Heather & Joe Weber
Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Embarkation was very easy and ran very smoothly (be sure to take care of everything ahead of time on the website). The bus ride from the Ft. Lauderdale airport is about 10 minutes. Once at the boat, we were sent to the big warehouse where the luggage is put after your cruise. There were lines there, based on which deck you were on, to check in – you can get in the line for express check-in if you filled everything out on the website. Be sure to look and make sure everything is valid on your cruise card before you step away from the counter. After check in, they take your picture (to purchase later on, if you want) and they also take another picture for security reasons. This is the picture they see when you scan your room card before/after each port.
The ship is beautiful. We were on the Golden in March 2003 and the Carribean is very similar. The lounge area (Club Fusion) is set up differently. It was better on the Golden – seemed to allow for more seating there. To help you find your room after getting off the elevator, look at the carpet. The carpet with the red border is where the even numbered rooms are. The carpet with the blue border is where the odd numbers are. The elevators are extremely slow and fill up quickly. Be prepared to take the stairs a lot. For this, I would recommend a room no higher than Caribe (deck 10), since dinner is on deck 5 (traditional) or deck 6 (personal choice) and other activities are throughout decks 5-7. The pools are on decks 15-17. We were on deck 11 this cruise and it seemed to be one floor too many when traveling up the stairs.
We stayed in an interior room - B508 (Baja deck). DO NOT stay in this room (on any floor). It is right next to where they wash dishes and do who knows what else and you can hear EVERYTHING. The first morning, they woke us at 2:30 AM. My husband thought it was coming from the floor under us, so he went down. He saw a sign in the workers’ area that said to try and keep the noise down, since C508 complains in the morning. So, obviously, this is not floor specific. Every other morning, after we complained about the noise, they woke us by 7:00 AM. The room was small, but we were expecting that. The shower was VERY small. The drawers that they have in the end tables beside the beds are not big enough for clothes. We hung up what we could and put the rest in the closet where the safe is and stored our suitcases under the bed. A couple we sat with at dinner said that you do not want to be directly under the Lido deck, since you can hear people walking/running and the staff setting up chairs in the morning. We met another couple who had a room above the theater and they said they could hear it as if they were in the theater.
I was unimpressed with the buffet food. I did not care for the choices (or lack of choices) offered. I also did not like how the buffet was set up; it was a big circle, instead of a long line of tables. It made it very congested at times. I did like the lunch and dinner sit down meals, but was also not completely impressed. The pizza is AWESOME! The only problem is they are only open 10:30 AM – 8:00 PM. We would have had much more pizza if they were open later. We did not eat at any of the restaurants where you had to pay extra (Sabatini’s & Sterling Steakhouse). If you want to go to these restaurants, make reservations as soon as you get on the ship, since the spots fill up quickly. We remember a lot of the same food that we were served at dinner on the Golden in March 2003.
Our first stop was Princess Cays – their private island. On our last cruise, we were not able to go here, due to weather, so we were really looking forward to it. We were on the first tender to the island (everyone meets in the theater and goes from there). We grabbed some beach chairs and then went snorkeling. It was so much fun! We had our own snorkeling gear, but you can also rent it on the island. They had a lunch BBQ that was really good. They served hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs, baked beans, salads, desserts and fruits. It was delicious. We did more snorkeling (go by the rocks) and then went into the shops to get some souvenirs. We then got in line to head back. The line can be big to go back towards the end, but it moves quickly, since each tender can hold about 100 passengers. I recommend that you get to this island early. Beach chairs fill up quickly, especially the ones in the shade. We really enjoyed this island and would cruise with Princess again for this experience.
Our next stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica. We didn’t have any excursions here, so we took a taxi to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville ($4/person). They have water trampolines and a water slide there. We also ate lunch there – it was good, but not as good as the Margaritaville in Universal Studios, FL. From there, you can walk over to the beach (Captain’s Cave - take a left out of the restaurant). It costs $5 to be at the beach, $5 per chair and $3 for an umbrella. You can also rent snorkeling gear there. We snorkeled – it wasn’t as good as Princess Cays was, but it was fun. They also have the water trampolines there too. You can rent jet skis ($50 for 30 minutes). You can also parasail ($150 pp, I think). We tried, but it was too late in the day and they had already gone to another area, so we rented the jet ski. They didn’t accept credit cards, so be prepared to have cash for these activities. After leaving the beach, we took a taxi back to the boat. Right before getting on the boat, they have several shops in a mall type area. We bought some jewelry there.
Our third stop was Grand Cayman. We had a morning excursion – snorkeling with Sting Rays. Morning excursions get the first tenders over to the island. Our transportation to the excursion was a large motor boat. There are many different snorkeling with Sting Ray excursions – the difference in price is the mode of transportation. We opted for the cheapest one ($45) with the motor boat, instead of the catamaran. This excursion was amazing. You stand at a sandbar – about knee-high water and they are swimming all around. They give you a squid that you can feed them with. It is an awesome experience – you hold it by the floor and they swim over you and suck it out of your hand, like a vacuum. They have souvenirs you can buy and pictures too, if you choose to get your pictures taken. After the excursion, we went back to the boat for lunch and then came back to shop. They have a lot of nice shops there – I bought 2 watches from the Swatch store and some sunglasses from Del Sol. Del Sol is a store that has black and white tee-shirts and other items that become colorful when in the sun.
Our last stop was Cozumel, Mexico. We did a lot of shopping, which is right off the boat. You can also take a taxi downtown, but we didn’t have time for that. After some shopping, we went back to the boat and ate lunch. Then, we went back out to go on our ‘Swim with Dolphins’ excursion. It was delayed by about 45 minutes, because it started to pour when we were supposed to leave. This excursion was even more amazing than the sting rays. You get to pet and kiss the dolphins. Then, they will do a couple of tricks with you that are really fun. You spend about 30 minutes in the water with the dolphins and each group has at the most, 8 people in it. They video tape everything and then show it to you afterwards. It was a great video and of course, we bought it ($50). We also bought some of the pictures they took of us and some souvenirs. We paid $56 for 4 pictures.
All of the shows we attended were great (we prefer comedians over dancing shows), but there was some we chose not to go to, since it would have meant camping out there for 2+ hours to get a seat. We absolutely loved our cruise director – Graham Seymour! He was so funny! We would try to catch his morning show on the TV and any other shows he had, when we were in the room. We went to the art auctions – they are fun just to watch and learn a little something too. We ended up buying 3 pieces of art (we are not art people – we get bored at art museums). You would be surprised to hear that you can get items for less than $200. They also give free champagne at the first auction. There is not just art at these auctions, there’s animation cells, sports memorabilia and sometimes music memorabilia.
Our ship was sold out, so that meant 3500+ passengers wanting to see the shows at night. There were issues where, if you didn’t get to the theater early enough, there was no room left (and don’t try to save seats – if the show is about to start and your entire party is not there, they may make you give up your saved seats). There were several (adult only) shows that should have been in the large theater, but were in Club Fusion instead, and you had to get there a few hours early to have a seat. We didn’t try it, but I’m sure the champagne waterfall was too busy to get a good view unless you camped out in a spot way before it started.
My husband and I spent a lot of time at the casino. There was never an issue of the casino being too crowded that you couldn’t find a seat somewhere. I did hear though, that it varies week to week. The following games were available: Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Roulette (double zero), Craps (single odds) and many slot and video poker machines from 5 cents to 5 dollars. Table minimums were almost always $5, with the exception of a few $10 or $25 blackjack tables (but most were $5), and roulette which had a $1 minimum.
As for the $10/person/day tipping system they now have, we were fine with it. It saved us the time, at the end of the cruise, of having to get the tips together for each area. These tips include your dinner wait staff and your room steward. At the end of your cruise, you can have the amount adjusted up or down. Each meal is split out on your bill, so if there is a particular waiter that you liked or didn’t like, then you could just adjust that day if you wanted to. Since our waiters were so awesome (Island dining room – Eduardo and Levi), we also gave them an extra tip on the last day.
The ice cream by the pools was not free. The only place you can get free ice cream is for dessert at the sit down lunches or dinners. The pictures that they take of you are expensive. We bought a formal picture for $20. You can get reprints smaller than 8x10, but it costs the same. The non-formal pictures (Embarkation, leaving the ship at the different ports…) were $15 each. All bar bills add a 15% gratuity. You can purchase a soda sticker (gets put on your room card) for $20.00 (or $22.50 with the Coke container). The Coke container did not hold much soda, especially when it was filled with ice, so I would not recommend buying the container. Horse racing was $2 a game I think. Don’t forget the $10/person/day tipping, although that was worth it. If you want to try the simulation golf, it’s $30 for 30 minutes. Mini-putt is free. If you choose to visit the spa, expect to pay mucho bucks there too. If you take all of these into consideration, the bill at the end won’t sting quite as bad.
This went surprisingly well. On Thursday night, you get luggage tags in your room. The color is based on your flight time and your deck. If your flight leaves before 12:00 PM or if you scheduled an excursion in Ft. Lauderdale, then you will get red tags. The rest of the people get colors based on their deck. After red is called, they call the other colors at random. You then proceed through security and then down to the luggage area. It is a mob scene in there. Your luggage is in the same HUGE room that you first checked in at. All of the same colors are together, but that doesn’t help. There are too many people looking for their luggage to even move around. We had to show our room cards as we left the boat and we had to turn in our customs paper after getting our luggage.
Also, the travel agents suggest that you not get a return flight before 1:00 PM. Here’s the thing - if your flight is before 11:30 AM, you get red tags and you are off the boat by 9:00 AM. This means a 3+ hour wait at the airport. Next time, we would try and fly out by 11:30 AM.
Overall, we had an amazing time. We had more fun at the ports this time then we did on the ship (that’s not to say we didn’t have a great time on the ship), so we may opt for an all inclusive resort at Grand Cayman next trip. There really is a lot to do on the ship and at the different ports. We did the Eastern Caribbean last time and we preferred the Western ports.
You can visit the Future Cruise rep on the boat, if you are at all interested in cruising with Princess again. You can put down $100/person deposit for your next cruise (instead of $500/person deposit through your travel agent). This will entitle you to $50/person ship credit, if you book an outside room ($25/person for an inside room). It also gives you 4 years to make/change your plans without losing your deposit. If you don’t know where or when you want to go next, you can choose the Open booking. Once you decide, you can still work with your travel agent for your arrangements.