. He was quite funny and we enjoyed it. We are not much into shows and we found the times were just a bit inconvenient for us. We found the early shows too early to get to and of course having the late dinner, we missed most of the late ones. If I were to cruise again, I think I would choose anytime dining. I think dinner at 7:00 would be ideal for us to take in a few more of the shows. The 6:15 seating is too early, and 8:30 was just a bit too late. We usually spent an hour or so in the casino after dinner. It was never really too busy and it would be nice if they would have a better selection of slot machines. I felt most of the ones they had were pretty outdated. Princess Cays. Nice enough beach. Nothing too special here. St. Thomas: We had nothing planned for St. Thomas. We ended up taking an island tour by a nice local guy. Spent two hours or so with him and saw some of the sights. We also walked around on the strip with the shops. I suppose if you like jewelry and watches, you would enjoy this port. We walked just one block back off this strip to a little convenience store to buy some juice and had a lady in her jeep stop to tell us that we were not in a safe area. She was very adamant about us not being in the area we were in. For me, this was the least impressive port that I visited. Dominica: I had booked a tour to go river tubing with Antours. We spent some time touring some of the island and then went to the river. This was so much fun and I'd recommend doing this to anyone. I think some were expecting a lazy relaxing float down the river, but it was actually pretty hairy in some places - what a blast! We went back into town after, but it was so busy as it was Christmas Eve. I have to say though, I thought the local people in Dominica were the friendliest, nicest people of any of the ports we visited. Grenada: We had an island tour booked with Mandoo Tours. A very pretty island and some very interesting history here. Mandoo is extremely well educated and probably knows more about the politics of my own country than I do. He talks constantly while driving the vehicle, but wow, this guy knows his stuff. He is a very, very interesting man. I bought lots of fresh spices on the island to take home. Bonaire: By far, this island has the most amazing snorkeling I have ever done. The water is so beautiful, clear and warm. So many beautiful fish and we also were able to see several sea turtles. We took a water taxi to Klein Bonaire for a few hours. There is nothing on this island, not even a washroom (I think) but it is a great place to snorkel or suntan on the beach. The port area was so clean, pretty and so well kept. The shop keepers were pleasant and for a change didn't hound you buy stuff. Of all the ports on the cruise, this was my favorite and the only one I would want to visit again. Curacao: Hmm. Mixed feelings here. We went into the shopping area for awhile. Holy Knock-Off Ville. After wandering around a bit, we ended up going back and getting towels/bathing suits and took a cab to Kon Tiki Hotel. The beach there goes for awhile and there are several hotels along this area. Pretty average beach, somewhat disappointing really. Other Things: I actually liked the picture taking stations set up in the evenings. We went several nights for family photos and ended up with some very nice pictures. The pop card for kids or teens is a must I think. I can't remember exactly how much, but somewhere around $40 for the 10 days. My kids also ate at the burger place and the pizza place and said it was pretty good. The ice cream card is also a good idea. My kids met a lot of people their age and had a very good time with their new friends. I guess this is true as they usually did not get back to their room until the wee hours of the morning. They would usually be sitting at the back of the ship visiting or in the nightclub as I did check on them to see where they were and what they were up to. I didn't notice any bad behavior by the kids on the cruise as some people have mentioned. Generally, I thought they were pretty well behaved. Other than the last night when they were several boisterous groups around the ship, but it really just seemed to me that they were saying their good-byes to one another. I also have to mention the dress code. I know this can be a touchy subject but something that really ticked me off. I had read repeatedly on this forum that people would be turned away from the dining rooms if not dressed appropriately. Well, I can certainly say that on this cruise there was NO dress code whatsoever in the dining room. The first night there were several people in line wearing jeans, T-shirts, sloppy runners, etc. I figured that because there were so many problems with many people just barely getting to the ship due to the terrible storms that they had relaxed the dress code for a day or so. I know also there were several who had not received their luggage till very late or not at all. No, this was the norm the entire cruise. These are not designer jeans I'm talking about. Frayed, dirty looking jeans, leggings, washed-out ill-fitting t-shirts, shorts, ipod earphones stuck to their ears, etc. I thought we were going to a hot-dog eating contest somewhere - that's how bad these people dressed. Rant over. All in all, we had a good time and it was a really great experience and we saw some great places. Would I do another cruise? Probably not. As silly as it may sound, I found this a "hectic" vacation. Not really relaxing at all. I felt that I was constantly looking at my watch. The ship is beautiful and huge, but it felt claustrophobic in a way compared to what I am used to. I love to walk a lot and just going around the promenade deck for my twice daily walks just is not too exciting after the first 3 laps. I missed the tranquility of a beautiful, un-crowded beach. Relaxing in a lounge chair reading and enjoying the great weather without people stepping over me. Just things like that. However, I do think for those that haven't cruised and are considering it, you should try it at least once. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Emerald Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.5 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.0

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