Jim (64) and I (59) have been cruising for about 10 years. This is our 18th cruise; Seawind Crown, HAL (6 on Zuiderdam, 7 on others), Celebrity Century, NCL Norway, RCI (Enchantment, Brilliance, Majesty), and this Caribbean Princess. We have been spoiled by HAL, and have come to expect certain amenities that Princess could have, but did not offer. We went into this cruise with the notion that this bigger, newer ship would offer at least as much as HAL does, and perhaps that was our mistake. The only reason we booked this ship is because our favorite HAL Zuiderdam is in Alaska, and we do not care to go there. Period.
As expected, the Caribbean Princess is a beautiful ship. The color scheme, art work and furnishings in general were lovely, and flowed beautifully. The physical layout is somewhat clumsy, as there are two spots where 'you can't get there from here', if you know what I mean. Some elevators only went to certain floors, and you have to navigate to the other end of the ship to get the right elevator. Even the convenient pocket-sized ship map didn't help much. We still had to go to the Atrium to see where we were. With the exception of Ernie, our cabin steward, Raj, the waiter, and the entire Casino staff, the level of service was way below par. I believe 'Anytime Dining' impairs the bonding necessary to attain that 'homey' feeling.
Travel to Port Everglades was uneventful, and we arrived at the Pier at around 11:30.
We waited outside in a looooooong line for the terminal doors to open at noon. Crying children, complaining passengers, rap music and constant ear-shattering fork-lift noises did not make this wait any easier. Once inside, we waited another 20 minutes in line for check-in, and stood in the boarding line for 10 minutes when the I-Pass computer system went down, stopping the boarding process. Another 20 minutes later we were allowed to board, and were directed (not escorted) to our cabin location by attendants in the elevator lobbies.
Somewhat disappointed by our Jr. Suite and the dingy balcony, we went to the Horizon Court for a bite and had a very hard time finding a table. We ended up outside in the heat and humidity for our first uncomfortable taste of CB.
were in Dolphin 628, a Cat AB Junior Suite just aft of midships.
We had seen photos online, and were pleased by the color scheme in the
bedroom part, but did not realize how long and narrow the room would
be. The mirror behind the bed did help to enlarge the room
visually, but did not make it any more comfortable. We found the
walk-in closet to be nice, but almost all clothing had to be folded up
on shelves. The only drawers in the cabin are not appropriate for
clothing storage. The cabin is divided by a console housing the
refrigerator and TV in the bedroom and another TV in the sitting room
(both Panasonics with front jacks for DigiCams). Both are on the
top shelf and while it's OK in the bedroom, my neck still hurts from
watching it from the couch. Of course, you can't watch two
different channels because the TVs are 12 inches apart and the
sound from the other one is so annoying. We never used the rest
of the console space. They should have put some DRAWERS there.
desk is big enough to write on, but when you open your laptop (no
dialup connection), there
isn't room for anything else (I moved the phone to the floor).
The hair dryer is decent and is right next to the desk with pretty good
overhead lighting and another outlet for your curling iron. I
guess the desk is really a dressing table.
balcony is dismal. Four chairs (two that have dingy pads and
recline, but not as long as loungers) and a dining table too high for
the chairs. We used it for a footrest the few times we went out
there. If the chairs had been comfortable, this uncovered balcony
would have been great to sun on while you're waiting for a lounger at
the pool. I think we used the balcony no more than 30 minutes.
Traditional dining is being kept alive in the Island Dining Room for those of us who prefer it (but not for us, as we were too far down on the waitlist) in one of 3 dining rooms. The Palm and Coral Dining Rooms offered 'Anytime' dining, meaning you can show up at any time and be seated with friends or strangers or alone, and are served by a different waitstaff every time. If you click, you can arrange the same table - same waiter each night, but if you do, please either show up or call to cancel. They will hold such reservation 30 minutes before filling it.
On the 2nd formal night we asked to be seated anywhere and were installed at a nice table for 8. The other six chairs stared at us unfilled for the remainder of the meal. I have never felt so uncomfortable! There was no effort to find us table mates, so the waiter, Raj from India, did his best to make our meal as pleasant as possible. When the lobster was served, very undercooked, and we sent it back, Raj came back with a double-order cooked perfectly! There was a comment card on the table, so we gave kudos to Raj and suggested that 'whoever' seated this couple at an empty 8-top be retrained .
Horizon Court / Cafe Caribe: This 24-hour 'dining restaurant' is very nicely decorated with lots of big windows. That's the best thing I can say about it and Cafe Caribe as well.
The service area is divided into stations which more or less contain the same-course foods. The exception is maybe the hot desserts which are by the teriyaki. There is no traffic organization... two entrances mean two directions (or more) and creates a swarm of piranha-like diners who must elbow their way to the front of the station only to find there's nothing they like. The little signs on the sneeze guard are not always taken down when the dish is exhausted, so don't be disappointed if your favorite dessert isn't there after all. I personally found the selections to be nicely varied, and there was always something I loved. Drink selections are regular/decaf coffee, hot tea, iced unsweetened tea and water. Lemon slices are thin and unsqueezable, so you must ask (find) an attendant for WEDGES. Straws must also be requested.
We dined on 'Sampler Night' which meant we were served several bites of
EVERYTHING on the menu (except we chose one main course and one
soup). I loved the variety and had a taste of dishes I probably
wouldn't think of ordering, but now I know I will. I had the
Grilled Sea Bass which was absolutely excellent! Please make time
to enjoy this dining venue... you will not be disappointed.
We had Continental Breakfast every day; pastries, juice, fruit, cereal,
coffee and tea are offered and delivered in 30-minute ranges, each one
delivered on time, and re-checked for accuracy before the steward
left. One afternoon I ordered a roast beef on rye with the best
potato chips I ever had in my life. I can only assume other
offerings are equally satisfying.
As previously said, the ship itself is quite beautiful. We found all show rooms, restaurants and lounges to be well-planned with very good acoustics and sight-lines. The Atrium area is gorgeous and enables you to find shops, bars and Ship Services easily.
Pools: The 4 pools were very nice, although the Pizza and Burger areas looked institutional, and the servers not very friendly. Every pool was crowded; every lounger occupied or 'saved'. We didn't use the 'swim-against-the-current' pool. We like to swim and sunbathe when the sun is out, not at 4:00 when we have other things to do. We spent NO time there.Spa: The asian-themed facilities are typically decorated in relaxing natural textures and New Age music. There is a sauna, a traditional steam and an herbal steam (good for you sinus sufferers), and heated stone chairs which drain the tension right out of your bones. Aaaahhh. I had my usual 3 Ionithermie treatments with Leanne from South Africa. I only lost 9" this time, but the thighs are primo!
Warning... the spa pass includes only the 4 things above. Even though there is a door to a pool, it is NOT a HYDRA-THERAPY pool! There are no bubbling warm therapeutic seawater aquajets for your shoulders... It's cold, the hot tubs are cold, it's public (!), they sell alcohol (!)
MUTS (Movies Under the Stars) is a great
idea! The 300 square foot screen is huge, color excellent even in
daylight. Steamer blankets and popcorn are provided; Reservations
recommended, but there were always lots of empty seats.
Nite Club can only be accessed by a people-mover way up in the
shopping-cart handle. Lots of neon and chrome enhance this
space-age disco... huge windows reflect the lighting back
atcha. We enjoyed the '70-'80s music 'til about midnight
when the 'wangstas' came in and they changed to rap music, at which
Although they were all conveniently labeled as to which DR, sitting,
etc., we couldn't find most of the photos taken of us. We did
notice that the attendant really, REALLY didn't want to be there.
When someone couldn't find the cast-off box and handed the unwanted
photos to him, he threw them across the counter onto the floor.
He needs a cruise.
Casino: The Casino is
the biggest cruise ship casino we have ever experienced. While
they still have only one Craps table, it IS open during the
daytime. You'll also find low rising gaming tables designed to be
handicapped-accessible, but were occupied by any and everyone, and are
much more comfortable than bar stools, in my opinion.
still fuming there is no dialup access in my suite. I'm
accustomed to composing emails and logging on just a few moments to
send them, then disconnecting, for a minimal charge. On CB, it's
35¢ per minute for surfing, composing, downloading...
everything! I could have dragged my laptop to a hotspot, but it's
so far and so much trouble.
MUTS (Movies Under the Stars): This innovative outdoor
theater was visited by many passengers, although we never saw SRO...
the screen is huge and displays beautiful crisp color even in daylight.
Putting Course: This is an insult. It is very
small and shabby, considering its age of 2 years. Don't waste
Ernie, our cabin steward, was the single most important crew member... he managed to keep our cabin neat and stocked despite our ridiculous sleep schedule
Leann from the Lotus Spa (series of 3 Ionithermies) was very personable and understanding when I insisted on NOT purchasing any 'product'
The Casino Host and many of the dealers were very friendly and pretty much made the cruise for us
Raj, our waiter one formal night, was very attentive
CD Dave Cole was funny and endearing (sorry, I never got to meet him)
This is my stock advice. I print it with every review. If you haven't already booked online, when you arrive at your cabin you will find a Shore Excursions brochure listing the various activities available shoreside. You may fill out the order form at your leisure and deposit it in the Express Drop Box at the Shore Excursions Desk. Please keep in mind that the most popular trips sell out very fast. If you are traveling with friends and want to go together, put all the tickets on one room card. One time we ordered separately and one couple got the tickets and one couple didn't . I'll describe the various excursions in my daily log below.
We found the schedule of activities to be difficult to coordinate with other activities and dining times.
Passengers: Average age around 40, almost no children underfoot, and no unruly drunks.
Bring your own cigarettes. Only a few brands are offered at the
bars. If you smoke something simple, like Winston, you're outta
luck. Smoking is very limited in public areas.
Seas were smooth (barely a ripple) so I can't comment on CB's ability
to handle rough seas. Personally, I found something missing in
the lack of motion, and I didn't have that 'rocking' for 3 days
Rules and Regs:
[As above] We waited outside (in the heat and humidity) in a looooooong line for the terminal doors to open at noon. Crying children, complaining passengers, rap music and constant ear-shattering fork-lift noises did not make this wait any easier. Once inside, we waited another 20 minutes in line for check-in, and stood in the boarding line for 10 minutes when the I-Pass computer system went down, stopping the boarding process. Another 20 minutes later we were allowed to board, and were directed (not escorted) to our cabin location by attendants in the elevator lobbies. Our cabin was a bit disappointing, but acceptable, and after gathering some reading material, we headed for the Horizon Court for what we hoped would be a wonderful Lunch Buffet.
What we found was a swarm of like-minded cruisers trying to balance a platter, bowl, napkin and tableware while elbowing in to the 'stations' of what you would think were different courses, but are really only divided into hot things, cold things, saucy things, dry things and wet things (like pastry with hot vanilla sauce next to the stir-fry). The beverage bar offered unsweetened (ugh) iced tea and water, coffee and hot tea. Lemons were sliced thinly (impossible to squeeze) and no straws were available. Soft drinks are available from cocktail stewards.
Once we had selected all that we could comfortably carry, we started the search for a place to sit. We went around twice, through the Cafe Caribe and back, and finally went outside in the heat and humidity to an uncomfortable plastic table... no salt & pepper, sugar, steward... a total turnoff. The food was decent, but for seconds, one person has to stay and save the table. Disappointed again, we went down for a nap.
The safety drill is held inside instead (thankfully) of outside on the Promenade, and you don't put on your life jackets until they give you the instructions. After touring the ship, we skipped the Sailaway Party and tried the Sailaway Buffet, which was the cold lobster, crab, shrimp and other seafood. We thought the food was pretty good, but had a hard time finding a table. We skipped the Grand Adventure Showtime, but caught a few minutes of Princess Pop Star, which was somewhat entertaining. Nothing else of interest, so we retired early after a long day of travel and disappointment.
Sunday, Princess CaysWe had reserved 2 Floats online, and got there just in time to claim them. Fortunately, there were two unused loungers way in the back, and we were able to drag them down to the shoreline. We ordered the frozen NADoD, and were surprised when they came in a large plastic cup with no top or straw. I asked the steward if there was a lid of some kind, and he said, "No, but I'll get you something" which turned out to be another large plastic cup to be turned upside-down on top of the other. WHAT? How do you keep the sand out of your drink? At every other beach I've ever visited, they have hard plastic cups with TOPS AND STRAWS. Can you tell I'm still mad?
At 4:30 I had a 55 minute Ionithermie with Leann. She is a wonderful therapist, and the cool strawberry/cucumber water, low lights and new wave music gave me the most relaxing few moments of the cruise, so far.
Monday, Sea Day
We tried to fit a formal night dinner in between shows, but couldn't get the timing right. We were seated with two other couples and a family of four, and had a pleasant, if unremarkable, dinner.
Tuesday, Ocho Rios
We had high hopes for our River Tubing Safari which was to go from 11:30 - 3:00. We lined up on time at the pier, only to find there was no one there to greet us. Jim had forgotten his sunglasses and tried to buy some at the only store, finding only items of the lowest quality for TEN DOLLARS EACH. The first pair broke after 5 minutes, and the only good thing I can say about these people is that they gave him an exchange. I guess at a markup of about 1,000% they can afford to. Someone finally showed up at about noon, and we filled up a few vans and headed out. The ride up the hill should have taken about 20 minutes, but we had to stop and put air in the tires on the way. The road is narrow and rocky and full of potholes, and I'm glad I took my Dramamine. Once there, we stood at the launch area for about 45 minutes... 100 degrees IN THE SUN ... WITH NO DRINKING WATER ... and the tubes were finally brought back up from the bottom. This was to be a leisurely 2-mile float through scenic areas, but we were pushed and herded and directed to one side or another by 'guides' and were not at all relaxed. We had to hold onto the other rafts, and Jim's shoulder hurt for 2 weeks. At the end we were directed to a shack where we were able to get a drink while our photos were being processed. They had 6 or 8 laptops working, and all the people in our group had to look through all of them, find their photos, decide which ones they wanted to burn to disk, and we were among the last when they had an equipment failure. Our guide was sweating 'cause we wanted our photos and he needed to get us back on time or lose his contract. We made it, but after experiencing the downhill ride of a lifetime! I wouldn't do it again.
Highlights of Tuesday were Comedy Showtime with David Orion, 80's Disco Daze, 80's Princess Pop Star (very good) and Tropical Island Night Deck Party. We chose the Casino.
Wednesday, Grand Cayman