Short summary - My wife and I will cruise princess again, we have already started looking at options for late 2020. Cruising is quite different from the way we normally vacation, and that is okay. Cruising will not replace our long-haul ... Read More
Short summary - My wife and I will cruise princess again, we have already started looking at options for late 2020. Cruising is quite different from the way we normally vacation, and that is okay. Cruising will not replace our long-haul flight jaunts but will add a much-needed supplement to our often exhausting vacations. We had an amazing time at our own pace.
The lengthy version, read on at your peril:
As mentioned, cruising is very different from our typical holidays. Generally, we visit several countries over a relatively short period of time. Each country we visit generally requires an international flight, sometimes with layovers, and always with the hassles of air travel. Couple that with needing to transport luggage from city to city, and the fact that we average close to 30,000 steps a day while exploring cities, we return fully exhausted.
Cruising is the exact opposite, visiting multiple destinations could not be easier. Luggage is stowed once, clothing placed on hangers once, heck; even drawers can be used. One does not need to touch their luggage again until the end of the cruise.
A few considerations:
Motion sickness - Those who know me well are quite aware of my challenges with motion sickness. I need Dramamine just to be a passenger in a car, and I am not joking. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt ill when driving in a passenger vehicle if I was not driving. As a child in Jamaica, it was torture. Driving up and down Melrose Hill, stuck behind a truck spewing all sorts of diesel fumes, slowing down and accelerating around corners, my god I am getting sick just thinking about it. My dad let me drive at a very early age which helped a lot. Back to the cruise, my solution was Dramamine less-drowsy (same as Bonine), and it worked perfectly. Unfortunately, I started with the scopolamine patch and only placed it behind my ear 30 minutes after boarding. I drove from Tampa to Port Everglades and did not want to risk wearing the patch earlier as it does tend to have an impact on vision. As is typical with my luck, the seas were pretty rough the first two nights, I had to leave my wife at the dinner table twice. I felt terrible. I then gave up on the patch and switched to my trusty Dramamine, it worked like a charm. I took at least one daily thereafter, two if the seas were rough. No problems with motion sickness from that point onwards. If you are worried about motion sickness, Dramamine is a solid option. If it worked for me, I suspect it will work for most.
Cabin comfort - The ship we were on, the Carribean Princess, has more balcony cabins than any other room category. We chose a balcony, which was nice to have. While we did not spend a lot of time on the balcony, it was nice to have the option and also to leave the curtains open for a great view and sunlight. I think we will continue with balconies. The bathroom was relatively small, yet reasonable enough for a cruise cabin. Our cabin steward was incredible, a gentleman from Serbia. We could not have asked for a better person to help look after us during our cruise.
Excursions - Our cruise line offered a variety of excursion options that were suitable for most passengers. We did everything from cycling in Curacoa to laying on the beach in Aruba. Excursions by the cruise line was a good way for us to venture into the cruise game. I am not fond of walking up to anyone, anywhere and giving them a few bucks to take me to an unfamiliar place. Perhaps a bit paranoid, I know, but with the cruise line, at least I knew a reputable firm was responsible for our wellbeing. This does pose a challenge though. The excursions offered by the cruise line were mostly great, except for the ability to experience true local fare and activities. I had to ask for off-menu items to have Caribbean food, the menu was stacked with chicken fingers, fish sticks, Italian options, etc. None of the excursions we booked took us into the heart of the countries, which I did find to have been problematic. Also, the beaches we were taken to were picturesque but littered with tourists and chairs. I am a beach snob, having had access to amazing beaches as a child, with my dad driving us on most Sundays to the south coast of Jamaica. The Baywatch style beach with hundreds of people laying out is simply not my thing, I prefer a cove with a few people, natural shade from trees, a short area of sand, and clear water. I still find Trunk Bay on St. John USVI to be the best beach I have visited. In terms of water quality, etc. many of the beaches we visited hit the mark, but just too many people. A cruise excursion is going to take you to a beach where several thousand others will likely be going as well. So for active excursions, I will continue to use the cruise line. They are more pricey, but I like the zero hassle they offer. For beaches and local fare, I will seek alternatives.
Curacao and Martinique were my favorite ports. I have a "thing" for walkable cities, both were very walkable and quite nice. Trinidad gets a pretty bad rap in terms of safety, we took a raft tour of the bird sanctuary offered by princess, I am happy we went. I would definitely visit Trinidad again, not once did I feel unsafe. Aruba was a small desert island, okay beaches, not quite my favorite. We've done St. Thomas a few teams before, just hung out and had a few drinks with passengers from another ship. Had it been our first time, a trip to Trunk Bay on St. John would have been in order. We didn't do anything at all in Antigua, we were lazy and did not plan. We enjoyed St. Kitts, beautiful and not suffering from over development as Aruba seems to be.
Dining - Dining was varied during our trip, initially not quite meeting my expectations for a variety of reasons. After day three, I found that our experience improved quite a bit. I will admit, the first two nights I was quite ill due to motion sickness, with most of the ship movement occurring just around dinner time. It may very well be that my impressions of dining these first few days are tied to my feeling of being ill. In terms of dining venues, we had multiple options to chose from. Initially, we chose the dining room but asked for a table just for the two of us. Again, I was feeling terrible, thus nothing memorable to offer other than the ability for the hostess to accommodate. Over the next three days, we chose the onboard Italian restaurant, steakhouse, and BBQ/seafood restaurant, all of which were quite good. These are “specialty” dining restaurants, thus an additional charge. Worth it in my opinion. We then decided to give the dining room another chance. They were unable to accommodate a table for just the two of us without an extensive wait time, thus we took a shared table. This was the best thing that could have happened to us! We dined with people from all over the world, each with great tales of adventures at sea and their personal lives. We kept the tradition going and decided to share tables in the dining room each night thereafter and had a blast. The people we met at dinner were mostly fantastic, with a miserable one here and there; still, the experience was great.
Entertainment - I will start the entertainment portion of our experience with a few statistics. I suspect the average passenger age on the ship was somewhere in the late 50s, with the median being somewhere closer to the upper 60s, infer what you will :). We chose Princess as we desired to be amongst a mature crowd, we certainly got that here. A good portion of the entertainment onboard reflected this, with a lot of trivia, bingo and the like. A reasonable amount of mature “fun” activities. We also had evening music venues, one with an excellent live band playing everything from Caribbean music to rock, a piano bar, and a full-on nightclub. My only critical comment regarding entertainment would be the time most of the adult entertainment wrapped up early, generally by 11 pm. Additional mature venues going into the early morning hours would have been great. Also, one more critique; Princess offers what is called “Movies under the stars”. Via this, they show movies on deck late in the evening, with deckchairs covered with additional padding and towels offered to stay warm if needed. For the vast majority of the nights, the movies under the stars featured football games. I get it, football is big, and the games were likely quite important; but, I would like to have had the chance to watch a movie at night. I was quite disappointed.
People - As mentioned in my dining section, we really met quite a few nice people during the trip. At dinner, while watching the band play, on excursions, etc. As this was our first cruise together, it was great to hear perspectives, thoughts, and ideas from others during our journey. I am reluctant to exchange contact information as I don’t often feel it to be authentic; still, I do hope to see many of them sometime again. We did have a lovely couple we met seek us out on the last night of the cruise to share their contact information with us. I will be in touch with them!
Interesting tidbits - I met a woman who worked at the hospital where I was born (LIJ). She may have been working the night of my birth! I met another woman who graduated from the University of Tampa and lives in Sarasota. We talked a bit during dinner one night and began discussing dogs. I told her about Rhaegar and Nymeria, and she knew all about Staffordshire Bull Terriers and how they were different from pit-bulls and American Staffordshire Terriers. I didn’t need to give the “speech”! One of her neighbors in Sarasota is a retiree from England, where he used to breed Staffords. I met a young lady who studied at Brown AND also lived/worked in Manchester, the parish in Jamaica where I spent a lot of my childhood. I met a woman from the UK who loves Kuala Lumpur, her favorite city in the world. We discussed all of the great things about my third home and were both craving a bit of nasi lemak after our chat. We coincidentally ended up at the same dining table twice. I met a gentleman who worked on the ship, he was originally from Mandeville, Jamaica. We talked about the time we spent driving go-karts at Merry Makers, a small racing track and arcade located not too far from our homes.
Peeves - “Do you have the package”? My god, there was a package for damn-near everything. For the internet, for alcohol, for soda, for coffee, you name it. What a way to cheapen an experience. In the dining room at night, if you wanted anything besides water, it is literally “screw you, pay me”. While I understand the desire to have folks pay for beverages throughout the day, doing so in the dining room seemed cheap to me. Offering a house wine and soft drinks during dinner would have been more than a reasonable from my perspective. I didn’t go anywhere near the pools, far too many people in each of them, all I could see were giant Petri dishes, yuck. They were so full, I suspect they had to remove some of the water to accommodate all the passengers sitting in them. Yes, sitting; there was absolutely no way to swim given all of the people.
Best - 14 days with my wife, no distractions, no stress. Just relaxation and what we wanted to do.
Next - A lot of what drove our decision to cruise with Princess was the itinerary. I would have no problem cruising with Princess again during the winter holiday period as there is a more diverse group of passengers, specific to age. I am not sure I would cruise them outside of that, as I suspect the ship may get a bit “sleepy”. Celebrity is at the top of our list currently, for the mixture of passengers we are seeking. Thus far, we are considering three options. Another Caribbean cruise, visiting ports we did not see during this trip. We also came across a transatlantic cruise, stopping in a few interesting places with Barcelona being the final destination. Lastly, we found an option for cruising to cities in Australia and New Zealand. We’ll see, as our preference is to find a holiday cruise, and time is a bit short now as I am back in school. I won’t be able to travel much until 2021 but can fit in a cruise next December.
Final note - We just booked another holiday cruise with Princess the day after returning! See you in December :). Read Less