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293 Princess Emerald Princess Family Cruise Reviews

Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, Curacao About us: I took this cruise with my teen daughter. It was my 48th cruise and my daughter's 19th (and her first Christmas cruise), and our favorite line ... Read More
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, Curacao About us: I took this cruise with my teen daughter. It was my 48th cruise and my daughter's 19th (and her first Christmas cruise), and our favorite line by far is Celebrity. We took this cruise primarily for itinerary and because I have always been interested in Princess. I've done many cruises on Sitmar, and ever since Princess bought them out, I have been curious as to whether Princess is similar. My Sitmar cruises qualified me as a Platinum member of Captain's Circle, so we sort of "cheated" and enjoyed Princess perks without technically being a past passenger. My daughter, on the other hand, was very apprehensive about Princess, and ended up enjoying it very much. We researched this cruise thoroughly, both ports and ship, and felt we knew a lot about what to expect, even though it was our first Princess cruise. Our last cruise was in November on Celebrity's Solstice, so we found ourselves comparing details often. Photos are available at the end of the review. Day 1: Embarkation: We're from Ft. Lauderdale, so we always take a car service to the port. There was a minor traffic jam at security checkpoint (enough to give my cruise-crazy DD a heart attack), even though it was only about 10am. Upon arrival at the terminal, we were greeted by tons of the passengers from the previous sailing, waiting for transportation. Seemed a bit late to us, and the porters were gruff with us for arriving early, though there were suitcases already there. Emerald left from terminal 18, the Celebrity terminal, as the Ruby was occupying the Princess terminal. We didn't mind this, though we did hear some grumbling from the previous cruise's passengers that they arrived at this terminal instead. We expected as much, considering there were 8 ships in on December 20 and because we looked it up beforehand on the Port Everglades site. We've sailed from the terminal many times, but found it set up a bit differently Security first (no lines because it was so early), handed a Norovirus questionnaire to fill out while waiting, and then you were either directed toward the normal waiting room downstairs or the platinum area upstairs. Make sure you mention/show your card if you are platinum, because otherwise you will be sent to the normal waiting room. Platinum area was quite nice (no snacks or anything), located upstairs, peaceful and large with a great view of the ship. There were only about 3 check-in desks which was suitable for the amount of people, whereas downstairs there is the huge warehouse-size room with dozens of stations. Room was empty when we arrived but filled up quickly, as did the regular waiting room downstairs - they had a lot less room than we did! We had to wait until noon to board the ship (again, enough to drive the cruise-nut DD crazy); we overheard an officer say they were still waiting for zero count. Strange. People were pretty antsy, and before they opened the doors, we were told not to rush them. Why the warning? Sure enough, some (a large, rude family) ran ahead, claiming they had to get to the lunch buffet. DD and I gave each other a definite LOOK at that one - seemed like a bad sign to us! lol. Photographers were pushy and insisted they had to take everyone's photo, despite the bottleneck of about 100 people. Eventually people started to brush past them, which annoyed the photographers. This would prove to be a theme for the cruise: politely refuse a photo, and get an annoyed look. Two gangways expedited boarding, but people got confused by the cabin number divisions posted by each. Once we were on the ship, there was no one to escort us to our cabin - kind of a letdown considering Celebrity's service and champagne upon arrival. They did have crew directing people through the art gallery off the Piazza, but that was it. Don't know if that was because it was so early or what, but it would have been nice to have an escort. Cabin: We had P301, an outside on Plaza deck, namely because we booked rather late in the game and there was not much available. We ended up liking the location, very close to the Piazza and stairwells. Bathroom was very small, the smallest I have seen in many cruises, and the closet was extremely spacious. This amused us because on Solstice, we had the exact opposite problem - can't always get it right! The cabin is small, but seems bigger due to the large mirror at the desk. Beds were hard, which we expected thanks to CC, and we called immediately for egg crates, which helped tremendously. Duvet was very soft. Plenty of drawer/storage space, nice size TV, and the minibar being empty was a nice plus - we are used to having to ask the cabin steward to empty it for us. Minor complaint in that the window was always rather dirty from spray, seemed like they didn't clean them too often. All in all, the room feels quite spacious and layout is rather good. Nice touch on having the nameplates on the doors. A small bauble of greenery and presents appeared on the door on Dec 23, which was also cute. Our cabin steward, Mario, was nice but average. We had some issues with things in the cabin (burned out light, temperamental door which stopped functioning twice, and broken drain stopper), the latter two which he never investigated, despite our mentioning it to him. Getting two copies of the patter from him was also hit-or-miss. Horizon Court: We almost always eat in the dining room, so this was our first and only experience with the Horizon Court. The serving area was smaller and less open-feeling than we expected, and the seating was rather sparse as well. Definitely not adequate for the passenger volume the buffet gets. We expected this, but seeing it in person was still an eye-opener. (We found the passenger-space ratio a problem in other areas as well.) Food was okay - not great, but it is buffet-style. Pre-made sandwiches were soggy and looked a little tacky as opposed to a made-to-order sandwich station. We were looking forward to lemonade in the HC, but asked multiple people and were always referred to the "ultimate kids card" or told they don't serve lemonade, despite our mentioning that it was supposed to be available. Asked for lemonade on other days and had the same result. Very disappointing. Also seemed quite cheap, considering other lines have many different juices available throughout the day. The drink stations are strange: sometimes they're shut off, sometimes you have to take water from the pitchers - you never really know. On the plus side, we saw staff helping passengers with difficulties and they were always prompt in keeping the area neat. Traditional vs. Anytime: Our biggest concern for this cruise was the fact that we were assigned anytime dining. We hate the idea of anytime dining, and because we were #251 on the waitlist the morning before our cruise, we had no hope for getting traditional. Nevertheless, we waited in line for 45 min to speak to the Maitre D' (an adventure in itself, with just one MD, Nicola, handling so many pax concerns, no wonder there was a huge line!) After some hesitation, he gave us a table for six in traditional, early seating (DR: Botticelli). WHEW! After months of worrying, this was such a relief to both of us, we felt we could breathe easy from here on out. To future cruisers who are on the waitlist for traditional: go immediately when the DR opens for questions, even earlier than that if you can. Go even if you are #500 on the waitlist - we thought our situation was hopeless and it worked out! It seems like there's usually space available, despite those mile-long waitlists. Trust us, it was quite annoying to see many empty tables in traditional knowing that people on the waitlist probably would have loved to have those seats! Go early, be polite, and ask - the worst they can say is no! As for anytime, we still would not want to have it, but others we spoke with enjoyed it a lot and said there was rarely a wait. They do have restaurant style-esque beepers in case of waits. We heard from fellow passengers that large parties ended up waiting more than smaller ones, and the staff was reluctant to make reservations for large parties, because they didn't want to tie up a table. All of that makes perfect sense, but could be annoying if you travel in a large group. Muster drill: Well-organized and brief. Our station was in the casino, which had plenty of seating for everyone. We liked that you didn't put on your lifejacket until the end of the drill - otherwise, people are always too busy playing with those and don't pay attention to the actual drill. We like the fact that cruise lines are getting away from the drag-everyone-outside-to-look-at-the-boats routine...just unnecessary. Sailaway: Because of so many ships in port, we expected a delayed sailaway time, but the port was very prompt in getting the ships out - even two at the same time! What we did not expect (and probably should have) was the impact of delayed flights on sailaway. We kept being told sailaway would begin in twenty minutes, twenty minutes, but it never came. We stayed in port until about 7:30pm, waiting for 9 passengers from a flight. DD was very disappointed, as she loves sailaway time, but what can you do? I can't think of another category to file this under, so I'll write about it here. The pushing of drinks/soda cards/beer buckets etc. was insane and uncomfortable. I have an occasional drink while on the cruise, and DD rarely drinks soda, so we are in the minority of most passengers on this one. It's one thing to have several tables, that's fine - other people want the cards, even if we don't. However, we were constantly approached to buy soda cards, the ultimate kids card, and other drinks throughout our first and second day aboard - very tacky. I know this is how ships make money, but we both thought this was over-the-top. The pushing didn't stop on the first day, either; it continued until about the middle of the cruise where it finally slowed. We much prefer Celebrity's method of asking once, then leaving a coaster as a marker and you're not bothered again. Bravo! Dinner: We very much enjoyed traditional dining. We had table #66 in the Botticelli DR, which is a table for 6 in the center and could be kind of loud at times. Our waiter Ilyan and his assistant Marin, both from Bulgaria, were excellent. They remembered our preferences and were very pleasant and fantastic servers. A major complaint regarding the DR that we noticed throughout the week: the assistant waiters are way too taxed having to sell drinks and do all of their other duties. We much prefer Celebrity's allocation of drink duties to the sommeliers; Princess' method seems cheap. We felt the lack of sommeliers made life hard for the assistant waiters, particularly because they had to do bar orders (a big problem on Christmas night especially) and keep up with the Norovirus precautions i.e. serving bread, salt/pepper etc. (more on the Noro later). As mentioned before, we left late, so our only look at sailaway was through the Botticelli DR's windows. I can definitely see why they made this DR the traditional one - if it was the anytime one, there's no way it would ever get any traffic! The only way to reach the Botticelli DR is by going all the way aft to the last set of elevators/stairs and going down. For us (with a cabin on Plaza deck, near the forward stairwell), this was especially a pain because you would have to go up two flights, walk across the ship, then go down one flight. Very inconvenient, and I doubt many would venture down here if they didn't have traditional dining. The DR is blocked by kitchens on the 5th and 6th decks, making it feel very enclosed. This especially presented a problem when folks would gather before each dinner seating: the elevator/stairwell lobby would become quite congested because it was the only place to wait. (More on this later.) It's no wonder the Michelangelo and Da Vinci DRs are the anytime DRs, they definitely get more traffic and have more space around them, simply based on location. Other than this, all of the dining rooms have a similar interior look and design, so you're not missing out on anything by having one over the other, just location. The menu for the first night included prime rib, which was a nice surprise and quite tasty. The chilled soup, pina colada, was delicious as well. It came in an actual drink glass, which amused DD greatly. Despite searching, we weren't able to find menus for Emerald anywhere online, so DD took on the task of photographing all the menus in hopes that future cruisers won't have the same problem. Internet: We got our $100 free internet package thanks to being Platinum level, and also got an extra 30min for signing up on the first day. The free 30min is not advertised anywhere, so it's a nice "secret" we picked up on CC. Very easy to sign up. My daughter became friends with the internet cafe manager, who shared a lot of insight into working on the ship and helped her upload some photos/videos off her camera. He was great, make sure to say hi if you see him there! Welcome Aboard show: The first night's show was a quick intro with a number from the singers/dancers; a performance by the comedy magician, Jeff Peterson and his adorable dog, Indy; and a performance by the comedy/juggler whose name unfortunately escapes me now. We thought both acts were pretty good. Our cruise director was Neil Chandler, with his deputy CDs Marahscalh and Kim and the rest of their staff do a great job. Neil especially is hilarious, very visible and truly enjoys his work and meeting people. It was a cheesy but great treat to hear him sing the Love Boat theme song before the Welcome Aboard show began. Neil and Marahscalh both love to sing and we heard them singing throughout the cruise, so be prepared! MUTS: For those who are interested, there was a wide variety of movies played on our sailing: Hancock, Mamma Mia, The Dark Knight, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Baby Mama, Swing Vote, Get Smart, The Mummy 3, Ghost Town, Christmas movies (Elf, A Christmas Story, Fred Claus), Christina Aguilera & Josh Groban in concert, and many NFL/college bowl games. I have to say, we were very skeptical of MUTS (seemed like a waste of money and deck eyesore) but we both ended up loving it. It's a great idea and another fun activity for both day and night. DD loved hanging out in the MUTS pool and watching movies. Kudos to Princess! Summary: Embarkation ran smoothly even though it was in the Celebrity terminal, which was great. All in all, the first day had some minor annoyances with the constant drink-pushing and cattle-like rush for boarding, but nothing is perfect and the first day is rather always pretty hectic no matter what ship you are on. Day 2, Princess Cays: This was our first visit to any line's private island, and we really weren't expecting much. Being from Ft. Lauderdale, private islands and beach spots in the Caribbean don't have the same appeal for us as they might for others. DD explored the island, only to report that while it was clean and well-laid out, there's not much beyond the bungalows. (For any future explorers, walking all the way to the end of the island on the right side is a long walk with not much to see except for a wooded beach, so you could probably save yourself the trip.) The beach itself is a series of small "coves" (u-shaped beaches) with lifeguards posted on the outskirts of each. Water sports are available at rental stations on the beach, and there is a special pavilion and beach area for snorkeling. The BBQ area is huge - very efficient with multiple serving lines, and the extra playgrounds, lookout tower, and patio areas are nice. We saw the staff spraying down the picnic tables with sanitizer before lunch - better safe than sorry! There are plenty of lounge chairs and seating space, and the bungalows are adorable - quintessential Caribbean look. There are now 6 additional bungalows built, for a total of 18, though no one was staying in the newest ones so they must not be completely ready yet. I personally wouldn't get a bungalow (they seemed kind of small for what you pay for them), but if you have a large group to share the cost or are traveling with someone who has difficulties, I think they're a good choice. The beach was crowded with most of the pax sprawled out over it - I seriously hope two Princess ships never call on the island at the same time, it would be overwhelmed! While the ends of the beaches on either side are much quieter and less crowded, the beach area itself is also less desirable, with rougher coastline, so you can't really escape the crowd there. If you're really looking to escape most of the crowds, the "left" side of the island (over the little dock-bridge, where the clamshells are located) is far less crowded and has its own BBQ and bar area. (Most pax disembark the tenders and head straight.) There are a lot of clamshells and I personally don't see what makes them better/worse than finding shade under a palm tree elsewhere, but if you want guaranteed shade, go ahead. Just make sure to get off as early as you can, because they are given out on a first-come-first-serve basis. The clamshells in the back row are much less desirable because all you see is the row of clamshells in front of you, not ocean. This side is also less pretty than the other side and has a slightly rougher coastline. The water itself was chilly (not unexpected for December), but that wasn't a problem for most swimmers. As others have mentioned, the beach itself is a little rocky due to the coral formations. If you don't like the feeling of rock under your feet, you might want to bring water shoes. DD saw many fish swimming very close to shore in the coral rock, which surprised her because they had no fear of people at all. All in all: the island was nicer, cleaner, and more developed than we expected, a decent beach day if you take it at that. After reading stories on CC, I was expecting much more trouble with unloading so many pax and the tender situation/tickets, but it ran remarkably smoothly. We waited about an hour after we arrived and then proceeded to the theater, where the tender tickets had already been phased out. No sooner were we seated then we were called to fill up the next tender. Cruise staff was very friendly and great at managing this. Tenders ran frequently from the island and you never had to wait for one. Good job, Princess. It's not easy offloading 3000+ pax by tender, but they managed it well. Dinner: Tonight was the Caribbean dinner (menus and food pictures coming soon, I promise! Still uploading!) which was better than we expected. A deliciously seasoned shrimp and scallop appetizer, another wonderful chilled soup (mango and pear), and lamb. The entrees themselves were kind of a letdown, but we're not really into the choices (jerk chicken, and seasoned fish) to begin with. I forgot to mention this before, but our cruise was the pilot release of Princess' new "home-style" cuisine: an additional entrEe on each menu (didn't match the themed dinners) of more typical foods - steaks, meatloaf, fajitas, etc. Sometimes our waiter recommended these, sometimes he did not...and we learned to always trust his recommendations. I tried the meatloaf on another night and enjoyed it a lot. Sometimes you just need a break from all of the rich cruise-food, and this was a nice alternate option. Our dinner was also eventful, though not in a good way. We were waiting for our main course when all of a sudden, these crew members dressed in what I can only liken to haz-mat suits and masks came in, cordoned off a now-empty table and began thoroughly cleaning it. It seemed like our table was the only one in the dining room that noticed this production, and we managed to ask the Maitre D', who claimed a young girl had vomited at dinner after "too much sun". DD and I both had a bad feeling about this, but tried to shake it off. As unpleasant as it was to see this during dinner, it was good to see the staff taking care of the issue in such a timely and hygienic manner. Entertainment: There seemed to be lull tonight in terms of entertainment. The theater had an Australian entertainer/piano player, but most we spoke with didn't like him much (we didn't go). There was also three performances by comedian Cary Long in the Explorers lounge, one of which we caught the tail end of but felt we kind of missed because there was no seating with view of the stage. We were told the Explorers lounge has seating for 600 people, but it certainly doesn't feel that way when some of the more popular, single-showing acts appear in there. The Piazza also has entertainment nightly, but it's usually very short acts, only about ten minutes or so of acrobatics or whatnot. It always draws a crowd and is a nice break while you're milling around the ship. Day 3, at sea: We had our CC meetup this morning at 10:30 in Skywalker's, and a great crowd showed up for the event. Princess provided a bartender and snacks, but none of the cruise staff was present. There was a really cute gift exchange - many creative gifts representing where everyone was from! That afternoon they had a gingerbread house building competition, which DD participated in. Cruise staff provided some great house-building kits and fellow passengers provided the creativity! Saw many great houses (and clearly professional house-builders), with creative use of everything from Christmas lights to kiwis and triscuits, lol. Each team got 45min to decorate and then present their house, and then the cruise staff decided whose was best. DD didn't win, but we did "win" a gingerbread house in our cabin for the rest of the cruise. I was surprised that the unclaimed houses weren't going to be displayed somewhere, which leads me to our next part... Decorations: The ship is decorated beautifully for Christmas. Trees are everywhere, from the Horizon Court to the entrance of each dining room. Hanukkah services were held each evening in the Explorers lounge, complete with snacks and drinks, and menorahs were displayed at the entrance to each dining room. The Piazza is definitely a sight to see, with a huge tree and menorah beside it (never could figure out how they kept those trees from wobbling, even when we had some pretty rough seas!) and garland decorating all of the staircases and balconies. Late at night, a gingerbread village was constructed in the Piazza center by half a dozen pastry chefs. The houses represented different offices on the ship: bridge, galley, etc. There was even a train running through the village. Too cute! The houses looked almost too good to be real, but the pasty chefs claim they were all edible. Maybe not after a few days in the Piazza, lol. Adults were just as mesmerized by the children at how the village appeared overnight, it was really adorable. Even DD, who thought she would miss the Christmas feeling by being away from home, was in love with how festive the ship was for the holidays. Norovirus: That night, we received the dreaded letter at our door, confirming the episode at dinner the day before: Norovirus was aboard. The letter was brief, concentrating more on hygiene procedures and the new serving protocol, rather than the nitty-gritty of Noro. People were urged to check in with the medical center regarding symptoms. It was difficult to get information out of the crew regarding how bad the outbreak was, but our waiter finally told us that they had an emergency crew meeting at 11:30pm the same night the letter was handed out. He claimed there were about 35 pax with Noro, and 2 crew members. The next day before sailaway, Captain Romano took to the PA to explain Noro and the protocol, probably trying to assuage passenger worries. Good call. From that point on, we were hand-sanitized when entering a food area, served everything in the dining room (butter, salt, cream), and waiters sanitized tables/chairs between seatings. We even saw bartenders sanitizing tables in the lounges after shows. Officers wore gloves when dealing with passengers returning to the ship, as did guest relations personnel. And, of course, all food was served in the Horizon Court. I really feel badly for the crew whenever Noro hits - it makes so much more work for them when they already have so much to do. Our waiter claimed that whenever there's more than 300 kids aboard, the crew pretty much expects Noro. Poor guys. As the days passed, our waiter kept us up to date, saying that the number of cases remained steady (no new incidences, thank goodness) before finally declining. A potentially icky Christmas outbreak was nipped in the bud, thanks to Princess' quick thinking and action. Formal night: The Captain's cocktail party was held from 7:30-8:15pm in the Piazza, with Commodore Romano making his speech a little before 8pm. We could not attend, as this was right in the middle of our early seating. This tactic seemed a little cheap to us (as it did to our tablemates), as a way to guarantee most people would miss the party (free drinks). I'm sure the bulk of anytime diners also eat in the window of 6-8pm as well, so I know it's not just early diners who were inconvenienced. I know that with anytime dining it's hard to schedule these evening events, but other ships usually have two parties to accommodate each dinner seating, so why not have two parties here? Oh well. This is not a make-or-break-a-cruise detail, but it is a little annoying. As for dress, we saw people dressed in anything and everything. Obviously, the first formal night is also the most formal. Thankfully, those who were eating in the dining rooms were dressed appropriately. We saw a range from evening gowns to cocktail dresses and pantsuits, dark suits to tuxes. With so many different eating venues and dress codes all over the ship, one doesn't have to worry about being frowned upon if they're not dressed in formalwear. A fair amount of folks change after dinner as well. Dinner: Tonight's theme: Captain's Welcome dinner. Appetizer was a delicious crabmeat quiche, chilled soup was a yogurt/tamarind blend (looked terrible, but don't judge a book by its cover, it tasted great). Entrees included shrimp newburg, Cornish hen, and medallions of beef, which were very soft and tasty. No sorbet on formal night, which is something we enjoy on Celebrity. After reading many recommendations on CC (and being a chocoholic), DD wanted to try the chocolate soufflE...well, I think she learned soufflE is not her thing, but others enjoyed it and there were many soufflEs to choose from throughout the cruise if you are a soufflE lover. Entertainment: Tonight was the first of four production shows, A Swell Party, a tribute to the music of Cole Porter. This is probably a show more for the older crowd, as the meaning was definitely lost on DD and some others said they didn't enjoy it much either. The best part of the cruise being ten days was the variety of production shows/entertainment. Out of the four shows, most people found at least one or two that they really enjoyed. The show itself was good, with nice sets and costumes, and the dancers do a great job. Wisely, the show is performed twice on formal night (once for each seating) and again the next day. While I dislike the theater's passenger capacity, I am happy to see Princess addressing this design problem with multiple performances of the shows. Afterwards I saw the newlywed game, which was pretty funny. This one really depends on the participants, but some of the questions were pretty good/cringe-worthy. If you enjoy the newlywed game, make sure to keep an eye out for it early on in the cruise, as they only do it once and many miss it. Other activities around the ship included lots of live music/DJs, piano player Eric Stone, and comedy/juggler Chuck Gunter in the Explorers lounge. He performed three times that evening, so there were plenty of opportunities to see him and catch other events as well. There was always something to do in the evenings, usually the problem was choosing between activities and getting a seat at them. It takes a lot to keep 3000+ pax occupied over the course of an evening, and Princess tries very hard to accomplish this, even if the venues and seating don't cooperate. Day 4, St. Thomas: We have been to St. Thomas many times before, but we love shopping so we always get off in order to hunt for bargains. We docked at Crown Bay, which was a different experience for us because we've only ever docked at Havensight. There were four other ships in port: Carnival Glory, Carnival Splendor, Norwegian Dawn all at Havensight, and Maasdam beside us at CB. (When you get up in the mountains and see the ships from above, you can really appreciate just how big Emerald is, especially compared to the tiny Maasdam!) They're still in the process of opening many stores at CB, but the usual suspects (Diamonds International, Cardow, etc.) are all there, along with a bar and some other random shops. There was even a huge Christmas tree and large windmill. Interesting? We missed Havensight a tiny bit, if only because the walk to town is far nicer along the waterfront and because there's something special about seeing your ship docked at that iconic pier. Make sure to look for the iguanas along the rocks at the CB pier - they're huge and make for amusing entertainment, particularly when the tourists try to "play" with them. The price for a taxi in to town is $4 per person, each way. However, all of the "taxis" are pickup trucks with bench-style seating - be prepared to cram in with about twenty other people in one of these. I have problems with my knee and don't do steps very well, so that was not an option for us. I finally found a regular car taxi after about an hour of waiting and searching for one: these car taxis are in pretty short supply, keep this in mind if you have difficulties. There is also the water taxi, which runs back and forth between downtown and Havensight. The price for this is $10 and it's valid for all day, which is a pretty good deal if you like to go back and forth a lot and love shopping. We took a tour of the island, saw lookout points, Magen's Bay. Magen's Bay is stunning, and less crowded than other beaches due to the entrance fee (I think it's about $4). Our driver even showed us Coki beach, which we had been to years ago when my daughter was younger...well, the first words out of DD's mouth was "YUCK". Coki beach was very crowded, absolutely teeming with people on the shore and in the water. Not a good place to be if there's lots of other ships in port, definitely. After our tour, our driver let us off in town for shopping. Even after all these years and cruises, I love the shopping in St. Thomas. I know it's very commercialized, but I think you can still find some bargains if you know where to look and how to haggle. It was crowded in town with so many ships - seems like most pax plan to do the beach/tour thing first, then go shop, so if crowds aren't your thing you might want to try doing it the other way around. For those who are interested in jewelry, my favorite store is Cardow. (Not a paid minion, just a fan.) I've been buying pieces from them for over thirty years and I've never been disappointed. They really stand by their merchandise and have repaired pieces I've bought from them years ago for no charge. Most of the jewelry stores are all recommended by the ships nowadays, so try not to spend too much time looking for hidden Mom-and-Pop places - they're just not here. If you love the chains, your port lecturer will describe all of them in detail and you'll get your lovely map too. Diamonds International's latest scheme is having passengers collect free charms from each port of call, so be sure to pop in there for your requisite "gold" bauble. Philip Stein watches were also quite popular purchases, with most pax claiming to have snagged them for significantly below US retail. Our driver picked us up at a pre-arranged place, and we headed back to the ship. Stopped for a bit to have sodas in this Margaritaville-esque bar in CB shopping center (the soda pushers finally made me crack, I couldn't help it), and then headed back to the ship. Caught many doing last minute runs off the ship to buy t-shirts in CB. Dinner: Tonight was the Princess dinner...not quite sure what that means, but I think we enjoyed it even more than the formal dinner. Another chilled soup in the drink glass (three melon daiquiri) and these delicious tiger prawn kebabs...DD is still raving about those! Entertainment: Tonight's main entertainment was Fernandez, a hypnotist. I like hypnotists, and Fernandez was hysterical. DD is very skeptical of hypnotists and agreed that he was the best she's ever seen. Hilarious! Don't miss him, people were talking about this show for the rest of the cruise, everyone loved it. Minor complaint: although there was live music and some other entertainment ("Peer Factor" = the weakest link), Fernandez was the main show in town tonight, which led to his three sets in the Explorers lounge being very, very crowded. People were crowded all over, and standing in the aisles at the final show. When a situation like this happens, I think they would be better off using the theater as the venue...this is where they placed Fernandez's midnight adult show later in the cruise, and it was full. Day 5, Dominica (Christmas eve): This was the only port on our itinerary that I had never visited and I was pleasantly surprised. The island is very lush and pretty, and the eco-tourism/conservation efforts really shine through. For anyone else doing this itinerary, I would recommend bringing along a small pop-open umbrella, as we used it in three different ports for a shield from the random, brief showers. Many islands said they were either in or entering their rainy seasons. The dock is pretty rickety...Dominica might want to invest in a more modern one sometime soon. Locals are friendly, not pesty. We took a tour with a private taxi (again, beware the mini-busses if you have difficulties - they are everywhere!) Thankfully, the rain let up as we drove up into the mountains on those windy, narrow roads. Our driver claims that there's a plan to widen the roads and brace the muddy clay hillsides in the future. We'll see. Dominica looks very similar to a South American jungle, greenery everywhere and lots of mountains. A large river runs through most of the island as well, all the way down to the town of Roseau. We reached Trafalgar falls early on in the morning, when not many other vans were there, which was key. Later on it got very, very crowded, so try to get there early in the day. The cost to get in is cheap, $5 I believe, and it's a self-guided hike down to the falls (though many bus drivers will walk down there with you). They will point out some plant and animal highlights along the way, though there's more of the former than the latter. There are many dirt steps down (not constructed but sturdy nonetheless) to first a lookout point and then the twin falls. The view from there is great and probably enough to satisfy the non-adventurous. Anything beyond the lookout point is considered at your own risk, and the trail is short but full of rocks - no steps at all. DD made the trek and she said it was rough if you're not too agile. She said she was glad she wasn't wearing flip flops, unlike most of the tourists! There are various pools at the base of the falls...very warm water, heated underground. Quite a few were swimming in the pools, too. On our way back down the mountain we stopped at the sulfur springs. This is not as visually stunning as the falls - to be blunt, it's kind of ugly and of course, smelly. There is no charge for admission here. The pathway in was muddy and flanked by reeds, slightly uphill. The sulfur spring is pretty small, considering the attraction that's built around it, but alright for a quick look. If you like, vendors will put god-knows-what from the sulfur spring on your face...claim it helps fight aging. No thanks! lol. Our driver stopped a few times while driving to grab bananas, papayas, and some spices to show us. The lemongrass is particularly fragrant - trust me, I know, it made our suitcase very fragrant when we returned home! On our way back to town, he showed us the botanical gardens, which we had wanted to see, but they were kind of a disappointment. We just did a drive-by, but you could easily walk there from the dock, it's not far. It seemed more like a large park than gardens. Many locals picnic and play sports there as well. There's also a large soccer field near several parochial schools; locals are very into soccer. Our tablemates said they visited a local church for Christmas eve service and said it was very pretty, but had suffered hurricane damage and the roof was leaking. We saw the church from the street and it's very imposing and impressive. If you like churches, it's definitely worth a look. In the afternoon, we went shopping for souvenirs in town in the afternoon and the streets were bustling - took us awhile to realize that yes, Virginia, it actually was Christmas eve! A good clue was that the locals were beginning to be full of Christmas cheer...the liquid kind, at least. There is no touristy downtown area, all stores are mixed in together and it's pretty easily walkable. I liked this, it gives you an opportunity to explore the local side of things. Many selling hot snacks and fresh fruits and veggies on the street. A huge line outside the local supermarket/electronics store - hm, wonder why? lol. Dropped into a drugstore and found a jar of peanut butter for $9 US - now that's something to write home about! There aren't that many actual souvenir shops (that we saw anyway), mainly little stalls set up along the street. They all have pretty much the same items and you can't do any haggling, even if you're into that sort of thing. There is a small marketplace right behind the Dominica museum (directly across from the pier), but it contains basically the same things. For those interested in jewelry or more high end goods: it's just not that type of place. There was one jewelry store by a hotel close to the dock, but that's it. Walk a little bit past the hotel to get some nice shots of the coastline and mountains. Dinner: Another Princess dinner. DD, who is a chilled soup fan, said if you know what's good for you, you'll stay away from the celery and apple soup. She said it had the consistency (and taste!) of baby food and others at the table agreed with her. Choices for dinner included salmon steak, duck breast, crawfish, and ribeye steak. Dessert's black forest cake was mediocre, not much flavor. As an extra treat, our waiter served Christmas cookies after dinner - nice touch. Entertainment: Tonight was a pretty big night in terms of entertainment. First, Santa made an appearance on the funnel at 7:30pm, after a reading of a Christmas story by CD Neil. Now, this seemed a bit misguided to me. When do most children eat dinner? Early seating or earlier in the anytime spectrum. The time for this event was right in the middle of early dinners. Not the best plan for such a kid-oriented event. Perhaps the best (and simplest) activity was in the Piazza tonight: caroling, offered once for each dinner seating. A sheet of song lyrics was included in the patter. It was so lovely to see everyone gathered and the crew all dressed up, singing Christmas carols. As everyone sang the final song, the snow began to fall from the top of the Piazza and you could really hear a collective "oooh" from the crowd. Now, it really felt like Christmas. This was a wonderful activity. We had our second production show, Motown, presented twice in the theater. Most folks really enjoyed this show - very upbeat and a lot of catchy songs. The lead singer, Regina, is fabulous - she has a great range! There was also various Christmas themed parties and dancing throughout the ship, and Fred Claus up on the MUTS screen. Finally, for Christmas eve, there were both Catholic and Protestant masses offered at 11:30pm in the theater and Club Fusion respectively. When we returned to our cabin, we received one stocking with the Princess logo (to share?) that was full of candy. Day 6, Grenada (Christmas day): I had visited this island a few times before, but it was many years ago, and my experience was not so great. My family and I found the locals to be very pesty (think: Jamaica, but more so) and I was worried about that happening again, particularly with DD in tow. I think Christmas mitigated the onslaught of the locals somewhat, as most were in their homes celebrating and only the die-hard taxi drivers and shop owners were out. (I'm not entirely convinced they've given up their pesty ways, however.) The Sea Princess was also docked beside us. Grenada's tourist areas are very beautiful: pristine Carenage harbor with many elegant yachts and sailboats, and the sparkling Grand Anse beach with many hotels nearby. The "downtown" area next to the pier is very tourist-oriented and sanitized as well. The local areas, however, are quite poor. Many hungry stray dogs running in the streets and lots of roadside souvenir stands looking for business. They will even sell to you through the car window, if you'd like. There is room for haggling here, too, so don't take the first price they give. Our driver stopped and gave us a "spice demonstration" of the various spices and how to use them. Kind of cheesy, but we had wanted to visit a spice plantation to begin with. We bought some spice boxes for friends, they're small boxes made out of palms and contain the essential spices from the island. You can get a better price and more spices if you work with them. Next stop was Annandale waterfall, which had a lot of vendors, so beware. They sell everything from CDs to spice necklaces to photos with monkeys and locals. Usually a firm "no" suffices. It's a short walk down to the falls, again, a very rainforest-like atmosphere. Very lush. There are jumpers at the waterfall, who ask for tips if you enjoy watching them. The waterfall is very pretty and there are benches where you can rest and watch. If you are looking for the famous black sand beach at Grand Anse (as I was, wanted to show DD), it's no longer. Our driver informed us that they used up all the black sand for airport construction. Lol. Our driver claimed there are still other black sand beaches on the island. The beach itself is still quite gorgeous, and we didn't see much selling by the locals, which was a nice plus (had that experience before too). By the time we got back to the pier, it seemed like most others had returned as well and the indoor mall (basically the only open shops) was very crowded. Interestingly, you have to put your things through a metal detector here before even walking out onto the pier (and of course, again when you board the ship). Upon returning to the ship, we were given ice cold towels. A nice touch, different than the water and juice Celebrity provides. DD said she prefers juice, but a cool towel is still thoughtful, and better than nothing. Her verdict on Grenada: "Mom, you had me worried for nothing - it wasn't that bad!" We left Grenada early in order to make the trip to Bonaire. Though we had less time in Grenada, it allowed for more Christmas celebrations throughout the ship. Santa arrived in the Piazza via the panoramic elevators before making his way to Club Fusion for visits with children. Parents could fill out a form with their child's information, which was given to Santa. He posed for pictures and gave each child a gift: a stuffed frog for kids and a Princess t-shirt for teens. A nice activity for kids. Dinner: This morning at breakfast, eggnog was served, and Christmas cookies and eggnog were served in the Piazza during the morning. When we arrived at dinner, the table had a real (!) candle, some greenery, and Christmas crackers at each place. And by Christmas crackers, I mean noisemakers, because there was a lot of noise generated from those throughout dinner. There was a small, token gift in each: a foldable pen, a keychain game, sewing kit, little things like that. Our table had been wondering what they would serve to accommodate all the different Christmas-dinner tastes aboard. Well, Princess met all of our expectations. There was turkey with all the trimmings, pineapple glazed ham (we both had this and it was one of our favorite entrEes), beef tenderloin, halibut, and pumpkin gnocchi. Our table shared the gnocchi and it was delicious as well. Dessert was equally varied: gingerbread soufflE, English Christmas pudding, Italian Christmas panettone. Now, here comes the problem. As our assistant waiter warned us, bar service was slow on Christmas, as was the kitchen service. Understandable. We were still waiting for our desserts at almost quarter after 8, and we weren't the only ones - the dining room was half full. I always hate when this happens, I feel terrible for the waiters having to rush for the next seating. We ate our desserts as quickly as we could, and the Maitre Ds were anxiously pacing, telling the waiters to hurry up and that they would turn the lights on "otherwise they'll never get out of here". Now if that wasn't bad enough, here is where the poor location of the Botticelli DR comes into play. (Remember, there's nothing outside it but elevators and stairs.) When we walked out, we were met by a huge crowd of late seating diners, practically stacked on top of each other in the foyer and on the stairs. We had to fight our way through the crowd to even reach the elevators. The worst part was, few of them even moved to allow us out - not to mention the fact that we got a lot of dirty looks. What a way to end Christmas dinner. I don't know what time late seating made it into the DR - there was still a lot of tables eating when we left at 8:20 - but it wasn't our fault, just this perfect storm of slowness. Entertainment: Tonight was a Christmas show, which was short in comparison to other shows. There was a number by the dancers, followed by magician Jeff Peterson and his pup, Indy. He's pretty funny and had some good tricks, but I guess I just expected more out of a Christmas show. This show was probably a half hour long, maybe a little more. There was also the CD's Christmas party (at the same time as the show) in Explorers, and a dance party in Club Fusion later in the evening. Day 7, Bonaire: We arrived in Bonaire a little after noon, due to the distance from Grenada. Enchantment of the Seas was already docked, and left a few hours after we arrived, so thankfully the small island wasn't too overwhelmed by so many visitors. I had been here before and fondly remembered the salt flats and the fact that the entire island had only one traffic light. Well, times change and now Bonaire has no traffic lights. Lol! Driving here is definitely not as crazy in other ports. With so few people, the roads feel very private and there are no hairpin mountain turns: Bonaire is pretty flat. People here speak both English and Papiamento, which is a hybrid of Dutch, French, Spanish, and English. If you speak Spanish, you will be able to understand some Papiamento. This proved to be an advantage for us, as our driver quickly switched from so-so English to fluent Spanish and we really got the cook's tour. We toured the both ends of the island. In the south are the salt flats and the slave huts. The flats take up an immense area, as there's different sections for each part of the salt mining process. The water is almost a violet color, kind of surreal. There's also a salt-loading dock and mechanism that extends over the road. Also located near here is the flamingo sanctuary, as the flamingos feed on the plankton in these waters. Unfortunately (probably fortunately for the flamingos), the sanctuary is not open to people. Flamingos outnumber people on this island, though they're very skittish around humans. You'll see some of them while driving around, but don't expect to get too close. At the end of the salt flats are the slave huts, which were used at the end of the 19th century for those who worked in the flats. It's prime (coral) beach real estate, though the conditions aren't so hot. Small concrete "houses" that slept four and have doors that can't be any more than 2 feet high. Being from FL, I was amazed that the huts have outlasted hurricanes for so long. We headed back through the town, catching some far-off flamingos along the way. The North side of the island has more inhabitants. We saw a picture-perfect retirement community where many Americans live: huge homes and beautifully landscaped yards. Also worth a look is the 1000 steps (misnomer), a coral staircase down to another snorkeling beach. Very picturesque. The island is coral, rather than volcanic, and you can see marks along the rock formations where the water has retreated from. There are many natural caves, too. We drove through the countryside, stopped at an overlook where we could see the more northern part, including the highest point, where they used to light fires to warn Curacao about pirates. Pretty neat. Also saw more flamingos playing in the waters, a bit closer this time. We went to another overlook near the town of Rincon. There were some colorful Caribbean parakeets in the fruit trees, and our driver claimed that they make very smart pets for the locals. We also got to see the old airport (the new Flamingo airport is in the south and rather large, surprisingly enough). The old airport - which wasn't too modern looking to begin with - is now a soccer field, lol. Though we didn't snorkel, we heard rave reviews from those who did. The best snorkeling is on Klein Bonaire, an uninhabited island very close to Bonaire. Bonaire really protects its beaches, closing them in cycles to let them "rest". There is also land-surfing (think windsurfing in go-carts on land) on the western side of the island, which we watched. Shopping: again, you'll really just find souvenir shops here. Bonaire was celebrating Boxing Day on our visit, so many stores were closed, but there was an open-air market with crafts near the center of downtown. Check out the government offices nearby. There is a very pretty walk along the waterfront, and many restaurants and bars in the area. All in all, we really enjoyed Bonaire - I'd venture to say it was our favorite stop. It's very peaceful, not at all commercialized, and has an interesting landscape. Caught some showers on our way back to the ship - another reason to pack that umbrella! Dinner: Tonight's theme was Italian, and the waitstaff was dressed in Italian gear. I got a kick out of that - haven't seen dressed up waitstaff in awhile! Appetizers (ham and melon) and soups (peach) were delicious. I really enjoyed the chicken cutlet, which was the homestyle cuisine option. DD had the veal, which she said was kind of chewy and not-so-hot. She did try the Love Boat Dream for dessert and, well, fell in love. Very rich but very yummy! Italian cookies accompanied our desserts, too. The big issue I had at dinner was the selling of these limoncello drinks in Princess cups. After seeing other tables served them, I presumed they were part of the Italian dinner. Boy, was I wrong! I believe it was 5.95 for a tiny cup. Our tablemates bought them (mainly for the cups, I think) and stopped drinking after one sip. They complained the drinks tasted like window cleaner and regretted buying them. Selling at dinner - that I can't abide by. It just reeked of tacky. Later at the Caribbean deck party, DD said they were selling those darn cups again...yuck. Entertainment: Tonight's production show, I Got the Music, was okay. It covered famous pop icons and the singing was good, but just didn't have the same wow factor as the other shows. Maybe because there wasn't as many choreographed dance numbers, just the vocalists doing their thing with the occasional dance accompaniment. The vocalists are good at what they do, so no disrespect meant to them. Other activities around the ship included another round of Princess Pop Star, live music/DJs, Eric Stone playing piano in Explorers, and of course, the requisite Caribbean deck party, which was also celebrating Kwanzaa. DD attended and she said it was pretty fun, lots of cheesy line dances and a game of musical chairs with men instead of chairs. Lol. Fun with streamers, too. Princess loves their streamers; they gave them out several times during our cruise at big celebrations. Day 8, Curacao: This was the Emerald's first visit to Curacao ever, and probably its only visit as this was a replacement for an Aruba stop on our voyage. (We were informed of this change months ago, so it was no surprise, and we love both stops, so we didn't care too much.) Even the crew was excited to explore Curacao, was a treat for them too. We were docked at a new pier, not the older one that is behind the Queen Juliana (overpass) bridge. That was a little bit disorienting for us, a bit of a "where the heck are we?" feeling! The walk to downtown takes about 10-15 min (depending on how fast you go), and is pleasant, with many nice views. Just like the other ports, there were those pesky random showers and a lot of wind, which kept us waiting to go ashore. Probably the most unexpected event was as we were getting ready to debark the ship. The announcement came: "this is the bridge, we have a mooring emergency." DD ran up on promenade deck and was shocked to see the ship's gangway, perfectly folded out - in the water! Officers scurried on the dock, taking in the canopies and midship gangway equipment before running back onboard. She asked one of the officers, who was kind enough to explain that the ship had been tied up improperly and a strong headwind had came and hit the top-heavy ship. The forward gangway took the brunt of it and collapsed into the water. Thankfully, no one was on it at the time, so no injuries. The officer said the fallen gangway was probably broken for good due to the shock of the fall. An officer and an engineer were tied to bungee cords and outfitted with lifejackets and sent down the water-gangway to try and attach it back to the ship's door. It was a big production to lift the gangway up again and use the thrusters to push the ship back to the dock. (DD got video of it, not sure how to link it here.) Both gangways' use was suspended while they fixed the forward one, and the forward one was not used for the rest of the day. Now there's excitement you don't see everyday! All I can say was thank goodness no one was hurt and for the quick response of the crew. When we disembarked, we were caught in the wind and rain again (bring your umbrellas!), and sought refuge under the "big top" tent on the dock. There's a large covered area with tourism info, vendors, even a bar. We had a very blah taxi driver who didn't show us much of the island, but those on ship's tours complained about their trips as well. Seems like they just blew by the countryside with the occasional mention of a specific tree or whatever. We got to see some waterfront, some of the hotels (lots of casinos if that's your thing). We did get to visit the Chobolobo liqueur plant, which was a former mansion. It's smaller than we expected, but an okay stop. There's lots of history and photographs of Chobolobo's glory days and of course - a tasting bar. I bought some orange and chocolate liqueur; price was reasonable enough. Try the coffee/chocolate blend - doesn't even taste alcoholic! I would warn to stay away from the "cooling spray", which is made of god knows what and supposed to cool you down better than A/C. Our driver surprised DD by spritzing her with it and she said her arm burned for the whole day. Yuck! He dropped us off downtown, where we did some damage of the shopping variety. Now if you've been shop-starved in all the previous ports, Curacao is your oasis. Very high-end stores, lots of jewelry and perfume, and brand name outlets. Some good jewelry bargains. In the center of downtown shopping is Gomezplein, a boulevard with many nice outdoor cafes and a lot of the high-end stores. Keep an eye out for the clock; every hour there is the parade of the figurines to music. Very cute. Not sure if this was due to the holiday season or what, but the streets and shops were very crowded with tourists and locals alike. We were told that many Venezuelans also come for day-shopping trips because of the short distance. Some shoppers are very pushy and will do things that we (as Americans) were shocked by: lighting up cigarettes in the middle of a store, pushing you aside to get served first, and even trying to steal a salesperson while in the middle of making a purchase. Definitely a different experience. We walked back to the ship, enjoying a trip over the Queen Emma floating bridge and the view of the colored shops behind. There's a fruit market in Punda (behind the downtown area, along the water), and a small crafts market on the opposite side of the bridge. Curacao is very pretty with old-world charm, it's one of our favorites. Dinner: Chef's dinner. Now this menu was kind of odd, very few choices for each course. The strawberry-lemon sorbet, which we had missed on formal nights, was to die for. Goat cheese soufflE was the best soufflE we had...others just not so good. Tonight we both tried the famous Princess fettuccine, and we were both really disappointed. Other pastas at lunch had been good, but the fettuccine was sadly mediocre. The crab legs were excellent, very easy to eat if you're worried about making a mess. Only one choice for dessert, a trio sampler, which was alright enough. Entertainment: Comedian Tony Daro boarded the ship in Curacao and performed three sets that night in Explorers. The show we saw was close to an hour and decidedly not canned joke telling. He was hilarious! He was definitely our favorite act onboard - a real natural. Also going on was Country night in Club Fusion, Eric Stone playing piano in Crooners, and Get Smart on the MUTS screen. The Cruise Director's show was at 10:30, and the crew acts were pretty good. The real cheesiness came from the cruise staff's skits, particularly "If I were not upon the sea". Day 9, at sea: Since not much happens during these long, lovely sea days, I'm devoting this section to the ship and little hints. International Cafe: One of the best-kept secrets onboard! The first few days you'll find the cafe to be relatively empty because most haven't discovered it and think there is a charge. Enjoy it! Pastries are out from early morning until about 10:30am (donuts, muffins, turnovers, croissants - try the chocolate croissants/pastries, they are to die for!) and then replaced with sandwiches, salads, and desserts around lunchtime. The salads are mushroom, shrimp (delicious), greek, and chicken; and the sandwiches: tomato & mozzarella, chicken, tuna and some others. There's also quiche and some great pies, cakes, and tarts. Cookies are also available in the afternoon. It's very clear what you have to pay for: gelato, items in the round cases during the day (goodie bags of candy, candy apples), and tapas in the normal cases at nighttime. The tapas looked delicious, but we were always too full after dinner to try any. If you're wondering, just ask! We found some others were intimidated by the cafe and not knowing what was free, but just ask the staff and they will be happy to tell you. Library: Very small for a ship this size, only about 10 seats in the room. If you enjoy Sudoku, three puzzles are available here daily, as well as brain teasers and forms for Wakey Wakey TV. Since there's hardly any room in the library for anything other than reading, the hangout for card players is in the Botticelli dining room. Wheelhouse Bar: The pub lunch is available on all sea days and there's no charge for it. Our tablemates went and said it was very good, even though the venue is not exactly suited towards mealtime. Menu is: bangers and mash, fish and chips, ploughman's lunch (ham, cheese, pate), and cottage pie. Captain: Our Captain, Guiseppe Romano, was wonderful, very pleasant and always out-and-about. Definitely the most visible captain I have seen in many cruises! The man loves his midday ship position announcements too. Captain Romano is the Commodore (most senior captain) of the Princess fleet, so he's definitely the big cheese. He was very friendly to both me and DD and even knew our names when greeting us at the Captain's Circle party. Color me impressed. He and some of the other officers had their families with them for the cruise and we always saw them out and about in the Piazza and occasionally at the shows. As for the big cheese himself - well, it's a sight to see when the captain is toting his family's baggage outside the terminal on disembarkation day! He even stopped then to talk to us then about our cruise...what a nice guy. Bridge tour: We were invited to tour the bridge on the second to last sea day. There were about 25 people in the group, mostly men and a handful of young boys. The security officer told us that was many more than they usually allow. Commodore Romano had other obligations, but he welcomed us before handing us off to one of the other officers. Third officer Christian was very thorough, explaining the various equipment and how the ship runs. He answered as many questions as we could think of and even told some stories. We were also given a nice handout with information about the bridge. Security officers were present at all times, but were very friendly and even offered to take a photo of DD "driving" the ship...she was thrilled to pieces. Passengers: As expected, there were a lot of children on our sailing, probably about 700 (we heard varying numbers). The teens did roam in packs, usually around the pool areas and Cafe Caribe at night. If you didn't know beforehand Princess had youth security, you wouldn't have known by watching the teens. Found kids doing stupid things: pressing all the buttons in the elevator, having heart-to-hearts while seated on the elevator floor, etc. Also found a lot of multigenerational families traveling together. Couples without children were well-represented, so don't fear this type of sailing if you don't have kids/yours are older. We had a large number of Canadians on our sailing, and a good representation of folks from the UK. Canadians were definitely the most vocal group, particularly when Tony the comedian took to ribbing them over their "beaver tails" snack. Lol. Kids program: DD is the kids' programs biggest fan, she always goes, no matter what cruise we are on. She loves the activities, meeting new friends, and always bonds with the counselors. She really did not like the Princess program. She said the counselors had an attitude, were very detached, and the activities were dull and repetitive. She even stopped going to activities, which she's never done before. On Celebrity, activities are offered all day long, whether in port or at sea, for all age groups. On Princess, there are only night activities on port days and daytime activities are only on sea days (for teens). This is just lazy on Princess' part. I understand that this is a Christmas cruise with many kids, but the counselors have to grin and deal with it. A big disappointment. On a more positive note, on the last sea day a holiday fair was held in the Piazza for the younger cruisers. There was cookie decor Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
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 January 19-29, 2009 This review is a collaborative effort between my wife (cruzinchris) and me. The cruise was our 11th with Princess, second time on the Emerald. Last year, we sailed in early February on the southern ... Read More
Emerald Princess January 19-29, 2009 This review is a collaborative effort between my wife (cruzinchris) and me. The cruise was our 11th with Princess, second time on the Emerald. Last year, we sailed in early February on the southern Caribbean voyage. Pre-cruise (Chris): As Marriott Rewards members, we choose Marriott properties when available at our destination. We opted for the Renaissance on 17th Street where we had not stayed previously. We liked this hotel and location that was convenient to restaurants and shopping. We used NW flier miles for our afternoon flight from DTW and arrived in FLL at 5:00PM. We took a taxi to the Renaissance; there is no airport shuttle provided by the hotel. After checking in and freshening up, we headed to Total Wine and dinner at Carlos & Pepe's that was highly recommended by frequent-cruiser friends and the hotel bellman. We enjoyed a light meal, the food and Margaritas were very good, service was friendly and prompt; we would definitely go to Carlos & Pepe's again for a pre-cruise dinner. The following morning, we discovered that neither of us had dental floss, so Mike made a quick trip to Walgreen's while I showered and dressed. He also picked up some bagels at nearby Einstein's because we didn't really want a full breakfast. Unlike some of our cruises, we were in no hurry to arrive at the terminal and boarded the Renaissance shuttle shortly after noon ($6 per person) for the quick trip to Port Everglades. Embarkation (Chris): Upon arrival at the ship terminal, the driver pulled up near the end of the lengthy serpentine line, and we hadn't noticed the Elite/Platinum sign. We checked one large bag and proceeded to the end of the queue. At first, we seemed to make little or no progress, but the pace picked up and we finally saw the preferred embarkation sign and moved into the shorter line. Once through security, check-in was smooth, we were onboard the vessel at 1:00 and in our Baja inside stateroom at 1:15. Stateroom/Steward (Chris): We have never had a steward on Princess who wasn't competent and personable, but Hector from the Philippines is among those who go above and beyond in their efforts to please passengers. He met our every need cheerfully and promptly and truly earned "You Made A Difference" recognition. While we have enjoyed several balcony staterooms and one mini-suite, we are perfectly satisfied with inside staterooms that are blessedly quiet and offer freedom from smokers or noisy balconies. Once we are unpacked, clothing hung or placed in drawers or cabinet, luggage stored, small table moved into closet, we are happy as clams! The requested egg crate mattress pad was on the bed upon arrival, but we noticed that the shell-shaped dish on the bathroom vanity was missing. There were no beverage napkins, and the Princess notepad was a meager 5 or 6 pages. We had to ask Hector for the napkins, more notepaper, and more shampoo when the original bottle was nearly empty. We understand that Princess must make cutbacks, but these are such insignificant items that it is pitiful that they are being doled out only when requested. How can passengers "escape completely" when they're worried about running out of shampoo in the shower!?! Public Venues (Mike): Having sailed on the Emerald last February, we appreciate some of the changes made from the Grand Class ships and not others. The ship still seems new, showing little wear after 20 months in service. Our favorite venue is Adagio lounge located Deck 16 aft next to Sabatini's. This was our favorite spot for a quiet afternoon game of Scrabble or a pre-dinner cocktail with Chris' beloved bleu cheese-stuffed olives. There is live piano music beginning at 6:00PM. The Adagio bar staff wished that more passengers would discover this secret paradise. We found the piazza to be quite crowded especially when the sale tables are out in front of the shops. It's almost to the point of creating a hazard as passengers try to squeeze past sale tables and come dangerously close to falling down the marble staircase. The traffic pattern that forces patrons exiting the Princess Theatre to walk through Wheelhouse lounge seems poorly designed. The Sanctuary seemed to have moderate use and most enjoyed the amenities of this secluded haven, but the jogging track and basketball court have been banished to a location that is difficult to access. Dining/Food (Mike): As in 9 of our previous 10 Princess cruises, we selected Anytime Dining. We choose Anytime not only for the flexibility but also because 6:00PM is too early and 8:15PM is too late for us to dine. Although we are usually willing to share a table at breakfast (generally don't do lunch), we like a table for two at dinner. Through friends who are Elite, we received a personal introduction to Maitre D'Hotel Nicola Furlan who secured us a standing reservation in DaVinci dining room for 7:15. We experienced a 3rd different dinner menu in the past eleven months. On the Emerald last February, we had the short-lived "Small Plates, Large Plates" format, in September on the Star, the "old menus", and this time the inclusion of "home style entrEes". Overall we found the food quality very good but slightly below that of previous Princess cruises. On a couple of evenings, no entrEe offering sounded appealing, and I chose the "always available" salmon cutlet and the Princess favorite, Fettuccine Alfredo. As always, Princess excels in soups and sauces, the eggplant Parmesan is divine, and the rack of lamb is superb. We also really enjoyed the lamb shank, veal Marsala, and Coq Au Vin. Dinner service was excellent, especially Valentina from Estonia and Norvin from the Philippines who served us four evenings. Food quality at breakfast was very good with service somewhat slow especially at the 9:00AM closing rush. Overall the dining room staff seemed overburdened with too many tables. On a day when we missed breakfast, we tried the pub lunch in Wheelhouse lounge. We learned that the lunch is freshly prepared in the Wheelhouse kitchen. The fish & chips and the Plowman's lunch were a tasty repast but portions are somewhat small. Those looking for a hearty lunch might have to seek another venue. This is certainly another revenue enhancement opportunity for Princess as many fellow pub-lunchers enjoyed a cold beverage with their lunch. We don't frequent Horizon Court but often enjoyed a light afternoon snack of chicken salad and shrimp salad at International Cafe. Both Trident Grill and Pizza Station provide quality pool deck food options. Activities (Mike): The Emerald had the usual complement of daytime activities. This itinerary had 5 consecutive days of 8 hour port calls so activities were more limited on these days. Activities included line & ballroom dancing, Bingo, trivia, pool games, golf putting & chipping, and hosted game play. Additionally there were two guest lecturers on board, speaking on Bridge and Caribbean history and culture. Bingo appeared to be popular based on lines to purchase cards which formed outside Club Fusion. I only participated in trivia. There were two special Presidential trivia games on Inauguration Day sponsored by CNN (I won two CNN tote bags) and a passenger-inspired trivia on the last day - a compilation of passenger submitted questions. Most trivia sessions were spiritedly contested and well attended. The cruise staff under the direction of Paul O'Loughlin (new to the ship this cruise) were competent but not nearly as friendly or outgoing as those on previous Princess cruises. Entertainment (Chris): Similar to the plethora of shipboard activities, there were many and varied entertainment options throughout the day when at sea and every night of the cruise. It would be impossible to attend all the performances, so I will list only those that Mike and I attended. We were delighted that the talented Astoria String Quartet was onboard for our sailing as we enjoy classical music. We missed a couple of their performances in the Atrium due to misinformation in the Patter but listened to these lovely ladies as often as possible. Astoria performed a concert in Wheelhouse on my 1/27 birthday that was spent confined to my stateroom, but I asked Mike to go even though I couldn't. After the performance, he told them how disappointed I was that I was unable to attend, and they wished me Happy Birthday in Russian and autographed a program for me. We enjoyed Exotique band that performed in Explorer's Lounge and on deck. This is one of the best groups that we have seen on a Princess ship, and we watched many of their shows. I was happy to hear that Exotique was scheduled to perform at the "Champagne Waterfall" on the second formal night and asked if they would do some Motown tunes for my birthday. As with the classical concert, I was disappointed that I couldn't attend, but the band wished me a belated Happy Birthday and played "My Girl" in my honor the following night. We spent several evenings listening to pianists in Adagio Lounge or heard them play at various times in the Atrium. We had seen three of the four production shows on previous cruises but have yet to see "Boogie Shoes". We went to a late performance of "Motor City" one night because there were plenty of empty seats. We've seen this show three times and think it one of the best we've seen on Princess. Ventriloquist/comedian act, Willie Tyler & Lester, was light-hearted and a blast from the past for us as we remembered the duo from variety shows of the 60s and 70s. Ports of Call (Mike): As mentioned earlier, we sailed the Southern Caribbean itinerary last year and chose the Eastern this time. We had visited Antigua and Barbados previously (1997) but had never been to St. Lucia or St. Kitts. We do only Princess shore excursions and cannot comment on private tours. In Antigua, we chose "Nelson's Dockyard and English Harbor" tour. We saw a good portion of the island on our bus tour, well narrated by driver, "M.J.". A short guided tour of the historic Nelson Dockyard with an explanation of how sailing ships were repaired in the early 19th century was provided. Here we also received the staple of all Caribbean shore excursions. . . complimentary Rum Punch! In Barbados, we opted for a beach day and went on the "Malibu Beach Getaway". This gorgeous beach was a quick bus ride from the dock; in fact, the ship was in full view from the beach. Lounge chairs and an umbrella were provided, but we spent most of the time relaxing in the clear blue Caribbean waters. We declined the optional tour of the adjacent Malibu Rum factory but enjoyed the complimentary Rum Punch. In St. Lucia, our excursion was "Colors of Mamiku Gardens". The gardens are part of a large private estate located at the far end of the island from the port. There was a lengthy, hilly, winding bus ride narrated by guide Devlin. At the gardens, we were treated to beautiful floral displays described by our articulate and informative guide, Gilbert. Walking sticks provided at the garden entrance aided as we traversed steep and uneven terrain with slippery stone paver steps. We made a brief stop at the concession stand where we were served fish cakes, banana bread and a drink. We were pleased to meet Veronica Shedlington-Smith, the 80-something owner of the estate and designer of the gardens. The return bus trip passed the scene of a serious car accident and finally reached the dock 5 ½ hours after our departure. In St. Kitts, we rode the "St. Kitts Scenic Railway". This tour combined a 45-minute bus ride and a two-hour train trip that covered most of the island. On the train that was converted from one that transported sugar cane from the plantations to the factory, we were serenaded by a girls' singing group and served sugar cake and pina coladas. The island itself was not particularly beautiful and the tour less that we had hoped for. We did not disembark at St. Thomas or Princess Cays, having been to both ports often. Disembarkation (Mike): Our flight home was not until 1:18PM, so we enjoyed our last breakfast in the dining room, relaxed in Club Fusion until 9:15, claimed our luggage, proceeded through customs/immigration and boarded a taxi, arriving at the airport at 10:00. Very smooth! Miscellaneous (Chris): While Mike and I didn't participate in onboard religious services, I know that prospective cruisers are frequently interested in what is available. There was a Catholic priest traveling with a parish group who said Mass almost every morning. There was a request for a passenger to conduct Jewish Shabbat service on Friday at 5:15 (Barbados) and the Deputy Cruise Director led a short interdenominational prayer service on Sunday at 5:30 following our port call in St. Kitts. On more than once occasion, there were errors in entertainment times printed in the Princess Patter. We showed up for at least two performances by Astoria String Quartet only to find out that they had finished playing or would perform at a later time. This was among the few minor issues that annoyed us on the cruise, and I included it on our comment form. Much to our surprise, Internet connectivity was generally very fast, although our Comcast email was slow to load. There was a 30-minute bonus offered if passengers signed up for Internet packages on embarkation day, so we ended up with 280 free minutes and had not used 60+ minutes by the end of the cruise. The International Cafe is a nice venue for a light meal but I don't eat Danish, donuts, muffins, etc. for breakfast or rich pastries at other times of the day. I am more likely to select cheese after dinner than most desserts. That said, I missed the dainty "refrigerator" cookies that used to be offered at the Patisserie. We rarely attend Afternoon Tea, and it occurred to me that the delicious cookies may have been served at that time. I didn't see them at HC and find the large, chewy cookies a bit too sweet. I noted the "missing" cookies on the comment sheet. There were some precautions taken during our cruise to prevent the spread of Noro. I have posted elsewhere about my brief illness that may have been a mild case of the dreaded gastrointestinal virus. Rather than include my comments here, I am providing the link if you would like to know about my symptoms and how the situation was handled. I also kept the special In Room Dining Light & Healthy Menu and will post it on a separate thread if anyone is interested. Conclusion: If you have reached this point, thanks for your time and patience. Please let me know if we can answer any questions. Mike Read Less
Sail Date January 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
This was our 15th cruise - the second on Princess - the first being a Panama Cruise on the Coral which ended a few days before we embarked on the Emerald. EMBARKATION After spending 5 days in Disney World following the Panama cruise, ... Read More
This was our 15th cruise - the second on Princess - the first being a Panama Cruise on the Coral which ended a few days before we embarked on the Emerald. EMBARKATION After spending 5 days in Disney World following the Panama cruise, we flew back to Fort Lauderdale with a taxi from the airport to the pier. This embarkation was quite a contrast to that experienced on the Coral in Los Angeles. It really was quite a shemozzle. The ship was docked at Pier 29 which quite obviously was too small to handle the number of passengers disembarking from the previous Emerald cruise and those who were endeavoring to go on board for this cruise. SHIP We found this ship just too big for us. Even after 10 days on board we still managed to have difficulties in finding the various public bars, etc. With over 3,000 passengers, I thought that the shops on board were very poor with a limited stock of items. PORTS OF CALL Antigua - Sadly, we missed this port. We were advised that the winds were to strong to safely dock. This was a disappointment and we wondered whether a smaller ship might have made it into the port. Dominica - Booked with Beno over the internet. Travelled to Emerald Pool and waterfalls. This gave us a good idea of the island. Having had this extensive tour of the island, we are unlikely to include this port in any future Caribbean cruise itinerary. Barbados - Nothing planned prior to arrival. Picked up a tour at the port with Carson St Claire. Pretty good tour. Would consider returning to this island. St Kitts - Booked with Thenford Grey over the internet. This was our best tour of the trip. It lasted the whole day and was only $40 pp. He was very informative about the island's history and extremely obliging. A number of fellow passengers left the bus in town so missed out on the trip to the other side of the island which was very different and where we all enjoyed swimming at Turtle Beach. A nice touch from Mr Grey was his Valentine's Day wishes naming all his customers written on the back window of his bus. Would consider coming back here. St Thomas - Nothing planned prior to arrival. Picked up a tour at the port with Sean (007). Toured the island and was able to take some beautiful photos. Would consider coming back here. Princess Cays - Lovely to look at but too crowded. Just seeing all those deck chairs along the beach was too much for us. Only spent a short time here, returning to the ship where we had a very restful afternoon around the pool. Fort Lauderdale - Much better with disembarkation than embarkation probably due to the pier location. We took a taxi direct to the airport. ENTERTAINMENT We enjoyed the showtime performances but hypnotist and comedian are not our cup of tea. Did enjoy the Movies under the Stars a couple of times. DINING We were glad that we had fixed dining in the evening. After a couple of days doing battle at the buffet at lunchtime we chose to eat all our meals in the dining room. RED ALERT We received advice that ship was on Red Alert due to outbreak of gastric virus for the last two days. Our dining partners advised that they were aware that there were 70 people on their level who had been quarantined. Whereas on previous cruises with HAL passengers were required to use the preventative gel prior to entering the dining room, this was not done on either of the Princess cruises. CONCLUSION This was the biggest ship on which we have sailed. Will stick with the smaller ones such as the Coral and HAL. Being Aussies - we really dislike the daily gratuity charges imposed on our account. We believe that such gratuities should be earned and rewarded accordingly. I truly believe that passengers should be given the flexibility of rewarding cabin stewards and dining room waiters personally for services rendered rather than have this gratuity charge imposed upon them. Can someone explain why there is a 15% service charge imposed on each and every drink yet there is this additional blanket daily gratuity charge ? Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Having sailed the Emerald Princess last year my wife and I were really looking forward to our return trip this year. Embarkation went smoothly and we got on board early enough to enjoy the day reacquainting ourselves with the ship. Once ... Read More
Having sailed the Emerald Princess last year my wife and I were really looking forward to our return trip this year. Embarkation went smoothly and we got on board early enough to enjoy the day reacquainting ourselves with the ship. Once our cruise started we were more than a little disappointed in the following. The production shows in the Princess theater were the exact same shows we saw last year and now they show them two nights. So there goes some of our evening entertainment. The cruise director was basically nonexistent other than his daily appearances on his morning TV show and his staff as a whole seemed to be following in his footsteps as they also were rarely seen. The wait staff in the Michelangelo dining room left a lot to be desired. On more than one occasion we were left wondering if we aliens due to the fact that we left holding our menus with not so much as a glass of water. We complained to the Maitre D' who seemed to take it personally and basically became a nuisance afterwards. We were much happier when we switched to the Da Vinci dining room. Our visit to Sabitini's was excellent as always with a great wait staff and a wonderful meal. My wife saw the s'mores dessert on the Crown Grill menu and being the dessert freak that she is wanted to try it. The dinner seatings were filled so I took a chance one evening and asked if we could come in, just for dessert and coffee and was quite happy when they said it was no problem. Kudos to the Crown Grill. We are active people and try to find the most active shore excursions we can on all our cruises. A word to the wise DO NOT book the bike tour on Water Island in St. Thomas. The bicycles they use are UNSAFE and in severe need of attention. The chain popped off my bike three times. The cable fell out of my rear brake on a downhill and it has to be one of the shortest bike rides around an island I have ever encountered. In comparison the bike tour on Bonaire was on of the best. Excellent equipment, attentive tour guide, excellent ride around the island(if only it were longer than 13 miles). Highly recommended for those looking for something a little more active. Stay in Grenada was to short, I realize that its a long way to Bonaire from Dominica but if thats the case skip a port and hit all three of the ABC islands. Dominica is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever stepped foot on a must see for anyone who loves the tropical side of the Caribbean. Bonaire is just as beautiful but in a completely different way. The desert atmosphere is amazing and the island is very low key. A complete opposite from the tourist mecca of Aruba.I guess after writing this I have come to the realization that overall we did have a great time, other than a few minor incidents it was a wonderful time except for the fact that the time flew by and it was over before we knew. I guess we are going to have to start booking longer cruises. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
This was our 1st princess Cruise I booked it because of the great itinerary, and it worked for my kids spring break. The Emerald is a very clean pretty ship. I have only been on Celebrity ships of about 1,500 passengers so this was my 1st ... Read More
This was our 1st princess Cruise I booked it because of the great itinerary, and it worked for my kids spring break. The Emerald is a very clean pretty ship. I have only been on Celebrity ships of about 1,500 passengers so this was my 1st bigger ship experience. The crew was very friendly through out the ship. Our cabin was always serviced well. My 11 and 14 year old daughters went to the kids club a few times but said that it was not as good as the one on Celebrity even though the room was nicer. They did not bring the kids around the ship as they did with Celebrity. Ice cream on Celebrity was free all day and on the Emerald it was free only for a few hours during the afternoon which was fine on sea days but not port days. The pizza was fabulous and free all the time. We choose early seating traditional dining, our wait staff was very good and friendly. The food was not as good as it was on Celebrity but still good. The meats were not as good and the fish dishes were a bit over cooked. The snow crab legs were excellent. The peanut butter cookies were the best soft and chewy. The layout of the ship I found confusing as did a lot of others I spoke with. There were a lot of going up to do down and the kids club was hard to get to. After about 5 days I started to find my way around but it just seemed not a good layout. We did not take any of the ship's excursions but others I spoke to who did said they were over priced ad not that fun. a fellow cruise critic passenger broke her foot on a private excursion and she said the medical care was very good on the ship. The house band was a lot of fun, I danced everyday I wish they played longer when they played out by the pool. we did not go to any of the big production shows in the Princess lounge. The hypnotist was fantastic, a very funny show. The comedy was OK I went to see both of them. We got to the dock around 1:00 to embark and were happily surprised that it only took about 20 minutes and we were in our cabin! It only took about 10 minutes to disembark which was also very smooth. The cabin was a bit smaller than the Celebrity ones but were still OK as we do not spend a lot of time in them. All in all we had a great time but I think I would not go on another Princess cruise unless it was on a smaller under 1,500 passengers. If Celebrity has a good itinerary around our spring break I will go with them again. Read Less
Sail Date March 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
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
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
Emerald Princess June 15-25 2009.  Weather started "early spring" and ended "early summer".  We used hop-on/hop-off (HOHO) buses in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Tallinn, walked in Oslo, DenRus in St. Petersburg and a ... Read More
Emerald Princess June 15-25 2009.  Weather started "early spring" and ended "early summer".  We used hop-on/hop-off (HOHO) buses in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Tallinn, walked in Oslo, DenRus in St. Petersburg and a taxi driver/private tour in Gdynia/Stopot/Gdansk.  Emerald Princess dinner food is fabulous.  The seafood is kept truly fresh - the executive chef told us that they "blast chill" the food when it arrives on board.  Evening ship entertainment not for us.  The Las Vegas style shows have the performers emoting; the comedian had his moments; the hypotist and the juggler struggled; the string quartet played VERY light classical.Examples of the excellent food: truly fresh Alaska king crab, shrimp and scallops; Beef Wellington and Fettucini Alfredo as if it was from the origins; bisque and cold soups that definitely took time to makeWe spent 2 days in Copenhagen before the cruise.  Restaurants charge USD 6.00 for coffee, orange juice, water, but the shopping for clothing was great - high quality and value.   Emerald Princess is a quieter, spacious ship.  They don't have as much blaring commercials and dinner time is quieter.Our children (ages 16 and 18) immediately made 6 close friends and were consumed with the Teen Center.Copenhagen pier can be reached by a 7-minute walk to Nordhavn train/metro station with 2 stops to Copenhagen central station, and then 3 stops to the airport. Read Less
Sail Date June 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
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
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
This was my third cruise with Princess. I was excited to be on the larger ship again. My first cruise was on the Crown and second on the Coral. For some reason I find it easier to navigate a larger ship. Embarkation was fine. We ... Read More
This was my third cruise with Princess. I was excited to be on the larger ship again. My first cruise was on the Crown and second on the Coral. For some reason I find it easier to navigate a larger ship. Embarkation was fine. We arrived early to the port and had to wait for some time. Knew that in advance but the people working at the port we friendly and efficient. Once on the ship we found our cabin pretty easily. There were not many staff members around in the halls to direct you but we knew Caribe deck and at the very back of the boat. Upon entering the room there was a horrible chemical smell. This made not only myself ill but also my aunt. We contacted the room steward, Albert, who informed us that there had been heavy smokers in the room prior to us and they had treated the room. He sprayed something else but it still didn't help. Later we went again to the pursers deck and complained. Someone else arrived at the room promptly. They found that most of the smell was contained in the curtains and the drapes. They removed them to launder but said they had nothing to cover the doors until they were cleaned. So our first night at sea-no drapes. Also, no apologies from Princess. Next, we were supposed to receive the new festive coupons books. Again we went to the pursers desk. They said they had no record and we needed proof. So I went to use the Internet cafe and emailed my t/a at Princess. Let me say that this person had all ready messed up our reservation and not sent the appropriate information to myself or my aunt prior to the cruise. So, my t/a responded and said yes indeed we should have the booklets and she would get in touch with someone. So back to the pursers desk I go. Once I get to the desk, they say they still have nothing and I have to print the email for proof. Back to the Internet cafe, print the email, back to the pursers desk. Are you seeing a pattern? They took the email and said they would have to present to the person in charge and would call and get back with me. No phone call but 2 days later-the coupon books. When I asked if I could get credited for the Internet and printing usage. Well that was a no again with no apologies. Then there was the on board credit that we were to have for the trip. It was to have been $100 per person. When we received our statements, it was $50 per person. Back to the pursers desk with the never delightful Ana from Argentina. Even though we could prove what the credits should have been, she said it was too late in the cruise and we would have to send a letter to Princess. Now more about the Emerald. She is a beautiful ship but showing some wear. Loved MUTS. Good selection of movies. They are serving popcorn but also they have waiters serving cookies and milk and pizza. Could it get any better! MUTS during the day is a waste. You can't really hear and too many interruptions. Don't expect to find deck chair even if you are out at 10am. Selfish chair hogs still rule with Princess. Someone even asked a deck hand about all the towels and the number of people in the pool, which weren't adding up. The deck hand told the passenger he could move things if he wanted. What was his job. Speaking of the staff of the ship, most were very friendly. Some were as someone else all ready said, openly complaining about other staff members and Princess. This was readily seen in the boutiques. Also, I think many members of the staff were new to the Emerald, as they were studying the small ship layouts at any quiet moment. The food on Princess is lacking variety. Seems that many of the menus are the same as when I cruised my first cruise 3 years ago. It was nice to have items at the international cafe for free. Great treats there. The dining room menus are tired. The food at the horizon court has gone from pretty good to poor. The new plastic wrapped sandwiches are HORRIBLE! They are a mushy mess. And what happened to the turkey sausage that used to be available at breakfast. I asked several people on staff, even the gentleman in charge, and they said it would have to be a special request made before cruising. It used to be readily available on the buffet. Dining in the Caribe Cafe was generally pretty good. Still really enjoy the pizza. And about the free ice cream-that is a joke. It is a dab of soft serve custard in a cup. They have other ice cream available in the coolers in that area but unless you know the code word, you can't get access. Entertainment was pretty good. The shows were somewhat cheesy but really enjoyed the one about shoes. The comedians were hysterical. Didn't really enjoy the cruise director staff. Didn't readily see them around the ship and when you did they seemed pretty phony. Plus things seemed to be scheduled rather late or on top of each other. About the ports-the cays was nice. They seemed to run out of food. The cooked meats were rather dry. Plenty of places to set and relax by the water. Loved St. Maarten and wished we had had an entire day there. We did the excursion the included both sides of the island and the beach. The French side was my favorite and the beach amazing. 1 hour there not enough. At St. Thomas we did the new ultimate tour. Another wonderful beach. Very disappointed with Blackbeards Castle. Too many steps which weren't labeled in the description and not very well laid out. If maybe a guide or better explanation. There was one really nice house on the tour with wonderful views. Grand Turk-well it is Grand Turk and you just can't go there with great expectations. Did the port and Margaritaville. Poverty on the island is sad. All in all the cruise was ok. It was the customer service from Princess or lack there of that makes me pretty sure that we will not cruise with them again. Too much money and time is spent trying to plan a nice vacation and Princess staff disappointed me from beginning to end. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
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
Eight of our group of 10 flew into Ft. Lauderdale on Friday night. We stayed at Hollywood Beach. 4 of us stayed at the Marriott while the other 4 of us stayed at Riptide. If you need a 4 or 5 star, stay at the Marriott. I enjoyed the ... Read More
Eight of our group of 10 flew into Ft. Lauderdale on Friday night. We stayed at Hollywood Beach. 4 of us stayed at the Marriott while the other 4 of us stayed at Riptide. If you need a 4 or 5 star, stay at the Marriott. I enjoyed the Riptide, but it is a 2 story motel with 12 rooms and may not be for everyone. Everyone there was great and we will be back there again. Both places are right on the Broadwalk, the beach is only a few steps away. There were lots of restaurants and shops within walking distance. I was concerned about the time change as St Thomas and St Martin did not move their clocks back. The ship had us change our clocks forward to be in sync with our ports. We moved them back the evening before we made it to Grand Turk as they are Eastern Standard Time. Sunday embarkation - went ahead to the port at Noon. Were on the ship about 1:00pm or so. There was a line, but it moved very quickly. I was really expecting to wait longer. Our room was ready so we dropped off our bags. We had 4 side by side mini-suites with balconies. There is no way I could bring enough stuff to fill all the storage space in this room. My uncle and aunt were on the other side of the ship on the same floor. Sticky notes and phone messages kept everyone apprised of the group's whereabouts. The ship - It was great. Our 2nd time to cruise Princess with our 1st trip being on the Grand. I liked already knowing where things were. We walked around a little and did sail away above the main pool area. The forward, "secret" door on the Lido deck was closed that day. The employees: I had read negative reviews on the general attitude of the employees, but I did not experience any of that. I always say hello, good morning, etc to everyone I see on the ship and almost every employee I met in the hallway, elevator, or on deck beat me to it. Every time I sat down in the buffet, I usually would get my own drink, but they were quick to get it for me also. The food: I am not a picky eater and have always thought if someone didn't like some of the food, just get something else. There are many, many choices. I did not like everything I tried, but I never left hungry! We ate the buffet mainly. Of course we had pizza, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs at the grill areas by the pools also. The soft serve ice cream by the pizza area was very rich and thick. We did anytime dining one night with our full group of 10. There were lines of about 10 - 15 people at each anytime dining venue, so I went up for our group, gave our name and the number in our party and was given the "pager". The hostess told me it would be about 45 minutes. It was only about 30 minutes. There were some people complaining about the pager system, but I thought it worked very well. We went 2 floors up to the Crooners bar and it worked fine there. The food was excellent and the service was great. Bars - We do like to party a little and hit every bar except Adiagos. We went in, but with the piano player and dark lighting, our casual clothes seemed a little under dressed for the evening time. Every bar had great service and there was no skimping on the alcohol content! Casino - Spent quite a bit of time there. Won some, lost some, ended up a little ahead for the week. I love the new system where you use your card to put money on instead of cashing out coins. You simply set up a pin for access. For example: You put $100 in a machine and after playing down to $80 you want to change machines. You "cash out" to your card and the money is transferred to your players account on your card. You then put your card in the new machine and get funds from your card. You choose how much to put in that machine. You can also get money from your "Cruise Account" directly to your slot machine which can be a little tempting!! Ports of call: Princess Cays - We were going to wait until the general announcement that you could board the tenders at your leisure instead of going down and getting a number. It rained most of the morning anyway, so after the rain we went over and stayed maybe 2 hours. The whole tendering process was painless. The snorkeling was good, but I would have used a float if I was going to be there longer. I did not do any shopping here. There were plenty of chairs everywhere. The cabanas looked very cute, but with 10, we just would not have fit. Glad I did not spend the money due to the weather. The beach was very clean and the water was great. Sea Day: Did the pub lunch at The Wheelhouse. There was a line but as we were willing to share with others, we did not have to wait long. The food was good, my husband and I had the fish & chips. It was a nice alternative. St. Martin. Decided to go to Orient Beach and just lay around. Getting a taxi was easy, he came back to get us as promised. We asked him to take us to Orange Fever which is towards the Orient Beach club. It looks like there are only a few places to access the area behind the beach for the taxis. While driving in looks it like you are going no where until you get to the beach. We rented chairs for the day - $7 each included 1 drink, chair with a nice thick cushion and an umbrella. We stayed for about 3 hours. The water was nice, the food was good. St. Thomas Wished we had more time here. The ship docked at 7am and left port at 3:30pm. We booked a catamaran for the day just for our group. It was awesome! We went on the Scubadu with Capt. Joe Mellen and had a wonderful sail/snorkeling trip which included lunch and drinks. We had 2 snorkels of about 45 minutes each and sailing in between. We used his taxi driver Rachal who was a great tour guide there and back! We were back to the cruise terminal in time to do a little shopping. We didn't get to see much of the town, but I am sure we will be back. Grand Turk Beautiful water. Some of our group enjoyed the snorkeling right off the beach here. Some of us went straight to Margaritaville, picked out a table and chairs, and stayed for the duration. Everyone had a great time. Disembarkation: My husband and I did the self disembarkation. I had booked a 3pm flight back to Houston and we wanted to be home earlier if possible. We were off the ship by 8am and decided to try to do standby on an earlier flight back to Houston. We made it to the airport and on a 9:05am flight. I would not recommend booking this early of a flight because we were just lucky we made it. If there had been any small delay it would not have happened. I will book an 11:00am or after next time. We did have rough seas a few days, but we are not prone to seasickness. We were rocked to sleep almost every night. If you are, I would suggest to start taking a preventative medicine and keep on it through the trip. If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them. 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Sail Date November 2009
We arrived at the port at 11am, they started boarding at 12. We stopped to sign up for UST and in our cabin by 12:30. Patter said Lunch was being served in the dinning room but when we went they would not let us in, said it was only ... Read More
We arrived at the port at 11am, they started boarding at 12. We stopped to sign up for UST and in our cabin by 12:30. Patter said Lunch was being served in the dinning room but when we went they would not let us in, said it was only for passengers who stayed on the ship from last cruise? I showed her the patter and she just kept saying no. So off to the buffet, explore the ship and then some beer and pool time. Food: I enjoyed all the food except one night and they brought me something else. I ordered fish, shrimp, lobster always with a side of pasta of the day. Breakfast was always pastries and coffee at the international cafe. We also ate at Sabatini's it was excellent. The best drink by far Tiramisu martini-- go on the cruise just for this drink! Pizza, Fries, burgers all good and the chocolate chip cookies always hit the spot. Ports: We had VERY rough seas, but it stayed warm and sunny. We didnt think we were going to be able to get off at Princess Cays, had to wait extra hour but were able to get off. The beach was great, ok snorkeling, and ok BBQ. Just a nice relaxing day. St. Martin we took Bernards tour, our guide was Joe it was a GREAT tour, he stopped at a rocky area and someone brought up out of the water star fish and other sea creatures for us to hold DH did the holding I took the pictures! Then off to orient beach for couple of hours, tour of the island and last stop at sunset bar by the airport to watch the planes fly in over our heads. It was great. St. Thomas decided to do the shopping thing got some great Christmas presents, had to be back at the boat by 3 would have liked some more time there. Grand Turk: beach was really nice, pool was fun nothing seemed crowded. Margarita ville pool was fun. We ordered 4 drinks and 1 appetizer $70 it was good but not that good. The ship is beautiful, clean and in good shape. We had plenty of room in our cabin. We had anytime dinning, got Rado in the Da Vinci dinning room on the first night and requested him for the rest of the cruise. We went to the dinning room between 6 and 6:30 always had a small line wait was 5 minuets we never had to get a pager. Every time we saw any crew they always said hello, all crew were very helpful and polite, other then the first day dinning room. We loved the UST it was definitely worth the money. After months of planning and anticipation everything was really great. Cant ask for more then that! I think i read every review posted before this trip, this is my first time writing one--hope it was helpful. Enjoy Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
About us: I am a single mom travelling with 2 girls ages 13 and 10 along with my parents (in their sixties)from Canada. My parents have cruised a bit and this is only my second time and the girls first. Decided on Princess because of a ... Read More
About us: I am a single mom travelling with 2 girls ages 13 and 10 along with my parents (in their sixties)from Canada. My parents have cruised a bit and this is only my second time and the girls first. Decided on Princess because of a deal our travel agent told us about. Fort Lauderdale: Flew out of Buffalo. We arrived the day before having flown in to Fort Myers and renting a car to drive over...cheaper than the flight to Fort Lauderdale! We stayed at the Comfort Inn. The room was ok but there was no where around to go to dinner that wasn't fast food. We shopped in the morning at the local mall, got some liquor for happy hour in our cabin and soda for the girls. No one checked bags getting onto the ship. Next time, we would stay closer to Port. Embarkation: Once we dropped off the rental (Budget was hard to find), they shuttled us to Port Everglades. There was a huge line when we got there but it seem to dissipate within a half hour. The only hassle was trying to fill out a health form as you were trying to get through to the lines for deck/cabin registration. We went straight to the cabin to drop our stuff and tour the ship & grab some lunch (the buffet was packed, but go past the horizon court to the cafe...always more room back there!) Make sure to be outside for the sail away...amazing! Cabins: We had an inside cabin on Emerald deck. It had the robes we requested and the foam topper. Overall, very nice, clean and a lot of storage. My parents cabin was an outside with obstructed view from the lifeboat...but with the nice big window you could still see out rather well. Both had the same set up but ours had 2 bunks instead of a queen. We emptied the fridge and put our soda in. We had a steward named "Ekk" who was from Thailand...he was the best! Very friendly and accomodating, always talking with the kids when we saw him in the hallway and always had a big smile. I say that if you are nice to people they are nice back to you....can't understand why others have so much trouble with staff. Cabin was sufficient and since we were only sleeping in there, worth the price. Ship: We toured the ship and overall very nice...neutral decor. Easy to figure out. The piazza is gorgeous with glass elevators that my daughter loved riding! This week there was only 60 kids on board compared to 500 the week before so the kids area was rather empty. My kids were not disappointed as they spent the majority of their ship time in the pool!! You can exchange wet towels thru'out the day as well. We also made friends with a waiter named Nick. Very funny guy, always made the kids smile and they had a lot of fun singing around the pool with him. He remembered my name from day 1 and was always friendly. The adult pool at the back of the ship was less crowded but many old people and people smoking...it was a horrible smell and we decided not stay back there. The sanctuary area and lotus spa pool area were mostly shady and 'no kids' so that wasn't an option for us, but if you are travelling alone, seems to be very quiet. Compared to my last cruise on a small boat, you could hardly feel anything on this grand ship. Both myself and my oldest didn't bother with the patch, although my youngest who is prone to motion sickness, did have one, she was fine, other than the first day. She did get a nose bleed on the tender to Princess Cays. Food: As we had anytime dining, we had a few dinners in the Da Vinci which were excellent. Staff was friendly and tried to be light hearted and funny. The food was really good and between the five of us, we tried almost everything from the menu each night. No one had any complaints, not even the kids. If they couldn't decide on a dish, there was the Fettucine Alfredo as a back up. Tried Michaelangelo once...atmosphere was too stuffy there for us. We also had the buffet on some nights when we wanted more casual dining. Some theme nights were great, especially the Bavarian night. During the day, many brought pizza to their deck chairs. I wasn't that impressed by the pizza as many have raved about, it was a very thin crust which was sometimes burned and boring but ok. I guess some people have really not had good pizza to compare to! The grill, however, was pretty good. The kids loved the hot dogs/bratwurst and fries! The free ice cream was great too - ask for sprinkles! Can't understand why so many complain about the food overall...there was anything from low end hamburgers to fine dining lobster. There has got to be something for everyone...definitely better than a lot of Carribean resorts!!! Entertainment: We took in all the comedy shows and the comedien. All were great. The MUTS was good during the day and we caught a few at night too. There was popcorn and a blanket and of course, the Stars! We didn't do a lot of other scheduled events, but that is not our thing. My parents enjoyed the other musical shows as well. There is something for everyone, just highlight what you like in the Princess Patter newsletter the night before so you know when and where! Monday- Princess Cays - Bahamas: Princess leases some land at the bottom of this island. Tendering out wasn't too bad as we had to be one of the first out to make the tour. We took the glass bottom boat excursion here and had a lot of fun watching all the different fish around the coral. My daughter also got her hair braided here by a local lady that sells souveniers. She was very nice and we found out a lot of information about the area. My parents had rented a clamshell here (worth it if you need shade). The water was refreshing as it was really hot sunbathing all afternoon. Princess puts on a free BBQ here for everyone...the food? well, what can I say...it was a BBQ so average. There was a lot of fresh fruit and of course those awesome cookies! It's too bad you don't get to see the rest of this beautiful island...all the locals say to come back and stay! Tuesday - Sea Day - Deck 15 is the place to be!! I was up bright and early and had a very quiet breakfast in the Horizon Court...plenty to choose from and a lot of light/healthy choices if you want to stick on a plan. I headed out to the pool where the MUTS screen was and was able to find 3 chairs together as it was early. Most of the best chairs are taken by 830am so get out early this day. This ended up being the pool that we were at for the cruise...the kids were all here and my girls ended up making friends with a few other kids that they hung out with for the week. The movies were as new as the latest DVD releases at home along with a few football games. It was not too loud as described by others, but just right as the crowd and ship are noisy and it has to be loud enough for all those watching to hear from sun decks above. The other pool in the center of deck 15 was very crowded and had all the little babies....very noisy too! The band played by this pool all day, so if you like that instead, find a chair early too. The two main pools overall are crowded and noisy but fun...this is supposed to be a fun cruise ship. There are quiet areas too...so you just have to decide what you like and go there. My dad can't handle the noise but found some quiet areas. Make sure to go to the Wheelhouse for lunch on a sea day...the fish and chips were delicious! Wednesday - St. Maarten: We booked the See and Sea excursion. It was on an airconditioned bus taking you to the French side, which I hadn't seen yet. Definitely more beautiful than the Dutch side. We drove out to a beach area where we boarded a boat that took us out to the coral reef. The bottom of the boat had glass walls and we were impressed by all the ocean life. The ride back included a stop in a shopping area. St. Maarten is very expensive overall but some very nice things. The excursion was ok for our first time, however, I would rent a taxi on our own next time. Thursday - St. Thomas: We booked the Ultimate excursion here which takes you on a safari type truck thru downtown traffic to road stops at higher elevations. Beautiful views from the 2 stops we made. This is the most picturesque of the ports. Then a 2 hour stop at Magen's Bay. The water was warm and so clear. The beach sand is soft and so white. Then, they dropped you at Blackbeard's Castle, where you toured the castle and some other homes as you walked down the hill toward town. Once, downtown, you just had to walk to the water and board a large boat that takes you back to the pier. Again, wouldn't do a tour again, just grab a cab and head to some of the best beaches. Friday - Grand Turk: We booked a snorkeling excursion here and it was the best tour yet! On the beach, we boarded a boat that took us out to a private cay called Paradise Cay...it was gorgeous....although the boat ride out was rather rough...big waves, it was so much fun with the group of people we had. We found a calm area and got on our snorkeling equipment. The coral here was beautiful along with all the fish we saw! Then we swam to the island for a little hike and my kids found some shells. Back to the boat for some rum punch!! The kids and I had so much fun...we would do this one again! Back to the island which is so beautiful, like the islands used to be! We found Marguerittaville and our friends from Pricess. Some of the boys had paid for the Florider which was a surf machine. We had fun watching them try! This place was fun and the pool was gorgeous, but it was late and the kids only had a quick swim before we had to get back. My parents stayed on the beach all day and loved it. Mom said the water was the warmest at this location. Saturday - Sea Day: Another day to relax and enjoy a good book and movie by the MUTS pool. The kids played in the pool all day. We hit a sprinkle of rain on our way back to Florida but just enough time to slip in for lunch. Watch out for those college football fanatics!!! Florida vs. Alabama...should I say more! Departation: We decided to carry off our own bags with about 500 other people. We were asked to meet in the dining room for 7 am. The room was full but they were organized and got people off in an orderly fashion. It probably took 1/2 hr overall. Customs was no problem. We got onto the pier and there was a SouthWest Airlines truck terminal right there. We gave them our bags and got our boarding passes immediately. Took a taxi to the airport. We got our bags right away when we landed so I definitely recommend this process if you are doing the same. Quick and easy and we didn't have to carry our bags thru to the airport. Overall: We all loved the trip. Everyone we met was friendly and accommodating and after reading about Princess being a "money grab", I have to say, I was on a limited budget and never felt that I "had" to buy anything. No one bugged me about drinks, nor treated us any less friendlier that those that were buying. This is a ship of choices...eat when and where and what you want, lots of entertainment choices or just relax, shore excursions or not. I have heard many complain about everything, but again, just do what you choose. If you are open minded, people friendly and not too picky...you will enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Overall, it was a good trip. We are a family of 4 (kids are 16 and 20) and were in cabins E414 and E610. This was our second sailing on Princess. The first was 10 years ago. There were some noticeable differences. Embarkation—We ... Read More
Overall, it was a good trip. We are a family of 4 (kids are 16 and 20) and were in cabins E414 and E610. This was our second sailing on Princess. The first was 10 years ago. There were some noticeable differences. Embarkation—We arrived at the pier at 11:45, the doors opened a little after noon and we were in our cabins within 15 minutes of entering (and we didn't even have our boarding passes yet.) Initial Impression--The ship is beautiful and tastefully decorated with just the right amount of Christmas decorations. Onboard, we had lunch in the Horizon court (so-so) and then went exploring. We made reservations for Wednesday night at Crown Grill, booked two spots in the Sanctuary for the week and purchased coffee cards (a must for coffee drinkers.) Room—Room was laid out very nicely. Our cabin stewards were excellent. E414 had virtually no obstruction and E610 was almost totally obstructed. I would definitely book E414 again if sailing on this class again. Dining—For the most part, the meals were mediocre. I was a little bothered that the "themed nights' set out in the brochure on our desk did not match up with what ultimately done. The highlights were definitely the Crown Grill and the International Cafe (loved this place.) Our waiter was the most unfriendly we have ever had on any ship (we've sailed Disney, Carnival, NCL and RCCL) and the assistant was only slightly better. The staff at the International Cafe were exceptional. We also enjoyed the London Pub atmosphere and food at the Wheelhouse Bar on sea days. Entertainment—We did not attend the production shows (rare for us to skip them) so we can only comment on the others. The hypnotist was boring and her act was repeated for the first 3 nights in different locations. The impressionist and comedians brought on later in the week were much better. We enjoyed the Chistmas caroling in the Piazza as well as some of the specialty performances. MUTS was hit and miss. My kids went up for the teen movie the first night only to have football run over and the movie not played. We did enjoy it during the day (except announcements always came at bad times.) The cruise director, Tim Donavan, and his staff were very good though I would probably skip the London Pub night next time (too long and not very funny.) Ports—Princess Cays was beautiful and renting a cabana was great. The basic rental did not come with anything special (food delivery, etc) but it could as most of the waiters were just standing around that day. In St. Maarten, we toured with Bernard (Slim was our tour guide) and it was an excellent tour. In St. Thomas, we toured with Godfrey and the tour was so-so (in fairness to Godfrey though, the weather turned bad and St. Thomas just isn't what it used to be.) We were about an hour late docking at Grand Turk due to a Seabourne ship being late getting out (this was very disappointing since the time in Grand Turk was so limited and cut short by rain a little later.) We had been on one of the first ships to visit Grand Turk and it is much better now that it is more fully developed. We had reserved the Flow Rider in advance for the kids and were glad we did since it was all booked up for the day. Grand Turk is an excellent port and surprisingly not as crowded as I feared with the Glory also being there. Onboard Activities—This is where I think the biggest decline has occurred. They were fairly lacking and not much to appeal to our kids' ages. We do not gamble but the casino looked pretty empty most of the time. The midnight mass was excellent. The Sanctuary was wonderful (and they even let us cancel the first sea day when it was overcast and then we just booked the next sea day.) The Spa was also excellent (I had a massage, my wife and oldest had detox/slimming treatments and my youngest had teeth whitening.) Disembarkation--We walked-off early due to having an early flight. It seemed like everybody else did as well whether they needed to or not (everyone but us in the shuttle heading back to the airport had afternoon flights.) They really should limit the number of people doing this to those having early flights. The process was made worse by the number of people around us complaining about the cruise or the dismbarkation process (some people need to get a grip.) Overall Impression—It was a good cruise, but nothing special other than being away on the holidays. I think the problem is that Princess tries to be all things to all people and in the process doesn't stand out in any one area. They don't have the "fun" ships (Carnival), the cruises are not all about family (Disney) and they aren't really geared for the active lifestyle (RCCL.) I think they know that also. One of the funniest moments to me was the night we left St. Maarten when the cruise director, in an attempt to be humorous, made mention of the number of ships in port, which included the Oasis, and asked, "Did you see those people on the other ships leaning over their balconies and watching our movies?" I thought, "Yeah, right." So that I don't end on a negative, I must say the ship never seemed crowded except the first night when we went to dinner. I like how the ship is "broken up." I also thought the kids/teens on the ship were well behaved despite seeing some obvious underage drinking on the pool deck on Christmas night. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This was our 6Th Princess cruise, the third on the Emerald. It is a beautiful ship. The Emerald just had a two week overhaul before our cruise. We have never been disappointed with the service or staff in general. It was the first time on ... Read More
This was our 6Th Princess cruise, the third on the Emerald. It is a beautiful ship. The Emerald just had a two week overhaul before our cruise. We have never been disappointed with the service or staff in general. It was the first time on this ship for our two teenagers. Hardly saw them, except for excursions and dinner. They loved it. We only wish they would change the shows more often. We have seen the same shows two or three times. Our teenagers had a blast. We sailed over Christmas week and there were a ton of kids of all ages. No disappointments there. We did the Stingrays in Grand Turk, great trip. My husband had been apprehensive for years about this excursion, the tour guides were great and the stingrays were very happy to play with us. Took the Turtle Cove excursion on St. Thomas, this was our second time on this one. We loved it again, lots of turtles, saw a stingray, squid, fun for all. St. Maarten we took an Island tour with a stop at Orient Beach. Did this two years ago, the kids loved it. Huge waves for body surfing, gorgeous, warm water. Just a wonderful trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
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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