We were booked on a 14 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Caribbean Princess Feb 2, looking forward to a relaxing holiday visiting places we have never been to before. We flew to Fort Lauderdale from Victoria BC via Toronto. Due to an accident beneath the aircraft after the doors had been closed, we sat on the runway for 4 hours. As a result we arrived in Fort Lauderdale over an hour after the ship was to sail. There was said to be 130 cruisers booked on 4 different cruise ships on that flight, the same day as the Super Bowl in nearby Miami. Thank God we booked through EZAIR. As we banked to land in Fort Lauderdale a groan went up on the plane as we could see two Holland American ships had already put to sea and another Princess ship was gone. Only one ship stayed to get their passengers, the Caribbean Princess. What a relief as there was literally nowhere for passengers that were left behind (117) to stay in the area due to the super bowl. Exhausted we were quickly run through the safety briefing and off to eat and sleep. On the 4th day of the cruise my wife and more than a hundred others came down with the flu, later proven to be Norovirus. Ultimately the Captain reported there were over 300 sick and less than 20 crew. This was a bad one for her, violent vomiting and diarrhea. We were confined to quarters for 24 hours and the medical staff provided medicine and finally a shot that settled her down. Cost were minimal and there was no service fee for the medic to visit her in the cabin. At that point the ship invoked procedures that included crew serving of food, enforced hand washing at eating venues and sanitizing everywhere else along with constant disinfecting of surfaces throughout the ship. It was all hands on deck for the crew who when not doing their primary jobs were cleaning and serving. I even saw the performers cleaning and disinfecting bannisters, elevators surfaces etc. However the illness continued to spread and some people who were supposed to be quarantined were found in the eating areas and escorted out to the disgust of others. Oddly there were far fewer sick crew according to the Captain's regular updates.
As for the cruise part, we visited St Maarten and St Thomas, were refused entry in St Kitts, got into Martinique and that was the last port we visited. We missed Barbados, Trinidad, Bonair and Aruba. On day 7 the Capain informed us that we were turning for home and would arrive 3 days early. Initially we were told the company would refund half the cruise cost, excluding taxes. Later we were told in addition to the refund the company would give us a credit equal to the other half of the cruise towards a future cruise that had to be completed within a year. Anecdotally I heard that people who changed their flight plans would be compensated for additional costs. We decided to stay and the company provided accommodation and transportation to a hotel. We ended up in the WR Marriot resort which was very close to 5 star accommodation. IMO this was very generous. I would have taken much less than this considering we were onboard for 10 of 14 days.
All that aside (and it is a lot) we really enjoyed the ship. We love the Medallion system which made life easier in a lot of ways. Unfortunately the medallion system does not like really old phones and not every function worked well on my iphone 5s. The entertainment was the best I have seen at sea. Creative performances with lots of high tech included. The ship was full and their were small lineups often but no really long waits for anything, especially the elevators which were really fast and responsive. The cruise days were relaxing (funny how when it is a scheduled cruise day it is fine but when it is a forced cruise day you have a different outlook). We had an inside cabin, as usual, and were satisfied with the arrangement and the surprisingly big TV. Our cabin steward, Rodney, was outstanding and very flexible, especially when DW was sick. The crew worked tirelessly and I mean that literally. Most of them were pulling double shifts by this time. Their attitude was much more positive than the guests. Talking to a server I mentioned that they might get a day off in Fort Lauderdale he replied they would be disinfecting the ship top to bottom and probably not get ashore at all.
In summary I tried to hate the cruise but in retrospect found much of it relaxing and enjoyable. The addition of another almost free cruise in the fall makes it more tolerable. The ship did not cause the illnesses and did everything possible to combat the illness and try to prevent its spread IMO. I will definitely cruise on Princess again.
We like to cruise on inside cabins now. We have done the balcony and windows cabins but found we did not use them for the 30% increase in cost. Our cabin was the same as the Emerald Princess except that the TV was much bigger. These cabins have lots of room for storage and although the bathrooms are tight they are acceptable. The beds and pillows were better than we have at home and extremely comfortable. We were on deck 10 between the busy deck 7 and the food oriented deck 15. The elevators were amazing. Quickest I have ever encountered as sea.