My husband and I sailed on the Emerald Princess from Ft. Lauderdale on April 19-29. We did the Southern Caribbean itinerary that went to Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Dominica, St. Thomas and Princess Cays. We are both in our mid 30's, ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on the Emerald Princess from Ft. Lauderdale on April 19-29. We did the Southern Caribbean itinerary that went to Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Dominica, St. Thomas and Princess Cays. We are both in our mid 30's, we have no children, and this was our fourth cruise. Our first cruise was on Carnival, our other cruises on Royal Caribbean. I chose this cruise because I wanted to visit different islands; we have already done one Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean on our previous cruises. This was our first Princess cruise, and first time to do a 10 day vs. a 7 day cruise.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale for one night before the cruise. I liked the hotel and it was a good value because they offered free full buffet breakfast in the morning and alcoholic drinks and treats during happy hour.
Embarkation: Chaotic. I've never experienced such disorganization from a cruise line in boarding the ship. We got to the terminal around 11 am and you could not tell what line you were supposed to be in or what doors would be opening to start the boarding process. When you finally thought you had it figured out, they reversed the line and sent all the people who had been waiting the longest to a different entrance. It was frustrating. Once we finally got into the building, it seemed to streamline a little better.
Stateroom: We had a balcony on the Caribe deck and I was pleasantly surprised with the size. I've never had a balcony contain more than 2 small chairs and a small table. This one had 2 loungers, 2 chairs and a medium sized table. It wasn't very private, you could chat with your neighbors from all sides and the smokers around also bothered me a bit. Overall though, I thought it was fantastic. I also thought our room was spacious enough and our room attendant did a great job. Rarely saw him, and the room was always impeccable. The shower was small, but it's to be expected.
Food: We chose to do anytime dining because I'm a very picky eater and I really don't enjoy the food in the formal dining room that much or the time constraints of traditional dining. I liked this option, as I never felt like I was letting my fellow dining companions down by not being there. We ended up eating in the dining room twice, both times at pre-arranged times with people we had met on the ship. Each time we were seated immediately. Dinner lasted sometimes 2-3 hours which is just a bit much for me. So, I was thrilled to have the option of eating elsewhere and anytime dining is another main reason I chose this cruise.
Since I like the simple food, I had a lot of the pizza on the ship. I thought it was excellent. Very tasty. They could have had more varieties, but I'm sure they were just trying to please the masses. The breakfast buffet in the morning had enough options. Omelets were not as easy to come by as on previous cruise lines. The Trident Grill's hamburgers, hot dogs and fries were tasty. Never a wait to get them, always prompt service. The food I absolutely enjoyed the most was the fish & chips in the Wheelhouse Bar. Just excellent.
We also tried out the Crown Grill one night to join our friends on the cruise. I am not a fan of the specialty restaurants simply because I don't believe I should have to pay for food that you should be able to get for free. As I thought beforehand, I did not think the food was worth the $25 pp surcharge. I ordered a steak and baked potato. My food was good, but others at my table had their steaks come out too done compared to how they were ordered. We had almost finished our meal by the time it was corrected. However, the wait staff was gracious about it, did apologize, and even brought as a bottle of champagne for our table to share to make up for the mistake. So, my experience there was fine, but I probably would not go to another specialty restaurant again simply for the fact that I don't like to encourage them charging for any extras on the actual ship.
Pools/Ship Area: I thought the ship looked like it was well kept up, in good condition. Yes, the layout was a little odd, but if you are the exploring type, it meant you might find a little nook or cranny that nobody else did. I enjoyed all the pools, there were a lot of them. Hot tubs were smaller than I'm used to, but scattered about all over the ship. Never seemed like it was overly crowded anywhere on the ship but maybe the Explorer's Lounge when they were having a nightly show in there. I enjoyed the swim against the current and cushy chairs by the spa pool. We never used the Sanctuary at all, I could find other relaxing, quite places that I didn't have to pay extra to be in.
Entertainment: I have never gone to as many shows nor did so many scheduled activities as I did on this ship. On my previous cruises, we usually found ourselves in the bar areas listening to bands or singers or in the nightclub dancing. There really didn't seem to be that great of entertainment in the small bars & the nightclub was DEAD. So, off we went to the shows. I actually enjoyed the dancing shows. The two comedians we saw were funny. The juggler even entertained me some. We went to the Not So Newlywed game and that was funny. Karaoke nights were entertaining. I even went to Country Music night, found myself out on the floor learning line dances, and I don't even like country music. So, although the entertainment experiences were different, I still enjoyed myself. There was always something to do. The only complaint I heard was from a couple who had been on the Crown Princess just a year earlier, they told us all the shows were the exact same. That would have been truly disappointing, so I'm glad we hadn't previously been on a Princess ship.
Spa: I did get a couples massage at the Lotus Spa. This is the first spa service I have ever had on a cruise ship, but not my first massage by any means. The price is pretty steep. I think it was $269. Before I left, that seemed like a ridiculous amount to pay, but I ended up paying it because I so enjoyed the hot stone mini massage they gave me when we did the spa tour on the first day onboard. It was worth it though. It was really relaxing, the massage felt great. It was a little windy up there in the cabana's they take you to, and you could sometimes hear the people talking in the Sanctuary during your massage, but all in all, I'd do it again. They gave us a short sale on the products at the end, but really, we said no and didn't have any problems.
Aruba: My husband and I rented a Jeep and drove the island ourselves. Sometimes we would find ourselves entirely alone with no one else around except for the ocean on one side and rock formations on the other. Sometimes, we would occasionally meet up with the other organized tours. It was a nice way to see the island's attractions. We covered the CA Lighthouse, the church, rock formations, and Baby Beach. We had time to stop at Senor Frogs too and go down the waterslide in the bar (which was actually one of the most fun things I did on the entire trip).
Bonaire: Looked like a beautiful place. I wish we would've had more time here. We walked around and saw a lot of shopping and restaurants. We had booked the water taxi to Klein Bonaire through Princess because I had heard that sometimes all of the water taxi's get reserved and you wouldn't be able to get one unless it was through the cruise line. I'm not sure I really believe that now, having been there, but still, I enjoyed our snorkeling over there and it was a beautiful place.
Grenada: I did not like this port and I only filled out the survey at the end of the cruise just to let Princess know that I would take it off the itinerary. We went through the shopping area before going on our excursion and as I had read before leaving, they were very aggressive and very pushy trying to sell tours. We booked the independent Manadoo Spice tour after reading great reviews on Cruise Critic and it did not live up to my expectations. I enjoyed seeing where the spices were made and learning about them, but they did not provide us with any local food or drinks other than a Dixie cup of punch. They barely stopped long enough for you to use the restroom and it was a ton of riding around in a bus. I think there may have been a road closed that contributed to this, but there really was no communication on this from our driver. We did so much driving that we did not even have time to make a scheduled stop at any beaches and there was no apology for that either. I cannot recommend this tour for those reasons. After finally getting back to the ship, we tried to do some quick shopping at the local market and a local man tried to start a fight with my husband after he innocently took a picture of the general market area. He was not taking a picture of anyone or anything specific and we were utterly shocked as to the rude and disparaging comments that were made to us. They made us feel very uncomfortable and we bought spices as presents as quickly as we could and went back to the ship. I have been to Mexico, and Jamaica; some other places that you can sometimes run into difficult situations, but I have never experienced anything like this before. I will never go back.
Dominica: We took a cab with another couple to snorkel Champagne Reef on our own. It was so early in the morning that no one else was there. That was a plus and minus. It's great to be alone on a grand adventure, but we had trouble finding the actual snorkeling spot with the famous bubbles that come up. We finally did locate it after about 30 minutes or so and it was really neat, completely as advertised and I'm so glad we didn't miss it. We had already booked the Antours River Tubing tour so we had a limited time at Champagne Reef before we had to go to that. River Tubing through Antours was fantastic. I really enjoyed it and always felt safe with the qualified helpers they had working the river. Before and after the tour, local food and beverages were served and it made all the difference. This tour, I would recommend to anyone.
St. Thomas: We went shopping in the morning and even though it was my third time there, I still had never made it to Meagan's Bay. So, we took a taxi there on our own in the afternoon. The beach and the scenery on the way there and back were beautiful. St. Thomas is always a good time. I had never had the Bushwhacker's either and they were fantastic!
Princess Cays: Tendering over to the island took longer than I thought it should have. Again, seemed like Princess should've had this process working like clockwork, but they didn't. Once we got there though, plenty of lounge chairs and I loved the water and the island. Very relaxing. My only complaint is that the people playing sand volleyball had a flat volleyball and when they asked for another one, they were told there was none. Huh? Shouldn't be that hard to have a few spare volleyballs laying around.
Disembarkation: I booked an earlier flight than I probably should have. I knew that before we left, but I really wanted to get back earlier because we both had to be at work the next day. My flight left at 8:50 am. I thought we would have no problem making it if we took our own luggage off the ship. The meet up time to do that was 7:15 am. However, because of more Princess disorganization, confused lines and confused people, we did not get off the ship until 8am. I'm happy to say though, that we still made our flight. Unfortunately, my stress level did go from 0 to 10 during this process.
Overall: I enjoyed this cruise. We met some great people. On our last cruise we did the same amount of ports in 7 days and it was truly too much. So, by choosing a 10 day cruise, I did manage to have it be more relaxing this time. However, a lot of people on this ship were older than us and meeting couples our own age sometimes felt challenging. And, although I enjoyed the "different" entertainment, I was let down by the bars/nightclubs on this ship. For that reason, we will probably go back to Royal Caribbean and back to 7 day cruises. With that said, I don't regret trying out Princess, and I will sail them again sometime. Read Less