I was originally looking at 10 day cruises but due to lack of vacation time I had to reduce it to 7 days. I looked at Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise lines. I chose Princess because they were a brand that I wanted to try, I was not familiar with the Royal Caribbean ship (Vision of the Seas) that I was considering for the 10 day, it was a smaller ship and I'm not a fan of the NCL Sun although a good cruise can be had on that ship. When I booked the cruise with Princess, they had a sale on and in addition, I was given a discount because I had sailed on Carnival Cruise Line (Carnival and Princess are owned by Carnival Corporation).
On my first cruise I was so tired by the end of the first day on the ship that I missed activities. I now fly in the day before embarkation and relax. This time I flew into Fort Lauderdale and booked the Best Western Plus Oakland Park. The hotel is the type where the rooms are outside. The hotel received bad reviews on Cruise Critic and other sources. I was amazed when I opened the door to my room. It looked better than some other brands upscale rooms for almost twice the price. The free shuttle from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the port was great. The hotel had a swimming pool inside a high security fence and a bar at the end of the pool. There was also a coin laundry in the building opposite the office. The office staff was very helpful and professional. There was a hot breakfast (free) the next morning with scrambled eggs, sausage and breads (cereal was available as well as coffee and juice).
The major plus for me is that I like a hotel that is within walking distance of restaurants and stores so that I can pick up last minute items for the cruise. There was a shopping mall at the next corner (within sight of the hotel) and good food near it. The Coral Mall has a Publix Supermarket, Target and several other stores inside the mall. There was a Wendy's half a block down one street from the mall and the best sub/pizza shop across from Target; Time Square Pizza. They had the best Italian sub (great bread, filled with meat and cheese) with a drink for $8. I wish that I could have gone by there on the way to the airport but it was too far.
The private island was one of the best that I have been to. Princess used the life boats as tenders. You picked up a ticket and waited for your number to be called leave the ship. The transfer to the island was quick and efficient. Actually, Princess gets kudos from me because they used this disembarkation at every port. You picked up the ticket and prepared any last minutes activities until your number was called. No crowed stairs with people herding to get off the ship. The island was nice for me because they had more pavements, sand is nice but it is hard to walk on. The water was cold when it hit you (it is November) but warm when you submerged. The food area was great with a good variety to choose from including ribs. The eating area was not crowded. The only drawback to the island was the hard sand as you entered the water. You almost needed Crocs on it was so hard. I have experienced this at other private islands and the Cruise Director did warn people before getting off the ship. The shop was another thing. The same items that could be purchased in the ships store, the water proof case with Princess written on it was $3 in the ship's store and $13 on the island. Other than that, it was a great port.
We arrived in Curacao two hours late and with debarkation it was later getting ashore. My Princess scheduled excursion, like most, was cancelled. I met a woman (Carla) outside the port who offered a two hour tour for $25. About 8 to 12 of us took the tour in an air conditioned mini van. We traveled around the island and made a few stops at a distillery and store. The two hours actually became closer to three. It was well worth the money.