Embarkation. We took the Tri-Boro Bridge from the Bronx into Queens and then Brooklyn. There was a slight bit of traffic on the BQE. However, we missed a turn when we got off the exit and had to go around an extra couple of blocks. This mistake caused us to sit in a bit of local construction traffic for an additional 20 minutes or so. The area around the terminal is under lots of construction, so depending on the way you are coming in, be prepared for a bit of a delay. We got into the terminal a little after 12:15 pm and there were no delays once inside the gate. We drove right up, were directed to a drop-off point on the left and the porter took our bags right away. I tipped him about 5 bucks and he said the bags would be up shortly. They were in the room well before sail-away. I had a bottle of wine in my carry-on and as it went through the scanner, the agent had me show it to him. For those of you wanting to bring anything harder, don't put it in your carry-on. I put some vodka in my checked luggage and it made it to the room no problem. Have all of your paperwork handy and bring a pen to fill out the health form. We did and we filled it out in 2 seconds and went right to a check in counter as there was no line at all. I misplaced my health form in under the 1 minute it took us to get to the counter and ran back to get another one as the agent didn't have any more. By the time I got back (30 seconds) we were all checked in and ready to board, I just had to show my passport. We were on the ship and in our cabin by 12:25pm. We had a great location Riviera deck 707, Starboard side, aft. We were overlooking lower-Manhattan and The Statue of Liberty. Our cabin was under Cafe Caribe and right at the stairway that is between the Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe. Throughout our cruise I would run up and get most of our breakfasts and bring them down to our balcony to enjoy. We quickly unpacked a few things from our carry-ons and went right to the buffet. Yes it was a bit crowded, but we found a place to sit and enjoy a wonderful lunch. We toured the ship for a little while, but being that we have been on the Grand twice and the Crown twice, it was a cross between the two ships so we were very familiar with the layout. There was a table to make reservations for Sabatini's and we did so for the second to last sea day. There was also a table for the Sterling Steakhouse on the other side, but we did not do that this year. I got my first of many buckets of Bud Light and we enjoyed our drinks on the Lido deck. We went back to the room and my wife took a short nap while I stayed on the balcony and took some photos of Lady Liberty and the skyline. I drank a few more beers so they wouldn't get warm on me and then made a few last minute phone calls on the balcony. You'll have cell service for about 2 hours after sail away. Our Muster Station was in Club Fusion and I always enjoy these. You start to see who you will be on the cruise with. There were already a few whiners and complainers and the ship hadn't even left port yet!! We don't let these people ruin our cruise. In fact we are quite amused by them. I am not talking people with legitimate complaints that may happen during a cruise. I mean the people that complain that the water is wet and the sun is hot, etc.... They make me laugh and they should be listed in the patter as entertainment. One girl who was complaining the very first time we saw her, was complaining right off the ship the last day. It was pretty funny! Anyway, sorry if I insulted the complainers. You can post a forum complaining about my review! Sail away was a lot of fun. We hung out near the band stand where Voltz was playing. They are a very versatile, Caribbean sounding party band. I say they are versatile as they played the tropical cruise music, they played pop/dance music, Country Western Music, Rock, and they even played instrumental Jazz one night. I am a musician and very critical of bands and they were very good. I will talk about another house band, Wavelength in a few minutes. When sailing out of NYC, I always feel the cruise has REALLY started once we sail under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. It always seems like the ship can barely fit under it. Once the ship does, you are pretty much almost out into the open seas. Just under an hour later, you can barely see land. After the sail-away party we went back to our cabin to get ready for our first night's dinner in the dining room.
Dining: We had anytime dining and we love it. This year we experienced a bit more of a wait than in times past, but nothing too long. The first night we went to the Coral dining room and the line was pretty long. We decided to go to The Palm Dining room which is also on Fiesta Deck 6, AFT. You have to go up to deck 7 and walk aft, and then go back down to Fiesta. The dining rooms are separated and you cannot walk from room to room. When we got there, we waited about 5 minutes in line, watched an older woman cut the line and get seated, and then we were seated. We were reminded often that there are rude people everywhere. This is not the fault of the cruise line and I think they try to handle it as best they can without making waves (pun intended). We had a wonderful dinner and my wife, who is kind of a vegetarian (she will eat seafood) loved the vegetarian choices. The next night was the longest wait for a table. It was the first formal night and the Captain's Party in the atrium. As soon as the captain finished his speech, there was a mad rush for the dining rooms. We waited on line for almost an hour to get to the door. I thought we were going to be given a pager, but we got seated right away. We always ask for a table for ONLY 2. They always try to get us to share, but we cruise Princess for the flexibility of dining choices. We always get our table for 2. Other than this formal night and then the next night, we always just walked up and were either let right in, or given a pager and waited only a few minutes. We don't mind waiting a few minutes. If we were at the Palm dining room, we went up above to Club Fusion and had a drink. If we were at the Coral, we went to the Lobby Bar and had a drink. Overall, I felt the food was very good. I tried a few different things and was quite pleased. The buffets were very good with lots of choices. The pizza is always very good and they always have a different kind of special in addition to plain and pepperoni pizza. The grill had burgers, veggie burgers, chicken, sausage and hot dogs. The hot dog was huge and juicy and comes with fries. I wished I had a burger, but I had one in San Juan and like to have things I can't always have at home when I am on a cruise.
Entertainment: I am/was a semi-professional musician. I am very into entertainment. However, I am not into the Broadway style shows and didn't go, so I can't comment on those. I love live music and singing. We were mostly mainstays at Club Fusion for Karaoke/Princess Pop Star and then we would go over to see Wavelength in Explorers Lounge. Wavelength is a classic/modern hard rock band that is similar to what I play and listen to. They are very talented and have a decent song list. A few nights of the cruise they had what was called "So You Wanna Be a Rock Star". This was basically Karaoke to a live band. You picked the songs and they provided a lyric sheet and you sang along to the live band. Whether it was this or just their regular performances, they are tight, precise, and energetic. They had the crowd rocking. They even did an acoustic set where their vocal talents really shined. They can all sing and their harmonies are spot on! I got to talking with them on occasion and they are nice guys. As I mentioned we also were at Club Fusion quite a bit. I love watching fellow passengers sing and have a good time. I am primarily a drummer, but I also sing and play guitar. I have done Princess Pop Star in the past, but only once. After a few glasses of vino one night I decided to become adventurous and enter into the competition. All of the qualifying talent to this point was very impressive and I didn't enter with the intention of winning, but just to have a good time and enjoy myself. I qualified that night and went on to the finals. I didn't know what I got myself into as there were some really excellent singers. I am a huge Bon Jovi fan and picked a song by them that I thought was out of my league. I watch American Idol and always hear them say "Take a risk!" I did and to my amazement, I won! It was a lot of fun and I met great people in the process, so that was really the prize; the experience and meeting great people who were great singers. Additionally, I would like to add that on this cruise we had some of the most memorable and personable cruise director's staff we have ever encountered. Two people come to mind especially. Adam and Johnny were two of the best cruise staff employees we have ever had. Adam was always in Club Fusion and always came by to say Hi and chit chat. He remembered that he signed my wife and myself into the ship on embarkation day. That says alot to me. There were over 3 thousand people on board and he remembered me! Whenever I saw him anywhere on the ship he would always call my name and give me a high-5. When I sang at Princess Pop Star, he came out with a blow up electric guitar and I almost burst out laughing! We had a great time! We got along great and if you see him on the ship, tell him Freddie said Hi! Johnny usually ran things in Club Fusion and he also ran the On Deck For The Cure 5K race. He is also a very personable gentleman and very funny and makes you feel like a friend very quickly. We have had great cruise staff before, but these two guys REALLY stick out in my mind and I hope to have them again on another cruise. I am sure they will remember me and it will be like seeing old friends.
Unfortunately on this cruise, Hurricane Bertha caused us to miss Bermuda. Some people were unhappy, but "Come on people, it's a hurricane!!" Some were grumbling we should go to a new port. Where? To keep schedule, the only feasible idea would be Port Canaveral or another port in Florida. Many people flew in from Florida, why would they want to go back home? Other people said do the itinerary in reverse. Can you imagine the nightmare of having to re-book all excursions?!?!? It probably wouldn't even be possible. Plus, don't forget, we were not the only ship at sea. All of these ports are usually pretty full on any given day. Finding an open port would have been an adventure as well! We got extra time in San Juan and I am glad we did.
San Juan: We had a great time roaming around Old San Juan and we went to the fort, which was amazing. My wife found the Coach outlet and bought her birthday present from me, which I saw after she bought it. While she was inside it gave me an excuse to sit in Maria's bar and have a few beers. Maria's is a small, open air bar with the aroma of homemade Puerto Rican food in the air. There were pictures of celebrities on the wall and the staff seemed very warm and accommodating. I ordered Medalla, which is brewed in Puerto Rico. If you like Bud Light or Coors Light, you'll like this. I meant to get a 6-pack to take on board, but we didn't pass the store on the way back. We then did the very touristy thing and went to the Hard Rock Cafe. I wanted to go to an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant, but my wife is very limited in what she will eat, so we went mainstream. We met a cool bartender, I saw some cool Bon Jovi memorabilia, and we had a good meal. We then went over to Senior Frogs and had a blast. I must have had about 5 yards of beer and a heck of a good time to boot! We boarded the ship, had a nice dinner and went to the Island Night Party. We stood on the top deck and looked down on people having a great time, as were we. I noticed a "Cigars Under the Stars" section cordoned off and took a seat there to have a few cigarettes. I try not to smoke on open decks, but I figured my cigarette smoke would pale in comparison to cigar smoke. We had a few drinks and then returned to our cabin as we wanted to be up early for one of our favorite ports, St. Thomas.
St. Thomas Last year on the Crown, we made our way on our own to St. John by taxi, then ferry, then taxi again. We planned on doing the same thing this year, but our shortened port times had me thinking twice. When we got of the ship, it was a torrential downpour. I didn't want to spend almost 2 hours traveling to St. John only to have a rainy day. We decided on the spot to go to Magen's Bay Beach. I figured that even if the weather stayed bad, we could taxi back and do some shopping. Well, we were glad we went to the beach as after some brief pouring rain, we got lovely sunny skies! We enjoyed the day at the beach and stayed until about 1:00pm. I don't remember this from my last time at Magen's Bay, but there were sea birds and pelicans all around in the water. They would dive-bomb into the water from high above looking for a meal. More often than not they came out with a fish in their mouth. More than a few times I felt like they were going to dive right into us, but they know what they're looking for, and it's not us. I think I got some good shots with an underwater camera, but I still have to develop the film. There is a concession stand at Magen's Bay and they have drinks, pizza, sandwiches, and basic breakfast foods until about 11:00am. My wife got grilled cheese and a Coke and I got a chicken Gyro. Both sandwiches were good enough. There is also a full service bar next to the concession area. We also saw a waitress walking along the beach taking orders from the bar. We then got on a taxi back to the ship and had just as nice a day as we would have had on St. John. Later that evening, we went into Churchill's and watched the MLB All-Star Game. Churchill's is a cool Cigar bar with lots of TV screens. I smoke cigarettes but my wife does not. She said the ventilation must have been pretty good because the smoke didn't bother her. The bar was very crowded mostly with baseball fans, but a few just enjoying a drink and a cigar. During the day, it's a nice quiet place to escape crowds and have a drink and read a book. The game went into extra innings and at about 1:00am one of the bartenders called last call. He said we could all stay and smoke cigars if we wanted, but it was last call for alcohol. Being that the casino bar was right near by this wouldn't have presented a problem, but we soon decided to call it a night and I finished the game, along with another cold beer that was in my fridge, in my cabin.
Grand Turk: The next day was our last port, the beautiful island of Grand Turk. Many people ask what there is to do on Grand Turk. I cannot really answer that as I find I really enjoy doing what most people do there-hang on the beach at Margaritaville, get a bite and a few drinks, and then go into the pool with the swim up bar for a few more drinks. I don't know if they lowered their prices, but they seemed a bit more reasonable than I remembered. There may be lots to do outside of the cruise center, but after 3 times there we have done just what I described. I think you can rent bikes or go to Governor's Beach for a less crowded atmosphere, but we liken Grand Turk to Princess Cays. It's a lazy beach day that is the perfect remedy for a late night. No cabs or buses unless you want to. This year I tried something a little different to me. I bought a cheap snorkel set from K-Mart for about $12.00. I took it to the beach with me and I am glad I did-sort of. I have never snorkeled in the sea before. Perhaps in a friend's backyard swimming pool looking for the assorted sea life that might be there, but never in the ocean. I put on my mask and was immediately astonished by the scenery and sea life that was swimming between my feet. There were little fish of many different shapes and colors, little caves and rock formations that fish and other creatures were swimming in and out of. As I went out further, there was a really long chain attached to an anchor. For someone who never snorkeled before, this was pretty cool. I am sure more experienced snorkelers know of better places, but for a start, this was pretty cool. I am sure more experienced snorkelers would have warned me about buying a $12.00 set. The mask kept filling up and I had to hold it in place with one had, so I could barely swim. I also went a bit too deep trying to capture an underwater photo, and - GULP- a big sip of sea water!! I will buy a better set before the next cruise and remember not to go so far under. We really enjoyed all the ports and just rolled with it on our own. We have been to all of these islands, so we don't do ship excursions. I usually research the heck out of every port I'm going to, so I don't know if I'll ever do another ship excursion. But that's me. Unless you feel absolutely comfortable and are knowledgeable about where you are, you might consider ship excursions. Even though we missed Bermuda this year, I feel I know the names of the locals when strolling through St. George whenever we go there. I seem to recognize faces of store owners and taxi drivers. That is how familiar I feel with some of the islands. But if you are a first timer, you may feel less inclined to do it on your own and that's fine too.
Sea Days, Disembarkation, and odds and ends.
Our sea days were great. We had a little rough weather and seas the second day out, our first sea day. We ate our breakfast on our balcony after I got it from the Horizon Court, one deck above us. I would balance two trays and head down one flight, right to our room, R707 which was right at the stairwell. Breakfasts usually had the same tasty fare. No surprises here, but good breakfast food. Always fresh fruits if you want to go lighter, which we tried to do, but my weight loss efforts took a hit on this cruise. I will double up the next few weeks. I have a lot to lose, and it wasn't caused by the cruise, so I won't beat myself up, lol! I did go to the gym a few days and did the 5K "On Deck for the Cure" on the last sea day. It was a great cause and I did keep to exercising, but I'd have to walk from NYC to California to burn off the calories from the cruise, but oh well! Most sea days we found a shady spot away from the pool. As I may have said, there was chair saving, but many of those people were right in the pool, so it's a fine line. I'm sure there were plenty of people who were nowhere near the pool, but I don't go for those seats so, while it is annoying that it's done, it didn't really affect me. We would always have to walk around awhile to find our "perfect" spot, but we look for secluded, shady, and quiet places. One day we did find a good shady spot under a unique overhang right near the MUTS pool. We watched Happy Feet and I had another of many buckets of Bud Light. This is your best option if you're a beer drinker. You get 5 pints for the price of 4 ($19.00 plus grat.). Of course, I didn't drink them in one sitting (most times), but I'd bring them back to my room and put them in the fridge. We also had a bottle of wine and vodka in the fridge. I'd make a mixed drink or take a glass of wine out to the deck once in awhile, but I brought the bottle of vodka back home with me. Next time, I may just leave it at home and if I want vodka, I'll order it from room service. Yea, I may have smuggled, but our final bill was over $1000, so for the $14.00 for the bottle of vodka, sorry Princess! We had our Cruise Critic Meet'n'Greet on our first sea day. I had contacted Princess and they cordoned off a little area near the Terrace Pool aft on Lido Deck for us. Many wonderful people showed up and we had a VERY nice time. We met many great people whom we saw many times throughout the cruise and will hopefully see again during future cruises. They provided dry snacks and sent a very nice deck officer by the name of Felix who gave us some insight about our sailing and Hurricane Bertha. I would definitely go to a meet'n'greet if you get a chance. We were glad we did. So, most of our sea days were spent being lazy on a deck, walking in the atrium, or reading a book on the quiet Promenade Deck 7. We heard one complainer saying there was nothing to do during the hours of 5-7pm. Well, number 1, this is because most people, including cruise staff, are either getting ready for dinner or eating dinner. Number 2, do you really need the cruise staff dictating to you what you need to be doing EVERY hour of every day?!? The expression "If you're bored, you're boring!" comes to mind. 'Nuff said! Some things I noticed that could use some improvement were the cleanliness of the outer, public bathrooms. When I'm on a cruise, I tend to have "go" more often, whether it be from drink or food. Use your imagination as to what 2 ways that may mean, lol! Last 2 years on the Crown I remember telling my wife in amazement how the public bathrooms were immaculate EVERY time I went in. This time, on more than one occasion, there was "evidence" that someone may have been in there recently. I am not saying they were filthy. They were in most cases clean, but needed an extra check per hour perhaps. This didn't ruin my cruise though. If it was ever really bad, I'd have gone back to my cabin, which was kept spotless by our steward, Dennis. I can't believe that as I type this, I have to go pick up towels from the bathroom floor. No, they don't get automatically replenished every day. Oh, 1 more thing. A few posts have asked about noise on the Riviera Deck. We were pretty far aft right at the elevator bank. I'd be lying if I said we heard no noise. We were right under the Starboard Aft side of Cafe Caribe. I went up there a few nights very late after we left Skywalkers. So too did just about everyone who left Skywalkers after 2 am. This did cause me, on a few nights, to hear some noise. It seemed those people were still in party mode and made a bit of noise. If I was asleep, I wouldn't have been woken up, but I did hear a lot of party type noise as I was trying to fall asleep. I might reconsider this area if I was a light sleeper or retired earlier in the evening, but I would book this area of the ship again in a heartbeat. It was very convenient for our balcony breakfasts and snacks. It was also a few feet from the door to the adults only Terrace Pool. I went out and got a few cocktails from the bar there on more than one occasion. Well, all good things must come to an end, and cruises are no exception. I really like the 9-day cruise as after 2 days, you are starting a 7 day cruise. You just get the lay of the land and then can really feel at home. We know these ships well as we have sailed on the Grand twice and the Crown twice. Aside from a few minor differences, you can almost feel like you are on the same ship. Overall, I think I like the CB or the Grand the best. The ONLY reason I say this is that I feel that with Skywalkers being way aft on these ships, it allows for more open deck space up top on the aft portion of the ship. Also, it's so cool being in Skywalkers day or night and looking out and seeing the wake. With that being said, if you go back, I probably said in my review of the Crown that I liked her best. It's like children, you don't have a favorite, you just love and accept them for their differences. I don't have kids, yet, so maybe I can do it with cruise ships! Disembarkation was different for us this year. In the last 2 years on the Crown out of Red Hook, we opted for Self- Walk Off Disembarkation. We just picked up our bags, got an elevator and went to a lounge or the casino and waited to be called off. We then walked right through customs and we were home free. This year, we knew they did not want you taking elevators if you did walk off. However, we did not really see "no elevators" listed on our papers. It said you must be able to handle luggage through stairs, gangplanks, and stairs. It did not anywhere say you couldn't take luggage on elevators. All in all, we did regular disembarkation anyway, and it was a bit of a culture shock after 2 years. We had to search for our luggage and it wasn't in the EXACT spot it said it would be in. We had ORANGE 20, and it was more or less in the section with the ORANGE 18 section. We had to navigate past 1000 other people looking for their luggage and it just seemed chaotic for a very short time. After we found it, we navigated our bags through pushy, rude people and walked through to a very quick customs line. We showed our passports and gave our customs form and we were through in under a minute. We then walked all the way to the first pick up waiting area, as my in-laws were picking us up. We saw some friendly faces from the cruise and that made it easier or harder to say goodbye, depending on how you looked at it. We waited right at the very tip of the curb all the way at the beginning of the pick up area and when my FIL pulled up, I used my HE-MAN strength (LOL) to load our bags in under 20 seconds. We went around the loop, onto the BQE, and were home in the Bronx in under 45 minutes. Goodbye Caribbean Princess, I will miss you! I can't really think of any other concern. We had an awesome time and will probably do the same itinerary (4th year in a row) on the CB next summer. The staff was always very nice and helpful. We had anytime dining and always had courteous waiters, some were better than others. I hope this review has been helpful and if I can think of anything else, I will post it on the boards. I can't say this enough to people going on any cruise. If you expect perfection, you will be disappointed. Everything is a little broken in this life. Go and have a great cruise!! We sure did! Read Less