We booked our cruise to Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao late in October, about six weeks beforehand. We stayed one night in the Embassy Suites on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale. We always like to fly down a day early just in case there are any travel delays.
We left the hotel around 11 a.m., taking a shuttle to the port. It costs $9 per person from the Embassy Suites. We were waiting for a cab, and took the shuttle for a discounted price of $15 for the two of us. Cab fare, with tip, would be about the same price since our ship was at the far pier that Princess uses.
Boarding was very quick for us. We breezed through the preferred for security and then for check-in. The Elite and suite lounge was fairly full when we got there, but they began boarding about 5 minutes later. We were on the ship in less than an hour after leaving the hotel, a little before noon.
Our cabin was at the front of the ship on the Plaza Deck. And by front of the ship, I mean as far as passengers can go--P201. I was prepared for the small size. It's adequate, although it would be nicer if there were room on both sides of the bed. My side was against the wall, and I had to slide down to the foot of the bed to get out of it. We moved the little glass table into the closet to have more room to walk without tripping over it. There was still plenty of storage space for our clothes.
We had second seating traditional dining in the Palm Dining Room. We like having our meals in a dining room whenever possible. It's unfortunate that Princess and Holland America (our two favorite cruise lines) have stopped serving lunch in the dining room on port days. The food was very good. We had excellent waiters and tablemates. Unfortunately, our luck with excellent waiters did not extend to breakfast and lunch. At one breakfast, all six people at our table were waiting for something missing--toast, a meat, syrup, etc.
The first night at sea there was a medical emergency where a passenger had to be flown off the ship in a helicopter. The captain made several announcement that woke everyone up--a couple around 1:30 and then two more around 3:30. Some passengers had to leave their cabins and go to their muster stations for 90 minutes. The ship turned around and headed back toward Florida because the helicopter originally did not have enough fuel to reach the ship and go back safely. Our arrival in Curacao was delayed about 5 hours--around noon instead of 7 a.m. It did not matter to us since we didn't have anything planned, having been there a couple of times before. The good thing for us was that they opened the dining room for lunch due to our late arrival. We had also been to Aruba several times before and did not do anything special on it, just getting off the ship to walk around a bit.
In Bonaire we took an excursion bus around the island. It was an interesting tour. We bought our tickets on the island in one of the tents set up for tours. They had various activities offered that passengers could book right there--snorkeling, beach breaks, island tours, city tours, etc. Our bus had 20 passengers plus guide and driver. The guide was very good--a U.S. native who had lived in Bonaire for several decades. I enjoyed seeing the flamingos and other wildlife. The vegetarian is mainly scrubby little trees and cacti. We went all around the island--to the lake where the flamingos gather, up to a small distillery where they make a cactus liqueuer and other liquors, to the cross on top of a mountain for scenic views of the island, and to the salt producing area and slave quarters on the southern end of the island. The tour was 3 hours and 45 minutes and cost less than half what the cruise line charges for a similar tour.
We enjoyed the production shows. All four of the singers in the production cast are good. We went to the first night's "Welcome Aboard" show. Comedian Scott Wyler gave a brief set. We've seen him on past cruises. We did not go back for his full act on a subsequent night, but our tablemates saw him before dinner and enjoyed his show. The other entertainment included another comedian and a production show with a guest soprano. On the final night, the crew members performed a show--a fun time.
The cruise director's staff was good, with lots of activities programmed throughout the day and night. One thing that disappointed me was the lack of special acts in the piazza of the ship. They had a really good comedy juggling duo the first few days of our cruise. After they left the ship at one of the islands, no one replaced them to do special entertainment in the piazza. One of the reasons we booked this cruise was the back-to-back days at sea both going and coming back from the ABCs. Lazy days at sea are what cruising is all about for us.
One special feature of our cruise was the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Bar set up in Club Fusion. They had a showcase of rock memorabilia, posters of rock stars around the room, and special events to go with the theme, including a couple of talks by Alan Parsons. The last morning of the cruise, I noticed that they had removed all evidence of the change, and Club Fusion had reverted back to its former décor.
The overall condition of the ship is still good, but with places where a little TLC is needed. We toured the Regal Princess the day we left the Caribbean Princess, and the differences between the new ship and 12-year-old one are very obvious in comparison.
There were very few children on this cruise. Sailing the first week of December is ideal for those who want to avoid them.
This cabin really needs to be reclassified into an obstructed view. The depth of the window makes it more obstructed than many cabins classified as obstructed. The size of the cabin is also smaller than obstructed view cabins, with the bed pushed fully against one wall.
Port Everglades is our favorite port from which to sail. We like to stay in one of the hotels along 17th Street. This was our first time staying at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale. It's convenient but pricy compared to some others.
Curacao is a quaint port with lots of old Dutch colonial architecture. The swinging pontoon bridge offers great views. We had taken an island tour on a previous cruise here and did not need to repeat it. But it's interesting if you haven't been before.
Aruba is known for its beautiful beaches. It's easy to catch a cab to one of them to have a relaxing day. (Public buses are another option for the more adventuresome.)
Bonaire is an island to which we had not been before. We took an island tour with one of the vendors set up near the pier. I enjoyed seeing the flamingos and other wildlife, the slave quarters, and salt processing area.View All 107 Island Tour Reviews