This was my 19th cruise, second on Princess.
Coming from Chicago, we arrived the prior evening in Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the Hampton Inn on Las Olas Blvd. They have an airport shuttle til 11pm. Very clean hotel with nice ... Read More
This was my 19th cruise, second on Princess.
Coming from Chicago, we arrived the prior evening in Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the Hampton Inn on Las Olas Blvd. They have an airport shuttle til 11pm. Very clean hotel with nice breakfast assortment and pool area to relax at prior to departing for port in Ft Lauderdale. It was very cool in Ft. Lauderdale - which is par for a January or February departure.
We took the hotel shuttle to the port with other hotel guests, making stops at 3 other ships. The port is still expanding, and it was very interesting and fun speaking with all the other guests on the shuttle. Saw the new Celebrity Edge in port.
Embarkation was a BREEZE. We got our medallions at the check in desk, as we booked so last minute for the trip. Other than entry into our suite, and getting on and off the ship. I do not use the medallion for anything else, but love the convenience for the above reasons. Never had any issues with the medallion.
The buffet the first day for lunch was AMAZING, with great selection of delicious food. The staff cheerfully brought beverages and continuously cleared used plates.
That night, watching the SUPER BOWL on the pool deck Under the Stars was something I'll never forget. Very unique experience. Great Game too!! The staff brings out pads for the lounge chairs and blankets.
The Ship: Very clean and nicely designed and decorated. Not a "Mega ship", but has it's own niche. Great for relaxing and just "being on vacation".
Entertainment: all over the ship. The sail away party was Awesome, and dancers were very energetic!! I also enjoyed the live music all over the ship. They also had a comedian who was funny the first night, but too long the second performance. Honestly, I enjoyed putting together puzzles in the library with other passengers. There are many games to play as well.
Food: Dining room. We were on dine at your own time plan. I suggest you make reservations for night time, as it can get crowded. I had some delicious meals, including calamari at lunch and lobster at dinner. I personally did not care for some of the evening menu's and a few times the waiter brought me a different meal, which were satisfying. There was no attitude from any waiter, other than to "please" the guest.
Alfredo's had very delicious soups, salads, pizzas, pastas and dessert, had them all! Hot dogs by the pool is one of my favorites - Chicago style quality dogs!!! Buffet for lunch and some dinners, again, DELICOUS! I had the best freshest pasta Abbiati one evening! Even the international café served a delicious quiche type dish.
(Very happy that I did not gain one pound on vacation - I spent my calories wisely and exercised as much as possible, walking the track on fitness desk - so peaceful).
Fellow passengers: many from Canada, also escaping the winter. Many seniors, hardly any juniors or children. We've been on cruises on mega ships where the kids almost take over. This is a different experience. There were several passengers using walkers and wheelchairs, whom probably have enjoyed cruising as much as I have and still do, which is why they are there? As we all continue to age, I hope there are shuttles in port, to make getting to tour busses, hassle free.
Princess Cays - Snorkeling, (brought our own equipment) I have not seen such CLEAR water in years!! We found a chair to the right as you exit the tender - a more quiet, less crowded area, and snorkeled among the rocks and coral for an hour before delicious BBQ lunch. After lunch walked around as others have said to the "exit", great view, but not feeling like leaving the area, we went to the other side of the cay. I must say, the pier that goes out into the water there, was a real treat. Dozens of fish if not hundreds, crabs crawling on the rocks - that's my heaven!!! People were snorkeling, and I was jealous as my husband wanted to get back to the ship to avoid the "lines". WELL, there were NO lines, instead, shaded area, water, misters and we were back on the ship, 2 1/2 hours before sailing away. NEVER again, will this happen. I lost 2 hours of precious island time, sitting in the sun, snorkeling among fish. You live and learn. (PS, I am not afraid of lines-I love chatting with others, and learning).
St. Thomas - We took our first Catamaran ride ever on The VI Cat, cruise shore excursion - long walk to the catamaran, but wow- SO IMPRESSED!!! Clean, vessel, excellently maintained, and Wonderful crew!!.. They made the trip. We motored to Buck Island. Our snorkel gear was the BEST I've ever used-and upon getting into the water we spotted a Green Sea Turtle within minutes, chomping on vegetation on the ocean floor. He came up for air and the group respected his space. Next, we saw a stingray, and then snorkeled into another area to see a lot of coral and fish. We sailed back most of the way to port. They served rum and non alcoholic punch, with chips and salsa. Tyler, the guide was amazing and Joe the captain, simply the BEST. I highly recommend this trip. Keep in mind, you will be sailing in open waters and snorkeling - need to be physically fit and a good swimmer.
St. Martin - we've been to this island 3 or 4 times before and decided to rent a car to have a more personalized experience. Coastal car rental, is at the port, just to the right of the Information booth. The staff was very helpful car was great. They drive on the right side of the road. We drove to Maho Beach, where there is an airport/runway adjacent to the beach. Beautiful beach, warm day, lots of tourists, and witnessed many small plane landings. We left right before a jet landed, which was ok with me. there is a restaurant, bar and bathrooms right at the beach.
Next, on to lunch at Grand-Case Beach for lunch at "Rib Shack". Delicious fish with fried plantains!!! Wonderful view, right on the beach (in newly constructed portion of the restaurant) Talked with the waitress about the Hurricane - and the obvious destruction it caused. They are rebuilding the island in many parts. We saw boats that were crashed onto the land and dozens of roofs still with tarps on them (3-4 years later) with signs of new construction everywhere. She said you need to be resilient to survive such a storm. Some people sadly, just gave up. (don't know what I would do, but have an idea)
Next, on to beautiful Orient Beach, which we've been to before. It was a very windy day, but still warm enough to bask in the sun, and feel the sand in your feet (another vacation goal of mine).
Lastly back to town, to St. Phillipsburg, Great Bay Beach to shop at the market, and shops including Guavaberry. I needed a new shaker of Old Man St. Martin seasoning,Island Garlic Lemon Herb. Using it, always brings travel and adventure to mind!
Although we had a map, it was easier to navigate with GPS.
Lovely day in St. Martin between the warm ocean breeze, people and on our own to explore.
On an earlier trip I did the America's Cup Regatta race, and was made Captain of the Canada 2 vessel. That was also an amazing, once in a lifetime experience.
So, I was concerned with only 3 ports on this itinerary, that we may not get enough time for New "Experiences". Thankfully, the weather and winds cooperated and we were able to make all 3 ports as scheduled. This does not always happen while cruising - as changes may (and have) occurred.
The sea days where the weather was nice was relaxing. The last day was cool and windy, and made being on pool deck, not so fun. The walking/jogging path is very nice on the upper deck in the back of the ship.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We also booked the 2 1/2 hour Everglades trip from the ship, and met in the theatre that morning for our shore excursion. Our luggage was in the designated place and we got through customs and of the terminal in a few minutes. It was a bit of a walk to the bus for our tour.
While on the tour bus, we learned our flight home that afternoon was cancelled, and we could not return home until the next day. Most of the Airboat ride, I was on the phone with the airlines. The airboat engine was very loud, potentially scaring away any wildlife. When they shut off the engine I loved the peacefulness of the everglades. I plan to return to the Everglades National Park on my next trip to Florida, to immerse myself into nature and it's surroundings. Saw some birds and fish and the alligator show was ok and, thankfully, uneventful. I'd hate to see a guy or gal get hurt, putting their hands/face near the gators mouth.
Was able to Uber down to Miami and spent the unplanned afternoon on South Beach, mainly "people watching". It got very cool and windy, but that did not stop the stream of folks strutting their stuff. Fun to watch. We had dinner at "Social" on Ocean Drive, had some delicious fajitas and steak tacos. An unexpected end to our vacation. Booked a room last minute at the Hampton East Airport, Miami. Great room, good breakfast and free shuttle in the am to the airport. Our trip insurance we bought through Princess has reimbursed us for the hotel and dinner, but not transportation from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami.
Be happy, be adventurous, even if only trying a new dish on the menu-you're on vacation!!
Princess encourages you to speak up if you have an issue, and they seem to try very hard to give us a great experience.
We had a nice trip and we enjoyed the Regal Princess Very much. We definitely plan to cruise again. This time, hopefully in enough time to get a balcony suite! Read Less