We were excited about taking a Christmas Cruise, believing that it would be special. However, in our opinion, it fell far short of anything special. Christmas Day at sea was incredibly flat and we truly were disappointing. There were four of us travelling together and our ages varied from 37 to 71 and although we enjoyed our trip, we all felt it wasn't as exciting as we had envisions. We took an Alaskan Cruise last year and everything about that cruise was 90% better than this one. Please be advised however, that we only have that particular cruise to compare with - although one of our group members has other cruises to compare with. We will stay at this point that we will cruise with Princess again but likely will try others. The issue is, however, if you stay with one cruise line, you build up perks for the next cruise - so it becomes more difficult to change to another cruise line. Question to ask is whether this is important or not and if it is, how important is it.
Embarkment: Booked transportation from the hotel through the cruise line and won't do that again as it took an incredibly long time to board the buses (3), load luggage, travel to the ship and line up to embark. It reminded us of the long lines at Disney World! We believe it would be faster (much) and cheaper to take a cab to and from the ship and to do it on your own.
Cabin: on 10th floor and we were satisfied with our cabin and very large balcony. Our Steward kept the room spotless and did everything he could to make sure we were well equipped with whatever we needed. He was warm, gracious and happy and always interested in our day. The job is a thankless one and I think we all should give more attention to them as persons and as well to express our gratitude for what they do...if they do a good job.
Cabin was a decent size, closet area a really good size, good shelves and drawers available. Balcony was very large with room for four chairs and table. Walls on either size or roof over half of it provided a really good private area. Our cabin was in a quiet location and we couldn't hear our neighbours. It was relatively easy and simple to get to any area of the ship and the elevators were always a short distance away.
This was the one occasion that a cruise excursion was booked. We hadn't planned anything for this island but the night before two of our group decided to go snorkeling and booked through the ship. They went on a glass bottom sub to see the fish and then went snorkeling at Bonaire Marine Park. The area is pristine and the coral healthy and alive which is a reflection on Bonaire's commitment to conservation and preservation. Our daughter is an experienced snorkeler and found this was an incredible place to snorkel because of the clear waters and the abundance of fish which speaks to the conditions of the coral reef. She swam with a huge grouper fish and barracuda (before she realized it) and had a fabulous time. Her added comment is that if you snorkel, don't touch or get near the coral as it will die. Support Bonaire and its commitment to preservation.
I contacted Allen at AJ Meddy Tour and Taxi Service Grenada for a private tour to see the island because he had great reviews. He was very professional and gracious in his communication with me. He was going to be our tour guide but because it was on a Saturday, he was unable to do so. However, he arranged a great alternative. Neil Dominique met us right as we exited the security area in port. He was young, energetic, fun and knowledgeable about the island and the people. His van was comfortable and air-conditioned and it was an incredible personal tour with only the 4 of us and our guide. The roads are narrow, winding, and go up into the mountains while driving on the opposite side of the road as we do. However, we were not concerned with our safety and felt very much at ease throughout the day even though some of the drivers we encountered were a tad sketchy. This is the spice island and so this truly is the place to buy all of your spices (and don't forget the pure cocoa) but only ones that are FDA approved. The island is beautiful and being able to see it on a personal tour with a great tour guide like Neil (or Allen) is the only way to see and appreciate the island, the people and what it has to offer.
Overall, we were really disappointed with St. Thomas. From the time we got off the ship until we returned, we felt this was not a port we wanted to return to. Getting a cab to town from the ship wasn't a nice introduction to the island. The fellow who we got assigned to was very unpleasant and grumpy. They charge $4.00 a person and with 8 in the van, he made $24.00 for a relatively short ride into town. Don't make the mistake we made, just grab one of the open air buses and you will be better served. Other cab drivers during the day were much better and far more gracious and reasonably priced (sort of). What we didn't like was that by far, the majority of stores were jewellery stores and by now, like others, we were sick of it. If you are into that, you will find there is a plethora of stores to pick from so for you, it is the place to shop. We did find one shop we really liked and it was called Mr. Tablecloth. Now don't be fooled by the name because inside Jeanne (spelling?) has many items that are reasonable and quite beautiful, including clothes (jackets are exquisite). We did not take a tour of the island so it is possible we missed a lot of wonderful things to see. However in town, you can walk to see some interesting things (outside of shopping). We took a cab up to Blackbeard Castle and then walked down 99 stairs to town. You see the Castle (well, tower), the Rum Factory (LOL), Rum purchases (free samples of flavoured rum was delicious), and shops and antique museum type homes during the decent which is quite lovely and easy to do. Oh yes, don't miss the dinosaur in one of the shops. We had a lot of fun and it was very pleasurable. We also went to Ice Magic for $20.00 and we thoroughly enjoyed that experience. If you go, take socks for your feet if you are wearing flip flops! Our best experience on the island was that the day we were there, a very large group of youth were playing the steel drums all day and they were incredible. We sat and listened and observed that they played for hours. Once you are done in town, you can easily get an open bus to return you to the ship - just remember which port you arrived in as there are two and we were at the far end.
Two of our group disembarked that day and sunbathed on the beach. They indicated it was a very relaxing day. Also advised there was good food and drinks on the island as well as some shopping opportunities - didn't find they returned with anything however. There also was a lot of water sports equipment but like everything else, there was costs involved so they didn't bother to rent any.The only way to get to and from the island is by being ferried by ship boats. It seemed to run smoothly with no delays. They enjoyed the day but I can't comment further as we remained on board, out of the sun while relaxing...already had too much sun.