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Trip Report Sea Princess: Caribbean October 25-November 1

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This was my sixth cruise with Princess. My parents and I do a family trip once per year and we decided on a cruise aboard the Sea Princess this year and this was our second cruise aboard this ship. The itinerary and maximizing port time is of paramount importance to us, but we also prefer the older, medium sized ships, so this cruise was a good fit for us. The ship was repositioning from the West Coast to Barbados and we did the Fort Lauderdale to Barbados leg. The demographics of this cruise was unusual for us, as it was about 95% people from the U.K.

We always fly in a day ahead for cruises to avoid any stress due to luggage going astray or flight delays. We departed Boston for Fort Lauderdale Sunday on a mid day Jet Blue flight. Our departure was on time and we arrived a bit early in Fort Lauderdale. We claimed our luggage and proceeded outside to the taxi stand where we got a cab ($20) to our hotel, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina which is right across the street from Port Everglades and under the 17th street bridge. We stayed at this hotel several years ago when it was a Marriott. Check in was fast and we were assigned room 615 in the tower building overlooking the pool and marina. Having stayed at the hotel as a Marriott, we did some comparing. While of course it is still conveniently located, we thought the room décor was now totally un-functional. They are trying too hard to be stylish. They have gone to the sleek, modern minimalist décor which we don’t care for. The bathroom was especially inconvenient---no tub, sliding doors you could see around and a bowl sink the size of a thimble and very shallow. However, the pool area is quite nice. They had large padded chaise lounges as well as mesh loungers and 2 floating pool seats.

Upon our arrival we unpacked our necessities and I found out some sunblock which I had in a zip bag (but not double bagged--my mistake) had leaked all over my nylon windbreaker. This necessitated that I attempt to wash it out in the small sink. After this project was completed, we walked out to 17th St to attempt to catch the Sun Trolley/bus that runs along there and onto A1A. It is supposed to run about every 30 min, but we waited and never saw one so we gave up and hailed a cab to our destination--The Oasis Cafe. It is our tradition to go here before we leave on a cruise. Its claim to fame is that the tables are mostly outside and are glider seats, so you can swing as you eat or drink. The sky was threatening and it was pretty windy, but we opted for an outside table anyway (the tables are covered by canopies). We ordered cocktails ( 2 pina coladas and a mango margarita) to kick off the vacation and it rained a little but nothing too bad. However, just as the food arrived a squall blew up. and we decided we needed to relocate to an indoor table. Oh well, at least we got to have our drinks outside. The food was pretty good, but really the atmosphere is the claim to fame at this restaurant. I had a bacon cheeseburger, my mother had a turkey wrap and my father had a Key West Fish Wrap. Desserts were 2 for 1 so we got Key Lime Pie and Raspberry Cheesecake. Our plan was walk around after eating, but it started pouring again so we ended up just getting a cab back to the hotel. Of course it was no longer raining when we arrived back at the hotel, so we walked around the marina area of the hotel and looked at all the nice boats.
After the walk, I worked again on cleaning my jacket after the sunblock incident. The sink just was not sufficient for washing a jacket and of course there was no tub, so I had to take the jacket in the shower. It got the stain out, but the damage was done---the alcohol from the sunblock gel destroyed the waterproofing on the jacket.

We woke up early Monday morning to sunny skies. I walked up on the 17th St bridge and found our ship in the port. After that I sat by the pool until 11am checkout time. At that time we got a cab to the port for about $9 (the hotel also runs a shuttle for $6/person--ask the bell captain if you are interested---the front desk knew nothing about it). We arrived at the pier around 11:15am and had to wait about 20 min before boarding started. There was only a handful of others boarding at this time, so it went really fast. We were on board about 11:45am and went right to our room B421 a minisuite (we always book this room when on the Sea or Dawn Princess). Next we went up to the Horizon Court for a quick lunch before we began to reacquaint ourselves with the ship. Lunch for me consisted of several types of pasta, and a slice of roast beef. Desserts were cookies, brownies with fudge sauce, cream cheese brownies among other things. I was happy to see lemonade offered in the buffet--on our previous cruises only water or iced tea were offered.

After walking around the ship, we went back to the room to enjoy our balcony. One of the things we like to do is watch the provisioning of the ship---they take on so much to begin a voyage--fuel,, food, flowers and of course passengers and luggage. Another thing we found interesting this time was watching a Dutch cargo ship unload several boats--both sailboats and motorboats. We imagine the boats were being delivered for the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, which was due to start within the week.

We were due to leave port at 5pm but due to a few late arriving passengers they held the ship until they arrived, as they had been notified that they were on the way. We saw a bus whip into port practically making the turn on 2 wheels; apparently that was the late arrivals. Shortly after those passengers boarded, the gangplank was pulled up and we cast off, as they wanted to get out ahead of the Grand Princess which was also in port.

After we cleared the channel and we watched the pilot disembark, we went back to the room to change for dinner. We always choose Anytime Dining, as we prefer to get our own table and go when we are ready. Anytime Dining on the Sea Princess is held in the Rigoletto Dining Room. We had been reading about horror stories concerning Anytime Dining on the Sea for several months now, so were a bit apprehensive of what we would find, even though it always worked great for us in the past. We got to the dining room 6:30pm, which should normally be prime time, but it was really empty. We were assigned table 79 right next to the window and a corner, so it was great. Servers were waiter Interjeet and assistant Guillermo. Once again we all got drinks--Strawberry Margarita for me, Toasted Almond Martini for my mother and a classic martini for my father. Tonight of course was the Sailaway Menu. I got the Pina Colada Soup, Hawaiian Pork and Flourless Chocolate Cake. My mother got the same thing (we often clone each others meals) and my father got the Spring Rolls, Caesar Salad, Crawfish Crockpot and Chocolate Mousse Cake. He also ordered a bottle of a wine he likes on Princess--Fetzer Fume Blanc. We also decided to try the Texas Chili entrée--we ordered one for the table and each had a little sample. It was really good--not what I normally think of as chili being like--it was lots of large chunks of meat with some beans and served with rice, onions and peppers. I am used to chili being more homogenous.

After dinner, we went up to Movies Under the Stars and checked that out. The movie was Prince of Persia. It was really windy up there, but I can see why people would like MUTS. I think MUTS is fine if they keep it only at night--but I think on a ship the size of the Sea Princess, where there is only one main pool, it is intrusive during the day. For example, some days they showed soccer games during the day and it was hard to enjoy the pool. Maybe not as bad on the larger ships, but you have to remember that the smaller ships only have one large pool. My father stayed to watch the movie and my mother and I decided to do one of our favorite after dinner activities and walk around the promenade deck. We love the Promenade deck on the Sun class vessels, as the wrap around the ship fully and have comfortable wooden steamer chairs to recline and watch the ocean.

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    Tuesday morning, our first full day on board, we got up 7am and headed up to the Horizon Court for breakfast. When we arrived up there around 7:30am there were plenty of tables available. Today was our day at Princess Cays. My father and I had signed up for a snorkel tour--Snorkeling at Princess Cays for Experienced Snorkelers. All tours for Princess Cays met in the Princess Theater at 9am. It turned out we were the only 2 people signed up for our tour, so we wondered it they would still run it. Tours get priority for tendering, so we boarded the tenders when called to do so and set out for Princess Cays. Of course as luck would have it, it was raining and the tender moved very slowly toward the island. Once we disembarked they directed us to the tour meeting location and we found out our tour would run for sure. We boarded the boat and headed about a 10 min motor away to the reef. We got to snorkel about 1 hour and we saw many different fish and corals. We were back to the island by 11:45am and had the beach BBQ for lunch. The buffet consisted of ribs, burgers, hotdogs, pasta salad, fruit and cookies. After lunch I walked around the area and looked at the shops and the brightly painted cabanas you could rent. Not many people had rented the cabanas. Finally I sat in a beach chair for a while before returning to the ship by 2pm. All the food for the day at the beach is brought off the ship and carried in tenders over to the beach and then everything not used it brought back again, so we spent the afternoon watching them bring food and beverages back to the ship. I did all this and still had ample time to sit by the pool and enjoy a Bushwacker.

    Around 6pm we headed down to the Explorers Bar for a pre-dinner drink. I had the Key Lime Pie martini (tastes like pie!), my father had a Margarita and my mother had a drink they no longer list on the menu--the Black Star Liner martini. Even though this drink has not been on the menu for several years now, if you find an old bartender/server they will make it for you. Dinner tonight was the Italian night. I had Pasta Arrabiatta (not listed on menu, but the waiter told us about it), Chilled Peach Soup, Veal Marsala and Tiramisu. And of course Italian night on Princess would not be complete without the Limoncello. My mother had the Eggplant Parmesan, Peach Soup, Veal Marsala and Tiramisu. My father had Pasta Arrabiata, Spinach Salad, Veal Marsala and Apple Crepes.

    After dinner I walked around the Promenade Deck and then went up to see the MUTS movie Toy Story 3. They showed another movie later at 10:30pm which was Sherlock Holmes.

    The next day was Wednesday and our day at sea. Today in the Horizon Court at breakfast, I discovered a waffle station in the center area of the seating section, near the piano. You could take a pre-made waffle or they would make you a fresh one.

    Today was extremely windy and the seas were moderately rough. It was hard to find shelter from the constant strong wind.

    My lunch in the Horizon Court consisted of a port cutlet, French fries, fired roasted pepper pasta salad, double chocolate cake and pineapple upside down cake. And as if 2 desserts were not enough (they are very small), I got 2 double chocolate cookies and proceeded to the ice cream bar where I ordered a chocolate soft serve to go with them! I then spent the afternoon doing a variety of things including walking the Promenade deck, drinking a Dirty Banana, reading on the balcony and sitting by the aft Seaview Pool. This pool is a small circular pool toward the back of the ship and it has a small canopy over it and is more peaceful than the main pool. We also tend to spend a lot of time on our balcony. As the day went on the wind grew stronger and waves grew higher. The movement of the ship became quite evident and it became even less pleasant to be outside as there was a fair amount of sea spray. Luckily the Sea Princess has the balconies cut out of the hull so they are more protected from the elements than the newer ship designs. We prefer the balconies cut from the hull, as we find you get less salt spray and the balcony is more useable in different weather conditions.

    We went down to the Wheelhouse Bar for drinks tonight around 6pm--and were the only ones there! I had the Toasted Almond Martini, my mother had the Raspberry Crème Brulee Martini and my father had a Jack Daniels. We then headed down to the dining room for our 6:30pm reservation for table 79 (we liked the table and the serving staff there, so we reserved it each night of the cruise). One interesting thing about the dining situation on this cruise is that they let us make a reservation for 6:30pm each night when normally we’ve experienced not being able to make one between 6-8pm. In fact the head waiter told us that on this particular cruise, dining later was busier. So I think he was glad we wanted to eat fairly early so was happy to let us reserve it. Also, the Anytime Dining Room opened at 6pm each night and when we arrived we never noticed any section that seemed to be being used for the new third Traditional dining time like some had experienced on other cruises. Perhaps due to people’s desire to eat later, there was no demand for the 5:15pm Traditional time on this cruise. Dinner tonight was the first formal night and the menu was Captain’s Welcome. This was not my favorite menu---my mother and I both ordered the always available Fettuccine Alfredo for the appetizer and got beef for the main course. I had the Bananas Foster for dessert and she had the Chocolate Pudding Pie. My father had the duck appetizer, asparagus soup, halibut and raspberry ice cream.

    Tonight was the Champagne Waterfall night. As we’ve heard reports of before, they have now changed this event-- and not for the better in my opinion. I used to like when it was very festive and held later in the evening. Now is held in conjunction with the Captain’s cocktail party and lasts just long enough for the photo opportunity to have your photo taken pouring the champagne. I posed for the requisite picture but missed the throwing of the streamers and music they used to play.

    I always try to walk after dinner, but the Promenade deck was soaked from sea spray on one side and had very strong wind on the other so I gave up after one lap. MUTS was Iron Man 2 tonight, so I gave up on any evening activities in favor of working on my trip report.

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    The next day was Thursday and we were due to be in Tortola. After a breakfast in the Horizon Court of a waffle, we watched the ship dock. The Norwegian Star had gotten in just ahead of us, so we were a bit late getting cleared by the BVI to go ashore. My father and I had booked a tour through Princess to go to the Baths. We were supposed to meet ashore at 8:20am, but since we didn’t even get off the ship until a little after 8:30am, the tour left a bit late. The tour consisted of a 30-40min boat ride over to Spanishtown Virgin Gorda. We then were loaded onto safari buses for a 10min drive to the Baths. Thankfully, it was not the type of tour where you must stay with the group the whole time. There was a guide you could stick with for the portion where you go through the caves, but it was not required. I had been to the Baths before, so my father and I went off on our own. After descending down from the drop off area (steep, natural, rocky steps) we went directly through the caves to Devil’s Bay. Devil’s Bay is a lovely setting framed by boulders. We swam around in the bay for a little while before making our way back through the caves to the other beach, where we went snorkeling. We brought our own snorkel gear, but it can be rented at the beach bar. Lockers are also available (purchase a token at the beach bar). The guides had requested that we leave all beaches by 12:45pm so that we could be back up at the top on time to make our way back to the ship. The tour was supposed to get back at 1:30pm, but due to our late start off the ship that morning, we got back at 2pm. This was nerve wracking for us, as we had booked another Princess tour for the afternoon- North Shore & Pusser‘s Landing. Luckily there were a couple others from our Baths tour also going on the North Shore tour as well, so they held the tour departure for us. My mother was also on this afternoon tour and she had waited to board the last safari bus in hopes we would make it back in time, so we joined her aboard the vehicle. The tour took us around Tortola where we enjoyed views of Carrot Bay, Apple Bay, Cane Garden Bay and a stop (1 hr) at Soper’s Hole. We got back to the ship on time at approx 5:30pm, just in time to watch the sail away from our balcony.

    Tonight’s dinner menu was the Caribbean menu. The dining room staff looked very festive dressed in aloha shirts tonight. For dinner I had a raspberry mojito, pineapple with pistachios, chilled mango/pear soup, beef fajitas and the warm chocolate fudge cookie with vanilla ice cream for dessert; I then finished the meal with a mocha coffee. My mother had a toasted almond martini, pineapple with pistachios, split pea soup, the always available beef medallions and pineapple crème brulee. For his meal, my father had shrimp/scallop cocktail, Caesar salad, jerk chicken and key lime pie.

    After dinner we were full as usual so decided to walk around, and in our travels around the ship we noticed the Horizon Court was very busy for dinner--there was a line out the door. My mother and I continued to walk around the ship and promenade deck, while my father watched MUTS- Clash of the Titans.

    Today we were in St. Maarten. My father and I met ashore for our excursion, the America’s Cup 12 Metre Regatta at 8:20am. We had done this the last time we were in St. Maarten and really enjoyed it. In fact, this excursion inspired me to take sailing lessons, learn to sail and eventually go on to participate in real races. Anyway, we were assigned the boat True North. Each person is assigned a task on the boat ranging from inactive positions such as bar tender or time keeper to more active roles such as grinders. This time my father was the main sheet trimmer and I was a primary grinder. The crew goes over everyone’s tasks with them so that you can perform it when called upon to do so. Once the boat is off the mooring, you make your way out to the race course and then the race begins. Our boat ended up winning the race today against Canada II. Afterwards they shuttle you back to shore and into the gift shop where you may purchase a photo of your adventure, hats or t-shirts etc..

    We got back to the ship about noon and met my mother for lunch at Café Corniche. My mother and I both had the lasagna. It was served in a small individually sized crock and was only 2 layers, so it was a little different than what we expect as lasagna. We then had tiramisu for dessert. My father had the soup and casear salad.

    After lunch, we all took the water taxi from the pier over to town and looked in some of the shops. It was extremely hot and humid, so we headed back to the ship about 3pm. I decided some pool time was in order, so I went back to the Seaview Pool which is located aft. About an hour before sailaway an officer came back there and told everyone they were closing that pool prior to the sailaway. The Seaview Pool remained closed the rest of the cruise for maintenance. Too bad, as it is peaceful back there.

    After being chased away from the pool, I went back the cabin to watch the sail away from our balcony. After we cast off, we headed up to Deck 12 for the British Sailaway party. This was a very interesting event---since this cruise was 95% British people, they held a sail away complete with British flags and played popular and patriotic British songs. The music was nice and it was fun to see even if you were not British.

    We headed up to Crooner’s Bar for our pre-dinner cocktails. I got a Raspberrytini, my father got a classic martini, and my mother got a Black Star Liner.
    Dinner tonight was the Chef’s menu. I had the always available fettuccine alfredo, French onion soup (not printed on menu--waiter told us about it), cocoa rubbed pork and the set dessert of the night which was 3 small portions of 3 different desserts (semifreddo, a gateau and a raspberry panacotta). My mother had the exact same thing as I had except instead of fettuccine, she had the salad with shallot dressing. My father had the mushroom soup, goat cheese souffle and the pork as well.

    Tonight was the Island Night Deck Party, so we wore our island print outfits and went to the party. It was the usual Princess deck party-- the pool band played, there was dancing and they had a beautiful display of fruit/vegetable carvings and appetizer and dessert selections. They had those paper streamers they used to use for the champagne waterfall and you throw them down over some strings they have strung up on deck to hold the streamers in place.

    Back in the cabin on my computer we had received an email from my uncle who is very interested in weather forecasting and weather in general. Anyway, he sent word that what was a tropical depression had quickly blown up into Hurricane Tomas and it was due to head right over some of the islands we were due to visit. We generally find the weather reporting to the passengers aboard ship to be a bit lacking. So we found his email a bit daunting but hadn’t heard anything about the storm aboard ship. That is until the next day . . . . .

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    Oct 30 which was Saturday, we woke up to dark, cloudy skies-- with even darker areas ahead of the ship. Then it started to rain. We were supposed to be alongside in Martinique by approx 8am, however we were sitting in the cabin watching the island pass by and going fairly fast. I commented ‘you don’t suppose they decided to skip the port but didn’t tell anyone?” Well, not 5 min later the Captain came on the loudspeaker (broadcast into cabins as well) and announced we were skipping Martinique due to weather. He announced the very thing we had learned the night before-- that the storm had blown up into a small hurricane and we were now feeling the effects of it. When the ship had approached the pilot station--to attempt to get into port-- it was raining so hard they could not see the bow of the ship and that Martinique was under a hurricane warning. The Captain said he was going to turn around and go back North to stay ahead of the storm and that they would contact Dominica, which is a bit farther away North to see if they could take us. Unfortunately, that port was also closed as they were also concerned with the impending storm, so we ended up with a day at sea. It was a little drizzly and quite windy with moderate seas. We sailed northward and stayed on the leeward side of Dominica and Guadalupe to shield us from the worst of the weather sailing in a circle all day. They had to pull together some last minute activities since they had not planned for a sea day. They slotted in the Culinary demonstration and Galley Tour, so my mother and I did that (though we have done it several times before). The galley tour part was more interesting this time though, as normally we don’t see them actually preparing anything but today we saw them making the beef wellington for dinner. They also had a vegetable carver making Halloween pumpkins.

    We went to get a pre dinner drink at Crooner’s Bar--a Mambo Martini, Mocha Martini and Royal Majesty. Tonight we had made a reservation for the Sterling Steakhouse. On the Sea Princess the steakhouse is located on the starboard side of Horizon Court. They close off that section of the room with wooden privacy screens. Since the Horizon Court is on deck 14 and we think it really is noticeable that you get more motion the higher up you go, we were concerned it would be rocky that evening what with the sea conditions of the day and the Captain was planning on turning south again to try and get us to the next port of call. However, we ate at 6:30pm and the seas still hadn’t gotten that rough at that time. Sometimes the Steakouse is set up outside on deck and tonight (2nd formal night) was going to be one of those nights. However, due to the weather they set it up inside. All meals are served with an assortment of rolls and jalapeno corn bread---as well as creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, choice of potato and a broiled tomato. They also serve your choice of sauce for the steak (peppercorn, mushroom or plain). For dinner I had the brie and papaya quesadilla, ribeye steak, baked potato with sour cream, bacon and chives and chocolate pecan pie for dessert. My mother had the shrimp cocktail, ribeye steak, and chocolate pecan pie. Now I should mention that since this was formal night (Captain’s Gala menu in the dining room) they served a lobster tail with each meal. My father is the only one in our family who likes lobster so they brought all 3 of our tails to him. He had the same thing as my mother with the addition of one of the lobster tails. All of the steaks were flavorful, moist, tender and cooked exactly as requested.

    MUTS tonight was a Pavarotti concert followed by a Stevie Wonder concert. I decided to go up and watch despite the high winds. I sat on a deck chair under the canopy and enjoyed the show. About halfway through the wind really started to blow--really strong and the ship’s rocking increased so that even the main pool which does not normally flood was overflowing. I stuck it out for a while but left when I began to wonder why I was sitting outside in a tropical storm.

    Another update from the Captain about the hurricane--even though he was hoping we’d be able to make St. Lucia as scheduled the next day, it turned out the storm had gone over and knocked out all power on the island and washed out some roads, so we would not be calling there. He had contacted Dominica once again and they said they had a spot for us so we would try to go there and they would be pulling together some shore excursions.

    Yay, today was Halloween Sunday Oct 31! The ships always do such a nice job with decorating for that holiday. I got up at 6:30am to find the updated shore excursion leaflet for Dominica in the mailbox. I selected my excursion, the Wacky Rollers 4 wheel drive adventure and went down to the tour office which was open early to book it. There were already a few others ahead of me in line. After booking I went up to the Horizon Court for my waffle. Well--you can almost guess what happens next. . . We pull up to the dock in Dominica--within 40 feet I’d say when we then start backing away. The Captain came on and said that the pier was not in good condition (the bumpers were hanging off it) and it would damage the ship if he attempted to put the ship there. There are 2 piers in Dominica--the pier near downtown Roseau which they had already passed up due to a high swell and the industrial pier with the lack of bumpers. We would take one more look at the downtown pier on our way out, in the very slim chance sea conditions had improved. Well they hadn’t improved and they wouldn’t even let him try to dock there if he wanted to, as officials said the ship would destroy the pier due to the swells. Once again we were without a port. They contacted the home office, and checked one last time on the status of St. Lucia and also Martinique, but neither were in a position to receive cruise ship passengers. They also looked into going full speed ahead to Barbados to get us in there by early evening so that at least people could get off and walk around, but parts of Barbados were without power and restaurants were closed. Once again, a day at sea!. I know that that is the risk you take when cruising the tail end of hurricane season and Princess certainly has no control whatsoever over the weather or sea conditions, but I still find it disappointing and annoying we lost 2 port days. I cruise for the ports not the ship. I’ll need to book another cruise to make up for it!

    Since we had nowhere to go, the Captain announced that we would be going back and forth in front of Dominica, as that would make for the most comfortable sailing conditions, the island shielding us from the weather. At the end of the day he would then turn southeast and head us to Barbados.
    There was not much going on that I wanted to participate in, so I tried to sit outside on a chair on the back of the ship, but it started to rain. Instead I walked around and admired the carved pumpkin display in the atrium and all the decorations the bars all had; spider webs, rubber bats, skeletons, balloons and ghosts.

    I had lunch in the Horizon Court at 11:30am, but was not thrilled by many of the selections, so ended up being hungry later and going to Café Corniche at 2pm. It was very busy--so busy that there were several parties ahead of me in line and I had to share a table with several others. This time I ordered the pepperoni pizza. The pizzas are individual sized, so it is possible to eat one yourself.

    Tonight for our pre-dinner drinks we found ourselves in the Wheelhouse Bar. In addition to the Halloween décor, all the bar waiters and bartenders were dressed up in costumes. It was funny to be served by someone in a ghoulish mask! My mother and I each got one last Toasted Almond Martini and my father had a Jack Daniels.

    For our last dinner in the dining room, it was the Landfall menu. I had the fettuccine alfredo, NY Strip steak with peppercorn sauce and the Love Boat Dream for dessert. I hadn’t had the LBD the whole vacation and people had said they had changed it. I’m sorry to say it’s true---it was more gelatinous and not as rich and chocolately, though I’ve noticed before that the recipe seems to vary by ship. I still enjoyed it, but like the old style better. My mother had the chilled pumpkin soup and the meatloaf off the homestyle entrees. For dessert she had the deep dish apple pie with vanilla sauce. My father had the caeser salad, warm pumpkin soup and tom turkey with Baked Alaska for dessert. They had a Baked Alaska Parade, which I’d never seen done in Anytime dining before.

    After dinner of course it was time to put the luggage outside and prepare for disembarkation the next day. Once that was all accomplished, I decided to walk around to all the bars and take photos of the staff all dressed in their different costumes. I also stopped into the Razzmatazz Bar where the Halloween party was taking place. They had pumpkin carving, dancing and a costume parade of guests who were in costume.

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    On Monday we woke up to sunny skies and pulled into Barbados, our final destination around 6:30am. Unfortunately, they were not operating the waffle station in the Horizon Court this morning, so no luck for me. Before we went on this cruise, nobody seemed to be able to tell us what time disembarkation normally starts in Barbados. This was important to us, as we wanted to arrange a private tour and wanted to know when to set it up for. Anyway, about halfway through the cruise, they announced that the earliest time disembarkation would begin would be 10am and this held true. We got off the ship about 10:10am after everyone went through Immigration in the Vista Lounge. Anyway, we had booked a private tour with Glory Tours and Glory Tours seemed to indicate that passengers were usually off by 8:30-9am, so that is when we planned to meet up. Once we got word that disembarkation would not start before 10am, we sent her an email to let her know of this time change. So we trundled out of the cruise terminal and out to the meeting location about 10:15am and found nobody but cab drivers waiting. Another group followed us out, as they had also reserved Glory Tours and they too found nobody waiting. Being cab drivers, they all wanted our business and one was nice enough to call Glory Tours for us and find out what happened. Well, they claimed they never got our emails---the other party had also sent one that they said they didn’t get either. Now, in some ways I suppose this is plausible, as some parts of Barbados did lose power due to the storm. But in other ways it seems odd not to wait for 2 groups who had booked tours. It is my experience with cruising, that tour operators are generally acutely aware of what the ships are doing and it would seem like it would have been easy to Glory Tours to ascertain that the Sea Princess had not yet begun final disembarkation ----and that the only passengers coming off early were transiting passengers staying on for the next cruise. I won’t say you shouldn’t book Glory Tours, as we did have some strange circumstances to deal with regarding the storm, but be very clear if you book them that they need to wait for you regardless of when your ship disembarks. Anyway, it turned out fine in the end because we got a cab driver to take us on a short tour on our way to the airport and we drove through town, stopped at some beaches for photos and drove through some residential areas---for much cheaper than the tour we had arranged with Glory (albeit it was a shorter tour than we had booked since we lost time with disembarkation). Glory Tours is supposed to be refunding our money, as they require prepayment---so hopefully they follow through with that promise. We wanted to arrive at the airport by 12pm for our 2:40pm flight and our driver had us there about 11:50am. When we arrived, the check in line for American Airlines was miles long and moving at a snails pace. Luckily we were able to use the Business class lane, as we had used miles to upgrade and that line was marginally faster. After a quick lunch at the local fast food place, Chefette, we headed right through security in about 5 minutes.

    Our flight took off for Miami about 20 min late and while we landed on time in Miami, we waited on the runway so long that we got to the terminal about 20 min late. After deplaning we had to walk about a half a mile to the Immigration area. The lines for US Citizens were not too long and then we had to claim our luggage and pass through Customs. This only took about 20min and then we re-checked our bags and had to walk back to terminal D. The flight from Miami to Boston was more or less on time and we landed in Boston about midnight. Unfortunately, American failed to load two of our bags on the plane, so we had to file a luggage claim. Luckily, the bags came in on the first flight the next morning.

    Despite the fact that we had to miss 2 ports, I still enjoyed the cruise. It was kind of funny, because having sailed the Sea Princess before and loving that ship, we had been reading all the reviews about her and were getting nervous about certain things that kept coming up as recurring problems such as the nightmare that Anytime Dining was for some people, sewer smell and crowds in the Horizon Court. None of the things we were worried about turned out to be issues for us. Anytime Dining worked like a dream; we walked into the dining room with no wait on the first night, were assigned a table we liked and were able to reserve it for 6:30pm for the whole cruise. This was probably our best experience with Anytime Dining in 6 cruises and we’ve always had decent experiences with Anytime. Perhaps it had something to do with the demographic of the cruisers this time---mostly British and many had been on the ship since it left San Francisco--maybe they like to dine later or were sick of eating in the dining room by the third week. Who knows, but in any event it worked well for us. The Horizon Court was never so crowded that you could not find a seat-- at least when we wanted to eat. And nowhere on board did we experience any sewer smell. Of course, though none of the things we anticipated going wrong went occurred, we had other challenges-- Tomas, the screw up with Glory Tours and the temporary misplacement of luggage by the airline. However none of these things had anything to do with Princess!, The Princess product remains strong in my opinion and continues to offer an experience I enjoy. The ship was well kept up, staff were all pleasant and we enjoyed the ports we got into; we had a great cabin steward this time, Noli, who fulfilled all our requests perfectly. Of course I’ve now started to think about what my next cruise will be . . . maybe another Alaska itinerary or perhaps the 14 day Caribbean itinerary on the Sea Princess roundtrip from Barbados. Decisions, decisions.

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