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Trip Report Caribbean Princess Trip Report 2014

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This is an overdue trip report from our Caribbean Princess trip earlier this summer. We actually just returned from a trip to St Lucia but before I work on that trip report I thought I better post this one.

We’ve been on a few Carnival Cruises and while my husband and I liked them, my parents wanted to try a more mature line. My Mom had a knee replacement last February and this was a reward trip for her for doing so well in her recovery. The travelers on this trip are my husband and I and my 78 year old parents.

Getting there

As always we flew on US Air. Since my parents have problems walking long distances, we requested to use of the golf cart transfers in the connecting airport. They wouldn’t have been able to walk the distance between the gates on their own in the time frame needed without them. My husband and I walked and actually made it to the gate before them since the carts had to go slow due to the amount of people walking around them. It was a very convenient option. I had the airline put a note on my parent’s reservations that they would need this assistance and the workers on the carts asked to scan their tickets before riding. One time when the cart wasn’t full, we rode along with them.

I kept reminding my parents about the carry on restrictions for airlines before the vacation. I wanted them to stay over at our house the night before so I could check the weight of their luggage and make sure there weren’t any problems with their carry on luggage, but my mom refused. She wanted to get ready in her own house. I love her but she’s stubborn. When we went through security, my 78 year old mom had her self tanner confiscated by TSA.

The Ship


The cruise ship was much more quiet and understated than Carnival ships. The decorations were more refined. It was easy to navigate and find everything we needed. We booked about a month and a half before sailing and our rooms were on different sides of the ship but on the same floor. I didn’t notice very many kids on board.

The room seemed smaller than Carnival’s and it didn’t have a couch, but I loved the sort of walk in closet across from the bathroom. They have a large hanging section in the closet which works great for me. I bring lots of wire dry cleaning hangers with me on vacation and the closet had more than enough room for both of our clothes. I usually leave the hangers in the hotel for the next person. My husband tends to use drawers more for his clothes and the room was lacking drawer spaces so he used the cubicles in the closet area instead.

The balcony was a nice size that fit two chairs and a small table. We were on the Baja deck and could see down into the balconies of people below us. I didn’t like that the balconies were arranged where the higher ones could see down into the lower ones. It was an odd configuration.

In general I thought that the other cruisers on Carnival were friendlier. People seemed to keep to themselves on the ship. I could have felt this because we were so focused on showing my parents a nice time. We really didn’t attend many group activities or socialize.

Activities

One of the things that we loved about the Caribbean Princess was the variety of music on board. They had a Mariachi band, a steel drum player, country music (which we didn’t see) and a nightclub. I participated in the steel drum class. We’ve seen steel drums on many of our trips and I always wanted to try to play one. This was my chance! They had about twenty Jumbie Jam steel drums. For those of you who don’t know what a Jumbie Jam is, it’s a small steel drum that has only an octave worth of notes in a G scale. They sell books with musical arrangements designed especially for it.

The steel drum player led the class playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. They also had Amazing Grace on their sheet music which I wish they would have used. It’s a much better song. We asked the musician about the instrument afterwards and took a picture of the information on the box they’re stored in. When we returned from our trip I ordered one! I also ordered a few song books made especially for it. It’s fun for a beginner and the song books have several unique options like Caribbean songs and Christmas songs. I have a young nephew who plays the guitar and now I can play duets with him. I’m practicing for his Christmas visit. This was such a fun activity that I hope they decide to keep it on their schedule. It might lure me back on another one of their cruises.

The one area that I thought was lacking was the piano bar area. They had a piano player that sang but he was in a very small lounge area on one of the levels in the atrium. The area was always full and people couldn’t find seats. They should have had the piano player in a larger venue on the ship. They would have sold more drinks if people could sit and listen instead of standing for a while until they got tired. This is one area that Carnival gets right. The piano bars on Carnival are hands down the best part of the cruise for me.

To be continued...

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    We are planning another Caribbean cruise this winter, but have not picked one yet, so I am very interested in your experience.

    Our first cruise was on Caribbean Princess on a Caribbean cruise and it is still my favorite ship. Did you use the adult pool at the back of the ship? I loved sunsets there. Did you like the big promenade around nearly the entire ship?

    How was the entertainment in the theater? It was great then, not too loud and some really good voices. On cruises since then, everything seems so loud, and voices so poor, we have often not stayed for the shows.

    How is the food now? It was pretty good then, but not as good as on NCL Epic. However, I do not like the overall ambiance and configuration of the Epic as well as Princess ships.

    I like that you can compare it with Carnival since we have not done a cruise on Carnival. Was drinking excessive on any of your carnival cruises? I do not mean drinking a lot, really, but people getting loud or spilling drinks? Smoking?

    Our cruise was in Spring and there was a good mix of ages, with young people and families with kids, which we like.

    Thanks for doing this report.

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    Hi Sassafras. Thanks for reading. I have another installment of the report but I thought I’d answer your questions first.

    Did you use the adult pool at the back of the ship? - We didn’t use any of the pools.

    Did you like the big promenade around nearly the entire ship?

    We did the “On deck for the cure” breast cancer walk which went around the perimeter of the ship. They asked you to donate at least a certain amount and they gave us baseball caps. My husband’s mom died of breast cancer several years ago so this is a cause we support.

    The walk around the outside of the ship didn’t seem that great to me. I prefer the nicely decorated inside areas. We had to do so many laps around the ship to make the targeted distance. My husband did the full walk but I stopped one lap short of the end. When I went inside to find a bar to buy a bottled water, a manager at the bar gave me a free water and thanked me for doing the walk. The staff seemed to be very polite and not as casual as on Carnival.

    How was the entertainment in the theater? - We tried to go to one of the shows but arrived too late to get seats. Trying to get my elderly parents out and about in a timely manner was a challenge. I thought that the auditorium area was smaller than on Carnival. We found my parents two seats together, then my husband and I left because there weren’t any more seats. They enjoyed the show and said that they could hear everything fine.

    How is the food now? - We had no problems with the food. There was enough variety that everyone could find something they liked. Princess didn’t seem to push the comfort food type items that Carnival did on our last cruise. We ate most of dinners in the main dining room and had their version of any time dining. On the formal evening we had a small wait but in general there were no issues.

    The Princess buffet area was arranged in a convenient manner. The food was in a separated square configured area. There was a large island in the middle and they had food in lines in a surrounding square area. You stood in line to get into the square area and then just went around to what stations you wanted. There were occasional lines to get into the area but once inside traffic flowed freely. It was a much better arrangement than on Carnival.

    Was drinking excessive on any of your carnival cruises? – I never noticed any sloppy drunks on Carnival. We’re usually back to our rooms by at the latest 1 AM, so after that you never know.

    I think Carnival gets a bad rap. Carnival seems to be more casual and has louder rap music that we didn’t hear on Princess. The big deck party they had at night on the Carnival Pride was very loud and crowded and I know my Dad hated it. That was one of the reasons we tried Princess this time.

    The people on Princess were more refined and were probably in a higher socio- economic status. They seemed more conservative and reserved but I found the other passengers on Carnival to be more friendly and willing to just start up a conversation.

    Smoking? - On Princess I noticed that the casino seemed to be smoky every time we walked through it. The smoke actually prevented my parents from spending too much time there. They advertised that one night would be non smoking in the casino but we didn’t manage to make it there. I’m an avid non smoker. The casino was the only area that I felt accosted by smoke. I didn’t notice any annoying smoke on Carnival either. I think they have pretty strict regulations about smoking.

    In general my husband and my Dad preferred Princess. My Dad hated the loud music on Carnival. My husband thought that Princess matched our style better. He liked the food, entertainment and decorations better on Princess. My Mom and I both preferred the lively atmosphere on Carnival. She thought that Carnival had more daily activities to do to fill your time during the day which I agree with. I felt that the other passengers were more friendly and approachable.
    I’ll be posting another installment but let me know if there’s anything else I can answer from our experience.

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    Thank you so much. DH hesitates to do a Carnival cruise. I will try most anything once and am not picky about food, but I really hate loud music and have asthma, so any smoke is an issue. As long as I can avoid that, I am good. We have been on three Princess ships and Caribbean Princess and Crown Princess were my favorites. I am guessing the time of year and itinerary will also influence the makeup of the passengers, as we had plenty of parties and dancing, which I also liked.

    Looking forward to more of your trip.

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    Food

    The quality of the food on Princess was overall better than on Carnival. We ate at the breakfast buffet most mornings. They had a great selection of both hot and cold choices. They didn’t have bacon police doling out a few pieces at a time. I preferred the variety and quality of breakfast food in the buffet rather than in the sit down dining room. There were no problems with either regular or decaf coffee in any of their areas. We missed the Mexican Iguana place on Carnival but Princess did have salsa near their eggs at the buffet which I liked.

    We ate in the main dining room for dinner all nights except for one. We had anytime dining and never had a problem being seated in a timely manner. There were some large groups traveling together who were louder than I preferred in the dining room near us. I tried the chocolate love boat dessert but couldn’t get past the first bite. It was too rich and it was designed to be served cold. I thought Carnival’s warm chocolate melting cake was much better. I don’t like cold chocolate desserts.

    Sick Bay Revisited

    We used the Medical Unit again for my Mom. She had a knee replacement earlier in the year. Her leg swelled and was red after a few days on the ship. The incision was itchy and she couldn't help scratching it. She ended up having cellulitis on her leg and needed oral antibiotics from the ship’s doctor. She traveled around in a wheelchair for a day or two and was told not to get off the ship for two days so she could rest her leg.

    Both of my parents decided not to get off the ship at Grand Turk and St Thomas. By the end of the cruise her leg was healing and all was well. She didn’t miss anything in St Thomas but I know she was disappointed in Grand Turk. On the Carnival Pride cruise that I went on with my parents a few years ago, we were supposed to stop in Grand Turk but the ship was diverted (and delayed a day) due to a storm. She was so cute. She said “This is the second time that I missed Grand Turk” and she did a little pout.


    Ports

    The ports on this cruise appealed to me because they were all new places for us. I think that Florida ports on a cruise are a waste of time, so I was glad that they we were going to proper Caribbean islands.

    Grand Turk was our first stop. We had a late start since my Mom went to see the doctor that day. My husband ad I have been to Provo in Turks and Caicos on a land vacation. The water in Grand Turk had the same beautiful shades of blue that we saw in Provo. Margaritaville was too crowded for my taste so we walked down the beach headed towards Jack Shack but decided to stop at Barefoot Cabana.

    Barefoot Cabana is a small blue shack like restaurant that only has a few lounge chairs outside. They were playing soca music which we love so we stayed there. They had exactly what we were looking for - a beautiful beach and not too many people.

    We lounged around for a while and decided to order jerk chicken and plantains for lunch. The jerk chicken was delicious but the plantains were lacking. They weren’t the sweet type that I like. Their drinks were a little pricey but sadly that it to be expected. I wish we wouldn’t have sat down at their tables while we were waiting for our food to be cooked since it took so long. We wasted lot of time just sitting there. We should have ordered and continued to lie out on the loungers until the food was done.

    We loved their beach since there was only one other person in their chairs. The water was calm and the ocean floor was sandy. We wished that we could have stayed longer in Grand Turk on their gorgeous beach. I would definitely seek out Grand Turk for another cruise. I'd love to return and spend a full day there.

    St Thomas

    I thought that Megan’s Bay was a crowded overrated beach. We went there on our own, not on a cruise ship excursion. The loungers are packed side by side on a densely populated beach. They had a few drink waitresses on the beach but it was difficult to get their attention due to the amount of people. We went into the water and it was calm with a sandy bottom which was the only thing I liked.

    I’ve read that Megan’s Bay has been called one of the best beaches, but the crowds took away from its appeal. If all of those darn cruise ship people wouldn’t have been there, I would have enjoyed it much better. Oops, this time we were part of those annoying “cruise ship people”. If we ever go on a ship that stops in St Thomas again, I would opt for shopping instead of the beach.

    Another down side to St Thomas was that we had to wait on a shared open air van to get to the beach. We always take private taxis but couldn’t find any in St Thomas. We exited the ship a little later than most, because my parents were deciding whether or not to stay on the ship. By the time we got off there were only a small amount of people leaving the ship.

    We wanted to just pay a taxi driver to take us Megan’s Bay but that’s not how the system works there. They had all of these open air vans for the masses and we had to wait for more people to leave.

    Our driver on St Thomas was a maniac. The roads had many twists and turns and she drove faster than I do which is saying a lot. When we got there we paid her and told her when we wanted to return. She said that we could use any of the vans from the company she worked for on our return trip. We couldn’t find her at the end of the day and had to sit on another’s company’s van and wait for it to fill up. It was getting later in the day and we didn’t have any shopping time at the port because we didn’t want to get on the ship too close to the cut off time.

    St Thomas was a huge disappointment. If it is ever on another cruise we go on, I would opt for an island tour instead of the densely crowded Megan's Bay.

    To be continued..

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    Glad you enjoyed Princess, it's our favorite line. Been on all the major cruise lines multiple times and always revert back to Princess. We sailed the new Royal Princess last year and loved it. Have been on the Caribbean Princess twice and have fond memories.

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    Thanks for the comments. We did have a good time. It was nice to try the style of another line. This is my last installment of the trip report.

    Puerto Rico

    I like doing different things on vacation and this time our unique adventure was going on a Segway tour. It’s been on my bucket list for a while. We pre booked online with Segway Tours of Puerto Rico for their four hour tour of the fort areas.

    The guide pointed out some of the historic buildings and government buildings that we went by on our way to the fort. We had several stops to take pictures. We parked our Segways outside of the fort and did a walking tour inside of it. Our tour guide gave an interesting if not completely factual narrative during the tour. He seemed to have a slant against the US which surprised me in a US territory. I had so much fun on the Segway. I'm sure we'll be doing this again on a future trip.

    We were in Puerto Rico from about noon to 9 PM. Our Segway tour was scheduled for later in the afternoon so we decided to eat lunch and then do some souvenir shopping before the tour. My parents came off the ship for lunch and we all ate at Punto de Vista. I wanted to have an authentic Puerto Rican meal and looked into a few places before we left.

    When we walked off the ship I asked a taxi driver if he would be able to take us to any of the restaurants that I had listed and he was nice enough to tell us that we could walk to Punto de Vista and gave me directions. It was really close to the ship.

    Punto de Vista is a very casual restaurant, but the food is excellent. We ate outside since the inside looked more like a club than a restaurant. I wanted to try some local food so I had the mofongo. It’s a plantain, pork and garlic dish and it lived up to its reputation. The lunch portions were huge and delicious. I tried to order in Spanish but our waiter told us he was from Chicago and said that he didn’t understand Spanish which I thought was odd. I was disappointed since practicing Spanish is a fun part of vacation for me.

    I was worried about my parents being able to find something that they would like since they aren’t very adventurous eaters. My Dad surprised us and ordered a pork dish that he enjoyed and ate every bit of. My Mom on other hand studied the menu for a long time. I pointed out a few items that I thought she might like. When it was time for her to order, she chose cheese fries – yes, cheese fries. I was very disappointed in her. She did taste all of our dishes and said they were good but didn’t want any more than a bite.

    After lunch we took a very overpriced taxi around the city on a small tour. He waited for us while we went shopping, then dropped us off at the Segway place and dropped my parents off at the ship. My Mom and I did some power shopping on the side streets and got the needed T-shirts, magnets and Christmas ornaments.

    After the Segway tour we heard the tour guide recommend Punto de Vista to other people on the tour so we decided to ask him for another place to eat dinner. We only wanted tapas and drinks since we ate a large lunch. He steered us to Toro Salao. We ordered a pitcher of red sangria and a few tapas. Again we ate outside.

    They had a very nice view of Old San Juan and it was within walking distance of the ship. We had a fun meal there. I really enjoyed San Juan and would like to return there someday for a short land vacation.

    Princess Cay

    Princess Cay was our last stop and I had the day pre planned to make it as easy as possible for my parents. We were able to go right down to the tender area without waiting in line since I reserved a Cabana which gave us priority tendering for four. I chose the first cabana that was next to the bathroom area and was the shortest walk. They had a tram that took us to the cabanas.

    My mom just loved the cabana. It had air conditioning inside it which was a nice option for my parents. The cabana had doors that closed which is different than the ones on Carnival. It had four plastic chairs and a table inside which made lunch much easier. It also included four loungers outside of it.

    We ordered the delivered deluxe lunch for four. They started bringing food to us and it just kept coming. It was more food than any four people could eat. The only thing I was disappointed in was that they didn’t serve jerk chicken.

    Our cabana was also next to the bar, which my husband liked and was next to a small storefront which was a plus for my Mom and I. We bought our Christmas ornaments there. We buy them on every island we visit. Our Christmas tree looks like the United Nations of the Caribbean.

    My parents wanted to go into the water but the beach was very rocky at cabana area. They were standing at a lookout area in front of our cabana and I knew they were considering walking down on the rocks, so I had to discourage them. I pointed out a woman who almost fell on the rocks and they finally agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to go into the water. Sometimes I think our roles have reversed and I am now the voice of reason. The woman was very nice and when she came walking out past us, she also told them that it was too difficult to walk on the rocks into the water.

    They had a great time at Princess Cay. The cabana was just what we needed. They enjoyed lying out in the sun but were able to go into the A/C when it was too warm. We did a little more shopping at the outdoor stalls close to where the ship docked. There was a very long line to get back onto the ship but we got a cute picture of them in front of the Princess Cay sign while we were waiting.

    EZ Check

    We used EZ check which is a program that you pay for that takes your checked luggage at disembarkation. You don’t have to handle your luggage until you reach your final destination. It was so convenient for us since we were helping my parents to maneuver in and out of taxis at the airport.

    The one snag to it was that we didn’t get our luggage tags until very late on the last night. We waited in our rooms to get the tags so we could put our bags out. We saw that most of the other rooms had their luggage sitting out and we saw porters gathering the luggage which worried us so we stayed in our rooms waiting for the tags to be delivered instead of being able to enjoy entertainment on our last night on board.

    We eventually went down to the front desk and asked when they would be delivered and they couldn’t give us an exact time. It was very late when they were delivered and we totally missed the last night’s festivities.

    Summary

    We all had a great time on the Caribbean Princess. It was difficult at times to corral my parents and to keep us on schedule. The ship was a nice change from the wild designs of Carnival. It was a grown up ship and fit my parents much better than Carnival did. I could imagine going on another Princess cruise in the future with just my husband and me.

    I enjoyed the calmer designs and the relatively older music on Princess. I missed the fun daily activities and trivia on Carnival. I liked the variety of music on Princess but really missed Carnival's sing along piano bar. The food was an overall better quality on Princess but I also had favorites that I missed from Carnival.

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    I think the wild designs are an issue with CCL too. I was not at all impressed by the crazy designs on the Legend but also as CCL no longer uses Joe Farcus as its design chief I have heard newer ships have tones it down some.

    All cruises have their good and bad points. I would go on CCL again but it would have to be a newer ship. However if the folks on that ship acted like the ones we saw on the Legend than its adios amigo! I can't imagine Princess passengers or the Princess crews putting up with that.

    Very nice report and thanks for posting. :).

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    Great report. The activity on the Princess ships are more "sedate" than the Carnivals for sure but there are "fun" activities just the same. There are trivia game/show on the Princess ships and the Crooner Bar features a piano player, but not a sing along though. They have the pool game and one of my favorite is the egg drop. You drop an egg from 4 floors up at the atrium and the object is to make sure the egg landed safely without any damage.

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