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Pre-cruise: Traveled from NC to Hilton Head Island, SC. We stayed at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort. Nice rooms, pools and beach view; crummy soundproofing and exterior. Not bad for the price we paid on Priceline; however, for a hotel that normally sells for $150+ per night continental breakfast should not cost $13.50. Traveled from Hilton Head to Jacksonville, what should have been a 3 hour drive turned into nearly 10 hours thanks to traffic. Stayed at the Staybridge Suites. Very nice, newly built hotel. High definition flat screen TV in the room and complimentary hot breakfast buffet in the morning and thanks to Hotwire only paid $55 for the night. This hotel was proof why mid-priced hotels often offer more than expensive hotels (see continental breakfast comment above). Hilton Head to Fort Lauderdale proved to be a much smoother drive. We stayed at the LaQuinta Inn & Suites which offers free parking and shuttle to the port. Decent hotel, good price, and the only hotel that I know of that does not charge for parking. Paid $89 for the night, parking at the port for the 10 days would have been $150, so I can't (& won't) complain. EMBARKATION Arrived at the port at 11:30 and walked right through security and was placed into group 4 for embarkation processing. At 12:00 it was announced that it would be another 30 minutes before boarding would begin. Boarding actually did start around 12:45 and went very quickly from there. Once on board, I was told that embarkation was delayed due to extreme cleaning of the ship due to a Norovirus outbreak on the previous cruise. SHIP: One word - Beautiful. All areas of the ship exhibited a fine attention to detail in all public areas. Loved the atrium with the International Cafe and coffee bar. Emerald is a large ship that carries over 3,000 passengers, but did not feel crowded as there were plenty of small areas that provided refuge from the more crowded popular areas. CABIN: A253 - 2/3 of the way forward. This made for a long walk to the buffet, but the nearby elevator went straight to the 16th floor that offered access to the gym, Lotus pool and spa. This was nice when coming back from the pool or hot tub as there was very little walking and almost no traffic. The cabin was nice; the closet that is right outside the bathroom door is an excellent use of space. There were mirrors behind the bed, in front of the desk and on the wall which helped give the room a larger feel. The bathroom, while small, was more than adequate. However, when it came time to shave my legs, I gave up on the shower and used the toilet to put my foot up on and the sink for water. I think that shaving in that shower would be better left up to an Olympic gymnast. Our room steward, Ariel, left a lot to be desired. To give him credit, he did provide eggcrate foam, extra pillows and a top sheet within a couple hours of request. This was where the good service ended. Most days we did not have pool towels, glasses or fresh ice. He didn't seem to go above and beyond like most stewards when greeting us in the hallway he often would see us and walk the other way. The point when our experience with the room steward turned from bad to worse was when he did not get to our room one day until 2pm and we asked for 10 minutes to change clothes and he told us that this would not be possible as he was supposed to be off work already. We had an amazing room steward on our last cruise, so we may have been spoiled. From talking to others onboard, I feel that we were in the minority as most felt that there room steward was good/excellent. FOOD Both husband and I thought that the Horizon Court and Caribe Cafe were better than on the Grand last January. Dining room food was good, but not great. Everything was fine, but nothing spectacular. We requested a set reservation for the Da Vinci dining room at table 431 with Chris and Oliver. Both were great as was Oksana the assistant waiter at the neighboring table. Pizza, burgers, and fries up on deck were great. The club sandwich, chicken caesar salad, cookies and ice tea from room service were a staple in our cabin. We dine at the Crown Grill one evening. We went five days into the cruise and they were already out of the large Maine lobster that is an extra $9 charge, however, we ordered 2 of the smaller (free) lobster tails to go with our steaks and these were very good. The sides are served family style and are easily enough for 3 people per portion, so order sparingly. There was so much food we felt as if we ate one bite of each thing and were full (and we are big eaters). Experience was fine, but for $50 a couple, I don't know that I would go back as we would have been just as happy with the offerings in the dining room. ACTIVITIES We did not attend any of the lectures, art auctions, casino or other activities - so I can't comment. I did think that the production shows were entertaining and the special guests that were part of the cast were excellent. For New Years Eve, there was a Black and White Ball held in the atrium which was phenomenally decorated and set for a balloon drop that happened at midnight. The atrium and all surrounding floors did become very crowded leading up to midnight. There was another party out on the pool deck with the live band performing and the party was shown on MUTS. We stayed in the atrium for the countdown and then made our way out to the pool deck for some more partying. On New Years Eve, I saw something that could only be viewed on a cruise ship. There was a line for the special midnight buffet that was being offered and I saw multiple people eating pizza and burgers while waiting in line for the all you can eat buffet at 1am. KIDS We don't have any children, so I can't comment about this, but can say that with over 300 children on board I didn't see many so someone must keep them entertained. PORTS Princess Cays It was cooler than when we were there last January, so we didn't stay long. I would recommend bringing bug spray as there did seem to be little flying bugs everywhere. St Thomas Did the obligatory shopping and got the free trinkets. Did Sunny Liston's Island Tour (http://sunnylistontours.com)which was a couple hour tour of the island followed by a trip to the beach all for $25 per person. First beach we went to was Coki beach, the beach itself was very narrow and crowded and the area around the beach was cluttered and there were a lot of locals hawking there services and items. No one on our tour wanted to get off at Coki, so the guide took us to Sapphire Beach, which was a lot nicer. There was a hotel and beach bar/restaurant. There were a fair amount of people, but the neither the beach nor the water felt crowded. We did some snorkeling and saw some fish and corral. St Kitts Did Grey's Island Tour (http://www.thenfordgrey.com). There were only 6 of us on the tour and it was very informative and entertaining. If you are looking for a party bus, this is not the tour for you, but if you want information about the culture, past, present and future of this island and people Thenford Grey will provide. Both DH & I agree that this was the best island tour that we have been on. Mr. Grey was even kind enough to take 4 of the 6 of us back to the ship when we didn't want to stay and swim. Barbados Stayed on the ship. St Lucia Did Cosol's Tour (http://cosol-tours.com). There were several van loads of people that went along the same tour route with Cosol's tour. Although the website doesn't specifically say it they do provide a light island breakfast and lunch that are included in the price of the tour. WARNING: This tour was great and I in no way want to discourage anyone from taking it, but even if you are not prone to motion sickness, I would recommend taking some precaution before hand as two people on our tour got motion sick. If you are prone to motion sickness, I would recommend sitting as close to the front as possible. There was nothing wrong with the tour, it was simply that the roads were winding and sharp. St Lucia was one of the most beautiful island/places that I have ever seen and I would gladly go back. Antigua We did the ship sponsored tour - Circle Antigua by Sea with Lunch. This tour was awesome and well worth every penny that we paid. We were able to see some of the homes of the rich and famous, had a fabulous barbecued lunch along with rum punch and other tropical cocktails throughout the trip. The trip stops for about 2 ½ hours on a small island beach and you can swim, lounge or snorkel to a nearby reef. There was a lunch of chicken or fish, salad, coleslaw, rice, and pasta salad served on the catamaran. Even with around 100 people on board it never felt crowded. NOTES: While not completely a party boat, the tour guides do provide PG-13 entertainment that may not be appropriate for all kids. Also, there is approximately 20 minutes travel through the Atlantic that is a bit choppy and I would recommend taking it easy on the alcohol before this time and maybe taking some sea sick precautions before going. I only saw/heard about two people that got or felt sick. OVERALL This was a very nice vacation and one that I would gladly do again as well as each of the tours listed above. I would recommend each of these to anyone interested. We purchased 2 FCC (Future Cruise Credits) while on board and used then within 12 hours of being home, which should be an indication of our fondness for Princess and their product. Next Up: Alaska - Star Princess May 17th.

Emerald - New Years Eve Cruise

Emerald Princess Cruise Review by Woodmnky

Trip Details
Pre-cruise: Traveled from NC to Hilton Head Island, SC. We stayed at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort. Nice rooms, pools and beach view; crummy soundproofing and exterior. Not bad for the price we paid on Priceline; however, for a hotel that normally sells for $150+ per night continental breakfast should not cost $13.50.
Traveled from Hilton Head to Jacksonville, what should have been a 3 hour drive turned into nearly 10 hours thanks to traffic. Stayed at the Staybridge Suites. Very nice, newly built hotel. High definition flat screen TV in the room and complimentary hot breakfast buffet in the morning and thanks to Hotwire only paid $55 for the night. This hotel was proof why mid-priced hotels often offer more than expensive hotels (see continental breakfast comment above).
Hilton Head to Fort Lauderdale proved to be a much smoother drive. We stayed at the LaQuinta Inn & Suites which offers free parking and shuttle to the port. Decent hotel, good price, and the only hotel that I know of that does not charge for parking. Paid $89 for the night, parking at the port for the 10 days would have been $150, so I can't (& won't) complain.
EMBARKATION
Arrived at the port at 11:30 and walked right through security and was placed into group 4 for embarkation processing. At 12:00 it was announced that it would be another 30 minutes before boarding would begin. Boarding actually did start around 12:45 and went very quickly from there. Once on board, I was told that embarkation was delayed due to extreme cleaning of the ship due to a Norovirus outbreak on the previous cruise.
SHIP:
One word - Beautiful. All areas of the ship exhibited a fine attention to detail in all public areas. Loved the atrium with the International Cafe and coffee bar. Emerald is a large ship that carries over 3,000 passengers, but did not feel crowded as there were plenty of small areas that provided refuge from the more crowded popular areas.
CABIN:
A253 - 2/3 of the way forward. This made for a long walk to the buffet, but the nearby elevator went straight to the 16th floor that offered access to the gym, Lotus pool and spa. This was nice when coming back from the pool or hot tub as there was very little walking and almost no traffic.
The cabin was nice; the closet that is right outside the bathroom door is an excellent use of space. There were mirrors behind the bed, in front of the desk and on the wall which helped give the room a larger feel. The bathroom, while small, was more than adequate. However, when it came time to shave my legs, I gave up on the shower and used the toilet to put my foot up on and the sink for water. I think that shaving in that shower would be better left up to an Olympic gymnast.
Our room steward, Ariel, left a lot to be desired. To give him credit, he did provide eggcrate foam, extra pillows and a top sheet within a couple hours of request. This was where the good service ended. Most days we did not have pool towels, glasses or fresh ice. He didn't seem to go above and beyond like most stewards when greeting us in the hallway he often would see us and walk the other way. The point when our experience with the room steward turned from bad to worse was when he did not get to our room one day until 2pm and we asked for 10 minutes to change clothes and he told us that this would not be possible as he was supposed to be off work already. We had an amazing room steward on our last cruise, so we may have been spoiled. From talking to others onboard, I feel that we were in the minority as most felt that there room steward was good/excellent.
FOOD
Both husband and I thought that the Horizon Court and Caribe Cafe were better than on the Grand last January. Dining room food was good, but not great. Everything was fine, but nothing spectacular. We requested a set reservation for the Da Vinci dining room at table 431 with Chris and Oliver. Both were great as was Oksana the assistant waiter at the neighboring table.
Pizza, burgers, and fries up on deck were great. The club sandwich, chicken caesar salad, cookies and ice tea from room service were a staple in our cabin.
We dine at the Crown Grill one evening. We went five days into the cruise and they were already out of the large Maine lobster that is an extra $9 charge, however, we ordered 2 of the smaller (free) lobster tails to go with our steaks and these were very good. The sides are served family style and are easily enough for 3 people per portion, so order sparingly. There was so much food we felt as if we ate one bite of each thing and were full (and we are big eaters). Experience was fine, but for $50 a couple, I don't know that I would go back as we would have been just as happy with the offerings in the dining room.
ACTIVITIES
We did not attend any of the lectures, art auctions, casino or other activities - so I can't comment. I did think that the production shows were entertaining and the special guests that were part of the cast were excellent.
For New Years Eve, there was a Black and White Ball held in the atrium which was phenomenally decorated and set for a balloon drop that happened at midnight. The atrium and all surrounding floors did become very crowded leading up to midnight. There was another party out on the pool deck with the live band performing and the party was shown on MUTS. We stayed in the atrium for the countdown and then made our way out to the pool deck for some more partying.
On New Years Eve, I saw something that could only be viewed on a cruise ship. There was a line for the special midnight buffet that was being offered and I saw multiple people eating pizza and burgers while waiting in line for the all you can eat buffet at 1am.
KIDS
We don't have any children, so I can't comment about this, but can say that with over 300 children on board I didn't see many so someone must keep them entertained.
PORTS
Princess Cays It was cooler than when we were there last January, so we didn't stay long. I would recommend bringing bug spray as there did seem to be little flying bugs everywhere.
St Thomas Did the obligatory shopping and got the free trinkets. Did Sunny Liston's Island Tour (http://sunnylistontours.com)which was a couple hour tour of the island followed by a trip to the beach all for $25 per person. First beach we went to was Coki beach, the beach itself was very narrow and crowded and the area around the beach was cluttered and there were a lot of locals hawking there services and items. No one on our tour wanted to get off at Coki, so the guide took us to Sapphire Beach, which was a lot nicer. There was a hotel and beach bar/restaurant. There were a fair amount of people, but the neither the beach nor the water felt crowded. We did some snorkeling and saw some fish and corral.
St Kitts Did Grey's Island Tour (http://www.thenfordgrey.com). There were only 6 of us on the tour and it was very informative and entertaining. If you are looking for a party bus, this is not the tour for you, but if you want information about the culture, past, present and future of this island and people Thenford Grey will provide. Both DH & I agree that this was the best island tour that we have been on. Mr. Grey was even kind enough to take 4 of the 6 of us back to the ship when we didn't want to stay and swim.
Barbados Stayed on the ship.
St Lucia Did Cosol's Tour (http://cosol-tours.com). There were several van loads of people that went along the same tour route with Cosol's tour. Although the website doesn't specifically say it they do provide a light island breakfast and lunch that are included in the price of the tour. WARNING: This tour was great and I in no way want to discourage anyone from taking it, but even if you are not prone to motion sickness, I would recommend taking some precaution before hand as two people on our tour got motion sick. If you are prone to motion sickness, I would recommend sitting as close to the front as possible. There was nothing wrong with the tour, it was simply that the roads were winding and sharp. St Lucia was one of the most beautiful island/places that I have ever seen and I would gladly go back.
Antigua We did the ship sponsored tour - Circle Antigua by Sea with Lunch. This tour was awesome and well worth every penny that we paid. We were able to see some of the homes of the rich and famous, had a fabulous barbecued lunch along with rum punch and other tropical cocktails throughout the trip. The trip stops for about 2 ½ hours on a small island beach and you can swim, lounge or snorkel to a nearby reef. There was a lunch of chicken or fish, salad, coleslaw, rice, and pasta salad served on the catamaran. Even with around 100 people on board it never felt crowded. NOTES: While not completely a party boat, the tour guides do provide PG-13 entertainment that may not be appropriate for all kids. Also, there is approximately 20 minutes travel through the Atlantic that is a bit choppy and I would recommend taking it easy on the alcohol before this time and maybe taking some sea sick precautions before going. I only saw/heard about two people that got or felt sick.
OVERALL
This was a very nice vacation and one that I would gladly do again as well as each of the tours listed above. I would recommend each of these to anyone interested. We purchased 2 FCC (Future Cruise Credits) while on board and used then within 12 hours of being home, which should be an indication of our fondness for Princess and their product.
Next Up: Alaska - Star Princess May 17th.
Woodmnky’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin A253
Quiet location. 2/3 of the way forward. Near foward elevators which go directly to the Lotus Spa and pool. Good cabin design/layout. New bedding with flat screen tv. Lots of mirrors help to enlarge the space.
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