Itinerary: Western Caribbean Date of Cruise: 21-28 Aug 2004
CRUISE LINE shuttle SERVICE FROM AIRPORT This is a wonderful service, cost was $20 per person to/from ship. Highly recommend using this service. All we had to do was go to baggage claim and there was a person there holding "Princess Cruises" sign. We picked up our luggage from the carousel, stood to the side, followed the person guiding us to the shuttle, but our luggage by the bus, it was loaded by the driver, get on the bus and enjoy the 10 minute ride to the ship. When we arrived at the ship, the bus driver unloaded our luggage, and we got in line to embark.
EMBARKATION Embarkation was very and easy and ran very smoothly. When we first arrived, everything was "overwhelming," huge ship and very long line. But the line moved very fast, I would say we were only outside in line for about 15 -20 minutes, and being out of the sun, made it very enjoyable. We entered a large warehouse type setting, and check in was so easy. You went to the line that had your "Deck Name," and we were checked in within 5 - 10 minutes, (ensure you take care of all your boarding & immigration information on the "Princess Cruises" website, it makes everything so much easier). After receiving our passenger cards, we went to the security area, put our carry on items on the conveyer belt and go through security screener (just like when you go to the airport), went up stairs and onto the ship.
THE SHIP The ship was beautiful, very big and overwhelming at first sight. However, we all enter through the same location, making it very crowded and elevators overloaded, because everyone was trying to get on the same elevators. Some of the crew directing passengers to their quarters were rude, but the majority were extremely friendly and very knowledgeable. Everything was new, shiny and clean. There are 17 decks on this ship, so be prepared to do a lot of walking if you can't get on an elevator, which sometimes was hard to do. We stayed on the Caribe Deck (deck 10) which was perfect.
THE ROOM This cruise we stayed in an interior room - C517 (Caribe deck). The room was very nice, your standard room, but we had more moving room on this ship than the other 2 cruises we went on. The room was laid out so much better, every space was utilized in a wonderful way. We chose to have two twin beds, which gave each of us a night stand which had plenty of drawer space, and there was more drawer space in the dressing table. There was plenty of closet space (which we were able to store our two large suitcases) and space in the closet area where the safe was. We felt we had more than enough room for the two of us. Our room steward was fantastic, and kept us updated on daily events and always making sure we had everything we needed or wanted. The only complaint we had, was that children and some young adults, would run up and down the hallways, but it wasn't that big a deal, we never heard any other noises. It was very peaceful.
THE FOOD We were not very impressed with the hot breakfast or lunch buffet food in the Horizon dinning room. The food that should have been hot, was maybe room temperature. We felt there were a lot of choices, but sometimes there were items that did not appeal to our taste, but we did not starve, we always found something to eat. The way the food was set up was a little confusing, and people were all over the place cutting in and out of people, which made it very congested at times. The ice in big plastic container with a spoon, was uncalled for, don't understand the logic in that.
We chose to have the "Traditional" dining, and we were told by our travel agent, and I saw it, that we were "Confirmed," however, when we checked in we were told we were "Not Confirmed," and would have to speak with the Head Waiter, which we did, and the next day after returning from the Private Island, we had a confirmation table. We sat with some very nice people who we enjoyed tremendously. The food in the "Island" dining room was very good, however, everyday, there were a few items on the menu that did not appeal to our tastes, and my husband will eat just about everything. We had a wonderful waiter for our table, Eduardo, he was funny, polite, very knowledgeable, and made our dining special every night. We did not eat at any of the specialty dining rooms (Sabatini's or Sterling Steakhouse), because they were always booked, we tried but could not get in. We have decided that the next time, we will make our reservation as soon as we get on the ship. There was no "Midnight Buffet," which we had on our other cruises.
THE PORTS Our first stop was Princess Cays, the private island. We got up early, ate breakfast, and took the first launch over. We had a really nice time, didn't do much, but hang out in the water and the sun, but we loved it. We only stayed a few hours and did a little shopping right there before taking the launch back to the ship.
Our next stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica, which were not even going to go and explore, but at the last minute we decided to take a morning excursion, "Taste of Jamaica and Bellfield Plantation (with lunch tour). We had breakfast before leaving the ship to go to the shopping area to catch our bus tour. Our first stop was the City Centre Plaza (shopping area), then off to the plantation. The tour of this over 300 year old plantation was very interesting, with a breathtaking view of the beautiful blue ocean. After the first portion of our tour, we had a traditional Jamaican lunch, which consisted of: Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork, beans and rice, plantains, salad, fruit, and coffee or tea. The food was absolutely delicious, and the entertainment by the women tour guides was wonderful. After lunch, we were shown how the sugar cane was stripped and processed during that time. We then got back on our tour bus, and were let off at our pick up location, and did some more shopping. We are so glad that we decided to go into Montego Bay, we had a wonderful day.
Our third stop was Grand Cayman, British West Indies which we were the most excited about going to. We planned a morning excursion to the "Butterfly Farm and Nautilus Semi Sub." So we got up, had a good breakfast, as we knew we would be gone most of the day, took the first launch over, met up with the person taking us to the bus for our excursion, which by the way, we had to walk a very long distance to get too. We boarded our bus, without a tour guide, were dropped off at the "Butterfly Farm" and then our bus left, which I am glad that we did not leave our backpack on. We were a little disappointed by this tour. After completed our tour of the very small "Butterfly Farm," we boarded another bus, which dropped us off at the Nautilus part of the tour, must say we were not impressed by this tour either.
After that tour, we again boarded the bus, and were dropped off at the same location that we picked it up from. We had to walk the rest of the way into Georgetown, and had very little time for shopping. The place was so crowded, as there were "four", yes I said "four" cruise ships in, which made everything very crowded. However, we did, however, find the "Harley Davidson" and Lladro shops (which we bought items from), and we picked up some tee-shirts at other shops along the way. We would have loved to have more time in Grand Cayman, but everyone had to be back in time for a 4:00 p.m. departure.
Our last stop was Cozumel, Mexico, which we had not been to since 1994 in the evening, so we didn't see much of anything. We did not plan any excursions here, we just wanted to shop and enjoy the sights, which we did. When we got off the ship, we immediately noticed how beautiful it was there and that the pier we were on was not the one we got off at in 1994, it was a new pier. We did have to walk quite a ways to take a taxi ($6.00 each way) to the "Forum" shopping area. We then noticed that the shops were very familiar to us, and we knew that we had been in these shops before, so we asked one of the employees if there was another pier that the cruise ships use to come to and he said yes, the one across the street. Cozumel has really prospered, and is so beautiful. We had a wonderful time.
We had a wonderful time in all our ports.
ENTERTAINMENT All the shows we attended were fantastic and beautiful, we always got there about 30 minutes before the show was to start, as it got crowded very quickly. I, however, did not enjoy a few of the comedians, I felt they were a little "Raw" for my taste, however, my husband liked them. I prefer the singing and dancing shows. My favorite show was "Kimba," they are so talented. The cruise director, Graham Syemour, was fantastic and so funny. We always saw his morning show.
BOUTIQUE SHOPPING The boutiques were very nice, and had a lot of merchandise. The fine jewelry store was beautiful. I especially loved the "Fire Opal," and was tempted to purchase one, but didn't. I also so another wonderful stone, "Parieba Topaz," which I also, did not purchase. Maybe the next Princess Cruise. We felt the boutique prices were very reasonable. We did find some very nice items to purchase in the boutiques, and the "Inch of Gold" deals were fantastic. We purchase a really nice chain for my husband, and some very nice "Amber" jewelry for our daughter and myself.
TIPPING The $10 per person per day tipping system is wonderful. You do not have to worry about making up your tipping envelopes and ensuring each person receives them. We especially like the idea that if you wish to give extra to a particular employee, you can, and as we did to our waiter "Eduardo" and room steward.
EXTRA INFORMATION When we cruised with Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, the ice cream and cokes were free, not the case on the Princess cruise, which was very disappointing. We did not purchase the $20 soda sticker, and every time you got a soda from the bar, there was a 15% gratuity fee. We recommend bringing your own coke with you, if you can. Unfortunately, when you're flying in, that is difficult to do. We decided that if when we cruise again and have to fly in, we will go down the evening before and get our soda and water to take to the ship. We did not care for any of the pictures that were taken of us. It was like "Cattle Call," just hurry up, stand still or face this way and "Click." You could make an appointment and have pictures done, but it was always busy.
DISEMBARKATION This went very well. On Thursday evening, you receive a package with all your luggage tags, custom forms, and any other information required. The luggage tags are based on your flight times. You are requested to have your luggage outside your door on Friday evening beginning at 5:00 p.m., but we put ours out around 8:30 p.m. after returning from dinner. We chose to begin our luggage packing Friday morning, as we were at sea all day, and just kept out our dinner clothes, pajamas, toiletries and clothing for the next day. This worked out wonderful, because all we had to do after dinner on Friday evening, was come back to the room, change, and put our luggage outside our door. Disembarkation begins Saturday morning approximately 8:30 a.m., everyone goes to a location and waits to hear their luggage tag color called. We had to show our room key as we were leaving the ship, and go to the same warehouse where we checked in, locate our luggage, which can be very tedious, (I suggest putting something on your luggage that will make it stand out), we had to turn in our customs papers before we left the building with our luggage. We then took our luggage to the shuttle, it was loaded by the driver and off we went to the airport.
OVERALL EXPERIENCE We had a wonderful time, so glad we went on this much needed trip. We had an amazing time, and can't wait to go again. We would travel on Princess Cruises and this ship again, and I think we would do more on the ship the next time, but relaxing and doing the ports was so much fun. Thanks Princess. Read Less