1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2015
9 of us ranging in age from 78- 4 years old on the 12-19 Christmas cruise- It was a very good cruise and given that we could just make a 3 hour drive to the Houston port and park it was the easiest embarkation/disembarkation ever. We have ... Read More
9 of us ranging in age from 78- 4 years old on the 12-19 Christmas cruise- It was a very good cruise and given that we could just make a 3 hour drive to the Houston port and park it was the easiest embarkation/disembarkation ever. We have been on 10+ cruises and this one being our second on NCL. Mostly sail from FLL or Miami to enjoy the newer boats and better weather but took a chance on the Jade because of the convenience and value. We were a little concerned by all the November and December negative reviews but it appears they have most of the earlier problems worked out. The bartenders were good and I discovered a new favorite drink- the Moscow Mule! Have it made with Tito's vodka! Ultimate Bev Package worked well although the selections are not as good as Celebrity's program. We dined at Grand Pacific each night and other than the first night (when they were rather overrun) we had no trouble with service. The food was okay but was not impressive. It seems the days of lobster, escargot, or a nice jumbo shrimp cocktail are over on NCL. Not sure if this is because of the emphasis on all of the specialty restaurants but overall a step back from previous cruises within the last few years. For instance one night I had Prawns in Alfredo sauce which was good- the "prawns" however were about the size of a nickel. C'mon, I wouldn't mind "shrimp" with Alfredo but don't get my hopes up... Didn't go to all the shows but the ones we did get to were great- The Elements show was probably the best I have seen at sea. The reggae band on the pool deck was great and I enjoyed listening to them very much- pool deck always had chairs available. 4 year old really enjoyed the kiddie pool and made friends there which helped with the drop off at the kids club the couple of times he went. The two early teens in the family made friends and had a great time while onboard. White Hot Party was fun but was better on the NCL Sun where they held the event outside and had more staff involved. The ship is a little old and showing some age in places but overall not bad. While we had a completely full sailing it did not seem crowded at most times. Everyone that I encountered both passenger and crew seemed in high spirits. The Hawaiian theme is weird and I missed the multistory atrium that is found on most ships of this size. The Christmas décor was mostly disappointing- they tried a little. Having Santa there on Christmas morning was really nice for our 4 y.o. and the carolers were fun. Arrived early back in Houston due to weather which was no problem and seeing the fog as we came up the ship channel Friday afternoon it was probably a good call by the captain. We took a cab to Paradise beach in Cozumel based on CC reviews and it was very nice. Lots of water toys to use on the beach, pool, showers- just what we were looking for this time. Its not an all inclusive so everything was al a carte and they ask you to spend $10 in food/bev...$15 for use of all the non motor water toys. Belize tender was no problem. Did cave tubing and zip line with cavetubing r us. Fantastic experience and the owner/operator David was very knowledgeable about his country/enjoys his job! More time in the river, better tubes, half the cost of the ship. Roatan tender was no problem- we didn't have as much time in port as I would have liked but we visited West Bay beach through bananarama. Awesome beach and snorkeling but very crowded with 5 ships visiting that day. Of all the cruises we've been on I can say that they all have been 5 stars+ and I have always appreciated the hard work the staff puts in to make sure everyone's experience is a great one but withholding a star this time because of the big food decline in the main dining rooms. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
I was initially concerned about cruising on the Emerald Princess at Christmas for fear that: 1) the ship would be overrun with unsupervised children, 2) we'd have problems departing and arriving in the Port of Houston due to fog and ... Read More
I was initially concerned about cruising on the Emerald Princess at Christmas for fear that: 1) the ship would be overrun with unsupervised children, 2) we'd have problems departing and arriving in the Port of Houston due to fog and 3) that the number of passengers would make for a crowded ship. I am happy to report that none of my fears materialized and that our Christmas cruise was very merry indeed. Embarkation: We (two adults in late 50's and two adults in mid 20's) stayed the night prior to the cruise at the Springhill Suites at Hobby Airport. The hotel offered free shuttle service from the airport and to anywhere within 5 miles of the hotel. This worked our great for us because we had family members arriving at Hobby at 3 different times and they just came to the hotel on the shuttle. Also, the shuttle was great for taking us to restaurants, Walmart, etc. The next day we called Pasadena Taxis and they sent a nice minivan for our party of 4. The cost, as they estimated beforehand, was around $50. We arrived at the time Princess requested we do so (noon - 1pm) and the line was rather long, but moved at a good pace. We were onboard the ship within 30 minutes of arriving at the port. The ship departed the Port of Houston almost on time--no fog problems. Public Rooms: This was the largest Princess ship I had ever sailed on, so I was a little concerned that it would feel crowded. Not so. There were plenty of public places to go which were uncrowded. In fact, this felt as one of the most un-crowded ships I've ever been on. Because this was a Christmas cruise, all of the public areas were decorated which made it especially nice. The Piazza was wonderful and we enjoyed the champagne waterfall, Christmas caroling and other programs here. Another of our favorite spots was the area outside the Explorers Lounge. There were always some tables and chairs there where we could play our Scrabble game. The outside areas were equally uncrowded. Our go-to place for breakfast was the Caribe Cafe and the area behind the cafe and our go-to place for sunning and swimming was at the Terrace Pool. This area seemed to be a secret from most of the passengers because they were crowded in the Horizon Court and around the Calypso and Neptune Pools. The only public area that was a disappointment to me was the library. For such a large ship, this was a pitifully small library. Cabin: Our party had both a balcony room and an inside room. The rooms on Princess are somewhat smaller than their counterparts on other cruiseships, but they are still fine. I will say that we had more than enough storage space for all of our clothes and luggage. And having a mini-fridge in all of the rooms is a big plus for Princess. The beds on Princess have always been so comfortable to me. Our cabins were on the Aloha Deck and we never heard a thing--no sounds from the ship, no sounds from the passengers, no sounds of the stewards' carts. This was the quietest room I've ever had on a ship. Fitness and Recreation: The fitness room was similar to most fitness rooms on other cruise ships. Treadmills were the most popular machines but were available for use only after 8am due to the fact that there were cabins underneath. The gym was open from 6am to 10pm. There were lots of other recreational areas--putting course, croquet, half-size shuffleboard, and basketball. Enrichment Activities: I don't recall any on this cruise. On previous Princess cruises, there have been educational talks about the ports-of-call, but not so on this ship. There were also not any "Scholarship at Sea" programs. Dining: Our dining experience (late traditional) started out poorly when we were assigned a table in a highly-trafficked area next to the waiter's service area. We could see several other tables in quieter areas which were empty, so the next day I contacted the head waiter for the Botticello dining room and we were immediately re-assigned to a quiet table next to the window. (I wonder why passengers were seated at less-desireable locations when prime locations were available?) The breakfasts in the Caribe Cafe were fine, but we were never able to get any grapefruit despite being told we could. For lunch, we always had pizza, hot dogs or hamburgers and they were all delicious. We never waited for the grilled foods and there was never more than a 5 - 10 minute wait for pizza. The dinner menu was OK, but I have always found the food on Princess to be rather bland. Since this was a cruise out of Texas, I would have expected some spicer food as we love our Tex-Mex and BBQ. Even the food choices that were supposed to be spicy were not. Princess would do a real service to their customers by providing a "spicy" option at each meal. Entertainment: There was lots of entertainment on this ship. We did not attend any of the production shows, but the performances by the guest performers, singer Lovena B. Fox and magician Michael Barron were excellent! The Christmas caroling by the staff was such fun and there were other programs in the Piazza which I enjoyed. My only gripe about the entertainment was that there was a nightly game show (trivia, etc.) each night at 9:15 pm, but those who had traditional late dining could not participate because we were never finished with our meals until 9:30 pm or later. Shore Excursions: We had 3 port stops and we did a ship's excursion in Belize. I prefer private tours, but since this was a tender port and since we were only in port until 4:30 pm, I was afraid to book a private tour for our destination, the Lamanai Mayan Ruins. Like all big tours, we waited around a LOT but the excursion met our expectations. I will say Princess does a good job on their website letting you know exactly where you will go on your excursion and how much time you will spend there. The lunch, however, on this excursion was poor. The meal consisted of 2 small pieces of chicken, rice and coleslaw. I barely had enough to eat and my 6'4" son certainly did not. Service: The service on the Emerald Princess was excellent. The staff was friendly and seemed to do all that they could to ensure you had a great experience. My interactions with the head waiter and with the pursers desk were productive. Debarkation: We arrived in the Port of Houston about an hour later than scheduled due to weather. However, they made up some of this time and we debarked only 30 minutes later than scheduled. The debarkation was pretty good, but our assigned area, the Crown Grill, was too small for everyone who was supposed to be there. We ended up waiting in another area and ocassionally walking over to the Crown Grill to check on our debarkation time. Going through Customs and Immigration in Houston was easy and we quickly got a taxi (Pasadena Taxi again) to Hobby airport. The cost was around $60. Value for Money: Because this was a Christmas cruise, the cost was much higher than the cost of this same cruise at other times. Therefore, our "value-for'money" was less. However, this was a great cruise and I would recommend both the Emerald Princess and doing a Christmas cruise. A Final Note: As previously mentioned, I was really concerned about booking a Christmas cruise for 4 adults for fear we'd be overrun by children. When we were in the embarcation line, I commented to my spouse as to how few children there were. During the entire cruise we saw relatively few children and we did not experience ANY rude, misbehaving or unsupervised children. I was very pleasantly surprised.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
We just returned from the Dec. 20-27 cruise on the Jewel: my wife and I (both 53), and our 20 year old college sophomore daughter and 18 year old high school senior son. These longish, idiosyncratic reviews helped us, so here goes. Just ... Read More
We just returned from the Dec. 20-27 cruise on the Jewel: my wife and I (both 53), and our 20 year old college sophomore daughter and 18 year old high school senior son. These longish, idiosyncratic reviews helped us, so here goes. Just to put us in perspective: fairly well travelled (couple of weeks in Europe every other year, a week in the Caymans most years, and a few weeks on Kiawah most summers). We have never cruised or done package tours; even out of the way Greece, Turkey, or Italy we plan ourselves, albeit at mostly higher end places. My wife is concerned that as the kids' schedules get more hectic, family trips will be harder. (I suspect the lure of free vacations will take care of that.) Anyway, we decided to try a cruise (and to not host Christmas for the first time in many years). Worked with a great TA, researched on Cruise Critic, and decided on NCL Jewel as a good balance of ship, itinerary, etc. We live outside D.C., but it is an easy direct flight to Houston. We had an aft suite (I could never figure out if it was a penthouse or not, but it had the butler and concierge, so not sure it mattered). We had the kids share a balcony room next to us; they haven't shared rooms when we travel for many years, but we were--needlessly, in hindsight---concerned about security (not really concerned, but never having cruised....) that we put them together near us. They were good sports about it, and the steward made some tweaks to give them more privacy. Bottom line, had a great time. Different than what we were used to, but a lot of fun. Bunch of comments and observations below: 1. Food: we ate in the specialty restaurants every night. Just our preference, but food quality is important to us, and the supplement seemed reasonable (did the package). LOVED Moderno for breakfast and lunch; much better than the couple of times we ate in the Garden Café for those meals. Best meals: Cagneys (ate there twice, once much better than other time): not up there with Palm or high end steakhouse ashore, but good. Also really enjoyed La Cucina--limited menu but well prepared. Enjoyed all of the others, but food was nothing really special (I enjoy almost anything with my family on vacation) 2. Other food observations: found service slow at specialty restaurants, even when not that full; my sense was that the servers were stretched a little thin. Felt that there could have been a higher high end on the wine list; it topped out at about $65 (except for the Champagne). Not much of a mark up, which was nice, but even a small "reserve" list would have been nice. Had the butler serve breakfast in the suite a couple of days: very nice, and he was happy to get off menu items. 3. Steward, Butler, and Concierge (Florentia) were outstanding. Helpful, always there but not obtrusive, friendly. Could not have been nicer, and a major part of the trip being great. 4. From what we saw, the priority boarding and disembarkation made a real difference. We breezed on and off in just a few minutes, and missed the customs lines when we returned. 5. The bars were nice, well staffed, and I thought well priced. They could all make a "real" drink (martini, Manhattan, etc.) as well as the various specials. 6. We really enjoyed the various "small" musical acts, generally at Magnums (one of the bars). Fun hearing Italian piano players and Brazilian guitarists playing and singing classic rock, folk rock, etc. Not being sarcastic--really enjoyed it, and we wished they stayed open past midnight. 7. We found the back of the boat suite very quiet, with no foot traffic past our rooms. Folks we talked to in the other suites, including Haven, said it was often "noisy." No personal experience, just repeating a couple of comments. 8. We all enjoyed the spa. My wife and daughter both had facials and massage(s), and said they compared favorably to higher end day spas in and around D.C. I had a shave--full hot towel, face massage, etc. like in the old time (and new!) barber shops, and it was great. We got the week passes to the steam, whirlpools, sauna, complex (with great views!), and found them both very nice, and usually pretty empty. Gym was ok, a little crowded for my taste but pretty nice. 9. Wifi was confusing and slow, but usable if you need to stay connected. 10. All of our excursions were through the ship. We did the Mayan ruin trip in Cozumel (ok, a little too commercial but Angel was a great guide). Son and I did the already-certified scuba dives in Belize and Roatan (outstanding in both places; professional, well run, good equipment, great reefs and wall dives). Wife and daughter went to animal preserve/beach day in Roatan and had a great time. Daughter (budding classics/archeology teacher) did another Mayan ruin in Belize and found it great, much "better" than Cozumel in scope and depth. All well run; no standing around waiting (except for a short weather delay in Belize). 11. I didn't see many (ok, any) of the "big" shows, but wife and daughter enjoyed them. The "risqué" ship-run programs (think PG-13 truth or dare) were fun, and good natured, and the cruise director said several times before they started that they were really for those over 18. Nothing explicit, all double-entendre stuff. Fun, and funny. 12. I thought the dance bands and/or DJ in Spinnaker at night were good, but hampered by the age rang from 18-65 all together. Motown followed by hip hop followed by 80's hair bands: hard to please everyone, but they did their best, and most people were able to dance most of the time. 13. Bars were a great place to people watch, particularly the row of bars in "bar city." 14. Kids, as kids do, found groups of other 18-21 year olds, and had fun by themselves, which was fine with us. We signed the beer and wine waiver for them (they have the occasional glass of wine with dinner at home, and we let them follow local laws when we travel), and they were reasonably responsible. 15. Initial thoughts: we would cruise again, although not necessarily right away, and would probably go NCL again for a family cruise (but kids could have their own cabins next time). If it is just my wife and I, we would probably try to go a little more "luxury," although I get a little confused about all of the labels. But if it is just us, not sure I would do a week cruise vs. a week in Tuscany or France. But will probably try it at least once more. I am sure I will revise those opinions a few more times as the experience percolates. Hope folks find this useful. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
Our family had a great cruise on the Jewel. We were traveling in a group of fifteen, so we were a large group. Embarkation was fairly easy. Once we got on the ship, our staterooms were already open which was a nice surprise as that was not ... Read More
Our family had a great cruise on the Jewel. We were traveling in a group of fifteen, so we were a large group. Embarkation was fairly easy. Once we got on the ship, our staterooms were already open which was a nice surprise as that was not the case on our previous NCL cruise. Dining: First off, the buffet area exceeded expectations. It lacks any ambiance, but it was a staple of ours for breakfast and lunch. There is really an amazing variety of food (Grill, pasta, pizza, stir-fry, Indian, bread, fruit). At breakfast there's all kinds of eggs and breakfast meats, and omelette stations. I was pleasantly shocked that there was always seating available in the buffet (I expected it to be a popular choice and swamped). It always seemed to be close to full, with always a few tables empty. The staff was amazingly attentive, clearing plates within seconds of you finishing your food. For dinner, we ate in the main dining rooms most nights of our cruise. The two dining rooms have the same menu, however it is a large menu and changes from night to night. The service was impeccable, probably because each waiter only takes care of 2-3 tables at a time. On a typical night it's a three course meal (soups/salads, main course, dessert). We liked that it was not a fixed menu, and we could each choose our own entree from a good list of options. The food never took to long to come. A small but important detail: the coffee is very good on the Jewel. We were slightly bothered by the fact that soda was not included in your cruise fare; you could pay $2.10 per glass or buy an expensive package. I just steered clear (water, iced tea, and all juices were included). Complimentary room service was a nice touch, but the menu was limited and there wasn't really any eating space in stateroom. Stateroom: We had a balcony stateroom. The bed was extremely comfortable. The balcony was well worth the extra cost-- It was nice to sit out there in the late afternoons and early evenings (the period of time between sun-bathing and dinner) and watch as the ship sailed out of port or in the open water. The bathroom was tight, but perfectly functional. Our steward was outstanding. Not only did he do a room make-up each morning, and turn down each evening, but he always did it when it worked for us. It seemed like he tailored his busy work schedule around when we felt like being in our stateroom. Our daughter required the pullout couch-- He stowed it for us each morning and made it up again each evening. Great touch. Amenities-- We were overall satisfied with the pool deck experience. The pools were a bit small, but we didn't wish to go for long swims, just quick ones to cool off. Usually the deck chairs right down by the pool are all taken. Up on the upper deck, however, there were usually some chairs open. That was actually nicer because the loud music of the pool deck wasn't right on you. For a quieter time, try the upper sun deck at the front of the ship (only accessible by stairs). Entertainment-- I'd give it a 6/10. We hardly ever found the options extremely appealing, but we gave them a bit of a pass because it is impossible to please everybody on a cruise. the productions were occasionally impressive and sometimes purely mediocre. Ports: Cozumel-- Cozumel was the only port we docked at, making going ashore very easy-- you could just walk off. We did the three reef snorkel by boat. The boat crew was very friendly. I felt that the tour group was a bit big and the water was a big crowded. Overall it was a cool experience. The excursion ended in time to venture into town for lunch. Belize City-- Book an excursion or don't get off the ship. Belize city was a depressed area and maybe dangerous. We did the Altun Ha Mayan ruins tour. The tour began with a bus drive through tour of Belize City, which was a very depressed city. The bus ride to Altun Ha was bumpy, and excruciatingly slow (it took over an hour one way). Can't fault the tour company for that though. The tour guide in charge of the Altun Ha part of the tour was weird and very hard to understand, so we got virtually no supplemental info on the ruins. The sheer wonder of the ruins was enough to make it a cool experience, though. Banana Coast-- This was obviously a makeshift port of call. The cruise was originally scheduled for Roatan, and changed the port of call after we booked. What's more, The Jewel was the first ship to ever call in Banana Coast. What's more, the cruise port was still under construction. They had to use the ship's lifeboats to tender us to shore. We didn't book a tour, rather we walked into town and explored. Good if you like seeing new places, bad if you like adventure. Beautiful scenery and mountains. Overall the Jewel was comfortable, we were well fed, and I can't say enough about the crew. They were attentive, eager to help, and ALWAYS smiling and friendly. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
I took my family on a cruise for Christmas this year. We all live in Texas, so leaving out of the Houston port was very convenient. There were 23 of us, ranging in age from 2 to 79. We had a good time, but there were some issues with the ... Read More
I took my family on a cruise for Christmas this year. We all live in Texas, so leaving out of the Houston port was very convenient. There were 23 of us, ranging in age from 2 to 79. We had a good time, but there were some issues with the cruise that I'd like to share for future cruisers. First of all, the positives. Embarkation and Disembarkation went very smoothly. The new cruise terminal in Houston was very nice and seemed organized. Parking out in front was very easy, but cost $80/week. The NCL staff was very attentive for the most part. Our room steward was very sweet. And the wait staff in most of the dining rooms were friendly and helpful. We also found that the front desk staff was exceptionally helpful. We all enjoyed the entertainment. My favorites were the Russian Duo Dance team and the comedian, David Naster. I didn't go to any of the other shows, but heard from family that they enjoyed them. The cruise ship had plenty of options for the family... some went to the shows, some went to the kid's activities, some lounged around the pools and hit the hot tubs, some went to the casino and others to the disco/bars... I liked that there was something to keep everyone happy. Then we all met together every evening in the Tsar's Dining room for dinner. I enjoyed Breakfast in the Garden Café, lots of choices, eggs, meats, fruit, etc. It was sometimes crowded, but we usually tried to find a group of tables in the same area for the family and we made it work. Also enjoyed several lunches at O'Sheehans' Pub and Grill, part of the complimentary restaurants on the ship... our favorite was their chicken wings. I also used the Sauna/Steam room on the Jewel every day and really enjoyed it. The area was roomy and comfortable and very tastefully appointed. I was disappointed that it cost $149 for the week, but my kids bought the package for me and I did enjoy it. We stopped in 3 ports of call and overall, the tendering and getting on/off the ship went smoothly. Now for the negatives... I have traveled on almost all the other cruise lines, and was very surprised at how Very Small the Balcony cabins were on the NCL Jewel. I bunked with 2 of my grandsons, so there were 3 of us in our cabin. When all the beds were pulled out for the evening I couldn't get to the Balcony or to the Desk and Coffee Pot in the morning. It was definitely not what I was expecting. We also had several days of plugged toilets. The maintenance staff was quick to respond, but they had trouble finding the problem and it took several days and several calls before they fixed the problem. On one occasion the maintenance man had to ask me to help him by flushing toilet, etc... again, definitely not what I was expecting. I said above that I enjoyed Breakfast in the Garden Café Buffet, but that's were the good review on the food ends. The lunch and dinner at the buffet was not very appetizing to me and often was not very fresh. Several times I tried the Hamburgers and found them to be dried out, also tried to get ice cream one afternoon and found that the Buffet only serves it for several hours each day. The complimentary room service menu was very limited and although I didn't order from it, I heard from other family members that the wait time often exceeded 30-45 minutes. The meals in the Tsar's Dining Room weren't much better. Our evening meal often drug out over 2 hours, even when the restaurant was half empty. And there weren't very many choices that seemed appealing to me... the chicken alfredo was made with rice and red sauce, the escargot was served in a brown gravy... again, just my opinion, but I found the meals served in the Tsar's restaurant to be lacking. We did eat one night in The Steakhouse (specialty restaurant) and the food was better, and the service was definitely 5-star. But even with the surcharge ($30/pp) you were only allowed one entrée... each additional entrée was $10... I find that to be very disappointing. In O'Sheehan's Pub and Grill I tried to order a milk-shake that was advertised on their digital menu but was told they didn't serve milkshakes. Again, definitely not the service that I was expecting. I was very glad to be able to take the whole family on this cruise, but I would not sail with NCL again.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
We decide a month before the sail date to go away for Christmas on a short cruise from an easily accessible port. We had been on the Star Princess in 2007 to the Greek Islands. We chose the Dec 21 departure from Houston on a 7 day journey ... Read More
We decide a month before the sail date to go away for Christmas on a short cruise from an easily accessible port. We had been on the Star Princess in 2007 to the Greek Islands. We chose the Dec 21 departure from Houston on a 7 day journey to the Western Caribbean with stops in Roatan (Honduras), Belize, and Cozumel. The food was good. We especially liked the Crown Grill, Crab Shack and the Pizza and Ice Cream bar. The 7 bottle Gold wine package was a good deal. The entertainment was excellent as was the service. The transfer from and to Hobby airport was easy and well organized. There were plenty of choices for shore excursions. The ship was well decorated for Christmas and the crew sand several Christmas carols. Santa Claus showed up on Christmas Day. video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHGMaJ7Y4Hc All in all we had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014
We had our first cruise due to the generosity of my in-laws. They purchased tickets for 14 of us to go together over Christmas week 2014 in honor of their 55th wedding anniversary. Further, they got everyone balcony rooms. We sailed out of ... Read More
We had our first cruise due to the generosity of my in-laws. They purchased tickets for 14 of us to go together over Christmas week 2014 in honor of their 55th wedding anniversary. Further, they got everyone balcony rooms. We sailed out of Houston on the Emerald Princess (all from Texas). After loads of research before departure, I wanted to put in some notes from our experience. First, we found our departure out of Houston to be flawless. Smooth and easy. A moderate line for embarkation, but, vacation was officially underway, so who cares about a line! All the port employees were smiling, friendly - even jovial. Thanks to all the reviews and information available online, I felt pretty well prepared. Right down to carrying a small bag with anything I'd like to have on hand immediately or even for dinner (we didn't board until 2:00 and dinner was at 5:30). Luggage did take a bit to arrive (mid-evening), but, again, with having the items I really wanted on hand, it was no biggie for us. I cannot say enough about the wonderful staff on the ship. I am lucky to have a husband with the gift for genuine interest in others and he's a great conversationalist. He and I believe in treating our waiter or bartender like a friend and not a servant. I'm sure, because we treat folks this way, we may receive better or more thoughtful service. However we got there, I can tell you we felt pampered 100% by all the staff (steward, wait staff, head waiter and bartenders). All the little details we mentioned up front enjoying were remembered and repeated daily - without a request. For me, that's pampering. Bless the dear soul who brought us coffee and juice each morning with a smile. We had standing reservations for dining daily at 5:30 PM at my in-laws request. My husband and I did not think we'd like the time being so early, but it was perfect. Two large tables takes about two hours to serve and we'd head out each evening to the main show in the theatre. At that point, there's a line waiting to get into to their tables. Choose 5:30 - trust me. We passed on a lot of the ancillary daily activities until the last two days as, I admit, some sounded a bit gimmicky. But, the last two days we participated and had a great laugh and good time. We both agreed, next cruise, we'll be checking out those opportunities daily. MOTION SICKNESS: I chose to use the prescription patch to keep potential motion sickness at bay. For those worried about the matter: IT WORKS!!! Don't bother leaving without a patch in place. Why even risk feeling badly when you can prevent it? No pill to pop, no sleepiness. In 14 people, about half had some minor to moderate sea sickness symptoms off and on. We were the only ones armed with the patch. FOOD: We found the food to be wonderful. The staff offered us "appetizer" portions if we were curious to try an entrée but did not want to have it for our main course. My college age sons tried so many different things I cannot recall. Our request for a special appetizer (off menu) was granted the follow evening. With a smile. We enjoyed most of our dining in one of the main dining rooms. I'm not keen on buffet food so this served my preference well. We did enjoy a pub lunch (fish and chips) one day and slices of pizza another (really quite good). Had a room service lunch of club sandwiches one day as well. Our sons enjoyed a second dinner after 10 PM in their rooms many nights. I appreciated the portion size being reasonable. Not small, but not "Texas sized". You can order whatever you want, but, if you are wishing to show some restraint, it's not hard to do. If you don't have dessert in the dining room, there are options to grab tiny confections at a coffee bar spot. They are really almost better than the main dining room. Grab three and share. ALCOHOL: All over 21 carried a bottle of wine onboard. Husband got one beer package (six for the price of five I believe). He ordered a few extra through the week. I got one canned soda package (diet coke and tonic water) and purchased a smallish bottle of vodka for $17 (room service). We enjoyed a bottle of wine in the evenings as a nice cabernet was available at $15/bottle. We did not spare on the consumption for our liking and felt the prices were reasonable. I had a minor accident that required a visit to the medical facility. Get the insurance that will cover these things!!! This was the last day at sea so not a real downer for the trip. I was surprised that the medical facilities are not available all day every day. It seemed to be 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. I assume there's reasoning behind this, but we had to beg to be let in (doors locked) while my foot was bleeding quite a bit. They'd really wanted me to wait to the afternoon hours. With my right toe toenail ripped half off (there's a story....), I felt pretty emergent. Some insistence by my husband got me in the doors, but, it's the one thing I did not research and wanted to share. It's a bit of a complaint, but, awareness would have been wise on my side to know the hours before the trip began. We had some looking for treat for motion sickness and they were always closed - just by chance. FYI for all to know!! CONDITON OF THE SHIP: There was constant maintenance going on everywhere. Not intrusive, but, evidence of real work being done (varnish, paint, etc. outdoors). Public restroom facilities were CLEAN and plentiful. I'm a real stickler for cleanliness and freshness. I appreciated the sense the ship was well maintained daily. OVERALL: The cost to value ratio worked for us and we are dreaming of indulging again - hopefully this year on a last minute deal. We will go Princess again. We'd both love to do Alaska in a few years. I am happy to report that I am a "cruise person". I wondered if I'd dislike the experience (kind of dreaded part of the year leading up to it). But, I'm sold. Eventually, more interesting destinations may be our goal, but, for now, we both agree the 'floating resort' experience we can get to via driving fits our budget and felt luxurious. We were pulling out our cash and leaving additional monetary tips for all that took care of us - in addition to the room gratuity. That's how much we felt well cared for that week. Thank you Princess!!   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
I normally would not write a review but I must say this was fantastic. Taking Princess is first class and such great quality. I know going during the holidays is an expensive time to travel. But a family of 4 with Kindergarten Twins this ... Read More
I normally would not write a review but I must say this was fantastic. Taking Princess is first class and such great quality. I know going during the holidays is an expensive time to travel. But a family of 4 with Kindergarten Twins this was wonderful. The cruise was sold out and there were so many kids and families on board. What better way to spend the holidays then a cruise to the beautiful Carribean. New Year's is such a fun and wonderful time of year. The cruise was perfect. They had a huge New Years Party. My kids absolutely loved it! The kids club and the pool was there favorite. The food was wonderful and the ship was so very clean. I would take Princess again with my kids in a heartbeat. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
This was a family vacation with 8 of us so I realize we are not all going to be happy all the time. I have cruised NCL and RCL the others have never cruised. Embarkation was easy, quick and accommodating, I recommend a passport, do not ... Read More
This was a family vacation with 8 of us so I realize we are not all going to be happy all the time. I have cruised NCL and RCL the others have never cruised. Embarkation was easy, quick and accommodating, I recommend a passport, do not bring your birth certificate if you do not have to in the end on debarkation it just caused problems. To anyone who is considering the "Liquor Program" each person in the cabin over 21 MUST pay for the program even if they do not drink. I understand why they do this but it is a bad set up if one of you is not a drinker. I had cruised some time ago and was very disappointed there are no more midnight buffets. Dining room was highly disappointing, meals were better at the buffet and the wait staff even told us on 2 nights to be prepared for bad service because they were short handed. Food was mediocre at best. Thanksgiving was horrible. I know it is an American holiday but when 90% of your cruisers are American, a slice of turkey on a plate is NOT acceptable. The "entertainment" by the wait staff used to be all sorts of action but now they stand and sing to you, ok still pleasant. There is little to do in the evenings for tweens/teens that do not want to participate in the kids clubs. This cruise line needs to try and get staff to know about other areas of the ship. If you asked staff about locations of events or food and drink if it was not there area they were of little to no help. The spa people kept telling us were had to pay to use the Serenity area, finally day 5 we realized they were wrong and we could use this area. Bartenders were in short supply and fairly rude. Seemed the line was just not prepared, understaffed, public restrooms were not clean and some in disrepair. We signed up for snorkeling in Key West, the weather was so bad, people were ill and the people running the excursion cancelled the other ones for that day and the next, we should have gotten a refund. Key West if you have never been is BEAUTIFUL and I would have been good just staying there. The cruise line never docked in Freeport due to weather, that was disappointing, Nassau is almost not worth getting off the boat for unless you go to Atlantis or just want to spend money at the shops. Over all we were together as a family and enjoyed ourselves, would we go on this line again no, this ship, no cruise again, yes, with teens, no. Our cabin was interior and it was plenty of room of the little time we were really in the cabin. The room steward was terrific he was on top of everything and super nice. The movies at night were nice. Track and gym very nice, laundry expensive, my teens insisted on washing their favorite items; irons are at a premium on dress night so use them early.   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2014
We have been doing Thanksgiving trips with our family for the last few years and decided that a cruise might be the best way to avoid many of the hassles associated with coordinating 12 people ranging in age from 11 to 75. I believe that ... Read More
We have been doing Thanksgiving trips with our family for the last few years and decided that a cruise might be the best way to avoid many of the hassles associated with coordinating 12 people ranging in age from 11 to 75. I believe that this cruise accomplished these objectives. There is literally something for all ages at all times. It was great to know everyone could find something that appealed to them. There is probably not a class of activity that our group did not use at one time or another on this ship: art, bingo, karaoke, lounge singers, rock bands, game shows, cirque style performances, camera lectures, alcohol tasting, card room, cigar lounge, and deck lounging. We tried nearly all of the specialty restaurants on board. My favorites in order: Teppanake, Cagneys, Bistro, La Cucina, Chin Chin. As it was Thanksgiving we had dinner in the Tsars palace which was good but noisy. We ate breakfast most days in an area called the Great Outdoors which was not as crazy busy as the main Garden Café. The Garden Café was a zoo. If we had to eat here more, I would have gone crazy. Way too many people. A first big plus for the NCL Jewel is that it sails out of the Port of Houston meaning that 9 of our 12 family members only needed to drive less than one hour to get to the port. Once at the port, the boarding process was efficient. This cruise was packed. Kids everywhere in all ages. They literally overflowed the areas the ship set up for entertaining the youngsters. I am not sure I would have liked this cruise as much if we had not had a suite which enabled us to have expedited boarding and disembarkation. We also had a great concierge (Florentina) who also helped handle dinner reservations for our party of 12 at nearly all of the specialty restaurants. We had some reasonably rough weather and high seas. I felt the ship handled it well. A couple of people in our party did not weather the rocking of the ship as well as others. The excursions offered by the ship were good and suited our tastes. We liked the itinerary with stops in Cozumel, Belize City and Roatan. Overall, a good experience for our diverse party. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2014
My wife, 2 kids, and myself cruised with Norwegian for the first time Thanksgiving week. There were 2 choices for this week, Norwegian and Princess. We opted for Norwegian because of a low-deposit special. Parking: The port was the ... Read More
My wife, 2 kids, and myself cruised with Norwegian for the first time Thanksgiving week. There were 2 choices for this week, Norwegian and Princess. We opted for Norwegian because of a low-deposit special. Parking: The port was the Bayport cruise terminal near Houston. I paid for parking ahead of time online and saved $5 but didn't really save any time. We arrived shortly before 10am and dropped the bags and family at the curb. I had to circle the lot a few times before they opened for parking. This was a painless and efficient process. Embarkation: Embarkation was smooth and nothing unexpected. We were on the ship around 11am and greeted by the Cruise Director, Ben. The whole staff was great. They tried very hard to be available and mingle more than any staff I have experienced before. My youngest was quite taken with Matt and he was more than willing to oblige photos. Cabin: A word(s) of warning; the most detrimental part of our cruise was related to our cabin. We purchased rooms side-by-side with my daughters (14 and 12). We were in rooms 9103 and 9105 directly above the Atrium. The Atrium has a jumbo-tron sized monitor and sound system directly below our rooms. The bass emanating through the floor kept us awake the first night. The sound was strong enough to vibrate the floor. I went to the front desk (in the Atrium) the next morning to complain about it. They apologized and said they would have the sound turned down by Midnight so we could sleep. Night 2 we had the same problem. I went down to the desk after midnight and complained. They were able to get the sound turned down. Night 3 same thing. A supervisor came to our room talked to me and observed the problem. Night 4 no problem, Night 5 no problem, Night 6 and 7 problem came back again. This being said; DO NOT BOOK ROOMS ON THE 9th floor anywhere near the ATRIUM if you want to sleep peacefully and if you like a mid day nap, forget about it. As an apology they were going to send Chocolate covered strawberries to our room; that didn't happen either. Food: Food was a little below par. We mainly ate at Tsar's and Azura. I love escargot, major disappointment. My wife loves steak, dissapointing as well. Pay an extra $30 for Cagney's steak house; was a decent steak. We didn't eat at any other pay places. O' Sheehans was good pub food. My daughter enjoyed the Carlos' bakery in the atrium. She raved about the cupcakes and canoli's. The buffet on 12 was probably at par or maybe slightly above. Kids were irritated the 2 ice cream dispensers were controlled about half the time by staff. Breakfast was best at Tsars; much more quiet and peaceful than the buffet. If you do decide to do the buffetfor breakfast; find a table in La Cucina (quiet and low traffic). Staff: Overall the staff was great. Very pleasant and attentive servers. We had a couple nights that was a little iffy in Azura but overall good. Cruise Director staff was great, I couldn't compliment them enough. Shows: Comedians were good. David Naster was a really neat and funny guy. JP is a magic/comedian who also was very entertaining. Don't miss their shows. If they say it is PG-13 for smaller late shows in the spinnaker, take it seriously. Singers/dancers were good; I wouldn't say can't miss. The gymnasts were very very good. Cirque Bijou was very good. House bands were being swapped out after our cruise. Excursions: Cozumel: Paradise Beach was fun and pretty. Swam and snorkeled. Saw some sting rays. Belize: Goff Cay was a fun beautiful snorkel. The grilled lobster tails afterwards were great. Roatan: We didn't book an excursion here. Just shopped right at the port. Probably best to book a snorkel or dive if you want to get off the boat here. Disembarkation: This took forever. Easily an hour in line after locating our luggage. I am very disappointed with the way our rooms were handled. They just didn't follow through with anything. I seriously doubt I will cruise with this line again. I would choose Holland America or Royal over them or try Princess.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
Having relatives near Houston, this was a great opportunity to do a Christmas time cruise with family. There was even a cruise planner who seemed to make everything easier when booking the cruise in May. Unfortunately having a guaranteed ... Read More
Having relatives near Houston, this was a great opportunity to do a Christmas time cruise with family. There was even a cruise planner who seemed to make everything easier when booking the cruise in May. Unfortunately having a guaranteed cabin, resulted in being given a cabin 3-4 days before the ship sailed. Princess never even emailed to notify us of a cabin and the only way i found the cabin was to call the cruise planner who said a cabin had been assigned. Had we known of this cabin even a month before, we would have paid for an upgrade. Having cruised since the eighties, this was the first time, this had ever happened. Other reviews were spot on in the delays and issues getting to the ship and getting off. It didn't seem to be a Princess cruise as there were so many things missing, almost like the crew and ship were "just going through the motions". Because of "weather" issues things kept changing and needless to say cost a great deal of money in changing flights and hotels. Princess Cruises should be held responsible for these additional costs as the itinerary kept changing. If they had stuck with their initial announcement of a delay, things would not have resulted in many traumatized passengers. I am still waiting to receive a folio of expenses on the ship, even though I have contacted Princess Cruises at least three times. The casino was also abruptly closed freezing the little funds I had there. Princess did say they would send them to me, in 5-6 weeks. (The casino was terrible and yes I know putting hundreds of dollars into quarter and dollar machines was stupid, especially when nothing ever came out). All in all, this was a very expensive cruise. Hopefully Princess will reimburse those that had to change plans several times. The free use of phone and internet at the end was a bit of a joke as you couldn't get through on the phone and you had to pay for 30 minutes of internet and they would supposedly reimburse you. We did feel the buffet food was delicious and enjoyed many days there. I felt very sorry for the employees on board who were deluged with complaints and issues the last two days. Any one of rank, could easily go into hiding. Kudos to all those hard workers that tried to make things easier for a constantly changing end of cruise. I do hope Princess can either fix or change this port, as other cruise options are available from other lines.   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
We live on the North side of Houston so a quick drive down to the new Bayport Terminal to start our Thanksgiving cruise with 3 other families. A very strong Cold front for this time of year hit the night before so no sail away party on ... Read More
We live on the North side of Houston so a quick drive down to the new Bayport Terminal to start our Thanksgiving cruise with 3 other families. A very strong Cold front for this time of year hit the night before so no sail away party on this cruise. In fact we did not even sail away at all. Due to very High winds the Captain announces our sail time will be pushed back a few hours, then at 6:30 he announces still a no go our next window would be at 10:00 pm to get pilots. 10:00 came and went we wake up Sunday Morn and we are still in port. We finally give it a go at 10:30 am and luckily we were able to get through the narrow channel to the Main shipping lanes. This new terminal that they sold the taxpayers on will never make it simply because of issues like this and Fog. The cruise lines will not continue here but will go back to Galveston, just my opinion. So now we are off knowing we will probably lose our stop in Roatan. The captain announces the changes and we replace Roatan with Costa Maya Mexico. Been there twice before and it is a nice port. We arrive on Tuesday morn and the weather cooperates, Next stop Belize Wednesday morn. I am awaken by the eerie sounds of the winds whipping through our Balcony door. I look out and realize that there is no way we are tendering here and two minutes later the Captain announces winds are gusting to 65 sustained at 50 and we would have to abort this stop. So we head slowly back north along the coastline to Cozumel. We do arrive there and dock Thanksgiving day, just happy to get off the ship for a day. The weather was iffy but still had fun. This was mine and my wifes 16th and 17 th cruise and our son's 8th and luckily this was our first cruise with these kind of Weather issues so we are pretty lucky. Fellow passengers made the best out of all the changes and everyone seemed to have had a fun time. I will say I was a bit disappointed in the food quality and the dining room service. It seems as if Princess has cut back in a few areas. We really like Holland America but no ships in Galveston but will probably go back to Royal Caribbeans Navigator of the Seas based in Galveston. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
This was my third cruise with Princess. The first two were on the Sapphire Princess Ship and both times it was a great experience. I wish I could say the same thing for the Caribbean Princess. This was a Thanksgiving cruise leaving out of ... Read More
This was my third cruise with Princess. The first two were on the Sapphire Princess Ship and both times it was a great experience. I wish I could say the same thing for the Caribbean Princess. This was a Thanksgiving cruise leaving out of the Houston Port. I have been told that Princess only started leaving out of Houston port earlier the same month (November). Embarkation seemed chaotic. Our family had a mini suite, and previous times leaving port we were able to get in a line for suite holders. This time, we were told that we would have to get in the long line because we did not have a "full suite." It was cold and windy, and we had to wait in the elements for over an hour. Once on the ship, the captain got on the loud speaker stating we would be delayed a couple of hours leaving the port due to the weather. A couple of hours later we were told that they would still not be able to leave the Houston port due to the weather and that they would try again at 10:00 PM. No word after 10:00 PM and we went to bed on the ship. When we woke up the next morning, we looked outside our balcony and saw that the ship was still parked next to the Houston Port. The captain later got on the loud speaker and stated that they would try to leave around 10:00 AM and explained that the itinerary for the cruise would need to be changed due to the delay. The ship left around 10:30 AM Sunday morning. The captain later came on the loud speaker and stated that we were not going to be able to go to Honduras due to the delay. Also, instead of going to Cozumel the first day as planned, we would be going to Cozumel on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday). This day was planned to be a day at sea. We would now be going to Costa Maya Mexico on Tuesday (not on the initial itinerary), and would be going to Belize on Wednesday as planned. We had no idea what was in Costa Maya. The cruise ship was able to plan activities and we did arrange an excursion to see Mayan ruins. After Costa Maya, we set course for Belize. Wednesday morning, the captain got on the loud speaker and told us that due to strong winds, we would not be able to go into port in Belize and instead would be staying out in sea for the day. This was frustrating. Instead of a Caribbean cruise visiting exotic destinations, it turned into a Mexican cruise visiting only two ports. On Thursday, we arrived in Cozumel. I believe most if not all of the water excursions such as snorkeling and scuba diving were cancelled due to the weather. We were able to visit X-Caret and enjoyed our excursion. The excursion returned us to the ship at around 5:00 PM. We got on the ship at 5:15 PM. Thanksgiving Dinner was at 5:30 PM and we had to put on our formal attire before going in the dining room. The Thanksgiving Dinner was very disappointing, as we had what appeared to be processed Turkey, with no mash potatoes. I saw other people had stuffing, but for some reason, there was no stuffing on my plate. I was able to request mash potatoes which was then delivered to my table. Although I enjoyed most of the Dinners on Princess during the trip, the Thanksgiving meal was the most disappointing meal I have ever experienced on a cruise ship. We left Cozumel and arrived at Houston Port on Saturday morning by 7:00 AM. First, let me say that I believe Princess needs to reconsider their decision to move from the Galveston to the Houston Port. From what I read on another review, the same ship was delayed going into Houston Port due to fog which likely caused many passengers to miss their flights. I believe this was the fourth cruise out of Houston, so having problems with the port on two out of four cruises is not a good statistic to have. On the way home at the Houston Airport, I spoke to a couple that left on the Disney Ship out of the Galveston Port the Saturday we were supposed to leave. The couple told me that they left the Galveston Port with no problem. If Princess is going to have cruises not being able to leave Houston Port due to weather, then people need to reconsider whether they want to go on a cruise out of Houston. The second thing I want to say is that Princess did not provide any reimbursement for not going to two of the three ports advertised (money off a future cruise would have been nice). Read Less

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise