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24 Princess Emerald Princess Cruise Reviews for Family Cruises to Caribbean - Southern from Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)

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
This was our sixth Princess Cruise and the second time aboard Emerald Princess ( 2009 ) Embarkcation was a breeze mainly due to our Platignum membership. However, when we arrived at our cabin (Superior Balcony on Caribe Deck midships) ... Read More
This was our sixth Princess Cruise and the second time aboard Emerald Princess ( 2009 ) Embarkcation was a breeze mainly due to our Platignum membership. However, when we arrived at our cabin (Superior Balcony on Caribe Deck midships) we were disappointed with its size compared to other cruises taken recently with Cunard, Celebrity & P & O. No sofa bed for daytime use. It was a celebration of our recent Ruby Wedding and to say the least, we "survivied" this 8 day cruise. Our cabin steward was excellent and tried to make us as comfortable as possible. 1 No hot water for the first 4 days from shower or basin - we understand that at least 40+ cabins were affected on Caribe deck. 2 Air Con not operating properly - cabin too hot and needed 4 visits from maintenance staff. 3 Fridge in cabin not working. The food in the DA Vinci dining room was average but could not complain concerning the service provided by our waiters or Restaurant Manager. Considering that the ship had recently been in dry dock for a minor refit, it felt "tired" and many problems were still being sorted. Enterainment onboard was good and no complaints in this area. We have always regarded Princess as an upmarket product but after this cruise, I don't think we shall be returning in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
This was our 7th cruise with Princess and our third on this class of ship. We started our journey with our pre-cruise night at the Hampton Inn airport north with no complaints whatsoever. They are one of the few hotels left that supply ... Read More
This was our 7th cruise with Princess and our third on this class of ship. We started our journey with our pre-cruise night at the Hampton Inn airport north with no complaints whatsoever. They are one of the few hotels left that supply shuttles both from the airport and to the cruise port with no charge. We arrived around noon at Port Everglades with one of the speediest check-ins that I can remember. Everything on the ship was right on par from our previous Princess cruises with the exception of the staff. In our previous cruises the staff has always been very customer oriented, after all this is a big part of the experience that keeps us coming back. Countless times when we passed a crew member we were greeted with a blank face, not the usual smile or greeting. My 80 year old aunt whom is handicapped traveled with us. Not one time on our 10 day cruise was I ever offered assistance in carrying her food. On the second to the last day we needed to print our boarding passes of in the internet cafe. There were many others doing the same so it was a little hectic. The manager at the time was visibly very agitated and chose to ignore questions the were being asked. Had this been our first cruise and we had not experienced different, I'm not sure that we would be anxious to repeat. I think that we will be focusing on smaller ships from now on. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
This was the 28th Cruise for my wife and me on 23 different Ships and 8 Cruise lines, mostly over the last 14 years or so. This was our 6th Cruise on Princess and 2nd on the Emerald having sailed on her back in '09. Both times we ... Read More
This was the 28th Cruise for my wife and me on 23 different Ships and 8 Cruise lines, mostly over the last 14 years or so. This was our 6th Cruise on Princess and 2nd on the Emerald having sailed on her back in '09. Both times we chose a Lido level Balcony as we like the closeness to the Pool areas, and also like a cabin near an Elevator and in the Mid-ship to bow area. We like the sound of the waves crashing off the bow of the ship and the motion of this area more than the aft. We flew down to FLL two days early as we have come to do lately and stayed at the Embassy Suites on SE 17th Street. We have stayed there a few times in the past when the rates are decent and enjoy the location for the many restaurants and the good shopping options in the area. It is also a short taxi ride to the Beach area if you want to head down that way. This trip we rented a car for one day from Gold Coast Car Rental, who picked us up at the hotel to get to the rental location nearby and also took us to the Pier the next day when we dropped off the car. The price of the car was less than taxi fares would have been to get to the spots we wanted to visit and the ride to the pier was a bonus. Embarkation day had us arriving at the Pier just before 11:30am as we typically try to do. Normally the process has been very smooth on our last few Cruises, not quite so lucky on this visit though. Boarding was delayed and the first folks who arrived much earlier did not start to board until about 11:30. They stopped check in for about 20 minutes or so while we were in line and we ended up boarding around 12:30. No real reason was given for the delays. Nice thing is, the cabins were ready and we were able to drop off our bags before getting a bite to eat. The cabins on this class ship have a very large closet and plenty of storage space to handle everything we brought with us for the voyage. Closet even had enough space to handle a couple of the suitcases with the rest being placed under the bed. Only improvement I would like would be a shower door in place of the curtain and perhaps a bit larger shower similar to some of the newer Solstice Celebrity ships. The Emerald is very well maintained and very clean. She looked much as we remembered her from our cruise in 2009. The Crew was very outgoing and friendly and very eager to make sure everything went well for everyone on board. The food in the MDR was ample and very well prepared and our waiter Ray made sure we were very happy with whatever was served. Ray and the Headwaiter Luis also took very good care of my wife's Gluten Free issues by bringing the menu for the next evening so she could pick out her selection that could be adapted to the GF issue. This class of ship does make getting from here to there a bit more of a challenge than some vessels, especially back in the MDR area and on the upper decks but you learn to figure it out as you go along. I do like the ships as a whole, and really enjoy the International Cafe area for a lite lunch or breakfast. On this trip we actually learned to enjoy the MUTS movie area, especially the padded lounge chairs in the area. I did not find it near as loud in the area this time as I have in the past few cruises on Golden Princess, etc. The Itinerary for this Cruise was Southern Caribbean which included Princess Cays, St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, and Aruba with three Sea Days along the way. The only new stop for us was Dominica where we took a tour with some of our Cruise Critic group with Pepper's Tours. It was a full tour of the island with stops at Trafalgar Falls, Emerald Pool, a nice fruit stand, and Champagne Reef for snorkeling. Cost was $57pp and was well worth it for a full day of activity. We stayed on board at Princess Cays and for the half day visit to Grenada. It was nice to have a quiet ship mostly to ourselves. Entertainment on the ship was ok overall. The Production shows are very typical and we do not attend many of them, but those that did enjoyed them. The piano player did a nice job and had a big following and the comedians were also fairly good overall. The crew talent show had some highlights and worth checking out in most cases. There were lots of Trivia events on board also which many enjoyed on a regular basis. Our Cruise Critic group had a very active thread leading up to the trip and had a few things planned for on board. The Sail Away Gathering was lightly attended, which sometimes happens but the Meet and Greet in the Sky Lounge had a nice turnout and some folks also took part in a Gift Exchange toward the end of the get together. We also had a group Slot Pull on the first Sea Day, only about 16 of us took part but we had a good time and ended up only losing $1, pretty cheap entertainment and a good way to mingle. Disembarkation went very smoothly. We used their EZ luggage system so did not have to find our bags or take them to the airport. They were checked through to our final destination and worked very well for us. It is really nice on Saturdays and Sundays when you cannot check your bags at the airport until two hours prior to your scheduled flight times. You do have to be out of your cabin by 8:00 which is a bit early, but the Lido Buffet is open for breakfast until 10:00am. Taxi to the airport is about $15 plus a tip and a much better deal than Princess transfers, or a little better than a shared van. This was a very good Cruise on a beautiful ship with a wonderful crew. We booked the Sapphire Princess while on board for a 28 day Hawaii, Samoa, and Tahiti Cruise which goes RT Los Angeles in the fall of this year. Booking on board got us the $150 pp. OBC for this upcoming Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Our cruise on Princess was a wonderful holiday treat. We would give it 5 stars. Princess is a conservative line with very traditional cruises. There are no transparent showers, or blue man shows, just a traditional cruise done very ... Read More
Our cruise on Princess was a wonderful holiday treat. We would give it 5 stars. Princess is a conservative line with very traditional cruises. There are no transparent showers, or blue man shows, just a traditional cruise done very well. It is the friendliest line we have cruised on. I am not referring to fixed smiles, or cheery good mornings. I am talking about a professional staff that really seems to like the passengers and their jobs, and does their best to be compassionate and helpful. We saw the same thing on a Med cruise on Princess several years ago. It is not as rigid or formal as most. For tours, you did not have to meet in the theater, and be marched off in lockstep. You just walked ashore at the right time and tour personnel were waiting to show you where to go. The captain was more willing to wait for late passengers returning from tours than most lines, and we had that same experience with them in the Med. It is really more "laid back" than most. The mix of passengers was truly great. Americans may have been a "plurality" but were not a majority. There were many, perhaps more, Canadians. Also a number of Brits, with some Aussies and even a family from New Zealand. We had "shared table lunches and breakfasts in the dining rooms, and met folks from all over including Switzerland, Germany, and Eastern Europe. Ages ranged from several infants to some very senior citizens. There were a lot of preschooler, grade schoolers, high schoolers, and young adults. Everyone, children included were very well behaved, friendly, and made a Christmas cruise so much better for us old folks. The food and service in the main dining room was the best we have seen in some years; at least as good on a 6 star Crystal cruise in the Baltic 8 years ago. The menu was quite varied. We had one night of lobster and two nights of excellent prime rib, and a couple of nights of small steaks. If you wanted a large rib eye, however, you needed to go to the Crown Grille. There was beef, chicken and sea food every night. Appetizers, soups and salads ranged from standard to exotic and were excellent. The MatreD was very helpful and they did the best job of accommodating my wife's gluten intolerance. They even had gluten free pancakes. They had sugar free and gluten free deserts every night. The breakfasts and lunches were also fine, and service was great for all three meals. We ate most meals in the dining room. We used traditional, but folks using anytime said they got seated with only a short wait at worst. The International Cafe, their coffee shop (extra cost) was excellent, and had a good light meal (free) three times a day. We used it at lunch; they had several excellent salads, a quiche of the day, and several small sandwiches. The only discordant note was the Lido deck. The food was fine, and they had lots of happy diners with plates filled high enough to make me slightly ill, but the selections were somewhat more limited than most. They had no "deli counter" to make sandwiches. They did have an omelet bar. There was a separate Pizza place, soft serve ice cream station, and a trident grill for burgers and dogs. Our rooms, ocean view unobstructed, was one of the smallest we have seen but very well designed and comfortable. No couch but the excellent flat screen TV was well positioned to be seen from the bed. Plenty of storage and closet space, and a decent bathroom with shower. We like the room very much but there was one problem. Our cabin had fold down bunks over the regular bed. If the cabin is made up as a double, access along the sides of the bed is partially blocked by the bunks, making access rather difficult; I had to face and hold on to the bunk while side stepping. I guarantee you will bump your head more than once. Bad design. The solution is to have the cabin made up as twin beds with the aisle down the middle. The room then works out very well. Entertainment was traditional but good. The production shows had four excellent singers and 11 quite good dancers. On non show nights, there were the usual range of comedians, singers, jugglers et al. All fine but I did tire of flatulence jokes. There was also good entertainment in the lounges, and in the main atrium (the Piazza) there were often musicians or performers. We were on a Christmas cruise to the Southern Caribbean. Aruba and Bonaire have good snorkeling and/or diving, with the usual overprice shops, and very little else. Never want to go back. Grenada is a great stop with both historical sites and some great natural scenery. Dominica is the most primitive and most beautiful of the windward/leewards, and a great spot for eco tours. St Thomas is St Thomas. Princess Cay is very well done but quite standard. We have done all of the lesser Antilles on sailboats and know the islands. The alternate Princess Souther Caribbean itinerary is better, but we wanted to go over Christmas. Interestingly, we saw few activities, only a game room, for the kids. There may have been more but they all enjoyed the lovely pools. The pools could not be covered but that was no problem in the Caribbean. Enrichment activities were a bit limited. A number revolved around the spa. There were French lessons from the Assistant Cruise Director. The best was a series of lectures by a lawyer. It may sound like an improble subject for a cruise line, and likely to be boring, but Michael Beshay was very interesting and very enjoying. He was not lecturing on the law, but using legal cases to entertain. Don't miss him if you have chance. One disappointment was the loss of the traditional afternoon tea. There was tea served at 3:30 in the main dining room, with background music, and all the sandwiches, pastries et al you could eat. However, the afternoon tea served in an intimate lounge setting with musicians playing classical music is apparently dead. Actually, there were no classical musicians aboard. Second year on two different lines we have seen this. Victim of the economy? I read the reviews on the Emerald before we left, and saw everything from one to five stars. I was a bit worried, but then I saw the same pattern for all th other lines. Different people want different things and that partially explains it. I do think some folks would give only one star to heaven, and others would give five stars to a garbage barge. Be interesting to see a graph drawn by Cruise Critic showing number of people giving each star rating. Certainly a bell curve, and the area under the curve would show the relative performance of each line. I would give Princess five stars. 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
Emerald Princess cruise March 7th-17th. Southern Caribbean route. We are from South Carolina so rather than deal with the airlines we decided to leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale. Our first stop was in Cape Canaveral at the ... Read More
Emerald Princess cruise March 7th-17th. Southern Caribbean route. We are from South Carolina so rather than deal with the airlines we decided to leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale. Our first stop was in Cape Canaveral at the Radisson Resort At The Port. If you ever decide to sail out of Port Canaveral this is an awesome hotel to stay at. For $160 we stayed in a suite with king sized sleep number bed, a full separate eating area with second TV, a hot tub next to the bed and a nice marble shower. The pool is done up to look like a tropical oasis with large stone arches covered with vines and a waterfall in the middle. The service there is top notch. We ate at Kelsey's pizza right next door and had delicious pizza and Greek salads. We then ventured on to the Springfield Inn and Suites Ft Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port. We got a king sized room with all the amenities for $193. This included a free shuttle to the port and the ability to park our car for the duration. With a 10 day cruise the savings really added up. You can book a return shuttle back from the port for $10 a person. We enjoyed yummy pizza from Carcione's pizza (large 1 topping with 6 garlic knots and a cold 2 liter...$14). Embarkation: We took the 10:30am shuttle to the port. Arrived inside around 11am and were put into group 4. It took about an hour before our group was called but once we were called things moved relatively fast. We went to our cabin and found our luggage had already arrived! We decided rather than fight the hordes at the Horizon court we would have lunch in the dining room. It was a decision well made. The dining room was not crowded and a perfect place to relax. My wife and I enjoyed a delicious cheese ravioli appetizer and then beef tenderloins in a rich gravy with red mashed potatoes. It was one of the best meals on the ship. I would highly recommend doing this instead of the horizon court. There are even cheese burgers available if you have picky little eaters. We did muster at 3pm and met in the casino. They now scan your room key card at muster so trying to hide from it won't work. It was quick and painless and soon we were ready to "escape completely". Cabin: We stayed in E 316. An inside cabin on the emerald deck. This cabin had it's ups and downs. On the upside we were conveniently located close to just about everything. The elevator was just around the corner and were were very near the theater, bars and dining venues. The room was spacious enough not to feel cramped and offered more than enough storage space. The bathroom was small but workable with a nice shower with good pressure and temperature variation. On the down side our first night we hit some rough weather with high seas and wind. The walls of cabin creaked so long and so loud sleep was almost impossible. Fortunately when we reached the calmer Caribbean waters the creaking subsided. Also we could never seem to get the cabin very cool. We didn't opt for a top sheet and later regretted it as it got pretty warm under the comforter with the little AC the room provided. We did get the egg crate mattress which made the bed more comfortable. What made our cabin stay the most bearable was taking my WDTV with portable hard drive along. WDTV is a small black box which allows you to watch Netflix, Youtube, Facebook and various other video, picture and music services with WiFi connection. We didn't utilize these since WiFi is very expensive and spotty on the ship. However I downloaded a DVD copier program (Ideal DVD copy) and burned 120 of my favorite movies to a 1 gig portable hard drive which I could plug into the WDTV. I then plugged the WDTV into the stateroom TV and by switching the sources with the TV remote was able to watch our DVD movies in our cabin. It was really great to be able to relax and watch a movie at our leisure right in the room. WDTV is $99, a 1 gig portable hard drive is $150 and the DVD burner program cost $40. So for a one time investment of $300 I can take my DVD library everywhere I go! Dining (my favorite part): We ate all our breakfasts in the dining room (except) for the last day. You should really avoid the horizon court as the food is not as good. The breakfasts in the dining room were very good. We enjoyed Eggs Benedict, blueberry pancakes, crispy french toast, and other yummy samplings. Each breakfast has 2 specials of the day and then the standard fare of eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruits, meats, etc. I disagree with other posters who said the coffee was bad. The horizon court coffee was nasty but the dining room coffee tasted just fine to me. The international cafe also makes a great breakfast stop. They have loads of pastries, donuts, coffee cake and muffins all of it tasty and fresh. For lunch we went to the dining room when available. The food was consistently good and the hamburgers outdid the Trident grill in both size and flavor. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers and bacon cheeseburgers are available on every dining room lunch menu. The Trident grill was not bad. It featured hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, brats, and hot dogs as well as a vegiburger for non meat eaters. You may want to be in line a little before 11:30am as the lines get long. I do wish they had more offerings as well. I have seen other lines offer taco bars with nachos and chili. It would have been nice to make a chili cheeseburger or chili dog to break up the monotony. The pizza grill was another great staple with some of the better pizza I have had at sea. The crust is tasty and crisp and the ingredients fresh. They offer cheese, pepperoni and a pizza of the day. My favorite was the "surf and turf" which was tenderloin and lobster bits on a pizza. Again my only complaint is wishing the had more choices. Only 3 choices with 2 of them being staples gets old quick. The international cafe offers small sandwiches and salads with a quiche of the day and soup of the day. The sandwiches include ham & cheese, Mozzarella and Prosciutto, chicken salad, and others. The sandwiches are small but light and refreshing. The quiche of the day is usually cheese with either mushroom, onion, spinach, leeks or tomato depending on the day. I didn't try the soup and the Gelato was still unavailable. We never ate in the horizon court which is available as well. For dinner we stayed with the dining room. Here is where we encountered another Princess problem. Anytime dining. Which by all definition was certainly not. When cruising with princess before we were able to make a standing reservation for a table for two for the duration of the cruise. We were told that this was not allowed by the reservation line only to discover other couples were allowed to make this arrangement. We were told to arrive at 5:30 every night and we would be seated but that isn't "anytime" dining in my book. Other lines could accommodate us "anytime" and any seating arrangement we liked. All said our meals were generally very good and the wait staff friendly and attentive. The prime rib is a must try as well as the Goat Cheese Souffle, Lobster was sweet and tasty. Do have the Chocolate Hazelnut souffle as it is very good. One other complaint is the way tables for two are set up. There is a long community couch with chairs spaced out along it to create makeshift tables for two. The problem is you don't have any privacy as there are people at both your elbows. People who want tables for two usually wish to dine alone and not be subjected to forced conversations. I would like to see Princess create real tables for two instead of trying to pass this off as such. The international cafe has yummy dessert bites in the evening which we found outdid some of the desserts in the dining room. They are also smaller and less filling. Now for my favorite. The Crown Grill. We ate there twice and can't recommend this place enough. The steaks are some of the best I have ever tasted and always cooked to perfection. I would recommend the Scallop appetizer with perfectly cooked scallops. The Black and Blue soup with tangy Roquefort cheese. I had both the 8oz fillet and the 16oz Kansas city strip both delicious. The scalloped potatoes are a must try. They are swimming in cheesy goodness. You can also add as many 4oz lobster tails as you can handle. The only throw away about the meal was the signature salt collection. The salts were too strong tasting and really not needed. The Cafe Caribe was available for dinner but we never ate there. We also never tried room service as the menu and food quality are the worst at sea. Entertainment: We skipped all the song and dance shows. We saw Al Katz and he was pretty funny. He did the usual stand up and we found getting a seat in the theater at 7:15 was not hard. We also saw Steven Scott and thought he was very funny combining sound effects with his various funny stories. He did a dead on impersonation of the captain that had everyone rolling. I would highly recommend seeing him. Our most common night activity was sneaking off to our secret hot tub. I will now share with you the secret. In the spa area is a pool and two hot tubs which are virtually abandoned at 7pm-8pm. These hot tubs are really hot, not luke warm like the ones in the main pool area. They also have powerful jets. It was very relaxing to have the place to ourselves at night with the night sky, cool night breezes and the lights of the Sanctuary giving a nice glow. Seek this place out! Just take the elevator to deck 16, make sure you get robes to wear from your cabin steward. Ports: Princess Cays: We stayed on the ship as we had been there before and it rained most of the day. I felt bad for the people who took the rough tender ride over only to be rained on with no place to find shelter. If you have been here I would recommend a day of having the ship to yourself. Nice to avoid all the cattle lines and just relax. St. Thomas: Got off briefly to purchase alcohol. If you plan to do so on this cruise buy it all here as they have the best prices and selection. We were surprised to find that they didn't take our liquor and hold it till the end of the cruise. I can't say if you will be so lucky but it was a nice way of keeping our bar tab low. The other ports had little to no alcohol stores and they were more expensive with poor selection. Dominica: Stayed on the boat. We have toured it already and once you have been there you have been there. Grenada: Had planned to go to magazine beach but it was overcast. We decided to venture into town which was a mistake. Every 3 feet some guy would try to peddle his cab tour. It usually went like this... Do you want a tour? No thanks. Let me show you my beautiful island. No thanks. With all it's waterfalls and cliff divers. No thanks. And historic forts. No thanks. I will take you to Grand Anse beach. No thanks. Repeat this with every guy you pass on the street. We did find a very nice spice store in the mall called D#1 spice shop. She had the best prices and wasn't a tacky tourist shop. Bought spices and retreated back to the boat. Bonair: One of the best stops of our trip. We chose to take a free shuttle bus to the Plaza Resort Bonair for some snorkling and relaxing on the beach. When you get off the ship just look for a set of white tents featuring tours. The Plaza shuttle driver is usually there about every 10 minutes. The shuttle is free and the resort costs $10 a person for use of their beach chairs, pool, bars and restaurant. Bring towels as none are provided. This was the best snorkel spot I have ever been to. The water is glass clear. The sea floor is a mixture or rock and coral so there are tons of fish. The best part is you don't have to be a great swimmer to snorkel here. In waist deep water you can literally stick your face in the water and see all kinds of sea life. We saw Parrot fish, angel fish and even an eel poking his head out of his hole. I do recommend some water shoes to keep your feet from getting cut or slipping. The beach itself is small and relaxing. When you are ready they will contact the shuttle to take you right back to the ship. Here is a video I shot, please excuse the shakiness since my flip cam lacks image stablization... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pK5LkuZ0DI&list=UUWFaowMaC-ERNs2OSSFidug&index=1&feature=plcp Aruba: After reading the various Cruise Critic boards we decided to venture to Eagle beach for a nice beach day. The weather was perfect, sunny with a nice breeze blowing. Originally we were going to take a taxi there, $13 one way per cab but a tour driver said to us "Why do that when the city bus will take you there both ways for the two of you for $5?" The bus station is right outside the port terminal. The busses are clean and modern and very safe. We purchased our bus tickets and headed on our way. On the bus we met up with "Myrtle Beach", a Boston snow bird now living in, you guessed it. She told us all about Eagle beach and what it had to offer. She was quite the character. She also introduced us to beach towel clips which we are going to have to get next time. She bought them at Bed, Bath and Beyond and they seemed to hold the towels neatly against the chairs. We arrived at the yellow exterior of the Amsterdam Manor which is right across from the beach and we got off. The beach was pristine with soft sand and clear blue water. Chairs were $10 a person and they had bar, changing area and port-o-lets. Myrtle Beach clued us in that we could use the Manor's restroom and that there was a Coke machine in there with $1 Cokes and Water. We stayed on the beach so we never found out if this was the case. Had a great day and decided to leave at 1pm which was good since the busses were getting a little crowded. All in all a perfect beach day. Sea Days (one early and two at the end): We spent our sea days lounging in the sun. We tried a number of places on the ship. The Mutts pool area seemed to lack a good breeze due to the tall glass windows all around it. We sat by the main pool upper deck area which had decent breeze but a lot of other people packing in like sardines. I wish some of these people grasped the concept of " personal space " We tried the highest deck by the Doplar radar globes but ended up naming it the frying pan due to the heat coming off the floor since they didn't put down the blue turf carpeting. I will now reveal to you the sweet spot. The best spot to spend an entire day sunning. Grab this spot early and guard it like a pitbull. Just outside the Sanctuary there is a glass wall that leads to a series of chairs. If you take your chairs and position them right next to the edge of the ship facing the dolphin shaped Sanctuary sign you will catch both a breeze from the side of the ship and a breeze blowing in from the front of the ship. Also you can use the pool located in the Sanctuary which is very cool and if you go into the spa area there are some very nice bathrooms close by. This is the same area with the awesome hot tubs. Disembarkation: Self debarked and were off the ship by 7:15. Shuttle back was prompt and the driver parked right next to our parked car. We were on the road by 8:00. Closing notes: We had an enjoyable cruise but feel that Princess has lots of room to improve. Anytime dining needs to be refined maybe by adding more dining venues. The Trident grill and pizza grill should expand their menus. The room service menu needs to be retooled and improved. Vines is a complete waste of space. Nobody used it except as overflow from the Piazza. The staterooms need better temperature control. Not to be missed sunrises and sunsets. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
This was our 6th cruise with Princess in 7 years and we're back to the Caribbean again, this time the Southern route. We flew from Vegas to Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the "rustic" Ramada Inn,with several other nice ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise with Princess in 7 years and we're back to the Caribbean again, this time the Southern route. We flew from Vegas to Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the "rustic" Ramada Inn,with several other nice cruisers also joining us on the Emerald.We got to the port about noon and it was a mess lines backed up into the parking lot, uh oh, something looked terribly wrong, and it was ? Well 90 minutes later we finally got moving and boarded about 1:45, whew ! The ship looked great just as it did last March for our East. Caribbean cruise. We got the same room,as last year near the slow elevators and stairs.It was clean, but small for 3, and after meeting Eli our steward and making some requests for hangers, mattress pads and robes, were off to find some lunch and explore the ship. We had some kind of mechanical issues with a life boat and did not pull out of port until dark 6:45 in the light rain. We're not off to a very good start I'm afraid. It has to get better right ? The "sail away" party what there was of it was also a bust ! Hope you like "art" it was everywhere and often.The crew and staff seemed very nice and happy to see us and made us feel welcome. We enjoyed meeting and playing along with the C.D. staffers JJ, Chantal,Megan,Andy & Oxsanna.As for the C.D. and his deputy, good voices, but pretty mediocre from there. Their morning "wake show" was pretty cheesy and boring, just sayin.Sure miss the Isl. Princess Billy Hygate, now that's a CD.Lot's to see & do on the Emerald, trivia, karaoke my favorite, bingo,eat,games, shows (3) per night,eat,check your daily patter and take it with you for reference.The ship looked great throughout, no worse for wear it receives.WE tried to do most activities but it's really impossible to see & do it all.The service was very good, sometimes too good, servers always trying to sell. Happy hour deals 4-7 ask your server for the "deals", or drink special of the day. The Photo studio same thing, you know if the photos were more reasonably priced they would sell more, creating higher profits. I'll bet they throw away, or re-cycle 75 % of everything they take ! Dining : Anytime is the best time ! You still need to make a standing reservation on your arrival day,asap. No waiting, go straight on in. The food was good to very good, depending on what you order. Some of the beef/meat selections were lacking, (cost cutting) measures I'm sure. The shrimp,scallops, lobster were all good, not great and many of the appetizers/pasta were better. We loved all the fresh salads, sand. and deserts in the Intn'l. Cafe in the atrium, delicious. The pizza and burgers were very tasty out by the pool if you did'nt mind waiting 10 min. or more for a burger,slow ! Loved the Pub lunches in the Wheelhouse lounge on sea days. Great Fish n Chips, bangers& Mash etc. A nice break from the crazy busy Horizon Ct. buffet. So hard to find an empty table for breakfast! Do yourself a favor, eat in the more relaxed Dining Room deck 6 the Bochelli. Great eggs benedict and the coffee is better,stronger too. Entertainment : Wow lot's going on and they have added a condensed show so there are 3 instead of 2 now, 7:15,8:30,& 10:00, good move Princess. The best show by far is definately the "Beatle Maniacs", get there early ! We also like the comedy of Al Katz, & Steven Scott, Mentalist Wayne Hoffman & Magician Jean Bouchard. I was with the famous "sisters" who were in the mentalist & magician show we got stopped and questioned quite frequently. So many extra nice people on this ship, I can't begin to tell you we meet such wonderful people on board, it was a real pleasure ! M.U.T.S. too many Muppet movies, we wanted to see "War Horse", or something better. Whoever schedules the movies needs some help in that regard.Karaoke and Princess Pop Star was great even if I was one of the main singers.Some really talented and fun people, thank you guys & gals. By the way if you tried to win a bottle of that champagne don't be concerned, it was pretty bad. In summary Princess still has a lot of little things to improve on, but overall another great vacation ! The nice folks they attract make the cruise what it is. Remember it's what you make it and the people you surround yourself with. We were lucky and met some extra special people to all of you that Hop,Karen & I met, THANK YOU and happy cruising. Next stop Hawaii March 9,2013 hope to see you all again, " ALOHA ", Monty Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We flew on Southwest from Vegas the day before where we met up with my sister and nepew. We had a nice flight, on time where they met us and off to spend the night at the Ramada Inn (cruise port). Turns out several of the nice people ... Read More
We flew on Southwest from Vegas the day before where we met up with my sister and nepew. We had a nice flight, on time where they met us and off to spend the night at the Ramada Inn (cruise port). Turns out several of the nice people staying there would also be fellow passengers also on the Emerald Princess. We had a tasty fresh mexican dinner that night, and visit with our nephew before our departure the next morning. Ramada did a nice job scheduling & transporting 3 large groups of us to the port, but I would not recommend the hotel, spend a little more, you will be glad you did. We arrived at noon and from the looks of the long lines not moving we could tell their were some major problems. We had heard later that someone had died, and the U.S. Coast Guard had sprung a random safety inspection witch one lifeboat failed, and had to be replaced. This caused another lengthy delay, and not much of a "sailaway party" sorry to say. We finally boarded just short of 2 pm, whew !We met our kind steward "Eli" and he took good care us throughout the cruise, the room was very clean. We finally pulled out in the dark & drizzle about 6:45. Like I said, "better late than never".Hopefully, the worst is behind us ? The weather was pretty choppy the first 2 days out and we had some overcast and drizzle at Princess Cays, but not bad, and it was warm, so it's all good.Our room was right near mid ship on Aloha deck so we were close to the stairs and the elevators, which were painfully slow, and usually packed with an avg. age of 60+, just sayin. Nice folks, some of the best we have ever sailed with.My sister and I were chosen to work with the mentalist on stage and later the magician in the Princess Theater, so we were recognized, and questioned often throughout the ship.How did he do that, etc. ?Entertainment, overall was good, not great. We really enjoyed the "Beatlemaniacs" again this year, Al Katz & Steven Scott, mentalist Wayne Hoffman and Jean Bouchard, magician. The Theater fills up fast so get there early, the back fills up the fastest. The C.D. staff were a lot of fun running all the various games, Karaoke & shows, JJ, Chantal, Andy,Megan, Oxsanna, thank you ! M.U.T.S. missed War Horse, seems like the Muppet Movie was playing all the time ? Happy hour is usually 4-7 ask your server for specials and the drink of the day, as drinks can be quite pricey.Loved the Cadillac Margarita & Mai Tai, umm good !Refer to your "Patter" as so many things going on you need it for a road map to remember it all.The dancers and singers were pretty good especially the two lead ladies, the guys, well I think some of the male Karaoke singers were as good as they were. 3 shows now in the P.T. so no need to rush dinner, a very good move by Princess on this, as the theater fills up quickly. Dining: We had "anytime dining" in the Michael Angelo, the secret here is make a standing reservation the first day with the maitre de, same table, servers and no waiting, just walk right in, like you own the joint ! Most people do not know this and had to wait.The meat/beef selections were not all that good but loved the seafood, many of the appetizers, and pasta's. I think overall food quality has dropped due to cost cutting measures? The "service" however was excellent. Thank You Sanya & Ketut very nice fellas.We also loved the Intnt'l. Cafe in the atrium, fresh salads,sandwiches, quiche & deserts, yum ! The Pub Lunches in the Wheelhouse were very tasty on Sea days. Loved the burgers, fries, & pizza out by the main pool too, get in line early for burgers, it really backs up.Don't forget room service for am and late nights too, just a little "tip" will do ya.  Cafe, great salads, fresh sand. quiche, and mini deserts deck 5, in the atrium.The Horizon Court, alias every man for himself. Folks just too many in there every morning during peak breakfast hours. In 3 words, "not enough tables". Do yourself a favor, relax and have a nice quiet leisurely breakfast,or lunch in the Bocheli dining room. deck 6. You will be glad you did, wish we would have too. Ports: Wow, just snorkled in P. Cays weather was just mediocre, but any beach day is better than your best day at work, right ? Saw a lot of fish & scenery there. St. Thomas shopped and beached at Emerald beach near the ship, next time were going to make it to Trunk Bay on St' Johns Isl. for sure ! Been to Megen's Bay before, very scenic and tranquil. Dominica: The best shore excursion ever #362. Thanks Joan & Alex. Check out Sassy falls and the tropical jungle, nicer and less crowded than Trafalgar, gorgeous ! Grenada:Took a nice catammaran over to the underwater sculpture park, wow ! Wish we had more time there, then off to Grande Anse beach, and a lot of rum punches, whew ! The crew kept pouring & pouring, a fun trip, but over way too fast. Bonaire : Best snorkeling & diving anywhere in the Caribbean. For $10 p/p we took a short drive to the "Plaza Resort". Pool, lounges, tiki bar, restrooms, showers, hammocks, and the best snorkeling ever right of the rocky beach ! Wear water shoes, and enjoy swimming in an "aquarium", tropical fish everywhere, beautiful parrots, angel fish galore in shallow water, incredible decision ! Aruba: 100 A S.E. nice hikes in the rocks, Calif. Lighthouse visit, and Palm Beach,beach stop. Very nice but crowded with too tours stopping at the same place, same time. They need to better organize these, but still worth while. All in all, another great Princess Cruise. Not perfect but pretty darn good, considering the crazy embarkation day and late sailaway. So many nice people we met and hope to see again someday, especially all my husbands Karaoke gang, Leeroy, Glenn, Jim, Claire, Robert,Heather & Daniele, Larry, Mayta, Bruce, Jeff,Nancy, Byron, Gordon, Barbara, thanks everyone for a wonderful vacation ! Princess has some kinks to work out, we all know it, but hey, nobody is perfect, we're all a "work" in progress". So how about "Hawaii" March 9, 2013 on the beautiful Sapphire Princess ? Be there or be square. Happy Sailing & ALOHA !!!   Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
People in our family have gone on 3-5 previous Princess cruises as well as several Carnival cruises and have been happy with our experiences up to this cruise. However, I was a little concerned after reading reviews here that quality of ... Read More
People in our family have gone on 3-5 previous Princess cruises as well as several Carnival cruises and have been happy with our experiences up to this cruise. However, I was a little concerned after reading reviews here that quality of this cruise would be diminished compared to past cruises but to my very happy surprise, that was not the case. I have never written a review before but since I read so many before my cruise I thought I would chip in with one. EMBARKATIONAN/SAIL AWAY As others mentioned, the line for embarkation was a bit long due to a problem with people disembarking from the previous cruise but once in the terminal things moved quickly and efficiently. Our rooms were ready when we boarded and we attended the 'sort of' sail away party (boat left port late). There was a raffle during the party for people who visited about 8 different venues on the boat before the party and had a card stamped but we barely had time to board, eat, tour the spa, Muster and get to the party, much less get cards filled out so that made the raffle kind of boring, I would suggest giving raffle tickets away to those who dance and participate in the party, that would sure liven things up and get more people to participate! SHIP/ROOM Ship is in great shape, public areas are pristine and there is something for everyone. Our rooms were on the Riviera deck (3 connected balconies) and I was concerned that there would be noise issues from the Lido Deck above but there really weren't (we were just forward of the public areas). Beds are hard but we brought a queen memory foam stuffed into a big suitcase and that really helped. Our stewards were efficient, helpful but not doting which was OK with me, we had everything we needed when we needed it. Food/Entertainment This is where, in my opinion, things were much better than some of the reviews here indicated they would be. We ate at the late seating in the Da Vinci dining room and had a fantastic experience every night. Eduardo the Maitre D, Raymond the Head Waiter, Nick our waiter and his assistant Richie all did a fantastic job of making our experience a great one. My daughter is gluten intolerant and they did an absolutely outstanding job of accommodating her needs and giving her a top notch dining experience. Food variety was good and the key was taking Nick's advice on selections. Yes, there are a few items on the menu that are below par but you definitely can have a gourmet experience if you trust your waiter and get the right things and you can always send back a below par item if you get one and have a better selection. The Lobster, Red Snapper and Lamb were high end restaurant quality as well as many of the appetizers and deserts. I found the Buffet to be fine, not great, but serviceable for breakfast and snacks. The International Cafe is a great option for lunch and snacks and I especially enjoyed the Trident Grill for tasty chicken sandwiches and fries. Bartenders were very friendly (especially Nadia and Andrew)and you never had to wait long for service either at the bars or poolside. Cruise Staff/Entertainment I found the entertainment to be enjoyable and of good quality. The band for the stage shows was very talented and the Poolside Band had great energy and enthusiasm throughout the cruise. The shows were very enjoyable and fun unless you were looking for Tony Award quality and I thought the Hypnotist, Comedians, Magician and Beatlemania concert were all entertaining. The cruise staff worked very hard and with great energy (especially Amy and Oxsana)to create a fun atmosphere for those who wanted to participate and the assistant cruise director did a knock out job at the mid cruise deck party. Only thing that would have been nice would have been more 20-25 year old mixers/activities earlier in the cruise for my daughters to meet others their age (they eventually solved that issue on their own!). Photographers did a nice job and weren't intrusive and I didn't feel as pushed to buy things in the shops on the ship as I had been on past cruises! SPA/Fitness Spa staff was great! Especially enjoyed the extreme shave and two massages. Prices a bit high compared to on land spas but discounts for multiple treatments and those offered as the cruise goes on help offset that. Fitness center was very well equipped and not very crowded most of the time. Logistics I never once had to wait in a long line, struggle to find a deck chair or fight for a seat at a show. The cruise was completely booked but I never felt crowded out. Yes, I tended to purposely avoid the times I knew would be busy but it didn't take much to schedule around the busy times. The crew did a great job of keeping things clean and moving, especially considering the added logistics involved with the NORO precautions. Ports The itinerary was a good one, nice ports interspersed with at sea days. I would have preferred docking in the St. Thomas dock closer to the main part of town and possibly trading a longer day in Grenada for a shorter day in Dominica but otherwise a good schedule. Private Island, as always, was one of my favorites, Paradise Point in St. Thomas is a kick, Went to St. George's Cathedral in Grenada for Palm Sunday and it was a fantastic experience but that didn't leave much time to enjoy Grand Anse beach, which is a gem. Dominica tubing was OK, river was low, Bonaire independent snorkel through Woodwind was the best excursion I have ever been on and we blew it going to Palm Beach in Aruba (very crowded) instead of Eagle Beach (pristine) Summary Overall, a great cruise. People can always find something wrong or to complain about but if you come in with a positive attitude, the Emerald Princess and her crew can provide you with a great cruise experience! Footnote: We were originally on the Caribbean Princess out of San Juan for 14 days but had to rebook on Emerald when Princess cancelled the first week of our CP cruise one week before our departure. Still waiting for response from Princess on the economic displacement we suffered by having the one cruise cancelled (even with 25% credit) and having to rebook (higher cruise fares, lost cabin credits and balcony breakfasts, less cruise days, higher airfares) so hopefully that will turn out the right way and we will all be on another Princess cruise soon! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
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
This was a last minute decision to take the Emerald Princess for a New Year's sailing with my husband. Our daughter and her boyfriend, both first time cruisers, joined us. We had a very enjoyable cruise after the 28 hour trip from ... Read More
This was a last minute decision to take the Emerald Princess for a New Year's sailing with my husband. Our daughter and her boyfriend, both first time cruisers, joined us. We had a very enjoyable cruise after the 28 hour trip from Canada to FLL!!! For any of you driving to Florida, we stayed at the Hilton Garden Airport/Cruiseport on Sterling. Included in our night rate was free parking, a hot buffet and a shuttle to and from the cruiseport. Excellent service, newer hotel. Not your average stay over FLL hotel. Reasonably priced too!! All that for $200.00 Canadian, for 4 people! (They charge $20.00/day just to park at Port Everglades) The ship was beautifully decorated for the holidays and New Year's Eve was a night we will never forget. Hector, the head waiter in the D'vinci dining room is our new best friend. When he found out my daughter's boyfriend had a nut allergy, he took great interest and had him choose his dinner the evening before, telling him what he could and couldn't have. We would just tell our waiter we pre-ordered and halfway through the meal, Hector would come by to make sure all was well. Although we found the entertainment on the ship so-so (the kids enjoyed it all) we totally enjoyed the last evening of entertainment when the staff sang. Hector was the star of the show, singing My Way!!! Our stateroom steward, Romel was fantastic!! One of the better ones I've seen. They are all good, but he always went the extra mile to speak with us and make sure we had everything we needed and wanted. The food was plentiful and delicious. We really enjoyed the Fettucine at dinner (as a side dish) plus our entree, which the selections were plentiful. The lunch buffets had a great variety and their salad bar was so fresh! The late afternoon sandwich bar was a big hit with us, especially the Tuna. I'm very picky since I cruise often. I love Princess Cruise Lines and have cruised with them often. There were a few items I thought needed improvement on this cruise. First, I found there was a lot of dirty glassware and dishes left around the Terrace pool everyday, which I haven't seen before. The chair hogs were back, but after a number of people complained about chairs being left with just towels on them for hours, the deck attendant started removing them after a few days. I do think Princess must make the Terrace "Adult Pool" sign larger for all to read. It took a few days but the parents of the children (one in a diaper) finally understood. Some pretended they didn't understand....too funny!! I was surprised at the number of people wearing jeans in the dining rooms for dinner. I feel if people want to wear jeans to dinner, the Horizon Court or Caribe Cafe was better suited for them. I found the buffets to be a bit chaotic. I've been on other ships that have an oval as their buffet, which is much better. I found people going this way and that in the buffet line and some getting a little hot under the collar with fellow passengers when they thought they were next. With that number of people on board, I thought it went quite well....there was enough food to go around and then some! We had arranged for the shuttle to pick us up at 8:00 a.m. so we could get back to the hotel, pack up our vehicle and get back on the road asap for the trek back to Canada. In our haste, we left behind a piece of luggage but was unaware of it until Princess called our cell to let us know. We had disembarked at 7:45 and here they were calling us within the hour. We decided to return to the ship (10 minutes) but our luggage wasn't released by Customs until 11:30 as they had to wait until each piece of luggage removed from the ship was accounted for and then the left over luggage scanned. The Princess rep felt bad, but it was out of her control. She went beyond to make contact with us before we left the States. We are forever grateful to her. All in all, another great cruise with Princess!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This Jewel did NOT Sparkle Serious disappointment after months of excitement. I have cruised prior with Celebrity, and I know every line is a little different. I had hoped I would be wowed in the same way by Princess that I had been ... Read More
This Jewel did NOT Sparkle Serious disappointment after months of excitement. I have cruised prior with Celebrity, and I know every line is a little different. I had hoped I would be wowed in the same way by Princess that I had been by Celebrity. I am sorry to say, that was not the case. Having never done the Southern Caribbean sailing, I was excited to see new islands and enjoy all that the Caribbean has to offer. I had visited Puerto Rico previously and Hawaii and it seemed like a great way to see the islands. Our cruise was off to a good start as we breezed through the check-in process with helpful and happy agents. Then we arrived on the ship. We were "greeted" if you can call it that by the individual charged with scanning our entry cards and taking our pictures. I assume he was with security. No one greeted us to take us to our room. No one asked if we needed assistance. We were left to our own devices and did eventually find our room. The room itself felt dated and worn. Linens had holes, bed coverings were ratty and worn. The sink would not drain upon our arrival, but that was corrected reasonably quickly. Other than an occasional rattle, the room was surprisingly quiet, and the HVAC worked pretty well. Our first dining experience was less than exemplary. We were shown to our table to find many folks were in tee-shirts and VERY casual pants. Nowhere do I expect to find tee-shirts at dinner. I'm sorry, I didn't pay what I did in order to dine with folks who think they are at Chili's or Applebee's. The menu was lackluster and honestly it didn't get better throughout the cruise. Don't expect to be wowed by cuisine on this ship. It lacks seasoning, often wanting for a pinch more salt, or something that would imbue some sense of flavor. The exception to this is Sabatini's or the Crown Grill. Though these are premium dining options, they are well worth the effort if your taste buds need to be woken up after days of bland fig and prune compote. The menu feels as if it was borrowed from a nursing home. Our first day ashore in Princess Cay was pretty much what I expected of it. Thank you to those who posted about the shops just outside the Princess area, great prices, friendly, and authentic products without "made in china" stickers. Next day was a formal night and we chose to be seated at the Crown Grill rather than risk being the only people in the dining room in formal attire. Dinner was great, service somewhat hit and miss. Drink refills were slow and the timing of the meal felt awkward. Our next stop was in St Thomas and we had an amazing time doing the Dolphin Tour! If you can, do it. Great time spent with the animals in the water. A warning though, be prepared to shell out quite a bit for photos. They do send a photographer along with you who takes on average about 50 photos of each person as they interact with the dolphins. They offer a package where you get two prints and a cd of all your photos for $110. Expensive yes, but worth it if you can pull it off. Next day, Dominica. Have to say, this is where things really got bad. The island was hit by a tropical storm about a month ago, and many roads are not up to par. The island's infrastructure is crippled and Princess made no mention of it. The tour we selected was the Emerald Pool and Black sand beach. In all honesty, the Emerald pool is not to be missed, absolutely beautiful. The unfortunate part is that it's on the island of Dominica. I feel somewhat bad about writing this because it is truly not the people of Dominica's fault and I hate to see the cruise line pull away support from the island as they truly seem to need it, BUT, I can't ignore the fact that this was a horrible tour after we left the natural falls and pool. Sitting in traffic on a bus, having a near miss with a construction vehicle, being driven through what at best is an unsavory area and learning all about the interaction between the Chinese and the native populations left us feeling uneasy and somewhat unsafe. To sum it up, Dominica is gorgeous from the ship. We wanted to share our experience on the island with the shore excursions desk, so we did so that evening. The associate we spoke with took down no information, acted as if we were insane, and then informed us that the line was well aware of the problem and had notified us. Well, no warnings were issued. She was convinced it was in the Princess Patter, she poured through them to no avail. To get rid of us we were handed a form to fill out and assured that somebody would be in contact shortly. We took our "please go away now" form, and after a few minutes returned and asked to speak with the manager. He was on the phone, and unavailable, yet when he did make an appearance he was no more help. He simply asking if we had filled out the form. I tried to explain the situation to him and our dissatisfaction with the fact if the line knew there was a problem on the island, they certainly should have notified customers. He then said they were not aware. The associate who had shared with us that they knew then lied and said she had never told us that. Horrible, Horrible, Horrible customer service. What truly bothers me is she had no idea who we were, not that I'm all that important, I can only imagine if a guest in a suite had a similar experience, and was treated this way? I drafted an email to Princess, and received back a form letter indicating how important my opinion is, and they would get back to me in approximately 3 weeks. Must not be that important? We moved on to Grenada, another lovely island, would have rather spent more time there and no time in Dominica. Great tour though when they say "active" tour, they mean it. Took an incredible hike through the rainforest and visited the 7 sisters waterfall. Next up we had Bonaire, another beautiful island and we had reserved the 4x4 journey. Looking forward to a day of fun off road we piled into our Range Rovers only to find out our guide spoke very limited English and handed off the narration duties to another guest on the ship. She did the best she could, but I really don't like paying for a guided tour and having another guest tell me "oh look, there are animals to the right." Another fail. Finally Aruba, absolutely beautiful island, crystal clear waters, everything you could ask for. We had opted for the Mi Dushi cruise and lunch with snorkeling. Don't think you are saving yourself a few bucks by booking the other snorkel trip. These folks do it right and served a fantastic meal of rice, bbq chicken, fish, fresh fruit, and a roll. After the snorkeling they open the bar. This was an amazing and welcome treat after a week of overpriced cocktails on the ship. Do this one if you can, the crew is a lot of fun. We had given up on standard dining by now and had started doing the specialty restaurants. Sabatini's is well worth it, and if you can get him, ask for Daniel. I hear he's going to the Caribbean Princess sometime soon, but if you get lucky he's amazing. Knowledgeable and a bright star in an otherwise challenged cruise. We ate there for the last three nights, so that should say something! All in all, our Emerald Princess experience was less than magical. The itinerary is a great mix of the islands in the region and you get a good feel for the area. The ship itself though is showing a good amount of wear after only 4-5 years of service and leaves a lot to be desired. Beds are uncomfortable, carpeting is well worn and fading or stained. Her crew with the exception of a few shining stars seems to be suffering from the same fate as the ship they sail. The menu was bland and even when something appeared to be "exciting" when it arrived on the plate it was less than notable. I'm doubtful I'll ever sail Princess again. Save your money up and go on a different line. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Pre/post cruise: We stayed at the Sheraton Airport/Cruiseport Hotel in Dania, just a few minutes from the airport. We got a good price and the hotel provides free shuttle to/from the airport and charges $10 pp for a shuttle to/from the ... Read More
Pre/post cruise: We stayed at the Sheraton Airport/Cruiseport Hotel in Dania, just a few minutes from the airport. We got a good price and the hotel provides free shuttle to/from the airport and charges $10 pp for a shuttle to/from the cruiseport...good deal. And since our flight home was at 7:30 pm the next day, this hotel allows guests to pay $10/hr. beyond the normal late check-out time to stay through 5 pm—which we did and lounged by the beautiful pool. Only problem with this Sheraton is that there are no restaurants within easy walking distance, and the Sheraton's restaurant can be a bit expensive--as are taxis in the Ft. Lauderdale area. Problem solved: there are several near-by places that will deliver food to the hotel...much cheaper (hotel staff can give you brochures).The Emerald Princess and staff were great! We were in a forward balcony cabin (R-210) which was very nice...size about average for similar cruise ships (though being as far forward as we were was a bit bumpy a few days). Our room stewart, Shirley, really exceeded our expectations. She was very attentive and made sure that we had everything we needed. Our dining room waiter Izzy, and asst., Gerry, were wonderful...efficient, friendly, and had great senses of humor. We thought that the dining room offerings were very diverse and quite tasty. We did try both specialty restaurants as well...well worth the added cost. The movies under the stars was a wonderful option for us...we watched three of these movies wrapped in our deck chair blankets and eating the fresh warm cookies and milk that were served. As on most cruises, getting deck chairs on "at sea" days was somewhat problematic, but not to the point of ruining the day. On Princess Cays, lack of lounge chairs was even more problematic...we went back to the ship and sat at the pool (which was just as fine for us). Finding seating in Horizons for the morning breakfast was also a bit problematic, but not too bad if you were willing to sit with fellow passengers and share a table...which we willingly did. Dominica was a very surprising and interesting island...we took a 2+ hour rain forest/waterfalls tour, which we arranged on our own right at the dock with a local tour guide (Ask for Lennox--half the price of the official ship excursion). On Bonaire, another self-initiated internet snorkeling tour on a 42-foot sailboat...great fun (look up Compass Sailing Bonaire with Wim and Marianne...www.compassbonaire.com). Aruba's Palm Beach was perfect (as usual).Relative to entertainment onboad, we really didn't take advantage of much. We had the late (8:15pm) seating. We did go to the Bealtes' tribute band show-- very entertaining and enjoyable. The late-night "blue" comedian's performance was really not worth staying up that late (though some people did enjoy his show).All-in-all a terrific ship, wonderful staff, and a nice itinerary (can't fault Princess for the 2-3 days of rain that uncharacteristically befell us...oh well, no beach, just port shopping). My wife and I met some wonderful people, and really enjoyed our 40th anniversary cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
This cruise was my 5th time on Princess and 3rd time on the Emerald Princess. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship, but there was a drop in the number of entertainment options & activities compared to my previous Princess Cruises ... Read More
This cruise was my 5th time on Princess and 3rd time on the Emerald Princess. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship, but there was a drop in the number of entertainment options & activities compared to my previous Princess Cruises (all within the past 2.5 years), e.g. no more golf pro on board and no support for Sunday's church service from cruise staff....the passengers had to pull it together. I hope this is just temporary as I love the Princess brand and want to take many more cruises with them. I travelled with my husband and this cruise was special to us as we got married on the same ship just a few months earlier and were now expecting our first child! What was noticeable on this cruise compared to previous cruises was the high number or senior cruisers (70+ years of age). We were among the youngest passengers and were told so by many crew members and our fellow passengers throughout the cruise. We often requested to be seated at lunch or breakfast with people close to our own age and were told it was not likely to happen..so off we went to a table for 2. Princess needs to guard against becoming the retirement cruise line: more options catering to the working professionals, such as discounted internet time, would help strike a healthier balance. Some of the shows could be a bit more modern, too (where you did not have to be born before the 1970s to "get it"). Nevertheless we had some nice conversations with our fellow passengers during the cruise and enjoyed our vacation. We celebrated a birthday on this cruise and had noted so on the Cruise Personalizer. On the day the card you hand out to the head waiter in the main dining room to get your cake arrived promptly but no balloons. My husband called later that evening as we saw many other doors had balloons and had always had these before for birthdays, our honeymoon etc. and passenger services had some sent promptly. The balloons now are "generic" congratulations balloons vs. birthday/honeymoon/anniversary etc. as in the past. I thought it was fun to see what people were celebrating and was a little disappointed by this efficiency measure. I hope they go back to the more personalized approach to celebrations! EMBARKATION DAY: We spent a few days in FL prior to the cruise and drove our rental car to Fort Lauderdale in the morning. We dropped off the car in downtown and were a little concerned about getting a taxi as there were many ships departing that day (incl. the Oasis of the Seas), but a taxi arrived within 5 minutes and whisked us to the port in about 30 minutes. We arrived at around 12:20 p.m. in the port and the embarkation process was very smooth with virtually no waiting time anywhere. We dropped off our luggage with the porter, proceeded to security, filled out the health form and got checked in. Everyone from Princess was very friendly at the terminal. We were in our stateroom by 12:45 p.m. STATEROOM: Having stayed in mini-suites and balcony rooms on earlier cruises we had decided that the room was not important this time and we signed up for the lowest cost interior room guarantee on deck 5 (Plaza). We were excited to get an upgrade to a great mid-ship location on deck 9 (Dolphin). This room was super quiet (no neighbor on the other side) and very comfortable. Our cabin stewardess was Sherrill and she stayed on top of everything - the room was always immaculate when we returned to it. DINING: We were very pleased with the quality and variety of food options. We had dinner in the main dining room (Da Vinci) every night and also ate breakfast and lunch there on most days. We enjoy being served this way while on vacation and only visited the buffet for snacks. The halibut was a little tough/overcooked one night, but otherwise everything was excellent. We love traditional dining and had signed up for it (although only 5:30 p.m. time was available), just to find out Da Vinci also served as an anytime dining room, so there was a lot more traffic than in a true traditional dining room and the staff were incredibly busy. At the end of the cruise the Baked Alaska parade was the express version of what you see in the true traditional dining rooms. A tip: the ship's policy is that you must arrive within 15 minutes from dining time or your table may be given to someone else. We noticed that nobody claimed a great window table for the first 3 nights -- it was always assigned to walk-in anytime diners later in the evening - and checked with the maitre'd on the possibility of having this table assigned to us since we were always promptly there and typically finished eating by 6:30 p.m. He was happy to accommodate us and we really enjoyed our view while dining! Great Princess service. Our waitress Natasha was also wonderful.The pizza on the ship is excellent so we also had a slice a few times during this cruise or picked up some baked goods from the International Cafe. ENTERTAINMENT: I had read on these reviews earlier that the popular shows, such as Beatle Maniacs, start filling up about an hour prior to show time. So we prioritized what we wanted to see in the Princess Theater (Beatle Maniacs and the International Crew Show) and made sure to be seated no later than 45 minutes prior to show time. We also saw the comedian Jay Mohr one night in the Explorer's Lounge (funny) and saw some performances on the Piazza. We tried to watch the movie Social Network at Movies Under the Stars one day, but it was very hard to hear. We made a couple of requests to have the volume turned up, but it was competing against music playins at the other mid-ship pool and just did not work out. The MUTS is a much better experience in the evening. It would be great if more movies could be played in the Princess Theater in the afternoons. We enjoyed going to the Lotus Spa gym and played some golf on the sports deck, but it was sad not to see anyone using the golf simulator or take lessons from a golf pro like always before...I used to enjoy the chance to take a little 30-minute lesson to work on my swing and now you are basically on your own. PORTS: We enjoyed the picnic in Princess Cays, just took it easy and enjoyed walking on the beach on a beautiful day. In St. Thomas we went shopping and found 2 beautiful pairs of blue topaz earrings. The above two were ports we were familiar with from before. In Dominica we took one of the shuttles that runs to runtown for $2 pp. It was raining as it often does there due to the rainforest climate. We were surprised by how little there was to see in the downtown area...took some photos of the crabs crawling all over the waterfront, looked at the local merchandise but did not find anything to buy and headed back to the ship after just 30 minutes. This was our least favorite stop during the cruise. In Grenada we had signed up for the St. George's Highlights tour, as it was low physical activity and being pregnant I have to take it easy. My husband and I were pulled from the line and assigned to a very old van for this tour and soon realized the van did not have working air-conditioning (although the tour is advertised as being suitable for people with physical limitations)! Long story short, the driver had to drop us off about 10 minutes into the tour and find a newer van to assign us to that had working air-conditioning. From that point forward we were very comfortable. The guide was silent for long periods of time during the excursion and did not use a microphone, so we felt like we did not learn as much as we would have liked but at least we were comfortable and saw a lot. In Bonaire we just went to downtown to check out the stores, very clean & delightful but also rather expensive. We returned back to the ship within an hour. Aruba was the best port on this cruise! We took the island tour that visits the Aloe factory and includes a 1-hr beach break and had a great time. The guide was also very knowledgeable and shared a lot of information with us. Great tour! Afterwards we went back to the ship for lunch, grabbed our laptops and went to the local Starbucks for some quality email time (no charge). DISEMBARKATION: Very easy, no lines, and off to the airport within minutes! We were comfortably seated in the Michelangelo dining room waiting for our turn. In summary, mission accomplished in terms of a relaxing cruise vacation with great weather, lots of laughs and wonderful memories to cherish during the years to come! We plan to return to Princess with our little one in a year or two. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
I have traveled with Princess many times before, but this cruise was the best one. Although I loved the Alaska scenery, the Emerald Princess outshone every previous Princess ship on which I have cruised. Whoever is responsible for managing ... Read More
I have traveled with Princess many times before, but this cruise was the best one. Although I loved the Alaska scenery, the Emerald Princess outshone every previous Princess ship on which I have cruised. Whoever is responsible for managing this ship deserves a major bonus. The employees really impressed me above and beyond the norm. They were all very pleasant and friendly. I felt like they were having as much fun as we were. Our room steward, Christian, was perfect, always prompt and took care of all our needs. The most fun, however, was in the Crooners Martini Bar where the waiters took service to new high. When you ordered a martini, they served it with a "shaker" dance and defied gravity on many occasions. They also had many magic tricks to entertain and puzzle us, many of which we are still trying to master. We looked forward to seeing Richie and Ramil every evening. Besides the employees' great performance, the ship itself was immaculate and beautifully decorated for Christmas. The decor of the ship is elegant, yet not stuffy--truly comfortable. One of the most unique experiences we've every done was to take part in the Chef's Table. You need to sign up for this the second you get on the ship because they only do it 2 nights for a very limited number of diners. We started the evening in the Piazza where the Maitre d'Hotel, Nicola Furlan, met us, told us what to expect, and fitted us in white lab-type coats. We then paraded through the dining room to the kitchen, attracting the attention of the diners at their tables. We toured the kitchen, then stopped at a service area covered with white linens and decorated with ice sculptures and flowers. The Executive Chef, David Whelehan, joined us for champagne and amazing appetizers. My favorite was a crab martini. He told us about his experiences and described our meal. He was from Scotland, and we all enjoyed his stories. While enjoying our appetizers, the Sommelier described our wines of the evening and what his job entailed. He also came around during dinner to describe each one. Our table in the dining room was beautifully decorated with flowers and a bouquet of bread sticks of varying sizes--very clever. The first course was a pasta with clams. I am not a clam eater, but this was amazing. I had to force myself not to eat it all since I know more was coming. Then, they brought us a sorbet to cleanse our pallets and added a generous amount of Grey Goose to it. No one left any in their dish. After the sorbet, they brought our main course consisting of beef fillet, large lobster tail, lamb chop and scallops. Huge!!! We had a cheese course next, then the dessert which was a work of art. Besides the wonderful food and commentary, we all received a photo and a personally signed cookbook of Princess menus. Definitely, a night to remember. We enjoyed all the ports, but I think Dominica was one of the most beautiful and unique islands. They even had a Christmas parade that day which marched in front of our ship. On Dominica, we saw a Santa Claus with many helpers unloading boxes of toys. Princess delivered toys with Santa to orphanages on every island we visited. We were all impressed with their Christmas spirit. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We had a fantastic time - here's my long winded review! Preface - We are a 40"s couple travelling with our 11 year old daughter. This was our 4th cruise - but 1st with Princess. DH is a dentist, I'm the office manager in his ... Read More
We had a fantastic time - here's my long winded review! Preface - We are a 40"s couple travelling with our 11 year old daughter. This was our 4th cruise - but 1st with Princess. DH is a dentist, I'm the office manager in his office. We are just middle of the road people - not too fancy, fairly easy to please. (just giving this info so you can base my opinions on food and quality by "who" we are....) My opinions are only that - opinions! :) We like nice things, but don't require a certain 'caliber' to be happy! Ft Lauderdale - Arrived early - on Friday! Had reservations at the Hyatt Place/Plantation, so we picked up our rental car (Budget through hotwire $42 for 2 full days!), set our GPS with the address and off we went. Check in went smoothly - we were offered a choice of rooms - We chose what they said would be a quiet room on floor 5 - they were right! We were given a quick tour of the facilities. Got to our room - it was fantastic - King sized bed with a pull out couch for our DD, HUGE big screened TV (which my husband loved for NCAA March Madness). The room was clean, roomy, the bed comfy. Some more notes about hotel: *Pool - it is heated - but just a bit - it was fine for us, but there were a few people discussing it amongst themselves that it should have been warmer - it could have been, but it was definitely heated. It was unseasonably cool for FL this past week, too - I guess which may have added to the chill! *exercise room - it's small, but mighty! No weights, but for cardio machines - they were top notch! One elliptical, 2 (or was it 3) Treadmills, and a bike. These were new high quality machines that you could watch TV on, listen to FM radio, or just watch your progress on a picturesque screen. *Breakfast - this may have been the only downfall of the hotel. Keep in mind - this was spring break. It was chaotic in the breakfast room every day. We learned quickly to try and avoid the prime times - and our second day was definitely better than the first. They do have a nice selection of bagel, english muffin, fruits, cereals, yogurt, juices. If you wanted hot foods - they were available for order at a nominal fee (eggs, waffle, omelet) they also served a small selection of food for any time of the day. *Dining - we ate the most fantastic pizza ever at a wood fired pizza restaurant very close to the hotel. It was called Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza http://www.anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com/ The best pizza - bar none - that I've had since I was in Italy - and the salad (its HUGE! They say enough for 2, but probably enough for 4 - we all three ate on it and had loads left over) was the BOMB! We also ate at Smoky Bones BBQ on University (again, only a couple of miles from the hotel) for dinner and it was good food - typical to what you'd expect from a chain BBQ joint. Good service. We did eat Ole Ole Mexican for lunch one day - it was good food - but want to mention that it was a bit pricy - we could have eated at anthony's again for cheaper and been just as happy! Good food tho! *Mall - just want to mention that there is a nice big mall within walking distance of this hotel, as well as a Walgreens, a liquor store, and a grocery store all within a mile or two of this location. *Beach - there is a beach about 20 minutes or so from this hotel - straight down broward - nice clean area - parking is easy if you get there early - but later in the day good luck! :) Sunday - we checked out of hotel, dropped rental car back at the airport, and grabbed a taxi to the cruise dock. We'd been told we could probably get on the ship about 10:30 or so, and arrived about then to the cruise terminal. (cab was $13). We were about the 4th person there! :) We were given a #1, and sent to wait. *friendly staff everywhere *Pictures are NOT allowed in the area - it wasn't really posted well, and many people were getting in 'trouble' by the security. *Staff told us they don't hardly EVER board by 10:30! LOL People began filliing up the seats, and at noon, group one was called to go through registration. I'd say it took us 5 minutes TOPS to get on the boat. And that was only because our guy checking us in was chatting up our daughter about how excited she was, and because we stopped to get a picture! It was a BREEZE! *If you are early boarding - you do not have to go to your designated check in gate for your floor - you can go to whoever is open *If there is a line - migrate towards the right of the lines - it's closest to your embarkation route! We went straight to our room - Minisuite D715 on the Dolphin Deck. Completely uncovered balcony. I literally DUMPED my bags and dashed to the Sanctuary to get a seat for the week! (more later in bullet points) Once seat secured - I flew downstairs one level and then signed up for the thermal spa for both DH and I. Then back to the room to actually look at it! LOL Minisuite was great - LOVED the layout compared to Carnival's suite - I like the longer, narrower layout a lot! The bathroom is smaller than what we were used to a little bit - and darker?....but who's spending the week in the bathroom! I loved the big closet - and then the wall of shelves to organize your clothes on!. Two TVs - nice added bonus (I think we only had one one once the whole trip tho!) Dinner that night in the Anytime Dining was great - Prime rib for DH, Barramundi fish for me, and Spaghetti and Meatballs for the Daughter. We picked the Michelangelo dining room and had Ralph from the Phillipines (side note - he was awesome, and inadventently - we sat in his section 4 times! It was funny! The final time we did request him, and gave him a tip, he'd been such a nice guy all the times we had him!) *Sanctuary - Okay - it was fantastic - don't get me wrong - but I'm not sure I'd spend the money again. I don't think I personally utilized it enough to make up for the cost for the week $105.00 I used it for a couple hours every day - and on one day I was there for about 4 hours. I figured it cost me about $8/hour. It's so nice and swank up there - those chairs are so comfy - and they treat you like royalty - bringing you cold clothes, special snacks, turning your chair for you, covering it each day with a super nice towel! The spa pool was a level down from here and although some people say no one was ever in that pool, this week it was fairly crowded all week. And - to get there from the sanctuary - you had to go all the way out of the sanctuary, down a level into that area. Too bad it couldn't have been a little different layout maybe? Anyway - really really nice - probably worth every penny - but for me, I'd probably take that money for something else next time. *Thermal Spa - first day special $149 for two people for the week. This facility is awesome also - ceramic hotbeads, rainhead showers, steam rooms with different scents, very private! We loved, loved, loved this. But again - we didn't utilize it as much as I thought we might - I'd say one of us used it every day - and maybe twice we both went on the same day. That being said - it made it about $17 a visit for us - not terrible really - it was so relaxing. I only shared the room a couple of times with anyone. I'd probably spend the $$$$ on this again - before I'd do the sanctuary again - although after typing all this, I think the sanctuary might be worth it again! LOL We rented a bungalow at Princess Cay - Had we not - it would have been sunny and 100*. Since we spent the $199 on the BB, it was 70 and rainy! LOL Such is life! We made the best of it - Some people love princess cay, and some don't - we liked it - would we pick a cruise because of it - never! HOwever, if the weather had been nicer we'd have enjoyed the beach day loads (We are beach and ocean junkies!). The bungalows are awesome - roomy with a table for four - an airconditioner, shelves to put your stuff on. Lots of towels to use - the outside shower head would be nice on a hot, sandy beach day! We swam - YES - we were a few of the idiots that actually made it into that cold water! LOL *DD got her hair braided - $30 for half a head. Cheaper than some of the places we've had it done before. *If you like to shop - don't come in with an expectation of it here - you'll be disappointed as there isn't a lot of shopping here - there were several little kiosks - but many had the same or similar items. *The BBQ is okay - burgers, hotdogs, baked beans and potato salad. Pretty much it - again - had it been a hot sunny day, we might not have been searching for 'snacks' so much! LOL *music - there was some live music - which I love! It was relaxing to sit and listen to him while shivering from the rain We made the best of our day - and headed back to the ship towards the end of the day. While it certainly didn't compare to the other stops, it was an adequate stop - I think we'd have liked it towards the end of our trip better. I think people are so in anticipation of shopping and restaurants, and tours, and whatnot - they are disappointed with Princess Cay - where if you were doing at the end of the trip - you could use it for a relaxation and unwind day from all the go go going of your trip - I think it would be better received that way! Sea Day! We had a great day - lots of activities! *Bingo - $20 for a three card pack that gets you 4 games. These are cards that you mark - unlike carnival. We bought dabbers - but you could have used just an inkpen if you wanted. I think it was offered twice this day - special note - the time posted is the time that the game Begins - get there before that time so that you are ready and not missing out! *cruise director staff is loads of fun - first time I really witnessed them around the ship, involving people all the time. For example, I was sitting in the explorer lounge watching Evolution (one of the ships bands) and here come some of the crew - one of the guys got my DD up dancing, one of the girls sat down by me and chatted me up some. The rest of the trip when they saw us, they spoke and remembered us. Nice touch that we hadn't really witnessed on carnival! *casino - won a little $$$ in the casino - started the week with $20 and by today was up to about $178 in my casino account. The cruise card system is so easy - not sure what all the hub bub is about it - put your card in - it asks you to set up account - pick a pin number, enter it again and voila - you are in business! St. Maarten - We went into port - not a lot to do at this dock that we were at, and since we had a tour scheduled in a short time, we didn't have time to do much else, as far as taking the water taxi to shopping, etc. - bought a hat (good parenting = sunburnt daughter! LOL), bought a couple cute trinket stuff, and headed off on our excursion! *Golden Eagle Sail - This was a good trip - efficient crew. We were supposed to have gone to tintarre beach (that isn't right, but if you've been on here you know which beach I mean) Because of the roughness of the water, we went first to a snorkel location that was okay, then to mullett beach. The snorkelling we saw was not the greatest I've done, but it really wasn't the crews fault. The water was a bit choppy, and it was a good distance away from the boat before you could see anything. We did see some fish, and a little bit of coral, but had more fun just floating around in the ocean by the boat. Next stop mullet beach - where my daughter was traumatized by the lack of clothing! LOL (side note - HILARIOUS day at the pool after - listening to all the kids talk about their experiences at the clothing optional beaches - really was one of my more entertaining afternoons/evenings by the pool! LOL) We saw a pod of dolphin as we were leaving - which was really really neat - a baby and several others - and I understand that seeing them in that area is fairly rare! We watched them for about 15 minutes swim right around our boat - great ending to a nice day! My all time faves of the trip - both of these days were amazing! We'd been to St Thomas before - love love love the shopping there, but since DH drop a jackload of money on a gold Rolex the last time we were there, I opted for an all day cruise to avoid him spending more than a used car of something stupid again! We picked the Full Day Sail with lunch. This excursion might well be the highlight of our trip! I honestly did it to keep my husband out of the shops, and couldn't believe the day we had! We were on a catamaran - the Dancing Dolphin http://www.thedancingdolphin.com/index.html The crew was Ian, Lilly and....(gawd, I've forgotten his name! LOL) We started out of St Thomas on the boat - only about 19 people on the boat to Turtle Cove. This is in the wild - out in the ocean, where you can snorkel above sea turtles swimming - they would come up right beside you for air - it was awesome! Even more so - they did a guided snorkel tour for the first half hour or so, where Lilly would explain about what kind of fish we were seeing, bring sea urchins up for us to see and handle, all the while explaining how to protect them and treat them, and how to help the ocean. Lots of interesting different facts about the ocean, where sand comes from, etc. Best snorkeling tour ever that we'd taken - lots of info -lots of free time to do our own thing! Then, with the rum punch flowing after the snorkeling - the second half of our day was spent at honeymoon beach, with BBQ ribs and chicken, salad, etc. More rum punch, soda, beach volleyball, more snorkeling if you like. This crew was the perfect combination of fun and professionalism. We ended up tipping them $50 at the end of the day - the most fun 6 hour excursion we've done! I cant' say enough about this day - its an expensive excursion, but well worth the $$$! Grand Turk - WOW. We loved it here. It was just beautiful! The prettiest water and sand of the cruise! We did the 'ultimate snorkeling tour' and loved it. This was a shorter, inexpensive tour - but had lots of bang for your buck. Fun crew, LOTS of people on the boat tho! We went to two different snorkeling stops - the first there were tons of the huge stingray like Grand Cayman - that the guides would go down and grab so you could touch them. Lots of coral, wonderful visibility. Tons of conch shells - many of them empty and there for the taking! The second stop was near the surf break - so a bit more choppy, but nothing even my 11 year old couldn't handle - TONS of sealife and fish here - and a resident 'PET' barracuda that swam with us. a little creepy, but so cool - saw some very amazing and unique fish here that I've never seen on the 15 or so snorkeling tours I've taken! We spent a short time at margaritaville, and did a little bit of shopping - and then it was way too soon time to leave this GEM of an island! I cannot believe people say they don't want to get off of the ship here - its a small island - but it packs a mighty mighty punch as far as beaches, sea life, and beauty! We were out of the cabin by 7:45 - off to the zoo of the buffet. Then on to the Wheelhouse - our appointed 'waiting' spot! Within about 5 minutes they called us to leave - We did the EZ Check - let me tell you - IF YOU HAVE A LATER IN THE DAY FLIGHT - the is the ONLY way to go - and the BEST $20 you'll spend per person on your trip! People with an earlier flight, it'll make it easier for you - but not like the people who have to wait several hours for your flight. Our flight didn't leave until 4:17. Because we did EZ Check - we were first off the boat after self carry. We walked directly off the boat! Here's where EZ Check made the difference in our day - the airport was a ZOO. The airlines have a policy that you cannot check your bags until 3 hours prior to your flight. This means, you can't go through security and down where there's food, lots more chairs, etc, until you've checked your bags. because people couldn't check their bags, they were stuck in the area by check in that has very little sitting which means in every direction you looked - the floor was covered with loads of tired people and all of their bags :( We only had our carry ons - and were able to roam about, go through security and get seats etc. Looking back, I wished I had rented a car for the day to meander around, but now I know for next time! Some notes about Princess difference: *I thought the food was better than carnival - DH thought food was better, but that carnival had more choices geared towards his likes. By the way - sidenote! The Sea Bass on Grand Turk night (captains night) was the BEST I've had - it was fantastic! Also the fish on the first sea night (monday) was delicious! *anytime dining - I've read some negatives about it - we didn't experience that at all. Only one night were we asked to share a table - and ended up meeting a lively crew that we enjoyed seeing the rest of the week. We did have to wait in line to be seated for maybe 10 minutes every night, but the hostess was very friendly and kept everyone entertained. We never got a beeper - in fact - only saw one person with one the whole time. We found the michelangelo was faster, and a shorter line, so aside from one night we ate there. We ate at all different times - the line was about the same all the time. Early early, and late late seemed a smidge less crowded, but we were pleased with our dining on all nights. *I noticed what I'd call a 'quiet elegance' about the staff. My DH kept saying - they don't seem quite as attentive as carnival, and I'd say, well - what is it that you need, and he'd respond - well, nothing, it's all taken care of. I liked that not 'in your face' sort of attentiveness. I don't think DH didn't like it - it just wasn't what he was used to. If you needed help with anything - they were all more than willing to help. *I really, really loved the way Princess utilizes all of their public areas for different things. Instead of doing 'everything' in the theatre. It made me more acclimated to the ship, and I felt like I'd seen the whole ship, not just the pool, theatre and dining room! *Embarassed to admit I saw very little entertainment on this cruise! We fell in love with Evolution on first day - and like someone on here mentioned, sort of stalked them around the ship! They had such an eclectic range of what they could do and were loads of fun, too. *Don't bring books - HUGE library!! Save the room in your suitcase and check something out there - very handy! *MUTS - lots of fun, love that they bring you blankets, popcorn, and cover the chairs with comfy covers! We had a great cruise - One of our best so far - definitely will travel with Princess again as we took advantage of the $100 deposit and onboard credit for booking while we were on the ship. I also booked a European cruise for a friend and I to get the deposit discount and onboard credit for it! I have all the patters! Didn't get home until late - so no pics up yet, but I'm happy to answer questions you might have or scan those patters and email them to you - as well as the list of Muts Movies, Spa Specials, etc. My email is addygirl216@sbcglobal.net Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Having sailed the Emerald Princess last year my wife and I were really looking forward to our return trip this year. Embarkation went smoothly and we got on board early enough to enjoy the day reacquainting ourselves with the ship. Once ... Read More
Having sailed the Emerald Princess last year my wife and I were really looking forward to our return trip this year. Embarkation went smoothly and we got on board early enough to enjoy the day reacquainting ourselves with the ship. Once our cruise started we were more than a little disappointed in the following. The production shows in the Princess theater were the exact same shows we saw last year and now they show them two nights. So there goes some of our evening entertainment. The cruise director was basically nonexistent other than his daily appearances on his morning TV show and his staff as a whole seemed to be following in his footsteps as they also were rarely seen. The wait staff in the Michelangelo dining room left a lot to be desired. On more than one occasion we were left wondering if we aliens due to the fact that we left holding our menus with not so much as a glass of water. We complained to the Maitre D' who seemed to take it personally and basically became a nuisance afterwards. We were much happier when we switched to the Da Vinci dining room. Our visit to Sabitini's was excellent as always with a great wait staff and a wonderful meal. My wife saw the s'mores dessert on the Crown Grill menu and being the dessert freak that she is wanted to try it. The dinner seatings were filled so I took a chance one evening and asked if we could come in, just for dessert and coffee and was quite happy when they said it was no problem. Kudos to the Crown Grill. We are active people and try to find the most active shore excursions we can on all our cruises. A word to the wise DO NOT book the bike tour on Water Island in St. Thomas. The bicycles they use are UNSAFE and in severe need of attention. The chain popped off my bike three times. The cable fell out of my rear brake on a downhill and it has to be one of the shortest bike rides around an island I have ever encountered. In comparison the bike tour on Bonaire was on of the best. Excellent equipment, attentive tour guide, excellent ride around the island(if only it were longer than 13 miles). Highly recommended for those looking for something a little more active. Stay in Grenada was to short, I realize that its a long way to Bonaire from Dominica but if thats the case skip a port and hit all three of the ABC islands. Dominica is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever stepped foot on a must see for anyone who loves the tropical side of the Caribbean. Bonaire is just as beautiful but in a completely different way. The desert atmosphere is amazing and the island is very low key. A complete opposite from the tourist mecca of Aruba.I guess after writing this I have come to the realization that overall we did have a great time, other than a few minor incidents it was a wonderful time except for the fact that the time flew by and it was over before we knew. I guess we are going to have to start booking longer cruises. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
This was our 1st princess Cruise I booked it because of the great itinerary, and it worked for my kids spring break. The Emerald is a very clean pretty ship. I have only been on Celebrity ships of about 1,500 passengers so this was my 1st ... Read More
This was our 1st princess Cruise I booked it because of the great itinerary, and it worked for my kids spring break. The Emerald is a very clean pretty ship. I have only been on Celebrity ships of about 1,500 passengers so this was my 1st bigger ship experience. The crew was very friendly through out the ship. Our cabin was always serviced well. My 11 and 14 year old daughters went to the kids club a few times but said that it was not as good as the one on Celebrity even though the room was nicer. They did not bring the kids around the ship as they did with Celebrity. Ice cream on Celebrity was free all day and on the Emerald it was free only for a few hours during the afternoon which was fine on sea days but not port days. The pizza was fabulous and free all the time. We choose early seating traditional dining, our wait staff was very good and friendly. The food was not as good as it was on Celebrity but still good. The meats were not as good and the fish dishes were a bit over cooked. The snow crab legs were excellent. The peanut butter cookies were the best soft and chewy. The layout of the ship I found confusing as did a lot of others I spoke with. There were a lot of going up to do down and the kids club was hard to get to. After about 5 days I started to find my way around but it just seemed not a good layout. We did not take any of the ship's excursions but others I spoke to who did said they were over priced ad not that fun. a fellow cruise critic passenger broke her foot on a private excursion and she said the medical care was very good on the ship. The house band was a lot of fun, I danced everyday I wish they played longer when they played out by the pool. we did not go to any of the big production shows in the Princess lounge. The hypnotist was fantastic, a very funny show. The comedy was OK I went to see both of them. We got to the dock around 1:00 to embark and were happily surprised that it only took about 20 minutes and we were in our cabin! It only took about 10 minutes to disembark which was also very smooth. The cabin was a bit smaller than the Celebrity ones but were still OK as we do not spend a lot of time in them. All in all we had a great time but I think I would not go on another Princess cruise unless it was on a smaller under 1,500 passengers. If Celebrity has a good itinerary around our spring break I will go with them again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
My wife, son and I arrived the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn Plantation. The hotel is a pleasant place to stay, providing you with breakfast and it is within walking distance of the Broward Mall n case you have any ... Read More
My wife, son and I arrived the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn Plantation. The hotel is a pleasant place to stay, providing you with breakfast and it is within walking distance of the Broward Mall n case you have any last minute shopping needs. We appreciate that they have a shuttle that will pick you up from the airport and it will also take you to the cruise terminal. Embarkation was smooth. We were quickly able to get on the ship and familiarize ourselves with the ship's layout prior to the muster drill. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship with a number of nice features (e.g., Vines the wine bar, the Sanctuary, and the International Cafe that serves pastries and light sandwiches). The sail away party was fun. The first two days of the cruise were sea days, which we always enjoy. We get excited reviewing the Princess Patter and identifying the activities that will be available the following day. Our son enjoyed the kids club and other kid activities (i.e., Nintendo sports). O.k., I enjoyed the Wii sports too, particularly when I had the high score for bowling. My wife and I tried and enjoyed a number of the activities. This included the dancing lessons; lectures on the islands; demonstrations in the making of towel animals, martinis, and animals out of fruit; dicey horse racing; movies; trivia; and art auctions. We found the cruise director and staff to be energetic and personable, the best of any of our cruises. We also took advantage of the books and games in the library. With respect to the shows, we enjoyed the juggler, comedians, and shows in the Princess lounge. This was a change for us as we had not watched many of the shows on our previous cruises. I enjoyed watching the final four on MUTS (giant movie screen near one of the pools.) Nothing could be finer than watching your team win the national championship while you are enjoying a beautiful evening under the stars with crew bringing popcorn and pizza to you. My wife enjoyed the movies that were shown on the ship. We found the itinerary to be an excellent one. Aruba was the first island on the itinerary. We did an ocean snorkel through Princess that we thoroughly enjoyed. On the excursion, we went to two different locations, one of which was a ship wreck from WW II. The ship next sailed to Bonaire where we did a shore snorkel. The coral and fish were awesome. We next went to Grenada. We were excited that the Sea Princess was also in port, as this had been the first ship my wife and I had sailed on. We booked a trip through Princess to a spice garden and rum distillery and were pleasantly surprised. The next day found us in Dominica where we did the river tubing. We had a blast and the tour operators did an excellent job keeping folks safe. On St. Thomas, we decided not to plan anything in particular and to relax. We ended up taking the tram up to Paradise Point where we had a beautiful view of the island. We also did a little shopping. After another great day at sea, the last day of the cruise was spent on the private island. It was a little cool, but we still found a way to enjoy ourselves. In general, the food was good. We had traditional dining, second seating. We are always apprehensive as to our table assignment and the waiters that we will have for the entirety of the cruise. We were pleased with how things worked out on both counts. Our family was assigned to a table of wonderful Canadians. It was a pleasure going to dinner every night and to discuss what folks had done during the day. Also, it is always a pleasure when you spend time with people who are truly out to enjoy themselves and do not get caught up on things to complain about. Our waiters Ross and Mark did an excellent job, providing good recommendations and demonstrating a sense of humor. The food in the dining room was great. I enjoyed the steaks and lobster while my wife enjoyed a number of shrimp dishes. We enjoyed having breakfast in the Horizon court as there were always things we enjoyed such as French toast, Eggs Benedict, and Fresh Fruit. We enjoyed our two lunches in the dining room: my wife particularly enjoyed the vegetarian option (stuffed pepper). We had an awesome lunch of fish and chips at the Wheelhouse Bar one day and always enjoyed the burgers and pizza by the pool. I think our son could have gotten by on just burgers and cookies. For the first time, we tried one of the specialty restaurants (Sabatini's) and were not disappointed. The eight appetizers that came with the meal were fantastic, as were the main courses and desserts. Disembarkation went quickly and efficiently. We have already begun to discuss where to take our next cruise, probably Hawaii or the Panama Canal. In summary, it was a great cruise in which the food was good, the crew was friendly, the ship activities were enjoyable; and the islands were amazing. Sure there are a few things that Princess could improve on. However, we found it easy to enjoy ourselves and can't wait to sail again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Emerald Princess March 30 sailing in a nutshell: Highlights: 1.The ship - beautiful and spotless2. The Chef's Dinner worth every cent 3. River tubing in Grenada  Disappointments: Booking a Caribe ... Read More
Emerald Princess March 30 sailing in a nutshell: Highlights: 1.The ship - beautiful and spotless2. The Chef's Dinner worth every cent 3. River tubing in Grenada  Disappointments: Booking a Caribe balcony cabin and finding ourselves next door - and downwind - from chain smokers. The entertainment Longer-cruise demographics Cruises of more than 7 days seem to attract a much older crowd, which can mean a low-energy level THE BASICS: WHO WE ARE: 60 somethings from Ohio who aren't ready to pack it in at 8 p.m. (most times, we aren't even ready for dinner then). By comparison, it seemed like we were the youngsters on this cruise.  WHY WE CHOSE THIS CRUISE:  We like Princess, wanted the chance to do the Chef's Table, the itinerary included less-often-visited islands - yet the ship left from a mainland port. EMBARKATION: VERY SMOOTH. We arrived early - about 10:30 a.m. and were given a number and allowed to sit inside the terminal. By noon, there were hundreds in the holding area but with numbers, embarking was orderly and fair. THE SHIP - Beautiful and well-cared for. (Beware, however, because the deck on the non-Mutts side gets very slippery from wet feet, and we witnessed people slipping). CHEF'S TABLE: By 12:30 on boarding day, we had called the dine line from our room to ask for a reservation - that's why we went to the terminal early.  Everyone apparently is told they will be put on the waiting list. By 1 p.m., we were in line to hand a written plea to the maitre'd.   This 10-day cruise had three Chef's Tables  - all on port days. We were among the lucky ones to get on the list early enough to get a seat.  Interesting point: Almost everyone at our table of 12 had heard about this special meal from the Internet/Cruise Critic. Dinner at the Chef's Table ($75 per person) was a 3-plus hour indulgence, which started with a galley tour, hors d' oeuvres and champagne and ended with a shot of lemon liquor made on the ship. In between, we had veal cooked (and tableside carved) two ways - a shank and tenderloin. We had pate foie gras with truffles, caviar, asparagus risotto topped with lobster claws and sorbet with vodka, plus several wines, dessert . . .the list goes on.  The chef and maitre'd made it all very special.  BEST REGULAR FOODS:  Pizza! You can see the bakers hand tossing the thin crust constantly to meet the demand.  The Wheelhouse fish (on sea days only) was as crunchy as Arthur Treacher's. The almond croissants in the International Cafe at breakfast are a surprising treat.  The fruit soups are like smoothies. The rotisserie chicken in the Caribe Cafe is a welcome break from saucy foods. Do not hesitate to order the creamy pasta Alfredo as a side at dinner (even though it is listed daily as an entrEe). FAVORITE SHIP VENUES: VINES - the wine and sushi bar.  Excellent sushi for just $1 each LOTUS pool - a great place to get refreshed - it seems to be warmed and for adults  only Our balcony when the smoking neighbors were not around. (Smoking is only allowed on one side of open-deck areas. Why can't balcony rooms be assigned as smoking or non-smoking? (Husband lost a lung to a fungus infection, so we are extra sensitive about taking care of the remaining one. ) TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT:  In anytime dining, they steer you to share tables, which is fine much of the time.  But there were times when we just wanted a bite to eat alone. However, there are some sets of tables for two that are only 4-6-inches apart from another "table for two."  Not exactly intimate. You either be rude and ignore the folks or you talk with them as though you were table sharing. ENTERTAINMENT: There were two good bands, including Hindsight, but they didn't play on the deck much - usually about 45 minutes at sail away.  There was a piano  player in the lounge named Barty, whose music might have been popular at the Waldorf Astoria in the 1950s.  (Two years ago we were on the Caribbean Princess where the open-lounge pianist had a standing-room only crowd).  Other venues were just slow.  We went into the Adagio two nights after dinner and it was almost empty. We went into Sky Walkers one evening at 7:30 for a before-dinner drink and there was not a server or bartender in sight.    The most fun we found was karaoke because there were a couple of really good singer/passengers aboard. DRINKS: The drinks are expensive - in the $6.25 to $6.95 for wine and alcohol. Plus, they automatically add 15 percent.  That adds up (our bar bill was nearly $800). But some of the wait staff didn't seem happy with just 15 percent. They always looked to see if we left extra.  If we didn't, they disappeared. If we did, they came back too often. It should be pointed out that Princess is good about letting people bring beer and wine on board. Never a hassle. PORTS: A PLUS of this cruise. Aruba is beautiful.  The beaches and shopping in St. Thomas are always great (We managed to find a steel drum CD of gospel songs like Amazing Grace). The river tubing in Grenada was so much fun. The water was warm and shallow and there were lots of helpers. The ride up the mountain in a mini-van bus was treacherous.  Perhaps we should have done more in Bonaire than roam the shopping area near the port. This city may want tourists, but public restrooms - if they exist - are impossible to find, so think twice about drinking too many of those $2 beers at the bar near the port unless you are heading back to the ship. FINAL FOOD PERSPECTIVE:  Would we rate this the best ever food? No, but let's put it into perspective. In 1988, we took a 7-day Princess cruise on the original Sun Princess and saved the menus. There is no comparison. The selection then was superior. But we paid $1,100 each, essentially what we paid this time for a 10 day cruise on a much superior ship. That 1988 rate did include airfare to San Juan, which we would value at about $250, based on fares at that time.  So assume $850 pp as the comparison since airfare was not included in the  2009 price.  While the food in 1988 was wonderful, there was no all-day pizza, no 24-hour buffet, no hot tubs and only one pool. And that $850 price paid for a bottom-level outside room, which consisted of one very small portal. Our $1,100 this time bought a balcony, four pools, multiple hot tubs and eating venues.  In summary, cruising is a value that has only gotten better with age. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
My wife and I are from Michigan, in our early to mid 50's, and my 17th cruise and DW's 18th cruise. Our fourth cruise with Princess and booked number five (14 Day RT Hawaii for 2010) while on board to take advantage of the OBCs. ... Read More
My wife and I are from Michigan, in our early to mid 50's, and my 17th cruise and DW's 18th cruise. Our fourth cruise with Princess and booked number five (14 Day RT Hawaii for 2010) while on board to take advantage of the OBCs. We traveled with my brother and his wife and two other couples we met on a cruise five years ago. We stayed two nights pre-cruise at the Marriott North on our own as the other two couples booked through Princess and were staying here. I rented a car at Budget at the airport as they have a drop off near the pier (on 17th St) and provide a free shuttle to the ship from there. The Emerald is a beautiful ship and looked familiar as we sailed two years before on the Caribbean Princess. I do like some of the additions such as Vines for wine and fresh Sushi; International Cafe for pastries in the morning and light lunches etc. later in the day (this is also the Coffee Bar) and we loved Adagio Bar next to Sabitinis on Deck 16. We usually met here for a cocktail pre dinner and enjoyed the light piano music and the fact that it was never crowded. Only thing that needed work on board was the 9 hole Putt Putt course. For only a couple years old it was really beat up. Must have been built by the low bidder as it is falling apart already. We had a balcony cabin port side on Lido Deck which is very handy for the pools and buffet areas. Also right near is the Ice Cream/Pizza Station which also had waffles in the morning. The pizza was the best I have ever had on a cruise ship, especially since I like thin crust style. Our Cabin Steward Antonio was quiet and very efficient and took great care of our cabin and requests throughout the cruise. I had asked ahead of time for the egg crate and top sheets and they were on our bed at arrival. The eight of us ate late seating traditional as usual and had a nice table in the back. Our waiter Fin was wonderful and always in good humor even though we kept him hopping with multiple dinners and desert choices for many of us. His assistant was also very good and took care of all of our drink and wine orders with a smile and a cheerful tone. Food in the dining room was above average for Princess and portions were very good sized. Fin was there to handle any and every issue with how the food was prepared for us. The Maitre D' was also very attentive and arranged for calamari for the table twice and a special request for escargot on another evening. They also had cheese plates for us on many nights as an added appetizer. They all made it a wonderful dining experience and even the other two couples (who are loyal RCI Cruisers) thought everything was very well done. We had room service on the island days and was always delivered on time. Enjoyed breakfast and coffee on the balcony these mornings as we prepared to head ashore. International Cafe is a great stop for a light lunch with great salads, shrimp, and desert choices as well as the option to get ice cream (three scoops of 3 diff kinds for $1.50). Our stops included Antigua where we went to Dickenson Beach in the morning, Barbados where we hit Accra Beach, St Lucia where we did a Cosol Tour which was wonderful, St Kitts where we went to S. Figate Bay which was very uncrowded and the Shipwreck Beach Bar was a rustic looking gem, and St Thomas where we had arranged on line to do the Snuba located out at Coki Beach. We shopped a bit in the afternoon on the islands. We had a very active Cruise Critic Group on line before the cruise and we met on a number of occasions throughout the voyage. We had a Sail Away party at Outriggers Bar back by the Terrace pool and probably 25-30 people stopped by for a chat. The first day was a Sea Day and we did a small Cabin Crawl. The next day was also at sea and some met for formal tea and then Princess had arranged a Meet and Mingle for us up in the Adagio Bar from 4:30 to 5:30. They closed the area for us and arranged for the bar and servers to be there. Drinks were paid for by those who wished one (or two). We also met on Day 9 for lunch in Da Vinci and we had over 20 people who attended this event. All in all a great time with fellow Cruise Critic sailors. In summary this was a great cruise on a beautiful ship. The crew were all very friendly. If you give them a smile and a hello, they always responded in same. Some had mentioned an issue with this on prior reviews, but I believe "you get what you give" and this proved true through the cruise. Disembarkation was very smooth. We had to be out of our cabin by 8:00 and breakfast was served until 9:00 in the Horizon Buffet. We then went to our assigned meeting location and were escorted down to our bags right on schedule. We were off the ship by 9:30. If you are doing your own transportation to the airport, I would advise getting a porter to haul your bags. It gets you through the lines faster, and they have a special area to take you to get a taxi much faster than if you do it on your own. Worth the tip in not having to stand in the large taxi line for those who did not use a porter. Can't wait to get on the Golden Princess next year to Hawaii as it is being upgraded this spring to include Vines, International Café and some other improvements. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, Curacao About us: I took this cruise with my teen daughter. It was my 48th cruise and my daughter's 19th (and her first Christmas cruise), and our favorite line ... Read More
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, Curacao About us: I took this cruise with my teen daughter. It was my 48th cruise and my daughter's 19th (and her first Christmas cruise), and our favorite line by far is Celebrity. We took this cruise primarily for itinerary and because I have always been interested in Princess. I've done many cruises on Sitmar, and ever since Princess bought them out, I have been curious as to whether Princess is similar. My Sitmar cruises qualified me as a Platinum member of Captain's Circle, so we sort of "cheated" and enjoyed Princess perks without technically being a past passenger. My daughter, on the other hand, was very apprehensive about Princess, and ended up enjoying it very much. We researched this cruise thoroughly, both ports and ship, and felt we knew a lot about what to expect, even though it was our first Princess cruise. Our last cruise was in November on Celebrity's Solstice, so we found ourselves comparing details often. Photos are available at the end of the review. Day 1: Embarkation: We're from Ft. Lauderdale, so we always take a car service to the port. There was a minor traffic jam at security checkpoint (enough to give my cruise-crazy DD a heart attack), even though it was only about 10am. Upon arrival at the terminal, we were greeted by tons of the passengers from the previous sailing, waiting for transportation. Seemed a bit late to us, and the porters were gruff with us for arriving early, though there were suitcases already there. Emerald left from terminal 18, the Celebrity terminal, as the Ruby was occupying the Princess terminal. We didn't mind this, though we did hear some grumbling from the previous cruise's passengers that they arrived at this terminal instead. We expected as much, considering there were 8 ships in on December 20 and because we looked it up beforehand on the Port Everglades site. We've sailed from the terminal many times, but found it set up a bit differently Security first (no lines because it was so early), handed a Norovirus questionnaire to fill out while waiting, and then you were either directed toward the normal waiting room downstairs or the platinum area upstairs. Make sure you mention/show your card if you are platinum, because otherwise you will be sent to the normal waiting room. Platinum area was quite nice (no snacks or anything), located upstairs, peaceful and large with a great view of the ship. There were only about 3 check-in desks which was suitable for the amount of people, whereas downstairs there is the huge warehouse-size room with dozens of stations. Room was empty when we arrived but filled up quickly, as did the regular waiting room downstairs - they had a lot less room than we did! We had to wait until noon to board the ship (again, enough to drive the cruise-nut DD crazy); we overheard an officer say they were still waiting for zero count. Strange. People were pretty antsy, and before they opened the doors, we were told not to rush them. Why the warning? Sure enough, some (a large, rude family) ran ahead, claiming they had to get to the lunch buffet. DD and I gave each other a definite LOOK at that one - seemed like a bad sign to us! lol. Photographers were pushy and insisted they had to take everyone's photo, despite the bottleneck of about 100 people. Eventually people started to brush past them, which annoyed the photographers. This would prove to be a theme for the cruise: politely refuse a photo, and get an annoyed look. Two gangways expedited boarding, but people got confused by the cabin number divisions posted by each. Once we were on the ship, there was no one to escort us to our cabin - kind of a letdown considering Celebrity's service and champagne upon arrival. They did have crew directing people through the art gallery off the Piazza, but that was it. Don't know if that was because it was so early or what, but it would have been nice to have an escort. Cabin: We had P301, an outside on Plaza deck, namely because we booked rather late in the game and there was not much available. We ended up liking the location, very close to the Piazza and stairwells. Bathroom was very small, the smallest I have seen in many cruises, and the closet was extremely spacious. This amused us because on Solstice, we had the exact opposite problem - can't always get it right! The cabin is small, but seems bigger due to the large mirror at the desk. Beds were hard, which we expected thanks to CC, and we called immediately for egg crates, which helped tremendously. Duvet was very soft. Plenty of drawer/storage space, nice size TV, and the minibar being empty was a nice plus - we are used to having to ask the cabin steward to empty it for us. Minor complaint in that the window was always rather dirty from spray, seemed like they didn't clean them too often. All in all, the room feels quite spacious and layout is rather good. Nice touch on having the nameplates on the doors. A small bauble of greenery and presents appeared on the door on Dec 23, which was also cute. Our cabin steward, Mario, was nice but average. We had some issues with things in the cabin (burned out light, temperamental door which stopped functioning twice, and broken drain stopper), the latter two which he never investigated, despite our mentioning it to him. Getting two copies of the patter from him was also hit-or-miss. Horizon Court: We almost always eat in the dining room, so this was our first and only experience with the Horizon Court. The serving area was smaller and less open-feeling than we expected, and the seating was rather sparse as well. Definitely not adequate for the passenger volume the buffet gets. We expected this, but seeing it in person was still an eye-opener. (We found the passenger-space ratio a problem in other areas as well.) Food was okay - not great, but it is buffet-style. Pre-made sandwiches were soggy and looked a little tacky as opposed to a made-to-order sandwich station. We were looking forward to lemonade in the HC, but asked multiple people and were always referred to the "ultimate kids card" or told they don't serve lemonade, despite our mentioning that it was supposed to be available. Asked for lemonade on other days and had the same result. Very disappointing. Also seemed quite cheap, considering other lines have many different juices available throughout the day. The drink stations are strange: sometimes they're shut off, sometimes you have to take water from the pitchers - you never really know. On the plus side, we saw staff helping passengers with difficulties and they were always prompt in keeping the area neat. Traditional vs. Anytime: Our biggest concern for this cruise was the fact that we were assigned anytime dining. We hate the idea of anytime dining, and because we were #251 on the waitlist the morning before our cruise, we had no hope for getting traditional. Nevertheless, we waited in line for 45 min to speak to the Maitre D' (an adventure in itself, with just one MD, Nicola, handling so many pax concerns, no wonder there was a huge line!) After some hesitation, he gave us a table for six in traditional, early seating (DR: Botticelli). WHEW! After months of worrying, this was such a relief to both of us, we felt we could breathe easy from here on out. To future cruisers who are on the waitlist for traditional: go immediately when the DR opens for questions, even earlier than that if you can. Go even if you are #500 on the waitlist - we thought our situation was hopeless and it worked out! It seems like there's usually space available, despite those mile-long waitlists. Trust us, it was quite annoying to see many empty tables in traditional knowing that people on the waitlist probably would have loved to have those seats! Go early, be polite, and ask - the worst they can say is no! As for anytime, we still would not want to have it, but others we spoke with enjoyed it a lot and said there was rarely a wait. They do have restaurant style-esque beepers in case of waits. We heard from fellow passengers that large parties ended up waiting more than smaller ones, and the staff was reluctant to make reservations for large parties, because they didn't want to tie up a table. All of that makes perfect sense, but could be annoying if you travel in a large group. Muster drill: Well-organized and brief. Our station was in the casino, which had plenty of seating for everyone. We liked that you didn't put on your lifejacket until the end of the drill - otherwise, people are always too busy playing with those and don't pay attention to the actual drill. We like the fact that cruise lines are getting away from the drag-everyone-outside-to-look-at-the-boats routine...just unnecessary. Sailaway: Because of so many ships in port, we expected a delayed sailaway time, but the port was very prompt in getting the ships out - even two at the same time! What we did not expect (and probably should have) was the impact of delayed flights on sailaway. We kept being told sailaway would begin in twenty minutes, twenty minutes, but it never came. We stayed in port until about 7:30pm, waiting for 9 passengers from a flight. DD was very disappointed, as she loves sailaway time, but what can you do? I can't think of another category to file this under, so I'll write about it here. The pushing of drinks/soda cards/beer buckets etc. was insane and uncomfortable. I have an occasional drink while on the cruise, and DD rarely drinks soda, so we are in the minority of most passengers on this one. It's one thing to have several tables, that's fine - other people want the cards, even if we don't. However, we were constantly approached to buy soda cards, the ultimate kids card, and other drinks throughout our first and second day aboard - very tacky. I know this is how ships make money, but we both thought this was over-the-top. The pushing didn't stop on the first day, either; it continued until about the middle of the cruise where it finally slowed. We much prefer Celebrity's method of asking once, then leaving a coaster as a marker and you're not bothered again. Bravo! Dinner: We very much enjoyed traditional dining. We had table #66 in the Botticelli DR, which is a table for 6 in the center and could be kind of loud at times. Our waiter Ilyan and his assistant Marin, both from Bulgaria, were excellent. They remembered our preferences and were very pleasant and fantastic servers. A major complaint regarding the DR that we noticed throughout the week: the assistant waiters are way too taxed having to sell drinks and do all of their other duties. We much prefer Celebrity's allocation of drink duties to the sommeliers; Princess' method seems cheap. We felt the lack of sommeliers made life hard for the assistant waiters, particularly because they had to do bar orders (a big problem on Christmas night especially) and keep up with the Norovirus precautions i.e. serving bread, salt/pepper etc. (more on the Noro later). As mentioned before, we left late, so our only look at sailaway was through the Botticelli DR's windows. I can definitely see why they made this DR the traditional one - if it was the anytime one, there's no way it would ever get any traffic! The only way to reach the Botticelli DR is by going all the way aft to the last set of elevators/stairs and going down. For us (with a cabin on Plaza deck, near the forward stairwell), this was especially a pain because you would have to go up two flights, walk across the ship, then go down one flight. Very inconvenient, and I doubt many would venture down here if they didn't have traditional dining. The DR is blocked by kitchens on the 5th and 6th decks, making it feel very enclosed. This especially presented a problem when folks would gather before each dinner seating: the elevator/stairwell lobby would become quite congested because it was the only place to wait. (More on this later.) It's no wonder the Michelangelo and Da Vinci DRs are the anytime DRs, they definitely get more traffic and have more space around them, simply based on location. Other than this, all of the dining rooms have a similar interior look and design, so you're not missing out on anything by having one over the other, just location. The menu for the first night included prime rib, which was a nice surprise and quite tasty. The chilled soup, pina colada, was delicious as well. It came in an actual drink glass, which amused DD greatly. Despite searching, we weren't able to find menus for Emerald anywhere online, so DD took on the task of photographing all the menus in hopes that future cruisers won't have the same problem. Internet: We got our $100 free internet package thanks to being Platinum level, and also got an extra 30min for signing up on the first day. The free 30min is not advertised anywhere, so it's a nice "secret" we picked up on CC. Very easy to sign up. My daughter became friends with the internet cafe manager, who shared a lot of insight into working on the ship and helped her upload some photos/videos off her camera. He was great, make sure to say hi if you see him there! Welcome Aboard show: The first night's show was a quick intro with a number from the singers/dancers; a performance by the comedy magician, Jeff Peterson and his adorable dog, Indy; and a performance by the comedy/juggler whose name unfortunately escapes me now. We thought both acts were pretty good. Our cruise director was Neil Chandler, with his deputy CDs Marahscalh and Kim and the rest of their staff do a great job. Neil especially is hilarious, very visible and truly enjoys his work and meeting people. It was a cheesy but great treat to hear him sing the Love Boat theme song before the Welcome Aboard show began. Neil and Marahscalh both love to sing and we heard them singing throughout the cruise, so be prepared! MUTS: For those who are interested, there was a wide variety of movies played on our sailing: Hancock, Mamma Mia, The Dark Knight, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Baby Mama, Swing Vote, Get Smart, The Mummy 3, Ghost Town, Christmas movies (Elf, A Christmas Story, Fred Claus), Christina Aguilera & Josh Groban in concert, and many NFL/college bowl games. I have to say, we were very skeptical of MUTS (seemed like a waste of money and deck eyesore) but we both ended up loving it. It's a great idea and another fun activity for both day and night. DD loved hanging out in the MUTS pool and watching movies. Kudos to Princess! Summary: Embarkation ran smoothly even though it was in the Celebrity terminal, which was great. All in all, the first day had some minor annoyances with the constant drink-pushing and cattle-like rush for boarding, but nothing is perfect and the first day is rather always pretty hectic no matter what ship you are on. Day 2, Princess Cays: This was our first visit to any line's private island, and we really weren't expecting much. Being from Ft. Lauderdale, private islands and beach spots in the Caribbean don't have the same appeal for us as they might for others. DD explored the island, only to report that while it was clean and well-laid out, there's not much beyond the bungalows. (For any future explorers, walking all the way to the end of the island on the right side is a long walk with not much to see except for a wooded beach, so you could probably save yourself the trip.) The beach itself is a series of small "coves" (u-shaped beaches) with lifeguards posted on the outskirts of each. Water sports are available at rental stations on the beach, and there is a special pavilion and beach area for snorkeling. The BBQ area is huge - very efficient with multiple serving lines, and the extra playgrounds, lookout tower, and patio areas are nice. We saw the staff spraying down the picnic tables with sanitizer before lunch - better safe than sorry! There are plenty of lounge chairs and seating space, and the bungalows are adorable - quintessential Caribbean look. There are now 6 additional bungalows built, for a total of 18, though no one was staying in the newest ones so they must not be completely ready yet. I personally wouldn't get a bungalow (they seemed kind of small for what you pay for them), but if you have a large group to share the cost or are traveling with someone who has difficulties, I think they're a good choice. The beach was crowded with most of the pax sprawled out over it - I seriously hope two Princess ships never call on the island at the same time, it would be overwhelmed! While the ends of the beaches on either side are much quieter and less crowded, the beach area itself is also less desirable, with rougher coastline, so you can't really escape the crowd there. If you're really looking to escape most of the crowds, the "left" side of the island (over the little dock-bridge, where the clamshells are located) is far less crowded and has its own BBQ and bar area. (Most pax disembark the tenders and head straight.) There are a lot of clamshells and I personally don't see what makes them better/worse than finding shade under a palm tree elsewhere, but if you want guaranteed shade, go ahead. Just make sure to get off as early as you can, because they are given out on a first-come-first-serve basis. The clamshells in the back row are much less desirable because all you see is the row of clamshells in front of you, not ocean. This side is also less pretty than the other side and has a slightly rougher coastline. The water itself was chilly (not unexpected for December), but that wasn't a problem for most swimmers. As others have mentioned, the beach itself is a little rocky due to the coral formations. If you don't like the feeling of rock under your feet, you might want to bring water shoes. DD saw many fish swimming very close to shore in the coral rock, which surprised her because they had no fear of people at all. All in all: the island was nicer, cleaner, and more developed than we expected, a decent beach day if you take it at that. After reading stories on CC, I was expecting much more trouble with unloading so many pax and the tender situation/tickets, but it ran remarkably smoothly. We waited about an hour after we arrived and then proceeded to the theater, where the tender tickets had already been phased out. No sooner were we seated then we were called to fill up the next tender. Cruise staff was very friendly and great at managing this. Tenders ran frequently from the island and you never had to wait for one. Good job, Princess. It's not easy offloading 3000+ pax by tender, but they managed it well. Dinner: Tonight was the Caribbean dinner (menus and food pictures coming soon, I promise! Still uploading!) which was better than we expected. A deliciously seasoned shrimp and scallop appetizer, another wonderful chilled soup (mango and pear), and lamb. The entrees themselves were kind of a letdown, but we're not really into the choices (jerk chicken, and seasoned fish) to begin with. I forgot to mention this before, but our cruise was the pilot release of Princess' new "home-style" cuisine: an additional entrEe on each menu (didn't match the themed dinners) of more typical foods - steaks, meatloaf, fajitas, etc. Sometimes our waiter recommended these, sometimes he did not...and we learned to always trust his recommendations. I tried the meatloaf on another night and enjoyed it a lot. Sometimes you just need a break from all of the rich cruise-food, and this was a nice alternate option. Our dinner was also eventful, though not in a good way. We were waiting for our main course when all of a sudden, these crew members dressed in what I can only liken to haz-mat suits and masks came in, cordoned off a now-empty table and began thoroughly cleaning it. It seemed like our table was the only one in the dining room that noticed this production, and we managed to ask the Maitre D', who claimed a young girl had vomited at dinner after "too much sun". DD and I both had a bad feeling about this, but tried to shake it off. As unpleasant as it was to see this during dinner, it was good to see the staff taking care of the issue in such a timely and hygienic manner. Entertainment: There seemed to be lull tonight in terms of entertainment. The theater had an Australian entertainer/piano player, but most we spoke with didn't like him much (we didn't go). There was also three performances by comedian Cary Long in the Explorers lounge, one of which we caught the tail end of but felt we kind of missed because there was no seating with view of the stage. We were told the Explorers lounge has seating for 600 people, but it certainly doesn't feel that way when some of the more popular, single-showing acts appear in there. The Piazza also has entertainment nightly, but it's usually very short acts, only about ten minutes or so of acrobatics or whatnot. It always draws a crowd and is a nice break while you're milling around the ship. Day 3, at sea: We had our CC meetup this morning at 10:30 in Skywalker's, and a great crowd showed up for the event. Princess provided a bartender and snacks, but none of the cruise staff was present. There was a really cute gift exchange - many creative gifts representing where everyone was from! That afternoon they had a gingerbread house building competition, which DD participated in. Cruise staff provided some great house-building kits and fellow passengers provided the creativity! Saw many great houses (and clearly professional house-builders), with creative use of everything from Christmas lights to kiwis and triscuits, lol. Each team got 45min to decorate and then present their house, and then the cruise staff decided whose was best. DD didn't win, but we did "win" a gingerbread house in our cabin for the rest of the cruise. I was surprised that the unclaimed houses weren't going to be displayed somewhere, which leads me to our next part... Decorations: The ship is decorated beautifully for Christmas. Trees are everywhere, from the Horizon Court to the entrance of each dining room. Hanukkah services were held each evening in the Explorers lounge, complete with snacks and drinks, and menorahs were displayed at the entrance to each dining room. The Piazza is definitely a sight to see, with a huge tree and menorah beside it (never could figure out how they kept those trees from wobbling, even when we had some pretty rough seas!) and garland decorating all of the staircases and balconies. Late at night, a gingerbread village was constructed in the Piazza center by half a dozen pastry chefs. The houses represented different offices on the ship: bridge, galley, etc. There was even a train running through the village. Too cute! The houses looked almost too good to be real, but the pasty chefs claim they were all edible. Maybe not after a few days in the Piazza, lol. Adults were just as mesmerized by the children at how the village appeared overnight, it was really adorable. Even DD, who thought she would miss the Christmas feeling by being away from home, was in love with how festive the ship was for the holidays. Norovirus: That night, we received the dreaded letter at our door, confirming the episode at dinner the day before: Norovirus was aboard. The letter was brief, concentrating more on hygiene procedures and the new serving protocol, rather than the nitty-gritty of Noro. People were urged to check in with the medical center regarding symptoms. It was difficult to get information out of the crew regarding how bad the outbreak was, but our waiter finally told us that they had an emergency crew meeting at 11:30pm the same night the letter was handed out. He claimed there were about 35 pax with Noro, and 2 crew members. The next day before sailaway, Captain Romano took to the PA to explain Noro and the protocol, probably trying to assuage passenger worries. Good call. From that point on, we were hand-sanitized when entering a food area, served everything in the dining room (butter, salt, cream), and waiters sanitized tables/chairs between seatings. We even saw bartenders sanitizing tables in the lounges after shows. Officers wore gloves when dealing with passengers returning to the ship, as did guest relations personnel. And, of course, all food was served in the Horizon Court. I really feel badly for the crew whenever Noro hits - it makes so much more work for them when they already have so much to do. Our waiter claimed that whenever there's more than 300 kids aboard, the crew pretty much expects Noro. Poor guys. As the days passed, our waiter kept us up to date, saying that the number of cases remained steady (no new incidences, thank goodness) before finally declining. A potentially icky Christmas outbreak was nipped in the bud, thanks to Princess' quick thinking and action. Formal night: The Captain's cocktail party was held from 7:30-8:15pm in the Piazza, with Commodore Romano making his speech a little before 8pm. We could not attend, as this was right in the middle of our early seating. This tactic seemed a little cheap to us (as it did to our tablemates), as a way to guarantee most people would miss the party (free drinks). I'm sure the bulk of anytime diners also eat in the window of 6-8pm as well, so I know it's not just early diners who were inconvenienced. I know that with anytime dining it's hard to schedule these evening events, but other ships usually have two parties to accommodate each dinner seating, so why not have two parties here? Oh well. This is not a make-or-break-a-cruise detail, but it is a little annoying. As for dress, we saw people dressed in anything and everything. Obviously, the first formal night is also the most formal. Thankfully, those who were eating in the dining rooms were dressed appropriately. We saw a range from evening gowns to cocktail dresses and pantsuits, dark suits to tuxes. With so many different eating venues and dress codes all over the ship, one doesn't have to worry about being frowned upon if they're not dressed in formalwear. A fair amount of folks change after dinner as well. Dinner: Tonight's theme: Captain's Welcome dinner. Appetizer was a delicious crabmeat quiche, chilled soup was a yogurt/tamarind blend (looked terrible, but don't judge a book by its cover, it tasted great). Entrees included shrimp newburg, Cornish hen, and medallions of beef, which were very soft and tasty. No sorbet on formal night, which is something we enjoy on Celebrity. After reading many recommendations on CC (and being a chocoholic), DD wanted to try the chocolate soufflE...well, I think she learned soufflE is not her thing, but others enjoyed it and there were many soufflEs to choose from throughout the cruise if you are a soufflE lover. Entertainment: Tonight was the first of four production shows, A Swell Party, a tribute to the music of Cole Porter. This is probably a show more for the older crowd, as the meaning was definitely lost on DD and some others said they didn't enjoy it much either. The best part of the cruise being ten days was the variety of production shows/entertainment. Out of the four shows, most people found at least one or two that they really enjoyed. The show itself was good, with nice sets and costumes, and the dancers do a great job. Wisely, the show is performed twice on formal night (once for each seating) and again the next day. While I dislike the theater's passenger capacity, I am happy to see Princess addressing this design problem with multiple performances of the shows. Afterwards I saw the newlywed game, which was pretty funny. This one really depends on the participants, but some of the questions were pretty good/cringe-worthy. If you enjoy the newlywed game, make sure to keep an eye out for it early on in the cruise, as they only do it once and many miss it. Other activities around the ship included lots of live music/DJs, piano player Eric Stone, and comedy/juggler Chuck Gunter in the Explorers lounge. He performed three times that evening, so there were plenty of opportunities to see him and catch other events as well. There was always something to do in the evenings, usually the problem was choosing between activities and getting a seat at them. It takes a lot to keep 3000+ pax occupied over the course of an evening, and Princess tries very hard to accomplish this, even if the venues and seating don't cooperate. Day 4, St. Thomas: We have been to St. Thomas many times before, but we love shopping so we always get off in order to hunt for bargains. We docked at Crown Bay, which was a different experience for us because we've only ever docked at Havensight. There were four other ships in port: Carnival Glory, Carnival Splendor, Norwegian Dawn all at Havensight, and Maasdam beside us at CB. (When you get up in the mountains and see the ships from above, you can really appreciate just how big Emerald is, especially compared to the tiny Maasdam!) They're still in the process of opening many stores at CB, but the usual suspects (Diamonds International, Cardow, etc.) are all there, along with a bar and some other random shops. There was even a huge Christmas tree and large windmill. Interesting? We missed Havensight a tiny bit, if only because the walk to town is far nicer along the waterfront and because there's something special about seeing your ship docked at that iconic pier. Make sure to look for the iguanas along the rocks at the CB pier - they're huge and make for amusing entertainment, particularly when the tourists try to "play" with them. The price for a taxi in to town is $4 per person, each way. However, all of the "taxis" are pickup trucks with bench-style seating - be prepared to cram in with about twenty other people in one of these. I have problems with my knee and don't do steps very well, so that was not an option for us. I finally found a regular car taxi after about an hour of waiting and searching for one: these car taxis are in pretty short supply, keep this in mind if you have difficulties. There is also the water taxi, which runs back and forth between downtown and Havensight. The price for this is $10 and it's valid for all day, which is a pretty good deal if you like to go back and forth a lot and love shopping. We took a tour of the island, saw lookout points, Magen's Bay. Magen's Bay is stunning, and less crowded than other beaches due to the entrance fee (I think it's about $4). Our driver even showed us Coki beach, which we had been to years ago when my daughter was younger...well, the first words out of DD's mouth was "YUCK". Coki beach was very crowded, absolutely teeming with people on the shore and in the water. Not a good place to be if there's lots of other ships in port, definitely. After our tour, our driver let us off in town for shopping. Even after all these years and cruises, I love the shopping in St. Thomas. I know it's very commercialized, but I think you can still find some bargains if you know where to look and how to haggle. It was crowded in town with so many ships - seems like most pax plan to do the beach/tour thing first, then go shop, so if crowds aren't your thing you might want to try doing it the other way around. For those who are interested in jewelry, my favorite store is Cardow. (Not a paid minion, just a fan.) I've been buying pieces from them for over thirty years and I've never been disappointed. They really stand by their merchandise and have repaired pieces I've bought from them years ago for no charge. Most of the jewelry stores are all recommended by the ships nowadays, so try not to spend too much time looking for hidden Mom-and-Pop places - they're just not here. If you love the chains, your port lecturer will describe all of them in detail and you'll get your lovely map too. Diamonds International's latest scheme is having passengers collect free charms from each port of call, so be sure to pop in there for your requisite "gold" bauble. Philip Stein watches were also quite popular purchases, with most pax claiming to have snagged them for significantly below US retail. Our driver picked us up at a pre-arranged place, and we headed back to the ship. Stopped for a bit to have sodas in this Margaritaville-esque bar in CB shopping center (the soda pushers finally made me crack, I couldn't help it), and then headed back to the ship. Caught many doing last minute runs off the ship to buy t-shirts in CB. Dinner: Tonight was the Princess dinner...not quite sure what that means, but I think we enjoyed it even more than the formal dinner. Another chilled soup in the drink glass (three melon daiquiri) and these delicious tiger prawn kebabs...DD is still raving about those! Entertainment: Tonight's main entertainment was Fernandez, a hypnotist. I like hypnotists, and Fernandez was hysterical. DD is very skeptical of hypnotists and agreed that he was the best she's ever seen. Hilarious! Don't miss him, people were talking about this show for the rest of the cruise, everyone loved it. Minor complaint: although there was live music and some other entertainment ("Peer Factor" = the weakest link), Fernandez was the main show in town tonight, which led to his three sets in the Explorers lounge being very, very crowded. People were crowded all over, and standing in the aisles at the final show. When a situation like this happens, I think they would be better off using the theater as the venue...this is where they placed Fernandez's midnight adult show later in the cruise, and it was full. Day 5, Dominica (Christmas eve): This was the only port on our itinerary that I had never visited and I was pleasantly surprised. The island is very lush and pretty, and the eco-tourism/conservation efforts really shine through. For anyone else doing this itinerary, I would recommend bringing along a small pop-open umbrella, as we used it in three different ports for a shield from the random, brief showers. Many islands said they were either in or entering their rainy seasons. The dock is pretty rickety...Dominica might want to invest in a more modern one sometime soon. Locals are friendly, not pesty. We took a tour with a private taxi (again, beware the mini-busses if you have difficulties - they are everywhere!) Thankfully, the rain let up as we drove up into the mountains on those windy, narrow roads. Our driver claims that there's a plan to widen the roads and brace the muddy clay hillsides in the future. We'll see. Dominica looks very similar to a South American jungle, greenery everywhere and lots of mountains. A large river runs through most of the island as well, all the way down to the town of Roseau. We reached Trafalgar falls early on in the morning, when not many other vans were there, which was key. Later on it got very, very crowded, so try to get there early in the day. The cost to get in is cheap, $5 I believe, and it's a self-guided hike down to the falls (though many bus drivers will walk down there with you). They will point out some plant and animal highlights along the way, though there's more of the former than the latter. There are many dirt steps down (not constructed but sturdy nonetheless) to first a lookout point and then the twin falls. The view from there is great and probably enough to satisfy the non-adventurous. Anything beyond the lookout point is considered at your own risk, and the trail is short but full of rocks - no steps at all. DD made the trek and she said it was rough if you're not too agile. She said she was glad she wasn't wearing flip flops, unlike most of the tourists! There are various pools at the base of the falls...very warm water, heated underground. Quite a few were swimming in the pools, too. On our way back down the mountain we stopped at the sulfur springs. This is not as visually stunning as the falls - to be blunt, it's kind of ugly and of course, smelly. There is no charge for admission here. The pathway in was muddy and flanked by reeds, slightly uphill. The sulfur spring is pretty small, considering the attraction that's built around it, but alright for a quick look. If you like, vendors will put god-knows-what from the sulfur spring on your face...claim it helps fight aging. No thanks! lol. Our driver stopped a few times while driving to grab bananas, papayas, and some spices to show us. The lemongrass is particularly fragrant - trust me, I know, it made our suitcase very fragrant when we returned home! On our way back to town, he showed us the botanical gardens, which we had wanted to see, but they were kind of a disappointment. We just did a drive-by, but you could easily walk there from the dock, it's not far. It seemed more like a large park than gardens. Many locals picnic and play sports there as well. There's also a large soccer field near several parochial schools; locals are very into soccer. Our tablemates said they visited a local church for Christmas eve service and said it was very pretty, but had suffered hurricane damage and the roof was leaking. We saw the church from the street and it's very imposing and impressive. If you like churches, it's definitely worth a look. In the afternoon, we went shopping for souvenirs in town in the afternoon and the streets were bustling - took us awhile to realize that yes, Virginia, it actually was Christmas eve! A good clue was that the locals were beginning to be full of Christmas cheer...the liquid kind, at least. There is no touristy downtown area, all stores are mixed in together and it's pretty easily walkable. I liked this, it gives you an opportunity to explore the local side of things. Many selling hot snacks and fresh fruits and veggies on the street. A huge line outside the local supermarket/electronics store - hm, wonder why? lol. Dropped into a drugstore and found a jar of peanut butter for $9 US - now that's something to write home about! There aren't that many actual souvenir shops (that we saw anyway), mainly little stalls set up along the street. They all have pretty much the same items and you can't do any haggling, even if you're into that sort of thing. There is a small marketplace right behind the Dominica museum (directly across from the pier), but it contains basically the same things. For those interested in jewelry or more high end goods: it's just not that type of place. There was one jewelry store by a hotel close to the dock, but that's it. Walk a little bit past the hotel to get some nice shots of the coastline and mountains. Dinner: Another Princess dinner. DD, who is a chilled soup fan, said if you know what's good for you, you'll stay away from the celery and apple soup. She said it had the consistency (and taste!) of baby food and others at the table agreed with her. Choices for dinner included salmon steak, duck breast, crawfish, and ribeye steak. Dessert's black forest cake was mediocre, not much flavor. As an extra treat, our waiter served Christmas cookies after dinner - nice touch. Entertainment: Tonight was a pretty big night in terms of entertainment. First, Santa made an appearance on the funnel at 7:30pm, after a reading of a Christmas story by CD Neil. Now, this seemed a bit misguided to me. When do most children eat dinner? Early seating or earlier in the anytime spectrum. The time for this event was right in the middle of early dinners. Not the best plan for such a kid-oriented event. Perhaps the best (and simplest) activity was in the Piazza tonight: caroling, offered once for each dinner seating. A sheet of song lyrics was included in the patter. It was so lovely to see everyone gathered and the crew all dressed up, singing Christmas carols. As everyone sang the final song, the snow began to fall from the top of the Piazza and you could really hear a collective "oooh" from the crowd. Now, it really felt like Christmas. This was a wonderful activity. We had our second production show, Motown, presented twice in the theater. Most folks really enjoyed this show - very upbeat and a lot of catchy songs. The lead singer, Regina, is fabulous - she has a great range! There was also various Christmas themed parties and dancing throughout the ship, and Fred Claus up on the MUTS screen. Finally, for Christmas eve, there were both Catholic and Protestant masses offered at 11:30pm in the theater and Club Fusion respectively. When we returned to our cabin, we received one stocking with the Princess logo (to share?) that was full of candy. Day 6, Grenada (Christmas day): I had visited this island a few times before, but it was many years ago, and my experience was not so great. My family and I found the locals to be very pesty (think: Jamaica, but more so) and I was worried about that happening again, particularly with DD in tow. I think Christmas mitigated the onslaught of the locals somewhat, as most were in their homes celebrating and only the die-hard taxi drivers and shop owners were out. (I'm not entirely convinced they've given up their pesty ways, however.) The Sea Princess was also docked beside us. Grenada's tourist areas are very beautiful: pristine Carenage harbor with many elegant yachts and sailboats, and the sparkling Grand Anse beach with many hotels nearby. The "downtown" area next to the pier is very tourist-oriented and sanitized as well. The local areas, however, are quite poor. Many hungry stray dogs running in the streets and lots of roadside souvenir stands looking for business. They will even sell to you through the car window, if you'd like. There is room for haggling here, too, so don't take the first price they give. Our driver stopped and gave us a "spice demonstration" of the various spices and how to use them. Kind of cheesy, but we had wanted to visit a spice plantation to begin with. We bought some spice boxes for friends, they're small boxes made out of palms and contain the essential spices from the island. You can get a better price and more spices if you work with them. Next stop was Annandale waterfall, which had a lot of vendors, so beware. They sell everything from CDs to spice necklaces to photos with monkeys and locals. Usually a firm "no" suffices. It's a short walk down to the falls, again, a very rainforest-like atmosphere. Very lush. There are jumpers at the waterfall, who ask for tips if you enjoy watching them. The waterfall is very pretty and there are benches where you can rest and watch. If you are looking for the famous black sand beach at Grand Anse (as I was, wanted to show DD), it's no longer. Our driver informed us that they used up all the black sand for airport construction. Lol. Our driver claimed there are still other black sand beaches on the island. The beach itself is still quite gorgeous, and we didn't see much selling by the locals, which was a nice plus (had that experience before too). By the time we got back to the pier, it seemed like most others had returned as well and the indoor mall (basically the only open shops) was very crowded. Interestingly, you have to put your things through a metal detector here before even walking out onto the pier (and of course, again when you board the ship). Upon returning to the ship, we were given ice cold towels. A nice touch, different than the water and juice Celebrity provides. DD said she prefers juice, but a cool towel is still thoughtful, and better than nothing. Her verdict on Grenada: "Mom, you had me worried for nothing - it wasn't that bad!" We left Grenada early in order to make the trip to Bonaire. Though we had less time in Grenada, it allowed for more Christmas celebrations throughout the ship. Santa arrived in the Piazza via the panoramic elevators before making his way to Club Fusion for visits with children. Parents could fill out a form with their child's information, which was given to Santa. He posed for pictures and gave each child a gift: a stuffed frog for kids and a Princess t-shirt for teens. A nice activity for kids. Dinner: This morning at breakfast, eggnog was served, and Christmas cookies and eggnog were served in the Piazza during the morning. When we arrived at dinner, the table had a real (!) candle, some greenery, and Christmas crackers at each place. And by Christmas crackers, I mean noisemakers, because there was a lot of noise generated from those throughout dinner. There was a small, token gift in each: a foldable pen, a keychain game, sewing kit, little things like that. Our table had been wondering what they would serve to accommodate all the different Christmas-dinner tastes aboard. Well, Princess met all of our expectations. There was turkey with all the trimmings, pineapple glazed ham (we both had this and it was one of our favorite entrEes), beef tenderloin, halibut, and pumpkin gnocchi. Our table shared the gnocchi and it was delicious as well. Dessert was equally varied: gingerbread soufflE, English Christmas pudding, Italian Christmas panettone. Now, here comes the problem. As our assistant waiter warned us, bar service was slow on Christmas, as was the kitchen service. Understandable. We were still waiting for our desserts at almost quarter after 8, and we weren't the only ones - the dining room was half full. I always hate when this happens, I feel terrible for the waiters having to rush for the next seating. We ate our desserts as quickly as we could, and the Maitre Ds were anxiously pacing, telling the waiters to hurry up and that they would turn the lights on "otherwise they'll never get out of here". Now if that wasn't bad enough, here is where the poor location of the Botticelli DR comes into play. (Remember, there's nothing outside it but elevators and stairs.) When we walked out, we were met by a huge crowd of late seating diners, practically stacked on top of each other in the foyer and on the stairs. We had to fight our way through the crowd to even reach the elevators. The worst part was, few of them even moved to allow us out - not to mention the fact that we got a lot of dirty looks. What a way to end Christmas dinner. I don't know what time late seating made it into the DR - there was still a lot of tables eating when we left at 8:20 - but it wasn't our fault, just this perfect storm of slowness. Entertainment: Tonight was a Christmas show, which was short in comparison to other shows. There was a number by the dancers, followed by magician Jeff Peterson and his pup, Indy. He's pretty funny and had some good tricks, but I guess I just expected more out of a Christmas show. This show was probably a half hour long, maybe a little more. There was also the CD's Christmas party (at the same time as the show) in Explorers, and a dance party in Club Fusion later in the evening. Day 7, Bonaire: We arrived in Bonaire a little after noon, due to the distance from Grenada. Enchantment of the Seas was already docked, and left a few hours after we arrived, so thankfully the small island wasn't too overwhelmed by so many visitors. I had been here before and fondly remembered the salt flats and the fact that the entire island had only one traffic light. Well, times change and now Bonaire has no traffic lights. Lol! Driving here is definitely not as crazy in other ports. With so few people, the roads feel very private and there are no hairpin mountain turns: Bonaire is pretty flat. People here speak both English and Papiamento, which is a hybrid of Dutch, French, Spanish, and English. If you speak Spanish, you will be able to understand some Papiamento. This proved to be an advantage for us, as our driver quickly switched from so-so English to fluent Spanish and we really got the cook's tour. We toured the both ends of the island. In the south are the salt flats and the slave huts. The flats take up an immense area, as there's different sections for each part of the salt mining process. The water is almost a violet color, kind of surreal. There's also a salt-loading dock and mechanism that extends over the road. Also located near here is the flamingo sanctuary, as the flamingos feed on the plankton in these waters. Unfortunately (probably fortunately for the flamingos), the sanctuary is not open to people. Flamingos outnumber people on this island, though they're very skittish around humans. You'll see some of them while driving around, but don't expect to get too close. At the end of the salt flats are the slave huts, which were used at the end of the 19th century for those who worked in the flats. It's prime (coral) beach real estate, though the conditions aren't so hot. Small concrete "houses" that slept four and have doors that can't be any more than 2 feet high. Being from FL, I was amazed that the huts have outlasted hurricanes for so long. We headed back through the town, catching some far-off flamingos along the way. The North side of the island has more inhabitants. We saw a picture-perfect retirement community where many Americans live: huge homes and beautifully landscaped yards. Also worth a look is the 1000 steps (misnomer), a coral staircase down to another snorkeling beach. Very picturesque. The island is coral, rather than volcanic, and you can see marks along the rock formations where the water has retreated from. There are many natural caves, too. We drove through the countryside, stopped at an overlook where we could see the more northern part, including the highest point, where they used to light fires to warn Curacao about pirates. Pretty neat. Also saw more flamingos playing in the waters, a bit closer this time. We went to another overlook near the town of Rincon. There were some colorful Caribbean parakeets in the fruit trees, and our driver claimed that they make very smart pets for the locals. We also got to see the old airport (the new Flamingo airport is in the south and rather large, surprisingly enough). The old airport - which wasn't too modern looking to begin with - is now a soccer field, lol. Though we didn't snorkel, we heard rave reviews from those who did. The best snorkeling is on Klein Bonaire, an uninhabited island very close to Bonaire. Bonaire really protects its beaches, closing them in cycles to let them "rest". There is also land-surfing (think windsurfing in go-carts on land) on the western side of the island, which we watched. Shopping: again, you'll really just find souvenir shops here. Bonaire was celebrating Boxing Day on our visit, so many stores were closed, but there was an open-air market with crafts near the center of downtown. Check out the government offices nearby. There is a very pretty walk along the waterfront, and many restaurants and bars in the area. All in all, we really enjoyed Bonaire - I'd venture to say it was our favorite stop. It's very peaceful, not at all commercialized, and has an interesting landscape. Caught some showers on our way back to the ship - another reason to pack that umbrella! Dinner: Tonight's theme was Italian, and the waitstaff was dressed in Italian gear. I got a kick out of that - haven't seen dressed up waitstaff in awhile! Appetizers (ham and melon) and soups (peach) were delicious. I really enjoyed the chicken cutlet, which was the homestyle cuisine option. DD had the veal, which she said was kind of chewy and not-so-hot. She did try the Love Boat Dream for dessert and, well, fell in love. Very rich but very yummy! Italian cookies accompanied our desserts, too. The big issue I had at dinner was the selling of these limoncello drinks in Princess cups. After seeing other tables served them, I presumed they were part of the Italian dinner. Boy, was I wrong! I believe it was 5.95 for a tiny cup. Our tablemates bought them (mainly for the cups, I think) and stopped drinking after one sip. They complained the drinks tasted like window cleaner and regretted buying them. Selling at dinner - that I can't abide by. It just reeked of tacky. Later at the Caribbean deck party, DD said they were selling those darn cups again...yuck. Entertainment: Tonight's production show, I Got the Music, was okay. It covered famous pop icons and the singing was good, but just didn't have the same wow factor as the other shows. Maybe because there wasn't as many choreographed dance numbers, just the vocalists doing their thing with the occasional dance accompaniment. The vocalists are good at what they do, so no disrespect meant to them. Other activities around the ship included another round of Princess Pop Star, live music/DJs, Eric Stone playing piano in Explorers, and of course, the requisite Caribbean deck party, which was also celebrating Kwanzaa. DD attended and she said it was pretty fun, lots of cheesy line dances and a game of musical chairs with men instead of chairs. Lol. Fun with streamers, too. Princess loves their streamers; they gave them out several times during our cruise at big celebrations. Day 8, Curacao: This was the Emerald's first visit to Curacao ever, and probably its only visit as this was a replacement for an Aruba stop on our voyage. (We were informed of this change months ago, so it was no surprise, and we love both stops, so we didn't care too much.) Even the crew was excited to explore Curacao, was a treat for them too. We were docked at a new pier, not the older one that is behind the Queen Juliana (overpass) bridge. That was a little bit disorienting for us, a bit of a "where the heck are we?" feeling! The walk to downtown takes about 10-15 min (depending on how fast you go), and is pleasant, with many nice views. Just like the other ports, there were those pesky random showers and a lot of wind, which kept us waiting to go ashore. Probably the most unexpected event was as we were getting ready to debark the ship. The announcement came: "this is the bridge, we have a mooring emergency." DD ran up on promenade deck and was shocked to see the ship's gangway, perfectly folded out - in the water! Officers scurried on the dock, taking in the canopies and midship gangway equipment before running back onboard. She asked one of the officers, who was kind enough to explain that the ship had been tied up improperly and a strong headwind had came and hit the top-heavy ship. The forward gangway took the brunt of it and collapsed into the water. Thankfully, no one was on it at the time, so no injuries. The officer said the fallen gangway was probably broken for good due to the shock of the fall. An officer and an engineer were tied to bungee cords and outfitted with lifejackets and sent down the water-gangway to try and attach it back to the ship's door. It was a big production to lift the gangway up again and use the thrusters to push the ship back to the dock. (DD got video of it, not sure how to link it here.) Both gangways' use was suspended while they fixed the forward one, and the forward one was not used for the rest of the day. Now there's excitement you don't see everyday! All I can say was thank goodness no one was hurt and for the quick response of the crew. When we disembarked, we were caught in the wind and rain again (bring your umbrellas!), and sought refuge under the "big top" tent on the dock. There's a large covered area with tourism info, vendors, even a bar. We had a very blah taxi driver who didn't show us much of the island, but those on ship's tours complained about their trips as well. Seems like they just blew by the countryside with the occasional mention of a specific tree or whatever. We got to see some waterfront, some of the hotels (lots of casinos if that's your thing). We did get to visit the Chobolobo liqueur plant, which was a former mansion. It's smaller than we expected, but an okay stop. There's lots of history and photographs of Chobolobo's glory days and of course - a tasting bar. I bought some orange and chocolate liqueur; price was reasonable enough. Try the coffee/chocolate blend - doesn't even taste alcoholic! I would warn to stay away from the "cooling spray", which is made of god knows what and supposed to cool you down better than A/C. Our driver surprised DD by spritzing her with it and she said her arm burned for the whole day. Yuck! He dropped us off downtown, where we did some damage of the shopping variety. Now if you've been shop-starved in all the previous ports, Curacao is your oasis. Very high-end stores, lots of jewelry and perfume, and brand name outlets. Some good jewelry bargains. In the center of downtown shopping is Gomezplein, a boulevard with many nice outdoor cafes and a lot of the high-end stores. Keep an eye out for the clock; every hour there is the parade of the figurines to music. Very cute. Not sure if this was due to the holiday season or what, but the streets and shops were very crowded with tourists and locals alike. We were told that many Venezuelans also come for day-shopping trips because of the short distance. Some shoppers are very pushy and will do things that we (as Americans) were shocked by: lighting up cigarettes in the middle of a store, pushing you aside to get served first, and even trying to steal a salesperson while in the middle of making a purchase. Definitely a different experience. We walked back to the ship, enjoying a trip over the Queen Emma floating bridge and the view of the colored shops behind. There's a fruit market in Punda (behind the downtown area, along the water), and a small crafts market on the opposite side of the bridge. Curacao is very pretty with old-world charm, it's one of our favorites. Dinner: Chef's dinner. Now this menu was kind of odd, very few choices for each course. The strawberry-lemon sorbet, which we had missed on formal nights, was to die for. Goat cheese soufflE was the best soufflE we had...others just not so good. Tonight we both tried the famous Princess fettuccine, and we were both really disappointed. Other pastas at lunch had been good, but the fettuccine was sadly mediocre. The crab legs were excellent, very easy to eat if you're worried about making a mess. Only one choice for dessert, a trio sampler, which was alright enough. Entertainment: Comedian Tony Daro boarded the ship in Curacao and performed three sets that night in Explorers. The show we saw was close to an hour and decidedly not canned joke telling. He was hilarious! He was definitely our favorite act onboard - a real natural. Also going on was Country night in Club Fusion, Eric Stone playing piano in Crooners, and Get Smart on the MUTS screen. The Cruise Director's show was at 10:30, and the crew acts were pretty good. The real cheesiness came from the cruise staff's skits, particularly "If I were not upon the sea". Day 9, at sea: Since not much happens during these long, lovely sea days, I'm devoting this section to the ship and little hints. International Cafe: One of the best-kept secrets onboard! The first few days you'll find the cafe to be relatively empty because most haven't discovered it and think there is a charge. Enjoy it! Pastries are out from early morning until about 10:30am (donuts, muffins, turnovers, croissants - try the chocolate croissants/pastries, they are to die for!) and then replaced with sandwiches, salads, and desserts around lunchtime. The salads are mushroom, shrimp (delicious), greek, and chicken; and the sandwiches: tomato & mozzarella, chicken, tuna and some others. There's also quiche and some great pies, cakes, and tarts. Cookies are also available in the afternoon. It's very clear what you have to pay for: gelato, items in the round cases during the day (goodie bags of candy, candy apples), and tapas in the normal cases at nighttime. The tapas looked delicious, but we were always too full after dinner to try any. If you're wondering, just ask! We found some others were intimidated by the cafe and not knowing what was free, but just ask the staff and they will be happy to tell you. Library: Very small for a ship this size, only about 10 seats in the room. If you enjoy Sudoku, three puzzles are available here daily, as well as brain teasers and forms for Wakey Wakey TV. Since there's hardly any room in the library for anything other than reading, the hangout for card players is in the Botticelli dining room. Wheelhouse Bar: The pub lunch is available on all sea days and there's no charge for it. Our tablemates went and said it was very good, even though the venue is not exactly suited towards mealtime. Menu is: bangers and mash, fish and chips, ploughman's lunch (ham, cheese, pate), and cottage pie. Captain: Our Captain, Guiseppe Romano, was wonderful, very pleasant and always out-and-about. Definitely the most visible captain I have seen in many cruises! The man loves his midday ship position announcements too. Captain Romano is the Commodore (most senior captain) of the Princess fleet, so he's definitely the big cheese. He was very friendly to both me and DD and even knew our names when greeting us at the Captain's Circle party. Color me impressed. He and some of the other officers had their families with them for the cruise and we always saw them out and about in the Piazza and occasionally at the shows. As for the big cheese himself - well, it's a sight to see when the captain is toting his family's baggage outside the terminal on disembarkation day! He even stopped then to talk to us then about our cruise...what a nice guy. Bridge tour: We were invited to tour the bridge on the second to last sea day. There were about 25 people in the group, mostly men and a handful of young boys. The security officer told us that was many more than they usually allow. Commodore Romano had other obligations, but he welcomed us before handing us off to one of the other officers. Third officer Christian was very thorough, explaining the various equipment and how the ship runs. He answered as many questions as we could think of and even told some stories. We were also given a nice handout with information about the bridge. Security officers were present at all times, but were very friendly and even offered to take a photo of DD "driving" the ship...she was thrilled to pieces. Passengers: As expected, there were a lot of children on our sailing, probably about 700 (we heard varying numbers). The teens did roam in packs, usually around the pool areas and Cafe Caribe at night. If you didn't know beforehand Princess had youth security, you wouldn't have known by watching the teens. Found kids doing stupid things: pressing all the buttons in the elevator, having heart-to-hearts while seated on the elevator floor, etc. Also found a lot of multigenerational families traveling together. Couples without children were well-represented, so don't fear this type of sailing if you don't have kids/yours are older. We had a large number of Canadians on our sailing, and a good representation of folks from the UK. Canadians were definitely the most vocal group, particularly when Tony the comedian took to ribbing them over their "beaver tails" snack. Lol. Kids program: DD is the kids' programs biggest fan, she always goes, no matter what cruise we are on. She loves the activities, meeting new friends, and always bonds with the counselors. She really did not like the Princess program. She said the counselors had an attitude, were very detached, and the activities were dull and repetitive. She even stopped going to activities, which she's never done before. On Celebrity, activities are offered all day long, whether in port or at sea, for all age groups. On Princess, there are only night activities on port days and daytime activities are only on sea days (for teens). This is just lazy on Princess' part. I understand that this is a Christmas cruise with many kids, but the counselors have to grin and deal with it. A big disappointment. On a more positive note, on the last sea day a holiday fair was held in the Piazza for the younger cruisers. There was cookie decor Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was ... Read More
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was pretty painless. It was much like at a ride in Disneyland. Lots of people but moved along fairly quickly. We were issued our cards and before long were in our cabins. We had C406 and the boys had an inside across the hall C408. We were pretty much smack dab in the middle of the ship. The room was certainly big enough. The closet was huge and also the cabinet with the safe had additional shelves for storage. The bathroom was fine and again, more than enough space for all our stuff. We never had a problem with the size of the shower or the shower curtain contrary to what I had read often on this board. We had a balcony, partially covered and would say that I would not cruise without one. We spent a lot of time on our balcony. We really enjoyed watching from our balcony as we came into ports in the morning and also sitting and enjoying the views leaving the ports. We also enjoyed having a drink or coffee on our balcony and just being able to relax a little and enjoy the warm weather and fresh air. Ship: The ship is simply beautiful. Having never cruised before, I can't compare but I thought it was stunning.......and, well really, really big. It took me several days to figure out what was where and which way to go to get there. The staff that take care of the ship do a wonderful job at keeping everything immaculate everywhere. It was nicely decorated in the main areas for xmas and they had a nice display for when Santa arrived for the children as well as snow "falling" on xmas eve. Pools, MUTS, Gym: We had three sea days and I was up early (as usual) to find a pool lounger on all of those days. It was very interesting to be up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. relaxing with my book and watching the chair hogs scout out their spots. These were not people choosing a chair for themselves. They were reserving 4, 6, 8 chairs, throwing a towel or a pair of shoes on the chairs and then disappearing for hours. Understandably, there were a lot of families on this cruise, but does every family member really need a chair? Maybe they should all get up early and get there own and actually use it. The first day was at the very back of the ship which is a fairly quiet area and pretty peaceful. The other two days I choose a lounger near the MUTS screen, once on a lower deck and once on an upper deck. It was nice to be able to watch a movie while laying in the sun. This is a very, very busy area. I literally felt like a sardine......it's an obstacle course to get through the chairs and people and there is no room between the loungers. We did not sit and watch a movie in the evenings but often walked by and there were lots of people enjoying the big screen. I think the MUTS is a pretty cool idea. I went to the gym on a couple of occasions when it opened at 7:00. There were lineups and it was quite busy. I thought that it was nicely equipped and maintained. Decided to just walk outside on the Promenade deck after that. The track that is on the top deck of the ship is a nice feature, but it was too narrow and short for my comfort. It felt like you were always bumping into or trying to avoid other people. Also, way too hot up there for me. There were lots of people using it throughout the day. Dining: We had the late seating in the dining room at 8:30. I have to say that the meals we had in the dining room were absolutely wonderful. All the food was just so good and nicely prepared. I had several of the fish dishes and all were fantastic. Some of the favorites were the seafood stew served in puff pastry, grilled rack of lamb, sea scallops on ratatouille, French onion soup - yummo!! Also the king crab was delicious as well as the lobster. The lobster tail was served with two or three massive prawns which were to die for. There was lots of variety of appetizers, salads, soups and desserts in addition to the "always available" menu. I would definitely say the food on this cruise was far superior to any 5-Star All Inclusive that we have been to. We almost always had breakfast in the DaVinci dining room. You could always order things like bacon & eggs, pancakes, etc from the menu. There was a different breakfast feature each day. Eggs Benedict one day, an asparagus and fontina cheese omelette another day, and so on. Also, as soon as you were seated a waiter would appear with a tray of fresh pastries. I am having withdrawal from the fresh, warm donuts sprinkled with sugar. We tried breakfast once or twice in the buffet but were obviously spoiled from the dining room as the food in the buffet was only what I would say mediocre at best. We also had the odd snack from the buffet, but honestly, the food is so much better in the dining rooms there wasn't much point in eating at the buffets. We also had lunch a couple of times in the Wheelhouse Bar, very nice fish & chips. The other thing I have to rave about is the afternoon tea. My younger son and I stumbled on this quite by accident, but I must say, sure glad we did. Tea is served in the DaVinci Dining room every day from 3:30 - 4:30. There were a few times we missed due to being in a port, but this became one of our favorites. Very formal, white glove service and some very interesting table companions each time. Tea would be served and then trays and trays of delicious little sandwiches, pastries, and the absolute best scones I have ever had. Fresh and warm, served with jam and clotted cream. It was my son that couldn't wait to go to tea every chance we could. I also had a few lunches from the International cafe. They had a nice selection of salads and sandwiches. I found it somewhat frustrating that one day, these items would be "free" and then the next day, the items had a charge. There were items clearly marked that were extra such as the gelato and chocolate dipped strawberries but the lunch items were a guessing game. The coffee here was also pretty good. This is the only place on the ship that actually uses real cream for coffee. Everywhere else on the ship they use milk. I am a diehard coffee drinker and found the coffee practically undrinkable anywhere else. Coffee in the dining room was okay.......but I just don't like milk in my coffee. The coffee card was a good deal for me and I would recommend it. I think I went through three of them. Shows/Casino: Unfortunately, we made it to only one show. A comedian in one of the lounges. He was quite funny and we enjoyed it. We are not much into shows and we found the times were just a bit inconvenient for us. We found the early shows too early to get to and of course having the late dinner, we missed most of the late ones. If I were to cruise again, I think I would choose anytime dining. I think dinner at 7:00 would be ideal for us to take in a few more of the shows. The 6:15 seating is too early, and 8:30 was just a bit too late. We usually spent an hour or so in the casino after dinner. It was never really too busy and it would be nice if they would have a better selection of slot machines. I felt most of the ones they had were pretty outdated. Princess Cays. Nice enough beach. Nothing too special here. St. Thomas: We had nothing planned for St. Thomas. We ended up taking an island tour by a nice local guy. Spent two hours or so with him and saw some of the sights. We also walked around on the strip with the shops. I suppose if you like jewelry and watches, you would enjoy this port. We walked just one block back off this strip to a little convenience store to buy some juice and had a lady in her jeep stop to tell us that we were not in a safe area. She was very adamant about us not being in the area we were in. For me, this was the least impressive port that I visited. Dominica: I had booked a tour to go river tubing with Antours. We spent some time touring some of the island and then went to the river. This was so much fun and I'd recommend doing this to anyone. I think some were expecting a lazy relaxing float down the river, but it was actually pretty hairy in some places - what a blast! We went back into town after, but it was so busy as it was Christmas Eve. I have to say though, I thought the local people in Dominica were the friendliest, nicest people of any of the ports we visited. Grenada: We had an island tour booked with Mandoo Tours. A very pretty island and some very interesting history here. Mandoo is extremely well educated and probably knows more about the politics of my own country than I do. He talks constantly while driving the vehicle, but wow, this guy knows his stuff. He is a very, very interesting man. I bought lots of fresh spices on the island to take home. Bonaire: By far, this island has the most amazing snorkeling I have ever done. The water is so beautiful, clear and warm. So many beautiful fish and we also were able to see several sea turtles. We took a water taxi to Klein Bonaire for a few hours. There is nothing on this island, not even a washroom (I think) but it is a great place to snorkel or suntan on the beach. The port area was so clean, pretty and so well kept. The shop keepers were pleasant and for a change didn't hound you buy stuff. Of all the ports on the cruise, this was my favorite and the only one I would want to visit again. Curacao: Hmm. Mixed feelings here. We went into the shopping area for awhile. Holy Knock-Off Ville. After wandering around a bit, we ended up going back and getting towels/bathing suits and took a cab to Kon Tiki Hotel. The beach there goes for awhile and there are several hotels along this area. Pretty average beach, somewhat disappointing really. Other Things: I actually liked the picture taking stations set up in the evenings. We went several nights for family photos and ended up with some very nice pictures. The pop card for kids or teens is a must I think. I can't remember exactly how much, but somewhere around $40 for the 10 days. My kids also ate at the burger place and the pizza place and said it was pretty good. The ice cream card is also a good idea. My kids met a lot of people their age and had a very good time with their new friends. I guess this is true as they usually did not get back to their room until the wee hours of the morning. They would usually be sitting at the back of the ship visiting or in the nightclub as I did check on them to see where they were and what they were up to. I didn't notice any bad behavior by the kids on the cruise as some people have mentioned. Generally, I thought they were pretty well behaved. Other than the last night when they were several boisterous groups around the ship, but it really just seemed to me that they were saying their good-byes to one another. I also have to mention the dress code. I know this can be a touchy subject but something that really ticked me off. I had read repeatedly on this forum that people would be turned away from the dining rooms if not dressed appropriately. Well, I can certainly say that on this cruise there was NO dress code whatsoever in the dining room. The first night there were several people in line wearing jeans, T-shirts, sloppy runners, etc. I figured that because there were so many problems with many people just barely getting to the ship due to the terrible storms that they had relaxed the dress code for a day or so. I know also there were several who had not received their luggage till very late or not at all. No, this was the norm the entire cruise. These are not designer jeans I'm talking about. Frayed, dirty looking jeans, leggings, washed-out ill-fitting t-shirts, shorts, ipod earphones stuck to their ears, etc. I thought we were going to a hot-dog eating contest somewhere - that's how bad these people dressed. Rant over. All in all, we had a good time and it was a really great experience and we saw some great places. Would I do another cruise? Probably not. As silly as it may sound, I found this a "hectic" vacation. Not really relaxing at all. I felt that I was constantly looking at my watch. The ship is beautiful and huge, but it felt claustrophobic in a way compared to what I am used to. I love to walk a lot and just going around the promenade deck for my twice daily walks just is not too exciting after the first 3 laps. I missed the tranquility of a beautiful, un-crowded beach. Relaxing in a lounge chair reading and enjoying the great weather without people stepping over me. Just things like that. However, I do think for those that haven't cruised and are considering it, you should try it at least once. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Emerald Princess 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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