What follows is purely opinion. Nothing should be construed as a statement of fact.
This was our first ever cruise. We wanted a short cruise to see if we liked cruising at all and if we would get seasick. It was freezing in NJ so we ... Read More
What follows is purely opinion. Nothing should be construed as a statement of fact.
This was our first ever cruise. We wanted a short cruise to see if we liked cruising at all and if we would get seasick. It was freezing in NJ so we did this last minute to get warm, booked everything including air travel less than about 30 days before the sail.
First, I had always heard that on today's modern cruise ships you don't feel the ocean. Lies, damn lies. From Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Turk there were waves. They had to close all the pools because of the water sloshing back and forth in the pools, 2-3 foot pool waves anyone, and sometimes it would escape the pool and splash on the deck. I and my wife were generally OK however we heard from various people that their roommate was laid up with seasickness. Because of what I learned about ship movement I would get the lowest cabin mid-ship. Also, there are 3 main dining rooms, same menu in each however, one is in the stern (aft). I would try to get into one of the midsection main dining rooms, less rocking while eating. FYI, my wife was getting her hair done for the formal night and there was a swell. She told me some of the staff fell down.
FYI, on this particular cruise there was a nice mix of ages from 20 somethings to 80 year olds. A few preschoolers. Very few teenagers and school age children. We liked this.
Overall I liked the ship. Decent number of pools and hot tubs, nice promenade that circled the ship however there were stairs to get to the front part of the promenade this might be a problem for some (except in bad weather they closed the stairs to the front), nicely decorated dining rooms, nice interior, ship not too large, nice number of entertainment venues (i.e. bars with musical entertainment or trivia contests), theatre was OK, there was also a disco in the top aft section. However, some of the activities like learning to play a steel drum were in an interior conference room.
Dinning in the main dining room was OK. The food was OK and the service was really great. I did not have any out and out misses. Some days I liked the food better than others. I thought the equivalent was Ruby Tuesdays maybe a little better, my wife thought it was a definitely a step up from that. Again, not 5 star New York restaurant but definitely reasonable, especially for what we paid (got a last minute dal for about $100 per person per day that included port fees, taxes and gratuities). Did not particularly care for the buffet. Generally we ate in a MDR for breakfast and dinner when we could and embarkation day we also made it on in time for lunch in the MDR.
We scored a great table for 2 (table 132 in Botticelli MDR). The only problem is that because we booked so late we only got a 5:30 seating which was just a tiny bit early.
One last thing about the Botticelli, it can get noisy from the conversations at dinner, I think there may be too many hard reflecting surfaces.
We dressed up for formal night (I did a Tux, most of the men did dark suits or similar).
In general the wait staff wore different outfits each day. There were fresh flowers on the table. Our wait staff remembered our drinks. The head waiter stopped by our table once or twice during the cruise. Generally nice little touches that made dining in the MDR an experience.
Also ate pizza near one of the pools. Pizza was decent. I prefer ultra-thin crust NY style however the pizza on board was definitely acceptable. On the pool level they also have a place for burgers, bratwurst, BBQ, grilled chicken. The burgers were good, so was the grilled chicken, I did not think the BBQ brisket was up to snuff. There was also an international cafe on deck 5 that is supposedly open 24 hours (was never up in the wee hours to test that). They had Paninis, salads, deserts, in the morning they had donuts (here you had to pay for coffee, did not try it). I generally liked the food at the international cafe. In general the coffee on the ship was mediocre, but I drank it, I will pretty much drink anything although I would prefer Jamaican Blue or good pure Hawaii Kona. There is a coffee card you can buy, on such a short trip (5 days) it was not worth it. Might give it a try on 7 days or longer. We did not try the pay for dining rooms.
We pre-bought water which I thought was a good idea. We bought the soda package, I think we broke even, probably would do that again. We're not drinkers so it was cheaper to buy drinks and wine by the piece. They also had buy one drink get one for a dollar at select times of the day. The only true miss on the whole cruise was a basic margarita in the Wheel House bar, really bad, and they overcharged me a dollar or two.
The entertainment was generally good. We went to two of the shows in the theatre. Something called Encore and another about the 70s. Liked those two shows. Not sure younger people would like the 70s show because they would not get it without living through the time period. There was a disco party up on the pool deck one night. That was fun, not sure what they would do if the weather was bad. They also had live musical entertainment in many of the bars/lounges and in the piazza. Really liked the string duo (woman playing cello and one playing violin). The steel drum guy was pretty good (he also taught the steel drum lesson) as well as the band that played at the various things like the disco party and last night balloon drop. The movie under the stars was also fun. I was disappointed in the Mardi Gras event. It could have been much better and should have been held in club fusion and not the piazza.
The enrichment stuff was a little lacking. However we did like the steel drum lesson (will probably buy the same steel drum for our granddaughter that they use in class) and I liked the talk on how the ship operates that was given by a third mate. The star gazing was not great because it was a full moon so the stars were washed out. Can't really blame that on Princess, luck of the draw. FYI, they use a pre-recorded tape for part of the star gazing. I did not object to that but others might mind.
Stumbled on a lawn bowls contest one day. I am sure it was in the daily newspaper (a must read) however did not see it. It was run by a very nice young woman from the cruise staff. She had an English (or maybe Australian) accent. I didn't win.
Overall the service was great, dinning staff was excellent. Cruise director was a lot of fun.
There is not that much to do on Grand Turk. I did do one of the snorkeling excursions, Horseshoe Reef and Round Cay. I hadn't gone snorkeling in a while so this was fun. FYI, the water was chilly, just not cold. The group that actually ran the excursion was I believe Chukka Caribbean Adventures. Very nice, I was very happy with it. However, I think you can find better snorkeling off the Florida Keys. The diving is probably wonderful because of the "wall" but I did not try that.
We also did a bus excursion, The Grand Turk Experience. I thought it was interesting, some people might not. Again it is a very small Island. I believe that most tourists to Turks and Caicos go to the bigger island in the chain. We also walked up the beach to Jack's Shack for a drink.
The Dominican Republic is bigger. Puerto Plata, is main the city near where the ship docked. Puerto Plata and vicinity is probably worth two days. We did the Heritage Puerto Plata with lunch excursion. It was OK. I don't like just sitting around the cruise port so this was a reasonable choice. You get to do a rum tasting at one of the distilleries (they call it a tour of the distillery but I think of it as really just a tasting and buying opportunity in comparison to what Wild Turkey does for a tour in Kentucky), we saw the fort, a small local museum, the town plaza. You get a taste of the local environment. If I were younger and in good shape I would have done the waterfall swim excursion, sounded great but a little too strenuous for me. Some of the other activities sounded nice but not enough time.
They try to get you off the ship early on disembarkation day (i.e., by 8 or 9 AM) and our flight was not until 7 PM. We had a lot of time to kill. By the time we decided to do an excursion most of the tours were filled up. The one available was a short tour of Fort Lauderdale and a boat ride on the intercostal. It was fun. We started early so we had extra time on the bus so they did an impromptu stop near the beach so we could stretch our legs, walk on the beach, or pay a small fee and walk out on the fishing pier.
I have been to Fort Lauderdale, I like the city and if our travel plans had worked out I would have stayed an extra night either before or after at the beach area.
I thought the sales staff in the onboard jewelry stores were a little pushy. However, that is easy to avoid, just don't go in.
Locally we stayed at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale/Plantation the night before sailing. They have a free shuttle from the airport and to the port. YOU NEED TO BOOK THE SHUTTLE TO THE PORT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, THE TIME SLOTS FILL UP FAST. Nice little hotel. Nice little outdoor pool and hot tub in the back. Walking distance to two shopping areas. The shopping areas have restaurants and one has a liquor store with a good wine selection if you want to buy wine for the cruise. We brought on two bottles.
Embarkation and disembarkation went OK
Overall I would go again, assuming food and service did not decline. I would just try to get a mid-section cabin. Read Less