Number of Cruises: 7
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Sailing Date: n/a
This is our 7th cruise. We have cruised Carnival and Royal Caribbean before, as well as two other now-defunct lines.
Embarkation and Debarkation: Both were painless. We waited very little.
Ports of Call: Due to Hurricane Jeanne, the original itinerary was changed to a 5-day cruise to Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, with 2 days at sea. Costa Maya is a very small town, apparently built by an entrepreneur 3 years ago. Everything closes when the ships leave. They only recently installed phones, a gas station and electricity. I think only a few hundred people live in the town of Mahajual where Costa Maya is located. The town is about 3.5 hours from Playa Del Carmen and the ruins of Tulum. All the shops are at the pier (the usual port shops: jewelry stores, a real estate office and souvenir shops). The little shopping area is cute and can be seen in a few hours. The ship offered about 3-4 shore excursions. We took a safari to the beach, with lunch included. The tour company, Pelicanos, was very good and the tour guides were some of the best we have had. They provided a lot of information about the town, the people who live there, the history of Mexico, etc. The beach was nice, although not as nice as the beaches in St Thomas. The lunch offered as part of the excursion (fajitas, pico de gallo and guacamole, with an open bar), was excellent and very authentic.
Our second stop was Cozumel. It is much bigger than Costa Maya. There are two piers in Cozumel: Punta Langosta and Puerto Maya. The ship can dock at either one. We docked in Puerto Maya, which is a long walk to downtown, but only a $5 cab ride. The shopping area around Puerto Maya pier is large. They have the usual shops (jewelry, alcohol, souvenirs, etc), but it is much larger than Costa Maya. Be prepared to bargain for everything. The port shopping area had good food. There is a restaurant called Pancho’s that overlooks the pier and has excellent food, strong drinks and a band playing Mexican music. There are also commercial establishments like Fat Tuesdays, Del Sol, Diamonds International, etc.
The the Seas and this is comparable in beauty. I think Explorer is a little more grandiose because of its atrium, but both are equally luxurious. Service onboard Caribbean Princess was outstanding. We did not experience the “overcrowded” public rooms reported by others. The only time when it was overcrowded was during formal nights when everyone was trying to have pictures taken. By the way, I thought the price for the formal pictures, $20 each was too much.
The ship has pools all over. There is one pool all the way in the back of the ship (aft). This pool has a lot of motion because of its location all the way back. There is also a pool right outside the gym/spa. Both these pools are adults-only. There is a pool for children located near the back pool (near the adults only pool). That is a strange location for a kids’ pool because, from the all-adult pool, you can hear the kids screaming. I would think adults who go to the adult pool are trying to get away from screaming kids. If that is the case, this back pool is not the place to be. Use the Spa pool instead. There are also pools in the middle of the ship. Although I had heard people complain about not finding lounge chairs on deck, we did not experience this. There were plenty of lounge chairs all over the ship. We did not experience problems ordering drinks, ever. At both the pool and the bars inside the ship, we were always approached to offer drinks and the drinks were promptly delivered. Also, we noticed the staff working diligently to maintain the pool deck and other public areas (both bar waiters and regular staff) clean and clear of empty plates and glasses.
There is table tennis, regular tennis, a mini golf area, a golf simulator, a giant chess board and a movie screen outside. The movie screen cannot be seen very well during the day.
The gym was great. We worked out every day and had no problem finding an available treadmill. They have equipment like any other gym.
There was plenty to do all day and all night. During the day, they had ceramic painting, classes, line dancing lessons, bingo, etc. At night, the ship had a piano bar with an excellent pianist from Holland who could play pretty much any song you requested. There were musical shows, comedy, karaoke, tropical music, etc. Skywalker’s Lounger, the dance club, was smoky like any disco.
Cabins were bigger than Royal Caribbean’s cabins. We had plenty of room for our luggage, clothes and to move around. We had a nice balcony.
There is a particular, musty smell in the Horizon Café area. As if the carpet were dirty. It was not unbearable and we got used to it, but it was one thing we noticed as soon as we first toured the ship.
Boutiques and shops were what you would expect in any ship.
The internet café was large, although connectivity was erratic. Some days you connected right away, but not always.
The musical shows at the Princess Theater were ok, nothing impressive in my opinion. They did have a very good singer the last night, a lady Jacqi something. They had two funny comedians.
Unlike what other reviewers experienced, we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful, including the purser’s office. They went above the call of duty to help us.
Food: The food was the best we have had in a cruise. It was all very tasty. Although we have read other reviews were people complain about breakfast, we thought breakfast was just fine. The usual choices: oatmeal, fried and scrambled eggs (both plain and with ham or asparagus or salmon, etc), eggs benedict, toast, bagels, pastries, sausage, bacon, french toast, pancakes, hash brown, corn beef hash, ham steak, yogurt, etc. All were very good. The only thing I don’t remember seeing in the buffet were omellettes, but I was not looking for them and I know for a fact they were available in the dining room because hubby had one. And yes, there was orange juice and milk offered, unlike what was posted in another review. All the food was good. I found desserts particularly flavorful.
We did not experience problems or confusion navigating the buffet lines as others reported. There was no midnight buffet, but I have noticed this is a new trend with cruises. I believe Royal Caribbean no longer has them either. Nevertheless, there was always food available. I personally think midnight buffets were a waste of food. No one can possibly be hungry after such a large dinner and, if they are, they can order room service.
Sabatini’s, the Italian restaurant, was outstanding and well worth the $20 per person cover charge. You try everything on the menu, everything: three types of pasta, pizza, salad, numerous appetizers, soup and then you pick an entrée. The choices were sea bass, lobster, shrimp, a seafood combo, chicken, veal, etc. I had the lobster and it was delicious. My husband had the seabass and it was also very good. Our waiter, Arnold from Hungary, was great. Dessert choices were not too Italian. Only tiramisu was Italian. However, they were all tasty.
The Sterling Steakhouse was also good, although I liked the Italian place better.
We had anytime (personal choice) dining so we did not have assigned dinner time. The regular dining room for anytime, the Palm Dining room, was also good. We had lobster and beef Wellington and they were both excellent and so was the passion fruit souffle.
The Horizon Court and Café Caribe also had great food. They even had sushi for lunch. The desserts were delicious.
Service all over the ship was great.
They had an ice cream bar, which was good. However, I don’t think you should have to pay for the ice cream. It was not that much better than regular ice cream.
They also had a pizza bar and a grill by the pool. Both were standard fare.
If there is one thing that was bad was the coffee. Yes, what I had heard from other reviewers is true. The coffee was awful. You can order cappuccino or expresso, which were strong and good (but you have to pay for these). But the regular American Coffee was like water.