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27 Princess Emerald Princess Holiday Cruise Reviews

Wow so much to say. came into Sydney harbour by river ferry coming around the back and side of this amazing ship. Boarding was a breeze a few rather long queues but that was to be expected as the ship had to board three and a half thousand ... Read More
Wow so much to say. came into Sydney harbour by river ferry coming around the back and side of this amazing ship. Boarding was a breeze a few rather long queues but that was to be expected as the ship had to board three and a half thousand people. once we were finally through the Embarkation process walking across the gangway was so nerve racking wondering what is the ship going to be like? what awaits us just around the corner? when we got around that corner and set foot on-board the truly amazing M/S Emerald Princess we certainly were not disappointed it was beautiful as it was a Christmas cruise there was tinsel Christmas trees and all sorts of other decorations everywhere which was a lovely touch. Now to the cabin my first time in an interior cabin so didn't really know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised the cabin was roomy well designed and actually quite a pleasant room although the bathroom as always with cruise ships was tiny. The Dining OMG the choices for dining on-board was incredible, three dining rooms, three specialty restaurants plus the buffet, Café Caribe, the grill, a pizza place/ ice-cream place and a fantastic little café in the Atrium called the International Café a tip book early for Crab Shack, Share and Crown Grill all of which are very popular this can be achieved through the stateroom phone by pressing the dining reservations button or by calling 6219 from any phone on-board (only the stateroom phones have the speed dial function). entertainment and activities the night-time shows is unfortunately where Princess fell short personally I found some of them to be rather amateurish I personally quite enjoyed the Princess signature show Magic To Do although they could have done more to hide the wires, the activities were quite enjoyable especially the trivia which my family spent a lot of time at all in all the entertainment and activities were abit of a let down (the Trivia was fun though). The service WOW each and every crew member was pleasant smiling happy to help you in anyway possible always with a huge smile (especially in the case of Kefang who worked at the international café as a buffet steward she was always smiling) the cruise director Duke and the assistant cruise director Matt were hilarious always cracking jokes and making fun of each other a true delight to be around. The ports and shore excursions WOW WOW WOW New Zealand is an incredible place a truly breathtaking country starting off in the Bay of Islands right up the top of the North Island we did the Waitangi Estuary by sea kayak shore excursion kayaking up to a small waterfall and back with a short break a 2 hour shore excursion truly amazing next was Auckland an unfortunate let-down very much like Sydney not really anything truly exciting there this was followed by the best port of the entire cruise Tauranga where we went to the Tamaki Maori Village just outside Rotorua what a day we were on a bus for about 90 minutes from the berth at Mount Maunganui to Tamaki both the guide and the driver were always cracking jokes and telling us about the areas we were passing which made the bus trip quite enjoyable then we arrived at Tamaki we were met by a traditional Maori welcome ceremony where the Maori warriors made sure that we came in peace and weren't going to attack them which was quite a show we then went into the village and were split up into small groups at which point we went to different huts to learn different things about Maori culture and history which was rather interesting and fun we then went to learn about a traditional hangi which is a Maori way of cooking after this we moved the meeting house where we were entertained through a number of Maori performances including the famous haka and a performance of a Maori love song called Pokarekare Ana after this it was meal time where we enjoyed a traditional Maori hangi feast which was delicious once this was over we had a bit of time to browse the gift shop and take some photos of the village before it was time to head back to the ship we said goodbye to Tamaki and headed out to the bus we then commenced the 90 minute return journey to Mount Maunganui berth where our ship was docked during this trip we were given a bit of a private performance with our guide singing some Maori songs until we reached Rotorua and she was dropped off we then went for a drive through the nearby gardens and had a look at a rather large building within the gardens before continuing our journey back. next was Christmas Day which was a sea day transiting between the north and south islands Christmas day was quiet and relaxing which was nice it was also a formal night there was Santa's arrival Christmas carols and much more our next port was Picton where we went on a hike and scenic cruise up the queen charlotte track and sound which was beautiful after this relatively easy hike and scenic cruise we were dropped off in the Picton township and had a bit of a look around a market and the town which was quite a nice quaint little rural New Zealand town right on the water which was lovely. Our next port was Wellington which is of course New Zealand's national capital and an awesome city first thing we did was get the famous cable car up the hill and walked back down through the botanical gardens which were really pretty after this we walked around the great city and had very necessary retail therapy we also enjoyed some on NZ's famous fush and chups as they would say we returned to the ship happy and content after a great day looking around an awesome city. next was Akaroa a quaint little French town quite a nice place actually at this port we did the double decker bus tour which was quite enjoyable during this tour we travelled form Akaroa to the famous hilltop hotel for a photo opportunity and pit stop we travelled through a number of quaint little towns the view from the hilltop hotel was breathtaking right over the many bays. Next was our final port of the cruise Dunedin a lovely small Scottish city with quite a lot to see including a Cadbury chocolate factory (the obvious highlight) as well as a great little Scottish shop quite a nice little southern New Zealand city. our final day in New Zealand was spent on a scenic cruise through the absolutely amazing Fiordland National Park through the dusky doubtful and breathtaking Milford sounds a truly breathtaking part of an amazing country. The next day was New Years Eve and of course it was party time and also the cruises third and final formal night they had three different on-board venues with parties celebrating New Years they were the Piazza, the Wheelhouse bar and the Explorers Lounge the Piazza had a live performance form the Emerald Princess party band (Liquid Blue) and a gold and silver balloon drop at the stroke of midnight a great night all in all. Our final night on-board was when my family went to the Share by Curtis Stone specialty restaurant located on deck 16 aft a truly amazing restaurant the six course meal was exquisite and the service was impeccable and the restaurant itself was beautifully designed. all in all a very very enjoyable cruise would definitely recommend Princess Cruises to anyone who wishes to have a relaxing luxurious and enriching cruise. Disembarkation was a breeze as well in and out of the terminal in less than half an hour. Would I travel with Princess Cruises again in short yes definitely although it is not my kind of line as I prefer to have activities galore, water parks, water slides heaps of pools a young persons fun cruise I would definitely go with princess again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We are 2 women. I am in my late fifties, my travelling companion in her seventies. Originally my parents (also in their seventies) were to join us for the cruise in the adjacent mini-suite, but had to cancel at the last minute due to an ... Read More
We are 2 women. I am in my late fifties, my travelling companion in her seventies. Originally my parents (also in their seventies) were to join us for the cruise in the adjacent mini-suite, but had to cancel at the last minute due to an urgent health issue. This has no bearing on my review of this particular cruise. My companion had never cruised or left Australia before. I am an experienced traveller, often solo. This was my first ocean cruise. Previously I have cruised for up to 14 days on a small ship expedition off Kimberley WA coast and a river cruise in Russia. We are both of average fitness with no mobility problems. We chose the New Zealand itinerary over Christmas for the ports and shore excursions available around New Zealand sailing out of Sydney Harbour and the personal recommendation of at least 6 people regarding Princess Cruises. We used the Princess Sydney Airport shuttle bus both ways. Both the embarkation and disembarkation process and passenger experience was severley compromised by poor communication, lackadaisical service and in fact misinformation on the part of Princess staff/contractors on the ground and on board ship. We had been upgraded to Club Class - thank you - but were not informed of this until we had been standing in various queues for more than 3 hours at the Sydney terminal. There was nothing on the Cruise Personaliser and we or our travel agent were not informed. We were told to get into one queue and then another and then we were appartently in the wrong queue. Honestly this mob could not run a chook raffle. We were even told at one point that they had run out of trolleys - "go and look after your own bags" - after being told by another Princess staffer that they would be looked after between getting on the bus and cabin. Then after considerable panic, some nice young man turned up with more trolleys. The beginning of the cruise was marred considerably as it took my companion the first 3 days to get over it! Disembarkation was just as disorganised. We had done everything we had been told - as always - to the letter. We were called "light blue 6" so we made our way to where we were told only to be told by Security to "wait until you are called" We said "We have been called". We made our way down to the luggage and mine went missing for more than an hour. Another woman and I were both given "lost luggage vouchers" before some sheepish young bloke turned up with my bag. As far as i know, the other woman is still waiting. Cabin (mini-suite) OK, maitenance very poor. Shower/bath outlet blocked so showering in ankle deep water that took up to 20 minutes to drain (after 2 minute shower) - plumber materialised 48 hours after complaint - apparently no one had noticed prior to this. Speaking to other women on cruise - this is the first thing that they check - they clean their own outlet pipe of hair and other debris left by previous occupants! Yuck!!!!! Toilet broke while room steward on time off (Day 5 Auckland). Bowl overflowing and down back wall. Managed to stop before the dirty deluge reached the carpet, after wading in - not happy. Paged steward - no answer - pager clearly not put through to anyone else. Contacted Passenger Services and demanded help - not taken seriously. Plumber took 3.5 hours to arrive. Strange little man came to mop up water - did not clean bowl. Eventually saw supervisor 3 days later, who called me a liar - not a high point Princess! Complimentary bottle of cheap wine not really appreciated after that experience! Food repitive, average, sometimes poor - inedible - even CS Share. Room service - most times something - like milk - left off tray. Entertainment disappointing. High point of trip - the marvelous Ana (Club Class dining room hostess). Perhaps Princess need to make her a trainer in customer service and common sense! On-shore excursions generally as expected although expensive for what is provided. Akaroa - Southern Alps including train to Arthur's Pass. As with all the excursions considerably overpriced. I might be nice to at least get a biscuit to go with the cold weak coffee. Disappointing when driver left an elderly couple behind with their bags and coats still on bus after 5 minute photo stop. They could both be clearly seen by all of the other 20 passengers on this particular bus hurrying back to whithin 2 metres of the bus front door! Driver told repeatedly, but they were left to catch up at next stop an hour or so later on another bus - not good enough! Driver's name - Gary. He was clearly seen being interviewed for the "Reflections" DVD for this cruise. In Dunedin after city tour, bemused when "complimentary shuttle bus back to ship" costs $10 NZ one way! Bemused when on boarding found "gift for you" card for prepaid internet access. Apparently they were the "only cards that we had printed". People who had prepaid drinks packages had to ask for refunds as it was cheaper to arrange on board. Far too often there were language problems including incorrect drinks orders - or perhaps just convenient excuse for appalling service. Most of captain's and other announcements not audible from inside room. Some were - why not all? Told by steward to "open the door". If it is important enough to make an anouncement about then it needs to be heard throughout the ship. Sometimes by the time I realised that there was an announcement going on and got to the other end of the long skinny mini-suite to open the door - the announcement was over! The biggest bugbear was the door to our cabin / mini-suite. One or both of our cruise cards needed to be reactivated no less than seventeen (yes 17) times for the 14 days or our cruise to operate the door. Strangely the magnetic strip worked just fine for everything else - only the door was a problem! Just as well as my companion used hers to spend an awful lot of money in the ship's retail precinct. That was the only time except overnight on the bedside table away from lights etc. that she removed the lanyard from around her neck - as for both of us. She doesn't actually carry a phone and her bag did NOT have a magnet! It got to the stage that my companion would not leave the room without me for fear of not being able to get back in. We made contingency plans so that we did not miss various bookings because we couldn't get timely entrance to our room. Each foray into the queue at Passenger Services took from 5 - 30 minutes. Yes - I timed it! Yes, I, in particular do understand the concept of magnets, phones etc. as I hold post-graduate university qualifcations in medical physics. Other passengers also had problems with their doors and batteries etc were replaced - particularly if at least one of the passsengers was male! I have never had this problem before and no - I do not believe that this was our fault. Twice we were told that this would be checked out - it was not and of course on the last morning of the cruise my companion's card ceased to work yet again - right on queue! It was particularly disheartening to see our cabin steward and one of his nasty little mates appearing to have a good laugh at my elderly companion attempting to gain entrance to her own room and failing. It may be fine in some cultures to treat middle-aged and elderly wormen as invisible - not in mine. Please remember that it is my generation and older particularly in Australia and like countries who DO have the disposable income along with the opportunity, health and fitness in retirement to use it; but we are choosey where we spend it - and we are becoming silent no more regarding poor service and downright rudeness. "Princess Cruises - Come back New"...................... Princess Cruises - Come back broke and disappointed! Princess Cruises - don't come back at all! Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
This was my 3rd cruise on Princess, and the first on Emerald. I understand that the ship just came out of dry dock, but I couldn't really figure out what had been updated other than the Effy jewelry boutique that took up a large ... Read More
This was my 3rd cruise on Princess, and the first on Emerald. I understand that the ship just came out of dry dock, but I couldn't really figure out what had been updated other than the Effy jewelry boutique that took up a large amount of the shopping area. I'm not sure why Princess cruises made the decision to give so much real estate to such an expensive jewelry store. The pieces are terribly overpriced for mass produced jewelry in my opinion and they were pushing it hard. I'm not sure if this jewelry line meets the demographics of the Princess customer base, but time will tell. Embarkation was a breeze- and my daughter and I were on the ship in less than 10 minutes. The Muster drill was rather disorganized and took much longer than previous cruises. When I embarked on the ship I immediately called for reservations and was informed that Sabatini's Italian restaurant no longer existed. It has been replaced with the restaurant called "share" which comes with a $39 per person cover charge. Needless to say my husband and I did not eat at "share" but we did dine at the Crowne grill and were not disappointed. We did not have hot water for the first two days, and learned from other passengers that this was a problem for them as well. Air-conditioning did not run cold but this was ok with us as we tend not to like air-conditioning anyway. But for some people it was a real problem. I didn't let this ruin my cruise so I just took cool showers quickly and spent most of my time outside. We were upgraded from an ocean view to a premium balcony room which was nice but honestly I wouldn't of paid the extra money for it. The balcony was almost as big as the room and we didn't use it as much as I had expected. The ride down was very rocky and there were gale force winds according to the captain. At one point the pools had to be drained and closed because they became unsafe due to the movement of the water in the pools. I was up in the sanctuary area for most of the sea days and the noise from the wind was extremely loud but again I didn't mind- it's a cruise after all and you can expect wind and other kinds of noise. One issue with the sanctuary area is that you can hear some of the loud talkers down at the Lotus spa pool. They really should have a better way to soundproof this since you're paying $40 a day for the sanctuary area. In the main pools there were quite a few kids that were rough housing unsupervised which was a nuisance. Also, pools were pretty deep starting at about 5'3" which made it difficult for the young ones to swim around. There was no dedicated kids pool which would have been a good idea given the amount of children on board. This could've also mitigated the problem with some of the kids jumping and creating mayhem at the same time that adults and other kids wanted to swim. This resulted in most folks hanging onto the edges or trying to swing while avoiding the constant jumping in and pushing of the unsupervised kids. I actually saw some concerning behavior from the kids on the pool deck and became worried about safety and the deck attendance would not do anything. There was a group of kids that was really loud and splashing during the movie at night and one passenger got angry and yelled at them to be quiet. I'm a parent myself, and I really like kids but this just got really out of hand and affected other peoples enjoyment. My seven-year-old enjoyed the pelicans kids club. In her words- I really enjoyed the kids club. Because we got to go inside and ride bikes and do all these fun stuff. Had a pajama party which is really fun and we we got to do all these fun crafts and play with the Wii, which was where we we have a remote and we dance with that. We also got to do these fun crafts like making Masks and making bracelets and there was also a jungle gym which is pretty fun and you have to take your shoes off to go in , and before you go in the kids club you have to wash Your hands. The buffet food was unremarkable. There is decent salad at every meal. I agree with some other recent posters that the service in the dining room was excruciatingly slow. One night it took us three hours to have dinner. Staff were not particularly attentive and did not refill drinks in a timely manner. Most of the food arrived cold or lukewarm at best. This was one of the main reasons that my husband and I went to the crown grill for three of the nights. Since this is a Christmas cruise we had expected a special meal on Christmas evening. In fact this was touted as one of the features of the Christmas cruise. We were disappointed that there was really nothing special although there was some bland turkey and cranberry sauce but not the extravagant buffet or dining room event that we had expected. Santa made an appearance and gave our presents to the kids which was a bonus, and my daughter seem to have a great time with that. I still have the coffee shop at the international café, the pastries were outstanding. Entertainment was lackluster, but pretty standard in mainstream for this cruise line. We were in bed most nights by 10:30 PM so I can't speak for the late-night entertainment or the clubs. With all that said, I still like Princess and have two more cruises booked with them. A cruise is a cruise and it's what you make of it and I like cruising princess. I do think they need to make some improvements as I mentioned. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
I was initially concerned about cruising on the Emerald Princess at Christmas for fear that: 1) the ship would be overrun with unsupervised children, 2) we'd have problems departing and arriving in the Port of Houston due to fog and ... Read More
I was initially concerned about cruising on the Emerald Princess at Christmas for fear that: 1) the ship would be overrun with unsupervised children, 2) we'd have problems departing and arriving in the Port of Houston due to fog and 3) that the number of passengers would make for a crowded ship. I am happy to report that none of my fears materialized and that our Christmas cruise was very merry indeed. Embarkation: We (two adults in late 50's and two adults in mid 20's) stayed the night prior to the cruise at the Springhill Suites at Hobby Airport. The hotel offered free shuttle service from the airport and to anywhere within 5 miles of the hotel. This worked our great for us because we had family members arriving at Hobby at 3 different times and they just came to the hotel on the shuttle. Also, the shuttle was great for taking us to restaurants, Walmart, etc. The next day we called Pasadena Taxis and they sent a nice minivan for our party of 4. The cost, as they estimated beforehand, was around $50. We arrived at the time Princess requested we do so (noon - 1pm) and the line was rather long, but moved at a good pace. We were onboard the ship within 30 minutes of arriving at the port. The ship departed the Port of Houston almost on time--no fog problems. Public Rooms: This was the largest Princess ship I had ever sailed on, so I was a little concerned that it would feel crowded. Not so. There were plenty of public places to go which were uncrowded. In fact, this felt as one of the most un-crowded ships I've ever been on. Because this was a Christmas cruise, all of the public areas were decorated which made it especially nice. The Piazza was wonderful and we enjoyed the champagne waterfall, Christmas caroling and other programs here. Another of our favorite spots was the area outside the Explorers Lounge. There were always some tables and chairs there where we could play our Scrabble game. The outside areas were equally uncrowded. Our go-to place for breakfast was the Caribe Cafe and the area behind the cafe and our go-to place for sunning and swimming was at the Terrace Pool. This area seemed to be a secret from most of the passengers because they were crowded in the Horizon Court and around the Calypso and Neptune Pools. The only public area that was a disappointment to me was the library. For such a large ship, this was a pitifully small library. Cabin: Our party had both a balcony room and an inside room. The rooms on Princess are somewhat smaller than their counterparts on other cruiseships, but they are still fine. I will say that we had more than enough storage space for all of our clothes and luggage. And having a mini-fridge in all of the rooms is a big plus for Princess. The beds on Princess have always been so comfortable to me. Our cabins were on the Aloha Deck and we never heard a thing--no sounds from the ship, no sounds from the passengers, no sounds of the stewards' carts. This was the quietest room I've ever had on a ship. Fitness and Recreation: The fitness room was similar to most fitness rooms on other cruise ships. Treadmills were the most popular machines but were available for use only after 8am due to the fact that there were cabins underneath. The gym was open from 6am to 10pm. There were lots of other recreational areas--putting course, croquet, half-size shuffleboard, and basketball. Enrichment Activities: I don't recall any on this cruise. On previous Princess cruises, there have been educational talks about the ports-of-call, but not so on this ship. There were also not any "Scholarship at Sea" programs. Dining: Our dining experience (late traditional) started out poorly when we were assigned a table in a highly-trafficked area next to the waiter's service area. We could see several other tables in quieter areas which were empty, so the next day I contacted the head waiter for the Botticello dining room and we were immediately re-assigned to a quiet table next to the window. (I wonder why passengers were seated at less-desireable locations when prime locations were available?) The breakfasts in the Caribe Cafe were fine, but we were never able to get any grapefruit despite being told we could. For lunch, we always had pizza, hot dogs or hamburgers and they were all delicious. We never waited for the grilled foods and there was never more than a 5 - 10 minute wait for pizza. The dinner menu was OK, but I have always found the food on Princess to be rather bland. Since this was a cruise out of Texas, I would have expected some spicer food as we love our Tex-Mex and BBQ. Even the food choices that were supposed to be spicy were not. Princess would do a real service to their customers by providing a "spicy" option at each meal. Entertainment: There was lots of entertainment on this ship. We did not attend any of the production shows, but the performances by the guest performers, singer Lovena B. Fox and magician Michael Barron were excellent! The Christmas caroling by the staff was such fun and there were other programs in the Piazza which I enjoyed. My only gripe about the entertainment was that there was a nightly game show (trivia, etc.) each night at 9:15 pm, but those who had traditional late dining could not participate because we were never finished with our meals until 9:30 pm or later. Shore Excursions: We had 3 port stops and we did a ship's excursion in Belize. I prefer private tours, but since this was a tender port and since we were only in port until 4:30 pm, I was afraid to book a private tour for our destination, the Lamanai Mayan Ruins. Like all big tours, we waited around a LOT but the excursion met our expectations. I will say Princess does a good job on their website letting you know exactly where you will go on your excursion and how much time you will spend there. The lunch, however, on this excursion was poor. The meal consisted of 2 small pieces of chicken, rice and coleslaw. I barely had enough to eat and my 6'4" son certainly did not. Service: The service on the Emerald Princess was excellent. The staff was friendly and seemed to do all that they could to ensure you had a great experience. My interactions with the head waiter and with the pursers desk were productive. Debarkation: We arrived in the Port of Houston about an hour later than scheduled due to weather. However, they made up some of this time and we debarked only 30 minutes later than scheduled. The debarkation was pretty good, but our assigned area, the Crown Grill, was too small for everyone who was supposed to be there. We ended up waiting in another area and ocassionally walking over to the Crown Grill to check on our debarkation time. Going through Customs and Immigration in Houston was easy and we quickly got a taxi (Pasadena Taxi again) to Hobby airport. The cost was around $60. Value for Money: Because this was a Christmas cruise, the cost was much higher than the cost of this same cruise at other times. Therefore, our "value-for'money" was less. However, this was a great cruise and I would recommend both the Emerald Princess and doing a Christmas cruise. A Final Note: As previously mentioned, I was really concerned about booking a Christmas cruise for 4 adults for fear we'd be overrun by children. When we were in the embarcation line, I commented to my spouse as to how few children there were. During the entire cruise we saw relatively few children and we did not experience ANY rude, misbehaving or unsupervised children. I was very pleasantly surprised.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We decide a month before the sail date to go away for Christmas on a short cruise from an easily accessible port. We had been on the Star Princess in 2007 to the Greek Islands. We chose the Dec 21 departure from Houston on a 7 day journey ... Read More
We decide a month before the sail date to go away for Christmas on a short cruise from an easily accessible port. We had been on the Star Princess in 2007 to the Greek Islands. We chose the Dec 21 departure from Houston on a 7 day journey to the Western Caribbean with stops in Roatan (Honduras), Belize, and Cozumel. The food was good. We especially liked the Crown Grill, Crab Shack and the Pizza and Ice Cream bar. The 7 bottle Gold wine package was a good deal. The entertainment was excellent as was the service. The transfer from and to Hobby airport was easy and well organized. There were plenty of choices for shore excursions. The ship was well decorated for Christmas and the crew sand several Christmas carols. Santa Claus showed up on Christmas Day. video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHGMaJ7Y4Hc All in all we had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We had our first cruise due to the generosity of my in-laws. They purchased tickets for 14 of us to go together over Christmas week 2014 in honor of their 55th wedding anniversary. Further, they got everyone balcony rooms. We sailed out of ... Read More
We had our first cruise due to the generosity of my in-laws. They purchased tickets for 14 of us to go together over Christmas week 2014 in honor of their 55th wedding anniversary. Further, they got everyone balcony rooms. We sailed out of Houston on the Emerald Princess (all from Texas). After loads of research before departure, I wanted to put in some notes from our experience. First, we found our departure out of Houston to be flawless. Smooth and easy. A moderate line for embarkation, but, vacation was officially underway, so who cares about a line! All the port employees were smiling, friendly - even jovial. Thanks to all the reviews and information available online, I felt pretty well prepared. Right down to carrying a small bag with anything I'd like to have on hand immediately or even for dinner (we didn't board until 2:00 and dinner was at 5:30). Luggage did take a bit to arrive (mid-evening), but, again, with having the items I really wanted on hand, it was no biggie for us. I cannot say enough about the wonderful staff on the ship. I am lucky to have a husband with the gift for genuine interest in others and he's a great conversationalist. He and I believe in treating our waiter or bartender like a friend and not a servant. I'm sure, because we treat folks this way, we may receive better or more thoughtful service. However we got there, I can tell you we felt pampered 100% by all the staff (steward, wait staff, head waiter and bartenders). All the little details we mentioned up front enjoying were remembered and repeated daily - without a request. For me, that's pampering. Bless the dear soul who brought us coffee and juice each morning with a smile. We had standing reservations for dining daily at 5:30 PM at my in-laws request. My husband and I did not think we'd like the time being so early, but it was perfect. Two large tables takes about two hours to serve and we'd head out each evening to the main show in the theatre. At that point, there's a line waiting to get into to their tables. Choose 5:30 - trust me. We passed on a lot of the ancillary daily activities until the last two days as, I admit, some sounded a bit gimmicky. But, the last two days we participated and had a great laugh and good time. We both agreed, next cruise, we'll be checking out those opportunities daily. MOTION SICKNESS: I chose to use the prescription patch to keep potential motion sickness at bay. For those worried about the matter: IT WORKS!!! Don't bother leaving without a patch in place. Why even risk feeling badly when you can prevent it? No pill to pop, no sleepiness. In 14 people, about half had some minor to moderate sea sickness symptoms off and on. We were the only ones armed with the patch. FOOD: We found the food to be wonderful. The staff offered us "appetizer" portions if we were curious to try an entrée but did not want to have it for our main course. My college age sons tried so many different things I cannot recall. Our request for a special appetizer (off menu) was granted the follow evening. With a smile. We enjoyed most of our dining in one of the main dining rooms. I'm not keen on buffet food so this served my preference well. We did enjoy a pub lunch (fish and chips) one day and slices of pizza another (really quite good). Had a room service lunch of club sandwiches one day as well. Our sons enjoyed a second dinner after 10 PM in their rooms many nights. I appreciated the portion size being reasonable. Not small, but not "Texas sized". You can order whatever you want, but, if you are wishing to show some restraint, it's not hard to do. If you don't have dessert in the dining room, there are options to grab tiny confections at a coffee bar spot. They are really almost better than the main dining room. Grab three and share. ALCOHOL: All over 21 carried a bottle of wine onboard. Husband got one beer package (six for the price of five I believe). He ordered a few extra through the week. I got one canned soda package (diet coke and tonic water) and purchased a smallish bottle of vodka for $17 (room service). We enjoyed a bottle of wine in the evenings as a nice cabernet was available at $15/bottle. We did not spare on the consumption for our liking and felt the prices were reasonable. I had a minor accident that required a visit to the medical facility. Get the insurance that will cover these things!!! This was the last day at sea so not a real downer for the trip. I was surprised that the medical facilities are not available all day every day. It seemed to be 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. I assume there's reasoning behind this, but we had to beg to be let in (doors locked) while my foot was bleeding quite a bit. They'd really wanted me to wait to the afternoon hours. With my right toe toenail ripped half off (there's a story....), I felt pretty emergent. Some insistence by my husband got me in the doors, but, it's the one thing I did not research and wanted to share. It's a bit of a complaint, but, awareness would have been wise on my side to know the hours before the trip began. We had some looking for treat for motion sickness and they were always closed - just by chance. FYI for all to know!! CONDITON OF THE SHIP: There was constant maintenance going on everywhere. Not intrusive, but, evidence of real work being done (varnish, paint, etc. outdoors). Public restroom facilities were CLEAN and plentiful. I'm a real stickler for cleanliness and freshness. I appreciated the sense the ship was well maintained daily. OVERALL: The cost to value ratio worked for us and we are dreaming of indulging again - hopefully this year on a last minute deal. We will go Princess again. We'd both love to do Alaska in a few years. I am happy to report that I am a "cruise person". I wondered if I'd dislike the experience (kind of dreaded part of the year leading up to it). But, I'm sold. Eventually, more interesting destinations may be our goal, but, for now, we both agree the 'floating resort' experience we can get to via driving fits our budget and felt luxurious. We were pulling out our cash and leaving additional monetary tips for all that took care of us - in addition to the room gratuity. That's how much we felt well cared for that week. Thank you Princess!!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I normally would not write a review but I must say this was fantastic. Taking Princess is first class and such great quality. I know going during the holidays is an expensive time to travel. But a family of 4 with Kindergarten Twins this ... Read More
I normally would not write a review but I must say this was fantastic. Taking Princess is first class and such great quality. I know going during the holidays is an expensive time to travel. But a family of 4 with Kindergarten Twins this was wonderful. The cruise was sold out and there were so many kids and families on board. What better way to spend the holidays then a cruise to the beautiful Carribean. New Year's is such a fun and wonderful time of year. The cruise was perfect. They had a huge New Years Party. My kids absolutely loved it! The kids club and the pool was there favorite. The food was wonderful and the ship was so very clean. I would take Princess again with my kids in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I am resubmitting this as I am unable to find my original review. My husband and I took his son and our 5 year old grandson on the Emerald Princess for their Eastern Carribean New Year's Eve cruise. My husband and I have been on ... Read More
I am resubmitting this as I am unable to find my original review. My husband and I took his son and our 5 year old grandson on the Emerald Princess for their Eastern Carribean New Year's Eve cruise. My husband and I have been on numerous cruises all over the world and many different lines. We ALWAYS book full suites/penthouses. We booked L107 Lido Deck for us and a second cabin nearby for the kids. Our first morning we woke to THUMPING, LAMPS SHAKING, TV SHAKING, BATHROOM DOOR SHAKING. It was our first morning and at sea. So we planned on a leisurely day waking up whenever we did. Who could sleep with all the racket. It was 7 AM (our time). Turns out our bedroom was directly under the treadmills. When we booked the cruise the web site indicated we werr under the spa which is quiet. I called the hotel desk immediately plus notified our steward. Our steward, Jeffrey, was wonderful. He brought his supervisor to our suite to hear the thumping. The supervisor, Sammy, contacted customer relations manager, Anthony, who said he would see what he can do. Meanwhile the thumping was all day long. I asked for a meeting with the Hotel Manager Peter which was granted. In the interim the customer service manager offered to move us to a mini suite on deck 9 (we were on deck 15) and near our kids, that was the plan. If I wanted a mini suite I would have booked one! My husband and I explained to him that this was unacceptible. We were planning on having great holiday cruise with family and now we can't even stay in the suite we paid $10,000 for. The hotel manager suggested they would try to pinpoint which treadmills were affecting our suite and close them down for the mornings. They put out of order signs on the first 3 treadmills. The next morning it seemed quieter. Too good to be true because the thumping started. I called Hotel Manager again. Basically for 4 days I was calling the Hotel manager. i would go up to the spa to see what machined were being used. Sometimes it was the second 3 machines. In the meantime they have about 20 treadmills all along the front of the ship. The ones used the most were the ones on the starboard side above our suite. Whenever i went to the gym to check there was never anyone using treadmills on the port side. The woman at the spa desk said the customer relations manager instructer her not to close off additional machines. Maybe if they tried closing machines 1-6 we would not have had any issues. Finally while at sea I called Corporate Princess. After being passed to a second person they said they would look into it. It wasn't until day 5 that the customer relations person called our cabin and provided us with compensation. Considering we spent over $10,000 for our suite and we paid for the kids cabin, in addition to a few thousand in shore excursions, drinks, special restaurant, gambling, the $1150 they gave us is in an insult. This is the first complaint. Food was horrible. I have never been on a cruise where the food has been so bad. Even in the Crown restaurant it was not up to standards I am familiar with . Not to mention it took 4 days before I got a waiter to give mac and cheese to my grandson. Although EVERYONE on board said asking for mac and cheese was no problem no one seemed to be able to get it for us. Our first night in the Michelangelo dining room they said they didn't even have a kids menu! Finally the next night we got a kids menu. it wasn't until the fourth night we ate in Michelangelo and had a waiter named Wotold who managed to get us mac and cheese. Every night after that we made sure we sat at his table as he seemed to be the only competent waiter. The coffee in the Horizon was all water! We love a good cup of coffee in the morning. It was the pits. But in the evening the coffee was fine in the Michelangelo so why couldn't be the same in the Horizon. New year's eve was a major disappointment. They did not offer complimentary champagne. You had to buy a bottle if you wanted a glass of champagne at midnight. We have been on other cruise lines for new Year's and always was given a glass of champagne. The evening activities on New Years was terrible. Your choice was the top deck with the band and the activities group leading in line dancing or the inside piazza with balloons dropping. That was it! As i said this was the worst cruise ever! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
My wife and I have sailed with Princess numerous times and this was a last minute trip, planned in early December 2012.....Wish we had looked up the airfare from ORD TO FLL beforehand booking the cruise (duh momemnt...) ALWAYS look up the ... Read More
My wife and I have sailed with Princess numerous times and this was a last minute trip, planned in early December 2012.....Wish we had looked up the airfare from ORD TO FLL beforehand booking the cruise (duh momemnt...) ALWAYS look up the airfare BEFORE you book the cruise.....I should know that by now.. anyhow booked the cruise, got assigned Rivera Deck Cabin R224....very nice, deck 14, up on port side near the front of the ship....as a matter of fact saw many of the top brass walking down our hallway all during the cruise....especially a very nice BIG Irish nautical guy, who was ever so pleasant and very friendly...stopped to ask about the cruise, our names etc...saw him many times.....he has some nice nautical tattoos on his forearms and my wife joked, that he probably had more.... SO, spent next few weeks using kayak and other websites to find cheap airfare without aggravations.......also we checked the forecast for the weather and saw that snow was possible, in our area and in areas flying through...Indy, Ohio, Penn etc......so I mentioned to people on CC boards to book your flight a day or two earlier......just in case...we never fly in anymore on the cruise day.. so this year Christmas was the 25th, and the 26th, we were still trying to enjoy Christmas, but airborne....luck would have it that on the 22nd we finally find airfare going to FLL, stopped in Charlotte, NC, via UNITED/US AIRWAYS..... flights were easy and good, then got to Charlotte to see the horrors of air travel delays......IT WAS THE BUSIEST AIRPORT area that we had ever been too... after having the US AIRWAYS guys straighten out our flight.....and then told the flight was oversold...but we had seat assignments..luckily but other flights we delayed due to poor weather in INDY and PENN etc.....so this caused such a delay in flying out on the 26th out of Charlotte...... We ran into several other Emeralders going on our cruise and we wished them luck finding flights out......from Charlotte down to FLL.....so it nice to visit the Amex lounge in the Charlotte airport....it was delightful and cozy, had nice mags to read, snickety snacks, quiet, clean bathrooms and places to doze off before our delayed flight out... So, arrived in FLL, caught the shuttle bus taking us to the La Quinta Inn & Suites Ft. Lauderdale Airport 2620 North 26th Ave Hollywood, FL 33020 1-954-922-2295 it was the BEST hotel ever in FLL that we had ever stayed in, clean quiet, nice safe area, free shuttle pickup from FLL airport, and they had a special $8 pp to the cruise port the next morning......FREE hot breakfast of waffles and cereals and rolls and hot coffee/tea/OJ it was very very nice. We had learned a few days back and posted on CC about the NORO on our very ship, we were not concerned.....since we knew it would take time to get onboard...and it did....... Took shuttle bus to FLL cruiseport and it was chaotic.....our poor driver stuck in a traffic nightmare and we just begged to be dumped off anywhere so he could get out of there and drop off his other cruise passengers...waiting patiently for their sailing on the HAL ship...... SO, we snuck out when the cruise cops were not looking....took a few secs....and paid our driver and ran into the terminal..... WHEW! we would still be sitting there.....traffic was a nightmare due to cabs in and out of the port.....and noro cruisers and repeat or back to back cruisers getting checked out before reboarding....scary stuff this noro... Checkin was slow and stopped, we have ELITE status...so we got into a special room without drinks or nibbles (they always have that) and then finally got onboard the Beautiful EMERALD around or right after 3pm.....YEP 3PM we did not sail out finally until 6 630pm and it was nice...seeing the port in the darkness and all the people waving and flashing their lights in those condos right by the port entrance....great send off.... -Ship Info The ship just had been drydocked a few weeks before to have some general things done.....carpeting etc...it was rumored that the workers in drydock the guys who do not wash their hands, brought the NORO onboard with them....who knows? Others speculated that it began with some sickly kids from Christmas cruise previous week and spread through deck 14 Rivera (our deck) We were happy with the room, nice and clean and comfy......hobbit sized as we call it...but very much appreciated.....our room steward was Rizza, a delight. Ice bucket in the fridge with fresh ice all the time.....beds always made etc...we kept a clean room the whole 10 days to save her some time for the kids, lots of kids and teens on this cruise...heard almost 400? Ship was so beautiful, clean and staff was friendly and very very accomandating...advised everyone all the first few days to wash hands and use purell and etc etc...was over repeated again and again.....when you poop, wash your hands....(I am a guy and can tell you 7 out of 10 guys using the bathroom while standing upright or sitting down, DO NOT WASH THEIR HANDS) sorry....almost everywhere we go....people irked to have to stop their vacations to wash their hands...... just do it..... Had a terrible waiter, Johnry in Bottacelli dining table 84? he was awful, we hardly ate in their, did not complain either....our choice...we wanted a nice quiet cruise and relaxation....got it too.......sorry Johnry, you should be fired....never brought water to table, never listened to our needs, wants or offered suggestions etc....... -Activities The daily Princess Patter aka the _hitter Patter as we fondly nicknamed her...cause it came to your room every night at 9pm when you were in the cabin or changing or using the toilet...bring a hi lighter there are so many events... did we do them all, no....... I let my wife do her thang and I did my thang...which is sitting on the deck, people watching and chatting, watching the world sail by......being so lucky to have gotten the chance to be on this cruise.... Once I got my deckchair, and yes the deck chair savers are on board this cruise too....but they are enforcing the policy saying if you don't use that deck chair in 30-45 minutes OFF your towel or stuff went to the pool guys desk and you lost your spots....hahaha I really really enjoyed this part of the cruise...I loathe deck chair savers....... SO, wife went light shopping, went to chats and shopping shows.....Marty is the best, he is the shopping guru on the Emerald and he was the BEST....he helped us find a nice new ring fitting for my wife's diamond setting at the DI in St Kitts.....one of the better ports we visited...... -Service Pretty awesome, except for the rude coffee guy (I reported him) he was so rude to me waiting for a coffee, and waved me off.....and not it nice way.....enough said about that... Highly recommend the International Cafe right there in the piazza.....man it was awesome........all free except the ice cream....go down every morning for the best DONUTS, chocolate, sugar and the bavarian and the best beignets I have ever had...YUMMY... Lunch and breakfast was good.....and dinners were very tasty..... wife did not like the pot roast one night and our lousy waiter never replaced her meal or offered her something else...great service NOT. If you don't want to fight to find a table or hunt for food.....I would suggest going AFT to the rear dining room always a table and such and if not have the lunch in the dining room.......always a treat! The hot tea days were awesome....could not do them all......met some lovely people.......especially the Brits and the Canucks..... -Port & Shore Excursions We did not do any shore excursions other than, finding a nice couple from Stuart, Florida Lori and Dave and we went to the best beaches with them everyday and soaked in the ocean for 3-4 hours each time...doing nothing but floating, swimming and talking...it was awesome....and they knew everything about cruising and the best beaches.... Unfortunately all the ports we visited right around the new years...so everything was closed.....that was disappointing..... Was not impressed with any of the ports cities....all run down and needing some tourist money to build them up and spring them to life....(ST THOMAS) is the king of the ports....we think....,they have so much money and established island etc......the other islands need to learn from them....... St Kitts was awesome great beaches and shopping...... the other ports alright to goto the beach, but honestly.....run down areas... take the cab...we walked in one port city after the beach and it was scaryness, even the police station was closed......got lost trying to find the road to the cruise ship in a not so safe area........finally did our CHICAGO WALK...which means, do not get in my way or bother me or else.........like the New Yorkers how they walk like they mean business.....finally got to the port....1.5 miles to the beach...take the cab, trust us....its worth it and set a return time with your driver....... -Summary It is sad to celebrate NY Eve on the cruise ship...I told my lovely that they were setting up tables....and they would be selling the champs aka champagne this time and not free like on other NY Eve cruises.......PRINCESS this was so bad and in poor taste.......I am very saddened and did not drink any of the $7-20 glasses of champs, or buy a bottle of $175 Veuve Cliquot......huh? at least the band music rocked and the confetti was free...well this time... Everything else on the cruise was wonderbar aka wonderful...... You could stroll the decks for a nice breather, shop the shops, watch people lose their money to the casino....never saw anyone win....but they just kept giving money to the casino....STOP...hehehehhee the coin lock game is rigged I played and studied it for days.....you insert a buck and get a shot to stick a key into the slot to win cash or an ipad...its rigged......nobody won in our ten days cruise and everyone said they blew 10-25 bucks on it per try....and that was alot of people..... We carried on our own luggage so could not find the porters....I recommend this if you have just a few bags.......easy and you get your luggage right in your room..... When disembarking the cruise ship......wait in your assigned area for your group to be called....if you live nearby you are the last off the ship...am flights get dibs on first off the ship.....and once you clear customs and go outside to get your cab...the cab line was over 45 minutes long look for a few guys with white vans and they charged $11 pp taking you right to the FLL airport....more for MIA airport...but they are right when you walk outside and you are hit with the onslaught of cabs, buses and traffic and lots of people....its then when the cruise is finally over..... And if you are travelling in a large group and not everyone is together please don't hold 20 seats for the other party members to arrive....please its rude... you don't always have to sit with your family and friends......why is this so commonplace every cruise that we take??? for Christmas sakes, go off and explore the ship, goto the library (get daily crosswords) and have your own adventures.......We never hang with family and friends...we tell them we are NOT offended and go off and do your own thang and if you want to meet up great.... The 35 member family who insisted on trying to pick a fight with us over breakfast tables....buzz off......I sat down and ate my breakfast and NONE of your clan EVER came to breakfast, even at nearly 10am......so there you go.... WONDERFUL EMERALD CRUISE....Lee was the cruise director, but he did not do much, he let his staff do everything and they rocked...sorry Lee. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
My wife and I are in our sixties and are frequent cruisers - our only other Princess cruise experience included a tropical storm, so we wanted to try again. We cruised from Ft. Lauderdale to the Southern Caribbean from 12/17 - 12/27/12. ... Read More
My wife and I are in our sixties and are frequent cruisers - our only other Princess cruise experience included a tropical storm, so we wanted to try again. We cruised from Ft. Lauderdale to the Southern Caribbean from 12/17 - 12/27/12. We had never been to Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada or Dominica, though St. Thomas has been a port on our previous cruises. We are lucky to live in Miami, so hotel accommodations are not an issue for us. Embarkation went very smoothly; we were on-board within an hour of arrival. Our balcony stateroom was small, but well designed with plenty of closet space. The tiny bathroom and shower were functional but far from attractive and had stains in the shower. The mattresses on the beds seemed old and tired - a little hard, and while sleepable, not as comfortable as on other cruises. The food choices were excellent. We opted for set time dining in the Botticelli dining room, and found both the food and service excellent. The Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe offered a nice variety of very good dishes and had some evenings with a regional focus (Mexican, German, etc). We visited two of the specialty restaurants. Sabatini's was OK and the Crown Grill was outstanding. In general, we found the staff friendly and helpful, service was prompt. We used room service and it was consistently delivered quickly and on time, although if we called for room service, there was a lengthy wait for the phone to be answered. The ship is beautiful with numerous pools, some of which are adults only. The ship was decorated nicely for the holidays, and staff kept it very clean. There were some activities offered, but most did not appeal to us. Many focused on things that seemed geared to getting passengers to use or purchase spa services and products. It would have been nice to have some more variety, cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs, computer or photography etc. We did not see much of the evening entertainment, since Princess has usually come up short compared to other cruise lines, we preferred to roam the ship at night and retire early. We did not use the Princess Shore Excursion services, instead choosing dockside island tours; Aruba was beautiful, with many beaches, but our favorite tour was on Bonaire with a local Dutch couple who gave us an insightful, delightful tour of the island, complete with the local wild donkeys. Grenada was interesting, the tour guide was a local who gave us a history of the island, including the '79 revolution and the U.S. "rescue". We did not take a tour of Dominica, preferring to check out downtown shopping. We were saving our energy for St Thomas, which was futile, as we found out. Despite our careful attention to hand washing, using antiseptic gel, etc. the norovirus struck us like a Tsunami the next night. We have never been so ill. I spent Christmas Eve day in the tiny bathroom going at both ends simultaneously and my wife got ill the next day. We had been astounded on day one of the cruise that there were not hand sanitizing devices in public bathrooms and our dining room and wonder if that contributed to the spread of the virus. We were disappointed in the response from the Medical Office. They seemed understaffed, exhausted, and overwhelmed. We reported this to the Medical office, but 4 hours after our call, when there was no response, my wife went to the Medical Office area to request assistance. They said they were "working down the list" and would have a nurse call us, and medication delivered as soon as possible. Sadly this was another 3 hours later (total of 7 hours response time.) Consequently, we spent the last few days entombed in our cabin, ill and weak. Once home, we noticed on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website that Princess has a higher percentage of reports of Noro-virus like outbreaks compared to other cruise lines, in spite of having excellent CDC sanitation scores. Disembarkation was difficult, probably because we were weak and dehydrated as a result of the norovirus symptoms. In summary, norovirus ruined our Holiday cruise. We will be checking the data for Cruise outbreaks before we book again, but we probably won't be considering Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We were excited about taking a Christmas Cruise, believing that it would be special. However, in our opinion, it fell far short of anything special. Christmas Day at sea was incredibly flat and we truly were disappointing. There were four ... Read More
We were excited about taking a Christmas Cruise, believing that it would be special. However, in our opinion, it fell far short of anything special. Christmas Day at sea was incredibly flat and we truly were disappointing. There were four of us travelling together and our ages varied from 37 to 71 and although we enjoyed our trip, we all felt it wasn't as exciting as we had envisions. We took an Alaskan Cruise last year and everything about that cruise was 90% better than this one. Please be advised however, that we only have that particular cruise to compare with - although one of our group members has other cruises to compare with. We will stay at this point that we will cruise with Princess again but likely will try others. The issue is, however, if you stay with one cruise line, you build up perks for the next cruise - so it becomes more difficult to change to another cruise line. Question to ask is whether this is important or not and if it is, how important is it. Embarkment: Booked transportation from the hotel through the cruise line and won't do that again as it took an incredibly long time to board the buses (3), load luggage, travel to the ship and line up to embark. It reminded us of the long lines at Disney World! We believe it would be faster (much) and cheaper to take a cab to and from the ship and to do it on your own. Cabin: on 10th floor and we were satisfied with our cabin and very large balcony. Our Steward kept the room spotless and did everything he could to make sure we were well equipped with whatever we needed. He was warm, gracious and happy and always interested in our day. The job is a thankless one and I think we all should give more attention to them as persons and as well to express our gratitude for what they do...if they do a good job. Service: Some really great and some not so much. Activities like games, flash mob dance, etc. were led by excellent and enthusiastic people. Personnel Devinci were excellent, from Michelangelo's not as much, from Horizons was really mixed and other areas relatively good. As mentioned, our steward was truly wonderful. Food: The food was hit and miss with some exceptional items and some not so great. "They" say people gain a couple of pounds a day (?) but my husband lost 4 and I remained the same. So if you don't make food the central part of the cruise, you needn't worry about putting on weight. a. Michelangelo's Dining Room (where any time diners could eat prior t0 7:30 p.m.)was extraordinarily slow and on some nights, some of us just got up and left. b. DeVinci Dining room (fixed dining time) appeared to be more efficient without rushing you, and appeared to have better quality of staff. We had any time dining but when they were too busy at Michelangelo's, they would bump us up to DeVinci. c.The Horizon Buffet wasn't the best although there were lots to choose from. Personally, I primarily ate the fruit, porridge and salad because I found the other items too greasy to consume. Will admit the buns were good! d.Other areas: We didn't eat at the speciality restaurants that cost $25.00 extra per person so can't comment on the quality of food there. Near the pool they offered pizza which we didn't try and ice cream that believe it or not, didn't care for. We did like the bakery in the piazza but tried not to indulge there too much. What we didn't like was that we had to pay for a so called better cup of coffee if we wanted to have a coffee with our dessert item from the bakery. Drinks from the bar were expensive. Entertainment: We all thought that the entertainment was very flat and frankly boring. a. Theater - The Princess Cruise Productions were very antiquated and although we don't fault the singers and dancers, we do question the producers thought process in creating these productions. We did, however, enjoy the comedians and the some of the Christmas program that included letters to Santa and Santa's 'response'! b. Piazza - truly a hit and miss! We enjoyed the steel drums but then when he appeared over and over again, it became a tad repetitive. Enjoyed the dancers but it was too short and they left the ship. The piano player (over and over again) was very uninspiring and not great. A cruiser took to the piano one day and was fabulous. Should have hired that person. Other areas: illusionist and others were nothing to write home about. Activities: Games and Mob Flash Dance were fabulous and helped make the cruise much better - thanks to those cruise members who had energy, humour, laughter and creativity! Excursions: Personally, we don't like to book excursions through the ship. On this trip one of our party did at the last minute and it worked out but it still was more expensive than if they had done it on their own. We find the ship excursions are too crowded, too expensive and too impersonal. If you do your research, you can find great tours before hand on your own. Also, you can find approved tour guides at port side and should be less expensive, more intimate and more relaxing. If you do it this way, I think the key is to book through approved people at the countries information center....at least that is our experience. Shopping: Well this is a dicey subject! For those who are interested in buying expensive jewellery (get it less) than you likely will appreciate what the ships and ports have to offer. You likely also will appreciate the information sessions offered on board for onboard and port shopping. However, we quickly got tired of it and as it wasn't high on our priority list, we bypassed as much as we could. We did like the clothing offered on board and purchased a fair number of pieces and were very happy with that. Costs: The cost for the trip was quite good but we didn't appreciate the nickel and dime approach to some areas. All inclusive resorts (and we have done many) include alcohol in the package but on the cruise ship are charged for and are expensive. There was also an up charge on coffee and soft drinks outside of the restaurants and of course the specialty dining rooms to the tune of $25.00 each. I mention this because people should be informed if they haven't cruised before. One irratating aspect of cruising is that they take photos for every occasion, post them and encourage (lol) the purchase of them. You constantly pass them on your journey somewhere else and at the end of the day, if you don't buy them, they are thrown away! What a waste and we found the costs for the pictures very expensive. We suggest that if they reduce the price, they likely would sell more and there would be less waste. Personally, we would be willing to pay a bit more for the cruise if there was less nickeling and diming involved. Appearances of Public Rooms and the Piazza: Excellent Overall: We were a tad disappointed but we believe life is what you make it and we are people that choose to have fun so that is just what we did. We met wonderful people including crew members, we participated in whatever we could with great energy and humour and we embraced the journey - worbles and all. We will do it again so please use our comments as a guide, only, to make your trip even better. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This was our sixth cruise for our family of four. It was our second with Princess and we found it to be an extremely enjoyable cruise with great weather and ports of call. The food and service was excellent at the Botacelli and DaVinci ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise for our family of four. It was our second with Princess and we found it to be an extremely enjoyable cruise with great weather and ports of call. The food and service was excellent at the Botacelli and DaVinci dining rooms that we frequented. The Horizon buffet was adequate but often crowded -- the sit-down dining is a much better choice. Our waiter and assistant waiter, Johnry and Arturo were fabulous, providing good recommendations (for food and entertainment) and service. The head waiter, Manuel, was always friendly and checking on our needs. We made good use of the gym, which had a good selection of exercise equipment. It was crowded one or two times during the cruise, but most often not. We had an inside cabin on the Carib Deck and found it quite spacious as staterooms go. We also had excellent service from our stateroom steward, Angelo. We greatly enjoyed the entertainment. We had two very funny comedians and an excellent performance from the BeatleManiacs. We also enjoyed many cruise staff-led events -- including trivia and an excellent "Liars Club" which we had never seen before -- worth checking out! We also enjoyed events in the Piazza including Christmas caroling, flamenco dancers, and a holiday cooking demonstration. This was the first cruise that had "Under the Stars Movies". We enjoyed a few movies plus NFL football games. Being a sports fan, this was a real treat! They also had servers that brought popcorn, pizza, and cookies/milk during the movies & football -- a very nice feature. One evening was a bit cold, but they provided blankets to the movie audience. We also took part in the 3-part "Survival French" class. We enjoyed all the ports of call. On Aruba, we caught a taxi (from Carl an entertainer who played his music for us on the ride) that took us to Eagle beach which is among the most pristine that we have ever seen. For $5 the adjacent hotel will provide you with a lounge chair and towel. At Bonnaire, we hired a taxi to take us to the Plaza Resort which was quite rocky -- should have brought water shoes -- but excellent snorkeling there. At Grenada, we hired a taxi (from Morgan who gave us a history of Grenada as we made our way up the elevations) to take us to the Seven Sisters Falls which was a more strenuous hike that took about an hour each direction. It had rained that morning, so the path was muddy and slick which added to the difficulty. The falls were beautiful with two cascades set in a rain forest. There was a local diver by the name of Super Butterfly who performed a back-dive off the first falls and also did a hop, skip, and jump off the second falls -- both quite daring! At the next stop, Dominica, we tried to book a whale watching excursion but we missed the boat by a half-hour, so we did a small tour of the town and found an internet cafe. We missed out on some eco-tours through their rainforest, but were a bit tired after the hike the previous day. At St. Thomas, we booked a sail/snorkel excursion through Princess -- offered by "Castaway Girl". It was fantastic! A very pleasant and relaxing sail out to an offshore island and then about an hour of snorkeling over a shipwreck and a coral reef -- and then a sail back with rum punch offerings. Highly recommended! Our final stop was at Princess Cay where we rented a cabana from Princess. It was a little pricey, but a five course catered lunch and free drink were included. The cabana was air conditioned which made it easy to spend five hours on the beach. There was an outbreak of norovirus that the ship's crew responded to appropriately to contain. We had been careful from the start of the cruise to frequently wash hands and use the purell dispensers found throughout the ship -- so escaped. There was a bit of a wait to get on the ship -- we arrived about 1:30 which may have been peak boarding time. Recommend arriving earlier. We chose the walk-off option which went fine and we had pre-booked a taxi to meet and take us to the airport. All-in-all, this was a very satisfying, entertaining, and relaxing cruise. Thanks, Princess! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
My wife, son ( 8yrs) and I just returned from a 10 day Eastern Caribbean Cruise on board the Emerald Princess. This was our 7th cruise with Princess so we are pretty familiar with their product and service. We booked our flights ... Read More
My wife, son ( 8yrs) and I just returned from a 10 day Eastern Caribbean Cruise on board the Emerald Princess. This was our 7th cruise with Princess so we are pretty familiar with their product and service. We booked our flights independently and left the Edmonton International Airport on Boxing Day. The cruise was set to depart on December 28th so we always like to leave a couple days early to allow for any unexpected delays and have a chance to unwind a bit before embarking the ship. We have stayed in Ft Lauderdale before and this time we decided to stay at the Sheraton Beach Hotel. The hotel is in a great location right on the beach and is close to several restaurants and shops too. The room was unremarkable but good enough for two nights. The staff were very friendly mind you and made the experience that much better. We had booked Princess Transfers from the hotel....but in hindsight it is such a short distance to the port it really is not required. We also like to board after the rush and with using the Princess Transfer we were right in the middle of the big rush to get on board... It is really painless to board if you show up past the first hour or so of boarding. Mind you...I never get too bothered by the wait as after all we are on vacation .. Our stateroom was exactly what we expected when we booked. Small room with a large balcony. Storage is not an issue mind you as they do use what limited space they have very well...with the exception of the bathroom. Seems of all the ships we have been on Princess has the least amount of space in this department ! Obviously not a big deal for us as we have continue to book with Princess. As we were cruising as a family this time our son had a great bunk above our bed which he always thinks is pretty neat. Our room steward Tavorn was quite simply...awesome ! He kept our room spotless and treated us and our son 1st class all the way. He really was a one of the best we have ever had on any ship. The ship is quite nice and very welled laid out. It doesn't have a huge wow factor to it like a large atrium on some other lines. For some reason the ship felt crowded on this cruise...we have sailed with Princess numerous times and never had that feeling. I do know they had a complete sell out and had lots of kids on board, which is great but it did feel crowded. The activities on board were ok. Usually they is one or two enrichment lectures I like to take in during the day,,,but quite frankly the schedule had really nothing that peaked my interest at all. We still had a great time on board as a family and managed to get our fill of laughs and good times ! Our son did check out the kids club a few times. The staff are really good but as it was a holiday cruise it had almost 600 kids on board and it was crowded there as well. He is still a bit of a shy lad and I think the large numbers turned him off a bit. The entertainment on-board was ok to good to really good. The Beatles's tribute band was by far the best, but it went downhill from there. Actually I thought the cruise director Tim Donovan was pretty funny and good at what he does. I know he has been slagged a bit on here, but I thought he was pretty funny. As we were with our son are entertainment schedule was pretty much set by him and there were not many late nights. I never made it to the casino or was able to check out the night life after 11:00 p.m. ! Lots of stuffed planned and looked like fun but with the sun and early mornings our son never made it too late into the night. We had the early sitting in the Botticelli Dining room. Our wait staff Gary and Galdino were fantastic ! The head waiter Daniele was also very engaging and made the effort to come by and say hello each night. He also made some special pastas on a couple of nights that were fantastic ! The food served in the dining room was good but not what we normally expect with Princess. There were few wow moments with the food which is how I base the quality...don't get me wrong it was good but it has been better in the past with Princess. I still managed to clear my plate each night. We had been to most of the ports before but were looking forward to going back. Princess Cays has changed quite a bit since our last visit. We rented a private bungalow and had a private lunch served to us which was nice. On a hot day it would be nice to have the air-conditioned retreat but we actually had to turn it off ! Weather was just ok. We still had a lot of fun here and were one of the last people to get back on board. We booked all all excursions through Princess. In St Thomas we booked the Sea Lion Swim at Coral World...it was one of the best excursions we have ever done ! It was an awesome family activity and left us with memories for a lifetime ! Great staff and really neat to get that much interaction both in and out of the water with the Sea Lions. Expensive ...? Yes but worth it. In St Kitts we took a 4wd tour and beach tour. Great way to see the Island in an old British Army Truck. Note it was rough and some folks were bothered by the smell of diesel.... Our family had no problems and enjoyed it. Barbados was a bust...no fault of the ships. We booked the submarine tour which was canceled... it did tick me off a bit that the tour operator told that they informed the ship two hours earlier and no attempt was made to contact us... We took a cab downtown but all shops were closed for a National Holiday...so not much happening. We went back to the ship early and hit the pools etc. St Lucia we booked the Whale watching tour.... If you have been to Alaska and have done whale watching the service and boats up there blow this tour out of the water...that being said we did see some Pilot Whales and Dolphins but there was absolutely nothing said on-board the tour that would enlighten us about the island or the wildlife...basically it was a four hour float with 15 minutes worth of sightings. We never got to see much of the island after the tour. Antigua is the one spot we have not been. It is a beautiful spot. We did another Island 4wd tour which was much better than St Kitts. Nice Land Rover vehicles and some great stops for sightseeing and photos and an incredible beach at the end. They say Antigua has 365 beaches..one for every day of the year and after seeing some of the island I believe them. Very nice place. I did notice that there is a clear divide between rich and poor on the island after having traveled through a ghetto style area on the island. Lots of young kids near the ships asking for change etc...a bit sad indeed. BTW...the ships literally dock right in town.... can walk off very easy here. I do wish Princess would have made Princess Cays the last stop on the iternary...2.5 sea days at the end of the cruise were ok but it seems as the moment we left Antigua they started telling everyone what to do for disembarkation....kind of set a bummer tone to the last two days...having the stop at Princess Cays would have broken this up. The Gym was great. Both my wife and I used it regularly and had no problems. I see some people say it was crowded and too small....I did not think that at all and in fact thought it had lots of machines etc. Disembarkation was a breeze...even though there were 9 ships in port. They do have this down to a science and it works well. Overall this was a good cruise...not the best Princess Cruise we have done but the level of service and product was exactly what we expected. We had a great time as a family. One of my pet peeves would be with some of the parents. We know if we are traveling with our son we are responsible for his behaviour and we make every effort to do family activities...there were a lot of kids running around unsupervised which does tick some people off who are traveling without kids.... a small thing yes but it could make a big difference for everyone if you actually kept tabs on your kids once and a while. We will continue to cruise with Princess but have also started to like what Celebrity has to offer after having cruised with them in the summer so will be looking into sailing with them some more.. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
OK bad bits first our 2nd cruise with princess 1st time booking the complete package with princess. We flew American airlines from Manchester UK to Miami via JFK New York the 1st leg of the journey had no on board entertainment and took ... Read More
OK bad bits first our 2nd cruise with princess 1st time booking the complete package with princess. We flew American airlines from Manchester UK to Miami via JFK New York the 1st leg of the journey had no on board entertainment and took longer to fly to JFK than it would normally toke to get to Miami or Orlando. Customs line at JfK was 90 minuits (we got sped up a bit when we mentioned connection) we were so long thru customs that our bags had been taken of the carousel. just made it to the gate with 5 mins to spare to find plane was delayed by 1 hour. Transfer from Miami to intercontinental Doral Miami smooth told by princess rep that restaurant was open till 11 it was not about 20 to so checked in went to bar to be met by very grumpy bar tender. So grumpy if i could have been bothered after the day i had had would have asked for my automatic 15% tip back! Unlike the princess staff he was not worth auto tipping. transfer to port was pretty quick although not much to do at hotel whilst we waited for the buses. Check in was speedy and we were on the ship in about 30 mins. Ship we boarded mid ship by atrium decked for Christmas so wow to start us off ship similar to Sapphire with a few tweaks so found getting around easy. we also were not as wowed as the 1st cruise as we had no idea what to expect 1st cruise. But we slipped right back in to the ESCAPE COMPLEATLY life style the nasty airport long forgotten. All good but highlights for us were Neil (bartender) remembering us for over 2 years a go on the Sapphire. Beatles show brilliant. As was root berry comedy jugglers. Ronnie and the trade winds crew for been great company at sail away. Princes Cays We not really beach people but enjoyed a walk from end to end! A long tender line past 2nd bar forced us to go to bar and drink some more cocktails. This is when the fun really started as the rain came down and some random dancing in the puddles and out in the rain to the ban was just so funny.sounds silly but it will be a memory i take with me like those BBQs where it rains and everyone squashes in to the kitchen always the best nights. Chilled out see day followed by st Thomas We did the Mountain top and cable car great way to see the views of the island but felt a little rushed at the 2 main stops 15 to 20 mins more would have helped. St Kitts The train ride was the best way to start the new yea very chilled and relaxing loved all the waving people and the rum punch. Barbados Had a great walk along the beach shops mostly shut bank holiday but chilled in bridge town with some more rum and local banks beer. St Lucia was the stand out island for us we did the island tour with pitons ,sulphur sprigs and boat ride was really really good! Antigua Had a lot to live up to and it did we did 4 x 4 island tour beach ,nelsons dock yard and shirley heights. Great tour but really no need to be in a 4 x4 as we did not go any where a tour bus could not go. 2 more relaxing days at sea just went with the flow. smooth transfer to Miami airport before more American Airlines delays and 35 cruisers thinking we were going to be stuck in JFK for the night we made it but only just. All in will sail princess again and deposit is down. Will book our own direct flights and hotel. Oh Yes almost for got Oasis of the seas came to see us in port ever glades see you in 36 weeks! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We started our cruise as usual by arriving a day early to avoid any travel problems. All went well, especially with the lodging at the Comfort Inn Cruise port. We arrive on ship with absolutely no problems and everyone at the pier were ... Read More
We started our cruise as usual by arriving a day early to avoid any travel problems. All went well, especially with the lodging at the Comfort Inn Cruise port. We arrive on ship with absolutely no problems and everyone at the pier were their usual helpful/friendly self. While waiting in the pre-boarding room we started to notice the cutbacks; none of the usual cookie/pastry treats or beverages. No big deal, but raised an eyebrow for things to come. Made it to the room and as usual all was fine. Clean, ready to go but no friendly cabin steward to meet and greet (actually had to track him down for questions, he looked more than the usual pre-board BUSY). We are Value Added Veteran Cruisers, meaning we have been here before, done the first time cruiser regiment and now cruise for relaxation, on board entertainment and of course the meals in the all inclusive price. We try to make our vacation dollars S T R E A C H as far as possible. This usually allows us to take 2 cruises a year and enjoy all that cruising has to offer. We look for new ports of call and try to limit our on board booked excursions to only the new ports. At previously visited ports we will get off and do our own thing (taxi to beaches, shopping areas and local restaurants to get the local flavor). We are far from what the cruise lines executives would call their high rolling spenders. This cruise we had decided to fore go the formal restaurants and stick strictly to buffet dining due to the menu cutbacks we notice on our last cruise (Sirloin Steak was dropped from the menu along with some other minor items)with Princess. This worked well with us because the diner buffet usually serves the same menu as the formal dining rooms. Since we dropped the "suit, tie and gown" thing a number of cruises ago you could label us as "casual cruisers"(shorts, tees, Hawaiian shirts and flip flops). Our last cruise was a Norwegian around the Hawaiian Islands and their "Free Style Cruising" fit us perfectly. This cruise the buffet menu was the usual excellent fare offered as before so we were not disappointed. We choose Princess for the Movie Under the Stars feature on their ships. Our past Christmas cruises didn't disappoint and since we are "obsessed" Football Fans we have come accustomed to watching the playoff games on the REALLY BIG SCREEN. But alas this cruise failed to provide as in the past. When we could find a deck steward to ask if the games would be shown no one knew. We did notice that the usually ever attendant deck beverage waiters were no where to be found (kind of like our cabin steward; cutbacks?). We finally went down to the desk to see if the games were going to be played and were told that the someone would get back to us. The Cruise Director called back and left a message and were told that we would be able to watch them in our room on the TV and that they were replaying the same movie that was playing in the afternoon...MAJOR CUTBACK!!!! OK, we were not cruising with rabid football fans as in years past. Deal Breaker...maybe. The one shore excursion that we did take DOM110A for Dominica (our new stop) was less than satisfactory. The tour was changed for unknown reasons and the road conditions over some of the tour was boarding impassable. The garden was a view of a couple of trees and the "Falls" were a little disappointing. We understand that this is a new destination and that the locals are trying to grow a business but this one may need to "mature" before being offered as an on board excursion. Our experiences during the day met our expectations perfectly, low key and no surprises. The entertainment at night is where the "cutbacks" REALLY showed. A number of the shows were repeated and the quality questionable compared to the past. VERY NOTICABLE by us and other "cruisers". The Beatle Maniacs show saved us from total disappointment. The REAL problem for us seems to be the fact that the usually OUTSTANDING Christmas Show was dropped!!! It was replaced by the rerun Motown Show from 2 years ago! Deal Breaker; DEFINATELY FOR A CHRISTMAS CRUISE!!! To summarize, the cutbacks that Princess has been incipiently slipping in are starting to show. Not only to us but other veteran "cruisers" back home and the gap between Princess and Royal has widened to the point that we will probably going back to Royal Caribbean or trying another line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Pre-cruise: We flew into FLL two days early and instead of staying at the usual pre cruise hotels, we rented a car and drove 45 minutes (in traffic) down to Miami's South Beach and stayed at The Miami Loews Hotel. Our stay was ... Read More
Pre-cruise: We flew into FLL two days early and instead of staying at the usual pre cruise hotels, we rented a car and drove 45 minutes (in traffic) down to Miami's South Beach and stayed at The Miami Loews Hotel. Our stay was fabulous! Great location, awesome service, great pool and beach area. My only tip...get a room with a balcony, otherwise the rooms are a bit small. Embarkation: Husband dropped the 3 of us off at the cruise terminal at 10:45, then he returned the rental car (rental car place gave him a complimentary ride to the cruise ship terminal). I handed off luggage (1 large suitcase per person and one bag of snorkel gear) to the porter and filled out the "health" forms. We waited in the platinum, elite & suites lounge...husband arrived 15 minutes later. We checked in at noon and then boarded immediately. The ship: We had been on the Emerald 2 1/2 years ago...we thought the ship was still in fabulous condition. We had a balcony cabin forward on deck 15 and our boys had an inside cabin forward on deck 14. We requested egg crate for the bed and bathrobes. We did anytime dining in Michelangelo dining room. Our waiter was Romeo Gonzalez from the Phillipines...he was awesome. We loved the pizza and did get 1 pop card and the boys the UKP cards. A tip for the UKP cards: you can get rootbeer from the bar and then go to the ice cream counter and get a scoop of hard vanilla and make a float. We thought the food varied from awesome (lobster and prime rib) to bizarre - we don't eat frog legs and sweet bread (aka brains and glands). The Horizon court and Cafe Caribe were good, and afternoon tea is fun. We ate in the Crown Grille once and it was good, but c'mon, food is definately plentiful and probably would not do it again. We saw a few shows, our favorite were the two Beatles music shows - they were awesome and not to be missed. Comedians were good and the production shows were...so-so. We were pleased that the crew did not push drinks as much as we have seen on other ships. We thought the ship was decorated nicely for Christmas and it was neat that Santa was around and thought the snow in the atrium was cool. We thought the crew did a great job keeping plates out of the hallways and the elevators were quick. There were 416 kids on board and most behaved well. It was interesting that the Emerald uses hand held devices to scan your cruise card when entering your designated muster drill area - no escaping muster anymore. The Ports: Princess Cays: we booked a bungalo...accommodates 4 people. We enjoyed it and thought it was worth it. It was nice to get out of the sun, wind, crowds etc. The snorkeling was very good. St Thomas: We have been here before and so we decided to go to St John on our own....We took a taxi to Redhook Ferry ($44 for 4 of us), the ferry to St. John ($24 for the 4 of us), a taxi to Trunk Bay ($42 for the 4 of us), paid to get into the park ($8 for 2 adults), then found out it was too rough and windy to snorkel and swim. Paid for a taxi back to the ferry, ferry back to St Thomas, and taxi to the shopping area. We wandered the shopping area and walked back to the ship...I think I would have just done a ships excursion. Dominica: We used AL Dive. 2 of us did a 2 tank, 2 locations dive...and 2 of us did 2 location snorkeling. It was incredible and would definately use them again. Grenada: We used Eco dive Grenada and 2 of us did a 2 tank, 2 locations dive and 2 of us (my 12 year old's first dive!) did intro to diving and a 1 tank dive. It too was incredible. We also wandered the market and picked up some spices. We loved Grenada. Bonaire: we had made arrangements to rent a car thru Hertz...well Hertz did NOT show up. Instead we made plans to dive with VIP diving. They were drumming up business outside the pier. And it worked out well, but I would avoid Hertz car rental in Bonaire. Aruba: I tried to rent a car before hand and had a tough time since it was Christmas that day, so we were just going to wing it. Well when we arrived, from our balcony we could see a car rental place at the pier so my husband hurried off the ship and rented a jeep for $100 cash and we spent the day touring the island, stopping at beaches, snorkeling, eating at Senior Frogs, getting a Starbucks mug, etc. We had a great day and loved Aruba, however because it was Christmas 99% of the stores were closed. It was ok for us cuz we are not shoppers, but something to keep in mind. Complaints: We were disappointed that Princess no longer gave platinum members a complimentary glass of champagne. And our pet peave is...babies (in diapers) in the pools...Princess' rules prohibit diapered kids in pools, but parents don't listen and crew does not enforce, same thing with under aged kids in the hot tubs with out a parent there. It's really not the kids fault, more like the parent's fault. Also saving seats/chairs in the Princess Theater, Club Fusion, Explorer's Lounge and by the pools. To those adults who put towels, shoes, magazines, sunscreen and oh yeah the potato bag chip clips to "reserve" chairs....you all suck! There is a couple of different ways to approach this issue. 1. Don't do anything about it and just silently complain. 2. Tell security and watch them do nothing about it. 3. When in Rome do as the Romans (and just join 'em). Or 4. Stand up for your right to sit in an empty seat and pack your boxing gloves. (security actually had to break up a fight poolside over this matter). Disembarkation: This was the first time we "walked" off the ship with our luggage...it went great. Post Cruise: For post cruise we took a taxi to the airport and rented a car and drove down to Key West for 3 nights. We stayed at Casa Marina. It was a very nice resort, just a few quirky issues (like a yapping dog in the room next to us). We absolutely loved Key West and the 4 hour drive was doable. After 3 nights in Key West we drove back to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the B Ocean Hotel for 1 night and then flew home the next morning. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The ship is nice and similar in style to all ships of that caliber. I found no difference between Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean. The nice thing about the Emerald is the closets and cabin storage areas are really ... Read More
The ship is nice and similar in style to all ships of that caliber. I found no difference between Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean. The nice thing about the Emerald is the closets and cabin storage areas are really large. On prior sailings, it's been difficult to store personal belongings. The ship was not always clean. Often times there was rubbish on the floor and in the elevators. Perhaps they did not have enough housekeeping staff roaming the ship. The wait staff in all the food outlets were better that excellent. We experienced almost all the outlets throughout the cruise and found their attention to details and to customer satisfaction superior. The food was average, but on par with other ships of that caliber. There was nothing special about the cuisine except in the specialty restaurants, where there is a surcharge. The entertainment was nothing special. They had one variety act that was a juggling duo and they belonged at kid's birthday party. They were not deserving of the Princess main stage. The Beatle Maniacs also performed twice on our cruise and they were the highlight of the entertainment. Of course, I am a great Beatle Fan! The review shows were average. The singers and dancers were not always in sync, many missed a step and they did not look sharp. I feel we received good value and I was not disappointed but I am not raving either. The vacation was relaxing and after a hectic work cycle the R & R was just what my husband and I were hoping for. Princess is run-of-the-mill for experienced cruisers as is all the other lines on that level. We have cruised on the more luxury lines (Crystal, Uniworld and Windstar) where you really have an experience to remember in all ways. Happy sailing! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Emerald Princess Feb 2011 10 day cruise Balcony on C deck We have been on 15 previous Princess cruises and are delighted every time we sail with them. We know our way around the ships and have certain privileges [Elite] that enhance the ... Read More
Emerald Princess Feb 2011 10 day cruise Balcony on C deck We have been on 15 previous Princess cruises and are delighted every time we sail with them. We know our way around the ships and have certain privileges [Elite] that enhance the experience. Below is a log of what we did as far as the travel and islands are concerned. This was the first time that we didnt use Princess flights, transfers, hotels etc. Followed by some of the things we experienced on the ship. I have written a long review and hope it doesnt offend, bore or upset anybody, Enjoy Hilton Manchester airport overnight Have used them before and we were upgraded, room was fine, we took our own food as the hotel is expensive. Other cruisers we met were disappointed it was so expensive in the dining room. We leave the key with the hotel and they take care of everything. Manchester to Heathrow BA Short flight to London, snack on board, checked in on-line from hotel so short queue, the luggage went straight thro to Miami so no worry about that. Heathrow to Miami BA Long flight to Miami 9hrs+ BA staff brilliant food [believe it or not] was excellent+ free drinks. Great choice of movies for free. Well done British Airways! Shuttle bus to Hotel This was easy just wait outside terminal and a bus turns up! [Show hotel voucher] Holiday Inn Miami airport This is an old hotel and not as plush as usual [not booked by Princess] our view was a wall! But there was a panoramic lounge on the top floor and it was pleasant to have a drink and watch the flights coming and going [tired after a long day] [Showed voucher to reception and no problem] Airport Hotel to Ship [Port Everglades] We were worried about this as not clear whether booking was already made or we had to call and give voucher number, we were told by our travel agent that the booking was arranged for 11pm but call them anyway just in case! I spoke to the receptionist at the Holiday Inn she was brilliant and dialled the number for me, the transfer company did not recognise the booking and said and you only have a voucher so you need to book now! I booked with her for 11-11.30am and hoped it would be OK!! 11.30 came, no bus, so I rang the company [another free call thanks to hotel] the lady said its on its way, 2 mins later a white Limo turned up and whisked us off to Fort Lauderdale. The traffic at the dock was horrendous but we arrived at a massive queue of passengers waiting to board. We got out of the Limo and walked straight to the front [Elite for the first time] booked in and boarded! Relieved!!!! Two days at sea The weather was excellent so we relaxed and just enjoyed the ship and balcony. Aruba We had an excursion booked for Aruba [De Palm Island half a day] as we usually find our own beach and use the local bus and wanted to try something different. The Island was excellent, it was all built for the tourist but well done, all drinks, sun beds, childrens play area, snorkels included, the beaches w ere lovely as was the weather, it cost $59 each, I checked and if you went there independently it was $99 for a day without transport, so not a bad deal. The snorkelling was brilliant Bonaire This is one of our favourite islands in the Caribbean as the snorkelling is the best at Klein Bonaire and we normally take the water taxi from Karels bar on the front, this time we decided to just shop and have a look at the town as we had such a good time snorkelling in Aruba Grenada Only one place for us in Grenada thats Grand Anse beach via a water taxi from the dock $4 each way, massive beach, pay for a sun bed and enjoy! Dominica Probably our least favourite island in the past but they have been working hard to make it better and it was their Independence Day celebrations with a big parade which was very entertaining. They have added some very expensive shops which is a little out of place! St Thomas We love St. Thomas a blend of shops and beaches, we went to the shops in the morning [$4 shuttle] and to Emerald beach [only $5 in a taxi] in the afternoon lots of facilities but not as crowded as the more popular beaches, [as long as you dont mind being close to the airport] Day at sea Enjoy the ship, breakfast on the balcony, wine tasting etc. Princess Cays Always a great day, lovely beach, great barbecue, no wait for the tender [elite]. When we first went there it was just that, but now Princess have found so many ways to charge you for anything they can beach huts, body boards, fish food, cabanas, snorkels but just enjoy! They even sell water leaving the ship when its free on the island Port Lauderdale Disembarking was easy as independent passengers we told Princess we needed to be of before 9am to catch our transfer and they obliged Port to Airport [Transfer by Super shuttle] Left the ship, collected our cases and went to look for a phone to call for the Super shuttle the only phones were outside the building 3 but only 2 working with a queue of crew calling home, but I spoke to a guy from Princess to ask him for change for the phone and he passed me his mobile and said I could use that, [What a star] I gave him a dollar for the call and $10 for his kindness. The shuttle turned up and took us straight to the AA area in Miami airport. We had checked in on line from the ship and dropped the bags off [straight thro to Manchester again] Excellent. Miami to Chicago AA 3.5hrs flight old plane, no food or drink unless you paid! Chicago to Manchester Very old plane 7hrs flight, no back of seat entertainment [not good], no free drinks, poor compared to British Airways!!! Collect car from Hilton [transfer] Arrive in Manchester, collect bags, call hotel, bus comes immediately and takes to our car. The Ship and experiences We have always loved travelling with Princess and this trip was no different, we chose second sitting dining as usual and asked for a table for six, as we enjoy the company. On the first night we met two of our companions Mac and Eileen, he was a chicken farmer and was very loud and friendly his wife was quiet, the other two never made the first night, they turned up the second night, Pete and Pam [he was an accountant with a dry sense of humour] We enjoyed the company of these guys most evenings, catching up on the days events! It was the first time we have sat with all British people on a Princess ship which didnt give us the cosmopolitan feel we normally enjoy but it was never the less excellent. The waiter and his assistant were, Im afraid, not very experienced and although they tried very hard they didnt add to the experience, i.e. people given the wrong food, wine being given to the wrong person, however, the food was excellent. Our cabin was as good as always, we had breakfast on the balcony most days, and we both loved that as when I go to the buffet I always eat too much. The cabin steward was brilliant I tipped him the first day and he was so attentive thro the whole cruise. The entertainment was excellent especially the Beatles tribute! We made some great friends around the ship during the cruise especially Phil and Karen who were on for another ten days and then off to Florida for two weeks [lucky them]. All in all a great cruise some lovely people, places and treated like VIPs endlessly! Next one in July. PS we were burgled whilst we were away!!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
My wife and I have normally cruised on Holland America, but we wanted to try another line, so we chose Princess and the Emerald Princess because of the different itinerary. My 16 year old daughter also came on this trip. This was a 10-day ... Read More
My wife and I have normally cruised on Holland America, but we wanted to try another line, so we chose Princess and the Emerald Princess because of the different itinerary. My 16 year old daughter also came on this trip. This was a 10-day Christmas Holiday cruise, December 2010. Itinerary included Princess Cays, St Thomas, St Kitts, St Lucia, Barbados, and Antigua. Due to weather, we did not stop at Princess Cays. This will be a short comparative review of what we liked and what we didn't like on Princess. Embarkation: The smoothest I have experienced. Excellent job! Food & Dining: The food was excellent, and we did not have any major complaints. Their premium dining restaurants were outstanding. The dining service in the Traditional Dining Room and Premium restaurants were outstanding. Food on the Lido Deck Restaurant was good, but very limited in selection compared to some other cruise lines. Service in General: Service in general, especially on the Lido Food Deck, was dismal. Upon embarking the ship, we went to lunch. For at least the first two days of the cruise, the wait staff was consumed with trying to sell cups, drink cards, and all sorts of things -- not much personal service going on. After they were all sold out by day two, it seems as if the staff didn't know what to do. Service was terrible. One old lady in the Lido Deck Restaurant who had trouble walking was looking for someone to get her a drink, she waited so long she got it herself. I basically did the same thing, and had to look for silverware. Meanwhile, six wait staff members were standing in a circle talking about who knows what. Service on Lido remained poor for the entire trip. I found Princess to be more Sales Oriented than Service Oriented. I didn't like that. Additionally, every time either my wife or I asked a crew member a question about the ship, like where something is, we normally received in a 'deer in the headlights" look like they never worked on the ship before. One day I went to the business desk, which was right next to a set of ship stores, and asked when the stores opened. No one knew. Same lame service during the entire cruise. We paid for better than that! On Holland America, service was outstanding. One day on the Holland Lido deck, I had to wrestle my tray away from a crew member who insisted on carrying my tray to the table for me! I won't fight anymore! Wheelhouse Lounge: I went to the Lounge for a meal and was about the first one there to order. Unfortunately, I was the last one served after a dozen or so couples came in after me. Wow, talk about not being on top of things! Poor service again. Room Service: Compared to Holland America, room service on the Emerald Princess was subpar. Could not order a full breakfast, and the menu was limited. On Holland America, you can order a full hot breakfast in your room with a large lunch and dinner menu. When I did order room service on Emerald, it was so late we had to leave before we could eat it. Room Attendant: The keeper of the room did a really good job. However, it seemed as if they received instructions to never interact with the customers, and I almost never saw him. On Holland America, they made their presence known, and always asked if you needed anything and how your cruise was going. Very friendly and helpful. It was a little different on Princess. I felt as if I was an inconvenience. Ship Restrooms: They were satisfactory, nothing exceptional. Paper towels, etc. The last time I cruised Holland America two years ago (ms Noordam), they didn't have a paper towel on the ship. All the restrooms had thick posh cotton towels -- really nice. Use once and throw in a bin. Excursions: The shore excursions at all the islands were very good and we had a lot of fun. Conclusion: Overall, I found Princess to be more Sales Oriented rather than Service Oriented. This was very disappointing. The reason people go on a cruise is for exceptional food, service, and fun. We don't plan on going on another Princess Cruise. I like service and the personal touch. I can go to a car dealership to get a unending sales pitch. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We have lived in Ft Lauderdale for 30 years, 5 minutes away, but this was our first cruise. One of our kids dropped us off after 2PM and we were soon on board. As a retired dive boat captain/divemaster the first thing I wanted to do was ... Read More
We have lived in Ft Lauderdale for 30 years, 5 minutes away, but this was our first cruise. One of our kids dropped us off after 2PM and we were soon on board. As a retired dive boat captain/divemaster the first thing I wanted to do was explore this huge ship. The Emerald is a class act. She had just returned from dry dock maintenance and was looking good with new paint and was tastefully decorated for the Holidays. Our mini-suite was D716 which was spotless and large enough for us first timers. We didn't feel cramped at all. The large balcony area was a plus. We could sit and relax, read or just wake up there with morning coffee. I recommend the mini-suite for first timers. My wife commented that the closet space was perfect for what we brought...never heard her say that before about any closet, :-). Meals. Crown Grille, despite $25 surcharge, was good, servers nice. Do not expect Competition Level BBQ here. Usual creative chef grilled meat fare, artistic presentation and an abundance of cheffy drizzle on everything. Colorful, tasty, nice Angus filet mignon and shrimp dishes were a hit. Sabatinis was interesting, $20 surcharge for what? About 2 hours of strange serving shennanigans...just give me a big plateful of good food and leave me alone to eat. If you like ceremony with your great food, have time to chat between the dozen courses while sampling different wines and still smile at the end of this ordeal...you are the perfect customer here! We found the regular dining rooms crowded and had to wait because we had anytime dining. We liked the buffets, pick and choose, lot of fruit, prime rib lunch one day. The free ice cream and pizza was great around the pool. Freshly grilled cheeseburgers always taste great on the Lido. Next cruise we will do buffets and Crown Grille. We weren't traveling with the kids or grand kids so can not comment on the children activities. They said there were 500 kids on board. As an older traveler, I did not miss the 'rock climbing walls, surf machines, zip lines and constant loud noise and bright lights of the circus cruise lines for kids'. The entertainment was good, we wanted to catch every show. Seven days is about all they could go before repeating themselves. Probably the same on any ship. The hypnotist was amazing. We talked to a girl who was on stage and said it was real. I wanted to go to the Casino but the cigarette smoke was so thick I almost threw up my Sabatini marathon dinner. I enjoyed the cruise but will never go near the casino until they go 'smokeless'... What else? Oh, with our own balcony we decide not to use the 'Santuary' at all. It was extra money and with port days and cloudy mornings it would have gone unused. Bottom line: For our first official cruise we chose the perfect ship, time of year and destinations. We already booked Princess again for Western Caribbean. The early disembarking was perfect for us locals...kids picked us up and we were home about 8:30 AM. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Doomed form the get go. Booked air with Princess cruise line, a huge mistake. Experienced flight delays traveling across the country and flight cancellation in Dallas, en-route to Charlotte,NC to fly to Florida. Called princess for help no ... Read More
Doomed form the get go. Booked air with Princess cruise line, a huge mistake. Experienced flight delays traveling across the country and flight cancellation in Dallas, en-route to Charlotte,NC to fly to Florida. Called princess for help no help US Air no help all flights canceled day before and booked day after, so I found my own transportation to Ft. Lauderdale, after spending the night in Dallas. Arrived at Ft Lauderdale the day of the cruise, no one there to meet us, no transfer even though we paid for it, to find out it was paid for for the hotel to take us. That is the hotel we did not get to stay in because Princess' preferred airline could not fly because of the weather up north. No we did not come from the north, go figure. My wife chased down a princess representative, and she was kind enough to help us and got us on a bus to the ship. The check in was terrible, long lines, rude people, holding your carry on trying to fill out a health questionnaire about your recent fever etc. while walking through a maze. Longer lines inside and total confusion on the ship getting to your room. Once there we tried to go get something to eat and everything was closing for the muster drill. The muster drill was the best I have had. It was indoors and fairly fast. There were too many people on this vessel and not enough help. The buffet was about the poorest I have seen. Soggy sandwiches, or hard bread. Poor selections. The dinning rooms were nice and wait staff very accommodating, however slowed by the crowd they had to serve. BUY OUR STUFF seemed to be the theme of the cruise. Buy it on the ship or in one of our stores on shore. We found the same stores on all of our stops and many of the same shops in other places on other cruises. It seemed that none had an answer for our questions either. No body knew the correct answer or did not bother to find out the right answer. One of our shore excursions was moved up an hour and we never received notice of that fact. To be fair we were advised of another excursion at another port that delayed by an hour. We were late into a port by an hour because another ship had not moved. That cut our visit one hour short, making us rush. As a matter of fact we were rushed at every port. Getting off was not bad. We were to wait in the Casino beginning at 7:50AM, got there on time and was moved out about 30 minutes later, to merge with three other groups ant the gangway. Through customs with all of your luggage being prompted to "KEEP MOVING" and walked to our waiting coach that whisked us to the airport. Arrived there at 9:45AM for my 4:05PM flight princess set up for us and got on standby to fly all the way home, arriving home at 2:00PM instead of 10:50PM as scheduled through Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Our trip on the Emerald over the Christmas holiday was our 14th on Princess/Sitmar, and our first ocean cruise in 2-1/2 years after opting for River cruising the last couple of years. We were happy to find things on Princess much as we had ... Read More
Our trip on the Emerald over the Christmas holiday was our 14th on Princess/Sitmar, and our first ocean cruise in 2-1/2 years after opting for River cruising the last couple of years. We were happy to find things on Princess much as we had hoped for. We drove to the pier and unloaded at Pier 29, before parking at the Convention Center area in Fort Lauderdale adjacent to Pier 2 - our usual spot. Fortunately, we returned to Pier 2 making our departure much smoother - but more on that later. Check-in was pretty smooth with the slight exception of obnoxious self-proclaimed "preferred" passengers complaining about queuing up to enter the terminal building! We sailed through though and entered the ship, surprisingly, on Deck 7, Promenade deck. We took a mini-suite on Dolphin which we found in excellent shape after the ship's two week dry-dock. In some areas, the scent of new carpeting was evident. The ship was/is beautiful - probably the most beautiful Princess ship we've been on and our first on this new class of "Jewel" ships. After settling in, we made it up to lunch in Horizon for a decent enough lunch. We did not eat often at Horizon, preferring the adjacent Cafe Caribe's better selections on days when we did dine upstairs. Upon checking in to our cabin (D400's mid-ship), I immediately called for a reservation at the Chef's Table. It was 1:15pm. I was told I was #14 - at 1:15pm on the day of departure! By the fourth day, my DW called to inquire about our status on the waiting list for the dinner. She was told that they had not assembled the final list yet (once again, day 4) but that we could expect word either way soon. The next evening we were entering the Dining Room (Michelangelo) when we noticed a group of people sitting right outside. We then met the Chef on the way in. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him if the people outside were going to the Chef's Table and he confirmed. Princess, please, don't offer something that is apparently not going to be available to over 95% of your passengers! Or at least have the courtesy to tell us this when we could have made alternate reservations earlier on. Anyway, the Dining experiences in the Anytime format were very good. We did have a couple of indifferent waiter/bus combos, but Gabriel and Ryan made up for that for the four nights we dined at their station. To them, we appreciate the excellent service! Also Kudos to Eduardo at the excellent Vines bar. Eduardo and the resident sushi chef there were wonderful hosts. Good to see a very nice Gewurztraminer on the wine menu also. One little nitpick about the wine glasses (or lack thereof) onboard. We enjoy wine and applaud Princess for assembling a very good list. But why can't they get the glasses right? Our friends Gabriel and Ryan scrambled around every night for a bigger wine glass for our reds instead of pouring into the small white glass provided. We heard from a little bird that Princess told them that they will not replace the big glasses! Also on Deck 5 is the very nice Coffee Bar and International Cafe which we frequented daily. Buy the coffee card for $24 (15 punches) - coffees include Blue Mountain, Cappuccino, Espresso, flavored coffees, and Lattes. Get an egg sandwich at the International and you have breakfast. Also worthy of note is the delicious thin-crust pizza and soft ice cream on 15. Premium ice cream is now limited to the Gelato ($1 for three scoops) offered at the International. Overall, we found the food to be quite good. We had Rack of Lamb, Lobster, Roast Beef, Veal, Turkey (on Christmas) and Wellington. The hard rolls are as good as ever. The Dining Rooms was frequently under-utilized. On the last night, a couple dining next to us said that the buffet on 15 was always crowded - another sign of the changing demographic on Princess. The weather was atrocious! No big deal for FL folks like us - we were onboard for R&R and we got that. One day at sea, we never saw the sun - a rarity on a Carib cruise. The ports included Princess Cay (we didn't go - too cold), St. Martin, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk. In St. Martin, we cabbed it to Orient Beach, over by Pedro's, rented two chairs, an umbrella, and a free drink for $6 ea. We had a nice few hours in the sun and water. In St. Thomas, it wasn't a good beach day so we went to town and spent money. I'm afraid that St. Thomas is beginning to look like Nassau these days and that's not a compliment. Next time, it's either a beach or the ship. Grand Turk is the next formally remote island now being cruisified. We found the people indifferent about our presence - maybe they are seeing the effects of dumping more people everyday then their population. The cruise docks in an area that appears to have received the lion's share of the island's public works budget. There are enough beach chairs to contain a fraction of the hordes descending from the floating condos. The beach area rapidly turns into Coney Island - if you've ever been to Coney Island you'll understand that that's not a compliment either. We cabbed it over to Pillory Beach ($7ea) where we were informed that the snorkeling was "the best". It wasn't. The nice people at the dive shop wanted $10 a chair, no umbrella, no free drink. No sale. We had a beer at the Donkey bar (yikes, these people are glum!), took a dip, and left right before the daily (for this trip) rain storm. In a few more years, Grand Turk will look like St. Thomas did 25 years ago. Entertainment was three production shows, a hypnotist, an Impressionist comedian, and another comedian. We only saw two of the production shows (I've Got the Music & Motown) due to our preferred dining time of 7:30. The ships' orchestra was excellent - a great bunch of super-skilled musicians just blowing it out. In particular, their score on the Motown show was really the only redeeming feature of this energetic, but woefully soulless, revue. The ship's band, led by Trumpeter Darryl, also performed two nights in the hard-to-find Adagio Bar as a jazz combo, consisting of the horns (trumpet, sax, and trombone - all superb), piano (expertly played by the soon-to-be "Doc"), a strong bass player, steady drummer, and a fantastic young guitarist who obviously has a great future in front of him. These two shows were the highlights for us on the entertainment side. Their take on Monk's "Well You Shouldn't" was outstanding. Pretty nice guys also! Darryl talked about the process of auditioning and playing on a cruise ship which was interesting. All of the musicians are well-educated, well-trained and versatile individuals. I thought that the Motown show should have brought the musicians on stage and maybe bring in a good vocalist to do it right. Do we really respond to the dancing showgirls anymore? They're all very talented, but times are changin'. Disembarkation was OK as long as you stayed within where you were directed to be. The walk-off didn't look too fun - with long lines snaking along very slowly. We were directed to be at the Explorer Lounge on 7. From there, they led us (at the appointed time) down to 5. Some folks weren't too happy to be dragging their wheel-alongs down the stairs to 5, but that's what we all did. Once off the ship, we played the usual "Guess Your Bag" game in the terminal and we were off - all told, not too bad. Another poster from this cruise offered a very perceptive comment on these pages about Princess's place on the marketing of big ship cruising these days. Princess continues to direct their advertising to adults, evidenced by the lack of children in their glossies. Yet a significant portion of the ship, particularly on 15, is given over to children - especially on Holiday cruises. While did not experience any negative incidents involving children on this cruise, I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would take a child on Princess! There really isn't much for them to do outside of the structured activities Princess provides for children (Fun Zone, etc). Actually, there wasn't much at all to for anyone onboard. However, Princess needs families. They need to fill ships amidst a challenging competitive environment - particularly when it comes to family cruising. Princess and perhaps Celebrity, Princess's main competitor, have an interesting future ahead of them as they continue to balance what type of customers they are selling to against who actually comes aboard. Naturally, Princess cannot afford to continue to compete on an "adult's only" marketing scheme. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I should preface this review by stating that this cruise was the first cruise we've ever taken. My husband and I are in our late 30s (no children) and we cruised with my parents who are in their 60s/70s. My parents have taken a ... Read More
I should preface this review by stating that this cruise was the first cruise we've ever taken. My husband and I are in our late 30s (no children) and we cruised with my parents who are in their 60s/70s. My parents have taken a Carnival Cruise before. I've traveled extensively over the world and I am a frequent domestic business traveler as well, but I have never done a cruise vacation. THANKSGIVING CRUISE: We sailed 11/22 - 11/29 originating from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale). My parents live in Jacksonville, so we just did the 5-hour drive to the port. I believe our cruise was sold out, as it was packed, no doubt due to the Thanksgiving holiday. There were a lot of children on-board, over 500 of 'em, mostly older children. Although they took over the central pools (like Neptune/Calypso Reef), they were fairly well-behaved, although they were prone to cutting in lines and running up and down the halls (which reverberates noise in cabins). Still, they didn't bug us, and there are 2 adults-only pools. EMBARKATION/SAILAWAY: A breeze. We arrived between 1-2pm, and we had literally no wait. We breezed through security and we walked right up to the check-in counter for our deck (Caribe for us, Dolphin for my parents). Rooms were ready immediately, no wait. Luggage came right away from my parents, but luggage for us came sometime around 4-5pm. No biggie because we packed pool essentials in our carry-ons. We grabbed lunch in the buffet, no wait. Safety drill was fairly quick. Sailaway was charming. I was amazed at how many of the locals wave goodbye to your ship - impresssed that one guy even hung a Princess flag from his high-rise balcony. CABINS: We had a balcony stateroom, mid-ship, with a queen bed. Good location, very stable. We sailed through a few storms, and you could feel a little bit of rocking, but it was not bad at all. We brought Dramamine, but we never used it. The only time I felt a little ill was in the Princess Theater (where the shows are held) as you could really feel the ship rocking in there through rough waters). Sorry, I digress. Our cabin steward was Eric, and he was friendly and helpful. We asked for an egg crate mattress literally within 5 minutes of arriving into our cabin, but unfortunately, all were already taken. (ADVICE: ASK FOR THEM AHEAD OF TIME - FAX, PHONE, EMAIL, whatever. Eric said you could request them online through the Cruise Personalizer, but I had checked and didn't see anywhere you could request them online). Eric put together a couple of duvets to be used that as a mattress pad, which I thought was a nice fix. But, yes, the beds are not comfortable unless you like thin hard mattresses. (By the way, the mattress on the bed in our room tended to dip a little on the side closest to the balcony). Nice flat-screen TVs. Hair dryers are lame and they're oddly located by the desk. Bathrooms are akin to airplane bathrooms, shower is humerously small. (Mini-suites get a full-size tub). No alarm clocks. My parents had a mini-suite on the Dolphin deck with a queen bed. Their room D309 had an odd squeaking/creaking sound whenever the ship navigated through rocky waters. Otherwise, good space. Their cabin steward Eden is terrific, and he is so nice and accommodating. One thing to note -- the Caribe balcony statements have larger balconies than the Dolphin mini-suites. The Caribe balcony is great because it is half-covered, half open. You get a little privacy under the covered section. Otherwise, all the folks on decks above you can look down upon (and throw things down on) your balcony. SMOKING: I don't smoke, and neither does my husband, but my dad does. Cigarette smoking is permitted in your cabin and balcony and in the casino (except for non-smoking nights) but cigar smoking is prohibited everywhere except for the Speakeasy Cigar Lounge. Honestly, the smoking passengers I saw were very courteous and smoked only in the designated areas. I am glad we did not have any problems with smoke seeping into our rooms/balconies from smoker neighbors. Interestingly, Princess in-room guidebook states that you can smoke in your cabin and balcony but it expressly discourages passengers from doing so as a "courtesy" to others. I saw on the message boards a dispute about whether more people go to the casino on non-smoking nights than smoking nights. We were in the casino every single night, and I did notice more people in the casino on non-smoking nights than smoking nights. However, I really don't know whether that is attributable to the smoke itself or to people's lack of interest in the other shows/events that evening. DINING/FOOD: Anytime dining is great but you do have a wait if you ask to be seated at your own table (and not share). If you agree to share, you're seated right away. My parents are very shy and asked to be seated at our own table; longest we waited was about 30 minutes. Not bad. One thing that bugs me is that if you have traditional dining, you can scrap that and go to Anytime dining. IMHO, if you opt for traditional dining, you should stick with that or if you miss your time, you go to the buffet. A lot of folks who missed their traditional dining times just jumped into (and lengthened) the lines at the Anytime Dining Rooms. Dining room food -- pretty good, but it takes so freaking long, as in a minimum of 2 hours. In the morning, check the menus outside the dining rooms to see what they are serving. Some highlights in the dining room: NY strip steak, lobster, filet mignon, etc. My parents adored the buffets; I thought they were good for a cruise buffet. Decent variety, and more upscale offerings than an Old Country Buffet (which was what I was expecting). Bavarian Bierfest night appeared to be the most popular, and they also had an Asian buffet which was mehhhh. Prime rib at a buffet? Yes, please! If you wanted pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers, the buffets really don't serve these, so you need to go Trident Grill near the pool to eat those types of foods. I was disappointed in their desserts (watch out for the cookies - I am pretty sure you can kill a person if you threw one of those hard discs at someone's head). The ice cream is very good, so make sure you get some. PORTS: Princess Cays, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk. I wasn't blown away by these ports, but I'm glad I can now say "Been there, done that." ENTERTAINMENT: Shows - I thought they were pretty good! Most people criticize the shows, but a lot of the performers do these shows in addition to their day jobs and I thought they were entertaining and talented. Good singers, too. A lot of cheesy scenes, but still good. We saw the hypnotist, and he was OK, but we don't believe in that crap anyway. The impressionist Jason Neistadt was pretty good. I am bummed we missed the comedians Kevin Hughes and Cary Long, who people said were very funny. Warning: if you have a full ship, you need to get to the Princess Theater at least 15-20 minutes in advance to get a seat. We showed up 10 minutes early and all seats were taken! One last thing -- Tim Donovan, the cruise director is a hoot. So funny. I enjoyed watching his morning wake show, too, Whatz Up TV. He is one funny guy. MOVIE UNDER THE STARS: I loved MUTS! They show football games and movies throughout the day, but I enjoyed MUTS at night. We watched Up! and Star Trek, and it's nice to sit on a lounger with a blanket watching a movie. Gotta get there early because loungers go fast. They had a lot of movies showing from The Proposal to Julia and Julie to Harry Potter. Lot of NFL games, too, whoo hoo! POOLS: Yes, chair hogs abound and Princess does not appear to do anything about them. Terrace Pool and the Lotus Spa Pool loungers fill up super-fast, because there aren't many of them. We often found ourselves on the decks just above the Lotus Spa Pool - they get a nice breeze to cool you off. The kids dominate the mid-ship pools. If you can get Sanctuary passes, do it! We didn't, and we regret it immensely. DISEMBARKATION: We did the express walkoff where you carry your own luggage off the ship. It is a total clusterf**k. Sorry to be crass like that, but it is. They have you meet in the Michelangelo Dining Room (Anytime Dining Room) with all of your luggage at 7:15-8am, but so many people show up and the tables/chairs get in the way. Then you get all these people to funnel their way into a single line? Princess needs to corral people a little better for express walkoff. If you do express walkoff, wait until 7:45 to head down to the Michelangelo, and hopefully most people will have already left so you don't have quite the chaos that occurs at the beginning. We got there at 7 am and we got off the ship around 8 am. NUTSO. OVERALL: My husband and I just aren't fans of cruising because we don't get enough time at each of the ports to explore, we don't like the burden of adhering to schedules, we don't like the long lines for everything, we don't like the at sea days (ya feel trapped). Too many people, quarters are a bit cramped. Cruises, also, we realize, are expensive. However, that being said, we thought Princess was really a lovely choice for a cruise. Princess, which is owned by Carnival, is the upscale version of Carnival. It is not a party boat. The ship is really beautiful. THe Piazza which is near a central staircase, boutiques, dining rooms, is a fun, lively place to be. They have street performers, a wine tasting place, a bakery/cafe, loungers, etc. Princess is geared towards adults, mid-30s through 70s. They have some family programs, but I think Royal Caribbean and Disney offer more children's programs. I have nothing but good things to say about the folks who work for Princess -they work very hard, have a great attitude, and try to make your cruise enjohyable for you. So, great cruise line and a nice cruise voyage, but given our preferences, I think next time we'll stick to non-cruise vacations. I'd be happy to answer any questions, so shoot me a note. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We arrived in Miami on Saturday morning and used Quality Limo Service to get to Ft. Lauderdale. After a short delay in finding our driver, we were on our way to the Marriott Harbor Beach resort. Our older daughter flew directly into FLL ... Read More
We arrived in Miami on Saturday morning and used Quality Limo Service to get to Ft. Lauderdale. After a short delay in finding our driver, we were on our way to the Marriott Harbor Beach resort. Our older daughter flew directly into FLL from school, and all of us met at the hotel. Luckily, all of our flights, even hers on Delta, were on time! It was nice to be able to spend the day in Ft. Lauderdale the night before the cruise and not be so exhausted on the first day. We were able to buy provisions for our cabin at the Total Wine store nearby and have wine for dinners and beverages in our cabin. Check in at the Emerald Princess on Sunday morning was fairly smooth. The system they use to get on board could be better, but all in all, it wasn't too bad. There seemed to be quite a delay in calling the various group numbers up to the check in counters, even though those counters appeared empty. There also didn't seem to be any method to the way they distributed check-in numbers as we entered the building. They asked my younger daughter, 17, how many adults were in our party and then just handed us a number out of a stack. Disembarkation was a nightmare, but more on that later. We got to the pier around 11:30 and were on board by about 12:20. Our cabins were ready and we then met the rest of our group on deck for some lunch and beverages. We also went to Sabatini to make our reservations for there and the Crown Grill for later in the week. For some reason we decided on early seating this year, so we wanted to make sure that we did specialty restaurants on our two later port days so we didn't have to rush in to get ready. It took a while for our luggage to arrive, which kind of surprised me. By the time we had to go to dinner, one of our bags still hadn't arrived, and a couple of the others had just gotten there. After dinner I was on my way to check with the purser's office, and one of my daughter's saw it just sitting there by their counter. The girls got it and brought it to my cabin - it was nice to have it, but no one asked for any kind of ID or other verification that the bag belonged to us. Dinner that night was disappointing. We have sailed with Princess before (Golden, 05 and Crown, 06) and I recalled the food as being better. I will admit that I am a bit of a "food snob," and that food quality/presentation is really an important part of any trip for my family and me. However, the menu on the first night was boring and the food quality average. I had the prime rib, as did my husband and one of my daughters. It was good, but there was nothing "wow" about the meal or the menu. To me, the first night on a ship should be "wow," and this didn't do it. Our wait staff for the week was okay, but not awesome. Our waitress was very nice, as was the junior waiter, but they just didn't seem to click. It seemed that he was pretty new, and she even apologized after dinner on the first night. They were both very nice and seemed to be trying hard. Our headwaiter was fabulous!!! He stopped by our table every night - not just on the last night. After dinner we did some more exploring and ended up in Club Fusion for what we called "totally random" trivia. Our first port day was Princess Cays. It was a tender port. It didn't take too long to get off the ship, but the system seemed a bit convoluted. I'm still not convinced of what I think of the concept of the "private island." To me the private island experience is fairly sanitized and feels more like being at "beach camp" than on a Caribbean island. The area was beautiful, although I would have liked to have been able to see more of Eleuthera. It would have been nice to be able to find a local restaurant than have the cruise ship's buffet food. It was still a very nice day and our group of ten had a great time relaxing in the sun. Dinner that night in the dining room was a bit better than the first night. I had the cioppino, which was pretty good. After dinner we went to one of the shows - the comedian impressionist was really good!! Tuesday was a sea day. It was a beautiful day. It was nice to sleep a bit and work out before breakfast. I was able to get to the gym four times during the week. The fitness area was really pretty well equipped, although there were only two stationary bikes. After that we spent the rest of the day by the pool. We discovered the pizza later on; Princess has really good pizza! Dinner that night was formal. We all still love formal nights and bring the formal attire. The menu that night was okay - I had the filet medallions - not bad. We tried to go to the show after dinner but by the time we got to the theatre, there were no seats available and they didn't let us in. No big deal - it was 70's trivia night, which we won! Wednesday was St. Martin. We've all been there on cruises and my family has been there three times for land vacations. Instead of staying on St. Martin, we lined up a private boat tour to Anguilla. My family has been there a few times and the rest of our group wanted to try something different as well. Since we weren't supposed to dock until 10:30, I still had time to hit the gym before we left. Unfortunately, we got a bit of a later start than we wanted as it took forever for them to start allowing people off the ship. It was almost 10:30 by the time they started letting us off. We booked our trip through Off Shore Sensations. I had looked at a few companies, and chose them because they would take us right from Phillipsburg (a must if you want to have any time in Anguilla) and they were very easy to deal with. It was great, and Eric couldn't have been more helpful. We took a very fast speedboat to Anguilla and spent the day on Shoal Bay. We got back in time so my friend and my daughter could do a little shopping in Phillipsburg. Dinner that night was in Sabatini. Fabulous! The service was excellent, as well. I truly wish that all cruise ship food could be this good. We met in Adagio before dinner for bellinis, which were also very good. Since dinner was late and long, I don't recall that we did anything after dinner - maybe a drink before bed. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was St. Thomas. My husband and I opted to stay on the ship and the rest of our group went to the beach or shopping. It was a great day on board! We have never done that before - stayed on the ship while it was in port. We really don't care for St. Thomas; it's way too commercial and Americanized for my taste, so this was a perfect time to arrange for massages while in port and just relax. We got up on deck around 11:00 and it was empty! Dinner that night was formal again and it was also the night of the repeat guests cocktail party before hand. Dinner was good - not outstanding. I had the lobster, not the turkey. They also had beef Wellington type dish that night which looked pretty good. After dinner we just had drinks in one of the bars while some of our group went to watch football on the MUTS screen. Friday was Grand Turk. This was another good day as, although we didn't dock until 1:00, we had time to work out and relax in the sun before getting off the ship. I'd always wanted to go to GT as we have friends who used to live there. As soon as we got off the ship we got a cab to take us to Pillory beach. It was beautiful. Our cab driver, Kevin, was excellent, and gave us some history and a tour on the way to the beach. Cruise ship tourism is quite new there; the pier area was just built three years ago. For years this was a relatively unknown destination and a diver's paradise. From what Kevin told us, the locals don't mind the development as it brings tourism dollars. While it seems that so many people just stay at the port and head to the Margaritaville, I just don't see how this small island can handle days when there are multiple cruise ships in port. Dinner that night was at the Crown Grill as it was another late port night. We had heard good things about the Crown, but we were pretty disappointed. First, the service was not very good at all. We completely understood that this dinner would take some time, and we were so fine with that. Unfortunately, our server was quite disorganized and the entire evening took just about three hours. My meal was okay. The appetizer I had - the lamb carpaccio - was very good, and the onion soup was pretty good, too. I had a filet, which was better than in the dining room (likely because it was a thicker cut). I had to ask for bEarnaise sauce, however, as it was not at all mentioned on the menu. The sides were good, but not great. My husband and one daughter had the rib eye, which was just okay. My other daughter had the filet, too, but it was overcooked, and she didn't want to take the time to send it back. She commented on how all the steaks were served the same - i.e., all of them were sitting in the same pool of the sauce they served, rather than offering any different preparation. Good point. Sabatini's was much better. Saturday was our last day and we were at sea. It started out a bit cloudy, but ended up being a beautiful day. After working out, a bit of packing and a light breakfast, we hung out by the pool all day. Dinner that night was back in the dining room. After searching the menu, I told my husband that I know that I'm particular about the food, but this brought cruise ship dining to a new low. The menu was boring and unimaginative. There was just nothing there that jumped out - it was like a hodge-podge of stuff. Mussels were being served with French fries (seriously) and they served turkey again - I'm sure leftovers two days after Thanksgiving. Among the other choices was a NY strip, meatloaf, eggplant fritters and barramundi, which they had served on a previous night's menu (and which they also described as perch.) I ended up having the grilled salmon that they have on the every day menu. The rest of our group agreed that this was just not a good menu. Again, and it's my hot button, I think that the last night should also "wow," and it didn't. It just didn't leave the impression that I think they would want one to end a cruise on. Disembarkation: This could not have been any more painful. We got the disembarkation info in our cabins on Friday. We had opted not to do the service where they check you in, take your bags, etc., and we probably should have. With the exception of those walking off the ship with their own luggage and those with Princess transfers, your exit time from the ship, and color of luggage tag, is by deck. For us this would not work, as we had to get back to Miami for a 12:15 flight. We went to the purser's desk on Friday and changed to an earlier group, 8:10, with no problem at all. Sunday morning we left the cabin about 7:45 to make our way to the Michelangelo dining room, which was our appointed meeting place. Once we got down to deck 5, we quickly found out that we were going nowhere. There was a line wrapped well into the hallways with passengers with luggage. Some said that they were in that line, and had been since 7:00 a.m., as they were in the group to walk off with their luggage. Others said that they were waiting in that line to get to the dining room to wait. My daughter and I went up to 6 and then back down to 5 in the atrium near the dining room. There was a Princess employee there who confirmed that the line was for the walk offs, and that we could just go into the dining room, which was pretty empty. The rest of our group had a bit of a hard time getting there, but we all made it before 8:10 so that we could hurry up and wait. At about 8:40, I asked the same employee if we would be called soon. At this point there had been no announcements at all about getting off. He said that the last of the walk offs would soon be off and that it would be "soon." After about 10 minutes they started lining us up to leave the dining room and we were off the ship in about 10 minutes - to wait some more. Once we were off, it was into a holding area, where we had to sit and wait. There were three separate lines of passengers, and the lines were called, eventually, one at a time to go down the escalator to the immigration area. Once our line was finally called, we had to wait a few more minutes by the luggage pick up area, which had not yet been made available for those of us needing to find our bags. Within a few minutes, they let that line open and we were able to get our bags and go to the immigration line, which, luckily, wasn't too bad. After all that, it was about 9:20 ish when we finally got in our van that we had hired to take us to Miami. Our friends did the pre-arranged baggage/boarding pass deal, and they figured that they likely could have gotten off with the walk offs, who also seemed to be waiting a long time. Otherwise, they got the same colored tags as us and waited with us, even though they were flying out of FLL. Random observations: Although this is long, I still have a few random observations not yet mentioned. Not to be missed: Tiramisu martinis in Adagio!!!! Coffee. As has been mentioned on this board many times, the coffee is awful. Having read that, one of the first things we did was to buy one coffee card. I'm not convinced it was worth it, and I've decided that because of the cards, Princess has no incentive to improve the coffee they serve in the dining rooms. We typically do not drink the specialty coffees, but we do like good, brewed coffee. With the card, which is $24 + 15%, you get 15 punches for specialty coffees, and unlimited premium coffee (i.e., real brewed coffee.) Each morning I would go down to deck 5 to the coffee bar, which was always crowded, and get two large coffees to go. On three days I had an espresso while waiting, mostly because I had 15 punches that I knew wouldn't get used. The large coffees were $1.25 each - it would have made more sense just to pay for the coffee each day as opposed to buying the card. The coffee in Sabatini, by the way, was wonderful. In the Crown Grill, it was terrible. In the dining room at dinner, it was passable on most nights. Because they sell such an abundance of cards, and we're willing to schlep down to deck 5 every morning for good coffee, why should improve it in the dining room? Bar service/drinks. I had read many postings here that expressed concern about the friendliness of the staff/deck waiters. We never encountered anyone who was less than friendly, and there was always someone around willing to take our drink order. I did notice, however, that while drink prices weren't unreasonable, they were pretty weak. I noticed that the bar tenders poured a straight, measured shot each time. There was no free pouring at all. We also noticed that they seem to have done away with the bar staff in the dining room. We've always seen separate bar/wine staff who get the drinks at dinner, as opposed to the waiters doing it. Our junior waiter was doing the drinks - there was no separate bar person. He was also responsible for opening our wine, as opposed to a separate wine steward. I don't mind, but I think it added to the inefficiency of service at dinner. We did bring several bottles of wine on board which we brought to the dining room. There was a $15/bottle corkage fee, which was fine. We still came out ahead on that and I was able to get wines that we liked. Entertainment: We didn't see the production shows, so I can't speak to them, although I did hear a comment from one in our group that the second show was awful. The comedian/impressionist was really good. The resident band, M.I.T. was just okay. They played pop covers. (I would have rather had a steel band on deck in the afternoon since we were in the Caribbean.) They played on deck in the afternoon, and then were in one of the clubs at night. It seemed as the entertainment was concentrated and that the things that I would have wanted to see always seemed to be happening at the same times. We never did make it to any movies - they showed Julie & Julia one night, which I love, but it was at 10:30 and I had seen it twice. Another night it was G.I. Joe - and we didn't mind missing that one. They did show Star Trek, but we didn't make it in time. We did hit a couple of the trivia games, but otherwise just mainly hung out in the various lounges. We only went into the casino once. They have done away with cash pretty much. I was able to deposit a twenty-dollar bill into a slot machine, but you can't cash out other than onto your card. This requires setting it up to your shipboard account. It's really no big deal, but an extra step. Spa/gym: I was able to hit the gym a few times, thank goodness! It was always busy. They had a decent selection of equipment, although they only had two stationary bikes and three recumbent bikes. There seemed to be plenty of treadmills. The area where they had the free weights was kind of small, and when there were a few of us there, it was kind of crowded. They didn't seem to have too many classes to take. They had only a few, at odd times, and for a fee. There was only one or two that I saw during the week for which there was no extra charge. We did do massages, and the spa staff was good. The cabin: We had a balcony cabin on deck 11. It was fine. The bathroom was about the tiniest I've ever seen on a cruise ship! Our cabin steward was great - our room was always clean and we always had extra towels. They have done away with having robes in the cabins unless you specifically ask to use them for the cruise. All in all it was a good week. Really, the food was the biggest disappointment for me. I'm not at all a picky eater - I/we just like really good food. I totally understand that it's so hard to cook for so many people at once, but it still seemed that the fare was boring. I'm sure it's part of the "nickel & diming" we've noticed over the years in many aspects in cruising. Face it - it's become very affordable and there is a surplus of cruise ships; I guess that they have to cut somewhere. We did breakfast at the buffet ("trough") every morning. As has been mentioned, the set up is fairly random, but the food was fine. There always seemed to be a decent, if not odd, selection of hot and cold food. We only had lunch at the trough once - on the first day. There seemed to be a good selection, but I just had a salad. We did end up eating more than enough pizza - Princess really does the pizza well (thanks goodness for the gym). Sorry this was so long. I really wasn't trying to be too critical - just giving my thoughts -- and we really did have a good time. I would likely sail with Princess again, although I do find the food better on HAL and Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date November 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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