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Caribbean Princess Sept 2-9, 2006
Our trip began Sept 1 at our little airport. Our flight to Atlanta was at 6:00 AM, so we had to get up at 0-dark 30. Upon arriving at the Airport, at about 5:15, we were given the option of flying to Cincinnati instead on the 5:30 flight. We jumped on that deal as it would eliminate a 3-1/2 hour layover in Atlanta and get us to Ft Lauderdale 2 hours earlier.
When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale the Princess Rep greeted us at the baggage claim. She was there picking up others and was surprised we arrived so early. We had to wait about 20 minutes for others and then we loaded up in the bus to our hotel. We let Princess make all the arraignments and they put us up at the Marriott north, which is near nothing. It would not have been our pick for a pre-cruise hotel. The hotel was okay, just an inconvenient location. Rita's son Rob drove down from Orlando and met us at the hotel around 3:00. That evening, in a driving rain storm, we met up with some roll call folks at Mangos restaurant, which was about 10 miles from our hotel. We had a nice meal and a few drinks and socialized for a couple hours. The food and atmosphere was very good. We give Mangos a thumbs
Rob took us back to the hotel and spent another hour or so with us. It was a tearful good-bye as he headed back to Orlando that evening.
We slept in Saturday morning and had a late breakfast, as our bus was not arriving until 1:30 to take us to the ship. We arrived at port around 2:00 and were awestruck by the size of this ship. Wow, it was huge. They had the embarkation lines set up per decks, and we got in ours, the Riviera deck 14. In line we talked to some folks behind us that were taking their very first cruise. They wanted us to explain the procedure. I told them after they were checked in and received their key cards they would be on their way, with a stop to have their photo taken and their weight in! They said WHAT? I explained to them they would have to weight before and after the cruise. Their smiles dropped to a shocking look until they realized we were only kidding. They were good sports and got a good laugh out of that.
After finally getting on the ship about 2:30, we were surprised that no one was taking anybody to their cabins. They had staff giving directions and had the whole area jammed up with folks waiting for theirs. We slipped thru the crowd and took the stairs on up to deck 14, port side and found our cabin. We were pleasantly surprised with the size and we had our first balcony. It was very small with a plastic table and two chairs, however it was a balcony!
After a meal in the buffet we did a quick tour of the ship and found our dinning table for our traditional late seating in the Island dinning room.
The standard lifeboat drill was unusual for us as all we had to do was grab our life jackets and head to the Club Fusion down on deck 7. We were a little early and got comfortable seats. The drill consisted of listening to an eight minute prerecorded message. After that you just put the jacket on briefly and you are finished. No standing out in the heat and humidify for 15 minutes wearing those hot jackets. We liked that!
After the drill we returned to our cabin and unpacked, as our stuff showed up. That made us about 15 minutes late to our sail away meet with our roll call mates at Blackbeards. The band was playing a good Jimmy Buffett Rumba so we opened up the dance floor in front of the bar. Unfortunately no one joined us. We are not shy when inspired! We did not get to meet everyone, however we met a lot of the folks there and another meeting the next day at Outriggers.
Although large, the ship was very easy to negotiate and to get around. Since we were on deck 14 almost aft, all we had to do was walk a short distant and out the aft door and up about 3 steps to the aft pool and Outriggers Bar. Now that was very convenient. The buffet was just thru the sliding glass doors. There was two buffets, however they almost seemed like one. Our dining room was mid-ship deck 5, the same deck as our original booked outside cabin. The other 2 dining rooms for free style, or as they called it, personal choice dining was on deck 6. There was a pay steak house and an Italian restaurant, however since we liked our table mates we just stuck to our dinning room and table 253.
The food was okay, not the best and not the worst we've had on a cruise ship. It was definitely better than what we get back home again in Indiana. Our table mates from Nashville, TN and Raleigh, NC were great. It was me and another Keith with six lovely ladies for a week. Life is grand! The service was outstanding and we slipped an extra to our waiter and bus boy on our final evening. We had all the standards, lobster, beef wellington, crab legs, cold soups, etc. Do not get the cold pumpkin soup--it was terrible. Not the same as what we once got on our first Carnival cruise. Baked Alaska and the standard conga line was on our last evening. I asked for bread sticks on our first evening and never had to ask for them again. There was not a separate wine steward, just our waiter and he was very knowledgeable. We even attended a wine seminar and picked out a nice white wine. We also enjoyed a bottle from our TA.
The buffet was okay for breakfast and lunch, just not anything to write home about. The little round pancakes are like rubber. To get regular pancakes you had to have breakfast in the dining room, which we did on a couple occasions. We had lunch in the dining room a couple times, as well. We do enjoy the great service and setting with and meeting fellow passengers.
The only show we attended was to see the comedian Carl Strong. We met him at the Wheelhouse bar a couple days before his show and promised him we would attend. He was very funny and we enjoyed his show. We also met Bert Stratton and watched him a couple times in the standing room only Crooner's Martini Bar. He put on a very good show.
We mainly hung out at the a fore mentioned Wheelhouse as they played live dance music most of the evening and sometimes as late as 1:00 AM. The Jackie Harrison Trio played early and Phoenix Rising played later, after our dinner. We danced before and after dinner and it helped by burning up some of those extra calories we were accumulating. We also danced a couple times in the Explorer Lounge to the music of Domino and in Club Fusion to the Music of Vibz. We visited Skywallker's Nightclub a couple times but the psychedelic hip-hop was not for us. The music and dancing in the Wheelhouse was the best part of the cruise for us.
We donated to the casino and received our donation back. That was a first as we broke even for the week. We also entered the slot tournament and for a while I was on the board for the finals and Rita was on the board for the lowest score. I did not make the finals and her low score was surpassed right at the end.
We had the usual great cabin service and we tipped our steward extra beyond the auto tips being added to our account each day. As far as the balcony, we hardly used it. The only breakfast that could be ordered from room service was continental. One morning they did offer the Champaign breakfast for $25, however we did not order it.
The itinerary was St Thomas, St Martin, and Princess Cays. In St Thomas we shopped and Rita found a nice dance dress. We also shopped in St Martin and found a few things. In Princess Cays we found a nice spot under a palm tree where Rita laid out while I snorkeled with my digital camera in a waterproof pouch. Actually I and just swam under water at the man-made reef taking photos and video clips without the snorkel equipment.
Other notes: The coffee in the dinning room was great but sometimes stale in the buffet. The photographers did a good job and we purchased a couple of our formal photos. The Australian Cruise Director was pretty funny and did a TV show each morning describing the upcoming daily activities. It was called Whazup TV. The AFT and FWD pools are adult only. We mainly laid out at the AFT pool and on the first sea day security actually enforced this and ran off some kids. The whereabouts of their parents was unknown. All and all it was a great cruise to celebrate Rita Ann's early retirement! Our first Princess experience was a good one and we would cruise with them again.
A highlight was meeting Cheryl and Wayne and their lovely daughter at the Lauderdale airport. They treated us to a nice lunch and we thank them for that. We now understand how their son Jason does such a great job with CruiseCrazies--he has tremendous roll models, and they are very proud of him!