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951 Princess Romantic Cruise Reviews

First time cruising, had no idea which line, what to do, how much money should I bring, all the stupid questions running through my mind. Decided on the Ruby Princess for no real good reason, I think because it was the newest ship, ... Read More
First time cruising, had no idea which line, what to do, how much money should I bring, all the stupid questions running through my mind. Decided on the Ruby Princess for no real good reason, I think because it was the newest ship, whatever that had to do with it!!! Landed in Miami on Jan 17th, met the Princess Rep, Eileen, told her we had to get luggage, retrieved luggage, turned around , Eileen is no where to be found, had a rep paged, nothing. Finally a competitor rep, Norwegian, helped us out. We though such a wonderful way to start our first cruise. Driver of bus to ship said there was a accident on Rte 95, so it will take was longer to get there as he is taking side roads, Scenic South Miami!!!! After a little over an hour, there it was in all it's shining glory. Found our state room on the Baja Deck, introduced to our cabin person, Dragos from Yugoslava. He could not do enough for us. He had 19 rooms, but it seemed like he was our personal guy. We ate at the Buffet all the time, did not experience the dining room, although I heard it was OK. At the breakfast buffet, stay away from the scrambled eggs, OMG I am pretty sure they are powdered. Every pasta dish they had was cooked perfect, al dente. Prime Rib and such meat was over cooked a bit, but still tasty. With all I ate, I was surprised I had gained only 4 pounds. As for the islands we visited, (we, meaning me and my ex-wife, that's right, ex), Jamaica was horrible. Did the Sting-ray thingy and got to hold the slippery sucker for 90 seconds. I took a picture and got scolded for it. Then we went to Dunns Falls which was very cool. But after, you get attacked by natives. I gave the guide a tip of $10 and he actually said it was not enough!!!! Was approached by this guy who told me to inspect his hands, like I had no idea what hands were, and tried to sell me knick-knacks for $45. I offered $5 and his 'relatives' heard me. All hell broke loose. They were yelling at me. He came down to $35, then $25, then $12, then after I heard for the umpteenth time that "I no respect him, mon", he came down to $8. Finally he came down to $5, and I was so irritated, I told him no sale, that "He did not respect me, mon" Did not even bother going to town, went right back to the ship for a few frozen pina colodas. Grand Caymen was great, road horses on the beach, walked the streets, met great people on the back streets. Visited a few shops. Cozumel was also a great experience. Hired a taxi on-line. (cozumeltaxi@hotmail.com). Lazaro was our guide. Absolutely wonderful. Took us out of the tourist areas, showed us his neighborhood, then went to the other side of the island where therre is no electricity, plumbing. Just a couple of restaurants on the shore with great frozen pina coladas. It cost us $120 for the four hours, which was well worth it. The last island was in the Bahamas, Princess Cays. Now this place is exactly where I want to spend a week. Secluded, nice beaches, little barbeque going and of course, frozen pina coladas. I would love the ship to lower anchor and have the tenders bring me back and forth. If it is your first time cruising, just think of the feeling of having nothing on your mind, Can't do it, huh!!! Well, go on a cruise. Getting off the ship in Fort Launderdale was effortless, mark your suitcases well, buy polka dot ones or tie a brightly colored bungy cord around them, because there must of been a sale on black and blue luggage. Bussed back to airport, and hung around for a few hours, finally read a newspaper. Break is over, now I have to get back to shoveling, as mother nature is dumping 6 inches in my driveway. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
We did the three night Vancouver/Victoria pre-cruise tour. We stayed at the Four Seasons for two nights. We arrived about an hour before the official check in time so our room wasn't quite ready. They sent us to the bar for a ... Read More
We did the three night Vancouver/Victoria pre-cruise tour. We stayed at the Four Seasons for two nights. We arrived about an hour before the official check in time so our room wasn't quite ready. They sent us to the bar for a complimentary drink while we waited. The room was beautiful - a corner room on the 14th floor. The view was great! We had one day to explore Vancouver on our own, and then boarded a motorcoach (then ferry) to Victoria. Timing is everything. We happened to be in Victoria for Victoria Day, so everything was packed with people. They even had a marching band competition going on across the street from the Empress hotel. Our tour guide, Billy Raegh, was fantastic. Very entertaining, very friendly, very accommodating. In Victoria, we spent a few hours at Buchart Gardens. I don't think there is ever a bad time of the year to visit the gardens! Some of our party was anxious to get to the Empress in time for High Tea. Instead of doing the city tour immediately following the Gardens as planned, Billy took us to the hotel. For those of us that skipped the tea, we had some time to rest and have dinner before regrouping at 7pm for an evening tour of Victoria. This was a terrific idea - the tour was so much more leisurely and enjoyable without the crowds. My only critique of this pre-cruise tour was that the Empress is on the shabby side. We had furniture in our room that was scratched, torn, or broken. It wasn't just that we got a bad room either. One of our cruisemates had a toilet on the blink. Another had a mini-fridge that made horrible noises. We had been warned about wet weather in May, but the drive to the ship was the only time that we were rained on all trip! Embarkation was very smooth. Maybe just 15 minutes from the time we left the motorcoach until we were boarding the ship. This was our first time cruising in a full suite. It will be very hard for us to do anything less in the future! Having all that extra space, including the extra large balcony, was worth it. The other perks were appreciated as well. One of our favorites was the complimentary laundry service - going home with clean clothes was a real treat! We did Anytime Dining, and never had to wait more than a couple minutes. We typically asked for a table for two, but those tables are very close to another table for two. It's more like a table for four. We didn't mind though. We enjoyed everyone that we met on board. There was a nice variety of options on the menu, but food tended to be a little on the bland side in the dining room though. We tried the Bayou Cafe - this was definitely our best meal and well worth the cover charge. We ate at the Horizon Court once for lunch. No complaints. We did pizza once too. Also good. We decided to renew our vows and opted for the Deluxe Package. Irving coordinated all the details for us, and it was really special. The ceremony was in the chapel. We had stuck our head in the chapel earlier in the day when it was set up for computer classes. We were a little worried about how it would look for the ceremony, but there was no need. It was very nice. The flowers were beautiful, and very long lived. We had the bouquet in our stateroom all week, and it never faded. As part of our package, we were able to do a Bridge Tour. Very fun. There was a group of about twelve of us. Lots of interesting tidbits to learn on that tour. Also, the package included a massage or facial for each of us. We decided to upgrade to a couple's massage. We were on tables, side by side, getting a massage at the same time. We did the Misty Fjords Explorer in Ketchikan, Whales and Trails in Juneau, and Explore the Yukon in Skagway. We really gave the digital camera a workout in all three places! This was a great sampling - we saw glaciers, wildlife (whales, sea lions, bald eagles, otters, a black bear, and sled dogs), the rainforest, waterfalls, and gorgeous lakes. Another highlight for us was meeting Libby Riddles (and her dogs). She autographed books, and gave a nice talk about her experiences in the Iditarod. Cruising through Glacier Bay and College Fjord were both incredible too. You felt like you were so close to the glacier, but when it calved and the sound took so long to get to you, you realized how far away you really were. Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation. Overall, this was a fantastic cruise. The ship was beautiful, the service was excellent. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
My new husband and I sailed on the Golden Princess for our honeymoon, and we had an amazing time! This was our first time on a Princess cruise. We both had an extensive cruising history, he with Royal Caribbean and me with Cunard and ... Read More
My new husband and I sailed on the Golden Princess for our honeymoon, and we had an amazing time! This was our first time on a Princess cruise. We both had an extensive cruising history, he with Royal Caribbean and me with Cunard and Holland America. We were so thrilled with the whole experience. We would definitely sail on Princess again! Embarkation: A breeze. We arrived approx. 11am, and were on board at 12:15pm. We were the first group to arrive, and it felt like the crew on board were not really prepared for us, as there was no one on board to greet us, except for the guy selling soda cards. We had no idea where to go, but we eventually figured it out. It would have been nice to have a little direction once on board, but no problems. Cabin: We had a mini-suite on Dolphin deck. Much discussion about uncovered balconies, but we were very pleased with ours. The amount of space and storage is very generous for 2 people. One problem, with 2 twin beds pushed together, it creates a little bump in the middle. Not sure why, and certainly not comfortable, but we had some laughs about it throughout the trip. Our cabin was right across the hall from the laundry room, but we never heard any noise from the machines or from people going in and out. It was so great to have close access to doing laundry. Food: With all the cruises we've been on, we can say that the desserts were the best we've ever had. They look beautiful AND are actually tasty. The food selection for lunch and dinner was so varied and with great international flavor. With the exception of prime rib on the first and last night, there was never a repeat of an appetizer, soup, or entree choice, and we really appreciated the chef taking the time to come up with a creative menu to keep things different. Also, it was wonderful having Pacific Rim dishes to try, in the spirit of the ports we were visiting. We were assigned Canelletto, but we had asked for a table of 2, and apparently, there are no such tables in that dining room. They were able to accommodate us in Donetello, which is anytime dining. However, they assigned a table for 2 and dining time to us for the entire cruise, and it was perfect. We loved our waitstaff, who were both professional and very friendly. Buffet breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court were greatfood hot and fresh, plenty of choices, and we could eat inside or outside. Public Rooms: The ship was beautiful very elegantly decorated in tasteful colors and designs. All the rooms were in great shape, no wear and tear in sight. We loved the Princess theater, with a great view from every seat. We wished the Vista Lounge had better all around views, but the seats are too level to the stage. Still a great room, though. The atrium was a favorite spot of ours, to enjoy pre dinner cocktails and beautiful music, or just to engage in people-watching in the middle of the day. Shipboard activities: There was no shortage of things to do onboard during our sea days. The activities were nicely geared toward Hawaii culture and history. Also plenty of other traditional cruise activities. The cruise staff was great in keeping people informed and involved. The cruise director in particular was everywhere! We would have liked to have had Catholic Mass on board, as other cruise lines do. Entertainment: We had mixed feelings about the entertainment. We thought the shipboard singers and dancers were great! The choreography, singing and dancing was really enjoyable, and they put their hearts into it to entertain the guests. We also loved the string quartet and featured pianist, a Russian guy, and we listened to them not only in the atrium and at tea, but also at their featured concerts. The guest entertainers were a mixed bag. We liked the magician and the first comedian. We felt the ventriloquist was okay. We really did not care for Don Ware, the final comedian. While he had some funny bits, the final night of his show, where he was headlined, for approx. 30 minutes, all he did was recognize various people in the audience for their service policemen, firefighters, teachers. Now I'm not saying these people didn't deserve recognition, but this guy was hired to do comedy, and as headliner, with about 45 min. of time to do a show, we couldn't understand why he would eat up 30 min. doing that. We got very little from him, and thought he really cheated the ship out of what they hired him to do. Very unprofessional, in our opinion. Shore excursions: All of our excursions were booked through the ship. We did a volcano bike tour in Hilo, the Arizona Memorial and city tour in Honolulu, and the surfing lesson in Maui. All were extremely well-organized and well-run, and the guides and instructors were top-notch. Also, the information the ship gave out to help people navigate on their own was very helpful for free time on the islands. Overall: We loved this trip and have recommended it to people back home. The ship was a happy ship. I've never seen a crew so relaxed and happy in their jobs, which filtered down to happy passengers. The service was very professional and friendly, without being overly "in-your-face". All the special touches really made it a great cruise. We can't wait to try Princess again!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our first time cruising with Princess! The ship is simply stunning and is laid out very well. We had a balcony stateroom on the Lido deck that was simply marvelous. The closet configuration is fabulous! It's almost set up ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with Princess! The ship is simply stunning and is laid out very well. We had a balcony stateroom on the Lido deck that was simply marvelous. The closet configuration is fabulous! It's almost set up like a walk in closet. There is plenty of space for clothes and suitcases. The bathroom is supplied with shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion for the spa. Also, you can request robes from your room stewart; they are plush! The tv's are equipped with quite a few good channels...news...sports..and several current movie channels for kids, adults, etc. The common areas of the ship were absolutely stunning! The decor is very grand; nothing is gaudy or taken over the top. We were very pleased with the dining room food selections. The buffet is good but very typical. There is plenty of seating with great views! The wait staff is extremely efficient even during the dining peak hours. I highly recommend eating at Sabatini's. Yes, there is a cover charge but it is well worth it! You will be fed more food then you can possibly eat, and it is all scrumptious! The wait staff is extremely friendly but also gives you privacy. I have a garlic allergy and the chef actually prepared from scratch the main courses I wanted garlic-free. I was extremely impressed! The pool area is fabulous! The lounge chairs are extremely "cushiony", the movies under the stars are fantastic- they play even during the day. I would recommend checking out the spa. While prices are steep, you can get discounts while the ship is in port. I highly recommend the bamboo massage; they roll pieces of bamboo on your muscles and it works out all sorts of knots! It's a unique and memorable experience. My husband and I are gym rats and were quite pleased with the fitness selection and classes. The yoga class was quite simple...nothing advanced. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Arrived Saturday prior to cruise at 10:00 p.m. and stayed at the LaConcha hotel. Got it for $115 on Priceline which is a great deal since the rooms run $300+ per night. Hotel was completely sold out and as was mentioned in a previous ... Read More
Arrived Saturday prior to cruise at 10:00 p.m. and stayed at the LaConcha hotel. Got it for $115 on Priceline which is a great deal since the rooms run $300+ per night. Hotel was completely sold out and as was mentioned in a previous review the De La Hoya fight was being broadcast in the hotel and out by the pool with a big crowd. Hard to find any seats, but we couldn't hear it in our room (facing the ocean). One note here, I was told over the phone by people at LaConcha since we got our room through Priceline we couldn't get an ocean view room. This was not the case at all. We stayed before the cruise and after and both times had no problems getting an ocean view room with a balcony. Beware of the breakfast buffet in the Level 25 restaurant. It's $20 per person. We didn't know and wanted something quick on embarkation morning. Lesson learned. The pools were very good and service exceptional all over the hotel. I've stayed at many hotels and this was probably one of the nicest, with the best bed and pillows I have ever experienced. They also have a newly opened casino, which isn't large, but they give you free drinks if you play. Plenty of restaurants and a Walgreens near the hotel within walking distance. We walked to Walgreens and bought a case of water to take on board with us and got last minute essentials we didn't want to carry onto the plane. EMBARKATION: Okay, since this was our first cruise, we couldn't wait for embarkation (it was supposed to be from 2:00 p.m. and after 3:00 for faster service). We took a cab around 1:00 p.m. to the pier and were onboard by 1:30. Very small line, but it moved quickly. We brought our tequila and countreau with us in our rumrunners, packed in our checked luggage, and we had no problems getting it onboard. We could have bought our alcohol right at the pier and carried it on in our carry on. I saw a lot of people doing this and no one had their alcohol confiscated. The only problem I had was buying the "mixers" for my margaritas, which the liquor store did not have. So here I sat with my smuggled tequila and no way to make margaritas. Definitely a lesson learned. Always bring along your mix, or go to the store before boarding to get it. I should also note that I purchased some rum at St. Lucia and carried it right on in my beach bag. We went straight to our room on the Dolphin deck (mini suite) aft, and it was ready for our arrival. The bed had our egg crate, which was previously requested by fax, but we didn't have the robes. We had to request those from our room steward, Martin. While we didn't see Martin very often, he always took very good care of our room and always left us ice in the refrigerator. After dropping off our carryon luggage, we went to get lunch at the buffet. SHIP: the ship is definitely showing signs of wear, but it will all be revamped when it goes into dry dock in January. It was still very nice and beautiful. We never had any problems with A/C in any areas on the ship. DINING: We had anytime dining and LOVED IT! We never had a wait on any night, but we were willing to sit with others. The first night was the cold seafood buffet (lobster claws, crab legs and shrimp) in the buffet. You do need crab crackers for the lobster. We didn't bring any and had to use our forks to dig the meat out of the claws. The crab was split, so they were no problem. On the first formal night (Monday) the Caribe Cafe had lobster again (but not cold), so we had some appetizers before we had our formal dinner in the Palm Dining Room. We ate in the Palm dining room, because of the advice we got here on the board since it is hard to get to on the ship. We ate at both specialty dining restaurants, as we wanted to experience it all on our first cruise. Both were exceptional and my husband really loved Sabatinis, because of all the varieties of food you get to try. My favorite meal had to be the balcony dining. We decided on this to celebrate our anniversary. It cost $100 per couple, but well worth it. We got appetizers, crab quiche, salad, very thick filet mignon and a HUGE lobster tail, along with chocolate mousse for dessert. With all this came fresh roses, two cocktails, a bottle of champagne and our own private waiter singing happy anniversary to us. Our new friends were on the deck above us out on the balcony singing along with the waiter. What could be better? So romantic. We thought all of the food was very good, at all of the restaurants. We ate breakfast at the buffet every day as it had a large variety and only had problems on the last day finding a seat. This day was a mad house as everyone had to be out of their room by 8:00 a.m. so they were all in the buffet trying to eat breakfast. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to the Explorers Lounge to see Gary Delena at 7:00 p.m. No problems getting a seat if you get there a few minutes early. Otherwise it fills up pretty quick. Gary Delena is a comedian and was very funny. He had another show on Saturday night in the Princess Theatre so we went to that also, and sat on the front row. We also saw Dan Horn, who is a ventriloquist and he was good too. Both have been on Jay Leno and David Letterman, and well known. On Friday night we went to Club Fusion and signed up for the Marriage Game, similar to the Newlywed Game on television. We somehow got picked with two other couples and it was so funny and embarrassing as well with those questions! We didn't win, but had a lot of fun, and got a Princess bag and a rose. There were several other shows during the week but we didn't make them. PORTS OF CALL: We arranged all of our own tours with our new friends we met here on Cruise Critic roll call and saved a lot of money over the Princess excursions. DISEMBARKATION: We were the last to disembark since we were on the Dolphin Deck and didn't get called until 10:40 a.m. Everything went smoothly, but the line for a taxi was very long and had a long wait. It was not very organized. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our first cruise on Princess Cruise Lines. The Crown Princess is a magnificent ship. It is clean, and comfortable. It is amazing how such a large ship has such an old world feel, with small areas broken up all over the place so ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Princess Cruise Lines. The Crown Princess is a magnificent ship. It is clean, and comfortable. It is amazing how such a large ship has such an old world feel, with small areas broken up all over the place so couples can feel as if they are all alone, and yet is you want to be right in the middle of the action, well, that's possible too.The staff is courteous and everything is up scaled and new,due to a recent renovation. There are flat screen TVs in the rooms and they have PC/Digital in the computer area. Small bar in the room, refer on request, robes, blow dryer and a great bed. I have a bad back and they put an "egg crate" type of foam on my bed. I wished I had asked them to set the bed in between the night stands, as I had to crawl across the bed to my side, which after a week was getting old. Next time, I'll let them know in advance. My husband ordered the Champagne Balcony Breakfast for Two and it was so nice. Brought to the room. Very sexy and romantic. We had a ball. The pools were freezing, but I must admit, it was my first time to go swimming on a cruise ship. Maybe they are all cold. The price was amazingly great, and getting to the ship was a snap. There is a parking garage right next to the ship. Very easy. I loved the closet and that there were laundry facilities on my deck. It made the trip a snap. The closet is a make or break decision for me now. There is a ton of space in the closet. Unlike RCL who's closets are tiny. We will go again are as a matter of fact as I write this, we are planning our next cruise, and it will probably be on Princess. I will tell you younger guys and gals that RCL is hotter for fun for the younger set in my personal opinion. There were young people on our cruise, but not nearly as many. I think Princess is for a middle age to older set. Just this writer's opinion. I'm 57 and didn't feel like the oldest person on board as i did on Royal. Although, enjoyed all 3 of our Royal cruises. I'm getting older and I think we'll be staying with Princess and will probably do the Solstice this year. Happy cruising. Hope this helps. If I were 35, I'd go on Royal. Our trip to Pirncess Cay was stopped due to inclement weather and high seas. A great dissapointment, but that isn't the fault of the line and I applaud their views on safety. I still didn't get sea sick even though we were in violent seas and high winds. The rest of the cruise was problem free. I'm not hot to trot to go back to the E.Caribbean as the W.Caribbean has it all over the East for beauty, however this isn't about that, this is about Princess, and excellent, enjoyable, and wonderfully professional cruise line. We will travel with them again. As a matter of fact, my 2-good friends are going again this year on the SAME SHIP, because their experience was flawless. for a no risk cruise, go Princess! For a slamming, glitzy, loud, fun, and roaring time, go Royal. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Pre-cruise: Traveled from NC to Hilton Head Island, SC. We stayed at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort. Nice rooms, pools and beach view; crummy soundproofing and exterior. Not bad for the price we paid on Priceline; however, for a hotel that ... Read More
Pre-cruise: Traveled from NC to Hilton Head Island, SC. We stayed at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort. Nice rooms, pools and beach view; crummy soundproofing and exterior. Not bad for the price we paid on Priceline; however, for a hotel that normally sells for $150+ per night continental breakfast should not cost $13.50. Traveled from Hilton Head to Jacksonville, what should have been a 3 hour drive turned into nearly 10 hours thanks to traffic. Stayed at the Staybridge Suites. Very nice, newly built hotel. High definition flat screen TV in the room and complimentary hot breakfast buffet in the morning and thanks to Hotwire only paid $55 for the night. This hotel was proof why mid-priced hotels often offer more than expensive hotels (see continental breakfast comment above). Hilton Head to Fort Lauderdale proved to be a much smoother drive. We stayed at the LaQuinta Inn & Suites which offers free parking and shuttle to the port. Decent hotel, good price, and the only hotel that I know of that does not charge for parking. Paid $89 for the night, parking at the port for the 10 days would have been $150, so I can't (& won't) complain. EMBARKATION Arrived at the port at 11:30 and walked right through security and was placed into group 4 for embarkation processing. At 12:00 it was announced that it would be another 30 minutes before boarding would begin. Boarding actually did start around 12:45 and went very quickly from there. Once on board, I was told that embarkation was delayed due to extreme cleaning of the ship due to a Norovirus outbreak on the previous cruise. SHIP: One word - Beautiful. All areas of the ship exhibited a fine attention to detail in all public areas. Loved the atrium with the International Cafe and coffee bar. Emerald is a large ship that carries over 3,000 passengers, but did not feel crowded as there were plenty of small areas that provided refuge from the more crowded popular areas. CABIN: A253 - 2/3 of the way forward. This made for a long walk to the buffet, but the nearby elevator went straight to the 16th floor that offered access to the gym, Lotus pool and spa. This was nice when coming back from the pool or hot tub as there was very little walking and almost no traffic. The cabin was nice; the closet that is right outside the bathroom door is an excellent use of space. There were mirrors behind the bed, in front of the desk and on the wall which helped give the room a larger feel. The bathroom, while small, was more than adequate. However, when it came time to shave my legs, I gave up on the shower and used the toilet to put my foot up on and the sink for water. I think that shaving in that shower would be better left up to an Olympic gymnast. Our room steward, Ariel, left a lot to be desired. To give him credit, he did provide eggcrate foam, extra pillows and a top sheet within a couple hours of request. This was where the good service ended. Most days we did not have pool towels, glasses or fresh ice. He didn't seem to go above and beyond like most stewards when greeting us in the hallway he often would see us and walk the other way. The point when our experience with the room steward turned from bad to worse was when he did not get to our room one day until 2pm and we asked for 10 minutes to change clothes and he told us that this would not be possible as he was supposed to be off work already. We had an amazing room steward on our last cruise, so we may have been spoiled. From talking to others onboard, I feel that we were in the minority as most felt that there room steward was good/excellent. FOOD Both husband and I thought that the Horizon Court and Caribe Cafe were better than on the Grand last January. Dining room food was good, but not great. Everything was fine, but nothing spectacular. We requested a set reservation for the Da Vinci dining room at table 431 with Chris and Oliver. Both were great as was Oksana the assistant waiter at the neighboring table. Pizza, burgers, and fries up on deck were great. The club sandwich, chicken caesar salad, cookies and ice tea from room service were a staple in our cabin. We dine at the Crown Grill one evening. We went five days into the cruise and they were already out of the large Maine lobster that is an extra $9 charge, however, we ordered 2 of the smaller (free) lobster tails to go with our steaks and these were very good. The sides are served family style and are easily enough for 3 people per portion, so order sparingly. There was so much food we felt as if we ate one bite of each thing and were full (and we are big eaters). Experience was fine, but for $50 a couple, I don't know that I would go back as we would have been just as happy with the offerings in the dining room. ACTIVITIES We did not attend any of the lectures, art auctions, casino or other activities - so I can't comment. I did think that the production shows were entertaining and the special guests that were part of the cast were excellent. For New Years Eve, there was a Black and White Ball held in the atrium which was phenomenally decorated and set for a balloon drop that happened at midnight. The atrium and all surrounding floors did become very crowded leading up to midnight. There was another party out on the pool deck with the live band performing and the party was shown on MUTS. We stayed in the atrium for the countdown and then made our way out to the pool deck for some more partying. On New Years Eve, I saw something that could only be viewed on a cruise ship. There was a line for the special midnight buffet that was being offered and I saw multiple people eating pizza and burgers while waiting in line for the all you can eat buffet at 1am. KIDS We don't have any children, so I can't comment about this, but can say that with over 300 children on board I didn't see many so someone must keep them entertained. PORTS Princess Cays It was cooler than when we were there last January, so we didn't stay long. I would recommend bringing bug spray as there did seem to be little flying bugs everywhere. St Thomas Did the obligatory shopping and got the free trinkets. Did Sunny Liston's Island Tour (http://sunnylistontours.com)which was a couple hour tour of the island followed by a trip to the beach all for $25 per person. First beach we went to was Coki beach, the beach itself was very narrow and crowded and the area around the beach was cluttered and there were a lot of locals hawking there services and items. No one on our tour wanted to get off at Coki, so the guide took us to Sapphire Beach, which was a lot nicer. There was a hotel and beach bar/restaurant. There were a fair amount of people, but the neither the beach nor the water felt crowded. We did some snorkeling and saw some fish and corral. St Kitts Did Grey's Island Tour (http://www.thenfordgrey.com). There were only 6 of us on the tour and it was very informative and entertaining. If you are looking for a party bus, this is not the tour for you, but if you want information about the culture, past, present and future of this island and people Thenford Grey will provide. Both DH & I agree that this was the best island tour that we have been on. Mr. Grey was even kind enough to take 4 of the 6 of us back to the ship when we didn't want to stay and swim. Barbados Stayed on the ship. St Lucia Did Cosol's Tour (http://cosol-tours.com). There were several van loads of people that went along the same tour route with Cosol's tour. Although the website doesn't specifically say it they do provide a light island breakfast and lunch that are included in the price of the tour. WARNING: This tour was great and I in no way want to discourage anyone from taking it, but even if you are not prone to motion sickness, I would recommend taking some precaution before hand as two people on our tour got motion sick. If you are prone to motion sickness, I would recommend sitting as close to the front as possible. There was nothing wrong with the tour, it was simply that the roads were winding and sharp. St Lucia was one of the most beautiful island/places that I have ever seen and I would gladly go back. Antigua We did the ship sponsored tour - Circle Antigua by Sea with Lunch. This tour was awesome and well worth every penny that we paid. We were able to see some of the homes of the rich and famous, had a fabulous barbecued lunch along with rum punch and other tropical cocktails throughout the trip. The trip stops for about 2 ½ hours on a small island beach and you can swim, lounge or snorkel to a nearby reef. There was a lunch of chicken or fish, salad, coleslaw, rice, and pasta salad served on the catamaran. Even with around 100 people on board it never felt crowded. NOTES: While not completely a party boat, the tour guides do provide PG-13 entertainment that may not be appropriate for all kids. Also, there is approximately 20 minutes travel through the Atlantic that is a bit choppy and I would recommend taking it easy on the alcohol before this time and maybe taking some sea sick precautions before going. I only saw/heard about two people that got or felt sick. OVERALL This was a very nice vacation and one that I would gladly do again as well as each of the tours listed above. I would recommend each of these to anyone interested. We purchased 2 FCC (Future Cruise Credits) while on board and used then within 12 hours of being home, which should be an indication of our fondness for Princess and their product. Next Up: Alaska - Star Princess May 17th. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We really had a wonderful time on the Crown Princess last January. We decided to cruise for our honeymoon and it was absolutely perfect. booking: We booked on the Princess website. After booking we were contacted by Billy, our assigned ... Read More
We really had a wonderful time on the Crown Princess last January. We decided to cruise for our honeymoon and it was absolutely perfect. booking: We booked on the Princess website. After booking we were contacted by Billy, our assigned Princess representative for those who book through the website. Billy was very helpful and gave us great tips for our trip. He also arranged for a special dessert one night in the dining room and also our room to be decorated. He booked hotels for us in Ft. Lauderdale and also airport transfers. arrival and hotel: We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the same day as our morning wedding. Needless to say we were dead tired by the time we got to Ft. Lauderdale. A Princess representative was waiting for us at the baggage claim. It was so nice to have our bags grabbed and be ushered to a bus without us having to think at all. The bus took us to the Marriott renaissance hotel. We tried to get off the bus, but the bus driver kindly suggested that we wait for the bellhop (we are not used to that kind of service) who came running to get our bags and take us to our room. The next morning we had to put our bags at pretty early for them to be picked up. We ordered room service for breakfast and eventually wandered down and checked out. There were alot of people milling around the lobby waiting for the Princess transfer. There was a Princess representative in the hotel who was friendly. We went through a slightly odd exercise of walking around a room where all of our baggage was- I never entirely understood what we were doing, and then we were put on busses. Embarkation: It was completely unmemorable and very quick. We were absolutely ecstatic- so happy to be married and to be together and to be setting out on a first adventure together as a married couple. Our luggage was delivered promptly to our cabin as we wandered about the ship. Dining: dinners: We had the anytime dining, which we really enjoyed and we ate all but one of our evening meals in the Michelangelo Dining Room. We never made reservations, just came to the dining room when we were ready to eat. (which was generally around 8-8:30) We were always seated at a table for 2 within moments of arriving. The maitre d was so nice to us and generally gave us a table by a window where we could see the waves crashing against the ship. The food was basically great. Just like at any restaurant we each got a couple of things that we didn't like, but most of what we had tasted great. The service was suburb. We had a bottle of wine with dinner each night. They will cork it for you and keep it for you for the next night, but we preferred for them to cork it and take it up with us to our room where we would finish the bottle on our balcony that night, or on the balcony the next afternoon. We did try the DaVinci dining room one night. It was more crowded and we were placed at a table for 6 with two other couples. The food and service were just as good, but one of the other couples was not having a very good time and spent the whole dinner complaining about Princess. Most of their complaints appeared to be things that were entirely their fault, not Princess's, but that made us decide we preferred just talking to one another. Lunch: We ate at the Horizon Court buffet a couple of times. It was fine, but nothing special. We did find it easy to find seats and were quickly served drinks. On one of the Sea days there was an pub lunch in the Wheelhouse pub which my husband loved. It's good, but quite a limited menu. If your idea of ideal food is bangers and mash it's definately the place to go. We also liked the pizza from the pizza bar by the Neptune pool. We were fairly unimpressed by the Trident Grill- a long line for hamburgers that were not very good. The pizza line was long too, but it tended to move very quickly. Breakfast: We ate on our balcony every morning except for the last day. We would put our order out in the evening and it always arrived exactly when we asked for it. Leisurely breakfast on our balcony in our bathrobes looking over the Caribbean is one of our most treasured memories. We loved it. The food was fine- continental breakfast, ie fruit cups and pastries, but having it delivered to us was just fantastic. On the last day we went to the dining room and had a very nice breakfast. Entertainment: Wheelhouse Bar: We went to the wheelhouse bar several times after dinner and enjoyed dancing to the live band there. We were generally the only ones on the dance floor. Adagio Bar: There was a particularly good piano player in the adagio bar. The service was also very good- maybe it helped that there was hardly anyone there. Wines & Vines: We love wine and had been looking forward to this bar. We went every night before dinner and had a glass of wine and sometimes 2. We were a little surprised that the service varied quite a bit there. Sometimes the bar tender knew quite a bit about the wine, but a couple of times the response I got when I asked a question was something along the lines of- I don't normally work in this bar. Pools: Interestingly enough when we first booked this cruise I had been really excited about Movies Under the Stars. However, it actually ended up irritating me that there was a constant movie/ television running around the pool. We preferred the adults only Terrace Pool, just because it was quieter and less crowded. We ultimately decided that our favorite place to relax was our very own balcony! Our room was very close to the Terrace pool so it was a simple matter for one of us to walk to the bar there and bring back a couple of cokes to our room. (We got the coke sticker which we think saved us a lot of money since it made us more likely to drink coke during the day rather than beer or mixed drinks.) Ports: We went to Princess Cays, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk. In retrospect I wish we had spent more time thinking about what we wanted to do in port. As it was we didn't even get off the boat in Princess Cays. On this trip we were all about relaxing and being with each other, rather than seeing a lot of new things. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
My husband and I have been on 11 and 13 cruises respectively, and of this number, two and three have been on Princess. We were traveling with our dear friends, leaving many feet of snow in our hometown of Spokane, Washington. The four of ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 11 and 13 cruises respectively, and of this number, two and three have been on Princess. We were traveling with our dear friends, leaving many feet of snow in our hometown of Spokane, Washington. The four of us range in age from late 40's to early 50's. Hotel: We stayed in Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise Port South and were happy with our stay. The free airport pickup and cruise port drop off went smoothly. There was a massive amount of people going on cruises so we were pleased it went so well. Embarkation: We took the 12:30 shuttle to the Emerald Princess and encountered a huge line to get on the ship. It moved so quickly, however, that we probably were on the ship in 30 minutes or less. Once through the security you went to the line that corresponded to the deck your room was on. I think it was so quick that our credit card did not quite register at this point and a couple days into the cruise we got a note requesting us to re-register it again. Room E305: We headed to our room to drop off our carry on luggage. This is an obstructed view, but we could see over the lifeboat, which was just to the right of the window, and to the left were cables and what not. We were very happy with it. We were not happy to find out that the deck 7 door to outside was directly under us and it slammed at all hours. Also, this room is directly across from the service area elevators where they bring in the luggage and room servicing carts. There was a lot of noise to say the least, and I was glad I had earplugs. There was a lot of motion and creaking in this room also. Dennis was our room steward and always did a superb job. Horizon Court and Caribbean Cafe: We enjoyed a buffet lunch the first day and though crowded found a seat in the Caribbean Cafe area. The food was just okay, but the cookies on this ship are to die for. I had my share, and I am sure someone else's share too. We ate here for breakfast a few times and some snacks here and there and found it to be fine. Sanitizers were always offered, and although I heard later in the cruise we had some Noro scare, I did not notice that they changed much. I truly appreciate their efforts to keep the germs at bay. Muster Drill and Sail away: Our muster station was the casino, and it was all done very quickly and efficiently. I usually hate this part of the cruise but it was the least irritating I have experienced. We had an informal get together with our Roll Call members at the Terrace Pool immediately after, and we enjoyed meeting those I had chatted with online. We all watched as the Emerald Princess started on our wonderful 10-day journey. Princess did arrange a room (Adagio) for us to meet again a couple days later, but they do not do any thing else special for CC members. The Ship: This is a beautiful ship, and we had fun exploring it. I loved the piazza and especially the International Cafe, which had the most amazing food items. I miss the Shrimp Salad immensely. If I had not read these boards, I would have thought it a place you had to purchase everything, but most items were free. It took till nearly the end of the cruise to really know my way around, and even then, I am not so sure. That is the fun of it though, it seemed like something new was always around the corner. Entertainment: I loved the production shows, and am so amazed at the talent of these young people to memorize all the songs and dance moves for four production numbers. The sets and costumes were amazing. How they can do all this in the space they have is mind-boggling. We especially enjoyed the band Exotique. We also enjoyed the comedians Kevin Jordan and Carey Long. The magician, Jeff Peterson, was also a comedian, and we liked him too. Sadly, we were not able to get to all the things we wanted, as there is only so much time and energy in a day. Dining: We had any time dining and we chose to make a standing reservation in the Michelangelo with Aureial and Fernando. They were superb and our food was always served quickly and efficiently. They allowed us to tweak our time each day between 5:30 to 6:30 and still have these servers and table 228. I am not sure her job title, but the young lady at the door to greet you Marillia(SP) was such a joy to see every day she made it always extra special. She is from Brazil and had the sweetest personality we encountered on the ship. I don't know how her mother can ever part with her for these cruises. The food we ordered was always wonderful. You would have to be very picky not to enjoy something off the menu. It varied enough to please all in my opinion. I especially loved the cheese and bread plate, which I always ordered as an appetizer. The love boat dream found its way to our table most nights too. It does appease the chocolate lover in me. The escargot on the last formal night, though not on the menu, was also delicious. All you had to do was ask and they tried to accommodate you. Room Service: We only tried this once for breakfast. Warning: I wrote in hot chocolate, which is free in the dining room, and was charged $1.95. Did not realize this so just wanted to let others know. Antigua-Jan. 22: Up to a beautiful sunny day. We had booked Eli's Echo Tour privately and got off a little early to look around. People wanting us to use them for a tour bombarded us. They were all very nice and no thank you was adequate. There were all kinds of shops to explore and then we met our tour. We went out on a boat with Tony and Serge and a couple others, but I can't remember their names. They were all really good to us, and we enjoyed the beautiful blue water and seeing the island from the water. We pulled in to Great Bird Island and enjoyed a hike to the top. These were spectacular views. We swam a little and then ate a wonderful BBQ chicken lunch. My husband said it was the best! Then off to Hell's Gate Island and we had a rugged climb over sheer rocks, but it was exciting and amazing. This was one of our favorite things. Then off to snorkel and it was a little cloudy but fun and quite a few fish. We enjoyed our day with the crew and their rum punch had quite a kick. YUM!!! Barbados: The Emerald Princess docked in Barbados Jan. 23. The ship docks in quite an industrial area and you are picked up at the ship by buses and taken over to the port terminal. This is where it got quite ugly. They had about 6 or 7 buses to take around 3000 passengers over which would have been walk able but you were not allowed to do so. We went to get off and people were backed up the stairwell and held till each bus would fill and move on. It was awful and we were running to catch Glory Tours as we got off later than expected. We were possibly 15 minutes late but so were the others that were going on this tour. As you left the terminal gate you are bombarded with tour vendors wanting to take you on tours. I asked for Glory Tours and a man said they left but then I hear a shout and a man holding a Glory Tours sign was there. He said other vendors would try to take their tours if they can by saying this. Jamal(SP) guided us to a bus. I told him we were on the Best of Barbados and the others were on a different tour. He said he would take us with the others. We went very quickly to the Harrison Caves. Jamal drove very well on these curvy roads, but very fast. At the caves Sarah, the head of Glory Tours, talked to us about not being able to do our tour as promised as she had to take an Expedia group that day. We were to go with Jamal and have the Wild Life Reserve cut out. I was disappointed, but stuff happens,and we understood. The good parts now: The Harrison Caves were so fantastic. We live by the Lewis and Clark Caverns and we thought nothing could compare to them but we were wrong. This was amazing. We were 160 feet under in caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites with the ceiling being 150 feet above us. Water ran in little streams all around it. WOW it was great. We rode in a tram and were able to get out for great pictures. Amazing excursion. Jamal walked us behind the caves outside to a lush tropical area and we were able to see the monkey I so wanted to see at the Wildlife Reserve. I wish we could have walked around this area. It looked like it had paths and tails. So gorgeous. We were off for an island site seeing tour of beautiful countrysides and ocean views. Then to a cozy lunch at a small eatery seeming in the middle of nowhere. We had flying fish sandwiches and a drink. We were able to change to our swimming suits here. Jamal gave a wonderful narrative and we were with only 6 other people so it was a lot of fun. Then we went to a lovely beach and loaded in a glass bottom boat. Jamal went too and drove the boat also so we knew he was good friends with the boat driver. We only went a short distance to an area where several other excursions were. There was no reef just a sandy bottom but we saw 3 turtles total and that was really amazing. They are so regal. They feed the fish so this attracts them. I was amazed at the puffer fish. I have never seen so many at one time. We were a little concerned with safety as other boats come and go and they are not as safety conscience as I would have liked with starting their motors very close to people. We brought our own snorkel gear but they do have masks and snorkels on board. No fins. Off then a short distance to a sunken ship and there was a massive amount of fish here. You literally could not see through them there was so many. We sampled a little rum punch and then back to the beach where there were bathroom facilities. We loaded in the van and back to the port. Jamal was quite entertaining and sang to us often. He was a great guide. I loved Barbados and our tour was wonderful. St. Lucia: We booked the Island Tour with Serenity Tours for today. We met them and had to wait a short while as our guide for the day, Ernie, had to pick up a family at a hotel before us. They were really nice to hang out with, and with them that made 6 of us on this tour. Of all the places we went this was the most beautiful. The flowers and plants were amazing. We wound around curvy roads out of Castries and saw amazing sites. Banana plantations and other little towns along the way. We stopped at a little house that was a little bakery of some of the best bread I have ever tasted. Ernie got us this to taste and also earlier a fresh banana. We went to a beautiful waterfall at Toraille Fall and Botanical Gardens and then wound our way to Souffrie where we saw an amazing view of the Pitons and went up to the Drive in Volcano. We were amazed at the boiling, steaming, water covering this crater area. It smelled of sulfur and it rained on us here, which happens because of the volcano. A lunch stop was made at a restaurant and we had the Creole Feast, which was very good. We had an incredible view of the Pitons during lunch. To our dismay, in the end, we headed straight back to the ship. I asked about the snorkeling part that was to be included in our tour, and they realized this was a miscommunication on their part. John the owner, who is just so wonderful, apologized profusely and insisted on refunding us one of our ticket prices. I was sad to miss this as it is suppose to be wonderful snorkeling, but there was not time at that point. Even though this happened, I would HIGHLY recommend Serenity Tours. They were very professional and at all times asked if we were having a good time and the answer was always YES!!! Customer service is very important to them, and I was impressed over the refund even though we argued that their tour had been well worth the money even without the snorkeling. St. Kitts: Our tour was with Thenford Grey. We were to meet at 10:00 but our ship got there a little early and we saw him a little after 9:00. He was taking a tour at 9:00 and had a no show so he let us take it earlier than we were scheduled. This was so wonderful as it was Thenford Grey himself and not one of his employees. He was just such a gracious man and easy to understand as he had a headphone mic that projected over the entire bus type van. It was 5 star driving in that highly air-conditioned, big windowed vehicle. We toured through Basseterre and then on up to Romney Manor-Carbelle Batik and saw the lush gardens that surround the place they sell Batik clothing. We saw a great deal of animals running around on this tour including cows, goats, pigs and monkeys. They seem to randomly cross the road where ever and when ever. Next was Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. It was so many structures, and we are sure it went far below the ground in tunnels too. We enjoyed the views and imagining what must have happened in the 1700's. We had plenty of time to explore all over the area. We then headed to the other side of Basseterre, which is drier, and there are plenty of plans to develop huge housing and resort areas here. We went to Cockleshell Beach and were able to eat and swim and snorkel. My husband said the snorkeling was not great but the water is beautiful and we enjoyed a walk along the beach. Back to the ship and said goodbye. appreciating the wonderful day that Thenford gave us. St. Thomas: We had a little shopping time before our St. John Eco Hike tour booked through Princess. We took a very rough ride on a ferry type boat over to St. John. Several tours were on this vessel and then we split up once on St. John. We met up with our guide Scott. The hike was nice and informative, but I felt for $84 we should possibly have had water supplied and a snack. Honeymoon Beach was beautiful, which is where the hike led to, and my husband found a little area where snorkeling was pretty good. We had an hour at the beach and then walked a bit more to a resort area and caught a cab back to the ferry for a calmer ride back. The tour stated we would have a botanical tour at the resort but this did not happen. We were not suppose to even go into the resort, but I had to use the facilities and was allowed to do so. We had fun, but of all the tours this was our least favorite. I do not feel like the description on this tour that Princess lists is very accurate. Princess Cays I love this stop. We were possibly the second or third tender over and we walked down to the snorkel area and got in the water as quickly as we could. It was amazing visibility and the best snorkeling site we had on this cruise. The water is a little chilly here, but not that bad. We enjoyed the beach and the sun, and lunch was wonderful. We walked along the rocky beach area and saw many of the escargot we had had the night before. Such a peaceful day and though rain greeted us as we sat our belongings down upon arrival, the sun came out and it was HOT HOT HOT! We loved it. Debarkation: We were sad to pack our bags and leave, but this was a very organized debarkation. We ate up in the Horizon Court and then took our carryons to our designated wait area in the Explorers Lounge. I'm sure it was not more than 15 minutes and our group was allowed to proceed off the ship. Found our luggage easily and through customs with no problem and into a cab in minutes. I think we were at the airport by 9 or 9:30. Well-done Princess!! I can't wait to go again, and we would love to do this itinerary again as one time just won't be enough for us. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
This was my 12th cruise overall, and 6th on Princess. Six cruises makes you an "Elite" member of the Captain's circle. The only important upgrade is $100 worth of free internet, which we greatly appreciated. We flew to ... Read More
This was my 12th cruise overall, and 6th on Princess. Six cruises makes you an "Elite" member of the Captain's circle. The only important upgrade is $100 worth of free internet, which we greatly appreciated. We flew to Santiago direct from Toronto and arrived one day early, staying at the Diego del Almagro hotel, 1 km from the airport, with free shuttle service. A very good choice if you just want to rest up from the overnight flight. Next morning we got the shuttle back to the airport at 9 am. There were Princess people everywhere, and our bags were immediately put on a big truck headed for the ship. We boarded a coach and set out for the 2 hour drive to Valparaiso shortly thereafter. Arriving in the port around 11:30, we were taken to a very nice Sheraton hotel, where there was a registration desk set up in a ballroom, with refreshments available. Very pleasant way to check in for the ship. We had about a half hour to walk along the waterfront and then back on the coach to the pier. We had to line up in a cargo shed to get our key card and then on a shuttle through a mountain of containers to the ship. We boarded and were in our cabin at 1:10. Very efficient overall. The ship was sparkling. She had recently been through a dry dock and almost everything looked fresh, especially the paint on the exterior. The Atrium has been renovated to resemble that of the newest ships. The only sign of neglect we noticed was the fabric on the chairs in the Dining Room (we ate in the Portofino almost all of the time). There were stains on many of the chairs which was a bit of a turnoff as you sat down to dinner. We were midship on Caribe deck and delighted with our cabin and our room steward. We enjoy the much larger balconies to be found on Caribe. We eat almost all of our meals in the Dining Room, breakfast and lunch included. It is far more relaxing, better tasting food and controlled portions than if you eat a lot in the buffet. On the second night of the cruise, we discovered Table 126 and its other Table for 2 neighbors in the Portofino dining room. We had a tremendous waiter, Luis from Portugal (Hi Luis!), assisted by Mihai, who was on the last cruise of his contract but didn't act like it. They were extremely friendly and helpful and really made the cruise for us. We have been fortunate to have had several great waiters on Princess over the past few years (Daniel on Golden, Ryan on Island come immediately to mind). We like Anytime dining but also like to have the same waiter each night, once we find a good one, and since we like to eat a little later than the first sitting of Fixed, and want a Table for 2, Anytime works for us. I wish you could actually make a standing reservation for a specific table at a specific time, but they wouldn't do it for us this time. So we just made sure we arrived in time to get one of Luis's tables each night. Overall, the food was very good, I thought. Taste seems to have improved on Princess in the past couple of years. We had a few disappointments, but not many. The disappointing thing is that they seem to have cut way back on quality and quantity of beef entrees. I never had any really good beef on the cruise, and Prime Rib was never even offered. We ate our Anniversary Meal in the Crown Grill, and it was a major disappointment. I will not spend the extra money to go there again. The Filet I ordered was tasteless and the service was poor. Overall the food is not quite as good as on Holland America and upscale cruise lines, but it isn't that far off. Entertainment - The Star had a veteran Cruise Director - Richard Joseph, making his first trip on the Star, and Deputy Julie James. We have cruised with both of them before and they are both very good at their jobs. The rest of the Cruise staff were mediocre, as we noticed on our last cruise on the Island. The Production shows were predictably good (we had seen two of them on other cruises, but enjoyed them nonetheless) and the solo entertainers brought on board were generally very good. There was a good variety of musicians playing at various venues on the ship. One thing we did notice, is that the "prizes" offered for winning various passenger participation events have been cheapened considerably. We received a rose and 4 chocolates for winning one event - winning the same event last year netted us a bottle of bubbly and $300 Spa certificate. Itinerary - I have added comments about the various ports elsewhere in this review. Overall, I would say the itinerary is disappointing from Valparaiso until you get to the Amalia glacier. After that, it is great. It is a very special experience to round Cape Horn. We enjoyed cruising the Chilean fjiords and loved Stanley and Montevideo. Note, if you are cruising in the same direction as us, starting in the Pacific and ending in the Atlantic, you want to be on the Port side of the ship for the best views. Or Starboard if going the other way. Disembarkation - This was not a highlight of the experience, once leaving the ship. Utter chaos on the gangway and in the terminal. We were supposed to be getting on a coach to begin our land tour, and even the usually helpful Shorex guy had no idea where we were supposed to go. We stood in a cramped area for what seemed like a very long time, getting bumped and jostled, before someone finally came along and directed us to the coach. Land tour - We began our 6 day land tour, with 2 days each in Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro. It was the best part of the trip for sure. We had just an outstanding Tour Director - Neidle Lee of SAT Tours. I have done a lot of land tours, especially with Globus (for whom she also works) and have never met her equal. It was a most pleasant way to end the trip. Overall, this cruisetour exceeded my expectations. I was not happy to learn after final payment had been made for the cruise, about all the extra charges, such as the $132 US pp entry fee for the privilege of landing at Santiago airport. It was bureaucracy at its finest, as the agents were rejecting even slightly used US currency. Be sure to bring crisp new bills! And then there was the fiasco of having to send our Passports to the Brazilian embassy for Visas - which cost over $250 total and meant we were without passports for over a month. The ridiculous excess baggage fees flying to Iguazu Falls, and finally the departure tax to leave Brazil, which I was delighted to discover had already been paid when I purchased my air ticket. But while those annoyances still lead me to feel I will not be back this way any time soon, I still enjoyed the trip immensely and come home with many good memories. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
I am overcome by jet-lag, and am drinking a pina colada made with blackstrap rum, but I shall do my best to convey how fabulous our trip on the Crown Princess truly was. An idea, first, of our group. My sister (who is an experienced ... Read More
I am overcome by jet-lag, and am drinking a pina colada made with blackstrap rum, but I shall do my best to convey how fabulous our trip on the Crown Princess truly was. An idea, first, of our group. My sister (who is an experienced cruiser, and who had handled much of the arranging of this huge undertaking) and her friend from work, my aunt and uncle (in their late 60's or so, and who are quite experienced cruisers though this was their first time on Princess), my brother and sister-in-law (with their two sons ages 3 1/2 and 5, none of whom had ever cruised before), my mom and step-dad (who had never cruised before), and my boyfriend and I (who were also cruise noobs). Also, please note that I tend to be a raging misanthrope, and the idea of being trapped at sea with 3200 other people was striking a touch of terror into my blackened little heart. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on March 1st, most of us, and since it was rather late at night, went directly (via complimentary shuttle) to the Hyatt Place North. This completely non-smoking property had incredibly comfortable beds, huge TVs, free wi-fi, and a lovely free breakfast in the morning. They also had a complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades, and got the 10 of us there in plenty of time to meet up with the last two of our party before embarkation. Once meeting up and giving our bags over to the porters, we hopped into the line. We joined the line at 12:01pm and were in our rooms by 12:30, even allowing for time to have our embarkation photo taken. It would have been even faster if there hadn't been quite such a large group of us (and Mom in a wheelchair for this bit due to a serious car accident a little over a year ago). Quite organized and quick embarkation, from what we could tell. We were all up on Baja deck with balcony rooms. Three of them were next to each-other, and they all opened up the partitions to have one giant balcony. The rooms had plenty of space, loads of storage, and the balconies were completely covered, which meant we didn't have to worry about any detritus falling from party-goers on upper decks. Some people complain about the showers being too small, but despite neither my BF nor I being skinny midgets, we had absolutely zero problems with either the size of the shower or being attacked by the shower curtain (even when showering with the bathroom door open). Half of us had the wonderful Rosa (from Mexico) as our Cabin Stewardess, and the other half had Edmundo (from the Philippines) as their Cabin Steward. I think we were all equally happy. Edmundo got the room with the little ones, and made them various towel animals during the cruise, including a monkey hanging from on of the hangers that had clips! Rosa was fabulous for us, and made sure that we wanted for nothing. We even left love notes with Post-Its on the mirror for her, and she responded in kind. She and Edmundo were always smiling and laughing, despite the incredibly long hours they work (on the last night, Rosa told us that she was done working at 10pm and back on at 5am the next morning!). We (my BF and I) found a certificate from my sister for a Balcony Champagne Breakfast waiting for us in our mailbox when we arrived to the room, which was an awesome surprise. We went in, oohed and aahed, did a little nesting, and then went down to the Piazza to get our Coffee Card, Soda Sticker, and a couple of raffle tickets. We then went up to Lotus Spa to take the tour of the spa and fitness center, and then it was back to the room to get a little snack from room service (so quick, even on Embarkation Day!) before Muster Drill (ours was in Princess Theater). Zipped through through that, and then headed to the aft open decks for sailaway. It's amazing to see how many residents of that area come out of their homes or on to their balconies to see us off. Some even had signs and banners up, and all were waving away like mad. Met a couple of people from here on deck as well, and then met up with most of the family in the Horizon Court for a nibble at the seafood buffet. When we got back to our cabin, our luggage had arrived and been brought in, so a bit more nesting was done. Because there were so many of us, with different ages, experiences, and goals for the vacation, we were able to experience a whole lot of different things. The only time we all sat down together for dinner was one night in the Crown Grill, and let me tell you, it was TOTALLY worth every single cent you pay ($25pp). They were accommodating with the young boys, bringing spaghetti for them (and bringing it early in the meal so that they wouldn't get totally bored) instead of making them choose something off of the rather adult normal menu. The service was impeccable, the food was astonishingly good, and the desserts...well, I'll just tell you that you should get the dessert sampler AND the three berry cobbler. You really don't want to miss a thing. (And if anyone can find a way to get me one of those adorable little crocks that the sampler size of Chocolate Obsession comes in, I'd be eternally grateful. I was quite restrained in not just sticking it in my purse.) My boyfriend and I were mostly nonplussed at our few Dining Room meals, as the service wasn't quite as nice as we would have liked (nor as nice as we saw other people getting). One evening, the hostess practically pelted our napkins into our laps. Guess she was having a bad day. Still, we liked the option of Anytime Dining, and none of the others had any complaints that we heard. Room service was always prompt and happy to fulfill any special requests we had. The buffets were great as well. I didn't find them to be chaotic, as some people here have said, and the food was really well done. The specialty nights in Cafe Caribe were great, especially the Bavarian Feast. We even tried something (by mistake, no less) that turned out to be a food revelation, and so I will tell you all: if you see the chocolate ginger cake being offered, TRY IT!!! International Cafe has friendly service, delicious coffee, and freshly-made donuts in the morning that are to die for. I was able to speak briefly with the Executive Sous Chef on board, and he had a lot of interesting things to say. He's been cruising for 14 years (8 with NCL, and now 6 with Princess), and he says that he actually likes Princess better. They give him the money he needs to get goof food, and when I asked him about the cutbacks and "Carnivalization" of the cuisine on Princess, he says, "Absolutely not. In fact, rather than cutting back, they're spending MORE." So there you have it, from a man who ought to know. Ultimate Balcony Dining: My BF and I did both the dinner and the breakfast. I'll start with dinner ($100/couple). If you hate being waited on hand and foot, if you hate LOADS of delicious food, if you hate incredibly competent service, free photos, and a gorgeous table set-up complete with flower arrangement and lantern for ambiance (since they don't do candles on the ship)...if you hate all of these things, DO NOT do Ultimate Balcony Dinner. Seriously. You'll be so mad when they show up right on scheduled time with cocktails and canapes. You'll be livid when you see how gorgeous your balcony looks, and when the photographer shows up to capture you in such a lovely setting. You will absolutely FROTH at the level of excellence in service, and the stunning taste of the food will make you so angry that you'll want to either fling it overboard or rub it in your hair. Especially the dessert (quinelles of mousseline, which are to die for). If you weren't rabid enough, wait until they bring cookies and maybe even fresh fruit for you to have with your champagne! We *did* have other things we wanted to do that evening, but after *three hours* of being pampered, we had to call in Fat. There was so much food that we even wound up bringing some of the fruit and most of the cookies down to the rest of the gang, who were out on their balcony playing cards. Breakfast is a bit more reserved. Your order is taken 24 hours in advance, the same with dinner. If there's anything on the set menu that doesn't agree with you (quiche lorraine, not so much for us), just mention it and they'll ask you how you'd like to substitute. They show up right on time with your breakfast, pastries, fruits, coffee, juice, and champagne, and then leave you to your own devices. Much less in-your-face than the dinner, but definitely appropriate. I couldn't handle that kind of service when I was barely awake. Sea Days: Lazy and wonderful. There were so many things to do, and yet we never felt like we absolutely had to do any of it. Pub Lunches in the Wheelhouse were delicious. The Mr. Sexy Legs contest by the pool was completely ridiculous and hilarious. We all found ways to enjoy ourselves. My uncle, who's been a professional musician for decades, brought his flute along, and got to sit in with the band in the Wheelhouse, and they liked him so much they invited him back for a second set! Princess Pop Star: A lovely experience. I qualified on the night of the first heat, and so many people came up to me during the cruise to wish me luck that really, I felt like I had already won (even though I didn't take first prize). They treated us like stars on the final night, keeping us in a VIP area, doing post-song interviews on the camera for all to see, and feeding us champagne. I definitely recommend it to anyone but the snotty. The snotty need not apply. It's too much fun for those who can't have a good time. Chef's Table: We were lucky enough to have Alfredo Marzi, Corporate Executive Chef for the whole cruise line, on board with us to conduct our Chef's Table. Apparently, he's only on the ship once a year, so it was a really nice thing for us. The food was exquisite, the wine was amazing, and again, the service was extraordinary. Once again, totally worth the extra money paid ($75/pp). They don't advertise this much on the ship, so I advise you to call and try to get on the list as soon as you board. The ship: She is gorgeous, and the crew keeps her absolutely spotless at all times. We didn't find the layout too awful challenging, even with my mother using two canes, as the elevators were never that long in coming and all seemed to be in working order. The recent drydock got her new carpets and tiles, as well, so everything was gleaming. We didn't attend the shows, so I can't speak to those. The Thermal Suite is really nice, but only buy the week-long pass if you're going to use it more than once! My brother used the fitness center every morning, and thought it was awesome. The Sanctuary was very peaceful, but also really deserted on the day my BF and I were there. Don't know about any of the other days. All in all, it was a wonderful experience for all of us. We got to see dolphins and flying fish as we were getting close to Grand Turk, and we spent a LOT of time on our balcony just marveling at the gorgeous views. I never ever felt too crowded, and felt more relaxed after being "trapped with 3200 people" than I usually do after spending time at home with minimal company. The Princess Pelicans program was great for the two young ones, and the people working there were very vigilant over their charges. We LOVE the Crown, both the experienced cruisers in our group and the cruising novices like myself. My boyfriend and I are already looking at what our next voyage will be! 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Sail Date February 2009
This was our fourth cruise and our third with Princess.  We cruised RCCL in May to Bermuda.  We are 53 and 62 and believe that vacations are for relaxing, learning about other cultures, and meeting other people.  We are not connoisseurs ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise and our third with Princess.  We cruised RCCL in May to Bermuda.  We are 53 and 62 and believe that vacations are for relaxing, learning about other cultures, and meeting other people.  We are not connoisseurs but just enjoy being served and not having to cook the food that we are eating.  Overall, this was a marvelous cruise with a few glitches that bothered us but certainly didn't ruin our trip for us.  The best part of our cruise:  the wonderful people we met from Cruise Critic!We left the day before and stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn in Plantation. Very nice hotel with a free shuttle from the airport and also to the Port Everglades. The hotel allowed us to check in early and were happy to assist us in any and all requests for information about the area. There is a mall across the street and a Target about a 10 minute walk away. Quite a few restaurants are within a 10-15 minute walk including Red Lobster, Applebees, Olive Garden and other local spots. There is a Crown Liquor store about 1 mile from the hotel and is a welcome walk after a big dinner. The pool area is small but lovely, surrounded by palm trees and other tropical plants. We were able to sign up for their first shuttle which is at 11 AM and it took about 20 minutes to get to the cruiseport. We made stops to drop off others before we got to the Island Princess but each stop took less than 5 minutes. EMBARKATION Princess truly excels in embarkation. We arrived at the terminal at about 11:30 am and we were in our room by 11:50! The longest we had to wait was in the security line when we entered the terminal. After dropping off our carry-on's, we spent some time exploring the ship. We've been on the Grand and Caribbean Princess and the dEcor on the Island was very similar. To our untrained eye, the Island looked to be in very good condition. Next we headed to the Horizon buffet for lunch. Designed by a blind man seems to be the only way to describe the buffet area. The area seems to be much smaller than on the Grand or Caribbean and the placement of food islands in the middle just makes for confusion and and jam-ups in the flow of people through the area. The food was OK, but certainly not as good as what we had on our welcome buffet on RCCL. By the time we finished lunch and returned to our room our luggage was outside our door. We were unpacked and ready to start our cruise by 2 PM! This was the quickest we had ever received our luggage. Our Cruise Critic group had set up a meet & greet with Princess, and they reserved a section of Deck 15 for our get together including tables and chairs and our own servers. This was a nice effort on Princess's part especially during sailaway when they are so busy. DINING We utilize Anytime Dining as we hate to be tied to a particular time and table. We did notice that there were times when there were lines of people waiting for tables. As we tended to eat around 8 PM most nights with individuals we met on CC, we never had to wait very long for a table for 6, 8 or even 10. Only one night, when we wanted to eat around 7:15 did we have to wait over 40 minutes for a table. The food was good, not great, but again, if I don't have to shop for it, prepare it and serve it, it works for me! The service, however, seemed to be lacking in the dining room. Most servers just seemed to be going through the motions without any pride or joy in their job and were less than personable. And forget about after a small breakout of Norovirus and having to wait to be served rolls, butter and all those things that are usually on the table. One morning our coffee and eggs got cold waiting to have milk poured, sugar delivered and our eggs salted and peppered. It was annoying to have to continually remind both waiters and assistant waiters that we need more rolls/butter or remind them to bring syrup when you order pancakes. Geez, even IHOP knows how to do that. The buffet was better for breakfast than for lunch, but once the Norovirus broke out and no one could serve themselves, it become a logjam with all the waiters trying to serve everyone. We found that the best bet for lunch was at the grill - very good burgers, hot dogs and bratwurst - or the pizza on Deck 14. Great pizza with a nice crispy crust...delicious! The Bayou Cafe was excellent with well-prepared filet mignons and delicious lobster. It was worth the extra cost of $15. Several of our group did Sabatini's and while they said it was good with lots of food, it was remarked that better Italian food can be found elsewhere. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment on the ship was varied and good. We enjoyed the productions of Piano Man and Tribute and heard that the crew talent show was outstanding. The magician/comic, Scott Alexander was good and the comedy of Fred Klett had everyone roaring; Billy Vader, the other comic, wasn't good or funny, forgetting his act right in the middle. Some in our group took advantage of ballroom dancing lessons, line dancing, trivia and special presentations. Everyone was happy with the quality of these activities. We made our normal deposit in the casino and here again there were issues with service as my husband complained that no one ever came around to ask if you wanted something to drink. He had to search out a server while playing. PORTS: ARUBA: Since we had only a short window of time here, a group of 12 of us took two vans to Eagle Beach across from the Amsterdam Manor. The charge was $3 per person one way. The beach was beautiful and empty (especially at 8 AM). The water was much cooler than we expected but refreshing. Very little wave activity. Lounges were available for $6 each and we were all able to secure palapas to sit under if we wanted some shade. There were restrooms available for use at the Amsterdam Manor and had we been there longer, we could have taken advantage of the bar and grill right on the beach which opens at 11 AM. We took the local bus back to the ship at a cost of only $1.30. Shopping area was quite crowded with a mix of high-end shops and locals selling their wares. CARTAGENA: For goodness sakes, get off the ship and see this beautiful city. Our group of 20 arranged a tour with Lee Miles. We had Doris as our guide and she was wonderful, sharing with us her love and knowledge of Cartagena. A large mini-bus was big enough to accommodate our group of 20. We were the first group at La Popa Monastery and had time to take pictures in its beautiful courtyard before it became over run with others from the cruise excursions. We then rode through the city to the San Felipe Fortress and climbed all the way to the top where Doris explained the rich history of the Fort and shared many secrets about its construction. After that we visited Las Bovedas for some souvenirs and headed to the old city to begin a one hour walk through the beautiful streets. We toured the Palace of the Inquisition and walked through Bolivar Square. Did we encounter locals trying to sell us stuff? Yes, everywhere, but a firm 'No Thank you' worked every time. At no time did we ever feel unsafe. We ended our tour at Pierino Gallo Center where Lee Miles has his emerald store. While you pay for your tour there, there is no expectation or pressure to buy any jewelry at all. There is a great little store there, "Coffee And..." where you can buy some good Colombian coffee and other souvenirs. Doris allowed more than enough time at each venue and we never felt rushed. PANAMA CANAL: The reason for our trip. The trip from the Caribbean Sea through the Gatun locks was amazing. When they say get up early to see it all, they mean it. We didn't wake until 6:30 AM and missed entering the first lock! Be sure to view the trip through from both sides and the front and back of the ship, totally different perspectives give you a much better understanding of what is happening. It took over 2.5 hours to get through the locks and into Gatun Lake. Here is where we ran into one of our glitches. We were scheduled for the Panama by Boat excursion which would take us all the way through the canal to the Pacific Ocean by ferry and then back to the ship by bus. This was the first of 20 excursions to tender off the ship and was cancelled 10 minutes before we were to leave. Princess's explanation was that there was too much traffic throughout the canal and we would arrive back in Cristobal too late. We accepted that and asked to be put on another excursion. We were told by a member of the shore excursion staff that we were stuck on the ship; they could not accommodate us on any other excursion. When pressed about trying to do something for us, we were rudely told to get out of the way. While we understood the traffic explanation we were very upset being treated the way we were and not being able to see what we had traveled so far for. Our outrage took us to passenger services where they did what they could and offered us the opportunity to put in writing our complaints. These were addressed by the tour office and onboard credit was issued to all who had booked the excursion. I am sure this tour has been cancelled in the past and believe that Princess should have some type of alternative plan as one cannot just walk off the ship and grab a taxi to learn about the local culture. So, we stayed on the ship for 6 hours as it went back through the locks and got off to shop at the market on the pier in Cristobal. LIMON, COSTA RICA. Here we had prebooked an excursion with J.J. He met us at the pier exactly as he had said with a large luxury passenger bus for 18 of us. He has a vast knowledge of Costa Rica and you can tell he loves his country. Our first stop was a local fruit stand on the side of the road where we sampled locally grown organic bananas, star apples, oranges, and the sweetest, juiciest pineapple any of us every tasted. We then headed off to a DelMonte Banana Plantation where J.J. gave us a full explanation of the growing, harvesting and packaging of the bananas. Who knew so much was involved in the production of this tasty produce! It was then off for a one hour tour of the Torteguero Canal by boat. We didn't see a lot of wildlife, some herons and other birds and some sloths up in the trees but it was beautiful. J.J. stopped and picked some flowers for us to see up close and also stopped at a friend's to show off his pet...a small crocodile that we had an opportunity to touch. J.J. then took us to Playa Bonita for a swim (beautiful warm water with some great waves) and an authentic Costa Rican lunch (casada with chicken) with good local beer. We finished with a visit to a local supermarket where we picked some good Costa Rican coffee at a great price as well as vanilla and banana vinegar. (J.J. has some great recipes that he shared with us!) Again, we were never rushed and what was originally thought to be a 4-hour tour lasted 6 hours. OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA. We had originally scheduled a private catamaran to the Falls and then snorkeling. It was scheduled for 9 AM. However, in checking my email on the ship it was discovered that the time was switched to 12:30 PM and as we had to be back on the ship at 3:30 PM, we knew we would be too rushed and cancelled. So that left us with a last-minute decision as to what to do. Along with another couple we chose the Chukka River Tubing excursion through the ship, and we were happy we did. It was a somewhat cool, overcast day as we left for our trip up into the mountains of Jamaica. As we glimpsed the river and its rapids through the trees on the way up, we knew we were in for some good tubing and the trip down did not disappoint. The rain, which began as we started our trip down the river, just added to the ambiance and beauty of the White River Valley. And those rapids were so much fun. The three guides on the river were extremely helpful and friendly. THE SHIP. The Island Princess is a beautiful ship that, other than the buffet, is beautifully thought out. It never, ever felt crowded. And while the average age on the ship was older, probably mid-sixties, there were a few young couples and children and teens. We never had a problem finding a lounge chair in the shade or the sun and were blessed with beautiful weather everyday except in Ocho Rios. DISEMBARKATION. As with embarkation, it was a breeze. We were off the ship by 9 AM and at the airport via taxi by 9:45 AM. This was a wonderful trip shared with some amazing people who we are now fortunate enough to call our friends. Given the opportunity we would definitely sail this itinerary again but would most likely choose to go all the way through the canal on the ship. We will also sail on Princess again, but after speaking with others, we will probably try Celebrity to experience a better quality of service. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
This is the first cruise my wife and I have gone on together. We have both cruised once before. She cruised with Norwegian; myself with Carnival. For the first time with Princess, I have to say we were both very pleased with the ... Read More
This is the first cruise my wife and I have gone on together. We have both cruised once before. She cruised with Norwegian; myself with Carnival. For the first time with Princess, I have to say we were both very pleased with the experience. Living in Arizona, we drove in the night before staying with a friend. So, we did not need a shuttle or hotel for this part of our vacation. We arrived at port just before noon. We were in group 7 and instantly thought this is going to be awhile. We waited for about 30 minutes before they called our number and within 10 minutes we were onboard. Surprisingly, our room was ready so we went to see our living quarters for the next week. We stayed in E100, an ocean view room on the Emerald deck. The room was small but very clean. For the limited space, it is organized as well as can be expected. I did move the small glass table into the closet to gain space. I had read on a review to bring a power strip but did not need it. There is a two plug outlet at the desk which covered all of our needs. The wall in front of the desk is mirrored so my wife used this area to put on her makeup and do her hair. It worked just fine. She never complained and we never got on either's nerves. As almost all of the reviews, the storage space was more than adequate. Our luggage arrived mid afternoon just as we expected. The ship is big and gorgeous. It is very clean and shows minimal wear. We were in the very front of the ship and I swear that was the longest hallway to walk. You definitely get your exercise. I had read the ship was difficult to find your way around so I expected issues. For this reason, I used the hallway to travel back and forth. Meaning if I was heading to the horizon court, I would walk to the aft, or back, of the ship then go up to deck 14. It made it so much easier. There are plenty of diagrams throughout showing where everything is. The food was good. I am not going to say it was the best but what can you expect when the kitchen is feeding over 2900 passengers. The horizon court had plenty of choices and was like any other buffet. The fruit, especially the pineapple, was fantastic. The poolside grill was good; the hot dog being the best. I had read this was an additional charge but it is not. I will say the choice dining left us confused for the first evening or two. So this part is VERY important to hear, we chose the late seating. I thought that meant that with 'your choice' we could eat at any one of the four restaurants onboard at 8:00. I was wrong. On your sea card, which is issued as your board the ship, it will state on the bottom what time and which restaurant you are assigned to. We were Vivaldi at 8:15 table 104. It was the third night before we figured this out. The dinner service was top notch and we were pleased once we got into the established routine. The cruise staff did a great job with the entertainment. We went to trivia once and had a great time. My wife really enjoyed Bingo and I think we only missed once. She won once. She was so loud that I nearly crawled under the table but the staff enjoyed her excitement. We went to most of the shows and I was very impressed with the singers and dancers. The girl singers were by far the best. We went to two comic acts and it was worth our time. The second day at sea was sunny and finally warm. The cruise staff did a great job on the pool deck with games and what not. The entire staff was very outgoing and welcoming. The cruise director, Josh, is hilarious. The disembarkation process was incredibly fast and very smooth. We received a packet with our arranged time which was 9:30 but received an alternative to walk off, carrying our own luggage, if we would like. We chose to walk off at 8:05. We gathered in the Explorers Lounge to be called. Just before our time, we were called and within 15 minutes we were in our car driving away. Neither of us could believe how easily we disembarked. They truly have this process down to a science. All in all, we really don't have any negative comments about our experience. I do wish the dinner seating had been explained more clearly. The Horizon Court is a little slow to clean tables or return with a drink. Rather than that, we had a great time and will do it again. The ports were enjoyable with my wife falling in love with Puerto Vallarta. The ship was beautiful and well maintained. I think as long as you use your hallway to travel the ship then up or down it is easy to navigate. The food and service was very good. We really enjoyed the entertainment so keep a close eye on the Princess Patter. It will be delivered each evening to your room with the schedule of the next day's events. My wife would tear off the page and keep it with us. You won't go wrong with choosing the Sapphire Princess for your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Embarkation was fairly quick and transitions between steps were short in duration.   One suggestion to the cruiser would be to check your cruise card for the proper dining assignment.  Ours was incorrect and caused some issues when we ... Read More
Embarkation was fairly quick and transitions between steps were short in duration.   One suggestion to the cruiser would be to check your cruise card for the proper dining assignment.  Ours was incorrect and caused some issues when we arrived for dinner.    The Crown Princess lives up to its name in terms of its design.  The public areas such as the lounges, main lobby area, theater, and restaurants had dEcor that was unique and upscale.   Dramatic lighting, generous use of wood accents, and ceilings with details combined to create an elegant atmosphere.   The room we choose was an inside stateroom on floor 12 towards the front of the ship.   There was definitely a sense of motion during the week-long voyage.   Fellow passengers agreed that there was more motion felt on this particular voyage then on other cruises taken.   The weather was calm as there were no rain or storms throughout the week but the ship's channel reported moderate seas at 4-7.5 feet.   Our last cruise was on a smaller ship through Royal Caribbean at the same time of year and there was little motion detected the entire voyage.   Neither of us was adversely affected by the motion, but some passengers reported feeling some nausea.   We chose an inside cabin because the total dark is such a plus for sleeping in.   The room had all the amenities one would expect in a hotel room such as a small refrigerator, hair dryer, ample closets, and storage.   The bathroom storage areas are a bit sparse for a week-long trip, but the shelves right outside the door of the bath were plentiful.   The flat screen TV was in a good location for watching from bed and the choice of movies was varied and current.   The TV also gave information about the voyage such as weather, route, expected arrival times in the ports and other useful information.     Dining is always an important feature on a cruise.   The choices in the dining room for dinner were varied in terms of offering a meat, fish, chicken, and a vegetarian entrEe.   The menu also had a selection of items which are standard fare items.  Offered every evening were filet of beef, baked chicken, fettuccini alfredo as well as a few other items.  Unless you have a culinary background or dine in 4 star restaurant routinely, some of the menu items may seem unfamiliar.   When questioned about the contents or preparation of menu items, the waiter seemed impatient and gave cursory responses.    (Tipping on this ship was automatically added to your cruise account which is different from other cruise lines.)    Princess offers dining options that include early seating, late seating and any time dining.   We chose the late seating but would choose any time dining next time.   There were restaurants which required a cover charge and offer different menus than the assigned dining rooms.  We dined in both the Crown and Sabatinis.  The menu selections were slightly more varied than in the assigned dining room but the quality of the meals seemed to be equal.  Sabatinis offered a little different experience because of the sampling of each appetizer item.   The waiter offered a taste of each appetizer menu item for both the hot and cold appetizers.   I would not spend the extra money next time to dine in one of these restaurants as far as quality of the meal and service were very comparable.      There were many activities scheduled all day long.   We chose to hang out by the pool and hot tub areas on the days at sea.   There were plenty of chairs near any one of the pools.  This was a favorable aspect compared to other ships.  On other cruises we have taken, the pool side chairs were not always accessible.   There is a spa like area with deck chairs that are cushioned for an extra daily fee.   We used the fitness center and found the machines and equipment comparable to our health club.  The fitness center was well used at the times we worked out.     There are also various classes (pilates, etc. ) for an extra fee.    I had a facial at the spa.  Bait and switch was my experience.   I reserved a specific type of facial and confirmed that upon my arrival at the desk and also confirmed it with the girl providing the service.   She asked some basic questions about my skin before we began and said would you like your skin to have even tones and reduce the lines.   Well of course.   When I got the bill, it was 2 times the price quoted for the service I reserved.   She never explained she was going to change the service which I had reserved.       The off-shore excursions were varied and there was no difficulty booking any of our choices, except for diving.   If you are a diver, book your diving excursions early in your planning process.   The cruise ships receive a percentage from the merchants that are recommended.   I would advise exploring beyond those shop recommendations to find shopping venues that are less like department stores and more like an island market.   Since my son is a huge Star War fan, we did go to see the Yoda Guy in St. Maarten.   (Very worthwhile and reasonable for a signed print.)   The Crown Princess seemed to have more "extra fee" items than other cruise ships we have taken.  There was a bit of a sales pitch atmosphere no matter what you were doing.   (Trying to get you to order cappuccino instead of coffee after dinner for example.)   We did buy the soft drink card for the week but are not sure if the $30.00 for each resulted in any savings.   The professional photos are well done and there is a variety of backgrounds.   Again, a little pricey at $25.00 per 8x10 picture, but not something you find time to do at home.    We loved the movies under the stars, which was the outdoor screen near one of the pools.   During the day there were concerts playing and it was a bit loud for just relaxing.   We looked forward to ending the afternoon at one of the other pool decks listening to live Caribbean music with an umbrella drink.   The nightly entertainment was good.   In the large theater, there was a musical production which had as elaborate of scenery changes as some Broadway shows I have seen.   Comics and magicians were good as well as the small musical ensembles in the lounges.        Overall, I would recommend this ship and itinerary.   The service, food, entertainment, public areas, and activities were excellent.   Each port visited had a little different flavor to give this vacation a caribbean blend.    The security procedures for re-boarding seemed effective and provided a sense of saftey.     The ship is well run and maintained so that travellers can focus on the business of vacationing.  Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
This was our first Princess cruise and we were celebrating our honeymoon. We have sailed with Carnival twice previously (Triumph in 2006 and Miracle in 2008).Princess booked our air and overall they did a pretty good job with the ... Read More
This was our first Princess cruise and we were celebrating our honeymoon. We have sailed with Carnival twice previously (Triumph in 2006 and Miracle in 2008).Princess booked our air and overall they did a pretty good job with the flights/connections. We flew into Ft Lauderdale the night before Embarkation and Princess booked us into the Marriott North which is aprox 10 miles from the pier. Not a great hotel, but not the worst we've stayed in either.Embarkation - We arrived at the pier at around 12:30pm, there was a huge line up, but it went so quickly, we were on the ship by about 1pm. Their Embarkation process was so quick and efficient, I was in shock at how smoothly everything ran.Stateroom - By the time we got onto the ship, our cabin (B707) was cleaned and ready for us to move into. The Bathroom was extremely small but that didn't bother us. The closet was quite large with lots of hangers. The rest of the cabin was about what you'd expect from a standard balcony stateroom. The balcony was not very big, but larger than I was expecting after having read so many reviews about this ship. It was perfectly sufficient for us and we spent quite a bit of time on our balcony. The bed was not very comfortable but we had an extra mattress topper placed on it and it helped a bit, but still wasn't great. We certainly didn't let something like that spoil our cruise. We spent too much money to be upset over such little things. Our room steward was fantastic; Danny was always eager to get us anything we may want or need for our room. He was super friendly and always did a great job with cabin.The Ship - Upon stepping onto the Emerald I was instantly in awe over her; what an absolutely beautiful ship. The dEcor and ambiance was very classy and tasteful throughout the entire ship, which was a very pleasant change from our last sailing on the Carnival Miracle. We did find that the layout was somewhat confusing and it took us quite a while to get it all figured out. Overall, we were extremely impressed with this ship though. We weren't sure if perhaps they were not booked to capacity on that sailing or if it was because of the layout but the ship really didn't seem overly congested at all, compared to our past cruises with Carnival. There were quite a few pools and hot tubs up on deck and they usually weren't too crowded either. We were also quite surprised to find that there didn't seem to be that much of a problem with people hogging deck chairs for the day. There was a bit of it, but we never had too much trouble getting a chair when we wanted one, for the most part. We really enjoyed MUTS. The sanctuary seemed quite nice, though we didn't get around to booking ourselves in there at all. The pool at the Lotus Spa was really nice; so tranquil and far away from everything else going on onboard. The International Cafe was really nice; my husband LOVED the shrimp salad. The specialty coffees were really good. If you drink a lot of coffee, the coffee card is definitely your best bet.We went to the Wine tasting on the second sea day and it was definitely not worth the $25 per person cover charge, even if you really enjoy wine, as we do. They give you a small sample of 6 different kinds of wine and a few canapEs. Nothing special, not worth the $50 we spent. There was a second wine tasting later on in the cruise for $9.95pp which I hear was pretty much the same as the first one, but as we were disappointed in the first one, we didn't sign up for that one.Food - The buffet was split into 4 separate venues, and there was always food available in at least 1 of the 4 stations. The food did seem to be a step up from what we experienced on Carnival. Buffet was quite good, but not outstanding. It is hard to make outstanding when you're cooking buffet for SO many people. The selection was a lot greater than on carnival. The Pizza was good and the Trident Grill was nice too. I absolutely loved their chicken breast burgers. We ate at Sabatini's ($25pp) which we were somewhat disappointed over. Their food is quite pretentious and really not any better than the food served in the traditional dining room. The service wasn't nearly as good either. Our Dining Room servers in the Botticelli Dining Room were absolutely fantastic; Ricardo and Sergio definitely made our cruise even more memorable. Since it was our honeymoon, on the first formal night, they came out with a special dessert for us to celebrate our honeymoon and they (along with all the other servers in that area) sang "Happy Honeymoon" to us. They were absolutely terrific. The food in the dining room was overall really good. We also had dinner at the Crown Grill ($20pp)one evening and like Sabatini's, the food seemed quite pretentious (as was our server) and that overall experience was not as good as our dinners in the Botticelli Dining Room. Ports - What a fabulous itinerary, every port was spectacular. We visited Aruba, Bonaire, Granada, Dominica, St Thomas and Princess Cays.  We pre-booked our excursions through Princess, except in St Thomas.Aruba - We booked the Aruba Sail & Snorkel; that was really good. They took us to 2 snorkel sites, the second being over top of a ship wreck. The company was Red Sail Sports and they were fantastic. The rum punch they served was made with 150 proof rum, so it packed a punch alright!Beware of Senor Frogs in Aruba, we ordered a couple of drinks and nachos($28)and quesadilla(about $18) and the total came to $100 USD. Their drinks are around $25 each and their shots are around $12 each.Bonaire - We booked Samur Sail & Snorkel. We had the option of drift snorkeling (which I HIGHLY recommend). That was absolutely spectacular, and the crew of Samur were really great also.We had lunch at a little place in Bonaire called Papagayo's, and it was REALLY good and very reasonably priced.Granada - River Tubing was fabulous. Another excellent excursion.Dominica - We booked the Champagne Reef Snorkeling which was quite an experience. The snorkeling wasn't nearly as good as in Bonaire but still pretty good, and the Champagne reef was a once in a life time sight to see.There we had lunch and a few local beers (beers were really good) at a place right by the pier called Cocorico Cafe; another really great little restaurant with really good local food.St Thomas, we did a little exploring on foot, then did a little shopping. Then we booked an independent tour guide to give us the island tour. Apparently a lot of these tour guides can be quite shady and have reputations for drinking while intoxicated so BEWARE!!Luckily, the guy we went with was really good (He also works for the local fire dept as a paid fire fighter). Check out Raymond's Island Tours (Raytours2000@gmail.com) $25pp and he'll show you the whole island and explain so much throughout the tour.Princess Cays - I was really disappointed in princess cays. We booked a clam shell ($24/day which seats 2 ppl) and it was hardly worth it. The beach was not very nice. I didn't see anyone going into the water. Perhaps there was a cleaner beach elsewhere on the island, but where the clamshells were set up, it was quite unappealing. Spent about an hour or so on the island then took a tender back to the ship to finish up my tan on deck.Disembarkation - went extremely smoothly and in good time. We booked a tour to the Everglades as we had a later flight out of FLL. That was a great way to end our fabulous cruise vacation. I would recommend doing that to anyone who has the time to do so.To summarize, we thoroughly enjoyed our time aboard and ashore during our cruise on Emerald Princess. It was by far a big step up from Carnival. The overall service was way better and the ship was so much nicer. Of course, it wasn't absolutely perfect, but it doesn't matter where you are in this world or what cruise line you chose to sail with, if you look for things to complain about, you'll find them. If you're looking for perfection, good luck to you; let me know when you find it!! Yes, there is a lot of 'nickel & diming' but that's to be found on any cruise line. There is no obligation to buy any of the extras, they aren't even pushy about it.We had an absolutely fantastic time; about as close to perfect as one can get in this world, I should think. We would definitely sail with Princess again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
This ship has only been sailing for a few months and it is awesome. I was concerned sailing on a ship that had over 3200 passengers but I rarely felt inconvenienced. Getting on and off the ship was simple and quick in both ... Read More
This ship has only been sailing for a few months and it is awesome. I was concerned sailing on a ship that had over 3200 passengers but I rarely felt inconvenienced. Getting on and off the ship was simple and quick in both directions. Princess has done a very good job with this. We had an outside room without a balcony. We don't spend a lot of time in the room so didn't see the need for the extra expense. The room was a nice size for a ship and we never felt like we were living in a closet. Speaking of closets, there was plenty of room for all our clothes and our huge suitcases fir under the bed. The showers don't leave room to change your mind but I am 6ft 2in & 250 pounds and I had no trouble maneuvering in there. We did traditional dining. The dining room was beautiful and the service was excellent. The food was adequate but I did not eat anything that was not good. There was never a long line at the buffet for lunch or breakfast. There was always plenty of entertainment and the Theatre is very nice with the utmost in state of the art technology. The best thing about this ship for my wife and I was the "Movie Under The Stars" feature. This ship has a huge digital screen outside above one of the pools on the upper deck. They show movies during some parts of the day, but at night they cover the lounge chairs with cushions, give you a blanket, pop fresh popcorn, and you watch the movie under the stars....This Was NEAT!!! In the morning, they allow you to play Wii fitness on this huge screen. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
We just returned from the Caribbean Princess and had a wonderful time. Everything was perfect. This was our fifth cruise and the other 4 had been on Royal Caribbean. Pre-Cruise  We arrived in San Juan on Saturday and arrived at the ... Read More
We just returned from the Caribbean Princess and had a wonderful time. Everything was perfect. This was our fifth cruise and the other 4 had been on Royal Caribbean. Pre-Cruise  We arrived in San Juan on Saturday and arrived at the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino at 1PM. Our room was not ready and since it was raining, we went to lunch. By the time we ate, it had stopped raining and our room was ready so we checked in and went to the beach. The room was great! They gave us exactly what I asked for, a room on a high floor, away from the elevator, and with a king bed. The room was very clean and the bed was so comfortable. The beach was very nice too. They had lounge chairs and umbrellas. The waves were really rough, which I had expected since other reviewers had said this. However, I am sure that the rain storm from earlier also made the waves rougher than usual. The rough waves did not bother us as we were glad to be in the hot Caribbean weather and away from the cold weather. I would definitely recommend this hotel for a pre-cruise stay. It was conveniently located to the airport and port and was only 15 minute cab ride to both locations. There was also a Walgreen's one block away where we purchased 2 6-packs of Poland Springs water at, which I placed into our small carry on suitcase. Embarkation  This was the easiest embarkation process that we ever went through. We arrived at the pier at 11:45AM and there was a line. However, once they opened the doors at 12PM, the line moved very fast. There was no line when we reached the check in area and we were all ready to board by 12:15PM. We then went into the duty free shop and purchased 4 bottles of wine. Be sure to check into the ship first as they asked to see our ship cards. We each placed 2 bottles of wine into our carryon's and had no issue bringing them on board. There was a sign saying that each person could bring 1 bottle of wine/champagne on board, but they did not say anything about our extra bottles. We went straight to our room to drop our luggage. We had a midship balcony on Baja and the room was great. The closet was very big and we had plenty of room to store our luggage and clothes. The covered balcony was also nice as I enjoyed the privacy at night when we sat outside and had a glass of wine. We went to lunch at the Horizon Court and by the time we got back to our room, our state room attendant, Joel, had already brought us wine glasses because he saw the wine on our counter. He was an excellent attendant and kept our room very clean. Service  The service was fantastic. Everyone was friendly and extremely helpful. Food  I found the food to be very good. We always ate breakfast at the Horizon Court. We never had an issue getting a table. They had an area where you could order fresh omelet's, which were delicious. The only complaint that we had was that the coffee was sometimes not very good in the buffet, but it was good at the dining room during dinner. However, this was not a big deal. We would just stop at the International Cafe, which had very good coffee. They only charged $1 for 12oz and $1.25 for 16oz and it was worth the money. The pastries and little sandwiches were also very good and were no charge at the Cafe. We also enjoyed the Trident Grill and Prego Pizza. The burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries were delicious. The pizza was also good. We had anytime dining and loved it. We usually went to the dining room between 7-8PM and were seated right away. The first 3 nights, we were able to get tables for two, but then we missed sitting with other people so for the rest of the cruise when they said we could wait for a table or share a table, we decided to share. It was fun having dinner with others because you could share stories of your day and hear about other activities on the islands. We also ate dinner one night at the Crown Grill and I found the food to be excellent. It was definitely worth the additional money. The black and blue onion soup was very good. We also enjoyed the steak and lobster dinners that we had. You can order as much food as you want. We ate in the dining room every night except the night that we went to the Crown Grill. We enjoy the slower pace and presentation of the food that is found in the dining room. The mixed drinks on the ship were delicious. We basically tried everyone offered on the pool deck and they were all great. Definitely try the raspberry frizz! Ship  The ship was beautiful and very clean. The pools were always clean and if you walk between the two areas, you should find lounge chairs. We were always able to find 2 chairs on the pool deck. The aft pool is really cool because of the view off the back of the ship. We did not spend as much time there though because it was often in the shade due to a night club that is built several decks above it. We loved the two main pools where we could sit in the sun all day. We also enjoyed the MUTS both during the day and at night. When sitting by the pool, you could just look at and see the movie. We watched Revolutionary Road one night and it was so relaxing to sit on the lounge chair with the warm breeze blowing and the stars above. They also made really good popcorn, which was served at night.   Entertainment  We went to the comedy show and then the show with the comedian/magician and they were both really funny. The comedian was the best! Other than that we spent most time at the MUTS. Ports   Barbados- We had planned to just go to the beach this day so when we got off the ship, we went to the information area and they recommended Carlisle Bay. The beach was beautiful, white sands and beautiful water. We rented 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella for $15 and it was worth the money since the sun was very strong and it was nice to have some shade. We had a great time, but my only complaint is that the locals kept coming to us trying to sell us jewelry. We told them all that we were all set and a couple were nice and did not continue to bother us. However, there was one person with a monkey on his shoulder who would not leave us alone. He wanted us to buy jewelry or give him money to take a picture of his monkey. If I had small bills, I would have so he would leave us alone, but at this point, I used all my small bills for the taxi and chair rentals and only had $20's left. I did not want to give him a $20. It definitely did not ruin our time and we would go into the water to escape. Saint Lucia This was one of our favorite ports. We did the land and sea island tour through Princess and we had so much fun. We started with a catamaran from the cruise ship and down the coast to Soufriere. The ride was great. The island was lush and green and just beautiful. They pulled into a beach area and we were able to jump of the catamaran and swim for 45 minutes. The water was dark, but when I jumped in, it was very clear and I could see my nail polish. It was dark from the volcanic rock that surrounded the beach and made the sand dark. It was a beautiful location. After we swam, they served delicious and strong rum punch. They also had sodas and you could purchase the beer. My husband enjoyed the Piton beer. We then continued down the coast to the Pitons, which are just amazing and beautiful. We docked here and took a van to the volcano. This was so much fun to see. There was steam coming out of it and it was amazing. From here we went to the botanical gardens where we watched them open coconuts and they showed us how they make chocolate beans. We also ate a very delicious lunch at the gardens. The bus ride back was 1 ½ hours and the roads are really windy. We had a wonderful time on this excursion and it was well worth the money. Antigua  We decided to stay on the boat this day. In hindsight, I wish that I had scheduled an excursion. Our plan had been to go to the beach, but when we got off the boat, they swarmed us trying to get us into taxi's, on tours, or to buy stuff. It was very uncomfortable and was much worse than when we were in Barbados. We did not want to deal with that on the beach. We sat at the MUTS pool and had a great day since the ship was not crowded. Tortola  This island is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. The view from our balcony was spectacular and I knew that we were going to have a great day. At the information center, they recommended that we go to Crane Garden Beach and showed us an open aired bus that was going for $6 per person. They said if we went by taxi it was triple that so we got onto the bus and went to the beach. Our driver was great and when he dropped us off, he asked what time we wanted to be picked up. We told him 2:30 and he was right on time. The beach was amazing. It was a horseshoe shape with white sands and turquoise water.  Docked out in the ocean were beautiful sail boats and beyond them were other islands that looked like small mountains jutting out of the ocean. The island itself is also very hilly and the landscape is dotted with beautiful homes built into the hills. The water temperature was perfect and we could have stayed in the ocean all day. We also rented 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella for $15, which were needed because the sun was very strong. Even though, we had been in the sun all week and had a tan, we still got red in the sun so it was good to have an umbrella. Not one person approached us at all on the island and asked us to buy anything. This was a perfectly relaxing day at an incredible beach. I highly recommend going here. Saint Thomas  We have been to Saint Thomas before and we got really bad sun burns. We were still red from the day before in Tortola and did not want to get burnt worse. We got off the boat and walked through the stores. We purchased beautiful prints from a local artist at one of the stores. The last time I was in Saint Thomas, we went to Megan's Bay and Sapphire Beach, both of which are beautiful. If you want to just relax on the beach, then I recommend Megan's Bay. Sapphire Beach is where to go if you want to jet ski. After we left the stores, we went back on the ship and had a great day at the Muts pool. Disembarkation  The disembarkation went just as smoothly as the embarkation. We had a 1:45PM flight and were in a group to meet at 8:30am. We went to breakfast in the Horizon Court, which was very busy, but we were able to get a table. We then went to the casino and we were called off the ship at 8:50. We decided to wait a few minutes for the line to calm down and we left the ship at 9. There was no line, we quickly went through customs, found our suitcases, and got a taxi. We were at the airport by 9:45AM. The airport was crazy. We docked with a Carnival ship so I am sure this is the reason. I was glad that I knew to go through the agricultural scanner first because a lot of people did not and had to leave the long line to go to the scanner. We flew home US Airways and this airline had the longest of the other airlines. After waiting in line for about an hour someone came and pulled everyone from our flight and brought us to the front of the line. We had another long line with security, but made it to the gate with plenty of time. I recommend getting to the airport as early as possible. Overall, this cruise was amazing and I will definitely cruise with Princess again. I do not have any complaints and feel that the ship and islands were all wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
 Let me start by saying that the Crown is beautiful. We had a wonderful time on our cruise to the Eastern Caribbean Apr. 19-26.  Embarkation was quite easy. We arrived by shuttle from the Hampton Inn Airport-North around 11:00 and were ... Read More
 Let me start by saying that the Crown is beautiful. We had a wonderful time on our cruise to the Eastern Caribbean Apr. 19-26.  Embarkation was quite easy. We arrived by shuttle from the Hampton Inn Airport-North around 11:00 and were given a seat card for group 3.  We received our ship and sail cards and were in our cabin by noon. Called the dine line and made our reservation for the Crown Grill and also reserved a spot for the CHEF"S TABLE which we got and the experience was beyond words.  It is a must do if you enjoy delicious different foods and great wines and conversations with new foods.  I am not a seafood lover and the chef was very gracious to prepare me special appetizers.  We loved the entire evening.  We traveled with my brother and sister-in-law so we asked for second dining seating and a table by the window for 4 which we were given. We had an excellent server and assistants and loved our dining.  Infact my husband and brother had breakfast every morning and asked to be seated at our servers table. By the end of the cruise we had become friends.  We enjoyed the Crown Grill. The filet was mouth watering and the staff very attentive.  Our balcony cabin was  quite comfortable and our room steward keep it very clean and tidy. We were a little forward but loved it and felt little movement. One evening we did hit a wind storm and felt a little more motion that usual. The pools were fun we generally gravitated to the Neptune pool.  The terrace pool, aft was a little too smokey.  We enjoyed playing cards in the afternoons on the covered deck around the neptune pool drinking Mojito's. All the ports were very nice. We spend a lovely 2 1/2 hour lunch on the french side  of St. Maarten drinking wine and relaxing by the water front. Then went to Front street and back to the ship. We shopped in St. Thomas and then on to relax at Megans Bay Beautiful.  Grand Turk was fun and we enjoyed Margaritaville.  Great d.j. and games around the pool.  On our last sea day we spent the entire day at the Sanctuary.  It was very relaxing. The lounge chairs just suck you in.  My brother and husband slept for 3 hours..  We did the carry off luggage disembarkment.  No problems.  From the time we left our stateroom, met to disembark, passed security, hailed a cab, check in at the airport, walk to our gate, this all totaled only 65 minutes.  Such a breeze.... All in all our Crown Princess cruise was wonderful. and we would cruise princess again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Having sailed on the same category ship, my wife and I knew what to expect.  We were not disappointed...We flew in from California on the day before-good thing we always do it that way because our flight was canceled.  (Continental ... Read More
Having sailed on the same category ship, my wife and I knew what to expect.  We were not disappointed...We flew in from California on the day before-good thing we always do it that way because our flight was canceled.  (Continental Airlinesnever again). Paid full fare on Delta so got the bad out of the way early.  We always stay at the Embassy Suites and they cater to cruisers.  Still made the evening cocktail reception before having dinner at the Hard Rock.  Ask the concierge about their shuttle service to the HR.  Spent 20 minutes in the casino-won $310....good start.Full service buffet breakfast the next morning and we left for the ship by about 11:15.  They will charge you $15 for the shuttle ride, so a cab is about the same price and a lot less crowded.Embarkation-Princess does this well.  We arrived to the cruise terminal about 11:45 and were in group 11.  They started calling groups around 12:00.  Even in group 11, we were on the ship by 12:20.  Ship-The ship is beautiful and clean. With the two main pools and the Adult and Sanctuary pool, there are plenty of places to get some sun.  The MUTS pool kept most of the kids on that side of the ship.Finding a lounge chair at prime time is sometimes impossible.  Wife and I went to the gym every day and would walk by the pools as early as 7:00 am, and many of the lounge chairs were already marked.  Not quite sure how to handle this one....all the cruise lines say there is no marking chairs and none of them enforce it. The balconies on the Dolphin Deck are larger and not covered, so we spent time in the sun there.  The layout of the ship was well thought through...most things were easily accessible.  Use the ship for exercise so you don't increase the gross tonage after all the food you will be eating.....If there is a complaint, the buffets were crowded and finding a place to sit was sometimes difficult.  The food was excellent in the main dining and the buffet.  We chose anytime dining-it works for us because we are not pressured to be at the table by a certain time.  Never had to wait more than 10-15 minutes- and the casino was right there giving us something to do.  Was disappointed with the Crown Grill-for $25 cover we expected more from the food...the service was just average.There are many choices for entertainmentthe main show is performed at multiple times and the smaller lounges had comedy and a band that played all types of pop and oldies.  There were piano bars as well as the band in the centrum area.  The casino was open at the regular timesplayed every night and we won $200 over the course of the 7 nights.....could have been worse.  There was bingo- sometimes twice a day....won $67....lost more money in the bingo lounge than in the casino.The gym was excellent with a 180 degree panoramic view of the ocean.  Plenty of machines to cover all the body parts and a good mix of cardio equipment.Smooth ride on the shipexcept on the last day....did not see too many patches or people looking green.Plenty of places to relax in quiet if you wishedused the internet cafe one time-slow and expensive.Pay attention to the Princess Patters-they give all the info about entertainment as well as disembarking.  Overall, you can do as much or as little as you want.  The party is by the pool-the casino and staff are fun-there are plenty of quiet places, the adult pool is perfect for a nap.  The staff is attentive and fun and the Purser desk was very helpful.  Bingo was typical, but the cruise directors made it fun.  Never made it up to the Skywalker Disco, but in cruises past, it was fun with the best view on the ship........ The bottom line is that if you cannot find something that interests you on this ship, then you are probably boring.Room-Had a mini-suitewell worth the money for a little extra room...always well kept by Nimit, our steward and he was very attentive to our requests.  Used the refrigerator- the 2 tvs were a nice touch.  And just a little extra room in the bathroom.....always nice to have a balcony to be able to see the water.  Night time was stunning with all the stars and constellations.  The Dolphin deck is the lowest balcony room (deck 9) and has the best view of the ocean.  The balconies are not enclosed.  You can look up and see the other rooms and visit with your neighbors on different decks. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This was my first cruise with Princess; I have sailed with Carnival and NCL in the past. We traveled from Las Vegas to Seattle on the morning of the cruise, we were on the Golden Princess 5/9/09 sailing for Alaska. I had arranged for ... Read More
This was my first cruise with Princess; I have sailed with Carnival and NCL in the past. We traveled from Las Vegas to Seattle on the morning of the cruise, we were on the Golden Princess 5/9/09 sailing for Alaska. I had arranged for Shuttle Express for the R/T to and from Pier 91 and found the service to be just fine and the price great, I would recommend them to anyone looking for reasonable transportation to and from the Pier. We did arrive around 930 am and did not have the return flight until 345 on the return leg so we allowed plenty of time and did not feel rushed.Embarkation:  I would say that when you travel that patience is a virtue, and if people would just relax things would go a lot smoother, the lines we not clearly defined when you were outside and when they took your baggage that was not done well, the lines for check in itself were fine, we did throw the agent a curve because we did not have our passports, since we were before the June 1st deadline, we decided to wait to get them at a later date, the agent did not know how to check us in, but she was very nice. We then waited to board the ship, but the lines again were not defined. The whole process took about 1 1/2 hours and I was still impressed that for the first day at that pier that Princess did so well, everyone was very courteous even though people were complaining, I look at this way, what's the hurry? The food and your cabin will be there when you get on board!!Cabin: we had a balcony cabin on the Caribe deck Forward Starboard side, and it was my first balcony and I don't think that I could ever go back to anything else now! I could not believe the storage space! More than you could use and I packed way too much!! We faxed in a request for an egg crate topper and extra pillows and both were there, however the bed had not been replaced and it was in a sad way, very hard and lumpy and sagging in the middle, we asked our cabin steward for another topper (The one that was on the bed was a thin piece of foam, not and egg crate) and some more pillows and robes, and everything was there when we returned a few hours later. The new flat panels TVs are very nice, you just need to learn the trick to the remote, hold at an angle and hold down the buttons, when you turned on the bridge cam channel they had beautiful relaxing music playing and we found that very nice sometimes to have on softly in the background. I can't really comment on the TV channels, sometimes we had a lot, sometimes we lost the signal, but there were always movies to watch, and who cares if you can't get the TV?Our air conditioning did not work well at all, and after we told the room steward and nothing was done the first day, we just left the balcony door open after that and enjoyed the cool ocean air and the sound of the waves against the ship, if we were in a hotter climate it would have been a problem. There was also loud gurgling rumbling sounds coming from the bathroom wall behind the toilet 24 hours a day, I think it must has been a huge water heater for the floor, or a main pipe that ran behind that wall, it was annoying and there was an occasional faint sewer smell that came from the bathroom, but I brought bath spray and again having the balcony door open the sound of the waves drowned out the gurgling pipes.At one point when the cabin steward was making up the room and we were out on the balcony and the wind vortex was so strong from having the cabin and balcony door open at the same time it pulled up our ceiling by the cabin door 3-4 inches- that was kind of scary, but one call to the pursers desk and the head housekeeper was there in ten minutes and she said she would call the carpenters. I wasn't sure what that meant, but when we came back from our shore excursions, the ceiling was fixed!!! The fridge did a good job of keeping everything cold, and light switches by the bed were very convenient, also the dimmers on the bedside lamps were a nice touch. The bathroom amenities of Lotus Spa products were very nice if you enjoy eucalyptus scent, and our room steward refilled them with new ones anytime we used even a little bit of the products. Activities and shows: we did not participate in a lot of these, we were more into the food, the relaxing on our balcony and the beauty of Alaska and the ports, and to be honest, when you live in Las Vegas, it really would not be fair for me to judge the shows since we have some of the best entertainment and shows in the world, but we did enjoy the Galley tour and our Meet and Greet with all the fellow members of this board. Also the Champagne waterfall was very nice and I did not expect to have appetizers and Champagne passed out during the first formal, which was very enjoyable.Service: I thought that Princess Service was fantastic; we had anytime dining and found that after a couple days we found a waiter we really enjoyed and asked for a table in his section every night, it was never a problem and we took care of him and his assistant at the end of the week. Most all of the employees were very courteous and treated us with respect and graciousness all week.I did have a problem when I lost my cruise card the second to the last day and had to wait in a 45 min line to get it replaced, I was very grateful that no one used it and that our cabin was fine, but I had also picked up a copy of our charges and found an inaccurate charge and they made me wait in that line all over again to have the charge removed, oh well, could have been much worse! Dining: One of my favorite parts of the cruise!! We thought that the food was wonderful every night, I loved the medallions of beef and all the fish was great, I have never had a warm soufflE' before this cruise and now I'm hooked, wow they were good!! The Crab, Lobster, everything I thought was very well done; we ate in the dining room every night and the horizon court for breakfast every morning. The Belgium waffles that were being made fresh at breakfast were yummy.I noticed in the Horizon court that all kinds of flavors of tea and coffee were available all the time, and on deck throughout the ship they had hot chocolate almost always. And whatever you do, try the pizza!! That was our favorite spot, the crust is thin and the sauce spicy and it was great!! They did not however have a sail away seafood buffet as I have heard they do on some ships, and the International Cafe did not have the Chocolate fondue I have heard about either, but the fresh mozzarella tomato and basil Panini was very good. The Crown Grill was not open yet so we skipped the old steak house in the Horizon court. The ship: we thought that it was beautiful, very elegant and tastefully done, the Piazza was one of our favorite places to be, they had a string quartet and a grand piano player and a juggler that were all very entertaining, the pools and Jacuzzis were nice, but they were closed a lot of the time. We really liked Sky walkers lounge, beautiful view during the day and 80's neon lighting at night, very cool. It was like being on a new ship, the new cabins, Crown grill and Chapel were not opened yet, but the construction was kept at a minimum. The ship was very clean. Shore Excursions. In Juneau we took the whale watch tour with Alaska galore tours, they are the ones in the Tour saver book, and I have mixed reviews about them, the ship was very small and there were only 6 of us, but not enough space for all of us to sit down, the boat did have a bathroom and the captain was very welcoming. However between the small boat and rough water it made for a very rough ride, it felt like we were airborne a couple times and even when we were just floating along it made it impossible to take pictures of the whales, I did get good video however. I'm not sure if I would tour with them again, last time I went with Orca enterprises and I think I prefer a slightly larger ship. That's just MHO. We had the driver drop us off at Mendenhall Glacier and it was a spectacular sunny day and the glacier was beautiful, we went up into the visitor center but did not have time to walk to the water fall, we then took the blue bus for $7 pp back to the port and used the Tour saver coupon for the Tram- They didn't even know about the coupon and we had to wait while they called a couple people to verify that it could be used, but they accepted it, and wow what a view it is!! We loved it up there, we played in the snow and saw the Eagle that they rescued and nursed back to health that was shot twice by some jerk. I would highly recommend all the attractions that we went to if time permits. We also managed a small amount of shopping. Skagway First off Princess was docked farthest from town and if walking is any kind of problem take the shuttle bus, $2 each way or a $5 pass for the full day, we walked into town and I have an unhappy back and it was too much, bus for us the rest of the day- We of course did the train and we booked it ourselves, saved $25-30 dollars over what the ship charges and the good part is that if you book yourselves, you don't ride in the same cars as the cruise ship passengers, which is good because their cars were packed, there was only 14 people total in our car, so we could move about freely. We loved the train, and did not find the beautiful scenery for three hours boring in the least, lots of great pics and video and we were in the front car so when the engines changed position at the top we were looking right out the back with no obstructions. When we got near the top it snowed on us, it's wonderful!!. Back in town and for most of the ride it was sunny and on the warm side. After the train we took the shuttle bus to the Jewel Gardens, there was a coupon in the tour saver book for a two for one, however they were not aware of the coupon either and it took awhile for them to figure it out. It was $12 with the 2-1 and the only good part was the glassblowers just happened to be making apiece while we were there and we got to watch, if it wasn't for that it would have been a waste of time, and money, to be honest they should not have even had the gardens open, there was nothing in bloom, but it was awesome to see glass blowing, and we bought a bowl while we were there, they called the shuttle and it came back and picked us up, we shopped in town and I was looking at jewelry and the sales people were very pushy, actually in all the ports all the jewelry stores were very pushy to the point of embarrassing at times, a simple no thank you was not sufficient and at times we had to walk out while they were still trying to sell us items. Ketchikan is a quaint little town and I love it, my one complaint is that there was not enough time to do everything we wanted to do, we were there from 6-1 but had to be back on board by 1145 for some reason. We took a float plane ride over the Fjords with Family Air and Captain Dave- this is my second trip with him and I can't say enough good things about his operation, he is family owned and operated and he has a small plane with all window seats, he really cares about people and the tours that he gives, he is not there for the money he is there because it makes him happy to show off his beautiful city and to make people happy, he takes a longer path to and from the Fjords than other companies do and he lands and lets you get out and walk around on the land for about 15-20 minutes, sometimes he fishes, sometimes he collects rocks for his pathway for his home, I can't say enough good things about his tour and would recommend it to all. Tell him Vegas Red sent you!! Cruising Tracy Arm: was an incredible experience, the water was like glass and the reflection of the snow cap mountains was mirrored perfectly in the water. There were so many pieces of beautiful glacier ice in the water all different shades of blue and waterfalls everywhere you looked, our balcony was worth every penny on this day alone and we ordered room service and stayed out there all day. The best spot on the ship, and we had great neighbors, no kids, no smokers and quiet!! It was a heavenly day and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world breathing in the freshest air. Victoria, B.C. This port of call I think Princess dropped the ball a little- we were there from 7-12 midnight so everyone wanted to have dinner before they left the ship and the dining rooms did not open up until 530 pm, this created a long line and overworked staff and a kitchen that was very slow due to the heavy volume of patrons that all arrived at the same time, IMHO Princess should have opened the dining rooms about 430-5 pm to avoid most of this. When it was time to leave the ship, Princess had only one gangway opened on the Piazza level, there was no crowd control and it was complete chaos, people shoving and pushing and you could hardly even move, they finally opened up another gangway on deck 4, and when we went down there to leave the ship my new sign and sail card that I had just been given didn't work, the security officer wanted me to go back to the pursers desk to straighten it out, I explained that I had just been given this card and it was working for my cabin and that if he sent me back to the pursers desk I would miss my Princess excursion, after going back and forth with him for a minute or so, he called over another guard who showed him how to look me up by name and photo and he saw that it was me and let us off the ship, it didn't help him that I had a very impatient woman behind me that was raising her voice to me and to the guard because she was held up for two minutes. Patience.  We did do the Butchart Gardens tour through Princess and it was unfortunate because of all the delays we left about 45 min late and when we got there we had only about 20 minutes of daylight left and we saw most of the gardens at night. I would still advise anyone that loves peace and tranquility and flowers to do this tour!! Words cannot really describe the feeling you have while strolling these magnificent gardens.  When we got back to port there were three ships docked including ours, and the ships lined up all lit up was an amazing sight. Debarkation:  As I mentioned earlier we had a flight that didn't leave until 345, so we left our cabin, enjoyed a nice breakfast on deck and then just relaxed for a couple hours and soaked in all we could of the ship before we left, we just hung around even after our group was called and we were probably in the last group to leave, but by then we found our luggage right away and only had to wait for the shuttle express for 20 minutes.  Sorry for the long review, but I wanted to give an accurate account of all things as seen through our eyes.  We loved this cruise and the Golden Princess and any small problem that we encountered was just that to us, small. Was it perfect? No. But it was the best cruise I have ever taken and we for the most part felt like we were treated like a king and queen for the week. I am a Princess convert!!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Embarkation was quick and easy, we had stayed at the Red Lion downtown, very nice accomodations and convenient to all attractions. About a $15 cab ride to the pier with tip. We arrived Pier 91 about 11:15. The staff at the embarkation ... Read More
Embarkation was quick and easy, we had stayed at the Red Lion downtown, very nice accomodations and convenient to all attractions. About a $15 cab ride to the pier with tip. We arrived Pier 91 about 11:15. The staff at the embarkation counter were friendly and knew what they were doing. After a quick processing we were in line waiting before too long. We just happened to be in line in front of two fellow CC cruisers, Hello Neal and Wendy, we met with them later at the roll call get together and we met another CC'r Hello to you Chris. We were in our cabin by about 12:30, and enjoying our new home and great food for the next 7 terrific days.  The ship was really nice, all locations in good shape and the locations we were at were all in cool and comfortable tones, nothing bright and obnoxious like on some ships. We spent a lot of time playing trivia games and such with our new friends, no medals, but we have a great selection of luggage tags. The meals were all very good, always seemed to be fresh, even the breakfast in the Horizon buffett. We did anytime dining, as we did not want to be tied to a set time every day. We had dinner with our great new friends most evenings, and with being able to make a reservation in tha Capri and Portofini dining rooms we still could adjust our dining times to our schedules. Nice deli on deck 5, hot cookies at all times, we really miss being able to get a hot cookie whenever we want.My wife and I were celebating our anniversary and on the 5th night they set up ballons and a sign on our cabin door, and gave us a nice cake with dinner, kind of a nice touch. Weather was great the whole week, sunshine and no clouds all week, temps in the upper 70's to low 80's. They said it was unusual weather for the area, but we loved it.Disembarkment was not too bad, we met in the Explorer lounge about 8:30 and had to wait about 30-45 mins before we were called. The luggage was all set out by color tag and number, pretty easy to find our luggage.  We had a 12:50 flight, we were at the airport about 10:30, plenty of time in advance. We used a town car service called "Driver for Hire" to our hotel and from the airport. Fees were about or less than a cab, and much more comfortable, highly recommended, very friendly, drivers and right on time, a simple call from the ship when we had our luggage and they were there right away.The only problem we had was a piece of our luggage had the wheel and mount broken off between drop off and getting to our cabin. They were unable to repair it and just kind of left it up to us to take care of. We filed a damage claim, and are now waiting for a response from Princess. They indicated that they would be taking care of it for us, time will tell.All told we really enjoyed the ship and the ports, and can't wait to go to Alaska again someday. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We were on the Repo cruise on the CB in May. This is how we experienced the cruise and we really enjoyed it!  With just a few exceptions.Cab from airport at San Juan to ship 19 plus 1 per bag. Had the driver stop at a store for us so we ... Read More
We were on the Repo cruise on the CB in May. This is how we experienced the cruise and we really enjoyed it!  With just a few exceptions.Cab from airport at San Juan to ship 19 plus 1 per bag. Had the driver stop at a store for us so we could pick up soda/beer so gave him an extra 5 for that plus usual tip.Embarkation: Very smooth, line went quickly. Carried on beer and soda and didn't hide it and didn't get questioned. It wasn't even in our carry on but in the bag from the store. We like to keep some in the room for relaxing on the balcony but buy most of our drinks in the bars. Cabin: R727 balcony. Loved the cabin because it was close to the Outrigger so we can just run up to get more soda for me. I always get the soda card and is well worth it if you drink a lot of soda. The steward was great and filled our ice up everyday and kept the room spotless. Made up a towel animal the first night and we kept it all week. Always had a smile and was fun to talk to. Told him I liked the lotion and he gave me extra every day without me even asking!Food: Sorry to say for breakfast AWFUL! We went to the buffet the first morning and the eggs are not real, the bacon/sausage pretty bad, hash browns cold. The coffee was so bad my husband couldn't drink it. He bought coffee everyday at the international cafe. For breakfast the rest of the week we had cereal and fruit on our balcony. We aren't big on breakfast so it didn't really matter to us though. But remember you don't have to eat in the buffet you can go to the dining rooms for breakfast and also you can order eggs to be cooked how you want them. Even though we don't normally care for buffet food we pretty much always ate there because the lunches and dinners were really good. We had salad on many of the days, the Mexican food was really good, Bavarian night was tasty, we loved the German potato salad, there was always either turkey or ham so it was not hard at all hard to find good food to eat. Didn't miss the dining room at all. I know for some people food is a big thing (so don't worry there are tons of good places to eat) on their cruise but our attitude is for a whole week we don't have to cook it or clean up so we happy! Anytime dining: We went once and were told it would be a 25 minute wait...after 40 minutes we went back and we knew he forgot about us. When we first arrived I saw a table for 4 and asked if we could sit there (we sat there the last time we were on the ship and it was just the 2 of us) and he said he couldn't sit 2 people there because it was for 4??? It was confusing because there were quite a few empty tables so not sure why that rule is in place. So we waited 40 minutes and then ate and the tables still stayed empty. We had pork and it was dry and the meal was tasteless. Also the waiter was not friendly, he wasn't rude but you got the feeling that he didn't want to be there. So for us it made sense not to get worked up about it because we really didn't care. We just chose to eat at different places and were happy with our decision. We don't like to be on any schedule when on vacation anyway.Trident Grill and Pizzeria: We loved the pizza and hamburgers! You can have different types of pizza, french fries, hamburgers or sausage. Also the icecream is in between the 2 pools and we saw lots of people with cones.Sabatini's: Excellent! Loved trying all the different food. Everything tasted great! We had reservations for 6:30 and left at 8:30. Everything was timed perfectly. Waiter very friendly and just enjoyed the evening.Pub Lunch: Had it in the Crown Grill and we loved it! Husband had fish and chips and I had cottage pie. We would have gone back on another sea day but there are so many different options we never made it back.  This is free on sea days and not to be missed.International Cafe: Coffee was good and lots of desserts that are free. Quiche was excellent. Room service: Had it almost everyday and also for late night snacking. The chefs salad is the best! We had the same room service waiter almost every time and he was great! It was nice getting to know him and we talked about our day and he told us about his family. On the last morning there was a knock on our door and it was him! Even though you don't get room serve on the last day he brought it to us without even asking. That is what I call service!Piazza: We LOVED this area! We listened to the piano, steel drums, guitarist, saw the hola hoop girl (the captain actually tried it too!) and the acrobats. We also enjoy watching the demonstrations. This area was so relaxing it ended up being one of our favorite places to be.Entertainment: Comedy, hypnotist, Bert, productions shows, ship bands....all were really good. You would never be bored on this ship! Was is all top notch? Well I wouldn't say that but we still enjoyed it all. We go knowing it will be entertaining but not on Las Vegas level. We watched a movie on Mutts and it was fun. Won 1200.00 in the casino! We are not smokers and wish there were more nights of no smoking. Plus it was smaller than it had been so we wished that hadn't changed. Husband wanted to play poker but there was not poker. But we are not complaining because of what we won on video poker! Saw the newlywed game and just went from once place to another on all the nights. Loved the Island Party and Skywalkers lounge because we did a lot of dancing.Crew: Honestly except for the Coral dining room every member of the crew was exceptional! Everyone smiling, in the buffet we always got asked if we wanted a drink, they took our dirty plates right away, the waitresses and bartenders were friendly, everywhere we went that was our experience. The captain was everywhere and always talking to everyone so maybe that is why the crew is so great.Pool: Very frustrating to see chair after chair with no one sitting in them. We saw the towel and sometimes a book and just kept walking. There are so many places to be around the pool we just kept going and always found a place on the upper level. We decided that we could let that get to us or just enjoy a sunny day at the pool and so that is how we handled the chair hogs! The pool games were fun to watch but we mostly read and just enjoy being outside after a long winter!Public bathrooms: DISGUSTING! Most of the time one or more of the womens bathrooms in each area would be closed for maintenance. I didn't think they were very clean either. This really bothered me. My husband said none of the mens bathrooms were closed when he used them. Maybe it was just my timing but I hope they do something about it. There were a few things I think could be improved but we had a wonderful time! We love this ship and the crew and will be booking again! In fact we paid for the future cruise credit!!We took a car service from the boat to the airport because someone here on CC suggested it was better and he was right! Perfect way to end the cruise. It was 55 plus tip so it was less than the transfers. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
First, this cruise review represents two couples, late 50's.  We are two sisters, and we travel together with our husbands.  This is our 12th cruise, the 6th with Princess.  Other cruise lines we've used include Holland ... Read More
First, this cruise review represents two couples, late 50's.  We are two sisters, and we travel together with our husbands.  This is our 12th cruise, the 6th with Princess.  Other cruise lines we've used include Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival, Disney.  We can truthfully say we've enjoyed all of our cruises at some level (except one).  We can always find things to enjoy, and try to embrace the differences in what ships and cruise lines have to offer.  Variety is a good thing!  This is my first attempt at a review after making use of the many generous reviews on Cruise Critic, so I will try to "pay back" for all the reviews I've read!First, embarkation was a breeze.  Short line at about 2:30 p.m., onboard within 20 minutes or so.  The cabin is teensy, as was the bathroom, and the balcony.  Disappointed.  We last sailed on the Carnival Spirit and enjoyed the room and balcony.  Much more spacious.  Overall, the room is tired looking, like a motel room that has seen better days.  TV is updated, but we rarely used it.  We make much use of the balcony, and it was a real test of logistics to get the 4 of us on the balcony for wine and cheese in the evening.  But we did it!  As noted by others, the open balconies below us (we were on Aloha) would be very unappealing, due to the lack of shelter from the sun and from prying eyes above!  Unless one person stands in the shower it is impossible for two to be in the bathroom at the same time.  We all found the beds to be very uncomfortable.  Our steward brought egg crates and that helped but I never made peace with that bed.    The ship itself was in great shape, nice and new looking for the most part.  I didn't see alot of maintenance going on, so that was never disruptive.  In case you don't know, when you get off the elevators and try to think "left or right?", the completely blue rugs designate the starboard side.  The blue and peach/pink/coral rugs designate port.  Makes life easier.  This ship was almost identical to a previous Princess cruise we'd been on, so the dry dock didn't make it super special for us.  We enjoyed the location of the International Cafe, and made good use of the coffee cards.  They were a good value since we felt the coffee onboard was mediocre.  The remainder of the ship layout was very similar.  We agree with others that the casino was small for the size of the ship, and felt the Princess Theater was also too small.  Must admit that we only attended one show, the final one with a magician who was a hoot (James Michael), comedian, laughed till we cried (Tony Daro) and singer (so sorry, I think his name is Jesse Hamilton, but he was wonderfulgreat stage presence, fantastic voice).  We don't love production shows, so can't comment on those.  We also saw James Michael in the Wheelhouse Bar, a venue that was too small for the number of people who wanted to see the show.  Many had to stand, and many stood outside in the hallway.The only times the ship felt crowded was when trying to get past all the folks looking through photos, in the casino, and mercy, in the Horizon/Caribe.  What a mess.  Truly.  It took alot of work to get a meal.  We tried varying the times we went, and every time had to search through at least two seating areas to find a table.  I agree that the service was so-so.  We usually got our own beverages and refills.  They were fairly prompt in clearing off tables but that was about it.  Not a huge deal to get our own beverages, but the service was less than what we've had in the past.Cannot say enough about how poorly the food areas are laid out.  It's just a confusing "stew" of stuff.  People enter by two doors then muddle and mill around until they stumble into what they'd like to eat, then stumble out.  It's like beans in a jar, rolling around, banging into each other, then eventually shooting out the exit.  Trays would be nice, but would probably jam things up even more since people with trays take up more space than people holding a plate.  I don't think it can be fixed.  The design is just flawed.  The only thing I can think of is to have a traffic food cop to police how many people are in there at a time!  They were pretty diligent about hand cleaner but there was not someone policing hand cleaner all the time, and this is during the swine flu outbreak.Our single greatest disappointment of the cruise was the quality of the food, especially at lunch.  Did we always find something to eat?  Yes.  But we got to a point that we were SURPRISED when something was good rather than the other way around.  We'd usually try 5 or 6 spoonfuls of different things to find the one thing that was good enough to get more and call it lunch.  It isn't that it was awful.  It was just very school cafeteria-ish.  But, there were some wonderful surprises.  The guacamole and chips and salsa were fantastic.  The mashed potatoes were real.  A few of the soups were good.  The salad bar was ok.  Desserts were almost uniformly a disappointment.  My sister and I, after two days of lunches that were a challenge, decided to try a veggie burger at the grill.  We stood and waited for them about 10 minutes, watched them cook on the grill.  Finally got them, and they were exactly the consistency of uncooked meat loaf in the middle.  I shudder just typing the description.  Nasty and I don't mean maybe.  Fries were good.  Our husbands enjoyed the brats with sauerkraut.  The seafood was sometimes good.  Breakfast was ok for us as far as food.  It was always a traffic jam.  We tend to eat the same thing every day.  Cereal can't be messed up, though the milk never seemed sufficiently cold.  I liked the muesli and granola.  Two days I had soft fried eggs and bacon and it was good.  I'm impressed that they could serve soft fried eggs!  Two mornings we skipped breakfast in favor of getting the workout done and went straight to lunch.The fitness center was ok.  Maybe it was the times we went but we didn't have trouble finding a treadmill.  Although, at inopportune times they would block off 4 or 5 treadmills for no apparent reason.  One section of the treadmills had exercise bikes and big exercise balls immediately behind them.  So close that you had to step from one treadmill to another to get to them.  That seems dangerous to me, if anyone should fall on one of the treadmills they'd be off the back and straight into the exercise bikes.  A few days we exercised later and the sun was blazing in the windows.  It was like a greenhouse.  A truly miserable workout.  A little pull down shade would make alot of difference.  All the machines had their own tv and headsetvery nice.  Lots of distraction.  After 11 cruises, we decided to try something different for this one.  The appeal of formal night is very low for us.  We have had a rough past year and wanted the least amount of hassle for this cruise.  In the past we would dutifully wear gowns and tuxes and then go back to our rooms to change to be comfortable for dancing in the evening.  This cruise, for the first time, we ignored formal night and ate in the Lido.  Interesting.  Didn't miss the dressing up in the least and also don't believe in pushing the wardrobe boundaries and trying to get in the dining room dressed less than formally.  Both formal nights the Lido dining was "dressed up" with place mats and table settings.  On the second formal night (Friday) they served lobster claws, beef wellington and crab legs....very similar to what was served in the dining room.  Our husbands were very happy campers with all the lobster and crab they could want, when they wanted it.They served all the crab and shrimp you could want in the Lido area on the night we sailed rather than on Monday with the first formal night.  So we ate in the dining room once, in the Lido 3 times and in speciality restaurants 3 times.We ate in Sabatini's twice, enjoyed it.  Nice service from Martin and Albie.  Good food.  Don't eat everything they put in front of you and you'll be fine!  Also ate in the steak restaurant.  Didn't enjoy it as much, but the service was good, as was the food.  None of us had steak, though my brother in law had the pork chops and enjoyed them.  Onion soup was great as was the chocolate dessert and the sampler dessert.We didn't miss the dining room experience, but that doesn't mean that on our next cruise we won't go back to it.  The one meal we had in the dining room was 50/50.  Half of us liked it ok, the other half didn't.The passengers on this ship were a great cross-section of ages.  Lots of late 20's/early 30's; a few young families; a good mixture of all the other age groups.  No age group dominated, as far as I could see.  No issues with behavior or rudeness.  Everyone we met was lovely.The ship itself was sometimes just plain hot.  Might be the lights.  In the casino and other public areas it was roasting hot several nights.  The staff onboard was just great.  With the exception of one barman outside who was a little surly, the people were as lovely as they come.  Quick to smile, responsive, eager to please.  Jose, our room steward was super.  My sister and husband's shower only put out boiling hot water.  He was very prompt in getting a repair guy in to fix it.  He also responded quickly with our request for a sheet and blanket rather than just the duvet, which cooks my husband.  Ovette, at the purser's desk, responded to a problem we had and helped solve it with patience and good humor.  Daniele in Crooner's Bar was great.  Sammy, in the International Cafe was so personable and always remembered our names.  We loved the staff.  My brother-in-law wanted skim milk for his cereal one morning and they were very prompt in finding it, bringing it to him with a smile.  The staff is among the best we've ever encountered.Cannot thank Princess enough for the smoke free casino night.  LOVED IT.  Sorry to all the smokers out there, but it was so nice to not have to breathe second-hand smoke in order to enjoy a big amenity of the ship.  We were just thrilled that ships are finally taking note.  Each night we were in the casino I made note of how many smokers I saw, and the non-smokers vastly outnumbered the smokers every time, at least during the times we were there.  We have been driven out of casinos many times by smoke, and I would love to see the non-smokers at least have a 50% split on the evenings.  Only fair.One change in Bingo....if you came to the first one and didn't bring a pen you were out of luck or had to spend $1.50 to buy an ink roller thingey.  That irked my husband....it seemed like one more way to nickel and dime the customer.  No sheets with fold under little tabsyou had to mark these, so be warned!  Bring pens or little highlighters and you'll be good to go.The soft-serve ice cream was good, but why would you not serve it in the evening?  With all the people on deck and in the Lido area, it would seem to be perfect.  We always enjoyed that on Carnival and missed it on this cruise.One issue we had is with the Platinum level service.  When we boarded we had the wrong card levels.  We went to see the return passenger office to see about getting things updated correctly.  Both families were platinum, but it took alot to get it updated.  I'm sure the staff member was following directions but when we talked with her, it was like 20 questions.  Let's Play Stump the Passenger!  It appears that they don't track cruises well if you move, and we were stymied by being asked exactly when did you take a cruise.  She had to have been looking at the info in the computer but we were quizzed about the cruises we'd taken and she wouldn't give us any information or update us unless we came up with the cruises/years we'd been on Princess.  If you don't have it written down in chronological order it's really tough to do, especially since there were Carnival and Holland America and Disney and Celebrity cruises in there, too.  It doesn't have to be so hard.  Certainly not passenger friendly and not a great way to treat people who are on their 6th cruise with your company.  So, we missed expedited embarkment but got to sit in Sabatini's to wait for our color to be called.  Wonder what 12 cruises gets you?  :-)Overall, we were ok with this cruise, but are going away from Princess for a while.  Part of it is the sameness of the ships.  This ship was so much like a previous one we were on that it was a little like taking the same cruise (except the food quality has suffered).  One fun thing with trying different cruise lines is the fun of discovering a new ship, so we're going to branch out a little.  Our last cruise was on the Carnival Spirit out of San Diego and we would have turned around and done a back to back in a nanosecond if we could have.  We hated to leave that ship!  For this cruise, we would never do a back to back and left without a backward glance....Ports:Arubawent to Eagle Beach by taxi.  It was ok.  Not great.  We took this cruise for Aruba.  We had been on a previous cruise headed to Aruba for the last stop and two passengers went tragically overboard so we never made it for understandable reasons.  Aruba was high on our list, and it was ok, less than we expected.Bonairefabulous.  We booked a snorkel trip with Woodwind.  Dee and Tina are fantastic.  Loved them, loved the tour.  Great service, nice snorkel.  My sister is very frightened to snorkel but wanted to try.  Dee was the epitome of patience.  So understanding, gentle, encouraging.  There was also a woman onboard who had had a bad snorkel experience and Dee absolutely guaranteed that she would have a good experience.  And she did.  My sister was worn out from the stress of snorkeling, though she did it and enjoyed it as much as she was able.  Dee saw that she was tired and came over and held her hand and helped her paddle to the boat.  She and Tina were just so great.  Could not recommend them more highly.  Also served drinks, beer, watermelon, and offered them over and over.  One thing I loved is that as we headed back to the dock Dee saw a man (not in our group) who was apparently standing on the coral and she challenged him and admonished him to please not stand on the coral.  Good for her!  If you haven't been to Bonaire, it is just charming.  A lovely place.  GrenadaGrand Anse beach.  Fun.  Took the water taxi.  Beautiful beach.  Crowded.  It's a little overwhelming, because when you land on the beach there a bunches of beach waiters and folks standing there wanting to get you to rent their chairs.  We chose Nicholas, a real hustler in the best sense of the word.  He was on the go, kept checking back with us, brought drinks, got us set up and was up and down the beach the rest of the day.  Nice kid.  Ask for him.  We admired his hard work and tipped him accordingly.  Bought spices at the spice market at the beach.  Dominicawe weren't interested in windshield time, no matter how pretty the terrain.  Have seen the rainforest in the Amazon and Puerto Rico, so it held no appeal.  We walked around in town but can't comment on tours.Have been to St. Thomas many times.  Stayed on the ship and enjoyed the day.One note.  Following the cruise we stayed one night at the Caribe Hilton.  Very nice.  The most wonderful pool area with several levels of pools and jacuzzis, swim-up bar, beach area with a breaker area that gives protected ocean swimming.  Ocean and pool are at the same place so visually it is super.  Prices are through the roof for food and drinks.  A mojito is $12, as are all "beach drinks".  $7 for a beer.  Food is very expensive, too.  If you stay here ask for a room in the new section.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
EMERALD PRINCESS BALTIC CRUISE 15TH - 25TH MAY 2009 Continuing on from the Transatlantic cruise, in Copenhagen we hopped on the ships shuttle into the city, unfortunately it was a very overcast day and rained sporadically throughout, but ... Read More
EMERALD PRINCESS BALTIC CRUISE 15TH - 25TH MAY 2009 Continuing on from the Transatlantic cruise, in Copenhagen we hopped on the ships shuttle into the city, unfortunately it was a very overcast day and rained sporadically throughout, but we managed to see most of the sights without getting too wet. The dock there is quite far away from anything really. We had hoped that we could walk into the city but that wasn't to be.  There were over 600 of us continuing on this cruise so it was nice to recognise faces in amongst all the 'strangers'.  We had expected new menus for this portion of the cruise but they were the same as the previous cruise, most of the entertainment and movies was the same as well, they did add Kevin Hughes a very funny comedian to the mix however and we attended two of his 5 shows. We worked out though that Steven Rawlings a comedy juggler, a very funny man was on for no less than 8 days out of our 27 days.  We had done our homework thoroughly for this cruise and had purchased not only travel books but also a DVD that John Lawrence has available, this proved invaluable and I would urge anyone taking a baltic cruise to buy it. It was available on board but we heard many folk wishing that they had known about it before they left home. He also continued on this cruise and I believe will be on for the entire season, he was always available for questions and we thoroughly enjoyed talking to him - an absolute gentleman.  We were lucky with the weather as well, it was pretty cold but the rain held off mostly everywhere except Stockholm. Of course St Petersburg was the highlight and we were lucky in being in a brand new dock (or so they told us) where the immigration was faster. I wouldn't like to be in the old one as they seemed to take an age inspecting all our papers. Some people had their photocopy of their passport returned to them and some didn't, but everyone had to fill in a landing form and these were duly inspected along with the tour ticket and actual passport. We were given dire warnings about Not losing the passport and to beware of  pickpockets, but to my knowledge all went smoothly.  We had booked with Denrus and they were there waiting when we emerged from the terminal building, getting off the ship was a breeze, despite all the warnings that we had been given, no-one tried to stop us and we walked off among the first group. We did hear that several independent people were turned away by the immigration people, not by the ship, so it would appear that the immigration are the problem Not Princess. Everything was fantastic and completely went to our requested route.We had hoped to pick up some 'bargain' souvenirs while out and about but strangely enough and as cheerfully admitted by our guide alot of the souvenirs are actually made in China, so we were quite content to buy a lovely laquer box on board and know that it was actually made in Russia. Our one disappointment here was that the evening tour to the Hermitage was cancelled due to lack of bookings, if we ever come back we would like to book that privately as well if possible.  We were late leaving the dock on the second day as many tour busses were late back to the ship. The traffic in the city is quite unbelievable.  Tallinn was a lovely surprise, pity we didn't have longer there. It's very easy to walk into the lower town and then the upper town, we were lucky again in that when we got to the Russian church around 9.15 they were having a service and we stopped to listen to the lovely singing. Gdansk was interesting we opted to go in on the local train and were lucky enough to run into John Lawrence and his wife who were going the same route, there was quite a crowd and he very patiently helped us all to buy the tickets and point us in the right direction.  We managed to see all that we wanted here and even climbed to the top a tower in the archaelogical museum, just a mere 142 steps with a near ladder at the end, but got beautiful views over the city. We got off the train on the way back  at Sopot the seaside town and had a quick look round there, it was lovely, very quaint, wish that we had been able to spend a little longer but had to get back to the train.  This of course is the downside to going independently, the little niggle at the back of your mind that something might happen on the way back and you miss the ship. Then we were in Oslo again and once again it was fantastic weather, this time we visited the Vigeland Park  and the statues before continuing over  to the museums.  Disembarkation was a bit chaotic, we were over an hour late arriving in Copenhagen and people were getting upset that they might miss the early flights, no reason was given for the late arrival, so I guess that is a good lesson not to book early flights. We had a fantastic time overall, the only negatives was really the blandness and repetitiveness of the food. The total lack of news programs on the TV which was really strange, perhaps it's all a part of the "escape completely" program. The positives were of course the itinerary where else could you visit so many countries in such a short time without having to pack and unpack, the enthusiasm of the Cruise Director Neil Chandler  and his staff, the fantastic port lectures given by John Lawrence, and the general friendliness of most of the staff on board (the only ones that seemed to have 'attitude' were  the photographers who were quite pushy). Just a note for those who seem to be having trouble with the immigration arrangements at St Petersburg, the Russians are the ones who decide on the number of booths that are allocated to Princess tours and independents and they seem to be very fair,  one quarter of the booths open are for independents and that seems to tie in with the number of passengers doing their own thing. If you want to see trouble in getting through the immigration then just get behind a Russian Crew member, they were practically given the 'third degree'. Everything works well and I would  certainly not endorse the advice given by Guidediva in a recent post to ignore everything that the cruise line says. If Princess management read this I would urge them to use more staff to reduce the lines that are everywhere. Only two people were ever working at the tour office desk and the lines were always long, same at the shuttle busses, only one person selling tickets, took ages to get on board. There must be a faster way to do these things.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
General info I am late 30's, my husband is mid 40's. This trip was to celebrate our 15 year anniversary and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 piece of advice I would give to anyone on a trip like this is to do your ... Read More
General info I am late 30's, my husband is mid 40's. This trip was to celebrate our 15 year anniversary and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 piece of advice I would give to anyone on a trip like this is to do your research and plan very far ahead in order to make the most out of every day - one day in a major European city requires much advance planning and a decision making about what is important to you to see. We felt like this was a terrific way to see Europe for the first time and would recommend it to anyone. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and enabled us to get the flavor of a lot of different countries in one shot. We did private tours in every port but 1 and definitely feel this is the way to go to make the most out of your trip. We had impeccable weather - it was high 70's with a slight breeze and not a cloud in sight every day but one. We felt so fortunate to have this amazing weather in the beginning of May (the trip was May 2 - 18). Flights & pre cruise in Barcelona We flew Air France out of LAX via Paris to Barcelona and again via Paris back home from Venice. I had heard flying through Paris was a nightmare but that wasn't our experience - our flights coming and going were on time and comfortable and the service was outstanding and the food was even good and all luggage made it safely - phew! We stayed 2 nights at the Le Meridien Barcelona pre cruise. It was a perfect location on Las Ramblas and very comfortable and we had terrific service. We had 2 full days in Barcelona and feel like we barely scratched the surface. We could have easily spent a week there. Barcelona proved to be one of our favorite stops of the entire trip. The first day we took a 2 hours walking tour of the Gothic Quarter - this was an excellent way to start our time in the city and we learned a lot about the history of old Barcelona. Thoroughly enjoyed this tour and it was very inexpensive. After our walking tour we went to the Picasso Museum, then Citadel Park, then wandered through the Gothic Quarter on our own and of course stopped for tapas and sangria in the later afternoon to give our feet a break. Later that night we went to see the magic fountains at Montjuic. This was very, very special and a must see in Barcelona if you're there overnight! One of the highlights for us. Don't miss it! Day 2 in Barcelona was spent in the Eixample District. We saw all the Gaudi sights. All were very, very crowded so we just took pictures to them from the street and didn't get close up.  We did go into Parc Guell which was well worth it. Very unique area with beautiful city views. Also a must see! We had purchased a one day pass for the HOHO bus but every time we tried to get on it the wait was 30 to 60 minutes so we always ended up giving up and walking (we hate lines!!). If I were to go again I would probably just skip out on the HOHO bus and walk everywhere or hail a cab if I get too tired. I'm not sure if we just hit the HOHO bus on a bad day (there were lots of ships in port). Maybe its not always like that. Before heading to the ship we went to take out some cash at an ATM on the Ramblas. Our card was eaten up and we could not get it back. Thankfully we had a secondary ATM card. Make sure you have a backup plan for getting cash!  We boarded the ship at about 4 PM. Embarkation took about 10 minutes. We took a cab from the hotel and it was a snap. The ship - Ruby Princess Wow - what a beauty! This was our 6the Princess cruise and this ship was the most impressive so far. This cruise was so port intensive that we felt we barely got to enjoy all the wonderful amenities onboard. But what we did utilize we couldn't have been happier with. The staff was impeccable - the best service we've ever had onboard Princess (its always good but this was over the top). The matire d' hotel, Generoso Mazzione, was an absolute gem. He and his staff paid attention to every detail and went far and away beyond any service I would ever expect on a ship with 3,000 passengers. The food was overall the best food we have ever had on a cruise. Night after night, day after day, the food was impeccable. We had anytime dining and the head waiter, Godwin, had the same table for 2 reserved for us in the Da Vinci dining room every night regardless of what time we showed up. Our server, Grisana, became our friend. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the Chef's Table one night. It has been well reported on already so I won't be redundant but suffice it say it was one of the best meals we have ever had (and we're major foodies) and the VIP treatment that comes with the experience is so over the top that we just couldn't believe it. We will never, ever forget that special night! Truly a highlight of the trip. We didn't see as much entertainment as we normally do since we were so exhausted at night. We did manage to catch all 3 Broadway style shows and they were all very good - Once Upon a Dream was downright phenomenal. So innovative and unique - the best show we've ever seen on a cruise ship by far! Don't miss it!We had a balcony stateroom on the Baja deck. We originally had an inside cabin because we were thinking we'd barely be around enough to enjoy a balcony so why pay for it? We re-thought it a few months prior to the trip and I am so glad we did! At the end of each day we were so exhausted and drained we were so happy to have a nice room and balcony to relax in! Well worth the extra money - especially for a cruise this long. One other noteworthy item - Ultimate Balcony Dining. We did this the night after sailing away from Istanbul. Wow - what an experience! The biggest lobster tail we've ever had and the filet was great too. Neither of could finish our meal which almost never happens (we're big eaters!). I highly recommend this experience - truly special in every way. AS luck would have it we had an incredible sunset that night too. The 2 servers even came in and sang "Happy Anniversary to you" with a cake and a candle. They were so sweet! It was the perfect way to end an incredible day and we would do it again in a minute. The ports: Monaco We had a tour with Michele at: www.revelationtours.com We went to St. Paul de Vence, then drove through Nice on the way to Eze, then finished the day in Monte Carlo. We shared the tour with 6 other members of our roll call. Both SP de Vence & Eze were incredible - two villages that time seems to have just passed by. We thoroughly enjoyed them both but if you can only see one I think I would pick Eze - just slightly more charming and a little less crowded. But either one is fantastic and we were so happy we got to spend time in each of them. Nice was just OK - I'm glad we didn't spend any time there. We live in Southern CA and it felt a lot like home to us. We enjoyed our time in Monte Carlo. We went inside the cathedral and walked around the casino area and then through the park near the cathedral which is just lovely. Michele was terrific - very flexible with our schedule (we had some confusion with our ship's docking time) and he was also very informative - we learned a lot about the history of the area, etc. We really enjoyed having him as our guide. He also took us to a few lookout points with incredible views where we got some of our best pictures of the whole trip. Of all the ports, Monaco was the one we were least excited about prior to the trip - but after going there we felt differently. This was a very, very memorable day and we absolutely loved the area and it is truly unique in every way. We'd go there again in a heartbeat. Livorno We toured with Guido from: www.tuscanyinmypocket.com We cannot say enough about the day we had with Guido. I actually got emotional saying goodbye to him - that is how much he touched our heart. He made this day special and memorable in every way. He was born and raised in Florence and everywhere we went people we honking and waving at him like he owned the place. He would pull us up to the door of each major site - right into the square amidst crowds of people - and get is into the sites with no line. We felt like celebrities. It was crazy. His knowledge of the region is simply astounding, and his passion for his home comes through in everything he says. We spent the first half of the day in Florence. There's so much to see there - we needed 3 days! We did see the original David - a must see in my opinion. Absolutely mind blowing - the size, the detail. We will never forget it. We of course went to the duomo and spent a little time in the area around it. We also went to Santa Croce cathedral and saw the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, etc. We loved everything about Florence. A big city with a small town feel. Definitely on our list of places to return to! After Florence we went to Chianti. Guido took us to a family owned winery called Montagliari. We sat outside overlooking the vineyards and had the best meal of the entire trip at the winery. Caprese w/ homemade mozzarella and home-grown tomatoes, homemade pasta with wild boar sauce, balls of spinach with gorgonzola sauce, and Italian apple pie, all accompanied by a bottle of Chianti of course! After lunch we toured the wine caves and the balsameria where they age the balsamic vinegar, then we finished with wine tasting in the tasting room.  The winery and surrounding area were incredibly beautiful - green and lush everywhere you looked. The hospitality at the winery was over the top - we felt like we were at someone's home. This day was one we will never forget. It was special in every way and meeting Guido was one of the highlights of the entire vacation. I cannot say enough about him and about this tour. Civitavecchia We used:www.limoinrome.com We joined someone else's tour from our roll call. There were 8 of us. Our driver was just OK. He was nice but never said a word after we got into the van as we were heading to Rome. I felt like I didn't learn nearly as much this day as we could have. He seemed more like a driver than a guide. He just kind of dropped us off at sites and we were left to figure it out on our own. We saw all the must-see sites: Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Colesseum, Pantheon Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Forum, etc. One place we went that is not as typical is the Basilica of Sao Paulo. This was probably the most beautiful church we saw in Italy. And because its slightly off the beaten path it wasn't crowded. I highly recommend visiting this church. It also has the remains of Peter and the actual chains that he wore when imprisoned. Very impressive building. After dashing from site to site we grabbed a quick sandwich and then met up with our licensed historian at the Vatican for a 2 hour tour. I cannot imagine visiting the Vatican without a guide. It is so enormous and there's so much to see and learn - we would have been lost without her. She was a terrific guide and this was definitely the highlight of the day. Everything we saw at the Vatican Museums blew our mind but the Sistine Chapel is in a class all its own. Do not miss this! Naples Our guide was Fabrizio Fiorinelli at: www.amalfi-drive.com This was an incredible day and a nice change in pace after running ragged all day in Rome. Fabrizio was so professional and sweet and gave us terrific background on the area without talking too much. We first went to Sorrento. Wow - what a place! The charm and the lemons everywhere - just a really special, unique little town. We went to the Limonoro Limoncello Factory for some tasting and of course walked out with 2 bags of purchases. They are so friendly in there and when I asked if I could take a picture of the guy making the limoncello he invited me to come in and be in the picture with him, holding the bottle as though I were making it. Just a fun, happy place! We had about 90 minutes to walk around and explore the nooks and crannies of this special place. From there we headed to Positano. All I can say is - WOW! You approach the town from above and the car can only go to the top of town. From there you can only walk as you wind through the shops and galleries and head towards the sea. There is a certain magic or mystique to this place that it is hard to describe - a definitely must see on the Amalfi Coast! We hope to go back someday and stay for a few days. After leaving Positano as we were winding along the road Fabrizio stops and there's a man standing on the road that hands him something. We are wondering what in the world is going on. Fabrizio them hands the package to me and tells me it's a gift. I open it and it's a plate with a hand painted design and lemons on it and it says "Amalfi Drive 2009" and has my name at the bottom. What a special, thoughtful touch. I will always cherish that plate and the memories of this special day. From there Fabrizio took us to La Tagliata for Lunch. It sits high up in the mountain, overlooking Positano and the sea. The minute we sat down (there were 6 in our group) - they started bringing food and wine. We had NONE - yes NINE - antipasti, then 5 different pastas and all the red or white wine we could drink. Then they brought 7 desserts and shots of limoncello for all. This was probably the 2nd best meal we had on our trip (after the Chianti winery) and we were shocked when the bill came and it was only $25 per person. At home a meal like that would have been at least $50 per person. This restaurant has amazing views and the service and attentiveness from the staff is top notch. What an incredible experience! Now it was time to head to Pompeii. We can't say enough about how impressed we were with Pompeii. We paid the additional fees for a licensed guide (I highly recommend this!!). He was also named Fabrizio and he was a delight. We learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed this peek into 1st century Roman life. Pompeii is not to be missed. It was great going tin the afternoon because it wasn't crowded at all. Our guide said the first half of the day you can barely get around its so crowded. When we got back to the car Fabrizio #1 had a pizza waiting for us. He had heard us talking earlier about how we wanted to be sure to try a pizza from Naples since that's where it was invented. This was another thoughtful, personal touch that really impressed us. I can't say enough about Fabrizio and his kind demeanor. He went out of his way to make our day special and he succeeded. I would hire him again without hesitation. Sea day Boy we were ready for this. The exhaustion was really setting in. We had read how tired you are on this trip but nothing could have prepared us for this level of exhaustion. I slept in til 10 AM, my husband slept till 1 PM. I got a pedicure (which was so-so, not nearly as good as the spa pedis I get at home). We sat by the pool for a couple of hours then took a nap. It was really nice to rejuvenate and catch up no rest. We needed it! Mykonos This port was a nice diversion - casual, beach-y, easy. We rented a quad from: www.okmykonos.com This was a terrific way to explore the island. We rode all over the place and finished the day at Stefanos Beach right in front of where the ship was docked. A lovely island and lots of beautiful beaches. I highly recommend renting a quad or moped so you can explore on your own. We got lost a couple of times which was half the fun. The island is small so its easy to find your way if you get turned around. We felt completely safe on the quad. We rented 1 and rode on it together. Istanbul Since we were in Istanbul on a Monday we had to take a ships tour if we wanted to see the Hagia Sofia. We reluctantly signed up for the "Best of Istanbul" tour and hoped for the best. We were pleasantly surprised. It was not bad at all. Our guide was terrific and we didn't feel like we were in a cattle herd like I had feared. I talked to other people who took this same tour on a different bus and they said it was an absolutely nightmare. I think that bottom line is - when you take a ships tour in a city like this it's a crap shoot. A lot depends on the guide and the timing of your landing at certain sites. We enjoyed our day very much and were so happy to be able to see the Hagia Sofia. I read somewhere else that someone was very "underwhelmed" by it - I guess everyone is different......because it was the highlight of the day for us. The history of that building is so impressive and to see the Muslim and Christian relics side by side is really something. I would classify this as a must-see. We also visited the Blue Mosque - wow - what a beautiful and unique place of worship. We then headed to Topkapi Palace where we toured the palace, then had a very delicious lunch in a lovely restaurant overlooking the water, then toured the Harem. Do not miss the Harem! It is a fascinating look into the life of the sultans and their families. After the Harem we had about an hour in the Grand Bazaar. A really fun experience - I felt an hour was plenty - its kind of the same 10 shops repeated over and over again. We were ready to go after an hour. We got a little lost and came out the wrong exit - the place is huge! We had some momentary panic as it was getting closer to the time to meet up with our group, but we found our way and met up with 2 minutes to spare. Close call!! This was a very memorable day - Istanbul is a fascinating city and absolutely beautiful! Just walking over to Topkapi Palace from the Hagia Sofia was lovely - beautiful boutique hotels, some newly renovated apartments - very, very charming. We are so happy we had the opportunity to visit such a unique and fascinating city. Ephesus Tour guides in Turkey are very affordable so we decided to do a private tour here with just the 2 of us. We used EKOL tours and had Ozgur as our guide. It was nice to have a private tour and Ozgur was a delight and was very knowledgeable. We were surprised to find that Kusadasi is an absolutely beautiful, modern port. We were able to wander around there for a couple of hours after out tour - we did some shopping and sat down for a beer at a waterside cafe. I highly recommend allowing time to spend in Kusadasi itself. It is beautiful and the people were very friendly. Our tour took us to Mary's house, Ephesus and the Terrace Houses, and the tomb of St. John. Ancient Ephesus was so impressive and we felt the Terrace Houses are a must see. They are still excavating there and you wouldn't believe how well preserved everything is! Ephesus overall was one of the most impressive sites from the whole trip. We are students of the Bible so it really meant a lot to us to see in person an area that is often mentioned in the Bible. Even if you aren't a Bible student, I cannot imagine anyone not being impressed with this ancient city. Having a private tour was the way to go - we arrived at every site about 30 minutes ahead of all the large buses so the crowds weren't too bad. It was great to get at our own pace since it was just the 2 of us. The geography in this area was beautiful - rolling green hills down to the sea - it reminded us a lot of home (southern CA). Athens We shared a tour with 8 other members of our roll call we used Paul from: www.athenstaxi.org Paul was very nice and was informative. We were surprised at how dirty Athens is - there was a lot of graffiti everywhere. This was one of least favorite cities. We visited the Acropolis and all its sites, then went to the National Archaeological Museum. Afterwards we had a few hours to wander the Plaka and we used that time to have lunch there too. After that we explored the ancient Roman & Greek agoras - both fascinating and lovely and worth seeing! The National Archaeological Museum was the highlight of the day for us. Very, very impressive collection. We only had an hour there and wished we had longer to explore the many treasures. The shopping in the Plaka was so-so - lots of junk and we could have used less time there. We did have a wonderful lunch there at one of the tavernas. We sat outside and enjoyed watching all the hussle and bussle. It was a welcome break because it was very hot that day! Sea Day Another welcome break to gear up for our 3 day Venice extravaganza! And more beautiful weather to boot. We spent the whole day on a lounge just outside the sanctuary - so peaceful and quiet! We napped on and off. A great, great day! Venice Sailing into Venice was quite a site to behold. This was the only cloudy day of our trip but even that didn't dampen the excitement of our sail-in. We stayed on or balcony - I heard it was very crowded on the upper decks. We were happy to be on the side of the ship that sailed by St. Marks. What a memorable way to see Venice for the first time - from the water! They had the Andrea Bocelli music paying up on deck and also had it piped in through the tv so we were able to turn it on I the cabin and hear it out on deck. It was truly magical and lived up to the hype! Our ship sailed in at 1 and we had a tour lined up at 2 PM along with 6 other roll call members. We were picked up by a water taxi and had a 1 hour Grand Canal tour followed by a 3 hour walking tour. We used: www.tours-italy.com Our guide, Sabine, was so passionate about Venice! Our land tour started at St. Mark's Basilica. After going inside we then began a tour of the off the beaten path areas .This was incredible! We saw where Venetians actually live and learned so much about the history of the city. We never would have found any of these places on our own. It was a terrific introduction to the city. After the tour we all went our separate ways. We shopped a little then headed towards the ship. We got lost and it took a couple of hours to finally make it there. We were wiped out! The next morning was disembarkation day. We opted to self-disembark and it was an absolute breeze! We were among the first off the ship and another member of our roll call had arranged for a private water taxi for 6 of us. The taxi dropped them off at their hotel with their luggage then dropped us and our luggage off. We stayed at the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo, just a stone's throw from the St. Stae vaporetto stop. Loved everything about it - including the location and price! They welcomed us with open arms even though we arrived at the hotel at 8:30 AM. They invited us in for breakfast. We had some coffee and got our bearings and headed out for the Secret Itineraries tour at the Doge's Palace. We took our time getting there since it wasn't until after 11. We took the elevator to the top of the campanile at St. Mark's Square - great views! It was early enough in the morning so there was not wait to go up. Good timing! The Secret Itineraries tour was awesome! I highly recommend it. The Doge's Palace itself is really something too. After our tour we wandered around there a bit. We could have spent more time there but we were getting hungry. Off we went to Cafe Florian for lunch and of course champagne! Sitting there in St. Mark's Square with the music of the orchestras shipping champagne...WOW! Dreams to come true. It was amazing. We then headed to our hotel where our bags had already been delivered in our room. We chilled out for the afternoon and had dinner at a cafe near the Rialto Bridge. It was a memorable meal with great views and terrific people watching! The following day we visited the Accademia - very impressive! I had pre-reserved tickets with a specific entrance time. It turned out it wasn't needed - there was no line. But you never know. Afterwards we had pizza and beer at the pizza place alongside the Accademia bridge - YUM! We just kept saying :" I can't believe we're really here!" From there we toured Ca' Rezonnico - which we really enjoyed.....we paid the additional fee for the audio tour which was well worth it.  For dinner we went near the St. Mark's square area to a restaurant that Generoso had recommended to us - excellent meal and a terrific way to end our trip! It was called Centrale Bar and Lounge. Warning - its not cheap! Venice is such a magical place - we had very, very high expectations and they were exceeded. It ended up being our favorite city overall from the whole trip and we can't wait to go back. It is unlike any other place we've ever been, and I would imagine, unlike any place on earth. What a perfect place to end this vacation of a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
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