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.
Royal Princess Ship Review Dec. 8 – 15, 2013
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten
We thought the entertainment and music on this ship were excellent. You could go from one show to another each evening, and the lounges held different music groups nightly. I would like more concert level performers. This cruise had Ray Coussins, a pianist for Frank Sinatra. He had his own show, and he played in the lounges. Down in the central atrium is a dance floor that always has a band playing there. Unlike other ships which are Deadsville at night, this one has plenty to do. You could always go to Movies Under The Stars, a wide-screen movie screen showing popular films each night by the pool.
Speaking of movies, I loved the widescreen TV mounted on our wall in the stateroom. I got to watch two movies I’d been wanting to see: Austenland (a romantic comedy about a modern woman who gets immersed in a Jane Austen experience at a themed attraction) and Disney’s Brave. The only disadvantages are the lack of menu controls and no close captioned option for the hearing-impaired.
We enjoyed the breakfast selections at the buffet. There is an omelet station if you can find it, but otherwise fried eggs, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and other egg concoctions are available at the Horizon Court. So are fruits, smoked fish, pastries, waffles and pancakes, and more. I loved having the fried eggs available without asking and wish other cruise lines would adopt this practice.
Dinner menu choices were generally good. The alternate selections included shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, plus beef medallions, grilled salmon, chicken, and more. Vegetarian entrees were offered each night at dinner and seemed appealing. There were always appetizers, soups, pasta, entrees, and dessert.
Dessert selections surpass other ships we’ve been on. At the Horizon Court, there’s a separate Pastry station with all kinds of pastries, cookies, puddings, and other creations. However, our dinner table mate complained that they only have one sugar-free selection per day. Being diabetic, she would have liked more choices.
And since I’m a foodie, I enjoyed the cooking class and free galley tour. I was also thrilled that this cruise line still offers Baked Alaska on the last night.
Storage space in the cabins was adequate even though the staterooms themselves are small. We had plenty of room to stash our luggage upright in the closet area instead of having to shove the pieces under our beds.
The shower space is an improvement, with a ledge for putting products or for aiding a lady in shaving her legs. On other ships, you have to stick your foot in the sink to do the job. This larger space was much appreciated.
Blackout drapes are very good. No lights shine in your eyes at night like on one of our other cruises, where we faced the door peephole and light streamed in like a beacon. This cabin was sufficiently dark and the temperature comfortable. Nor did I hear our neighbors except when they went out on the balcony.
We didn’t have many children on this cruise that saw an average age group well into the sixties, but there is an adults-only Retreat area that’s quite pleasant. For a daily fee, you can rent a covered cabana or pay for the more exclusive Sanctuary enclave.
The bedding (i.e. pillows and comforters) didn’t seem as comfortable as on other ships. The pillows seemed too large, so you could get a crick in your neck with two, but one alone was too flat.
Elevator break-downs are common, and the elevator capacity is much smaller than on other ships.
The lack of a central stairway is highly annoying. One exists, but it’s for crew only. You have to take the elevators mid-ship or else walk aft or forward to reach the stairways.
Our room safe failed during our stay, and we had to call maintenance to change the four AA batteries that power the thing. It was an inconvenience, but service was prompt.
You’ll miss the outdoor promenade deck that goes all the way around a ship under cover on deck 4 or 5. This ship has a few seating areas on this level but they end. If you want to walk all the way around, you have to go at the pool deck or higher and be in the sun.
I would prefer a glass shower door to an unsanitary curtain.
The four rows of rear seats in the Princess Theatre need to be tiered. Seats are crammed into the theatre with central aisles only and no drink holders.
Our dining room service was very slow, but that may be the fault of our assistant waiter who did nothing except carry the meal orders from the dining room. Our waiter refilled the water glasses at our request, and he never once asked if we wanted more rolls or went out of his way to do anything special.
Cabins are very small with no sofas like in the balcony staterooms on RCCL. The standard balconies are even smaller. They barely fit two chairs and a cheap table.
Ports of Call included a barbecue beach lunch at Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I’ve written about these before in previous posts and didn’t do anything new this time except walk around, shop, and lunch in town. Look under Cruising in my blog Archives if you want to catch up on prior voyages. We had lunch in the Greenhouse restaurant at both locations. The one at St. Maarten had free WiFi if you sat inside, which still has an open air view of the water.
On our last day at sea, we went out on deck in the morning after a rainstorm to see a brilliant rainbow stretching all the way across the sky. How fantastic is this, folks?
Day 7, December 14, Tuesday, Emerald Princess 10 Day cruise to Southern Caribbean
We had more time on this island than Grenada and I would have liked less. It’s 112 square miles with a population of 14,000. The land appeared relatively flat and sparse with little vegetation. It didn’t look as populated as the other islands, but my cousin took an island tour and was so impressed by the upscale housing and sights that this was her favorite island. She said there’s a very low level of unemployment. Next time we’ll have to do the island tour.
We walked down the pier to the main shopping street, passed a bunch of crafts vendors, and turned left. The shops sold the usual souvenir items plus sea salt produced here. We bought aloe lotions as they grow the medicinal plant on this island. There were no bargains and nothing else new to get. A few bars face the water where you can buy a drink and admire the view. The streets were dusty with the dried mud coating the surface and buildings with second-story balconies reminiscent of the Old West. We arrived at port at 12 o’clock. My husband and I spent less than two hours walking around. I liked this port the least but it’s probably good if you like water sports. The water was beautiful and crystal clear. We could see tropical fish swimming around right up to shore.
Day 8, December 15, Wednesday
We approached the main town Oranjestad on this prosperous island of 74 square miles. Aruba’s population is around 34, 000. It’s part of the Dutch Commonwealth. Aloe is its main agricultural crop. I spied numerous freighters offshore. A sandbar protects the coast by the pier and a lone tree grows seemingly in the middle of the water. We could see oil storage tanks from the Lago refinery in the distance on one side and the airport on the other. The island appears mostly flat with a hilly area in one direction.
The affluent and well-kept town contains some of the same jewelry stores as St. Thomas. You can get jewelry galore along the main street, L.G. Smith Boulevard, along with tropical wear, souvenirs, and Delft china items from Holland. It didn’t take us long to walk up and down the street and stroll around the Royal Plaza and Renaissance Malls (attached to a hotel).
Diamonds International is a favorite store among cruise passengers, and Kay’s Fine Jewelry had some good prices. (In St. Thomas, check out Imperial Jewelers and Ballerina Jewelers in addition to DI).
We went back to the ship for lunch then explored the souvenir shops inside the cruise terminal. You can get last minute gifts here without going farther. Aruba is a large island, and if you can ignore its news infamy, worthy of exploration.
Tonight on the ship was the Captain’s Circle repeat members cocktail party. It was very crowded. They were generous with the drinks but not with the food. For dinner, I chose the roast rack of lamb. The show was a ventriloquist whose dummy was a shrieking duck that grated our nerves. We left in the middle of his performance.
Days 9 & 10, December 16-17, Thursday and Friday
We enjoyed our days at sea, sitting out by the pool, reading, eating, lounging on our balcony. Eating again. Napping. Checking out the ice cream. Getting a hot dog. Grabbing a cookie. Reading. Eating again. If you want to be busy, there are various activities going on, but this was my 25th cruise and I’d been there, done that. It was a wonderfully relaxing trip. I miss the warm weather, now that we are home again. The only solution is to plan our next voyage on the high seas.
And if you’re into cruise mysteries, check out Killer Knots, my latest Bad Hair Day mystery featuring hairdresser Marla Shore who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry tropical sun, this time on a cruise to the Caribbean.
Day 6, December 13, Monday, Emerald Princess 10 Day Cruise to Southern Caribbean
The day dawned bright and sunny and warm. Clouds hovered over the distant mountain ranges as we approached the famed “spice” island. I spotted a fort up on a hill, a clock tower in town, and a multitude of pastel buildings, many of which clustered up the hillside. Grenada is 133 square miles. Approximately 33,700 people live in the capital city of St. George’s which is where we docked.
We boarded an air-conditioned bus for the ship’s tour titled Grenada Explorer (the sign-up sheet says non a/c vehicles but that may be outdated). Here we drove through the insanely crowded narrow streets of St. George’s barely scraping by other vehicles. We emerged onto a road hugging the rocky coast. Sandy beaches and resorts are to the south side. We headed in the opposite direction. After a lengthy drive past many seaside villages, we turned inland toward the lush jungle interior. Wild fruit trees sprouted everywhere: tall, leafy nutmeg trees with round nuts sagging from the branches. Papayas laden with heavy green fruits. Abundant banana plants in various stages of maturity. Long cocoa pods hanging off trees. Vines aplenty. We passed some planted fields of corn and root vegetables. Most of the nutmeg, cacao, bananas are exported to Europe. It was amazing to see these fruit trees wild all over the island. I was stunned by the bountiful fruits to be found on this tropical paradise, although the standard of living could be higher.
We careened around switchback roads up and down through verdant hillsides, spotting an occasional goat. Overhead power lines strung through villages. We saw many half-built structures as though abandoned mid-construction. Men sat about watching us pass as though they had nothing productive to do. Laundry hung out to dry at many cottages. Dogs roamed the streets, and children played on open porches. Many of the homes were on stilts, without any visible air-conditioning units. Given the living conditions, I was surprised when the guide said they have cable TV with the same channels as we do.
Our first stop, an hour’s drive away, was the centuries old Dougaldston Spice Estate. The wooden buildings were faded and rundown. While I visited the outbuilding restroom, the host described the different spices grown on the island. I joined the group as he passed each spice around for us to smell: nutmeg, bay leaves, cloves, mace, ginger, tumeric, and cocoa. Small packets were available for purchase for a dollar or two each with no labels other than what spice they contained. I was disappointed; the tour description said we’d have the opportunity to buy spices here and I’d expected something more sophisticated. This hardly seemed worth the long ride, except that I enjoyed the drive through the verdant mountains to view the scenery.
Our bus resumed its route, making one roadside stop. The driver paid a guy to give us each a banana to eat. The tour list said we were supposed to stop at Gouyave Nutmeg Station but I don’t recall this being part of the tour.
We proceeded next to Grand Etang National Park 1900 feet above sea level for a view of the crater lake. I would have liked more time here as they had the best vendors for shopping but we only had 15 minutes. I gulped down the free rum punch which was mostly fruit juice, snapped a quick picture, and ran from one craft stall to the next. I bought spice necklaces made up of the different spices grown on the island. They smelled wonderful and I hoped they would keep until we got home and I hung one in my kitchen. I also bought nutmeg syrup and nutmeg jam plus some gift packs and individual packets of the different spices.
From here we visited Annandale Falls where we had a short hike downhill for the view. It was a minor waterfalls compared to the twin falls in Dominica. The vendors here were annoying, pushing their wares at us. We were now anxious to get back to town to do some shopping but our bus driver took us to Fort Frederick. We admired the ships in harbor in St. George below. There was another vendor up here plus restrooms.
Our bus stalled as we turned to make a sharp curve. All the passengers had to get out and several men helped push the bus backward. Then the driver aimed downhill, and we climbed back on. We gritted our teeth as we coasted down the steep decline but the engine restarted. Whew. The driver deserved our praise after the harrowing ride.
We’d begun our tour around 7:30 and got back to town around 12:30. Five hours was too long to be sitting on a bus. I would have liked a lot more time in town, especially because the ship left at 2:00 pm. This was our shortest port stop and one of the most interesting. Nonetheless, we appreciated the tour of Grenada’s natural wonders. My only suggestion to Princess would be to stay in port longer.
Frantic to buy more spices, I shopped in the Esplanade Mall next to the pier. Everything you’d want is right there: duty free liquor and perfume, souvenirs and spices, jams and jellies, hot sauces. This was a great shopping mall with crafts vendors outside. We didn’t have time to walk around the town at all. Maybe it was just as well. I’d already spent too much money and bought all kinds of spices that I didn’t know how to use.
Once aboard, we rested in our cabin then strolled around the ship. Most of the pool chairs were already taken so we enjoyed our balcony. For dinner that night, I had shrimp cocktail, a mushroom tart, roasted sliced duck, and a Grand Marnier soufflé.
We approached Dominica, a mountainous, long island of 298 square miles with a population of around 73,000. Clouds hovered over the green-coated land. White buildings clustered along the coastline like blobs of bird poop (not the nicest image, but this popped into my mind). A five-masted sailing vessel glided past. Closer in toward the town of Roseau, I spotted another cruise ship at a farther pier. Signs flashed in front of me: KFC, General Post Office, High Court of Justice. Decent paved roads curved by pastel buildings, many in need of repair. Buses and vans lined up ready to receive visitors. A row of tents indicated a straw market. Across the water, I spied a squat building housing a hardware center near a series of colored umbrellas sheltering more crafts stalls. I could see the Luxury Emporium, a recommended shop by the cruise line. The Royal Bank of Scotland was near the Garraway Hotel.
Our ship tour met at the end of the pier. We took the Traflagar Falls & Roseau Highlights excursion. We boarded an air-conditioned van seating 10 people and left early as the bus was full. We drove out of town without much trouble and stopped a short distance away at the Botanical Gardens, where the guide pointed out the foliage as we walked across the grass. She showed us thick caterpillars that would turn into moths. We were fascinated by the tree felled by a hurricane in 1979 that crushed an empty school bus. Banyan trees, coconut palms, papaya trees, banana plants, pink impatiens, colorful bougainvillea, sausage trees, vibrant hibiscus, red Poinciana trees, red ixora, and crotons were some of the plants shown to us. We saw the “poor man’s” orchid tree, breadfruit trees, and trumpet flowers. Hummingbirds flittered among the branches. A hollowed out circle of bamboo provided a “bamboo house” where special events took place. It was shady inside with a dirt floor. Birds chittered overhead as the guide pointed to some parrots. She mentioned there were 365 rivers on the island, hydroelectric plants, and water treatment facilities. I was impressed by their self-sufficiency in terms of water and energy needs. The island used to hold a big lime plantation but no more.
As we continued up into the mountains, I noticed electric wiring strung overhead. A big pipe followed the road to carry water. Dwellings, made mostly of concrete, had painted galvanized metal roofs. We saw trees with green beans that were Dominican grown coffee. The road was mostly paved but coated with dried mud and rocky with many switchback curves. We climbed up and up to the rainforest at Morne Trois Pitons National Park where we got out of the van and trekked through the vegetation to the famous Traflagar Falls. It’s a treacherous path with uneven, rocky steps that would be terribly slippery if wet. You need to be in decent shape to make this hike. Sweat beaded my brow and my shirt stuck to my back in the humidity. My heartbeat raced as we climbed further, but the view was worth the effort. As we approached the twin falls, the sound of rushing water grew louder. The lower falls gushed on the right, the higher falls on the left. It was truly a lush setting among tropical vegetation. I loved the rainforest and seeing the green plants and ferns and tall trees. We’d brought our rain ponchos but fortunately the weather stayed sunny and warm.
Our next stop was Papilotte Wilderness Retreat where we had an inspiring view of the Roseau Valley and a free rum punch. This was a relaxing stop where we could admire the sights.
Back in town, we shopped in the crafts market and few souvenir stores. The Luxury Emporium had leather goods, liquor, and coffee. The outdoor stalls held the usual T-shirts, magnets, carved wood boxes, flowered dresses, and beads. This island is better for scenery them for shopping but the views are spectacular.
We boarded the Emerald Princess at Port Everglades. The terminal doors opened at noon. It was our first time as Platinum members of the Captain’s Circle (repeat cruisers), and I was grateful for the Preferred Check-In line that allowed us a speedy process. Our room was ready, and after we dumped our carry-on luggage inside and shed our coats from the forty degree weather outside, we proceeded to the Horizon Court for a buffet lunch. I ate a half of a grilled cheese sandwich with chips, a salad, and a fudge cookie. Then we explored the ship, similar in design to the Caribbean Princess we’d sailed on in September. For dinner, I chose prime ribs. The welcome aboard show that evening had singers and dancers and a comedian who was pretty good.
Day 2, December 9, Thursday
At this island in the Bahamas which is Princess’s barbecue and beach stop, the weather was cool but warmer than yesterday and hot in the sun. Short sleeves sufficed as we rode the tender to the island. We strolled along the winding concrete path past native crafts stalls toward one of two grills and found a spot on the beach near a bar. I ordered a fruity frozen drink concoction and sipped it as we waited for the lunch buffet to open. We couldn’t wait to stuff ourselves with chicken, ribs, burgers, cole slaw, potato salad, beans, corn, and fresh fruit. The beautiful water spread before us in colors ranging from teal to aqua. Guests enjoyed sunning, snorkeling, and riding banana boats. We left as it got cloudy. Dinner choice was mushroom soup, Caesar salad, Rock Cornish hen. The show was a Cole Porter tribute with lively music and dancing.
Day 3, December 10, Friday
It rained this morning so we stayed inside, relaxing and strolling around the shops and lounges. At 11am, I headed up to the Skywalker Lounge on a top deck with a panoramic view of the ocean—a great place to read out of the wind—to meet the group from Cruise Critic. If you want to join this fun and knowledgeable group, you’ll make new friends on each ship and gather advice on tours, ports, and more. After the meet and greet, I headed to the port shopping talk to grab the brochures before lunch on deck. Reading, lounging, napping took up the afternoon. There are plenty of activities if you want to keep busy but I like relaxing on a cruise. Dinner was shrimp cocktail, eggplant and chicken empanada, lamb shank, Key lime pie, and banana fudge ice cream.
Day 4, December 11, Saturday
I only took one picture here and wrote no descriptions because this was my umpteenth time visiting this beautiful island. It’s my favorite among all the jewels in the Caribbean. And jewels it has galore in the many shops downtown. I spent more than I’d planned but got exactly what I was looking for so came away satisfied. We lunched at the Green House restaurant on the waterfront then indulged in pizza and tiramisu back on the ship for an afternoon snack. Dinner was tigertail shrimp. The show was a comedian whose target audience seemed to be the over seventy crowd. A hypnotist was playing in the Explorer’s Lounge but we’d just seen one on the Caribbean Princess and the Movies Under the Stars had a Jennifer Aniston film but there were no seats left by the time we went up to look. You need to get a seat at any of the venues at least a half hour early. Coming Next: Dominica
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and it was 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.
Cruise to New England/Canada on Caribbean Princess
DAY 6: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia has its own unique flavor and we enjoyed this port very much. I’d say it’s second to Bar Harbor as a favorite. There’s lots to see and do by the waterfront on your own without having to take a tour. The sun came out and warmed us as we strolled along the boardwalk. We went inside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to view the very interesting exhibits of Canadian naval history and of the Titanic with relics recovered from the wreck. Lunch was at an outdoor café in the now delightful weather. We browsed the shops, bypassing most of the artsy items. The kids toured Alexander Keith’s Brewery on Lower Water Street and highly recommend this attraction. It’s like a living history display, with costumed characters acting in their time period while explaining the brew making process. Samples of ale are offered in a tavern setting at the end. This is all within walking distance of the ship. The terminal itself offered the most interesting shops, and we spent over an hour looking around at the wares and buying more blueberry and maple products. Scarfs, sweatshirts, tee shirts, and hoodies are available here along with the usual souvenir shot glasses, cookbooks, and such. The only cookbook I bought for my collection was from the Union Oyster House in Boston.
Back on the ship, we watched a folk performance of bagpipers and dancers. It was one of the highlights of the cruise and gave a flavor of the area. Nova Scotia is worth a return visit. It’s picturesque with attractive shops and restaurants and scenic attractions if you want them. There’s even the requisite citadel on a hill. Dinner tonight: beef medallions.
We took a tender into town in the midst of a raging thunderstorm with rain pouring down and lightning flashing in the sky. After hovering under a tent until the rain let up, we dashed to our bus for a two and a half hour tour of scenic Acadia National Park with a lobster bake lunch. This by far was our best shore excursion and recommended for anyone on this route.
A blur of shops and restaurants passed by out the rain-soaked window, and within ten minutes, we were out of town and climbing into the tree-covered hills of Acadia National Park. White birch trees stood starkly among aspen and other tall, green leafy trees. Up and up we climbed toward Cadillac Mountain, fog drifting by but parting enough for us to glimpse lovely vistas of valleys and lakes. Finally reaching the summit at 1530 feet, we disembarked and huddled in our raingear and jackets to the restrooms and gift shop. Took a few quick photos and enjoyed the brisk air before boarding the bus again for the ride back to town.
The clouds were breaking up as we entered a dining hall for our lobster bake lunch. Bibs and nutcrackers were waiting on the tables. Lunch was buffet style. We collected a bowl of clam chowder and a plateful of whole Maine lobster, corn on the cob, potatoes and cole slaw. A server came around and took off the shell for each of us who’d never eaten a whole lobster before. The meat was very moist. And the dessert…a To-Die-For rich blueberry tart. Maine blueberries are tiny little things that pack a punch.
After we ate our fill, we strolled through town toward the gift shops. The sun came out, radiating warmth and light over the hilly terrain and attractive shops of the waterfront area.
There were nice quality shops, especially The North Face store on Cottage Street where I bought a lightweight rain jacket. In the other stores, hoodies and sweatshirts are everywhere but they all look the same at each port. We snapped up wild Maine blueberry jam, dried blueberries, blueberry honey, and wild blueberry maple spread.
Then the clouds came back so we headed for the ship while considering our next meal. I’d already had prime ribs, veal scallopini, and lamb with mint jelly for dinner. What should I try tonight? A lobster tail, of course. It came with jumbo prawns and garlic butter sauce and was even tastier than the lobster we’d had for lunch. Ah, such choices. Beef Wellington and roast pheasant were also on the menu. Now we’re home and back to plebian food.
In conclusion, I would say Bar Harbor was my favorite port on this trip with its scenic beauty, high quality shops, and attractive downtown.