A big thank you to everybody who answered my pre-cruise questions and gave advice.
First off, despite all my misgivings, I absolutely loved the cruise and will definitely do it again! We were on Caribbean Princess in, of course, the Caribbean. We mostly do very low budget, sightseeing trips, all planed by ourselves, to Europe. This was so different. I had a hard time getting used to having everything done for me, and not rushing around trying to see things.
Perhaps because they were not sold out, or to encourage us to cruise again, we were upgraded from the tiniest, inside cabin to a lovely, outside cabin with a picture window - really nice. We liked that so much, we would probably pay the difference to have it next time. Bedding was new and very nice.
I was concerned that I would feel trapped at sea, but the ship was docked in a different port each day from early morning to late afternoon or early evening, so there was something to do everyday. Actually, a big surprise was how much I started to love being on the ship, and looked froward to the day at sea, so much so, that I would take a longer trip with lots of time at sea now.
I was also afraid that I would hate a big ship with so many people (3000 passengers), but the ship is so well arranged that it never seemed crowded except in the buffet line a couple of times. It has three large banks of elevators (fore, aft & mid-ship), so they were never crowded and there was never a wait. Also, being so big, it has lots of places people can gather in small groups with activities that suit you: six pools in several different areas and different decks (three adults only & one kids only), five hot tubs (three adults only), five restaurants & two buffets plus cafes, burger & fries place, pizza cafe, bakery, several bars, etc, a place for everyone.
The food was good, and well prepared, but not gourmet. There was an interesting variety though, and some of the cakes were really good. Presentation was very nice. There was always fresh fruit, salad, etc.
It has two night clubs, each with different entertainment, and a 1000 seat auditorium that was quite beautiful with very comfortable seats. The entertainment (especially the ship's own orchestra and pianist) was really good.
Getting on and off was efficient and fast. As a matter of fact, everything was efficient. The staff was very friendly as well as efficient. The ship was very clean and it was emphasized that everyone use hand sanitizers that were near eating areas.
I noticed a few tiny little signs of wear on things that night need repair or replacing, but most everything looked nearly new, and very nice. Glass, brass, etc. was being constantly cleaned and polished.
We choose anytime seating so we could meet lots of people. That was one of the best things on the trip. I had been told so many things, I had formed an unfair and incorrect image of people we would meet. Well, we met so many interesting, kind people from many different places. We are planning on exchanging visits with a couple from England, another from Israel and another from the US.
Unfortunately, we didn't plan ahead as well as we could have. We did only a couple of sightseeing tours on our own with local tours through the Virgin Islands Tourist board. Both were interesting and well worth the money, plus a lot cheaper than those from the ship. However, if you don't want to do the work of planning things, it certainly is easier to just do the ship's excursions, especially for water activities like diving or swimming with animals, etc. We did go to one rain forest and into the volcano on St. Lucia. I loved both of those activities. We did one beach day, also fun, and some just walking around.
One kind of cool thing that probably most people didn't even see. In each port, there were captains familiar with that port, who came on board our ship and guided it into the harbor. They also guided us out at night, and were picked up by a small boat that came right up under our ship. That captain stepped out, back onto the small boat and returned to the harbor as our ship went out to sea. We heard something about it and watched for it. I found it pretty exciting - and just a bit scary if you were that captain. I also wonder how it feels to be the captain of such a big ship, turning over your ship to somebody else.
The most significant thing about large ship cruising: If you want to really experience a place, I don't think a cruise is the ideal thing. For example, to me, just seeing a few masterpieces in major museums is wonderful, but not what Italy or Spain is all about. Walking around in Venice or Rome or some small Italian or Spanish village in the evening and meeting local people at small cafes during dinner is essential to get a real feeling for Italy or Spain, and many other places. We often stay a week or so in one place, getting to know local restaurant owners and shop keepers, and I love that, which is why I was so worried that I would hate the cruise.
Well, it wasn't what we usually do, but I did love it! Two completely different experiences, each great in their own way.
Oh, almost forgot.
1. Sitting down at nicely set table with DH for all meals, with no TV or other distractions.
2. Watching the sunset from the covered promenade deck as we departed the dock each evening and headed out to sea.
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