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Tom & Mary Milano

Age: I've stopped countin


Number of Cruises: 33

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Dawn Princess

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

We’re Back: Mary and I encountered a few bumps in the road, on our journey of life and had to curtail our cruising this past year. We want to thank you, our readers, for your many e-mails expressing your concern for our well-being. We're happy to tell you we are in good health, both physically and mentally. We hope you enjoy our review and the many pictures of our cruise on the beautiful Dawn Princess. [Make sure you read: “An Important Message from Dr. Phil, For Married Couples with Children at Home,” in our ‘Loose Ends & Random Thoughts’ section at the end of our review.]

In early spring, the restaurant we own in Huntington, Long Island was partially destroyed by fire. Our summer was comprised of numerous trips to New York to resolve the many issues involved. Than along came Hurricane Charlie. Although it wasn’t forecast, we were in its direct path and we suffered a great deal of damage, including the loss of our roof. We have lived in Florida for 31 years and have never been overly concerned about hurricanes. But let me tell you, Charlie scared the be-geezers out of us and we will never take a hurricane lightly again. After the many problems we had encountered, we were looking forward to the cruise we had booked on the new Caribbean Princess for September 4th. Much to our dismay, on the 4th, the day we were to leave, hurricane Francis came ashore near the Ft. Lauderdale port and the Caribbean Princess had to put out to sea and our cruise was cancelled. Because of the forecasts of Francis being a killer storm, we had evacuated our home and headed for, what we thought, was a safe haven in the panhandle of Florida. Two days later, much to our surprise, Frances changed course and was heading directly for where we were staying. We hurriedly packed and headed for Myrtle Beach, S.C., where my sister Rose has a Condo. BTW, my sister Rose is 85 and looks like shes 60. We stayed with her for two nights and than decided to head back home to New Smyrna Beach. When we left Myrtle Beach, the storm changed course once more and was now working its way through S.C. After a day of horrendous driving, we stayed in Jacksonville overnight and drove home the following day. Fortunately we didn’t have any serious structural damage but we did lose three beautiful specimen trees on our front lawn.

Just about the time we were getting back into the rhythm of living, we encountered another bump in the road of our journey of life. An appointment with our family doctor resulted in an unexpected operation. Because of a dark mass that appeared on an x-ray of my sinuses, I was advised to have an immediate exploratory operation. We thank God the biopsy proved negative. With my lovely Mary attending to my every need, I had a long but good recovery and we decided it was time to book a cruise.... Now that we have brought you up to date... our review... of the Dawn Princess.

The Dawn Princess

This Will Be Different Than Our Regular Reviews: Being we have written comprehensive reviews of the three sister ships of the Dawn... the Sea, the Sun and the Ocean Princess [2], for the most part we will be writing about the highlights of our cruise. Our review has many pictures. Some will be displayed in the form of a series of thumb-nails at the bottom of a paragraph. To see a larger version, put your cursor on the thumb-nail and press. (All four previous reviews are posted on our home page.)

It was a very special cruise for us; we were celebrating my Mary’s birthday and my 39th anniversary in the grace filled A.A. program. I owe my life to this God given program and I shall be forever grateful.

Servers--The Heart and Soul of a Cruise Ship: The more we cruise, the more Mary & I realize the things we do and the way we relate to each other, makes our cruises what they are and not the ship or the itinerary we sail. That’s why we say in all our reviews, regardless of one’s age, we can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love, than when cruising. Cruising on one of these magnificent floating resorts, while being catered too by a caring, attentive crew, is the perfect environment to give expression to one’s feelings. The ones who are most responsible for creating this serene atmosphere, are the servers who go out of their way to cater and pamper us. It has been said the Captain and the Senior Officers are the back bone of a modern day cruise ship. This no doubt is true, but the heart and soul of a cruise ship are the servers. We believe the number one reason people become so passionate about cruising, is because of the way the servers look after their every need. When we speak of the highlights of our cruise, we are mostly referring to the many memorable moments we spent interacting with members of the crew. When Mary & I cruise we make it a point to compliment the servers every opportunity we have. We all need to hear a compliment or a word of approval from time to time but no one needs it more than these servers who are away from their loved ones for such long periods of time. We dedicate this review to the servers of all cruise ships, but particularly those of the Dawn Princess who made our cruise so very special.

Although we have made 33 cruises we do not profess to be cruise experts. We just love cruising and we share our experience hoping it will help you. If you have never cruised, you should give serious consideration to trying your first cruise. Cruising has given Mary & I a new perspective on life and it might do the same for you. One way we feel we can help the new cruiser is to try and answer any questions you might have. If you have a question, we encourage you to write us. We spend our retirement mornings answering e-mails from our readers all over the world. We want you to know there aren't any foolish questions. Although we were savvy travelers, when it came to booking our first cruise, it was very different than booking a land vacation and at times confusing. So we repeat, if you have any questions, write us and we will do our best to answer any questions you might have.

***Our regular readers are familiar with the Wimpy character I refer to in our reviews, but for our new readers, a quick explanation. Tom had been a Macho man most of his early life. In his latter years he began to realize when he did those little wimpy things that Mary loved him to do, his lovely Mary gave him a lot more reason to smile. Although Tom was macho, he wasn't dumb. When Tom is at sea, on another of their ‘Honeymoons,' he takes on the Wimpy persona to its highest degree by using these occasions as an opportunity to do all sorts of lovely little wimpy things for his Mary.***

To Expedite Reading Our Review: We have placed our popular, "Suggestions That Could Enhance Your Cruise," and “Loose Ends & Random Thoughts,” at the end of our review.

Suggestions to Enhance Your Cruise:
*Things to do Before, During & After Your Cruise:
*A Better Way of Tipping:
*The Magic of the $2 Bills:
*The First Hours Aboard Ship Are Important:
*Should You Buy Cruise Insurance?
*All Ships of a Cruise Line Are Not the Same:
*[15] Of the best Cruise Web Sites to Help You Research Your Cruise:

Loose Ends & Random Thoughts:
*An Important Message from Dr. Phil, For Married Couples with Children at Home:
*The Sea Princess returning to the Caribbean with a New 14 day itinerary, with a Ft. Lauderdale return.
*A.A. Reunion Cruise—Sobriety@Sea
*A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment--“Expectations are a Powerful force”

Embarkation: We stopped flying long before 911. Because of our close proximity to the ports of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, we restrict our cruising to the itineraries that can be reached from those ports. We prepared for our drive to port in our usual manner. Mary is my designated navigator and disc jockey. As navigator she makes sure I don’t take any unexpected turns (I have a tendency to do that) and she selects the CD’s that she knows hasten Toms transition from Macho man, to his Wimpy persona. As soon as we left the driveway she inserted one of his favorites, Pedro Vargas singing a medley of romantic ballads. She followed Pedro with Julio Inglesias, and than Edie Gorme, singing with The Los Panchos Trio. As we listened to their sultry tones, we began to sense the tranquil mood of the Caribbean falling upon us. As we were getting closer to port, she began playing some of our collection of CD’s, of the combo’s we danced too in the lounges on our previous cruises. She knew they would trigger Tom’s memory of some very special moments. She could see Tom’s eyes glazing over and his demeanor becoming more mellow with every mile we traveled. By the time we reached port, Mary could sense the transition was complete; it has happened once again; the last remnants of Tom’s macho personality had vanished and she finds herself boarding the Dawn with her loveable cruise companion, Wimpy.

We dropped off our luggage at the terminal and I parked our car in the garage directly across the street. The rate is $12 dollars a day. Princess has a very good embarkation procedure. They send all the paper work by mail and if you fill them out and promptly send them back, you have not further paper work at the terminal. We entered the terminal at 12:15 and boarded the ship at 12:45. Princess by far, is the best at handling embarkation and disembarkation procedures.

Balcony Cabin B-626: One of the nice things about having previously sailed on the same class ship, we knew what to expect. It was identical to the balcony cabins we had enjoyed on our other Princess cruises. As soon as Mary walked into the cabin, she saw the beautiful bouquet of flowers on the desk. She went over and read the card, and you guessed it, they were from Wimpy. She gave him a big hug and a kiss. Mary said it was the one of the loveliest bouquets she had ever seen and gave him another kiss.

On previous cruises, Wimpy packed an extension cord, for the two fragrance dispensers he brought with him. He found that was no longer necessary. The Glades Company came out with a small self contained fragrance dispensing unit. It is a battery operated unit that every few seconds automatically sends a puff of an exotic floral fragrance into the air. He placed it on the desk next to the flowers and before we knew it, our cabin was filled with the sweet scent of wild flowers. Leave it to Wimpy. In a matter of moments, he changed an ordinary ships cabin into a veritable Garden of Eden... the ideal romantic setting for another ‘Honeymoon’ with his lovely Mary. Having the right atmosphere is important to wimpy because Cabin 626 is going to be the base of operations for many of his surprises. [For a full description of our balcony cabin, read our review of the Ocean Princess, 2001.]

As we were leaving to have lunch, we were greeted by our cabin attendant Marie. Marie was a pretty young lady from Romania. She had a beautiful smile and an engaging personality. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I did our pre-tipping routine. [See-‘A Better Way of Tipping,’] I gave her an envelope with a card and the suggested gratuity I had prepared at home, thanking her in advance for her services. [See below] She was surprised. We told her a few of the things we would like her to do and we headed for the main dining room for lunch. We will be telling you more about Marie. [Princess automatically adds a $10 charge per day for gratuities. We like to personally give our gratuity to our servers. If you want to do the same, make sure you go to the Pursers desk on the first day, and ask that your name be removed from the automatic gratuity list.]

The reason we love to cruise, is because of servers like you who go out of their way to make our cruises special. We want you to know we appreciate what you do and we would like you to have this as a down payment for your services.

Tom and Mary Milano

The Atrium Christmas Decorations: During the turn around, a crew from a decorating firm came aboard and did a superb job of putting up Christmas decorations. On the way to lunch we passed through the Atrium and there were lighted garlands and glittering Christmas trees and ornaments everywhere. What they couldn’t get done, was completed the next day at our first port, Cozumel. When we reached Cozumel, another crew brought aboard cartoons of bright red Poinsettias and placed them in all the public areas. It looked like a winter wonderland. It wouldn’t have surprised us if they had arranged for St. Nick to come aboard at our next port. [See the thumb-nails] ... before I tell you our dinning experience... let me tell you some of the surprises Wimpy had planned for Mary’s birthday.

The Atrium

[Even though we are in the latter stage of our life, we find it is getting better and more fruitful each and every day. We know it’s because of the thoughts we entertain and the things we do, that makes us feel this way. Some people are turned off at the slightest mention of words of love or how one feels about life. If you are of that nature, you may not want to read the rest of this review, because we include those thoughts in the reviews we write. We do so because they are the very things that make our cruises so special.]

Wimpy Has a Carrying Case Full of Surprises: On each cruise it gets a little more difficult for Wimpy to find ways to surprise Mary. But as the old saying goes, where there is a will, there’s a way and Wimpy sure has the will. He has surprised her so many times, in so many different ways; he sometimes has to recycle an old idea but he has a knack of finding a way to make an old idea appear new. Mary knows he’s up to something but she never knows what it might be.

On the first morning of our last cruise, when we went to our balcony to have coffee, Wimpy surprised Mary by having a Bunny figure on the table dressed in a Mexican costume with maracas in his hands. When you pressed his toe, he shook the Maraca’s and sang La Cukarajah. Mary thought that was hilarious. Wimpy looked all over to find a similar animated figure but with little luck. He finally settled on a cute purple dinosaur, you guessed it, his name was Barney. When you pressed his belly he started singing, “I love you... you love me,”... I’m sure if you have children you know the rest of the song. Even though it was meant for children, I figured I couldn’t go wrong as long as it said something about ‘love.’ Wimpy put him in his carrying case along with his other surprises. He found another small figure in K-Mart that he knew would give Mary a good laugh. It was a small figure that looked like Jack Armstrong the all-American boy. He had a sign on him that said, “Mr. Wonderful.” When you pressed his belly, Mr. Wonderful, in a deep manly voice, recited some thoughts that women rarely hear from their husbands.

***“Here honey, you take the remote, as long as I’m with you, I don’t care what we watch.”... “You know Honey, why don’t you just relax and I’ll make dinner tonight.”... “The ball game is not that important, I rather spend time with you.”... “Let’s just cuddle tonight.”... “Actually I don’t know which way to go, I’ll turn in here and ask for directions.”... “Ah, can’t your mother stay another week.”*** Mary especially liked his comments about giving up the remote and stopping to ask for directions. When I least expected it, Mary would press his belly, look at me and break into a big smile. I don’t think that was a very nice way to treat Mr. wonderful.

Other Surprises: Repetition is a valuable tool in many areas of life, especially when one wants to convey a message of love. I make it a point to start each day of our cruise on a positive note. I find that one of the very best ways is to have Mary read one of the beautiful Hallmark, ‘Between You and Me’ cards. I took my time carefully selecting 10 cards that spoke my heart. I usually wake up first and do the things I have to do and than its Mary’s turn. As soon as I heard the door of the bathroom close, I reached into my carry case and picked the card for that day and placed it on her pillow. It always amazes me to see Mary’s reaction. I have given Mary cards on many of our cruises, yet each morning when she saw the card on her pillow, it was as if she was being surprised for the very first time. As I told you earlier, Wimpy occasionally recycles an old idea. Instead of Mary reading the cards, he surprised her by reading the cards to her. He read these beautiful expressions of love and caring as if he wrote every word. If you haven’t seen the Hallmark cards I’m speaking of, I suggest you spent some time reading the ‘Between You and Me’ series and I guarantee you will find a card with the exact words you would like to say to your loved one.

Another thing Wimpy did was to print various expressions of love on business size cards that he intended to give Mary at different times of the day. He made a dozen cards with the ‘Roses are red... Violets are Blue’ poems. You know those poems that were so popular during our early school days. Here’s an example:.. Roses are Red... Violets are Blue... There isn’t anyone... as lovely as you. When he ran out of words to rhyme with Blue, he found a web-site, It showed 583 one, two and three syllable words that rhymed with blue. Wimpy found exactly what he was looking for; finished the cards and printed them.

Wimpy printed a dozen of what he referred to as his ‘Remember When’ cards. On business size cards, he printed some of the special romantic moments we experienced during our many years of marriage and even some as far back as our courting days. I would like to give you an example of how they read, but I think it best I not do that. He surprised Mary with his ‘Remember When’ cards at the most unexpected moments... while having dinner... while waiting to see the show... while sitting in the Wheelhouse... while dancing. While having dinner was one of his favorite times, because he had more time to elaborate on some of our experiences, which at times were a wee bit naughty... now that I’ve told you much more than you wanted to know... I’m going to tell you about our superb dining experience.

The Food & Service Was the Best we Ever Had: If you like having a romantic dinner with your spouse, as my Mary & I do, PC dining is meant for you. Tables for two on most cruise lines are limited and very hard to come by, but Princess has done something about that. Because of the high demand, they have conceived an innovative way of converting a table of four into two tables of two. It works very well. Make sure you see the Maitre d` as early as possible after embarkation and check your seating arrangements. If you have a problem, this is the time to get it resolved. He will do everything possible to make you happy.

We had a delightful lunch in the Florentine dining room and then made a quick tour of the ship. If we hadn’t known it was eight years old, we would have thought it was recently commissioned. It was in immaculate condition. Later in the afternoon we did what I have earlier suggested, we checked our seating arrangements with the Maitre d`Hotel, Francesco Ciorfito. He greeted us with a big smile and welcomed us aboard. He confirmed our reservations for two, for the early seating in PC dining. Because of Francesco and his dining room staff and Executive Chef Josef Stummer and his kitchen staff, we had one of our finest dining room experiences. The food and the way it was presented were outstanding and the service was impeccable. We particularly liked the fact that Princess offered Soufflés`, our favorite dessert, five nights of the ten day cruise.

It was a pleasure to have our servers, Irma and Joanna, come to our table. Irma’s home is in South Africa and Joanna’s in Poland. They conducted themselves in a very professional manner but they also had a warmth and friendliness about them that added immeasurable to our dining experience. I would like to tell you a funny incident. Mary & I have our own way of ordering a Soufflé. When I ordered our Soufflés, I told Irma I wanted them left in the Ramekin so we could open the top crust with a spoon, to form a pocket in the dough. Then after the hot, thick Zabaglione is poured into the pocket of dough, I would like a scoop of Vanilla ice cream to put on top of the hot Zabaglione. Irma was laughing when she took our order. She said he never had anyone ask to have a Soufflé served this way. Just the thought of having the exquisite taste sensation of cold creamy ice cream melting into the hot Zabaglione, made my taste buds come alive. The last night we ordered Soufflés, Irma came to our table and said she couldn’t believe what was happening. She said when two of her tables saw how it was served to us, they asked for their Soufflés to be served the same way. The next time Soufflés were on the menu, four more tables that saw those tables ordering it with ice cream, asked to have it served the same way. She said by the fourth night practically her whole station was ordering their soufflés with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. She said on the next cruise she was going to call it the Milano Soufflé and offer it to all of her station. By the time the cruise ended we felt a very close attachment to both girls and especially Irma. In fact, Mary asked Irma for her parents address so she could write to them. While I’m writing this review, Mary is writing her parents, Dr. and Mrs. FP van Zyl. Mary wanted to tell them what a wonderful daughter they have and how she was admired and respected by the entire crew.

The Head Waiters Carlos and Andreas, were a reflection of Francesco’s personality. They couldn’t do enough for the guests. They were continual making the rounds of the tables, making sure everyone was being taken care of. Having retired as owners of an award wining restaurant, we know the effort that it takes to have a crew perform at such a high level. The Maitre D` is in charge of the dining room, the one responsible for the performance of the dining room staff. Mary remarked that she has never seen a happier crew. We commend Francesco. He is one of the very best at what he does and we look forward to sailing with him again.

On our other Princess cruises we often had breakfast and lunch in the Horizon. But after having a superb lunch and dinner in the Florentine dining room, we decided, or maybe I should say Mary decided for us, we should have all our meals in the dining room. Mary said she would much prefer being waited on than standing in a line and having to serve herself. Wimpy snapped at the opportunity to do something nice for Mary and for the first time since we began cruising, we had all of our meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the dining room.

The Magic of the $2 Bill and Exceptional Room Service: Every morning we had a light breakfast on our balcony. In the evening when we returned to our cabin, I filled out our breakfast request card and hung it on the outside door handle. Upon awakening in the morning and after Wimpy read Mary his ‘Between You & Me’ card, we waited for our room service. We both like a cup of coffee as soon as possible after awakening. When I filled in the time desired on the breakfast card, I circled 7:30 the earliest time and wrote please. The first day, our breakfast of orange juice, coffee and Danish arrived at 7:50. When the young man was leaving I asked him to hold out his hand and I did the $2 thing with him. He eyes widened and he listened intently to my every word. When he was leaving he clasped the $2 bill in his hand and thanked me profusely. The next day and every day after, the knock on the door came earlier and earlier; on most days 15 minutes or more before their regular serving time. If it was the same server, I thanked him and gave him another $2. If it was a new server, I did the $2 thing all over again. What happened on last day of room service is the best example of the power of the $2 bill. I woke up at 7:15 and realized I hadn’t filled out the breakfast card. I hurriedly went to the desk and called room service and placed my order. Within seven minutes, we heard a knock on the door, our room service had arrived. I remarked to Mary that this was the best room service we have ever experienced. Little did I realize how truly exceptional it was. I didn’t read the news letter before going to bed, and missed the notice that informed the guests to set their watches back an hour. I realized I had actually called room service at 6:15 and we were served at 6:21, more than an hour before their earliest serving time. What an unbelievable example of the power of the $2 bill.

It was now 6:30, an hour earlier than we usually had our breakfast. Wimpy, noticing the Sun was about to rise above the horizon, saw it as an opportunity to create a lasting memory. He picked up the card from Mary’s pillow and he escorted her to the balcony and as the sun slowly rose above the horizon, he read to her his last ‘Between You & Me’ card. It was a very special moment we will long remember... (The following paragraph will explain why I used the unusual phrase... ‘create a lasting memory.’)

The Importance of Having Memories: Some years ago, we read a meditation by Fr. John Powell from his book, ‘Seasons of the Heart.’ He wrote; “People are made of memories. Half of what we are is determined by our memories. The things that happen today with our loved ones are the memories of tomorrow. Some memories happen, but other memories must be planned. Yes, some memories happen: like various things that are just part of daily life. But other memories have to be planned: like Christmases and birthdays and special moments with your loved ones. I think it is really important to plan some important moments because they keep playing as memories in one’s mind and heart always. Half of what we are is indeed determined by the memories we have inside of us.”

This same thought was expressed by one of our favorite writers, J. R. Miller, in a slightly different way. He wrote, “In a far truer sense than many of us are aware, our memories make our world for us. The things we behold are but the shadows of the things that are us. Our memories play on the walls of our hearts forever.

These lovely thoughts gave us the idea that it might be a meaningful and rewarding endeavor for us to make a conscious effort to spend the remainder of our life collecting memories. With God’s grace, we pray we see many more sunrises, so we can plan more memories for our ever growing collection.

The Wheelhouse Bar: The Wheelhouse is one of our favorite lounges at sea. It features two combos that play continuous music from 5:15 to closing. For the first time on a Princess cruise, we weren’t happy with the music. They usually feature talented combo’s that play the kind of music that Mary and I relish, those beautiful ballads of bygone days. But we are sorry to say, the music was not very good. One combo appeared to be having a practice session instead of playing for our entertainment. They appeared to be rank beginners. We can’t imagine how someone in management could sit through an audition and then hire them. The quality and style of the music that we danced too in the Wheelhouse Lounge, during our many Princess cruises, is one of the main reasons we chose to cruise with Princess. We hope this was an aberration and not a new policy of cutting the entertainment budget. We spent very little time in the Wheelhouse, but we do want to tell you a story about one of the servers.

We became smitten with one of the servers. He was a young man from the Philippines by the name of Songhop. He was working his first contract and he was very enthusiastic about his job. He always greeted us with a big smile and at times I thought he was going to bow, like the Orientals do. He combed his hair in a way that reminded us of ‘Alfalfa,’ of the “Our Gang” comedy kids. We did the $2 thing with him and you would think I gave him a gold coin. He couldn’t do enough for us. I asked him for the address of his folks so I could write and tell them what a good job he’s doing. The next time we went to the Wheelhouse he handed me a sheet of paper with a list of names and addresses in the Philippines. I asked him why all the names. He gave me a big smile and replied as if asking a question, “Mr. Tom, you write some of my aunts and uncles?” Songhop is finishing his first contract in January. I will write his folks and uncles when he’s home, so he can read what I write about him....

The Atrium Lounge: The Atrium lounge was a gathering place for folks who wanted a quiet spot to sit and read the morning paper. They served all the popular coffees of today. Coffee Late, Cappuccino, Espresso, you name it they had it. You had a choice of a free pastry or muffin with your order. Most every morning we would stop by the Purser’s desk and get a condensed version of the New York Times and make our way to the Atrium. We would spend a pleasant hour each morning reading our papers while sipping one of their delicious coffees. We decided that Coffee Latte was our favorite. The servers were excellent. They were very attentive and when they had time they told us about their families back home. Most of them keep in contact with their families by e-mail.

Entertainment: To put it succinctly, it wasn’t up to Princess standards. The productions shows were just fair and the single performers were very weak, that is, except for Bayne Bacon. He’s a top notch entertainer and everyone thoroughly enjoy his performance. I get the feeling that the Carnival management is cutting back in some areas of their operation for the purpose of improving the bottom line. I hope they leave the Food and Beverage department as it is. Adreas Pitsch, who heads these departments is doing a truly an outstanding job. In our humble opinion, the dining room operation of the Dawn Princess, under the direction of Adreas Pitsch, Excutive Chef Josef Stummer and Maitre D`Hotel Francesco Ciorfito is the finest dining experience we have had on any of our 33 cruises... before we tell you about our port visits... we are going to tell you about our Photo Shop experience.

Even the Photo Shop Personnel Were Exceptional: We can’t speak highly enough about Darius, Ann and Susan who work in the photo shop. For some reason beyond my understanding, I have always had a problem with cameras. They don’t like me and the feeling is mutual. A few weeks before our cruise, I was trying to unload the film and it got stuck in the camera and I couldn’t get it repaired. Wanting to take pictures for this review I decided I would buy an inexpensive digital camera. I bought a Gateway at Best Buys. I took a lot of pictures the first day so I could have them developed by the next day and see how I did. Needless to say, they weren’t very good. That’s when I met Darius. I went to him to ask him what I was doing wrong. I listen to instructions pretty much like I listen to directions when I’m driving. As soon as we were walking away from Darius, I said to Mary, “What did he say?” The second day things took a turn for the worse. When I went to pick up the second days film, the manager of the shop told me they lost my chip. He said he didn’t know what had happened but he would replace it. The only problem was they didn’t stock one in the shop. He said he would buy one for me when we got to St. Thomas but we wouldn’t be getting there for two days. He then said, “I know it’s an inconvenience to you so I’m going to give you the use of one of our photographer for two hours. You tell me when you want him and I will make him available. That is how I met Darius. The next night we met Darius and we went around the ship taking the pictures you see in our review. I took a lot more pictures and had Darius critique them when they were developed. He always made time for me. I don’t think I have ever met a more accommodating and sincere young man. At 10:15 the last night of the cruise, there was a knock on our cabin door and who was it, but Darius. He handed me a CD and told me he thought I would like to have a CD of all the pictures I had taken on the cruise. He wished us the best and quickly disappeared down the corridor. What a wonderful young man. Meeting crew members like Darius is one of the main reasons we love to cruise.

A Quick Mention of a Few Ports: We restrict our cruising to the Caribbean and have been to the same ports many times. To be truthful, we enjoy it when everyone goes ashore and we have the ship to ourselves. Most of the time, if we do go ashore, it’s at the ports that have a shopping mall dockside.

Cozumel: It’s one of our favorite ports because of Pancho’s Backyard and the adjoining Los Cincos Soles store. We didn’t mind the taxi ride to town, but we didn’t like the way the vendors hawked us as we walked along the downtown streets. Much to our delight, Pancho’s and Los Cincos Soles is now a stones throw from where the ship docks. The best stores of the downtown area have opened satellite stores in the newly developed Puerto Maya complex at the foot of what’s known as the Carnival pier. The architecture and design of this new shopping area is outstanding and the merchants do not harass you as walk by their stores. If one of your Ports is Cozumel, make sure you visit Puerta Maya.

St. Thomas: We usually dock at the pier where there is a full scale shopping mall; instead the Dawn docked at a pier of the old submarine base. We were surprised to see a huge shopping mall under construction at the end of the pier. We made an exception and took a Jitney into town. We sat in the front seat with the driver. On the way to town, as we were talking, the driver noticed I had my arm around Mary and he remarked it was nice to see a husband and wife that were happily married. He said that’s what he wanted all his life, to be married to a good woman, but it’s so hard to find the right one. He said I work hard and I appreciate a good woman, but for some reason I always wind up with a jezebel. It’s so hard to find the right women. I told him not to give up but keep on trying and pray that the right women will come into his life. When we reached town, Mary & I waited until the dozen people leaving the Jitney paid him, than I took him aside, asked him to hold out his hand and I did the $2 thing with him. He held onto that $2 bill with both hands, clasped it to his chest and said with a great deal of emotion in his voice, I thank you for giving this to me and I will treasure it. Maybe I can get lucky and find a good woman. We said good-bye, and told him we would keep him in our prayers. We stopped at an outdoor café, had a cool drink and got back to the ship in time to have lunch in the Florentine dining room. It was just a short visit, but a most enjoyable one.

St. Martin: Just a short walk from the gangway is a very nice shopping mall. We did a little shopping and than we took the water taxi to town. ($7) St. Martins has done a magnificent job in reconstructing the main street in the downtown area. They have eliminated all automobile traffic and turned it into a beautiful walking area. The side walks are done in paving stones and the street is lined with huge palm trees. It’s been a little more than a year since we made this port and so many changes have been made that we hardly recognized the area.

Our primary reason for going to town was to visit the Catholic Church on Main Street. Whenever we go to St. Martins we like to make an altar visit. We were glad to see it was open and recently refurbished. As you can see in the pictures, it’s a beautiful little church. We made our altar visit, left a little money in the poor box and made it back to the ship in time to have lunch in the Florentine dining room.

Our conclusion: As you read our conclusion, please remember that our comments are made from our perspective which may be very different than yours. The fact that we are retired owners of an award winning restaurant has a great deal to do with the way we view things. The dining room operation of a cruise ship is a very important factor in our enjoyment of a cruise. Our cruise aboard the Dawn was everything we could possibly hope it would be. The ship was in immaculate condition, the food was superb and the service outstanding. There is a certain something about the dining rooms of the Princess ships, that makes them stand out over the other cruise lines. The serving staff is not only professional in every way but they also have a warm, friendly manner about them, that adds immeasurably to ones dining experience. The Princess menu’s, offer a wide-ranging selection of excellent entrees and desserts that are presented in a very creative way. They also have an additional menu with many standard entrée’s and desserts that can be ordered every night. Having all our meals in the dining room was one of the main highlights of our cruise.

My Mary has been the wind beneath my wings for the 36 years we have been married. When we cruise, I assume the Wimpy persona as a fun way to show Mary how much I appreciate her. We had a wonderful, memorable cruise that will place high on our list of special memories. I can’t think of a more fitting way to end our review than to repeat what I wrote in the very beginning. Regardless of age, Mary & I can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love than when cruising. May your next cruise be your best.

We would be happy to try and answer any questions you might have, especially those from new or first time cruisers.

Our warmest regards, Tom & Mary...


A Message From Dr. Phil, For Married Couples With Children at Home: When Dr. Phil first started on the Oprah show, we heard this renowned expert in the field of marital relations, make a statement that all married couples with children at home should hear. He said, “The number one cause for couples losing their sense of intimacy and love that they enjoyed in the first years of their marriage is the mother allotting almost all her time to her children’s activities and not making time for her husband. Wives, we know your neck hairs must be standing on end, but don’t be hasty and reach for the delete key. Give us a chance to explain what we mean.

He said, “The demands on mothers in today’s society are at an all time high. Many wives are working Mom’s. Not only do they work, they also have to do the housework, the shopping, the cooking, get the kids off to school, take them to their after school activities, help the children with homework, attend PTA meetings and many more things too numerous to mention. BUT, and it’s a very BIG BUT, it is absolutely essential that she and her husband find a way to have private time together, away from the children, otherwise over a period of time their marriage will slowly but surely disintegrate. He said, “I know it isn’t easy for a wife to turn the switch on and off; one moment being an all-encompassing mother and then the next time moment, the sultry, passionate lover her husband wants her to be. BUT, again the BIG BUT, it is an absolute necessity that you find a way to have some private time, away from the children, so you and your spouse can rekindle the fire of your love.”

If you believe in the validity of this marital expert’s statement, we’re sure you will work at finding ways to do what he suggests. But the meanwhile, Mary & I have a suggestion for you. As we say in every review we write, we can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love, than being on a cruise. Can you imagine seven full days, (ten is even better) of being alone with your spouse. No kids, no cooking, no shopping, not taxiing, not dog to walk, not cat to let out, no phone, no beeper, no commitments. We wager you can’t remember the last time that happened. Being on a cruise is like being on another ‘Honeymoon.’ Without a doubt it can be the most wonderful and ideal way for a husband and wife to rekindle the fire of their love. Being with your loved one in the most romantic setting imaginable, a chance to be alone, totally alone with your spouse. Well it can happen, but you have to make it happen. It’s a wonderful way to rediscover the intimacy and love that you enjoyed in the first years of your marriage.

Carl, Marion, Mary and Tom

Meeting Carl & Marion De Vito: Another nice thing about cruising is the people you meet. On our last cruise, we had the same table we had on this cruise. Just a few feet from our table was another table for two. Each night we were seated, I waved to the couple. On the last night of our cruise, after waving to them as I usually did, I decided I would go over and say hello. After exchanging a few pleasantries, much to my surprise, I learned they lived just five miles from where we live in Florida. We had a very nice conversation and found out we had a lot in common. I was sorry I didn’t meet them earlier in our cruise.

The first night in the dining room of our Dawn cruise, I looked over at that same table of two remembering what happened last time. Without hesitation, I went over and introduced myself to a wonderful couple by the name of Carl & Marion De Vito. I told them what happened on our last cruise and that I wasn’t going to have that happen again. We had a very nice conversation and to our surprise we found out they were also Floridians. When they had finished dinner, they stopped by our table and asked us if we would join them later in the Wheelhouse. That was the first of many enjoyable hours we spent with Carl & Marion. Carl was a retired high level executive with Dow Chemical and regaled us with interesting stories about corporate life and his favorite pastime, golf. Carl, although in his 70’s, is a low handicap golfer and has played in many major tournaments. Carl & Marion are passionate about and have booked several cruises for this year. They are presently on a cruise on the Sun, the sister ship of the Dawn. We will get together with them when they return. (A picture of the four of us)

A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment: Mary & I have collected one page meditations for many years. Our local paper published them as a daily column. We now send them by e-mail, five nights a week, to our loved ones, friends, crew members of some of the ships we have sailed on and to readers of our reviews. If you would like to receive the ‘Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment,’ send us an e-mail and we will put you on our mailing list. [Mary & I send them from our house.]

A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment
Compiled by Tom & Mary Milano

Expectations Are a Powerful Force

Today we stand on the threshold of a new year, and if you=re like me you=ll be making out a list of resolutions. But keep in mind that what you expect in the New Year may be far more critical than what you resolve.

Expectation is one of the most powerful, creative forces in the world. My dictionary says that expect means to consider a thing probable or certain. When we do that deep within our minds and hearts, it has a transforming effect upon our lives. It is based on a sound internalized expectation becomes an externalized motivation. This simply means all the faculties of our mind...our thinking, our feeling, our believing, will create conditions that tend to make whatever we expect a reality. If I expect the worst I will immobilize my abilities and set up the patterns around me that produce the worst. But if I hold positive expectations, I will generate energies and potencies that will help bring them about.

So this New Year's Eve, I hope you=ll join me in creating not just resolutions, but expectations. Great expectations! Stretched before us are three hundred and sixty-five days. God is the source and fulfiller of them all. With Him and faith-filled expectations planted in our lives, this year can be our most wondrous adventure yet!

Sue Monk Kid

If I hold positive expectations,
I will generate energies and potencies that will help bring them about.
Expectation is one of the most powerful, creative forces in the world.

The Sea Princess Repositioned: In 2000, the Sea Princess was transferred overseas to the Parent company PO and renamed the Oceana. Natasha the Dawn onboard cruise consultant, informed me that the Oceana would be repositioned to the Caribbean, and once again carry its original name, the ‘Ocean Princess.’ It has a first of its kind itinerary. Starting in November 2005, it will sail 14 day cruises to the deep Caribbean, round trip from Ft. Lauderdale. Natasha said the early bookings have far exceeded expectations.

Sobriety @ Sea: For those of you who are friends of Bill W., you might want to consider booking the 11th annual A.A. The reunion cruise is to the Eastern Caribbean, on RC’s new Caribbean Princess. This is the ship that is featuring, ‘Movies Under the Stars.’ It’s an opportunity to sail on this beautiful new RC ship and meet fellow A.A. members from all over the world. You can get more information on their web site, or e-mail


We would like to share some of the pre cruise and shipboard things we do, that have greatly enhanced our cruise experience. We have also included a few of our articles that should be of interest to new cruisers.

Questions About Cruising--Q&A:
Reasons Why You Might Want to Take Your first Cruise
This is an Article Mary & I Wrote For First Time Cruisers

Pre Cruise Things To Do:

For those of you who are reading our reviews for the first time, we suggest you
Read: “Before. During... After Your Cruise”
Read: “How to Heighten Your Cruise Experience”

How to Get the Best Possible Price When Booking a Cruise: It pleases Mary & I to know that many of our readers have benefited greatly from taking our advice. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t receive e-mails from our readers, thanking us for our suggestion on how to get the best possible price when booking a cruise. Take our word, our suggestion is a win/win situation. If you would like us to send you our suggestion, drop us a line.

Something to Consider Before Booking Your Cruise:
All Ships of a Cruise Line Are Not the Same: Mary & I come from large families. Our siblings have similar characteristics but each one has their own distinct personality. Cruise lines and their ships are like that. Not all ships of a cruise line are the same. They differ for many reasons. The age of the ship, the size of the ship (the tonnage), the amenities, the expertise of the Food Manager/Executive Chef but the most important difference is how the crew comes together under the guidance and the direction of the Hotel Manager. The effectiveness of his training of the servers is reflected in the way the crew caters to and pampers their guests. While it's hard to bypass bargain rates, never pick a ship based on price alone. You must first factor in your personal interests and lifestyle, pick the ship, and then go bargain hunting. Cruise lines do vary in their strengths and weaknesses.

The point we’re making is, if you want to increase your odds of booking the ship that will best fulfill your expectations, we suggest you learn as much as possible about the ships of the cruise line your considering booking. Read as many cruise reviews as you can. Frequent the cruise message boards; there are good ones that have many seasoned cruisers and TA’s as members. If you have a question about a specific ship or port, post your question and one of them will answer you. You shouldn’t leave every thing to your TA. Do as much research as possible so you can give your TA the information he/she needs to help you select the right ship and right itinerary for you. The Internet has a wealth of information about cruising. The following are cruise web sites we recommend that will help you in your research.

Cruise Web Sites That Will Help in Your Research:
360 Degree Virtual Tour of Cabins and Venues:
Complete Listing of New Ships: http: //
Deck Plans of Cruise Ships:
One of the Best for Cruise Links:
Sites for the Caribbean Islands: A Good Venue
Ladies & Men’s Packing List:
Tip Calculator:
Cruise Reviews & Cruise Articles:
For Cruise Questions: Cruise Chat:
Another Comprehensive List of Cruise Links:
A.A. Reunion Cruises: Sobriety @ Sea:
Cruise News-Updated Weekly:
Cruising For Singles:
Royal Caribbean Discussion Group:
The Best Cruise Ship Pictures on the Internet:

A Good Way to Save These URL’s and have t

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