The Savvy Old Lady
Number of Cruises: 28
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Sailing Date: June 17, 2007
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Once again I have taken to the high seas in search of a little relaxation and adventure, this time (June 17, Father’s Day, what a great way to celebrate) on Princess Cruise Line’s Caribbean Princess.
Now, at my age the prospect of adventure is not zip-lining through the rain forest, riding a wave runner or parasailing over the beautiful blue Caribbean waters. Nor is it sitting in a lounge chair wrapped in a blanket for hours on end. I guess I’m in that in between stage that Rod Serling called “The Twilight Zone” and I call “The Golden Years Zone”. While the joy of these and other extreme adventures have now been passed on to my children, my husband and I continue to seek out our own type of adventure and surely are surprised at whatever direction it might take.
As a frequent cruiser, I decided, along with my husband, to take a cruise on Princess Cruise Line’s Caribbean Princess. We booked it as we often do just a few days before sailing to get the best rates. Being a first time cruiser on the Princess Lines I really wasn’t sure what to expect but isn’t that an adventure in itself? What I found pleasantly surprising was that the demographics of the passengers on board ranged from singles to families to seniors. I am always looking for cruise ships that are senior and children friendly since I love to cruise with my adult children and my six year old grandson. It really was a diverse group; Princess did a good job of providing plenty of activities and events for all to enjoy. I was especially impressed with their “Movies Under the Stars” feature, a gigantic outdoor movie screen on one of the central pool decks that could be viewed and heard from a distance and seen very clearly even during the light of the day in the Caribbean sun and in the darkness of a starlit night. It is truly spectacular and something worth seeing.
Since my Sicilian husband, considers himself a gourmet cook, it’s always interesting to hear his comments about the food served on board. Yahoo, he gave this Princess ship - five thumbs up. The selection of food served both in the Lido Deck buffets, (Café Caribe and Horizon’s) and the sit down dining rooms were first quality. Kudos’ go out to the Executive Chef, Giuseppe Pollara and Executive Sous Chef, Michael Siebold, and their staff for a job well done. The two specialty restaurants on board, Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria ($20 surcharge per person) and Sterling Steakhouse ($15 surcharge per person) were definitely worth it. These also are among the lowest surcharges for comparable specialty restaurants on other Cruise Lines. The amount of food served to each guest in Sabatini’s, “Taste of the Menu” service, was unbelievable and only could be totally consumed if you had fasted for three days, (but I forced myself for the sake of research, Ha!) and it was fabulous. Sterling’s steaks were good but not what I would call exceptional. However, they did have a dessert, a deep fried peach turnover, that I will be dreaming about for the next month. In our opinion the food on board even surpassed the selections, varieties and meals that we had on a Celebrity Cruise Line ship, Constellation a few months before.
I love to poke around, talk to the crew and search out information that you usually don’t read about in all the travel brochures. From different sources, including crew and passengers, I learned that the quality and preparation of food on each ship and cruise line can vary considerably depending on the Chef and his team’s skills. Okay, so I’m also nosy, matter a fact I’m one of those people who would dare to sneak into the ship’s kitchen for a peek if I weren’t worried that my husband would have to bail me out of the ship’s brig.
Earlier this month (see, my blog, Cruising The Seas with The Norovirus, June 15), we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s, Liberty of the Seas and listened to the cruise director tout RCI as a family friendly cruise line. However, the specialty restaurants on board all Royal Caribbean cruise ships that I know about do not permit children to dine there while the Caribbean Princess welcomed all families; which one do you think is more family-friendly? Now there may be some people who prefer to dine without young children around but if these children are well behaved I see no reason to exclude them from a nice family dining experience. While cruising on RCI in the past my children and grandson loved the children’s and teen programs. However, on RCI I did not see any events that were specifically targeting families. Drum roll...I also take offense to any cruise line that charges full fare for children and then restricts them from certain areas of the ship, if that is the case fine, but then give the kids a reduced fare. The Caribbean Princess did take that extra step and had family Karaoke night and family dancing in their Club Fusion room and even closed it to adults half of one evening so it was all just for the kids. It was so very nice to see Moms and Dads get up on the dance floor with their children. Isn’t that what a family friendly vacation is all about? Somehow the thought of Mom and Dad placing the kids in a program and going off on their own for seven days (no matter how appealing that might seem at times, is not my idea of a family vacation. Okay, so that’s just one Savvy Old Lady’s opinion. But bottom line for me, Princess Cruise Lines not only uses a family-friendly slogan but actually delivers a family-friendly experience.
Now let me tell you about the fabulous Cruise Director, David Cole, and Associate Cruise Director, Hollywood (that is not a made up name) and their staff. They all worked tirelessly ensuring all the passengers had a memorable cruise. Not only were they constantly visible and on the move while answering all the passengers questions, but they were sensitive to the passengers needs. When show time came they knew how to lightheartedly make fun of themselves for the passengers’ entertainment. One Cruise Director’s staff member stands out in my mind; her name is Amanda, and she hails from Australia. That woman had more energy than any Turkish Whirling Dervish I’ve ever seen. One evening this raven haired young woman hosted the Ballroom Dancing event in Club Fusion (yes, another family-friendly event). She was chicly dressed in a white suit and high heels. The poor girl was losing her voice but that didn’t stop her or curb her enthusiasm! She had everyone up and dancing, except my husband, who preferred to nurse some sort of banana rum drink than trip the light fantastic with ME. Anyway, did our hostess Amanda stand back on the sidelines and watch the folks dance...NO! She danced almost every single dance for the hour with different male passengers. All this in between helping select songs, making jokes and cheering everyone else on! Now we all know there are some men out there with dreams of grandeur and a Fred Astaire complex, and unfortunately for poor Amanda several of them were on board the Caribbean Princess and at the Club Fusion that night but Amanda never once winced as she was whirled around and around the dance floor by these fellows. YOU RULE GIRL!
There were a few things on the Caribbean Princess that I thought could be improved on. First, we had a BB balcony cabin which surprisingly was much smaller than any comparably-priced balcony stateroom we have had on any other cruise line. On Princess you need to book a Mini-suite (A-category) cabin to get a cabin comparable in size and appointments to those on other mid-priced cruise lines at roughly the same price-point. These Mini-suites are not that much more expensive on Princess, but there are fewer of them on each ship and I hear that they go really fast. Future cruisers, please note when you see the dimensions of your cabin on Princess Cruise Lines it also includes the square footage of your balcony. My husband was told that the living quarters of the ‘B’ line ocean view-with-balcony cabins is the same as the inside of the non-balcony ocean view ones, (so you have to be careful in comparing). Second, on the Lido deck, on the aft part of the ship, each day many of us who wanted to eat breakfast or lunch outside had to ask the buffet staff to bring out more tables so we could enjoy the cool breeze and look out over the beautiful azure blue Caribbean waters while eating a leisurely meal. Lastly, Princess Cruise Lines might want to consider placing trash receptacles outside the bathrooms so that passengers (trying to avoid that pesky ole Norovirus and such) can use a paper towel to open the door after washing and sanitizing their hands and have some place to dispose of it. Now truthfully, as far as complaints go that’s really not much to grouse about.
Well, to Princess Cruise Lines and the Caribbean Princess officers and crew, job well done! You can definitely plan on seeing us and our family on some of Princess's future cruises.