Overall Rating: Excellent
|Destination:||Caribbean - Southern|
|Departed From:||Ft. Lauderdale, FL|
|# of Nights:||9-10 Nights|
|Overall Value:||Very Good|
If you are looking for a relaxing itinerary on a beautiful ship, then this cruise on the Royal Princess is perfect for you! After a hectic non-stop Mediterranean cruise last fall, we were ready to "escape completely" to a sunny clime on a beautiful new ship, and this one delivered!
Not trusting the Chicago weather, we flew in a day before and stayed near the port. Princess had sent notice of staggered check-in times (probably because this is one big ship) and our deck (Dolphin - Deck 9) was scheduled to check in between 12:30 - 1:30. We arrived at the port at about Noon to no lines. We received our keycard and were directed to a seating area. After about 15 minutes our area was called and we were quickly aboard ship. Cabins were ready, as was lunch up in the Horizon Court on Deck 16. Our standard balcony cabin was aft on Deck 9 (D628.) This ship has numerous pricing categories based on deck, but also based on location on the deck - 4 categories from stem to stern. We chose a cabin within the last price category toward the rear and it turned out to be a good location as we were just rear of the life boats. Life boats stick out halfway over the ship sides and will limit view on Decks 6-9. The cabin was smaller than on other ships but used space well. The balcony was narrow, but sufficient for the two nice deck chairs with a small table. The bathroom was positively miniscule! Think - linen closet rather than room, ha! On a positive note, you could do everything at the same time because you could reach the sink, shower and commode from any position!
There was ample storage space for our 10-day cruise and our stateroom steward kept everything spotless. He was the best we have had on any cruise...even taking note of passing comments and acting on them immediately! Our ice bucket was refreshed twice daily, our balcony was cleaned and placed in order twice daily; we did not want for anything in that regard.
The food venues on this ship are plentiful and well-attended. The Horizon Court is very large, with plenty of different sized tables. There is also a "bistro" section which is decorated in lighter colors with tables, high-tops, bar areas....we never had trouble finding seating. The buffet areas were well-maintained with lots of choices. AND.......there is the Pastry shop, with a wonderful selection of desserts, cookies, cupcakes.....yum! On Deck 5 you find the International Cafe which is on all Princess ships; food offerings at no extra charge along with specialty coffees and teas that do carry an extra charge. The tea selection is the biggest I have seen on any ship. There is also a gelato shop on Deck 5 at extra charge, but very reasonable (and very good!) I had a 3-scoop turtle sundae with all the toppings for $3.75. There are specialty restaurants at an extra charge - a steakhouse (very good,) Sabatini's Italian, and a seafood restaurant. BUT - there is also a sit-down pizzeria - Alfredo's - that did NOT incur an extra charge and it was fabulous! You could get all kinds of individual thin-crust pizzas along with appetizers, salads, soups, pastas, and desserts. We ate there twice! There is both traditional and "anytime" dining in the main dining rooms. We always go with "anytime" dining and can share a table or not, as the mood strikes each day. The food and service in the main dining room was always good.
Sun and pool decks have lots of deck chairs - we never had a problem finding a chair in either shade or sun, with noise or without - meaning, near the movie screen and pool games, or away from the "pool action". There are also beautiful outdoor seating sections at the rear of the ship and on Deck 7.
Lots of entertainment venues and bars, most with live entertainment nightly. We especially like the wine bar on Princess ships - Vines. Nice wines with tapas plates offered at no extra charge. The casino is small but bright - airflow is good so we were not overcome with smoke in any section - slots and tables were busy!
We were scheduled to stop at Princess Cays on the first day out but could not due to rough seas - we could hardly feel movement on the ship, but the tenders would have had a hard time so we enjoyed an extra day at sea. They quickly revised the Princess Patter daily newsletter and added more activities to the schedule. The rest of the ports went well: St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire and Aruba. Shore excursions were all good and well-organized. We never had a problem (or a line) trying to get off or back on the ship. These ports of call kind of lend themselves to relaxing days....good beach days on Aruba and Bonaire and walkable town areas that are close to the port. Our highlight was a whale watching tour in Dominica. Because of the deep waters surrounding that island, several species of whales frequent the waters with a resident species of sperm whale. At this time of year you see nuclear families of sperm whales - HUGE whales - swimming and diving together. It made for a very exciting and fun day.
The disembarkation process was very organized and fairly painless (considering you do have to get off!) One service that Princess provides is EZ-Check luggage service. For a $20 charge you can check your luggage all the way through from ship to home; no collecting it in the warehouse and dragging it through customs and nothing to tend to at the airport, since they also check you in and provide you with boarding passes delivered to your stateroom. Since our flights are usually after 5 p.m. this frees us up to roam the city or take another excursion. To us it is well worth the small fee.
This was our 7th cruise with Princess (our 19th overall spanning four different cruise lines) and we were extremely pleased with the whole experience. The ship is big, but we never waited nor wanted for anything. The venues were not overcrowded and operations were well-organized. This itinerary was perfect for a winter getaway and can be coupled with a different 10-day itinerary to make a nice 20-day BtoB cruise. Well done, Princess!