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581 Princess Romantic Cruise Reviews

We are a married couple, mid-50's to early 60's, and we have cruising with Priucess exclusively since 2002. We are very comfortable with their product, and generally know what to expect from Princess. Hence, when they really miss ... Read More
We are a married couple, mid-50's to early 60's, and we have cruising with Priucess exclusively since 2002. We are very comfortable with their product, and generally know what to expect from Princess. Hence, when they really miss on something, or don't deliver as promised, we know it! And when they do what they are supposed to do, or do things better than usual, we know that as well. We took this cruise since we had to be in San Francisco the week before departure on business, and also because it was an opportunity to take my parents along for their first cruise to Alaska. They cruise, but only with us, and not nearly as often. Since we arrived well ahead of embarkation day, we chose to take a shuttle from the airport to our Fisherman's Wharf hotel. It was very smooth. One could also take public transportation, but I am not known for packing lightly, and with six pieces of luggage between the two of us, it would have been nearly impossible. Our stay along Fisherman's Wharf was quite enjoyable, and very relaxing for me. DH worked. My parents arrived two days before our sailing, so we took the opportunity to take a Greyline tour on Wednesday, from SF, down to Monterrey and Carmel by the Sea. It was a long day, but the scenery was wonderful, and my parents, being avid golfers and true golf fans, loved the opportunity to see Pebble Beach. That was the highlight for them. I personally loved the Monterrey Aquarium as well. We took two taxis (lots of luggage, remember?) from our hotel to the pier just before 11 am on embarkation day. The place is a zoo. Our drivers managed to get us curbside, and there were porters just waiting to help out. But really, the port authority or local police - whoever is responsible for the area outside the pier - should take a look at managing arrivals and departures in a better way. Inside, kudos to Princess. We were ushered to pierside check-in promply, no lines, and through security. Then we had to walk up - and up and up - a series or ramps to the lounges - only to be sent right back down the elevator to the ground floor. Embarkation had already begun, and so we had to walk up another ramp to board the ship. I realize that Princess has to cope with the physical layout at the pier, but this was ridiculous, especially for my pushing 80 parents. Well, we passed the physical fitness test and walked aboard. No one was waiting to direct us to the elevators to go our room. I had to ask...oh well. Our rooms were ready, our cabin steward was fantastic. We put some things in the safe, etc, and made our way to midship to the dining room for lunch on embarkation day, just a few moments after noon. Princess looses big points here from us, to the point of an inexcusable gaffe. Not only does the FAQ on the Princess website indicate that a dining room will be open for lunch, so does the FAQ on the ship's diagram, and so did the patter for that day! But were we welcomed in? NO!! We were told by someone standing outside the open doors that the dining room was closed, and lunch was available in Horizon Court. If we had wanted lunch in Horizon Court we would have gone there. We waited for my parents to arrive and walked right past the "guard dog" who had been placed there to lie to passengers. Arriving at the head waiter's stand, we were escorted to a table for 4 and enjoyed a leisurely lunch. There were two groups in the dining room: travel agents and "bon voyage" experience people. There were also about 80% of the tables unoccupied. Menu, waiters, food - the dining room seemed open to me. Why do they have to make an awkward first impression by playing dining room games for lunch??? That one is on the F&B Department, and the Maitre d'. After lunch we walked my parents around a bit, and then went back to the cabins to get a little more settled in. No luggage before muster drill. Muster was painless, as usual. We do appreciate that Princess musters in comfortable lounges, however, my parents did not manage a seat at their muster station. That was a bit tough on my dad, who cannot really stand for any amount of time without a fair bit of pain in his hips. After muster, we put more items away, headed up on deck for sailaway, and for dinner chose the wonderful Cafe Corniche. We were tired, and called it an early evening, hence no comment on the entertainment the first evening. Waiting for me upon arrival in our cabin was a letter from Sean Leach, the F&B director confirming our Roll Call meet and greet the next morning. Our roll call was quite well attended by the members, and also by the officers. Wow! Kudos to Princess on this one. The Captain, Martin Stenzel, the Staff Captain, Domenico Lubrano, Hotel General Manager John Ibbotson, Sr, Purser Admin James Eaton, Food and Beverage Director Sean Leech, Manuel Radmanto Accommodation Services Manager, and I'm sure I've left out a few others, attended, along with our wonderful cruise director Gavin Chandler. Surprising me was the Captain's Circle Host, Tiago Tavares, who was so gracious throughout the cruise. The officers came a few minutes after the start, Captain Stenzel made a few remarks and then opened it up to questions from the floor. The entire group stayed until almost the end of the hour and most graciously answered question after question from our curious group. Well done Princess, and many thanks for making our group feel so very welcome and appreciated!! Later I got a call from the Future Cruise Sales Ralph Cathro, who had office hours during the meet and greet, apologizing for not making the gathering, but who did invite me stop by and say hello. I not only stopped by, I booked another cruise. We had some rough seas on our way up to Alaska, rougher than usual for the season according to some of the staff. This was not a problem for us, but did keep people off the open decks. There was not an Elite, Platinum and Suite Lounge from 5 to 7 in the evening, or at all on the Sea Princess. We really missed this, and were disappointed that there wasn't a quiet place to relax. We find it a very relaxing opportunity to chat and start the evening off. This is a decision of the F&B department....are you listening??? We really miss it, and there were enough Platinum and Elite members on board. The most traveled passengers had 75 cruises and over 1000 days.....really, there would have been attendance. Let's get the rest of complaints out of the way, then we can get on to the good stuff and there was plenty of good stuff. We like to play cards, the 4 of us. We don't like smoke at all. The card room is located in the casino. (We like the new smoking policy coming in January.) When Cafe Corniche was closed, we could use a table there, but it was open a lot. We dined there more than a few times, so we don't begrudge them the use of the tables for dining. Tables elsewhere, with the exception of Horizon Court were too small. This puts us in Horizon Court, which shares space with the steakhouse in the evenings. That is ok, but for some reason a whole lot of the remaining tables in Horizon Court are completely blocked off and people wanting a light snack or tea, etc., before dinner is really served are compressed into a tiny area. Those tables really didn't need to be blocked off to the extent that they were. Really. Only the tables at the bow, in the front section, not those further back from the windows....were available. We prefer to take our card game out of the way of those really wanting to enjoy their late afternoon/early evening snack. About 8:05 am the morning of our Haines port call, I ordered the Elite afternoon tea for our stateroom, to be delivered at 4 that afternoon. It never arrived, ever. Grrr...we knew that the lunch we would have on our excursion wouldn't appeal to us, and we would get back hungry and kind of grimy, want to shower, wash hair, etc., and afternoon tea would be a perfect to our day. Never arrived...starving by the time we got cleaned up and dressed to meet for cards. Had to snack first. Grrrrr....F&B strikes yet again. Final gripe: Fact - it rains in Alaska. Princess knows this, they tell us this in announcements whenever possible so we don't blame them for the weather. I don't blame them for the weather, I thank them for their excellent Alaska experiences. But, they know it rains, and to make people stand outside of the available canopy covers while waiting for the next tender is just mean. I know security wants people back from the edge of the boarding area for the tender, but to waste an entire canopy enforcing that, instead of 3 or 4 feet of it - just doesn't make sense. It rains in Alaska and old people are standing in the rain unnecessarily. Change how you do things in this regard Princess. The rest was all good, or great or exceptional. We enjoyed good to excellent service for breakfast in the dining room, enjoyed some luncheons in the dining room and some dinners there as well. Dress codes were enforced in the dining room, according to our observations. We kind of mixed it up and had lunch and dinner at Cafe Corniche from time to time, as well as a few meals as the buffet. Overall, we though the food was good to excellent, depending on the item and the location. Pizza always gets an exceptional, and this cruise was no exception. Our cabin steward (A742) was sensational, almost clairvoyant, and he apparently didn't want to come with us, as he successfully dodged our kidnapping attempt. Seriously, we have had lots of cabin stewards, and we had #1 who held that place for a long time. Now we have a tie for first place. Renato was sensational! Laundries were closed during Juneau through Glacier Bay, and boy, were they in demand thereafter. I finally managed to run a load of my things that I don't send to the ship's laundry through several days later. Cruise staff - loved 'em. We played trivia occasionally and they were fun. Managed a dance class or two - fun as well. Hit a show here and there, it was all good. Loved the crew talent show!!! We enjoyed Sammy Goldstein several evenings as well. Only good things when it comes to Gavin and his group, as well as his choices for entertainers. We were delighted to be invited to the most traveled passenger luncheon, and enjoyed the experience very much. Our table host was James Eagen, who was a delightful luncheon companion. An American officer is rare, and one who can talk Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab is even rarer - great time. The food was excellent as well - all in all a lovely time, our thanks again to Captain Stenzel and the ever-gracious Tiago Tavares. Disembarkation was a breeze. Princess is to be commended for working with ICE to allow US passengers with passports to disembark and go directly to luggage. Our transfer to the airport was smooth...however Irene had other plans for our flights home. We knew this by Saturday morning and. Thank You Princess! for the internet benefit. This time it just wasn't a nice thing to have to stay in touch, we really needed it. I was able to change our flights, get hotel reservations and take care of the associated issues, and even though the connection wasn't peppy, between DH and I we had enough time to do things properly so the trip home with mom and dad smooth - that was so important to us. I guess I'll cover the rest port by port. Juneau was our first stop and were at anchor. We arrived a bit late, and our lounge location for our tour was changed. We chose the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier excursion to give mom and dad those experiences. What was really strange is they assigned us a section to sit in at Vista Lounge, with those going on our excursion, and then instead of calling us to board tenders group by group, they told the entire lounge to proceed to the tenders. That was really crazy and created an unnecessary mob scene. It was a bit rough on mom and dad, too. If they had called the lounge by excursion, it would have been simpler. The tender ride was short, but they really jammed everyone into the tender. Our waiting bus was clean and very comfortable, our driver competent and pleasant. We first went to the marina at Auke Bay to board one of the boats operated by Allen Marine. They are clean, well-maintained and have comfortable cabins, complete with complementary binoculars and warm drinks. Off we went, in rain, in search of marine mammals. This was an afternoon excursion, so they had the morning to find wildlife, and find it they had. First, an orca. We were told this was a rather rare sight in Auke Bay, and tend to believe it as we hadn't seen one in our 4 prior visits. Then on to the sea lions hanging out on their channel buoy - napping. They hang there every summer. Then on to find humpbacks. We had some great sightings, and even saw a bubble feed. We were happy, mom and dad saw wildlife and everyone stayed as comfortable as they chose to. We had a good naturalist and captain....as pleasant as we had hoped it would be for mom and dad. Back to the bus, and on to Mendenhall Glacier, where it was raining pretty hard. Bathroom stops were the first thing on everyone's mind, but we opted to make the short climb up to the visitor center rather than those by the bus drop off and were rewarded with no line at all. The places we had hiked by the shore of the glacial lake were under water this year - it seems an ice dam holding back melt water burst earlier in the season and did "flood" the area. We had a different view than we had a few years ago. To us, it was very interesting to observe the changes. Mom and dad enjoyed the views from inside as well, and took a look at the exhibits. Then it was back to the bus, a black bear sighting in a meadow along Mendenhall Road, and a wait for the tender in the pouring rain. By the time we returned to the ship, we were about 45 minutes later than planned, and we missed Libbey Riddles, I had wanted Mom and Dad to see her, but at least her talk was on the TV throughout the rest of the cruise. Glacier Bay: We got lucky. There wasn't much rain at all, and the fog was far enough away to allow for a good view of the glaciers. We saw some calving, had some great commentary by the park rangers Princess brought on board, but didn't really see much wildlife until we were practically surrounded by marine mammals as we exited the bay and made our way around Icy Point. Wow! Humpbacks, harbor porpoises, and more humpbacks. We truly had an excellent day there. Haines: This is the first time we came in by cruise ship. The pier - well - we had a really, really steep descent from the ship. I am not entirely clear why this was, as the ship had the gangways on Deck 7...I don't understand why they weren't on 4 or 5. Anyway, our bus was waiting for us, along with our driver/tour guide who was full of great information and kept us entertained on the ride to the Bald Eagle Sanctuary on the Chilkat River. We did the jetboat ride (for the second time) hoping mom and dad would enjoy some great wildlife sightings from a relatively comfortable vantage point. It was overcast and chilly, but we had just a bit of drizzle for the boatride, and the outfitters made sure we had warm waterproof parkas, waterproof blankets, gloves, earmuffs....the river was very high, much higher than our first trip a few years ago, when the Chilkat really was a threaded river with channels only about twice the width of the jetboat. This time it was very swollen, and our pilot was quite skilled at finding the channels despite the flooding. We saw trumpeter swan and bald eagles. Lots. But no moose this time, no bear. Oh well. We saw lots of eagles and it didn't rain. Back at the landing, there was a campfire to roast hot dogs, warm beverages, chips, cookies, and yes, reasonable bathrooms! After a bite to eat, it was back to Haines, where the skies had opened up and it was pouring. We climbed those steep ramps back embark on Deck 7 of the ship. Ketchikan: Alongside at dock 3, with the sun trying to shine! What good luck, as we had booked the flightseeing and Dungeness crab feast at George Inlet. This time, we started with a ride to George Inlet to gorge ourselves on wonderful Dungeness Crab. And we did!! Wine, beer, smoked salmon appetizers, a nice salad and all the crab one could eat with drawn butter, and then cheesecake with blueberry topping. Happy customers, each and every one. We had a few moments to use the facilities (decent) and check out the new gift shop...or take some photos of the area. Then it was into our DeHaviland Beaver Aircraft for some flightseeing on our trip back to Ketchikan. Our pilot was so happy it wasn't raining after about 12 days of rain, that he flew like a very happy fellow and gave us some fantastic views of mountain goat herds, glacial lakes, now melted, and just a great flight back to the town. Smooth pontoon landing, and everything I hoped the experience would be for mom and dad. It was a highlight for us several years ago, and my parents loved it!!! So happy! The driver offered to take us back to the ship or further into town, which was great. We took the drop off at Creek Street and dad spent time looking at the salmon in the creek. We wandered back through town slowly, stopping at the National Park Service center in Juneau, which had marvelously clean restroooms, and also a stuffed grizzly bear in the lobby. Photo op - yup, we posed by the bear. Victoria: Brilliant sunshine, comfortable temps, and a comfortable bus ride to Butchard Gardens with a very cordial driver made this my mom's favorite stop. The gardens are breathtaking, and very approachable in 90 to 120 minutes. We had tea there, which was delightful, and a few minutes in the gift shop, where we did some damage to the old credit card. On the way back from the gardens, we had a bus tour through some of Victoria itself, which is very charming. Mom wants to spend some time vacationing in Victoria. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We are just off the Crown Princess British Isles cruise from 8/4-8/16. This board was a tremendous resource during our planning, so we felt it was only right that we would post a review here so that future planners might have a reference. ... Read More
We are just off the Crown Princess British Isles cruise from 8/4-8/16. This board was a tremendous resource during our planning, so we felt it was only right that we would post a review here so that future planners might have a reference. Some information about us: this was a 10th anniversary trip and our last cruise was about nine years ago so we are by no means veteran cruisers. EMBARKATION—Painless. We were early, around noon, and were in our cabin by around 12:30. Bags arrived before 2. We did meet some unfortunate folks at the muster drill (at 4:15) whose bags still weren't there yet, but that seemed to be fairly unusual. We used Smiths for Airports (bookings@smithsforairports.com) for all our airport/Southampton/London transfers and they were great. I highly recommend them. It rained on embarkation day and that was just about the only rain we saw all trip. It never failed that in every port the locals commented about the terrific weather. FOOD ON THE SHIP/"EXTRA" RESTAURANTS—We had anytime dining and typically ate around 7:30. We never waited for a table, even though we asked for a table for two, in either dining room. The food ranged from OK to very good. Keep in mind that even if you have "anytime" dining, they really want to fit you into either an early seating or a late seating so as to turn over the tables twice in a night. But because Da Vinci doesn't take reservations until 7:30, there are lots of different time options. And if you make a 7:30 reservation at Da Vinci, you can show up at 7:15 with very little trouble and maybe grab a little better table. I know it is largely dependent on the waiter you get, but we got much better service in Da Vinci than in Michelangelo, and found the maitre' d in Da Vinci (Giuseppe) to be much, much more accommodating. Crown Grill: The first night we went, it was pretty good. The second night, it was great. The steaks are not up to a Morton's type of meat, but they are very good and we thought they were superior to the meat served in the main dining room. Sides are very good, desserts are excellent. International Cafe: Many people seem to think everything here costs extra, but only the gelato costs extra. We ate lunch here several times and really enjoyed the sandwiches, some of the soups, and the desserts. One warning: the chef on duty in the morning was very friendly. The chef on duty in the afternoon/evening may have been a direct relative of The Soup Nazi. Coffee card: My wife loved it. Some people in the past have wondered if it includes free hot chocolate—ours did. Ice cream: It was a very well-kept secret that the ice cream bar on deck 15 also had hard ice cream in addition to the soft ice cream everyone seemed to be getting. Gelato at International Cafe was $1.50 for three (!) scoops, but hard ice cream on 15 was free. Pizza: Thin crust. Pepperoni and cheese every day, plus a special that varied each day. Room service breakfast: We had this most every day, varying only on a couple of sea days when we decided to do the International Cafe (great muffins, croissants, etc.). Perhaps because we were at the end of the hall, we almost always got delivery a couple minutes earlier than the earliest time we had checked. That's not a complaint. It was actually kind of nice. Had our breakfast on the balcony every day the weather allowed it (all but about two or three) and loved it. INTERNET ON THE SHIP—We had read some horror stories from those on the British Isles trip before us. Our experience was not the same. Yes, it's very slow compared to what you're used to in your home, but for the most part, we were able to connect when we wanted to connect. Yes, the manager can be a little snippy, but remember he's dealing with 3000 people, many of whom may not be very computer savvy. We were in line behind one gentleman who could not connect. It turned out he was typing the website address he wanted into the Google search field. I imagine dealing with those types of problems lends itself to being snippy. STAFF ON THE SHIP—We had some mixed experiences here. We never really found that one standout employee that made us want to tell everyone about him/her. We found a couple we would NOT want to tell everyone about. For the most part, it was average to slightly above average. And we realize they are dealing with 3000 people, some of whom require a lot of care, so this isn't necessarily a negative. CABIN ON THE SHIP—We had the much discussed E731. Yes, it definitely has an extended, fully-covered balcony. We had some rough seas on a couple of days and you definitely feel the movement more at the back of the ship than you do in the middle. But it wasn't anything that would prevent us from trying to get this cabin again. It's on the end of a very quiet hall and very close to a back staircase, although unfortunately the staircase only went down to the sixth floor rather than to the fifth floor. Late at night there was sometimes (maybe 2 or 3 of the 12 nights) a small amount of noise audible from Club Fusion. ST. PETER PORT/GUERNSEY—The surprise hit of our ports. We did not have a guide and did the town on foot. It was a decent walk, maybe a little more than half a mile, down to Castle Cornet. But the walk is along the waterfront, with lots of little shops, so it goes quickly. Gorgeous castle, gorgeous town, friendly people. Make sure you don't just stay on the waterfront. Go up one block (there are lots of alleys that take you up to the next street) and you'll find the better shops, including a place with great milkshakes made from Guernsey ice cream. Watch out: they have their own currency here, so if you get change in any of the shops, try to specify that you want pounds sterling. HOLYHEAD, WALES—At a later port, we overheard a passenger on a tender saying Wales was the worst port and that they would rather have had a day at sea. I imagine if you stay in Holyhead this would be true. However, we had a guide, Rhian Jones (rhiancaed@hotmail.com) who was fantastic, and this became one of our favorite ports. Along with her driver, Martin, they took us all over Wales. We had lunch at a riverside Welsh cafe (Welsh rarebit is actually very good and has nothing to do with rabbit), visited a trio of castles—including one out in the middle of the field that wouldn't be in any guidebooks—toured an Elizabethan town house, visited a church that dates to the 1200s, and wrapped up our day with tea and Welsh cakes in the den of Rhian's farm house, which had an incredible view looking out over what felt like the entire country. I can't recommend Rhian highly enough. DUBLIN, IRELAND—Jimmy Mulrooney from Dublin Taxi was our guide (info@dublintaxitours.ie). Our port day was a Sunday, so many things were closed early in the day. Jimmy gave us a quick driving tour that gave us the feel for the area, then we walked through Trinity and around several of the parks in the middle of downtown. Walking through town with all the church bells ringing was quite memorable. We ended up walking into Saint Patrick's Cathedral just as Sunday service was about to start, so we stayed for that and it was a great experience. Jimmy drove us to Howth and Malahide and we stopped for lunch in Howth—both towns were very busy, but had a very comfortable, local feel. If we did it again, we might even spend a little more time there. BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND—This is very important: if you get lucky enough to have Michael from Belfast Attractions (belfastattractions@vmail.com) as your guide, make time for him to give you the political tour. We knew about the history of Belfast but didn't know about the current status. Michael gave us an eye-opening tour sprinkled with his absolutely incredible personal experiences—he should write a book—that totally changed our view of the city. He also drove us out to Giant's Causeway, which was our favorite natural wonder-type site of the trip. No matter what the weather in the port, it will probably be windy and cold, so bring a jacket. You can walk all the way to the top of the nearby cliff (there is a path), which provides a spectacular view. There is plenty of time to do Giant's Causeway in the morning and the Belfast tour in the afternoon. One strange note: the Princess port information on Belfast that was distributed the night before we stopped made barely any mention of "The Troubles." My impression is that very few passengers saw the side of it that we saw. It's really a must-do. GLASGOW/GREENOCK, SCOTLAND—Our guide, Gordon Ross (greatscot1320@blueyonder.co.uk) said this might be his last year giving tours. Hopefully, that's not the case, as he is terrific. We drove through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, and then Gordon walked us through Stirling Castle, which probably was our favorite castle of all that we saw (could be because we had such a good guide). This was also our Tattoo night, so we left Stirling and Gordon drove us to Edinburgh. My impression is that most people did either Loch Lomond/Stirling OR the Tattoo. There is time to do both if you get a guide and don't mind spending the whole day away from the ship. As everyone else has said, the Tattoo is a must-see. You should also make sure to believe them when they tell you it will be cold (and windy!), but we were lucky with no rain. We beat all the buses back and were in our cabin by around 12:30. KIRKWALL—No guide, we just did the city on foot. If you want to see some of the prehistoric type sites, you'll definitely want to join a tour or get a guide, but if you just want to shop and see the churches and palaces, the tender drops you in the middle of the city. There was an agricultural fair on the day we were there, so several places were closed, but the ones that were open were interesting enough to spend 2-3 hours. Only down side was that it did feel a little like being in Latin America the way you were accosted coming off the tender by locals trying to sell you tours and other various "essential" local products. There is free internet access at the Kirkwall library, which is walkable from the pier. EDINBURGH—We went through Gordon Ross (see above) and he arranged for us to tour with David Frood. The Fringe Festival was in town, which meant there were hundreds of artists/actors/etc. on the Royal Mile handing out brochures for their plays, comedies, etc. It was an absolute zoo and traffic was incredible (the Tattoo was also in town). I don't believe any of the ship's excursions went to Rosslyn Chapel (famous for being in The Da Vinci Code, among other things), but David took us out there and we thought it was well worth it. Edinburgh was probably our least favorite of the ports, but we lean more towards the countryside than the city. INVERGORDON—Our guide was Alastair Cunningham (alastair@clansandcastles.com), who we'd rank among the best guides we had. He walked with us on Culloden Battlefield and told stories that really made it come alive. He also timed our trips to two castles so that we missed the big groups from the ship, which made the castles much more pleasant to walk through. Loch Ness was gorgeous. Alastair stopped at a cashmere shop in a small town called Beauly that had better prices and better quality items than anything we saw on The Royal Mile. LE HAVRE—Apparently, two-thirds of our ship went to Paris. We went to Normandy via Overlord Tours with some other folks we'd connected with through this board thanks to the organization of a fellow poster. Definitely feel like we saw more than the folks who went through Princess. Our guide was very knowledgeable. DEBARKATION: We had independent arrangements (Smiths for Airports again) and weren't scheduled to debark until 9:30. They made an announcement at 9:15 that everyone could debark. Our driver was there early, no problems. OUTSIDE THE CRUISE: We stayed at the Chancery Court Hotel for two nights in London. Easily walkable location to Covent Garden and a few Tube stops from the big tourist destinations. On one of our free days, we took the Eurostar to Paris and spent the day there. Carine at Unique Paris Private Tours (contact@myguideinparis.com) set us up with a chocolate/pastry tour that was a great way to do two things—eat some great food and see some of the non-touristy parts of Paris. It was one of my favorite things I've ever done in the city, and I lived there for several weeks while in college. OVERALL: If you've read this far, you've got some serious endurance! We had a great trip and good to great experiences with all our guides. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask. I think this is old news to those much more experienced cruisers on this board, but during this trip we decided there are two distinct types of people on a cruise: those who cruise for the cruise experience, and those who cruise for the port experience. At this point in time, we fall into the latter category. We went on this cruise because it was a great way to see some destinations we've always wanted to see. But we found that we also enjoyed talking to the cruise-for-the-cruise folks, and many of them on this very board had tremendous suggestions. We kept a very light-hearted blog for our kids while we were gone. It has some photos of the cabin, port experiences, etc. and can be found here: http://3z9q.zapd.co (yes, it's "co" rather than "com) Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Quick Sum first in case you dont want a long review: High Points 1. port intensive with great stops 2. ship's excursions had fantastic guides and drivers 3. the pizza Low Points 1. too many people for the ... Read More
Quick Sum first in case you dont want a long review: High Points 1. port intensive with great stops 2. ship's excursions had fantastic guides and drivers 3. the pizza Low Points 1. too many people for the wait staff to accommodate 2. grouchy and annoyed staff - particularly in dining rooms 3. terrible phone system for reservations and customer service Honorable Mentions 1. lovely ship with nice clean cabins (at least the two I saw..) 2. good food overall; particularly in Crown Grill, Michaelangelo and Davinci 3. Princess does a fairly nice job of wrangling and directing the thousands of people on board in situations like embarkation, disembarkation and round ups for excursions 4. Excellent violin quintet that played in the atrium and had a few concerts. FULL REVIEW: 1. Ship: we had an inside cabin on A deck, really nice and clean and spacious compared to our previous NCL experiences. The bed was very nice and included the extra padding that I had faxed a request for. Our steward was polite and discreet and we never had to wait a single second for anything to be done in our stateroom. We loved the extra closet and dressing space between the bed and bathroom areas - really makes the cabin feel bigger and youre not forced to crawl over your huge luggage to get in and out of bed. Since it was too cold to do much outside we never swam or played golf or anything, but all the recreation areas I saw while walking to and from dinner and the spa were lovely ..the pool at the back of the ship especially. I spent one afternoon at the spa for one of the ships specials, had therapist Vanessa who was charming and did a great job on me, very informative and sweet and not pushy at all about extra services or products. My only issue with the spa was a lack of explanation about what was included with the price of the experience (like sanctuary, steam rooms, hot tubs, robes, etc..) Basically I was just shown into a room and asked to sit down, and then received my massage and was sent on my way. I had to go to the front desk to ask about the sauna and never did receive a tour or robe or sandals. Sorry to sound crabby but I've come to expect that from experiences in spas in hotels - if I pay my $300 I want a robe and slippers ;] 2. Dining: Crown Grill was faaaaantastic, so delicious, GO! Buffet was lackluster and in the mornings waaay too chaotic and busy, but a buffet is hard to manage and everyone knows you cant expect a gourmet dining experience. The pizza was the best Ive ever had in my life, we ate it every single day. International cafe was good too and a great place to pick something up if youre waiting to get off the ship at a port. We chose anytime dining so went to Davinci or Michaelangelo almost every evening.. we had very mixed results. The food was always fantastic, no complaints there ..but the staff just seem so overworked and in general annoyed with the guests. There were exceptions of course and a few friendly ones. .but others were so depressing. I was actually embarassed by their treatment of my parents on certain occasions.. Despite how that sounds we really arent pushy and demanding people (unlike a lot I heard on the ship) but basic requests (like for a glass of iced tea) were often met with obvious annoyance. Overall there was just sort of a chilly 'we hate you' vibe from a lot of the dining staff and it really had an impact on our enjoyment. I don't know how Princess can address this - since so many people use the automatic tipping there isnt really an incentive to BE friendly, but I dont want to have to carry cash either so I"m not sure what the answer is ...all I can say is McDonalds is doing a better job with customer service than Princess is. 3. Excursions (my favorite part!) First, the princess excursions we took were so expensive that I thought they should be ashamed - I mean really ..should it cost $45 a person to take a bus into Edinburgh from South Queensferry? BUT for the most part we really werent disappointed. The guides are really superb and the drivers are great and friendly ...the guides know everything and talk you through the whole place and really take care of you. Someone is doing something right here! one by one: - Guernsey - we did our own thing, the tender process went smoothly (I was really afraid it wouldnt with so many people to get on shore). We went early and got our ticket, made it to shore and walked through town till we found a scooter rental place.. 30 pounds for a while days use, great deal! So we took those and drove around the island and had a great time. You must do this.. - Cobh - we booked in advance with ECoach tours, they got us to Blarney Castle and my husband and I were numbers one and two for the day to kiss the stone. Three cheers for ECoach since I heard that others waited in line so long that eventually they had to give up and leave without accomplishing the task.. Book with ECoach - you wont regret it! After that we did some shopping in the Blarney Woolen Mill (too busy to move or enjoy) and then went on through Cork to Kinsale. Kinsale is nice but if you miss it don't feel too bad ..we liked Cobh better. ECoach got us back - as planned - exactly one hour before the last call for boarding. Three cheers for ECoach! And about 1/3rd the price of the similar ship's excursion which saw less stuff.. - Dublin - weird hours in port, 5:30am to 3:30 pm. We got off at 7am and took a taxi into town, toured Glasnevin Cemetery and then went on to St. Michan's church for their tour. Caught another cab to Dublin Castle and walked to Grafton Street and then St. Stephen's Green - then cab back to the ship. Very nice city, clean and friendly feeling - at least in the touristy parts. Very easy to get around by cab. Huge call next to St. Stephens Green is fun. - Liverpool - We took our first big ships excurions to Conway Castle and BetwysCoed. Very smooth round up process and got on our bus with no trouble. Our guide was pleasant and informative.. Conway Castle and town were a highlight of our trip, really fantastic. Lunch was at Royal Oak Hotel in BetwysCoed - very good, salmon and lamb. Had some time to shop and look around and enjoyed it despite some rain. - Greenock - We got off as soon as the ship allowed and found the train station in Greenock. Took the train into Glasgow for 16 pounds each roundtrip or so and then went on from Glasgow Queen Street station to Stirling Castle (another 9 pounds or so roundtrip). Toured Stirling Castle and Church of the Holyrude - great stuff. Watched our time closely and got back to Glasgow by 2pm. In Glasgow we went to the Cathedral and Necropolis and had lunch at Gandolfi (haggis!), tried to do some shopping but things were closing early. Walked around a bit more and had some coffee at Nero.. started to see some unsavoury types lurking around outside, asking for money and drinking, so we went to the big grocery store and picked up a few things then got back on the train for Greenock. Made it back to the ship by 11pm. - Belfast - Took our second ships tour "Giants Causeway NO Antrim Coast" hahAh love that title.. anyway boarded up with our guide Graham and driver Neville. I LOVELOVELOVE Graham, he was amazing, if they charge extra on the excursions in order to pay more for these fine guides then I begin to get it. He was an absolute pleasure. Funny and knowledgeable and just great. Long ride up to the causeway ..its beautiful.. wish we'd had a bit more sun but no complaints. We had a brush with death as a rogue wave knocked us off our feet - when they say dont go onto the wet rocks I guess they know what theyre talking about.. Saw some seals, took lots of pictures, got back on the bus and drove toward home. Had some quick picture stops at Dunluce Castle and the Rope Bridge. Saw the others below who paid $100 extra for the tour that actually got to walk ont he rope bridge - kind of sad we didnt do it, but ah well.. Drove back to the ship and got off with time leftover to take the free city shuttle into Belfast. How nice of Belfast by the way to provide this.. I think in Dublin there was some kind of shuttle for $8 a person that was provided by the ship (we just took a cab..) but this was very nice. Anyway Belfast was a very pleasant surprise, we didnt see enough but the big shopping area where we were dropped off was great and the town hall was beautiful. I think a person who didnt want to spend money on a tour couldve spent time here and been happy. - Invergordon - Another ship's excursion, this one was Loch Ness & Cawdor Castle.. another great guide, first stop was Cawdor, nice with a great garden. Next was a drive through Inverness (wish the excursion would make a stop here!) and then on to the Loch. Saw Urquhart Castle but no monster. .the whole place was teeming with people, utterly packed, could barely move or see anything ..horrendous. We had two hours here which turned out way too long since it wasnt peaceful or inviting at all. FInally got everyone back on board and made a last stop at Beauly Priory which redeemed the trip since this was the best stop ..very nice old priory with beautiful tombs in a cute little town. Most disappointing excursion this one, If I had it to do again I'dve gotten transportation into Inverness and then figured out a way from there to get to Loch Ness on our own. - South Queensferry/Edinburgh - Im a researcher, and I saw different options for getting into Edinburgh froM SQ - theres the train, up a big set of stairs, and there are maybe a few cabs, and maybe even a city shuttle (never saw this if there was one) ..due to the company of my sheltered parents, the expected busy-ness of the festival, and a love of safety and security - we opted for the $45 per person bus into the city center. This wasnt exactly a mistake, but I think the train couldve been managed, and wouldntve limited us so much in a smaller window of time (bus pickup was 3:30 pm for a 6:30 boarding call! somehow I missed that important detail when booking..). But the drop off point was good and we went straight for the castle, used our Scottish Explorer passes bought ahead at Stirling Castle to skip the line and were guests 1,2,3, and 4 into the Crown Jewels exhibit and the Royal Palace. Well worth the extra money spent ont he Explorers pass! So after beating the huge mob and making it through the castle, we walked back out to the royal mile (past the 100 yard long line of people waiting on tickets) and proceeded to st. giles cathedral, greyfriars church and then on down for some shopping till we got to holyrood palace. Had to skip the tour since short on time, but went up Calton Hill to the Nelson Memorial and then back down to the bus pick up area. Edinburgh is big and wonderful - best city of the trip, we will be making a trip of our own there someday.. Once back in S. Queensferry we walked through the little town and the souvenir shops, bought some scotch tablet candy and then took the tender back to the boat (chaos). Le Havre - we took the ship's excursion to the DDay beaches. I tried everything in advance to find our own way to do this ..looked into overlord tours (booked up), guides by locals (booked up), renting a car (family too chicken) and on and on. In the end we went with the ships excursion, and it really surpassed my expectations. It was pricey but not that much more than the private tour and worth it for the very fine guide and the security of knowing the ship wouldnt leave us. We made it down as far as Pointe du Hoc on Omaha Beach and then had stops for lunch at a golf club, the American Cemetery (time to swim if you want to), Arromanche and then drove past Gold and Juno beaches. We did not see Utah Beach and if we saw Sword I dont remember. The guide was wonderfully informative and the driver very accomodating. Lunch was the best included meal we had on any excursion - salad, wine, chicken, apple pie. 4. MISC: - We stayed at Trafalgar Hilton for two days before the cruise, nice hotel and nice location - right by Buckingham Palace and the National Gallery. We took National Express for 12GBP each from Victoria Station to Southhampton - all easy, Id recommend this. - We used the ship's transfer ($50 pp I think) to get from Southhampton back to Heathrow and then spent a night at the Heathrow Hilton before departing the next day. Nice hotel. Ship's transfer was smooth and the price was reasonable compared to a taxi. - The ships phone systems need some serious work and mostly I refer to the people who answer for the reservations line, front desk and room service. I realize they are annoyed and overworked but do they really have to be so rude and impatient? As an anytime diner there were nights I wanted to make a reservation so that we could be sure of not waiting too long in line at prime time. After waiting on the line for at least five minutes three different times and receiving three different answers about this seemingly simple request I just gave up. Seriously Princess.. the one dark spot in this whole trip was the treatment I was given by certain of your staff. FINAL SUM: - despite that rant above, and I hate how it makes me sound like a pushy and demanding person, but anyway despite that it was a FANTASTIC cruise - I would recommend it to anyone, beautiful ship, great ports of call, tons of excursion options, and very very good food. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour ... Read More
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour group. We met at the Anchorage airport, and took a bus to McKinley Wilderness Lodge. We were there 2 days,and went flight seeing and visited a dog musher camp. Then we went to Denali Princess Lodge. (very nice) We took the Natural History Tour in Denali, and went to the dinner theater. Then we took the Denali Express railway from Denali to Whittier, where we boarded the Coral Princess. We loved coming into Whittier on the train! The domed train was a wonderful way to spend the day in Alaska! So our land tour was the highlight of our trip! The Coral Princess is pretty, but very hard to navigate. Because of the centrium, you have to learn which elevators take you to the level you are trying to go to. We were on Dolphin Deck 9. Coming to our stateroom, the hall smelt like a nursing home. (urine smell in the carpet) That was not a great first impression! But our mini-suite was very nice and spacious. But be aware that if you get a mini suite on the Dolphin level, your balcony is not covered. It was raining on our embarkation day, so we couldn't get out and enjoy our balcony like others could. Our furniture was wet-and we didn't want to stand out in the rain. I wish the balcony had been covered, as they were on other decks. We signed up for traditional dining-which I though was at 6:00 pm and had requested a table for 2 by the window. We were given a table in the middle of the room and our assigned time was 5:30. We thought that was too early. So we met some couples on our land tour-and went to anytime dining with them. But the Coral Princess is very inflexible about the dining rooms. Traditional seating only in one and anytime dining in the other. We liked the freestyle with NCL better. The food was not as good as NCL or Royal Caribbean. But the service was great on Princess. The front desk was very rude. Someone had entered an incorrect number and our credit card was denied. We kept getting letters in our stateroom, telling us our credit card had been denied. It took us 4 days to get that straightened out-and my husband was the one who discovered that the cruise line had entered the wrong number. They were very indifferent about the fact that they were the cause of the credit card problem. But once the correct number was entered- there were no more problems with our credit card!The entertainment was good. We enjoyed the comedian and the singers and dancers were great! It was too cool to use the pool or hot tub, but the pool deck was very pretty. We got a drink card for $9 a day, and it was well worth the money. I loved the virgin pina coladas and their hot chocolate! We loved the pizza and soft serve ice cream on the pool deck! We often took snacks back to our room. We enjoyed the enclosed area on level 15. That was a good place to enjoy the scenery in the rain and wind. We chose Sept. because of the price, but I wished we had gone in May-for about the same price. I heard there is more snow in May and the weather is better. We had a lot of rain and wind. In fact, when we were out in the Pacific we were in 80-100 mph winds (hurricane force wind). Half of the ship, including me- were sea sick. But when the ship got back in protective waters and the waves calmed down, everyone felt better. Alaska is beautiful! If you haven't been you need to go. June, July, and Aug. are the most crowded and most expensive months. If we ever go again, I would like to go in May. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We had this trip booked for 19 months. We were originally booked to go in April but had to reschedule it for personal reasons. We had the great opportunity of being introduced to the Princess Cruise Lines in 2004 through a friend. Our ... Read More
We had this trip booked for 19 months. We were originally booked to go in April but had to reschedule it for personal reasons. We had the great opportunity of being introduced to the Princess Cruise Lines in 2004 through a friend. Our first voyage was on the Golden Princess in July '04. At that time the ship's itinerary was in the Southern Caribbean. Our Room - On our first cruise we had a balcony room on the Baja deck port side aft. And we loved it. For this cruise we had booked the same deck in the same part of the ship. However, we received an e-mail back in May or June that the sailing had been discounted so we upgraded to a mini suite with balcony on the Emerald deck, E720 (port side aft). Also received an additional discount in July which ended up making the price of this room less than what we originally booked the balcony room for. We loved E720 so much. There are only a few suites with balconies on this deck. Our view was totally unobstructed. The mini-suites are amazing. I loved having a bathtub and believe me it was used. Our room Stewart was okay. Not great like the one we had on our first voyage. Our beds were put together as Queen. However, the Steward didn't put the Queen top (not sure what is called) on our bed so the first night we kept slipping in between the twin set-up. I had to look under the bed to find the top and re-make the bed. Also, I thought they used to make those cute towel animals and leave on your bed. We did not get one of those at all :-(. The Room Stewart also came in the room several times after only a couple of quick knocks and we had to scramble to get ourselves together. The Ship - The Ship itself has been remodeled since we were last on her. As far as the ship herself, overall, we enjoyed what she had to offer. The number of pools and jacuzzis are great! We loved The Movies Under the Stars. Very disappointed in the tv program selection. People ask why you want to watch tv on a cruise. But for a 14 day cruise with 8 sea days we did watch some t.v. They forced you to go to the Casino or Player's lounge to watch the Sunday games and some of the World Series so that you would purchase drinks. That was not cool! They could have as well broad-casted them in the staterooms. As far as the Piazza I was somewhat disappointed. There wasn't enough sitting room for the events that they held there. It would often be very overcrowded. The skywalker lounge is a joke! Even on our first voyage. We went up several times after 10pm and if there were 4 or 6 people in there on any given night. The New Deal Band they had playing every night in the Explorer's lounge and at the Captain's farewell party was TERRIBLE. I also found the poolside entertainment lacking. They could have had more parties and music. I was expecting a big Sail-away party on our last Hawaii port but there was NOTHING going on out there. Don't have the production shows on the formal nights. Instead have a band and party held in the Piazza on each of those nights. Starting about 6:00 and going to at least 10 or 10:30. People are all dressed up and want to do something after dinner. One night they had a crew formal party in the Skywalker lounge set for 10:30 but our dinner was over at 7:00 and there was nothing really going on for us to stay dressed in our formals for 3 more hours. The Crew - International Cafe crew staff was not that friendly. Purser's Desk; 2nd day out I had a very unpleasant encounter with a crew member at the purser's desk. I was inquiring about making a reservation in the Bernini Dining room. She basically told me that they do not do that and if I wanted that I should not have chosen anytime dining. After seeing the Patter the next day which read "For dining reservations please dial **** between the hours of 8am and 5pm, I made a formal complaint with the pursers desk Supervisor. Spa; I visited the Spa on two occasions for services and loved the staff there. Internet Cafe; The lady working the desk should be fired!!! She was the most unfriendliest person, 2nd to the purser desk lady, on any ship I've been on. She acted as if you were bothering her when you asked a question. And I think she had surgery to make it so she couldn't smile.... Bernini Room; The dining room staff was GREAT and very accommodating! The Maitre D and our wait staff was excellent. We fell in love with Rico and Anita and from the time we first were sat at their table, #72, we requested them for the remainder of the cruise. Room Stewart; overall he was nice and friendly. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate him a 6. Captain; We got a chance to meet him personally at the Captains Circle Cocktail Party. We were late and evidently he had greeted the guests at the door. When we went up to take a picture with him at the end He was extremely nice and mentioned that he did not see us at the greeting. Photographers; They were very pushy. I was not always in the mood to take pictures. If I say no, that is what I mean is no. I should have to argue with you over not wanting to have my picture taken. Also, in the dining rooms your wait staff should ask you if you want your picture taken and then inform the photographer. Not them interrupting your dinner and conversation to try to have you buy in to more photos. The Food - There were only a few days that I was really interested in eating in the Bernini dining room. I didn't much care for any of the selections they had. Also, I was looking for lobster night earlier on. I also thought they used to have a steak entree the same night as the lobster entree. So that way you could order both and have surf and turf. But they didn't. Also, found that they were having King crab that wasn't advertised on the menu. Not sure why that is. If it hadn't of been my birthday, we probably would have missed out on it because I didn't see anything I wanted when I went down earlier that day to see what was being served. My husband wanted to eat in there that night so we did. The Horizon buffet was okay. They seemed to repeat allot of the dishes (tried to change them up a little, but they were basically the same). Loved the British Pub lunches in the Crown Grill that were complimentary. I also thought that before you were able to order sodas, complimentary, with your meals in the Bernini & Donatello dining room. Maybe, I'm wrong. The Ports and Sea Days - Overall I think that the ship had quite a bit to do on Sea days. Except for poolside entertainment and activities. I really loved the ports of call. The only ship excursion we took was in Oahu. The USS Arizona and City Tour. Meeting in the Princess Theatre at 8:40am for our tour was the worst experience I had on the ship. We waited over an hour before our group was called. By the time we were called and got to our bus we found out that we would not be able to do the Memorial until 1pm. The excursion is listed as Memorial then City tour to follow. So we had to go ahead with the City Tour first. The City Tour was TERRIBLE. It was as if our driver with Robert's Hawaii, was not prepared. It felt like he had never done the City Tour before. And no kidding, he actually took several wrong turns and had us on the wrong freeway at one point. When we got to the Visitor Center 2 1/2 hours before our tour time, they had 2 tickets for our group for the 11:30 am tour and rest of the group had to go at 12:30 (starts with a film that you see first). We went at 11:30. So we had an hour before and hour after are show to walk around. After finding out that the admittance to the Memorial and Visitor Center is free and that you are basically paying for the transportation and City Tour, I was upset. We wasted four hours that could have been used seeing more of Oahu. I enjoyed Kauai but not really much to do on this Port. Don't know Hawaii well, but wonder if there is another port they could substitute. I loved all the other Ports of call especially Maui. I would love if they could take Kauai off and do stay two days in Maui. That would be great! Disembarkation - First of all, we had listed our flight info through Princess website 3 weeks prior to sailing. I didn't see the slip they had slid under our door requesting this info again. That must be why they had us scheduled to disembark at 10:30. Our flight out was at 12:30. The next day after getting our disembark time, I went down to have it changed. There was an elderly couple at one of the desk also trying to get there time change. They also did not see the slip that put under their door. The crew member assisting them was not helpful or friendly in the least. She told them that there was not any room on any of the earlier shuttles. They would have to take their own luggage off and arrange their own transportation if they wanted something earlier. When they asked to speak with a Supervisor she told them that they would be given the same info and that she did not have anyone for them to talk to. They would need to go up to the Purser's desk. However, the other crew member that was assisting another couple was on the phone to someone and I overhead him say that their computers showed everything was full. But I guess that wasn't correct cause they gave him some info which he wrote down. And when he was off the phone he gave the couple their earlier disembark time and new luggage tags. Thankfully, he was available when it was my turn. And it was just that easy for me. I am not sure why the other lady gave the elderly couple such a hard time. I felt so bad for them. And come to find out our bus to the airport was only half full! Also, I am not sure if Princess has anything to do with the San Pedro Port employees. However, they did not have enough people to assist you with your luggage. They were only two guys with flat beds for over 100 people in our area. It was ridiculous. We somehow gathered all 6 of our pieces and made our way through the customs desk and out to the shuttle. Very unorganized! I myself would like to try another cruise line. My "DP" on the other hand doesn't much like change and wants to stay with Princess. Overall, I would be willing to give them another try. I just hope the few bad experiences we had would not be relived! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We live close enough to drive to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. We stayed just across in New jersey on Friday night. Our embarkation was easy and well organized. We received an upgrade to our Balcony and ended up on Deck 14 (Riviera)just ... Read More
We live close enough to drive to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. We stayed just across in New jersey on Friday night. Our embarkation was easy and well organized. We received an upgrade to our Balcony and ended up on Deck 14 (Riviera)just below the Pizza Station. This deck is noisy from all of the activity on the lido deck and we would not choose this on our own. The bed was configured as a queen so where the two twins come together was a hump with sagging in the middle. While I normally like a flat pillow our was too flat with lumps. Deck 14 was added during a refurb according to a discussion I had with some members of the crew. Our cabin was the smallest we have had on our five cruises. The addition of cabins really tasked the common areas especially on a Fall New England Cruise. The Caribbean Princess does not have a sliding room for the pool area so most of the passengers were inside. Seating at the shows in the Theater were difficult to find and we missed several due to our seating time of 5:45. When we finished and tried to get a seat there was standing room only. Our cabin Attendant was good as wasd our Dining room waiter and assistant. We would recommend this cruise for other folks but choose cabin with care and maybe earlier in the season when weather is warmer to relieve the congestion in the common areas. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
My wife and I are in our early 50's and we chose this cruise because it was 10 days long instead of the usual 7 day cruises that we have been on in the past. It always seems like 7 days is just a little too short. This was our first ... Read More
My wife and I are in our early 50's and we chose this cruise because it was 10 days long instead of the usual 7 day cruises that we have been on in the past. It always seems like 7 days is just a little too short. This was our first time on Princess and we were interested on how it compared to Royal Caribbean, which is the only line we have cruised on before. The demographic was definitely much older than RCL and probably had something to do with the length of the cruise and it being during the school year. I swear there were only about 6 kids on the whole ship. Flew into Ft Lauderdale the night before, stayed in a hotel, and was efficiently shuttled to the pier by the hotel. Boarding was efficient, no long lines, and we were aboard and checking out our stateroom in a matter of minutes. Plenty of ship employees offering directions and assistance. We went up to the Horizon to have a bite of lunch and by the time we got back to the stateroom, all the luggage had arrived. The ship was beautiful as well as clean and well-maintained. Although this ship is the same size as the RCL ships we've sailed on in the past, where the RCL ship is very open, Princess divides the ship up into a lot more separate and intimate areas. First time we've ever booked an inside room and it worked out fine. We've found in the past, we spend very little time in the room and any extra features just go to waste with us. Wall to wall mirrors at each end of the room make it appear much larger than it actually is. We went with the scheduled 8:15 pm dinner in the dining room because we like to have plenty of time from playing on the islands to get ready for dinner. We had 2 other great couples at our table and thoroughly enjoyed their company the entire cruise. The waiters were great, attentive, courteous, and friendly, with some personality. The food was delicious, well prepared, and there was a good variety. We ate breakfast everyday in the Horizon and the food was very good. There were several staples that you could count on every morning, but they offered some different items each day as well. We did not go hungry. Breakfast was somewhat challenging when looking for a table to sit at once you had your food. But, we were able to share tables with others, and quite often met some pretty interesting people. Although breakfast was quite busy, we never really stood in any long lines to get our food. We would often have lunch or snack from the café in the atrium. The shrimp salad is awesome and of course, they had all kinds of desserts available from the bakery. Sometimes lunch was pizza or burgers by the pool, which was very good. Get a big plate of fries and finish it off with some soft ice cream from the ice cream bar. The one place where we feel that Princess fell down pretty severely was the entertainment. After cruising with RCL we were kind of spoiled by the quality of the production shows and the quality of the musicians and groups. Other than the Beatles show, most of the shows were pretty average and mostly lip-synched. We have always enjoyed a good piano bar guy, but the one on this cruise was pretty bad. If you like 30's show tunes he is your man, but his voice is not very good and probably should have retired a few years back. There was one band that seemed to play all the time. They had them play during the day and were the one group that played well into the evening. They were very, very average at best and were way over exposed, as we heard some of their tunes over and over. There was one good jazz band, but they always finished right about the time we were finishing dinner. We got to hear them once for 15 minutes and they were excellent. And this is where the main problem lies. The scheduling was terrible. It seemed like a lot of the shows and music conflicted with dinner and each other. We've never been on a cruise where we had so much difficulty with the schedule. Yes, you usually have to make choices, but that wasn't the case here. The schedule is simply not well thought out. And, I don't know if it's because of the age of most of the folks on board, but any nightlife after 10 pm was severely limited. A bright point was the string quartet that played in the atrium every day. They were quite good. We made 6 ports on the cruise. We found something to enjoy on each one. We're not big shoppers, so we pretty much turn a deaf ear to all the sales pitches, both on the ship and on the shore. In the past, we've taken excursions through the ship, but this time we decided to go out on our own. I just googled info for every island we were going to visit and decided on the best beaches to visit. Then it was simply a matter of getting a taxi, water taxi, or public bus to take us where we wanted to go. Most of the time this took us away from the rest of the tourists and often it felt like we had the island to ourselves. We never felt uneasy or unsafe at any of the locations. Princess Cayes -��" only stop where we had to tender to the beach. We walked all the way to the end of the beach and were all by ourselves. People have a tendency to walk a few feet from the dock and stop. Walk a little more and you will have a lot more quiet and you can relax. St. Thomas -��" taxi to Koki beach. A little bit more of a locals beach, but absolutely beautiful. White, sandy beaches and some pretty good snorkeling. Bring your own gear and you never have to worry about renting or finding a place to rent. Dominica -��" taxi to Champagne beach. Not much in the way of sandy beaches on this island, but some pretty decent snorkeling. Bubbles come up out of the ocean floor from volcanic fissures. Grenada -��" walked around the town, soaked up the scenery, perused the fort on the hill, and enjoyed some time with the locals in the marketplace. Then a water taxi to Grand Anse, a nice, white sandy beach away from everyone else. No decent snorkeling, but some nice relaxation in the surf. There are so many very nice beaches on Grenada. Bonaire -��" a little walking around the town while we waited for our turn on the water taxi and then we were on the boat and headed out to Klein Bonaire. The best snorkeling and an awesome beach as well. The water is crystal clear and the reef is pristine. Aruba -��" much more commercialized than any other island. But, we hopped on the public bus and for $1.50 it took us all the way to the end of the island where we plopped down on Arashi beach, another beautiful sandy beach. Snorkeling wasn't bad either. We relaxed, away from the hotels and Burger Kings, and pretty much all the other tourists. The two sea days on the way back to Ft Lauderdale allowed us to relax and take in some of the amenities of the ship that we had missed when we were on the islands. The big screen over the pool is pretty cool. Make sure to have the afternoon tea and absolutely have the scones. Getting off the ship was a breeze and we went ahead and had Princess shuttle us and our luggage to the airport. Bottom line, it was a nice, relaxing, enjoyable cruise. We never felt on edge or that we needed to be somewhere at a certain time. Probably because we didn't book excursions or worry about the shopping demo's. The food was very good, the service was excellent. I can honestly say I did not have one ship employee act anything less than helpful and friendly. The ship-board entertainment was disappointing, but the islands more than made up for that.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Had fun arriving in Ft Lauderdale a day ahead and meeting with some cruise critic members. Getting on the ship was fairly quick...to the waiting room. We had to wait two hours to actually get into the ship because of it coming back from ... Read More
Had fun arriving in Ft Lauderdale a day ahead and meeting with some cruise critic members. Getting on the ship was fairly quick...to the waiting room. We had to wait two hours to actually get into the ship because of it coming back from the Med and needing the US coast guard to clear it. I had an idea this was going to happen from reading CC posts but others were in the dark, especially the people standing outside in the hot sun for two hours. It was close to 2:00 before we got on the ship so we never even had a chance to do the scavenger hunt. People were just wanting to eat something and get settled before the muster drill. This was our first Princess cruise..we love Royal Caribbean so we did a lot of comparing. I thought our balcony room was designed well with lots of storage space. I loved the balcony especially the flooring (not cement). The bed was pretty comfy after getting a topper. The ship was very pretty and clean. The design of the floors was close to the design of the other ships we've been on. The breakfast buffet was very good..one of the best. I thought the dinner buffet was good too, dh didn't. He loved the pizza and hamburgers. International cafe had wonderful desserts, the other food looked good too. The MDR was fine nothing to brag about. I could always find something I liked but Im not picky. We did have anytime dining and I really liked not having to rush to dinner any night. I did miss having the same waiter because anytime isn't very personal. We never had a problem getting a table any night. We tried Sabitinis for our anniversary and were greatly disappointed. It seemed like they were having an off night. Food and service were very bad. Many people around us were sending food back to the kitchen. They did bring us a cake and sing Happy Anniversary which I thought was a nice touch. Our room attendant was the very best. Anything we needed we got. He always had the biggest smile for us. Here's what we hated...the casino and the drinks. Any drink I had was watered down. Good thing I was able to bring wine on board because this is what I drank all week. I love a cosmo with dinner but they were sooo bad I resorted to wine. We love to spend some time in the casino and have done extremely well on RCI. The casino on this ship was sooo bad. The slot machines were the tightest we've ever played. We didn't see anyone win a thing. On the last day of the cruise I was having dinner with regular Princess cruisers and they told me Princess casinos are known for not paying out much money. Wish I learned this on day one. Our ports were just ok on this cruise, Princess Cays, St Martin(my favorite) St Thomas and Grand Turk. We mostly took this cruise to experience the ship not the ports. Because we met some very nice people it made this cruise enjoyable. Our last cruise on RCI Adventure of the Seas was exceptional that this one was a bit of a disappointment. Would I cruise Princess again..probably, if the ports were really good and a different ship. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Boarding the Grand Princess was very good and the personnel were friendly. We were told that we didn't have a room so they set up one for us. We were given a blue sign and sail card which implies that we were first time cruisers. ... Read More
Boarding the Grand Princess was very good and the personnel were friendly. We were told that we didn't have a room so they set up one for us. We were given a blue sign and sail card which implies that we were first time cruisers. No credit given to our six previous cruises. After boarding we headed right for our cabin and discovered it was a mini cabin with fold out beds from the wall. Right away it was apparent that we would either bump our heads or a body part just standing up from the bed, so in the middle of the night I had to reach my hand up and make a check as to where that bed was so as to miss it! Our cabin steward was Pablo and he was nothing short of excellent. We had an early dinner reservation and the first time eating was nothing short of mass confusion since there was also a line for people without reservations and nobody bothered telling all of us until we got to the front and were asked to go to the reservation line. Our food service was also excellent and the food was fantastic. Our servers were Roberto, Nole and Javes and they all did a fantastic job making us feel like family. The very next morning I went to the Lido deck to get coffee and juice and found out there was NO hot chocolate or juice bar. You literally had to ask someone to get either, which we found to be a complete waste of manpower. At noon we were told we had to buy juice if we wanted it with our lunch.....how wrong is this after spending nearly $200 a day to enjoy a little luxury in life. During the day we decided to use the jacuzzi at the rear of the ship only to find one of them was broken for the remainder of the cruise. In the Casino there was a broken slot machine and like a miracle it was fixed right away! Maybe because it was income producing unlike steam rooms or jacuzzi's! We had decided to snorkel in Aruba so we booked it on board. When we boarded the catamaran we were herded like cattle since it was obvious they completely overbooked that tour. It was almost OK right up until the rain started, then everyone wanted to snuggle up under the small roof. Even with all this ocean for the first time in seven years of cruising people actually bumped into me in the water. Since I wanted to use the internet everyday, one day it was completely shut down for some kind of maintenance. This went on for hours and with no reasonable explanation. You'd think at .75 cents a minute that it would be OK to use anytime. All in all it was an OK cruise with the exception of all the broken things and the massive disorganization. We can honestly say this was our first and last cruise with Princess. They don't get a second chance with us since we've had superior service on all our previous cruises. Over the following eight days we found the other jacuzzi's broken, the steam room was out of order, an elevator was broken. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Embarkation and disembarkation was very easy. We arrived early 11am for 1pm and were allowed on at 11:45. Luggage arrived promptly. Disappointed in the buffet so never went back there. Ate all our meals in the dining room and enjoyed the ... Read More
Embarkation and disembarkation was very easy. We arrived early 11am for 1pm and were allowed on at 11:45. Luggage arrived promptly. Disappointed in the buffet so never went back there. Ate all our meals in the dining room and enjoyed the food. Friendly staff and good service.The only problem was finding the dining room. Very strange layout on this ship. Afternoon tea was delightful. No wine package for white wines. Itinerary was good. Only did one tour at Tauranga. Very enjoyable despite pouring with rain all day. Entertainment mixed. Crowded venues for some of the entertainment which was in one of the bars. Disappointed in the fact they had no lecture series. Disappointed in the way people dressed on formal nights and in general. Inconsistent temperatures around the ship. Some places were like an ice box. Now for the big negative. Our bed was terrible. So hard we couldn't sleep the first night. The worst bed we have ever slept on on a cruise ship or anywhere else for that matter.After complaining they put on a cheesy cheap mattress topper which had not been aired and therefore gave us a second sleepless night because of the smell. In the end they brought us old ones and 2 of them. We finally slept. Could not watch TV in bed because the TV was adjacent to the bed. You could only watch by lying crosswise on the bed. How ridiculous is that. I took my own hairdryer because I read someone complain about the one in the room on cruise critic. I was glad I did because the one they provided was useless for styling short hair. It had a rectangular outlet 2"X5"! We also took along an adapter with 3 outlets(2 provided in the room) Read that on cruise critic. If only Princess had got the bed right from the start what a difference it would have made. It has made me wary of sailing with them again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Just back from our third (& ever) Princess Cruise. 1st was Mexican Rivera (just my wife and I) on the Sun. Then the family (us & 3 boys then 7,14, 16) eastern Caribbean in a family suite were surprised to be upgraded to!. This ... Read More
Just back from our third (& ever) Princess Cruise. 1st was Mexican Rivera (just my wife and I) on the Sun. Then the family (us & 3 boys then 7,14, 16) eastern Caribbean in a family suite were surprised to be upgraded to!. This trip was for our 20th wedding anniversary.. kind of. Really all we wanted was a break after many years of not taking one with each other. While I can/could expand on all of the points I'll mention, I thought at this point (exhausted) I'd just hit all the key points. Here we go: The ship - CREAKS LIKE CRAZY!. First night was kind of choppy, but even on smooth knights our room (and many others we met) groaned like the Titanic. Carpets on Dolphin deck need replacing. Room (a mini suite) was wonderful though we now realize ours (D715) was a starboard side where every port we came into was Port. GET a port side room!. Ask for bathrobes as soon as you get on board. Fruit juice and water are premium stuff. Grab fruit juice to go at breakfast (if you like it later in the day). Bring a water bottle to refill daily. The gym area SUCKS for water. Warm low pressure dribbling water fountain is all they offer. Regarding the gym (which we attended daily): Only two sit down bikes and a handful of ellipticals. Also doesn't open until 7am! COME ON PRINCESS!!! Let's open the gym by 6am so we hardy morning folks can get moving and how about some source of cold water!?. Movie's under the stars were fantastic. Blankets and padded chairs made for a nice cozy closing to a full day (for us at least). Casino staff were rigid and a bit stand off(ish). International Cafe was a nice touch, but I had to go get a copy of the receipt for the card I purchased because ??? I purchased it ???. Pain in the butt - why even issue the card without stapling the receipt if necessary?. Did the Captains Table - DO THIS!!! Most wonderful part of our on board cruise. DO a cabana ($199) at Princess Cay's. Didn't the first time - thrilled we did it this time. Did Con Tiki beach in Curacao and it was ok (bring money- food costs). The dive (per Princess) in Aruba was fantastic and easy to get to. Best excursion of this trip (for us anyway). Walking distance from the ship is a cuban restaurant/bar that has great Mojitos and decent food - actually it was fantastic!. Curacao is a bit industrial and feels a bit scary (around the ship area). The Crown dining room was pretty good food. Sabatinis was just ok this time. The Horizon buffet was the same as always (not sure what it compares to, but having asked other multi cruise line folks it's above average). Did the couples massage (my first) - nice but like so many other things they try to sell you more stuff. Bottom line - great time though the Crown needs a major dry dock. And while I realize it will never happen, I'd LOVE a break from all the sales pitches. Drinks (even beer) are expensive ($7.95 cocktails/ wine, $4.95 domestic beer, $7.65 Fosters can). Crew was wonderful (as always) and activity choices were plentiful. In all I had a good time - BUT... after speaking with folks departing the MASSIVE Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) I'm actually tempted to try them out (the dark side?). Anyway, that's the "nut shell" summary of our trip on Crown. Chow! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Background Information My wife and I were looking for a relaxing cruise. No pressure, few ports, easy shore exclusions. We had sailed on Carnival twice and before and were eager to try Princess Hotel Info We stayed in Fort Lauderdale ... Read More
Background Information My wife and I were looking for a relaxing cruise. No pressure, few ports, easy shore exclusions. We had sailed on Carnival twice and before and were eager to try Princess Hotel Info We stayed in Fort Lauderdale the night before departure at the Renaissance (Marriott) on 17th Street, right near the cruise terminal. It was very nice, clean and amazingly convenient. A Walgreen's across the street was the perfect spot to buy last minute items like water and forgotten toiletries. Travel To Port of Embarkation We waited at our hotel until 1:30PM and took a five minute cab ride to the port. We literally walked directly on. I couldn't believe how empty it was. I asked the check in clerk and she said it had been very busy earlier. So the advice is clear: don't be afraid to wait and avoid the lines. Stateroom We had a mini-suite on the Dolphin Deck (9). I like this deck because its between two cabin decks and is generally very quiet. Our cabin was starboard and very close the back of the ship. The room was great: nice balcony, a sofa area with second flat screen TV. The bathroom had a full tub/shower. The water flow, pressure and temperature in the shower were fabulous. Since the stern stairs and elevator don't open on the promenade decks, we did a lot of walking to mid-ship. On a ship this size, its not very far so we didn't mind. Ship Info The Grand is a good size ship, not giant by today's standard- but several venues with stuff going on. The ship's restoration is really nice. The multi-story Piazza area is very nice. Dining We ate anytime dining and only had to wait briefly once. The menu is good, and the food well prepared. I wasn't totally happy with the selection some nights, but with the every night choices of steak, chicken and salmon - whats to not like? The buffet on the Lido deck was very good (better than I've seen on Carnival). It was self-service, IMHO better than waiting for staff to give you the portions they choose. Variety was excellent and quality high. The breakfast had everything you could want - we eat it most days as seated breakfast ended at 9:30. Lunch was nice, and we ate it at sea when we didn't like the choices in the dining room.We did eat at Sabatini's - the up-charge Italian dinner ($25/person). Well worth it- we had lobster and steak- the best meal on the cruise by far. Activities We played trivia and passenger feud - both fun. The casino was OK, but slow. I guess that's more a statement about the passengers than the Casino. The daily Holdem tournaments were fun (played in 2 - won once); unfortunately the last day we didn't have enough players for it. On other cruises I've been on the table is busy constantly. The crap table was only open after 9pm. Service The service was very good. Our steward Jessy was very responsive when needed; and behind the scenes when not. Our room was refreshed every time we went out. Dining staff was good to very good. With anytime dining you see a lot of waitstaff, and they aren't specifically being tipped by you. I thought this would lower the service level, but it didn't. Some staff knew to serve from the left and clear from the right - but others didn't. Regardless, staff was responsive and focused on their diners. Entertainment Brad Stevens, the pianist in the Crooner's bar nightly was GREAT. The "dive in" movies were fun. Basically 2-3 films a day on the giant screen at the pool deck. Good movies in the staterooms too. Not a lot of choice on TV- why don't they have CNN? Disembarkation We did the AMAZING "direct check" of luggage. For $20, Princess checks you in for the return flight, prints your return boarding passes, and checks you luggage all the way from your stateroom to your final airport destination. Yes - no luggage to find and pass through customs- it all goes automatically to your flight. We were supposed to disembark at eight. Instead we ate breakfast and at 9:30 stood in a short line and left. With no bags to deal with, transfer and customs was a breeze Summary This is a great cruise for people who want to take it slow. There is a lot of time on the ship. Three days at sea, and landfall at Curacao isn't till 1PM. We wanted a slow pace and found it. Final Note: There was a private 50s/60s rock concerts series thingy all week. It tied up several of the venues. I think the cruise line should tell you about these type of private events at time of booking. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
My boyfriend and I went on the New Years Cruise aboard The Emerald Princess.I personally have been on many cruises prior with Family and friends, but this was the first time for my boyfriend. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the night ... Read More
My boyfriend and I went on the New Years Cruise aboard The Emerald Princess.I personally have been on many cruises prior with Family and friends, but this was the first time for my boyfriend. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the night prior and stayed at The Embassy Suites Hotel.The following day we arrived at Port Everglades. From my previous experience I have found that if you check in later, there are no line ups and you will board with NO WAITING.We got acquainted with the Ship and enjoyed the sail away party. We are both fitness buffs and went to the gym the first day. In order to use the equipment, we had to dodge the Spa and Fitness people who were trying to sell all their wares on the first day of the Cruise.The Gym was very well equipped and we went there everyday of the cruise. We basically enjoyed the food but found ourselves at the buffet for the majority of our meals.We prefer to dine casually and the buffet had many choices daily. We really enjoyed the Steak House and Sabatinis Restaurant. Both restaurants were well worth the surcharge with excellent service and Meal options.The Continental Cafe is a great place to relax and have a cappuccino.We purchased the coffee card as we don't like the coffee served in the buffet areas and it was supposed to save us money. Unfortunately this was not the case as most of the time the espresso machine was not operable.So much for saving money... We like to go and see all the entertainment the ship has to offer, so we attended most of the Broadway style singing and dancing shows, however, I realized quickly that my boyfriend was not a fan of those shows as he wanted to leave those particular shows as soon as they started...We missed the first Comedian, but did see Al Katz. He did a good job, but his material seemed a little dated and geared for an older audience.There was a hypnotist named Fernandez who was excellent. This show was hilarious. I have personally seen many hypnotists during my university years and I appreciated that he did not do any offensive material with the people who volunteered. The bands in the Explorers Lounge and Club Fusion were very good with lots of musical variety. We really enjoyed the 70's night party. The Cruise Director Tim and his staff were very friendly and did a great job.We ran into him all over the ship. We are not gamblers, but did play the slots a few nights, unfortunately Lady luck was never on our side. The casino seemed to have a lot to offer if you played table games. Because our cruise was during the Holidays, there seemed to be a lot of children running around the deck unattended, on some Sea days the Hot Tubs were filled with kids, making it impossible for adults to even get near. The moral of the story is don't cruise during the Holidays if you expect any relaxation time on the pool decks, too many kids splashing, screaming and running around. We didn't take any of the shore tours offered by Princess and elected instead to go beaching on every Island.We just hopped in cabs and made our own way. We especially liked the beaches in Antigua. The disembarkation was very smooth and well handled, no delays. All in all, we really enjoyed This cruise, and will definitely be booking Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We did back to back sailings on the Grand in February -- the 4th and 11th. This was the 6th time we have sailed on Princess to celebrate our Valentine's Day wedding anniversary (31 years). We like the Grand and have sailed on her a ... Read More
We did back to back sailings on the Grand in February -- the 4th and 11th. This was the 6th time we have sailed on Princess to celebrate our Valentine's Day wedding anniversary (31 years). We like the Grand and have sailed on her a total of 107 days before these cruises, and were especially interested in seeing all the changes that were made during her major dry-dock. And yes, we were mostly impressed. While we still miss Skywalkers (had some wonderful times there that are now fond memories) the One5 club is very nice. For the most part the changes are positive. Last year we celebrated on the Emerald and they had a mass renewal of vows ceremony in the piazza that was fun, the Grand was nicely decorated for Valentine's Day but that was it. Overall it was a good cruise. Embarkation As almost always embarkation was fast and efficient. Our in-transit embarkation for the second cruise was a little different from other B2bs we have done, perhaps because there were 860 people doing B2B so there was no special attention. We joined the masses milling around on deck 5 at the designated time where security advised us to wait "a few minutes" before we disembarked. After a while we were released and headed down into the terminal and through customs, where the guides told us to go through the door on the right if we wanted to go back directly on the ship. We did so, and were herded into a waiting area where we sat as directed, and it wasn't long before we were headed back onto the ship. So it wasn't so bad but many of those we talked with were wishing Princess still had a true 14 day itinerary in the Caribbean rather than just 7 day cruises that require a return to Fort Lauderdale and an in-transit day. We loved the 14 day Caribbean Collection they did on the Grand the last few years and took it annually. Since retirement we can take cruises longer than 7 days so will be looking at other cruise lines for real 14 day cruises rather than wasting the days sailing back to Fort Lauderdale only to have more sea days returning to the Caribbean. The other problem with combined 7 day cruises is that the standard 7 day cruise model repeats -- same menus, entertainment, even jokes on the Wake show -- so it can get less interesting. The Ship We have always enjoyed the Grand, especially the Vista Lounge (a much better second theatre than Club Fusion) and The Conservatory -- the covered Calypso pool area where you can actually read with some peace and quiet (compared to the larger ships where MUTS and Neptune pool activities seem to compete by turning up the volume controls so all you end up hearing is loud noise.) The Grand had seemed less crowded than the larger ships when we sailed her in the past but this time it seemed more crowded. The enhancements made to the piazza are very nice and opening up the area under Skywalkers a welcome addition. The separate pastry and dessert station in Horizon Court (HC) seems to improve traffic flow at the "real food" stations but can block transit through HC itself. Seating areas in the HC seem very crowded. While most of the changes are positive there are some negatives. There was a lot of space given to Leaves (tea bar and library) where it is much harder to see what books are on fewer shelves as the tables and chairs are too close to the books, and there seem to be fewer books. Interestingly we have only seen a few people having "customized tea service" at Leaves so that looks like a big waste of valuable space. The Captains Circle Host and the Future Cruise Consultant now share a very small closet type space next to the Crown Grill with only 2 chairs provided for passengers waiting to see either of them. This is very different from the old Grand where there was sufficient space to wait as well as explore future cruise options on the computers there. So good luck if you want to book a cruise onboard, might be best just to get some future cruise credits and talk to your travel agent. The Grand seems to be famous for elevator problems noted in reviews, but with no passenger stairs midship from decks 7-14 those elevators do require a bit more patience than usual. Overheard a funny conversation in one of those elevators where a woman was complaining that "they took out the midship passenger stairs during the dry dock" -- and other passengers agreed with her! The Ports Our cruise was a combination of an Eastern and Southern itinerary. We have been to all these ports before and all have unique things to offer. The old forts at San Juan are very interesting and you can easily spend all day exploring them if you like old forts. On this itinerary the ship does not arrive in San Juan until 4 pm so your daylight viewing hours are very limited. We opted for a short walk around town while it was still light. And if you are interested in rum and other such libations be sure to check out the clearance store on the first floor of the terminal, some amazing two for one offers there. St Martin is unique with its French and Dutch sides, and interesting beaches. And of course there is shopping. St Thomas is our shopping favorite and we like the Havensight dock rather than Crown Bay -- the Grand docked at Havensight this time so that was a plus -- some nice purchases to celebrate Valentine's Day. The weather at Princess Cay was absolutely beautiful so we decided to go ashore -- not our usual activity as we often just stay onboard and enjoy the ship rather than do the tendering process. We remember when Princess Cay had a few hammocks and a few chairs, it has been vastly improved since then so if the weather is good we'll probably do it again. But on our second week the weather was not so good, and with heavy swells the Captain decided that tendering was not an option so we headed for Curacao without stopping at Princess Cay. Curacao is unique with its brightly colored buildings (story is that started when the mayor decided that buildings should be painted in different colors, and the inside story is that the major owned a paint company.) It is an easy walk into town and the swing bridge is an experience not to be missed. And lastly Aruba -- desert and goats and beaches and shopping. Unique to this itinerary are the evening hours in both San Juan and Curacao, with scheduled arrival times at 4 pm and 1 pm respectively. With the cancellation of the Princess Cay stop on the second week we arrived in Curacao 3 hours early at 10 am so there were more daylight hours to sightsee. The Cabin We are booked on the 49 day around South America cruise on the Grand in January 2013 in cabin C412 so we decided to book it on this cruise just to make sure it was what we wanted to spend 49 days in. It is an interior cabin midship on Caribe deck. For a basic cabin it was fine, although we would highly recommend the twin bed configuration rather than queen as it seems to have so much more room that way. The only negative was with the bathroom towels that at times were well worn and harsh, the kind you might get in a cheap motel. Pity the poor passengers who get sunburned and have to use those towels! The Food and Service Our basic conclusion was that food on the Grand overall is rated good. We had some dishes that were absolutely great and well deserving as being rated excellent, but also some surprises that were not so good -- major problem being overcooked, especially the lobster and lamb. Service was also generally good to very good, especially when we had waiters we have known before on other cruises. In the buffet area service level can range from overbearing -- how many times will they ask if you want juice -- to almost non-existent if you are seated in the deck area by the pools. Seems that on every cruise something happens that is really funny and this time it involved a passenger and Horizon Court servers. Apparently the passenger was getting irritated because no one offered coffee to him so he got up to get it himself. A server walked by and took his plate and cleared off his table. The guy came back with his coffee but his breakfast was gone -- not a happy way to start the day! He stomped off apparently in disgust, maybe looking for someone to yell at. So as they say your results may vary, and that might explain why some reviews are so positive and others so negative. The major negative for us from a food perspective is that the dining room is now closed for lunch on port days. That won't affect those passengers who spend all their port time ashore or usually do the buffet, but for those of us who miss their favorite luncheon menu items in the dining room setting it is just another example of obvious Princess cutbacks that diminish the Princess experience. The Entertainment If you have cruised on Princess before you have no doubt seen the current production shows, perhaps many times. We have seen them all many many times so we didn't go this cruise. We did see some really good acts, including Michael Wilson a comic impressionist, Juan Carlos guitarist from San Juan and his four dancing ladies (folkloric show while in San Juan), and a comedy/magician show by Christopher James. The Ultimate Deck Party was fun, and it is always interesting to drop in on the theme night parties. We enjoyed the art auctions as usual as well as getting some good books from the library. As they say there is indeed something for everyone on a cruise. Disembarkation The process was simple and on time although the lines at customs were long and I always seem the pick the one that is the slowest. Highlights We have cruised a lot on Princess and the most traveled passenger luncheon is always a highlight. Our major goal for this cruise was to celebrate our anniversary and relax, and we did exactly that. We will be back on the Grand repeating this 14 day itinerary in November/December to celebrate my birthday. Happy Cruising... Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
FORT LAUDERDALE, THURS, FEB 2 - We flew to FL a week early to visit family and take a side trip to Key West. We are staying at the Extended Stay America on SE 17th St. We arrived at 11am and our room was ready! The front desk was ... Read More
FORT LAUDERDALE, THURS, FEB 2 - We flew to FL a week early to visit family and take a side trip to Key West. We are staying at the Extended Stay America on SE 17th St. We arrived at 11am and our room was ready! The front desk was extremely helpful recommending places for lunch and activities. We made our reservation for the cruise shuttle with the front desk. We are getting the 9:30 shuttle. I know it's a little early, but I'd rather wait at the port and be first in line! We also had to drop our rental car off. There is a Budget in "The Quay" shopping center directly across the street from the hotel. It's the shopping center in front of the Renaissance Hotel, with the Bimini Boatyard restaurant. This was extremely convenient! After we returned the car and got situated in our room, we headed out to lunch. We went to Gyroville. Again, directly across the street from the hotel. That street is kind of tricky to cross! Be careful! We did a little bit of shopping after lunch at the Dollar Store, Ross, and the liquor store. When we got back to the hotel I did a load of laundry, so all of our clothes will be clean for the cruise! If you do laundry on vacation, do yourself a favor and pick up some Purex 3-in-1 sheets. I packed a few and they take up hardly any room. It looks like a dryer sheet. You throw it in the washer and it has detergent and fabric softener built in. Then you throw it in the dryer as a dryer sheet! Ingenious! Now it's around 4pm and we head over to Bimini Boatyard for happy hour. They have $4 apps and half price beer, wine and well drinks starting at 4pm. We didn't partake in their happy hour specials, but ordered rum runners. They were delicious! After our cocktail, we headed down to water to catch the water taxi (only $10 after 5pm). Again, we crossed the street, but this time at the light so it was no problem. If you walk straight down 17th street, to the right of the bridge, there is a water taxi stop there. We hopped on, not really knowing where we were going, just took an evening cruise. The crew gives a nice little narration of all the houses/boats on the intercostal. People in FLL are RICH!!!!! We saw Steven Speilberg's yacht, Seven Seas, valued at a mere $200,000,000. Yes, I meant to type all those zeros! We just did a loop on the water taxi and got off where we started. Then we walked down to Carlos's and Pepe's for dinner. We like this restaurant for Mexican food. We ate here last time we were in FLL. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and sat outside on their "patio" area. My husband smoked a cigar and we drank some wine. It was a lovely day in FLL! And we still have all day tomorrow :-). Friday, Feb 3rd -- I spent a good 2 hours this morning repacking all of our luggage. It was a mess after a week. I think I'm all organized again. Can't wait to get on the ship and unpack everything. I walked over to Panera Bread this morning and got a sandwich and a coffee. 17th is getting easier to cross. LOL! Tonight we are meeting family for dinner. They live in FL. Kind of glad we didn't go out today because it's pouring rain. Just hanging out in our room. I like our room. We got a non-smoking king. It's very spacious and there's a comfy chair w/ ottoman and free wifi. I received an email from Princess today. Apparently the norovirus was on the ship this week and they have to disinfect, so we can't board until 4pm and sail away is 6pm :-(. What a disappointment! I guess this means no chef's table either. CRUISE DAY 1 -EMBARKATION (more like day in the convention center, literally) We went to Panera Bread for breakfast today (17th St, across from Extended Stay America). We stayed in our hotel room until the bitter end, 11 am. Last night we go the email from Princess saying that embarkation would not start until 4pm. We tried to get a late check out, but the hotel was booked. We went down stairs and Paul waited with the bags while I ran to Walgreens for some Lysol wipes. Better safe than sorry. I'm going to wipe down all the surfaces in our cabin, just in case! There was a cab at the hotel dropping someone off, so we hopped in and took it to the pier, $10 bucks including tip. Well worth it! The hotel did have a free shuttle but then you have to schlep in a van with 12 other people. No thanks! The taxi dropped us at the ship and the porter took our bags. We were directed to go to the convention center across the street to check-in. Check-in was a breeze. We showed our passports and boarding passes and they gave us our cruise cards. After that, not so breezy! Now we are sitting in the convention center, patiently waiting to board. They have ample seating and plenty of coffee, juice and water. You can buy convention center food if you want. People are in good spirits and you can feel the excitement in the air. 4 pm (when we're supposed to begin embarkation) we heard from other passengers (no official announcement) that embarkation isn't starting until 6 pm, "pending approval from the CDC". So God only knows when we'll actually get on the ship. Patience just left the building, now I'm pissed! This is RIDICULOUS!!!!! We're losing practically the whole day on the boat. Again, what a disappointment!!!! Thank you, Princess for taking away the best part of the cruise. If you're a cruiser you know what I'm talking about. The excitement of stepping on that ship, getting to your cabin for the first time, having your first cruise cocktail, and knowing that you have 7 glorious days ahead of you. Sitting in the convention center for 6 hours sure does put a damper on things! I'm sure it's going to be total mayhem when we finally board :-( OK, I'll admit it, the excitement was still there when we finally boarded. Since it was so late, they were giving out dinner assignments. You got a card with a time and dining room on it. Needless to say, the line for the dining room was ridiculous, so we just got pizza and fries for dinner. It was fine. We explored the ship a bit, had a few cocktails, and met our room steward, Michael. Instead of shaking our hands, we did an elbow bump. LOL! All of the staff onboard were delightful. They were all smiling and helpful. I can only imagine the day they must have had. Glad to finally be on the ship. We love our cabin and extra large balcony, E730. If people tell you they can hear Club Fusion in this room, they must have supersonic hearing. We left the balcony door open all night and all we heard was the ocean, until 6am the next morning when our neighbors woke up. They are LOUD TALKERS! CRUISE DAY 2 - SEA DAY Since we got such a late start last night, we are not stopping at Princess Cays. We are sailing directly to Curacao and will be in port 8am - 11pm. As I said earlier, our neighbors woke us up this morning, but we really didn't mind. We like getting an early start. We got dressed and went down to the International Cafe. I bought a coffee card ($29 for 15 specialty coffees, unlimited fresh brewed coffee and hot chocolate) and we both got a cappuccino. It was quite lovely sitting in the Piazza, watching the sea go buy, sipping cappuccino. Breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room started at 7:30. We were one of the first ones there, good thing because a line formed quickly. Breakfast was just OK, at best. They got Paul's order all wrong, but he ate it anyway. My bacon tasted like precooked microwave stuff. Ewww! We won't hold this against them though. We walked around the deck after breakfast. It's WINDY!!!!! Near the front of the ship it was actually difficult to walk. Hope the weather gets better. It's been windy the whole time we've been on vacation. We found 2 deck chairs on the back of the boat and read for a while. I ended up falling asleep. It's overcast today, and slightly chilly. We ate lunch in the dining room. It was just OK, again. I hope the food gets better for dinner. We usually don't eat lunch in the dining room anyway. We grab pizza on deck or sushi from the wine bar. I think we will continue to do this. Breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room is overkill. Then there's our beloved Pub Lunch at the Wheelhouse bar on sea days. We never miss that one! We don't have any activities planned until 3:45, steel drummer by the pool! There are 2 comedians tonight that we want to see too. So, we went up to see the steel drummer and there was a DJ playing. The music was good, but disappointing when you're expecting steel drums. We hung out at that pool for a while and had a cocktail. We ran into one of our favorite Princess bartenders, Muni. He was on our Emerald cruise in '09. Around 5:30 we were in the Piazza having some sushi and tapas and the line for the dining room wrapped around the whole Piazza! We ate dinner in the dining room at 8:30, it was Italian night. No waiting. Dinner was very good. I had the fettuccine alfredo. Finally, something that did not disappoint! We saw both comedians, Al Jamal and Alfred & Seymour. They were both very funny. CRUISE DAY 3 - SEA DAY We woke up around 6:30 and got ready for breakfast. Again, getting to the dining room at 7:30 when it opens. Then by the time we are done there is a line. Early bird gets the worm! Breakfast was much better today. The waiter got Paul's order correct! Always a bonus. I got a fresh fruit plate that was excellent! After breakfast we stopped by the passenger service desk and handed in our "ez check" papers. We decided to try out his service. For $20 bucks a person, plus your normal airline baggage charges, Princess takes your luggage from your state room and the next time you see it is at your destination airport. Not having to schlep our bags, priceless! (Update: that never happened) We went up on deck for a while today. Again, IT'S WINDY!!!!! I could barely hold on to my Kindle. Paul stayed up on deck to get some sun and I went and sat at a table that was in the shade and a lot less windy. We are heading to the wheelhouse bar for the pub lunch! YUM! Pub lunch was just OK. We got the bangers and mash and fish and chips. We tried to watch "cowboys and aliens" on movies under the stars in the afternoon. It was too bright out and we couldn't see the screen and it was WINDY!!!! We got ready for dinner, formal night, the menu was just OK. No escargot or lobster. I ordered bananas foster for dessert (a cruise highlight for me) and they didn't have that either. WE ate dinner in the Da Vinci dining room because first we went to Michelangelo dining room and were told that it was closed because of an "accident"??? On our way back to our room there were crew members in our hallway with masks and red biohazard bags!!! UGH!!! Good night! CRUISE DAY 4 - SEA DAY (turn around) It was announced at breakfast today that the Crown Princess is turning around and going back to FLL, we are not stopping in Curacao or Aruba. We were wondering why we didn't see the sunrise this morning? There was also no morning show. Paul wrote me a birthday message to be announced on the show :-( By the way, this is the worst morning show I've seen. The cruise director, Lisa, is very nice. But I think she's too prim and proper. She doesn't joke around. They also took off the navigation station, showing where the ship is. Princess is issuing a full refund for this cruise. Too bad we didn't book the penthouse suite! This should be interesting since our flight home isn't until Sat morning and we will get back to FLL on Thurs morning. I do feel bad for the workers at the purser's desk. They are going to get inundated! I feel bad for all of the staff. They are doing their best. While we were at breakfast the guy next to us said that someone threw up at the entrance of the Michelangelo dining room last night. That was the "accident". Speaking of breakfast, they screwed up my order today. I ordered the "grill and griddle ", I even pointed to it on the menu. I got granola and I ate it anyway. It was actually pretty good. We are really enjoying our balcony today. The wind has died down! The captain just made an announcement throughout the whole ship, asking for those passengers that were sick and given a "sample pot" for a specimen, please get a specimen and call the front desk, so a lucky crew member could come and pick it up. Captain Nash says, "diarrhea or vomit are equally as nice". The ship has to provide the specimens to the CDC back in FLL, so they can figure out where the virus is coming from. I'm really glad this is a free cruise! We got our travel arrangements. Princess booked us on a flight home Thursday at 2:40. Unfortunately, there is a layover in DC and our original flight on Saturday was direct and earlier. Oh well at least we'll be home at a decent time on thurs and I get to see my dog! I miss my Seamus. We ate dinner in the Michelangelo dining room because we could not get a reservation in either specialty restaurant for my birthday. Even though the restaurants were only about 10% full, they didn't have the wait staff. We did get the table that we wanted in the dining room though! A 4 top in the back corner of the dining room right by the window. It was a full moon and we could see the moon reflecting on the ocean. Beautiful! Our assistant waiter was Stewee from Hungary. He cracked me up! I got the fettuccine Alfredo app, it was outstanding. Dinner was just OK. Desserts have been very good. They make all of their own ice cream. YUM! We came back to our room after dinner. There were no shows that we wanted to see. It was a good day despite us turning around. I got a free cruise for my Birthday and a FULL bottle of champagne! CRUISE DAY 5 - SEA DAY We woke up early and ate breakfast in the dining room. I ordered the granola again. It's really good. After breakfast we went to the cooking demonstration in the Princess theater. We usually go to this show on all of our cruises. I've seen better. It was actually kind of boring. I did a little shopping today and bought myself a couple Pandora beads for my bracelet that I've had for almost 3 years! I was just waiting for the right bead. I got a passport charm. It's so cute! Alfred & Seymour are doing another show today. We are going to go see them at 1:15. Don't be late or they will heckle you! I guess they have to keep using the same entertainers they have onboard because they weren't able to switch in any ports. The physical comedian is doing about 5 shows a day, poor guy. Tonight there is a production called, "Destination Anywhere" were planning to go to that too. We went to see Alfred & Seymour at 1:15. They changed up their show a little bit, they were funny and they did heckle every person that came in late! After their show, we came back to the cabin and took a nap. We have to pack up tonight for disembarkation tomorrow :-(. The good news is that we don't have to go through customs because we didn't stop anywhere! We went to the show, "Destination Anywhere", it was excellent. The sets and the costumes were impressive! We also had diner in the Michelangelo dining room. It was ok. However, the goat cheese souffle was outstanding. I got the gnocchi app instead of my fettuccine Alfredo and I was disappointed. I got the scallop entree, just ok. We went back to our room after dinner and enjoyed our balcony for the last time. Paul was supposed to get his Platinum status this cruise and we never received the paperwork. We checked at the Purser's desk to see if they had any info and they told us we should have checked with the captain's circle desk, which was only open for 1 hour on Wednesday. Really??? Another disappointment. Now I'll have to call Princess when we get home. CRUISE DAY 6 -- DISEMBARKATION We got our cruise account statement this morning. Our total bill was $75.89; this was for 4 days/5 nights of dining, drinking, shopping, entertainment and gratuity! We had an on board credit form our Princess credit card points, plus another credit from buying future cruise credits on our last cruise, plus we won $75 on super bowl pools. So actually the whole cruise cost us .89 cents!!!! I'll take that all day long and we didn't get sick ;-) We had breakfast at the International Cafe this morning. Of course we discovered this gem on out last day! I got my cappuccino and a parfait that was outstanding! Paul got coffee and a Danish and was jealous of my parfait. We are now sitting in one of the dining rooms waiting to disembark. We are now at the airport. Unfortunately, we can't check in yet. So we're just sitting here waiting with our bags. Since the cruise only cost us .89 cents, we're going to splurge and check 3 bags = $85(WOW)! We're checking a carry on, so we don't have to schlep it during our lay over. I hate lay overs coming from FL, what a pain! We get off in DC and then have a 45 min flight to Philly. Wish they could have gotten us a direct, like we had originally booked. Our flight from DC to Philly was a on a little tiny plane. We had to get a shuttle bus from the terminal to the runway! And everyone had to check their carry ons. That flight went quick. We got to Philly and went to the baggage claim. Us and about 4 other people were standing there. We waited about 15 minutes. I thought for sure my bags were gone forever, but miraculously they came out on the conveyor belt. At this point, we are in the furthest, darkest, corner of the Philadelphia airport. We had to get an escalator up, walk over a bridge, take and elevator down, and then walk about 2 blocks to the taxi station :-( We could have gotten the free hotel shuttle, but I had had it! I didn't feel like waiting anymore and we had walked so far from the baggage claim, I wouldn't have known where to tell the driver to pick us up. So, we took a taxi to the hotel and he completely ripped us off! Instead of the 3 minute ride it should have been, he took the 15 minute scenic route. Whatever. Too exhausted to argue. We are home now!!!! I got my couch, my blankie and my dog :-) Yes, we will cruise again. PROS: It was FREE! Fettuccine Alfredo. Homemade ice cream. International cafe, cappuccino and parfait. The staff, especially our room steward Michael , and our waitress, Johanna, and waiter, Stewee. The wine package. Our cabin and balcony, E730 (didn't hear a peep from Club Fusion). The comedians and shows. They did recognize my birthday with balloons a sign on the door and a FULL bottle of champagne! (they didn't do anything on our last cruise). CONS: No recognition of Paul's Platinum status and the Captain's Circle desk was only open for 1 hour? Not able to get reservations in specialty restaurants that were only 10% full. No Chef's Table. No Love Boat reruns. The food has gone down hill. Overall, we actually did enjoy our 4 day cruise to nowhere. I'm not holding this experience against Princess. I'm positive that they don't want sick passengers and crew. They did their best by refunding the whole trip, including taxes and fees. They had to arrange travel for 3,000+ people. And we got a 25% discount off our next cruise (equal to the amount that we originally paid for this cruise). (UPDATE: the cruise credit is already showing on "my Princess" account. Still haven't got the cruise reimbursement.) What more could they do? This situation is really beyond anyone's control. They just have to find the source of the virus and get the ship clean and healthy!!! Hopefully 2 days of deep cleaning will rectify the situation. Happy Cruising!!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We were traveling as group of four (couple with one grandparent and one 8 yr old child. We all had a wonderful time, and felt Crown Princess was a fabulous ship and could not have been happier with our cruise. Firstly, since the ... Read More
We were traveling as group of four (couple with one grandparent and one 8 yr old child. We all had a wonderful time, and felt Crown Princess was a fabulous ship and could not have been happier with our cruise. Firstly, since the outbreak of norovirus three weeks ago, there was a high level of awareness and alert. We did not get sick, and did not know see or hear anyone else get sick. The outbreak is over I believe, since by the end of the week they were relaxing many of the measures. For example, the ship was very clean, with staff constantly cleaning everything. At beginning of cruise, passengers were not allowed to touch anything in food areas. All food was served, even in buffet area. No salt and pepper on tables. All beverages served in new cups. hand sanitizer before entering every food areas. This seemed to cause some slight lines, 5 minutes, in some food areas. None of the cleaning measures were obtrusive or negatively affected our experience, but they were noticeable. By end of week we had salt and pepper on our tables and were able to refill our own coffee if we wanted. No reports of illness. Embarkation line took nearly 2 hours. Recommend either come early or late, not in middle of loading period as we did, this is the longest line. Service was excellent, in every area. All staff excpetionally friendly, accomoadating, courteous and responsive. We had a pet emergency call from home and Princess not only got the message through to us, but allowed us to use the phone to discuss with vet multiple times as no charge. Cabin steward knew our names and anticpated our needs. Arranged daughters stuffed animals on beds with treats and surprises. Waiters quickly brought new steak when I wasn't satisfied with doneness. There was never hesitation by any staff to respond to any specific need we expressed. Food was very good. Sit down dinner food the best, with several unique choices and each day different. Lobster, Beef Wellington, and delicious vegetarian choices. We decided to try anytime dinning, and next time will stick with traditional seating. Miss having one waiter and consistency. Do not go to dinner at 7pm, as everyone tries to go right then because of 8:30 show. Long line. Go before 6:30 or after 7:30 and there will be no line and better service. Had better wait service the earlier we went to sit down dinners. Buffet food was good, but a little repetitive by end of cruise. 24 hour pizza with freshly made dough and pizza oven. Gained 2 lbs. We carried on own wine in luggage to save money. No problems. We took wine bottles with us to dinner, and waiters opened bottles and did not even charge a corking fee! Could get ice through room service. Child services were good, but not exceptional. Free morning and afternoon sessions with some organized activities. Areas bright and clean and definately safe with check-in/out proceedures. Our 8 yr old was a little bored and activities were typical. Wii. I would like to have seen more clever games. Was more like babysitting then full program. Had a theme night of 'Las Vegas' with gambing like games which I thought was a bit inappropriate for 8 - 12 age group. Toddler pool was nice, several toddlers were playing fish video games. Movies under the stars in the evenings very enjoyable. 75 yr old grandmother traveled with us. She had wonderful time. Plenty to do and comfortable for her. Several wheel chair accomodations if needed. She liked just going to the beaches and hanging out. Did take her a few days to be able to find room on her own. Ports of call were well timed. Princess Cayes, sea day, Curacao, Aruba, 2 sea days at end. Tendering worked smoothly without long lines. Enjoyed having 2 sea days at end and found them to be great relaxation at end. Instead of paying for day tours through ship, we just hired taxis to do same tours for us. This worked fabulously. Both curacao and aruba had full line of independent taxis (clean mini-vans) right when you get off ship ready to take us. For the 4 of us, this ended up being half the price we would have paid for ship tours, and we were able to do exactly what we wanted, with no lines/waiting. Taxis would pair you up with another small group to get 6 - 8 people in a vehicle to bring down cost if desired. Drivers were friendly, very informative and spoke english well. Aruba best port stop, with free beaches (Curacao had to pay $3 as beaches were private). I am nature lover and loved the Butterfly farm at Aruba. Beautiful tropical garden, excellent interesting information, and butterflies so many beautiful colors, would land on you. Spa has separate $20 daily fee to use 'heat rooms' (sauna, steam room, aromatherapy). Also $10 half day or $20 full day fea for using 'Sanctuary'. In Sanctuary assigned personal bed like lounge chair with lots of quiet space and shade as desired. Really worth the money if you want luxury private time to enhance your cruise at reasonable value, especially if you do not have own balcony. On sea days decks could be a bit crowded and difficult to find lounge chairs. People would leave items on deck chairs to reserve them. Go early. Boat very stable. I don't like turbulence, and with 8 foot ocean swell I could feel boat sway a little, but had absolutely no reluctance or discomfort. Best show was Thursday night 'International show'. Very well done. So many activities on board. Dance classes. Excellent Navigation course by captain, don't miss. Excellent cooking class and tour by chef. Disemarcation we 'walked off' with our own bags and were shocked with how quickly we got through customs and to the airport. Fastest ever. If you can walk off with own bags you will save lots of disembark time and not need to wait and stay with your assigned disembarkation group. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Just returned from a great week on Ruby Princess. Husband and I were part of a group of 13 that was onboard for a family wedding that was going to take place while in port in St. Thomas. We arrived in FLL the day before and stayed at the ... Read More
Just returned from a great week on Ruby Princess. Husband and I were part of a group of 13 that was onboard for a family wedding that was going to take place while in port in St. Thomas. We arrived in FLL the day before and stayed at the Embassy Suites as part of a princess hotel and transfer package. The transfer from the airport to the hotel was very smooth and we only had to wait about 10 minutes before the bus picked us up. We arrived at the hotel around 12:30 but were not able to check in until 4pm so we checked our luggage and had lunch at the hotel's restaurant. We walked over to Publix to get a few things and then hung out in the lobby until we could check in. The room was very nice and very clean and we thought the pool area was very nice although we did not have a chance to use it. Our group had made a reservation at Big City Tavern on Las Olas for dinner (bride and groom picked this). Probably one of the loudest and noisiest restaurants I have been to in a while. My husband and I enjoyed the atmosphere and our food was very good but for a group our size it was not a great pick. Since we all flew in from all over this was our first time getting to see everyone and we were unable to carry on any type of conversation because you just couldn't hear anything. After dinner we walked up and down Las Olas and then headed back to the hotel. It was hard to sleep, we were too excited to get to the ship!!! After some debate we decided to forgo the princess transfers to the ship and arranged our own shuttle service. We were afraid we would get stuck waiting around and wanted to get to the ship around 11:30 so we were able to get a shuttle service to take all 13 of us at one time for only $5 per person. This worked out really well, although when we arrived they were not yet checking anyone in. We were able to go up the preferred check in lounge area and sit (we are platinum members), everyone else said they had to stand in lines downstairs. The preferred area was definitely a nice perk. At about 12:00 they started checking us in and we were on the ship within 10 minutes. Headed to our room to put our things down and then up to the buffet for lunch. I am guessing they checked the preferred passengers in first because the buffet was empty, usually it's always been a zoo by the time we get there. We had a really nice leisurely lunch and waited for the rest of our group to pop up. Muster drill was painless; I noticed this was our first sailing where they were actually scanning your cruise cards as you entered your muster station. After the drill we headed up to the deck for sail away and the start of our wonderful cruise. We had actually done this same cruise last February and while we enjoyed it we would not have chosen it again if it were not for the family wedding. I didn't really love the itinerary since we have been to these ports so many times but we still managed to have a great time. Ports: Princess Cays- A great beach day, we rented a clamshell and laid around most of the day. We also tried out the water bikes which was a lot of fun. The beach BBQ lunch was a lot better than the last time we were there, many more options like fish, ribs and chicken besides the basic burgers and hot dogs. We really enjoyed our day here although it sprinkled a little on and off in the earlier part of the day. Sea Days: Mostly laid around the pool in the mornings and then went to the dining room for lunch which was a first for us. We tried to do the pub lunch both days but the lines were so long and we didn't want to have to wait more than 30 minutes to get in there, maybe next time. Enjoyed the art auctions, bingo and the many movies that played on MUTS. We both purchased a pass for the Thermal Suite for the week but ended up not using it every day the way we have on other cruises. They price also increased from $150 per couple to $200. Probably won't do this again for the price. Was finally picked to the Ultimate Ship Tour but due to the Noro outbreak on our ship (more about that later) they had to cancel it, I was bummed. St. Thomas: Wedding Day, we were all transported to Megan's Bay for the ceremony which was beautiful. This is actually where my husband and I were married 2 years ago. After we were done there we walked around town and shopped for a bit and then headed back to the ship. St. Martin: I had arranged for the group to take Bernard's Tour but ended up not feeling very well that morning so I missed it. The group said they had a great day and would highly recommend the tour. I was so disappointed I didn't get to go but after I started feeling better I took the water taxi to town and walked around for a bit and then stopped on the beach and enjoyed a delicious mango daiquiri. Grand Turk: Last year we really did not enjoy Grand Turk so we knew we wanted to arrange an excursion. We did the Catamaran snorkel and beach through princess and had a great time. The crew was so much fun. The snorkeling was great, so much to see and so many fish, it was awesome. After the snorkel we spent a little time at a private beach before heading back. We got to see the sun set as we sailed back which made for a great end to a great day. Noro Virus: This was the first time we have been on sailing that experienced an outbreak. The captain notified us the morning we were in St. Thomas (Thursday) and from that point forward the protocol had been put into place. I really commend the crew for how hard they worked to keep all of us from getting sick. Yes, the lines in the buffet were really long and it was a little inconvenient at times but much better than getting sick. I couldn't believe all of the complaints we heard the rest of the week. You could tell there were probably many crew members that were ill, as it seemed they were understaffed at times in different areas of the ship. We decided to avoid the buffet from then on and enjoyed the rest of our meals in the dining room which was great. Specialty Restaurants: We always dine at Crown grill and Sabatinis when we can. This time around we did Crown grill twice and had an amazing meal both nights. Our filet was cooked to perfection and the lobster was so sweet, I'm drooling just thinking about it. This was the first time we have been to Sabatinis since they changed the menu and while we loved the old format the new menu did not disappoint. I enjoyed the lobster 3 ways along with a variety of wonderful appetizers and desserts. The penne pasta with short ribs was delicious! Entertainment: We don't usually go to any shows at night, we tend to stick with MUTS most nights. Some of the movies they played included, 3 Musketeers, In Time, Moneyball, Real Steel and Ides of March. We don't do the casino but some of our group had great luck at slots and blackjack. We usually see the comedians but they were the same ones from last year doing the same show. Disembarkation: Very smooth, we usually do the early walk off but this time around we had more luggage than usual and decided to wait. We were off the ship and in a taxi by 8:30. We stayed an extra night in FLL and this time we booked a night at the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas. I chose the hotel solely for the location, we love Las Olas and this particular weekend was the Las Olas Art Festival so it was perfect. We were able to check in at 9am (wow!) and then headed outside to explore the art. Later that afternoon we all decided to take the Carrie B boat tour through the inter-coastal and canals, we thought this was really nice except it was a little chilly and we had to sit inside. That evening we went to Rocco's Taco's with a group of 7. We were seated right away and all immediately ordered margaritas and chips/salsa. This was a very expensive and disappointing meal. The atmosphere was great but all the food was so bland and blah. Even the drinks had no real taste to them. I would pass on this place the next time since there are so many other options up and down the street. Riverside Hotel: We upgraded our room to a "Tommy Bahama" room, these are rooms that have been updated with tommy bahama furniture and it was basically a normal looking hotel room. You could also pay a little more and stay in the newer tower but we decided to save the money. The room was clean, a little older but nice and you can't beat the location of the hotel. A couple other members of our group decided to get the basic room and OMG it was awful! They smelled so musty, the hallway in this part of the hotel was like you were walking in the "bad neighborhood" compared to the other halls. The rooms had this old canopy bed with dark floral curtains around it and a mirrored ceiling. It was definitely "original". The rooms were so dingy and dark, I would personally have not stayed there but they said it was fine for one night although someone said they would not be able to sleep with the light off because the room looks like it would be haunted. So all in all it was a great week and a great cruise. We purchased our FCC's and are now ready to plan the next one. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Emerald Princess cruise March 7th-17th. Southern Caribbean route. We are from South Carolina so rather than deal with the airlines we decided to leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale. Our first stop was in Cape Canaveral at the ... Read More
Emerald Princess cruise March 7th-17th. Southern Caribbean route. We are from South Carolina so rather than deal with the airlines we decided to leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale. Our first stop was in Cape Canaveral at the Radisson Resort At The Port. If you ever decide to sail out of Port Canaveral this is an awesome hotel to stay at. For $160 we stayed in a suite with king sized sleep number bed, a full separate eating area with second TV, a hot tub next to the bed and a nice marble shower. The pool is done up to look like a tropical oasis with large stone arches covered with vines and a waterfall in the middle. The service there is top notch. We ate at Kelsey's pizza right next door and had delicious pizza and Greek salads. We then ventured on to the Springfield Inn and Suites Ft Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port. We got a king sized room with all the amenities for $193. This included a free shuttle to the port and the ability to park our car for the duration. With a 10 day cruise the savings really added up. You can book a return shuttle back from the port for $10 a person. We enjoyed yummy pizza from Carcione's pizza (large 1 topping with 6 garlic knots and a cold 2 liter...$14). Embarkation: We took the 10:30am shuttle to the port. Arrived inside around 11am and were put into group 4. It took about an hour before our group was called but once we were called things moved relatively fast. We went to our cabin and found our luggage had already arrived! We decided rather than fight the hordes at the Horizon court we would have lunch in the dining room. It was a decision well made. The dining room was not crowded and a perfect place to relax. My wife and I enjoyed a delicious cheese ravioli appetizer and then beef tenderloins in a rich gravy with red mashed potatoes. It was one of the best meals on the ship. I would highly recommend doing this instead of the horizon court. There are even cheese burgers available if you have picky little eaters. We did muster at 3pm and met in the casino. They now scan your room key card at muster so trying to hide from it won't work. It was quick and painless and soon we were ready to "escape completely". Cabin: We stayed in E 316. An inside cabin on the emerald deck. This cabin had it's ups and downs. On the upside we were conveniently located close to just about everything. The elevator was just around the corner and were were very near the theater, bars and dining venues. The room was spacious enough not to feel cramped and offered more than enough storage space. The bathroom was small but workable with a nice shower with good pressure and temperature variation. On the down side our first night we hit some rough weather with high seas and wind. The walls of cabin creaked so long and so loud sleep was almost impossible. Fortunately when we reached the calmer Caribbean waters the creaking subsided. Also we could never seem to get the cabin very cool. We didn't opt for a top sheet and later regretted it as it got pretty warm under the comforter with the little AC the room provided. We did get the egg crate mattress which made the bed more comfortable. What made our cabin stay the most bearable was taking my WDTV with portable hard drive along. WDTV is a small black box which allows you to watch Netflix, Youtube, Facebook and various other video, picture and music services with WiFi connection. We didn't utilize these since WiFi is very expensive and spotty on the ship. However I downloaded a DVD copier program (Ideal DVD copy) and burned 120 of my favorite movies to a 1 gig portable hard drive which I could plug into the WDTV. I then plugged the WDTV into the stateroom TV and by switching the sources with the TV remote was able to watch our DVD movies in our cabin. It was really great to be able to relax and watch a movie at our leisure right in the room. WDTV is $99, a 1 gig portable hard drive is $150 and the DVD burner program cost $40. So for a one time investment of $300 I can take my DVD library everywhere I go! Dining (my favorite part): We ate all our breakfasts in the dining room (except) for the last day. You should really avoid the horizon court as the food is not as good. The breakfasts in the dining room were very good. We enjoyed Eggs Benedict, blueberry pancakes, crispy french toast, and other yummy samplings. Each breakfast has 2 specials of the day and then the standard fare of eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruits, meats, etc. I disagree with other posters who said the coffee was bad. The horizon court coffee was nasty but the dining room coffee tasted just fine to me. The international cafe also makes a great breakfast stop. They have loads of pastries, donuts, coffee cake and muffins all of it tasty and fresh. For lunch we went to the dining room when available. The food was consistently good and the hamburgers outdid the Trident grill in both size and flavor. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers and bacon cheeseburgers are available on every dining room lunch menu. The Trident grill was not bad. It featured hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, brats, and hot dogs as well as a vegiburger for non meat eaters. You may want to be in line a little before 11:30am as the lines get long. I do wish they had more offerings as well. I have seen other lines offer taco bars with nachos and chili. It would have been nice to make a chili cheeseburger or chili dog to break up the monotony. The pizza grill was another great staple with some of the better pizza I have had at sea. The crust is tasty and crisp and the ingredients fresh. They offer cheese, pepperoni and a pizza of the day. My favorite was the "surf and turf" which was tenderloin and lobster bits on a pizza. Again my only complaint is wishing the had more choices. Only 3 choices with 2 of them being staples gets old quick. The international cafe offers small sandwiches and salads with a quiche of the day and soup of the day. The sandwiches include ham & cheese, Mozzarella and Prosciutto, chicken salad, and others. The sandwiches are small but light and refreshing. The quiche of the day is usually cheese with either mushroom, onion, spinach, leeks or tomato depending on the day. I didn't try the soup and the Gelato was still unavailable. We never ate in the horizon court which is available as well. For dinner we stayed with the dining room. Here is where we encountered another Princess problem. Anytime dining. Which by all definition was certainly not. When cruising with princess before we were able to make a standing reservation for a table for two for the duration of the cruise. We were told that this was not allowed by the reservation line only to discover other couples were allowed to make this arrangement. We were told to arrive at 5:30 every night and we would be seated but that isn't "anytime" dining in my book. Other lines could accommodate us "anytime" and any seating arrangement we liked. All said our meals were generally very good and the wait staff friendly and attentive. The prime rib is a must try as well as the Goat Cheese Souffle, Lobster was sweet and tasty. Do have the Chocolate Hazelnut souffle as it is very good. One other complaint is the way tables for two are set up. There is a long community couch with chairs spaced out along it to create makeshift tables for two. The problem is you don't have any privacy as there are people at both your elbows. People who want tables for two usually wish to dine alone and not be subjected to forced conversations. I would like to see Princess create real tables for two instead of trying to pass this off as such. The international cafe has yummy dessert bites in the evening which we found outdid some of the desserts in the dining room. They are also smaller and less filling. Now for my favorite. The Crown Grill. We ate there twice and can't recommend this place enough. The steaks are some of the best I have ever tasted and always cooked to perfection. I would recommend the Scallop appetizer with perfectly cooked scallops. The Black and Blue soup with tangy Roquefort cheese. I had both the 8oz fillet and the 16oz Kansas city strip both delicious. The scalloped potatoes are a must try. They are swimming in cheesy goodness. You can also add as many 4oz lobster tails as you can handle. The only throw away about the meal was the signature salt collection. The salts were too strong tasting and really not needed. The Cafe Caribe was available for dinner but we never ate there. We also never tried room service as the menu and food quality are the worst at sea. Entertainment: We skipped all the song and dance shows. We saw Al Katz and he was pretty funny. He did the usual stand up and we found getting a seat in the theater at 7:15 was not hard. We also saw Steven Scott and thought he was very funny combining sound effects with his various funny stories. He did a dead on impersonation of the captain that had everyone rolling. I would highly recommend seeing him. Our most common night activity was sneaking off to our secret hot tub. I will now share with you the secret. In the spa area is a pool and two hot tubs which are virtually abandoned at 7pm-8pm. These hot tubs are really hot, not luke warm like the ones in the main pool area. They also have powerful jets. It was very relaxing to have the place to ourselves at night with the night sky, cool night breezes and the lights of the Sanctuary giving a nice glow. Seek this place out! Just take the elevator to deck 16, make sure you get robes to wear from your cabin steward. Ports: Princess Cays: We stayed on the ship as we had been there before and it rained most of the day. I felt bad for the people who took the rough tender ride over only to be rained on with no place to find shelter. If you have been here I would recommend a day of having the ship to yourself. Nice to avoid all the cattle lines and just relax. St. Thomas: Got off briefly to purchase alcohol. If you plan to do so on this cruise buy it all here as they have the best prices and selection. We were surprised to find that they didn't take our liquor and hold it till the end of the cruise. I can't say if you will be so lucky but it was a nice way of keeping our bar tab low. The other ports had little to no alcohol stores and they were more expensive with poor selection. Dominica: Stayed on the boat. We have toured it already and once you have been there you have been there. Grenada: Had planned to go to magazine beach but it was overcast. We decided to venture into town which was a mistake. Every 3 feet some guy would try to peddle his cab tour. It usually went like this... Do you want a tour? No thanks. Let me show you my beautiful island. No thanks. With all it's waterfalls and cliff divers. No thanks. And historic forts. No thanks. I will take you to Grand Anse beach. No thanks. Repeat this with every guy you pass on the street. We did find a very nice spice store in the mall called D#1 spice shop. She had the best prices and wasn't a tacky tourist shop. Bought spices and retreated back to the boat. Bonair: One of the best stops of our trip. We chose to take a free shuttle bus to the Plaza Resort Bonair for some snorkling and relaxing on the beach. When you get off the ship just look for a set of white tents featuring tours. The Plaza shuttle driver is usually there about every 10 minutes. The shuttle is free and the resort costs $10 a person for use of their beach chairs, pool, bars and restaurant. Bring towels as none are provided. This was the best snorkel spot I have ever been to. The water is glass clear. The sea floor is a mixture or rock and coral so there are tons of fish. The best part is you don't have to be a great swimmer to snorkel here. In waist deep water you can literally stick your face in the water and see all kinds of sea life. We saw Parrot fish, angel fish and even an eel poking his head out of his hole. I do recommend some water shoes to keep your feet from getting cut or slipping. The beach itself is small and relaxing. When you are ready they will contact the shuttle to take you right back to the ship. Here is a video I shot, please excuse the shakiness since my flip cam lacks image stablization... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pK5LkuZ0DI&list=UUWFaowMaC-ERNs2OSSFidug&index=1&feature=plcp Aruba: After reading the various Cruise Critic boards we decided to venture to Eagle beach for a nice beach day. The weather was perfect, sunny with a nice breeze blowing. Originally we were going to take a taxi there, $13 one way per cab but a tour driver said to us "Why do that when the city bus will take you there both ways for the two of you for $5?" The bus station is right outside the port terminal. The busses are clean and modern and very safe. We purchased our bus tickets and headed on our way. On the bus we met up with "Myrtle Beach", a Boston snow bird now living in, you guessed it. She told us all about Eagle beach and what it had to offer. She was quite the character. She also introduced us to beach towel clips which we are going to have to get next time. She bought them at Bed, Bath and Beyond and they seemed to hold the towels neatly against the chairs. We arrived at the yellow exterior of the Amsterdam Manor which is right across from the beach and we got off. The beach was pristine with soft sand and clear blue water. Chairs were $10 a person and they had bar, changing area and port-o-lets. Myrtle Beach clued us in that we could use the Manor's restroom and that there was a Coke machine in there with $1 Cokes and Water. We stayed on the beach so we never found out if this was the case. Had a great day and decided to leave at 1pm which was good since the busses were getting a little crowded. All in all a perfect beach day. Sea Days (one early and two at the end): We spent our sea days lounging in the sun. We tried a number of places on the ship. The Mutts pool area seemed to lack a good breeze due to the tall glass windows all around it. We sat by the main pool upper deck area which had decent breeze but a lot of other people packing in like sardines. I wish some of these people grasped the concept of " personal space " We tried the highest deck by the Doplar radar globes but ended up naming it the frying pan due to the heat coming off the floor since they didn't put down the blue turf carpeting. I will now reveal to you the sweet spot. The best spot to spend an entire day sunning. Grab this spot early and guard it like a pitbull. Just outside the Sanctuary there is a glass wall that leads to a series of chairs. If you take your chairs and position them right next to the edge of the ship facing the dolphin shaped Sanctuary sign you will catch both a breeze from the side of the ship and a breeze blowing in from the front of the ship. Also you can use the pool located in the Sanctuary which is very cool and if you go into the spa area there are some very nice bathrooms close by. This is the same area with the awesome hot tubs. Disembarkation: Self debarked and were off the ship by 7:15. Shuttle back was prompt and the driver parked right next to our parked car. We were on the road by 8:00. Closing notes: We had an enjoyable cruise but feel that Princess has lots of room to improve. Anytime dining needs to be refined maybe by adding more dining venues. The Trident grill and pizza grill should expand their menus. The room service menu needs to be retooled and improved. Vines is a complete waste of space. Nobody used it except as overflow from the Piazza. The staterooms need better temperature control. Not to be missed sunrises and sunsets. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Okay, here's the scoop: my wife and I flew to LAX on 4/26, stayed two nights on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, hopped on the Sapphire Princess on 4/28 and sailed to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada. We had an inside ... Read More
Okay, here's the scoop: my wife and I flew to LAX on 4/26, stayed two nights on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, hopped on the Sapphire Princess on 4/28 and sailed to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada. We had an inside cabin (B422) and Anytime Dining. Check-in at the San Pedro pier was pretty painless; we arrived at around noon and were on board in about 45 minutes. As far as the ship is concerned, I wasn't expecting much. I've never liked the exterior of these ships (although it grew on me....a little), and photos of Sapphire's interiors didn't really do much for me. To my surprise, she was actually quite nice inside....yep, some areas were a bit sterile, some a bit tacky, but others were downright beautiful. I was surprised how sleek and contemporary many of the remodeled rooms were...some would fit perfectly in a Celebrity ship. Overall, I had no problems with a bulk of the interior decor. I will say that Sapphire Princess is one of the best maintained ships I have ever been on. For a vessel built in 2004, she looks as if she came from the shipyard just yesterday. Of course I know she just spent some time in dry dock, but even areas they didn't touch looked brand-new. The one remodel that's a total failure is the Horizon Court buffet. This is, by far, the worst design I have ever seen (even worse than QM2's King's Court). On each side of the ship are eleven or twelve individual food stations....all within an area of about 30 by 20ft. During meal times it was always crowded, and people constantly ran into one another. There were really no lines, it was just a free-for-all. Unfortunately the food left a lot to be desired. Hot food in the Horizon Court was lukewarm at best, and the selection was completely whacked out: pork and bean SANDWICHES? Really? Rock-hard, golf ball-sized biscuits with nacho cheese sauce for breakfast? Really? Their attempt at Indian dishes was somewhat laughable...simply adding curry to something doesn't make it Indian food. The pizza, burgers, fries, etc. out on deck were very good and, throughout the ship, desserts were excellent. I did find it funny that, at the ice cream bar, called 'Sundaes', there was not one sundae to be had. The specialty pizza in the atrium was also very good. The Anytime Dining worked out well. The Sapphire has four anytime dining rooms (5:30-9pm) and we tried all four. We liked the decor of the Vivaldi Dining Room the best so we ate there multiple times. The menu is the same in all four dining rooms, the exception being that each one has its own signature dish. In all dining rooms the quality of the beef was disappointing; nearly every steak I ordered had 'silver skin' running through it. During the first night at dinner, our waiter noticed me struggling with my steak and he walked over and said, "Let me get you another one"; I didn't even say anything, he knew. On the flipside, the pasta dishes were very good....the veal-stuffed ravioli in a mushroom wine sauce was outstanding. We ate at Sabatini's on the first formal night ($20 per person), and it was only marginally better than the main dining rooms. Service was just about the same. All in all, I'm not sure I would pay the $40 again; it certainly wasn't anything like the incredible experience we had in Millennium's Olympic Restaurant. We sat through four tunes of the "Do You Wanna Dance" production show before the sharps and flats got the best of me; the lightshow, however, was pretty impressive. With the exception of the pianist, live music throughout the ship was very good. There were two live bands on board, a heavier rock band (Indigo) and another band (name escapes me) that played the standards. I really liked both, although Indigo seemed to be just a bit on the heavy side for the mostly 70-plus crowd. By far the biggest asset Princess has going for it (at least on the Sapphire) is the staff. Service throughout the ship was nothing short of excellent, and unlike some of the crew on our last cruise (Carnival), they were always smiling and very courteous. I have no qualms about the service at all. Since I now have Elite status with Princess I received a lot of perks: free mini-bar set up, free laundry, wine tastings, etc. I also received 150 free minutes of internet time. Problem was the internet service was so slow that I wasted probably a third of the time just waiting for the thing to move. However, the perks were nice to have, and since I always have my clothes pressed on board, I saved quite a bit. I have to say, out of 43 cruises, I have never seen such a concentrated number of walkers, electric scooters, canes and wheelchairs. At night, after most of the passengers had gone to bed (which was understandably early), at least one or two electric scooters were parked in every stair/elevator landing. I mean I've been on cruises plenty of times when my fellow passengers were on the older side, but wow, not like this. To be honest, I don't think a good portion of these people should have been on a cruise....many looked like they could have kicked-off had a good, stiff breeze came by. Santa Barbara was pretty cool, although all we did was walk to the charming downtown area (about a 15 minute walk) and did some browsing in a few of the eclectic shops. While in San Francisco, Seven Seas Navigator and Norwegian Pearl were there. About Norwegian Pearl: much to what I'm sure was her passengers' disappointment, she docked miles away, near the Bay Bridge. Not much around it. Sapphire Princess and the Regent ship both docked right in the heart of San Francisco, very close to Fisherman's Wharf. The other thing is that Norwegian Pearl arrived after us and left before we did, so not only does the NCL ship dock far away, her time in port seemed pretty short. We had purchased a hop-on hop-off day pass (strictly as a means of getting around the city) and it worked out very well. We went to the Palace of Fine Arts (which was a personal goal for me as it was a favorite place of a dear friend who passed away earlier this year) and then hopped back on the bus and got off at the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked over the bridge to the first tower and then the vertigo took over. After that we headed to the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park, Chinatown (10 minutes of that was enough), Lombard Street and then back to Fisherman's Wharf. We went on an hour- long cruise of SF Bay and then headed back to the ship. On the way, we stopped at Frank's Nautical Collectibles and I found a treasure-trove of reasonably priced ocean liner items....among other things I bought a French Line CGT cup and a silver-plated ashtray from the second class smoking room on Europa (1930)... $30 for both! San Diego was a blast. A good friend, a fellow Cincinnatian who moved out to SD years ago, met us at the pier and we spent the day romping around the city. We visited Balboa Park and then drove to La Jolla to see the spectacular views. He also took us to Point Loma to see the Cabrillo memorial, which sits high up on a cliff....more incredible views. After lunch we made our way back to the ship, said our goodbyes and then my wife and I walked over to see the u.s.s. Midway. I was happy to discover the USO tribute to Bob Hope which, being a sentimental sap was quite emotional for me. Last stop was Ensenada. Since I had already been there, and my wife had no desire to head into town, we just walked around the dock and took some photos. While we were in San Diego and Ensenada, the Semester at Sea ship, the former Olympic Explorer (now just Explorer) was docked close by. It was my first time seeing one of the two ships in the class and, to be honest, I loved the exterior. It had such a sense of speed about it...very cool. Disembarkation back in San Pedro was a breeze. We purchased the transfer to LAX while we were on the ship and it worked out well. We were off the ship, on the bus and at the airport within an hour. Overall it was a great trip. The ship was nice, service was great, we loved the itinerary and I understand that food is always subjective. I do have to eat a little crow in that I had always believed that Princess was notorious for nickel and diming people to death...not so (at least not on this cruise). Sure they had the typical watch sales, spa specials, etc., but they were never in your face about it. In that regard, it was very 'un-Carnival'. One last thing: the Cruise Director was on the television, non-stop, telling people about what was going on, telling jokes, etc......but NOT ONCE DID I SEE THE GUY. I came away thinking that maybe he wasn't even on board. I mean out of seven days you'd think I'd see him at least once. Never. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining; the last thing I want to be subjected to is a totally obnoxious Cruise Director, but this was just weird. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Just a few days before our cruise, we received the good news: we had been upgraded from our GG Obstructed View Guarantee to a BA balcony cabin! I love Princess! We left South Florida on June 8 to stay overnight in Orlando before our very ... Read More
Just a few days before our cruise, we received the good news: we had been upgraded from our GG Obstructed View Guarantee to a BA balcony cabin! I love Princess! We left South Florida on June 8 to stay overnight in Orlando before our very early flight to Seattle on the 9th. Arriving at the Seattle airport around 2:15, we were picked up by the Cedarbrook Lodge shuttle and taken to one of the most awesome hotels ever. The Cedarbrok lodge is just a couple of minutes from the airport, but is like a secluded hideaway lodge built with beautiful natural woods, spread out on a lovely property of gardens and walkways easily enjoyed from floor to ceiling window vistas. The staff and amenities are top of the line. Sumptuous breakfast is included, and there is a wonderful restaurant, bar, and lounge where great food and drinks are prepared, and the fireplace and pool table add a homey touch. Rooms are grouped in buildings which share a common living room, complete with complimentary snacks, drinks, and ice cream. We were almost sorry to leave the next morning when the shuttle came to take us to the Light Rail for our ride into downtown to meet our ship. The trip took about 40 minutes, in which we feasted our eyes on the beautiful scenery that surrounds Seattle. Once off the train we hailed a cab to pier 91. My husband discovered he had left his binoculars in the car back in Florida and we had the cab driver stop at an REI on the way so Phil could get another pair. Wouldn't dream of going to Alaska without them, especially since we were getting a balcony (more about that later). We got to the port around 1:00 PM, and boarded by 1:45. That was a longer wait than we had ever experienced with Princess, but not as bad as some other embarkations on other cruise lines. Once aboard, we were guided to the elevator which had an attendant to push the buttons! When we opened the door to our stateroom on deck 10 (Caribe), we couldn't believe how huge it was, and how huge the balcony was. We happily imagined having our breakfast delivered to our balcony each morning and spending countless hours using our cameras and binos in the next 7 days. We headed up to the Horizon Court for lunch, and encountered a long unmoving line of people waiting to use the Purell. Finally we got into the food court area and found many good things to put on our plates. We were seated quickly by a waiter, who brought us our drinks. The food was very much to our taste--salads, soups, sliced meats and mashed potatoes with gravy. So far so good. We went back to our room to rest a bit, frankly still suffering some jetlag and exhaustion from the long trip. That's when we discovered that the bed was as hard as a rock even with the egg crate our travel agent had requested. When our stewardess Marjorie came to introduce herself, we asked her about it and she came back with a nice pillowtop that helped quite a bit (as a quick aside, sadly, the beds on the Star are terribly in need of replacing; they are just plain worn out--each morning when we got out of bed the middle looked like a hammock). Then at 4:30 came the muster drill. After the Concordia incident, we had decided to take a more serious approach just in case the unexpected were to occur. We brought a ziploc freezer bag and once onboard placed our passports, a charged cell phone, a credit card, some cash, some medications for my husband and some small snacks in case his blood sugar dropped. Once the ship was under way I tucked this tiny "ditch bag" into my purse whenever we left our cabin. The muster drill was very thorough. The crew took roll by scanning our room cards and we had to wait until all the passengers were present and accounted for. Once the drill was over, we became part of the enormous crush of cruisers heading back up to their rooms. We really enjoyed our balcony as the ship left port and headed for Alaska. We took loads of pictures, peered through the new binoculars and sat on the chairs with cups of tea. Life was good! We went down to the Portofino dining room for dinner. There was a long line around 7:45. We were finally seated at a table for two and our waiters quickly took our orders. Food was served quickly and the service was outstanding. The soups and entrees were very good, as were the desserts. We were much encouraged, and decided we would make a reservation for the next night so we would not have to wait in line. After dinner we headed back to our room to turn in early. Marjorie had done her job efficiently and there were even chocolates on the bed (which I stashed in the "ditch bag" in case of emergency). We left our curtains open so we would be awakened by the dawn--we just didn't realize it would be before 5 am! One of the many surprises heading our way. Our breakfast was delivered as planned, but, brrr, it was much too cold to eat on our balcony! So we enjoyed our breakfast and view from behind the closed sliding doors. We Florida folks simply had no clue... The first day at sea was spent in mostly relaxing and recuperating. We went to the library, which was small but the quality of books to choose from was good and we both found books by favorite authors to read. We enjoyed listening to the various musical offerings all around the ship. They were really quite good. I did some laundry since the laundry would be closed from Tuesday to Friday morning. It was formal night and we wanted to eat dinner earlier than the night before, but had forgotten to make a reservation. To eat early on the "Anytime plan" (really not quite a truthful concept on this ship)you must eat in the Capri dining room which opens at 5:30; we arrived at 6 pm to find a huge long line again. Upon finally being at the head of the line we were told we could not have a table for 2 unless we waited a lot longer; so we were seated at a large table of delightful and entertaining travelers from Canada and Texas. The food we ordered was not quite as satisfactory as it had been the night before. Some courses were very good, some not so good, some not edible. From this night on, that was our experience in all the dining venues--extreme inconsistency. Nevertheless the service was always friendly and efficient, and the waiters tried to recommend the best dishes to choose. In addition to the menu our table talk was lively, covering everything from cruises to politics to religion. Nevertheless, on principal, I determined to get a reservation for a table for two for the next night! The day in port turned out to be quite sunny and nice(if cool) when we arrived in Ketchikan. The views just got better and better, snow on mountaintops, beautiful "Christmas" trees everywhere we turned, green, green, and more green. I remembered to call for a reservation and was told the earliest was 7:45, so I booked the Portofino for that time. We walked off the ship and into town and did some shopping and ate at a little seafood place on the dock. The fish and chips were the best we'd ever had, and the salmon chowder was amazing. We went back to the ship to enjoy our nice cabin and look at our purchases. We really loved Ketchikan; took loads of photos both on and off the ship. There were other ships of course and we took pictures of them too. After our 7:45 table for two at which we had a mediocre dinner but nothing disastrous, we went in search of ballroom dancing. The Explorer's Lounge has ample opportunity for dancing, and we had a nice "dance date". We noticed that it never seemed to get dark and that the nights were very short indeed and getting shorter. We went back to our room and read our books and watched the news on TV and spent time together that we never seem to have any other time. Breakfast behind the sliding doors again! The day was cloudy, gloomy,cold, and wet. When we got to Juneau we put on our warm clothes and rain gear and hopped the shuttle (for a fee) into town. Throughout the cruise the Star docked farther from the towns than the other ships, and it seemed like we always has to come up with more cash just to get to the ports of call. It took time, too. We took the local bus to Mendenhall Glacier, which was breathtaking. There was a waterfall you could walk to but we did not feel we had time to do that so we observed it from afar. Not a sight to be missed, regardless of the weather. Nice change from the tropics, to be sure! We took the bus back to town and did a bit of shopping before returning to the ship for dinner. We did manage to get a table for two at the Capri after a brief wait. I think that was the night we had spaghetti and meatballs, and it was pretty good and at least recognizable comfort food! I had outstanding eggplant Parmesan as an appetizer. And, the one thing that was consistent at the table was the bread, which was always a treat. We were too tired after all the walking to do much dancing, so we read our books and turned in early to be ready for Skagway the next morning. In Skagway we took the train ride (the shorter one) after taking yet another bus back and forth from the ship to town. The train ride is a must. We saw a brown bear and many other wonderful sights--tunnels, trestles, glaciers, waterfalls, historic sites, snow, snow, more snow, and mountains of course. After leaving the train, we again encountered an enormous line waiting to re-board the ship. This was a first for us. In more than 30 cruises, we have never stood in a line to re-board the ship in a port. And it was cold, and raining. Just more of the adventure, we figured. But could not Princess have found a more efficient way to board the passengers? Just saying...At dinner we ordered a nice bottle of French wine to warm us up. Friday was a sea day, and the laundry rooms were open for business! And you could not get near one since everyone was trying to get caught up on their laundry. After a couple of hours I managed to grab a machine after having hand washed some clothes already. Each machine takes $2 in quarters, and there is a change machine right there. The weather was awful. High seas, gale force winds. I almost had my camera blown out of my hand when I braved the balcony in my parka for some evidence to take home to Florida. After this we headed to our favorite spot on deck 17 aft (Skywalker) with our books, where there are 360 views and Irish coffee from a nicely stocked bar. This place is far away, hard to find on the ship and few people seemed to be up there but it was our favorite place to hang out in the daytime. The weather was somewhat worrisome so that the captain kept making reassuring announcements. I thought it was all rather exciting and took lots of gray pictures of nothing much... Soon we went back to our room to prepare for the second formal night. I put my hair in curlers and went to dry some stuff in the dryer. Phil finished the job in the laundry room, bless him. We managed to get a table for two in the Capri again, and Phil got lobster which was served with a glob of sticky white rice. But still, lobster. He said it was good. I ordered fish, which was white fish which came in a white serving bowl in a white sauce with white scalloped potatoes. There were a few spots of something green, otherwise it looked like an igloo. Really? What happened to the artistic presentation we saw on the first night???? Tasted OK but uninspiring. Phil did not want to dance due to the lack of smooth floors, so we listened to music, did some shopping, read some more, and spent time in our stateroom. Last day! Basically almost another sea day since we did not arrive in Vancouver until 7 pm. We chose to stay on board and dance the night away, which we did. Unable to face the dining room anymore, we went to the Horizon buffet for dinner. I made a huge salad with all sorts of great veggies. In the dining room a salad had consisted of a few sad greens with maybe 1/2 of a cherry tomato but very good dressing. Go figure. On the buffet on this last night there was also prime rib, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, lots of things Phil likes. Fresh fruits, different than the ones we had in our cabin, were there for the picking. We danced until bedtime and then turned in. Disembarking was easy. We had sent our bags ahead, so we ate in the dining room for breakfast for the first time. It was good. We were in the later group to leave since we were to spend the night at Inn at the Market at Pike Place. Waiting in line for a cab took a long time. Maybe 45 minutes or so. Our room in the hotel was not ready for awhile but finally we checked in. What a special place! Great bed, great service, and location, location, location! They had given us a little cake for our anniversary. It was delicious. We wandered around the Market area that day and the next before taking the Light Rail to the Radisson at the airport since we had another very early flight the next day. Another nice hotel with a great new restaurant if you need to be near the airport. Our nonstop flight home to sunny Florida on Alaska airline was uneventful and pleasant(thankfully). We got our car and drove the three hours back to Jupiter, stopping at Red Lobster for a meal which was superior to some of the meals we had eaten on Star Princess. But to quote my travel agent of many years "food is always good if I don't have to cook it myself or clean up after it". So it's on to the next adventure on our bucket list, a trip to the Holy Land. We're thinking of taking the Norwegian Jade next year. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land ... Read More
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land portion of the trip can be found in the Review section of Tripadvisor. I especially want to thank all of folks that post in the Alaska section of the Tripadvisor forum. Without the forum, I would have had a very difficult task to determine an itinerary (special thanks to Manitoba Maple for the itinerary suggestions) and decide on attractions, restaurants, and lodging. The search engine on works great and helped me locate past posts that provided a wealth of information and answered my questions. I also wanted to thank the posters at Cruisecritic. I wanted to especially thank Budget Queen for her suggestions on the Denali summit flightseeing tour and using the shuttle bus in Denali NP. I also wanted to thank Cruising Goddess for her Alaska website. Her packing list was invaluable to developing our Alaskan wardrobe. We loved the convertible pants! The posters at Cruisecritic also provided good info on Alaska, as well as, helping with cruise and cabin selection. I fall in the category of a severe planner and try to tie down as many loose ends as possible, so the information on both sites is a valuable resource. Day 1- Travel day We landed in Anchorage in late afternoon. We pickup our rental car from Alamo. It was a Nissan Altima which is considered full size. We were able to stow our three pieces of luggage and the two day packs in the trunk. (Following advice on the TA forum, we booked a rental car through Alamo about a year earlier for eight days for a total cost of $366.) It was raining when we left the airport, but that ended quickly. The sun came out, and we got our first views of the mountains surrounding Anchorage. After a full day of flying, we had enough energy to shop for groceries, deet, the Milepost, and sundries at the Wal-Mart on Dimond Blvd and get sandwiches from the nearby Subway. We headed to our lodging at the Girdwood Guest House. It was still a sunny day, and the heavily snow-covered mountains along the Turnagain Arm were an unexpected surprise. Pat and Judy at GGH were great hosts. They told us there was more snow on the mountains this late in the year due to the heavy and prolonged winter and spring snow falls. We were able to sleep well because our bedroom at GGH has no windows. Day 2-Girdwood to Homer Day 2 starts with our first wildlife sighting. While fixing breakfast, my wife spotted a black bear across the street. He was about 20 feet away. He moved away before we could get to a camera. We did the Glacier Dog sledding tour with Seavey Iditarod/Alpine Air. Alpine Air runs the airport location and operates the helicopters, and Seavey runs the dog camp. The day was overcast, but no rain, so we were good to fly. They fitted us with fleece gloves and waterproof jackets and pants in addition to the glacier boots. Since I saw glacier dog sledding on an RCL commercial in the early 2000's, I had always wanted to do this tour, and I was not disappointed. They land you onto Punchbowl glacier. During the helicopter trip, we saw blue ice pools. While we were on the glacier, I noticed all the footsteps made in the ice reflect a slight blue tint. The dogs are only 30 to 40 lbs, but they are incredibly strong. I did not realize how eager they are to pull the sled, and they will do it with or without a musher aboard. We got to hold the 8 week old puppies who were so cute. The view of the surrounding mountains around the glacier was spectacular (sorry if I overuse this word in my report, but this vacation was incredible). I got to ride in the co-pilot seat on the way back. Because of my height and weight, this was an unexpected thrill. The scenery in the mountain valleys was beautiful. We wish the helicopter ride could have been longer than 10 minutes each way. After the helicopter trip, we decided that the Alyeska tram would be a letdown, so it was on to Homer. We made several photo stops along the Turnagain Arm and Portage area. We took several minutes at each stop just to admire the incredible views of these snow and ice covered mountains. Along the drive to Cooper Landing, we noticed the beautiful green colored water in the streams. The scenery after Cooper Landing to Soldotna is not as spectacular since it is mostly trees, but we were rewarded with great pastries at The Moose is Loose bakery in Soldotna. After Soldotna, the scenery improved. We had views of the Cooke Inlet. Along the Sterling Highway between Ninilchik and Anchor Point, we made several stops to admire the mountains across the Cook Inlet. I read reviews talking about an impressive view as you enter Homer; they were right. That view of the town, the bay, and the mountains was awesome. We stayed in the Compass Rose Quarters at the Alaska Beach House. Doug and Sue were great hosts and provided good information. The cottage is a stand-alone building which has a balcony overlooking Kachemak Bay. There was an amazing view of the ice-covered mountains across the bay. Upon our arrival, there was a bald eagle perched in a nearby tree. Apparently, there was a bird turf battle for the tree. The eagle was being strafed by 3 crows. I expected the eagle to strike back, but I guess it figured it wouldn't be worth the effort with so many surrounding trees. It flew off and yielded the tree to my least favorite birds. We spent the evening admiring the view from our balcony and the comfortable recliners inside the cottage. Even with overcast skies, the views of the mountains are so striking. Day 3 - Homer Originally, we planned to go to Seldovia on the Kachemak Bay ferry since this would only take about half a day. This would have still allowed about a half day to explore Homer. However, the ferry company changed the schedule, and we would have spent an entire day in Seldovia. We wanted to see Homer as well, so we opted to spend the day in Homer and were rewarded for that decision. The day started out overcast with a low cloud deck. We decided to start with a visit to the Island and Oceans museum. This museum has pretty cool exhibits on the people, history, geography and fishing of the area. While in the museum, blue skies and the sun appeared. We walked the museum trail through Beluga Slough to Bishop's beach. The view from the beach was gorgeous. The beach consists of a dark grey colored sand from the granite mountains which I had never seen. There were posted alerts about a moose being spotted near the trail, but we did see any moose. We then decided to drive along East End Road. We found out that buildings and trees block the view across the bay. To view the beautiful scenery, you need to travel on the interconnecting Old East End Road and the small public gravel roads. We couldn't get enough of staring at the scenery on both sides of the bay. At the end of the paved portion of East End Road, a young woman in a colorful long Russian dress and bonnet was caring for her two children in the front yard of their house. We turned around and headed back to Homer. Since we're fans of the Deadliest Catch, we had to go to the Time Bandit store. We found out the Time Bandit was in port at the Spit, so we rushed to go there. We found the TB. In real life, the ship looks small. I know it is only 109 feet long, but on TV it appears to be larger. It really takes a special kind of courage to take a ship this size into the Bering Sea during winter. We went to the Land's End which has a lounge that has an outdoor area with nice views of the mountains. We ended the day by driving to Skyline Drive. This required driving on East and West Hill Roads. These roads had some turns with steep drop offs that were sort of challenging to this flatlander. On Skyline Drive, there is a pullout that provides a fantastic view of Homer, the Spit, and Kachemak bay especially on this sunny day. Day 4- Homer to Girdwood It was a cold, overcast day, but I wished we could have stayed another day in Homer. I really recommend spending two full days in Homer. We really enjoyed the views from balcony. During our stay at the cottage, we had numerous eagles fly over us. On our way out of Homer, a moose cow and calf were grazing about 20 to 30 feet off the highway. The moose is an unusual looking animal. It looks like it has parts from other animals and was obviously the product of a design by committee. Even though it was overcast and occasionally rainy over the Kenai peninsula, it was sunny across the Cook Inlet, and we were treated to outstanding views of Mts. Redoubt and Iliamna. At one pullout, there were roadside signs describing the volcanoes. Mt Redoubt last erupted in 2009, but it was quiet today. We also saw eagles. While driving down the gravel road to the Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik, a moose cow crossed the road. The moose walked to our right side, and we saw that the calf had preceded her. We watched them feed on the trees. We proceeded to the church. The inside of the church was closed for the day, but it was a treat to see the outside of the little church. We stopped to see the Princess Wilderness Lodge at Cooper Landing. That area has great scenery especially with the green colored streams. Though it was raining, there were quite a people fishing in the river. We arrived at Girdwood where we again stayed at the Girdwood Guest House. Soon after we arrived, the bear we saw on Day 2 came back to tell us hello. We ate at the Silvertip Grill. I had the reindeer lasagna which was delicious. They also had great beer from an Alaskan microbrewery. The grill is frequented mostly by locals, and they made us feel at home. Girdwood is a cool little town. We were again able to take refuge from the white nights in our totally dark bedroom. Day 5 - Homer to Matanuska It was overcast, windy, and cold as we toured the Turnagain Arm area toward Anchorage. The weather did not detract from the spectacular scenery along the arm. We stopped at Windy Point (it earned its name that day), Bird Point, Beluga Point (did not see any whales), and Potter Marsh. We saw lots of birds at Potter March. We even saw Canadian geese with gosling. Some birds like the songbird were at the railings of the boardwalk, but for most, it helps to have binoculars. During our travels along the Turnagain Arm, we did not try to view the bore tides since they were predicted to be very low height or non-occurring. Due to the low cloud deck, we scrubbed going to Independence Pass and Hatcher Mine, and we opted for the Musk Ox Farm. This is a good side tour especially if you have children. The tour guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The musk ox which is actually a goat looks like a throwback to the Wooly Mammoth days. They even let the children feed wild dandelions to the young musk ox. We continued our drive on the Glenn Highway. I found out the hard way that the road to Matanuska was in the mountains (probably foothills, but to this flatlander they seemed like mountains). We got a good view of the Matanuska glacier. At 26 miles long, it is impressive. We stayed at the Majestic Valley lodge and ate at the restaurant at the Sheep Mountain lodge which had good food. Day 6 - Matanuska to Talkeetna It started out as a foggy morning, but the clouds began to lift. It was a sunny day as we did our 3 hour walk on the Matanuska Glacier with MICA tours which we booked the previous day. I really enjoyed the glacier walk, and hopefully I will be able to do at least another one in the future . We got to see the deep crevices and holes in the glacier. We saw the small greenish blue kettle ponds. The snow-capped, surrounding mountains and glacier were absolutely gorgeous. The trip was harder on my wife who has a bad knee. We mistakenly thought that glaciers were relatively flat with some gradual changes in elevation. Wrong, silly flatlanders. There is a somewhat steep change in elevation. We wished we brought her knee brace (which she has not had to wear in over ten years). It would have also helped if she had a hiking pole. The MICA guides were absolutely fantastic about assisting her. We felt bad that we held back the two much younger people in our tour. Needless to say, this was her first and last glacier walk. We drove to Talkeetna. On this sunny day, the scenery along the Glenn Highway was beautiful. Mountains are on both sides of the Matanuska river with the road cut into one of the mountain (yeah I know, foothills). We spent a lot of time stopping and viewing the scenery. After Glenn Highway, the drive from Wasilla to Talkeetna is a bit of a letdown. To quote a line I previously read on Tripadvisor, it was trees, trees, and more trees. When we got to Talkeetna, we spotted Denali (McKinley) from a pullout on the Talkeetna Spur road. The mountain was in a full view! We tried to get a summit flightseeing tour for that evening, but were not successful. We stayed in the downstairs lodge room at the Susitna River Lodging which has a good view of the adjacent Susitna River. From the lodge grounds, you can see some of the Alaskan Range, but not Denali. Later that evening, a couple of large raft tours on the river passed by the lodge. We really enjoyed our short stay at the lodge and at Talkeetna. We ate at Twisted Creek; great service and beer (brewed onsite) and good food. On this Alaskan trip, I verified that halibut is not my favorite fish, but I like how it is prepared at Twisted Creek. Day 7 - Talkeetna to Healy It was an overcast day at Talkeetna, but the skies were clearing over the Alaskan Range. We booked a mid-morning summit flightseeing tour with K2 Aviation. There were some low clouds on the west side of Denali, but were able to get full views of the mountain on the east, south, and north sides. The skies continued to clear as the flight progressed, and we got beautiful views of Denali, Foraker, Hunter, and the surrounding areas. This area had gotten a fresh dusting of snow the previous night. As with other areas of central Alaska, the mountains had much more snow than usual due to the heavy winter and spring snow falls. On a clear day, I highly recommend this tour. It was exhilarating. I was also fortunate to sit in the co-pilot's seat. Ed was our pilot who provided great narration. We did a final drive around Talkeetna (such a cool little town), and it was on to Healy. The scenery improved as the Alaskan Range began to poke above the trees. We also had a black bear cross the highway about 50 to 100 feet in front of us. I was getting sleepy during the drive, so my wife took over the driving. While I was napping, she said she saw a bull moose on the side of the road (I snooze, I lose). We stopped at the Wilderness Access Center in Denali National Park to pick up our prepaid tickets for the 6:15AM shuttle to Wonder Lake. We also watched the short film which was about the early history of the park and construction of the park road. We then headed to our lodging at the Denali Lakeview Inn which is on the shores of Lake Otto. We stayed in the Alaska Room which has large vertical windows providing spectacular views of the mountains and lake. We also had a shared balcony with two other units. We ate at the nearby Black Diamond Grill. The food was very good. I had an Alaskan King Crab leg and salmon. The beer was from the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage. We went back to the inn and stared at the scenery from the comfort of the wrap around couch. The white nights are tough on sleeping, but great for viewing scenery. Day 8 - Denali NP We woke up at 5AM to another sunny day! We drove to the WAC and boarded the shuttle bus. The seats on the bus were surprisingly comfortable, and there was an overhead storage rack with ample room for our day packs. Our shuttle bus driver was Wendy who was fantastic. She gave a great commentary on the history, wildlife, and geology, and geography of the park. She also had fantastic vision at detecting wildlife. Because of Wendy, we saw moose, brown bears and cubs, loons, willow ptarmigan (Alaska state bird), dall sheep, and caribou. She stopped for all wildlife sightings. For some of the bears and caribou, Wendy stopped the bus and waited patiently. She said the animals would get nearer to the bus, and she was right. The caribou crossed the road in front of us, and the bears approached close enough that they could be easily seen without binoculars. We also saw a red fox walking along the road. At the Eielson VC, we ate the sack lunches that were prepared by the folks at the Lakeview inn. The lunches were good and must have smelled good because it interested a ground squirrel who we thought was going to leap onto the bench. I told him know "no" repeatedly, and he kept faking a leap. Apparently, the back and forth between the squirrel and I must have been entertaining enough to draw a crowd snapping photos. Eventually, he got bored and left. He must have put the word out on me to his other squirrel buddies because they scurried when they saw me. From the park entrance to one of the stops, we got full views of Denali! By the time, we got to Eielson, some clouds were at the base of the mountain, but you could still see about 80 to 90% of the mountain. We rode the bus to Wonder Lake, but could only see the top of the mountain at that point; we did see the red fox during this trip. The bus ahead of us saw a wolf pack, but we did not. The mosquitoes at Wonder Lake were numerous but not swarming, but we were glad we had head nets and Deet. 100% deet works great at repelling mosquitoes, but it takes quite a few hand washes with lots of soap to later get rid of the smell. We considered ourselves lucky to get a great bus driver/tour guide, plenty of wildlife sightings, numerous Denali sightings, and a sunny day. We ate at the 49th State Brewery in Healy. The food was OK, but the beer was good. They only brew one beer, a golden ale. The other draft beers are from breweries in Alaska and Washington. Day 9 - Healy to Anchorage It was a fairly uneventful trip to Anchorage. The day started out overcast, but became sunny by afternoon. We did see the top of Denali at a road side pullout. We stayed at the Ship Creek Comfort Inn. We chose this location because it was within walking distance from the train station. We had reserved tickets to Whittier on the Alaskan Railroad for our cruise tomorrow. The inn borders the Tony Knowles trail and Ship Creek. At the creek, there were a lot of people fishing for salmon. We stayed a while, but no one hooked a fish while we were there. Our room was on the creek side of the building, so it was not directly facing the train tracks. We heard, but were not bothered or awakened by train whistles during the night. Day 10 - Anchorage to Whittier Comfort Inn had a great breakfast which we needed since we wound up having a full day. We checked our bags except our daypacks with the railroad employees at the large white tent that is adjacent to the railroad terminal. They had a special section for Princess Cruise luggage. We were told that the bags would be checked all the way to our stateroom on the ship. We then got our ticket from the counter inside the building. We were told that boarding would begin about 20 minutes prior to departure, so we were able to go back to our room at the Comfort Inn for about an hour. The train has very comfortable seats with a lot of legroom. There was ample space in the overhead storage rack for our day packs. We had another sunny day. This afforded great views of the Turnagain Arm and Portage Glacier. After we came out of the second tunnel, we saw Whittier, the Coral Princess, and sunny skies! When we departed the train, I immediately called Major Marine and was told they had about 100 available seats for the 4-1/2 hour tour to Blackstone Bay. We did not opt for the salmon and prime rib buffet. We were still full from breakfast and knew we would eat on the ship that evening. We got an assigned table to ourselves on the first level. We spent most of our time on the open decks on the first and second level. The views of the snow capped mountains and waterfalls were spectacular on this sunny day. The tour has a Park ranger on board who provided great commentary. We saw otters and harbor seals in the bay. We stayed at the Blackstone and Beloit glaciers for about 20 to 30 minutes each. We were within 1/4 mile of each glacier. There was quite a bit of cracking and some large chunks of ice fall from the glacier. I don't know if they would count as calving. One piece seemed small, but sound like a gunshot when it hit the water. We saw quite a few waterfalls, and stopped close to a large one for pictures. We enjoyed the boat ride to and from Whittier. This was a great tour especially with the great weather. We returned to Whittier and boarded the Coral Princess. On our past Caribbean cruises, we had booked inside cabins. For this cruise, we splurged and booked a mini suite, and we are glad we did. When we opened the door, great views and our luggage were awaiting us! We loved this stateroom. We spent a lot of time on this cruise looking at scenery from the balcony or the full size sofa in the stateroom. Day 11 - Hubbard Glacier It was an overcast day with a very low cloud deck when we got to Yakutat Bay. The onboard Princess naturalist said not worry. She said there was a 90% chance of seeing the glacier, and she was correct. We were only able to get within 8 miles of the glacier because of the floating ice. The glacier is the largest in the world and it was impressive. En route to the glacier, we did see the tail of a humpback whale. Day 12- Glacier Bay National Park A sunny day in Glacier Bay! We viewed Reid, Lamplugh, and Margerie glaciers. In addition to the onboard naturalist, we had Park rangers on board to provide commentary and respond to questions. One of the rangers told me that there was more snow on the mountains than in past years. We were about a mile from Margerie glacier. We saw quite a bit of ice fall from the glacier. We saw an eagle floating on an iceberg close to the ship. Day 13- Skagway It was a sunny day in Skagway! Not all was perfect, I started with a head cold. We went on the Emerald Lake-Carcross tour with Dyea Dave. We also had reservations for the WP&YR train from Fraser Meadows to Skagway. Shelby was our tour guide. Our experience with her was the opposite of Wendy with the Wonder Lake shuttle. The tour seemed rushed, and compared to other tours, we got minimal informative narration. That day, she seemed to view herself more a bus driver than tour guide. I had read great review about Dyea Dave, but it seems if you don't get Dave then the quality of your tour may be luck of the draw. With that said, the scenery to Carcross is pretty. We saw a group of vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Most on our bus saw a bear. We saw a lake that was so still that it mirrored the surrounding land. When we encountered that lake, I thought it was part of the land. We also saw Emerald Lake which gets its color and name from the algae growing in it. We visited the Carcross Desert which is the world's smallest desert. Carcross is a quaint, tiny town, and the water around Carcross also appeared to have an emerald color. The train ride from Fraser to Skagway was great. The allure of the train is not so much the scenery which is pretty, but that the tracks are cut into the side of a mountain. One thing we would have done differently was to not bring both daypacks on the Skagway bus trip. We typically carried the small camera, water, some snacks, and the rain jackets and rain packs in the day packs. Since we had room, we probably included other stuff that I can't recall now. The small bus used by Dyea Dave did not have an overhead storage rack. (I had previously asked them if it was OK to bring day packs which they said would be OK, but neglected to ask if there was storage for the packs.) There is very little room under the seats for day packs. (This was also true of the shuttle bus used by Orca Enterprises.). The smaller day pack was able to be put on the floor and shoved a little under the seats in from of us. We had to carry the 20 inch long day pack on our lap for the duration of the bus ride. For the Orca trip, we learned our lesson and crammed the above items into the smaller day pack. That worked well for the shuttle bus ride and most importantly, the boat trip. On the WP&YP train ride, there are overhead storage racks. Looking back, the only bus or boat trip where we needed 2 day packs was on the 11 hour Wonder Lake shuttle bus where we also had to carry lunches, snacks, and additional water. Another thing that surprised me was that there was more leg room between the seats on the old passenger cars on the train than there was on the small bus. Even with the limited legroom, I would still use one of the tour companies to travel to Emerald Lake and back to Fraser since the bus does stop for photo ops along the way. Day 14- Juneau Another sunny day! We did the whale watching tour with Orca Enterprises. The entire experience was great. The driver who drove us to and from the docks provided a lot of information on the sights we saw on the way. On the boat, Jeff was the tour guide, and Josh was the captain. They were great. Jeff gave an informative talk about the humpback whale especially their feeding habits and behavior. Josh was adept at finding whales. We saw plenty of backs and tails. Josh also told us to watch the eagles. He pointed out how one would scoop the fish out the water, and another eagle would try to steal it. The fish was usually the winner because it would fall back into the water during the aerial scuffle. It was fascinating to watch the eagle acrobatics. We had about 15 passengers on the boat, so everyone got ample time to go up on the upper deck for whale watching. You can only be up on the upper deck when the boat is stopped, and they limit 6 passengers at a time. We got to see Mendenhall glacier from the boat. We were a bit tired from our travels and decided not to visit the glacier. Since it was a sunny, cloudless day, we took the tram up to Mt. Roberts. We had great views of the surrounding area from the top. We saw an interesting short movie about the Tlingit people. There are quite a few walking trails and one that goes down the mountain. There were still mounds of snow on the mountain. The tram was a good alternative to the glacier. Day 15 - Ketchikan This was a sunny day in normally rainy Ketchikan. We were scheduled for the Misty Fjords/Glacier flightseeing tour with Family Air. Gretchen picked us up on the street in front of our cruise ship. We chose Family Air because they were the only company that would do the glacier tour without having at least four people booked. I guess this is because Dave's plane is a Cessna bush plane and normally seats four. The other companies used a slightly larger DeHavilland and seat six. Dave is the owner and the pilot. He told us that the great weather had some drawbacks. On an earlier flight, there was quite a bit of turbulence. He said that the glacier portion may be too rough, but it would be our choice whether to proceed. This was our first flight on a seaplane, and I really enjoyed the experience of taking off and intentionally landing on water. As we had seen elsewhere in Alaska, there was more snow on the mountains than normal. We enjoyed flying through the fjords. Dave is very personable and gave a good description of the area. There was quite a bit of turbulence. We heard other pilots saying they were turning back because their passengers were getting queasy. The turbulence prevented us from landing in the lake and getting off the plane onto land. We did land in the water near a boat owned by a friend of Dave's. They had just caught a 50 lb fish. We were able to stand on the pontoons which was still a cool experience. Because of the turbulence, we decided not to proceed with the glacier tour. After the flight, Gretchen dropped us off at the Creek Street area at our request. She directed us to the salmon ladder, but said it might be too early to view salmon. She was right. The salmon ladder is pretty neat to see, and it would be great to visit it in July and August during the salmon runs. We walked down Married Man's trail which is what men used to sneak down to the brothels on Creek St. It is a scenic walk down the trail. We took the funicular from Creek St up to the Cape Fox Lodge. Going up the hill gave us a nice view of the area. We had lunch at the Heen Kahidi Dining Room which has nice views of the dock area. We enjoyed the open face sandwiches. I had the Bear lunch which consisted of salmon and cream cheese on flat bread and a yogurt topped with raspberries. My wife had chicken, green onions, and havarti cheese on flat bread. Just outside of the inn was a collection of totem poles. After enjoying the view from atop the hill, we took the funicular back to Creek St. Ordinarily, you would pay the attendant $2.00 pp at the lower level. For this trip, there was no one there. I had read that this does occur frequently during the summer, and you just operate the funicular yourself by pressing the up/down button. We walked along Creek Street to Steadman's bridge. Creek St now contains shops and restaurants. The buildings are on the water and supported by pilings. There are informative signs on the buildings that were brothels. At Dolly's house, a young woman in 20's garb appeared at the door and gave us a funny double entendre sales pitch for the tour. She had a lot of enthusiasm. At this point, it was late afternoon, and I was getting tired from the head cold. We passed on the tour, but in hindsight, wished we had taken the tour. Days 16 and 17 - Sea Day and Vancouver It was an overcast day and visibility was limited. The sea day allowed us the opportunity to crash. We slept most of the day. We disembarked in Vancouver, we took the City HIghlights/Stanley Park tour through Princess. This was the only tour we booked through Princess since it included a transfer to the Vancouver airport. The tour guide was very good. The bus was very comfortable with overhead storage for the day packs. We had a 3:14 PM flight, so this tour was a great alternative to sitting in the airport. The tour included a 20 minute stop at Stanley Park. They have a very impressive display of totem poles. From the park, there is a scenic view of downtown Vancouver and a final view of the cruise ship. Thankfully, the trip home was uneventful. Misc. Lessons Learned and Conclusion: Food: Someone in a recent trip report stated that they found the fish to be overcooked. With exception to the Twisted Creek restaurant in Talkeetna, I would agree. I did enjoy items such as the reindeer lasagna at Silvertip Grill. This is something that I cannot get back home. Customer Service: I had read posts in Tripadvisor that gave the impression that personnel at the lodging and restaurants might be apathetic regarding the patrons. We were fortunate. All of the hospitality personnel that we encountered were very friendly and accommodating. Sleep: I wish I had worn the sleep masks at home well before the trip to get used it. During the trip, it made it a challenge to get used to sleeping in near daylight conditions with a mask. Energy: I was surprised how taxing this trip could be at times. Even though I'm nearly 58 years old, I had a lot of energy during our trip last year to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Quite a few times during the land portion of the trip, I found myself tired around 6 or 7PM at night. Conclusion: This trip had been my dream vacation for a while, and it met my expectations which were high. We enjoyed our stays at the various accommodations and would do so again. With exception of Dyea Dave, all of our excursions were a lot of fun. Hopefully, my first trip to Alaska will not be my last. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
This cruise was a little different for us as the others have all originated from the US and we have used Princess Transfers from/to the airport. This time, we flew into Copenhagen a few days early and got ourselves to the ship. I must say, ... Read More
This cruise was a little different for us as the others have all originated from the US and we have used Princess Transfers from/to the airport. This time, we flew into Copenhagen a few days early and got ourselves to the ship. I must say, the check-in was much quicker than usual and their were Princess reps to guide all through the process...and it was very nice NOT to have to wait for our luggage to show up at our room since we wheeled it right on ourselves. After talking with our daughter and family who took this cruise last year, we purposely chose an inside cabin to avoid the late-night sun. It was large and fine, and on the Caribe Deck, you have many choices to keep you away from the elevators and laundry rooms, so it was very quiet. (not that we spend much time in our cabin anyway). The Emerald is a large ship and this cruise was sold out, so it tended to be pretty crowded at times. We chose anytime dining as the times in the different ports varied, but found a wonderful waiter and steward and our request for them was never a problem. The food, as we have always found on Princess, was excellent. We skipped the shows as we had seen most of them on our Panama Canal cruise in 2010 (Princess needs to update them more often.) This cruise has a very packed port schedule and only 2 sea days - frankly, if you are coming in from Canada or the US I would skip the tux and gown and just bring a nice travel dress/sportcoat and tie as the formal days are not that great. If you are a Captain's Circle member don't expect much from the Captain's Circle "party." We were stuffed into the Princess Theater, handed a free drink voucher, and shown a 20 minute commercial for the latest Princess Ship (The Royal?) Not what we have experienced in the past. Another review told you about SPB tours. I second that! Alla Tours is also good. Unless this is your ONLY chance to see Berlin, skip the 6 hour train trip/bus ride and do Rostock and Schwerin instead for the Germany port stop. DON'T PAY THE PRINCESS PRICES for a stuffed to the gills tour bus and a single guide trying to herd 40-60 people around. You will pay more and see less than an off-the-ship tour. And don't fall for the "only Princess can guarantee your Russian Visa" line. Any legitimate tour company can take care of your Visa. Also, get your Krone, Kroners, Rubles, or Euros BEFORE you leave or at a local ATM. DON't use the ship exchange. Worse exchange rates and fees I have ever seen! This is a fast-paced and fully packed itinerary, but we had a thoroughly enjoyable time.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a ... Read More
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a try. Neither of us had ever been to Alaska and yes, we both wanted to go but we were planning to wait a few years. However since we really wanted to go on a cruise...off we went. We flew into Anchorage Saturday night, embarkation was Monday. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in mid-town. Very nice hotel, close to a few places to eat and a grocery store with a liquor store if you want to carry on a couple of bottles of wine with you. They offered a free shuttle which we took advantage of to pick us up at the airport and to take us downtown. Breakfast was really good but the lines to eat were a bit crazy. Between all the people who acted like they have never eaten breakfast in a hotel before and only one person cooking omelets it was at best slow. Ultimately I think I would stay downtown if we did it again. Close to the market, restaurants, activities, etc. Embarkation went smooth. We opted to buy transfers from Alaska Cruise Transfer. Went smooth, they picked us up when they said, had some narration on the ride over, Whittier tunnel was neat to see and all at half the price of the cruise ship transfer. We walked on the ship just after 3pm and everything was ready. Our bags showed up very soon after we got to our cabin. Cabin A306. Small but worked. To be fair we usually choose at least a mini suite as we like the space they provide. It was quiet had a covered balcony, was close to forward stairs and elevators. Very small shower but great water pressure. Cabin had enough storage and the refrig kept things pretty cool. Beds were horrible in our opinion. Hard...very hard. Oh yes, not one single towel animal either. We opted for the Horizon court the first night for supper, other than that we only ate breakfast at the buffet two other days and that was it for the buffet. Not that it was bad, we just didn't eat there much. We went to the welcome aboard show the first night, in fact we basically went to all of the shows that were offered. Sarge the comedian, the illusionist, the hypnotist, and production show Motor City. Yep we went, but basically thought they were all very unimaginative. After looking at scenery all day and having basically nothing else happening on the ship we went for lack of something better. In fact it was very strange. I don't know if it was the type of crowds that generally go on this cruise or what, but there was not a lot of activities to choose from. Stuart the cruise director did not seem to be engaged in the passengers at all. Hubbard Glacier did not get visited due to weather and too much ice. Glacier Bay was nice and we saw a few glaciers, whales, dolphins, birds. Basically everything you were supposed to see. Commentary from park ranger was fine. Skagway was an okay stop. We chose to ride the train which was a very nice ride with a lot scenery but looking back at 119 dollars each it was pretty high priced. I would recommend finding something to do that takes you out of town as there isn't much there and you can pretty much see walk it quick. Would also be a good day to see it and then head back to the ship for a massage. We enjoyed Juneau. We bought through the cruise ship the Taku River Lodge and flightseeing excursion. Fly in a float plane, see several glaciers from above, land on the Taku river, eat fresh grilled salmon, experience a historical lodge, fly back to Juneau. If you are wanting to see some whales this is a good stop to sign up for some whale watching as well. Ketchikan was our only really rainy day. Other days had a little bit of drizzle at times but also times when it was sunny (Hubbard Glacier day it was very thick fog). We walked around town a bit, did a little shopping, had lunch, bought some canned salmon, a t-shirt, etc. then back to the ship. You can easily walk to the salmon ladder and fish hatchery if you don't want to buy an excursion. The meals were good, they still had lobster tails one night in the main dining room. Most were the size of a jumbo prawn. We ate at the Bayou Steakhouse one night. Very good and a nice change from the main dining room. 5 extra dollars over the cover charge for a lobster tail but you got a great lobster tail for the money. Yes as other people said, they were always trying to take your picture. We didn't buy any but thought it was fun to let them take them and look at them later. I always have though if they would lover the price they would just about sell all the pictures they take. As it seems they must throw a lot of them away. Pub lunch occurred twice during the cruise and we went both times. Fish and Chips were very good. It was a great lunch that I don't think a lot of people knew about because it wasn't busy at all. We signed up for the ultimate ship tour. We enjoyed this very much. Three hours of going everywhere on the ship you can't normally enter. Bridge, Galley, Engineering, Laundry, etc. If you are interested in the "How" then this is a good tour. If you only care that things just get done and don't care about how it gets to that point, I wouldn't sign up for this. Disembarkation went very smooth. They do a great job and has to be one of the best we have experienced. Conclusion, this was our 9th cruise and 2nd with Princess (first on the Crown) and I would rank this toward the top of the bottom third (we are in our mid 30's). For Princess the Crown is still keeping them in the running with us for future cruises. We still have had much better experiences with RCI. We did get a relaxing vacation. I however was also in the mood for a great cruise ship experience and what we really got was a great tour of Alaska instead. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We took the 12 day escorted land-sea cruise tour of Alaska. Our ship was the Diamond Princess. First the Pros: The Diamond Princess is a clean, well-maintained and roomy ship. crew is friendly and helpful. The scenery on both the land ... Read More
We took the 12 day escorted land-sea cruise tour of Alaska. Our ship was the Diamond Princess. First the Pros: The Diamond Princess is a clean, well-maintained and roomy ship. crew is friendly and helpful. The scenery on both the land and sea parts is beautiful...awesome is a better word. We saw some animals of each of the Alaskan species..bear, moose, caribou, sea otters, whales, eagles, mountain sheep etc. But not many, usually they were in groups of 1-3. Food throughout the tour was excellent. The escorted tour includes almost all of the meals, and is well worth the additional cost from that aspect alone. We took the Skagway train, Devils Canyon jet boat, Denali tundra tour, whale watching, zip line and Ketchican Duck for excursions. All were excellent and fun. The disembarking process at the end of the sea cruise was very efficient. The Cons: The land tour escort was sometimes not present at key times (like when boarding a bus for excursions) and since the escorted tour had sometimes different transportation, it was frustrating to try to figure out where we were supposed to be. In a related issue, we often received 2 differing sets of instructions for the land tour. The first night on the ship, we went to the buffet and found old and tired lettuce in the salad bowls. When this was pointed out to the chef, he had the bowls changed. But they should have not even put this salad out. There we no hand sanitizers at the entrances to the dining areas, with the exception of the buffet and the fast food areas. The ship is very commercial. Lots of sales, jewelry, art work. It was sometimes hard to get from place to place because the vendors tied up the passage space so that you were forced to funnel past their wares. Especially annoying were the on-board photographers who actually forced long lines when we were disembarking for the ports, so that everyone had to get a picture taken, whether they wanted to or not. I have been on many land and sea tours, so on a comparative basis, I would rate Princess as good, but not excellent. In my opinion, Viking is the best, followed closely by Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage with a 10 day cruise to Mexico. The Star Princess offered convenient round trip sailing from San Francisco - not far from home so did not require air travel or overnight accommodations ... Read More
My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage with a 10 day cruise to Mexico. The Star Princess offered convenient round trip sailing from San Francisco - not far from home so did not require air travel or overnight accommodations before or after the cruise. It was a great over-all experience - the ship was relatively clean and well maintained for it's age. Our cabin was clean and our steward took care of us. We choose "Any Time Dining" and so glad that we did. Never had a problem getting a table in the restaurants. Any Time Dining offers the same menus but with the flexibility to eat when you are hungry and not have to rush off to the dining room because it was your seating. The food in the main dining room was just okay --- not the selections we have had on other Princess cruises. Horizon Court was usually "picked over" and sometimes less than appealing --- very cafeteria-like with a chlorine smell drifting in from the pool area. The best place to eat after getting your food in the Horizon Court is to go all the way through the seating area towards the back of the ship --- there is another dining area inside (less smelly there) and a bar and outside seating at the very back of the ship. Really enjoyed having breakfast in the main dining room - relaxed and elegant (but don't sleep in because they stop serving in there at 9:00 am). Pub lunch and afternoon tea were fun too. The best food on the ship was in the Crown Grill and Sabatini's --- definitely worth the extra fee. The Crown Grill fillet was probably the best piece of meat I have ever had -- the salts they serve on the side are wonderful and the Au gratin potatoes awesome. The service was great too - very attentive. Our goal was quiet, relaxed and no pressure --- lots of time to read, sit on deck or on the balcony of our cabin and enjoy not having to do anything we didn't want too! There were plenty of activities on board but If you are looking for lots of high energy stuff to do this probably wouldn't have been the cruise for you - probably due to the time of year. Not many families or younger folks on this cruise. Ports were fine -- It was extremely hot and humid in Mexico but we had fun shopping, found some fun restaurants and just wandered around. The excursions are pretty expensive, we preferred to check with the locals and booked some activities on our own in each port. We didn't choose this itinerary for the ports - we chose it because of the time of year, we wanted a 10 day cruise and we wanted to depart from a west coast port. My only complaint is that the customer service appears to be lacking. Just little annoying things but they add up --- few of the staff seemed to want to give that little bit extra that makes a huge difference. We had a problem at the end of the cruise with some very rude crew members but over all we were pretty low maintenance travelers. We would probably cruise with Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
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