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M. Viviano

Age: 34

Occupation:Relocation specialist

Number of Cruises: One

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Star Princess

Sailing Date: January 15th, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Embarkation: As in other reviews, the port is actually very close to the Fort Lauderdale airport. We purchased transfers to get us to and from the airport. All in all the whole process took about 1 ½ hours. Once we got to the boat terminal, things moved very quickly! Next time we would use the advice from another member and probably skip the transfers and get a taxi to speed things up as we would have had more time to drink, but we were nervous and had already paid for the transfers.

Room: We were in room E205. Our room was actually pretty big. We were expecting a room size like you see on trains, but this was great. We also splurged and got a balcony room, so could watch the world go by. It was really nice to sit outside at night and just listen to the waves. The room location was pretty good. We were on the lowest level possible for rooms. Our room was in the front of the boat and there were about four balcony rooms in a row. These rooms were protected from the other balconies above. It's hard to describe, but the rooms were very private. In fact, we never heard any of our neighbors, above or next to us. There was a deck in front of our balcony (the promenade deck) where anyone could walk, but you couldn't see into the balcony, unless you were looking hard, due to mirrored glass. Every once in awhile we could hear music from the shows in the Theatre below us, but it always ended by 11 p.m. so it was no bother to us.

Our room steward did a nice job. We didn't get any towel animals (which I had expected), but our room was always clean. We had turndown service every night with chocolates and fresh towels!! We learned quickly that in order to get coffee in the morning we needed to sign up for continental breakfast, which we did. Our coffee was always on time and usually early. Our twin beds were pushed together and very comfortable. Either that or we were exhausted and just fell asleep as soon as we hit the bed!

We even had satellite TV in our room. Only like one or two movie channels, but hey... it was nice to have!

Dining: We had anytime dining, which meant we could go to the Portofino or Capri dining rooms whenever we wanted and sit with whomever we wanted (if anyone). We ended up in the Capri with Pirantya and Seksan (table 56) as our waiters. They were fantastic and we ended up sitting with them for four evenings. The maitre de always asked us if we wanted to sit with others, but we always said no, because we ate a lot and we could have embarrassed ourselves around strangers. We only had to wait one evening for about five minutes for our table. So we had our own table for two! But that's okay, because we ate a lot and we could have embarrassed ourselves around strangers.

The food was awesome. Okay, keep in mind that they are cooking for 2,600 people, so you have to expect either not so quality or not so great food. But we really didn't find that. There was only one meal (beef tenderloins) that I was really disappointed in and it was just that it was too well done for my taste. Also, we didn't find the shrimp cocktail that great. The shrimp were pretty wimpy in size, nothing special at all about them. All of the food is presented as artwork. The portions are small, but you usually are stuffed from bread (EXCELLENT), soup, salad, and appetizers that by the time it comes around you don't mind. If you don't like fancy foods or trying new things, you might have a hard time. I don't and a couple nights I ended up with Fettuccine Alfredo (not to heavy on the sauce in an excellent parmesan friccata bowl.. YUMM)..

What we liked about our waiter (and we have heard that this is what cruises are all about) was that he was always encouraging us to try different things. He didn't grimace when we ordered three appetizers and more bread. My standard is if they can keep my water glass full without me having to wait or remind and they did this wonderfully. I fell in love with the waiters when I couldn't decide between desserts, so Pirantya brought me both!!!!

We never ate breakfast or lunch in the main dining room. We usually ate continental or went to the horizon court if time permitted. They did a good job with their foods. I found everything to be good, hot and a good selection. We always found a place to sit, but during peak times we had to look for it. We often sat out on the back by the pool. The pastries at the horizon court were always very yummy and we thought the pastry chef deserved the employee of the month award that he had won in December!

We also ate at Scoops ice cream. It doesn't make sense that they charge for this and we should have waited. There was ice cream on the menu every night, but on a hot day it just tasted perfect. The cost was pretty cheap and it was okay ice cream. We ate at the grill. I had a cheeseburger that was dry and burnt with good fries. My husband order a hot dog and said it was great! We also had Pizza too and that was always excellent!

Dress: This was one of our biggest concerns. We weren't sure what to where, how much, etc. So we brought it all. We didn't need it all! Next time I will only bring one formal outfit and either skip the second formal night (probably not because that was when they had lobster tail) or wear the same outfit. I looked into dry cleaning on board and it wasn't that expensive. We each brought two bathing suits and we were glad we did because we were in the most of the time. Really during the day you only need shorts and t-shirts. Of course it all depends on what you are doing. As mentioned before we didn't eat lunch in the formal dining rooms, but we usually weren't there or didn't feel appropriately dressed, so we ate at the buffet. A couple times we saw people in bathing suits and cover ups, but mostly shorts and t-shirts.

Most "smart casual" nights the men wore khakis and polo's and the women wore dresses/skirts outfits. We never really saw anyone eating in the dining room with jeans on or shorts. On formal nights, some people weren't very dressy and certainly not formal, while a few women were dressed in formal dresses. Many men had tuxedos. Most had dark suits.

Activities: What can I say, but wow. There was so much to do. However, we didn't do too much of it. During the day we tended to be sun seekers and at night we hit either the casino or the shows or sometimes both.

We especially spent a lot of time and money in the casino. We didn't find the paybacks good at all. Could have been bad luck, but we were expecting looser slots.

I have been told it was Vegas style shows, but having never been I couldn't tell you. I can tell you that the stages were very elaborate and the entertainers were great. We saw Dance!, Live Wire, Give my Regards, Fernandez the hypnotist, and Cinematastic!. They were all very well done. Fernandez the hypnotist was great. His show is very hilarious! We tried to see some comedian shows, however they appeared to book early, so I recommend if you want to go leave early to get a seat. They had new films, but we figured that was something we could do from home, so we skipped them.

During the day we did a few activities (but mostly relaxed). We saw the ice carving show, the wine tasting, frozen cocktail demonstrationJ, played bingo and the shopping talk regarding the ports. The shopping talk was very very informative, but don't waste your money on the Savvy Traveler. On the last at sea day we went to the culinary demonstration and galley tour. This was one of the best shows on the boat. All I can say is poor Chef Mario.... Don't miss this one!! The tour was okay, but you just walked in and out, that was about it.

We saw the Captain's Gala Welcome and the Champagne and bubbles waterfall party. Both times we heard it was free drinks and appetizers, but they went VERY quickly and you had to be practically rude to get them. We had pretty rough weather for the Champagne waterfall and we were pretty amazed that it didn't tip over. Those guys are good!!

The boutiques have everything you could need. I made the mistake of packing every little medicine that I thought I would need. The price wasn't too outrageous and you billed it right to your room. The cruise ship had great sales throughout the trip that if you weren't into shopping ashore, you could get good deals on jewelry and t-shirts during their sales.

Everywhere you went you got your picture taken. Now I know that I should have been prepared, but it was a bit overwhelming. On the first formal night we decided to have our picture taken by the grand staircase and the wait was pretty long. Then we realized that they were doing as many pictures as you wanted. They would take your picture as a couple in a few different poses and then take your pictures separately. It was a bit too much. The wait was worth having the picture in front of the staircase though. Pictures were priced okay. Throughout the cruise they videotape which you can buy at the end of the cruise. It was pretty neat to watch as they showed the film on the TV so you could see the previous day's events. They really got some good shots of folks and for them it might have been worth purchasing.

Drink prices were pretty on target. We didn't find anything outrageously high. We bought the coke card for $40 bucks and we got our money out of it. Everyone was very happy to help us and get us drinks all the time. We never really had to wait or had bad service. Granted they are never in a hurry, but hey... you're on vacation.

Shore Excursions: Well you should be expected for schedule changes as you never know what the weather is going to bring or other things. Our first stop was Cozumel and we had to tender in because, as the captain said "the pier is not damaged. It is missing!". Cozumel appears to be working hard to get back to where they might have been before the hurricane, but they still have a way to go. Great shopping can be found right at the end of the pier and we found some steals on silver jewelry. Tendering was a quick process even with four other ships in port.

In Cozumel, we took the San Gervasio Ruins tour. It was very interesting and an exciting first glimpse into the Mayans. We didn't want to take the full 8 hour trip to Tulum, so we were pretty satisfied. Well I was. Apparantly my husband was under the impression that he was going to see BIG structures and such, so he was a bit disappointed. We were nervous that if we want off to a beach unsupervised or something that we would miss the boat, so we quickly headed back after shopping at the port. What we found was the boat was pretty empty. (Actually I should point out that the boat never felt very crowed! At least not that 2,600 people were on it. We always found a deck chair even on at sea days, although the ones closest to the pools and bars filled up quickly. But by the front and back of the boat, they were always pretty open. Service was good too, while we were laying out in the sun.) So we hung out on the boat after Cozumel. Next time I would like to explore into the city more and do more shopping or snorkeling.

The next day we were scheduled for Grand Cayman. That morning we found out that we would not be stopping in Grand Cayman because the captain said the port was closed for an inspection of some sort and bad weather. So we had another full day on the ship. Everyone seemed pretty bummed, but oh well... what can you do?

The following day we arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Well, this is a hustle and bustle town. The weather was a bit rough, so we ended up anchoring off shore and tendering in. This delayed us about an hour. Our shore excursion was the Countryside tour with lunch. It wasn't a bad deal. We got a tour of downtown Montego Bay and a bumpy ride up into the mountains. Along the way the tour guide gave us information about Jamaica. We arrived at a plantation and got a little show with a coconut tree climber, a banana farmer and a demonstration on how to make the best pina colada. Then we took a bamboo raft ride down the Martha Brae River. The river was pretty shallow and murky at times, so I wouldn't want to swim in it, but it was nice to see the real countryside. Lunch was back at the plantation and included Jamaican jerk bbq chicken, coleslaw and rice and beans (the best!). We arrived downtown to do some quick shopping and that was an interesting venture. There were cars and people everyone. I didn't get asked to have my hair braided, but several women asked me if I wanted to take their picture (they had baskets of fruit on their head). We wrapped up our shopping trip quickly and headed back to the boat once again and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on deck!

At Princess Cays we had pre-booked snorkel gear, a float and cabana. Next time I wouldn't get any of these. There were two beaches. One to the right of where the tenders docked and one to the left. Bars were close to the beaches on each side, as were bathrooms and lunch areas. The beach to left was pretty empty and that is where the cabanas were. We decided that was a great sign. However, we found out that the beach was pretty stinky. The bottom of the beach was really rough with rocks and it was VERY difficult to get out to the water. Once out in the water it was very murky and there was nothing really to see. We spend maybe 20 minutes snorkeling (10 minutes getting in and out of the water) and returned the gear and float. We think that the other beach is where they really wanted you to swim and snorkel.

We rented the cabana because we were worried we would fry to a crisp. However, the beach is actually beautiful and has a ton of palm trees. We saw a lot of chairs with good shade and a great breeze. We wouldn't waste our money on a cabana next time. There was a bbq lunch available and the island was private, but we decided to go back to the boat for lunch and hang out at the pool.

Disembarkation: Disembarkation was very quick. We peeled out of our room by 8 a.m. and headed for breakfast as we could tell from our notice that we were going to be one of the last groups called. Well we got nervous and hurried through breakfast and went back to wait to be called. We sat outside for a bit and pretty quickly we were off the boat. It seemed to be well organized and they give you so much information about it that you really can't screw up. We found our suitcases in the terminal, checked with customs and was quickly directed to our transfer. They didn't wait for the entire bus to fill up and took us to the airport. In fact, our flight home was at 1:00 p.m. and we were at the airport by 11 a.m.

What we didn't plan and would do differently is this... you have to set your luggage outside your door at night when you retire. So we pulled out our clothes for tomorrow. We also thought... we can't wear pj's and should sleep nude because we will have to carry dirty pjs around all day. So we peeled everything off and put the luggage in the hallway. The next morning we got dressed and took off. It never occurred to us that we would be collecting all our luggage in the terminal and could re-arrange our suitcases however we wanted (ie. Taking out dirty clothes from carryon and packing in checked baggage). Duh... Oh well I guess the whole "love boat" thing was getting to us.

We arrived home safe and sound in Detroit and already planning our next vacation. Would we cruise again...? YES. Would we cruise Princess.... YES.

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