Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Sailing Date: April 1, 2007
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
My family and I took our first cruise over spring break. It was the only time we could all get off at the same time and I have to admit I expected the worst due to spring break crowds.
We arrived at the ship around 3pm and had a very quick embarkation. On advice of a friend that had sailed this ship before, we skipped the seafood buffet as soon as we got on the ship to avoid the lines. We did look at the lines and sure enough there was a backup, but it was the only time on the whole cruise we saw a line that would have made us turn around. Instead, we called the concierge and reserved a table for dining at 8:30 and explored the ship. In retrospect, this was by far the best way to leave port, fighting for a place in line and a table on deck for seafood would have ruined the first day mood. Dinner was great, as were all the meals on the ship. We watched a movie on deck and hit the seafood buffet at around midnight for a snack. This first day pretty much describes how we spent our cruise, doing whatever we wanted, missing crowds and having a good time. This is a big plus for Princess, I can’t imagine how we would have enjoyed our cruise as much with scheduled dining.
I’m going to break down the rest of my review by parts:
Food: Outstanding! I never trust other people’s opinions on food, so I expected the dining to be ok at best. Boy was I surprised! Top quality ingredients, expert preparation, and top notch service. We enjoyed the buffet lines immensely. We had heard that Princess did not have a midnight buffet, but in fact every night they had a buffet running from 1100 to 0500, so there was always something open to eat. Sit down dining was very good with great service. We bought a bottle of wine on the second meal and the staff moved it to 3 different dining rooms for us till we finished it. I love good quality cheese and was pleasantly surprised that each day they had a new selection of international quality cheese. It was just ridiculous all the choice you have each day to eat. Deserts were another high point, with anything involving fresh fruit being particularly good. Buffet lines were theme based and always interesting to see what they would present next. I went on the ship a skeptic, and left amazed. Sabatini’s is a MUST! Just crazy, you look at the menu and expect to choose between courses, but instead they bring you everything on the menu up till your entrée. We had four appetizers, pizza, pasta, caviar, two lobster tails and desert. Best $20 per person I spent. Your meal is served by waiters from Italy and it is just an experience not to miss.
Ship: Always something to do! Shopping, gambling, plenty of lounge chairs, spas etc.. Our cruise had 3, 400+ people and we never felt like we were fighting crowds.
Entertainment: Movies under the stars is just great! I can’t imagine taking a cruise without this feature. There is always something showing. The shows were fine, and my wife enjoyed them very much. The casino is very nice, but I thought the slot machines were pretty tight. There was always something going on, and everything looked like fun. Our style was to enjoy the sun, so we skipped a lot of the daytime activities. Formal nights were great. I’m always disappointed in the fact that dining in the U.S. has become such a shorts and T-Shirts affair. A nice couple of nights in suits and gowns was great.
Ports: St Marteen, St Thomas were great. Don’t believe all the hype about the shopping, you can find better deals on the internet for most items. If you go to the main city near each dock, expect a tourist trap. In retrospect, I would get a cab and get as far away from the ship as possible just to get a view of real life on the islands. Each was safe to walk around and eat. One note for the drinkers out there, you can take 5 bottles of alcohol from St Thomas for each adult since it is an American territory. I bought six bottles of liquor for $40 and brought it back without issue. Princess Cays is a great beach day. I spent the day playing volleyball and snorkeling. There is a nice BBQ and plenty of lounge chairs for all. My only complaint was that Princess Cays was too short, we had to be on tender back at the boat by 3 p.m.. If I had had my choice, I would have spent the longest day at this location.
Cabin: Just fine. We had an interior, since prices were so high over spring break. It was great and we were very happy with our room service. We had 3 people in our room and managed quite well. When we cruise next, we will get a balcony room, they looked great!
Bad things: There was an outbreak of stomach flu while we were onboard. As someone familiar with the medical field, I can tell you the crew did an outstanding job of containing the illness. As soon as people began to complain of symptoms, the crew took over serving on buffet lines and insisted that each person sanitize their hands prior to eating. Everywhere you go on the ship, there is hand sanitizer available. If you use it and wash your hands often you will likely never have to worry about illness while onboard. My only other bad experience is the preponderance of the cruise line to pimp you for money as much as they can. They are literally trying to sell you something from the time you get on the ship till you get off. Drinks are expensive and of course you have no alternative to their service. This is a minor gripe on my part, and I only include it so readers can plan to set aside additional money to pay for onboard charges.
One more note. If you are planning your first cruise you will be surprised to see that most of the staff is foreign (to the U.S.) This was another great feature. It was great talking to staff members from England to Italy. Everyone was friendly, and the service was great. I highly recommend sailing on the Princess Caribbean, another line or ship will have to really show me something to get me to switch!!!