Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Sun Princess
Sailing Date: March 19th, 2005
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
Never been cruising before we really didn’t know what to expect but what we had was a really nice and enjoyable holiday.
We arrived in Miami after a long flight from England, we were met at the airport by Princess Cruise’s representatives and taken to our hotel in West Miami, and we were staying at the Hotel Intercontinental for 1 night before we boarded the ship. Once at the hotel we were basically left to fend for ourselves. The hotel was on an extremely busy highway where you really did take your life in your hands crossing the road – it would have been nice for a representative from the cruise company to point out places to eat on that first night as we were all tired and hungry but being in the middle of a business area there were very little places to eat and the hotel was extremely expensive. We survived and were picked up the next morning and taken to Fort Lauderdale – if it wasn’t for us pointing out to the coach driver we would have been dropped off at the Caribbean Princess ship but a quick u-turn soon had us at the correct ship. Embarkation was extremely quick – and soon we were having our picture taken and were boarding.
First impressions were that it was very grand – like being in the lobby of a posh hotel. We signed up for the soda cup and stamp - $27 for endless coke, diet coke, ginger ale and sprite seemed a bargain. We made our way to our cabin where we were quite surprised at the size of it - there seemed ample room for us and our daughter – our other daughter was sharing a cabin with her grandparents as when we booked there were no quad rooms left.
In our cabin was the kid’s club brochure, so we decided to go and register them. Our 10 year old was quite happy about being in the 8-12 year group although our other daughter who is 12 and would be 13 a few weeks after finishing the holiday did not want to be in that group and no amount of trying to persuade the kid club organiser that she would rather be in the 13-17 group – they just wouldn’t let her join she had to stick with the 8-12 group needless to say she didn’t and wouldn’t join in. Our youngest daughter had a great time, T-shirt painting, games, casino night just to name a few activities she really had a good time and the staff were really nice and friendly.
Soon we were leaving Fort Lauderdale and everyone was on deck and we had a good send off from everyone land side, trumpet blowing and flag waving, although no sail away party on ship.
We had picked 1st sitting and soon we were being introduced to Valentine our waiter. 1st impression of the food was ok – we felt it got better as the cruise went on.
After our meal we went and watched a film in the Vista Lounge – as we were still jet lagged we had an early night.
Next morning we woke up to lovely blue sky and we had dropped anchor at Princess Cays. After breakfast in Horizon Court we got ready to be taken by tender to the island. The crossing was extremely quick and soon the loungers soon filled up.
Plenty of waiters and waitresses to bring you ice cold drinks as and when needed. There seemed to be a party atmosphere on the beach aided by the calypso singer at the bar. The beach itself was clean and there always seemed to be plenty of seating and shade available. The BBQ lunch was poor in quality and variety. The queue to get back on the tender was not too long even though it was only an hour before we set sail. There was however a delay before we were able to set sail due to a passenger taken ill. We were kept regularly informed by the captain during this delay of our lightly departure time as this could affect our arrival at our next port.
The next day we were at sea and spent the day relaxing by the pool. Overall we had three sea days and by the end of the cruise we did find that the pool side band was somewhat repetitive.
Upon our arrival at St Thomas we had to clear U.S. Immigration by queuing for 45 minutes having our passports checked and being given a disembarkation clearance card, which was never collected and we cannot understand the point of that whole exercise. Once off the ship we were met by Godfrey tours which we pre-booked ourselves before we left England. For $20 a head we had a full day combining shopping, a full tour of the island and time spent on a beach before being taken back to the ship with minutes to spare much to the disgust of several hyped up American passengers who were shouting at Godfrey as he drove in a chilled out fashion to the ship! This tour was well worth the $20 and is highly recommended (http://www.godfreytoursvi.com/).
Our next stop was Martinique we only docked at 1p.m and due to our leaving time of 5.30, unless you’re on an organised tour we recommend you stay on the boat. We walked into town and we found it dirty and smelly. Due to it being a French island it was difficult to talk to people in shops and they would only accept Euros. After 40 minutes we were back on board and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool.
Next was St Lucia we were docked and off the boat by 9 am. In the port terminal we opted for a speed boat tour that also included a taxi journey to the island’s active volcano. The speed boat journey was great fun and we saw several turtles and flying fish and the tour was concluded by a 2hour stop at Marigot Bay where the recent Dr Doolittle film was made. This tour cost $50 per head and $25 for children and although it seemed dear it was great fun! Also the shops and bar in the port terminal was excellent value and the rum punch was very memorable.
The next day we were at Grenada were we went on the official Beach Party on the Rhum Runner 2. This was a 45 minute cruise along the coast, 2 hours on a beach and then the return trip with unlimited rum punch. However, the beach were they took us was accessible by water taxi for only $5 per head and seeing that we had spent over $100 for the 3 of us, we felt this was not good value for money. In the afternoon we negotiated with a local taxi driver for a 2 hour tour round the island, this was both enjoyable and informative as our driver passed on lots of local history particularly surrounding the U.S. invasion in the eighties.
Our final stop was St Vincent; we walked round the town for 20 minutes before we headed back towards the port as we found the town to be busy, dirty and intimidating. We once again negotiated with a local taxi driver to take us on a tour of the island visiting Botanical Gardens and Port Charlotte were the recent film Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. This was followed by 2 days at sea before arriving back at Fort Lauderdale.
During these sea days we spent most of our time by the pool and although there were many activities during these days we felt that most of these were targeted towards the U.S. passengers, thus making us feel excluded.
On a whole the ship never felt overcrowded although it was full to capacity. There was always space around the pool and plenty of waiters and waitresses. The ships staff on a whole were relatively friendly although the staff in the photography shop could do with cheering up a bit.
On the entertainment side again it was more U.S. focused. The shows we saw involving the Princess dancers and guest vocalists; The Piano Man, C’est Magnifique and Tribute were aimed more to an older audience. We also saw Darren Lynton a vocalist from the UK who we found to be very good singing songs from Broadway and a number of well known artists. Seeing as the cruise director Gavin was from England we were disappointed that the entertainment was so 1-dimensional, particularly as over 1/3 of the passengers were not from the United States. Gavin’s ‘Morning Show and Guests’ on Channel 21 was full of humour and very entertaining and we wish we had seen more of him on stage.
On a whole the food was good and very plentiful. The Horizon Court was where the buffet was, each day we had breakfast and lunch there. Lunchtimes the theme changed daily and the quality was good. We had our evening meal at 6 pm in the Regency Dining Room; staff could not do enough to accommodate our requests especially our fussy eating daughter and father in law. The Verdi’s Pizzeria was pretty average. There seemed to be no bar on board that was a natural meeting point were people could sit and chat and have a drink in a quiet environment.
The checking in arrangements back
at Miami airport was appalling. We were dropped at the wrong location, the
checking queue was the biggest I’ve ever seen and once finally at check in we
were allocated seats all over the plane which meant our 10 year old daughter was
seated 10 rows away from her nearest family member for an overnight flight back
Overall we really enjoyed the holiday and are actively looking for our next cruise.