Superb Southern Caribbean cruise on Caribbean Princess: Caribbean Princess Cruise Review by sentrydriver

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Superb Southern Caribbean cruise on Caribbean Princess

Sail Date: February 2011
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: San Juan
My wife and I are in our early fifties, live in the center of the United States and both work. This trip was to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary although it was almost five months after the fact due to an overseas deployment for me. We booked this cruise because first, we wanted to sail from San Juan; second, it fit the precious days off we had and third, it called at several ports we wanted to visit. I booked through an interline agency where I have travel privileges.

Based on weather fears and the desire to see Puerto Rico before the cruise, we departed on Tuesday before the Sunday sailing. We flew through DFW effortlessly although the airport closed later that day for heavy snow. Arriving in San Juan, we spent the fist night at the Best Western at the airport. The room was fine, breakfast was good and the staff friendly. I did obtain a military discount which made the rate extremely reasonable. We rented a car from Payless and toured the island for the remainder of More the week. I recommend Payless at the San Juan airport. On cruise day, we returned the rental car and went to the terminal to wait for a transfer. The airport was a zoo at noon on Sunday. We found a bar called the Buffalo Wings (no relation to the Buffalo Wild Wings chain) across from the jetBlue terminal in the parking garage. There is also a Wendy's there if you are looking for cheap food at the airport. We sat at the Buffalo Wings bar for two hours before grabbing a taxi to the pier. The taxi was $22 as advertised.

We didn't want to arrive too early as we had been warned that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do at the Pan American Pier. This is true but fortunately, we were able to speed through the inprocessing and onto the ship. As others have mentioned, there is a duty free right in the terminal before you get on the ship. Don't forget to pack a corkscrew.

Our stateroom was on deck 8 (Emerald) at the very front of the ship. Our window looked right out over the staircase which runs from the deck 7 (Promenade)up to deck 8 around the front of the ship. The view was not obstructed by life boats but people on deck could look in our window.

The room was a good size with plenty of closet space for two people. The bathroom was snug but efficient. Everything worked and the room was very comfortable for two. It did have two fold down bunks but I think it would be a tight squeeze for four. Our room steward, Delfin from the Philippines, was friendly, cheerful and efficient.

My wife and I found the ship to be in superb condition. The public spaces, while smaller than we had anticipated, were beautiful and we never found crowds to be overwhelming.

We had Anytime Dining and it turned out to be a great experience. We dined with some new people every night as well as with some couples two or three times. We always asked to join or share a table and never had a wait. Now I have been eating in a chow hall for four months but I think the food on board would have been delicious under any circumstances. Some stand out meals were the prime rib, beef Wellington, mussels and shrimp scampi. We enjoyed the escargot the night it was served. We also had some chilled fruit soups which were very good. The desserts were good and included a cheese plate every night. My wife and I ordered a bottle of wine with each evening meal and found wines for our taste in the $26-$30 range. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the Coral dining room when we could. The eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine were stand out breakfasts. We only found ourselves in the Horizon buffet twice but found it clean, hot, varied and uniformly good both times. On the last sea day, a pub lunch was served in the steakhouse and we both enjoyed the fish and chips and bangers and mash. The pizza was also very good. We also enjoyed a cooking demonstration by the head chef and maitre'd. The demonstration of pasta with pesto, Caesar salad and tiramisu was fun and easy to follow and the banter between the two was very humorous. All they needed was a band with Doc Gibbs. After the cooking demo (which was in the theater and had hundreds of attendees), there was a tour of the galley spaces. It was a walk through tour but it easily accommodated the hundreds of visitors and was a great behind the scenes look. We did not try any of the extra cost dining rooms.

We both enjoyed the entertainment. Production shows are not my thing but I do appreciate the talent and the amount of work that goes into them. Caribbean Cliente didn't do much for me but we both enjoyed Piano Men very much. We didn't see the hypnotist nor the magician but we loved Troy Thirdgill's comedy act. He was great both nights. The next comedian was good but a real step down from Troy. I was very much looking forward to the Navigation@Sea lecture but it turned out to be a PowerPoint slide show.

The bars on the ship are many and varied and we had some favorites. For us, the Wheelhouse was the best. The bartender, Rosalie from the Philippines remembered us after our second visit and was always a joy to chat with. We also liked the Vines wine bar. We enjoyed a glass of wine there many evening before dinner. The wines ran from $6 to $14 a glass, were served in exquisite Riedel glasses and included tapas or sushi. In the afternoon, we often found ourselves out by one of the pool bars. It was the only one we found that had draft beer (Stella Artois, unfortunately it was gougingly priced at $7.50 per pour). In the evening after dinner, we enjoyed Power hour drinks in the Wheelhouse, Club Fusion (for country and western night) and Skywalkers (for 50s and 60s night). Power hour drinks included well pours, four different beers and three cocktails (pina colada, Long Island Iced Tea and Singapore Sling) for $2.99 from 8pm to close every night.

Disembarkation worked fairly well. Again, we were planning to spend time in San Juan and since we couldn't check in to guest house in Ocean Park until noon, we were in no hurry to disembark. We were put into one of the very last disembarkation groups at 11:15. Even though we had to be out of the room by 0830, we had plenty to keep us occupied and fed until we got off. The whole flow was running about 30 minutes behind but while on board, the International Cafe was open for pastries and later, sandwiches and salads. Our luggage was waiting for us when we did get off, we cleared customs quickly and found a cab waiting. Less

Published 02/27/11

Cabin review: FE115

E115. Partially obscured view. Nice view but people can look in so be judicious with the curtains. Large closet for two people. Near front of ship and crew spaces but still quiet.

Port and Shore Excursions

We made no prior plans for Aruba and while walking into town to shop, we ended up on a minibus tour of the island. At $20 each, it was a bargain. The driver was very engaging. He obviously knows his home island well but in addition to describing the tourist sites, he was a wealth of information on property prices, Aruban-Dutch relations, water desalinization, goat dishes, local politics and island demographics. Unfortunately, he was driving an unmarked minibus. We assume he contract drives for some of the other operators.

Read 1289 Aruba Reviews

I independently booked a snorkel tour with Renee. It was the highlight of the cruise. Renee met us at the gate holding a sign with our name as well as the four others. We got in her minivan and went to the first site where she focused on fish. We saw all manner of colorful fish, eels, squid, octopus, a very large tarpon, some bonefish and a rare sighting of a coronet fish. The second site was more coral-centric but still spectacular with fish. Renee's knowledge and enthusiasm made this the best snorkel trip ever even though we were never out of sight of the ship. I cannot recommend Renee highly enough.

Read 444 Bonaire Reviews

We booked the Wacky Rollers 4WD tour through Princess. We thoroughly enjoyed this tour through the city, the botanical gardens and up into the mountains to see Trafalgar Falls. The visit to TiTou Gorge was the highlight of the trip. I'm so glad we braved the chilly water to go up into the gorge with our guide. The vehicle was also very fun. Great driver and guide. Downtown Roseau had limited shopping but the post office was very convenient to the dock and we found the town very hassle-free. We enjoyed our time in Dominica and highly recommend the Wacky Rollers.

Read 669 Dominica Reviews

I wanted to love Grenada and I have wanted to visit this spice island since I (like most Americans) first heard of it in 1983. My wife and I were most intrigued by the spices and the rum. Based on good feedback and reviews, I booked a "Spicy Scenes" tour through A&E tours. My e-mails were promptly answered by Agnes and we set up the tour to visit spice production facilities as well as a rum distillery. On arrival, we were met by Eddie who told us he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that the other couple interested in the Spicy Scenes tour had cancelled. The good news was that he was putting us on another tour which would include the spice and rum but much more and for the same price. Unfortunately, the spice portion turned out to be a 20 minute stop at a roadside spice shop and the rum portion a 10 minute afterthought at a tasting room. The rest of the tour was okay but not what we wanted and felt like we had been given the old bait and switch. The driver was very competent and knowledgeable and the van was brand new. Still, we felt a bit let down in Grenada. Next time, we'll just engage a taxi at the port and go exactly where we want to go.

Read 531 Grenada Reviews

San Juan was the embarkation point but we did several port visit things here so I'll add some of our experiences. Old San Juan is very hectic on Sundays when locals come in to enjoy kite flying at El Morro and the streets are clogged with cruisers from three or four large ships. The bus system in San Juan is broken. I have, in the past, ridden the bus from Old San Juan to Isla Verde with no problem. On this recent visit, a 90 minute wait for buses was common. If you are planning to the use the bus, plan accordingly and have cab fare as a back up. The Bacardi trip is an easy independent activity. Take the ferry to Catano (not Hato Rey). It is $.50 each way. On the Catano side, you'll probably be following the crowd but you'll go out of the terminal, turn right and follow the street until you get to a parking garage type of structure. There you take a "publico" to the distillery. It is a shared van and costs $3 per person each way. The 90 minute tour at Bacardi is free and you get tickets for two free drinks.

Read 2976 San Juan Reviews

The port visits were a main reason for selecting this cruise. St. Thomas was the first stop and we had booked the Tortola Dolphin Swim through Princess. I know these are controversial but we want to see it for ourselves. Didn't matter, the tour was cancelled at the last minute due to lack of interest. We were left without any real alternatives so we took the $12 taxi tour. It was good to see the island but it was a let down.

Read 4002 St. Thomas Reviews

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