Émile Cabot & Laura McCaffrey
Age: 27 & 22
Occupation:IT Remote Engineer
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Sailing Date: December 17, 2006
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Due to scheduling issues, last year’s Christmas Cruise with the extended family fell through, leaving us with a full year to plan our vacation. Only knowing about a dozen people who have cruised (ten hadn’t cruised in more than five years), we took the time to read as many reviews as possible.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about St. Maarten, so spending the day there was a must. This quickly narrowed down our choices, as we wanted a mega-ship that was only a couple of years old. Adventure of the Seas from RCI and the Caribbean Princess were our final choices. Everyone that I know of having sailed with Princess, we chose the latter.
While not on ship, our intention was to avoid the crowds as much as possible, so we decided to plan everything on our own. Our cruise and airfare were booked through Travelocity.com. I am a loyal customer, so no research was needed here. However, our search for excursions ended up with http://www.Shoretrips.com.
We drove to Bangor on the 16th, and stayed at the EconoLodge. Free parking and shuttle service actually saved us $15 for parking at the airport for the week. The next morning, we were at the airport by 5:00am. Our USAir flight was delayed due to rest requirements, which would have missed our connection in PHL. I advised the ticket agent that we were catching a cruise in FLL, and she got us switched over to American Eagle.
Our connecting flight was now out of LaGuardia, so Laura got to see New York for the first time. While waiting in the terminal, we ran into Paul Guilfoyle, CSI’s Capt. Brass. That was pretty cool, even though we didn’t get a shot of it. We arrived at FLL at 1:00pm, twenty five minutes later we had our luggage. Having not eaten all day (nothing was open in Bangor, nothing served on flight), we were much inclined to eat before having to go through the dreaded Embarkation. There was a 1 hour wait at Chili’s…the only place to get food outside of security. We asked the Princess greeting crew if there was a place at pier where we could get food, and she told us to go on the ship and eat, that there was no lineup. Perfect. A quick cab ride and we were at pier, ten minutes later we were in our mini-suite.
Dolphin 416 is mid-ship, right next to the main bank of elevators. I was a little worried of hearing the ‘ding’ all night long, but there is a wall between the rooms and the bank, which does a good job of blocking the sound. My only other concern was the much reported lack of privacy on the balcony, however my opinions differ here. The entire deck has a completely unobstructed view, making the added visibility from above a small price to pay. Actually, I can count the amount of times on one hand that I even saw someone while on my balcony.
A surprise from Travelocity when we arrived in our stateroom…deluxe canapé’s waiting on our table, with a nice Thank You note with free photo coupon and $50 ship credit. Although the hors d’ouvres were horrible, the sentiment was lovely. My beautiful sister had called ahead and placed a chilled bottle of Möet and some petit fours (these were delicious) on the bedside.
We opted for the queen bed setup, and we like to sleep close together. This is really hard when there is a split going down the middle of the bed (they just slide two regular beds together, and throw a sheet over them. You must request an actual queen sized bed prior to sailing). I asked our steward for an egg crate mattress; however he advised that they only have single ones and did not have the resources to provide two. This was resolved by a quick visit to the Purser’s desk, and the beds were properly converted an hour later.
Hearing nothing but bad things about the coffee on the ship, we opted to bring a can of Tim Horton’s :Þ. Having called Princess in July to request a coffee percolator, I was shocked to find out that it was impossible after arriving on ship. Had I known, I wouldn’t have had a problem buying a travel sized one beforehand.
Cirilo, our steward, came in to check on things once we had our minor issues taken care of, and offered to bring us fresh fruit in the morning. He also provided us with a complimentary glass of champagne. A wonderful man from the Philippians, words cannot describe his hospitality and kindness.
We like to keep our own schedule as much as possible, so opted for Anytime Dining. Once getting straightened away in the room, we headed for the Horizon Court for lunch. The food is absolutely amazing in both Buffets…Café Caribe being the more formal. The seafood was mostly not cultivated, so my main course consisted of fish most of the time. Laura, being a vegetarian, stuck to pasta and veggies.
Over the course of the week we tried every restaurant that did not charge. We dined with 2 other couples the first night, and on our own the rest. It was nice to be able to choose your seating arrangements to fit the mood, and dining with a small group was a great way to kick it off. Twice we had to leave the dining room to go to the buffet, as there was nothing of interest on the limited vegetarian menu. Asking the waiter to have “any kind of pasta” prepared was returned with a No, despite what I have read in some reviews. Only items listed on the menu was being served in the dining room.
Our days at sea were wonderful, despite gale force winds and rain on the first. There is plenty to do on the ship, for all types of people. We leisurely spent the time watching "M.U.T.S. (Movies Under The Stars) from the hot tub, enjoying the various Matinées and shows in the Princess Theatre, playing Blackjack in the Casino ($50 provided us with a week’s worth of entertainment), or simply relaxing on the balcony. They don’t seem to want you to do anything for yourself, save getting your own food at the buffet. I could only think of two cons: Lack of garbage cans and no Pepsi. We bought a dozen in St. Maarten…some folks brought liquor back onboard as well, and had no problems carrying it back to their room. The ship was at capacity, including 800 children. The only time you could tell was the last night, when they had a sleepover…added a lovely Christmas air to the end. The remaining passengers were divided up as follows: 25% seniors, 50% middle aged, 25% young adults
We had booked the Rhino Riders excursion from http://www.Shoretrips.com, and they provided us with complete directions, included with the receipt. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. The group departing as we arrived, from Princess, contained a party of around sixteen. Ours consisted of four…we were joined by a young couple staying on the island for their honeymoon. The waters around Creole Rock are crystal clear, and we used some underwater cameras to capture some beautiful marine life (we bought a box of 10x800 exposure cameras from eBay for $22.00). Due to such a small group, we were able to spend some time on one of the French beaches, as well. The rest of the day in St. Maarten was spent shopping.
The next morning we arrived in St. Thomas. The first couple off the boat, we headed straight for the Red Hook ferry, and awaiting St. John. Our original plan was to do the SNUBA tour, but they were closed for the Holidays; Shoretrips.com having advised us of such 60 days prior to sailing. So we opted for a 14’ Zodiac half day rental from Noah’s Little Arks. The island is absolutely beautiful from the shore, but the person working at the rental shop was the rudest person we came across during the entire cruise, putting a very bitter end to the trip. After a zip around the island, we had a stiff drink at the bar next door (free pouring…perfect timing again!), and headed back to St. Thomas for an afternoon of shopping.
Princess Cays is absolutely beautiful. I was not impressed with the snorkeling here, as the beach is open to the sea and the water is quite cloudy unless it’s calm. It’s a wonderful place to spend a relaxing day on the sand and get some souvenirs. Lots of people wanting to braid Laura’s hair...Four people in a row, not ten feet apart! I wonder if anyone actually changes their mind if they ask you four times in a row, lol.
We arrived back in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday morning, and welcomed our two day post cruise package at the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale. Thinking that it would be nice to have the last few details taken care of for us, we decided to book it through Princess. After the lengthy disembarkation procedure, we spent an additional 25 minutes outside waiting for our shuttle. Failing its return, the Princess rep finally decided to write a voucher for the cab, which we would share with another couple. Totaling twelve pieces of luggage and 4 passengers, there was no way we would all fit in the car. They sandwiched us in and off to the hotel…Needless to say, I regretted not booking the last leg on my own.
Our plan was to spend the last days on South Beach basking in the sun, but we changed our minds shortly after checking in. Budget Rent-A-Car was in the next building, and we lucked in to a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder for $45/day…with only 15 miles on the odometer. We decided to drive to Disney World in Orlando for Christmas Day. The scenic route north was absolutely breathtaking, and well worth the extra time. Not expecting the separate costs for each area of Disney World, we only went to Epcot. A wonderful experience, but never will we visit again. The service was terrible, food abysmal, and costs were high.
Choosing Princess was a good decision for our first cruise, and we are looking forward to sailing with them again. The overall experience was unforgettable, and I will be impressed if they can top it in the future. Travelocity has always been my choice for personal travel, their service is second to none in the travel industry. http://www.Shoretrips.com I will strongly recommend, as well. There were no issues on location, and the directions and travel tips were spectacular.
We’ve posted some pictures at http://nfld2nr.spaces.live.com. Feel free to stop by and share our memories.