This was our seventh cruise, the second with Princess. We sailed on the Grand at this time last year and were so impressed we booked on board with the Future Cruise Consultant. This time we talked my BIL and SIL into going. Their first cruise but definitely not their last. They are hooked!
We drove in so no hotel info; but the drive once we got into NOLA was quite interesting. Getting to the Poland St. Terminal was an experience. Street signs were hard to see or non-existent, so we ended up taking more twists and turns than we should have. It was interesting to see the houses still marked with the info from the Katrina searchers.
Parking and Embarkation:
We parked right at the ship in a gravel parking lot - $98. Porters were easy to obtain. I've heard that eventually the Poland St. terminal will be improved but at this time it is just a series of tents. I sure am glad it wasn't cold or rainy. That would have been a miserable experience. We arrived a little after 11:00 and since we had a mini-suite, we had priority boarding and were onboard and in our cabins before 12:00. As our cabin was portside we got to watch the poor passengers that waited in very long lines to board. We always arrive around 11:30 and I'm glad for that. If you arrived at the recommended time of 1:00 you were in for quite a wait.
Our cabin, D724 was nicely appointed, clean and ready for us, even at that early hour. We tipped our cabin steward, Nino, an extra $20 and had excellent service the rest of the week. We requested a foam mattress topper and it was on the bed by the time we went to bed that evening. The bathtub was deep and comfy. Our balcony was roomy with two loungers, two chairs and a small table. The drawback for a Dolphin Deck balcony is that they are completely exposed to the three decks above. I don't think we will book another cabin on that deck, unless of course if it is a deal we can't refuse!
We ate our embarkation lunch in the Horizon Court on the Lido deck. It was disappointing but we gave it a chance, maybe it was just the first day. We only ate there one other time. The food was just so-so, confusing lines and not a lot of selection. The rest of the time we all ate in the dining room for every meal and were never disappointed.
The second formal night we scheduled an Ultimate Balcony Dining for the four of us in our cabin. There was enough room for a table for four and we had a wonderful meal and excellent service.
BIL and SIL reserved the Canopy experience in Jamaica. My DH and I had done it previously in Belize and this one outdid the one we did. There were 8 traverses; the last one was 1,000 feet. The guides took pictures of everyone and when the excursion was finished you had the opportunity to choose pictures and they burned them to a CD for you. For health reasons we weren't able to take advantage of it this time but next time we will definitely take this excursion.
We all took the Passion Island beach excursion in Cozumel. I fell right after getting off the ship. We were still in the plaza area standing in front of a bar called Fat Tuesday and an umbrella stand just jumped out of nowhere and I tripped over it ending up with a bad scrape on my knee. The excursion guides were wonderful and patched me right up. The people at the bar, responsible for leaving the umbrella stand out to trip unwary excursionists, just faded into the background and didnt do a thing!
Passion Island ROCKS! It is as beautiful as it appears on the Corona beer commercials! White sand beach, plenty of shade and tables and chairs, a few hammocks, and loungers right at the waters edge. A delicious buffet with mahi-mahi and Mayan chicken, all the usual Mexican side-dishes, free Corona beer and a sweet concoction called Sex on the Beach and a cash bar.
There were organized games on the beach and piñatas for the kiddos. A few tents with souvenirs at inflated prices. Excellent restrooms.
I'll never miss this excursion again when we are in Coz.
Entertainment: The only show we attended was to see the magician. Third-rate, don't waste your time. The musicians in the lounges ran the gamut from tolerable to great. We didn't go to Skywalkers, except to check it out for a place to curl up with a good book. The karaoke was a good draw every night with a grand finale on Friday night patterned after American Idol.
The third evening something I ate for dinner didn't quite set with me and DH and I had to hurry back to the cabin. Didn't quite make it back to the cabin and I ended up tossing my cookies in the hallway. Thank goodness no one witnessed my embarrassing moment, except for one cabin steward still working. I got to the cabin and got into the tub and the phone rang. DH answered and it was the Purser's Desk, saying that there was a report of someone in our cabin vomiting! DH said it was just some rich food that didn't quite set right, but they said if I vomited two more times he was to call back. He looked out into the hall and . . . there was a guy in a white HAZMAT suit, complete with tape sealing between his wrists and sleeves, shoe covers, a hood and a clear face shield! He was cleaning up after my embarrassing moment. Both sides of the clean-up area were taped off with yellow caution tape! Appears that they take the noro-virus threat quite seriously. Turned out it was just something I ate but it was actually nice to hear they are so pro-active about the virus. At every entrance to a dining venue there were hand-cleaning stations offering antibiotic hand-cleaning gel.
Hopefully this too will improve with the development of the terminal area. The luggage was set out in tents, someone had dropped and broken a full bottle of rum, the glass was picked up but the rum was tracked everywhere! We found our 5 pieces of luggage in three different areas!
Will I do it again? Yes! Don't particularly like having to drive to NOLA. Would rather sail out of Galveston. If you are interested in photos, mine are available at http://community.webshots.com/user/sharkaymon.