Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Overall Service. Disabled Travelers. Seniors.
Cruising with Kids to the Mexican Rivera.
Our family of four just went on the Sapphire Princess in February. When I was researching the cruise I found very little information about traveling with kids. So this might be a long review, but I assure you it will help your family have a great time.
We flew into Burbank, CA because the airfare was incredibly cheaper. Then we took a taxi to the cruise ship port. About $120 one way. Still cheaper!
Embarkation It took about an hour. Very straight forward. Get there around 2:00-3:00 and the lines aren't as long.
Hint: They have a new rule. All luggage must be checked at the ship's dock. You can only bring onboard luggage the size of a carry on. So, for us, that meant the suitcase that had all of our summer clothes and swimsuits in it could not be brought onboard the ship. Thankfully, I was surprised it did not take long for our suitcases to be brought to our cabin. Impressive!
Cabin We always choose an inside cabin close to the middle of the ship for several reasons. First, the motion of theship is not as noticeable. This trip was worse than others. Second, it's not as noisy during docking at the ports. (We were on Aloha deck and we didn't hear much of anything.) The last reason is that it's dark, so you can sleep in or take a nap during the day.
Note: Since our room didn't have a window, it was rather warm at night. The thermostat was set as cool as it would go, but it was still too warm for me and my husband.
Our cabin was small for a family of four. But it was manageable. The cabin was divided into two parts. The dressing area was to the left as you come into the room. It had a large spacious closet, with about 30 wooden hangers, a floor-length mirror (open that up and there were shelves). It also housed the lifejackets and safe. The bathroom is also in this area. Nothing fancy, but adequate. Stand up shower, commode and sink area. There are no plug-ins, but ample storage for two adults' toiletries.
The sleeping area was next. It was small. There were two single beds with two nightstands in between them. On each nightstand was a lamp. On the opposite wall there was a large mirror, TV -- in a cubby, which was hanging from the ceiling -- and a large desk and chair that covered the length of the wall. There was also a small refrigerator and small decorative round table. Each night the steward would come around and pull down the bunk beds from the ceiling. The kids loved sleeping up there!
Soda Cards Our family decided to buy the two kids all you can drink soda, "mock tails" and ice-cream cards. $60 something dollars. Mom and dad utilized the cards more than the kids did. We got free soda and drinks (non-alcoholic) as often as we wanted. We aren't big drinkers anyway, but this allowed us to enjoy something cold and refreshing for free. Carlos was the waiter that made the best mock tails and he never questioned us. I tipped him a little extra at the end of the cruise.
The Fun Zone was an area of the ship designed just for kids. The kids absolutely loved it! They didn't want to leave. Registration is on the first day. They will need your photo I.D. to keep on record, and to utilize when you pick up your kids. We only used the Fun Zone during sea days from 9-12 and 2-5. It is also open from 7 to later at night. They will provide you with a comprehensive list of events that the kids would get to do everyday. They weren't sitting around watching TV. They actually had things for them to do -- from arts and crafts to exercise games.
Dining We had fixed seating at 6:00 p.m. in the International Dinning Room. The kids enjoyed the experience and even tried all the unusual foods, like escargot, and liked them. Okay, I didn't tell them what it was before they ate it!
Hint: When there was entertainment at night that we wanted to go to, we told our waiter "Robert." He then worked harder and faster to get us out of the dining room before the 7:15 show. That way we didn't have to wait around for the 9:30 show. That was too late for the kids. It was extra work for Robert, but he pulled it off every time!
Photo Ops Take advantage of the photo ops around the ship most nights. We had pictures of the whole family taken on the formal nights. It doesn't cost anything but some of your time. At some backgrounds they took 10-20 photos of our family. They took individual photos, couple, siblings, father with kids, mother with kids and entire family shots.
Hint: Gather your photos every night. Look through them and only keep the "possibilities." Then wait until the last day to choose only the best of the best. You can get a better deal when you buy in bulk. They were pricy, but they put them on a CD for you to take home and there was no sitting fee. Christmas cards here we come!
Food We usually ate our meals in the dining room. We chose to eat at the buffet one morning and were very disappointed. But the food in the restaurant was much better. We would eat at the buffet for sweets and snacks during the day. Most of the meals were excellent. There were a few nights when either the steaks were overcooked, but were corrected right away, the lobster was too salty, or the soup was not blended.
Hint: Ask the server. He or she knows what is best that night. Trust their judgment.
Snacks You have to try the homemade ice-cream! It was excellent and my children ate it three times a day.
Hint: They have free cookies and milk at around 3:30 to 4:00. But they also serve free ice cream at the same time at the buffet. YUMMY!
Ship The ship itself was lovely and grand without being over done and gaudy. There was more than enough things to keep us busy -- Shuffle board, walking track, paddle tennis, 5 pools, tours and activities, and shopping.
Hint: I would suggest you wait and make your ship purchases later in your trip. They had 75% sale on the last day at sea.
Entertainment Our family enjoyed the music productions. Very good. But, they were not what I was expecting. I thought it would be more of a Las Vegas style show. It was more hip hop, jazz dancing. Still very entertaining. The singing was average, but the dancing was awesome. They really put all their energy into each show.
Hint: Get to the showroom at least 20 minutes early to get a good seat. It filled up quickly 10 minutes before the show.
As far as the piano player, singers, etc., we didn't really go to any of those shows, and the one we did see, we left soon after it started (below average!). We did see the comedians. One was from the Beach Boys many years ago. Funny! The other one was Dan Bennett. Hilarious! He was a comedian and juggler. Spectacular! He wasn't necessarily kid-friendly, but it mostly went over their heads anyway. What he was talking about, a lot of it went over my head too! A must see!
Weather We traveled in February and it was cool on board the ship with the wind blowing all the time. I packed sweatshirts for everyone and we used them just about everyday, whether in the dining room, on deck and even in port. Better to be safe than sorry.
Attire We always made a point to dress for supper as they suggested -- even with the kids. But I did see many kids wearing flip flops and shorts to supper.
Disembarkation We were amazed at how quickly disembarkation went. They only looked at our passports and the children's birth certificates once. They didn't ask questions or even look through our bags. WOW! Twenty minutes and we were out of there!
A few more helpful hints:I brought a shoe organizer, per someone else's tip, and discovered it was a great idea. I was not able to hang it over the bathroom door, but I was able to hang it, with a hanger, in the closet. We stored bathroom items, shoes, sunscreen and everything else to help stay organized. The kids loved having their own little pockets. We ordered two Princess robes to wear around the room. I noticed on the first night that the bedrails rattled when they were touched. Every time the kids kicked them, it woke me up. So, I figured out that when it was time for bed I used both belts, from the robes, to tie the kids bedrails together. I'm talking one bed's bedrail to the other bed's bedrail. Yes, the belts were in the middle of the room and in the grownups' way, but it decreased the sound of the bedrails jiggling and clanging while the kids slept. Bring an extension cord. There are only two plug-ins at the desk area. Sound machine. This really cut down on sounds you would normally hear outside the door, and the kids moving around. Motion sickness pills. I really thought since the ship was so large that there would be little motion. I was wrong. Over open water it was quite rocky. Things would even roll around and one night the hangers were banging in the closet!
Extra Useful Hints Bring plenty of small bills (ones, fives and tens) on your trip. We ran out!) Bring trash bags or Wal-Mart bags to put wet or dirty items in. Bring clothes pins to hang wet swimsuit in the shower. Bring Lysol spray to clean handles and door knobs or in case someone gets sick. The passenger services desk will make one free complimentary phone call for you. Ask for the complimentary robes. Utilize what the ship has to offer. If you're not sure about something, just ask! The passenger services desk will make change for you.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Mary & Vincent Finelli Western Caribbean January 24, 2009
We booked our 40th (ruby) Wedding Anniversary cruise on the Ruby Princess -- very fitting. The Ruby is a most elegant ship; while berthed in Port Everglades, she is unmistakable with the distinctive logo of a Princess with flowing hair. She is the newest of the fleet and a credit to Fincantieri, her constructors. Captain Tony Draper (Scotland and Cornwall) is a very personable and erudite gentleman -- We look forward to sailing with him again in the near future.
Embarkation The Ft. Lauderdale Port is a highly secure one, so on the way to the pier allow time for up to 30 minutes for security checks. We arrived at 12:45pm and had wheelchair assistance; we were through check-in, which is done by separate counters for each deck. This system makes the lines shorter and faster. We were on board by 1:15 and in our cabin. After checking on our dinner arrangements with our old friend Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone, we reserved a table for two at 6:00pm each evening. We were off to the buffet, Princess pizza servedout on the Horizon Terrace. Excellent! Then we went back to our cabin to rest until the boat drill, which was well organized and orderly. Our station was the Wheelhouse, where we were comfortably seated. Princess does not make passengers line up in the sun facing the elements on the Promenade deck as other lines do, rather it assigns public areas inside the ship for muster stations.
Ship The Ruby Princess (Hull # 6150) was built in Fincantieri, Cantieri Navali, Monfalcone, Italy, like her sisters the Emerald and the Crown Princesses. Her inaugural cruise was on November 8, 2008, thus making her only three months old. She is 948.0 ft long, 118.1 ft wide (165.7 ft including stabilizer wings), with a draft of only 27.88 ft. The Ruby Princess is 113,561 tons and her height is 219.8 ft, with a total of 18 decks and a passenger capacity of 3,150 (3,175 this cruise), with a crew of 1,200 from 54 countries around the globe.
Decks 1, 2, 3, & 4 are for crew only -- except for the Medical Center on the latter.
Decks 5, 6, & 7 are all public areas. Deck 5 aft has the Michelangelo Dining Room, with the wood panel walls and sconces for lighting; in the ceiling there are miniature lights that twinkle on and off like stars. The room is elegant in a subdued manner. The walls have murals of Italian pastoral scenes. Next, midship is the impressive Piazza, an atrium three decks tall, with a waterfall and a huge Tiffany light covering almost the entire ceiling. The floor is a mosaic of arcs and circles. This is a popular gathering place with a Cafe` serving specialty coffees and delicate pastries including marzipan "Pasta Reale" (miniature fruits), etc. There is also a wine, cheese and sushi bar which encourages sampling of many savory delights. Forward on Deck 5 are a Laundromat and cabins.
Deck 6, all the way aft is the Botticelli Dining Room and toward midship is the Da Vinci Dining Room. Here, midship are located the Reception desk and the shops, then the Gatsby Casino and the Speakeasy Cigar Lounge (this tiny area keeps the Casino smoke free). Forward is the Princess Theater with a red Austrian tucked curtain and red and gold embossed seats. There is a clear, unobstructed view of the stage from every seat. Bravo! The Walnut wood walls add to the understated elegance of the theater.
Deck 7 aft has the Club Fusion, the Photo Gallery, the Explorers Lounge (nightly live shows and music) and the upscale restaurant Crown Grill. Midship there are the Wheelhouse Bar and a well stocked Library with convenient hours. Forward is the Princess Theater balcony with a reserved area in the rear for wheelchairs.
Deck 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, & 14 are all passenger cabins.
Deck 15 has the Horizon Terrace, the Cafe`Caribe and the Horizon Court Buffet. Next, midship is the Calypso Reef and Pool, Pizza and Ice Cream Bar, Neptune Reef and Pool, Mermaid's Tail and Trident Grill. Forward there are other passenger cabins, Thermal Suites and the Lotus Spa.
Deck 16, all the way aft is the upscale Sabatini's Restaurant which is bigger and more impressive than the Sabatini's found on other classes of Princess ships. Here, midship is "Movies Under the Stars" giant screen, and forward are the Lotus Spa, Fitness Center and Aerobics, and the Wedding Chapel (8 weddings this week). During dinner in Sabatini's, we spoke with one of the brides, who was having the reception dinner there, and she expressed high praise for the Princess royal treatment.
Deck 17 has aft the Chill Out, the Fun Zone, Off Limits and the Video Arcade for the young ones, midship the Sun Terrace, and forward the posh Sanctuary, an exclusive relaxing oasis, a "Pocket of Tranquillity," with a nominal charge of $10.00 for a half day or $20.00 for a full day pass.
Deck 18 aft has Skywalkers Nightclub.
Deck 19 aft has Cyber golf.
The ship overall is stylish and elegant with lovely murals like the "Reef Scene" on Deck 16 by Morandi Studios, Sassuolo, Italy (a white on white tile design with accents of the palest pastels, all portraying a dream of an underwater scene). Also in the stairwell in this same area is a painting of two Kimonos in red and black on a gold background. There are many lovely decorations on board to enjoy, interspersed with fresh floral bouquets and live orchid plants.
Service and Food Passenger Services Director Dirk Brand has everything under control. The ship is immaculate (CDC Sanitary Inspection score is a perfect 100) and the service is snappy. The passengers are most acutely interested in the food, of course. Here Princess excels, the Executive Chef Manlio Cuzzolin (Mortegliano, Italy) is excellent. Princess accents Italian food with pasta courses served daily. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and cheeses that add variety and elegance to the menus. Plating was exquisite and the Always Available list featured the following: Shrimp Cocktail, Salmon Fillet, Fettuccine Alfredo, Steak, etc.
Appetizers included Spring Rolls, Fried Calamari, Fresh Fruit plates; Soups included both hearty like minestrone and cream of asparagus and delicate broths, as well as cold ones. Salads were dressed lightly or at the table. There were at least two pasta courses (i.e., Puttanesca, Four cheese rigatoni). Vincent liked the spaghetti alle vongole, especially. Entrees were varied and included meat (beef fillet and prime rib, lamb and veal), fish (lobster tail, crab legs, shrimp, cod, etc.), fowl (chicken, Cornish hen, duck, etc.) and vegetarian (stir fried oriental vegetables, egg plant Parmigiana, etc.).
Dining service onboard is under Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone who epitomizes elegance and style. Service in the Michelangelo was terrific. There are several options with anytime dining selections available. Specific restaurants were for personal choice times and others for fixed times. Our waiters every evening were Sopha and his assistant Panche under the direction of Head Waiter Rui -- impeccable. There is also "An Evening At The Chef's Table" which includes a galley tour followed by a multi-course tasting menu with Exec. Chef Manlio, all for the culinary connoisseur ($75).
We were also very happy to encounter Asst. Maitre D' Pasquale Marino once again. We have cruised with him several times and are always so surprised that he remembers us by name -- he's very personable. All of the crew made us feel very welcome. Approximately one third of the passengers were repeat cruisers on Princess. That is a great testimonial to the fact that Princess is doing an excellent job.
Cabin Baja B301 (deck 11) is a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony decorated in blues and aquas with beige cabinetry trimmed in pecan wood. When entering on the left there is a huge bathroom with many safety rails and a 4'X4' shower with a folding seat. There is a large sink and two small shelves for toiletries. Next, there is a king size bed flanked by two low bureaus with reading lamps. The far wall is all glass with a sliding door to the balcony on which are two chairs and a small table.
When entering on the right there is a huge full length mirror, a triple armoire with two sections for hanging clothes and one section with shelves and a personal safe. Next, there is a long table with a TV console, refrigerator and a cupboard. A desk chair, two beige leather barrel chairs, and a coffee table complete the furnishings. On the walls are two large paintings of the Lake Region of Italy. Our Cabin Steward was Wirot who was helpful and efficient all through the cruise. Just terrific!
Entertainment The "Best Smile At Sea" goes to Cruise Director Lisa Ball -- energetic and friendly, she keeps everyone onboard hopping. We cruise to relax and rest, and there are plenty of nice quiet places to sit and enjoy the sea: The promenade has deck chairs conducive to reading and the library is well stocked! There are several areas with pianists or small combos. Princess Patter reports daily the many events at different venues from the Piazza to the Theater, from the Club Fusion to the Explorer Lounge. In the Piazza there are always demonstrations (cooking, flower arrangement, etc.), music and dancing (music each evening with a violinist, piano and bass, and we especially enjoyed the violinist and Magdalena the pianist). Princess Theater had two excellent production shows: "The Great White Way" pairing musical song hits with dance numbers, and "Once Upon A Dream." Every cruise Maitre D' Generoso does a Champagne Waterfall, tall and terrific, and a cooking demonstration in the Theater with Chef Manlio, very entertaining! The Chinese New Years Eve was celebrated on Jan. 25th; this is the year of the Ox.
In the Explorer's Lounge were comedians, and a lively music group. There are Bingo and Slots Tournaments, Basketball, Shuffleboard, and Table tennis, etc. There is something for everyone.
Ports of Call 1-24-09: Fort Lauderdale, FL -- Sail Away -- 5:00pm 1-25-09: At Sea 1-26-09: Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive 8:00am -- Depart 4:00pm 1-27-09: Grand Cayman -- Arrive 7:00am -- Depart 4:30pm 1-28-09: Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive 7:15am -- Depart 5:30pm 1-29-09: At Sea 1-30-09: Princess Cays -- Arrive 8:30am -- Depart 3:30pm 1-31-09: Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Arrive 7:00am -- Debarkation
Debarkation Princess handles debarkation very nicely. We had wheelchair assistance from our cabin, down to the Gatsby Casino where first come, first served ruled. After about a twenty minute wait we were assisted off and were through passport check, customs and outside by 9:00am, and were at home by 10:00am.
Conclusion This was our eleventh cruise on Princess ships, thus with four more cruises we'll graduate from Platinum to Elite members in the Captain's Circle program which will mean more benefits and perks for us: Preferred Service Package (shoe polishing and complimentary laundry/dry cleaning service), Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up, Upgraded Bathroom Amenities, Complimentary Wine Tasting, 10% Boutique Discount, and other VIP treatment including a special cocktail party with the Captain. These are in part the incentives that make Princess one of our favorite cruise lines. Happy Cruising!
Five of us (2 brothers and their wives, and a sister) travelled together -- between us we had 2 balcony mini-suites next to each other, and an interior cabin. The former were spacious, clean, had ample storage space, and a very generous balcony which easily sat all 5 of us. Service in our cabins was excellent and we really enjoyed being able to place a fruit order each day, which was delivered to our cabin (however the interior cabin suffered from lack of attention in this regard).
The whole ship seemed clean and well cared for and the staff was friendly and helpful. We particularly appreciated our 2 servers in the Provence dining room where we had the "late" seating.
Food onboard was excellent, considering the huge amounts the kitchens had to produce. With the Provence, the Horizon buffet, and room service we never went hungry. We tried the "specialty" restaurant Sabatini's one night and enjoyed the quiet ambience and incredible attention. However, the food was not especially better than what we had in the Provence. So for $20 each extra, we weren't sure it was really worth it.
Every deck seems tohave its own laundry room with about 8 washers and dryers and 2 irons. Soap is for sale and is not too expensive, and neither are the machines. Mornings are a busy time for laundry -- late afternoon is better.
The library is so well stocked that we all regreted lugging books from home in our suitcases.
Internet service is excellent with about 12 stations in all.
Our best shore excursion was "Costa Rica's Favourites with Lunch," with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide in a beautiful country.
We found Princess to be as efficient and competent as any well run hotel and as good as any other cruise line we've traveled on. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend either Princess or the cruise through the Canal (from LA to Fort Lauderdale).
That being said, there were a few areas that concerned us:
Shortly after we boarded we realized that our 2 balcony cabins were on the "smoking" side of the ship. Nowhere in the literature had we noticed that Port side is "smoking." Fortunately for us, neither of our immediate neighbours were smokers, but we did meet another passenger who had a rather unpleasant altercation with the smoker in the cabin/balcony next to his. Next time, we will ensure we are on the non-smoking side of the ship.
Princess offers a variety of shore excursions for each port varying from the sedentary to the energetic. Three of us opted for the more energetic ones and we had issues with some of them. Princess, who seems very safety conscious as far as the ship goes, seems unaware of the laxity of standards on some of their excursions.
The "Huatulco river float" warned of the necessity of our donning life jackets and helmets, so one of our party didn't bring his sun hat, thinking it superfluous, only to find that just the life jackets were distributed and consequently he had to spend an hour or so on the river in the hot sun, hatless.
"Colonial Leon and Bubbling Mud Pots" resulted in our being let loose in a field of hot springs erupting through a layer of mud with the only supervision being 10 year old local children who spoke only Spanish. One of our group received a bad burn to one foot when it sunk into super-hot mud where the group was walking. This resulted in several trips to the ship's well-equipped and staffed medical centre. Although the usual medical fees and costs were waived, the injury had a serious dampening impact on the rest of the cruise for those involved.
The tour through the "Mangrove Tunnels" in Cartagena meant that we were punted (4 to a canoe) around a mangrove swamp (from which all the birds and beasts had fled) in a very decrepit, leaky, tippy, dug out canoe perched inches above the filthy water, by a guide who spoke not a word of English.
Princess needs to send its staff out to re-check some of the excursions it offers!
Princess movies offered in the large theatres were a disappointment in both the selection (too many chick flicks) and the timing (usually middle of the day when we are either at lunch or just returning from a shore excursion). Given the number of "at sea" days, better movie entertainment would easily be possible.
We only went to one of the "Scholarship at Sea" lectures and were treated to a dull lecture, read off a power point display, that was far too reminiscent of my grade 10 geography class.
The ship's photographers, while professional in their finished product, were often intrusive to the point of harassment.
We would have preferred more time in each of the ports -- some of which we were only docked at for half a day -- which was not enough time for sightseeing as well as shopping.
And finally, our shipboard account -- delivered to us on the day before departure -- was full of unexplained "codes" and was almost incomprehensible. It might save frustration in the long run to stop by the passenger service desk every day to check the account and verify all the entries.
Beware of Princess Cruises. Once they get your money, you are on your own. They could care less whether you ever make the cruise ship.
We had booked a 28 day cruise on the Tahitian Princess departing from Papeete, Tahiti on Dec. 19, 2008 and arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 14, 2009. Due to weather, our NW flight from Detroit to LA was delayed 2-1/2 hours and arrived after our connecting flight to Papeete had departed. We called Princess and they were absolutely no help. We were told that we were responsible for making our own arrangements to catch the ship.
We flew to Tahiti the next morning arriving 12-1/2 hours after the Tahitian Princess had sailed for Moorea and one-half hour before she departed for Bora Bora. There were no seats available on commercial flights to Bora Bora, which was the last port we could possibly catch the ship before it sailed for South America.
If we were on our own, we would have had to abandon our dream cruise and forfeit the $19,000+ we already had invested. Princess could have cared less as they already had our money andtheir Princess Gold Travel Insurance does not cover this as a trip cancellation.
Fortunately for us there were 11 other Princess clients (2.0% of the total 640 booked passengers) who also found themselves in the same predicament. We were able to join together and charter an Air Tahiti plane at $1,115 each to fly the 13 of us to Bora Bora in time to catch the ship.
When we returned home we filed a claim for our $2600 in hotel, meal and additional air travel expenses with Princess Gold Travel Insurance. We were only reimbursed $500 each per their trip delay policy, which merely represented a refund of our insurance premium.
We appealed to Alan Buckeley, CEO of Princess. In their response letters Princess basically claims no responsibility for anything, even though they made the transportation arrangements.
It is buyer beware when dealing with Princess Cruises. In all fairness, the cruise was excellent; it is Princess Air's travel arrangements that were the problem.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Jody Brown Western Caribbean December 6, 2008
Ruby Princess Cruise Review 12/6-12/13, 2008.
Pre-Cruise >We drove from Columbia, SC (9.5 hours there, 9 hours back) and stayed at Embassy Suites on 17th St. When we left Columbia at 6:00 am it was 50 degrees, when we arrived in Ft Lauderdale at 3:30 pm it was a sunny 75 degrees!
I have stayed at ES before several years ago and it has been renovated very nicely since then. We chose this hotel because of its excellent location (near the port) and we could leave our car there for the week ($10 a day) in a secure area (TIP -- we are starting to find that most hotels in Ft Lauderdale will not allow you to leave your car there for an extended period of time, so please call ahead).
ES still offers many items that only a full service hotel can offer. An example is having a bellhop take the luggage to the room when you arrive and check out. I also like the feeling of being in a suite (divided living room and bedroom). Rooms here havealways been clean, with a very comfortable bed, a small fridge, comfy couch (that opens up into a bed if needed), and a decent sized widescreen LCD television in each of the rooms. The atrium is noisy, however when you close the bedroom door, it obstructs most of the clatter.
The hotel is also next to a nice shopping center which has a Publix grocery store (where we picked up a few last minute items for the cruise) and a few restaurants. We had dinner at Angelo's (dined there before) and it's been remodeled since June of '07. The food was tolerable; however I think we'll look elsewhere next time we're here. Embassy Suites still offers a pretty good breakfast and for the early risers like me, they have drinkable coffee available around 5:30 am in the buffet area. Bonus for us is at sun rise going up to the top floor and looking at the port and seeing the Ruby Princess for the first time in person.
Unless we found a great rate at a similar class of hotel in the area, we would stay here again with no hesitation.
Embarkation A+ -- This was the best ever embarkation I've ever experienced. We left Embassy Suites at 10:50 am (on a reserved mini-bus), arrived at the port at 11:05 am. After dropping off our luggage with the ship porters, walked over to the security/screening line and we were sitting down at 11:15 am (I am a Princess Platinum member and have priority status) in the port passenger waiting area. At 11:30 am they opened up the partition, we were the first ones in the 'Dolphin' line, received our cruise card and then up the escalator to the ship holding area. We waited there for a couple of minutes and the ship photographer said we could get our 'Welcome Aboard' photo taken now instead of waiting. At 11:40 am we walked on the gangway (one of my favorite moments!) to the ship, had our security photo taken for our cruise card and we were in our cabin at 11:50 am. Total time from hotel to our cabin was an incredibly quick and smooth one hour.
Cabin/Room Steward A+ -- We stayed in cabin D730, a mini-suite near the aft of the ship on port side. Suzi and I have stayed in cabin number D730 on every Princess cruise. We enjoy the quiet location and the cabin has plenty of space with very little foot traffic in the hall. Robes and my tux were already in the room when we arrived.
Fridge stayed nice and cold all week. We brought along a gallon of Arizona Southern Sweet Tea and it fit in the fridge just right!
Room temperature was a nice 72 degrees and the only time we had to touch the thermostat was after we had the sliding glass doors open in the morning to get some fresh air in the cabin.
We noticed three items different than the same cabin on the Caribbean Princess -- both TV's are now 26" widescreen LCD's; the individual lights by the bed do not have dimmer switches on them anymore; and we had a TV guide for the first time. To the best of my knowledge, everything else was the same.
Saturday Port/Sailaway I tried calling 'Dine' to make dinner reservations for Sabatini's, which didn't work. Then tried calling the 'dinner reservation' number and you are placed on hold until it disconnects after 45 seconds. We decided it was time for lunch, so we went upstairs and ate by the pool. Next we did a little ship exploring and around 1:00 pm we went up to Sabatini's (according to the Princess Patter they would have someone there from 1 to 4 to take reservations). No one from Sabatini's was there, so we stood around and finally someone (who did not work in the restaurant) asked if they could help. We explained what we wanted and he went over to the phone and dialed in a number and handed me the phone. The lady took our dinner reservation request and said we would receive a confirmation card (which did arrive on the day we requested).
Jojo (our room steward) came by to introduce himself after we returned to our cabin (hoping to see our luggage, which had not arrived yet, however several cabins by us had theirs waiting for them). He came back about thirty minutes later with our welcome aboard glass of champagne for each of us. We spent most of the afternoon watching the 'Love Boat' on TV as we waited for our luggage. Around 3:00 pm Jojo was in the hallway (he was already calling us by our first names) and asked if he could help us with anything and I told him no, I was just looking for our luggage. A few minutes later he knocks on the door and walks in with a bottle of champagne and apologizes for the wait. We went to muster drill at 4:00 pm (nice having this indoors!) and when we returned, our luggage was just arriving. We unpacked and since it was getting close to changing clothes for dinner, we skipped the usual activities on the pool deck and decided to go out on the balcony for sail away.
Another great moment for me is to watch the other ships leave and then look at the condos and small boats pass by as we sail out of the port to begin our week at sea on a cruise vacation.
Sunday -- Sea Day Weather -- partly cloudy 75 degrees. We are both early risers and after trying a cup of coffee (yuck!) from the buffet, we were both thankful the atrium coffee bar serves something drinkable around 6:15 am. Room service breakfast arrives 15 minutes early today (7:15 am) and then we spend rest of the morning exploring the ship again. Then we sit out on the promenade deck watching our ship glide through the ocean to give Jojo a chance to clean. Suzi and I have lunch together in our cabin as it has become a tradition for us to order room service (usually club sandwiches and a salad) on sea days and enjoy it by ourselves in the comfort of our room.
Most of my afternoon is spent in the casino and I won the blackjack tournament ($500) before heading back to the cabin for dinner.
Formal Dinner was ok and most men wore suits. First time in a long time I saw very few tuxes on a Princess ship on formal dress night.
Monday -- Ocho Rios, Jamaica Weather -- sunny 84 degrees. Not really much to report here that has not been said a million times before and nothing has really changed over the years. Within a couple of seconds after leaving the port area we were asked several times from several people if we wanted to 'party', have our hair braided, need a taxi, going to the falls, need a 'guide', need an island tour, etc. We try our best to avoid these people and simply say no, however some of them still follow you and repeatedly ask what we are doing or where we are going.
We spent a couple of hours walking and shopping at the Taj Mahal shopping center, Harbour Shops and Island Village, bought several items (including three pounds of Blue Mountain coffee at $16 a lb.) and then to Margaritaville for a cold drink and appetizers (too early for lunch). We had a brief ten or fifteen second 'sprinkle' which ruined our morning. For those who have not been here, it's a great place to kick back and relax, nice music and on the beach. Plus it's a great location for ship photos.
Tuesday -- Georgetown, Grand Cayman Weather -- sunny 80 degrees. Suzi and I were married here, so this place always brings back the best of memories for both of us. We had an excellent morning walking around and doing some shopping. I spent a few minutes at La Casa Del Habano looking at the cigars and purchased some excellent Cubita whole bean coffee. We had lunch at Margaritaville (had a table on the balcony that overlooks the main street) and did some shopping in their store.
Not sure why, but the streets did not seem as crowded as they have in the past. I think it has something to do with all of the businesses being open now since the last time we were here when they were still in hurricane recovery mode.
Of all of the islands I've been to in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is the one place I feel the safest at. The island is always clean and no one gestures you into their store.
We had dinner at Sabatini's and to be honest, I was not that really impressed. The service was excellent, however the concept of bringing out a dozen or so 'samples' before the main entrée doesn't really work for me. Most of the food was not eaten and I hate to see it go to waste. The restaurant does have a beautiful location overlooking the aft of the ship; however the place was close to empty. We were the first couple to arrive at 6:00 pm and when we left at 8:30 pm, I would estimate less than a dozen people arrived for dinner.
Wednesday -- Cozumel, Mexico Weather -- sunny 82 degrees. Another great day here walking around and shopping. We always take a taxi from the port to the forum shops and start our little walking journey there. The shops are lined up against the beautiful water front which has some outstanding photo opportunities. Many stores still have the usual 'hawkers' trying to get you inside to shop, however I will say the people who work there are generally very helpful and cheerful. While shopping, I found a Christmas present for Suzi at DI that she has been wanting for a while. When we were done shopping, we took a horse/carriage ride to -- you guessed it -- Margaritaville for lunch and drinks. The fish here is always excellent!
This is one port where you really have to pay attention to the prices while you shop. Suzi and I both saw the same exact item in one place for $18 being sold a block away for $10.
Thursday -- Sea Day Weather -- mostly cloudy 77 degrees. I spent most of the day in the casino and walking around the ship. Suzi continued her usual sea day tradition of reading and relaxing in the stateroom. Since I was inside all day, I wasn't aware until someone in the casino (who had been trying to get some sun by the pool) said that it was overcast with some intermittent rain.
Formal Dinner was excellent and we went to a show afterwards. I did get several compliments for wearing a tux so maybe I'll wear one again next year.
Before turning in for the night, I went to the Purser's office to break some large bills to smaller ones for our tip money. From past experience, I know the last full day of a cruise that this place will have a long line almost all day. Besides the tip money employees receive from the 'Princess auto-tip', we also give a few people additional money for the great service they provide us throughout the week.
Friday -- Princess Cay Weather -- partly cloudy 75 degrees. It was mostly cloudy and some very light rain in the area; however the ship arrived on time as we hear the anchor drop. Then I see a tender boat head out as we discussed when we were going to go downstairs and get off of the ship. Before we can come to a set time, the captain announces that because of inclement weather (choppy seas), our stop at Princess Cays had been cancelled (FYI -- port tax was refunded and put on account). The captain said he was waiting for the tender to arrive back from island and then we would cruise to port Everglades for our scheduled arrival on Saturday morning. This worked out pretty good for me as the casino opened early and I won some money! Since we were now ahead of schedule, the ship slowed down and made a leisurely journey through the many islands in the Bahamas back to the port.
Dinner was excellent and it was nice Monica had some time to talk with us for a while. It was hard to say goodbye to her and Jimmy after having a great week with them. After dinner we went back to the cabin to pack (not one of our favorite things to do!) and then watch a movie.
Saturday -- Debarkation A. This is always a hard day for me as I hate to leave a ship and end our vacation. We had coffee from the atrium coffee bar (need to have exact amount in cash as your cruise card no longer works) and wait in our cabin before heading down to Club Fusion (another Princess Platinum perk) at our assigned time so Jojo can clean our cabin for the next lucky folks who are staying here.
We are supposed to get off around 7:30 am; however they are behind schedule unloading the luggage in the port area. Around 8:15 am our luggage tag color is called and it takes less than ten minutes to get off of the ship, claim our luggage, go through customs and grab a taxi back to Embassy Suites. Princess handles the debarkation process so well. It is always smooth and quick and only a few rule breaking stragglers blocking the exit route.
Ship A+. What can I say; the Ruby Princess is a brand new ship (we were on its fifth cruise) and is very similar to the Caribbean Princess (that we've been on twice) and just as easy to navigate. The ship layout was excellent (no art auction in the isles!), very few announcements, colors were tasteful and Princess also had Christmas decorations in the Atrium and dining room.
It should be noted we do not eat at buffets, but overheard several people say the lay out is still a PITA.
My favorite change to the Ruby Princess compared to the Caribbean Princess is the casino & cigar smoking lounge. The casino feels much better organized and easy to walk around. The cigar smoking lounge is much smaller than the one on the Caribbean Princess and it only has one television. However I really like its new location in the corner of the casino and it is open all day (compared to the Caribbean Princess where it was only open in the evenings).
FYI -- the casino was packed almost every evening and it was hard to find a seat at a blackjack table after 8:00 pm. I saw a woman win $7,100 playing slots late Friday afternoon. I think everyone on the ship 'heard' about it!
Food Service A. Food C+. Food and service are both subjective and I will say upfront I am a very picky eater; however the new 'Chuck Wagon' approach in the dining room (chili, meatloaf, fajitas, etc) had me scratching my head wondering if I was on a Princess cruise or at a truck stop restaurant.
While the food was average at best (meals -- 2 excellent, 1 very good, 1 average, 2 below average/poor), the service was excellent (dinner waiter team was Monica & Jimmy). We ate in the dining room for six nights and at Sabatini's one night. I can honestly say that this is the worst dining room food I've had since my first Princess cruise in 1994. The food on our two RCI Mariner cruises was even significantly better than this cruise. Did this ruin our cruise, no; however it will make us look at other cruise lines where we think the food is better and has similar service.
The only other incident to report was we had asked to sit at a large table (traditional dining, 6:00 pm) when we booked the cruise over a year ago. On the first night we were escorted to a table for four. Another couple did show up, however they told us they were not happy with the table location and were going to change tables. They stopped by the following evening after we already had been seated and asked if we wanted to sit with them at another table. We saw it was a table for four and it was with a different wait-staff team. We declined as we were very happy with our service and to be honest would feel bad that they would loose our tip money.
Entertainment B. CD was ok, honestly nothing noteworthy about him or the staff. We attended two shows (actually tried to attend another one, but found out if you did not show up 30 minutes in advance you had little chance of getting a seat) and both shows were very good. The daily activities show that is on the Princess channel every morning advertised as a 'Live' show was actually taped the day before.
Casino layout was excellent and most of the staff was pretty cheerful.
We also missed a couple of the usual activities we like to attend as they didn't start until 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm and that was too late for us.
Miscellaneous LCD Television was excellent and the satellite service was great the entire week. Think we lost the signal for a few hours on two days. Several really good movies and programs to watch in the mornings and before going to bed. ESPN actually was the US satellite feed instead of the Spanish feed we've had the last few cruises.
Coffee -- once again, this is just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. The buffet coffee is still disgusting, room service coffee was not bad, and dining room service (after dinner) was pretty good. The coffee bar coffee ($1) was pretty good, latte's ($2) were very good (best I could find on the ship that I could drink everyday) and so was the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee ($2). Note: The coffee bar is not supposed to open until 6:30 am, however the same guy was there everyday and served me around 6:15 am without me even asking (IOW, he asked me what I would like, I didn't ask him first). The bakery next door still has great chocolate frosted donuts and excellent sugar donuts.
We did notice the average age was significantly older then our previous cruise last December. We saw a handful of children throughout the week and maybe a dozen teenagers. I would estimate approximately one third of the passengers were retired. These are not bad things, just comments of what I noticed.
We did not like the new Princess Patter look and layout as too many items are left off compared to the previous Princess Patter.
Captain was Tony Yeoman's. Never saw him or his staff, however enjoyed his noon update from the bridge.
We had two big groups on this cruise. A large group from the Mirage (saw them every day in the casino), and Vacations to Go (travel agency) had a singles group (although I never saw any of them after the first day).
When shopping, do yourself a favor and check the ship prices on items you are looking for. We both saw several items that used to be less expensive on the islands and now the ship prices are actually cheaper.
Conclusion We had a very nice relaxing cruise, great weather on a new ship with the best service from almost all of the staff. I can say without a doubt our room steward and our dining room staff would both rate in my top three for service out of sixteen cruises.
This was my tenth Princess cruise and last one for a while.
We're looking forward to our next cruise (10/09) on HAL Westerdam.
If you have any questions, comments or looking for help that I may provide, please contact me (Jody Brown) at email@example.com.
My wife, Ginny, and I cruised on the Emerald Princess to the Southeastern Caribbean, embarking in Ft. Lauderdale on November 30th and disembarking 10 days later on December 10th. The ship was very nice and the staff were excellent. This was our 8th cruise on Princess and it lived up to our expectations.
Parking and Embarkation We drove from Suntree, Florida, just north of Melbourne, Florida, to Ft. Lauderdale's Port Everglades, about a 175 mile drive South on I-95. This required parking at the terminal which was complicated by the fact that the Emerald Princess departed from a different terminal than it planned to return to after the cruise. It required leaving passengers and baggage at one terminal, driving a couple of miles to another terminal and taking a shuttle back. Internet directions did include the correct parking garage but not the correct pier. I followed signs at the port and it worked out okay but created a little anxiety.
Hint: Take cell phones if you drop off passengers so you can contact them if you are separated. It took about 40 minutes to park and shuttle while fellow passengers were expecting 5or 10 minutes. Our cell phone contacts kept everyone informed.
Embarkation was fairly routine and it took only 15 or 20 minutes to board the ship at about 12:30 PM even though the ship was booked to capacity. We had "preferred" boarding passes but went through the regular lines.
Ship The Emerald Princess is a beautiful, 113,000 ton, 3080 passenger ship. Its venues, restaurants, lounges and dining rooms are all similar to the other Princess ships in its class. A couple of very notable exceptions are the renaming and positioning of the steakhouse, the repositioning of the Wheelhouse Bar, and the Adagio Bar. The Crown Grill is now the steakhouse, a much more elegant and upscale restaurant compared to the Sterling steakhouse on similar Princess ships. The Wheelhouse Bar location was traded with the Crown Grill with both locations benefiting. The Adagio Bar sits next to and nicely complements Sabatini's restaurant on deck 17. The Sanctuary of the Lotus Spa is a new venue on deck 17 but we are not spa patrons so don't have a feel for it. The lounges, shops, and casino are all very nice.
Restaurants There are three main dining rooms with two designated for "anytime dining". We elected "anytime dining" and had our choice of either the DaVinci dining room on deck 6 or the Michelango dining room just below it on deck 5. We had no wait of longer than five minutes for dining anytime during the cruise.
Hint: You can make reservations for "anytime dining". You might also avoid times that are real busy if you do not have a reservation. We always dined about 6 PM without a wait.
Sabatini's, one of the personal choice dining rooms, is a special treat. We have tried Sabatini's on several Princess ships and have always been pleased with the service, food and atmosphere. With the Adagio Bar next door, the two make for a pleasant evening.
Hint: Skip a late afternoon snack before Sabatini's because the amount of food treats in the dining experience are big!
The Horizon Court Buffet, where we had our embarkation lunch, several breakfasts, and afternoon snacks is in the Horizon Court. A very nice feature is that it is open around the clock in some form. A hidden feature is the afternoon ice cream and waffle bars which are open around 3:30 PM.
Hint: Don't give up if you can't find "free" ice cream. It was usually on the side marked as "buffet line closed".
The food in all the restaurants was very good. Occasionally we ordered something to try that we didn't care for, but more often than not the things we tried were very good. I didn't care for the smoked sturgeon, for instance, but the butterfish and tiger prawns were excellent.
Ports We didn't take any shore excursions although there were many for passengers who wished to tour the islands, partake in water sports, or shop. Shopping was available within walking distance from the ship at all the ports. The significant near pier shopping was in Aruba and St. Thomas with St. Thomas having a clear edge in variety. Pier side shopping in Grenada, Bonaire and Dominica was meager, at best. You could get local souvenirs.
Hint: If you want to see or experience the island stops, book a ship's sponsored tour. You cannot properly experience the island or its people with a pier side visit.
Shipboard Life We cruise in the Carribean principally to experience the shipboard life. There are a large variety of activities and venues. The pool areas on the upper decks may be the most popular. There is also the casino which we enjoy. The Emerald Princess had a nice variety of games and slot machines in the casino with optional coinless play.
Hint: Establish the coinless bank system for yourself using your cruise card. It is an efficient, fast and safe way to manage money in the casino.
Disembarkation Disembarkation was fast and efficient. We enjoy every minute of our cruises, but waiting around in one of the public areas in order to be called for disembarkation is painful for us. Spoiled? Yes. Princess provides the option for "drag your own bags off" which is nice if you and every one in your party can manage their own bags. We opted for going to a designated area and getting our bags after we disembarked. Bags were well organized in the pier area and it took just a couple of minutes to find ours. Customs was painless.
Hint: Be timely to your designated disembarkation area. Princess was. Have your cruise card, customs form, and passport ready before they are needed.
Staff Every member of the Emerald Princess staff we encountered was excellent. There were smiles and greetings everywhere. We felt comfortable and pampered.
Conclusion We had a very nice time on the Emerald Princess and will sail with them again for the 9th time. Why? We booked an open future cruise with the future cruise consultant.
Hint: Booking a future cruise on board is a great deal. Great benefits, like shipboard credit and lower booking down payment, with little or no risks.
Friday & Saturday-Precruise
My family includes (husband 43, myself-41, daughter-17, and son-15) we began our trip with a 2 night stay at the Marriott Harbor Beach in Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel was beautiful and the beach was so pretty, nice white sand and warm blue water. We did have a couple of rain showers, but that's par for the time of the year. The kids were so excited as the New York Yankee's were also staying at the hotel.
We arrived at the cruise terminal around 12:15, and we were in our cabins by 12:30. We had booked a minisuite and were planning on the four of us sharing that cabin. Then about 3 weeks before the cruise I was checking prices, and found that the cabin prices, had gone way down. We were able to get the kids, an outside cabin on the same deck without paying any more money! I am so glad we did that, as we are not on the same schedule. Our kids had the time of their life, without parents and no curfew! We were in Emerald 720, and the kids in Emerald 229 (waydown the hall on the opposite side). We loved our minisuite, our balcony was covered, and it gave us a lot of privacy. We had breakfast every day on the balcony. We found that room service was terrific. You can order items, which are not on the menu, and they will bring them. After getting settled in our room we explored all over the ship. We were so surprised about the size of the ship. It was raining so, we had a little lunch, and continued to explore.
Had dinner and then when to the cabin and set on the balcony and continued to have a wonderful evening.
We were very happy with this stop. A day at a beautiful beach! We loved just swimming, and snorkeling around all day. Had a BBQ, and then more swimming. Headed back to the tenders around 2:00, and took a nap, showered, and then got ready for dinner. Had dinner and then went to the Marty Allen and Kate Blackwell show. It was okay; I could of easily done without the show, but still entertaining.
Tuesday-Day at Sea
Slept late, then had breakfast on the balcony. We went around to all the different pools and found that the adult pool aft on deck 16 was best suited for us. We found loungers on the sun deck and soaked up the sun and read until we decided it was lunchtime. Our daughter came and found us, and we had pizza with her outside by the pool. Then went back to deck 16 and swam and read the rest of the afternoon. This was the first formal night, my husband and son were all decked out in their tuxes, and my daughter and I had long dresses. We had our pictures taken but they turned out horrible! We shared a table with four other people and had an enjoyable dinner. Then the kids left to hang out with all their new friends, and my husband and I walked around the ship, did a little shopping, and then went to the casino for about a hour.
My husband was scheduled to dive, and the kids and I had schedule the stingray and snorkel trip with Captain Marvin. The kids and scheduled the 10:00-1:00 trip. This was absolutely the best excursion of all time. We were the only 3 on the boat, with two guides. I could write pages and pages about this excursion. My daughter and I were a bit scared of the stingrays, but got over it with the help on our encouraging guides. They also took us to three different places to snorkel. We saw all kinds of different boats just loaded with people. We were able to snorkel all by ourselves without people floating on top of us. My husband also reports that the certified reef dive was terrific! After we arrived back from the trip, did a little shopping, but we were ready to get back to the ship and shower.
Sat on the balcony with my husband, had a couple of beer and just relaxed until it was time to get ready for dinner. The kids decided not to have dinner with us tonight, as they needed to rest before another long evening. We joined a table for eight and had a lovely evening with these people. After dinner, we went to the London Pub Night Comedy show put on by the cruise director. This show was somewhat entertaining, but again I could have easily skipped it.
My husband went on his first ever drift dive and just loved it. He has been diving in Hawaii, St. John's US VI, British VI, and he thought this was his been ever diving experience. I wish I could be as positive about my excursion. The kids talked me into book an ATV four-wheel excursion over the Internet before we left home. This was a three-hour trip over huge rocks and rough terrain. The kids loved it, so I guess it was worth it. The trail was along side the ocean, and the whole time I just kept thinking about spending time at the beach. We did stop halfway through the tour for about a 10-minute swim. If you were young you would also enjoy this trip. Both of the kids drove their own ATV'S and I rode with each of them half of the time. It was really hot in Cozumel, but not too bad on the ATV'S as you are moving along pretty fast. We arrived back at the ship, showered and met up with my husband, and went back into town to shop, and stock up on our drinks. We did not last very long in Cozumel shopping, as it was just too hot. Went back and sat on the balcony and had a few beers before dinner. Had dinner and then went to the casino. I played the slots for a couple of hours and lost $40.00, my husband stayed longer at the craps table and was ahead about $120.00.
Friday-Playa Del Carmen
We took the tender to shore about 10:00, with our daughter who wants to get her hair braided. We walked around and found a lady to do her whole head for $20.00. She has had her hair braided before, and we paid a lot more. While she was getting her hair braided, my husband I did some shopping. Again we really didn't find anything we needed to buy. My son stayed on the ship and swam with his new friends. My daughter went back to the ship after her hair was braided. My husband and I then went to the beach. We loved this beach; there were restaurant and bars along it. We swam, then would have a drink, swam some more and so on. We went back to the ship around 4:00. We stayed on the balcony for a couple of hours before getting ready for dinner. After dinner we just walked around and then went back to our room.
Another lazy day, at the pool. We had lunch on our balcony, because we didn't want to change out of our suits for lunch. They have a great chicken ceasar salad, they we order a few times from room service. We had a nice dinner and then went to the casino for about a couple of hours. We were so sad to be packing our luggage. But then again we knew that we were so fortunate to have had the opportunity to cruise on the Grand, and to have such a wonderful experience to remember.
Overall- fantastic trip, will go on other cruises with Princess, loved their service. Food was so so, but that didn't bother us. Entertainment was always available if you want it. My husband and I preferred to spend most of our time alone together. Our children loved the trip and have been chatting to their new friends non stopped since we arrived home.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by TerryTwo Southern Caribbean November 23, 2008
First, a bit of useful information. While this was our fifth cruise with Princess, this was the first time I noticed it. I was told that it is like this on all Princess ships. That I cannot confirm. I can confirm that on the Caribbean Princess the color of the passenger cabin walkway carpet side trim is a different color on the port and starboard sides. A light red on both sides of the carpet on the port side and turquoise on the starboard side. A quick glance when you exit the elevator and you'll easily find your side of the ship.
After having written several cruise reviews and read a hundred or so, I have come to the conclusion that they are better left to the professionals for an accurate review of what to expect. Why? There are several reasons.
Look at the number of reviews that passengers write compared to the number of passengers. It's about one in five to ten thousand that write a review. Human behavior being what it is, we are far more likely to write areview if our expectations are not met than if they are. It is almost a certainty that at least one of the two to three thousand passengers will be unhappy. (You cannot find two thousand lottery winners that are all happy that they won.)
Cruise ships try to have something for everyone. I, like most cruise passengers, have little to no interest in some of what they offer. (Personally, it would take a very serious inducement to get me into a cigar lounge.)
We all bring a different experience to the cruise. If you live in Vegas and travel to New York a couple of times a year to see some "real" theater, then you'll probably find the entertainment a bit boring. If, on the other hand, this is your first trip outside of French Lick, you'll probably find the entertainment awesome.
So, if you want to know what to expect on a cruise, or from a cruise line, or from a specific ship, read the professional reviews. What we passengers can, and should, provide are bits of useful information; such as the bit about the carpets I provided at the beginning of this review. With that in mind I offer the following information.
Princess has two post and/or pre-cruise hotels in San Juan, PR -- The Marriott and the Sheraton Old San Juan. There is almost nothing within walking distance of the Sheraton. Nice hotel with a small casino, but very little around it. When we next cruise with Princess out of San Juan in February of '09, we'll try the Marriott. When we drove by it on the way to the Sheraton there appeared to be many more places to shop and dine in the immediate area.
Wonderful cruise to Hawaii for a Thanksgiving. The only thing I have to say bad about the ship is that the casino is very tight. Service was perfect in every way. Food was excellent in everyway. Stateroom service was perfect in everyway. Thanks Golden princess. I just think the casino was very tight and I have sailed on this ship more than once.
Two months got the cruise bug again. This time we are taking two adult daughters and a friend. Booked a balcony guarantee for three and a mini guarantee for us.
In short order we got cabin assignments; Baja 743 for them (second cabin from the rear) and Dolphin 215 for us.
Five days before the cruise, I learn the company I had used to obtain the booking has gone belly up. Triple check and our cruise has been paid for and is secure.
The morning of embarkation, we woke up to a weird cloudy sky. Found out quickly that the hills of North Eastern Los Angeles were once again on fire. The strange thing is this exact same thing happened last year when we took the same cruise. In addition, another large fire broke out to the East.
Got our junk together in record time and all five of us met down at the docks just before noon. We would have been on board in record time, except the wife recognized the person who checked us in as an old friend from 18 years ago. So after all the jabbering, we breezedthrough security and were in our cabin by 12:30.
The sky south of the ship was a bright blue, while everything to the North was a dark gray to black, from all the smoke. Went up for a snack at the Horizon Court. Rather strange to look out one side of the ship to a bright San Pedro, and then turn your head to see what appears to be the makings of a terrible storm.
Went forward on Lido to the pool area to watch Ports-O-Call to go by at "sail away". People were swimming, dancing and really trying to have a good time. Unfortunately, the sky was raining ash from the fire 20 or so miles away. Ash from dust-sized particles to large one-inch chunks of burned vegetation fell on the entire county. While most just brushed their hair off or swiped a towel at a chair, some folks were having a problem just breathing. We were not having a great time so decided to fall back into the cabin and wait for the ship to push back.
Just as we were entering the cabin an announcement came over the P/A from Captain William Kent. The brush fires were so bad, 50% of the freeways coming into Los Angeles from the North were closed this morning and were still closed. 300 or so passengers had not made it onto the ship; the Captain stated he had orders from Princess Corporate to delay departure from 4 PM to 7 PM. So much for the great "sail slower and save fuel" concept.
Went to dinner at 6 PM at the anytime "Santa Fe" room. Another disconcerting experience -- we were seated next to a window on the starboard side that was level with the second floor of the cruise center. Eating prime rib and glancing up every so often to see a longshoreman staring at our family eating.
7 PM came and went but the ship stayed put. Captain came on again stating he had been ordered to wait until 8 PM for the last 17 passengers. As it happens, we ran into a couple of the latecomers that night. They said they came into Los Angeles over the "grapevine" expecting to get to the cruise center in the usual 3 hours. Hit a wall of brake lights, waited a while and finally turned around and drove a couple of hundred miles to get around the problem. The 3 hour drive turned into an 8 hour endurance race. More about this later.
A little after 8 PM we pushed back and eased into the channel. The Captain once again came onto the P/A to say everything is fine and we will get into Puerto Vallarta on time.
This is the first time we have indulged in a mini-suite and it may have spoiled us. Dolphin 215, starboard side about 120 feet behind the bridge wing.
For those who have not had the privedge; bathroom is about three feet longer so a bathtub could be wedged into the space. The tub is rather deep and installed even higher to accommodate the plumbing pipes between tub and deck. Only after getting in and out do I find the hand bar that was hidden behind the towels.
I didn't think the extra 12 feet of "sitting room" would make that much difference. I was wrong. The sofa/couch is a welcome addition and the small table and second chair that have always been in the way in our balcony cabins, now have a logical place to be. Half the time when we are in the cabin one of us is on the sofa.
Being on Dolphin, the balcony is about 9' by 10'. A table, two ridged chairs and two reclining chairs fill this area. A table and two full loungers would have been perfect.
Plenty of storage room, about the same for the standard balcony. Only difference is the TV/refrigerator/sideboard looking thing. Shaped in a half circle on the wall opposite the desk, it has two TV's on the top shelf (one for the bed and one for the sitting area), a large granite counter space, refrigerator and two large shelves.
Need an electrical plug, no problem. Just inside the door, a double outlet near the floor, and in the bathroom a single outlet for low amp devices only. A double outlet at the desk and behind each of the two TV's. Nine outlets, no problem, right? The outlets are so close together and the plugs and transformers for my devices are so large, I can only plug in one thing at a time at any of the locations. I guess that power strip I forgot back at home would have come in handy.
We meet our steward, Rico Lalap, who is pleasant enough. The room is set up as twins, so when we ask for the bed to be changed to a queen, with egg crate and robes, he states he'll change the setup within the hour and will try to supply the egg crate and robes today, but can't promise they will be available. We say anything would be appreciated and more than likely these will be the only requests for the week. By the third day, we have no other requests and Rico has a true smile when we pass in the hall.
I set up the laptop at the desk and soon discover I can link up via Wi-Fi from the cabin. Don't know if the ship has been upgraded or it's because we were so close to the bridge. I don't care, just happy for the convenience.
When the ship was first put into commission, the plan was to have one large traditional dining room with an early and late seating. Four smaller rooms were to be used as P.C. (Personal Choice) dining. For this ship 1/3 traditional and 2/3 P.C. Over the years the concept of P.C. changed to "Any Time" with any nuance that the ship itself instituted over the years. Anyway ON THIS cruise this is what's going on. The Savoy, Pacific Moon and Santa Fe are the anytime dining rooms. The International and the smaller Vivaldi are traditional seating. Bottom line, we have anytime dining and have had to wait every night for a table no matter what time we arrive. Don't know if anytime is on the way out or if Princess just changes what dining rooms do, depending on how many people want traditional.
And now a word about dining room dress code. On the first night we saw someone turned away because he was wearing shorts that were mid calf. Ten minutes later a man with shorts and T-shirt was shown to a table. On the first formal night, a man was turned away from two rooms because he had no tie. The third room he was admitted without a problem. Whatever dress code there is depends on who is working the door.
We sailed South at the normal fuel burning 21 knots and arrived at the scheduled time of 10:00 AM in PV. Other than a walk over to Wal-Mart, we just enjoyed the empty ship. After leaving Puerto Vallarta, my wife spoke with a woman who lives in the "valley" in Los Angeles, a 90 minute drive on a normal weekend. Due to the fires closing freeways, they got to the pier at 8:45, long after the ship had cleared the break water. They flew down to P.V. to meet the ship.
In Mazatlan, we found the old cruise center had some new paint and another room had been added. But the passengers getting off the tram still have to deal with a gauntlet of time share salesmen, vendors and 20 or so men trying to get you into their limo, R.V., taxi or golf cart. Since the cruise center only allows certain sales people in, they must have to pay for the privilege. In other words, the cruise passenger is subjected to the pushiest salespeople I have ever seen with the approval of the cruise center. New paint on the cruise center, calling the clean part of town "Golden Zone" and calling every day hotels "resorts", Mazatlan is still a small industrial city that needs to clean up more than just the streets. Anyway, the five of us went to Stone Island using King David. Several hours of quiet time near the beach with some simple food and a plate of boiled shrimp. Yes there were a few vendors selling the usual stuff. A simple no and they move on. A return trip to Stone Island in the future is not out of the question.
In Cabo, we again opted to stay on the ship. This is the abbreviated stop so anything one plans can only last a few hours. After 1:30, the last passengers returned from shore but we didn't leave. There was a mechanical failure in the life boat's wenching system that was never actually repaired. It took hours to recover the tender/life boat and the ship did not pull anchor until long after sunset.
Princess had again scheduled the Sapphire to sail slower to conserve fuel and return to Los Angeles at 8:00 AM, two hours later than the usual 6:00 AM. Again the Captain had to drop the hammer and head North at full speed. We were told we would dock at 11:00 AM, but due to the lack of head winds we shaved an hour off the time. Our disembarkation group was to meet in the Casino, rather surprised that there were less than 30 people there. As we waited for our group to be called for disembarkation, we watched Christmas decorations being put up about the ship. We were off and on the way home by 12:20 PM.
The ship itself was in excellent condition. Bright paint, only sign of wear I found were the hand rails inside the elevators. Even the carpets looked new. I know the ship is more than a few years old, so I did look for anything negative I could find. Two burned out light bulbs, that's it.
Overall the food quality was good, only excellent quality we experienced was the one night we tried Sterling. Horizon Court food was sometimes cold and on the greasy side. Items on the standard room service menu tended to be dry. Service in the dining room was excellent as usual.
The CD and staff were bright and cheery but seemed plastic at times. Happened by a "repeat" show one night and saw the assistant CD do the exact four minute intro word for word. A number of different stage productions were presented during the week, I don't think there was a repeat performance of any one show. There were a few "comedians" who did 30 minute shows who only had a good 10 minutes of material. Quite a few pax were observed to leave the theatre in the darkness. Dan Bennett performed three shows one night but was sandwiched in between the Newlywed Show and movies; he had to cut his act short due to time constraints. Too bad, his act was the best available for the entire week. I can only assume Princess has cut back on the budget for entertainment and depends more on stage shows, movies and shows costing nothing since the talent is provided by the passengers for talent such as Princess Idol.
Hopefully Princess is paying attention. We have cruised with this line repeatedly because of the attention to detail and quality of product provided in the past. In my opinion, it appears they have started to cut corners as far as food and performers brought on board. As mentioned, they attempted to save money by reducing ship speed. It makes one wonder where else the bean counters have forced cuts.
All five of us had a great time. My 20 something who had turned her nose up at the thought of a cruise quickly planned her day around trivia and bingo. Like her father, she looked for somewhere to hide so she wouldn't have to get off the ship.