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109 Princess Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

We embarked on our Singapore to Sydney cruise very smoothly and were impressed by our cabin. C103, with its in port only balcony . We found there was lots to do during the day and evening, although I would have liked more classical music ... Read More
We embarked on our Singapore to Sydney cruise very smoothly and were impressed by our cabin. C103, with its in port only balcony . We found there was lots to do during the day and evening, although I would have liked more classical music concerts (there was one and it was excellent). We were disappointed with the night club. DJ Mikey has no idea how to get a party going and his "Abba Night" consisted of 25 minutes of songs because, he said, "i tunes only have this amount of playing time of Abba available". However the lounge bands were good. We were particularly impressed by the food on the Diamond Princess. At lunchtime there were a variety of venues all serving good quality fresly cooked food. In the evening we went for Anytime Dining which was good because there were lots of people from around the world to talk to in a choice of 4 restaurants. In fact many of the waiting staff were highly qualified and spoke several languages and were interesting to talk to also! The choice and quality of the dishes was excellent. We booked a couple of excursions with people we'd met through Cruise Critic and these worked out really well, and were cheaper than those organised with the ship. Although I had booked and paid for the cruise most of the administration, including the after-cruise evaluation, was sent only to my (male) partner. He e mailed me the evaluation form but I was not allowed by the system to fill it in! ! made a formal complaint a month ago and still have not received a reply. Despite this lack of courtesy, I would certailnly go again on a Princess cruise and would recommend this particular one, Singapore to Sydney (sailing for the first time into Sydney harbour is magical!) Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Arrival: We drove to LA from Phoenix, arriving at the hotel around 10pm. Hotel: We booked ourselves into the Best Western Plus San Pedro, and highly recommend it. The rooms have been recently redone in an unusually gothic (think Haunted ... Read More
Arrival: We drove to LA from Phoenix, arriving at the hotel around 10pm. Hotel: We booked ourselves into the Best Western Plus San Pedro, and highly recommend it. The rooms have been recently redone in an unusually gothic (think Haunted Mansion) but pleasing style. The room was spotless and very comfortable, with separate sink and tub/toilet rooms, which is much appreciated. For $9 per day you can leave your car at the hotel’s garage and take their van to/from the ship, which is a substantial savings over the port itself. We enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at the hotel then took the shuttle over at 10:30. The vans run every 30 minutes and hold 6 people; be sure to reserve a spot as soon as you arrive. Embarkation: The World Cruise Center isn’t much to look at from the outside, but the check-in and waiting areas are the nicest we’ve seen. The escalator was out of order, and we got stuck in the elevator for a few minutes, but that was the last trouble we had on our trip. We waited in the Platinum/Elite lounge with our party and enjoyed the refreshments. We were called and on board before noon. Ship: We’d been on the Golden Princess previously, also for a short coastal cruise in 2010. The major public areas were in very good condition and very clean. The steam room and sauna were in need of refurbishment. The adult pool was drained and painted during our trip, but was back up within a day. Cabin: We had a forward mini-suite on deck 9. We checked out our friend’s cabins (interior, balcony and another mini), and they were all in good condition and very clean; you could tell the carpeting had been replaced recently. However, the bathroom tile/grout, reading lamps, and balcony floorings were in need of refreshing. Our steward, Allan, brought us champagne and introduced himself. He kept the room spotless during our voyage. Food: On our previous cruise on the Golden Princess our food experience could best be described as “meh.” We were somewhat leery of how the food would be for this trip, but our fears were easily allayed starting from our embarkation meal in the dining room. We had anytime dining and tried out a different server/table/dining room combinations until we found the best pair on our third night, and requested them the rest of the trip. We love anytime dining and found the waits to be very short if you make a reservation. The food was very good this time, with only a few misses the entire trip. Four of our friends were first-time cruisers and amazed by the ability to order any combination of foods you desire. We had one lunch at the buffet, and it was Mexican themed, which was a nice touch. The food was good and actually had some heat to it. We ate all other meals at the dining rooms and were pleased with the food and service. Ports: The first stop was Santa Barbara, a tender port. We rented a car and drove to Solvang. Santa Barbara is lovely and there are plenty of things to do. We had no problems with the tenders, only experiencing short waits both directions. The second stop was Ensenada. We walked downtown, dodging urchins and hucksters of everything from trinkets to prostitutes, and had margaritas at Hussongs. Not much else to say about Ensenada. Despite Ensenda’s official slogan of “One day is not enough”, we’d replace that “not” with “more than”. Disembarkation: The worst part of any cruise! Left our cabin at 8:30am and headed to the MDR for breakfast. Afterwards we waited in the Elite lounge until our group was called. We were through customs and on the hotel shuttle short order. Photographers were not too bad on this voyage. The selling of merchandise was at the normal level, though the tables were out every day, rather than at the end of the cruise. Servers tried very hard the first day to sell the ‘premium’ wine tasting package. Our friends reported that they were heavily approached about the soda package for the first two days as well. Overall, this was a fine, if short, cruise. Our first-time friends were impressed enough to put down future cruise deposits. It didn’t hurt that we got 100% of our fare applied as future cruise credits. We’re hoping Princess sticks with the short cruises; they’re a fine alternative to Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
This was our second cruise on Princess, and better than our first on the Pacific (though the Amazon itinerary was great!). Though the Diamond hadn't been refurbished in dry dock, we enjoyed the ship. Spacious, and always a place to ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Princess, and better than our first on the Pacific (though the Amazon itinerary was great!). Though the Diamond hadn't been refurbished in dry dock, we enjoyed the ship. Spacious, and always a place to hole up and read and relax! We stayed in a Penthouse Suite, mid ship. The service and amenities were fantastic. Loved the suite life! Overnight stay at the Captain Cook was ok. Tired hotel, but good supper in their pub. Transfer service was very good. Coach to Whittier. Our ports of call were in Russia, Japan, South Korea and 3 in China. Several sea days, which we loved. Lotus day spa was just right! We reserved a table for 2 for the early dining, and were given a table in the Savoy. Not really impressed with Princess' culinary and dining room service...however their steakhouse satisfied! In-room dining was good. Enjoyed a couple of evening meals at MUTS and that was fun. Enjoyed our cruise and the staff. Would give the nod to Celebrity for service (where the smiles and attention seem more genuine) and dining in Blue / Specialty venues seem more to our liking. Glad we did this itinerary, finally! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was our 6th cruise with Princess and our first as Platinum members. Arrival: We arrived in Houston Friday night around 8pm and met the Princess representative at baggage claim, and were put in our own van for the hour ride to ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise with Princess and our first as Platinum members. Arrival: We arrived in Houston Friday night around 8pm and met the Princess representative at baggage claim, and were put in our own van for the hour ride to Galveston. Hotel: Princess booked us into the Hotel Galvez. It is a lovely old hotel, and very clean. The lobby is being renovated so you couldn't see the entire lobby past the construction wall. Ate a late dinner at the restaurant, and it was fine if pricey. Also had the breakfast buffet the next morning and it was good quality for the money. Next time I would arrive earlier to see more of what Galveston has to offer. Embarkation: Princess offers several shuttles to the terminal starting around 9:30. We booked for 1:30 but there was room on the 12:30 shuttle so we went then. Embarkation was very quick and easy, we were in our cabin by 1:15. Ship: The Crown Princess is our new favorite ship! The piazza is really beautiful, a notch above the atrium conversions on Grand class ships. The purpose-built piazza layout on this class provides more seating and better traffic management than the older atriums. Seeing the built-to-order layout of this ship is a nice change from the retrofitted designs on Princess' older ships. It's grander, and much more impressive on the Crown. The ship itself is in great condition, except for a few maintenance items in the spa I'll mention later. We noted very little wear in public areas or cabins. I liked the overall layout of the venues on this ship, with the exception of the spa thermal suite, which is actually downstairs from the rest of the spa. Cabin: We had a mini-suite on Dolphin deck 9, and it was ready upon check-in. I liked the newer color scheme; gone are the salmon/pinks. Our steward, Mario, kept the cabin very clean and neat. My one complaint about the cabin would be the air conditioning, it seemed to be inconsistent in temperature, ranging from comfortable to too warm. Food: We had anytime dining and usually chose the DaVinci dining room. Our first night our server was Denis from Ukraine. We liked him so much we requested him the rest of the week. We didn't pack any formal wear on this trip so we ate in Cafe Caribe on formal nights. By the third night the ma'tre d' had our reservation penciled in, which was nice. The food was good to very good, but we weren't wowed by anything, except the daily soups and ice creams, which were excellent. The pizza on Lido deck was very good as well. We didn't actually have anything from the grill on this trip (how unusual). The International Cafe was very good as usual. We tried the gelato ($1.50 for 3 scoops) and found it to be of good quality. We made friends during the week and added them to our dinner table, finally expanding to 8 people. The staff handled the extra diners well, and was very responsive to our requests. Spa: The thermal suite pass was $108 each for the week (up $10 from last year but now includes a fun salt scrub). We had the pass in Alaska and loved it so got it again. The thermal suite needs a little TLC. One of the fog showers was broken, which was not fixed during the week. All the fountains in the steam rooms were off the entire week. Several of the hand showers in the steam rooms were inoperative. And finally the large steam room was turned off the entire last day. This was strange considering how well the rest of the ship was maintained. Roatan: It was too windy to dock the ship, so we skipped it and had an extra sea day. It was fun watching the cruise director rearrange the day and get a revised Patter distributed within a couple of hours (though they couldn't make up their minds which movies would be showing and when). Belize: This is a tender port. We took the ruins and river tour and met in the theater at 7:20am. Our group was herded to the tender so we would all be together. We enjoyed the Altun Ha ruins. Our bus broke down on the way to the river portion of the tour, and the tour company had a 'rescue' bus to us within 20 minutes. The river portion was a lot of fun -- and very wet at the end. Highly recommended. Cozumel: Another long day, we met on shore at 7:10 and went en masse to the Ultramar ferry to Playa Del Carmen. The ferry is very comfortable and air conditioned. The bus tours all stop at a 'rest stop' (gift shop) then head out. The Cob' Maya ruins were amazing and truly the highlight of the trip. The site is still deep in the jungle and has one of the few temples you can still climb. Highly recommended. Toilets: On Thursday someone flushed something that clogged the system to a block of cabins for the day. We chatted with several people who were affected and it wasn't a big deal for them (though they didn't speak for everyone, of course). They also got $50pp credits for their troubles. Disembarkation: The worst part of any cruise! Left our cabin at 8am and headed to the MDR for breakfast. Afterwards we waited in Club Fusion (Platinum/Elite lounge) for our group to be called. Customs was very fast and we were on the shuttle to the airport within 20 minutes of being called. Overall another fine cruise on Princess. We've booked another cruise already. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
This was our first cruise with Princess and we were very impressed with the Caribbean Princess which to date is the largest ship we've sailed. We had an aft mini suite which was well laid out and very comfortable, the bed was ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess and we were very impressed with the Caribbean Princess which to date is the largest ship we've sailed. We had an aft mini suite which was well laid out and very comfortable, the bed was comfortable although I don't believe it was pillow top. The balcony was extra large and open to the sky which we liked. We had many a breakfast out there and didn't really concern ourselves being viewed from above. The service from all the crew was excellent, we never noticed any frowns and everyone made a point of greeting us and making eye contact. As an example, our room steward offered the free glass of champagne that comes with the minisuite however we declined it since we don't like champagne. After the muster drill we came back to a tray of chips and salsa, this was an example of the proactive customer service we had all week. We selected anytime dining, usually around 630P and never had a problem getting a table for two. The food was good to great and portions ample for us in the Island dining room and like all dining rooms the service was good but rushed. The speciality restuarants were great to excellent and the service more subdued. Always got a sun chair, usually near the rear where we like to be. Now what we didn't like about the ship, at least one or two elevators were always out of service which made the wait times unusually long. Our two stops were Curacao and Aruba where we booked a tour on each island. The Curacao tour was canceled but we weren't notified of it and by the time we discovered any other option was full. Princess needs to improve their communication. As it were, we were an hour late arriving at that stop anyway because the capitan had to slow down to avoid over heating the engines, apparently sea water is used to cool them and the water temp was too high. I like to prebook the speciality restaurants but one can't do that on Princess. You have to run to each one upon embarkation and book your reservation and no, the "dining line" is not open. Casino way too small and smokey and you have to go though the casino to get to the theatre.Getting on the ship took an hour as we zig zaged our way though security up to the check in point however once checked in we went directly to our cabin. Disembarkation was faster, out of the cabin at 830A, breakfast and then off when our color was called. We went though immigration quickly and then waited in the taxi line for 45 minutes. We arrive that Ft Lauderdale airport more than 4 hours before our flight so we had to wait, along with 20,000 person or so it seems. A total of 7 ships had docked on 11/17 and most of the passengers I'm sure were at the airport. There was no where to sit, get bite of food or drink, people were sitting on the floors, chairs, outside anywhere they could find some space. We thought it would be better once though security, nope same situation. Ft Lauderdale airport is way too small to handle the crowds on the weekends. While we definitely Will consider Princess again for future trips, we will hesitate going though that port! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We cruised on the Caribbean Princess November 10-17, 2012, and celebrated our first wedding anniversary on the second day of the cruise (we married on 11-11-11). For background, we are both 37 years old, and have previously sailed on ... Read More
We cruised on the Caribbean Princess November 10-17, 2012, and celebrated our first wedding anniversary on the second day of the cruise (we married on 11-11-11). For background, we are both 37 years old, and have previously sailed on Carnival Imagination and Celebrity Solstice. I'll probably end up making comparisons to the Solstice since I think they're on the same level of service etc. Carnival was a fun four days, but the ship just can't compare, and it wouldn't be fair to compare the two! We did a pre-cruise stay the night before at the Embassy Suites in 17th St. in Ft. Lauderdale, using Hilton points. We asked for a room facing the port and were told if we were willing to wait for one, we could have one that was being cleaned, so we went to lunch next door, picked up supplies (wine!) and Publix, and checked into our room on the 9th floor. It was perfect the next morning, I opened the curtains and the Caribbean Princess was staring right back at me! We were going to take a taxi to the port, but there was a shuttle for hire leaving right away for $7 per person, so we took that, and were the first ones dropped off. We did take a taxi from the ship to the airport at the end of the cruise, and the fare was a little over $12 (both prices are before tip). We stayed in a Suite, so this experience comes from the viewpoint of having received those perks. We stayed in the Nevis Suite, C748 on the Caribe Deck, facing aft. I think it's safe to say I'm spoiled now. Embarkation Since I wanted to get into The Sanctuary, I went to the terminal early (around 10:45). If I was doing regular embarkation, I would definitely be posting a different embarkation experience, because the line for regular passengers snaked the entire length of the outside of the building. Thankfully, we had preferred embarkation, which had ZERO line, and went right on in! One note, there were no porters outside when we got in line, so I ended up carrying my large suitcase throughout the entire embarkation process. It meant that we got to unpack right away (nice!), but I couldn't figure out why there was no one to take the bags when they had the large metal luggage racks all set up and waiting. We had a delayed sailaway, the captain said, due to an issue with baggage handling, maybe the lack of porters at the beginning was a sign of that? We only had one person in front of us getting their cruise card, and quickly checked in and sat in the suite/elite area. Again, the process for non-preferred people seemed to be going slower. When it came time to go upstairs to get the welcome aboard photo taken and get on the ship, even though I'm not elite and should have gone after them with the rest of the suite people, I ended up being probably one of the first 10 or 15 people on the ship because I kept chatting with the security people (what else is there to do in that terminal?) and when they opened the doors, they motioned to me to go through with the others. I wasn't about to protest that!). The downside to having no porters came when I got on the ship, because I was determined to get a pair of loungers in the sanctuary, so once we got off the elevators on the Lido deck, I sprinted carrying my suitcase to the sanctuary. I'm sure it looked hilarious! Anyway, except for a couple who were on a back-to-back, I was the first new passenger up there and had my pick of loungers. They did eventually sell out for the week. Overall Ship Condition I have read others comments about the CB being thread-bare, and did not find that to be the case at all. I found one or two rust spots on the ship, but that was about it, and on Friday they were painting on the upper decks. While the furnishings on the ship didn't look brand-spanking-new, they looked in good condition to me. Carpets were clean, etc. Overall I thought the ship was in very good condition. Stateroom We were in an Aft Suite, and I think I'll never go back! C 748 had its own little vestibule area before the actual doorway, I should have taken a photo of it but didn't think to. When the outer door was shut, you wouldn't know there was a guest room back there because the outer door blends in with the wall (except for the handle), but the door to the actual room was just like all the other doors. The suite had a sofa bed and sitting area, wet bar, walk-in closet, jetted tub and separate shower in its own room, and a toilet and sink in its own room. There were two flat screen TVs. I was ECSTATIC that they played reruns of The Love Boat on Channel 24, and probably watched more episodes than is healthy LOL. The Balcony was gigantic! We had the balcony next to The Dreaded Vent. Yes, there is noise from the vent, but it wasn't noticeably louder than any other random ship noise you hear outside. And when the ship was moving, the sound of the wake drowned it out. As the The Dreaded Smell from The Dreaded Vent, it was there, though I imagined it being much worse. When the ship was moving, you couldn't smell it, but when we were still, you could. Of course, I leaned over the railing and stuck my head around the divider to check out the vent, and the smell when you're directly facing the vent is much worse LOL. The smell (kind of like a kitchen smell) would NOT stop us from booking this room again. Ultimate Balcony Dining We did Utimate Balcony Dining for our anniversary. It was worth the cost. We had two waiters serving us all night! There were a couple of hiccups, but nothing that ruined the experience. The photographer showed up right on time, but the dinner was nowhere to be found. It came about 15 minutes late, the photographer felt really bad, and he's just standing there. We finally forced him to sit down and enjoy a cocktail and some appetizers with us. I'm sure they tell them not to do this with guests because he was really hesitant, but we insisted, and he seemed grateful to get to relax for a bit. Also, when we went to get our free photo, they couldn't find any files from our dinner, and we ended up not getting it until the last night of the cruise. I'm glad they finally found them! Maybe giving the photographer a drink wasn't such a good idea after all LOL. The waiters were very happy to have a large balcony to maneuver on. They said sometimes it can be hard setting up and serving the dinner, but our balcony did NOT have any space issues! Impression of the Ship vs. Solstice The ship was a huge step up from the Carnival Imagination. We tried comparing it to the Solstice, but found it hard to compare. The decor on both could be described as upscale, but the colors and woods on the CB were more warm and inviting, whereas on the solstice they had a cooler, contemporary feel. One isn't necessarily better than the other, we enjoyed both. We were in Aqua Class on Celebrity and missed having that smaller specialty restaurant every night, but the food quality on Princess was comparable. One difference where Celebrity excelled is in wine glasses. No matter what kind of wine we ordered on Princess, it was served in the same generic wine glass. On Celebrity, they used the glass appropriate for the wine. In fact, on Celebrity they offer a class on how wine from the right kind of glass makes a big difference in the taste. Of course, I'm not a wine snob and the wine was still good, but it was a nice touch from the Solstice that I missed. Suite Perks As previously discussed, the embarkation was expedited, and you are also given an enhanced breakfast room service menu door tag. In addition to that, you can order anything off the main dining room menus for breakfast lunch and dinner. We always ordered at least coffee from room service every morning, and instead of choosing the 30 minute time window, I always wrote a specific time down, and they always came at exactly that time. Also, MUCH appreciated was the fact that suites can order room service on the morning of disembarkation, whereas other rooms cannot. I booked after they did away with free internet for suites, but I turn off all my devices on a ship anyway so I didn't miss it. Breakfast in Sabatinis was wonderful! The first morning they checked your cabin number, but after that they knew you. We did Sabatinis the first night as part of the suite perk, and it was great. The only issue we had was the suite perk gave us our first night in Sabatinis for free, but because we paid for the cruise with our Platinum American Express card, Amex also gives you first night in a specialty restaurant for free, but we weren't able to move that to a different night because those perks overlapped. It didn't stop us from booking the crown grill for another night, but it would have been nice to have that bonus. Amex also gave us a $300 stateroom credit, so I shouldn't complain too much! We took advantage of the free laundry twice. And even though the regular service says "give it to us by 9am, have it back at 6pm the following night," both times we had our laundry bag out for our steward to get during the nightly turndown, and it was back the following afternoon. That may or may not have been because we left a nice tip with each bag of laundry, but in any case it always came back faster than expected. The free bar setup included vodka, gin, whiskey, and scotch. It also had cans of coke, bottles of spring water, bottles of perrier, beer, and tonic water. Ports Our excursion (the cooking one) in Curacao was canceled because the tour operator went out of business unexpectedly, so we just walked around and had a drink at a restaurant. Very colorful and fun port! The other excursions we would have been interested in were already sold out, but in the future if we come back we hope to do something more here. We ended up coming into port over an hour late because there were some thruster problems left over from when gunk got into the engines when the ship was dealing with Hurricane Sandy, so some other tours got canceled as well because of time constraints. We docked at the mega pier, and it was a short walk to the swinging bridge. No taxis necessary. In Aruba we did the SeaTrek adventure on DePalma Island and had a blast! If we come back we'll probably choose an excursion that shows us more of the island, but we had a lot of fun doing what we did! We did not do any excursions in Princess Cays, but friends of ours had a cabana so we hung out there. We were the first ship there after Sandy, and the island looked to be in decent shape. There was no feeling that our stop there was somehow less than it could have been before Sandy. All the buildings were in good repair (except the observation pier). Ultimate Ship Tour I signed up for the ultimate ship tour, which was on Thursday morning (first of the two consecutive sea days on the way home). I was the first one to sign up for the tour when we embarked (they couldn't even find the list yet at passenger services!). I was afraid of the tour selling out, but there were only 7 of us (an eighth had to cancel). The tour is pricy, but worth it (I wouldn't do it every cruise, especially on the same class ship, but would be interested to see behind the scenes on other class ships, or the new Royal when it comes out!). We saw the infirmary, the theater, the mooring station (I think that's where they call where they store the ropes and the anchors), the engine control room, print shop, kitchen, photo lab, food storage rooms, we went up inside the funnel (the assistant CD was our guide, he said in his experience they don't normally take people as far up in the funnel as we went, maybe because we were a smaller group?), the laundry area, and the bridge. I think those were all the places. It was amazing seeing how hard everyone works! I think before anyone is allowed to removed auto tips, they should be required to go on this tour, and they would never remove a tip again. What was also amazing was how it seemed the workers were so proud of the jobs they did. The workers in the laundry area, their eyes lit up and they were so excited to show us how they folded all the sheets and towels. The butchers were all excited to show how the chop up the meat, etc. I really came away with a sense that the workers were proud of their job, and I only wish more people could see what goes on behind the scenes to make our vacations so special. One change from what I've read about previous ultimate ship tours, they no longer give out a chefs jacket, which I suppose is good because who wears one of those at home cooking? Instead, they give you a princess apron. You still get a bathrobe, some goodies from the kitchen, and a big pad of personalized stationery from the print shop, as well as group photos from the mooring station, backstage in the theater, engine control room, funnel, and bridge. The tour info said it would last three hours, it ended up being almost four hours, but totally worth it! The captain spent a LOT of time with us on the bridge explaining things and answering all of our questions. It was a great overall experience! The Sanctuary THE SANCTUARY IS HORRIBLE! DON'T SPEND A DIME ON IT! IT'S NOT WORTH IT!!!! STAY AWAY!!! At least that's what I'm trying to tell everyone so I don't have to worry about getting a spot in there. Please don't let out the secret! We spent SO MUCH time in the Sanctuary, it was well worth the price of a week pass. The attendants will cater to your every need! They have complimentary citrus water whenever you want it, and serve you high tea in the afternoon. They would bring me diet cokes all day long with my soda sticker. It was so quiet and peaceful up there! And right next to the adult only pool that I think, until the last day or two, other people thought was a sanctuary only pool, because no one was in it until the last sea day! Each day we would leave our chairs at lunch to go down, get some food (pizza, burgers) and bring it back up to eat in the sanctuary, and our attendants (Nely and Putri) would say "why don't you let me get that for you!" I know some things would have delivery charge, but they said they would get us anything and not to worry about that. I felt bad though, and never had them bring me food ( drinks, on the other hand.....) I guess one example of the service in the Sanctuary was after I had been walking around on Princess Cays and had a small blister on my pinky toe that was rubbing against my sandal, so I asked if they had a Band-Aid I could put on my toe. All of a sudden two or three attendants are at my side wanting to help me, whipping out all sorts of band-aids, and they would not hear of letting me put it on myself, they insisted on taking care of it! I felt bad because my feet were dirty, but they were intent on taking care of me. I thought that was above and beyond. Miscellaneous -While there were chair hogs, at least on the upper decks when I was walking around, I always saw a bunch of empty loungers -There were VERY few children on board - I didn't go to any of the shows so I can't comment on them - The suite/elite disembarkation lounge in Club Fusion was a nice touch. OH, speaking of that. I was concerned that I saw other cabins getting their luggage tags but we didn't get ours. It wasn't until later that I found out because we were in a suite, they would ask us when we wanted to get off the ship, and would then give us those luggage tags that met OUR needs. - Also, we didn't go to the elite lounge before dinner until maybe the third night. How dumb are we. I didn't know there were drink specials up there! From then on it became a top priority LOL. - Princess Pizza is hands down the best cruise ship pizza out there. No comparison. - We had a Cruise Critic meet & greet with about 20 people there. A bunch of officers and staff were invited, but only one showed up... the Captain! That was pretty sweet to have the Captain of the ship come talk to us for a half hour or so! So I ended up getting to meet him twice: at the meet & greet and on the ultimate ship tour. Getting to put faces with cruise critic names was great! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
My first cruise was to Alaska and I loved it (and cruising). It was time to go again on a different itinerary, round-trip Seattle with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria. Booked everything through Princess, including ... Read More
My first cruise was to Alaska and I loved it (and cruising). It was time to go again on a different itinerary, round-trip Seattle with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria. Booked everything through Princess, including transfers. Princess booked us into the Seattle Westin, which was very nice and in a good location. We walked to Pike's Place for dinner and ate at the yummy Steelhead Diner (get the Poutine!). The transfer was typical and we were onboard by noon after a short wait at the cruise terminal. Cabin: This was our first Lido cabin and it was pretty convenient. I was worried that we'd hear noise from the gym above but it was pretty quiet. We spend a lot of time at the Lotus adult pool and the cabin was very close to the spa. We purchased the thermal suite passes and it's awesome in a cold climate. Ship: The Star is in good condition and is what we were expecting for a Grand Class ship. We did appreciate the updated Horizon Court (buffet) layout, Princess needs to roll this enhancement to the rest of the fleet. On the Star, the bakery items are in a new station across the aisle from the buffet. The new station really improves the traffic flow. Ports: Enjoyed the ports as always. Ketchikan - The Lumberjack show was fun and Totem Bight park was beautiful. Juneau - Did just the Mendenhall glacier and it is spectacular as usual. Skagway - The railroad was beyond spectacular. It's expensive but totally worth it. Victoria - Only there a few hours, we walked to the gift shop at the end of the pier, that's it. Would be nice if they got us there a little sooner to spend more time in Victoria. Tracy Arm Fjord - Wow, truly amazing. Got there just before sunrise. I opened the curtains and there were friggin' whales just a few yards from the ship. That's a sight I'll NEVER forget. Amazing day, if a little cold. We spent the morning huddled on the balcony. This was the first time we'd ever used room service and now I'm hooked. We lucked out on the weather on this trip! After weeks of rain the last cruise of the season was mostly sunny. Saw just one show in the theater, it was typical cruise quality. The food was very good in the MDR. We had any time dining but ended up requesting the same servers (Richard and Maria) all week. Thank you for making the dinners special! We tried the new service where you put your bags out the last night and you don't see them again until you get to your home. Probably won't do that again. We were shuttled off the ship WAY early (9am for a 3pm flight) and changed flights when we got to the airport, but our bags were already checked through so we had to come back to the airport a few hours after we got home to fetch them. Note to Princess: You close the self-service laundries while in Alaskan waters (I get it, that's the law). BUT, you need more that a little blurb in the Patter about that. Fortunately I read it so we got some laundry done just before the laundries shut down. Overall, a wonderful cruise! We've already been on another Princess cruise and have booked two more. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
This was our first time to cruise with four of us going. Princess made it easy, but of course, I poured over all the CC comments and was aware of what to avoid and/or enjoy the advised advantages! Thanks to all of you for your comments ... Read More
This was our first time to cruise with four of us going. Princess made it easy, but of course, I poured over all the CC comments and was aware of what to avoid and/or enjoy the advised advantages! Thanks to all of you for your comments and warnings! Seattle: Stayed and the Mayflower Hotel. We loved the older and beautiful architecture, and the hotel has all the modern conveniences. Also, it is close to Pikes, the rail, and other downtown attractions. We received the package with the breakfast and shuttle service, and they met us on the dot at 11:00 to take us to the pier. Concierge service and front desk were all AWESOME, and we felt we were in a European hotel! Embarkation: Got to the pier at about 11:30. Lines were very long, unlike others on CC saying to go then. However, the staff directed us with efficiency and got us on as quickly as possible considering the l-o-n-g lines. Our baggage followed us shortly. Rooms: Some have said that the showers were very small. We had absolutely no problems, including our 6'+ sons who stayed in an inside cabin. Also loved the large closet and cubby-holes by it where the safe was conveniently located. I would highly recommend getting a balcony on the Carib deck. Though it is partially covered, it was the largest of all the balconies on the ship and accommodated the four of us very well. (Note: The deck below us -- Dolphin Deck -- had NO covering at all and no privacy from us above.) Weather/Packing Tips: The weather was GREAT while we were there, and I think the time to go is definitely early June. We checked the 10-Day forecast sites before going, and they were right-on! It said mid-50's with one low-60's, so we did not have to take the heavy coats. Be sure and layer, though. Also, grab some blankets from the evening Movie-Under-The-Stars, and we kept them in our room to wrap up in when out on the deck. Food: We did not care for the buffet, except maybe breakfast. We had anytime dining and did not have to wait hardly at all. The Italian night was the best, and avoid the Steak-Wellington. At lunch, some of us had the sirloin burgers, and they were the best HBs we had ever had. Staff was superb and selections were varied and delicious, though sometimes hit-and-miss when you are guessing at something you have never eaten. (Though I considered the title of one dessert, the "menage-a-trois" rather vulgar. . . .) The ice-cream by the pool was great, as well as the pizza and HB/Hot Dog place which we opted for on the 1st dress up night. The second dress-up night was fun, though one of my sons had to go back and get on a long-sleeved shirt before they would let him sit. (Note: Thankfully, no jackets are required.) Disembarkation: BEWARE!!!!! We opted for the "Princess Transfers" at $24 per person, rather than the "Independent Arrangements", thinking we would have the better of the service. WRONG! For a total of $96, we stepped out with our luggage, had to walk PAST the taxis to the end of the pier pick-up buses. Then we had to wait in line to get on the bus, with the bus driver complaining about our 2-each bags (what do you expect for a week-long cruise? . . .), and then were herded on the bus. Then, at the airport, we were NOT dropped off at the airline doors, but w-a-y down at their drop off. We had to haul our baggage uphill, as we watched the taxis drive by and their smiling passengers. Found out later, we would have saved a LOT had we taken the taxi, and not been EXHAUSTED before checking in at the airport. BAD! BAD! BAD!, and I reported to Princess and have heard nothing back. Overall, though, the trip was great, the staff was superb, and we had a great time. Princess, though, needs to realize there is lots of competition out there, and they need to take care of details. We may try a different line next time to compare. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We had an all over terrific time onboard the Star. Cabin service is not something we're used to and we constantly seemed to interupt our steward or "be in his way" when we went in and out of the cabin constantly throughout ... Read More
We had an all over terrific time onboard the Star. Cabin service is not something we're used to and we constantly seemed to interupt our steward or "be in his way" when we went in and out of the cabin constantly throughout the day. We had fabulous accommodations and the food at Horizon lived up to our memories of our transAtlantic voyage. We're not big on the formal dining aspect. We had an incredible meal at the Crown. We had lovely service in the Lotus Spa for some real "girl time" and we had the outdoor hottub on the Neptune deck to ourselves most of the time. Having been to Alaska a few times before we thought we should really try the cruise route. Who better to do so with than Princess? According to us and the folks we talked with on board, no one does it better. We really enjoy the ambience and appreciate the slightly more mature passenger set. One thing, I felt that the designated smoking area on the Neptune deck was really neglected to the point of almost always being dirty??? Wistful about balcony smoking. Enough!. This is a SHORT cruise. Port times of 6hrs or less. Seattle dock 3 miles out of downtown was disappointing. Yes, it was cold and rainy but it wouldn"t be May in Alaska if it wasn't! I say go now and avoid the crowds not to mention, people are still happy to see tourists. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
EMBARKATION This cruise was out of Vancouver, which is a great city with a beautiful port. Canada Place is wonderful, modern and scenic. There were three cruise ships in port the day our cruise began, and embarkation was a mess. ... Read More
EMBARKATION This cruise was out of Vancouver, which is a great city with a beautiful port. Canada Place is wonderful, modern and scenic. There were three cruise ships in port the day our cruise began, and embarkation was a mess. Princess provided transfers from the airport by bus. But the terminal was so crowded with passengers, the buses could not approach. Instead, they stopped the buses in a "holding area" about 1/2 mile from the ship. Our bus was packed full, and on a warm day it had no air conditioning. So the bus was hot sitting there, as we waited permission to approach the terminal. People were overheated and complaining. My partner and I got out of the bus (against the advice of the driver) and walked to the ship. Despite the distance and getting lost on the way, we beat our bus to the terminal. After getting to the terminal, embarkation was smooth and efficient. The lines were long but moved quickly. Everyone was friendly and doing their best to deal with 10,000 passengers arriving nearly at once. Getting on the ship was a breeze, and we were warmly welcomed. Our suite (aft, Caribe 757) was clean and spacious. However, it looked lived-in. Colors were kind of dingy, fabrics a little bit frayed, and the carpet lumpy, but otherwise very nicely appointed and quite clean. For an Alaska trip, I recommend an aft cabin with balcony (or a suite like ours). It was the perfect location. More on that later. We left about two hours late because the terminal was so crowded. THE SHIP This is a big ship that holds 3,000 passengers, but the only time it feels crowded is when you want to get food. The lines at the Horizon Court buffet were always long, and there were rarely any tables available. The anytime dining was crowded with long lines, as well, but we always got a table. The wait for food in the dining rooms was sometimes very long. Otherwise, the public spaces never seemed crowded. We loved Movies Under the Stars (MUTS), though we read a lot of complaints about it. We only saw one movie in MUTS, but the experience was a blast, despite it being really cold outside. We just bundled up, and they brought us popcorn, food, snacks and drinks. It was a lot of fun. :) The spa is nice, but the technicians are young and inexperienced. THE CREW If there is a jewel on the Diamond, it is the crew. They were almost universally fantastic. Incredible, even. Friendly, enthusiastic, and they work very, very hard. We saw a lot of self-entitled passengers being rude or abusive to the crew, and where I would have killed such a passenger where they stood, the crew was amazingly patient, tolerant and helpful, to even the rudest of passengers. They do, however, have a term they like to use for rude passengers. The term is "FOCUS," and they will say it like, "Sir, you need to FOCUS." FOCUS, it turns out, stands for "F*** Off, Cuz U're Sh**." I heard them joke about it, but never heard them actually say it, even to a really rude passenger. I have to give a shout-out to Peter John, the Captain's Circle Host. First, he's gorgeous. That must be said up front. :) And when you get past his good looks, he's terminally friendly, with boundless energy and enthusiasm. What a great man, and he goes out of his way for absolutely everyone, and does it with wit, charm and grace. He's the best thing on the Diamond (though I hear his current contract will expire soon). There is a waiter in the lobby bar named Edwin. He is incredibly friendly, always wears a smile, and will go above and beyond the call of duty to make passengers happy. Fantastic man. There is also a waiter in Sabatini's named Christian. As suite passengers, we were allowed to have breakfast in Sabatini's. One day, the main dining rooms were serving blueberry pancakes and my partner wanted some. She asked for them in Sabatini's and was told they were not offered there and she could not have them. But Christian actually went to the main dining room and got her some blueberry pancakes and brought them back to Sabatini's for her, even after she accepted that they weren't served there. It was a great surprise, unexpected, and a real treat. I've heard that they will often do this for passengers, which is a testament to the crew's dedication to their jobs. They do things when they don't have to, and they do it with grace, style and flare. FOOD The food sucks. There's no other way to say it. We ate in every venue, and universally it was terrible. Oh, there was a nice dish here and there, but overall the food was cafeteria quality. I understand that they have to cut expenses somewhere to keep fares low, but the food has really gone down the tubes. It's really bad. Sometimes they make a nice presentation, but it's still terrible food. We couldn't wait to get off the ship because of that. At the last performance of the cruise, the cruise director joked, "You're going to have to start cooking your own meals now," and the crowd actually cheered this. That's how bad the food was. The Sterling Steak House was okay, but iffy. A filet was good, but a porterhouse was tough. A potato was good, but a vegetable bad. It was very hit and miss. Sabatini's was the best food. We especially liked having breakfast there just for the fresh squeezed orange juice. Elsewhere on the ship, the orange juice was from concentrate, with about three times too much water added. It was so weak, it was little more than orange colored water. And that's kind of how the whole food experience was. Like they were trying to feed 3,000 people with 1,000 people's worth of food, and cutting corners everywhere. When we got off the ship at the end of the cruise, we ate at the hotel at Canada Place (the Pan Pacific) and the food there was AMAZING compared to the Diamond's food. We swooned over simple scrambled eggs, when comparing the same basic dish to the Diamond's version. We marveled at how hard the Diamond must work to make the food as bad as it is, because no one can do that badly without some effort. So, am I getting my feelings across about the food? ;-) PORTS OF CALL We took no excursions, but instead went out on our own. Now, a caveat about my comments here. There are people who love the cruise experience of being on the boat and then getting off to shop in stores (which we found out are mostly owned or controlled by the cruise ship companies themselves) or to take some bus excursion to a glacier and salmon bake or some such thing. We are not among those folks. We are less "tourists" than "travelers." We like to immerse ourselves in a destination, not merely hit a few stores for some mass produced trinkets and then grab a drink in a tourist bar. So, if you are one of those people, then ignore these comments. SKAGWAY. What we found was that most of the ports were little more than excuses to get passengers to spend more money with the cruise line. For instance, Skagway is a fake town. It no longer exists except for cruise ship season. Skagway has had three "booms." The first was the gold rush. The second was World War II, when it was a military priority. And currently it is in the midst of a cruise ship boom. When cruise ships come into port, the "town" comes alive, and when they leave, it folds up shop. When the last cruise ships leave in September, so do almost all the town's "residents," many of whom spend the season living in temporary quarters like RVs and little shacks, only to return to their real homes when the ships leave. The excursions are almost all run for the profit of the cruise ship companies, and they are largely fake excursions. What I mean by that is that they run people by train and bus to other places that exist only for the cruise ships. Specifically, the White Pass and Yukon Railway to carcross, and then the passengers get on a bus that takes them to exciting places like Caribou Crossing, where they get a "famous" BBQ chicken meal and a chance to see a wildlife exhibit. We rented a Jeep and went to those places. Carcross has not a single person about or a single door unlocked when there are no trains full of cruise ship tourists about. But when the train comes in, it's as if the actors don their costumes and put on a show, collecting as much money from the tourists as possible, and then the town closes up when the tourists leave. At Caribou Crossing, there are no caribou and there is no crossing. The "wildlife" exhibit is a goat and a burro. The "famous" BBQ chicken is frozen chicken parts that are microwaved, then tossed on a grill with some canned BBQ sauce, and served to the tourists with 1/2 a plain baked potato. There's nothing "famous" about it. It's terrible and cheap, and in fact we watched them preparing it for the tourists that arrived by the busload. For this excursion, the tourists paid >$200 apiece. We, on the other hand, rented a Jeep from Green Jeeps for $180 for the day, which came with a cooler full of snacks and drinks. Expensive, but a far better expense than the terrible phony $200/pp excursion that we got to see the "behind the scenes" of. With that jeep we followed the same path that the railroad took and got to see all the same things, and we were able to go lots of places that the tourists could not. One thing we did was to drive to the historic Chilkoot Trail and hike the same trail that the gold rushers did. That was cool. And free. And real. We also met and talked with many of the "locals," who all confessed to us that most everyone lived somewhere else when cruise ships were not in, and that Skagway had really only one reason for existing: to sell trinkets to cruise ship passengers. That's why I call Skagway a "fake" town. If a town exists only to sell trinkets to cruise ship passengers, and would not exist if the ships didn't stop there, then it's a fake town. Skagway is a fake town. Now, some excursions are worth the money. If, for instance, you took the excursion to Haines (a real town) to visit the bald eagle preserve, that would be worth the money imho, because you get to see something real and interesting. But most passengers do not do that. They ride the railroad or shop for trinkets, and give even more of their money to the cruise ship company. JUNEAU is a real town, but you have to get away from the harbor to find it. The cruise lines have bought up most of the property near the harbor, and when passengers think they are buying souvenirs from local businesses, they are really buying more junk from a store owned by the cruise lines. To find a locally owned store, you have to really look for them. Almost invariably, they will post a sign in the window or indicate in some other way that they are locally owned. No sign = owned by the cruise lines in most cases. Juneau is very touristy these days. I spent a lot of time there 30 years ago, and it was a different town then. Amazingly, lots of tourists thought that Sarah Palin still lives there, and they all wanted to know where she lives. Goodness... There are some good whale watching excursions out of Juneau, but are pretty expensive, as the companies have to pay a percentage to the cruise lines (if they are not owned by the cruise lines, themselves). But rather than take an excursion to Mendenhal Glacier, you can catch a city bus for $1.50 each way. Or if you want to be taken directly to the visitors center, you can pay $16 round trip for buses that come and go ever 30 minutes. Much better than $200 for a bus trip excursion that then tacks on a (really awful) salmon bake (again owned by the cruise lines and not authentic Alaskan), imho. KETCHIKAN is a real town. It has the mandatory cruise line owned stores near the harbor, but there is a real town there to enjoy behind them. We blew off the excursions again, and opted to rent a car and explore on our own. We ended up hiking in the mountains, taking a 6.5 mile round trip hike to Lake Perseverance. We were all alone. With 10,000 cruise ship passengers in port, we saw only one local couple the whole time we were out there, and not another soul. And we saw the "real" Alaska of Ketchikan. And it was absolutely stunningly beautiful and unspoiled. Then we went back to town and did some touristy things on our own, like visit the totem pole village and do some shopping. It was hard, but we managed to find some true one-of-a-kind Haida and Tlinkit jewelry, but to do it we had to wade through a lot of pricey mass produced junk marketed to the cruise passengers as authentic. So, if like us you want to see the real ports and not just the facade that the cruise ships use to separate you from your money, you can do it, but it takes some effort. The effort is well worth it, though. We saw some truly stunning scenery and wildlife that the vast majority of cruisers missed out on. What surprised us was that most cruisers weren't interested in finding that. They were happy to be aboard the ship, and then to get off for a couple hours to sit in the Red Dog Saloon or buy a trinket or two before returning to eat at the Horizon Court buffet. That's not what we were after. Most were into the cruise ship experience. We were definitely destination travelers, and being one of those on a massive cruise ship takes a little effort and dedication, but it can be done. And cheaper than doing the typical cruise stuff. ENTERTAINMENT We thought the entertainment was universally terrible. Bad comedian. Bad magician. Bad dancing and singing shows (though the performers were giving it their all for tepid crowds). Bad string trio. Bad pianist. We didn't find one good performer. I am comparing it to Sitmar cruises to Alaska of 30 years ago, which provided top, if aging, entertainers. I recall cruising and mingling with Mel Torme, Harry James, Buddy Rich, Marilyn McCoo and others who had real star power in their day, and who brought their own professional back-up bands and singers. No headline acts these days. They market these shows as "Vegas style," but the design, choreography and execution are not very professional, and they have young but eager "talent" doing their best to make a show of it, and not succeeding very well. I did not like the entertainment. SUMMARY Some things were GREAT! The crew topped that list. The ship itself running just behind. And the destinations were amazing if you took the trouble to find them under the commercial cruise company veneer. We liked MUTS, too. Other things were truly awful. They were the food, the entertainment, and the aforementioned commercial veneer. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Let me start by saying that this was my 8th Cruise (4th with Princess) along with 3 Carnival and 1 Royal Caribbean. I am also 42 year old male. After reading many reviews on here, I truly believe that some people are just down right ... Read More
Let me start by saying that this was my 8th Cruise (4th with Princess) along with 3 Carnival and 1 Royal Caribbean. I am also 42 year old male. After reading many reviews on here, I truly believe that some people are just down right snobs or truly picky. I believe that any cruise is what you make it. I was traveling with 10 other people. Our 1st small group in 3 years. We normally have 30-50 people with us. So this time was family and a few friends. So here are some of my thoughts: Embarkation: We normally try and get to the pier early, but since we were staying with a friend in Ft. Lauderdale, we waited until early afternoon to board and it went so smooth that we will probably board later from now on. Ship: I thought the ship looked great and was a nice ship. Food & Dining Rooms Has the food changed through the years. Yes but I understand that companies want to make money so they have cut back but I didn't have a bad meal all week. Also, the buffet fulfilled all my needs. I truly believe that some people think they are entitled to 5 star meals 24/7 on cruises. I would like these people to see how much it would cost them in a week to eat all they do on a cruise in 1 week at restaurants. Pretty sure it will cost them more than the fee for their cruise. My recommendations for those who are worried about good service. Return to traditional dining. We tried anytime dining a few years ago and we realized that we pretty much went to dinner at the same time every night. If you do Traditional dining, you have the same wait staff and they tend to know your needs (they know they may receive additional tips at the end of the week, which ours did). Entertainment: All of the shows were pretty good. They are what I expect on a cruise. If I want to see Broadway caliber, I guess I will go to Broadway. My only complaint would be the times for shows and how they work. The night that the comedian was performing they put him in the Vista and I singer in the Princess Theatre. Well a lot of people went to the singer at the 8:15 show and then went to the 10:15 show for the comedian. Well for us 8:15 dinner seating people, the Vista was full by the time we got out of dinner. Enjoyed the singer but would have preferred to see the comedian. Also on the last night, Princess Cruises does a show with other staff members performing....the time was 9:30...which again the 8:15 dinner seating misses. Bar Staff I do believe that Princess does have the best bar staff. They are all very personable and great services people. If you were on this ship, Flora & Referen at Crooners were amazing and so much fun. Georgi in the new Club One 5 was wonderful. He made my friends and I a special shot every night that week. Age of guests: I read a review from the this cruise who was amazed at the amount of older people. If anyone does any research on cruises, you would know that you are probably going to get an older crowd on this ship. If you want younger crowd, that is what Carnival is for. Outside Decks: I found this ship to be very roomy and plenty of deck chairs. I still do hate that people throw towels on chairs and never use them on the decks by the pools and at the movie screen. I wish the deck crew would take a little more action on this. It is a problem on all cruises. The older crowd on this ship made more chairs available. So the person that complained about the crowd she see this as a positive. Ports: I was fine with missing Princess Cays. I have been and its pretty much a Sea Day anyway. Curacao was nice and we enjoyed our tour but it is one of those places that I am fine if I never go to again. I loved Aruba when we went a few years ago. We had a great tour...Howard Folkes did a wonderful job (not a Princess Tour). Highly recommend that you look him up. Great tour for a great price. Night Club: Club One 5 that replaced Skywalkers is wonderful space. I love that it has the dance floor in one area and then the main bar is in another area where the same music is playing but at a level that you can still have conversation without having to yell. It was very well attended, I believe because it isn't well promoted. The cruise direct (who I wasn't overly impressed with)didn't promote it at all until the last night or 2. The only reason he did was 2 of the people we met on this trip sent him a note. DJ Brian on this trip was amazing. He played music for all generations. Most DJ's on cruises now play all current music that the majority of cruisers are not necessarily fans of. Rooms I had an inside cabin. I had a balcony last year and realized that I don't like them. I was on it maybe 3 times. I recommend insides for anyone that wants to save a few bucks. I love that it is really dark if you want to take a cat nap or sleep late in the morning. My room steward did a great job. I will give props to Princess on their showers...much better than Carnival. Overall this was a great trip. The most of it was me and my friends making the best of everything we did....just ask the DJ who asked us if he could pay us to come and dance because people would dance when we were on the floor. I will look at another Princess Cruise. Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
When booking a suite, one expects a bit of first class treatment. Princess makes a lot of promises, but the delivery of services is less than expected. You have to ask for all the little extras on Princess, NCL justs delivers them all. ... Read More
When booking a suite, one expects a bit of first class treatment. Princess makes a lot of promises, but the delivery of services is less than expected. You have to ask for all the little extras on Princess, NCL justs delivers them all. First of all, the Crown Princess is beautiful as was the suite. Unfortunately, this ship is very unstable and tends to pitch and roll with even the smallest waves. Of all my cruises, this ship was the worst. If you tend toward motion sickness, please avoid this ship. The staffing seemed very light. Many of the restaurants were very short handed. I agree with many of the other reviewers: the staff is very stuffy and walk around like zombies half the time. Many seemed like they would rather be anywhere else but working on a cruise ship. I hate to profile but much of the staff is from Eastern Europe and quite unfriendly. Pool areas are extremely crowded during days at sea. Unlike on cruise lines, Princess crew does not go around and keep things in order. The decks are a mess of wet towels, garbage and deck chairs. Again, it seems like the ship is short staffed. The Crown Grill steak house ($25 up charge) is nice but the meat is tough and chewy. Deserts are pretty, yet bland. My biggest criticism is how bland the food is throughout the ship. It looks nice, but has no flavor. except for the French Onion soup which was incredible. The Italian restaurant, Sabatini's, does not fare much better. ($20 up charge).Bland and very slow service. The maitre de (Pedro) is downright rude and treats the staff - and guests - poorly until the last day of the cruise when then the "rate our service" cards are displayed on the podium. Let's take a look at the suite amenities and what was delivered. -Luxury mattresses [very comfortable] -Fluffy duvets in place of blankets [ more flat than fluffy] -Luggage protector on bed at embarkation [every cabin gets it] -Luxury bathrobes [very stiff, needs fabric softener badly] -Luxury towels [they look nice but very rough] -Pillow menu [requested pillows never appeared] -Massage shower heads [broken] -Luxury bathroom amenities (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath gel, plus new lip balm, gel eye mask, bath salts and loofah mitts) ["luxury"? not really] -Facial mist (choice of scents) [zilch] -Complimentary slippers [very small] -Fresh flower arrangement [ very nice and looked great the entire trip] -Complimentary mini-bar - one-time set up [nice!] -Combined DVD/CD Players [ broken] -DVD Library [no one seemed to know about this amenity] -Complimentary Princess tote bag [very cheap] -Umbrella for use during the cruise [zilch] -Expedited embarkation process [nice to walk past 800 people standing in the other line] -Preferred Anytime DiningSM reservations [yes, you can make a reservation, but NO the table is never available and wait time can be up to an hour] -Personal shore excursion reservations [zilch] -Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning service -Complimentary shoe polishing service [zilch] -Welcome glass of champagne at embarkation [zilch] -Extended room service menu (extended breakfast, lunch, dinner offering) [no one on the ship knew anything about an extended menu for suites] -In-suite afternoon tea service [never happened] -Passenger's choice of deluxe canap?s, delivered daily [delivered once] -Complimentary internet access in onboard Internet Cafes [we got free wireless] -Private portrait sitting [do not confuse this with receiving a free photo] -Complimentary use of the thermal suite in the Lotus Spa [zilch] Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
first of all I must state that the service on the ship was wonderful. Ever princess employee was nice and very helpful. a few were above and beyond what anyone could expect or wish for. the check in process was efficient and very ... Read More
first of all I must state that the service on the ship was wonderful. Ever princess employee was nice and very helpful. a few were above and beyond what anyone could expect or wish for. the check in process was efficient and very friendly. We had a wonderful Balcony cabin BB. c753 on the back end of the ship and a cabin that was wonderful with an extra large balcony. much larger balcony than standard balcony cabins or mini suites. I am a fan of Princess product based on prior 12 cruises. the service was above average and exceptional from many princess employees. I loved princess in the past but there were many noticeable downgrades in service. the food in the horizon court was below expect ion to poor for afternoon and evening service. it seems as if food came out of a can and was not fresh food. I have never been disappointed with princess before and the food on this trip was the worst I have ever experienced on princess. food in the fining room was OK. the service was wonderful but again the food was not as good as in the past. the cruise director staff did not provide as much entertainment as in the past. less event than in the past and music that was for 65-95 set. i am 45 and found the music for someone 30+ years older. nice ship but I will be cursing with another cruise line next time. princess is looking a lot more like that cheap name of the holding company with the "c" word. princess was a higher end product until recent time. i use to recommend princess to friend as an exceptional modernly priced cruise line that was above average and fun. most disappointed. great staff that does everything to please-your hope for the product and bad management that cutting cost and product hoping we are to stupid to notice. I loved my prior 12+ PRINCESS CRUISES WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO ELITE STATUS BUT AFTER THIS CRUISE I WILL BE SAILING ANOTHER CRUISE LINE NEXT TIME I have done 13 cruise on princess 1 on celebrity 1 on Holland America next on royal Caribbean value for the money I can only rate 3 every other princess cruise I rate 4.5+ very disappointed in the downgrade of the product Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Returned my rental car to Sunshine Rental on Rte 84, just outside the west port road entrance- great prices on cars! $12 ride in with tip. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and painless. Muster drill now assigned to a lounge/casino ... Read More
Returned my rental car to Sunshine Rental on Rte 84, just outside the west port road entrance- great prices on cars! $12 ride in with tip. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and painless. Muster drill now assigned to a lounge/casino or other area, not outside. As Port Everglades raised their fees to accommodate Oasis (also in port), sailing time was moved up an hour to 4 pm. Note, it's always important to stay on ship's time when in port. Cabin was spacious. The ship had just come out of The Bahamas dry dock for 'freshening.' Opted for 50% surcharge to be alone. Leo, the steward was helpful. Travelled with a group of 220, so we had many of our own activities planned; but, used Princess for shore excursions. Luggage seemed to be delivered for everyone before dinner. It was unusually rocky crossing the gulf stream in both directions.... The Lido deck buffets were okay. I visit Vegas often, and it's always an issue when items are not labeled and the dish looks unusual requiring finding someone to offer an explanation. Staff attentive in helping you to a table and refreshing your drinks. Enjoyed pizza; but, mostly really enjoyed the choices at the International Cafe. Actually, preferred their mini desserts to the dining room desserts. Ordered room service breakfast twice and it arrived a bit ahead of requested time. They don't understand how to toast an English Muffin though for their breakfast sandwiches. Did not particularly care for the Crown Grille food or service. The prices had just been raised $5. Sabbatini's was more enjoyable, but, it's insane to serve all those separate side dishes in bowls to a party of four when there are also four entrees. Alas, Proseco is no longer available on the ship. As I did Chef's Table previously, chose not to cough up another $90 for the experience. I recently donated the souvenir cookbook I received. Have some great pix of the dishes served though! Main dining room service was generally very good and the food choices fine, if uninspired. Sometimes service backed up to a most leisurely pace. Some table gets served last....I'm not a big red meat eater and enjoyed mostly fish (probably frozen) and chicken, turkey, pork. Had a coffee card and it was always nice to finish with a decaf cappucino. MUTS- caught one and probably missed 35% of the dialog. Shows- These are the exact same production shows I saw three years ago. There were even a few numbers that were identical to the Carnival ship I had been on for the two previous years. Comedian was good; enjoyed music ensembles around the ship. Never got to see the hula hoop gal who got very good reviews from other cruisers. Casino- Diddled at the slots; if you find a machine that seems to have a better payout; then start playing maximum coins for some really nice jackpots. Had the 10,000 suitcase (penny machine); but made a deal at the end for 5,400. Lucky Lemmings has infectious music. Hotel Desk- Always helpful! Spa/Gym- Even though there's a sign that says lockers are for spa patrons only, you just leave your room card and get a locker key. Bring a small towel in from the gym to stand on.... Ports- As I had been travelling for over a week before getting on the Crown; I chose the first day to stay on board- eat leisurely, do laundry (bring your own detergent and softener sheets and a roll of quarters) and iron all my evening wear shirts. So, missed Princess Cay which is a tender stop. It's just a beach and last time there were flies like crazy around the buffet items. Curacao- Group walking tour and off to see some caves by bus. As humid as it was on the island, the caves were worse. Do your own thing. Dine off the ship and catch the lovely lit village. Aruba- a desert island, with little landscape that is natural, our tour bus was one of those party buses which run at night and I wasn't ready for blasting R&R at 8:30 am. Went only to Lighthouse and the chapel for a pee break amongst the cacti. The restaurant adjacent to the Lighthouse charged and fee had small bills. Then dropped at Nikki Beach Restaurant, south of town and near the airport. Calm water and pleasant, narrow beach with comfy lounge chairs and their own pool. However, the lunch sandwich that was included was meager though it did include a welcoming mimosa. Owner was genuine- but, this is no relation to Nikki Beach of South Beach, FL fame. The first K was placed backward and was missing from the "crab" salad sandwich. The smoked salmon sandwich looked to be the best bet. I'm just not impressed with Princess- found Carnival more enjoyable, even with the hokey waiter singing and dancing during dinner. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We had sailed the Inside Passage previously, but this cruise intrigued us as it sailed all the way to Whittier. We also knew one of the Assistant Cruise Directors from a previous Princess cruise, which was also one of the reasons for ... Read More
We had sailed the Inside Passage previously, but this cruise intrigued us as it sailed all the way to Whittier. We also knew one of the Assistant Cruise Directors from a previous Princess cruise, which was also one of the reasons for choosing this itinerary and ship. We made the right choice. We flew into Vancouver the morning of the sailing and took the subway (Canada Line) to the cruise terminal (Waterfront Station). We were early and had to wait about 30 minutes in a holding area, but were on board by about 11:45. We were very pleased with our outside cabin on the Plaza deck. There was plenty of space for our belongings. We opted to not have a balcony, but be close to the water line, which suited us fine for this particular cruise because we had excellent views of the wildlife in the water, and could easily go up on deck for a broader view of the glaciers and land. We had sailed Princess twice before with differing experiences. We had taken the Golden Princess to Hawaii and loved it. We had sailed on the Sea Princess to Alaska and found the ship to be too small and crowded. Our first impression was that Diamond was very similar to the Golden Princess because of its size, layout and overall vibe. Vancouver is a beautiful city and we had wonderful weather for our departure. It was the perfect sail-away and the scenery was wonderful for hours. The sail-away party up on deck was a great time. Dining was extremely convenient. We had anytime dining. We made dinner reservations every morning and there was never a problem getting a table. We tried each of the four anytime dining rooms at least once. One evening we splurged for the Chef Table ... which was very much worth the premium of $95. The maitre d', Silvio, was a fantastic host. We received a personal tour of the kitchen by the Executive Chef, Raggie. Each evening, we would try to catch the show and then head up to the disco, Skywalkers. The DJ, JT, was great. Unfortunately, the party crowd was limited and the scene started to quiet at midnight. We also went to the spa ... the treatments were nice, but the hard sell for product at the end was a bit irritating. The food was pretty good, though this being our third Princess cruise in two years, the menu is starting to feel redundant and kind of "basic." We believe that Princess should to jazz up its menu and not be afraid to try some more unusual or interesting items that are more interesting, unusual or gourmet (as opposed to plain). Also, this was the first cruise in which they stopped the 24 hour service in the Lido. In fact, it closed at 11 p.m., too early to get a late evening snack. This was very disappointing. We had been to two of the three ports before, but wanted to try to get the most out of nature. In Ketchikan, we rented bicycles at a great little shop across the street from the dock and cycled out to Ward Lake, seven miles north of town. In Juneau, we rented a car and then drove 25 miles north and did a 15 mile round trip hike to Eagle Glacier ... it was a fantastic hike. In Skagway, we took the White Pass & Yukon train to the Denver whistle stop and hiked three miles to the Denver Glacier. (Note that we had to book this separately from the Princess excursions, since the Denver trip was not one of the offerings). Glacier Bay National Park was amazing and we were able to get really close to the Margerie Glacier, and see other excellent views of many others. It was incredible to hear the sounds as the ice was calving. However, the highlight of the trip was the last day, sailing to College Fjord. The weather was 75 degrees and perfectly sunny. The views were breathtaking ... prettier than the brochures. The Princess team was great. Assistant Cruise Director Aleks is the best, and we just loved Emma, another perky member of the Cruise Director's Staff. They all made you feel as though you were the highlight of their day! The Captain made a special effort to make everyone feel welcome. We believe it is the people that set Princess apart from the other cruise lines. We had to say goodbye a week later. Getting off the ship was a breeze and the drive to Anchorage was beautiful. We spent another three days on land, on our own, touring the Denali National Park area - a must-do! Along the way, we stopped for an overnight at the McKinley Princess Lodge, which we highly recommend as a nice place with great views, excursion opportunities, interesting educational lectures about the area, and good restaurants. Even though it's owned by Princess, it feels "different" than the cruise - not better or worse, just different. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
It has been several years since my family and I have taken a cruise vacation. We have traveled on NCL (3), Carnival (1), Princess (2) and I sailed on the Dolphin II back in the 80s. My husband (when we are in Canada and several states) and ... Read More
It has been several years since my family and I have taken a cruise vacation. We have traveled on NCL (3), Carnival (1), Princess (2) and I sailed on the Dolphin II back in the 80s. My husband (when we are in Canada and several states) and I are in our 40s and our 2 boys are 10 and 12 years old.We live in Minnesota and flew to West Palm Beach (PBI) the day before embarkation. I'm a bargain shopper and I discovered that the flights to PBI were $130 less per person than flights to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. We rented a car with Avis. We stayed at the Hilton Suites Boca Raton and the rate was $109 and included cooked to order breakfast. It was close to shopping and restaurants. The hotel was okay for a day or two, but I probably wouldn't want to stay there longer.It is finally embarkation day and we are all very excited, especially the boys. We were up early, so we decided just to head out to Port Everglades. It was about a 25 minute drive from Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale. We returned the rental car to the Ft. Lauderdale airport and expected a shuttle to take us to the port. An agent informed me that Avis didn't provide a shuttle to the port. I know I have used one in the past, but I wasn't going to let a $15 taxi ride ruin my day.We arrived at the port at 1015 am just as they opened the doors for the waiting area - we were in group 1. My boys waited more patiently than I expected and we happily boarded the ship at 1145am. I took the boys and our carry on bags to the room, while my husband went to the Sanctuary to get our seats for the week. Sorry to those of you that arrived after us, we got the last 2 spaces - one in the sun and one in the shade (exactly what we wanted).In the past, we have stayed in family or balcony staterooms; however, this time we tried an inside cabin to see if we could handle it. Our room was Dolphin 511 and it was very cozy (yes, I mean small). There was enough space for us to change, sleep and it provided a place if one of the boys needed some down time. I was worried about the room smelling like smoke, but it did not. I did not notice any smoking odors in the hallways either. We were able to save money on the cabin, so we had more to spend on activities and the Sanctuary.We got the Ultimate Kids Package for the kids - it was $7 per day plus tax. We got the soda card - don't remember the exact price but under $5 per day. Power hour drink specials were from 4-7pm on port days. Pina Coladas, Singapore Slings, Strawberry Daiquiris and some of the beers were $2.99.The ship was very nice and well maintained. The staff members were pleasant and friendly. I finally managed to navigate around the ship by day 6, but I still had to look out at the ocean to determine if I was headed forward or aft. The husband pointed out to me that in the stateroom hallways the blue carpeting with blue trim was starboard and the blue carpeting with red trim was port. This was very helpful information since I had to look for a sign or odd/even numbers to know if I was on the port side or starboard side.There was an unpleasant sewage odor most of the trip. I noticed it while we were still in port and I just assumed it was a smell coming from the port area. Nope. It remained the entire trip. It was most noticeable in the pool areas. I hope that is remedied soon.The ship felt really crowded. Maybe it is because I wanted to be places when everyone else wanted to be there too. There were many children on the ship - most of them very well behaved. My boys attended the kids program, Shockwaves and they enjoyed their time there. My 10 year old enjoyed it most, he would rather be there than anywhere else on ship. He was also quite fond of table tennis. My 12 year old enjoyed it as well - he is about 1 month from being 13 and was disappointed he wasn't able to join the teen activities. On sea days the boys went to Shockwaves 3 times a day and shore days they went after dinner most evenings. I asked my 10 year old if he liked the kids program on Carnival or Princess better - he prefers Princess (although he wishes they had waterslides).We had traditional early seating in the Botticelli dining room. We sat at a table for 8 and our dining companions also had 2 children. We had a really nice time and our kids got along very well. My boys were more adventurous with their menu selections and tried more new things than I expected. It was definitely a fun experience. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very accommodating and the food was enjoyable. We went to breakfast in the dining room 1 time, but with the boys anxious to get the day started, Horizon Court worked out best. The choices in the HC were fine, but it was almost the same thing every day. For lunch it was pizza, burgers, international cafe or Horizon Court. I'm not a big pizza fan, but I love thin crust pizza and the pizza on the Crown was great.The problem with early seating for dinner - after we picked up the kids from Shockwaves at 10pm - we found ourselves in Horizon Court or Cafe Caribe having a 2nd dinner.We tried the Crown Grill one time and that dining experience took longer than we expected. We had almost a 45 minute wait from appetizers/salads until main course. I had steak and my husband had veal. It was good, but it really wasn't worth the wait or the extra expense. Honestly, the steak I had in the Botticelli dining room on day 6 was better. However, I had the best dessert of the entire trip at the Crown Grill. I had the molten chocolate, fudge something with ice cream. Made my day.We didn't get a chance to see the entire ship or do everything we wanted to do. There was an LGBT gathering every day at 515pm, we were unable to attend - getting 4 people ready for 6pm dinner takes quite a while. We attended 2 shows in the Princess Theater (Destination Anywhere and Motown) and wished we hadn't. We saw Ray Coussins in one of the lounges and he was quite entertaining. We went to MUTS one night to see The Tourist. The seat saving going on there was ridiculous.Sanctuary. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Did I use it as much as I would have liked? No. Would I book it again? Yes.Grand Cayman. I booked a trip with Stingray Sailing. We were in one of the first tender groups and were on the island about 745am. We met Captain Chip and headed to his Catamaran about 815am. There were 30 people on this trip, but it didn't seem crowded. He and his family (Buster and Michelle) are very personable and knowledgeable. My boys were uncomfortable around the stingrays. Eventually, with encouragement from Chip, my 12 year old fed and interacted with the Stingrays. The Catamaran can go to places on the sand bar that are shallow, so we were able to avoid the majority of the crowds. There was also a stop for snorkeling along the reef. The water was pretty rough that day, so it was difficult for my kids to snorkel there. Captain Chip put up the sails on the return trip and had complementary water and fruit and he also beverages for sale. Nice trip, I highly recommend Stingray Sailing.Roatan. I booked the Fantasy Island trip through Island Marketing (about $100 cheaper than through Princess). Roatan did not look like it did when I visited in 1997 - Mahogany Bay reminded me of an amusement park. Our driver was Sovony, she was waiting for us out of the complex and up the hill. She gave us information about the island on our way to the resort. The trip included snorkeling and kayaking. We were able to pick out our place on the beach (the other larger tours that came had to sit in certain areas). We had a nice section of beach all to ourselves. The beach was nice and it was a calm protected bay area. I wouldn't want to stay at this resort, but it was great for the day. The snorkeling was okay, we saw many conchs. It was possible to snorkel out to the reef, but there was boat and seaplane traffic - so it was a little dangerous. There were 3 kayaks and my 10 year old spent most of his time in one of them. There were large iguanas and a monkey on the island. The monkey was quite fond of my 10 year old and played with him for a while. Sovony waited for us and took us back to the ship when we were ready. When we returned to Mahogany Bay, we did a little shopping and stopped at Fat Tuesdays before returning to the ship.Cozumel. I booked Nachi Cocom through Island Marketing. We took our time getting ready and going to breakfast. We grabbed a taxi at 930am and headed to the resort. The taxi was $15 each way and took about 15 minutes. The resort was very nice - there was a pool and a large stretch of beach. It looked like they were about at maximum capacity, but there was still plenty of room and did not seem crowded. I tried a few of the drinks, like the mamasita (tasty), but then just went with Corona and Dos Equis. There were quite a few kids, so my little darlings had others to play with. My 10 year old played in the sand, building castles and collecting shells, while my oldest rented snorkel gear ($17) and spent his time face down in the water. Not great snorkeling there, but he didn't mind. I didn't care for the food, but I'm a fairly picky eater - my kids didn't care for it either. We stayed until about 230pm and a taxi was ready to take us back.Princess Cays. I didn't have anything planned for this day - just a beach day. We didn't rush to get a tender. We had a nice breakfast then packed the beach bag. The place is very nice. The place is also very crowded. We found some chairs, one in the sun and one in the shade. My 10 year old played in the sand and my 12 year old was face down in the water looking at fish. The snorkeling area was okay. The buffet lines were long the entire time it was open. I waited in line with my 12 year old for 45 minutes so he could get food. We decided to head back at 130pm to avoid the long lines for the tender ride back. I don't think the beach day was worth the hassle of the tender ride and the crowds. I think next time I'll stay on the ship.Customs was a little weird - even though one Customs Form was required per family, we had to complete 2 forms. I put the kids on my form and my husband went through solo. My kids were bothered that we all couldn't go through customs together (so was I). We had to explain, once again, that the U.S. government does not recognize our family. It doesn't change the fact that we are a family, just a reminder that things still need to change.It was a great vacation. The weather was perfect with sunny days and high temperatures of about 80 degrees. It was a nice change from the snowy, cold winter we had. And yes, as a matter of fact, I did buy future cruise credits so I can start planning my trip for next Spring Break! Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
This was my eighth cruise, fifth on Princess, and first through the Panama Canal...and it was a pleasure.As is the case with other experienced Princess cruisers, the Island quickly became my favorite. It seemed just the right size, with an ... Read More
This was my eighth cruise, fifth on Princess, and first through the Panama Canal...and it was a pleasure.As is the case with other experienced Princess cruisers, the Island quickly became my favorite. It seemed just the right size, with an easy-to-navigate layout, an appealing version of standard Princess dEcor, and plenty of nice little touches. One favorite was the covered Lotus pool, done up in a pleasant Asian theme, with soothing New Age music constantly in the background. The Wheelhouse Bar had an especially fascinating mini-museum of maritime artifacts. There was a dedicated "art" room, which meant few "masterpieces" were clogging the other public areas. On this cruise, Movies Under the Stars was usually showing nature footage accompanied by good music during the day, making the main pool area pleasant to hang around. And the passenger-to-space ratio was better than average for a ship of the Island's size. Sometimes it seemed we had the whole ship to ourselves, and perhaps because a lot of the pax were elderly and/or disabled, there was almost always plenty of room in the hot tubs, pools, and on the loungers.Several downsides: the gym was pretty small, but adequate; several decks in the aft, including he aft pool, were occupied by the upcharge Sanctuary; no International Cafe; and one of the entertainment venues, the Universe Lounge, had the worst sightlines of any theater or club I've ever been to. The food was the standard Princess menu, though the main dining room cuisine seemed better prepared than usual. There were lots of very-good-to-excellent dishes, very few outright disappointments. We pretty much avoided the buffet except for the occasional pre-port breakfast. Pizza, especially the daily specials, was yummy. And dinner at Sabatini's was a lovely excuse to gorge on seventeen courses of good food.Perhaps the very best thing shipboard, though, was the crew. The Cruise Director, Rich Joseph, was outstanding: friendly, personable, accessible. He even ran some trivia games. And the rest of the entertainment staff followed suit, especially Bernie, the much-loved Chilean woman who got me hooked on Zumba. Partway through the cruise we switched from late traditional to anytime dining, and no waiter particularly stands out, but most of them were both efficient and obliging. When we asked the headwaiter for a special order of escargots sometime during the cruise, the very next night he presented each of us with not one, but two servings. Our cabin steward, Debbie, was great too. Even the purser's staff was notably friendly. Kudos to Princess for the quality of the Island's staff. Entertainment was the usual Princessy mix. The Adrian Zmed show was surprisingly entertaining, the other production shows, some of which we'd seen before, were what they were. The musical acts tended toward middlebrow seniors' tastes - how many performances of "I've Got the World on a String" do I want to hear on a cruise? And I could do without performers telling us that Good Popular Music ceased to be around the time of Vic Damone, or regaling us with endless tales of their wonderful families. But a couple of the comedians (Scott Wyler, Duncan Tuck) were genuinely funny, and I got put under by the hypnotist, and that was fun, too.Embarkation went smoothly. First port was a too-short morning in Aruba. No tme for scuba, but we took a cheap local bus to Catalina Bay to do some very good snorkeling in the same spot frequented by tourist boats. In Cartagena we took a taxi up to the fort, then walked through increasing heat to the old town, where we did a sweaty but fun walking tour and went to the disappointing, overpriced Inquisition Museum and entertaining, free Gold Museum. Our passage through the Canal was delayed, a good thing as we entered the first locks when it was already daylight. The transit was fascinating, the commentary good, the onboard crowds always manageable. The day in Panama City commenced with a hike up Cerro Ancon for some good views and birdwatching, then a walk to the old town for some enjoyable sightseeing and lunch at the Cafe Coca Cola. In Puntarenas, we did an excellent zipline excursion with the highly recommended Odyssey Tours, which included a delicious lunch and trips to see scarlet macaws and crocodiles. And in Cabo, we tried parasailing for the first time - great! - and then did an enjoyable snorkeling cruise with EcoCat...lots of fishies.Summing up, I'd have to happily say that Princess did it again. For cruisers like us, who like our thrills (see above for ziplining and parasailing) but can do without an onboard ice rink, a giant mall through the middle of the ship, bellyflop contests, and the like, the comfortable elegance of Princess hits the sweet spot. At the end of this cruise we reached platinum status and though I'm tempted to go back and try Celebrity or Holland again, it's the "if it ain't broke..." deal. No cruise is totally enjoyable, but this came pretty close. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
This was my 7th cruise, me and my partner's 4th on Princess, our second to the Mexican Riviera. And we had a really great time. Figuring that SFO-LAX was a short flight with many departures on United, we gambled on flying down ... Read More
This was my 7th cruise, me and my partner's 4th on Princess, our second to the Mexican Riviera. And we had a really great time. Figuring that SFO-LAX was a short flight with many departures on United, we gambled on flying down the morning of, and it worked out just fine. Thanks to an on-time flight and decent service from Prime Time Shuttle, we got to the pier before noon and went through an orderly, quick embarkation process. The Sapphire is a beautiful ship, my favorite of the four Princess vessels I've been on. Maybe I'm just getting used to the middlebrow tastefulness of the Princess Look, but I found most of the public spaces to be lovely, and the ship is in great shape, no signs of wear anywhere. There are just a few missteps: the relative isolation of the Main Dining Room, bad arrangement of the buffet counters, weird Wild Western theming in the Fusion Lounge, some second-rate mural work. The gym was on the small side, with limited machines. But a promenade that goes right to the bow of the ship and a horseshoe-shaped multi-deck arrangement of the uncrowded aft pools more than made up for that. Our inside cabin seemed better laid out than others we'd had, and its location on the Lido deck was great. I wish that Princess had commissioned more similarly designed ships. I'd sail on the Sapphire again anytime. Dining was as expected. Most of the food in the MDR was good-to-excellent, ranging from blandish Luau Pork to great rack of lamb, delicious goat cheese souffle, fine mussels, and tasty escargot. Buffet food, on the other hand, was mediocre; I don't know why there's such a quality gap between food in the dining rooms and at the Horizon Court. Pizza, though, was great, much better than I'd had on the Sea Princess, and several times I opted for a pizza-and-salad lunch rather than eat buffet main dishes. We had late traditional dining. The International Dining Room staff was very good, and though I've had better waitstaff, most everything went well. Afternoon tea was held in one of the smaller dining rooms, and was good as usual. Love those scones! Entertainment in the Princess theater was the usual. The production shows were standard Princess fare; "I Got the Music" was the best. Comedy-magician James Michael, whom I'd seen before, was again funny, but by weird coincidence, I'd seen the featured comic, Carlos Oscar, on my two previous cruises as well, and he was doing the same routine. Yawn. We never had a problem finding good seats at the last minute for late-sitting shows in the Princess Theater. The Cruise Director, Lee Childers, was only so-so - his major visible effort was putting on Bible Study classes, but he was otherwise pretty invisible except for the theater shows. His staff, though, made up for it, consistently friendly and delightful. We're trivia buffs, and won still more baseball caps and shopping bags. We'd been to the ports before. In Puerto Vallarta, we took public buses to the PV Botanical Garden, which was a great, economical excursion, with lovely flowers and a good variety of birds. In Mazatlan, we just walked from the ship to the old town, which we'd never visited before. It's a really great place for a long stroll, and we visited a historic theater and a restored mansion, both worthwhile. In Cabo San Lucas, we had booked a Zodiac whale watch with Eco Cat. It was a fun, well-done trip, and though the whale sightings weren't quite as good as on our last whale watch, that's the luck of the draw. Unfortunately, crime in Mexico makes it look quite possible, at this point, that Mexican Riviera cruises will be a thing of the past. (Except, perhaps, for stops in Cabo, my least favorite place in Mexico.) It's a pity. No travel experience is perfect, of course, but I feel that Princess succeeds in putting together a consistently enjoyable, relaxed, and unstuffily elegant product, just what we're looking for in a cruise. The only thing that made it tolerable to disembark after only a week was knowing we were booked on a two-week Canal cruise in a few months. We ate too much, made new friends, had romantic moments, and learned to line dance. And how bad can a cruise be when you've learned to do the Macarena? Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
We thought the food, service of the crew and excursions on the Crown were excellent. Of course there are areas to improve, since there are so many ships to sail going the same place. We had a mini suite on Emerald deck before and loved ... Read More
We thought the food, service of the crew and excursions on the Crown were excellent. Of course there are areas to improve, since there are so many ships to sail going the same place. We had a mini suite on Emerald deck before and loved it, due to late booking we ended up the a balcony on the Rivera deck which was very nice. The mattress needed to be upgraded and the AC at the lowest is at 72, so we always bring a fan. The big show numbers and the comedian in the Princess theater was boring. The costumes designs were the worst we have seen and the "Elvis" Las Vegas routine was almost comical in being so bad. I would suggest the movies on TV. Tendering to Cayman and the Princess Cays can be tedious. We were in line for over an hour coming back from the Cayman excursion to get back on the ship. The Princess Cays have a loud band playing outside the compound that competes with the band that Princess provides, which we loved. We had rented the blue shell beach chairs, but finally gave up, the noise. The local staff on the Cays are surly and just there for the paycheck. Fortunately, the ship food staff comes to the beach and does a great job. We had the early self walk off departure, so we showed up in the right place and no one made any announcements, the doors opened and chaos ensued as everyone tried to leave at once. Before there was someone in the lounge giving directions, so I assume someone just slept in and missed the early shift. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
This my 86th lifetime cruise, my 5th with Princess. Had pre-cruise stay at Days Inn in North Ft Lauderdale for 2 nights , no problems. Used United Airport Parking ( parked at Marriott Renaissance suites) for only $49.86 vs $105 at port ... Read More
This my 86th lifetime cruise, my 5th with Princess. Had pre-cruise stay at Days Inn in North Ft Lauderdale for 2 nights , no problems. Used United Airport Parking ( parked at Marriott Renaissance suites) for only $49.86 vs $105 at port garage with free courtesy car to/from ship . Check-in was easy and organized by groups. no problems. On board less than 30 minutes after arrival at pier and cabins were ready for occupancy. unpacked carry-ons and went up to Horizon Court for buffet lunch. Usual crowds and no self-serve carry trays but managed just fine. all baggage delivered before sailing so unpacked totally and missed most of sail-out except what we could see from our mini-suite balcony. met other group members at private function. Mini-suite D722 was 8ft 8 inches wide by 30 feet long plus balcony of 7 by 9. plenty of room, closet space, large bathroom with huge tub. only 4 small night stand drawers but plenty of shelves for storage of clothing. 2 flat screen tv's but only one remote. good fridge. good a/c. we also brought 2 power strips, 3 fans, 2 c-pap machines, our own 4 cup coffee maker, etc etc. we drove down so had total of 12 suitcases. Ive cruised so many times now that i bring everything i could possibly want as everything on board and in most ports is so expensive these days. Had all dinners in Boticelli dining room with group at 2015 hours. Princess food is good quality hotel banquet stuff. some "iffy" soups and they insist on serving this green hockey puck that is supposed to be creamed spinach. otherwise , no major disappointments. had one breakfast in dining room and 2 lunches, all decent. rest of meals in Horizon court or international cafe at base of atrium. my sign and sail was only 52 dollars for tips (11 per day) after 25 dollar credit applied. didnt buy anything on board or take any shore excursions. Im a self-starter and didnt need a cruise director to tell me what to do, just checked the daily program and went my own way. didnt go to any shows or nightclubs on board as have seen too many "B" lounge acts and broadway medleys on my other trips. weather was good but on the cool side for a caribbean trip. some passengers brought a head cold on board with them and by the end of the voyage 50 percent of the passengers were coughing and wheezing as it spread like wildfire despite excellent shipboard sanitation procedures (lots of hand sanitizer) Since i cant add Princess Cay (Eleuthera island) as a port suffice to say typical private island experience for those in my party who went over by tender. Im not a beach,, sun, water person as live in Florida year round so holds no allure for me. Dis-embarkation was smooth ( no announcements) and we had an early number and were off the ship with luggage and in our car driving back to Orlando by 935am. would definitely recommend Princess and travel with them again. one small complaint...no free aspirin, tylenol, alka seltzer, band-aids at pursers office. only free bonine. Carnival corp really is cost cutting these days! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
This is the third cruise that I have taken with my husband, and we chose to go with a large group. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale with little trouble and traveling with friends the Holiday inn Express Cruise Port suggested we wait until a ... Read More
This is the third cruise that I have taken with my husband, and we chose to go with a large group. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale with little trouble and traveling with friends the Holiday inn Express Cruise Port suggested we wait until a late shuttle to head to the cruiseport. It was a good suggestion, arriving at the terminal at 2 meant we missed many of the lines of other passengers who were thrown out of their hotels much earlier. Our balcony stateroom on the Baja Deck was already ready for us. After watching the gigantic Oasis of the Seas head out to sea we were off. It was our first time sailing with this group, but on previous cruises they take over the back pool. We found several of our friends there, and would find them there or in the buffet area. Since we were there most of the time, it did take a while to really explore this ship. It's a good ship with some nice surprises like the International Cafe that had great desserts and pastries. It's hard for me to judge food, but I can tell you that it was abundant, even if there was some confusion at times on exactly which of the three buffets were open, there was always something. The food in at the buffet changed from day to day, except for breakfast that was usually the same each time. Since we were a late night group, I did wish that the pizza and ice cream bar stayed open later. With our large group of almost 500, we were given the 8:15 seating in the Michelangelo dining room. With such a large group the staff had difficulty in keeping up with us. I found the staff slow and overworked. I expected that they might be able to work this out as the week went on, but even on the last night at sea any meal in the dining room was going to take more than two hours. I was impressed with the ships bar services. They staffed up the bar at the back terrace pool for us. We certainly kept them on their toes. They also kept the bar open much later than normal. I'm sure that that bar rarely stays open until 2 am. Our group stayed on the back deck late into the night, as there wasn't much else to do on the ship that late at night. Most of our group is in their 30's and 40's and we felt that a lot of the entertainment was directed to an older audience. I saw young couples wandering a ship that at 11 pm was as dead as a one-light town. They were looking for nightlife and saw little of it. Strangely the late nightclub, the Skywalker Lounge never attracted more than a couple of people and its tiny dance floor remained empty. I have never really desired to see the Caribbean, so the islands weren't a great draw, but it seemed that Princess strived to clean up the experience so much that it was about as authentic as going to a mall in Chicago and saying that you had been to Chicago. The worst of this was at Roatan Island, Honduras where Princess docks at Mahogany Bay, a new sea port that has all of the recommended shops in an outdoor shopping mall that you must walk to. Those who went on excursions experienced a very different Island, but many people stayed in the shopping mall, content. The port in Couzmel seems to be the same, on a smaller scale with the same shops, and Princess Cays is a completely controlled experience. If you wish to explore on your own, without an excursion, Princess is making that much more difficult. Grand Cayman was a port full of the same shops, but you could wander into town without having to find a local taxi. If you like to be on vacation with very little more than a moving hotel, this will be fine, but if you love travel for the exploration of new places, this would not be the cruise for you. Our stateroom was pleasant and clean with a surprising amount of storage. I wish that our balcony was a little more private but lower decks could look right up at us. The ships staff was pleasant and friendly, especially the bar staff when they knew our group would buy. We enjoyed the Movies under the Stars more than the entertainment in the theater. All in all it was a good trip full of fun when traveling with a large group. I will be happy to travel on Princess again if I'm with this group, but I'm not sure if I would want to if it was just me and my husband as I'm not sure we would have found the entertainment and ports interesting enough. The ship is good, with all the amenities you'd want, but doesn't seem to rate as being an outstanding ship, or an outstanding cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
I'll try to use the same format that I found helpful in other reviews, and break things down by section: PRE-EMBARKATION: We flew into San Juan the day before our cruise left, and were glad for it. Our hotel was the El San ... Read More
I'll try to use the same format that I found helpful in other reviews, and break things down by section: PRE-EMBARKATION: We flew into San Juan the day before our cruise left, and were glad for it. Our hotel was the El San Juan, which is a Waldorf-Astoria Property (Hilton Hotels). The lobby was grand, and the pools were nice. They also have a private beach, which seemed to be a theme with most of the hotels in San Juan. However, the room was run-down and most of the white furniture looked used and dirty. We probably wouldn't stay there again. EMBARKATION: Spent the morning at the pool and had a leisurely breakfast. Picked up supplies (sunscreen, aspirin, etc) at Walgreens. We headed for the cruise docks at around 3pm. There is a very nice duty-free liquor store inside the building, once you've turned in your checked bags and have put your carry-on bag through the X-ray scanner. BUY YOUR LIQUOR THERE. The prices were excellent, and you can put things in your carry-on to bring on board. We bought a bottle of wine, one bottle of champagne and a 1L bottle of vodka. The vodka went in the carry-on; the others we put in the store's bag. Check in was very easy. The whole process only took 15 minutes. We were on the ship by 4pm, which included 45 minutes spent in the duty-free store. They did ask about liquor as soon as we boarded, but they only checked the plastic store bag, and were fine with us having the wine and champagne. I bought my Coca-Cola sticker as soon as we boarded (there were tables everywhere on the ship) and my partner bought his coffee card. We later found 2 coupon books in our room (FYI - we found out not everyone gets them), and it had a Buy 1-Get 1 coupon for coffee cards. We went down to the International Cafe on Deck 5, gave them the coupon, and they gave us a 2nd coffee card! That was a $27 savings right off the bat. We went to the buffet that evening (it ranged from good that night to just OK on other days). Oddly, they had lobster claws on the buffet that first night, but they had no tongs to help you crack them open. I asked a waiter for some, and they said they didn't have any. I had to wrap the claws in my cloth napkin and smash them with my hand. I saw several other people doing the same thing -- Princess needs to get a clue and just provide the necessary tools to eat lobster. The sail away party was fun and we had a good time being out on the Lido Deck for the music and the treasure hunt giveaway. SAILING: I'll review the ports separately below. DINING: We had Anytime Dining and ate in the main dining room every night except the very first one. Overall the food was very good, with a couple of little exceptions. I had veal the 3rd night, and it was very chewy. Another night I had the Orange Roughy fish with lobster sauce. It tasted so fishy it was almost inedible. I will say that the desserts were outstanding! The Limoncello Sorbet and the Strawberry/Lemon Sorbet were some of the best I've ever had. My partner had the New York Cheesecake one night which was also excellent. The Pasta e Fagioli soup on Italian night was memorable, as was the Veal Ravioli on the 5th night (not sure why the just plain veal wasn't good -- who knows?). We learned to order extra of what we liked and to try something else if we didn't like what we got the first time. Most nights we also ordered a small side of Fettuccine Alfredo (excellent pasta!) to share, and they happily brought a small bowl of it out for us. Another word to the wise -- have the ESCARGOT on night 6! It was one of the best things I ate the entire trip! It will not be on the menu -- the waiter tells you about it at the start of dinner and you have to remember to order it. As for Anytime Dining, we loved it. The first night we opted to eat with others, which was very interesting. There were 2 other couples at our table, one middle-aged and one older. The middle-aged wife and the older husband got in a debate over a conversation topic, and the older couple left very abruptly after dessert. We asked for a table for 2 every night after that. Despite the often huffy attitude of the Maitre D' in the Island Dining Room (Deck 5), he gave us our table quickly every night. Only one time did we get a "beeper" and were asked to wait 10 minutes for a table. Our other favorite dining tip is to use the International Cafe on Deck 5. We went there every single day, and often it was virtually empty at 9 or 10am. They have lots of good things in the display case (pastry, muffins, quiche, etc) and it's all included. It changes from breakfast items to lunch/snack items later on, which are also excellent. I ate several of the mozzarella & prosciutto paninis for a quick afternoon snack after coming back from an excursion. And the pizza on Deck 15 by the pool is every bit as good as everyone else says it is. We had some at least every other day. ENTERTAINMENT: We only went to one production show, "Caribbean Caliente". Great dancers, pretty excellent singers, but yet it was very cheesy for our taste. Everyone said the hypnotist was great too, but we missed him. He gave a 2nd show late in the week that was in Spanish. The first night we caught The Juan Carlos Show in Explorer's Lounge (Deck 7), which was fun, though he told most of his jokes in Spanish, so they were lost on us. We met other gay couples on board and ended up making some good friends. Our favorite thing to do was to meet up after dinner for drinks either in the Wheelhouse Bar or Skywalkers. Both always had plenty of space available, though the music in Skywalkers can be very loud and you really feel the ship bobbing up and down from there. The ship did host 2 GLBT get-togethers, one on the 2nd night and the other on the 4th night. Paul, an Associate Cruise Director, was our host both times. He provided free champagne the first time, and we got to meet some nice people, including one couple that ended up being part of our social circle for the rest of the cruise. STATEROOM: We had a balcony room on Deck 14 (Riviera). It was terrific! LOVED having the balcony for evening sailaways and for just sitting out there to have coffee and pastry in the morning. We both highly recommend getting a balcony if you're thinking about it. Also, Deck 14 was the near perfect location. While Caribe Deck (Deck 10) has the biggest balconies besides suite rooms, you can look down at everyone else and see what they're doing. The Lido Deck (Deck 15) hangs all the way out over Deck 14, so we had complete privacy from above. The bathroom was very small, but perfectly adequate. I'm 6'1 and I fit in the shower just fine -- no complaints. There was also more than enough closet space. In fact, there was much more than we were expecting. Our room steward was Bryan from the Phillipines. He was nice, but quite shy. We also thought he was a bit thrown by our request the first day to have the beds pushed together. However, by the end of the cruise he would chat with us in the hallway and he always said hello and goodbye when we saw him. He did a great job keeping the room neat and tidy all throughout the day. CASINO: I was there almost every night. My partner only spent about a total of 15 minutes in there as he is not a gambler. I had fun, but beware, the odds are even tougher than a normal casino. If you like Blackjack, be careful of the "Fun 21" table. The rules seem very liberal, but they take all of the queens out of the decks, leaving far less 10's than a usual 8-deck Blackjack game. This means the dealer frequently does not go bust, meaning you lose a lot more hands. Some guy did win $60,000 at Caribbean Stud Poker during our cruise by hitting a Royal Flush. Bottom line -- you CAN win on the ship, but you probably won't. DISEMBARKATION: Very smooth and well organized. We put our big bags out the night before, and the morning of disembarkation, we went to the Int'l Cafe for breakfast. Got our food and waited at our assigned exit lounge. They called our group about 5 or 10 minutes after the scheduled time, and we walked off. They had the luggage in a large building that was grouped by your tag color. We had our bags in under 5 minutes and customs was a breeze. Princess did a great job with this part. SUMMARY: Our overall impression was a very good one for this being my first cruise. The food gets high marks for most nights (although the buffet was never "great", usually just "good" or "average"). Sometimes the dining room staff was a bit cold, especially the Maitre D' in the Island Dining Room. The casino dealers were very friendly and knew my name within a day or two. Our steward was good, and the bartenders and roaming waiters around the ship were great -- particularly in the Piazza on Deck 5. We had no trouble finding people our own age to hang out with, and the ship never felt crowded until the very last day, which we spent at sea. I would recommend Princess to my friends. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
This was my sixth cruise, third on Princess (others on HAL and X), second to Alaska (first was on the X Mercury). We're a male couple in our 60s, more interested in the outdoors than in drinking and/or shopping. We chose this ... Read More
This was my sixth cruise, third on Princess (others on HAL and X), second to Alaska (first was on the X Mercury). We're a male couple in our 60s, more interested in the outdoors than in drinking and/or shopping. We chose this particular cruise because it was round trip from our hometown, San Francisco, and because we got a pretty good price on an inside cabin. Embarkation was a breeze. A friend dropped us off at the Embarcadero, and within about a half-hour, we were in our cabin. The Ship: We'd already been on the Sea's sister ship, the Dawn, and so knew what to expect. For a 12-year-old ship, she's in good shape. She certainly doesn't look brand new, but the only noticeable signs of wear I saw were around the adult pool and in the gym's men's room. The cabin was small but well designed, providing plenty of storage if not a lot of walking-around room. There's no dedicated observation lounge, a minus for Inside Passage cruises. Public rooms were mostly pretty but kind of bland, the usual Princess look. I do wish that Princess wouldn't stack for-sale paintings all around the ship, giving the corridors the look of a Salvation Army art department. Gym: I'd won a gift certificate at sailaway, and did three free "Pilates" core-training classes. I've done a fair amount of Pilates, and though the instructor was helpful and friendly, real Pilates it wasn't. No emphasis on neutral pelvis, breathing, "zipping up" core. Worth the price I paid, though I was glad I was already familiar with Pilates principles. Didn't otherwise work out. The gym was distinctly on the small side, though my partner always was able to get in a decent workout. Sauna and steam were small but adequate, gym showers never seemed to get hot, and the lack of changing-room lockers was a minus. Enrichment: Unlike the Celebrity Alaska cruise, this one featured actual enrichment lectures by a geologist. I went to several of them, when schedule permitted, and they were interesting and pretty well done. Missed the appearance by the dog-sled-racing woman, though. Not exactly enrichment, but I loved the many trivia games (though Princess really should give away a better variety of swag, the way they used to). Dining: I was struck by how good the main dining room food was, actually better than I remembered from other Princess cruises. Maybe not gourmet-restaurant quality, but I didn't order a single thing that wasn't tasty, often delicious. Rather interesting menus, appetizers and desserts shone, and, as a hot-food fan, I was gratified to eat a few things that were nice and spicy. HOWEVER, there was a big difference between the good stuff served in the MDR and most of what got dished out at the Horizon Court. Too much of the buffet food was mediocre, some worse than that, and on this just-about-full sailing, it was often a chore to find a place to sit. Night and day. I avoided the buffet whenever possible, and if I'd eaten only in the dining room, I would have given the food a five. Dieted to lose eight pounds before the cruise, managed to happily gain it all back. Entertainment was OK, but my tastes may not be aligned with most Princess cruisers' - I work part-time at a rock venue, and the week before sailing, I'd seen Dylan, Melissa Etheridge, and the guitarist from Guns N Roses. The dancers worked hard, but with the exception of a couple of numbers in Cinematastic, production shows were so-so at best. The comedy juggler and magician were amusing. Overall, pleasant enough for passing the time between dessert and sleep, but I can't imagine that anyone cruises Princess primarily because of the shows. Movies Under the Stars was more of an irritant than anything else. There were a couple of films during the day I would have liked to see, but the daylight left the image looking alternately too dark and washed out, and when Horizon Court crowding led me to find a table outside, I was blasted by the soundtrack of the middles of movies. Whatever. Service: Good if unobtrusive steward. He never really checked up to make sure we were OK, he didn't replace the requested wine glasses. But when the toilet stopped working (apparently a special Sea Princess feature) he dealt with it promptly and it was fixed almost instantly. Dining room service was great, though. Our waiter was my favorite of any of my cruises, his assistant was good, too, and I was glad that I'd signed up for late traditional so I could have the same waitstaff (and same great tablemates, comes to that) every night. When we ate in the MDR other times, service was also excellent, friendly and efficient. I really like the level of Princess service, relaxed but attentive. I only heard one service-oriented complaint from fellow cruisers (about a cranky steward). We managed our own shore excursions, taking a city bus to Totem Bight park in Ketchikan, another bus to the strenuous but great West Glacier Trail at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, and walking over to a trail that brought us high above Skagway. Our time in Victoria was too short - heard a number of complaints about that - and iffy weather led us to cancel a trip to Butchart Gardens and go to the B.C. museum instead. Hint: start at the excellent second floor, not the so-so natural history section. We, unfortunately, ran out of time. Tracy Arm made for a decent day. We were able to get pretty close to Sawyer Glacier before bad weather set in, but I was left wishing I'd spent a bit more for an itinerary that included Glacier Bay. Biggest downside of the cruise was a lot of bad weather, but I knew going in that by early September, things were likely to be cold and wet, and - a lot of the time - they were. All this may make it sound like I had a disappointing cruise, but the overall experience was more than the sum of its parts and my partner and I had a really good time, partly because we met some great CCers to hang out with, partly because I really enjoy the Princess product. And, a plus, though the LGBT meetings were small, the overall vibe was very gay-friendly. So we booked another cruise while onboard, though on a bigger ship and with a warmer itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
My partner and I (34 and 31, respectively) were on the Caribbean Princess for the Southern Caribbean Explore roundtrip voyage departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 14, 2010, with stops in St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, ... Read More
My partner and I (34 and 31, respectively) were on the Caribbean Princess for the Southern Caribbean Explore roundtrip voyage departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 14, 2010, with stops in St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba followed by a day at sea before returning to San Juan on the morning of February 21. It was my better half's second cruise, and my first, so this cruise report is certainly a deeper look at the trip and cruise experience from a beginner's perspective. Embarkation: Embarkation for the Caribbean Princess was smooth and effortless - we had arrived the previous day and spent the night in San Juan at the Caribe Hilton to avoid winter weather delays that snarled much of the country and showed up at the Pan Am Pier terminal shortly after 2 pm. Once we figured out where we needed to drop off our bags and enter the terminal, we didn't encounter any lines and breezed through check-in and were on the ship quickly. Once on board (through deck 7), we made our way to our cabin on the Emerald deck (deck 8). The only hitch was that we had no idea which pier to go to in order to board the ship (Pan Am piers or Old San Juan) - thanks to CruiseCritic we learned the correct pier, and a quick call to the Princess 800 number confirmed it. Also, the cabs were more costly than we had anticipated - a cab from the airport to the hotel was about $26, and so was a cab for the very short ride from the hotel to the ship. Cabin: Despite my desire for a balcony cabin, my partner talked me out of it to take advantage of a great last minute deal on a guaranteed oceanview room. About a week before the cruise we were assigned Room E622 on the port side of the Emerald Deck (deck 8). It was an obstructed oceanview, with one of the larger tenders in front of the window. While it was indeed obstructed, you could still see through the tender and to the side. Having the natural light helped our internal clocks, and I understand other cabins in the same category with the smaller life boats facing them actually had direct views. I have to say, the room was really nice and much larger than I expected. On entering, there is a short hallway to the bedroom area, much like a hotel, with the bathroom tucked away on the left and an open closet area with a shelf bureau and safe at the end. We didn't pack light - three suitcases, a suit bag, two carry-ons and snorkel equipment for two - but storage was absolutely no problem. The bathroom has a smart layout and we had plenty of space for our toiletries. A lot of people have complained about the "clingy" shower curtain, and I am sure the sliding plexiglass shower doors are nicer, but it was never an issue for us. There is one standard outlet (two prong) in the bathroom. Forward of the bathroom and closet space is the ensuite room. The two twins pushed together to make a very spacious and comfortable queen bed with four pillows (we requested extra pillows without a problem). There is a desk/vanity with a hair dryer attached to the wall, phone, and two three-prong plugs. I had read here on Cruise Critic to bring an alarm clock and power bar for extra plugs, and I am glad I did for the two cameras, iPods, laptop, cellphones, etc. If you forget an alarm clock, there is an automated wake-up service through the in-room phone. There are also plenty of mirrors, which make the room feel bigger. The room also had a flat screen TV, with movies, cable programs, ship's bridge camera, bridge station to track movement and speed, even old episodes of the Love Boat (which, admittedly, were neat to watch at night onboard). There was also a chair, small side table, and refrigerator stocked with a bucket of ice and sodas (there is a charge if you drink the sodas). Even so, the fridge easily accommodated two bottles of bubbly we brought aboard - which, is the limit per person to bring aboard. Any liquor is "secured" out of your possession until the end of the cruise when it is returned to you. After checking out the room and ship related reading materials inside, we were pleasantly surprised to find all but one of our pieces of luggage already outside of our door. The last piece was delivered shortly after we left the room to explore the ship and was waiting in the room when we returned. Overall we were extremely pleased with the room -- it was very quiet, right across from the laundry if you needed to iron a few wrinkles out of a shirt, and it's location not far from the elevator or a short walk up the hall to the piazza or down the stairs to the promenade made it extremely convenient. The Ship: My sailing experience up until this point was limited to growing up on the water sailing 30 foot sailboats, so needless to say, the ship was impressive to me. However, despite its large size, I rarely ever felt crowded onboard. Once you mastered the layout, it was easy to navigate. There was rarely a delay waiting for an elevator - although we often chose to use the stairs to burn off some extra cruise calories. Deck 7 is the promenade deck and it is the easiest way to cut forward or aft to navigate the ship if you are below deck 15. Most of the indoor entertainment is located along this deck and lower ones, including the three story piazza towards the front of the ship where passenger services and the boutiques are located. The piazza was a very pleasant gathering area at night or during the day, and forward of the piazza, you'll find the ship's casino and the theater. Walking the promenade at night was a treat, and it was easy to enjoy being close to the water breaking along the ship—for that matter, walking the upper decks was also a delight at night to take in the stars and ocean breezes. From the promenade, you can walk forward and up a flight of stairs to the bow of the ship on deck 8 (although it closes after sunset) for some spectacular views. The dining rooms are located on Decks 6 and 5. Decks 15 and above are where you will find the buffet, outdoor pools, hot tubs, pizza stand, hamburger grill, and ice cream station as well as the sun decks, the Sanctuary, basketball court, teen clubs, etc. The dEcor may not have been the most ornate at sea, but it was tasteful, reserved, appealing to me because it wasn't Las Vegas glitzy like many Carnival ships described and photographed online. My partner thought Princess could spruce up the buffet area, unlike the rest of the ship it looks a little dated and heavy like a Florida community cafeteria. And the reviews are right on navigating the buffet—it is a free for all and there are no formal lines, so don't wait around. As far as exercise, the gym is very impressive and I had no trouble using it. We did take the tour of the spa the first afternoon aboard, and were sorely tempted to sign up for a massage and passes priced at $150 for both of us together to use the saunas, heated loungers, and rainforest showers. But in the end, we knew we wouldn't have the time and the rest of the ship's facilities like the adults only pools and hottubs would fit the bill. Likewise, the Sanctuary looked inviting, but we passed because our own itinerary left us little time to use it. Dining: I have to give high marks to Princess for dining - overall, choices were plentiful and the food was very good. We choose Anytime Dining and it was nice not to be tied down by a set dining time—we found it worked well with our schedules and appetites. On two nights we ate with other passengers and enjoyed the company and chance to meet new people; on other nights we waited for a table for two and savored the privacy together. With anytime dining, you could choose to eat in the Coral (deck 6) or Island (deck 5) dining rooms—the Palm dining room was reserved for traditional seating—but the menus were the same for each. In fact, we opted not to eat at the two specialty restaurants—Sabitinis and Crown Grill—because we were content with the menu (although I did hear from other passengers the steaks at Crown Grill were excellent, much better than those served in the main dining rooms). We tried both dining rooms and preferred the Island because the service seemed to be friendlier—in fact, the staff made all the difference in the world. From the moment we were greeted at the door, to meeting Tudor, who has to be one of the best servers at sea, we returned to the Island dining room every night. And I would guess we couldn't have been the only ones who felt the same way, because we saw many other passengers who seemed to gravitate to the dining room as well (including a famous BBC actor, his partner and family). The typical meal offered an appetizer (spring rolls were some of my favorites) as well as a soup or salad (wonton soup was great - and after tasting the better half's I was sad I didn't try the frozen-rum infused pina colada soup - in fact, all of the fruit soups were fantastic!) followed by a main course (on this trip the pork dishes were very good - and the staff were more than accommodating to make changes if you didn't like the sides). Dessert never disappointed - whether it was cheesecake, crème brule, apple pie or even amaretto ice cream). Likewise, with so many choices, you couldn't leave the buffet hungry - and the fresh fruit had us returning throughout the day for snacks. We did try the cheeseburgers on deck, but hands down our favorite was the pizza - the best we have ever had outside of New York City. If you like pizza, you'll fall in love with the thin crust. And for a cool treat, we'd pop by the ice cream stand for soft serve or hard ice cream (again, taking the stairs came in handy). In your stateroom you could order room service from a more limited menu, and you could request fresh fruit like bananas, oranges, apples, kiwis, pears, etc be delivered every morning to your stateroom (which were excellent to take along and snack on during active long shore excursions like the ones we did). You could also get a coffee/tea and juice service delivered with a continental breakfast to wake up to in the morning. All you had to do for both was fill out a card and place it on your door before retiring to bed. Ports of Call: In addition to the price and ship, the itinerary was one of the prime drivers (if not the prime factor) for us in choosing this cruise. Admittedly, we weren't looking for a Caribbean booze cruise—we wanted to visit islands that were out of the traditional cruise circuit and a bit more natural to would put our amphibian hiking shoes to and snorkel sets to work, and with the exception of St. Thomas, that's exactly what we found. Our visit to the island of Dominica was the highlight of the trip. In fact, I highly recommend contacting Levi Baron of Bumpiing Tours (www.bumpiingtours.com) if you find yourself lucky enough to visit this natural treasure (so beautiful, in fact, that you'll find out much of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed on location). Thanks to Levi's friendly, safe, and no-hassle expert tour, we feel in love with Dominica. We swam in the Titou gorge, visited the Trafalgar falls, relaxed in a hot sulfur spring, and discovered fish, coral, and a 400 year old canon from a shipwreck at Champagne Reef. I can't recommend Levi enough - and for those of you hesitant to abandon the overpriced, rushed organized mass herded cruise tours, don't miss out on this wonderful experience. I also can't recommend the incredible tool available to cruisers on CruiseCritic -- member reviews are a great resource to go by. With such a short time in Grenada, we passed on tours and instead decided to explore the charming streets of St. George's as a pleasant (and low cost) treat. For our visit to Bonaire, we again abandoned the cruise ship tours and rented a small car (if renting from a leading dealer at the airport, call the office and ask to be met at the dock - they will also drop you back off at the dock). I can't imagine doing a better thing - with a good map from the rental company, we explored every inch of the island, seeing the great salt flats in the south, old slave huts, mangrove forests, the interior, snorkeled along the coast, sighted flamingoes in Lake Gotomeer, visited the National Forrest to the north, and saw ancient Indian petroglyphs and moon-like rocky surfaces on the weather beaten western coast. We even encountered a pack of curious donkeys and stopped for a quick photo with them. On Aruba we found the local public bus system—Arubus—to be a clean, inexpensive, and reliable way to get around the island. For about $6 or $7 total, we traveled from the main station next to the dock downtown up to the Butterfly farm, the resorts beaches on Palm Coast, and the Arashi snorkeling sites on the northern end of the island. You can visit the Arubus website for more information, and pick up a bus route map when arriving on the island. Just watch your time (and pad a little extra time to make sure you are back to the dock a little early) and know the frequency of the bus schedule. As a general rule the buses come along the main line every 10 - 15 minutes; the Arashi bus can take up to an hour between runs. Also, don't overlook another great stop before or after the cruise itself - Old San Juan. With its rich history, beautiful colonial architecture, restaurants, shops and forts like San Cristobal and El Morro, a visit to Old San Juan is wonderful excursion. Entertainment: Visiting the piazza onboard yielded some of the most delightful entertainment experiences like listening to members of the Caribbean Princess Orchestra play Dixieland and Jazz favorites, or spending the last evening aboard at Crooners with new found friends listening to piano player Eric Stone as he took song requests. With busy days in port, we enjoyed escaping the onboard bars and clubs at night to go to the pools and hottubs (which were usually deserted) or strolled along the top decks to enjoy the nights together. Movies Under the Stars is an experience you won't soon forget—it feels a little like a drive in movie (from what I can remember), but from the comfort of a padded deck chair with popcorn and candy readily available. During the voyage there were also comedians and a hypnotist aboard, as well as themed nights in the clubs and bars, but again we skipped these because we wanted to relax and savor the tropical nights. One area where we both felt Princess dropped the ball big time was the "Broadway" style shows. Wow, do they really consider that Broadway style? They were terrible—in fact, someone remarked on CruiseCritic that they were like dinner theater, but that is an insult to dinner theater. They were more like kids' talent recital shows with actors cast instead. I mean, I felt bad for the actors - some of them do have talent - but Princess should seriously review the talent and vision of their artistic directors if this is the caliber of entertainment they are offering and billing to passengers as "Broadway" style. There was no story, they were just a collection of scenes which shared the same stage. In fairness some people did enjoy the performances and my better half is an accomplished stage actor himself, and so I have been fortunate to be treated to some good shows—but I have also sat through my fair share of bad shows too and these performances were a big disappointment and ranked pretty far down there. Crew and Service: Without a doubt, the thing that can make or break the public's perception of a travel or tourism experience are the people they encounter who make it all happen. Before deciding on this cruise we watched an episode on Princess Cruises on the Travel Channel and heard about the Princess Difference - which sounded remarkably like the Disney Difference in customer service that has made their resorts some of the most popular destination spots on the planet. We certainly saw the commitment to going the extra mile from people like Tudor and his colleagues in the Island Dining Room, and from others like our cabin steward Jose (I honestly don't know if Jose slept a wink the entire trip - it seems he always knew the moment we left our cabin and came in to tidy the place up or turn down the bed for the night, even if we only stepped out for ten minutes). We'd see smiling faces of crew in the hallways and were bowled over when the young woman at the ice cream stand smiled and remembered just how we liked our cones (we visited once a day, but out of 3,000 passengers, that was impressive). We also encountered some crew members who understandably fell short, after all the crew have to be some of the hardest working people under the sun. Still, it was disappointing when you needed help getting another towel on deck (finding one was a task in itself) - or worse yet - when you needed to get help straightening out a billing error at Customer Service, only to wait in a long line to have a crew member more interested in getting you out of their way than helping you out. In fact, on disembarkation we found ourselves at Passenger Services again trying to straighten out a problem we thought had been resolved the night before. Fellow Passengers: By and large we encountered a diverse mix of passengers, most seemed to be comprised of Americans and Canadians looking to escape the winter for some Caribbean sunshine and relaxation. There were some couples like us or younger aboard, and some families with children and teens, but most were couples older than us. Everyone is there for a good time and we encountered many friendly people on board and conversations were quick and easy to strike up. After a day or two, you started seeing familiar faces and you'd catch up or trade laughs. Disembarkation: The day before disembarkation, information is delivered to your room about the process as well as luggage tags and group assignments for leaving the ship, along with your customs forms. Passengers are asked to pack their luggage and place it in the hallway the night before so it can be processed and returned to you in the terminal to clear customs after you leave the ship. The Caribbean Princess docked back in San Juan at 6:00 a.m., and for the most part passengers were asked to vacate their cabins by 8:00 a.m. We had signed up for EZ Check, which allows you to check in for your flight while still on the ship. For a fee of $20 per person (plus any additional baggage fees from the airlines), your boarding passes are delivered to the room as well as luggage tags for your plane trip home. After disembarking the ship and clearing customs, you turn the checked luggage back over to a Princess representative and the bags are checked through and taken to the airport to meet you again when you land at your final destination. This is a good service - especially if you plan on spending any time in Old San Juan before departing for home and don't want to haul bags around with you. The disembarkation process is also fairly simple - you gather in a public space until a member of the crew dismisses your group, then you head off the ship, collect your bags in the terminal, and join the queue to clear customs. Don't let the line intimidate you - ours stretched all the way to the end of the building, but it moved very quickly and we were out without hassle. The only drawback we experienced was dealing with passenger services - again, having spent time the night before to resolve an accounting problem, we thought our account was settled. By 7:00 a.m. on disembarkation day, we were contacted by passenger services and returned again to settle the account - and in the process - had only five minutes before our group was to meet and leave the ship. We asked the Passenger Services crew member if he thought we would have a few minutes to grab a quick bite to eat (forgoing breakfast because we had to straighten the account out again). To sum up his reaction and response you would think that if we weren't with your group -and off the ship in 5 minutes to collect your bags and go through the Gestapo like process he described—your bags would be shredded in a giant mulcher, your passports and ID's would be confiscated, and you'd be sent by the Department of Homeland Security to Guantanamo. The truth, as we found out, couldn't be further from this - the groups are done to make the process orderly, which is completely understandable, but we could have easily taken about 30 minutes to grab a quick breakfast before heading off the ship, collecting our luggage, and passing through the easy customs process. It just was an unpleasant note to end the trip on. And to judge from the long line of people also at Passenger Services that morning, we weren't the only ones. Summary: Being a first time cruiser, I confess to researching the ship, cruise line, and itinerary extensively. When you can only go on one vacation a year because of cost (or in our circumstances, busy work schedules) it's only natural to want to make sure it goes great and you get the best bang for your buck and best time for your limited vacation days. Princess Cruises had stood out to us for their reputation and commitment to service while also being a good value, and the itinerary was an important factor. Still, we asked every passenger who had cruised before to compare this voyage to prior Princess cruises or cruises on other lines, and without exception, everyone said that quality and service had noticeably slipped. Some long-term Princess cruisers pointed to what they believed were the effects of Carnival's corporate culture coming into fuller effect following the line's purchase of Princess, others said that it was a result of an economic downturn that has caused everyone to cut back. Still, I have to say the cruise was a great experience - for the price we paid, we got to travel to several islands while only unpacking once and never having to worry about wheter breakfast, lunch, or dinner was going to be good (or even necessitate a trip to the local pharmacy). If you were like me and on the fence about a cruise and whether or not it is really for you, I say take a chance, you might just be surprised. Now we just wish we could have taken the time off from work to combine this trip with the alternating second week itinerary trip many other passengers we met were taking. Maybe a week just isn't enough? Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
I have read some of the negative reviews and, while I understand that some people just can not be pleased, I wanted to set the record straight. This is a great cruise line and and great ship. The embarkation was amazing. I arrived at noon, ... Read More
I have read some of the negative reviews and, while I understand that some people just can not be pleased, I wanted to set the record straight. This is a great cruise line and and great ship. The embarkation was amazing. I arrived at noon, and was scanned, processed, and in my room by 12:15. The ship had recently been refurbished and it showed. It was clean, polished, and in perfect form. The service on board was impeccable, with crew members calling me by name by the 2nd day. The only quarrel I had was with the excursion staff. Their help, while adequate, had no real warmth or desire to help. It was, in a word, perfunctory. The room steward was fantastic and his desire to please was obvious from day one. The gym could use some updating, as equipment was adequate, but just barely. The lido breakfast and lunch areas [I did not use the dining room for these meals] was always clean, foods was varied, and very pleasantly presented. The ports of call, which is what drew me to this cruise were great. My one disappointment was the substitution of San Juan, Puerto Rico for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I had called Princess 2 weeks prior to sailing, as I had heard that we would not be going there. The Princess agent assured me that there had not been a change. I asked to speak to a supervisor and she said she'd check to make certain. After checking, she also confirmed there had not been a change. When I got on board, the purser said the change had been made several months ago. I was disappointed, particularly since a management employee had told me otherwise just 2 weeks ago. The food, both in Lido, as well in the restaurants was always superb and with great variety Food staff was excellent. Entertainment was great, particularly the 4 production numbers which, I thought equal to most I've seen on Broadway. I saw them all twice. The energy and sets were terrific. I had elected to disembark with my luggage with me. The told me hat disembarkation for me would be 7:30 AM. I was off, went through customs and was on my hotel shuttle service by 7:40. Despite the few minor criticisms, I rate the cruise very enjoyable and very well done by officers and crew. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
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