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10 Princess Emerald Princess Cruise Reviews for Holiday Cruises to Caribbean - Southern

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
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
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
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
Where to start, where to start ... We cruised on the beautiful Emerald Princess 12/20/08 to 12/30/08. There were three of us traveling together; myself and DH (BB cabin C743 / Caribe deck) and a friend in a separate cabin (OV cabin L103 ... Read More
Where to start, where to start ... We cruised on the beautiful Emerald Princess 12/20/08 to 12/30/08. There were three of us traveling together; myself and DH (BB cabin C743 / Caribe deck) and a friend in a separate cabin (OV cabin L103 / Lido deck). All three of us have cruised a number of times, at many different times of year on a variety of cruise lines. This was the first time the three of us have ever cruised together and it was the first time any of us cruised over the Christmas holiday. The ship is beautiful and the areas we frequented were immaculate. The attitude of the entire crew was outstanding! They were friendly, helpful, smiling and always, always, always went the extra mile to make sure we were having a memorable cruise. EMBARKATION: We went through the maze of finding the ship at Pier 18 and the parking garage near Pier 2. It was all sort of chaotic at the drop-off area until the parking garage shuttle bus returned my DH to the curb where my friend & I were waiting. Once he (finally!) returned and we had only our carry-on bags left, everything went very smoothly. Our cabins were ready when we arrived so we dropped off our carry-ons, put our name on the list for the Chef's Table (already wait-listed), signed up for the Ultimate Ship Tour and got a bite to eat in the Horizon Cafe. By the time we returned to our cabins we had already received our luggage. [A note regarding the parking mess ... FLL is really a nice port to leave from so please don't get the wrong impression. They are building new parking garages in the advent of the Genesis class ships. During this construction phase it's just a little crazy when there are 9 big ships and 2 little ones in port at the same time. Once the garages are complete things will be hunky-dunky again. If you don't drive your own car to the port the parking thing really doesn't even affect you at all.] STATEROOMS: DH & I were in the very last cabin on the starboard side. We wanted our favorite cabin, C753 which faces aft, but even booking a year out we weren't able to get it. We enjoyed C743 though and would definitely book it again. Our cabin was kept spotless by our steward(ess), Noawarat (pronounced Nora), who was an absolute delight. She worked really hard but always had time to stop what she was doing and ask how our day was, where we had gone, if we needed anything, etc. We had an endless supply of fresh ice and our room was so cold you could probably have hung meat in it. Just the way we like it after a day in the Caribbean sun. ULTIMATE SHIP TOUR: All I can say is ... wow-WoW-WOW !!! What an experience! They will do this tour for a maximum of only 12 passengers so if you are interested sign up early. I'll admit that it isn't exactly cheap ($150 per person) but to us it was worth every penny and then some! I won't spoil all the surprises that are in store for you by writing about it here but if you like to see "behind the scenes", you will definitely NOT be disappointed!! Okay ... I'll spoil one surprise and it includes champagne and canapes on the bridge and a photo with Commodore Guiseppe Romano. And did I mention you get to climb on the funnel! Or go UNDER the stage in the Princess Theatre?? [Note: take closed-toe shoes to wear or you might not get into some of the more interesting areas.] ANYTIME DINING: We had a standing 8:15 reservation at a corner, window table in the DaVinci dining room (Table #433) with Roberto and Oksana. They were a cracker-jack team that made every dining room meal a cause for celebration. Roberto quickly got to know our tastes and gave us excellent recommendations. On the very rare occasions that our selection wasn't all we thought it could be, he gave us his million dollar smile and quickly brought us something different to try. Oksana was a breath of fresh air and her positive attitude, her quick wit and her laughter charmed all three of us instantly. SABATINI'S: Great food, great service. This isn't a complaint, exactly, but if I could make a suggestion it would be to allow you to pick what appetizers you want instead of insisting you take all of them. The spectacular seafood and the fine service are a good enough draw to bring people back again and again - the multiple "courses" and the "show" just aren't all that necessary after the first time. I asked for the option but was told that it wasn't an option and that instead, just leave what I didn't want. I did but we could have done the meal in half the time if we'd been allowed to just order the yummy foods that we wanted and be done with it. An enjoyable occasion nonetheless. CROWN GRILL: My momma always said, if you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all so let's just say this was the worst disappointment of the entire cruise and leave it at that. I know others have had fabulous meals and great service in the Crown Grill and we're really glad for you. Honest we are. Unfortunately we had neither. Maybe it was just an off-night. A really, realllllly off night. CHEF'S TABLE: We got "picked" but it was cancelled because of heightened precautions due to noro. They were hoping that it could be rescheduled but by the time the food service restrictions were lifted it was too late. Having already done this on the Caribbean Princess we were only mildly disappointed. We'll just have to keep cruising Princess so we can do it again sometime!! SANCTUARY: The most incredible place to relax and unwind on the planet. There is a surcharge to use this very tranquil, "adults only" area but we would gladly have paid any amount they asked. They also charge a small service charge to bring you lunch & snacks, which we were more than willing to pay. If this bothers you or you don't like a quiet-zone, laid-back style, then Sanctuary won't be your cup of tea. For us, Sanctuary and it's tremendously attentive staff of Somchai, Joy, Stephen, Suriya, Hardika and the ever-flowing iced cucumber water made a wonderful cruise even better. SHORE EXCURSIONS: PRINCESS CAYS ~ We had already experienced Princess Cays in a pretty red bungalow by the sea so on this cruise we opted to stay on the ship and enjoy Sanctuary. ST. THOMAS ~ Been there, done that so we stayed on the ship and enjoyed Sanctuary. DOMINICA ~ "Flower Garden & Creole Cooking". The second WoW of the cruise. There were a mere seven of us who signed up for this tour. We spent several hours with our guide, Josie, visiting the homes and gardens of residents on the interior of the island. The owners of these properties graciously welcomed us into their homes and gave us the opportunity to explore their tropical flowers; from vast gardens to small greenhouses. We were then treated to a delicious lunch, prepared especially for us, 2,000 feet above sea level at Exotica Cottages, one of the finalists of the National Geographic Change Maker awards. I highly recommend this tour if you want to really see the local heritage and culture and participate in an honest "show, tell and taste" experience. GRENADA ~ We had been to Grenada 20-some years ago so we decided just to get off and explore the area near the dock instead of doing an organized tour. Most everything was closed on Christmas, which we expected, so we snapped some interesting photos of what appeared to be bombed out buildings, bought the requisite spices and quickly returned to our haven back on the ship, Sanctuary. BONAIRE ~ Maybe not the most spectacular port of all times but definitely not the worst either. We found it to be very clean and the residents were extremely friendly. We scouted out some unique & unusual souvenirs and then had a delicious lunch of spicy, cold shrimp with an avocado/chili sauce and ice cold beer in an open-air, waterfront cafe! Yum. CURACAO ~ Once I finally get it posted you can read the full review of this wonderful shore excursion over on the Curacao board but suffice it to say that cooking some culinary classics in Angelica's Kitchen is an experience that you just have to try when visiting Curacao. Ok. I take that back. Not EVERYbody should try this. A while back someone on Cruise Critic openly admonished these wonderful ladies for pairing Cheese Doritos with one of the appetizers. Puh-leaze. If it was you that complained and you are reading this ... shame on you. You either weren't listening to the story or you just didn't get it. This is a fabulous, awesome, unique excursion. If you go, tell them Seapixie says hello and thanks for the memories! SHOWS: Crooners, followed by a long leisurely dinner, is our preferred evening entertainment so we only went to one of the shows in the Princess Theatre. It was a production show and it was very, very good. We didn't go early or have anyone save seats for us yet we ended up with great seats in a perfect location and had excellent service. A very enjoyable part of the evening for us and one we would highly recommend. Truth be known, if the Crooners waiters didn't shake such darned good martoonis we probably would have gone to the theatre more often You might want to take a sweater or light jacket as the Princess Theatre was a little chilly, even by our standards and we like it cold. CASINO: Last of the big spenders, we generously deposited $5 to the cause and had a lot of fun doing it. We were only playing the quarter slots but ended up with about an hour's worth of entertainment for our five-spot. CHILDREN: We don't have any children so we can't comment on Princess' children's programs but they must be pretty good. We were told that there were just over 700 "Under 18's" on board but you wouldn't know it by us. Perhaps our shore excursions didn't appeal to families with little ones and then we DID spend a lot of time in Sanctuary where children aren't allowed but even at dinner or in the open deck areas, we just didn't notice them. DISEMBARKATION: How very sad that they make it so easy to disembark. Why-oh-why can't they make this procedure last several long meaningful hours including a leisurely lunch, a couple of hours by the pool and a shoulder massage (LOL!). Seriously, if you have to disembark from a wonderful, amazing cruise, at least Princess makes the process as painless as possible. We waited in our assigned space until our color was called. There were only a couple of ships in port so we were docked at Pier 2 this time, near the parking garage. Because of that it took only about a half an hour from the time they called out "Gold 3" to the time we were in the car, bags loaded, and on our way home. Thanks for the memories, Emerald Princess! We are counting the minutes until we set sail on the spectacular Ruby Princess next Christmas! Seapixie ~ Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was ... Read More
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was pretty painless. It was much like at a ride in Disneyland. Lots of people but moved along fairly quickly. We were issued our cards and before long were in our cabins. We had C406 and the boys had an inside across the hall C408. We were pretty much smack dab in the middle of the ship. The room was certainly big enough. The closet was huge and also the cabinet with the safe had additional shelves for storage. The bathroom was fine and again, more than enough space for all our stuff. We never had a problem with the size of the shower or the shower curtain contrary to what I had read often on this board. We had a balcony, partially covered and would say that I would not cruise without one. We spent a lot of time on our balcony. We really enjoyed watching from our balcony as we came into ports in the morning and also sitting and enjoying the views leaving the ports. We also enjoyed having a drink or coffee on our balcony and just being able to relax a little and enjoy the warm weather and fresh air. Ship: The ship is simply beautiful. Having never cruised before, I can't compare but I thought it was stunning.......and, well really, really big. It took me several days to figure out what was where and which way to go to get there. The staff that take care of the ship do a wonderful job at keeping everything immaculate everywhere. It was nicely decorated in the main areas for xmas and they had a nice display for when Santa arrived for the children as well as snow "falling" on xmas eve. Pools, MUTS, Gym: We had three sea days and I was up early (as usual) to find a pool lounger on all of those days. It was very interesting to be up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. relaxing with my book and watching the chair hogs scout out their spots. These were not people choosing a chair for themselves. They were reserving 4, 6, 8 chairs, throwing a towel or a pair of shoes on the chairs and then disappearing for hours. Understandably, there were a lot of families on this cruise, but does every family member really need a chair? Maybe they should all get up early and get there own and actually use it. The first day was at the very back of the ship which is a fairly quiet area and pretty peaceful. The other two days I choose a lounger near the MUTS screen, once on a lower deck and once on an upper deck. It was nice to be able to watch a movie while laying in the sun. This is a very, very busy area. I literally felt like a sardine......it's an obstacle course to get through the chairs and people and there is no room between the loungers. We did not sit and watch a movie in the evenings but often walked by and there were lots of people enjoying the big screen. I think the MUTS is a pretty cool idea. I went to the gym on a couple of occasions when it opened at 7:00. There were lineups and it was quite busy. I thought that it was nicely equipped and maintained. Decided to just walk outside on the Promenade deck after that. The track that is on the top deck of the ship is a nice feature, but it was too narrow and short for my comfort. It felt like you were always bumping into or trying to avoid other people. Also, way too hot up there for me. There were lots of people using it throughout the day. Dining: We had the late seating in the dining room at 8:30. I have to say that the meals we had in the dining room were absolutely wonderful. All the food was just so good and nicely prepared. I had several of the fish dishes and all were fantastic. Some of the favorites were the seafood stew served in puff pastry, grilled rack of lamb, sea scallops on ratatouille, French onion soup - yummo!! Also the king crab was delicious as well as the lobster. The lobster tail was served with two or three massive prawns which were to die for. There was lots of variety of appetizers, salads, soups and desserts in addition to the "always available" menu. I would definitely say the food on this cruise was far superior to any 5-Star All Inclusive that we have been to. We almost always had breakfast in the DaVinci dining room. You could always order things like bacon & eggs, pancakes, etc from the menu. There was a different breakfast feature each day. Eggs Benedict one day, an asparagus and fontina cheese omelette another day, and so on. Also, as soon as you were seated a waiter would appear with a tray of fresh pastries. I am having withdrawal from the fresh, warm donuts sprinkled with sugar. We tried breakfast once or twice in the buffet but were obviously spoiled from the dining room as the food in the buffet was only what I would say mediocre at best. We also had the odd snack from the buffet, but honestly, the food is so much better in the dining rooms there wasn't much point in eating at the buffets. We also had lunch a couple of times in the Wheelhouse Bar, very nice fish & chips. The other thing I have to rave about is the afternoon tea. My younger son and I stumbled on this quite by accident, but I must say, sure glad we did. Tea is served in the DaVinci Dining room every day from 3:30 - 4:30. There were a few times we missed due to being in a port, but this became one of our favorites. Very formal, white glove service and some very interesting table companions each time. Tea would be served and then trays and trays of delicious little sandwiches, pastries, and the absolute best scones I have ever had. Fresh and warm, served with jam and clotted cream. It was my son that couldn't wait to go to tea every chance we could. I also had a few lunches from the International cafe. They had a nice selection of salads and sandwiches. I found it somewhat frustrating that one day, these items would be "free" and then the next day, the items had a charge. There were items clearly marked that were extra such as the gelato and chocolate dipped strawberries but the lunch items were a guessing game. The coffee here was also pretty good. This is the only place on the ship that actually uses real cream for coffee. Everywhere else on the ship they use milk. I am a diehard coffee drinker and found the coffee practically undrinkable anywhere else. Coffee in the dining room was okay.......but I just don't like milk in my coffee. The coffee card was a good deal for me and I would recommend it. I think I went through three of them. Shows/Casino: Unfortunately, we made it to only one show. A comedian in one of the lounges. He was quite funny and we enjoyed it. We are not much into shows and we found the times were just a bit inconvenient for us. We found the early shows too early to get to and of course having the late dinner, we missed most of the late ones. If I were to cruise again, I think I would choose anytime dining. I think dinner at 7:00 would be ideal for us to take in a few more of the shows. The 6:15 seating is too early, and 8:30 was just a bit too late. We usually spent an hour or so in the casino after dinner. It was never really too busy and it would be nice if they would have a better selection of slot machines. I felt most of the ones they had were pretty outdated. Princess Cays. Nice enough beach. Nothing too special here. St. Thomas: We had nothing planned for St. Thomas. We ended up taking an island tour by a nice local guy. Spent two hours or so with him and saw some of the sights. We also walked around on the strip with the shops. I suppose if you like jewelry and watches, you would enjoy this port. We walked just one block back off this strip to a little convenience store to buy some juice and had a lady in her jeep stop to tell us that we were not in a safe area. She was very adamant about us not being in the area we were in. For me, this was the least impressive port that I visited. Dominica: I had booked a tour to go river tubing with Antours. We spent some time touring some of the island and then went to the river. This was so much fun and I'd recommend doing this to anyone. I think some were expecting a lazy relaxing float down the river, but it was actually pretty hairy in some places - what a blast! We went back into town after, but it was so busy as it was Christmas Eve. I have to say though, I thought the local people in Dominica were the friendliest, nicest people of any of the ports we visited. Grenada: We had an island tour booked with Mandoo Tours. A very pretty island and some very interesting history here. Mandoo is extremely well educated and probably knows more about the politics of my own country than I do. He talks constantly while driving the vehicle, but wow, this guy knows his stuff. He is a very, very interesting man. I bought lots of fresh spices on the island to take home. Bonaire: By far, this island has the most amazing snorkeling I have ever done. The water is so beautiful, clear and warm. So many beautiful fish and we also were able to see several sea turtles. We took a water taxi to Klein Bonaire for a few hours. There is nothing on this island, not even a washroom (I think) but it is a great place to snorkel or suntan on the beach. The port area was so clean, pretty and so well kept. The shop keepers were pleasant and for a change didn't hound you buy stuff. Of all the ports on the cruise, this was my favorite and the only one I would want to visit again. Curacao: Hmm. Mixed feelings here. We went into the shopping area for awhile. Holy Knock-Off Ville. After wandering around a bit, we ended up going back and getting towels/bathing suits and took a cab to Kon Tiki Hotel. The beach there goes for awhile and there are several hotels along this area. Pretty average beach, somewhat disappointing really. Other Things: I actually liked the picture taking stations set up in the evenings. We went several nights for family photos and ended up with some very nice pictures. The pop card for kids or teens is a must I think. I can't remember exactly how much, but somewhere around $40 for the 10 days. My kids also ate at the burger place and the pizza place and said it was pretty good. The ice cream card is also a good idea. My kids met a lot of people their age and had a very good time with their new friends. I guess this is true as they usually did not get back to their room until the wee hours of the morning. They would usually be sitting at the back of the ship visiting or in the nightclub as I did check on them to see where they were and what they were up to. I didn't notice any bad behavior by the kids on the cruise as some people have mentioned. Generally, I thought they were pretty well behaved. Other than the last night when they were several boisterous groups around the ship, but it really just seemed to me that they were saying their good-byes to one another. I also have to mention the dress code. I know this can be a touchy subject but something that really ticked me off. I had read repeatedly on this forum that people would be turned away from the dining rooms if not dressed appropriately. Well, I can certainly say that on this cruise there was NO dress code whatsoever in the dining room. The first night there were several people in line wearing jeans, T-shirts, sloppy runners, etc. I figured that because there were so many problems with many people just barely getting to the ship due to the terrible storms that they had relaxed the dress code for a day or so. I know also there were several who had not received their luggage till very late or not at all. No, this was the norm the entire cruise. These are not designer jeans I'm talking about. Frayed, dirty looking jeans, leggings, washed-out ill-fitting t-shirts, shorts, ipod earphones stuck to their ears, etc. I thought we were going to a hot-dog eating contest somewhere - that's how bad these people dressed. Rant over. All in all, we had a good time and it was a really great experience and we saw some great places. Would I do another cruise? Probably not. As silly as it may sound, I found this a "hectic" vacation. Not really relaxing at all. I felt that I was constantly looking at my watch. The ship is beautiful and huge, but it felt claustrophobic in a way compared to what I am used to. I love to walk a lot and just going around the promenade deck for my twice daily walks just is not too exciting after the first 3 laps. I missed the tranquility of a beautiful, un-crowded beach. Relaxing in a lounge chair reading and enjoying the great weather without people stepping over me. Just things like that. However, I do think for those that haven't cruised and are considering it, you should try it at least once. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Emerald Princess 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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