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Pete Larson

Age: 37

Occupation:Firefighter

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Ocean Princess

Sailing Date: February 8th, 2002

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean Medley


This was our second cruise, but first with Princess. We cruised Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas in 1999.

We booked with an Internet agent almost a year in advance. Prices dropped on this cruise over $400 per person after the 9/11/02 terrorist attacks. We booked our own airfare through Orbitz.com, and Access America Insurance.

Pre Cruise:

We booked the pre cruise hotel with Princess. It was the Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hilton. Nice hotel, but would rather spend the extra to stay on the beach next time. We had Princess transfers as well. An agent was waiting at the gate for us. We identified our luggage and a porter loaded them onto the bus. This didn’t seem to go too quickly for a cruise line that does this everyday. Luggage goes with you to your room in the hotel. You set it in the hall the next morning and porters take it downstairs.

Embarkation:

The bus picked us up before noon, and we were off to the port. We had express check-in, and walked right up to the counter and checked in within 4 minutes. Security is a little tight getting onboard. They searched us good, and we boarded. This was a real smooth process with no congestion. We were onboard by 1pm.

Cabin:

We had an inside cabin (C516) on Caribe deck 9, amidships. Very nice layout, plenty of storage and room for two. There was an unused fold down bunk for a third person in the cabin, refrigerator, safe, and TV. No clock. Shower was very functional, and not as small as I had expected.

Beautiful and well maintained. Very clean. Always some painting going on. Decks are washed down each night. Freshwater pools and hot tubs open 24 hrs. Most impressive areas: Wheelhouse Bar, and the Atrium area. Favorite area: Outer decks of the Promenade. Keep in mind that the Starboard outer decks are nonsmoking. We used FRS radios to keep in contact with our party. They worked well. There were a few others using them as well, so we changed our channels a couple times. Ship movement was very noticeable. Even in mild seas, there was movement amidships. One night we had seas of 12-14 feet and it was hard to walk without running into one another. Bring your Bonine if you think you will get seasick, and there won’t be a problem. I find the rolling comforting myself. I love the movement of the sea.

Staff:

Very friendly people. Cabin steward called us by our first names whenever he saw us. Other staff always said hello when they passed you. Princess has some really nice and dedicated staff. I did meet a couple I would have liked to throw over the rail though. (Dallas at the Shore Excursion Desk, and the rude lady in the gift shop!) The Entertainment staff is the best. They do their job well.

Dining:

Traditional late seating. Here is one of our low points. Our waiter was very good, but too distracted by another table. He simply had too many people to please. This table of 10 was very demanding, and drank several bottles of wine each night. He had a tendency of spending much of his time trying to please them, and would forget about us. Our assistant waiter would be called away mid meal each night to help elsewhere, leaving our waiter alone to tend a table of 10, our table of 6 and a table of 4. Here is a tip. If, after the first night or two you are not pleased, switch to Personal Choice Dining. I wish we had. I had looked forward to dinner in the past, but was not thrilled at all with this.

Food:

Horizon Court Buffet is congested at peak times, food is plenty and good. Typical buffet. Two things that could be better: coffee and toast. The coffee is terrible, and the toast is like rubber. Most other things are quite good. Nice omelet / egg station for breakfast. Dining room food was very good. Each night is a different theme. Some menu items included prime rib, filet mignon, halibut, lobster, king crab legs, frog legs, pasta, duck, pheasant, turkey, tilapia, lamb, and scallops. There is usually something on the menu to suit your taste. We tried the Sterling Steakhouse one night. I found it to be quiet, but nothing special. The food was good, but nothing better than that in the dining room. You pick your own cut of meat, and have a bloomin’ onion. This was not a very busy place.

Entertainment:

Shows were good, movies were good, comedians were funny, and bands were good. Overall entertainment was good, not great. Entertainment Staff was great. They made everything from Bingo to pool games fun. Cruise director (Trevor Bradford) was very entertaining. Most evening entertainment seems to be geared toward older cruisers. We had a hard time finding a good party. (under 40) Royal Caribbean does a much better job at entertaining younger cruisers. Love the steel drum band on deck called Sugar Cane.

Excursions:

We took 3 with Princess.

1. Barbados 5 Star Catamaran with lunch. This was top notch, and a highlight of the cruise. Tiami Catamarans took us out to swim with sea turtles. Then we went to a beach on the Gold Coast for lunch and snorkeling over a reef. Open bar was good, and the crew was GREAT! Fun and friendly. This is a DON’T MISS trip.

2. St. Thomas Sailboat & Snorkel Adventure. This catamaran takes you to Buck Island for snorkeling. (not Buck Island near St.Croix) This is a fun half-day trip, but not the caliber of the Barbados 5 Star trip. Snorkeling was good, and the trip short but scenic sailing out of the harbor. Open bar after snorkeling.

3. Ft. Lauderdale by Land & Sea. This was a post cruise bus tour of the city, followed by a trip on a paddle wheel boat for a tour of the canals and Port Everglades. You will pass the houses of the rich and famous on this trip.

On our Own:

We took a taxi to the Curacao Seaquarium on our own. I did the Animal Encounter SCUBA dive there. It was fun feeding the sharks, turtles, rays, and fish there. They have a beautiful beach a short walk away. ($3 each) It’s tops optional for women. Beautiful aquariums, and great snorkeling. (for a fee)

We took hired a taxi van for the day in Dominica ($30 each). It was a GREAT day! This was a fascinating tour of a beautiful rainforest island. It is another highlight of the trip. The lush vegetation, flowers, and fruit trees made this a spectacular trip. The driver was a great tour guide, and took us to a sulfur pond, Trafalgar Falls, Emerald Pool, and a black sand beach. (Note: some hiking up steep slopes and rocky loose terrain required) We made many stops at interesting places. Dominica is unspoiled, and not really set up for mass tourism. I love Dominica, and it was MY favorite port. People were the friendliest I have seen. Do not leave this island without trying the fresh fruit grown there. I never knew a banana could taste so different. There is a fruit stand where you can try all kinds of fresh fruits for free. (tips only) The man who runs it is entertaining and funny. Go see him.

Highlights:

Dominica (WOW!)
Champagne waterfall and atrium party
Sunsets
Napping on Promenade deck (relaxing)
Barbados 5 Star Catamaran (Tiami) (A DON’T MISS EXCURSION!)
The ship (beautiful)

Low lights:

The coffee (seems to be a little better in the dining room…but not much)
Disembarkation (you would think they could come up with a better plan)
Dining room service (need more personal attention)
Missing shows because of time (dinner takes forever…see above)

AFTER THOUGHTS:

I had a very good cruise on Ocean Princess. What drew me to booking her were the size, age, and itinerary. I was not disappointed. Sun Class ships have it all. I don’t know if I will ever be happy cruising anything larger. Having cruised both Royal Caribbean and Princess, I would have to say that Royal Caribbean is perhaps, a better fit for me. I still like to kick up my heels until the wee hours, but still like the royal treatment. Princess is a class act. I know now why older cruisers are drawn to them. I will surely cruise with them again, but will more than likely try Celebrity or RCI again. I am the sort of person that will not let ANYTHING come between me and a good time on a ship.

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