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7 Princess Emerald Princess Cruise Reviews for Family Cruises to Caribbean - Southern

Emerald Princess cruise March 7th-17th. Southern Caribbean route. We are from South Carolina so rather than deal with the airlines we decided to leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale. Our first stop was in Cape Canaveral at the ... Read More
Emerald Princess cruise March 7th-17th. Southern Caribbean route. We are from South Carolina so rather than deal with the airlines we decided to leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale. Our first stop was in Cape Canaveral at the Radisson Resort At The Port. If you ever decide to sail out of Port Canaveral this is an awesome hotel to stay at. For $160 we stayed in a suite with king sized sleep number bed, a full separate eating area with second TV, a hot tub next to the bed and a nice marble shower. The pool is done up to look like a tropical oasis with large stone arches covered with vines and a waterfall in the middle. The service there is top notch. We ate at Kelsey's pizza right next door and had delicious pizza and Greek salads. We then ventured on to the Springfield Inn and Suites Ft Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port. We got a king sized room with all the amenities for $193. This included a free shuttle to the port and the ability to park our car for the duration. With a 10 day cruise the savings really added up. You can book a return shuttle back from the port for $10 a person. We enjoyed yummy pizza from Carcione's pizza (large 1 topping with 6 garlic knots and a cold 2 liter...$14). Embarkation: We took the 10:30am shuttle to the port. Arrived inside around 11am and were put into group 4. It took about an hour before our group was called but once we were called things moved relatively fast. We went to our cabin and found our luggage had already arrived! We decided rather than fight the hordes at the Horizon court we would have lunch in the dining room. It was a decision well made. The dining room was not crowded and a perfect place to relax. My wife and I enjoyed a delicious cheese ravioli appetizer and then beef tenderloins in a rich gravy with red mashed potatoes. It was one of the best meals on the ship. I would highly recommend doing this instead of the horizon court. There are even cheese burgers available if you have picky little eaters. We did muster at 3pm and met in the casino. They now scan your room key card at muster so trying to hide from it won't work. It was quick and painless and soon we were ready to "escape completely". Cabin: We stayed in E 316. An inside cabin on the emerald deck. This cabin had it's ups and downs. On the upside we were conveniently located close to just about everything. The elevator was just around the corner and were were very near the theater, bars and dining venues. The room was spacious enough not to feel cramped and offered more than enough storage space. The bathroom was small but workable with a nice shower with good pressure and temperature variation. On the down side our first night we hit some rough weather with high seas and wind. The walls of cabin creaked so long and so loud sleep was almost impossible. Fortunately when we reached the calmer Caribbean waters the creaking subsided. Also we could never seem to get the cabin very cool. We didn't opt for a top sheet and later regretted it as it got pretty warm under the comforter with the little AC the room provided. We did get the egg crate mattress which made the bed more comfortable. What made our cabin stay the most bearable was taking my WDTV with portable hard drive along. WDTV is a small black box which allows you to watch Netflix, Youtube, Facebook and various other video, picture and music services with WiFi connection. We didn't utilize these since WiFi is very expensive and spotty on the ship. However I downloaded a DVD copier program (Ideal DVD copy) and burned 120 of my favorite movies to a 1 gig portable hard drive which I could plug into the WDTV. I then plugged the WDTV into the stateroom TV and by switching the sources with the TV remote was able to watch our DVD movies in our cabin. It was really great to be able to relax and watch a movie at our leisure right in the room. WDTV is $99, a 1 gig portable hard drive is $150 and the DVD burner program cost $40. So for a one time investment of $300 I can take my DVD library everywhere I go! Dining (my favorite part): We ate all our breakfasts in the dining room (except) for the last day. You should really avoid the horizon court as the food is not as good. The breakfasts in the dining room were very good. We enjoyed Eggs Benedict, blueberry pancakes, crispy french toast, and other yummy samplings. Each breakfast has 2 specials of the day and then the standard fare of eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruits, meats, etc. I disagree with other posters who said the coffee was bad. The horizon court coffee was nasty but the dining room coffee tasted just fine to me. The international cafe also makes a great breakfast stop. They have loads of pastries, donuts, coffee cake and muffins all of it tasty and fresh. For lunch we went to the dining room when available. The food was consistently good and the hamburgers outdid the Trident grill in both size and flavor. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers and bacon cheeseburgers are available on every dining room lunch menu. The Trident grill was not bad. It featured hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, brats, and hot dogs as well as a vegiburger for non meat eaters. You may want to be in line a little before 11:30am as the lines get long. I do wish they had more offerings as well. I have seen other lines offer taco bars with nachos and chili. It would have been nice to make a chili cheeseburger or chili dog to break up the monotony. The pizza grill was another great staple with some of the better pizza I have had at sea. The crust is tasty and crisp and the ingredients fresh. They offer cheese, pepperoni and a pizza of the day. My favorite was the "surf and turf" which was tenderloin and lobster bits on a pizza. Again my only complaint is wishing the had more choices. Only 3 choices with 2 of them being staples gets old quick. The international cafe offers small sandwiches and salads with a quiche of the day and soup of the day. The sandwiches include ham & cheese, Mozzarella and Prosciutto, chicken salad, and others. The sandwiches are small but light and refreshing. The quiche of the day is usually cheese with either mushroom, onion, spinach, leeks or tomato depending on the day. I didn't try the soup and the Gelato was still unavailable. We never ate in the horizon court which is available as well. For dinner we stayed with the dining room. Here is where we encountered another Princess problem. Anytime dining. Which by all definition was certainly not. When cruising with princess before we were able to make a standing reservation for a table for two for the duration of the cruise. We were told that this was not allowed by the reservation line only to discover other couples were allowed to make this arrangement. We were told to arrive at 5:30 every night and we would be seated but that isn't "anytime" dining in my book. Other lines could accommodate us "anytime" and any seating arrangement we liked. All said our meals were generally very good and the wait staff friendly and attentive. The prime rib is a must try as well as the Goat Cheese Souffle, Lobster was sweet and tasty. Do have the Chocolate Hazelnut souffle as it is very good. One other complaint is the way tables for two are set up. There is a long community couch with chairs spaced out along it to create makeshift tables for two. The problem is you don't have any privacy as there are people at both your elbows. People who want tables for two usually wish to dine alone and not be subjected to forced conversations. I would like to see Princess create real tables for two instead of trying to pass this off as such. The international cafe has yummy dessert bites in the evening which we found outdid some of the desserts in the dining room. They are also smaller and less filling. Now for my favorite. The Crown Grill. We ate there twice and can't recommend this place enough. The steaks are some of the best I have ever tasted and always cooked to perfection. I would recommend the Scallop appetizer with perfectly cooked scallops. The Black and Blue soup with tangy Roquefort cheese. I had both the 8oz fillet and the 16oz Kansas city strip both delicious. The scalloped potatoes are a must try. They are swimming in cheesy goodness. You can also add as many 4oz lobster tails as you can handle. The only throw away about the meal was the signature salt collection. The salts were too strong tasting and really not needed. The Cafe Caribe was available for dinner but we never ate there. We also never tried room service as the menu and food quality are the worst at sea. Entertainment: We skipped all the song and dance shows. We saw Al Katz and he was pretty funny. He did the usual stand up and we found getting a seat in the theater at 7:15 was not hard. We also saw Steven Scott and thought he was very funny combining sound effects with his various funny stories. He did a dead on impersonation of the captain that had everyone rolling. I would highly recommend seeing him. Our most common night activity was sneaking off to our secret hot tub. I will now share with you the secret. In the spa area is a pool and two hot tubs which are virtually abandoned at 7pm-8pm. These hot tubs are really hot, not luke warm like the ones in the main pool area. They also have powerful jets. It was very relaxing to have the place to ourselves at night with the night sky, cool night breezes and the lights of the Sanctuary giving a nice glow. Seek this place out! Just take the elevator to deck 16, make sure you get robes to wear from your cabin steward. Ports: Princess Cays: We stayed on the ship as we had been there before and it rained most of the day. I felt bad for the people who took the rough tender ride over only to be rained on with no place to find shelter. If you have been here I would recommend a day of having the ship to yourself. Nice to avoid all the cattle lines and just relax. St. Thomas: Got off briefly to purchase alcohol. If you plan to do so on this cruise buy it all here as they have the best prices and selection. We were surprised to find that they didn't take our liquor and hold it till the end of the cruise. I can't say if you will be so lucky but it was a nice way of keeping our bar tab low. The other ports had little to no alcohol stores and they were more expensive with poor selection. Dominica: Stayed on the boat. We have toured it already and once you have been there you have been there. Grenada: Had planned to go to magazine beach but it was overcast. We decided to venture into town which was a mistake. Every 3 feet some guy would try to peddle his cab tour. It usually went like this... Do you want a tour? No thanks. Let me show you my beautiful island. No thanks. With all it's waterfalls and cliff divers. No thanks. And historic forts. No thanks. I will take you to Grand Anse beach. No thanks. Repeat this with every guy you pass on the street. We did find a very nice spice store in the mall called D#1 spice shop. She had the best prices and wasn't a tacky tourist shop. Bought spices and retreated back to the boat. Bonair: One of the best stops of our trip. We chose to take a free shuttle bus to the Plaza Resort Bonair for some snorkling and relaxing on the beach. When you get off the ship just look for a set of white tents featuring tours. The Plaza shuttle driver is usually there about every 10 minutes. The shuttle is free and the resort costs $10 a person for use of their beach chairs, pool, bars and restaurant. Bring towels as none are provided. This was the best snorkel spot I have ever been to. The water is glass clear. The sea floor is a mixture or rock and coral so there are tons of fish. The best part is you don't have to be a great swimmer to snorkel here. In waist deep water you can literally stick your face in the water and see all kinds of sea life. We saw Parrot fish, angel fish and even an eel poking his head out of his hole. I do recommend some water shoes to keep your feet from getting cut or slipping. The beach itself is small and relaxing. When you are ready they will contact the shuttle to take you right back to the ship. Here is a video I shot, please excuse the shakiness since my flip cam lacks image stablization... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pK5LkuZ0DI&list=UUWFaowMaC-ERNs2OSSFidug&index=1&feature=plcp Aruba: After reading the various Cruise Critic boards we decided to venture to Eagle beach for a nice beach day. The weather was perfect, sunny with a nice breeze blowing. Originally we were going to take a taxi there, $13 one way per cab but a tour driver said to us "Why do that when the city bus will take you there both ways for the two of you for $5?" The bus station is right outside the port terminal. The busses are clean and modern and very safe. We purchased our bus tickets and headed on our way. On the bus we met up with "Myrtle Beach", a Boston snow bird now living in, you guessed it. She told us all about Eagle beach and what it had to offer. She was quite the character. She also introduced us to beach towel clips which we are going to have to get next time. She bought them at Bed, Bath and Beyond and they seemed to hold the towels neatly against the chairs. We arrived at the yellow exterior of the Amsterdam Manor which is right across from the beach and we got off. The beach was pristine with soft sand and clear blue water. Chairs were $10 a person and they had bar, changing area and port-o-lets. Myrtle Beach clued us in that we could use the Manor's restroom and that there was a Coke machine in there with $1 Cokes and Water. We stayed on the beach so we never found out if this was the case. Had a great day and decided to leave at 1pm which was good since the busses were getting a little crowded. All in all a perfect beach day. Sea Days (one early and two at the end): We spent our sea days lounging in the sun. We tried a number of places on the ship. The Mutts pool area seemed to lack a good breeze due to the tall glass windows all around it. We sat by the main pool upper deck area which had decent breeze but a lot of other people packing in like sardines. I wish some of these people grasped the concept of " personal space " We tried the highest deck by the Doplar radar globes but ended up naming it the frying pan due to the heat coming off the floor since they didn't put down the blue turf carpeting. I will now reveal to you the sweet spot. The best spot to spend an entire day sunning. Grab this spot early and guard it like a pitbull. Just outside the Sanctuary there is a glass wall that leads to a series of chairs. If you take your chairs and position them right next to the edge of the ship facing the dolphin shaped Sanctuary sign you will catch both a breeze from the side of the ship and a breeze blowing in from the front of the ship. Also you can use the pool located in the Sanctuary which is very cool and if you go into the spa area there are some very nice bathrooms close by. This is the same area with the awesome hot tubs. Disembarkation: Self debarked and were off the ship by 7:15. Shuttle back was prompt and the driver parked right next to our parked car. We were on the road by 8:00. Closing notes: We had an enjoyable cruise but feel that Princess has lots of room to improve. Anytime dining needs to be refined maybe by adding more dining venues. The Trident grill and pizza grill should expand their menus. The room service menu needs to be retooled and improved. Vines is a complete waste of space. Nobody used it except as overflow from the Piazza. The staterooms need better temperature control. Not to be missed sunrises and sunsets. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
This was our 6th cruise with Princess in 7 years and we're back to the Caribbean again, this time the Southern route. We flew from Vegas to Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the "rustic" Ramada Inn,with several other nice ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise with Princess in 7 years and we're back to the Caribbean again, this time the Southern route. We flew from Vegas to Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the "rustic" Ramada Inn,with several other nice cruisers also joining us on the Emerald.We got to the port about noon and it was a mess lines backed up into the parking lot, uh oh, something looked terribly wrong, and it was ? Well 90 minutes later we finally got moving and boarded about 1:45, whew ! The ship looked great just as it did last March for our East. Caribbean cruise. We got the same room,as last year near the slow elevators and stairs.It was clean, but small for 3, and after meeting Eli our steward and making some requests for hangers, mattress pads and robes, were off to find some lunch and explore the ship. We had some kind of mechanical issues with a life boat and did not pull out of port until dark 6:45 in the light rain. We're not off to a very good start I'm afraid. It has to get better right ? The "sail away" party what there was of it was also a bust ! Hope you like "art" it was everywhere and often.The crew and staff seemed very nice and happy to see us and made us feel welcome. We enjoyed meeting and playing along with the C.D. staffers JJ, Chantal,Megan,Andy & Oxsanna.As for the C.D. and his deputy, good voices, but pretty mediocre from there. Their morning "wake show" was pretty cheesy and boring, just sayin.Sure miss the Isl. Princess Billy Hygate, now that's a CD.Lot's to see & do on the Emerald, trivia, karaoke my favorite, bingo,eat,games, shows (3) per night,eat,check your daily patter and take it with you for reference.The ship looked great throughout, no worse for wear it receives.WE tried to do most activities but it's really impossible to see & do it all.The service was very good, sometimes too good, servers always trying to sell. Happy hour deals 4-7 ask your server for the "deals", or drink special of the day. The Photo studio same thing, you know if the photos were more reasonably priced they would sell more, creating higher profits. I'll bet they throw away, or re-cycle 75 % of everything they take ! Dining : Anytime is the best time ! You still need to make a standing reservation on your arrival day,asap. No waiting, go straight on in. The food was good to very good, depending on what you order. Some of the beef/meat selections were lacking, (cost cutting) measures I'm sure. The shrimp,scallops, lobster were all good, not great and many of the appetizers/pasta were better. We loved all the fresh salads, sand. and deserts in the Intn'l. Cafe in the atrium, delicious. The pizza and burgers were very tasty out by the pool if you did'nt mind waiting 10 min. or more for a burger,slow ! Loved the Pub lunches in the Wheelhouse lounge on sea days. Great Fish n Chips, bangers& Mash etc. A nice break from the crazy busy Horizon Ct. buffet. So hard to find an empty table for breakfast! Do yourself a favor, eat in the more relaxed Dining Room deck 6 the Bochelli. Great eggs benedict and the coffee is better,stronger too. Entertainment : Wow lot's going on and they have added a condensed show so there are 3 instead of 2 now, 7:15,8:30,& 10:00, good move Princess. The best show by far is definately the "Beatle Maniacs", get there early ! We also like the comedy of Al Katz, & Steven Scott, Mentalist Wayne Hoffman & Magician Jean Bouchard. I was with the famous "sisters" who were in the mentalist & magician show we got stopped and questioned quite frequently. So many extra nice people on this ship, I can't begin to tell you we meet such wonderful people on board, it was a real pleasure ! M.U.T.S. too many Muppet movies, we wanted to see "War Horse", or something better. Whoever schedules the movies needs some help in that regard.Karaoke and Princess Pop Star was great even if I was one of the main singers.Some really talented and fun people, thank you guys & gals. By the way if you tried to win a bottle of that champagne don't be concerned, it was pretty bad. In summary Princess still has a lot of little things to improve on, but overall another great vacation ! The nice folks they attract make the cruise what it is. Remember it's what you make it and the people you surround yourself with. We were lucky and met some extra special people to all of you that Hop,Karen & I met, THANK YOU and happy cruising. Next stop Hawaii March 9,2013 hope to see you all again, " ALOHA ", Monty Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We flew on Southwest from Vegas the day before where we met up with my sister and nepew. We had a nice flight, on time where they met us and off to spend the night at the Ramada Inn (cruise port). Turns out several of the nice people ... Read More
We flew on Southwest from Vegas the day before where we met up with my sister and nepew. We had a nice flight, on time where they met us and off to spend the night at the Ramada Inn (cruise port). Turns out several of the nice people staying there would also be fellow passengers also on the Emerald Princess. We had a tasty fresh mexican dinner that night, and visit with our nephew before our departure the next morning. Ramada did a nice job scheduling & transporting 3 large groups of us to the port, but I would not recommend the hotel, spend a little more, you will be glad you did. We arrived at noon and from the looks of the long lines not moving we could tell their were some major problems. We had heard later that someone had died, and the U.S. Coast Guard had sprung a random safety inspection witch one lifeboat failed, and had to be replaced. This caused another lengthy delay, and not much of a "sailaway party" sorry to say. We finally boarded just short of 2 pm, whew !We met our kind steward "Eli" and he took good care us throughout the cruise, the room was very clean. We finally pulled out in the dark & drizzle about 6:45. Like I said, "better late than never".Hopefully, the worst is behind us ? The weather was pretty choppy the first 2 days out and we had some overcast and drizzle at Princess Cays, but not bad, and it was warm, so it's all good.Our room was right near mid ship on Aloha deck so we were close to the stairs and the elevators, which were painfully slow, and usually packed with an avg. age of 60+, just sayin. Nice folks, some of the best we have ever sailed with.My sister and I were chosen to work with the mentalist on stage and later the magician in the Princess Theater, so we were recognized, and questioned often throughout the ship.How did he do that, etc. ?Entertainment, overall was good, not great. We really enjoyed the "Beatlemaniacs" again this year, Al Katz & Steven Scott, mentalist Wayne Hoffman and Jean Bouchard, magician. The Theater fills up fast so get there early, the back fills up the fastest. The C.D. staff were a lot of fun running all the various games, Karaoke & shows, JJ, Chantal, Andy,Megan, Oxsanna, thank you ! M.U.T.S. missed War Horse, seems like the Muppet Movie was playing all the time ? Happy hour is usually 4-7 ask your server for specials and the drink of the day, as drinks can be quite pricey.Loved the Cadillac Margarita & Mai Tai, umm good !Refer to your "Patter" as so many things going on you need it for a road map to remember it all.The dancers and singers were pretty good especially the two lead ladies, the guys, well I think some of the male Karaoke singers were as good as they were. 3 shows now in the P.T. so no need to rush dinner, a very good move by Princess on this, as the theater fills up quickly. Dining: We had "anytime dining" in the Michael Angelo, the secret here is make a standing reservation the first day with the maitre de, same table, servers and no waiting, just walk right in, like you own the joint ! Most people do not know this and had to wait.The meat/beef selections were not all that good but loved the seafood, many of the appetizers, and pasta's. I think overall food quality has dropped due to cost cutting measures? The "service" however was excellent. Thank You Sanya & Ketut very nice fellas.We also loved the Intnt'l. Cafe in the atrium, fresh salads,sandwiches, quiche & deserts, yum ! The Pub Lunches in the Wheelhouse were very tasty on Sea days. Loved the burgers, fries, & pizza out by the main pool too, get in line early for burgers, it really backs up.Don't forget room service for am and late nights too, just a little "tip" will do ya.  Cafe, great salads, fresh sand. quiche, and mini deserts deck 5, in the atrium.The Horizon Court, alias every man for himself. Folks just too many in there every morning during peak breakfast hours. In 3 words, "not enough tables". Do yourself a favor, relax and have a nice quiet leisurely breakfast,or lunch in the Bocheli dining room. deck 6. You will be glad you did, wish we would have too. Ports: Wow, just snorkled in P. Cays weather was just mediocre, but any beach day is better than your best day at work, right ? Saw a lot of fish & scenery there. St. Thomas shopped and beached at Emerald beach near the ship, next time were going to make it to Trunk Bay on St' Johns Isl. for sure ! Been to Megen's Bay before, very scenic and tranquil. Dominica: The best shore excursion ever #362. Thanks Joan & Alex. Check out Sassy falls and the tropical jungle, nicer and less crowded than Trafalgar, gorgeous ! Grenada:Took a nice catammaran over to the underwater sculpture park, wow ! Wish we had more time there, then off to Grande Anse beach, and a lot of rum punches, whew ! The crew kept pouring & pouring, a fun trip, but over way too fast. Bonaire : Best snorkeling & diving anywhere in the Caribbean. For $10 p/p we took a short drive to the "Plaza Resort". Pool, lounges, tiki bar, restrooms, showers, hammocks, and the best snorkeling ever right of the rocky beach ! Wear water shoes, and enjoy swimming in an "aquarium", tropical fish everywhere, beautiful parrots, angel fish galore in shallow water, incredible decision ! Aruba: 100 A S.E. nice hikes in the rocks, Calif. Lighthouse visit, and Palm Beach,beach stop. Very nice but crowded with too tours stopping at the same place, same time. They need to better organize these, but still worth while. All in all, another great Princess Cruise. Not perfect but pretty darn good, considering the crazy embarkation day and late sailaway. So many nice people we met and hope to see again someday, especially all my husbands Karaoke gang, Leeroy, Glenn, Jim, Claire, Robert,Heather & Daniele, Larry, Mayta, Bruce, Jeff,Nancy, Byron, Gordon, Barbara, thanks everyone for a wonderful vacation ! Princess has some kinks to work out, we all know it, but hey, nobody is perfect, we're all a "work" in progress". So how about "Hawaii" March 9, 2013 on the beautiful Sapphire Princess ? Be there or be square. Happy Sailing & ALOHA !!!   Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
This cruise was my 5th time on Princess and 3rd time on the Emerald Princess. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship, but there was a drop in the number of entertainment options & activities compared to my previous Princess Cruises ... Read More
This cruise was my 5th time on Princess and 3rd time on the Emerald Princess. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship, but there was a drop in the number of entertainment options & activities compared to my previous Princess Cruises (all within the past 2.5 years), e.g. no more golf pro on board and no support for Sunday's church service from cruise staff....the passengers had to pull it together. I hope this is just temporary as I love the Princess brand and want to take many more cruises with them. I travelled with my husband and this cruise was special to us as we got married on the same ship just a few months earlier and were now expecting our first child! What was noticeable on this cruise compared to previous cruises was the high number or senior cruisers (70+ years of age). We were among the youngest passengers and were told so by many crew members and our fellow passengers throughout the cruise. We often requested to be seated at lunch or breakfast with people close to our own age and were told it was not likely to happen..so off we went to a table for 2. Princess needs to guard against becoming the retirement cruise line: more options catering to the working professionals, such as discounted internet time, would help strike a healthier balance. Some of the shows could be a bit more modern, too (where you did not have to be born before the 1970s to "get it"). Nevertheless we had some nice conversations with our fellow passengers during the cruise and enjoyed our vacation. We celebrated a birthday on this cruise and had noted so on the Cruise Personalizer. On the day the card you hand out to the head waiter in the main dining room to get your cake arrived promptly but no balloons. My husband called later that evening as we saw many other doors had balloons and had always had these before for birthdays, our honeymoon etc. and passenger services had some sent promptly. The balloons now are "generic" congratulations balloons vs. birthday/honeymoon/anniversary etc. as in the past. I thought it was fun to see what people were celebrating and was a little disappointed by this efficiency measure. I hope they go back to the more personalized approach to celebrations! EMBARKATION DAY: We spent a few days in FL prior to the cruise and drove our rental car to Fort Lauderdale in the morning. We dropped off the car in downtown and were a little concerned about getting a taxi as there were many ships departing that day (incl. the Oasis of the Seas), but a taxi arrived within 5 minutes and whisked us to the port in about 30 minutes. We arrived at around 12:20 p.m. in the port and the embarkation process was very smooth with virtually no waiting time anywhere. We dropped off our luggage with the porter, proceeded to security, filled out the health form and got checked in. Everyone from Princess was very friendly at the terminal. We were in our stateroom by 12:45 p.m. STATEROOM: Having stayed in mini-suites and balcony rooms on earlier cruises we had decided that the room was not important this time and we signed up for the lowest cost interior room guarantee on deck 5 (Plaza). We were excited to get an upgrade to a great mid-ship location on deck 9 (Dolphin). This room was super quiet (no neighbor on the other side) and very comfortable. Our cabin stewardess was Sherrill and she stayed on top of everything - the room was always immaculate when we returned to it. DINING: We were very pleased with the quality and variety of food options. We had dinner in the main dining room (Da Vinci) every night and also ate breakfast and lunch there on most days. We enjoy being served this way while on vacation and only visited the buffet for snacks. The halibut was a little tough/overcooked one night, but otherwise everything was excellent. We love traditional dining and had signed up for it (although only 5:30 p.m. time was available), just to find out Da Vinci also served as an anytime dining room, so there was a lot more traffic than in a true traditional dining room and the staff were incredibly busy. At the end of the cruise the Baked Alaska parade was the express version of what you see in the true traditional dining rooms. A tip: the ship's policy is that you must arrive within 15 minutes from dining time or your table may be given to someone else. We noticed that nobody claimed a great window table for the first 3 nights -- it was always assigned to walk-in anytime diners later in the evening - and checked with the maitre'd on the possibility of having this table assigned to us since we were always promptly there and typically finished eating by 6:30 p.m. He was happy to accommodate us and we really enjoyed our view while dining! Great Princess service. Our waitress Natasha was also wonderful.The pizza on the ship is excellent so we also had a slice a few times during this cruise or picked up some baked goods from the International Cafe. ENTERTAINMENT: I had read on these reviews earlier that the popular shows, such as Beatle Maniacs, start filling up about an hour prior to show time. So we prioritized what we wanted to see in the Princess Theater (Beatle Maniacs and the International Crew Show) and made sure to be seated no later than 45 minutes prior to show time. We also saw the comedian Jay Mohr one night in the Explorer's Lounge (funny) and saw some performances on the Piazza. We tried to watch the movie Social Network at Movies Under the Stars one day, but it was very hard to hear. We made a couple of requests to have the volume turned up, but it was competing against music playins at the other mid-ship pool and just did not work out. The MUTS is a much better experience in the evening. It would be great if more movies could be played in the Princess Theater in the afternoons. We enjoyed going to the Lotus Spa gym and played some golf on the sports deck, but it was sad not to see anyone using the golf simulator or take lessons from a golf pro like always before...I used to enjoy the chance to take a little 30-minute lesson to work on my swing and now you are basically on your own. PORTS: We enjoyed the picnic in Princess Cays, just took it easy and enjoyed walking on the beach on a beautiful day. In St. Thomas we went shopping and found 2 beautiful pairs of blue topaz earrings. The above two were ports we were familiar with from before. In Dominica we took one of the shuttles that runs to runtown for $2 pp. It was raining as it often does there due to the rainforest climate. We were surprised by how little there was to see in the downtown area...took some photos of the crabs crawling all over the waterfront, looked at the local merchandise but did not find anything to buy and headed back to the ship after just 30 minutes. This was our least favorite stop during the cruise. In Grenada we had signed up for the St. George's Highlights tour, as it was low physical activity and being pregnant I have to take it easy. My husband and I were pulled from the line and assigned to a very old van for this tour and soon realized the van did not have working air-conditioning (although the tour is advertised as being suitable for people with physical limitations)! Long story short, the driver had to drop us off about 10 minutes into the tour and find a newer van to assign us to that had working air-conditioning. From that point forward we were very comfortable. The guide was silent for long periods of time during the excursion and did not use a microphone, so we felt like we did not learn as much as we would have liked but at least we were comfortable and saw a lot. In Bonaire we just went to downtown to check out the stores, very clean & delightful but also rather expensive. We returned back to the ship within an hour. Aruba was the best port on this cruise! We took the island tour that visits the Aloe factory and includes a 1-hr beach break and had a great time. The guide was also very knowledgeable and shared a lot of information with us. Great tour! Afterwards we went back to the ship for lunch, grabbed our laptops and went to the local Starbucks for some quality email time (no charge). DISEMBARKATION: Very easy, no lines, and off to the airport within minutes! We were comfortably seated in the Michelangelo dining room waiting for our turn. In summary, mission accomplished in terms of a relaxing cruise vacation with great weather, lots of laughs and wonderful memories to cherish during the years to come! We plan to return to Princess with our little one in a year or two. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
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
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
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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