Number of Cruises: 8
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Sailing Date: October 15th, 2005
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
1. This was our seventh total cruise, fifth on Princess, and our second on the Caribbean Princess. Our first two cruises were on Holland America, but we switched to Princess and have been satisfied ever since.
2. Booking and customizing
For the first time we booked our cruise through a link associated with a major discount retailer rather than a local travel agent we had used for years. We received excellent service, a price that was $100 less per person, and ship credits for $40 each.
We submitted our personal information, cruise preferences and booked shore excursions via the Princess website well in advance. We had no trouble at check in, and the tickets for the excursions were delivered to our cabin the first day. I did ask for grapes and robes just to see if anyone was paying attention. The grapes were in the cabin, but not the robes.
3. Check-in and embarkation
Our party arrived at the port about 2:30 in the afternoon, and we were in our cabin by 3:00. We still had lots of time to explore the ship and eat a little lunch before departure, and did not have to stand in long lines before boarding. We later talked to people who had arrived at 11:00 and it took much longer for them to board. A lot of new cruisers ignore the boarding time on their tickets and arrive long before the ship is ready. They often spend long, hot hours on hard plastic seats (if they can find one) or in long lines that don’t move. Don’t arrive before 1:00!
This ship will seem VERY crowded when loading, and elevators will be at a premium. Lunch is being served on the Lido deck and people will act as if they haven’t eaten for days. (Perhaps they haven’t) Have patience and don’t get nervous. The ship will not seem nearly as crowded once people begin to settle in. Everyone wants to explore the ship, but it might be more comfortable in your cabin for a while.
Our luggage was delivered to our cabin by 4:00. Two couples did not get their garment bags with their other luggage but everything was in place before dinner.
4. The ship
The Caribbean Princess was only a few months old when sailed her the first time, and everything was brand new. A year later some of the carpet in heavy traffic areas looked a little worn, and the carpet in a couple of the cabins showed staining and wear around the doors to the balconies. Many of the deck chairs were stained from sunscreen or ?, but that is why you put down the towels first. Otherwise, the ship still looked new. The bathrooms have tile floors and the grout showed staining, but had obviously been thoroughly cleaned before our trip. We never detected any odors of any kind around the ship. Overall condition: Excellent
Service was very good throughout the ship. We opted for “anytime” dining, and NEVER had to wait for a table. The wait staff was very friendly, but very busy. They were happy to take a few minutes and talk to us if we initiated the conversation, but never intruded when we were talking among ourselves. We never felt rushed, and never had to ask for anything. Once or twice we didn’t really like the table we were first shown, but in each case we were moved to another without fuss. The bartenders and drink servers were just fine, even when we presented them with the “Coke” sticker. (I would guess they do not earn “tips” on Coke stickers) Again, they would happily talk about their homes, families and jobs if we initiated the conversation, but otherwise kept a little distance.
Invariably, one of our party of six would have a dinner entrée that disappointed. At the same meal two would be “good” and three would be “excellent”. I enjoyed all of my meals, but perhaps I am easy to please. In any event, the wait staff quickly whisked away anything that disappointed and replaced it with another choice. On lobster night the servers came around with platters and offered everyone, including those who had selected another entrée, seconds. The tails, they said, were too small for most people.
Most people who tried the buffets had fewer complaints, probably because they just passed over anything that did not look appealing. The “Carib” buffet, by the way, is a lot more adventurous that the “Horizon Court”. Try both. The pizza was good, the hamburgers fair.
We were sitting a dinner one evening next to a roped-off empty table. From out of the kitchen comes a crew equipped with full “HAZMAT” outfits: coveralls, boots, hoods, goggles and masks. When properly suited up they thoroughly sprayed the carpet, all of the chairs and the table, and wiped everything down several times. The table cloth, napkins and HAZMAT clothing all went into red “Bio-Hazard” bags when they finished, and the bag was carefully sealed before being taken off. It seems that a few minutes earlier someone had become ill at dinner. While this was somewhat discomforting, the Princess reaction showed that they took the situation seriously, and were prepared to contain any potential spread of the illness.
The “Piano Man” show was very good, the “Caribbean Caliente” awful. The shows in the smaller lounges and bars varied. “Burt” in the Crooners Bar was excellent every night, and his show in the Explorers’ Lounge the best of the week. Daytime events and activities were uninspired. “Club Fusion” is one of the best decorated public rooms, but seemed to be underused most of the time. “Movies Under the Stars” works well, but nothing on the program really appealed to us this cruise.
My wife is a “Pool Person”, and will spend most of her days in the adult section in the stern under the spoiler. We easily found deck chairs the two days I joined her, and she said several times it seemed less crowded than the year before when she went alone. The two pools in the center of the ship were way too crowded and chairs were definitely in short supply. There were always lots of empty deck chairs in areas away from the pools.
I found our balcony a nice place to be during the day.
Getting off the ship is always a trying experience, but this time we hit the gangway at 9:30, an hour better than last year. Finding our luggage and a porter was easy, but the mob scene in the loading area wasn’t pretty.
Princess Cruises are well run, the ships are well maintained, the people are pleasant to be around, and the cruises offer excellent value for the dollar (even if the occasional meal or production show is not as good as it could be). Most of the people we talked to were having a very good time. There are probably better cruise lines, but not at a Princess Price. No cruise will be absolutely perfect every day, but with a positive attitude and a little rum, the overall experience will be great.