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We flew to Fort Lauderdale a day early and stayed at the Rodeway Inn and Suites Airport. Most reasonable room rate and despite the aircraft noise at night we had a good sleep. The room rate included a continental breakfast which was very nice. The hotel was full as 7 other ships were scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale next day. These included the Eurodam, Ruby Princess, Navigator of the Seas, Carnival Freedom, MSC Orchestra plus our ship, the Emerald Princess. There was one other but I can't remember it!
We took the hotel shuttle to the cruise port next morning arriving there about 12.15p.m. The lines moved quickly and we were on board before 1p.m.
The first thing that catches your eye is the lovely atrium and ceiling. The soft beiges and tan colors add a touch of class to one's embarkation. We soon found our room on Dolphin deck. This was a mini suite midship. Bigger than a regular balcony stateroom it was tastefully decorated in rich warm colors and was spotless. The bathroom was equipped with a bath and I utilised this on our last night.
Emerald Princess is huge. However at times we felt crowded especially in the Lido dining area.We noticed quite a few changes from other Princess ships we have been on . Sadly they were not always for the better. (I will give my thoughts on the good and not so good at the end of this review)
Sailaway was a pretty tame affair. Perhaps 30 people at the most. I enjoyed watching the other ships depart before us whilst Donna was having her raffle ticket drawn during the sail away party and she won a bottle of champagne!
We were among over 800 Canadians and 500 Brits on this cruise which really was most unusual. The cruise director was from the U.K. and was one of the oldest we'd encountered.
Some of the ship's lounges were identical to both the Sapphire and Caribbean Princess ships. The wheelhouse bar where trivia was held, was turned into a British style pub complete with pub food on sea days.
The shops and photo galleries were never busy-at least when we were there. The Piazza where we saw dancers perform was quite a sight to see. The wine bar, pastry center and speciality coffee bars all surrounded this Piazza and were a hive of activity.
The 9 hole mini golf course on deck 19 was in dreadful condition with worn out matting throughout.
I used the gym a few times but it was hard to keep one's balance on sea days especially on the treadmills.Strangely I did not see any rowing machines.
We did a tour of the spa and listened to the outrageous prices being offered for their treatments and products but it was interesting nevertheless.
My wife did the 'Walk for the Cure' on the 2nd to last sea day. It had to be done indoors as the decks were too wet after a sudden downpour. Only about 40 people took part but many had donated and over 1500 dollars was raised.
Shore excursions were a mixed bag mostly positive We did two on our own in Barbados and St. Thomas.These came up to the same price as the ship's excursions except we stayed longer on the beaches. Highlights for us were the bus tour of St Lucia and the train ride in St. Kitts. All of the Islands we went to appeared packed with tourists especially Barbados which looked like dis-organised chaos to us!!
O.K. it's time to do the pluses and minuses!!
Anytime dining. As long as you are prepared to share a table it was instant accommodation. 95% of the folks we encountered were very friendly.
The Wheel house Bar at Sea. Wonderful British style food.
Stateroom service. Leo our steward from the Philippines was friendly and kept our room spotless.
Passengers- friendly and accommodating from around the world.
The Not so good.
Very high prices for drinks. E.g. 8.95 for drink of the day.
Poor cruise staff interaction.
Watered down drinks at the repeat passenger party.
With one exception,
Very poor lounge entertainment.
A feeling of "go to bed the night's over" after each show.
As mentioned earlier, the ship felt very crowded at times.
The food was so so.
The Crown Grill was an awful experience! Meat was undercooked, soups were scalding hot and the service was indifferent. ( I received a refund after my complaints)
Yes, the Princess line needs an overhaul. We will enjoy the cruise on the Celebrity Constellation I'm sure but the new Carnival Dream will be our ship in 2010.