Better than expected
Be forewarned this is a long review.
My wife and I are experienced cruisers (59 & 57 yearsold) and were looking for a lower priced 7 to 10-day cruise. On the Princess website, under Deals (drop& go) we found a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the CaribbeanPrincess for a mid-forward balcony for $612 pp.
I dove into the recent reviews of the Caribbean Princess (CB) and was a bit concerned as there were some negative reviews. Thankfully, we still booked the cruise.
We also checked out YouTube entries for recent Caribbean Princess reviews. I recommend those by“La Lido Loca” and by “CruiseTipsTV”. Both are info-packed and well produced. Props to those folks, they don’t really get a good vacation as they are always filming something. Thanks folks.
The Caribbean Princess was recently dry-docked and refittedwith some impressive upgrades.
We toyed with the idea of getting in the night before, butbecause it was summer we figured that we’d assume the risks associated withsame day travel and put the money saved toward something else on board.
I would never travel same day from October throughApril. Even though we were fine, we weretired from getting up really early and there’s always that chance of somethinggoing wrong. We took the calculated riskand it paid off.
We took the first non-stop JetBlue flight out of Boston onthe day of the cruise, Saturday, 8/4/18, and flew to Fort Lauderdale.
I travel sometimes for work and invested in the TSA Prechecka couple of years ago. I highly suggestgetting this. You don’t need to take offyour shoes or take out your laptop, the lines move quickly and are muchshorter. My wife does not have this, butshe was included under my precheck because we were on the same itinerary. At Boston the precheck saved us about 45minutes and in FLL (on the return flight) it saved us at least 30 minutes.
We had an uneventful flight. The luggage was on the carousel at FLL by the time we got there, we werein a taxi by 10:00 AM and to Port Everglades by 10:20. Taxi fare with tip was under $25. FLL is a smaller airport. They are quick, friendly, cater to the cruise crowd, and have this down to a science.
I was fearful that we were way too early, there were some passengers getting off of the previous week’s cruise waiting for rides or whatever. Again, this is part of the same-day travel risk, but we dropped our luggage at the porters (tipped a $1per bag). We were welcomed into the terminal immediately.
Princess has embarkation down cold. Maybe if they loaded us into a howitzer andshot us aboard we’d get there quicker, but I’ll wait the 23 seconds it took tohave them check our passports, swipe a credit card and give us our cruise cards,then stroll aboard.
We were still a tad early (10:45 or so), we are Platinummembers and were escorted to the Elite / Platinum lounge where we had access torestrooms, phone charging stations, coffee, water, juice and pastries. Around 11:15, they cleared the ship and westarted boarding. By 11:30, I dropped mybackpack off at our stateroom, which was L305.
Cabin Location - We like the adults-only Lotus Pool andthought that the location of the forward mid-ship of the Lido deck would behandy.
In hindsight we would have chosen a cabin a bit further fromthe path from the elevator bank to the main pool of the Lido deck.
Look at a deck-plan of where L305 is in relationship to whatthe natural path would be from the elevators to the main part of the Lido deck(something I should have considered).
We loved the cabin itself, but there was some trafficoutside our door. Not that it was horrific,but it was there. Also, you can hear thedeck attendants were readying the deck chairs above us daily at 07:00. If you were a late-sleeper that could be anissue, but I’m up early.
On the plus-side we were steps away from the main Lido deckarea (Salty Dog, etc) and outside of the stairwell leading to the Lotus Pool(spa area and workout room).
Cabin interior – the usual small bathroom, tiny shower whereyou need to soap up the walls and turnaround to wash up. The closet layout is great, the balcony isbigger than those on the Regal / Royal class. A desk with chair and another seat. The bed was set up in a queen configuration (note, these came apart acouple of times at night, I asked the steward if there was anything to preventthat and he merely tightened the sheets, I asked about an egg crate which nevermaterialized, we dealt with it).
The TV is new, a nice LG, maybe a 46” (or close to that).Has on-demand and a number of selections, it was very nice.
One of the great tips from Cruise Critic and CruiseTVTips onYouTube was to bring magnetic clips, we brought 6 and used them all. We kept relevant info at quick reach.
Ocean Medallion (*****)–
There were some cabins on the pilot ***** group, we were notone of them (we were part of the pilot team when we were aboard the Regal, Ialso work in IT, so I have a curious interest).
Gone are the little mailboxes outside the cabins, they werereplaced with little iPad looking tablets secured to the wall where you holdyour cruise card to open your door. Pretty slick, but the steward needs to put Patters and envelopes on thebed.
There were a bunch of technicians working on ***** relatedtasks this cruise. A table across fromus a Princess HR guy was having dinner we chatted for a while and I gave him mytake and support on *****.
As an IT guy, I know this is an iterative process. THERE WIL BE HICCUPS. The complainers were doing the same thingwhen they doubting the value of a smartphone over their flip-phones.
My take is that Princess is taking a significant risk, withhigh reward potential by investing quite heavily in technology, good forthem.
No one else in the cruising industry is doing anythingremotely close to this (yet). All arewaiting and watching. Once they get itdown, the opportunities are endless, they can have a Waze like feature whereyou can be redirected around post-theater crowds to a lounge, where a drink youwanted is being prepared for you on your walk there. Patience folks, this is going to be awesome,give your feedback and suggestions to Princess.
When you are boarding or going off, you need to swipe twice,so they are doing a parallel run, testing both systems, the old scanners andthe new ***** scanners. I think it’s great.
Internet Access –
They installed three new antennas during the week, myinternet speed was pretty good. There weresome spots with slower response, like the theater (we would check texts whilewaiting for the show) and the response time was not as good there. Maybe they’ll install some gear to help that.
We are Platinum so we received 150 minutes of free internet minutes(each). I had 45 minutes left when Idisembarked, so there was plenty.
When we boarded we stopped by the internet café, theyoffered to install the Princess@Sea app and gave us a quick tutorial. They also installed a Logout app that we’dselect to ensure we were logged out properly and not rack up minutes.
The Princess@Sea app allowed you to view the Events &shows for the day, layout of the ship, your account, etc. The User Experience is an easy to use,informative and users-friendly app. Itis a really well conceived and executed app.
There was a lot of negative discussion on the boards arounddining. I’ll admit that I am not a“foody”. I like good food, expect goodservice and a good variety. What I writeis my opinion, understanding that some foodies will think my review of diningquite pedestrian. So be it. If you expect a 5-star restaurant on theseas, go for a Crystal cruise and pay $5K each for an ocean view room.
All in all, the food, service and variety were excellent.
Each day in the Patters you get a slip of paper called the “DailyCrave” it lists what is open for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, not what’s onthe menu, but type of restaurant, but where it’s located and hours open. Really handy.
Coffee Card – Wehad 12 or so punches from the last cruise and used that, but Princess has a newprocess where you use your cruise card, so no more carryover from cruise tocruise on a coffee card. Too bad, weliked that.
I’d usually run down to the International Café, get two freshbrewed coffees, a couple of treats and have it on the balcony. Then when we were dressed we’d go to theWorld Fresh Market Place (WFM) for some eggs and stuff.
The WFM – I knowmany will disagree but I found the WFM to be great. The selection and presentation wereawesome. Princess’s Executive Chef was on-hand duringon our cruise, he was making adjustments mid-cruise and it showed how wellPrincess responded to previous criticisms.
Breakfast - Fried & scrambled eggs were already preparedor you could fill a bowl with your selections for an omelet (by the Planks sideof the buffet). There were always 2types of French Toast and 2 types of pancakes, really good. Plenty of other stuff like yogurt, fruit andpastries. Some other creative offeringslike a dinner roll hollowed out an egg baked inside with cheese on top.
Lunch – They had 4 different types of sandwiches madeup. Like a roast beef on a ciabatta withchipotle mayo, Havarti cheese, lettuce & tomato, a veg options, etc. Easy to grab & go for my wife who felt thatif she missed 2 seconds of sun it was a ruined day. Salad bar which looked good, plenty of hotentrees available. Always a few options no matter what. Cookies and desserts always available.
Dinner – We never had dinner at the WFM but did walk throughone night. They had a couple of carvingstations a full selection of offerings which looked good (exactly what, I’m notsure but people were walking away with full plates). They also had the Planks & Steamers atnight which we never tried but were told both were pretty good.
Slice – The pizzajoint. I thought it was reallygood. They have three types of pizza tochoose from with cheese, pepperoni and a daily special. They also have a Stromboli (calzone typething), focaccia with a meatball on top and also really good California Toastwith avocado, feta and, pine nuts (again, really good).
The Salty Dog –no more brats, but really good hotdogs, chicken sandwiches, tacos, loadedfries, and of course burgers. Theburgers were great, probably 1/3 pounders rather than ¼ pounders, really tasty,fresh, seasoned with something. I hadthe triple smoked one time with smoked gouda, bacon jam & onion sauce (getit!). I never had the Ernesto (it takes20 minutes), but talking with a guy that did, he said it was beyond descriptiongood.
We had lunch in the MDR on the first day. Seated quickly. I had a really tasty burger, but my wife hadwhat she called the best ravioli she’s had in decades. After that we had lunch elsewhere.
Dinner in the MDR – We had anytime dining and never waitedmore than 5 minutes to be seated. Asopposed to the Regal in January, the CB did a great job of getting peopleseated.
On our first night we were seated in the Island dining roomwith Sonal at a table for two. We endedup eating every dinner there and requested Sonal and his assistant Irinka everynight thereafter. We even canceled areservation for the Crown Grille. Theservice we received from those two restored my faith in Princess. He had suggestions for every meal, took thetime to try to get to know us. I don’tthink my water glass ever got below 4oz before he or Irinka would fill it (andmake sure I got some ice as well).
My wife’s favorite dessert (ever) is the chocolate pistachiodome. She asked about it on Sunday andSonal said that it was served on Thursday. He joked about it all week. OnThursday, we ordered and he brought out an appetizer of the chocolate pistachiodome, as a joke, then replaced it with the app she ordered. When dessert time came, my wife had two domeson her plate. She struggled to finishthem, soldiered on, got it done and loved every second of it.
That next morning, while we were at the pool, room servicedropped off two plates of the dessert. Needless to say, my wife has made a new couple of friends. Thanks for your outstanding service Sonal& Irinka.
We didn’t do all the shows, but saw the Fantastic Journey(go!), was told the first night Broadway Production was great, the comedian wasreally good (and engaged the audience). The ventriloquist was a riot, he pulled a guy up on stage (who was agreat sport) and had us all in stitches.
The marriage show was good as usual (maybe come up with somenew questions), trivia was scheduled multiple times per day. We never did bingo.
We saw Movies Under the Stars one night and saw Amy Schumer’sI Feel Pretty, which was fun.
As part of the *****, the casino has a new way to sign into theslots machine, you tap your card (or *****) on a spot and it pops up yourinformation, enter a pin and you are ready to play. Cashing out takes a second. It’s safe, quick and reliable.
There’s one craps table, 2 roulette, one poker pro table, 3card poker and a few Black Jack tables.
Platinum / EliteLounge in Skywalker
Each night the Platinum lounge is in Skywalker. They have some apps, cheese, crackers,crudité, etc. with 6 or 8 reduced priced drinks.
One note about beer. Princess needs to do a better job of beerselections. I remember when they had anumber of good German beers available, now they have Bud, Bud Lite, Bass,Stella Artois, Dos Equis, Coors Lite, Blue Moon, Grolsch and Heineken, not anIPA available. A few cruises ago, therewere Spatan, their Sea Witch IPA and Paulander available.
There are 4 big pools, 2 adult and 2 “everyone” pools. There are a number of hot tubs, a kiddie pooland a plunge pool also.
We liked the 2 adult pools and ended up at the Lotus pool allbut 1 day. The Lotus pool has only 10loungers at the pool level which are open for first-come first served.
On the Regal we opted for a Bungalow next to the adultpool. Assuming that the first sea daywould be crazy, we booked the Sanctuary. We got a two-person lounger and loved it. When we tried to book the other sea days aswell, they were sold out. I asked to beinformed if there were any cancellations, there were a couple of cancellationsand we grabbed them. The Sanctuary issemi covered, you can get sun in some loungers and the waiters are alwaysbringing drinks, water, food and cold cloths for you. You also get “Tea” at 3PM, which was delightful. If you want quiet, comfortable loungers andbeing waited on, try a day at the Sanctuary.
Princess Cay –stayed aboard.
St Thomas – Got offfor an hour or so.
St Martin – had plansto go to Mullet Bay but opted to stay aboard and put what we would have spent ontaxis and loungers, to be used on the Sanctuary.
Again, Princess has this down cold.
We opted for the self-walk-off. We are finally realizing that a 7-day cruisedoesn’t require 5 suitcases. We had a07:30 slot and were there at 07:30 and whisked off 30 seconds later.
A breeze through Customs and to an available taxi, 15minutes to the airport. We were checked in and through security by 08:15.
The Taxi ride back was $3 cheaper due to an airport fee thatis tacked on when you get a taxi from the airport.
All in all, a very relaxing cruise, aboard a veteran ship withsome great new features. The crew goesabove and beyond whenever you engage them. My wife asked if I would see if there were any open cabins for anotherweek, it was that good.
If I can answer any questions, please ask.