Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Ocean Princess
Sailing Date: March 11, 2000
Itinerary: Cruising the Southern Caribbean
Number in our group: 9
Two couples aged approx. 50
Five 20 year olds
Number of cruises taken:
One couple: 6
One couple: 2
One 20 year old: 6
One 20 year old: 2
Three 20 year old: 1st one
Embarkation: This was smooth. We arrived at San Juan at 8:25 p.m. (if you can arrange it, try to arrive early in the day, otherwise you lose an entire day of your vacation) and were met by a Princess representative who directed us to a waiting area. Our vouchers were collected and we boarded a bus that took us to the ship. We DID NOT have to claim our luggage. It was picked up and delivered to the ship shortly after we arrived.
Luggage: Be sure that you put your tags on your bags securely and that all luggage tags attached to your bags are correctly identifying each bag. We had 9 in our group and one of the tags was put on the wrong piece of luggage. It was still one of our groups and wouldn’t have been a problem except that it went missing. When it was reported who lost the bag, the wrong name was given to the purser and he had some difficulty finding it. Jones lost a bag, but Brown was the name on the airport luggage tag. So there was some confusion. The bag finally caught up with us on the 2nd day into the cruise so it wasn’t too bad.
Check-in: After arriving at the dock, we were escorted to the check-in area. This was very fast and efficiently done. We received our room cards that also acted as our I.D. and charge card while on board.
Cabin: After the obligatory photo op before boarding, we found our way to our cabins. We had two cabins w/verandas and two inside cabins directly opposite the others. The cabins are not the most spacious but they are very well laid out and pleasantly decorated. There is plenty of storage room for two people and the closet has lots of wooden hangers. There is a safe provided for passenger’s use in every cabin. The veranda was a bit of a disappointment. It was smaller than those on other ships we have sailed and there was not as much viewing space. While other verandas have had Plexiglas as the bottom half of the veranda, this ship had steel. Still it was a pleasant place to sit and watch the water or have breakfast. I did notice that the room steward was a little chintzy when it came to towels and toiletries. If you need more than one set of towels for each person during the day, you need to ask for more.
Food: We ate all evening meals in our restaurant: the Sardinian. This is a large room with what appeared to be low ceilings. I felt they could have done a better job designing this room to make it look more spacious.
The food at dinner was good. There were very few items that I would term as excellent. Having taken several cruises on different lines I have some basis for comparison. I felt that the choices were limited and the quality, especially of the steaks, was not what I have expected. The members of our party who had never sailed before had no complaints except for what you might expect from 20 year olds; “sweetbreads are WHAT?” “Are you really going to eat those SNAILS?” “What’s that paste stuff that is on top of the beef Wellington?” etc. You get the picture.
Breakfast and lunch for our group was in the Horizon Court on the Lido deck. There was plenty of food and it was good, but the variety of items was limited. They repeated some items daily or every other day and it did get a bit boring. One complaint I had was the desserts offered. They had cookies, Jell-O or fruit tarts, every day, every day. Once in a while if you were lucky, there were a few desserts left over from dinner the night before.
The way that the Horizon Court serving area is set up is kind of …….stupid. They hand you a platter and silverware wrapped in a napkin. No trays are available. The food stations are all separate from each other. Fruit and cheese in one area, entrees in three places, drinks in another, bread someplace else, etc., so if it is even slightly busy, you wait in several lines just to get your plate filled. By the time you are done at each station, your food could be cold. My advice is to go get your cold items first and then the hot items, that way, you will only have to wait in the beverage line before you can eat. It makes it awkward to have to carry your plate and get a beverage too, so they usually have someone there to pour your coffee or put ice in your glass for tea. It seemed to be inefficient at best. While most of the food was good, it was also ordinary.
Midnight buffets: There weren’t any. We were not aware that Princess eliminated this about 3 years ago. While we usually didn’t eat much at the buffets, having just finished a late dinner, it was always something to do and a spectacle to see. We were disappointed that this was not part of the day.
Casino: Forget it. Those slot machines are so tight that you almost have to use a crowbar to get a coin to come out of them. I did not play any of the table games.
Bingo: We did not play bingo. Our 20 year olds would have liked to play buy were told that since they were not 21 they were not allowed to play unless we bought them the cards and yelled “bingo” if they won. Pretty stupid I thought.
Pools: There are two pools on the main deck with lots of deck chairs and tables nearby. We never had a problem finding a place to lounge in the sun. I did find one thing to be kind of strange though. On other cruises when a drink is ordered from the bar to be drunk on the deck, it is of course not served in glass. Usually the cruise line will use a plastic, disposable glass with their logo or name on it. Princess served their deck drinks in brown plastic, re-usable glasses, the type you would expect to find in a hospital cafeteria. This did not make the best presentation of the drink nor did you get a very big serving.
Entertainment: My husband went to every show offered. Most of them were pretty good he said. The talent show was not anything to write home about.
To our vast disappointment, there was only one event on deck in the evening. This was Caribbean night. I think everyone on the ship was there! It was a great deal of fun and I wish they offered something out on the deck each evening. It was certainly something else to do and you got to be outside.
If you did not attend the shows after dinner you could go to the casino, go to the disco, sit in an inside bar, or go to bed. There was not much to do, which is why we missed the deck events so much that were offered on other cruises we have taken.
Shore excursions: What a disappointment! We were allowed to sign up for excursions before we boarded the ship, which we thought was a great idea. We asked for 4 different ones, we were able to book one of them. We found out later that Princess lets past cruisers have first pick of excursions and the leftovers go to first timers. The folks at the excursion deck were not very helpful nor were they very nice about it. The excursion was full, too bad. Having cruised before we knew that we could get off the ship and find a cab to take us anywhere we wanted to go, so that is what we did.
1. Curacao: This is a pleasant island with lots of shopping. It is a short walk from the pier to the downtown. They have a bridge, which connects to the downtown shopping area. This is a moving bridge that is not in operation when a ship needs to get out. There is a ferry, (free) which will take you across in the event the bridge is unavailable. If you happen to get on the bridge when they sound the horn to start moving it, get off if you can. If you get stuck on the bridge, you will be there for 45 minutes.
2. Isla Margerita: A semi-desert island that is somewhat primitive. I did not go on the island having chosen to spend the day on the ship. The rest of our group took a taxi to a beach and had a most enjoyable day. They did mention that there were several checkpoints they had to stop at and there were guards at the checkpoints armed with Uzi’s. Also, on the beach there were many beggars and “in your face” vendors, so be prepared.
3. St. Vincent: A lush, very pretty island just beginning to get into the tourist thing. We took a cab to Young Island, which was recommended by the cruise director. Don’t go there. You will have to pay $2.00 per person to take a dinghy for a short ride to the island and back. Once there, you will be told that you cannot sit on any of the lounge chairs, nor may you rent them. You are not allowed to go past a certain point on the beach and the free ferry is for the use of the resort guests. We left after about an hour and had our taxi driver take us on a little trip around the island. There are banana plantations all over and the roads are tiny and full of curves. There are junked cars and trucks all over the place and the people seem to be very poor. This island has a lot to offer and will someday be a jewel once they get it cleaned up a bit.
4. St. Kitts: After tendering to shore, a short walk will take you downtown. This area is smelly, dirty and there is not much to see or do, or even shop at. Several of our group took a taxi to Turtle Bay which they found to be great. There are tons of monkeys there that you can feed peanuts to (for a price). The monkeys are very friendly and will come right up to you to get the peanuts. It was really fun.
5. St. Thomas: We docked at Havensight, where you will find about 50 stores all selling the same things. The evening before we docked, the shore excursion desk called us and asked if we were still interested in booking a private sailing boat. This was one of the excursions we tried to book originally and were told was full. Well, we said yes and it seems that they had called ahead to St. Thomas and arranged for several more private sailboats to take passengers for a ride. We had a marvelous time and would do this again. There were 6 of us that went and we had our own snorkeling guide and drinks, cheese and crackers and apples after snorkeling, and all for a total of $264.00 plus tip. A real bargain we felt.
1. Several times during the week, someone in our group was presented with dirty silverware. Not a big deal, but surprising.
2. Princess seems to be quite; well I guess I have to use the word “anal” when it comes to a few things. Such as the bingo I mentioned before. They do say in their brochure that the drinking age is 21 as well as the age to gamble in the casino. All of our guys were just a few months short of being 21. It was a big deal to them to be able to get a beer or a drink at dinner. We did mention this to our travel agent and she assured us that as long as parents were there that it would not be a problem. Wrong. They had signs plastered all over the bar areas saying that they would not serve anyone under the age of 21 because they would be subject to a fine of $5000 and go to jail for 2 years. We did try to order for the guys and were lectured at by 20-year-old waiters, which we didn’t appreciate. I kept waiting for the black helicopters to descend on us and take us away to prison. After all, we were at sea in international waters, who was going to arrest anyone? It was interesting to note that after two days into the cruise, no one seemed to be too worried about serving a beer to our guys.
3. Desserts. Yes, I know I’m being petty. I love desserts and was expecting to be dazzled by the variety and presentation of fabulous desserts. It was not to be. This isn’t much of a complaint but I did want to mention it in case anyone else out there is a dessert nut.
Disembarkation: This was a breeze. You put your tags on the bags the night before disembarking and put them out in the hall. In the morning, after breakfast, you wait for your color tags to be called. Go to the dock, pick out your bags (hint: put bright colored yarn pompons or ribbon on your bags, there are about a billion there and you can find yours easier this way. Also, pay a porter to carry your bags through customs and to the luggage truck. This is faster, less work and it seems to get you through customs without any hassle.)
If you were lucky enough to be traveling with American or Delta, you were able to get your flight tickets checked in on board the ship, so all you had to do was take your bags to the luggage trucks and see that the luggage tags were put on them and then you were on your way.
Otherwise, you had to stand in line and get your tickets checked on the dock.
We did sign up for a resort get-away excursion that was offered in the middle of the week. Our flight did not leave until 4:30 so we paid for a bus to take us to a very nice hotel where we were given several rooms to use to shower and change in as well as a lunch buffet, use of the grounds and beach and transportation to the airport. This was a very good way to spend the last day in San Juan.
Overall: The cruise was a great deal of fun and Princess does a good job in many ways. However, the next cruise we take will be on another cruise line.