Emerald Princess



First off, note there’s no deck 13. The decks go from 12 to 14. We stayed on Baja deck 11 and it was a great location. Our balcony cabin expanded the view and prevented us from feeling closed in. The balconies are very comfortable with a soft rubbery covering on the floor, two chairs, a small round table, and a glass partition for protection and as a wind guard under the rail. Be aware your neighbors can hear you clearly when you’re outside. Indoors, the soundproofing seemed very good unless we had unusually quiet guests on either side. We had a separate closet with hangars and shelving so there’s plenty of room to unpack. The bedding is comfortable like in premium hotels. Alas, the bathrooms can always use improvement. We had enough shelf space but you could sit on the toilet and brush your hair in the mirror at the same time. If you’re really tall, you could probably brush your teeth too. As for the shower, forget shaving your legs in there. It has a curtain that doesn’t try to grab you, but the space is small especially if you drop the soap. The controls are better than most and easy to use and the force just right. Our thermostat worked fine in the room, too, although the LCD light glared at me every night in the dark. Guests get shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and round soaps. They all smell good but the conditioner and lotion are too thick to pour. The tissues are too rough and the toilet paper is single ply and too thin. They could upgrade their quality here although this is probably one of their cost cutting arenas. Rating on the cabins: Very Good.














To the detriment of my weight, I love the food on Princess cruises. The menus are consistently good, with appealing alternate choices, and we feel no need to pay extra to go to the specialty restaurants. If you’re an early bird like us, you can get coffee and Danish and cereal in Café Caribe until the Horizon Court buffet opens at 6am. Here you have a huge array of fresh fruit, cereal and yogurt, eggs scrambled and fried and omelets and hard boiled, bacon and ham, pancakes and waffles, breads and pastries, etc. It’s making my mouth water to think about it. I liked the individual fried eggs under the heat lamp where you don’t have to wait around for a chef, and a different prepared omelet choice each day. The croissants are good, but the really secret place where I got an almond croissant was down on deck five at the International Café. Here you can pay for specialty coffees and teas but the food is free: yogurt parfaits, pastries, and quiches for breakfast, salads and sandwiches for lunch, desserts nearly all day. And there’s always the choice of the main dining room for sit-down service.

Lunch usually found us at the Horizon Court because I loved their make your own salad with just about every ingredient, plus a choice of hot foods, sandwiches and soups, interesting side dishes, and the usual fruits, breads, cheeses, and sweets. I miss the different type of seeds and nuts they put out each day to sprinkle on my salad. A few items stand out in my memory: a goat cheese and artichoke souffle, the cooked eggplant medley with onion and tomato, a delicious vegetarian lasagna, the brown rice with oranges and dates. Sometimes we ate pizza at the outdoor grill. At another grill, you could get hot dogs, burgers, and chicken with French fries. Soft ice cream with or without sprinkles is available next to the the pizza bar. All this is included in the cruise price. You can eat your way to Nirvana.

Dinner in the dining room consisted of several courses: appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, dessert. You can have as many or as little as you choose. My selections ranged from prime ribs to lobster tail to jumbo shrimp to duck and Rock Cornish hen. If you’re not a meat eater, you have plenty of appealing choices as well. And the desserts, well, need I say more? Oh, and if you’re sitting by the pool in the afternoon, don’t miss the bow-tied guys in uniform wheeling around a cart and serving fresh baked cookies and milk to guests. Rating on the food: Excellent.









The ship’s troupe of singers and dancers are competent and energetic, but except for the last show, I wasn’t blown away by the performances. They lacked a “Wow” factor. I liked the final show featuring rock music and hip hop dancing but the older crowd liked the Motown music and Cole Porter acts. I don’t like jugglers or ventriloquists so passed on those guys. The vocal impressionist was excellent. He imitated many famous voices, ranging from country to opera, and was multi-talented in his own right. One comedian was great; another didn’t appeal to me. But this is subjective. I’ve probably become jaded from going on so many cruises but not many of these acts stand out in my mind. The hypnotist we saw on the Caribbean Princess was memorable. The other annoying thing was that you have to reserve your seat for a half hour to forty five minutes ahead of time. There’s no band playing so nothing to do except twiddle your thumbs while you wait. This comes after sitting an hour and a half at dinner, then you sit for another half hour to claim your seat, then you sit through an hour show. My legs got restless. I picked up the daily Sudoku puzzle in the library and worked on that while I waited. Or bring a book. You’ll need it unless you have someone to talk to in the interim. It’s nice when other cruise ships have live music on stage you can listen to before a show. So my rating for the entertainment would get an Average.









I enjoyed this ship and would sail on her again. The three story atrium is always lively, with entertainment every evening. Different lounges have live music for dancing, so you have several places to go after the show. Often there are two shows each night to choose from in different locations, so if you’ve seen the production show, you can catch the comedian or an outdoor Movie Under The Stars. Other cruise lines take up lounges with karaoke and art auctions and bingo, but these aren’t pushed in your face here. There are the usual trivia contests and game shows but if you’re not a fan, you can listen to a country band, practice your ballroom dancing, or rock the night away. The food is enough of a reason to return. Plus the ship is well maintained. We saw crew brushing anti-rust goo on the joints out on deck, applying fresh varnish, and sanding down wood trim. Everything appears clean and polished. So I remain a fan of Princess and will doubtless return to one of their ships in the future.

See more cruise photos here:  http://bit.ly/i1wERn

Caribbean Princess


Caribbean Princess Cruise to New England/Canada

DAY 7: At Sea and Ship Review

We joined the culinary demonstration and tour of the galley in the morning and did a wine tasting in the afternoon. The cooking demo was fun. I always enjoy walking through the galley, one of many aboard ship, and seeing the spotless stainless steel countertops and cabinets.  The wine tasting was lovely, with a great selection of appetizers on a platter: lobster, steak tartare, smoked salmon, cheeses, caviar, and more. It was worth the $15 cost but I always wish the waiter would pour me more!  The last day on the cruise was windy and rainy so no one went outside. Too bad, we couldn’t really enjoy the deck on this cruise. For better weather, July might be a better month.  Dinner: Roast turkey with all the trimmings and traditional Baked Alaska.

Galley Tour
Galley Tour
Culinary Demo
Culinary Demo


Review of the Caribbean Princess

We liked the ship very much.  It’s a sister ship to several others, including the Emerald Princess we are going on next to the Southern Caribbean.

Galley Tour
Galley Tour
Galley Tour
Galley Tour

Our balcony cabin had a lovely view out the wide doors. The balcony floor is covered with some sort of spongy porous material that works well. We had a refrigerator in the room stocked with soft drinks. Princess gives very comfortable storage space with a large separate closet, plenty of hangars, and a cabinet of floor to ceiling shelves.  Other furnishings included a single armchair, small round table, desk chair, tv, desk console, and two nightstands each with drawers.  No coffeemaker and no sofa in the cabin.  We peeked at our kids inside cabin which had the same generous storage space. You don’t get a closed in feeling because the back wall holds a wide mirror.  Their desk space was larger than in our cabin.

Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting

The bathroom has a small shower area and a shower curtain instead of a door (RCCL has a glass door in a tiny round space), ultra-thin single ply toilet paper, and rough tissues (better ones in public restrooms).  I got a cold on this cruise and my nose came away looking very chafed.

Bathroom amenities: bar soap, signature lotion, shampoo, and conditioner with a pleasant fragrance.  The lotion comes out a bit thick.

The steward was very efficient.  He cleaned our room when we were absent and left chocolates on our pillow each night.  He did not fold the towels into shapes like on previous cruises.

I think the temperature in a balcony room fluctuates more due to the glass: the room can be colder in cool weather, hotter in sunny warm climates. We froze until we told the steward to get the thermostat in our room fixed. The view from our balcony when seated was clear, not obstructed by the railing. There’s a large glass partition up to the rail outside.

The first night’s show included the ship’s singers and dancers, pyrotechnics, and a comedian.The cruise director on this ship was excellent. He’s talented in his own right and was often funnier than the guest star. The second night was a dance production with mist, strobe lights, and flashy costumes. We missed the comedian’s solo performance because he got sick with a migraine. Memorable shows were the Scottish pipe band in Nova Scotia and the crew’s talent show.

Buffet Breakfast: Different type of pancakes every day, individual fried eggs, ready-made omelets, breads and pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, sautéed mushrooms, breakfast meats, smoked salmon, potatoes, and more. The coffee tasted good and the caffeine worked for me. Pitchers of cream are available near the coffee urns.  A nice selection of teas is offered.

Afternoon tea is served in the dining room: you get brewed tea with no choice of flavors; mini-sandwiches, scones with whipped cream and jam, cookies and cakes.  It’s served at 3:30 by white-gloved waiters.


Although Princess mentioned in their newsletter that they were adding a third seating at 5:30, it turned out there were only two seatings on this cruise. We had early seating scheduled for 5:30. I would have preferred 6:00 but we sauntered in near that time anyway with no problem.  You have the choice of fixed seating or free style dining. We did not take advantage of the restaurants for which there is an extra cover charge.

There are two outdoor grills by the pool. One serves pizza and the other station serves hot dogs, burgers, and French fries.Their pizza is thin crust and very good, better than RCCL. (We like the Seattle’s Best coffee on RCCL better).

An ice cream bar on deck serves free soft serve ice cream. We were so full from all the meals, we never got any. Plus, the chilly, rainy weather was not conducive to ice cream. Fresh cookies were available around the pool area in afternoon or at the buffet. You can also get snacks and desserts at the International Café inside at the bottom of the atrium. Specialty coffee is offered her for a fee. Across the way is the Vines wine bar with free canapés and sushi but you have to pay for cheeses.

Princess menu selections are consistently appealing, and there are good choices on the alternative menu too. Breads and desserts are all good. (NCL does custard type desserts well but not pastries; RCCL desserts are okay but their menu selection loses appeal over the course of a week). Princess pastries are very good, much to the detriment of my diet. So now it’s time to lose weight and get ready for the next voyage.

Lobster Tail
Lobster Tail
Baked Alaska
Baked Alaska








For more photos, go to my New England photo album

San Juan

We’ve been on tours here before so this time we just walked around, browsing in the stores. I picked up some 14k gold hoop earrings at Tropical Jewelers for my daughter cheaper than the ones I bought myself in a similar size in St. Thomas. From the pier, walk up Calle Tanca a couple of blocks to Calle Fortaleza, the main shopping street. Turn left and stroll along, ducking into any shops that strike your fancy. We got lured into Restaurant Barrachina, home of the famed Piña Colada drink created here in 1963. It’s a charming restaurant with a tempting appetizer menu or a place for lunch. No worries about the waiters; they speak English. The food is good and there’s a rest room in the back. As for the piña coladas, I’ve had better but it was fun to try one here. The waiter recommended Don Q Cristal for a white rum. There’s a store by the waterfront but it was closed on Thursdays and that’s the day we were in port. He also mentioned Ron del Barrilito for a golden rum. He said these are the rums used by the natives, not Baccardi brands.

After an early meal, we continued onward on Calle Fortaleza. At the far end toward Calle Christo is a barricade blocking access to the Governor’s mansion. Turn left and you’ll find yourself at a historical chapel. Go into Pigeon Park next to the chapel for a fabulous view of the harbor. Note the stone wall with all the pigeonholes where the birds live. It’s a fascinating glimpse of old San Juan. If you’ve never been to the island before, you can tour the forts or take a bus tour to the rainforest. A couple of hours patrolling the city streets is more than sufficient for shopping.


This is a fabulous beach party at RCCL’s private hideaway. Passengers had the entire day to roam about this beautiful peninsula. It’s part of Haiti but is separated from the mainland by scenic mountains. Lush with green foliage and palm lined lagoons, this island-like setting offers something for everyone. You can lose yourself in bliss lying on a lounge chair and sipping a potent Labadoozee or rum punch while gazing at the sparkling turquoise waters. Go for a swim, stuff yourself at the BBQ lunch, or get a thrill riding on the zip line or rollercoaster. Shop for colorful Haitian paintings and wood carvings at the native market. Or rent a jet ski and zoom across the waves. Kayaking and floats are available as is an Aqua Park for kids. Whatever your pleasure, you can find it here. A tram ride can take you from one end to the other if you don’t feel like walking in the heat.

My camera broke so I don’t have any photos for these ports. A new camera became one of my holiday gifts upon our return. I hate learning new technology. Some features are better than my old camera, though, so it’s worth the effort.


St. Thomas

Here we took RCCL’s Best of St. Thomas tour to see the St. Peter Greathouse which opened to the public fairly recently. Owned by a governor initially, the house passed into various hands before being turned into a tourist attraction and catering hall. Our open air bus made two stops along the way at scenic overlooks, but the view from this impressive estate surpassed them.

St Thomas Ship
View of Ship from Mountain Top
St Thomas View
St Thomas View

The house itself exudes tropical ambiance with its expansive windows and comfortable furnishings.

House 1
St. Peter Greathouse
House 2
St. Peter Greathouse
House 4
St. Peter Greathouse
House 3
St. Peter Greathouse

Along with a gift shop and snack bar, there’s a planked nature walk that I enjoyed the most. Surrounded by lush tropical foliage, you descend a boardwalk into the jungle via a series of steps and then climb back up. It’s not too strenuous, and the fruity rum punch we had beforehand fortified us. This is a worthwhile tour if you want to get a taste of St. Thomas’s lush beauty. It took about 3 hours, so if you book an early morning excursion, you’ll still have plenty of time for shopping in town.

Nature Trail
Nan2 Nature
Nancy on Nature Trail

Back at Charlotte Amalie, the port town, we had lunch at the Green House. I recommend this restaurant or Café Amici in an alley near A.H. Riise. Once fed, we trekked uphill about 3 blocks to visit the old Jewish synagogue. It’s a sturdy building that has been here since the 1700’s. Sand covers the floor, and there’s a small gift shop off to the side.

Green House
Green House Restaurant
Old Jewish Synagogue

Back downhill, we stormed the shops along Main Street. My favorite stores are Imperial Jewelers, Cardow’s, Ballerina Jewelers, and Royal Caribbean (not related to cruise line). A.H. Riise still has the best liquor selection, cosmetics, perfumes, rum balls, hook bracelets, and more. If you dock near Havensight Mall, you have a chance for more last minute shopping before the ship sails.

ST. Maarten

We’ve been here before, so I already knew to take the water taxi for six dollars round trip from the pier into the center of Philipsburg. It’s good for travel all day and they put a plastic bracelet on your wrist. Vendors sell nice hats for $5 by the pier, and I added another one to my collection.

Our first stop was Diamonds International to pick up a charm bracelet. If you show this in the different ports, you get a charm to add for each island. It’s also a good shop to browse for jewelry. Outside facing the courthouse, we turned left on Front Street, but we didn’t care much for the stores at that end. We turned in the opposite direction and ended up in Shopper’s Haven where I bought a pair of dangling white gold earrings. They were expensive even for 14k gold but a unique design. The shopkeeper gave my friend Lynn and I each a glass of champagne to celebrate our purchases. This made us hungry so we headed to Holland House a few doors down to a delightful open air restaurant facing the beach. I ate a brie cheese sandwich while ceiling fans twirled lazily overhead.

Diamonds International
Diamonds International

Beyond the Boardwalk is a free beach if you ever go to the island so you don’t have to take any beach tours. A selection of restaurants face the water where you can sit and enjoy the view. It’s much more pleasant here than in Marigot, the French side of the island, where you get stuck in traffic going and coming from the port. Shops are expensive there and service at the restaurants takes a long time. The Philipsburg shops offer a selection of jewelry, cameras, Belgian chocolate, Guavaberry Liquor, and souvenirs. The old adage applies: If you see what you like, buy it.

St. Maarten Beach1
View of St. Maarten
St Maarten Beach2
Beachside at Philipsburg

Independence of the Seas

December 12, 2009

8 nights to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Labadee

Ship Review
RCCL ships have a signature interior Promenade like a city street lined with shops and bars. The Café Promenade, toward the aft end, serves pastries starting at 6am in the morning and sandwiches starting at 11:30. Coffee is available 24 hours. Their Seattle’s Best coffee is very good, flavorful taste. Creamer cups are about half the size of ones at home. I suggest bringing your own non-refrigerated Coffeemate creamer cups along. Since this ship was based in England (and will be returning there), instead of a coffee pot in the room, you get a hot water device with packets of instant coffee. Forget that and go to the Café. They serve fresh baked cookies here too. The fudge ones are the best. Re the pastries, normally I like croissants but their variety has a glazed coat that stuck to my teeth, so I preferred the cinnamon roll.
Interior View of Promenade

Sorrento’s, also on the Promenade on Deck 5 forward, serves pizza and mini desserts like tiramisu. They put out antipasto in the evening that can be a nice appetizer. Like the Café, the food here is free and included in your cruise price. Also on the Promenade you’ll find the Vintages Wine Bar with a sophisticated selection of wines and wine flights, but the menu tends to be pricey and confusing. The Dog & Badger Pub focuses more on ale but wine choices are more reasonable. People are allowed to smoke in a section here and the smoke drifted our way, making us disinclined to linger. We didn’t note any food menu in either of these lounges but then we didn’t ask for one either. Ben & Jerry’s has a shop on the Promenade, but why pay for ice cream when there’s a free frozen yogurt machine outside on the pool deck?

Independence of the Seas
Independence of the Seas

Up on Deck 14 is the signature Crown Viking Lounge, here called the Olive or Twist. Nice dance music here during evening hours. Daytime it’s a great getaway if you want solitude and a terrific view of the pool deck from up high. I may add that unlike other ships, you cannot sit outside and enjoy a view of the ship’s wake on the Independence, nor is there a lounge where you can enjoy a view of the ship forging ahead. Too much of the focus is on the interior Promenade, including evening parades and street parties. The Schooner Bar is a quieter spot but they often have trivia contests. Production shows occur in the Alhambra Theatre which has adequate tiered seating. The Pyramid Lounge at the opposite end holds art auctions and other events. There doesn’t seem to be any nightly entertainment other than the main show, shown twice at 7pm and 9pm. The Labyrinth is a disco but sometimes was reserved for private parties. There were no late night comedy acts like on other ships unless I missed notice of them.


A few other items were missing too, that used to be provided in the past. Chocolates on our pillow at night. Lotion in the bathrooms. All we got was bar soap and a shampoo dispenser in the minuscule shower.

The soundproofing was excellent in our cabin. Maybe we lucked out and had quiet neighbors, but we didn’t hear anyone next door. Our cabin was a comfortable size with a couch and console but limited storage space. The drawers are small, and only one tier of shelves fits into the closet. At least there were plenty of hangars. The shower is impossibly small and shaped like a round sewer cover. Ladies, forget shaving your legs in there. I suggest you bring an electric razor, preferably battery run. This applies to the sister ships as well. The shower doors kept the water contained very well and function much better than an old-fashioned curtain. There’s a European style hose spray that can be awkward until you get the hang of it.

Our balcony room gave a wonderful view, while a clear glass barrier under the railing guards against accidents. Cloudy glass partitions on either side of the balcony separate neighbors. Two chairs and a small table are provided. We heard the whoosh of waves in our room even on deck 8. Our room was towards the bow, starboard side forward. The bedding was very comfortable, hotel style white comforters, two pillows, cushy mattress. Flat screen TV by Samsung hung on the wall. A hair dryer is provided. Suitcases fit under the beds for storage. Bring a small packet of antiseptic wipes so when you first arrive, you can wipe down all door handles, tv remote, telephone, and light switches. People were ill on this cruise with symptoms of Norovirus. Load your purse and pockets with hand sanitizer and use it religiously. Hand sanitizer dispensers are located at each bar and eaterie and at the computer station but carry your own and don’t touch your face at all until you’ve washed your hands.

Balcony Cabin

The weather in December was warm for our voyage. The ship isn’t freezing cold inside like some others so long sleeves can make you hot, although I was comfortable in the evenings with my dressy wardrobe. We had two formal nights and the rest were casual.You have your choice on this ship of any time dining or formal seating. We chose six o’clock dining. Our waiter, Handra, was a small statured guy from Indonesia. Some of the meals I ate were prime ribs, tiger shrimp, roast duck, lobster tail and garlic shrimp, lamb shank, shrimp and mahi mahi tempura. I do not judge this food as good as on the Princess line. Each night on the menu were also choices of an Indian dish, a vegetarian dish, a pasta dish. None of these appealed to me so that made limited selections. The pasta dishes were too ordinary, like cheese filled ravioli or spaghetti and meatballs. You can get those at home, so why order them here? We’ve been on other ships where the choices are more tempting. The buffets in the Windjammer Café didn’t seem to have much variety either. And they’ve done away with the late night Chocolate Buffet.

RCCL has an excellent program for children. This ship had activities for all ages. Athletic minded adults could surf on the Flowrider, play miniature golf or basketball, go rock climbing, work out in the gym, swim, or jog the deck. Kids had their own whimsical pool area with colorful fountains spraying water and music blaring in the background. I enjoyed listening to the steel band playing at the regular pool deck or sitting in the quieter solarium looking at the ocean.

H20 Fun Zone for Kids

The Captain greeted passengers on a bridge over the Promenade on our first formal night, Day 2 at sea. He said, “We’re sailing in the Bermuda Triangle. I’ve been coming here for XX years and nothing happened. Maybe tonight is the night.” We made it safely home so it appears we didn’t meet any anomalies. Now it’s time to plan the next trip.

Pool Deck
Pool Deck
Flowrider for Surfing
Sports Deck
Sports Deck

Coming Next: Ports of Call