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This was our 19th cruise and our 6th on Princess, sailing to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had first cruised Sun Princess in 1997. Flying into Ft Lauderdale we arrived at 11:20am, picked up our luggage and affixed the Princess luggage tags, and took a taxi to the Terminal 4 for $15 including tip. They were passing out Bahamas immigration forms and health questionnaires to people in line. The line moved quickly and the Platinum Check-in desk would be more effective if people had filled out their forms online or ahead of time instead of at the counter. We were through security and onboard before 1pm.
We were assigned cabin C623, a BD balcony cabin on Caribe deck, starboard side, near the aft elevator. The Sun class takes a standard oceanview cabin and carves a balcony out of it, reducing the remaining space in the cabin. I still think Princess has some of the smallest cabins of any major cruise line. The closet was about half of what we normally expect, and drawer space was at a premium. You could not open he cabin door and the closet, or the closet and the bathroom door at the same time. The twin beds made up as a queen are hard and the two mattresses separate. The balcony is adequate with two light plastic chairs and a round table. The refrigerator holds two bottles of champagne and an ice bucket. We brought 5 bottle of champagne aboard in our carry-on?s with no problems. There is also an occasional chair, a dressing table with side drawers and a stool.
We checked the dining room arrangements at 2nd seating traditional dining and found that we had been seated at a table for 4 in the Regency Dining Room when we had requested table for 2 eight months ago. We were told to return at 3pm to see the Maitre? De after lunch in the Horizon Court buffet. We waited 1 hr and 15 minutes to see him, and they assigned us a reserved table for 2 in the anytime dining Marquis Dining Room. In conversation with him days later we found that while he usually has seating problems worked out within the first two days, it took him 5 days to resolve all the issues this cruise. He was most gracious, and we ultimately loved the table we were assigned and the staff. Boat Drill was held in the Vista Lounge for our area, and there was no on deck drill. After enjoying the Wheelhouse Bar for cocktails and predinner dancing to a 4 member group called Legends, we went to dinner at 8:15pm. As it is anytime dining in the Marquis Dining Room, there was a line at the door, but after a few moments we just walked past them to our reserved table. We were assigned table 36, a real table for two in a great location. Some tables for 2 are just longer tables with glass dividers placed on the table between pairs of guests, but ours was a real table for two. Our waiter, Antonio, from Mexico City, was also the wine steward, and Samphan from Thailand was our assistant waiter, who always made sure we had seconds or a second entr?e if desired. Antonio is in training to become a head waiter, and also participates in wine tasting events and wine displays. I appreciated his professionalism. Prime Rib and fish were our entrees for the first night. My wife loves fish and was very pleased that over the week she was able to enjoy tilapia, king clip, turbot, swordfish, zander, seafood turnover, lobster thermador, and lobster tails, just to name a few. And we remembered that Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail are available on request any night. After more dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar, we turned in after our first busy day.
The alternative dining was is Sterling Steakhouse. It has a NY style steakhouse menu but the atmosphere is very lacking for $15 per person cover charge. The steakhouse simply ropes off a section of the Horizon Court, puts table cloths and candles on the table and dims the lights. The other half of Horizon Court buffet is still open for business. There is no comparison to a Sabatini's, or Pinnacle Grill, etc. We chose not to eat there for the lack of atmosphere and the fine dining and service available at our table for two.
A word on evening entertainment. There are three production shows in 10 days, an introductory show, a Paris-style Review, and a Broadway Review which was superb. There was also a singer and a comedian, movies in the Princess Theatre and on TV, events like a hoe down and an Island night and buffet on the Riviera Deck, dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar and in the Disco?which did do slow dancing for an hour most nights at 9:30pm
On Day 2 we arrived in Nassau for a short visit, since Princess ships have not been going to Princess Cay since the August hurricanes. Unfortunately we have only been able to visit Princess Cay once in all the past Princess Cays, usually due to weather and tendering problems. The Nassau stay was only scheduled from 7:30am to noon. After a 9:30 breakfast of eggs to order in the Horizon Court buffet, we headed ashore. Having been there often we just walked a bit, but did find a Senor Frog?s, about a block past the straw market overlooking the waterfront/harbor. Unfortunately, while the ship opened at 11, the bar and restaurant doesn?t open until 11:30, when we had to be back on the ship. After a pizza in Verdi?s Italian Trattoria onboard the ship, we had the rest of the day like an at sea day to relax and enjoy the sun. There was a wine tasting of 5 wines for $7.50 per person and if you purchased any bottle of wine on the wine list at the end of the tasting, you received a $5 credit. They were also advertising another event later in the cruise for $25 per person which would taste Opus One and other ultra premium wines.
Day Three was a sea day and the first of two formal nights. There are no semi-formal nights any longer. On a 10 day cruise we had 8 resort casual nights and 2 formal nights. This was the day I began to appreciate the Captain?s Circle Platinum benefit of free internet service. They charges show each time you use the system in the internet caf?, but they are credited back before the last day for Platinum and Elite members. I ultimately use over $133 of internet time at no charge. We enjoyed eggs benedict in the dining room for breakfast and found that we could get them on request there every day. Lunch in the Horizon Court was a Mexican buffet. They had set up a table to take flower orders in the atrium, and I was able to order a white rose wrist corsage for my wife. Lines for formal portraits were short, with little or no waiting. There was a Captain?s reception in progress on three levels of the atrium, but no receiving line, and a few drink servers and food servers circulating. Dinner was lobster thermidor, one of my favorites, and prime rib. Again we enjoyed the Wheelhouse Bar for dancing. The Legends group splits the evening with another 3 person group whom we also enjoyed. Frankly, we had more opportunity to dance to 50?s to 90?s music than on any ship in years. We loved it.
Day Four we arrived in St Thomas a bit later than planned due to headwinds, and didn?t arrive until 7:45am and were docked in Crown Bay, a new pier with no shops three miles from downtown, in the opposite direction from the West Indian Company Dock at Havensight. There were 6 ships in port and we and the Zyndaam were banished Crown Bay. We had scheduled a private excursion and wanted to get an early start, so we had continental breakfast in the cabin. There is no full breakfast available from room service. The passengers have to go through an immigration check and the lines were enormous by 8am. If you have an early excursion you must be in line early. They did let passengers off as soon as they individually had been cleared, however. We took a taxi to Red Hook for $8 each where we were met by Capt Sharon Allen of the Winifred at 9:40. Those interested can see her site at http://www.sailwinifred.com/ We had a 5 hour day sail on a sailboat with only 6 guests, including lunch, champagne for our anniversary?as the excursion was my wife?s anniversary present to me?, snorkeling with a guide off Caneel Bay where I say large turtles close enough o touch, coral, large barracuda, a moray spotted eel, and many sting rays, open bar, and a generally great day. The weather was beautiful. We took a taxi back to Crown Bay but had him stop about two blocks from the pier where I could purchase Virgin Islands Cruzan Rum in a grocery store. Back onboard after a nap, dinner was Continental, with pate?, escargot, onion soup, pepper steak, raspberry cr?me Brule and a great wine. There was a country hoe down on the Riviera Deck after dinner, then dancing available there. A great day.
Day Five was St Maarten/Martin, where we had a nice long port visit from 6am ? 6pm. After breakfast in the Horizon Court and a bloody Mary special ($3) we noticed it was showering. We waited a few minutes for it to let up and then walked down the pier to the car rental where we rented a new Toyota with a/c for $45 plus tax. We drove to Cupacoy Beach, beyond the airport and Simpson Bay, nearly to the French side to a beach we have enjoyed in the past. Clothing is optional but there were people there dressed normally also. Snorkeling was quite good, with many fish and squid visible. Chairs and umbrellas are available for $5 each, the there is a refreshment stand. The umbrella came in handy when a slight shower passed. For lunch we drove into Marigot, and stopped at a grocery store on the north side of town, where we purchased a bottle of Bordeaux for $3.30, a baguette for 92 cents, and cheeses for about $5.50 and drove to around the island past Grand Case, Orient Beach, and stopped at Dawn Beach for a picnic. We drove back to Phillipsburg, parked a few blocks off the shopping area, and walked in to do our shopping. Front Street has been turned into a pedestrian walk and all traffic now uses Back Street. In addition, they have developed a boardwalk that is very pleasant. We shopped at Diamonds International where we found a ruby and diamond bracelet for my wife for her anniversary, and stopped at Gulamars for our liquor purchases. We?ve shopped there before and can?t find anyone in the Caribbean who beats their prices. After returning the car and being shuttled to the pier, we enjoyed dinner , including jambalaya.
Day Six, our anniversary, was a visit to St Kitts. We arrived in Basseterre at 7am, but we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. We walked the streets and Independence Park, but the weather was very hot and humid and there was little to see except the shops, the churches, the museum, etc. We did find a nice place, Jimmy?s, on the second floor balcony overlooking the waterfront, museum, and Circus?a mini replica of Trafalgar, were Caribe and rum punch refreshed us. Having been to the beaches here on a previous cruise we omitted that this time, and returned to the ship. We were pleased to find our door had been decorated with Happy Anniversary balloons. My wife dressed in a dress we had purchased in Martinique for our anniversary dinner, and champagne and dancing. They had an island buffet set up on the Riviera deck at 10:30pm but ran out of the meat entr?e by 11pm. The rest was fruit and desserts. Tropical leis were distributed and Legends played dance music.
Day Seven we arrived in Barbados at 7am. Also in port were our sister ship Dawn Princess, the Royal Clipper which we sailed on from here in 2001, and the Sunbird. After continental breakfast on our balcony we went to the terminal to shop. We have been to Barbados several times, and this time opted for a ship?s excursion on the notorious Jolly Roger cruise, and it was notorious. The ship used to berth in the shipping harbor but due to security it is now at a nearby yacht harbor and we taxied there. Once underway, there was unlimited rum punch and soft drinks, and you could purchase three bar drinks for $5. Souvenir cups and pirate bandanas were also for sale. We sailed along the west and south coast for a bit over an hour and then anchored off a beach just to the east of The Boatyard, and west of the new Hilton. They tendered those who wished in to the beach for an hour, while others stayed aboard to swing on a rope into the water, walk the plank, or just enjoy the free rum punch. By the time we returned from the beach, the party was in full swing, including a mooning and one topless rope swinger! On the way back there was a conga line, dancing and a generally great time. On return to the ship there were having a sangria special with strawberries at the pool bar, and then I needed a nap!! Dinner was lamb, surf & turf (shrimp) or giant prawns. After some internet, checking on photos, dancing, and a late night pizza at Verdi?s, we were forced to regretfully call it a day.
Day Eight we arrived in St. John?s, Antigua, at 9am on Sunday. Many shops were closed. Alongside us was P&O Oceana, another sister-ship to Sun with a shipload of British passengers. I noticed the balcony furniture was more elaborate than on Sun. We shopped a bit, then returned for a lunch of Valencia Paella. We then hired a taxi for four hours for $50 to take us to Long Bay for snorkeling and sunning and a narrated tour of the island on the way. Long Bay was perfect for snorkeling on the reef in relatively shallow water where there were whole schools of fish. It has a nice bar and restaurant steps away, with restrooms. Lounge chairs were $5. A short shower produced a beautiful double rainbow and we had a great time. Rum punch was $3.75, beer $3, and French fries $2. We returned to the ship about 5:20pm and it sailed at 6pm in the sunset. After cocktails and dancing we enjoyed shrimp cocktails and rack of lamb, jumbo prawns, and bruschetta specially prepared for us by a headwaiter who had offered the night before. Very tired, we turned in by 11:30, viewing only a short portion of the Buddy Bane music/comedy show.
Day Nine was a sea day and the second formal night, and Captain?s Circle reception, and champagne waterfall. I ordered another, this time, red rose corsage. We had breakfast in the dining room again, eggs benedict of course, and lox and bagels. On the internet I found that while we were sunning, at home it was 18 degrees F, the coldest Dec 20 since 1942 and two inches of snow. THAT is why we were in the Caribbean! After a day of sunning, reading and relaxing, we dressed for formal portraits, the reception and dinner at 8pm of lobster tails and beef Wellington. We enjoyed the excellent Curtain Up show at 10:15 and then went to the atrium to watch the Maitre De put glass number 654 on the stack and begin pouring champagne over it. My wife had her photo taken with him while pouring. There were streamers and dancing and a wonderful evening.
Day Ten, our last day at sea, we enjoyed breakfast in the Horizon Court and watched the Queen Mary 2 pass 4000 yards off our port bow. It was a cool 71 and windy, with a little motion as we passed through the Bahamas behind a storm that was now 1,000 miles away. Italian lunch in Horizon included cioppino, fried calamari, and steamed shrimp. The inevitable surveys, baggage tags for debarkation, and debarkation instructions awaited us in the cabin. They requested one bag out before dinner and the other after dinner to spread the workload for the crew. Those with flights scheduled before 11:30am on arrival could obtain red tags to be the first off. We had a noon flight and with a Wednesday arrival, they estimated we would be off by 9:30.
On Wednesday, Dec 22, we arrived back in Port Everglades before 7am. Breakfast in the dining room was available 6:30-8:30, and in the Horizon Court form 6-9am. No room service is available. Captain?s Circle Platinum and Elite members have the Vista lounge reserved for them after 7am to await debarkation, and coffee, tea, and pastry was available. At 8:15, on schedule, they started calling debarkation with the red tags. At 9am they called our color, Caribe Deck aft, which was about 2/3 of the way through the list. We were in the terminal by 9:15, and in a taxi by 9:45, and checking in at the airport curbside by 10am. Lines were short at security and we were at the gate by 10:15am.
In summary, another great anniversary cruise, this time on Princess again. A final comment. We did notice that the average age on a 10 day cruise is definitely older, with a number of couples celebrating 50 or more year anniversaries. There were very few children. And formal night was more universally observed in dress than on a number of our past cruises, much to our delight.