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Tom Dillon

Age: 55 to 65

Occupation:n/a

Number of Cruises: 6 to 10

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Sea Princess

Sailing Date: November 20, 1999

Itinerary: Ft. Lauderdale, Princess

This was my 7th cruise and my wife’s 9th, our second on Princess. We sailed on the Sun three years ago, and felt like we were on the same ship again…only the artwork differed. It’s a beautiful ship, and we were duly impressed again.

Having booked our air through Princess with a $35 deviation per person, we also had purchased transfers to the ship. However, since we landed in Ft. Lauderdale at 10:15, we ignored our transfers and took a cab to the ship for $10 plus tip. Glad we did, too, since we were aboard at 12:30 and ate in the Horizon Court. Our checked baggage arrived at 2:00 pm…..the earliest of any cruise so far. We were completely unpacked by 3:00. How nice! We had the entire afternoon to explore the ship and show it off to my daughter and her husband. It was their first cruise, and they loved it!

The service and staff also reminded us of the Sun Princess, since very little was different. We felt that the staff was courteous enough, but that the smiles, etc. weren’t all that sincere. They seemed rather “put on” to us. For example, when we saw a member of the cruise director’s staff, they always avoided eye contact with us unless we specifically addressed them. When we did that, we saw a seemingly-forced smile and heard a courteous reply, but our overall impression was that the staff just didn’t care to have any more passenger contact than was absolutely necessary. (That contrasts vividly with our cruises on Royal Caribbean, where the CD’s staff was genuinely friendly.) 

The dining room food was much like we experienced on the Sun Princess: some very good menu items, but overall a menu which we found very difficult, at times, finding something that we really wanted to order. Very heavy with veal and lamb, which we don’t care for. I had absolutely outstanding prime rib, whereas the lobster was dry and overcooked. I never got a bad shrimp dish, though. Whether in a shrimp cocktail or cooked in a seafood entrée, it was always fresh, tasty, and cooked to perfection. The baby lettuce salad was identical to the one we had on the Sun, and was excellent. The pasta dishes were outstanding. However, the fish dishes were monotonously strong-smelling and not very good. The Eggs Benedict were awful, but the fresh papaya and pineapple were great. Lots of contrasts in the quality of menu items.

The chocolate fudge ice cream in the dining room was superb, as were most of the other home-made ice creams and sorbets they served. We refused to pay extra for the Haagen Das, but didn’t miss it. Of course, if we didn’t like any of the special entrees, we had the option every evening of the alternative chicken, salmon, or sirloin steak. My wife ordered the salmon and the chicken once, and I ordered salmon once. The salmon and chicken were dry and overcooked…too long under a heat lamp, probably. We did have an excellent waiter and headwaiter in the dining room, but our assistant waiter, although fairly efficient, had absolutely no personality. Dining room service, overall, was great.

The Horizon Court food wasn’t bad at all, especially at breakfast and lunch. We never ate dinner there, but enjoyed most of the lunches and breakfasts. On the other hand, service in the Horizon Court left much to be desired. For example, I was a klutz one morning and spilled my glass of orange juice all over my plate and my lap while sitting down to eat. A waiter magically appeared, and asked, “And how did you enjoy your orange juice this morning?” It was probably an attempt at humor, but in view of the fact that he merely smiled and made no attempt to assist me, I did not think it at all amusing. I had to take the plate to a busboy station myself. That wasn’t typical of the service in the Horizon Court, but the service was never what we would consider good, either. The Pizzaria was just as lousy on the Sea Princess as it had been on the Sun. In fact, we seldom saw more than two people eating pizza at any given time, and the Pizzaria was usually empty.

Afternoon tea has been moved from the Atrium and other, small, semi-private areas into the dining room. Not a good way to do it….we felt like we were in a cattle car, just being herded along.

Our stateroom was identical to the one we had on the Sun Princess, but was considerably smaller than a Category D on RCI’s newer ships. We did use the small balcony a few times, but mostly it was a convenient place to hang a clothesline to dry my dive gear and our swimsuits. Our room was extremely quiet, and the only problems we encountered were (1) a slight urine smell when we first arrived (a can of Lysol spray took care of that) and a shower that didn’t drain very well (the cabin steward fixed that). Overall, we enjoyed the room.

The entertainment wasn’t very good. They had the same comedian for two evenings, although I understand that his material was different for the second performance…we didn’t go the second time. Then, on the next three consecutive evenings, they had the same two shows. No problem for the first two nights, for we could switch off. The third time, however, repetition was inevitable. We felt that Princess should have booked more entertainers for the 7-day cruise.

The private “island” was still very nice, and they had done a very good job of cleaning up after the hurricanes…even including bringing in more sand for the beach. We had an excellent barbecue buffet on the island.

The day at sea was nice. We laid out and got some sun, although we had to go up to the little splash pool topside to get deck chairs. Oh…for those of you wondering about what looked like a car on the Grand Princess bridgecam, it was. There was one up by the splash pool on the Sea Princess, too. It seems that each Princess ship has a new Toyota that they’re giving away, along with a free 7-day cruise, to one of their passengers. All passengers through the end of the year who are U.S. citizens are automatically entered in the drawing.

Although my wife and I had visited and disliked Ocho Rios twice before, we thoroughly enjoyed the shore excursion we took this time. We booked the combination sea kayak and Dunns River Falls trip for $69 each, and it was really a hoot! We then walked from the ship to the Taj Mahal shopping area and back, and no one harrassed us at all. Nice day. The Splendour of the Seas was the only other ship in port.

In Grand Cayman, I did two scuba dives (Robert’s Wall and Stingray Alley) while my wife did a small load of laundry and shopped in town. We then met in our room and went back to town for about 45 minutes. Nice day there, too. We were in port with the Carnival Triumph (I think) and the HAL Veendam (I think). 

In Cozumel, on Thanksgiving Day, I dived again, and my wife shopped.. In order to save money, Princess had us ride on a slow dive boat for 40 minutes to the dive shop instead of spending a little cab fare, which would have gotten us there in less than 10 minutes …same thing on the way back. Pretty cheap and inefficient, if you ask me….and the Princess New Waves staff member on our dive agreed. I paid an extra $55 for a video of the dive, but it wasn’t delivered to the ship before we sailed at 7:00. I hope it comes in the mail, but I’m not holding my breath. Princess was using a new dive operation, and they really want to get the contract, so it might still show up.

The dives were great: Palancar Gardens and Paradise North. After I got back to the ship, we went into San Miguel to shop, snack, and suck up some margaritas. The one I had at Pancho’s Backyard was horrid, but we went to another nice restaurant and had great (and great big) ones! Then back to the ship, with me slightly soused, singing Bob Marley’s “One Love” all the way back. GOOD margaritas! Probably a good thing I didn’t order another one when we went into Carlos n’ Charlie’s..

The last day at sea was again nice. We found some deck chairs on the top deck aft, overlooking the small pool and hot tubs, and  “vegged” again. Bar service was just OK…not very many bar waiters to take orders; we had to go to the bar and order our own.  No real problem, but not the greatest service, either. This occurred throughout the cruise.

I had forgotten how small the onboard shops were, and I was very disappointed in their limited merchandise. There is no liquor store onboard, although they did put some bottles out on tables on the last night. I like to buy a coffee mug with the name of each ship I’ve been on, but there were NO ship-specific souvenirs to be had other than caps and shirts. They had lots of millennium mugs and Princess Cruise Line mugs, but nothing with the name of the ship on it. Their tee shirts and sweatshirts were very limited in size, too. For example, my daughter wanted to buy a sweatshirt, but all they had were S and XL. One tee I liked was available only in S and L….and that was on the first day!

On debarkation day, we had to stand in line for an hour to do a pre-check-in with our airline. Then, once we got off the ship, all we had to do was claim our luggage and have it taken to the Delta truck. Pretty easy once we left the ship, but a real pain having to stand in line that long at 6:15 am. Oh, well….  There was absolutely no hassle for us to get out of our cabin by a certain time, etc. Other cruise lines should take a lesson from Princess in this regard!

This review probably seems to imply that we had a terrible time. We didn’t. My wife and I enjoyed the cruise, and my daughter and son-in-law had a great time. Would I do it again? Yes, but I’d have to think long and hard before I’d do it on a Princess ship. We simply prefer the RCI way of doing things. When I sailed on the Sun Princess, all I had to compare it to was NCL, so I naturally liked it. Having been on two RCI cruises since the Sun, though, I just don’t think that either the Sun or the Sea Princess come even close to measuring up to RCI.,,,,but it was still a nice cruise!

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