Our first port call on the Royal Princess cruise was at Princess Cays for a beach barbecue. I always enjoy the serenity of this beach day. We took a tender to get there, which is an adventure in itself.
Once ashore, we scrambled to find a spot in the shade. Getting a rum punch became our first order of business. After finishing this drink, I trudged through the sand to stick my feet in the water. The temperature was cool but not cold. I could have gotten used to it, but I had no desire to wade in among the seaweed and get all wet. We have lovely beaches in Fort Lauderdale and our own pool at home. The barbecue offered an array of delectable items. I got a burger with accompaniments and chowed down in the covered picnic area.
Then we baked in the heat a bit more before deciding to pack it up and leave. We stopped in the few Bahamian shops on the way back to the tender. If you’re looking for a souvenir, you can find something here. The shops are not as plentiful as on the RCCL beach stops, though. It was a pleasant day on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
A rainbow greeted us as we approached the island of St. Thomas. The day promised rain, so we fortuitously brought our umbrellas that we’d packed when we went ashore.
As the ship docked by Havensight Mall, we took a taxi into town for $4.00 each. Here we roamed the main streets, glad to see most of the shops open for business after Hurricane Irma. Some places were still shuttered, perhaps with water damage or without power. But most shops were open and welcomed visitors, and I bought some items that caught my eye. It began to rain off and on, and water quickly pooled in the saturated streets.
We’d been here numerous times before, so we had no need to do a sightseeing tour or go farther afield. We went back to the ship for lunch, and then strolled around Havensight Mall. You’ll get a greater selection of goods in town, but this shopping center has representative shops for most of those places. You can find plenty of souvenirs, liquor, or jewelry items here as well. After a satisfying day, the ship sailed away to music from the steel-drum band.
The food in general on the Royal Princess tasted very good. Menu choices were average. For dinner, I enjoyed on different nights the prime ribs, filet mignon, tiger shrimp, and lobster tail. Vegetarian choices were available. We celebrated my birthday with a chocolate treat.
Thanks to our travel agent Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web, we dined at the Crowne Grille, one of the specialty restaurants. Here I had lobster cake appetizer, mixed greens salad, beef filet with baked potato. Our table shared creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and freshly cooked asparagus. I had a lemon meringue tart for dessert.
This venue hosted a British pub lunch later on in the voyage. It was fun to eat my favorite cottage pie with a trifle for dessert.
The buffet seemed to have little variety and was very disorganized. Without any labeled station except for Pastry, you had to hunt through each aisle to see what was offered. The selections for breakfast or lunch didn’t seem to change much from day-to-day. We didn’t go here for dinner so can’t comment on that meal. Nonetheless, you could get plenty to eat whenever you came by. What I did like was that they opened for continental breakfast at 5am and breakfast at 6am. Since we’re early risers, this suited our schedules.
Outdoors by the pool, you could get pizza or hot dogs and hamburgers. An ice cream station offered vanilla or chocolate swirls, but I thought it tasted more like gelato than a creamy ice cream. Or you could dine at an Italian restaurant for free on one of the lower decks. The International Café was always a favorite. Coffee drinks cost money there, but the food was complimentary.
An annoyance was the lack of drink stations at the buffet. There were a couple of spots that offered coffee, tea or water. Otherwise, waiters circulated and took your drink order. You had to order lemonade. Sometimes we waited and nobody came by. On other ships, these waiters wheel carts around to offer refills. Not so here. They served you individually which made for less efficient service. These same wait staff had to continuously clean the tables to make them ready for new diners. The ship should offer more self-serve drink stations and include lemonade. Also, there weren’t any take-out cups available for coffee/tea. Only ceramic mugs were available.
Food in the dining room for dinner was very good.
The desserts were noteworthy, and I enjoyed fruit crumbles with vanilla sauce, fresh baked cookies, almond or chocolate croissants, Baked Alaska, and more.
Day Three found us at Murano, one of the specialty restaurants aboard the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship. We had exquisite service in elegant surroundings. Our meal began with a complimentary fried scallop. Next I had a crab and smoked salmon parfait with salmon caviar. We chose Chateaubriand for two which the waiter carved tableside. It came with fingerling potatoes and asparagus. For dessert, I had the chocolate soufflé.
On another day, we attended the complimentary wine tasting for Elite members that came with four glasses and breadsticks. The complimentary tea party had waiters circulating with a selection of open sandwiches with smoked salmon, shrimp, egg salad, and ham. Then desserts followed. After the rum cake, I couldn’t even eat a scone.
And so ended our journey, with us boarding as passengers and rolling off as cargo. With the holidays upon us, it’ll be a while before I lose these extra pounds. And then we’re likely to be on board our next cruise and starting all over again.
The Oceanview Café’s breakfast buffet had stations for omelets or eggs made to order, toast including bagels and English muffins, rolls, Danish, croissants, muffins, yogurt, berry medley, cereal, whole or cut fruits, scrambled eggs with Cheddar cheese. English breakfast. Asian breakfast. American breakfast. Bacon, ham, sausages. Smoked salmon. Herring. Roasted potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Grilled zucchini, sautéed mushrooms, Eggs Benedict. Hungry yet? Our only complaint is that the buffet opens at 7. If you’re an early riser, you can only get fruit and yogurt before then. It would have been nice to have pastries available earlier.
Lunch could be taken at the outdoor grill with burgers or hot dogs and French fries, at the very small spa café by the solarium pool on Deck 12, where some items cost extra; in the formal dining room, or at the Oceanview Café. Here you had a choice of freshly carved meats, deli meats, sandwiches made to order, various salads, salad bar, hot dishes, Asian foods (we particularly liked the vegetable fried rice), Indian foods, British foods, soups and breads, pizza and garlic toast, pasta, and an array of tempting desserts including an ice cream bar. Free drinks included lemonade, iced tea, a fruity drink, water, and hot beverages at a coffee station. The Lavazza coffee served throughout the cruise was very good. Real half-and-half was available in urns along with milk. Inside the ship, you can get free desserts at the coffee lounge but no free sandwiches or appetizers like on other cruise lines. I missed having this extra choice. For a ship of this size, free dining choices are limited.
Dinner on Day one for me was Shrimp Louie with Avocado, a Chicken Egg Roll, Caesar Salad. Prime ribs came with buttered French green beans and mashed potatoes. The portions of all the meals were generous. For dessert, I had apple pie a la mode. Dinner Two was a shrimp cocktail, braised lamb shank with broccoli, carrots, and mashed potatoes. Other meals included braised beef short ribs, vegetable Wellington, lobster with butter sauce. The salads at dinner were varied each night, like kale with roasted walnuts, dried cherries, and diced butternut squash. The French onion soup, available each night as an appetizer along with shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad, looked delicious but would have been a whole meal for me. My mouth waters at the thought, and now I want a crock of hot onion soup with melted cheese on top. I miss these scrumptious meals.
Celebrity Equinox is a beautiful ship. She seems relatively new with a clean look and modern furnishings. As usual on Celebrity, we were greeted on board with a welcome glass of champagne. After dining at the buffet lunch in the Oceanview Café on Deck 14, we made our way to our cabin on Deck 8. Located in the center near the stairs and elevator, it was closer to the aft side than forward. We unpacked, finding all the cubbyholes and shelves to put away our things. The bathroom was the best ever on any ship we’ve encountered. It had adequate counter space, enough storage, extra toilet paper and tissues. And the shower was the best. Plenty of room to move with a soap dish, bar soap, and even a thick steel rod to rest my foot on when I shaved my legs. Lotion, shampoo, more bar soap, and conditioner were other amenities along with robes for each of us. The shower head was forceful enough and the hot water was nearly instantly available. Amenities also included small glasses for our toothbrushes.
Our room had a desk, a flat-screen TV above a console with drawers, and an enormously long couch where another person could easily have slept. Our balcony let out from sliding glass doors, and even this was a generous space with two chairs and a small table. The drapes folded over each other so no light shone through at night, and no peephole in the door also ensured a dark interior. The bedding was soft and the pillows comfortable. The safe was large enough to hold my iPad, and the room also came with a stocked fridge. Cabin service was excellent, and we still got chocolates on our pillows each night although no towel art on this cruise.
We explored the 15 decks before the lifeboat drill that was held without life jackets in a lounge or dining room, depending on your muster station. Then it was time for dinner. We skipped the first night’s show since it was a juggler, and that’s my least favorite entertainment. All the other shows were great and varied between the ship’s singers, dancers, and acrobats to a ventriloquist and a variety of solo singers.
Deck 15 has a grassy lawn area where you can sit and watch the view, or observe a Hot Glass Show during the voyage. Deck 14 has the Oceanview Café and the outdoor grill. Overlooking the pool below are many lounge chairs, some undercover to provide shade. This ship had more shaded seating spots than I remember from other cruise lines. Even the pool areas on Deck 12 had wide overhangs to protect the lounge chairs. If you got too humid, you could sit in the solarium with its covered glass roof and air-conditioning. On Deck 5 by the life boats are a few scattered chairs on an outside deck but not many, and you can’t walk all the way around the ship there.
The shops inside the ship did not have merchandise that appealed to us. It was one of the poorest selections that we’ve noted, at least for our tastes. Not even the costume jewelry attracted me except for their occasional sales. These were held in a crowded corridor instead of a lounge like other ships. They had the usual souvenir logo items, resort wear, hats, liquor, fine jewelry. All seemed pricey.
In the evening, musicians played in the central atrium on deck three. This was generic-sounding except for a cello player. A small dance floor here sufficed since there wasn’t anywhere else to hear dance music except after 10pm in the Sky Lounge. This is a shortcoming of this ship that has limited lounges with dance floors. There’s a Gastropub that serves small plates and beer; another lounge with occasional piano music; a Martini bar. But nowhere else with a dance floor. The Sky Lounge forward on Deck 14 was a favorite place of mine for quiet daytime sea views and for the evening cocktails for Elite members. But it would have been nice if they’d had dance music here earlier instead of the atrium where you’re in view of people several decks high. That’s not very private. Regarding the music, these same bands played by the pool. We like Caribbean music when cruising and sitting outside, and this group played the same generic tunes you get on the radio. But overall, we loved the ship, the relaxed environment (few kids running around) and the excellent service.
The Final Journey on the Celebrity Constellation Day 9, Sunday, December 6, 2015
We arose to the rising sun over the sea, looking forward to our final day of relaxation before we’d have to disembark.
We were wined and dined with a wine tasting as Captain’s Club Elite members.
Later we attended an afternoon tea in one of the dining rooms. Add in breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we were eating nearly all day.
As we were strolling by the pool deck, I was startled to see a guest reading my cruise mystery, Killer Knots. What a thrill this gave me! Imagine the chances to finding someone with my book in their hands! I introduced myself and offered to personalize her copy. Susan was kind enough to let me take her photo:
The rest of the day, we packed our suitcases, lounged around, and enjoyed the ocean view. The trip was almost at an end. We’d had a wonderful time, and the weather gods had been with us. Now we could face whatever waited at home with renewed energy.
Day of Departure
Day 10, Monday, December 7, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation We sat in Ocean Liners with other Elite members waiting for our number to be called. Pastries and coffee were available. We were off the ship by 9am. And so ended our journey. It’s time to plan the next one, after I lose the weight I’d gained.
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Eating while someone else cooks and does the dishes is the best part of a cruise. We are continuing with Day 3, when we dined at the Ocean Liners specialty restaurant, courtesy of our travel agent (Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web). The three of us (I traveled with my husband and cousin Janice) soaked in the elegant surroundings while various waiters attended us. Paintings decorated wood-paneled walls, and the lighting was dim enough so everyone looked good. See that pyramid? It’s butter.
As a starter came scallops in sauce:
Next I chose a phyllo baked Anjou pear with Roquefort cheese. Janice had lobster bisque as her appetizer. She went on to order the lobster tail for dinner, which the waiter prepared at a side table. Look how excited she is to dive in:
My husband and I ordered Chateaubriand for two that came with vegetables. This was prepared tableside as well and served with Bearnaise and Cabernet sauces:
We were all presented our dinners with the silver covers as above, and then three different waiters lifted these tops from our plates in unison. The service was impeccable, better than any we’ve experienced on land in recent times.
For dessert, I ordered a dark chocolate soufflé with vanilla sauce. We also received this bon bon dish with more sweets. None of us could eat another bite.
This meal was a highlight of the cruise. Definitely book a meal here if you are on this ship. The Tuscan Grille is another specialty option, but we eat enough Italian food at home that this choice with the extra cost didn’t appeal to us.
By my estimation, I gained two pounds on this cruise. I climbed the stairs and walked around the ship for exercise, plus we did quite a bit of trekking uphill while in the ports. And coming next are the ports of call, including what we ate on those days.
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The coffee on this cruise was the best I’ve ever had on a ship. It was hot and strong with flavor and body. Since I’m a Starbucks fan, this is how I like it. The initial creamer cups they put out were skimpy little things that were hard to open, but about halfway through the trip, they put out decent cups of half-and-half, for which I was grateful. You could get milk in pitchers but not creamer. The fruit juices were too sweet for my taste, including apple juice; orange juice; and fruit punch. Iced tea in the dispenser was unsweetened. Lemonade was another choice.
Free ice cream and frozen yogurt was available at the buffet along with various toppings, otherwise you had to pay at the gelato bar on deck five. There was often a line at the free ice cream station, which was near the exit to the pool. You could get the dessert in a cone or a dish. Flavors varied daily.
Cookies were available here, too. These cookies were crunchy and not chewy. When they are hard, they don’t seem as fresh, and I prefer chewy cookies that melt in your mouth. You could get the same cookies at the buffet, or for free at the coffee and gelato bars on deck five. The specialty coffee lounge also had an array of fresh desserts like a different kind of éclair each day, various cakes, and other treats. There was no additional cost for these food items.
Portion sizes at dinner were miniscule. For example, a side dish for one entrée was Brussel sprouts. You got one and a half sprouts. Rack of Lamb came with three pieces. Ditto for the shrimp scampi with linguine. You got four shrimps in a spicy sauce. However, when you added in the appetizer course, soups and salads, plus dessert, the meal turned out to be adequate. The presentation was attractive, but the portions always made us grin in disbelief. The food was very tasty with appealing choices each evening. And you could always get the Caesar salad (crisp but no anchovy flavor); French onion soup; shrimp cocktail; or steak.
My only objection was the bread. You got a basket on the table with plain bread sticks or slices of French bread every evening. Butter, cream cheese, and hummus came as accompaniments. We would have liked more variety, like different breads each night. These choices were offered at breakfast but not at dinner. We got tired of the French bread after the second meal.
The dining room service was wonderful. Despite our having no fixed seating, we didn’t have to wait in line to get into the restaurant, and we got the same table each night. So here is what we ate from what I remember:
Day 1, Saturday–Departure
Lunch: Buffet; Rum Cake with Pina Colada Ice Cream
Dinner: Shrimp Cocktail with Guacamole, Salad, Prime Ribs, Apple Pie a la Mode
Day 2, Sunday—At Sea
Breakfast: Omelet made to order; turkey sausage; croissant, fresh fruit
Mid-morning, we attended the Cruise Critic roll-call party where they served pastries and coffee.
Lunch in the Dining Room: Teriyaki Duck Breast with rice and sautéed bok choy. The warm peach cobbler was to die for but gave me my dessert calories for the day.
After lunch was the Captain’s Club member party with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts.
At 4pm, you could get little sandwiches and desserts at the buffet like for afternoon tea. If you’re still hungry, the pizza or pasta stations in the aft sections of the buffet always seemed to be open, and the outdoor grill by the pool serves hamburgers and hot dogs.
Dinner: Tender Beef Tornadoes with accompaniments.
Day 3, Monday—At Sea Breakfast: Green onion and mushroom omelet made to order, nova salmon, roasted potatoes with bell peppers, sautéed mushrooms, fresh pineapple. Later, I snitched an almond croissant from the coffee bar. (And you wonder why I gained weight?)
Lunch: Roast carved turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce, French Fries (thin and crispy without being salty; mashed or baked potatoes were also available). Spinach cheese dish was very good. Look at the whole chickens below at the buffet. Later I tried the Dulce de Leche éclair at the coffee bar.
Afternoon Snack: Vegetable pizza
At 5pm, we gathered in the Reflections Lounge for the Elite Captain’s Club free drinks and skimpy appetizers (waiters brought them around and gave you one or two bite-sized hors d’oeuvres on a napkin)
Dinner this night was at the amazing Ocean Liners specialty restaurant, courtesy of our travel agent (Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web). And now I’m hungry, so we will have to continue this in the next blog.
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Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
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