We selected this cruise because of its itinerary and because we have enjoyed sailing with Princess before. We booked a Penthouse Aft Suite (C728), partly for the extra space and partly for the added suite perks. We are still fairly new to cruising (this was our 5th), but this was our least favourite to date. In summary, we liked the Crown (smaller and less crowded), but it lacks some of the mod cons and luxuries of the newer Princess ships, plus we felt that the service, food and entertainment weren’t quite up to scratch and there seems to be more and more upsells. The Sanctuary was fully booked for all sea days even before the Sail-away so, if this is important to you, then I suggest you ignore your progressive boarding slot and board as soon as you can! Overall, we still enjoyed the cruise and would book with Princess again.
Embarkation/disembarkation. We were really unhappy with the progressive embarkation process (slots allocated according to stateroom deck). Boarding was not supposed to begin until 1230, but actually started around 1000 am (mainly for Princess organised transfers). Pro: by the time of our allocated slot, there were no queues at all. Con: Our later boarding slot, combined with an early safety drill, left us with little time to explore the ship and the Sanctuary was all booked out. Disembarkation was confusing – we were separately advised to wait in three different lounges (we eventually opted for the Walk Off Express).
Stateroom. Our suite was large, clean and neatly prepared by our steward. Pros: We loved the deep, wide balcony with wake view (we spent a lot of time out there); the shower was pretty good; and the complimentary room service was handy, especially for breakfast on the morning of disembarkation. The cons: the hairdryer belongs in a museum; several of the sockets only worked intermittently; the phone wake-up service didn’t work (even after it had supposedly been fixed)’ the new HD TVs are too big for the space so you have to duck to avoid a poke in the eye or bump on the head; and most of the Suite perks were below par – poor quality welcome ‘champagne’ (Korbel); minibar tailoring was delayed and the offering was much reduced, the complimentary laundry service now takes 48-72 hours instead of next day return, no separate VIP Lounge or sunbathing area for Suite guests; and we struggled to get our preferred restaurant for our complimentary embarkation speciality dinner.
Dining/Bars. We loved our Suite breakfast experience in Sabatini’s. This was lovely and quiet. The MaitreD (Edgar) was particularly welcoming; Ricardo. Valentino and Enrique were friendly and attentive – always ready with our favourite drinks. Most dinners were eaten in the Club Class section of the Da Vinci restaurant where we were always welcomed with a smile by Andrew; Catalina and Mirka, who all ensured that we were well looked after. The food here was OK, but not as good as on previous Princess or Cunard cruises. The food was better in the Crown Grill and Sabatini’s. We tried a few of the bars. If you want a quiet drink in more refined surroundings, head for the Adagio, next to Sabatini’s on deck 16.
Excursions. The offerings were OK, but nothing overly exciting and we would have preferred to see more small group tours. Pros: We really enjoyed the swimming with turtles catamaran (with Tiami) in Barbados (BGI810A) - yes, there were turtles, good swimming (deep water though), nice lunch, free-flowing drinks and a real good vibe. The Antiguan 4WD Safari ANU340A was also great fun and not too bumpy – loved the Naval Dockyard, short film about the island at Shirley Heights and beachside lunch plus friendly driver (Reginald) and free flowing drinks. Cons: Most of the port disembarkations, tour meets and transfers were late and chaotic. Our St Lucia tour (SLU100) was a disaster from start to finish, not helped by the persistent rain throughout. Firstly, the tour operated in reverse which does not work (swim-stops and rum punch from 0930 to 1030 am, then lunch at 1115, then landtour). Less than half the 120-seater catamaran was covered and the deck didn’t drain properly, so everyone spent the journey standing in a huddle, holding on to their bags, with few braving the swim stops. The plantation lunch was far too early, too quick and was dire in terms of ambience, quality and quantity (I managed one small drumstick with some bread, rice and salad). The only complimentary drink was water self-served from a cooler (beer was available for purchase from a nearby bar). There were only four restrooms for the hundreds of visitors and these had no running or flushing water. The stop at Soufriere involved a 20-minute hike up slippery paths/steps in the pouring rain to see a small plume of smoke (the tour does NOT include a visit inside the volcano).
Entertainment. Hit and miss. The male vocalist (Andrew something) was really good in a variety of genres, so good we watched him twice. We didn’t think the production shows were up to scratch. The in-house movie selection continues to be pretty poor.
Wi-fi. Reliable, but not cheap
Sunbathing/The Sanctuary. Lots of room and different areas for sunbathing. The request not to reserve beds was ignored by some, especially round the adults only Terrace and Lotus pool areas. The Sanctuary is normally a real treat for us. Pros: comfy beds with complimentary water, tea, coffee and snacks. Cons: the added cost; too many beds (it felt pretty cramped) most of which went unoccupied; the booking process. Unlike the spa services, you can’t pre-book on-line. Unless you wanted to book the whole cruise, beds used to be made available on a ‘first come, served’ basis each morning. Now, you book your preferred bed as soon as you board. This places passengers with late boarding slots at a disadvantage – we found that all the beds had already been reserved for the sea days (they did manage to find us two beds after we complained).
Photography. Still expensive and quality not the best (very posed). The Crown still hasn’t installed the facial recognition based self-serve screens, so you have to wade through hundreds of hard prints of oversize photos, involving loads of wastage.
We opted for the Adventure Turbo-Cat Snorkel & Beach Escape (STT835) because we love catamaran tours and this included both a snorkelling and beach stop. We boarded the Sabrage under Captain Dan. The cat wasn’t too big or crowded (around 12 on board), but there was a good vibe. We stopped for snorkelling first at Bluff Island, then at Abbey Cove where the water was a little rougher (this was not a beach stop). Both stops were in deep water and, although it was relatively easy to get on and off the cat, the crew advised going into the sea unless you were a strong and confident swimmer – which I am not. This was a big disappointment. On the way back, the rum punch was free-flowing (plenty of coconut water/milk so it wasn’t too strong). An enjoyable half-day, but not quite up to the blurb/expectations.View All 177 Catamaran Tour Reviews
In Fort Lauderdale, we were advised that our pre-booked Alexander Hamilton Tour (SKB205A) had been cancelled as the museum was shut. We then opted for Cockleshell Beach, Timothy Hill & Scenic Drive excursion (SKB-280). This was pretty much as advertised. After a short minibus drive, we made a photo-stop at Timothy Hill for lovely views over the island and the ocean. There were several souvenir stalls and touts offering tourists the opportunity to hold a baby monkey. After another short drive, we arrived at the Spice Mill on Cockleshell Beach. We were given our complimentary drink as soon as we arrived. A beach lounger was included in the price, but you had to pay extra for a shade (or you could sit under a tree). The beach was relatively quiet when we got there, but it soon filled up as other buses arrived. The beach itself was clean and sandy, with calm, clear, warm water. After several dips and a bit of sunbathing, we made sure we allowed time for a quick stop at the small bar shack. The staff were really friendly and there was a real Caribbean buzz. The cocktails were generous and yummy. They served snacks too. Returning to the port there was enough time for a quick look around the charming historic town of Basseterre and do a bit of shopping in the many outlets at the port (like most of the Caribbean, you shouldn’t be afraid to barter to get discounts of up to 40-50%). A lovely day.View All 171 Beach Reviews
We opted for the Sulphur Springs, Pitons, Cruise & Lunch excursion (SLU100) partly because of the itinerary and partly because of the reviews (all 5-star). This was not exactly cheap at $109.95 per person, was a disaster from start to finish. To be fair this was not helped by the persistent rain throughout (rain is quite common on the island). Firstly, the tour operated in reverse which does not work & alcohol served on an empty stomach (0930 to 1030); restaurant lunch served at 1115 whilst we were sitting in wet clothes. Less than half the 120-seater catamaran was covered and the deck didnt drain properly, so everyone spent the journey standing in a huddle, holding on to their bags, with very few folks braving the swim stops. The only air-conditioning in the mini-bus was the open window not ideal in the rain. The plantation tour might have been reasonably interesting if we hadnt done something along these lines previously. The rum tasting was OK, but again being offered on an empty stomach. Lunch was served at 1115 and was dire in terms of ambience, quality and quantity (I managed one small drumstick with some bread, rice and salad). The only complimentary drink was water self-served from a cooler (beer was available for purchase from a nearby bar). We were on our way again before 1200. There were only four restrooms for the hundreds of visitors and these had no running or flushing water. The stop at Soufriere involved a 20-minute hike up slippery paths/steps in the pouring rain to see a small plume of smoke (the tour does NOT include a visit inside the volcano). Having had no refreshments since lunch, at our photo-stop at Morne Fortune around 3.15pm, we just headed for the bar shack. I get that we might have been incredibly unlucky with some of this, but the itinerary simply doesn’t work in reverse. Also, I note that the Princess website is still showing all reviews as 5-star when I know that I scored it far less, hence I am now really sceptical about the scores shown.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We opted for the Five Star Sail, Turtle Encounter & Lunch (BGI810A) because we love catamaran tours and this included both a snorkelling and beach stop. We boarded the Tiami cat under Captain James. The cat wasn’t too big or crowded (around 40). The outward sail was very sedate and we didn’t go far. We stopped for snorkelling and swimming with turtles first (Pile Bay?), then at Paynes Bay (unfortunately the cat couldnt beach). Although it was relatively easy to get on and off the cat, as both stops were in deep water and, the crew advised going into the sea unless you were a strong and confident swimmer – which I am not. This was a disappointment. Post swimming, there was an open bar with a good selection of cocktails, reasonably decent wines and beers. There was plenty of tasty food (chicken, fish, rice, salads, muffins and cake) for lunch and seconds were encouraged. The crew were friendly and worked to ensure that everyone enjoyed themselves. Music added to the vibe and there was lots of dancing and singing on the return leg. Great fun. My only real gripe is with the transfers. We had to wait ages in the sun for a shuttle bus to take us to the main port. There was an even longer wait for the shuttle back to the main port.View All 119 Catamaran Tour Reviews
We opted for our 4WD Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley Heights excursion (ANU340A) as we are history buffs and love beaches. The safari truck (the Scooby Do) was great fun and not too bumpy. Reginald was friendly and safe driver. Our first formal stop was at the historic Nelsons Dockyard. The tour guide took the rest of the group off whilst I was in the rest room. This was not a major problem as I had researched the area so we were happy to wander round on our own. The views from Shirley Heights were lovely and there were some souvenir shops. We made an unexpected stop at the Dow Hill Interpretative Centre to watch a short film about the islands history and this was one of the highlights of the day. Turners Beach was a lovely end to the excursion with a leisurely lunch (chicken, rice and salad), plus just enough time for a quick dip in the warm, calm, clear sea and dry off on the beach. Throughout the day, Reginald made several photo-stops and kept us interested with information about the islands history, plants etc, plus he ensured that the drinks were free-flowing. A really enjoyable and fun day.View All 194 Island Tour Reviews