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Kate Ashlock

Age: 30

Occupation:Manager

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Caribbean Princess

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This was our second big ship cruise, our first having been with Carnival Paradise, which was a smoke free ship at the time. We were eager to try something different, though we did enjoy our previous cruise.

Prior to leaving, I read a number of reviews, and searched for the areas that seemed to be common problems, which I determined were:

Bad coffee
Lack of space in the room, specifically the shower
Crowded public spaces
Long wait times for dinner or shows

So, I went into the cruise knowing that some of these things might be problems. I think if you know you are going on a huge ship with lots of people, you should have the right expectations.

Now that I have taken the cruise, here's my 2 cents on the items above:

Bad coffee

I don't drink coffee anyway, but my husband does and he said that it wasn't all that great. I think it might have depended on how fresh it was though, because he had one cup that was actually ok.

Lack of space in the room, specifically the shower

Yes, the room was small, as was the shower. However, we found all parts of the room were very well laid out, and that it was very functional - more so than the larger stateroom we had on Carnival. We also preferred the decor on the Princess ship.

Crowded public spaces

There were definitely crowds, especially in the popular spots around the pools. However, we NEVER had trouble finding a quiet respite somewhere on the ship. There are lots of intimate spaces both inside and out.

Long wait times for dinner or shows

We choose to go to the earlier shows and never had problems getting a seat at any venue. We often arrived early but sometimes by only about 10 minutes or so. I think perhaps the later shows might have been busier. At any rate, we did not find problems with the shows. There were crowds at dinner, especially at popular times. Since food is constantly available, we modified our eating times to later dinners and found this to be a much more relaxing time.

Overall thoughts - Ports

We had San Juan substituted for Princess Cays which is still under repairs. Though we arrived in the evening, the bay has beautiful views and we took a private tour for $10 a person. This took us all throughout new and old San Juan with two stops for pictures and souvenirs. It lasted about 1.5 hours and was well worth it. Our guide, Javier, was very friendly and knowledgable. My only regret was that we arrived later in the day (4pm) and didn't have more time to walk the streets of old San Juan.

We had beautiful weather in St. Thomas. We opted for the Skyride to Paradise Point which afforded us lovely views of the island and our ship from way up high. It's also across the street from the pier so it didn't cost us anything to get there. It was $15 PP and though it wasn't the best part of the trip, it was enjoyable. We then took a cab ($6 for both) to town and visited the Fort St Christian museum ($6 for both) which was interesting but unrefined - ok for us. We went to some shops, walked around a bit and then returned back to the ship.

In St. Maarten we booked the ship's Under Two Flags tour which lasted about 2.5 hours. We travelled to Marigot on the French side and had three photo/shopping stops. Honestly, we were not that thrilled with Marigot, but did see some nice views of the island and beaches on the trip. We also got some cheap t-shirts and hats on the shopping stop (not in Marigot). It was a good way to see the entire island and still have your afternoon free for shopping - which we did. I found prices were very reasonable and we picked up some jewelry and liquor.

Overall thoughts - the ship and experience

We found the ship to be very classy and elegant in appearance. Lots of wood grain and marble, with beautiful carpets and public spaces. It wasn't as glitzy as Carnival but we actually preferred that aspect and found the decor to be very soothing. It was still bright and colourful in places due to the overall Caribbean theme. Smoking was controlled and there seemed to be a majority of non smokers on ship. The ship had just come out of dry dock and there some wet paint and varnish spots.

Our cabin was well laid out, but because we were on the lowest deck, when we experienced some rough seas en route to San Juan it became very noisy and we had a hard time sleeping. This was probably the worst aspect of this cruise for us. I would recommend paying the extra money for a cabin on a higher level as we will in the future.

We went to see the various comedians they brought on board (5 in total!) and we enjoyed all the shows - some more than others, but each made us laugh at least a few times.We also enjoyed the poolside games. Movies Under the Stars was GREAT! We reserved spots for both movies the day we boarded and the tickets arrived at our statement by 6pm the day of the shows. It felt like a drive-in movie, and ships crew were quick to supply popcorn, drinks and blankets.

The food was very good ranging from decent to WOW - especially the desserts. Of course, cuisine is such a personal matter but both of us enjoyed everything. I particularly loved the pizza and burger grill during the day, and the themed menus at the buffets were a great idea. We had lobster twice in the Cafe Caribe buffet. The food was plentiful and always available. The drink machines (dispensing water, ice, tea, coffee) had a lot of mechanical problems and seemed to frequently be empty or out of service.

We did find the elevators to be somewhat inefficient - while waiting for one to come up or down, you would see the other four of them sitting stationary on the same floor - seemed odd to us. We choose to walk when there were only a few floors to travel.

Service was very good - we never had challenges ordering drinks or having plates cleared. In fact, one of the comedians made a joke that we thought was very true - there was always an attendant coming by to take your plate when you were done, even just seconds after you finished. Our stateroom attendant, Jose, was very friendly and kept our room well attended to.

To conclude, we will definitely cruise Princess again - in fact, we pre-booked an open ended future cruise on the ship. I do think we will try one of their smaller ships next time to compare the experience. I do recommend this ship, and think a cruise or any vacation is what you make of it. You can certainly make your experience on the Caribbean Princess a enjoyable and memorable one.

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