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Nancy Norris

Age: 40's

Occupation:Travel Agent

Number of Cruises: 20+

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Sea Princess

Sailing Date: October 20, 2001

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera


TrvlJrnlst@aol.com  


Departure Dates: October 20th, 2001

Embarkation:
We arrived via a Princess transfer bus from LAX. After retrieving our luggage, we waited over 45 minutes for a bus at the airport. The greeter from Princess was very apologetic and indicated that this was highly unusual. Once the bus arrived at the terminal, we were subjected to sitting on the bus for about another hour, before we were able enter the terminal and check-in. This was my first cruise from the west coast, so I do not know if this is typical of Los Angeles embarkation, or possibly due to the heightened  security after Sept. 11. 

Regarding security, I was reassured by the extra measures in place. Checking-in at the terminal was much like airport security. I was required to show my ID 3 times before boarding. When we were ready to set sail, I felt secure with the number of highly visible National Guardsmen on board, as well as the secure waterways. I had pre-registered on line before the cruise and this process was flawless. The line for pre-registrants was short and moved very quickly. The Princess representative who processed me was exceptionally friendly, and when she discovered I was a travel agent, she was very helpful about giving me some little tips to make my trip more enjoyable. Our luggage arrived in record time -- less than an hour after we boarded.

The Ship:
The Sea Princess is a sleek and stylish ship. Its focal point is the 4 deck Plaza Atrium with lots of greenery, glass, and marble. It, along with the other public areas, I found to be comfortable and tastefully appointed. The ship had a pleasant ambiance, but I felt it lacked a personality of its own. It reminded me of any nice hotel in a major city.

My favorite public room was the Wheelhouse Bar. With its rich, dark wood and deep, comfortable furniture, arranged in many small conversational nooks, it was a room that made me feel most at home. One important note about many of the public rooms, particularly the 2 showrooms, is that they were often very cold. It was a stark contrast to the pleasant outside temperatures, so ladies make sure you bring a sweater or light jacket if you wish to enjoy the shows. 

My outside cabin, on Caribe Deck, was very nice and had ample closet and storage space for a week long cruise. The bathroom was small, but adequate. (I did have trouble shaving my legs in the shower, but, by the end of the week, I discovered a technique that worked). My roommate and I had the 2 twin bed configuration. Visiting the cabins of others in our group, I noticed having the beds pushed together to provide a queen configuration provided more space (or at least the illusion of more space). The lighting in the cabin was very well designed. The cabin could be brightly lit when needed, but there were many soft lighting options. The reading lamps over the bed , with dimmer switches, were particularly nice when one person in the cabin wanted to read, while the other wanted to sleep. The hair dryer was another bonus. Although many ships now come equipped with hair dryers in the cabin, this was the first one I encountered that actually worked well. 

My room steward, Arthur, was efficient and friendly. He also garnered my roommate and I Princess bathrobes to use during the cruise. My only complaint would be the stewards maintenance carts were left in the hallways all day. It was often parked right outside my door and Arthur had a unique way of making annoying, paper/plastic shaking sounds each morning. When you would emerge from the cabin, he would greet you with a huge smile and friendly good morning . I think the noise was his subtle way of getting me up and out for the day, so he could clean my cabin. 

The pool areas were quite nice. The water in the pools was exceptionally warm (almost too warm), and the Jacuzzis surrounding the pools were perfect. Many of the games and activities I have seen on other ships being held poolside (i.e. horseracing) were held in a variety of other locations aboard the ship. This made lounging in the sun very relaxing end enjoyable. The Sun Deck forward, near the splash pool, is a super spot for getting a nice breeze and enjoying a fantastic view while perfecting your tan. If you enjoy walking, or jogging, the Promenade Deck offers an unobstructed and covered track that circles the ship. It also has some great chairs for lounging, reading, or napping in relatively quiet solitude. 

I do not gamble, but my roommate does, and she found the casino to be adequate. It is not exceptionally large, and was relatively quiet most nights. It did have all the requisite games to keep gamblers happy, and there were enough slots willing to eat her money. 

Food and Entertainment:
I found the food to be good, but not outstanding. The selections were varied, but being a meat and potatoes Midwesterner, some of the choices were too gourmet for my liking. Although such things as steak, chicken breast, and fettuccine Alfredo were available at every dinner meal, I do try to expand my taste buds while cruising, so I went for some choices I may not have tried at home, and was not overly impressed. Those who have a broader palate than mine seemed to be quite content. Desserts were again good, but not outstanding. I am not sure they were worth the extra calories they cost me. 

The wait staff was efficient and attentive, but not obtrusive. I enjoyed eating at the second seating, assigned dining. It gave me an opportunity to meet and develop friendships with some great NACTA members. Some of the group chose the "personal choice" dining and seemed to like the option. I heard The Sterling Steakhouse, which is really a portion of the Lido Deck overlooking the pool, was outstanding. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of dining there and I'll have to make sure I try it next time. 

The Horizon Court buffet had standard breakfast and lunch choices, as well as some occasional tasty surprises. However, as is typical of my cruise experiences, the hot foods were usually lukewarm. I did enjoy the fruit selection, and there were some nice choices at lunch time that were of the light snack variety. The Horizon Court had one major flaw: the traffic flow. There were 2 lone beverage stations on each side causing serious congestion. They would have been better suited outside the food stations to allow for easier access. 

The production shows were excellent. As a Broadway musical lover, I was impressed by the lavish costuming (particularly in "C'est Magnifique") and the lead singers. The male lead, Dan O'Brien, was very talented, and far superior to most production singers I have heard on cruises. I was particularly impressed with the dancers rendition of the "can-can". The comedy jugglers were fun to watch and the snippets of a performance I heard by a guest vocalist, Jacqi Michaels, were exceptional. On the flip side, I was not as impressed with the other onboard entertainers. The house musicians and singers performing in the lounges and poolside were mediocre at best. They seemed to have a very limited repertoire and were somewhat bland. I found myself visiting the disco more often than usual, just to get a little variety in my listening pleasure. 

Overall Experience:
I have never taken a bad cruise, just being onboard thrills me. With that said, I have tried to be objective and offer personal impressions. Although I truly enjoyed the cruise and the ship, there seemed to be some downsizing of onboard amenities. As this is the first cruise I have taken since Sept. 11, it will be my goal to cruise more frequently so that I can determine if cutbacks are a pattern we will see on all cruise lines in the future, or if it is just a change in the Princess product.

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