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Princess Cruises: Dawn Princess

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Nov 16, 2013

Circummnavigation of Australia and New Zealand

This was an excellent cruise. It was relaxing and very pleasant. If I were to mark this cruise out of 100, I would give it 80 marks. I would recommend this cruise to all Australians. The food in Horizon Court was ample and for a buffet style meal, it was very good. There was a lot of variety. My wife and I were in the Venetian Dining Room. We went there for dinner. Every day we were provided with a menu with with lots of choices. Our waiter

was very knowledgeable, friendly and extremely helpful. We did not frequent the Steak House. One area of the Horizon Court became the Steak House in the evening for the price of $20 pp. This made the Horizon Court even tighter because it was difficult to find a table at certain times of the day.The Riviera deck had sausages and kebabs.The Sundae was really bad. Worse than McDonalds! We kept away from it because Horizon Court provided us with everything we longed for. Afternoon tea was served in the Venetian Dining room with waiters coming around with dainties. The same was also served in Horizon Court. There is a bar on Deck 5, presumptuously called "Patisserie" which only provided a tray with the same food in Horizon Court. It could have provided something much more elegant and dainty as the word Patisserie would require. Rather small but very functional. We had a very comfortable and King size bed. The pillows were awkward and we woke up with a sore neck practically every morning.Dawn Princess was remedy this. The balcony was tight and the floor of the balcony looked old, worn out and rusty in some places. It must be remembered that this ship is 17 years old. It is however, well maintained. The carpet in the stateroom looked old but clean. The toilet is very small with only a shower which suited us fine. The wardrobes were generously provided with clothe hangers and the safe was very easy to operate. We were on Deck 14, stateroom number A540. This room is almost in front of an Emergency exit and the noise of the engines are clearly heard in the corridor. Once in the room, the noise is totally blocked out. The air conditioning could not be adjusted. It may have been the source for the distribution of a flu. Almost all passengers suffered from colds, tonsillitis and coughs. There were activities advertised in the daily Patter. They were many and varied. The shows in the evening were generally very good. Regrettably some entertainers used it to promote their own beliefs which sometimes went against respect for human dignity. One such entertainer suggested that only people invited by Australia should be allowed to enter the country. I believe that Australia is not an exclusive club and as a signatory to the United Nations Charter, our country generously accepts refugees. My wife and I did not go on any excursion arranged by the Ship. However, those who did said that they were well organized and reasonably priced. A visit to the Ship's doctor cost $75. This is very reasonable. The cruise circumnavigated Australia, New Zealand and visited Lombok in Indonesia. I suggest that Dawn Princess could visit a more exciting island in Indonesia. Passports were collected on leaving the Kimberley Coast and everyone had to pay for a Visa. On re-entry to Australia, we had to go through Australian Customs again. Our Passports were also taken before we entered New Zealand waters. We looked forward to this cruise and we were not disappointed. We were more than pleased with our experiences aboard. The crew was extremely friendly and could not do enough to please us. Tipping was not obligatory but I know that Australians tip good service and that was never lacking. Even though the ports of call were for just one day, they provided us with a bird's eye view of the place visited and the cruise through the fiordland National Park cruise of New Zealand, especially of Milford Sound was just marvellous. These were 35 days of relaxation and bliss. Adult passengers were allowed to bring one bottle of wine or Champagne which was generous of Dawn Princess. Embarkation and disembarkation were handled with precision. On re-entry from every port of call, security was high, as we expected. Our embarkation cards were checked and our bags were scanned. We were not allowed to take food from the ship and in Brisbane a sniffer dog was used. In New Zealand we were required to carry an ID. Food was excellent and all Australians and New Zealanders were spoke to were very pleased. Regrettably, not so the Americans? We could not understand that. The seas were kind to us during the circumnavigation of Australia and the visit to Lombok. However, the Tasman Sea gave us a bettering for two days. There was an emergency aboard the Dawn Princess. A fire was detected and all passengers were requested to grab their life jackets and gather at muster stations. It took about two hours before we were allowed to return to our cabins. We were constantly informed of what was happening.This emergency was handled very efficiently and professionally by the crew. In compensation, the Captain offered all passengers wine in the dining rooms. The Captained welcomed us twice. On the first occasion, a few days after departure and on the second occasion, it was a few days before the end of the cruise. On both these occasion, drinks were served with canapes. I could not quite understand why the Captain felt the need to mention the quantities the passengers ate and drank during the cruise. He also said that we entered the ship as passengers and would leave the ship as cargo. I would never have said that to guests in our home. This was a great cruise, indeed!

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Mar 19, 2013

Melbourne-New Zealand

Ship was lovely with loads of seating in all sorts of corners plus the many bars .Lifts were crowded as there were a lot of people on walkers,wheelchairs & even mobility scooters but I must add that everyone was very good humoured about it & there were many comments when we got in one. Room service was excellent &reception very helpful with any problems. It was a bit of a rat race trying to getfoodor a seat at the buffet, so we only braved that

twice. We retreated to the restaurant after that & were very happy with the food. A good variety & although rather bland was non the less enjoyable.The last few days the chefs excelled themselves & the food went up a notch or two & with things like duck, prawns,lobster & steak all on offer it was hard to choose. The bomb Alaska on the last night had to be seen to be believed, I have no idea how they managed it for everyone but it was delicious. The waiters we had at our table were fabulous, very attentive & a lot of fun. A bit disappointing , not as we'll designed as on our previous cruise. The doors were the problem, they all opened out onto each other & you couldn't move. Storage was good & the bed comfortable. Our steward. Was good. So everything was always slick & span. Not a lot of imagination, a bit repetitive. The shows I thought were amateurish. The musicians were good & the crew show on the last night were good. Had some good films which we enjoyed & appreciated the back rows reserved for people with disabilities, there were quite a lot of us. Shore excursions I thought expensive so made our own arrangements. Over all we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, the seas were calm, the weather mostly good & the days soon passed lazily. Ate far too much & the wheelchair assistance to disembark was an enormous help. Well done Princess have no hesitation in recommending you. Must mention Fiordland, we didn't relise we would be going round so many, it was truly beautiful.

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Apr 19, 2012

around australia

Very poor value for amount charged. The predominant philosophy seems to be increasing the "bottom line". Predatory prices for alcohol & excursions. Only one bottle of wine allowed on board per voyage, forcing you to spend 3 to 4 times retail for mediocre wines. Wines brought on board are confiscated for "safe keeping". Best ports scheduled for sundays and holidays. Many shops closed. Price of excursions very high. Renting a car is much more economical

and allows you more freedom. Dress code not enforced in dining room. Some passengers came to dine in hooded sweats and shorts. Actually, the ship is like a cruising "bus" loading and unloading passengers at virtually all of the ports on the itinerary. Consequently, many of the passengers exhibited attire and behavior not usually seen on other Princess ships. The ship is tired, has very small cabins, and there is unbelievable noise in moderate to rough seas coming from the stern. The ship has had propulsion problems in the past. The amount of vibration, grinding, and banging precluded sleep. Asked for a different cabin; but told that ship was full. Options were to tough it out or leave the cruise at the next port. There also appears to be a problem on board regarding allergens. Many passengers complained of runny eyes and noses as well as chest tightness and even wheezing. Wondered about mildew in the air-conditioning ducts or filters. Symptoms would clear after stepping outdoors. Hand sanitizers were not provided in the dining rooms. One of the few positives about the cruise was the new rule prohibiting smoking in cabins and verandahs. Generally good; but bland, perhaps to please the predominantly northern European origins of the ship's passengers. Much of the food was salty: but there appeared to be a rule against using garlic in the food, Service in the dining rooms was generally good and professional. Cramped, small, noisy, creaky. Odor of stale urine in the bathroom. Carpet did not look clean. Average Excursions are very expensive relative to value. You are much better off renting a car than riding the excursion coaches. You will have much greater freedom of movement and pay a quarter of the excursion price. The ship scheduled excursions to Australian wine districts although there is a standing rule of only one bottle of wine brought on board per voyage. Once again, the need for profit trumps passenger satisfaction. The worst cruise we have taken in 21 years of cruising. The poorest value/cost ratio. Would not recommend this cruise to seasoned cruisers who seek the company of well-mannered passengers in an atmosphere of civility.

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Oct 24, 2011

South pacific

For starters the destinations were great! The shore excursions were a rip off, your better off organizing yr own once you get to the island. Food was below average still edible though. The rooms were OK I guess yr only sleeping in them they were very clean. There was no Gym staff at the GYM which was very disappointing because a few of the machines broke down. There was smoking allowed on the deck which most people used to walk and exercise

around the ship, very not good for you! I leave the best to last! The entertainment was very very below average! They have this great outdoor movie screen, they call it Movies Under The Stars! I watched 2 movies, which was very nice, you could hear quite well. I am still waiting for the popcorn they keep advertising on their website. Now this is a 14 night cruise, for the rest of the time they featured music videos, documentaries and of course the rugby! I am sorry but I do not consider music videos a MOVIE! Other choices of entertainment was bible studies, how to play bridge, how to gamble at the casino, Bingo, doing jigsaw puzzles at the library, lame comedian who was not funny, oh oh oh and trivia games. Food choices was, formal dinning, buffet or pizza. Lunch was about the same including burgers at the grill. That just about sums it up, I wont be back on this ship I think I will stick to larger ships like the Super Virgo and Carnival Cruises.

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May 27, 2011

South Pacific

We took a 13 day cruise to South Pacific in May 2011. Had travelled before on Diamond Princess (inside passage Alaska)and found the ship too big, too glitzy and too many Yanks. I was dragged kicking & screaming onto Dawn Princess but was converted in 24 hours. All aspects of the service was 9 out of 10, food, service, friendliness of staff, gym , activities all good. Downside was poor non-smoking policies. Allowing smoking in cabins and balconies

as well as walking/jogging deck is just plain dumb and not consistent with their overt promotion of health. Inconsiderate neighbours next to us (upwind) smoked in cabin and balcony so that we had to stop using balcony and close the doors. The smoked permeated into passage ways and our cabin. Its about time cruise lines came into the 21st century and banned smoking either altogether or severely restricted it to an aft open deck area. Also a lot of bloodshed in the launderies I was told but didn't experience it myself.

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Jan 18, 2010

New Zealand

We were sadly disappointed in Dawn Princess for a long list of reasons, both big and small. It's hard to be brief while also explaining, but these included disappointing rip-off shore excursions, so-so food, quite bad entertainment, weak drinks, randomly closed hot tubs, rude staff, and dated decor. After noro-virus broke out on Day 3, they did work hard to stop it, but their approach caused too many problems for passengers that weren't sick. Laundry

was closed, buffets were half-closed, lines for coffee/food were far too long, etc. Did not live up to expectations from Princess. Asian food on buffet was good, but the main dining room was disappointing. Even our server couldn't explain what some of the menu descriptions meant. One night we waited more than an hour for pizza, and then the manager yelled at us for asking if they'd lost our order and needed to put in another one. I was happy with the size and loved the balcony, but the decor is a bit dated. I honestly don't see how the some of the bands/entertainers got hired to work on a major cruise line. Granted, we wanted to dance and enjoy the nightclubs. I suppose older passengers or young families might enjoy the games. Skip the shore excursions and plan your own once you get off the ship. We were disappointed in most day trips we took, including the seal tour van that got stuck in the sand and never made it to the seals (but they still charged us). Most port cities had wonderful representatives waiting to help people plan their day. Napier is so adorable. Christ church's garden is great. Tauranga was cute too. You will save money doing things on your own.

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Jul 10, 2007

Alaska Inside Pass

My family, two adults and two boys, 15 and 12, shared an ocean view room on a 10 day Alaska trip on the Dawn Princess.  It was a very nice trip though we have a few minor gripes. Our room was a little tight for four adult-sized people (no surprise) but it was fine.  There was a good-sized window and an attentive room steward to make up the room and raise/lower the 3rd and 4th beds.  The room was pretty well insulated in that we rarely

heard noise from the hallway. The ship itself was very nice.  There was a good-sized and well-equipped workout room with a view of the ocean.  We used it regularly and it was only crowded early in mornings (e.g. 7 a.m.) early in the trip.  The pool area was also very nice.  There were two pools adjacent to each other, well heated and decent-sized given that we were on a ship.  Beside the pools were two hot tubs that were actually hot.  At the rear of the ship were three other adult-only hot tubs.  My only gripe was that the pool got a bit dirty toward the end of the day, though by the morning it was cleaned up.  There were two ping pong tables which were well-used.  Part way through the trip one broke, making it very difficult to get on.  We asked that they institute a signup sheet but they didn't do so. Our cruise was sold out, but except for rare instances it never seemed crowded. Meals were quite good.  There were many choices of generally well-prepared food for all three meals, including a large selection of vegetarian and healthy choices.  Dinner was quite good with the serving staff friendly, helpful and accommodating.  The casual pizza restaurant was also pretty good with decent pizza, soup and pasta.  My only gripe about the food is that they charged you extra for things that should have been included in the cruise price.  While I don't have a problem charging for alcohol or even espressos, I think it's chintzy to charge for all soft drinks.  It's not a big deal but it's a notable contrasts to the otherwise generous food service. There was a pretty full schedule of things to do on board:  A few interesting lectures, contests, games, demonstrations, shows, movies, bingo.  If you wanted to stay in your room there was a full schedule of relatively recently released movies, though the in-room TV was pretty small.  Internet access was available, though a little pricey at $0.55 per minute.  The casino was good-sized though it wasn't very busy. We wanted to see Alaska so we made it a point to spend as much time as possible on shore.  You won't be surprised that the on-shore area immediately around the cruise docks in Juneau and Skagway was very touristy; we could just as well have been in Maui or Palm Springs as Alaska.  There was a huge overabundance of fairly high-pressure jewelry stores.  Having said that, it's pretty easy to get away from the tourist areas and see more of authentic Alaska.  We took several hikes on our own and saw some beautiful scenery.  We can recommend the Mendenhall glacier and the Juneau tram.  The Whitepass train ride in Skagway is OK, but be aware that you do not get to get off the train or move between cars.  As an alternative, there are several beautiful hikes you can take; directions are easily available at a Forest Service hut near the docks.  We wanted to go salmon fishing and arranged for four of us to charter a fishing boat in Juneau.  It wasn't cheap ($179 apiece) but would have been well worth it if we had caught some fish.  But we didn't.  I don't blame our captain, who seemed very knowledgeable and wasted no time getting out to the fishing ground and getting our gear into the water.  Of the 9 fishing boats that went out that day only 3 fish were caught!  You should probably ask around to see if the fish have been biting before committing half a day and a lot of money to a fishing trip. The weather during our 10 days was pretty good, though variable.  It was drizzly but not cold in Sitka.  Juneau and Skagway were mostly sunny and pleasant.  It was drizzly, almost rainy, in Victoria. If you really want to see Alaska a cruise probably isn't the way to do it.  But we were surprised how much we enjoyed this cruise.  We're a pretty active family so being on board ship for 10 days and four to a cabin could have been an unhappy time.  But we found enough to do on board.  And by spending the maximum amount of time on shore we felt like we got a decent glimpse of a beautiful state.  

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May 31, 2007

Alaska Inside Pass

We sailed on the Dawn Princess from San Francisco to the Alaska Inside Passage on May 31 – June 10, 2007.  The ports were:  San Francisco; Ketchikan; Sitka; Juneau; Tracy Arm Fjord (cruising only); Victoria and back to San Francisco.  This was a 10-day cruise. The ship is an older ship (10 years old), but very well maintained.  We had an outside balcony room, which I would recommend to anyone taking a cruise, especially an

Alaskan cruise.  Also, I would recommend being on the starboard side because that is the side that is coastal and the side that you dock on in most ports.  You have the advantage of seeing the ports as you come into them.  Since this was a 10-day cruise with 6 days at sea, we were in our stateroom a lot just watching the beautiful scenery.  We brought our binoculars, which we used every day to try and spot whales, dolphins, etc.  Being an older ship, there is not a lot of variety of things to do on the ship compared to the newer “mega” ships which offer rock climbing, ice skating rinks, movies under the sky, etc.  If you want to have a huge variety of activities, I would suggest one of the newer “mega” ships.  If you want a smaller more relaxing cruise where the concentration is more on the beauty of nature, I would suggest the Dawn Princess. All Princess staff were very friendly and I feel did an excellent job at keeping everything running smoothly and gave excellent service.  The food was excellent and the dining room experience (we had the second seating) was something we looked forward to every night.  Our waiters did a great job at both serving us our meal and becoming friends that we looked forward to seeing every night. Shore Excursions. Ketchikan – the day we were there it was absolutely gorgeous, sunny and in the low 70s.  We did the Totem Bight Rain Forest/Totem Pole excursion and the Lumberjack show.  Both were excellent.  Of course, catching Ketchikan on a sunny day was a treat! Sitka – it was a rainy day in Sitka.  We did not do any shore excursions but just wandered around this quaint little town.  Juneau – the day started off very overcast with rain lurking, but it ended up lifting to a high overcast and was quite comfortable.  We did the ERA helicopter glacier/dogsled tour.  This was absolutely the highlight of our cruise.  The helicopter takes you over the glaciers in a 20 minute ride (each way) and lands on a dogsled camp where you meet your musher and actually ride a dogsled for about 45 minutes.  This truly was an experience of a lifetime that I recommend to anyone.  We booked this through Princess and it was pricey, $499 per person, but well worth the experience.  Tracy Arm Fjord – this was scenic cruising through the Fjord from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.  We just stood on our balcony and took in the beauty of this amazing place.  I took over 150 pictures just at Tracy Arm Fjord.  This is where your balcony and binoculars come in very handy.  Victoria – our last stop also was a beautiful sunny day.  We just walked around Victoria and enjoyed the beauty of this town.  We would have liked to have had more time in Victoria but the ship is only there from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.   

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Oct 18, 2006

Mexican Riviera

I thought this cruise was first rate all the way. The service was top notch with the staff not only being friendly and accommodating but they treated you more like you were family. The service was really impeccable and we were teary eyed when we said goodbye. The food was excellent as well as the amenities and the ship's entertainment and activities. The comedy show entertainers will wonderful. I was a little surprised you had

to pay for ice cream and soft drinks. I would like to see this changed but really this did not interfere with my experience at alI. Lots of other free things to make up for it! The dining experience is fabulous with beautiful ice sculptures and food art even in the buffet style dining. You are never short changed anywhere on this ship! Rooms are sufficient with good storage, TV and refrigerator and safe. I splurged and did several spa treatments running from $65 and up. The staff was super nice. I loved the pampering but felt a little hustled when they tried to sell me their spa product line which were priced at $65 and up. The facial product program they recommended for me would have cost in excess of $1000. I don't know how to top this cruise and highly recommend it. I did take several shore excursions which were fairly good but not excellent possibly because of the the economic level of the country. The tours guides however made up for it as they were kind, humorous, and very knowledgeable. You felt after the tour you took a piece of Mexico with you. This was really my first luxury cruise so I did not realize that the passengers really dressed up in the evenings so I did not bring evening wear. We were still welcomed where ever we went on the ship and it did not seem to make a difference. This is your chance to bring out those glitzy dresses and accessories! I forgot my toothbrush and bought one in the Regatta shop on board. Prices were very fair and I did do some shopping there. Very nice selection of items and necessities.  

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May 13, 2006

Alaska

My girlfriend and I sailed on the Dawn Princess, round-trip from Seattle on an Alaskan cruise on May 13, 2006. We have cruised on other ships before and decided to give Princess a try for our Alaskan cruise. Here is a list of our issues: The ship was in shabby shape. The carpets were dated and dirty. Our room wasn't as clean as it should have been. The bathroom was dirty. The bed linens were worn out and ripped in spots. The towels

were obviously heavily used and not of good quality. The room reminded us of an old Holiday Inn or a Days Inn. Even the plastic mat on the balcony was badly stained. It was not what we expected from Princess, which is supposed to be a good quality cruise line. The Carnival ships we traveled in the past were actually much nicer, cleaner and more elegant (even though Princess is supposed to be a step-up from Carnival). The beds were very uncomfortable. We're talking two cots pushed together with a thin mattress on top. You can actually sink into the middle section and feel the frame of the beds. Even the pillows were really thin. Don't expect to get a good nights sleep on these beds. The balconies are small and closed in. The view is obstructed by the metal which surrounds the balcony. I'm not sure why it was designed this way, but it hinders the view. Most other ships have wide open balconies. There was no buffet at night. Not even the normal midnight buffet you get on other cruise lines. The travel agents and Princess reps will tell you there is a midnight buffet, but don't believe them because there isn't. The highlight of the trip was a bust -- our ship turned around at the beginning of the Tracy Arm. The cruise director said that the ice in the water was too dangerous. But this didn't make sense because there weren't any large icebergs in the water and the Holland America ship that followed us the whole route (and which stopped in the same ports) made it all the way in and got close to the glaciers without a problem. We know this because we talked to people on their ship in Victoria the next day. This was very disappointing because this is a national park and offers the most beautiful scenery of the entire cruise. This is the part of the cruise that is always advertised on TV commercials. "Get close to the glaciers," etc. My gut feeling is that we were running behind schedule and they shaved a few hours by turning around quickly. The ship never got within viewing distance of any glaciers. We felt cheated and no one who worked on the ship seemed to care. There is nothing to do at night on this ship. The nightclub is a cramped, dark, well-worn Holiday Inn type disco. We walked in, laughed that it was for real on what is supposed to be a nice ship, then walked back out as did most people. It's sad that Princess would position themselves as romantic and classy, then have such a small and depressing nightclub on their ship. There were a few other bars on the ship, like the jazz club, but they were equally weird. For example, they had a Japanese band singing American oldies. It was like bad karaoke. The shows and comedian were pretty bad as well, but we still watched them because there was nothing else to do. The casino was pretty bad as well. It was very small and dated. We actually spent a lot of time at the tiny casino bar because all of the other hangouts were dead. I don't think any of the other bars were even open past midnight. There was never even a bon voyage party from any of the ports. This is normal for ships to have a small celebration when leaving port, and Princess didn't do it once. The last problem we had was leaving. We were supposed to be among the first off the ship to catch an early afternoon flight. Princess made a computer mistake so everyone in our boarding group got off last. This was after we bought a Princess transfer to the airport in advance. We ended up just scrapping the transfer and getting a cab to the airport. I highly recommend anyone cruising to keep their luggage in the room and walk out with it the next morning, rather than trusting it to the ship's personnel. Especially with Princess. There were a bunch of unhappy people waiting more than an hour for their luggage and Princess could have cared less. I complained to their corporate office after we returned, but they brushed us off with a letter. Apparently our complaints were common to them and customer service isn't important to them. On a positive note, Alaska is beautiful and the scenery and wildlife was amazing. I would highly recommend anyone take a cruise to Alaska, but I would highly discourage anyone from going on a Princess ship (especially the Dawn Princess) - to Alaska or anywhere else.  

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Mar 30, 2006

Mexico

Dawn Princess Cruisin' Ole! It's fun all the way. The cruisers boarded at San Francisco's Pier 35. That's how the party started! But, the Dawn Princess sail away party did not have the Caribbean conga line since the surreal Golden Gate fog greeted the partiers. However from this point on, this 11 day seasonal cruise was spiced with fun fests, on and off the ship. And no rain for the duration. It's party cruisin' west coast style aboard

one of the Love Boats. Ole! Fun, Fun all the way. Our group went Mexican Riviera cruisin' and FUN it was. It's sailing to Catalina Island, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas with a day stop in San Diego. How nice it is since the Nor Cal residents don't have to fly to Miami or other cruise ports. The magnetic attraction to this cruise is definitely the ship's almost all-inclusive pampering provided by great staff. For the price, few places on land will offer the impeccable service and sanitation that's beyond compare. As highly acclaimed in the top 5% world's best large cruise ships by Conde Nast Magazine, this vessel set a new standard in cruise ship design and onboard choice when it was built in 1997. Recently renovated, the 1,950-passenger ship rises 14 stories and measures nearly three football fields in length. Today, Princess has elevated modern cruising to a whole new level, with spacious and accommodating ships packed with amenities. To add sophistication, it has several main dining rooms, warm and intimate in scale, and few spectacular theatres and venues for a choice of entertainment nightly. Oh yes, one will always find the freedom to chart their own course including doin' nuthin' laziness. The SF embarkation was smooth even with the limited pier space. What's to do on board after check in? This floating mega-resort consists of every activity under the sun that you can possibly want to get into. Whether you're planning on spending your time being pampered from head to toe in a Spa or participating in every deck sport that you can find, this vessel remains equip to accommodate all. There's shopping but with limited merchandise line. The life aboard the floating mega-resorts attracts many who are seeking the best vacation value for their dollar. In between sightseeing and endless gastronomic frenzy, there are dance instructionals, spa treatments, bingo binges, karaoke karma, get healthy seminars, etc. The world-renowned cuisine offers mouth-watering delicacies. Order double lobster with side of filet mignon and the hardworking wait staff will deliver with an appreciative smile. The guests gets awarded with plethora of desserts for finale. But, the Grand Marnier soufflé' is not available. The night action offers the effervescence of life. After the sumptuous dinner with friends, there are lounge dancing, piano bar, more shopping, shows and walking on the top deck under moonlit skies. But that's the appetizer for intense interaction at the disco. It's basically exercising off the cruise calories while having frenzied fun. The Princess top deck parties are renowned as a combination of new year's eve celebration, Mardi Gras, Carnaval, etc. The staff gets the festivities going with absolute excitement and keeps it going until it ends a few hours later. Ey mon, even the afternoon band gets the impromptu conga line going. Many activities are geared for kids of any age. Kids will attest that they are having more fun than their parents. The teens whoop up the endless fun with newfound friends as well. Many calls it days and days of 24-hour grad night action. The staff service is famous to cruisers as well. They bring hospitality with generous smiles and gracious appreciation of your patronage. Address the staff by their names & they reciprocate your humane courtesy to them by remembering your needs especially at the dining rooms or public venues. Yes, the staterooms are freshened twice a day. Where's the party place beside the disco? The Wheelhouse Lounge was rockin' while the ship was rollin' literally. Three dance party bands provided the showmanship & they partied the varied guests to excitement. Guest appreciation night or Champagne Waterfall at the fountain main lobby was a hit as well. Yes, there was samba, line-dance, cha-cha slide, boogie-woogie dancing with the staff.. FUN it was! The ship's entertainment featured award-winning production shows. These exciting, lavish productions highlight some of the largest casts at sea, performing hits from Broadway through to the contemporary classics of today. Somehow, the shows are sedate & bland compared to Carnival's glitzy, fast-paced, laser-lighted action. The itinerary stops first at good ol' Catalina Island. Rent a golf cart & do a self-tour. After 2 days at sea, don the tropical sombrero & hit Puerto Vallarta's beaches, shopping, sights. A delightful break is a 75 minute massage at the nearby upscale Krystal Spa resort for only $40. Magnifico Mazatlan is the next stop with more gawking. For the partiers, Senior Frogs is a rockin' place to whoop it up. Pick out a cool pulmonia open-air taxi (modified convertible VW) with blingy wheels & rad stereo and you got a mobile party machine. Then the ship unloads at Cabo Wabo-land. After a nice water taxi excursion at famous Los Arcos, walk to Sammy Hagar's funky place & sample the margarita. As usual, there are many shore excursions that are offered and it's advisable to sensibly think the entertainment value of each. After a day of partying at sea, there awaits Sandi- Eggo with Sea World, da'Zoo, etc. After another sea day, the ship glides underneath the Golden Gate bridge on the 11th day. Off the ship for the well-fed cruisers. The negatives? Aside from the non-offered Grand Marnier soufflé', it's too bad smokers and their second-hand smoke (now an EPA classified toxic killer) is allowed at the cardio-pumping disco and many indoor active venues. Many missed the Chocoholics midnight buffet. Love it or not, cruising is a lifestyle! And it's not only for the rich and famous nowadays. Nobody on earth will guarantee you happiness in life or at cruises except the person's own mind set. Feeling unsure about joining the varied fun fests? Well, nobody knows you at cruises. So then, let go of your inhibitive inner shell & join in the fun program. Be alive when you're still alive!  

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Oct 21, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This is a review of the Dawn Princess from the point of view of a mother of a 2-year-old, first-time cruise passenger, and a professor. This ship is really not recommended for parents of young children - or people with particular cultivation. I took this cruise with my husband, my little boy, and my husband's parents in honor of my father-in-law's 70th birthday. We had high expectations: the Dawn Princess is ostensibly 5-star, my

father-in-law had done some research and found this to be a fairly luxurious ship with plenty of good reviews, and our travel agent assured us that it would be suitable for a 2-year-old: they would provide a crib, the staff are generally in love with small children; she had gone on cruises with her children and parents at the same time, and the children get a lot of love and attention from their grandparents, etc. The cruise turned out to be entirely unsuitable in so many ways. The general feeling upon arriving was that we were being hustled. When we went to the cafe for lunch, we were approached by staff: for $39, you can buy this coke-branded thermos and drink all the soft drinks you like. The staff at the gym was hawking a menu of offerings. At dinner, the waiters were insistent on selling wine although we did not wish to drink wine. "You can buy a bottle, and we'll hold it back there for you even if you only want one glass each meal." The ship had a gallery of photos for sale of all the passengers taken at various times by ship photographers. These taken together really cheapened the experience for us. We would have gladly paid the extra not to be hawked. What can they earn from these things on average per passenger? $250? The boat seemed cheaply built and the fit and finish were worn around the edges in unpleasant ways. It rather surprised us to see those white injection-moulded plastic chairs everywhere - on cabin balconies and even the deck chairs around the pool. The restaurants were the exception: the furniture and decor was pretty nice there. The staff were very helpful and cheerful, but nothing like a fine hotel. We asked for one of the beds to be removed from the room because it was simply too crowded with the crib and they did so but only when we got to the first port. It turned out that there was simply no quiet place on the ship: our room shook with the announcements every 15 minutes of the tender leaving for Catalina - this from early in the morning to mid-afternoon - making it impossible for our little boy to nap. The reading room was a thoroughfare. The gym had musak which the staff declined to turn off even when I was the only one there. There are many other aspects that I feel embarrassed to pile upon these. The overarching impression was cheap and uncomfortable. We didn't last beyond the first port. We paid $2700 for our little family of 3, and when we were told it would be an additional $300 per person to abandon the cruise while still in the USA, we *still* felt it worthwhile to walk away after 24 hours and spend the remaining 9 days somewhere pleasant.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We’re Back: Mary and I encountered a few bumps in the road, on our journey of life and had to curtail our cruising this past year. We want to thank you, our readers, for your many e-mails expressing your concern for our well-being. We're happy to tell you we are in good health, both physically and mentally. We hope you enjoy our review and the many pictures of our cruise on the beautiful Dawn Princess. [Make sure you read: “An

Important Message from Dr. Phil, For Married Couples with Children at Home,” in our ‘Loose Ends & Random Thoughts’ section at the end of our review.] In early spring, the restaurant we own in Huntington, Long Island was partially destroyed by fire. Our summer was comprised of numerous trips to New York to resolve the many issues involved. Than along came Hurricane Charlie. Although it wasn’t forecast, we were in its direct path and we suffered a great deal of damage, including the loss of our roof. We have lived in Florida for 31 years and have never been overly concerned about hurricanes. But let me tell you, Charlie scared the be-geezers out of us and we will never take a hurricane lightly again. After the many problems we had encountered, we were looking forward to the cruise we had booked on the new Caribbean Princess for September 4th. Much to our dismay, on the 4th, the day we were to leave, hurricane Francis came ashore near the Ft. Lauderdale port and the Caribbean Princess had to put out to sea and our cruise was cancelled. Because of the forecasts of Francis being a killer storm, we had evacuated our home and headed for, what we thought, was a safe haven in the panhandle of Florida. Two days later, much to our surprise, Frances changed course and was heading directly for where we were staying. We hurriedly packed and headed for Myrtle Beach, S.C., where my sister Rose has a Condo. BTW, my sister Rose is 85 and looks like shes 60. We stayed with her for two nights and than decided to head back home to New Smyrna Beach. When we left Myrtle Beach, the storm changed course once more and was now working its way through S.C. After a day of horrendous driving, we stayed in Jacksonville overnight and drove home the following day. Fortunately we didn’t have any serious structural damage but we did lose three beautiful specimen trees on our front lawn. Just about the time we were getting back into the rhythm of living, we encountered another bump in the road of our journey of life. An appointment with our family doctor resulted in an unexpected operation. Because of a dark mass that appeared on an x-ray of my sinuses, I was advised to have an immediate exploratory operation. We thank God the biopsy proved negative. With my lovely Mary attending to my every need, I had a long but good recovery and we decided it was time to book a cruise.... Now that we have brought you up to date... our review... of the Dawn Princess. The Dawn Princess This Will Be Different Than Our Regular Reviews: Being we have written comprehensive reviews of the three sister ships of the Dawn... the Sea, the Sun and the Ocean Princess [2], for the most part we will be writing about the highlights of our cruise. Our review has many pictures. Some will be displayed in the form of a series of thumb-nails at the bottom of a paragraph. To see a larger version, put your cursor on the thumb-nail and press. (All four previous reviews are posted on our home page.) It was a very special cruise for us; we were celebrating my Mary’s birthday and my 39th anniversary in the grace filled A.A. program. I owe my life to this God given program and I shall be forever grateful. Servers--The Heart and Soul of a Cruise Ship: The more we cruise, the more Mary & I realize the things we do and the way we relate to each other, makes our cruises what they are and not the ship or the itinerary we sail. That’s why we say in all our reviews, regardless of one’s age, we can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love, than when cruising. Cruising on one of these magnificent floating resorts, while being catered too by a caring, attentive crew, is the perfect environment to give expression to one’s feelings. The ones who are most responsible for creating this serene atmosphere, are the servers who go out of their way to cater and pamper us. It has been said the Captain and the Senior Officers are the back bone of a modern day cruise ship. This no doubt is true, but the heart and soul of a cruise ship are the servers. We believe the number one reason people become so passionate about cruising, is because of the way the servers look after their every need. When we speak of the highlights of our cruise, we are mostly referring to the many memorable moments we spent interacting with members of the crew. When Mary & I cruise we make it a point to compliment the servers every opportunity we have. We all need to hear a compliment or a word of approval from time to time but no one needs it more than these servers who are away from their loved ones for such long periods of time. We dedicate this review to the servers of all cruise ships, but particularly those of the Dawn Princess who made our cruise so very special. Although we have made 33 cruises we do not profess to be cruise experts. We just love cruising and we share our experience hoping it will help you. If you have never cruised, you should give serious consideration to trying your first cruise. Cruising has given Mary & I a new perspective on life and it might do the same for you. One way we feel we can help the new cruiser is to try and answer any questions you might have. If you have a question, we encourage you to write us. We spend our retirement mornings answering e-mails from our readers all over the world. We want you to know there aren't any foolish questions. Although we were savvy travelers, when it came to booking our first cruise, it was very different than booking a land vacation and at times confusing. So we repeat, if you have any questions, write us and we will do our best to answer any questions you might have. ***Our regular readers are familiar with the Wimpy character I refer to in our reviews, but for our new readers, a quick explanation. Tom had been a Macho man most of his early life. In his latter years he began to realize when he did those little wimpy things that Mary loved him to do, his lovely Mary gave him a lot more reason to smile. Although Tom was macho, he wasn't dumb. When Tom is at sea, on another of their ‘Honeymoons,' he takes on the Wimpy persona to its highest degree by using these occasions as an opportunity to do all sorts of lovely little wimpy things for his Mary.*** To Expedite Reading Our Review: We have placed our popular, "Suggestions That Could Enhance Your Cruise," and “Loose Ends & Random Thoughts,” at the end of our review. Suggestions to Enhance Your Cruise: *Things to do Before, During & After Your Cruise: *A Better Way of Tipping: *The Magic of the $2 Bills: *The First Hours Aboard Ship Are Important: *Should You Buy Cruise Insurance? *All Ships of a Cruise Line Are Not the Same: *[15] Of the best Cruise Web Sites to Help You Research Your Cruise: Loose Ends & Random Thoughts: *An Important Message from Dr. Phil, For Married Couples with Children at Home: *The Sea Princess returning to the Caribbean with a New 14 day itinerary, with a Ft. Lauderdale return. *A.A. Reunion Cruise—[email protected] *A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment--“Expectations are a Powerful force” Embarkation: We stopped flying long before 911. Because of our close proximity to the ports of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, we restrict our cruising to the itineraries that can be reached from those ports. We prepared for our drive to port in our usual manner. Mary is my designated navigator and disc jockey. As navigator she makes sure I don’t take any unexpected turns (I have a tendency to do that) and she selects the CD’s that she knows hasten Toms transition from Macho man, to his Wimpy persona. As soon as we left the driveway she inserted one of his favorites, Pedro Vargas singing a medley of romantic ballads. She followed Pedro with Julio Inglesias, and than Edie Gorme, singing with The Los Panchos Trio. As we listened to their sultry tones, we began to sense the tranquil mood of the Caribbean falling upon us. As we were getting closer to port, she began playing some of our collection of CD’s, of the combo’s we danced too in the lounges on our previous cruises. She knew they would trigger Tom’s memory of some very special moments. She could see Tom’s eyes glazing over and his demeanor becoming more mellow with every mile we traveled. By the time we reached port, Mary could sense the transition was complete; it has happened once again; the last remnants of Tom’s macho personality had vanished and she finds herself boarding the Dawn with her loveable cruise companion, Wimpy. We dropped off our luggage at the terminal and I parked our car in the garage directly across the street. The rate is $12 dollars a day. Princess has a very good embarkation procedure. They send all the paper work by mail and if you fill them out and promptly send them back, you have not further paper work at the terminal. We entered the terminal at 12:15 and boarded the ship at 12:45. Princess by far, is the best at handling embarkation and disembarkation procedures. Balcony Cabin B-626: One of the nice things about having previously sailed on the same class ship, we knew what to expect. It was identical to the balcony cabins we had enjoyed on our other Princess cruises. As soon as Mary walked into the cabin, she saw the beautiful bouquet of flowers on the desk. She went over and read the card, and you guessed it, they were from Wimpy. She gave him a big hug and a kiss. Mary said it was the one of the loveliest bouquets she had ever seen and gave him another kiss. On previous cruises, Wimpy packed an extension cord, for the two fragrance dispensers he brought with him. He found that was no longer necessary. The Glades Company came out with a small self contained fragrance dispensing unit. It is a battery operated unit that every few seconds automatically sends a puff of an exotic floral fragrance into the air. He placed it on the desk next to the flowers and before we knew it, our cabin was filled with the sweet scent of wild flowers. Leave it to Wimpy. In a matter of moments, he changed an ordinary ships cabin into a veritable Garden of Eden... the ideal romantic setting for another ‘Honeymoon’ with his lovely Mary. Having the right atmosphere is important to wimpy because Cabin 626 is going to be the base of operations for many of his surprises. [For a full description of our balcony cabin, read our review of the Ocean Princess, 2001.] As we were leaving to have lunch, we were greeted by our cabin attendant Marie. Marie was a pretty young lady from Romania. She had a beautiful smile and an engaging personality. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I did our pre-tipping routine. [See-‘A Better Way of Tipping,’] I gave her an envelope with a card and the suggested gratuity I had prepared at home, thanking her in advance for her services. [See below] She was surprised. We told her a few of the things we would like her to do and we headed for the main dining room for lunch. We will be telling you more about Marie. [Princess automatically adds a $10 charge per day for gratuities. We like to personally give our gratuity to our servers. If you want to do the same, make sure you go to the Pursers desk on the first day, and ask that your name be removed from the automatic gratuity list.] The reason we love to cruise, is because of servers like you who go out of their way to make our cruises special. We want you to know we appreciate what you do and we would like you to have this as a down payment for your services. Tom and Mary Milano The Atrium Christmas Decorations: During the turn around, a crew from a decorating firm came aboard and did a superb job of putting up Christmas decorations. On the way to lunch we passed through the Atrium and there were lighted garlands and glittering Christmas trees and ornaments everywhere. What they couldn’t get done, was completed the next day at our first port, Cozumel. When we reached Cozumel, another crew brought aboard cartoons of bright red Poinsettias and placed them in all the public areas. It looked like a winter wonderland. It wouldn’t have surprised us if they had arranged for St. Nick to come aboard at our next port. [See the thumb-nails] ... before I tell you our dinning experience... let me tell you some of the surprises Wimpy had planned for Mary’s birthday. The Atrium [Even though we are in the latter stage of our life, we find it is getting better and more fruitful each and every day. We know it’s because of the thoughts we entertain and the things we do, that makes us feel this way. Some people are turned off at the slightest mention of words of love or how one feels about life. If you are of that nature, you may not want to read the rest of this review, because we include those thoughts in the reviews we write. We do so because they are the very things that make our cruises so special.] Wimpy Has a Carrying Case Full of Surprises: On each cruise it gets a little more difficult for Wimpy to find ways to surprise Mary. But as the old saying goes, where there is a will, there’s a way and Wimpy sure has the will. He has surprised her so many times, in so many different ways; he sometimes has to recycle an old idea but he has a knack of finding a way to make an old idea appear new. Mary knows he’s up to something but she never knows what it might be. On the first morning of our last cruise, when we went to our balcony to have coffee, Wimpy surprised Mary by having a Bunny figure on the table dressed in a Mexican costume with maracas in his hands. When you pressed his toe, he shook the Maraca’s and sang La Cukarajah. Mary thought that was hilarious. Wimpy looked all over to find a similar animated figure but with little luck. He finally settled on a cute purple dinosaur, you guessed it, his name was Barney. When you pressed his belly he started singing, “I love you... you love me,”... I’m sure if you have children you know the rest of the song. Even though it was meant for children, I figured I couldn’t go wrong as long as it said something about ‘love.’ Wimpy put him in his carrying case along with his other surprises. He found another small figure in K-Mart that he knew would give Mary a good laugh. It was a small figure that looked like Jack Armstrong the all-American boy. He had a sign on him that said, “Mr. Wonderful.” When you pressed his belly, Mr. Wonderful, in a deep manly voice, recited some thoughts that women rarely hear from their husbands. ***“Here honey, you take the remote, as long as I’m with you, I don’t care what we watch.”... “You know Honey, why don’t you just relax and I’ll make dinner tonight.”... “The ball game is not that important, I rather spend time with you.”... “Let’s just cuddle tonight.”... “Actually I don’t know which way to go, I’ll turn in here and ask for directions.”... “Ah, can’t your mother stay another week.”*** Mary especially liked his comments about giving up the remote and stopping to ask for directions. When I least expected it, Mary would press his belly, look at me and break into a big smile. I don’t think that was a very nice way to treat Mr. wonderful. Other Surprises: Repetition is a valuable tool in many areas of life, especially when one wants to convey a message of love. I make it a point to start each day of our cruise on a positive note. I find that one of the very best ways is to have Mary read one of the beautiful Hallmark, ‘Between You and Me’ cards. I took my time carefully selecting 10 cards that spoke my heart. I usually wake up first and do the things I have to do and than its Mary’s turn. As soon as I heard the door of the bathroom close, I reached into my carry case and picked the card for that day and placed it on her pillow. It always amazes me to see Mary’s reaction. I have given Mary cards on many of our cruises, yet each morning when she saw the card on her pillow, it was as if she was being surprised for the very first time. As I told you earlier, Wimpy occasionally recycles an old idea. Instead of Mary reading the cards, he surprised her by reading the cards to her. He read these beautiful expressions of love and caring as if he wrote every word. If you haven’t seen the Hallmark cards I’m speaking of, I suggest you spent some time reading the ‘Between You and Me’ series and I guarantee you will find a card with the exact words you would like to say to your loved one. Another thing Wimpy did was to print various expressions of love on business size cards that he intended to give Mary at different times of the day. He made a dozen cards with the ‘Roses are red... Violets are Blue’ poems. You know those poems that were so popular during our early school days. Here’s an example:.. Roses are Red... Violets are Blue... There isn’t anyone... as lovely as you. When he ran out of words to rhyme with Blue, he found a web-site, RhymeZone.com It showed 583 one, two and three syllable words that rhymed with blue. Wimpy found exactly what he was looking for; finished the cards and printed them. Wimpy printed a dozen of what he referred to as his ‘Remember When’ cards. On business size cards, he printed some of the special romantic moments we experienced during our many years of marriage and even some as far back as our courting days. I would like to give you an example of how they read, but I think it best I not do that. He surprised Mary with his ‘Remember When’ cards at the most unexpected moments... while having dinner... while waiting to see the show... while sitting in the Wheelhouse... while dancing. While having dinner was one of his favorite times, because he had more time to elaborate on some of our experiences, which at times were a wee bit naughty... now that I’ve told you much more than you wanted to know... I’m going to tell you about our superb dining experience. The Food & Service Was the Best we Ever Had: If you like having a romantic dinner with your spouse, as my Mary & I do, PC dining is meant for you. Tables for two on most cruise lines are limited and very hard to come by, but Princess has done something about that. Because of the high demand, they have conceived an innovative way of converting a table of four into two tables of two. It works very well. Make sure you see the Maitre d` as early as possible after embarkation and check your seating arrangements. If you have a problem, this is the time to get it resolved. He will do everything possible to make you happy. We had a delightful lunch in the Florentine dining room and then made a quick tour of the ship. If we hadn’t known it was eight years old, we would have thought it was recently commissioned. It was in immaculate condition. Later in the afternoon we did what I have earlier suggested, we checked our seating arrangements with the Maitre d`Hotel, Francesco Ciorfito. He greeted us with a big smile and welcomed us aboard. He confirmed our reservations for two, for the early seating in PC dining. Because of Francesco and his dining room staff and Executive Chef Josef Stummer and his kitchen staff, we had one of our finest dining room experiences. The food and the way it was presented were outstanding and the service was impeccable. We particularly liked the fact that Princess offered Soufflés`, our favorite dessert, five nights of the ten day cruise. It was a pleasure to have our servers, Irma and Joanna, come to our table. Irma’s home is in South Africa and Joanna’s in Poland. They conducted themselves in a very professional manner but they also had a warmth and friendliness about them that added immeasurable to our dining experience. I would like to tell you a funny incident. Mary & I have our own way of ordering a Soufflé. When I ordered our Soufflés, I told Irma I wanted them left in the Ramekin so we could open the top crust with a spoon, to form a pocket in the dough. Then after the hot, thick Zabaglione is poured into the pocket of dough, I would like a scoop of Vanilla ice cream to put on top of the hot Zabaglione. Irma was laughing when she took our order. She said he never had anyone ask to have a Soufflé served this way. Just the thought of having the exquisite taste sensation of cold creamy ice cream melting into the hot Zabaglione, made my taste buds come alive. The last night we ordered Soufflés, Irma came to our table and said she couldn’t believe what was happening. She said when two of her tables saw how it was served to us, they asked for their Soufflés to be served the same way. The next time Soufflés were on the menu, four more tables that saw those tables ordering it with ice cream, asked to have it served the same way. She said by the fourth night practically her whole station was ordering their soufflés with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. She said on the next cruise she was going to call it the Milano Soufflé and offer it to all of her station. By the time the cruise ended we felt a very close attachment to both girls and especially Irma. In fact, Mary asked Irma for her parents address so she could write to them. While I’m writing this review, Mary is writing her parents, Dr. and Mrs. FP van Zyl. Mary wanted to tell them what a wonderful daughter they have and how she was admired and respected by the entire crew. The Head Waiters Carlos and Andreas, were a reflection of Francesco’s personality. They couldn’t do enough for the guests. They were continual making the rounds of the tables, making sure everyone was being taken care of. Having retired as owners of an award wining restaurant, we know the effort that it takes to have a crew perform at such a high level. The Maitre D` is in charge of the dining room, the one responsible for the performance of the dining room staff. Mary remarked that she has never seen a happier crew. We commend Francesco. He is one of the very best at what he does and we look forward to sailing with him again. On our other Princess cruises we often had breakfast and lunch in the Horizon. But after having a superb lunch and dinner in the Florentine dining room, we decided, or maybe I should say Mary decided for us, we should have all our meals in the dining room. Mary said she would much prefer being waited on than standing in a line and having to serve herself. Wimpy snapped at the opportunity to do something nice for Mary and for the first time since we began cruising, we had all of our meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the dining room. The Magic of the $2 Bill and Exceptional Room Service: Every morning we had a light breakfast on our balcony. In the evening when we returned to our cabin, I filled out our breakfast request card and hung it on the outside door handle. Upon awakening in the morning and after Wimpy read Mary his ‘Between You & Me’ card, we waited for our room service. We both like a cup of coffee as soon as possible after awakening. When I filled in the time desired on the breakfast card, I circled 7:30 the earliest time and wrote please. The first day, our breakfast of orange juice, coffee and Danish arrived at 7:50. When the young man was leaving I asked him to hold out his hand and I did the $2 thing with him. He eyes widened and he listened intently to my every word. When he was leaving he clasped the $2 bill in his hand and thanked me profusely. The next day and every day after, the knock on the door came earlier and earlier; on most days 15 minutes or more before their regular serving time. If it was the same server, I thanked him and gave him another $2. If it was a new server, I did the $2 thing all over again. What happened on last day of room service is the best example of the power of the $2 bill. I woke up at 7:15 and realized I hadn’t filled out the breakfast card. I hurriedly went to the desk and called room service and placed my order. Within seven minutes, we heard a knock on the door, our room service had arrived. I remarked to Mary that this was the best room service we have ever experienced. Little did I realize how truly exceptional it was. I didn’t read the news letter before going to bed, and missed the notice that informed the guests to set their watches back an hour. I realized I had actually called room service at 6:15 and we were served at 6:21, more than an hour before their earliest serving time. What an unbelievable example of the power of the $2 bill. It was now 6:30, an hour earlier than we usually had our breakfast. Wimpy, noticing the Sun was about to rise above the horizon, saw it as an opportunity to create a lasting memory. He picked up the card from Mary’s pillow and he escorted her to the balcony and as the sun slowly rose above the horizon, he read to her his last ‘Between You & Me’ card. It was a very special moment we will long remember... (The following paragraph will explain why I used the unusual phrase... ‘create a lasting memory.’) The Importance of Having Memories: Some years ago, we read a meditation by Fr. John Powell from his book, ‘Seasons of the Heart.’ He wrote; “People are made of memories. Half of what we are is determined by our memories. The things that happen today with our loved ones are the memories of tomorrow. Some memories happen, but other memories must be planned. Yes, some memories happen: like various things that are just part of daily life. But other memories have to be planned: like Christmases and birthdays and special moments with your loved ones. I think it is really important to plan some important moments because they keep playing as memories in one’s mind and heart always. Half of what we are is indeed determined by the memories we have inside of us.” This same thought was expressed by one of our favorite writers, J. R. Miller, in a slightly different way. He wrote, “In a far truer sense than many of us are aware, our memories make our world for us. The things we behold are but the shadows of the things that are us. Our memories play on the walls of our hearts forever. These lovely thoughts gave us the idea that it might be a meaningful and rewarding endeavor for us to make a conscious effort to spend the remainder of our life collecting memories. With God’s grace, we pray we see many more sunrises, so we can plan more memories for our ever growing collection. The Wheelhouse Bar: The Wheelhouse is one of our favorite lounges at sea. It features two combos that play continuous music from 5:15 to closing. For the first time on a Princess cruise, we weren’t happy with the music. They usually feature talented combo’s that play the kind of music that Mary and I relish, those beautiful ballads of bygone days. But we are sorry to say, the music was not very good. One combo appeared to be having a practice session instead of playing for our entertainment. They appeared to be rank beginners. We can’t imagine how someone in management could sit through an audition and then hire them. The quality and style of the music that we danced too in the Wheelhouse Lounge, during our many Princess cruises, is one of the main reasons we chose to cruise with Princess. We hope this was an aberration and not a new policy of cutting the entertainment budget. We spent very little time in the Wheelhouse, but we do want to tell you a story about one of the servers. We became smitten with one of the servers. He was a young man from the Philippines by the name of Songhop. He was working his first contract and he was very enthusiastic about his job. He always greeted us with a big smile and at times I thought he was going to bow, like the Orientals do. He combed his hair in a way that reminded us of ‘Alfalfa,’ of the “Our Gang” comedy kids. We did the $2 thing with him and you would think I gave him a gold coin. He couldn’t do enough for us. I asked him for the address of his folks so I could write and tell them what a good job he’s doing. The next time we went to the Wheelhouse he handed me a sheet of paper with a list of names and addresses in the Philippines. I asked him why all the names. He gave me a big smile and replied as if asking a question, “Mr. Tom, you write some of my aunts and uncles?” Songhop is finishing his first contract in January. I will write his folks and uncles when he’s home, so he can read what I write about him.... The Atrium Lounge: The Atrium lounge was a gathering place for folks who wanted a quiet spot to sit and read the morning paper. They served all the popular coffees of today. Coffee Late, Cappuccino, Espresso, you name it they had it. You had a choice of a free pastry or muffin with your order. Most every morning we would stop by the Purser’s desk and get a condensed version of the New York Times and make our way to the Atrium. We would spend a pleasant hour each morning reading our papers while sipping one of their delicious coffees. We decided that Coffee Latte was our favorite. The servers were excellent. They were very attentive and when they had time they told us about their families back home. Most of them keep in contact with their families by e-mail. Entertainment: To put it succinctly, it wasn’t up to Princess standards. The productions shows were just fair and the single performers were very weak, that is, except for Bayne Bacon. He’s a top notch entertainer and everyone thoroughly enjoy his performance. I get the feeling that the Carnival management is cutting back in some areas of their operation for the purpose of improving the bottom line. I hope they leave the Food and Beverage department as it is. Adreas Pitsch, who heads these departments is doing a truly an outstanding job. In our humble opinion, the dining room operation of the Dawn Princess, under the direction of Adreas Pitsch, Excutive Chef Josef Stummer and Maitre D`Hotel Francesco Ciorfito is the finest dining experience we have had on any of our 33 cruises... before we tell you about our port visits... we are going to tell you about our Photo Shop experience. Even the Photo Shop Personnel Were Exceptional: We can’t speak highly enough about Darius, Ann and Susan who work in the photo shop. For some reason beyond my understanding, I have always had a problem with cameras. They don’t like me and the feeling is mutual. A few weeks before our cruise, I was trying to unload the film and it got stuck in the camera and I couldn’t get it repaired. Wanting to take pictures for this review I decided I would buy an inexpensive digital camera. I bought a Gateway at Best Buys. I took a lot of pictures the first day so I could have them developed by the next day and see how I did. Needless to say, they weren’t very good. That’s when I met Darius. I went to him to ask him what I was doing wrong. I listen to instructions pretty much like I listen to directions when I’m driving. As soon as we were walking away from Darius, I said to Mary, “What did he say?” The second day things took a turn for the worse. When I went to pick up the second days film, the manager of the shop told me they lost my chip. He said he didn’t know what had happened but he would replace it. The only problem was they didn’t stock one in the shop. He said he would buy one for me when we got to St. Thomas but we wouldn’t be getting there for two days. He then said, “I know it’s an inconvenience to you so I’m going to give you the use of one of our photographer for two hours. You tell me when you want him and I will make him available. That is how I met Darius. The next night we met Darius and we went around the ship taking the pictures you see in our review. I took a lot more pictures and had Darius critique them when they were developed. He always made time for me. I don’t think I have ever met a more accommodating and sincere young man. At 10:15 the last night of the cruise, there was a knock on our cabin door and who was it, but Darius. He handed me a CD and told me he thought I would like to have a CD of all the pictures I had taken on the cruise. He wished us the best and quickly disappeared down the corridor. What a wonderful young man. Meeting crew members like Darius is one of the main reasons we love to cruise. A Quick Mention of a Few Ports: We restrict our cruising to the Caribbean and have been to the same ports many times. To be truthful, we enjoy it when everyone goes ashore and we have the ship to ourselves. Most of the time, if we do go ashore, it’s at the ports that have a shopping mall dockside. Cozumel: It’s one of our favorite ports because of Pancho’s Backyard and the adjoining Los Cincos Soles store. We didn’t mind the taxi ride to town, but we didn’t like the way the vendors hawked us as we walked along the downtown streets. Much to our delight, Pancho’s and Los Cincos Soles is now a stones throw from where the ship docks. The best stores of the downtown area have opened satellite stores in the newly developed Puerto Maya complex at the foot of what’s known as the Carnival pier. The architecture and design of this new shopping area is outstanding and the merchants do not harass you as walk by their stores. If one of your Ports is Cozumel, make sure you visit Puerta Maya. St. Thomas: We usually dock at the pier where there is a full scale shopping mall; instead the Dawn docked at a pier of the old submarine base. We were surprised to see a huge shopping mall under construction at the end of the pier. We made an exception and took a Jitney into town. We sat in the front seat with the driver. On the way to town, as we were talking, the driver noticed I had my arm around Mary and he remarked it was nice to see a husband and wife that were happily married. He said that’s what he wanted all his life, to be married to a good woman, but it’s so hard to find the right one. He said I work hard and I appreciate a good woman, but for some reason I always wind up with a jezebel. It’s so hard to find the right women. I told him not to give up but keep on trying and pray that the right women will come into his life. When we reached town, Mary & I waited until the dozen people leaving the Jitney paid him, than I took him aside, asked him to hold out his hand and I did the $2 thing with him. He held onto that $2 bill with both hands, clasped it to his chest and said with a great deal of emotion in his voice, I thank you for giving this to me and I will treasure it. Maybe I can get lucky and find a good woman. We said good-bye, and told him we would keep him in our prayers. We stopped at an outdoor café, had a cool drink and got back to the ship in time to have lunch in the Florentine dining room. It was just a short visit, but a most enjoyable one. St. Martin: Just a short walk from the gangway is a very nice shopping mall. We did a little shopping and than we took the water taxi to town. ($7) St. Martins has done a magnificent job in reconstructing the main street in the downtown area. They have eliminated all automobile traffic and turned it into a beautiful walking area. The side walks are done in paving stones and the street is lined with huge palm trees. It’s been a little more than a year since we made this port and so many changes have been made that we hardly recognized the area. Our primary reason for going to town was to visit the Catholic Church on Main Street. Whenever we go to St. Martins we like to make an altar visit. We were glad to see it was open and recently refurbished. As you can see in the pictures, it’s a beautiful little church. We made our altar visit, left a little money in the poor box and made it back to the ship in time to have lunch in the Florentine dining room. Our conclusion: As you read our conclusion, please remember that our comments are made from our perspective which may be very different than yours. The fact that we are retired owners of an award winning restaurant has a great deal to do with the way we view things. The dining room operation of a cruise ship is a very important factor in our enjoyment of a cruise. Our cruise aboard the Dawn was everything we could possibly hope it would be. The ship was in immaculate condition, the food was superb and the service outstanding. There is a certain something about the dining rooms of the Princess ships, that makes them stand out over the other cruise lines. The serving staff is not only professional in every way but they also have a warm, friendly manner about them, that adds immeasurably to ones dining experience. The Princess menu’s, offer a wide-ranging selection of excellent entrees and desserts that are presented in a very creative way. They also have an additional menu with many standard entrée’s and desserts that can be ordered every night. Having all our meals in the dining room was one of the main highlights of our cruise. My Mary has been the wind beneath my wings for the 36 years we have been married. When we cruise, I assume the Wimpy persona as a fun way to show Mary how much I appreciate her. We had a wonderful, memorable cruise that will place high on our list of special memories. I can’t think of a more fitting way to end our review than to repeat what I wrote in the very beginning. Regardless of age, Mary & I can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love than when cruising. May your next cruise be your best. We would be happy to try and answer any questions you might have, especially those from new or first time cruisers. Our warmest regards, Tom & Mary... [email protected] LOOSE ENDS AND RANDOM THOUGHTS A Message From Dr. Phil, For Married Couples With Children at Home: When Dr. Phil first started on the Oprah show, we heard this renowned expert in the field of marital relations, make a statement that all married couples with children at home should hear. He said, “The number one cause for couples losing their sense of intimacy and love that they enjoyed in the first years of their marriage is the mother allotting almost all her time to her children’s activities and not making time for her husband. Wives, we know your neck hairs must be standing on end, but don’t be hasty and reach for the delete key. Give us a chance to explain what we mean. He said, “The demands on mothers in today’s society are at an all time high. Many wives are working Mom’s. Not only do they work, they also have to do the housework, the shopping, the cooking, get the kids off to school, take them to their after school activities, help the children with homework, attend PTA meetings and many more things too numerous to mention. BUT, and it’s a very BIG BUT, it is absolutely essential that she and her husband find a way to have private time together, away from the children, otherwise over a period of time their marriage will slowly but surely disintegrate. He said, “I know it isn’t easy for a wife to turn the switch on and off; one moment being an all-encompassing mother and then the next time moment, the sultry, passionate lover her husband wants her to be. BUT, again the BIG BUT, it is an absolute necessity that you find a way to have some private time, away from the children, so you and your spouse can rekindle the fire of your love.” If you believe in the validity of this marital expert’s statement, we’re sure you will work at finding ways to do what he suggests. But the meanwhile, Mary & I have a suggestion for you. As we say in every review we write, we can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend quality time with the one you love, than being on a cruise. Can you imagine seven full days, (ten is even better) of being alone with your spouse. No kids, no cooking, no shopping, not taxiing, not dog to walk, not cat to let out, no phone, no beeper, no commitments. We wager you can’t remember the last time that happened. Being on a cruise is like being on another ‘Honeymoon.’ Without a doubt it can be the most wonderful and ideal way for a husband and wife to rekindle the fire of their love. Being with your loved one in the most romantic setting imaginable, a chance to be alone, totally alone with your spouse. Well it can happen, but you have to make it happen. It’s a wonderful way to rediscover the intimacy and love that you enjoyed in the first years of your marriage. Carl, Marion, Mary and Tom Meeting Carl & Marion De Vito: Another nice thing about cruising is the people you meet. On our last cruise, we had the same table we had on this cruise. Just a few feet from our table was another table for two. Each night we were seated, I waved to the couple. On the last night of our cruise, after waving to them as I usually did, I decided I would go over and say hello. After exchanging a few pleasantries, much to my surprise, I learned they lived just five miles from where we live in Florida. We had a very nice conversation and found out we had a lot in common. I was sorry I didn’t meet them earlier in our cruise. The first night in the dining room of our Dawn cruise, I looked over at that same table of two remembering what happened last time. Without hesitation, I went over and introduced myself to a wonderful couple by the name of Carl & Marion De Vito. I told them what happened on our last cruise and that I wasn’t going to have that happen again. We had a very nice conversation and to our surprise we found out they were also Floridians. When they had finished dinner, they stopped by our table and asked us if we would join them later in the Wheelhouse. That was the first of many enjoyable hours we spent with Carl & Marion. Carl was a retired high level executive with Dow Chemical and regaled us with interesting stories about corporate life and his favorite pastime, golf. Carl, although in his 70’s, is a low handicap golfer and has played in many major tournaments. Carl & Marion are passionate about and have booked several cruises for this year. They are presently on a cruise on the Sun, the sister ship of the Dawn. We will get together with them when they return. (A picture of the four of us) A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment: Mary & I have collected one page meditations for many years. Our local paper published them as a daily column. We now send them by e-mail, five nights a week, to our loved ones, friends, crew members of some of the ships we have sailed on and to readers of our reviews. If you would like to receive the ‘Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment,’ send us an e-mail and we will put you on our mailing list. [Mary & I send them from our house.] A Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment Compiled by Tom & Mary Milano Expectations Are a Powerful Force Today we stand on the threshold of a new year, and if you=re like me you=ll be making out a list of resolutions. But keep in mind that what you expect in the New Year may be far more critical than what you resolve. Expectation is one of the most powerful, creative forces in the world. My dictionary says that expect means to consider a thing probable or certain. When we do that deep within our minds and hearts, it has a transforming effect upon our lives. It is based on a sound principle...an internalized expectation becomes an externalized motivation. This simply means all the faculties of our mind...our thinking, our feeling, our believing, will create conditions that tend to make whatever we expect a reality. If I expect the worst I will immobilize my abilities and set up the patterns around me that produce the worst. But if I hold positive expectations, I will generate energies and potencies that will help bring them about. So this New Year's Eve, I hope you=ll join me in creating not just resolutions, but expectations. Great expectations! Stretched before us are three hundred and sixty-five days. God is the source and fulfiller of them all. With Him and faith-filled expectations planted in our lives, this year can be our most wondrous adventure yet! Sue Monk Kid If I hold positive expectations, I will generate energies and potencies that will help bring them about. Expectation is one of the most powerful, creative forces in the world. The Sea Princess Repositioned: In 2000, the Sea Princess was transferred overseas to the Parent company PO and renamed the Oceana. Natasha the Dawn onboard cruise consultant, informed me that the Oceana would be repositioned to the Caribbean, and once again carry its original name, the ‘Ocean Princess.’ It has a first of its kind itinerary. Starting in November 2005, it will sail 14 day cruises to the deep Caribbean, round trip from Ft. Lauderdale. Natasha said the early bookings have far exceeded expectations. Sobriety @ Sea: For those of you who are friends of Bill W., you might want to consider booking the 11th annual A.A. The reunion cruise is to the Eastern Caribbean, on RC’s new Caribbean Princess. This is the ship that is featuring, ‘Movies Under the Stars.’ It’s an opportunity to sail on this beautiful new RC ship and meet fellow A.A. members from all over the world. You can get more information on their web site, http://www.sobrietyatsea.com/pages/1/index.htm or e-mail [email protected] SUGGESTIONS THAT COULD ENHANCE YOUR CRUISE We would like to share some of the pre cruise and shipboard things we do, that have greatly enhanced our cruise experience. We have also included a few of our articles that should be of interest to new cruisers. Questions About Cruising--Q&A: http://www.cruisereviews.com/FACQ.htm Reasons Why You Might Want to Take Your first Cruise http://www.tomandmaryscruisereviews.com/FirstCruise.htm This is an Article Mary & I Wrote For First Time Cruisers : http://www.cruisereviews.com/1stTime.htm Pre Cruise Things To Do: For those of you who are reading our reviews for the first time, we suggest you Read: “Before. During... After Your Cruise” http://www.TomandMarysCruiseReviews.com/ThingsToDo.htm Read: “How to Heighten Your Cruise Experience” http://www.TomandMarysCruiseReviews.com/CruiseExperience.htm: How to Get the Best Possible Price When Booking a Cruise: It pleases Mary & I to know that many of our readers have benefited greatly from taking our advice. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t receive e-mails from our readers, thanking us for our suggestion on how to get the best possible price when booking a cruise. Take our word, our suggestion is a win/win situation. If you would like us to send you our suggestion, drop us a line. Something to Consider Before Booking Your Cruise: All Ships of a Cruise Line Are Not the Same: Mary & I come from large families. Our siblings have similar characteristics but each one has their own distinct personality. Cruise lines and their ships are like that. Not all ships of a cruise line are the same. They differ for many reasons. The age of the ship, the size of the ship (the tonnage), the amenities, the expertise of the Food Manager/Executive Chef but the most important difference is how the crew comes together under the guidance and the direction of the Hotel Manager. The effectiveness of his training of the servers is reflected in the way the crew caters to and pampers their guests. While it's hard to bypass bargain rates, never pick a ship based on price alone. You must first factor in your personal interests and lifestyle, pick the ship, and then go bargain hunting. Cruise lines do vary in their strengths and weaknesses. The point we’re making is, if you want to increase your odds of booking the ship that will best fulfill your expectations, we suggest you learn as much as possible about the ships of the cruise line your considering booking. Read as many cruise reviews as you can. Frequent the cruise message boards; there are good ones that have many seasoned cruisers and TA’s as members. If you have a question about a specific ship or port, post your question and one of them will answer you. You shouldn’t leave every thing to your TA. Do as much research as possible so you can give your TA the information he/she needs to help you select the right ship and right itinerary for you. The Internet has a wealth of information about cruising. The following are cruise web sites we recommend that will help you in your research. Cruise Web Sites That Will Help in Your Research: 360 Degree Virtual Tour of Cabins and Venues: http://www.virtualtoursusa.com/galleryships.htm Complete Listing of New Ships: http: //www.cruisenewsdaily.com/newships.html Deck Plans of Cruise Ships: http://www.cruise.com/pez/ship_deck/decks.asp One of the Best for Cruise Links: http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~rklein/cruise.html Sites for the Caribbean Islands: http://www.shipboardcruiser.com/islandcruise/cb.html A Good Venue Ladies & Men’s Packing List: http://www.cruisereviews.com/PackingList.htm Tip Calculator: http://members.aol.com/CruiseTip/ Cruise Reviews & Cruise Articles: http://www.cruisereviews.com For Cruise Questions: Cruise Chat: http://www.cruise-chat.com/6/ubb.x Another Comprehensive List of Cruise Links: http://www.cruise-links.com A.A. Reunion Cruises: Sobriety @ Sea: http://www.sobrietyatsea.com/pages/1/index.htm Cruise News-Updated Weekly: http://www.cybercruises.com/newsfile.htm Cruising For Singles: http://www.cruisereviews.com/NancyNorris.htm Royal Caribbean Discussion Group: http://www.evensens.net/rccl/rccl.html The Best Cruise Ship Pictures on the Internet: http://home-4.tiscali.nl/~t411310/indx.htm A Good Way to Save These URL’s and have t

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Background: This cruisetour was our honeymoon. We’d spent about eighteen months researching and planning this trip. We used numerous resources including cruisereviews.com and cruisecritic.com to learn about the different cruise lines and tour options in Alaska. We booked the cruisetour through a local travel agent after checking prices with numerous local and on-line agencies. We selected our agent based on the service we received.

Since this was an important trip for us, we were willing to pay a little bit more for the service. Our cruisetour was booked in August 2003. We left on our honeymoon nine days after the wedding. This gave us plenty of time to unwind after the wedding and concentrate on packing. Why a Cruisetour: We chose to book a cruisetour based on the value for the dollar. From our past experiences, we knew that if one person is driving, they are not as able to enjoy the views. Since we were going to Alaska for the views, this was important for us. Additionally, I spend 3-4 hours a day commuting to and from work. The last thing I wanted to do on my vacation was drive. Plus, attempting to rent a car when under the age of 25 is a difficult and expensive experience. Finally, booking a cruisetour eliminated a large amount of the planning that needed to be done. In between planning a wedding, purchasing a house, and working, we didn’t have a lot of extra time to do the additional planning. Why May: In addition to being near our wedding date, our research showed that May is one of the driest months in Alaska. Since both of us are happier being dry, this was a positive. Our priority was seeing scenery, not wildlife. Therefore we were not concerned when told that we would be severely limiting our wildlife viewing opportunities. As it turns out, what we had been told was completely incorrect. Finally, we live near a large city and deal with large crowds on a daily basis. We knew that there would be fewer people traveling in May, reducing the size of the crowds in port. While the crowds were expected to be older, we prefer more mature traveling companions to children. Why Princess: Through our research, we learned that two cruise lines had been operating in Alaska the longest, Princess and Holland America. Additionally, these were the only two cruise lines with Glacier Bay on every itinerary. This was an important factor in limiting our candidates. Princess’s lodges and tour itineraries were several points in its favor. Additionally, we selected Princess based on its reputation for having younger passengers. While we knew most of our traveling companions would be more mature, we wanted to increase the probability of people close to our age. Pre-cruise Travel: We used frequent flier miles to book our travel on United. Although we booked our travel in September, first class seats were already full. We left on Monday, a day before we were to join our cruisetour in Fairbanks. Originally, we had booked Supershuttle to pick us up and drop us off at Dulles. However, the van never showed up. After calling Supershuttle, we were told that the driver could not find our house (although directions had been provided) and that they would be sending a cab. Our initial flight was from Dulles to Denver, leaving just before noon. The flight was uneventful, but full. After a four-hour layover in Denver, our next flight was from Denver to Anchorage. Once again, the flight was uneventful, but full. For both flights, we were seated over the wings of the plane, so there wasn’t much to see. We arrived in Anchorage around 8:30 pm local time and took a cab to the Westmark Anchorage. Cab fare was around $15. The Westmark is a beautiful hotel located in downtown Anchorage. Staff at the front desk was always friendly and helpful. Despite being an older hotel, the rooms are in excellent condition. One whole wall was windows with sheers and velvet drapes that led out onto a small balcony. Our room was on the forth floor, so we had a view of the buildings downtown. However, higher rooms should have an excellent view. We would recommend the Westmark to anyone looking for a hotel in Anchorage. We had booked the room on-line in November and got a great discount rate. Although we had requested a king room, we received two doubles. We were tired enough that we just didn’t care. After forcing ourselves to stay awake until 10pm ADT (2am back home), we crashed. We did both wake up around 4am, but managed to sleep until 6am. That morning, we decided to take a walk along the Coastal Trail. The entrance to the trail was only a few blocks from the Westmark. Since it was early on a Tuesday morning, there were only a few locals out walking their dogs or jogging. We were struck by how friendly everyone we passed was. It was a grey, foggy, and drizzly morning. However, this would be the last of the bad weather we would see for almost a week. We ended up walking down to Earthquake Park before turning around. Our quest for the morning was to find a USB cable so that we would be able to download our digital photos onto my laptop. We found a camera store in the phone book and were able to acquire a card reader. This turned out to be a lifesaver as we took over 2500 pictures. Since we had skipped breakfast, we had a large, early lunch at the Glacier Brewhouse. It was located directly across the street from our hotel and the front desk had recommended it. The food was reasonably priced by Alaska standards and had a wonderful atmosphere. I loved the moose antler log holder in the massive fireplace. Although I am not a huge beer drinker, their amber was outstanding. I had a fennel sausage and portabella pizza with alfredo sauce while my husband had their seafood chowder. Both meals were outstanding. After lunch, we headed back to the Anchorage airport to fly to Fairbanks. We had booked this segment of our trip independently with Alaska Air. The plane’s arrival was delayed by a few minutes. In the meantime, the fire alarm went off in the airport and we were eventually evacuated to the tarmac. After about five minutes, we were all brought back in and began boarding. In the end, we arrived in Fairbanks about an hour late. Since it was cloudy out, there were no views of the mountains. Our plane was about half full, most of which were going on a Princess cruisetour. Immediately off of the plane, we were greeted by a Princess representative and directed to the Princess Tour Desk by a series of representatives. Here people checked in, gathered their information packets and awaited further instruction. After everyone had arrived, we proceeded to the baggage claim area to ensure that all of our bags had arrived. Princess had collected all of the luggage and it was arranged in neat rows. We simply placed a dot on the luggage tag of each bag. We were then ushered to the motorcoaches and driven to the Princess Fairbanks Lodge. Our whole time in the airport was around 30 minutes. The Princess Fairbanks Lodge is located about a 5-minute drive away from the airport. It is not in downtown Fairbanks. Originally, we had planned to go to the University of Alaska museum. However, the museum closed early since it had not begun its summer hours yet and with our late arrival, we would have only had an hour. Instead, we decided to relax at the lodge for the evening. Our luggage arrived in our room within an hour of arrival. The time change was catching up with us again and we fell asleep early. One amusement was that we were once again placed in a room with two double beds. The next day we were scheduled for two included tours. We woke up to some light clouds that quickly burned off. Our morning tour was the “City of Gold”. We began at the El Dorado Gold Mine for a tour of the old mining camps and then panning for gold. Instead of icy cold streams, we took our staked bags and panned in nice warm water. Between the two of us, we had just over $20 worth of gold. However, we resisted the urge to buy the $20 locket to put the gold in. After panning, we had some time in the gift shop to have our gold weighted and enjoy coffee, hot chocolate and cookies. From there, we headed over to the pipeline for a short visit. Our driver-guide provided a great deal of information about the pipeline and how it was designed to withstand the Alaskan environment (permafrost, earthquakes, and the weather.) We concluded our morning tour with a driving tour of downtown Fairbanks. Our guide’s wife was originally from Fairbanks and he had a number of anecdotes to pass along. We returned to the lodge for lunch and then headed off for our afternoon tour, the Riverboat Discovery. We retained the same driver-guide, who had worked for Riverboat Discovery before working for Princess. Having been on several riverboat tours in the Midwest, I was expecting to sit and watch the scenery go by. However, the Riverboat Discovery made several “stops” along the way to point out the history of Alaska or how people lived. These included a bush plane airport with a plane taking off and landing on a tiny runway, Susan Butcher’s kennel where we were greeted by her husband, a small reindeer farm, a fish camp, and finally a native village where we all disembarked the boat for an hour. What could have been a cheesy tourist trap was quite well presented and we walked away very happy with our experience. That evening we took the Princess shuttle into downtown Fairbanks ($5 per person roundtrip.) We went to Gambardella’s for dinner. A few locals and our driver-guide had recommended this restaurant. The food was outstanding and the tiramisu was to die for. That night we put out our luggage. We had packed four bags, two for the land trip and two for the cruise. We had two bags sent directly to the ship while sending the other two onto the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. We also packed an overnight bag since we would be spending that night at the Denali Lodge. Our guides reminded us to pack the overnight bag and it was highlighted on the envelope of our information packet. However, one person managed to miss these directions. The next morning we were up early to take the train to Denali National Park. Princess’s organization showed through. We loaded the buses based on our table assignments. The buses pulled up next to the train cars and we unloaded directly onto the train cars. Princess’s rail cars are two-story with tables upstairs. The domes extend fully across the top of the car, so the views are outstanding. The only room for luggage is under your seat, so packing light is a necessity. We had packed a backpack and it fit well. Our tablemates were a lovely retired couple from Australia. Drink service is available upstairs. Water, hot tea, and coffee are free. Otherwise, drinks are available for purchase. The bloody marys were very popular on our car. Meals are served downstairs. They can only fit a portion of the passengers in the dining section, so we were called down in groups for breakfast. We chose to split a large muffin at the Fairbanks lodge instead. We had beautiful weather once again, so the views out of the cars were spectacular. The trip starts off with black spruce and birch dominating the skyline. As we traveled further south, the foliage began to grow denser as we rode out of the permafrost. As the brush increased, we began to see more wildlife. On our trip, we saw a moose, several caribou, Dall sheep, and several trumpeter swans. We had a guide on-board each car that gave a running commentary of the flora, fauna, wildlife, and history of the area. We arrived in at Denali National Park just after noon. The weather was sunny and in the mid-sixties. Once we de-boarded the train, our motorcoaches were waiting. We loaded onto the coached based on our table numbers. The driver had our welcome packets for the lodge. While we were on the train, we had the opportunity to book any optional excursions for the Denali Lodge. Based on advice we had received, we attempted to upgrade from the Natural History tour to the Tundra Tour. I had called Princess several weeks before our trip and had been told that the excursion was sold out. When on the train, we were informed that the Tundra tour was not running yet. So we were scheduled for the 2:40 pm Natural History tour. (All of the literature we had received prior to the trip indicated that the tour would leave at 4:30pm. However, departures are staggered across the afternoon.) Since we had a small breakfast, one of our first priorities was lunch. We decided to try Lynx Creek Pizza. Initially, we had intended to try Bub’s Subs, but they had not opened for the season yet. Since we arrived on the third day of the season at the Princess Lodge, not all of the supplies had arrived yet. So our pizza options were somewhat limited. The pizza arrived hot, but the sauce was lacking in spices. We would not recommend Lynx Creek Pizza. Construction was still occurring at the lodge. This Princess lodge has one main lodge building and numerous outbuildings housing rooms, restaurants, and an Internet café. The construction on the main lodge was complete, but they were still doing landscaping and paving work. By the time we left the next morning, the front drive had been paved. However, construction occurred during normal waking hours and they tried to make it as unobtrusive as possible on the guests. We had read that the Natural History tour was far inferior to the Tundra tour and not to expect to see any wildlife. However, if you travel during May, this isn’t the case. Since the Alaskan spring is just ending, the wildlife is still down in the valleys. As summer progresses, the wildlife moves further into the mountains. Our tour ran just over four hours. We saw several caribou, a couple of moose, Dall sheep, and three ptarmigans. Several of the animals were only a few feet off of the highway. Our guide, who had been giving the tours for twenty years, noted that May tended to have the highest number of wildlife sightings in the park. At this time of year, he commented that we probably wouldn’t have seen any additional wildlife. (As a side note, the reason the Tundra tour was not running was because they were still training the drivers. The road was clear of snow.) We were very happy with the Natural History tour and would not have attempted to upgrade if we would have known what we would see. That evening we chose to have dinner in the Bistro. It was at the Denali lodge that we found any downfalls of service. Our waitress that evening was very new and having difficulties managing her tables. Her manager addressed the situation quickly and the situation was efficiently resolved. This just appeared to be opening jitters. We ended the evening in the hot tub overlooking the Nenana River. A king-size bed actually awaited us that evening. The next morning we had chosen to take an optional excursion, white water rafting on the Nenana River. As it turns out, we were the only two people to sign up for this excursion. We drove about a half-mile down the road to the rafting headquarters and were outfitted in dry suits. The outfitters recommended that we leave our fleeces behind since it was going to warm up as the sun crested the mountains. After we were all suited up, we drove down to our put-in point and were given a safety briefing. Our tour consisted of four guides and us. We had one guide in our raft, a raft in front of us, a raft behind us, and a kayaker. Although both of us are strong swimmers, this was very reassuring. We had brought along a disposable waterproof camera and were glad to have it on this trip. As the sun crested the mountains, a beautiful day dawned. There was not a cloud in the sky and we were very glad to have left our fleeces with our shoes. Our guide let us determine the level of conversation on the trip, pointing out interesting sites and tidbits along the way. We ended up shooting off our entire role of film during the two-hour trip. We saw a few Dall sheep up on the high edges of the gorge. Near the end of our trip, there was a moose carcass sitting on the riverbank. The guide was hoping that the bears would have discovered it. Instead, a bald eagle flew over our raft and landed in a tree next to its mate. We arrived at the take-out point thankfully dry and actually fairly warm. On the drive back to the lodge, we had a moose walk directly in front of our van. The Denali Lodge is in a commercial area with other lodges, shops, tour operators, and restaurants around it. Directly across the street are a number of row houses containing a variety of stores (some of which were still closed for the winter). We wandered through a few tourist traps, but found one unique store. The Three Bears Gallery sells the work of local Alaskan artists. Their selection was limited while we were there, but there were a number of amazing pieces at reasonable prices. We ended up purchasing a photograph to hang in our living room. The photographer was actually the storeowners’ son. We left for the train to Talkeetna shortly after noon. We had the same table on this portion of the trip. The weather was still cloudless as we traveled south. Mt. McKinley was in view for almost our entire trip. The train stopped at a couple of points to allow people to take pictures. There was a viewing platform on the lower level of each car. However, we found that the height difference provided better pictures from inside the upper level. Just make sure to turn the flash on your camera off. Once again, we saw a large amount of wildlife, including a moose and her calf wading in a river. We did have lunch on the train. Since we were located in the middle of the car, lunch was slightly later than we had planned. The reindeer chili in the bread-bowl was quite good. Our train arrived in Talkeetna around 5pm. We had the option of staying in town and catching a shuttle back to the lodge later or heading directly for the lodge. Since we had eaten a couple of hours earlier, we decided to head directly to the lodge. The bus ride was about 45 minutes long and our driver-guide gave us a great commentary of the area and history of Talkeetna. Since Mt. McKinley was still in full view, we took a few pictures from the lodge’s deck and then took a short hike on one of the trails. This trail led to three viewing spots that had absolutely breathtaking views of Mt. McKinley. We spent a bit of time watching the light play on the mountains before deciding that we were hungry and hiked back down for dinner. The trail was somewhat steep, but well worth the effort. That evening we chose to try out the new restaurant at the McKinley Lodge, Excursion Pizza. This restaurant was everything that Lynx Creek Pizza was not. The pizza was huge, hot, and excellent. The restaurant also had a view of the mountains and very friendly staff. We ended up taking home part of our pizza and having it for breakfast the next morning. This lodge had a similar set-up to the Denali Lodge with a central lodge and numerous outbuildings containing the rooms. Once again, we were given a room with two full beds. These rooms were very cozy feeling with wildlife shapes scattered throughout. The main building housed all of the restaurants though. While we were there on the third day of operation, we did not run into any lapses of services. For those heading directly to the ship from the Mt. McKinley Lodge, advanced check-in is available to expedite the process. Also, shuttles were available to Talkeetna for $15 round trip. The next morning we awoke to clear skies and took a few more pictures of Mt. McKinley before getting on our motorcoach to head to the Kenai Lodge. We left shortly after 8am and made our “bathroom break” about an hour before we arrived in Anchorage. The selected “bathroom break” was actually the Iditarod Headquarters and we had an opportunity to briefly explore their grounds. We had actually been on the Iditarod Web site and were quite happy to get a chance to purchase some of the items we had been looking at in their gift shop. This was quite a popular shopping stop as they had a good selection of quality merchandise at reasonable prices. We arrived in Anchorage shortly after 11 and had until 1 for lunch on our own. This time we chose to take the recommendation of a few of our traveling companions and try Humpy’s. We were told that it had a lot of local flavor. The food was decent, but if given a choice, we would probably return to the Glacier Brewhouse in the future. Since we had a lot of time, we then strolled down to the Saturday Market. The booths had a large variety of different items, ranging from souvenirs to plants and food items. There were a number of stands selling salmon or reindeer sausages at reasonable prices. Our trip then continued on along the Cook Inlet towards the Kenai Lodge. The skies began to cloud up and we had a few passing light showers. However, this did not lessen the views from the coach. Our driver-guide had spent many years in the Anchorage area and was very knowledgeable about the areas we were traveling through. Additionally, he was very accommodating about pulling the bus over into scenic overlooks to allow people to take pictures. On this part of the trip, we had a beautiful photo opportunity of two immature male moose grazing on the side of the road. Our driver happily pulled over to let everyone take all of the pictures that they wanted. We arrived at the Kenai Princess Lodge as the sun finally broke through the clouds. Several of the staff members had commented that the Kenai Lodge was their favorite and we soon discovered why. The lodge is set on a ridge above the Kenai River. There is a short, but steep path down to the river where they have three small docks built over the river. The water was just amazing shades of blue and green. If you had difficulties navigating the trail, the lodge was more than willing to drive you down to the first dock. There was also a phone located at the bottom of the bluff to call for a ride back up. Several of our fellow travelers took advantage of this. Once again, the lodge consisted of a main lodge building and several outbuildings containing guest rooms. However, the rooms at this lodge were unlike any other. Each building consisted of several row cabins. Upon entering your cabin, you were in a bedroom similar to that of the other lodges. Beyond the bedroom was a cozy living room with a table, a oversized easy chair, a love seat, and a fireplace. The back wall of each cabin was windows leading out onto a deck. Privacy walls had been placed between the decks to enhance the solitude. Since we were in the “cheap seats” our deck “only” had a view of the forest and surrounding mountains. The cabins were large enough that a loft area could have been added. Instead, the roof was at different levels with rows of windows letting in more natural light. Our king bed was directly underneath a huge bay window. This was our favorite lodge by far. If a small kitchen was added, we could have easily lived there. That evening we chose to just walk around the property and relax. The lodge is fairly isolated, so there are no shuttles. We had dinner at the Rafters Bar. Their burgers were quite tasty. Since it was a little cool (low 50s), they were not serving dinner on the deck. However, if the weather were a little better, this would be a beautiful place to have a meal. We were the first cruise passengers to arrive at this lodge, but it had been open to the public since May 1st. There were a few locals having dinner or enjoying a drink at the bar. Our tour (Dawn 16 S) had only 38 people on it. We were sharing the lodge with those on the Coral 16 N tour. We hardly saw people unless it was at the main lodge. The first night, only one of our two checked bags arrived in our cabin. We notified the front desk when we went down for dinner. The supervisor kept in contact with us and our wayward bag was located and delivered in less than 15 minutes. It had been delivered to the cabin next door. The next morning we awoke to slightly overcast skies. We had chosen to go on the Kenai Fjords Cruise as an optional excursion. As we met up in the lobby, we were greeted by one of Princess’s outfitters with a map. She explained that there was currently a marine advisory that could redirect our cruise. If this happened, we would go on a Resurrection Bay cruise and be given a partial refund. Normally, she stated, she would not recommend that we take the risk. However, she had been in contact with the tour operator and most of the wildlife had been spotted in Resurrection Bay. She thought that it would be worth the risk under these circumstances. All 26 people signed up for the tour got on the bus. We had about a 90-minute ride to Seward to board the cruise. Both driver-guides came along on our tour and we had a running commentary for most of the trip. Each had spent a time in the area and had different versions of local legends. We also spotted another moose on our trip, grazing just feet off of the road. Our driver turned around in a scenic overlook and allowed people off of the bus, but a safe distance away from the moose, to take pictures. Once we arrived in Seward, the tour operator greeted us. She once again explained the situation and how it would be handled. From there, we boarded our boat and relaxed until it was time to leave. The boat had two decks, both with an outside viewing area and inside seating. The inside seating was done “booth style” with sets of six chairs surrounding a table. Since it was cool (mid-50s), most people chose to stay inside. Within 10 minutes of leaving the dock, we slowed to view our first wildlife, a pod of orcas. We watched one part of the pod on one side of the boat. Then, on the other side, a large bull and two smaller calves appeared. We sat watching the whales for 10-15 minutes before moving on. As we cruised along the bay, we then spotted a mountain goat with a kid. The captain speculated that the kid was less than a day old since they had seen the same goat the day before, but without a kid. Lunch was served as we continued on our cruise. Choices were cod filets or chicken strips. We then encountered a group of three humpback whales, a female, a calf, and an escort. We watched several blows and fluke dives. Onboard, they had a researcher studying the humpbacks that gave a very interesting commentary. After leaving the humpbacks, we then began our cruise towards the Holgate Glacier. This was the area that the marine advisory had been given about. However, the weather cooperated and we were able to round the point and enter the inlet. As we cruised towards the glacier, we passed a rock covered in Stellar sea lions. The next turn brought us to a bald eagle’s nest. The eagle was perched a few branches away, posing for pictures. Each time that wildlife was spotted, the boat would slow and maneuver into position for better views. We’d bundle up into the raincoats we’d brought and head out to the front of the ship. A pair of oystercatchers were nesting on a nearby outcropping and we got a very up-close view of them. From there, we then cruised on to the Holgate Glacier. The weather had clouded up and we got a few sprinkles, but the cloudiness helped the glacier reflect a bright blue. While we where there, people hoped to see the glacier calve, but that wasn’t to be. After leaving the glacier, we then headed to a group of small islands known for their birds. We saw tons of kittiwakes (they look like sea gulls with black wing tips) trying to chase an eagle away from the cliff that they were nesting on. We also saw mirrs (they look like penguins) that paddled along the surface of the water like a surfer before diving into the waves. Also, there were a large number of tufted puffins. One of the couples we had met on our tour was on their second Alaskan cruise. On the first one, they hadn’t seen puffins and this was a major goal for them. They were not disappointed. Cormorants rounded out the majority of the birds in the area. We passed another sea lion covered rock and began to head back for the dock. Our captain stated that we wouldn’t be stopping for anything we’d seen before. We didn’t get far before we encountered another pod of orcas. This pod contained about a dozen individuals and orca sightings were occurring all around the boat. Needless to say, we stopped. The crew then passed out fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies. Paired with a cup of hot tea or coffee, it was a perfect way to warm up from standing out on deck. A school of dall porpoise then decided to play with our bow wake, diving back and forth under the bow of the boat. When we arrived back at the dock, a light rain had enveloped the area, so we waited inside the gift shop while our driver-guides got the bus. Our ride back was the only trip where we did not see a moose. Aiding in this fact was the number of people dozing. At the beginning of the cruise, the captain recommended that anyone prone to seasickness take precautions and that bonine was available in the galley. We did not see anyone who was sick, but someone on our bus saw someone making a mad dash to the head. We took a light fleece and a raincoat in addition to gloves and an ear covering. We found that this was sufficient to keep warm, even though we were sometimes out on deck as the boat was cruising. One lesson learned was not to look through your binoculars while the boat was moving at speed. This could lead to a few queasy moments. We also took a plastic baggie with a hole cut out of it to help keep our camera dry. The weather cleared as we neared the lodge and we settled in for another relaxing evening in front of our fireplace. We used this opportunity to go through some of the photos we had taken so far. Both of us ended up dozing off on the loveseat in front of the fireplace. The next morning we put our luggage out and then went for a stroll around the property before catching the motorcoach to Whittier. The weather in Kenai was warming up (low 60s) with partly cloudy skies. Our last trip began around 11am. As we got closer to Whittier, the skies clouded up further and a light rain began. This was to be the last rain we would see on our trip. Our driver-guide passed around a book on the history of Whittier and shared a few humorous stories and facts about the town. We arrived at the tunnel slightly ahead of schedule, but only had to wait about 5 minutes before proceeding. The tunnel is only one-way, so traffic has appointments to go through. Once we were through the tunnel, we could see the ship. We did also see our required moose on this bus trip. After arriving at the ship, an outfitter came onboard and explained the whole check-in process to us. Check-in started at noon and we arrived slightly before one. Since a number of buses had arrived at once, we were held on the bus for about five minutes so that we would not have to stand in line inside. Once we entered the terminal, we were ushered into a short line. The whole check-in process from entering the door to receiving our keys took less than five minutes. The longest line was for security. We were on the ship within fifteen minutes of unloading the bus. We also understood why they held us on the coach. The Whittier cruise terminal, while new, is currently a large warehouse with check-in desks set up in it. It was much more comfortable to stay on the coach than wait in the building. Although we were only the second departure from Whittier, the check-in process ran very smoothly. The last things to be done are making the terminal more welcoming. The day at Whittier was the only day that we had bad weather. It was cool (mid 50s) and rained on and off all day. According to several of the personnel at the terminal, it always rains in Whittier. Since the weather was not looking pleasant and we’d skipped breakfast, we headed for the buffet. The lines were short and it was easy to find a table since we were there so early. Only the buffet was open for lunch according to the Patter. As we left, we noticed that it was becoming much more difficult to find a place to sit. We did purchase one soda sticker for my husband during lunch. There were several servers selling the stickers in the Horizon Court. Our first set of luggage arrived around 3pm. This was the luggage that had been with us on the tour portion of the trip. We unpacked the necessities, left the dirty clothes, and pushed the first two suitcases under the bed. We then took our own tour around the ship, followed by the guided tour given by the cruise staff. Upon returning back to our stateroom, we found our direct-to-ship bags waiting. Princess did place the luggage inside of the room instead of leaving it sitting out in the hallway. I had ordered the honeymoon package and the champagne, flutes, chocolate covered strawberries, and coupons were waiting in our stateroom. Also, our travel agent had sent us two gifts and the coupons for those were sitting on our bed. We finished unpacking and changed for dinner. Our stateroom was E346, an inside cabin on the Emerald Deck. We were the first stateroom past the fore stairs and elevator bank. The location was very convenient since we always found ourselves going up and down the stairs. We did not receive a lot of hall noises. However, we could hear the binging of the elevators. Additionally, there was a crew hallway and door next to our cabin. We could hear them as they pushed carts through the swinging door, mainly in the afternoon. However, the noises were not distracting. The stateroom was well laid out with plenty of storage space. We only used half of the space provided. While the bathroom was small, it was very functional and the shelving next to the mirror provided plenty of storage space. The shower was shaped such that it curved, providing a space to shower without standing next to the curtain. We never had a problem being attacked by the shower curtain. Both of us are tall and appreciated the height of the showerhead. We did pack a power strip to recharge the batteries for the cameras and laptop. This was quite handy. Other useful things we packed were a small, battery operated alarm clock (to check the time), a bottle stopper (for the wine), and numerous large Ziploc bags (for transporting toiletries.) We had packed a small nightlight, but quit using it after the first night. It reflected off of the mirrors, causing a lot more light than we needed. We found that the glow-in-the dark lifejacket label on the closet actually provided enough light to find the bathroom. The muster drill occurred at 8pm. To avoid the mass of people in the hallways, we arrived about 5 minutes early. Our muster station was the Wheelhouse Bar and we found some of the last seats available. Since it was cold and raining, everyone was very appreciative to have the drill inside. It also made it a lot easier to pay attention because you weren’t wet and cold. The drill took about 15 minutes and provided a lot more information that the muster drill we’d done previously. After the drill, we headed for dinner. We requested and received late seating at a table for six. Dinner was scheduled to start at 8:30. However, because of the drill, our orders were taken around 9. Our tablemates the first night were a couple from Mexico in their early thirties and a middle-aged couple from Nebraska. The older couple informed us as soon as they sat down that there had been a mistake and they were switching to early seating. Conversation was very stilted that evening and we also considered changing tables. However, we decided to try it out one more night to see who would actually be there. Our wait team was from Poland. Willie was our waiter and I’m not even going to try to spell our assistant waiter’s name. The meal was very good, better than wedding food. (Having just been at two weddings, we were accustomed to wedding food.) We were seated in the middle of the dining room and it was about 2/3rds full. We had originally planned to go to the Welcome Aboard Show. However, it was scheduled to start at 10 and we did not get out of dinner until 10:30. (The start time for dinner had been adjusted for the muster drill, but not the start time of the show, so almost everyone with late seating missed it.) Instead we took a brief stroll around the promenade and headed to bed since we were getting up early the next morning. The ship had set sail during dinner and there were no planned sail-away activities. The next morning we were scheduled to arrive in College Fjord at 6:30am.We scurried upstairs to grab a quick bite in the Horizon Court before we arrived. We arrived in College Fjord at 6:30am. The on-board naturalist was on the PA system describing the history of the fjord and wildlife that we might see. It was warm but overcast as we slid into the fjord. Standing out on the front deck, we had beautiful views as we approached the glaciers. The ship did a 360 in front of the Harvard glacier before leaving the fjord around 9am. We tried to go get a bite in the Horizon Court since we’d had a small, hurried breakfast, but the tables were full. Many people chose to sit and watch the scenery at the tables, ignoring the masses of people looking for a place to sit and eat. We ended up eating outside next to the grill. The on-board naturalist gave a talk that morning about the sea otters in the area. We arrived about 5 minutes early, only to discover that he was part way through his lecture. He had decided to start early. We decided to have lunch in the dining room and enjoyed being served. After lunch we split time between the card room and the promenade deck. We found that the chairs on the promenade were a perfect spot to sit and read a book. The card room also had beautiful views and was regularly used. I chose to attend the port lectures on Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. These were not a push for the Princess shore excursions. Instead, they were a brief overview of the history of each of the ports. My husband went to play bridge and we then met up for tea. At first, my husband wasn’t thrilled with the idea of tea, but he agreed to accompany me anyway. We both had a lovely time. We were seated with a couple of women from the Vancouver area who had some very interesting stories. We had planned to return to tea throughout the rest of the trip, but always had a conflict. After tea, we walked around the promenade deck. As we moved further into the Gulf of Alaska, the ship was enveloped in fog. It was strangely relaxing to watch the ship glide through the fog. The foghorn was sounding, but not audible inside of the ship. Since it was the first formal night, we headed inside to change. We arrived in the atrium about 30 minutes before the Captain’s Cocktail Party was to begin for pictures. This worked out well since there were very few people in line. The cocktail party was quite enjoyable with several types of cocktails being served. We met up with one of the other couples from the tour to enjoy the festivities. Captain Ravera was quite well spoken and enjoyable to listen to. Afterwards, we headed to dinner. We were the first to arrive at our table shortly after 8 and our waiter suggested waiting to see if anyone else would attend. At 8:30, he finally took our order. The younger couple arrived shortly before 9, just as we were about to receive our entrees. This was going to prove to be a trend for them. Apparently the older couple had received the change they requested because we never saw them again. Conversation around the table was much better this evening, so we decided not to attempt to switch tables. The beef entrée was quite excellent this evening. After dinner, we headed for the first show “Words and Music.” Having grown up listening to Broadway show tunes, I recognized a large number of them and greatly enjoyed the show. My husband is less familiar with them and enjoyed it, but not as much as myself. The show took place in the Princess Theater and it was packed. After the show, we headed to bed. The next day was Glacier Bay and an opportunity to sleep in, which we did. We headed up to the Horizon Court to grab something to eat before heading out on deck. The park rangers embarked and opened an information table in the Horizon Court. Additionally, park maps were placed in each stateroom the night before. One of the rangers gave a narration over the PA system while we were inside the park. As we entered into Glacier Bay, there was wildlife to be spotted. We saw a few bear dots (bears on the shore that appeared to be dots or blobs through binoculars), a few humpback whales, sea otters, and a seal. The morning began a little overcast, but soon the sun burned off the clouds and it was a beautiful day. Standing on the front of the ship, a windbreaker, hat and gloves helped to cut the wind. We were to arrive at the Grand Pacific Glacier around 2pm, so we took a short break to try to grab a quick lunch in the Horizon Court. The lines were not bad, however it was impossible to find a place to sit. Once again, people had staked out tables to watch the scenery from inside. We ended up finding a table just as someone left. We returned to the front of the ship and watched our approach to the Grand Pacific Glacier. This is the glacier that was mainly responsible for creating Glacier Bay. Looking at it, you would not realize that it was a glacier. The terminal moraine protects it from the salt water, allowing it to advance, but also helps to hide it. However, as we approached, behind a rocky outcropping on the left was the Marjorie Glacier, a bright blue glacier. As we approached, one of the park rangers noticed a bald eagle sitting on one of the pinnacles. It would choose to sit and watch us the entire time we were there. Numerous other sea birds were near the face of the glacier feeding. The ship spent 2.5-3 hours at the glacier, making two revolutions. As the ship began to turn, we headed towards to aft to continue to view the glacier. As we moved further aft, we began to get strange looks. Those who had been in the front of the ship were all bundled up to protect us from the wind. People on the sides and aft of the ship were all wearing t-shirts. A few people were even catching a few rays in their bathing suits. The temperature was in the low 70s that afternoon. While we were watching, the glacier had several small calvings and two larger ones. The glacier would rumble and then a few seconds later a piece would fall off. We eventually learned to watch the sea birds. They were feeding on the seafood stunned by the sudden influx of fresh water. However, just before the glacier would calve, all of the birds in that area would fly off. By watching the birds you could guess where the calving would occur. Growing quite warm, we headed back to our cabin briefly to change. We ended up watching the Grand Pacific Glacier fade into the distance while sitting in the aft hot tub. Many people were in the hot tubs and some were even enjoying the heated pools. We went back to our cabin, showered, and got ready for dinner. Since it was still early, we went for a stroll on the promenade, played a few hands of cards in the card room, and then checked out our pictures from formal night. This night was Continental Night, formally known as French Night. Once again, our tablemates were over a half an hour late. However, this time we only waited 10 minutes before ordering. Our assistant waiter was one of the highlights of the staff. He kept everyone in stitches, telling us about his family back home. This was his last cruise before returning home, but his service was always impeccable. One menu highlight was the escargot. After dinner we attended C’est Magnifique, a production show in the Vista Lounge. Since the show had a French cabaret flair, the lounge seating only enhanced the atmosphere. We met up with two of the couples from the tour and enjoyed the show. The land tour gave us a great opportunity to meet people and we kept in contact with them while on the ship. After the show, we all parted ways and headed to bed. Skagway was our first port and we were ready to see land again. We had booked the White Pass Railroad through Princess. The price difference between Princess and booking directly was $6 per person. Since we were on the last train of the evening, which was due to return at all aboard, we didn’t take the chance and booked directly through Princess. The tickets were waiting in our room when we first arrived on ship and the charges were added to our shipboard accounts, even though we had booked them earlier. Once again, we began our morning with breakfast in the Horizon Court. The lines were short and it was easy to find a table. Since we had all day in port, we started out walking around town. A quick stop by the National Park headquarters provided a number of opportunities while in town. They had two different films being shown on the history of Skagway, interpretative presentations, and a guided walking tour. We chose to take the next guided walking tour. Since we still had 30 minutes before our tour, we strolled around Skagway and stopped by the Skagway Visitors Center. While there, we picked up a hiking trail guide. The National Park guided walking tour took about 45 minutes and covered around eight blocks. Since we went on the 10am tour, there were not a lot of people on it (also, they attempt to limit the tour to a 30 person group per guide). Afterwards, we visited three of the four park museums in town and did a little bit of shopping. As we headed back to the ship for lunch, the third cruise ship, Norwegian Sun, docked. We were also in port with the Veendam. For lunch, we decided to try La Scala, the pizzeria. We were the only ones eating lunch there, so the food was hot and fast. The calzone received high ratings while the sauce on the Hawaiian pizza just didn’t fit. During lunch, we looked through the hiking trails guide and chose a shorter hike to Lower Dewey Lake. According to the guide, the trail consisted of a .7-mile climb of 500 feet followed by a 2-mile loop around the lake. It estimated the required time to be 2-3 hours and rated it as moderate. Since both of us hike and have done similar trails at home, we headed out with plenty of time to spare. The trailhead is along the railroad tracks next to the main street into town. The trail was not as easy as advertised. The .7-mile climb consisted of a series of steep switchbacks and took us around an hour, far longer than we had anticipated. Instead of continuing on the loop trail, we found a quiet spot and just watched the lake. We encountered several cruise ship passengers on the trail as we hiked back down to meet up with our tour. We were glad that we had not chosen to go back into town since it was full of people. Skagway only has around 500 residents in the winter and seemed busy with only two cruise ships in port. We didn’t want to imagine what it would be like with five or more cruise ships in port. Our tour left from the cruise ship dock. The train had separate cars designated for each of the ships and independent travelers. We chose to sit on the left, but it really didn’t matter since our train car was less than a third full. On way down, you could choose to switch seats or stay where you were. For the climb, we chose to stay in the car since the viewing platforms were fairly crowded. However, on the return trip, I was usually the only person on the platform. Bottled water was provided and they had a small selection of souvenirs available only on board. The view was amazing and we felt that the tour was very worthwhile. The weather that day was beautiful in the mid-70s and sunny. Another suggestion for great views given to us from those getting off of the train was to sit in the last car. The rear platform provided outstanding, complete views. We returned to the ship at 7:30 and quickly changed for dinner. The theme was Italian Night and it was our favorite menu on the whole. The eggplant parmesan appetizer was outstanding. It didn’t taste at all like eggplant. My husband also decided that he was a huge fan of the soufflés for dessert. Once again, our tablemates were about 30 minutes late for dinner. The entertainment choices that evening were a comedian or the not-so-newlywed game show. We chose to attend the not-so-newlywed game show, probably the wrong decision. The show is only as good as the contestants and one of the wives didn’t seem to want to have participated. The comedy show got rave reviews. After the show, we took a brief stroll around the deck and headed to bed. The next morning found us in Juneau. We were the first ship in port and were scheduled to go glacier trekking with Northstar Trekking. We had booked independently with Northstar several months prior and were scheduled to meet them at the Red Dog Saloon at 9am. Since breakfast at the Horizon Court took less time than expected, we were off the ship shortly after 8. We called Northstar to confirm our pick-up and then wandered around downtown Juneau. Unfortunately, we discovered that most stores opened at 9am. Our driver arrived around 8:45 and we headed for the airport. Two other couples joined us from the cruise ship. We were outfitted with a jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and a hip pack. The guides recommended leaving our fleeces and we were glad that we did. The weather in Juneau that day was upper-60s and sunny. The helicopter ride up to the glacier was stunning. Our pilot commented that he normally couldn’t take this route due to the weather. However, it was a perfect day. We met our two guides on the glacier and were joined by a photographer. Since the weather was so perfect, they were taking photos for next year’s promotional literature. We were given our crampons, ice axes, and a brief lesson on how to walk in crampons. From there, we were off to explore. One of our guides had recently taken a class on glaciers and geology and pointed out lots of interesting features along the way. We climbed up a few hills, forged a few streams and discovered a place where two streams came together. Since one of them had been underground, it had carved a small cavern. We each ventured into it. As people worked their way in, you would hear the exclamation as they discovered the deep and varying shades of blue. After about two hours, we located our helicopter and hiked back. Since there was not a large afternoon tour scheduled, we had the opportunity to be a little more adventurous without having to worry about leaving wet gear for the next group. The entire tour took a little over four hours. Our driver was willing to drop us off anywhere downtown, but we just headed back to the Red Dog Saloon. After a little bit of shopping, we returned to the ship to grab a quick bite to eat. Three ships were due in port that day. We were the first ship to arrive. The Volendam arrived while we were on our tour and the Mercury was just finishing docking as we returned to the ship. Unlike Skagway, Juneau seemed large enough to be able to handle the influx of people. However, we didn’t want to test this theory. We snagged bratwurst at the grill and headed to the Vista Lounge to hear the presentation by Libby Riddles. Having grown up eating bratwurst, these were passable for a quick snack. The presentation was quite interesting and Libby stayed around afterwards to answer questions and sign copies of her children’s book. Since the ship was due to leave in less than an hour, we then chose to relax by the pool. I chose to go swimming, since the weather was just that beautiful. Several other people were in the pool and the hot tubs were always full. We grabbed a small snack from the Horizon Court and watched people golf horribly in the chipping contest. Instead of trying to hit the rings in the pool, some people seemed to be targeting everything else, including the cruise staff member’s head. We enjoyed relaxing beside the pool reading and chatting with our neighbors until it was time to dress for dinner. That evening there was an early comedy/magic show, which we chose to attend before dinner. The comedy was great and we looked forward to seeing the comedian again during the farewell show. We headed to dinner, which was featuring the Alaskan Night. During this meal we found the only item we truly didn’t like, the wild game tureen appetizer. It resembled a combination of salami and bologna and tasted a lot like liverwurst. Alaskan king crab legs were available on the menu. After dinner, we were debating if any of the entertainment appealed to us. Instead, tiredness caught up with us and it was off to bed. The next morning we arrived in Skagway just as we were finishing breakfast in the Horizon Court. We headed off the ship as soon as we could because we had a 9am Orca’s Cove tour with Southeast Sea Kayaks. We had booked this tour in November. When we had called to book the tour, it was suggested that we take the earliest tour available since it was migratory bird season. The earlier hours would offer the best chance to see wildlife. We met up with a guide right outside of the ship and had a short walk to their office. We were given a life vest and a dry bag to keep all of our things in. We then headed out to a motorboat to head to our kayaks. The driver gave us a short commentary on the area as we headed for the cove. We were the only paying guests on the trip. However, two additional guides and their husbands joined us. The weather was so beautiful that everyone wanted to be on the water that day. Once we arrived at another boat with the kayaks, we received brief instructions on how to kayak and loaded into the boats. As we arrived at the boat, we could hear a humpback surfacing in the area. After being loaded into the kayaks, we were able to locate it and watch it dive. It stayed with us for about half of our tour, surfacing as close as 100 yards. We kayaked around the island, stopping in several small coves to discover what was there. Our official guide, Galen, had just graduated from high school the day before. She was a tremendous young woman, with a lot of local knowledge since she had grown up in Ketchikan. She will be spending her first year in college traveling around the world as part of a school at sea program. If you’re lucky enough to have Galen as your guide, you’re in for a real treat. The weather was perfect for kayaking, warm enough that it was comfortable to be on the water and sunny. We saw around a dozen bald eagles, a dall porpoise, numerous sea birds and got up close and personal with a sleeping sea lion. Originally, we had seen a strange shape floating in the water. Galen didn’t know what it was, but decided to go investigate. As we drew closer, it looked somewhat like wing or flipper sticking straight out of the water. It was accompanied by a strange gurgling noise. It was a sea lion holding its flipper straight out of the water. At first, we were unsure if it was injured. However, after a few minutes, the sea lion suddenly dove under the water and disappeared. Upon returning to the boat, we learned that it had been trying to cool itself by holding its fin out of the water and was probably snoring. We were able to set the pace of our trip and after about 2.5 hours, we headed back to the boat. Onboard, a smoked salmon snack and cold drinks awaited us. We then boarded the other boat and headed back to the office. This is a trip we would consider doing again if we returned to Ketchikan. The peace and solitude on the water was simply amazing. You were able to encounter wildlife without it feeling like an artificial scene. We were the only ship in port that day, so the streets were not crowded. We headed back to the ship for lunch at the pizzeria. Their special of the day was quite good. We then decided to walk around town, taking a stroll down Creek Street and doing a little bit of shopping. We kept seeing signs that were part of a walking tour, but could never find the starting point or a map. After finishing our shopping, we returned to the ship and once again sat by the pool to watch us pull away. The second formal night was that evening. Since it was lobster night, the dining room was full. Service was a little slower than normal since all of the tables in our waiter’s section were actually full. Additionally, our tablemates were on time. Apparently our waiter had mentioned that the dining room would be full and it would be a good idea to be on time. Additional tails were available for anyone who wanted them. It was amusing watching Willy trying to wrestle a few of the tails out of their shells. We headed to “Rhythms of the City” after dinner. We were a couple of minutes late since dinner took a little longer than usual. A number of people came in late since dinner was running long. This show was the best of the three we saw. It spanned many decades of music and had something for everyone. After the show we met up with one of the couples from the land tour and watched the preparation for the champagne waterfall. The wait staff was having fun with the preparation and it led to a very festive atmosphere. At midnight, the champagne was poured and streamers were tossed. People had the opportunity to have their pictures taken pouring the champagne and there was dancing. After a few dances, we decided to call it a night. Our final full day onboard was a day at sea. After sleeping in, we grabbed a quick breakfast in the Horizon Court and headed to the culinary demonstration. It would more appropriately be called a comedy show. We attended the final lecture by the onboard naturalist and then headed to lunch in the dining room. The rest of the afternoon was a combination of packing and reading out on the promenade deck. We put out three of our suitcases before heading off to the farewell show. The show, before dinner, was the comedian/magician we had seen earlier and a singer we had missed. We enjoyed the comedian and the singer was very good. However, his repertoire was geared for a slightly older generation. We found the performance to be good, but were not upset that we had missed his original show. The final menu was American Night. Our tablemates were on time once again. Conversation that evening reflected on the cruise as a whole and all of us had really enjoyed it. The baked Alaskan parade was that evening. The Loveboat Dream was only on the menu on the last night. However, after serving the baked Alaskan, our waiter never returned to see if we wanted to see the dessert menu. It was ok though since we were stuffed. We returned to our cabin, finished packing, put out the last suitcase and went to bed. The morning found us docking in Vancouver. We watched us pull into the dock as we had breakfast in the Horizon Court. It was actually very easy to find a table this morning. The ship cleared customs and began disembarkation, about 30 minutes late. Our flight was out of Seattle and we had purchased transfers to the airport. We were in the first quarter of the groups called. People were respecting the announcements and not crowding the gangplank. We breezed off the ship, handed in our Canadian customs form, and were escorted

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

This is my first review on any vacation so bear with me if this is a bit lengthy and let me explain what you are in for if you cruise with Princess. For my wife and I this is our first cruiser and have been greatly disappointed the Princess Cruise Line. Without any notice they with the cancelled of 2 out of the 6 islands on our current trip (that is

a 1/3 cancellation level with minimal compensation). When I first found out of cancellation of the islands I complained to the Pursers’ office and (after the cruise) to their customer relations department. I will put my complaint letter to the President of Princess below and their response. THE BELOW WAS THE LETTER SENT TO THE PRESIDENT OF PRINCESS CRUISES ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Alan Buckelew, President Princess Cruises 24844 Avenue Rockefeller Santa Clarita, CA, USA 91355 Dear Mr. Buckelew, Please read the e-mail that I had sent to your boss (I doubt the passenger relations person forwarded it to him) as it will explain all. ---------- (e-mail sent from the Dawn Princess During the 10 day Cruise Dec 30-Jan 9, 2005) Attn: Micky Arison, CEO Carnival Corporation & PCL Cruisers: Steve Oracheski / Leah Berday (Cabin R345) My wife and I are first time cruisers and have been greatly disappointed with the cancellation of 2 out of the 6 islands on our current trip (that is a 1/3 cancellation level with minimal compensation). I understand that certain circumstances can force you to deviate from scheduled stops, but I bought and paid for a 6 island cruise with 4 sailing days not a 4 island cruise with 6 sailing days. The cost of this cruise was substantial (approaching $10,000 CDN) as we have one of the better cabins and the compensation of $200 USD/per person (as an onboard credit no less) is a 'slap in the face' to us and is woefully inadequate. This is doubly more so as I received no notice of this change until onboard the ship. I have also been informed from a number of people that the ship appears to be breaking in a new engine which cannot operate at full speed (which explains why the ship is traveling slower than expected and likely why we are missing Isla Margarita island stop and arrived late at Curacao). Your company must surely have known about this planned overhaul months in advance and should have told us about this long ago so that I would have had a chance to change/cancel the trip. Given what has transpired, I therefore am demanding a much fairer compensation level ($500 USD/per person is far more reasonable) to be credited to my account (and that I be personally notified when this is done by your onboard staff) BEFORE the end of the cruise. If this does not occur, upon my return to Calgary I will: 1) File a formal complaint with the appropriate travel associations (Canada and the US), 2) File a formal complaint with the better business bureau for your misrepresenting the nature of services to be fulfilled by your organization under the travel contract, 3) Post this e-mail (along with your response - or lack thereof if that is the case) on all internet cruise review sites that I can find for future/potential cruiser to view (along with all affliated cruise lines to the Princess Line), and 4) CC this information to your competitors CEO's. I hope that it will not come to the above but I am 'PISSED OFF' (as well as pretty much every person that I have talked to on this cruise so far) an I intend to receive a reasonable level of compensation for this gross inconvenience. Regards, Steve Oracheski Cabin R345 Dawn Princess ---------- (the below e-mail was the initial response from the cruise line) Dear Mr. Oracheski: The circumstances surrounding your cruise were most unfortunate. We realize that the forced change of itinerary for your cruise, due to Hurricane Frances and Jeanne, is a source of disappointment for many. As we are sure you are aware, the course of a tropical storm is impossible to predict. Additionally, as you may be aware, due to operational requirements Isla Margarita was cancelled and the port time for Curacao and Dominica were revised. While our cruise programs are designed to provide our passengers with a premium cruise holiday, we must be remain cognizant of the world situation as it may affect the safety of our passengers and crew. Therefore, we reluctantly advised your travel agent of the necessary changes. Occasional cancellations or substitutions are an unwelcome but unavoidable part of the travel experience. As per all pre-cruise information and as printed in the brochure in the “General Information” section, “schedules, port calls, hours of arrival and departure are subject to change without prior notice. In recognition of this inconvenience, all passengers were given a $100 per person onboard credit applied to their onboard account. While we regret any disappointment these necessary changes caused, we would be unable to honor your request for consideration of further compensation. Should have further concerns regarding this matter, we kindly ask that you contact the Purser's Office. Sincerely, Brenda Tethers Passenger Relations Specialist [email protected] -------- In response to your companies e-mail above I feel that this reply is bull shit as Hurricane Frances and Jeanne went through the Princess Cayes in Sept (you had lots of time to find a different island to go to - or notify me of this issue as I had booked well in advance of this storm). With regards to the operational difficulties referred to, I was talking with one of the mechanics brought on board the ship (from the engine manufacturer) and he said that one of the engines quit in FEB/04 and that the ship was dry docked a couple months ago to repair it. He said that instead of replacing the engine entirely (which is what his company does in most cases), Princess had some spare parts in a warehouse and you basically stripped the engine down, put the parts on the ship, and he and his team had been rebuilding it for about 2 months. Therefore, your company knew way ahead of time that this engine would not be ready for this trip (or more likely you were hoping it would be ready). With only 3 out of 4 engines operational the ship could only travel at approximately 18 knots and could not deploy the ship stabilizers (which apparently cause the ship to slow down) which made for an incredibly rough voyage (lots of people throwing up!). It also meant that the ship had to shorten some of the port times (as you have admitted above). What really pisses me off is that the pursers office initially told me that the reason for missing Isla Margarita was due to ‘political instability’ and that it was for the safety of the passengers. I searched the intranet and could not find any reference of anything happening there, and given all the other details discovered later, this was a lie. Also, (I forgot to add this to the e-mail response to the Passenger Relations Specialist) the incompetence of your disembarking staff caused us to miss our flight to Canada which we then had to scramble and find alternate flights causing us great stress and a late arrival back in Calgary. Essentially what happened was the Dawn Princess could not disembark on time due to Customs. Instead of getting off at 8:15 or so we got out at 9:05. We had a 10:35 flight (which was booked through Princess – what the hell they we thinking booking a flight that close to the ship arrival I can’t figure out as there was one an couple hours later). My wife and I went directly to the waiting bus where I told them we had to leave right away to catch our flight. They assured me that we would make it, so we boarded the bus instead of taking a taxi to the airport. Then they spent over 30 minutes cramming everyone they could on the bus even if they had a later flight (just as long as they were either Air Canada or American Airlines flight ticket holders). To make matters worse the bus driver insisted on dropping off the American Airlines folks first even though I’m pretty sure the Air Canada fight (of which there were 15-25 people on) was taking off right away. He also then indicated that we should tip him for his ‘efforts’. Suffice it to say we all missed the plane. Then when I was trying to find another flight one of your staff at the airport actually told Air Canada that the fault was that of Customs and pretty much tried to push this issue onto them (when in fact we did have time to get to the airport if they were more organized – ie: they should have put all the Orange 2 coded people on a cab bus and sent us separately and that would have solved everything). Therefore it is very obvious that the Princess Cruise line lied to all the passengers on this cruise, and only notified a few of them ahead of time, in order to save a few bucks on an engine and charge us full fair while doing it. Given this I am formally demanding my money back for your misrepresentations or a compensation of a free cruise for me and my wife for injuries suffered. Also, I have begun contacting the travel agencies in Canada on this issue to let them know what you are up to and to file a formal complaint against your organization so that they can warn their customers. I will be contacting the USA Better Business Bureau if you do not compensate me as well as place this letter on ALL the cruise reviews web sites that I can find. Last, if these measures do not prompt you to compensate me for the money you essentially stole from me, I will be contacting some of the other passengers that had expressed interest in a class action lawsuit against Princess and go down this pass. As a first cruise your companies deceit and incompetence left a 'bitter taste' in my mouth and I WILL NOT LET THIS GO until you do the honourable thing and provide me back the compensation for your greed! _______________________ End of letter to the President of Princess: So you see all the complaints of the cancelled islands that you are seeing on this (and other web sites) are because of a known problem with a dead engine since Feb/2004. It all became apparent to me what the real issues was when I was talking with one of the mechanics brought on board the ship (from the engine manufacturer) and he said that one of the engines quit and they were still fixing it (see below). Therefore it was known by the Princess Cruises far before they sent me my itinerary that the ship was crippled and could not go fast enough to make it to all the promised islands for our cruise. On shorter cruises no one would noticed the speed difference (you would still make it where you had to go as the ship probably didn’t need to go 21 knots to get there), but on long cruises, such as the South Caribbean cruise we were on, this problem is material to the ability of the Cruise line to offer the service claimed and that we paid for. Therefore it is very obvious that the Princess Cruise line mislead us, and all the passengers on this cruise (as can been seen by these e-mails) in order to save a few bucks on an engine and charge us full fair while doing it. I know that this is a contractual matter but the terms for cancellation, in opinion, do not supplant the fact that the Cruise Line misrepresented what it was selling (i.e.: they lied)! If anyone knows of a class action suit being launched against Princess Cruises please contact me at [email protected] I am currently filing consumer complaints against this company with ALL government bodies I can find. Everyone should look to the BBB (Better Business Bureau web site and see the rating on Princess (it is an F – second lowest). I think this says it all. To end with, I must say that; 1) the food was excellent onboard. 2) Our cabin steward was lazy. 3) I really liked the balcony we had (best part of the trip). 4) The onboard entertainment was ameraturish. 5) I will NEVER travel with Princess Cruises (or any of it’s affiliated lines – Carnival Corp is buying up the industry. I have listed below the lines they own: Carnival Cruise Lines Princess Cruises Holland America Line Seabourn Cruise Line Windstar Cruises P & O Cruises Cunard Line Ocean Village Swan Hellenic Costa Cruises AIDA P & O Cruises Australia All I wanted (which I think everyone out there wants) is a reasonable vacation with integrity, honesty and have some fun! I found that this IS NOT PRINCESS style. SteveO

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Just returned from the Princess Dawn 10 day Caribbean Cruise. This is my 3rd cruise, previously cruised on NCL Dawn and Celebrity Galaxy. Overall, we really enjoyed the cruise, i'll provide details on positives and negatives below. Positive: * Anytime dining worked great for us, no rushing to get to dinner and not tied to a specific time

* Pizza was absolutely great in the Pizza restaurant, we ate there every day * Pools, hot tubs, chairs were in excess, always found a place to park Not So Positive: * Constantly offered to buy stuff for extra such as glasses, computer classes, fitness classes, wine tasting, etc etc. On every corner someone tried to sell you things. On previous cruises all was included, you'd never see a price next to any of the activities * Food in the main dining rooms was good but not a 5* restaurant quality as we had on Celebrity * Disembarkations - awful, 1 hour late getting us off the ship, missed our flight. Would I recommend Princess to a 1st time cruiser - yes. Would we ever sail with Princess again - no unless a really great deal

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By PEB _CR

  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

I will give a little background information of myself for those who may not know me. I hope this will help in understanding some of my review. Even though I have cruised in the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Panama Canal, Alaska is my favorite place to cruise and I do keep returning. I am not a person who is looking for a shopping destination or a good beach to lie

on. I do not spend my time looking for stains on the carpets and drapes or looking for rust and dirty windows on a cruise. I am an easygoing type person who just loves to cruise and meet new people while onboard a cruise. I will also say that I do sell cruises but I am making my review on my own personal time spent on a cruise and I am NOT making the review to try to sell anyone a cruise. This is just my own personal honest opinion and nothing more. First off we booked this cruise at this time based on the price that Princess was offering at the time. Princess does happen to be our favorite cruise line but we were looking to cruise with some other people on a Celebrity ship. We just could NOT pass up the price they had for the sailings we took. We booked back to back because we only had so many vacation days to use and seeing we had been in Alaska several times before we decided to not do any land portion and just cruise back and save on airfare. We did book our own airfare from our hometown and we flew into Vancouver a couple days early so we could meet up with our tablemates that we had during our Panama Canal cruise in 2001. They live in Vancouver and gave us a great tour of the city while we were there and had us over for a nice barbecue at their home. While in Vancouver we stayed at the Blue Horizon Hotel on Robson Street. Someone from the cruise boards recommended this to us. This turned out to be a wise choice. It is not far from Canada Place and there is a lot of activity in the area. The hotel is very nice, however it does have very narrow hallways. We would stay there again without hesitation. It was finally time to board the Dawn Princess. We left the hotel for Canada Place at 11:00 a.m. It was a short ride from the hotel. When we got there they were not ready to board anyone because the Dawn Princess had arrived in port late due to mechanical problems. They were still getting the other passengers off of the ship. We finally were allowed to start the boarding process about 12:45 p.m. and we were in our room by 1:10 p.m. We had booked an inside room D179. This is on the 8th deck in the aft section of the ship. It is directly over the Vista Lounge and showroom. For those wondering no you could not hear the noise in the showroom from our cabin. We had been on the Dawn Princess twice before and we had been on the Sun Princess, her sister ship, once before so we were very familiar with the layout of the ship. This was nice because we did not have to stumble around lost and do our little tour of the ship. When we got to the cabin we started to unload our carryon luggage. As we finished this our first big piece of luggage arrived so we unpacked it and just as we finished our next piece of luggage arrived. This worked out real well because we never had luggage in our way to unpack. It was almost as if they were watching and waiting to give us the luggage at the right time, yes I do know they were not doing that and it was just pure luck. When we boarded our sign and sail card said we would have the late seating in the Venetian dining room. We prefer early seating but seeing we had been on a wait list for traditional seating we decided to stick with late seating. I know many people like late seating but it does not work well for us. Due to medical reasons we try to stick to specific dining times and late seating caused us some problems with that. We were seated at a table for six however we were the only ones that showed up. The next couple nights were the same. A table next to us was for eight people but only four showed up at that table so we asked to be moved to that table and were told we could do so. We also did ask the people at that table if it was all right if we joined them and they said it was. The people at that table were a family from St. Croix Virgin Islands. We enjoyed their company and did exchange address and phone information to stay in touch. Our waiters for this week were Miguel and Ricardo from Mexico. They did and excellent job and were very friendly and liked to joke around with us. This is something we enjoy. Our headwaiter was Catalan. The first day out of Vancouver is a sea day. The weather was in the upper 60’s and the seas were fairly calm. We of course got use to the ship again and searched out our favorite lounges and of course my wife searched out bingo and the casino. I spent much of my time meeting new people and the crew. I did find the waiter from the last time we were on the Dawn Princess. It took him a minute to remember us but it did finally click in with him. It was good to see him again. As long as I am talking about the sea day and checking out the ship I will now try to answer a few questions about the ship that people have. 1. Is the ship in good shape? Yes absolutely it is in good shape. The crew is cleaning and working on the ship all the time. 2. Can you find worn spots on the ship? Yes if you want to spend your time looking for it you can find some chairs and carpet that needs to be replaced but overall everything was in good shape and working order. 3. Are the pools, even though they are outdoors, open on an Alaskan cruise? Yes the pools are open 24 hours a day just like in the Caribbean. Of course they shut a pool down now and than for cleaning. Yes there were people using the pools even in Alaska. 4. How is the food onboard? This is a personal preference I enjoyed the food, however you must keep in mind that I have a special diet and have them change the way they make things for me. All the people we did eat with for the two weeks onboard told me they enjoyed the food. The only complaint I heard was that the food in the buffet was not hot enough for one person. 5. How was the crew? The crew did a great job. The DJ in the disco lacked some personality but other than that I had nothing but a positive experience dealing with the crew. 6. How was the entertainment? This again is personal preference, however I will say they need a new trumpet and trombone player. I will also say they had one magician who was not very good and an impersonator who was terrible. All the other comedians and entertainers did a great job and I would go see them again. They did change magicians and comedians in Skagway. 7. Do they have a laundry to use while onboard? Yes they do. You can have them do your laundry for a charge or there is a laundry for your use on every passenger deck. The washer, dryer and irons do not have a charge for their use. You can buy detergent but I am not sure of the price because my wife took care of that. 8. Is there a lively nightlife on Princess in Alaska? There will be a nightlife but due to the fact that most people who cruise Alaska are there to see Alaska and can tend to be a little older the nightlife will end earlier than in the Caribbean. 9. What are some of the better lounges on the Dawn Princess? The Wheelhouse lounge will have music and easy dancing in the evenings. Jammers will have the disco music and the karaoke as well as the younger crowd. 10. Do they have alternative dining onboard the Dawn Princess? Yes they do have the steakhouse, which sets up in the Horizon Court in the evenings, and there is a charge for this. They also have the pizza parlor available. The Horizon Court buffet is open 24 hours a day. 11. Were there long lines for the Personal Choice dining room? I did notice lines on a couple nights starting around 5:30 p.m. but I never paid a lot of attention to the Personal Choice dining room. 12. Do they have a soda card? Yes they do. The charge was $22.50 for the 7 night cruise. You are given a thermal cup to keep and they will put a sticker on your sail and sign card. You only need to show the sticker to get more soda you do NOT need the cup. 13. Does the soda card work in all the lounges and at dinner? Yes the card works in every lounge and in the dining rooms. The soda card does NOT work for room service. 14. Did they have outdoor activities while in Alaska on sea days? Yes they did have basketball, table tennis and a few other outdoor activities outside onboard during sea days. The second day we hit Ketchikan. The skies were clear and the temperature got into the mid 70’s. We spent the day getting our gifts that we would be buying and bringing home to the kids and grandkids. We than just took it easy onboard the ship and enjoyed the beautiful weather. The one thing we did notice, and this would be in all the ports, is that many of the shops from the Caribbean are buying up storefronts and setting up shop in Alaska. Now this may be nice for the hard-core shopper but for me it took away from the experience of a small Alaskan town. I personally do not want to see a store sign that says Caribbean Jewelry or Caribbean t-shirts when I am in Alaska. I also do not care to see a Diamonds International on every block. This is just my opinion. Our next stop was Juneau. The skies are still clear and the temps are still in the 70’s. There is a slight breeze but it just keeps you comfortable. In Juneau we had already booked a tour with Orca Enterprises and Capt. Larry. Orca Enterprises has also bought out its former competitor and has expanded. Our whale watch was at 12:30 p.m. Due to the breeze there was a little chop on the ocean but very little. Capt. Larry took us out to where he had seen a pod of Orca on his earlier tour. The Orca’s were gone but there were 7 or 8 humpbacks feeding in the area as well as a large group of sea lions. Capt. Larry had to shut down the boat because the humpbacks just kept moving in close around us. We did get some great pictures as well as video. A mother and her calf came within 20 feet of our boat. They were so close that when they dove there was no way we could get a complete picture of the tale. The tale filled up the camera lens. We did have the Dawn Princess ship naturalist onboard with us while with Capt. Larry. After our tour it was time to head back to the ship and get ready for dinner and to head to the next port. Our next stop was in Skagway. The weather is still warm and very clear. We were the only ship in town this day and it was nice to be able to walk around without the large crowds from an overload of cruise ships. Skagway happens to be one of my favorite stops on an Alaskan cruise. In the past I have always taken different tours that took up most of the day and only spent a short time within the town. This time we decided to just check out the town itself, especially seeing there was only our ship in port. Skagway is also being taken over by the Caribbean stores. They are trying to keep the same historic look of buildings, even the newer buildings that are being built, however you are seeing the Caribbean store influence. We did talk to one local shop owner who told us the population of Skagway is going down because the out of town business people are buying up the property and chasing out the locals. Another thing I noticed that was different from our last trip is that they now use replicas of the old tour buses instead of the old original tour buses. I love older things and a replica does not cut it for me. Skagway does have a very nice museum and still pushes the gold rush heritage that built the city. Our next day was spent in Glacier Bay. This day started out with fog in the early morning but the fog burnt off by 9:30 a.m. or so. The fjords were like glass. There was very little ice in the fjord on this day and the glaciers were not really doing any calving while we were here. Without cloud cover Marjorie Glacier is not quite as blue looking as we like to see, however the Glacier is still extremely impressive. The various shapes of the face of the glacier are awe-inspiring. The ship spent quite a bit of time in the bay and with no wind and such calm water you could hear every sound. You could hear the birds flying around the bay as well as the cracking from the ice. You could hear the water wash up on the little ice that was in the bay as it floated around and moved to the motion of the ship. You could clearly hear the cracking of large pieces of the glacier farther inland. It was an amazing day and with the weather so warm everyone was able to stay outside and enjoy the beauty of Glacier Bay. Our next area to visit was College Fjord. We again have some fog in the early morning but it burns off quickly. The fog in the morning adds to some very interesting views of the area near the fjord. We have another warm day and again the seas are very calm. College Fjord is very interesting in history and in the number and types of glaciers that are available. Even though it is impressive it does not come close to the beauty of Glacier Bay, at least in my opinion. More major universities than any other glacier fields study College Fjord. The glaciers down one side of the fjord are named after male colleges and the glaciers down the other side of the fjord are named after female colleges. The one main interesting point about College Fjord is you can see the three main types of glaciers in Alaska. It has the hanging glacier, the tidewater glacier and the receding glaciers all in one area. The glaciers are much smaller than many other glaciers but are still quite impressive. We stay in College Fjord for quite a while and when we leave it is hard to tell we are moving at all. The reason for the extremely slow exit is because we truly are only a few hours away from Whittier, the final stop on the first section of our back-to-back cruise. The ship will hardly move for the rest of the trip so that the shops and casino can stay open for a while. We finally do dock about 1:00 a.m. in the morning of May 17, 2004. Now we are in Whittier where the majority of the passenger will leave the ship and either go home or head for land tours. This trip we have met many people who are doing back-to-back just like us. It is the most I have ever seen staying on for the return cruise. For those who may do a back-to-back with Princess sometime I will now tell you what the procedure was for us. 1. Anytime during the first cruise you turn your tickets for the next cruise into the purser’s desk. 2. A couple nights before the first cruise is over you will receive a letter in your room explaining the procedure for the change over. 3. The final night of the first cruise you will receive your new sign and sail card for the next cruise. This card will only be good starting after 10:00 a.m. the next day. There will also be a paper claiming you are a passenger in transit to show if the ships personnel about ask you whether you should be getting off the ship. 4. The final morning of the first cruise there will be a copy of your bill for the first cruise you can close it out or have it continue for the next cruise. 5. If you are staying in the same room you can sleep in or do as you wish. If you are moving to another room leave as much as possible on hangers and just pack the loose articles. Talk with the room steward and they will move your things to the next room. They will coordinate it with your next room steward. You can book a tour for this day if you wish or come and go on the ship as you wish. Keep in mind to check when the dining rooms will be open seeing they are not normal dining times on this change over day. The weather was a light rain while we were in Whittier. If you do not book a tour in Whittier there is absolutely nothing to do. There is not even shopping there just a couple café’s and tour offices. We had also booked our own tour out of Whittier for this day. We booked with Phillips 26 Glacier Tour. This was a 4 hour tour that was onboard a high-speed catamaran. This tour would take us back into College Fjord as well as to quite a few other very beautiful and active glaciers. This catamaran would cruise along at 55mph on the way to the glaciers and due to how high it sat above water could get in much closer to the glaciers than the cruise ships could. You could hear the ice bouncing off the pontoons as you went into the glacial areas. I truly cannot remember all the names of all the glaciers we saw. We got some fantastic pictures of some of the glaciers as well as some extremely large icebergs and on this day with the rain and clouds the glaciers and the icebergs were extremely blue, which made this tour well worth taking. We also had to do a little rescue of a U.S. Forestry Service boat shortly before our tour ended. They were having some engine trouble. If you do go to Whittier and have the time I would highly recommend the 26-glacier tour with Phillips. The crew onboard did an excellent job. There were a total of 10 crewmembers onboard to take care of things. You are also provided a small meal. They have a fully equipped bar, snack bar and gift shop onboard. The ride is very smooth and the seating is very comfortable. There is deck space for standing outside but some is limited to after you slow down. This is due to safety reasons because the boat is so fast. This tour leaves only about a quarter mile away from where the ship docks. Now we are onboard and headed southbound. First up is the College Fjord. The weather is again sunshine and very warm. Now we had just taken two trips into College Fjord so I will admit we slept in this time. When we did get up we decided it was time to do some laundry. The rest of the day was spent meeting some of the new passengers and spending time with a few that were doing the back-to-back like us. We would be given early seating this time and at the same table we had for the first cruise. This time we had Cesar and Alexandro from Mexico for our waiters. We again had Catalan for our headwaiter. This worked out well because we did not have to explain our diet again. We also had people at our table all week long on this sailing. We did see several humpbacks on our way out of College Fjord on this day. Glacier Bay was our next place to go. The weather is still very warm with clear skies. Today Marjorie Glacier is very active with calving. They call the loud cracking when calving the White Thunder and today it was really loud. We caught on video and on the 35mm camera some exceptional shots of the calving. We saw walls of ice around 200 feet tall break off and crash into the water on several occasions. We have one series of shots from the 35mm camera where you can see the birds trying to fly out of the way of the splash from the wall falling. We also saw quite a few sea lions lying on icebergs floating around in the fjord. After dinner on this night I was walking around the deck for exercise. As I was headed aft I saw a pod of Orca along side the ship. There were 6 Orca together. Fortunately I had my digital camera with me. It is hard to take a picture of a moving target with a digital camera but I had to give it a try. I was very fortunate in the fact that I caught one of the Orca in mid air as it leaped from the water. I surprised myself with how well it turned out. I had taken it back to the room and piped it onto the television to see how it looked. For me it was pure luck and a once in a lifetime picture. It is another hot and sunny day when we arrive in Skagway. There are a few special items we saw on the way up that we decide to go and purchase while in port this time. We also decide to walk a little farther out of the main town just to see what is there and enjoy the beautiful weather. There are three ships in port on this day so the main part of town is a little more crowded. I never get tired of walking off into the countryside. I am not much of a city person even in a town as small as Skagway. We arrive back in Juneau today. It is very warm but a little windy. Yes we do take another whale watch with Orca Enterprises and Capt. Larry. The ships naturalist is with us again. There are only 16 of us onboard for this tour. There is a little more chop in the water due to the wind today. This trip we have to head a little farther out but than we see the blow from the humpbacks. There are 7 or 8 humpbacks feeding as well as a large group of sea lions. As soon as we see a couple whales dive another one or two pop up on a different side of the boat. The video camera and the 35mm are going pretty steady. With the waves it is a little harder to focus on the pictures. With quite a few pictures taken it is time to just sit and use your eyes and just take in the beauty of these amazing animals. To see how graceful an animal of that size can move through the water tends to just have you stop and stare. To see a mother whale guiding and protecting her calf and move in unison through the water makes you forget about all the other little things that can tend to bother you. To hear the loud blow than see a 45-foot whale roll out of the water makes you realize how small you really are. It has been a great whale watch and a great day. Once we get back to town we do a little more looking around to see if we can find some different types of shops to look through. It is time for Ketchikan and our final stop. We have done many tours in Ketchikan from kayaking to totem parks, however in all our trips we have never seen the lumberjack show. That is right we head to the lumberjack show. If you live in Northern Minnesota you know about lumberjacks. We also live only a short ride from Hayward Wisconsin where they hold big lumberjack competitions. In other words this is not new to us but the show is fun to watch. This show cost $29 whether you buy it from the ship or at the show and the show is only a couple blocks from the ship. The lumberjacks do a real good show and they do have some fun with the audience. It is not a show I would go to time and time again but it is well worth seeing once. The gift shop at the show also has a few different and interesting items to buy compared to some of the other shops in town. At this point the trip is really all over except getting the boot off the ship. We have the last sea day but that is spent packing and saying goodbye to our new friends. This trip we did not do a lot of tours but for this trip I needed more rest and relaxation than I needed to go on tours. We did get off the ship in Vancouver and stayed one night before flying home. We stayed at a Ramada in the 3400 block of Kingsway. A person from the web boards met up with us and took us down to see the Dawn Princess leave port and than we went to dinner. It is always nice to meet people from the various cruise boards and we truly appreciate that they take the time out of their day to spend a little time with us. Final comments. It may not seem like it from my review and from the few things we did; however this was the best cruise we have ever taken. I say for the following reasons. 1. We got some well-needed relaxation. 2. We got to go on one of our favorite ships. 3. We cruised in our favorite place to cruise. 4. We met some fantastic people and some great new friends as well as a few old friends. 5. We saw so much wildlife all the way from birds to bears, both black and brown bears, and saw many whales both from the ship and on tours. 6. We saw many more glaciers than we have ever seen, due to the extra tours, and we saw much larger chunks of the glaciers breaking off. The Dawn Princess is still in great shape and the crew did an exceptional job. Every time I go to Alaska I am more and more amazed. I truly cannot find the words needed to describe the beauty of Alaska and even though I have some great pictures of Alaska they do not do the area justice. If you are a person who must have shopping, beaches or the bar scene an Alaskan cruise is NOT for you. If you are a person who wants to see some of the most beautiful countryside you will ever see or a person who can appreciate the beauty of nature and would enjoy seeing the beauty of a blue glacier, Alaska is a must cruise. Alaska is not a cruise where the ship is main reason for the cruise. Every ship will fall short of the beauty of Alaska and the wonders it holds. Alaska is NEVER the same twice. With the changing of the glaciers and the fact that you never know when or where you will see wildlife of many different types, Alaska will always keep you in awe. The people that know me the best know that I can be a nice guy or I can be the meanest SOB on the face of the earth, however these same people will tell you that the beauty of Alaska always puts a small on my face. They will also tell you that when in Alaska the beauty and wonder of Alaska always puts me at peace and makes me forget about any problem I may have. Put the fact that Alaska is far north and that there is snow on many of the mountains year round. Cruise Alaska at least once and you will probably find that you will have some memories that will stick with you the rest of your life. You may not love cruising Alaska as much as I do but I believe you will not regret cruising Alaska at least once.

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Nov 30, -0001

New Zealand

We travelled in a family group of 6 and overall had a fantastic time. For most of us it was our first cruise and we soon discovered how relaxing a way to travel it is. The ship was beautiful and the staff were brilliant. The obvious danger it to put on weight from all the fantastic food! We were on the 2nd sitting in the Florentine Resturant, which was fairly empty so we had the undivided attention of our waiters Melchor and Nikolche. They tempted

us into trying all sorts of foods and desserts which were wonderful. We had lobster, prawns, escargot, frogs legs, as well as more traditional meals. The desserts were plentiful and wonderful. I preferred breakfast in the Venetian Resturant rather than going to the Horizon Court buffet. I'm never convinced about the quality of food in buffets becuase of the dubious hygiene habits of other people -- but that is just me, and no reflection on the food prepared. I had tea and coffee up there and the atmosphere was energetic and nice. The pizzeria was excellent. We had pretty poor weather so I didn't eat at the outside Grill or Ice Cream bar. We had a balcony room (A340) which was great. We fitted all our clothes into the allocated space with no problem. We slept with the balcony door open most nights to get relief from the air conditioning which was dehydrating. Our stateroom steward Edwin was lovely and kept the room beautifully. We loved the different way he folded the hand towels each day. There is only so much you can do in a group activity, so I would have found it repetitive if we had more days at sea. We had two days on the way to NZ and two on the way back and that was enough. The craft lessons (beading) were fun and we made 3 pieces of jewellery all at no cost. The Bingo was a daily highlight at sea and was run by Dave, who was a very funny man. My brother paid for digital photography lessons which he got a lot of benefit from, but they were held in the bar so anybody else who hadn't paid could just sit down and join in - they should have been held in a private space. The movie selection was pretty ordinary - nothing new, and they repeated on the way home! Some of the live shows were a bit amateur but most were okay. The guest performers were great. I enjoyed the passemger talent show on the last night. The library had a good selection of books. We also enjoyed the Lectures at Sea by Clive, who told us all about the ports we were going to visit. That was very, very good. Umm, very interesting but VERY expensive. We were judicious about the ones we chose to maximise value, and most days in port we did our own thing. I'm not sure who gets the profit here but it is a lucrative business. Some of the day trips were nearly $300!! I highly recommend the Nature's Wonders tour out of Dunedin, where you see the world's rarest penguin in its natural habitat. Run by a guy called Perry on his own farm, it is a great eco tour with the most breathtaking scenery of the Otago Peninsula. Also recommended is the day trip to the Trans Alpine railway out of Christchurch. You drive to Arthur's Pass and then get the train back. It takes all day but the scenery is spectacular. Don't bother taking a tour in Napier or Tauranga (Mt Maunganui) because you can do it all on foot. Sydney - cruising Fjordland - Dunedin - Christchurch - Wellington - Napier - Tauranga - Auckland - Bay Of Islands - Sydney. New Zealand is beautiful and we were in a different port every day, which was a great itinerary. No time to get bored and always something new out the window every morning. Great Captain, Staff and Crew. We all expect to travel with Princess again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

For the first cruise, I wasn't sure what to expect. I do know everyone telling me they are fabulous and you will be treated like royalty. We picked this particular ship because of the ports and only having one day at sea. The ship itself was nice and clean. Our room was a standard inside stateroom with no windows. It was small, as expected, but with ample

closet/storage space. Our complaint was that no one was friendly and eager to help. They did seemed bothered at the fact when you did ask for something. We purchased the drink pass for $22.50 that allows you to have unlimited fountain drinks through out your week long cruise. When the waiters and staff saw you had that and wasn't making that automatic 15% gratuity they weren't as friendly and took there time serving you. After having room service food one night, we got ketchup on the sheets that stayed there for 2 days until we asked our steward to change our sheets. Our shower curtain was quite moldy, that they could easily replace with a new plastic one. The buffet was good that we dined at each night, nothing to really brag about. The dining menu did not look so good if you weren't one for seafood, duck, frog legs, veal, etc. The evening shows were good and a highlight of the ship. The ship overall was nice, but I cant compare it to any other cruise, being this was my first one. The staff was not friendly and willing to help out but they didn't mind, they get a gratuity for anything and everything ordered, on top of a $10.00 gratuity charge each day for each person. Why should they be nice?! Overall, I don't think I would recommend Princess to anyone.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal Adventure

We traveled on the Dawn Princess from San Francisco to San Juan, Puerto Rico, departing San Francisco on September 21, 2001 and arriving in San Juan on October 6, 2001. This was our third cruise, all of which have been on Princess. By way of background, we picked Princess for our first cruise after a lot of research and, on that first cruise, were not disappointed by the attention to detail and the level of service. This trip was a little different.

First, boarding in San Francisco was a nightmare. We waited in line for 3 hours on the pier while busloads of folks were driven onto the pier and allowed to board ahead of people who’d been waiting for hours. On our previous cruises the boarding process had been hassle-free and, while the events of September 11th may have increased security, it appeared the boarding problems were due more to a lack of planning on Princess’ part than increased security measures. There were approximately 7 or 8 agents doing check in for almost 2,000 passengers, not nearly enough. After our first cruise we felt that Princess was the way to go die to all the special touches. Balloons outside our door on our anniversary, a cake at dinner that night, the spotlessly clean ship, etc., all combined to make us feel we being treated as individuals instead just someone adding to the headcount of passengers. This trip, however, leads us to suggest that Princess change its motto to “It may be the Love Boat, but it’s just another cruise line.” The following list of disappointments may sound trivial in the grand scheme of things, but combined they served to lower Princess in our eyes: A general lack of cleanliness aboard. I saw several food spills in various locations that were not cleaned up for days. Passengers were charged for drinks at the Captains Cocktail Party, which were free on previous trips. Room service menu has been severely curtailed to the point you can really only get a continental breakfast in your room. Our Captains Circle membership was not acknowledged in that we were not invited to the Captains Circle gathering. Our anniversary was not acknowledged as it had been on previous trips. A fellow passenger who stubbed her toe and needed a Band-Aid. When she discovered the shop was out of Band-Aids she approached the Purser and was provided one… at a cost of 25 cents. Again, these things a minor in the overall scheme, but can be significant when one is choosing cruise lines. I must also empathize that, although disappointed with the overall level of service, our trip was not ‘ruined’. We had a delightful time and must single out two crewmembers, Edwin, our waiter, and Fernando, our assistant waiter. These two gentlemen saw to our every need and even anticipated some. For example, we are red wine drinkers and when we made a passing comment to Fernando that wider neck glasses would be more appropriate for red wine, Fernando insured that red wine glasses were on the table every night. Enough cannot be said for the attention that Edwin and Fernando showed to us and to the others they were serving. A final note that has nothing to do with the cruise line. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I thought that traveling on a two week cruise with an older crowd might be nice as I thought older folks might have more manners than a younger crowd. WAS I WRONG!!! I have never been pushed, shoved, and seen more disrespect shown than by the older folks on this trip. For those of you who place a value on common courtesy, do not travel on a ship with an older crowd.

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Nov 30, -0001

Vancouver to Seward and back

Alaska back to back Cruise Dawn Princess May 26, 2001 and June 02, 2001. We had used our own air and an overnight stay in Vancouver before boarding the Dawn Princess for a back to back cruise of Alaska. We boarded the Dawn Princess May 26, 2001 in Vancouver for the first 7-day cruise and would stay on in Seward June 02, 2001 for the return 7-day cruise. We had signed up well in advance and had expected getting a sticker

for priority boarding but did not receive one. This meant we had been put in the line for normal boarding. This was no problem because this line was much shorter than the priority boarding line. We were the first ones in line for our stateroom numbers. When we talked to the girl behind the counter she had to go to the priority counters because our room keys were there because we were supposed to be in priority boarding. This was no problem because everything still only took about 5 minutes. She took our tickets and ran an imprint of our credit card and off we went to board the ship. We went to our room, which was an inside room on deck 12. We had requested inside rooms. Our second room for the return trip was on deck 5. The room was small but it was nice and had more than enough storage for everything we had brought and more. We read the Princess Patter and other information left in the room and started to check out the ship. We had sailed on the Sun Princess before so we did have an idea of where things were, but you still have to check things out. We did go to the dining room where you could try to change your dinner seating. We had requested traditional dining early seating in advance and had been told this is what we had, even on our tickets, however they had placed us in the personal choice dining room. Many people seemed to like personal choice but it is not for my wife or me. We were told they would try to change it for the following night. They did get it changed and notified us with a note the following day. The first night of cruising whether you have traditional or personal choice dining you sit where you want within your dining room. You do not sit at your designated table until the second night, at least on the Dawn Princess. Later that evening we did meet our room steward Victor when our luggage arrived. Victor did an exceptional job for us the whole week we were in this room. We did have a few problems with a light switch and the television remote and he made sure they were taken care of immediately. He was very polite and easy to talk to and get along with. He always had a smile and wished us a good day whenever we saw him regardless of where we saw him. When we would change rooms at the end of the first stretch of our trip he made sure everything was taken care of, like the transfer of our things to the next room. He made sure the next room steward, which would be Ronald, knew of how we liked things, such as fruit in the room and robes for the pools. Ronald would do an exceptional job for us also and he was just as nice as Victor was. Seeing we were on a back to back cruise we also had two different sets of dining room staff. Our first ones were the headwaiter Cheseppe, waiter Luis and assistant Kristina. Cheseppe was very good but all business. Luis was an excellent waiter but he admitted he was a little tired and only had one week left before he was going home. Kristina was great. She worked very hard and was always smiling and really seemed to love what she was doing. She made sure you were never out of water or had any dirty dishes or were waiting for anything. She also loved to hear about your day and was genuinely excited for you if you had a good day. Our second group to take care of us in the dining room were headwaiter Pepe, waiter Francisco and assistant Reynaldo. Pepe was very good as a headwaiter and a little more personable than Cheseppe had been, keep in mind I have no complaints about how Cheseppe did his job. Francisco was very outgoing and very attentive. He made sure if he knew you liked something that he would bring extra, as he did when my wife had lobster and crab legs. Reynaldo was good but they had him working extra tables so we did not see as much of him. When he was there he did his best to make sure you were kept happy. As far as food goes in the dining room, I will admit I did not think the food was as good as the last time I sailed with Princess. The food was good, I just did not think it was as good as the last time. I did eat breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court buffet. The only thing I did not care for in the buffet were their scrambled eggs. They were very watery which I do not care for. We did have pizza several times. I have heard and read of people who think their pizza is great. It is pretty good but I do not think it is great. I have had better and even made better but it still is worth having. We also ate at the hamburger grill while watching glaciers. This was good but nothing to brag about. I really do not think I can comment too much on the shows. I only went to a couple comedy shows. The comedy shows were a standup comedian and a juggler-comedian. They were fair. Both acts were leaving the ship at the end of the trip. We did go to one musical show. It was supposed to be a French musical review. It was extremely bad. Many people walked out before it was over including my wife and myself. The male singer was mechanical and the dancers looked like they had never done the dances before. I do understand other musical shows were much better but I did not go to these shows, I just heard about them from other passengers. The ship is beautiful. It has been well taken care of. You saw people cleaning or painting every day. I did see regular cleaning of the pools every day also. There was always a pool or whirlpool open but they would shut down one pool or another at different times for cleaning every day. As always the one problem on a ship is waiting for elevators. They always seem to be slow and always on the wrong floor. If my wife wasn’t handicapped and I didn’t have such bad knees I would have walked the stairs more than waited for an elevator. The only elevators that seemed fairly quick were the glass elevators in the atrium but they only go from deck 5 to 8. My favorite places on the ship were the atrium lounge and the wheelhouse lounge. I did spend a considerable amount of time in these areas when I wasn’t watching whales or glaciers. One interesting thing I will note and this I found out because I was on a back to back cruise is that the sales they put on are different each direction. I am talking about sales of specific items, such as t-shirts or watches, the little things they put out in the isles outside the shops. The sale prices on the items were different from one week to the next. The sale items were cheaper on the way north for the same items that were on sale both directions. Now I will talk about some of the tours we did. All tours were taken from the cruise line except a whale watch in Juneau that we took through Orca Enterprises with Capt. Larry. In Ketchikan, as in all the towns, we took one tour on the way up and one on the way back. First in Ketchikan we took a kayak tour of Tatoosh islands. This was our first time in a kayak and most likely our last. The trip was nice. It was raining and the water was calm but with my wife’s bad legs and hip and my bad knees it was too uncomfortable for us. Our guides, Lisa and Marvin, were great. We did see some seals while in the kayak it was just to uncomfortable when you have bad knees and legs. On the return we took the boat tour of Ketchikan. This was very informative and we felt much better than the land tour we had taken back in 97. It was well worth the money. In Juneau we took the whale watch with Capt. Larry, which we had booked on our own. This was incredible. We were fortunate to see a large group of humpback whales feeding. We also saw a large pod of killer whales. We did have the killer whales come right up to the boat and I was able to look right into the eye of one of the whales. We got some outstanding pictures and video. Capt. Larry gets on the radio and than goes to where the whales are. He did an excellent job of finding whales and an excellent job of positioning the boat for some great pictures. I highly recommend taking this tour. Just so you know many of the naturalists from the ship go with Capt. Larry. We had some on our trip and the one from our ship was scheduled to be with him on the tour after us. The other tour we took in Juneau was the float down Mendenhall River. This was fun but just a little long. There were some small rapids at the start, which were great but after the rapids it was a slow ride. I am glad I did the tour but would not do it again. In Skagway we took the White Pass Railway ride. This has exceptional scenery and more than worth the price. I would highly recommend this trip. We took the historic tour of Haines on the return. This was extremely disappointing. There are a few things of interest to see in Haines but you do not get time to look at those things. Do not waste money on this trip unless they make some big changes to it. There were other Haines tours that may have been better. When in Glacier Bay, Marjorie glacier was very active in both directions. We saw a lot of calving. The calving was of some very big ice chunks breaking off. This also provided some great pictures and video. On this trip this was really one of the great highlights of the trip. College Fjord was nice but kind of a letdown after Glacier Bay. In Seward, our turn around day, we took a wildlife tour with Kenai Fjords Tours. The one complaint I have with this tour is they would not vary their route. Now this would have been fine except that the Capt. kept telling us I have a report of whales in another place but we will look here or there is a report of puffins in another place but we will look here. We spent a lot of time looking at rocks and when we finally got to where there were some sea lions we were out of time and had to head back. I will say that we were fortunate to see a pod of killer whales on the return and the Capt. did stop and head in late. The whales came in a group of four right up to the boat dive under us and come up on the other side, this is called a mugging. Again we got great pictures and video. So I will give the Capt. credit for staying a little longer so we would have that experience, however it would have been more enjoyable for the rest of the trip if he had not told us he knew where things were but did not go there. Some final thoughts. I love being on a cruise ship and this time was no exception to that. Yes we did have too much rain the first week but the second week we had clear weather. Even the rain did not kill the good times we had outside and the fact that we had so many good whale sightings and sightings of calving of the glaciers made this trip exceptional. The minor problems of tours and being sent to personal dining could not even come close to putting a damper on this trip. I will go back to Alaska again and again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Airport Arrival:   Princess representative greeted us at the gate as we deplaned.  He gave us directions to the area where the bus was to take us to the ship.  He also explained that if we had Princess transfers to the ship, Princess claims your bags and delivers them to your stateroom.  If you do not have the transfer, you need to claim your own bags. Embarkation:   This part was a breeze.  From the time we arrived

at the pier, to when we reached our stateroom, was about 15 minutes.  Also, there is a duty free liquor store located between the Princess check-in area and the ship.  Beverages available include bottled water, soda, beer, and hard liquor.  You may want to pick up some to take on board.  When you finally arrive on the ship, many Princess personnel are waiting to serve you.  They greet you, assist with your carry-on luggage and lead you to your stateroom. Note:   Make sure to complete all paperwork that Princess sends to you before you arrive.  This speeds up the embarkation process dramatically. Stateroom:   Our room was C327 on Caribe deck towards the front of the ship on the starboard side.  If you are going for a cabin with a balcony, ask for one on the starboard side of the ship because this is the side that faces land while in port.  On this side of the ship your balcony has great views of arriving and departing the islands.  The cabin size is adequate for two people and their luggage.  There is a closet divided into three compartments complete with many wooden hangers.  One compartment is for hanging longer items such as women’s dresses, the second has two rods for hanging shorter items such as shirts.  The third has shelving with one shelf holding the room safe.  Room has a hair dryer but no clock.  Our cabin steward (Nilo) greeted us as we arrived at our cabin, he explained the layout of our cabin, the hours that he was available each day, and what to do if he was off duty and we needed something.  Our room was cleaned twice a day by Nilo and was always kept in excellent condition. Note:   When in port, keep your drapes closed to avoid embarrassing situations.  In St. Thomas workers were on scaffolding painting the exterior of the ship and they passed by our cabin balcony unannounced. Public Areas:   The lounges on the ship are well designed, our favorite spot was the Wheelhouse Bar.  It is decorated in dark wood and has many cozy areas to have drinks with friends.  The atrium area has bars on both the 5th and 7th floors including piano entertainers.  There is a string quartet that plays in the atrium area every evening during dinner hours.  The dining rooms are divided into intimate areas of around 3 to 5 tables.  This helps give the feeling of being in a fine smaller restaurant. Disembarkation:   This process was just as efficient as when we arrived.  You are assigned colored tags and when your color is called, you leave the ship.  Groups assigned to each color are smaller then we have experienced on other cruise lines; this helps keep the congestion to a minimum while claiming your luggage.  We flew with American Airlines and they had representatives in the Wheelhouse Bar to check us in for the flight home.  American also had luggage check-in at the pier for those people who had transfers back to the airport. ISLANDS Trinidad:   We did not take a shore excursion here.  Port of Spain is an industrial city.  We walked down a nice tree lined promenade in the main section of the city, a little dirty but nice.  If you are looking for some good quality & reasonably priced island wear, shop at Charmaine Charles.  The clothing is sewed right in front of you and the clerks/seamstresses are a delight.  It is unit 31 in the ship complex that you walk through to get to the city. Barbados:   We had a shore excursion planned to Harrison’s Cave, but unfortunately we were on the cruise that experienced engine problems and were 3.5 hours late arriving.  Needless to say our excursion was cancelled and our account was credited.  Bridgetown has a nice shopping district with all the chain jewelry stores.  You can either walk to town or take a taxi from the terminal, cost is $2.00 per person U.S., each way.  The distance is about 1.5 miles from the cruise ship terminal. Antigua:   Took the New Waves Snorkel tour here.  We were taken on a 85 foot catamaran to a reef on the south side of the island to snorkel.  Beautiful island with a deep harbor where ships pull right up to the entrance of St John’s, you walk only about 200 yards and you are on the edge of town.  Street vendors sell locally brewed, ice cold beer…a refreshing break from shopping. Tortola:   We took the morning shore excursion to the island of Virgin Gorda to see what they call “the baths.”  This is by far my favorite experience of this cruise.  It is a challenging trek, but try to take the path to Devil’s Bay. The guide will explain that going on the path requires lots of bending, climbing, and walking through some knee high water to reach the beach, but it is all worth it.  Very beautiful scenery.  Not much shopping on Tortola, however if you are interested in purchasing spices, lotions, or candles there is a great store called Sunny Carribbee.  In addition there is a Pusser rum store selling clothing and of course Pusser Rum, and attached to the store is a small restaurant and bar. St Thomas:   Very easy to get around, many good options for excursions here.  We opted to go to Magens Bay, very nice area with a fairly wide, clean, crescent shaped beach.  Try to get there early and you will have the beach almost to yourself.  Around 11:00 am the tourist start pouring in and things get crowded.  A taxi to Magens Bay costs $6.00 per person each way from the ship.  A ship to town taxi ride is $3.00 per person each way and you should never have a problem finding a ride, taxis are everywhere.  There is great shopping both in town or at the Havensight Mall next to the main ship terminal. Other Observations:   The ship has two-way radios for rent.  It might be a good way for families to keep in contact.  Cost is $4 per Walkie-Talkie per day. If you are reserving a balcony cabin, do not reserve a cabin on the Caribe deck.  These balcony openings are smaller than on the floors above the Caribe Deck. We like the watch sale on board.  All watches are $69.99 with most retailing for $175 or higher. Also, look for the Gold by the Inch sale.  Custom made chains start at $1.39 per inch. This cruise was our favorite so far. We would not hesitate to cruise with Princess again.  In all, it was a tropical paradise afloat.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Our first cruise experience upon the Dawn Princess (February 2002) was awesome! Our Southern Caribbean itinerary took us into Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We can't say enough of the warm trade winds and beautiful scenery of each and every island. Bunking with my sisters and my mother, we four girls had a fabulous fun time in our cozy room with bunk beds and a balcony, located on the Aloha Deck,

Room 7737 (three from the end of the ship!) Location was terrific as we had a little walk to the elevators at mid ship and if we chose to go out the back door it was up one floor to the pool area and buffet. The room was small but adequate. Surprisingly sufficient for storage space. Two bunk beds swung down from the wall so they weren't taking up space during the daylight hours. We put our suitcases underneath the bottom beds. There was a dresser /make up table with six small drawers, plus a big closet with space enough for four of our stuff. Also there was a small refrigerator in which we kept water and pop cold. Bathroom was ample if you consider the kind of space you get in a trailer home. It came complete with a back of the door hook for those wonderful hanging makeup bags. Lots of shampoo, soaps, towels. Our room Steward, Anna, supplied clean beach towels each day as well so we were glad we didn't pack any for our shore excursions! When we arrived through check in the ship loomed huge above us and we couldn't wait to board. Up the gangplank we went and navigated ourselves to our room. They had an organized ship tour but we decided to explore on our own and were fully able to get our bearings. There were two cinemas, numerous hot tubs, two swimming pools, a number of bars, two main restaurants plus a delicious pizzeria. There was also an ice cream bar but we never made it over to that particular venue. We didn't participate in much of the nightlife as we were up before dawn and out on excursions most days, so were tuckered out to do much partying. There were plenty of activities though. We did see two comic acts, one impressionist and one dance performance, all of which were high caliber entertainment! Played bingo once or twice and enjoyed a game of Wheel of Fortune too. We only participated in one of the two Formal Nights. One was plenty for us. As far as dining options, we opted for Personal Choice. We never had to wait for a table and we chose to not want to dine with others. I found you had great flexibility. You can eat at the time you want, with the people you want. You can even make reservations for a table (even a specific table if you like the waiter or view). You receive the same food choices and great service as you would in the formal dining room without the limitations of time. And don't be afraid to ask for more Lobster!! I can't imagine why you'd want anything else! It allowed us all the freedom you need. You can choose to dine at the same time each night with reservations or just show up when you're hungry. Among some of the food choices were pasta, steak, lobster, Beef Wellington, Maui fish, shrimp, Chicken Kiev, Clams Casino, Chilled Piano Colada soup with Rum, Caviar, Fudge Love Boat Dream, rum balls, macadamia nut ice cream, macaroons, hamburgers - the list is endless!!!! EXCURSIONS: We pre-booked our excursions (which also gave us four free photos on board PLUS the comfort of knowing we didn't have to worry about not getting an excursion or having to line up to purchase one on the ship). Barbados: We took the Atlantic Submarine tour. My mother had done this in Aruba and she felt it was better in Aruba. But it was a lovely journey under the sea. The tour just ahead of us saw a sea turtle. We saw tons of fish and a shipwreck too. It was a fun experience. Then we rented a taxi ($50 for four of us) and toured the island on our own. Visited Mullens Bay (stopped for a swim), Speightown, Moletown, Cherry Hill, Bathsheba. Then did some shopping at the dock. Shopping tip: Buy the RUM Cake here.... it's delicious and it's priced cheapest than any other island. St. Lucia: Took the Land and Sea Tour and could rave about it for days! It was EXCELLENT. Toured the winding roads of this jungle like beautiful island, stopped for shopping with local vendors where we picked up some wicker, banana ketchup, spices, local beer etc., saw the volcano, toured a plantation and ate lunch (plantation was a lot more fun than I expected) then we took a catamaran and had a swimming stop, visited Marigot Bay and returned to port. Absolutely highly recommend this tour!! St. Kitts: We booked the snorkeling excursion, which was very nice, and the catamaran was a lot of fun. Snorkeling was pretty good, but having been to Cozumel and Ixtapa Island, and also because it was cloudy that day, it felt a little disappointing. Well worth the money though for the views alone!! (not to mention the rum haha) St. Maarten: Took an island tour here and it was very interesting. Visited both sides of the island with two times to shop on the French side (not enough time to shop on this island!!) Views were spectacular. Opted to do more shopping after the tour on the Dutch side and spent a lovely afternoon picking up good deals on clothes, jewelry and beach towels. St. Thomas we made our own way to Trunk Bay on St. John. Didn't want to do it in the afternoon. So we hired a cab to the ferry, then caught another ferry to Trunk Bay. Spent a few hours snorkeling then returned to St. Thomas where did a little more shopping. All in all it was a trip to remember and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I wouldn't hesitate to take another cruise again and definitely have fallen in love with St. Lucia. If there weren't so many other places to see in the world I'd have already booked another trip back!!

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

When my mother called me in January on my birthday to ask me if I wanted to go on a cruise to Alaska, I was astounded that there could be any other response than, “YES!” So it was with months of building excitement that her and I and my two sixteen-year-old nephews, Johnny and Thomas got on the plane to fly to Seattle…from there we met the Princess representative at the airport baggage claim and were directed to some thirty feet away

as our bags were loaded onto a cart for us by a fellow from the bus company. The bus took us up to Vancouver where we drove right up to the ship. The view of the Dawn Princess was breathtaking. The massive ship was everything I had imagined in my dreams! EMBARKATION We practically breezed onto the ship! It was like falling off a log. Customs, and the Cruise folks were all so friendly. One picture later, we boarded. We found our cabin on the Baja deck with ease and as I am an awful sailor, I already had my sea-bands on in trepidation of that awful seasickness I always seem to get. FIRST IMPRESSIONS The cabins were a couple of doors away from each other and the boys raced to see the rooms. They actually had Thomas scheduled to be in my room and Johnny in my mother’s, because the Cruise doesn’t allow unchaperoned minors in the rooms by themselves. My sister-in-law travel agent assured us that no one would bother us about the switch and no one really bothered us about rules and regulations while we were on the ship! Well…one lady came up to me as I was in the Jacuzzi on the third day and said, “Excuse me, but I don’t think they allow drinks up there.” I asked her politely if she worked there, and when she said no, I said, “Well, they brought it to me up here and I’ll be very careful.” I could see if there were kids playing up there in the elevated Jacuzzi, but it was myself and an elderly grand dame named Janet who I had just helped into the Jacuzzi. Later, I saw the same woman hassling some other people. Must be a hobby! I digress…the boys took one look at the queen-bed configuration (it was supposed to be twin) and made a beeline for the other room. Later on our cabin steward, Revo introduced himself and asked us if we would like it switched, to which we promptly agreed. He also informed us to place our “Please Make Up Our Stateroom Now” sign whenever we left the room to signal that he could turn down our beds and to leave up the “Do Not Disturb” sign whenever we were in the room. Revo, was a delight, more about the workers I met later…we settled in and unpacked and there was plenty of closet space and nice wooden hangers (not the three you find in most luxury hotels but more like thirty!) I am glad the boys chose the other room because the set-up once the beds were switched was so roomy and the bathroom shower stall was larger, cut on an angle so that I could shave my long legs! Baja 733 was indeed paradise within paradise for the next week! The boys loved their room as well although it was not to my taste. It was lengthy as ours was wide and the shower stall was square. In each room there was a desk and stool, a dresser with six large drawers and a television and remote control on one console across from the beds, which also contained a safe that was easy to operate, (you picked your own combination) and a rather large mini-fridge that Revo filled with fresh ice daily! There were pamphlets and a card to order fresh fruit daily and an entertainment guide and a large mahogany leather-bound room information guide. You could also order breakfast to be brought to you in the morning, which I only did once because we loved the ritual of going to the Horizon Court Buffet every morning. Room service was also available twenty-four hours a day! There was also a mailbox, which contained our first Princess Patter! These guides and that mailbox were so exciting in the days to come, letting us know daily what we could do around the ship. We dashed up the hallway leaving my mother in the room to catch her breath promising to return for her in a bit. My luggage and the boys were delivered shortly after we left, my mother’s a little while later. A few rooms down the hallway led us to our first set of elevators and we went straight to the top. All of the elevators have a large crystal placard stating in bold where you are presently and what amenities are on the other floors. This was extremely helpful as we navigated the many floors and venues. My mother never did try to find her own way about but with us three collecting her and re-depositing her in her cabin, she had no need to! We ventured onto the teak deck and the smokestacks loomed large with the flowing Princess logo fulfilling my teen-age dream of being on the “Love Boat!” I should probably mention that I am happily married and my husband who is from Ireland took the opportunity while I was cruising to visit his homeland, any fantasies I had about falling in love on the “Love Boat,” were just that! As we looked out over Vancouver (a semi-other-earthly city with tall glass ballooning buildings) it was quite the dream come true! We made our way forward and around the corner was a sight that would fulfill any cruiser’s idea of the heart of the ship. We found the sunny deck with it’s large pool and small pool and two elevated Jacuzzis and the Riviera Bar, the stairs beside it leading to the Balcony Grill (my mother thought it said Baloney at first) and above that the Windjammer Bar. There was a five-piece band playing and people were everywhere. We made our way to the Riviera Bar where the boys got their sticker on their room card for twenty dollars for unlimited soft drinks and I availed myself of a Corona with lime. I kept asking the boys if they could believe this would be our home-away from home for the next five days and they agreed it was awesome. We went and got my mother for the sail-away and aside from the bellowing ship’s horn that frightened her; we were off to an auspicious beginning! DINNERS I just loved dressing up for dinner! I would usually take two showers, one after breakfast or before and one leading up to the building excitement of the evening (my mother thought me so decadent) and I adore getting ready at a leisurely pace. We chose the Personal Choice Dining, which was fantastic as it allowed us to make our reservation daily according to our mood. That evening, Johnny asked if I had the other pair of seabands we had brought along. I told him no, but I was overly concerned so I gave him mine, hoping I would not get sick. It was amazing, but I never ever did get sick after that! Our first dinner in the Florentine, we were mesmerized by our Romanian waiter who introduced himself as Dragos and his partner who was also Romanian as Michaela. He said they were the “Romanian Dream Team!” Dragos was completely gorgeous and charming and had all of us eating out of the palm of his hand. He suggested his favorites for the night and smiled his way into all of our hearts. Michaela was a raven-haired beauty also with a gorgeous smile and a vibrant personality. Our second dinner was a tiny bit disappointing. We entered with everyone it seemed at 6 P.M. since we were at sea; I suppose everyone decided to eat early! In short, our Romanian Dream Team was slammed. They tried their best, but unfortunately I got Thomas’ well done beef and he got my medium. When I had barely eaten it, Michaela asked what was wrong. I told her we got each other’s order and she said, “You must tell us this!” Unfortunately, they had no time to inquire about our satisfaction in our entrees. I told them it was all right, it did not affect me in the least. I could really stand to miss all those lovely calories! Then I had to face Dragos when he asked what was wrong, he was mortified he had switched the plates. I tell you; I would much rather have the wrong meat and someone who cares about your satisfaction then someone who could care less. These two were really special. He offered to bring me another, but I declined-focusing on dessert! The dessert menu was offered up with a flourish nightly and the different choices and surprises made it fun. The third night we made a dreadful mistake. We decided to see what the dinner buffet was and were somewhat disappointed by the lack of choices. Perhaps we were early and so we decided to try La Scala, the pizzeria, which we had heard fabulous things about their Calzones. When it was not on the menu, the head man told us it would not be a problem to make us one. I felt so special! It was fabulous. So the Calzones were not the mistake, we found we missed Dragos and Michaela tremendously! The next evening we requested them but found we could not get them as their section was in demand. Short wonder, we were later seated with a family who loved them too! We ended up close to them but with Luis and a funny waiter (sorry, did not catch his name) who proceeded to tell us every libation available. It was quite amusing to me but only disturbed my mother. The boys were playfully furious with me, demanding that I tell Dragos we had requested them so he wouldn’t feel we had somehow been disappointed by my tournedos of beef snafu the previous two evenings. I am sure Dragos and Michaela really weren’t that put out, but it was nice to think we mattered so much to them! Thomas even joked that I should go retrieve Dragos’ recommendations! Luis was a very professional, wonderful waiter and the service was impeccable, but we had already bonded with the two lovely Romanians! When Luis asked if we would like to come back, I painfully explained our dilemma, thankfully he called Michaela over and we explained what had happened. She was delighted that we would return to them the following evening and promised to inform Dragos. I couldn’t believe how taken the boys were with Dragos, comparing everything he did to poor Luis! They were simply fascinated by him and in all honesty, my mother and I were too. To compare, dining with Luis was a pleasure, dining with D & M was an event! We returned to them on Friday and it was an awesome homecoming. Dragos had a way of pushing in your chair that made one feel he was completely in charge, he also had a gentle humor and a real commanding presence. Whenever we could not decide on a dessert, he would tell us not to worry, he would bring out both! My mother tried to decline dessert by telling him, “Nothing, thanks,” when he took her order. He said, “We do not have that! I will bring you the Apple Strudel, if you do not like it, no worries.” He was quite amusing that way. The boys admired his machismo and coolness, it was a hoot! Thomas even told us he had aspirations to follow in his footsteps! Saturday’s formal dinner with D & M was touched by a big disappointment. It was rocky that evening on the open sea. The boys who had earlier told us they refused to dress up again checked the menu and found that lobster tails were too hard to resist. They had never tried them. I do believe it was the prospect of missing one evening with Dragos that impelled them in actuality! If you recall, Johnny had the seabands and when Thomas asked him for them, I knew Thomas was ill. The choppiness made him turn a pale green and the seabands didn’t help. They do say to wear them BEFORE you experience seasickness. He said he would go out for some air. After a bit, I went to look for him. I came back and then Johnny went in search. Then I had to use the ladies, so I left my poor mother alone at an eight-top table (the only one available in Dragos section) feeling a bit like a wallflower at a dance! Dragos and Michaela were so concerned! After Thomas returned to tell his Nana that he had to go to his room, Dragos informed us that he would be giving us a care package for Thom, consisting of a chopped apple, crackers and one can of ginger ale. As he could see we were sad about our dinner comrade’s absence, he then did an impromptu magic act for us to cheer us up. We got this on tape for Thom, as he would’ve hated missing anything Dragos did! He even sent Michaela back to the kitchen because she had brought out a glass of soda instead of the can, which he informed us, would be better for the bubbles! He wrapped up Thom’s goodies in a decorative foil basket and sent us on our way. We made out a comment card on going the extra mile for him and tipped both our Romanian Dream Team very well on our last night. SOME OTHER STANDOUTS I met four workers from the Philippines on board. They were always in good humor, I found this amazing because most of the workers had wives and children at home and they worked long stretches (10 months)at a time. Revo, our angelic cabin steward, who anticipated our every need and then some, even ordering fresh fruit for us we didn’t even realize we wanted! He was such a gem, and always so happy to see us. We tipped him rather well also, over and above the automatic gratuity being charged to us. Elmer, who was the bartender at the Riviera and also at the Vista Lounge, and who was extremely good and always happy to see me. Jun, who was also very pleasant and always remembered me. His poor wife would deliver their first in January and he would not be home until March! Domingo, the bartender in the Wheelhouse bar was the consummate professional and always was a font of delightful conversation. Luis, from Romania (I think! He told me twice but it has since slipped my memory) my Riviera bartender when Elmer was off, was an absolute doll. He was so professional and courteous and completely sweet. Dennis, from Jammer’s Disco and Magnum’s Martini Bar, was the absolute best! He was devilishly good-looking and would dance up a storm behind the bar. We immediately hit it off because he saw me in my Red Wings (Detroit Hockey Team) jacket and he adored them! In fact, I became known as “The Red Wings Lady” because I wore two jerseys during the daytime and sported the jacket and necklace at times. The workers would always give me a high-five and the other passengers would comment as well. As you can tell, while my mother was in the beautifully-appointed library reading one of the three books she was able to finish, I was usually at the bar, chatting with the bartenders who were all extremely gallant to the lonely damsel I had become at times. There was also, Michelle, from Italy, an officer who tended the business center and the Casino cage who never even corrected me when I pronounced his name MEE-chelle, thinking I was so clever. It in fact was pronounced like Mikala! As I wandered up there to check out the Internet Center, he greeted me warmly and asked if I would like to check my email. After that he would always smile warmly at me and say hello. I also ran into him at Jammer’s where he was so polite as to listen to my ramblings. Cathy, who gave me my facial, (A MUST, ladies!) was a genteel South African lady whose tender ablutions promptly put me to sleep! I have never felt so good, nor has my skin! She was a darling. Jenafer and Paul in the Patisserie were always engaging and Paul even astounded my eyes with his magic tricks! Paul Burns, the hysterically funny Cruise Director and Gene Hackman look-alike, and his staff were all superb. I told him I was going to suggest they run an all-day viewing of his morning talks! He had me in stitches any time I talked to him. Joe Sackenheim, the main performer, was completely mesmerizing and his stage presence was commanding. His off-stage personality was warm and I felt like he was an old friend! I asked him if he was sick of being ‘fawned over’ at the disco and he told me, he could never get enough of that! He was a lot of fun and spoke very highly of his leading lady when I inquired about her. A true gentleman! As you can tell, the trip was simply amazing. All of Princess’ employees were there catering to your every need and making you feel like a movie star. Sorry this diatribe was so long, but it felt really good to write it out even if you all fell asleep an hour ago! I know there are scads of people I left out and I will kick myself later, but they all conspired to make this lady feel at home and happy. I laughed so hard at some of the comedy it was good for the soul! I am also sorry I did not cover the ports, okay, here Ketchikan – adorable, Juneau – nice, Skagway, my favorite. I am already looking into taking this exact same ship to the Caribbean for my fortieth (shudder) birthday in January. I am addicted. Peggy

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

I have the cruise bug this year! After thoroughly enjoying my Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity in May, I decided to go on another one for my fall vacation. My friend Carolyn mentioned she was going on a Southern Caribbean cruise and I thought, what a great idea. I love the idea of "moving" into a room and unpacking only once. It also reduces the extra planning

since most things are already taken care of (where to go, where to eat, where to stay, etc), with the exception of what do to in the ports. After researching the various itineraries between Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, I picked Princess. Tony and I have sailed the Caribbean a few times, but haven't been to all the islands. Princess had an itinerary that included 3 ports we had yet to visit. A travel agent told me that Princess is a great line, almost up to par with Celebrity. Celebrity has spoiled me with their wonderful food, service, and style. With Princess and their "Personal Choice Dining" I liked the idea of dining whenever we wanted to instead of the traditional dining hours. I liked the idea of a relaxed vacation. I booked our cruise through Cruises Only, the fourth time using this company, after searching with different companies. Rudy was quite helpful. I booked a “guaranteed” room and would know our room (Dolphin deck) a couple of weeks prior to sailing (D746). I booked our own airline tickets and reserved a hotel via Priceline.com. I also contacted a few tourist offices for information and brochures: Grenada, St. Kitts, and the US Virgin Islands. I was pleased to learn that Princess allows passengers to bring wine and champagne (but no alcoholic beverages) on board. Our plan was to purchase 2-3 bottles while in San Juan and pick up a bottle or two while at the various ports to enjoy in our room. I wish all cruise companies would allow this feature. I am sure it would avoid passengers from smuggling bottles in their suitcases. Besides, cruise ships make plenty of money selling their alcoholic beverages. Because of the US State Department's travel warning to Caracas, Venezuela, Princess changed the itinerary to delete that port and add Isla Margarita, an island off the Venezuelan coast. I had hoped for another day at sea. Just like my last cruise, I checked out the Cruise Critic (CC) web site for other passengers. CC is a great web site with tons of cruise information and a discussion board. Like the last one, I met several people going on the same cruise. I made plans for a get together on board at 9:30pm the day we sailed, as well as dinner and drink the night before with Fred and Lois. November 1, 2003 Saturday: Our day started very, very early in the morning. Our flight from Dulles International was at 7am, so we had to get up around 4:00am. I didn't particularly care for the early wake up call, but I wanted as much time as possible in San Juan and figured we could nap on the airplane. Fortunately it was a direct flight. We arrived in San Juan on a rainy day. We had a good flight, but I couldn’t sleep on board. I never can! We didn’t wait too long for our luggage, took a taxi to Condado to our hotel, the Radisson Ambassador http://www.radisson.com/sanjuanpr_ambassador. I had reserved a room via Priceline for $85 plus tax. We paid $20 for the taxi ride, which included our tip. I was surprised that Ashford Avenue consisted of 2 lanes. I expected it to be a wide boulevard. Our hotel, just a block off the beach, was pretty nice. The area reminded me of Miami. And the views reminded me of Waikiki with all the high-rise buildings. The lobby was noisy as we could hear the casino machines being worked like crazy. I wondered if there were any big winners. Check-in was a little slow, but the man at the desk was very friendly. He also gave us a concierge room, but no access to the amenities with the concierge room. Our room was large and comfortable with nice views facing west. Looking to the right we could see the ocean. The only complaint of the room was the poor lighting. We had asked about a place for lunch and the man at the desk suggested pizza at Danny’s International, just a block west of the hotel. The pizza was excellent! We had one with eggplant and roasted garlic. I had a glass of red wine while Tony tried the local beer. It was raining at the time and many popped in wait out the rain or have lunch. Nearby was a small grocery store where we purchased some wine for the cruise. It was nice to have this store near our hotel. Also nearby is a Walgreen’s where we picked up a few items we needed After lunch, we took the local bus (B21) to Old San Juan (OSJ). It rained off and on, but not too heavy. It was humid and our days averaged 88 degrees. We shopped a little and found a small restaurant with a bar. Alberto, the owner, made us a couple of local drinks and we chatted with him for about an hour. I was bitten in the legs by mosquitos and Alberto gave me some Off, which was a little too late. We had dinner plans with Fred and Lois at the Tropical restaurant. It was only a 5-7 minute walk from our hotel. We showered and later had complimentary rum drinks in one of the hotel bars. The bar tender told us all about the local rums. We planned to purchase a bottle and smuggle it on board for the cruise. It was a nice evening for walking to the restaurant. We met Fred and Lois at 7:30pm and had an excellent dinner with them. The food was great (I had their pork tenderloin with congri (black beans and rice) and yuca (a root vegetable). Tony had a skirt steak, while Fred had veal and Lois had a steak. Everything was very good. The prices were reasonable too. The restaurants web site, http://www.tropicalrestaurant.com/index.html, shows the menu, which has a variety of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes. After dinner, we took a taxi to their hotel (the Wyndham) and enjoyed drinks at the Fiesta bar while listening to salsa. The place was packed with dancers. It was quite dark and very loud. Mike and Patty, also from CC, were supposed to join us, but they never showed up. Sunday, 2 November 2003: Embarkation - pretty smooth. There was no express check-in line anymore. We were on board within 20 minutes. We could have gotten on board if we had been in another line. The couple ahead of us asked a hundred questions! Tony had purchased rum at the store near our hotel and put it in his carry on bag. Security didn’t take it away. We found the security people didn't take any away unless they were packed in liquor boxes. We had our photo taken, and then boarded the ship. There were Princess representatives located throughout the ship to direct people to their room. I missed that glass of champagne what I received on Celebrity in May. It’s a lovely ship and it didn't look its age. Our room, D746, had a large window, king bed, tiny bathroom, refrigerator, tv. The room was very comfortable. It was a little smaller than the Celebrity Mille (I compared this cruise quite often to the Millie). Our room was port side, and the second to the last room aft. We did a lot of walking to/from our room walking through the La Scala pizzeria and the casino. Raul was our room steward. He was a quiet man, but excellent. I would ask for wine glasses for the room and he ensured we had some for the wine we brought on board. After dropping off our bags, we headed to the Horizon court for lunch. I wasn’t impressed with the food there, but it was okay. Some of the selections were good, such as the Weiner schnitzel. I found the breakfast foods to be lathered in oil. We walked around checking out the bars and lounges and getting familiar with the deck plans of the ship. I walked into the Florentine restaurant (5th level) to see about making dinner reservations for the evening. No one was around. I heard a voice, “Are you Monica?” I turned around and it was Mike and Patty. He recognized me from my photo that I had posted on line. We chatted a few minutes, with them before making our dinner reservations at the purser’s desk. After, Tony and I decided to go into OSJ. Our taxi driver had pointed out the local bus stop across the street from the pier gate. It was convenient for us and we preferred the .25-cent ride rather than a taxi. I also told Mike and Patty about the cheap ride to OSJ. We wandered around OSJ and stopped under some shelter as it poured. It didn’t last long and we were on our way again to walk around the area. We ran into Mike and Patty who told us about the Pueblo grocery store. I had been looking for it so I could buy another bottle of wine for the room and to check out the local foods. Mike and Patty went off to shop and Tony and I shopped in Marshall’s for gym shorts for Tony. He never used them on the trip. We never stepped foot in the gym. Across the street was the Pueblo grocery store, so we went in to buy the wine. There was Mike and Patty filling their carts with dinks. We all went back to the ship together. Tony’s luggage had already arrived, but not mine. I asked Raul for a bottle opener since mine was packed away. We had drinks while Tony unpacked. My suitcase finally arrived so that I could unpack before dinner. Dinner was at 6:30pm. We chose PC dining where we made our dinner reservations rather than dining the traditional method. Our waiters were Marvin and Dragon, table 88. I had selected M&D based on a few positive comments on CC stating they received excellent service from them. Not so for us! We were disappointed in Marvin who seemed to have an attitude. Dragon was the friendly one (and should be promoted about Marvin) and had to deal with Marvin who was pretty demanding with him. And they are cousins, from Grenada. When we first met them, I mentioned how popular they were on CC. We weren’t sure why Marvin acted the way he did. Our dinner mates consisted of Fred and Lois, Mike and Patty and Matt and Kat (who joined us the second night). It was a great group of people. We had plans to meet everyone from CC at the Riviera pool bar at 9:30pm. Not everyone from CC showed up, except for our group as well as Tina and Rob. We never dined with Tina and Rob, but ran into them throughout the cruise. The bar was busy serving drinks while the band on deck played the night away. After watching the ship leave port at 11pm, Patty and I headed to the La Scala Pizzeria for a bite to eat. We weren’t satisfied with our meals (Sail Away Dinner: seafood turnover in a lobster sauce – mine had 1 shrimp and 1 calamari ring) and were hungry. A few others joined us and we all enjoyed the pizza. The selection choices were limited: Hawaiian, pepperoni, Margarita, and choose your own toppings. Service was prompt and the pizzas were delicious! Monday, 3 November 2003: St Thomas. Tony and I have been to St Thomas several times, so we decided to head to Magen’s Bay with Mike and Patty. It was a sunny day and we enjoyed our time on the beach. We got there by 9am to avoid the crowds. Three ships were in port that day, so we knew the beach would soon be crowded. It’s a beautiful beach with soft sand and clear waters. Tony and Mike rented two floats to lounge on while in the water. We could have stayed there all day. After a few hours, we taxied back to town and window-shopped. Mike’s goal was to purchase a t-shirt from a bar. No luck there. Back on the ship we relaxed by the pool while the ship set sail for St. Kitts. Our first formal night, we had our pictures taken before dinner. Around the atrium, there were 3 set ups for picture taking. The line at the steps of the atrium was long, so we had our photos taken at the other locations. A variety of drinks were served at the Captain’s welcome cocktail event. Waiters walked around serving drinks and appetizers. Shortly after, I noticed there was no line at the one photo place next to the atrium, so I suggested to Mike, Patty, Matt, and Kat that we have our pictures taken. The photographer was in the middle of taking photos, so we walked behind him to the waiting point at the stairs. When he was done, he motioned us to move in. An older man, who was standing behind the photographer (and in the WRONG place), started barking at us for “cutting in line.” I immediately and politely said, “Please go ahead.” He wasn’t satisfied with that and argued with us. Mike charged in stating, “We’ve all been there [standing in the wrong line].” The old man, which I called him Walter the rest of the cruise, stated, “I don’t think you have!” I told him again to go ahead of us, but he was determined to spoil his own evening. He finally walked up with his wife to the photo spot and kept saying rude things to us. He finally just walked away angry and without any photos taken. Tony said, “He sure showed us!” (I saw him once later in the cruise and he had that same “I’m so mad – I hate everyone!” look. Dinner was the “Captain’s Welcome Dinner.” I enjoyed the smoked supreme of duck with wild greens and a Cassis vinaigrette, followed by a Veloute of asparagus soup, Caesar salad, and bowtie pasta in a creamy sauce of veal, morel mushrooms, green peas and parmesan cheese. I also ordered a beef tenderloin to taste, but it came out over cooked for me, so Tony ate it since his was very well done. Evening entertainment in the Vista lounge consisted of Paul Edison, “The voices of Tom Jones, Sinatra, Niel Diamond, Elvis…” He was very good! We also had drinks in the Magnum’s bar. I enjoyed their Cosmopolitans, and so did Patty. Tuesday, 4 November 2003: St Kitts. The mountaintops of St Kitts were covered with clouds. I was amazed at the absolutely flat Caribbean ocean. Not a single ripple. The island is lush with tropical plants and flowers. Our group of 8 hired a van to take us around the island ($16.50 per person). We drove to a few places, including the impressive Brimstone fortress, a batik factory set in a tropical setting, and the point in the ocean where the Atlantic and Caribbean waters meet. Along the way we passed small villages, the ruins of sugar cane factories, and goats along side the road. Signs were posted everywhere to “Prepare now” for the next disaster – hurricanes. In town we were dropped off at the Circus, the center of town where slave trading was once held. We found a small bar and everyone enjoyed the local beer. I peeked in a few shops, but didn’t purchase anything. At one liquor store, we tried some rum. Very tasty. Back on the ship, as most afternoons were the same, we enjoyed the Riviera pool deck and pizza for lunch. Dinner this night was pretty good: French night. We enjoyed the escargots and Patè de Foie de Strasbourg. Onion soup was offered, but I opted for the chilled Vichyssoise. I make it better at home. Tony had the sirloin steak (which was always available) while I had the pork loin in a calvados sauce. The pork was slightly overdone. Of course, I had to have the raspberry crème brulee! Delicious! The evening entertainment was Words and Music, an intimate cabaret. It was pretty good, but it’s not Tony’s cup of tea. Wednesday, 5 November 2003: Grenada. Our ship docked in the bay, so everyone had to tender in to the port. Marvin arranged for us to travel around the island with his father, Big Joe, for $15 per person. We met him at the pier and we hopped in a van. There was no air conditioning but it was cool enough as we headed into the mountains. We started at the spice market in town. There were many vendors selling baskets filled with assorted spices: Cumin, nutmeg, ginger, saffron, cinnamon sticks, etc. Many vendors approached us throughout the day trying to see their spices. I must have said, “No thank you, we already bought some spices” a few dozen times. We stopped at one point at a little shop for great views of the mountains and the town of Saint George in the distance. A man at the shop showed us some of their spices, including nutmeg. He explained the process from picking the fruit to the many uses of the nutmeg. Our next stop was Annandale falls. There were more vendors with their spices. Several women were colorfully dressed with fruits adorning their heads – like Carmen Maranda. Some young men tried to get money from the tourists in exchange for diving off the high rocks into the water. Big Joe took us to Fort Frederick where we had great views of the town and our ship. The police officer at the fort walked us through the place explaining the history of the fort. It was a very hot afternoon, so I found some shade. Our last stop was at a small resort south of Saint George. A lovely area, we swam at the beach at the Flamboyant hotel. It’s a hotel on the side of a hill (lots of stairs) with a pool, bar area, restaurant, located on a quiet beach at the far end of Grand Anse beach. The views are spectacular as one can see the entire Grande Anse beach and town in the distance. I think this was everyone’s favorite day trip. It was my favorite island. For $15/person plus tip for the tour and an afternoon at a beautiful beach, it was great bargain. Since we knew it would be a full day of sightseeing, I had changed our dinner reservations to 8pm. Joe had picked us up in the afternoon, dropped us off at the port, and we walked around town for a short while. Getting hungry, we headed to the ship, via tender, to have lunch. Dinner was Italian night. The shrimp, squid and mussels appetizer was very good. Tony had the baked eggplant parmigiana. The veal chops were excellent and probably the best meal on the ship, with the exception of the Sterling Steakhouse. The chop was thickly cut and very tender. For dessert, I enjoyed the Limoncello sorbet and amaretto cookies. We took in the late show (10:30pm) and saw Chip Romero who was a magician. He put on a good show, but once in a while one could easily figure out the “magic.” Thursday, 6 November 2003: Princess should have skipped Isla Margarita and had another day at sea. We were originally supposed to go to Caracas, but because of their political unrest, Princess chose Isla Margarita instead. Some of us also read in a newspaper on line that money was being laundered through the island for the alQueida. I certainly didn’t want any of my American money going to them! Thank goodness it was a short stop (7am to 12:45pm). It was $50 taxi ride to get to the main town, so we went to the beach near the ship. We paid $5 for a lounge chair. I’m sure for the port area, this was one way of making money. Apparently ships rarely sail to Isla Margarita. Next to the pier were vendors selling a variety of things, including a variety of rum and liquors. Tony purchased a bottle of rum, which tasted more of a brandy. It was quite strong! The ship left at 12:45pm. The pool deck was crowded as everyone enjoyed the afternoon sun at sea. We had lunch in the Horizon court. Again, I wasn’t satisfied with the food selections. After dinner, Chef’s dinner (smoked wild salmon, delicious king crab leg; rack of lamb), we went to the Vista lounge to watch “C’est Magnifique,” a French musical revue. The dancers wore very colorful and fancy costumes. The best part of the night was the Island night deck party on the Riviera deck. We danced the night away listening to Tidal Wave and Domino. There were also games with prizes. We laughed hysterically at what I called “musical men” instead of musical chairs. About a dozen men lined up back to back, while women circled around them. When the music stopped, the women had to grab a man. Down to 1 man and 2 women, the music played. Just as it stopped, both women grabbed each other! Now, if anyone needs an icebreaker at a party, try this game. Friday, 7 November 2003: Aruba. I normally don’t book a shore excursion with the cruise ship. I find them to be too expensive, especially since one can plan their own tours in advance and share the expenses with one to three other couples. Tony wanted to do the Atlantis submarine tour. After checking on line, I discovered the prices were the same, so I pre-booked this tour with Princess. After breakfast in the dining room where Tony enjoyed the eggs benedict, we met Fred and Lois and the rest of the tour group at 9:50am in the terminal. On board a small boat, we headed out past the airport to an area where we waited for the submarine to emerge. It was a small submarine, holding 48 passengers. We were a group of 36. Our dive lasted 40 minutes and we saw a variety of fish. Also, two ships had been sunk a few years previously. I spotted a tire, to which Tony said, “That’s a tire for an airplane.” It was a neat ride, though I was a little nervous being underwater. Back on the ship, we changed into our bathing suits, met Fred and Lois at the terminal, and walked into town. Aruba has changed quite a bit since the last time we were there (1997?). There were many shops, restaurants, and casinos. Lois and I bought black carrying bags for $5. We saw them everywhere. After purchasing some bottled water, we took a taxi to Palm beach to Moomba hotel to enjoy the afternoon there. Right on the beach was a restaurant with a thatched roof. We were hungry, so we had lunch – Mexican chicken wraps. Talk about Island Time! It was the slowest service ever! The sandwiches were very good, as well as the tropical drinks. Mike, Patty, Tina, and Rob joined us at the beach. The water was warm and the sun extremely hot. The trade winds can be deceiving: It can cool the body, but the sun, being so close to the equator, can quickly burn. I was in the water for a short while, laid in the sun for ½ hour, and then moved into the shade. Later, all eight of us crammed into a taxi van and headed back to the port. Our ship departed at 5pm. Dinner this evening was the Captain’s Gala Dinner and our second formal night. We had more pictures taken; then we went with Fred and Lois to the Captain’s cocktail party. The Captain was introduced, and then he introduced some of his staff. We departed before it ended since we had reservations. Lobster tails flowed freely at dinner. They were a little overcooked, but very tasty. Tony had the beef Wellington, which he said was very good. The show this evening was a comedy show with Mike Wilson. He was excellent! He had everyone in stitches. Two older couples were targeted because the two men sat next to each other instead of next to their wives on a couch. They took the jokes quite well. At one point, while the comedian wasn’t looking, they switched seats: The men moved to the middle of the couch with the wives on either end. That caught the comedian by surprise, but he loved it. At 11:30pm, the Maitre d’Hotel Nicol Furlan hosted a Champagne Waterfall, consisting of over 600 classes stacked like a Christmas tree. They must have used over 100 bottles of champagne to fill those glasses. Champagne and sweets were served while we listened to music and watched people dancing. The atrium area was very hot because of all the people there. Saturday, 8 November 2003: Day at Sea. This was a lounge-all-day-and-do-nothing-day. I was glad for this day at sea and wish I had picked a cruise with one at the beginning of the cruise. We found many people had been hogging up the pool lounge chairs all week that our group decided to meet at 9am at the pool deck to claim our chairs for the day. However, unlike the hoggers, we used them all day and didn't disappear for hours. While Tony held fort with the lounge chairs, the rest of the group headed to the Vista lounge for a culinary demonstration, then a tour of the galley. The galley was spotless. It would have been interesting to see the cooks in action. Wanting to have one last pizza on board, I went to La Scala pizzeria to order take out, but was told I had to order it from my room. So, after calling in my order and waiting for the pizza to be delivered, I packed my suitcase. My pizza arrived, so I carried it to the pool deck to enjoy. Tony had a burger at the grill, which he said was very good. In the afternoon, we watched a pool game: Flip, flop and fly. Guys would take turns strutting around the pool and lap dancing on the female judges before jumping (some were belly flops) into the pool. One judge always scored much lower than the other and the audience booed and hissed at her. In the end, three of the guys grabbed her and tossed her into the pool. She was a good sport. Before dinner, Tony packed his suitcase. We joined the group at 6:30pm at the Sterling Steakhouse. Fred bought a bottle of red wine for the table and even made a toast to me for organizing our get together with the group. Thanks so much Fred! The appetizers were very good: spinach and artichoke dip with chips, chili, bloomin’ onion. The steaks were excellent. I had the 10 oz fillet mignon, while Tony dove into the 20 oz porterhouse steak. Mike had to order another steak as his was overcooked. Service was excellent and the best we encountered on the ship. We didn’t mind missing dining at Marvin’s table on our last night. We enjoyed the variety show with the comedian and juggler, but the comedian wasn’t as funny as the other nights. After the show, we noticed a large group of people outside on the promenade deck. In the distance we could see the lights of Puerto Rico. Saying our goodbyes to some of the group, we changed in to our clothes for the next day and placed our suitcases outside our room. It was requested we do this before dinner, but that was too early! Later, we met Fred and Lois at the Atrium lounge to listen to some music and have one last drink. We met the juggler and chatted with him for a few minutes. He works on board for 5 weeks in a row, and then takes a month off. Sunday, 9 November 2003: Early wake up call. We had to be at the Vista lounge by 7am to get our customs card stamped. We walked down 1 flight of stairs to find a very, very long line of people. Looking for the end of the line, we noticed it was “wrapped around the ship” twice! After 10 minutes in line and hearing others had waited 45 minutes already and probably had another 30 minutes to go, we decided cut out and have breakfast and deal customs later. There should have been Princess employees to keep things calm, but no one was to be found. I heard later that people were arguing and even cutting in line to avoid the long wait. At the Venetian dining room, the host took us to a table for 6 and there was Mike and Patty! Tony and I enjoyed one last serving of lox and bagels. One couple apparently ordered a double batch of the lox everyday. Back to the Vista lounge, the line had dissipated. We walked right in and out in just minutes. Next was the long wait for our group (green 2) to be called. We finally got off the ship at 10:30am. No one even said “Thank you” when people disembarked the ship. Princess Cruises definitely needs to improve on their disembarkation process and their customer service. What a headache! What a mess! The next headache was finding our luggage amongst hundreds and hundreds of them. Mike and Patty were waiting for us so we could take a taxi together to the Caribe Hilton (http://www.caribehilton.com/ - $65/night via priceline.com). They had plenty of time before their flight. After about 10 minutes of searching, we gathered our luggage and grabbed a taxi to the hotel. We were able to get a room without having to wait till the afternoon. However, it was a smoking room, so Tony turned on the air conditioning to see if that would help. The four of us headed to OSJ via taxi and shopped around a bit. Later, Mike and Patty went off to the hotel to get their luggage and head to the airport, while Tony and I found a place for lunch – La Bombonera (259 Calle San Francisco). This is a very old restaurant serving good Puerto Rican food. It had the atmosphere of a diner with busy waiters. Instead of taking a taxi back to the hotel, we took a walk along the water. It was about a 40 minute walk, but enjoyable as we needed some exercise after all that eating on board. The skies were dark with clouds and the wind was blowing a rainstorm towards the island. The waves were pretty high. Near the hotel was a small convenience store where we picked up a large bottle of water. The bottled water in the room cost $7! Back in our room, the air conditioning had not improved the smell of the room, so I talked to a woman at the front desk, who arranged another room for us. Room 823 was much better with a great view of the Condado area. I wanted to explore the grounds of the resort, so we headed outdoors. There is a lovely infinity pool, a small beach area, and two bars. Also on the grounds was a human size chess table set. Peacocks roamed the grounds and near the guests for bits of food. We had drinks at the bar. I ordered a pina colada, which apparently was invented at this same hotel. I was very disappointed with it. I have a bartender friend who once told me, “Never buy a frozen drink unless you know the bartender. Most bartenders hardly add any alcohol.” This was true with this drink. The bartender asked how I liked the drink and I said, “Did you put any rum in?” He added another shot. I switched to a drink called the Hangover. Now that was good! Back in the room, we relaxed for a while and showered before dinner. I had asked at the Concierge’s desk if there was a good local restaurant nearby. I was given directions but wasn’t sure if she was correct. She stated it was off the main street near the hotel and a 10-minute walk, the same path we took home from OSJ. We didn’t see any restaurants along the way except for KFC. We decided to walk to the restaurant, all along wondering where she meant. After about 10 minutes and starting to sweat from the humidity, we turned back. The hotel has 4 restaurants, so we checked out the menus. All were expensive, especially Morton’s. We decided on the restaurant Madrid. The food was excellent! I had their Asopao de Mariscos, a delicious seafood rice soup. Tony had their veal chop. My soup was so filling, I asked for another bowl for Tony to have some. Service was excellent. Luis took good care of us. We retired early, as it was a long day. Monday: We woke up to another cloudy day in San Juan. After checking out, we shared a taxi with three others to the airport. It was a quick 20-minute ride as we were going against traffic. At the airport, we had to go through the agriculture check-in area. A woman checked us in without having to go through the x-ray machines. There was another one inside. The line was quite long inside and I missed having the self-service check-in like at Dulles. While waiting, I noticed a small suitcase and shopping back sitting on the side of the line. After about 10 minutes, no one had claimed it. I kept an eye on them, but still no one picked them up. Finally, when an airport employee walked by, I told him about the luggage. He called security. I got out of line to head to the restroom and when I returned, the luggage was gone. I looked to see if anyone in line had them and no one did. I suppose security took them away. Better to be safe than sorry. We had to change flights in Miami. It’s been years since I’ve been in that airport. We had lunch consisting of Cuban sandwiches (we split one) and beef empanadas. They were delicious! And for airport food, it was reasonably priced. We finally got to Dulles in the late afternoon. We drove home, and then picked up the truck to drive to Den’s house, where Lucy had spent the week. She was very happy to see us. Home again. I love to travel and hate it when I have to get on an airplane to fly home, but it always feels great to be home again: my own bed, pillow, and the comforts of home. Post Script We really enjoyed our cruise and had fun with our cruise mates: Fred and Lois, Mike and Patty, Matt and Kat, and Tina and Rob. Thanks everyone for a memorable cruise! We enjoyed all the islands (but we could have skipped Isla Margarita), especially Grenada with the beautiful Grand Anse beach and Magen’s Bay on St Thomas. We had great weather every day, though it was humid. I am not sure I’ll travel again with Princess. I compared frequently with my Millennium Celebrity cruise. We weren’t excited about the food and the service varied among the employees. The food in the dining room was good, but I can’t say very good to excellent, with the exception of the veal chop, the steaks (excellent 10 oz fillet mignon perfectly cooked to order) in the Sterling Steakhouse, and the French night appetizers. The buffets in the Horizon court were a disappointment. I found a lot of the food greasy or saturated in oil and I thought the lunch buffets had too much of a variety, but understand we missed a couple of theme buffets such as the Italian buffet. The entertainment on board was good. We loved the comedian. I didn't see any of the shows on the Millie, so I can't compare or say how good they were. I think for our next cruise, we’ll head to Alaska or the Mediterranean or…

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean Medley

SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN MEDLEY Curacao - Barbados - Dominica - St. Thomas Introduction My wife and I are 53 years old. This was our eighth cruise. Our previous cruises have been the Eastern & Western Caribbean on RCL; Alaska, Panama Canal & Bermuda on Princess; and, the Mexican Riviera on HAL. Getting there We made our own airline arrangements. Many reviews extol the virtues of arriving for a cruise a day early. Arriving early has

plenty of advantages: you do not have to worry about airline delays; if your luggage is misdirected, there is an additional day for it to catch up; and, you can decompress from traveling before starting the cruise. The disadvantages are the cost of a hotel room for the additional night and if your luggage does not catch up with you before the cruise leaves, the cruise line has no responsibility for getting it to you. This was our first trip since security for all luggage was put in place at the airports. We did not notice any additional delays going or coming due to the additional security. We used cable ties on our luggage and none of them were removed either during the trip out or the trip back. Announcements were regularly made at the Ft. Lauderdale airport that film should be placed in hand carried luggage and not placed in checked luggage. It seems to me that the announcement is a bit after the fact but this is a word to the wise. Embarkation On our day of embarkation there were at least nine cruise ships at Port Everglades. Roughly 25,000 passengers were going and coming from ships. The security measures caused everything to move very slowly. Our airport shuttle was not scheduled until 12:30 but we had to check out of the hotel not later than 11:00 a.m. Someone failed to show for the 10:30 shuttle so we volunteered for the open slots and arrived at the ship about 11:00. We handed our luggage to the longshoreman and watched as it was placed in the transport bin. About 11:30 the doors opened to begin the embarkation process. There was no express check-in. I wonder if express check-in is being phased out as special check-in lines are now available for Platinum Captain Circle members. Due to the large number of early arriving cruisers, there were fairly lengthy lines for checking in. We had preregistered on the internet which made registration a simple checking of forms and signing of names. We noticed that there was a line most of the afternoon waiting outside of the reception building. I believe that part of the delay was caused by the necessity of filling out a Bahamian customs form. The other part of the delay was the strain upon experienced Princess employees of processing 5,000 passengers for two large ships (Grand Princess and Dawn Princess) at the same time. The ship and our room The ship is beautiful and not showing her age (1997) a bit. Captain Mariano Manfuso is in command of the ship. It is amazing to me that a ship can transport 2,000 passengers every week of the year for more than 5 years and still look as good as the Dawn Princess. There is an ambience of comfort, class and reflection throughout the ship. The ship is incredibly well designed as are all the Sun Class ships. There are very, very few moments during the cruise when you have any sense that there are approximately 2,000 other passengers sharing the experience with you. The dining rooms are designed with dividers and level changes mixing tables of different sizes to create a feeling of intimacy even though there are about 500 other diners present. We were on the Caribe deck, Cabin C414 which is an interior room. The room is small but, considering the amount of time you spend in your room, more than adequate. The room can be made up into a Queen bed or twin beds. The bed was not as comfortable as the beds we experienced on our other cruises. I think the framing used to hold the mattresses and the mattresses themselves may need to be replaced. It took longer than I had anticipated for the first two suitcases to arrive. It would not be until later that evening that our third suitcase arrived. Our room steward told us they were sorting the luggage which caused the delay. It was a minor annoyance when our luggage had arrived at the ship and had been placed in the bins so early. There were no storage problems. The suitcases fit under the bed and there is ample closet and drawer space for clothing. Each room has a television with limited programming including recurring programs on the ports, shopping and excursions. Unlike the verandah cabins where the desk, dresser, night stand, and television/refrigerator area are all the same height, there is a floor to ceiling cabinet which holds the television at the highest level, the refrigerator at the lowest level, and a shelved section with a door in the middle which contains the safe and a fair amount of storage area. The hair dryer is located outside of the bathroom on the wall next to the desk area. There is one outlet over the desk and that is it in terms of regular outlets. I do not know what a European outlet looks like but there is a strange looking outlet in the bathroom. The ship is 857 feet long. After looking at the hallway outside of your room and realizing how many times you are going to walk that hallway it is advantageous to spend some time considering your room location before booking your cruise. There is a laundry room on each floor. Each laundry room has two washers, two dryers, an ironing board and an iron. Food The food was consistently very good. There were few occasions when the food was outstanding but, more importantly, there were no occasions when the food was not good. There was an excellent variety on the menu every night and all of it was well prepared. I am spoiled, living in the Midwest, by the quality of beef that I have grown accustomed to eating. The beef onboard was not bad, it just does not rise to the level of the beef I am used to eating at home. On the other hand, the quality and variety of the seafood served at dinner was excellent! There are only so many things you can do for breakfast but each day the kitchen staff was able to come up with something new and interesting on the breakfast menu in the dining room. The menu for lunch included fuller meals that would be considered dinner as well as contemporary lunch items. Again, the variety was excellent and the food was well prepared. To be honest the service at breakfast and lunch in the dining room was not the same quality as the dinner service. However, it was at least twice as good as the service we received at breakfast and lunch in the dining room aboard Holland America’s Statendam. We enjoy having breakfast and lunch in the dining room whenever time permits. Being served while meeting fellow cruisers is a lovely way to enjoy breakfast and lunch. The conversations with the other passengers seem to add to the entire cruise experience. The Horizon Court is a buffet which is open around the clock. It was okay but we didn’t think it was anything special. If you were to compare the Horizon Court to the Lido Buffet onboard Holland America, you would find that the Horizon Court pales in comparison. We only ate in the Horizon Court when scheduling required it or we were looking for a quick snack. The Riviera Grill is located outside above the main pool. It serves grilled items - hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, bratwurst etc. We only ate there once and it was fine. The Riviera Grill closes at 5:00 p.m. so that it can be transformed into the Sterling Steakhouse. We paid the $8.00 charge to eat at the Sterling Steakhouse one evening. The steaks were very good although a couple of the steaks that our group were served contained a fairly high percentage of gristle. The service had greatly improved from our experience in the steakhouse on a prior cruise. The pizzeria serves a very nice pizza. I have to wonder why they do not have a standard Italian sausage pizza. The pizzeria was quite busy during the cruise and has obviously become a favorite alternative dining venue. Service Friendly and efficient describes the overall service. We were walking through a narrow hallway and a crew member was on a ladder replacing an overhead light bulb. As we made our way around his ladder, he wished us a good day and apologized for being in our way in the friendliest tone of voice. This incident typifies the attitude of the onboard staff. Our experience has not been the same on Holland America or Royal Caribbean. Romy, our room steward, was efficient and friendly. Our waiter and assistant waiter were only average. They were efficient but they did very little to go beyond what was expected. Drinks, coffee and tea, were an afterthought and refills were difficult to get most nights. Rarely, if at all, did either of them attempt to engage the table, offer recommendations, or go above and beyond basic service. Based on our four Princess cruise this was highly unusual. On the other hand, our head waiter, Amedeo, was present every evening to discuss the menu, make recommendations for the following evening, send sample plates to the table, and to be of assistance in any way that he was able. I must mention our dinner companions: Sandra & Tom, Karen & Harry and Vickie & Rick. They were absolutely wonderful! The satisfaction of the entire cruise was raised to another level due to the camaraderie of the dinner table. A “small world isn’t it” story is in order here. Ten to twelve couples on this cruise had been corresponding on a cruise chat board for some time prior to the cruise. The first night at dinner while conducting introductions we learned that a couple of us from the cruise chat group had been seated at the same table for dinner! Often overlooked are the personnel working the Purser’s Desk. These people were always friendly and helpful. Excursions About six weeks before the cruise, Princess sends a list of all available excursions. You can book your excursions at that time (by mail, facsimile or over the internet). We booked a couple of our excursions on the Princess home page and our excursion tickets were included with our cruise tickets. We booked two excursions independently. If you are considering a tour of a town or a tourist site that carries no risk and can be easily reached by taxi, you may want to consider touring independently. Alternatively, if the tour is unusual or runs the risk of delay or physical injury, you should consider booking with Princess. If something goes wrong, and you are on a Princess excursion, Princess will work it out. If you are on an independent tour and something goes wrong you are on your own. However, when the risk is minimal or non-existent, the Princess excursion will cost you more; it will be less personal; and, the delays will be exasperating. We learned that when the situation is right we can see more of what we want to see in less time with a lot less aggravation at a much better price by touring independently. If you cannot decide whether to book a Princess excursion or to tour independently, you can book the Princess excursion and cancel onboard if you choose to tour independently. If cancelled in time there is no penalty. Entertainment Paul Burns was the Cruise Director. He has a rapier wit especially with the bingo crowd. Princess has a major problem with respect to managing the entertainment venues. In the past the timing of the shows was brilliantly arranged for traditional seating so that everyone had a couple of opportunities to see the shows. Then came Personal Choice and Anytime Dining. What had been a brilliant arrangement now no longer works very well. The reason is simple - the inherent control of crowd flow based upon dinner times is out the window. Passengers can dine whenever they want and, as a result, they can go to whatever show or shows they want to see whenever they want to see them. More than once I overheard discussions concerning making dinner plans to accommodate show times. This leaves those having traditional dining with late seating unable to find seats at the popular shows. On this ten day cruise we were only able to find seats at three shows. This was particularly disappointing as we both enjoy the entertainment. After leaving Ft. Lauderdale we spent two days sailing to Curacao. I had intended on spending a lot of time reading during our days at sea. As it turned out, there was so much to do that often the day passed before I realized it. I did do a little reading but a lot less than I had intended. Part of the reason is the infernal deck chairs on the Promenade deck. Every time I sat in one (and I had no trouble finding a chair any time I wanted one) my eyelids shut. It was just amazing! Each day at sea there were two sessions of bingo. The basic pack of three cards for each of five games ran $20 per session . The sessions get more and more crowded as the cruise goes on because of a roll-over on the last bingo game. The prize reached $3000 before someone won it at the last session. Art auctions have become as much a part of cruising as bingo. I was pleased to note that the hype concerning the art auctions was greatly reduced from our prior cruise. One of my frustrations continues in that it detracts from the beauty of the ship to have the millions of dollars of art which decorates the ship hidden behind the items available for purchase at the art auctions. These pieces do not even compare to those pieces decorating the ship yet they constantly were covering up the “good stuff”. Our first port was . . . . Curacao Curacao is one of the Dutch ABC islands, the others being Aruba and Bonaire. On a previous cruise we stopped at Aruba and I determined it was not one of my favorite Caribbean islands. I was pleasantly surprised by Curacao. There is a new pier to accommodate the large cruise ships. We were fortunate to be able to dock at one of the old piers in town. The approach to Willamsted is fairly narrow. Most ships enter through the narrow passage into a harbor area, turn around and come back to the pier. If you are interested in such things you should be on deck. The Costa ship in front of us made that precise maneuver. We, however, simply pulled into the channel and sidled over to the pier. On leaving, we pushed away from the pier and backed out of the channel. An interesting maneuver! The Queen Emma bridge crosses the navigation channel. It is a pontoon bridge built more than 100 years ago. It swings to the side to allow ships to pass. When it is open there are ferries to transport pedestrians back and forth across the channel. Willamsted is a bustling place. My wife noted that it has more shoe stores than any place she has ever seen. There is plenty of shopping. A block or two away from the main shopping street you will notice unoccupied store fronts. There were enough of them to make me wonder if the economy in Willamsted is suffering or if the store owners have simply squeezed too hard for rent. The main area of Willamsted was relatively clean and the bright pastel colors of the buildings give the place a charming atmosphere. We took a tour from the ship in the afternoon. The Triple “S” tour - Sharks, Seaquarium & Submarine - was a two part tour. The first part took us to the seaquarium. It is an interesting place that we did not have quite enough time to explore. There are the standard aquarium displays. They also have outdoor holding tanks that were being refurbished. There is also a diving aspect to the aquarium which was not part of our tour. Additionally, the seaquarium has a tourist submarine which was not operating but was available to go into to observe underwater. The tour of the seaquarium finished with a dolphin show. Overall, it was worth seeing but it was not something you have not seen before. The second part of the tour was the submarine. Actually it was a semi-submersible which is essentially a glass-bottomed boat. We were bussed to a resort where the semi-submersible was based. The trip on the semi-submersible is the best that I have been on. The quality of the tour was the narration of the tour guide and the activity on the reef. A very interesting tour! The Missed Port The cruise was supposed to go to Isla Margarita which is a Venezuelan island. Due to the unsettled political climate in Venezuela, the port was cancelled and we wound up with an additional sea day and a few additional hours in Barbados. Barbados We had been to Barbados more than 5 years ago. At that time it was one of our favorite islands. We were anxious to see if anything had changed which would cause us to reevaluate our opinion. It had not changed and Barbados is still one of our favorite islands! We booked an all day excursion with Glory Tours (www.glorytours.org). They were not allowed to pick us up at the cruise terminal so arrangements were made for pickup at Pelican Village. Glory Tours does not have an office at Pelican Village rather the van just pulls into the parking lot to pick you up. Pelican Village is a very short walk from the cruise terminal building. There were only two couples on the tour and we had a new clean van in which we rode. Ricky was our tour guide and he was informative, charming, knowledgeable and everything you could ask for in a tour guide. Ricky suggested that we go to Harrison’s Caves first so that we could get there before the tours from the ship began to arrive. He was successful because when we finished the tour the place was packed! The caves are nice but are the wettest caves that I have toured. The tour is on an electric tram that stops a couple of times for closer investigation and photographic opportunities. I hardly ever miss an opportunity to take a cave tour. Other than the tram there was not much different about this tour from other cave tours. The audio/visual presentation before the tour does a good job of describing the difference between Barbados and the other Caribbean islands. Leaving Harrison’s Caves we traveled through the country. We made several stops for photographic opportunities. Ricky conducted on on-going commentary as we were driving around. We stopped at St. John's Church before crossing over to Bathsheba and Cattlewash where we had lunch. What a breathtakingly beautiful place! After lunch, Ricky took us to see the painted rocks. The painted rocks is a location where an artist painted rocks on both sides of the road to look like African animals. We then moved on to Orchid World. Orchid World is a large complex devoted to the growing of orchids. They were beautiful! The last stop on the tour was the wildlife preserve. We arrived just before the animals were fed. Few of the animals were caged. The monkeys, deer, tortoises, and agouti all run free. It is a humorous sight to see the tortoises circling the food like rocks around a fire with the monkeys standing on the backs of the tortoises to get to the food. Then the deer reach over the whole bunch to grab something they want to eat. An interesting place! Ricky was going to take us back to the ship but we had him drop us off downtown. We had about an hour and a half before we needed to get back. The main part of Bridgetown, Barbados is an interesting place mixing typical city shopping with the tourist shops found in Caribbean ports. I highly recommend Glory Tours. We will be using them again next January when we return to Barbados. We left Barbados and sailed to . . . . Dominica Dominica is a third world island. One look at Roseau up close and you know that you are no longer on the beaten path. However, that very lack of sophistication and the undeveloped natural beauty of the island is what is attractive about Dominica. From my lead-in you already know that this island is not for everyone. The island is covered by a tropical rain forest. It receives 350 inches of rain a year. The showers come and they go in typical Caribbean fashion. Be prepared for rain in Dominica. In doing my research for the trip I found Ken's Hinterland Adventure Tours (www.kenshinterlandtours.com). All of the tours involve some degree of hiking in the rainforest. Hiking in a rain forest is not my wife’s idea of a vacation so she chose to take the whale watching excursion offered by the ship. I, on the other hand, chose to go exploring. I took the Middleham Falls & Ti Tou Gorge tour. The information concerning this tour warns - “Persons should be in good physical condition to do this trip, good sneakers or hiking boots must be worn, Shorts and T Shirts are appropriate.” Now I can hike with the best of them, however, I had four coronary by-passes four years ago. I made sure I had my nitro pills with me and dressed appropriately for a hike. What I found was that the Middleham Falls tour is a mountain hike on a primitive path through the rain forest that seemed to be at least three (3) miles in length and rises 800 to 1000 feet. This is not a hike for the timid nor the inactive nor anyone with heart problems or likely to have heart problems!!! The hike requires you to climb over boulders, through creeks and streams, and find toe holds in tree roots as you raise or lower your body. The payoff is the magnificent forest you are hiking through with a beautiful 300+ foot waterfall at the end of the hike. I am sure Aaron, our guide, wondered if I was going to make it. I am glad that I took the hike but I would never have attempted it had I known what it involved. It was a wonderful experience but never again! The second portion of the tour was the Ti Tou Gorge. This involves a short hike. Then you take off anything you don't want to get wet (no changing room or lockers or anything of that sort - leave your valuables locked in the vehicle and wear your bathing suit). You swim in really cold water into what appears to be a cave in a rock wall with overhanging vegetation. Actually it is either a crack in the rock or a crevice eroded by the water. From the top of the water to the top of the gorge I'd estimated it to be 50 - 60 feet. The gorge is very narrow. It is a short swim into the gorge to the waterfall. There are actually two waterfalls - one behind the other. It is a really incredible site! I highly recommend Ken's Hinterland Tours. They are dependable, knowledgeable and thorough. Our guide was Aaron who was a very good guide and was an expert at describing the vegetation. They do offer less active tours. My wife was highly complimentary of the whale watching tour. She gave high marks to the tour guides. They saw several whales and lots of porpoises. On to . . . . St. Thomas It had been many years since we were last in St. Thomas. Nothing much seemed to have changed. It looked cleaner and better organized than during our last visit. I note that virtually every store in the main shopping area now has a jewelry counter. In the past there was a plethora of jewelry stores. Now, in addition to all the jewelry stores, if you go into a T-shirt shop or a pharmacy, or to buy linens there is the ever present jewelry counter. We had some extra time and decided to take the tram across from the Havensight Mall. The tram was pricey ($15.00 each) but what an outstanding view! We were pleasantly surprised to find that a lady was giving parrot shows at the top. Overall, it was a very pleasant little side trip away from the hustle and bustle of the shopping. The next day was a sea day before we arrived at . . . . Princess Cays It was overcast, windy and cool when we arrived. Our head waiter, Amedeo, had advised us not to rush over to the cay. He said that at about 10:00 the sun might come out and it would warm up a bit. He was wrong about the sun but it did warm a bit. It was still too cool to go swimming and most passengers stayed on the ship. We went over and had lunch. All the food served on Princess Cays comes from the ship. There is a covered cooking/serving area with four buffet lines. Hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, knackwurst, ribs, chicken legs and grilled chicken were served together with salads and desserts. The food was good. Princess Cays is the private get away for Princess Cruises. It is actually at the Southern tip of Eleuthera island in the Bahamas. Princess does not own the cay but leases it. The area has been created by Princess and was totally destroyed several years ago when a hurricane took it away. There is the ever present gift shop and Bahamians have vending stations located around the cay. There are no roving vendors bugging you to buy something. Princess has constructed several covered areas for both serving food and eating. There is a tower which you can climb to get a great view of the ship anchored in the deeper water. You have to tender in to Princess Cays. There was an abundance of lounges available on the beach. Speaking of beach, there was no natural beach on Princess Cays. All of the sand has been brought in. Consequently, there is quite a bit of rock both in the water and around the beach. In one area there is a slight covering of sand with solid rough rock underneath. It is a great place for stubbing toes and chafing feet. Princess would have you pre-reserve your beach toys (floats, flippers, masks, water bikes, kayaks, sunfish, and other such items) prior to arrival at the cay. The fees charged are fairly hefty. The fees are not refundable so when you have weather like we experienced you get charged even though you don’t play with the toys. Sailing overnight before we returned to . . . . Ft. Lauderdale Debarkation was the smoothest of any cruise we have been on. We went to breakfast in the dining room. While eating breakfast our debarkation number was called. We finished breakfast, returned to our cabin, said our final good-bye to our room steward and walked down to the debarkation level (there was no possibility of getting an elevator). I have kept a cruise card from each of our cruises as a memento of the cruise. The new Princess policy is to collect all of those cards at debarkation. We walked through the various check points collected our baggage and we were on our way. Conclusion The Dawn Princess is a wonderful ship! She has been tastefully appointed with an understated elegance. The staff is friendly, efficient, and first class. If the opportunity presents itself, we would certainly cruise on the Dawn Princess again. In fact, while aboard we booked a cruise on the Sun Princess for next year at the same time. There are some real advantages in booking while onboard. The down payment is only $100.00 per person and you receive varying amounts of shipboard credit (from $50.00 to $150.00 per person based on the length of the cruise and type of cabin you book). The shipboard credit is in addition to any credit or perks you get from your travel agent. Your onboard booking is transferred to your travel agent. By the time we had arrived home our travel agent had the booking and had mailed us a receipt! Princess is a wonderful cruise line which does so many things right. When you spend as much money as you do on a cruise and take hard earned vacation time you expect the experience to be something very special. Princess understands this and does not disappoint. We would be happy to answer any questions. Just drop us an E-mail. Bill & Lu Schwartz

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

I have entered a commentary on every ship I have been on through this site. This was our 8th cruise. We have been on the Premier-SS Atlantic, Norwegian Norway and Leeward,Celebrity Zenith,Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Sea, Carnival Imagination, Holland America Ryndam, and now the Princess Dawn Princess. Lord willing we will do a cruise every year, so we are trying different companies to find where to place our loyalties to in the future. Holland

America stills ranks highest, but Princess now runs a close second. The only place they did not measure up was the food. The breakfast was horrible (mostly). Much in quantity- but much less on quality. However- all other food- lunch and dinner were great. The Ship- Unbelievable. It is advertised to be that Princess makes a huge ship feel small. They do indeed fulfill their promise. A large ship- 77,000 tons, designed and laid out as good as I have ever seen. They make wonderful use of the Atrium area- at which is truly the "gathering place" for all. It (the ship) is beautiful and is so clean that it looks as if it just set sail last week. Having 4 pools, and 5 hot tubs- their is never a time when you cannot find a perfect seat for anything to do on a 'sea day'. Again, the layout was most impressive and this was the most stable while cruising shop we have ever been on. If you get Seasick easy- this is your ship. The Embarkation/Disembarkation- The best ever. It was unbelievable how quick from the time we got off the plane that we made it on the Ship. We were on at 12 or a little before. No long lines, and no harassing dock people. Unbelievably pleasant. The Entertainment- The Best we have ever had at sea. All clean, and much variety. Yes, you can choose from 1 of 2 shows every night- which lets you fit your own fancy for the evening. Whatever you did not go to one night would typically be available the next. 3 comedians, a juggler, singers, and the best dance "Broadway" performances I have seen. Kudos to Princess and the Cruise Director for assembling fantastic entertainment. The Itinerary- St. Thomas- Had been there 2 other times but this time took a trip to Koki Beach. Having snorkeled all over the world and thinking that the best yet was in Cozumel at the "State Park"- I was wrong. The best snorkeling I have ever seen is at this beach. Don't book it through the ship- get off and get a taxi to bring you- you will save BUNCHES of monies. As far as that goes- having been on 8 cruises- I advise everyone to book your land tour when you get off the ship. The ships prices are grossly overpriced and we passed all the 'ship folk' on every tour we did, with the exception of the places we were brought that no one else got to go to. Koki Beach was hit! St. Kitts- Take the land tour with a resident taxi tour. there are 2 tours one to each side of the island. If you have to choose 1- pick going to see and feed the wild monkeys at Turtle Bay- the drive there contains the -prettiest scenery I have EVER seen. truly picturesque. However, the other side of the Island has much to offer with the beautiful gardens. If you speak nicely to your taxi guide- he will give you both for a 'deal'. Not expecting much- St. Kitts is my favorite port I have ever visited. Martinique- Dirty- but taking a taxi land tour becoming beautiful. Much shopping available if you went snorkeling instead of shop in St. Thomas- but I hear the prices are steep. Not near as pretty as it is built up to be- but filled with history that makes the land tour (again booked off the ship- the ship will make you feel like it will be extra expensive if you don't use theirs- hogwash- we went for $30 cheaper, a piece, by meeting the guy on the street to take us). Isla Marguerita- did not book land tour- should have- the beach they tell you is right beside you dock is smelly, nasty, and full of jelly fish. Those who did the tour came back saying this was their favorite port of call. Unbelievable. Best 'Island Shopping' on the whole cruise. Here are the DEALS! Curacao- Beautiful. Modernized. Much shopping and a decent land tour. For the busy shopper- will probably be your favorite port of call. I thought the people here were the least friendliest however. Service- Not as good as Celebrity and Holland America- but not bad either. Only problem we had was we were stuck without toilet paper 3 times from our room steward. That is unheard of for a cruise. Otherwise- the people were kind, most helpful, and probably the friendliest cruise staff we have sailed with. Intangibles- You can tip on your shipboard credit card which is nice and allows you to get those frequent flyer miles. They do not promote a lot of the activities via the speakers on the ship at all (Bingo, poolside games, etc). This is a positive for some- while others hate it. If you want to stay informed- you must keep up with your 'Princess Patter' daily guide, or the tremendous What's up TV station in your room. Speaking of TV. You don't have many channels, and although they show movies on the ship in the ship theatres they show B movies in the room. So that was a downside if you like to stay up late flipping the channels. Lastly, they don't push anything on you. You do what you want- or don't. there was never any hard sell or pressure put on. You should love this cruise staff, this ship, and if given the opportunity- these ports. We sailed out of San Juan. Airport chaos- but with these ports it was worth it.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

This was our first cruise and my husband and I were filled with excitement and trepidation.  For this reason, and as I had only 1 weeks holiday to spare, we only took the 7 day option as we thought that if we really hated the experience this was not too long a time to tolerate it. Most of the trepidation was following some of the negative reviews we had read on these pages, the excitement was for fairly obvious reasons. My husband

had taken quite a bit of persuading to go on a cruise in the first place as he had imagined that there would be some guy blowing a whistle to round up reluctant people who did not wish to join in the imagined regimented activities. As it turned out nothing could have been further from the truth.  The whole cruise was 'do what you like, when you like'. We left the UK for San Juan early on the Saturday morning and were extremely pleased to be informed that as we had reserved a mini-suite we would be upgraded to the the Premier section of the cabin where there was much greater leg and bum space. The 9 hour flight was a drag but uneventful.  We arrived at San Juan airport, however, to find that two flights had arrived at the same time and that the facilities in the arrivals hall were totally inadequate. (This was not the fault of Princess)  The immigration procedure was somewhat complicated and the surly official appeared to take delight in sending folk to the back of the queue to revise their documents. Once through immigration, however, we were taken straight to the ship.  What an awesome  sight she was from the quayside!  She was like a block of flats!  Boarding was fairly straightforward and we were shown to our wonderful mini-suite which was right on the stern of the ship. The cabin was really large and well appointed.  We had a sitting area with a bar and fridge and a large balcony.  We had a really comfortable queen size bed.  As I have a back problem I usually return from holiday feeling worse than when I went, but not on this occasion.  There were so many drawers and cupboards that we constantly lost track of where we had stowed our possessions.  The enormous marble bathroom had a jacuzzi, handbasin and shower with a separate loo and a further handbasin. Our luggage arrived about 1 hour later, together with our very attentive cabin steward. The whole ship was a delight.  We found the food in the Venetian Restaurant to be excellent.  I do not know how anyone could be dissatisfied with either the food or the service, but then some folk are never happy.  There are so few occasions to 'dress up' now that it was really good fun to 'go to town' on the formal nights. Most people in the Venetian Restaurant entered into the spirit of the occasion and there was a good showing of 'posh frocks' and tuxedos/dinner jackets. The Horizon Court was not up to the standard of the restaurant and the hot food served was not very hot most of  the time.  This was possibly due to the service being on plastic crockery, but I can well understand that if a tropical storm should blow up the crockery might decorate the deck. Our fellow passengers were mainly middle class, middle aged, like us.  The majority were American, most of whom were a delight.  There was a fairly large British contingent and a minority of other nationalities. The only fly in the ointment was on the last morning. We were asked to attend for flight ticketing by deck and we were given the time of 07.00.  People were asked not to attend outside the stipulated time as this might cause confusion. When we arrived at 06.45 however,  we discovered that we were amongst the last to check in as those 'in the know' had started queuing at 05.00.  Without going into too much boring detail we were greeted by  spectacularly rude and brusque female who informed us that all the good seats had gone and that we should have attended earlier if we wanted better seats.  It seemed pointless to argue and we were later told  by the Purser's Office that they had no control over the employees of the charter flight company.  Whether they have or have not is immaterial.  They should have control as this person did the reputation of Princess Cruises no favors whatsoever as far as we were concerned. Apart from the above incident, which left a nasty taste, and would perhaps make us think twice about taking up the charter flight offer in the future, the whole cruise was brilliant.  We can't wait to repeat the experience.  In fact we are at this moment counting our pennies to see how soon we can afford to repeat the the whole thing, hopefully for much longer next time.

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Nov 30, -0001

South Caribbean

Dawn Princess (Princess) Southern Caribbean, Explorer (12/97) We recently concluded our third cruise over several years departing from San Juan, all touring the Southern Caribbean on Princess Cruise Lines. This was the New Years (97-98) Dawn Princess Southern Explorer itinerary, our eighth Holiday cruise in as many years and our fifteenth (plus or minus...who's counting?) overall.  Last year, we cruised the Sun Princess in the Western

Caribbean over the New Year's holiday. With minor exceptions in detail, the two ships are identical. We loved the Sun and we loved the Dawn. Our favorites. Since these opinions are subjective and details of the ship have been well discussed by others in similar reviews, we'll try to address some other peripheral issues in this report. Even though Puerto Rico is technically a part of the United States, there's a certain foreign flavor here, quite different from the usual and popular embarkation points in Florida. San Juan is located 1000 miles east of Florida and one time zone removed from the eastern time zone of the US. This means that many cruise passengers arrive at their destination quite late in the day. We live in Southern California. On our most recent cruise we left Los Angeles International Airport at 8:20 AM and arrived in San Juan on time at 9:20 PM local time. We had made a one-hour connection at Dallas-Ft. Worth and there was no way we could have made the journey more time-efficient than we did. It simply takes all day to get there. Because of this late arrival by many of their passengers, Princess and other cruise lines sail away late at night, usually with a scheduled departure around 11 PM. If the cruise ships departed any earlier, it would necessitate the cruise line bearing the expense of bringing in their West Coast passengers a day early and putting them up in a hotel for the night. We never felt we wanted to chance the logistics...especially in winter when flight delays are routine...of making that tight a connection: a 9:20 touchdown, collect our bags and then race to the pier to get there before 11 PM. There is always a red-eye, but in our opinion this is a very unpleasant way to begin an upscale vacation such as a Caribbean cruise, essentially just to save the cost of a night's lodging. Also, since passengers can begin boarding the ship promptly at noon on sail-away day, by taking an air deviation and paying our own expense for one night in a San Juan hotel, we feel we end up with a much more satisfying experience. We can enjoy an additional 11 hours on board...including two shipboard meals served in that time period....by coming in a day early at what is really a nominal expense. As in most tropical resort cities, there are a wide variety of hotel accommodations in San Juan. There are many plush and high-priced beachfront hotels, because after all, the city is a vacation destination in itself, and not just a big city with a port for cruise ships. However, arriving late and getting up mid-morning (with 4 hours of jet lag) makes us want to find a clean and reasonably priced hotel just to rest our head until it's time to head for the dock. On the three occasions we've made this connection, we've stayed at the Best Western Hotel Pierre. This is a city hotel, not too far by taxi from the airport and not too far from the cruise terminal the next day. You wouldn't want to spend your vacation there, but for this purpose it's OK, it's fine. Clean, quiet and including a continental breakfast. You can easily make reservations using the Best Western 800 number, and the cost for the night is $122. The hotel rate was about $90 several years ago, but the difference seems trivial to us considering that we're comfortable here and when compared to what the rest of the trip is costing. For comparison, we went and had breakfast at the Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino, about ten minutes away by taxi. Nice place, much nicer than the Pierre, and supposedly one of the better places in San Juan. $320 per night high season rack rate. Frankly in our view the place looked comparable to a second or third tier Las Vegas resort. The Mirage it was not. The taxi fare from the airport to the Hotel Pierre is $15, excluding tip. From the hotel to the cruise terminal, the fare is also $15. Best Western Hotel Pierre,  105 De Diego Avenue San Juan, P.R.00911 Tel:809-721-1200 Fax:809-721-3118 Reservations: 1-800-528-1234 As mentioned, Princess starts boarding at noon, and people were arriving all day long and into the night. Our luggage arrived at the cabin door at 4 PM. It might be a good idea to take a swimsuit with hand baggage, because many people were laying out around the pool throughout the afternoon in San Juan. The pool area was never crowded, certainly nothing like it was to be the following day, our full (and only) day at sea.  That first day out is a good time to avoid the pool. The snowbirds are working on their tans, and there is a mad rush in the morning to stake out a chaise. Around the pool that day is one of the few instances you have throughout the cruise that reminds you that more than 2000 passengers are on board. Also, the trade winds coupled with the movement of the ship causes a stiff breeze to blow across the deck. Cooling, but not all that comfortable. On subsequent port days, the pool deck was far less crowded. In recent years, all cruise lines have become cashless. The plastic cruise card which doubles as the cabin door key is now used for all transactions. In fact, even that last cash holdout...bingo...has become a mandatory charge-as-you-go type of operation. I think it's safe to say that the cruise lines recognized that people will spend more when they are not peeling off dollar bills. You can use cash in the casino but you can also get a cash advance against your established credit card. One would think it will only be a matter of time before that very last cash holdout...tips...goes on the ship’s account. Of course, that creates a paper trail that the tip recipients probably would sooner not have for tax purposes, etc. Some extra-cost items have risen in price over the years, probably to assure their respective success as a profit generator as compared to just being a customer diversion. For example, the ubiquitous souvenir photographs now cost $6.25 each. Remembering as we do when they cost half that amount, the prices have inflated far more than other things on board. A tall drink-of-the-day is $2.75 (plus an automatically added 15% tip), about what it has always been. A bottle of California Merlot or Chardonnay with dinner is $18-$22, about what one would expect to pay in any decent restaurant anywhere. Incidentally, the photography was much less intrusive than our recollections on other recent cruises. There were much fewer photo ops created on the Dawn Princess. On the other hand, the posed studio-type pictures seemed to be more commonplace and popular, with long lines snaking through the atrium before dinner. We cruise quite a bit, and this year have 7, 11 and 12 day cruises scheduled within a 12-month period of time. Because of this we try to economize in our choice of cabin. This allows us to travel more often than might be possible otherwise. It would be great to have a balcony, and this category is often one of the first to sell out. They are very popular. Even an outside cabin would be nice. However, for the additional $800 (per couple) that the view through the porthole would cost, we feel it not cost effective. We always take the cheapest category, inside cabin. In earlier days, on ships now considered old, the cheap cabins were small, cramped and lacking. They were often back at the stern, exposed to noise and vibration. They might be located way up at the bow, where there was more rocking & rolling of the ship. Things have changed. On newer ships such as the Dawn Princess, all of the non-suite standard cabins are literally identical in size and layout. If that $800 view is important, you can choose a cabin facing out. If the savings are important, you can choose a cabin literally just across the hall, facing in. Pull the curtain, and you can't tell the difference. Modern technology in engine design and in hull stabilization has also taken location out of the equation. When you're in your cabin and the door is closed, it doesn't matter where you are; for all practical considerations, all cabin locations are the same. Seasickness. It doesn't seem to be as commonplace as even a few years ago. I'm old enough to remember when it was not uncommon where people got sick on jet aircraft. Nobody does that anymore. The planes are the same and the turbulence is the same. It's just that people got used to it and/or realized it was very uncool to throw up on a crowded airplane. I think the same thing is happening with ships. As cruise travel becomes more routine with more repeaters, getting sick and talking about it is really quite boring and in very bad form. Especially when many people, including myself, believe it's nothing more than a head trip anyway. Most of the ports sell phone cards these days for calling home. We could use the AT&T card which worked quite well in every port we visited. Down at the docks (or in the case of Grenada, in the center of town), telephones are plentiful. Try to get there before the crew, however, to avoid a line. We bought a Seiko Kinetic watch in Aruba. We chose the Colombian Emeralds store because the sales person was nice and the chain has been around awhile. We later checked their stores in Grenada and in St. Thomas. The prices were identical to the penny. We checked two other independent stores in Havensite Mall located dockside in St. Thomas. In one, they had the watch and the price was identical to what we paid. In the other, they didn’t have it and the salesman said they’re no good. (What else would one expect him to say?) So, it seems that if you’re going to buy something, it doesn’t matter which Island you decide should receive your money; they’re all the same in price. When we came back home, I checked a couple of Internet websites that sell the watch and it was cheaper, about 7%! Add in shipping, and the price comes out to be virtually the same. If you have to add in sales tax as well, the price is higher at home, but by a small margin. Lladro figurines cost the same on-board ship as in the St. Thomas stores. We checked some examples. The shipboard selection is almost as good. The only savings vs. buying it at home however, is sales tax. In the Havensite Mall (we never went into town) there are a handful of stores that have been around for years and that one would consider reputable: Little Switzerland, Colombian Emeralds, Boolchamps, Royal Caribbean and maybe one or two others. In all these stores, pricing is identical for the same items and (allowing for the savings in sales tax) very little difference between what you’d pay at home.  For example, my wife bought Paloma Picasso perfume for $66. At home, it’s $70 plus tax. My Sony Mavica digital camera (a hot item these days) cost the same in St. Thomas as it does at CompUSA where I bought. Again, you save the sales tax, but nothing more. At CompUSA you can return it for a full credit within 10 days. Buy it in St. Thomas, and it’s yours for a lifetime. Somewhat cheaper then, but is it worth buying something expensive in a far-off land and having to carry all of it home? You decide. The other shops in Havensite were very much the tee-shirt and straw hat variety and all seemed to be staffed with sullen clerks who definitely give you the feeling that they are doing you a big favor by just talking to you. So much for the shopper’s paradise. My wife had a full body treatment and massage at the salon on the Dawn Princess. A concession, as most of these shipboard activities turn out to be. The massage was OK and the price was in keeping with what one expect to pay in a resort hotel anywhere. However, at the conclusion a major effort was put on her to buy almost $400 in materials so she could do the same thing at home. There was nothing subtle about it; pure hard sell. Lot’s of profit, lots of commission. Just like an extended warranty on a new car. Caveat Emptor! Princess is trying out something new in their Lido Deck Horizon Court buffet restaurant. At dinnertime, it becomes a "Bistro" with waiter service and a full menu. The service staff are strictly entry-level, trying to learn. Very eager, not very good, but not all that bad either. The menu was fine with a lot of choices and the food is prepared fresh to order and was every bit as good as in the dining room. For people who are tired of the formality of the dining room (even on casual-dress nights) and just want to get away from it all, the Bistro is the place to be. We did it on one night and it was fine. As a plus, we missed having to pose with a "pirate" at the dinner table. Self-service Laundromats are on every deck, all over the ship. We never used it, but we spoke to people who did and they were very happy with the service. It’s free and we were told the machines were rarely busy. One of the comics on the ship said that the ship docks at a different part of the same island every night. They just go out and change the signs. You sort of feel that way after awhile in the Caribbean. Just some small comments on the stops we made: Aruba is a desert island which we had visited once before. It’s quite nice, actually. Windy all the time, and on the day we were there the wind was blowing stronger than it usually does. We rented a Suzuki Samurai right on the dock. $95 for all day. Major rip-off to be sure, but there were four of us and it was convenient. The ship docks at 7 AM, the car rental place opens by 8 AM, and I would guess that by 8:30 AM all the vehicles are rented out. At this rate, they can charge whatever they want. We drove over had lunch at the Hyatt Regency, arguably the best hotel on the island and probably as nice a resort as you will find anywhere. The nearby beaches are beautiful, but with the windy conditions, sitting on the sand was like having your own private sandblasting of your skin. Not too comfortable. La Guaira is the port for Caracas in Venezuela. An oil-rich country with great extremes in hillside squatter poverty and skyscrapers downtown. There seems to be zero middle class. The tall buildings look best from a distance. Latin countries don’t do concrete well. We were advised by several people on the CompuServe Travel and Cruise Forums to not take a private taxi into Caracas because of significant crime directed towards tourists. We took a half-day shore excursion into Caracas and then to a Murano glass factory. (There is some obscure connection with the Murano glass manufacturing in Venice.) This visit was worthwhile for us and we bought some nice pieces to take home. Not the kind of stuff you find everyday and the prices were good. Grenada was the only stop that required tender access. You had to run the gauntlet of taxi and tour operators at the foot of the tender pier. Whereas you have this type of thing everywhere in the Caribbean, to our recollection Grenada was worse than most in this respect. You had to walk 2-3 blocks from the pier before you were finally out of it. Grenada was supposedly pretty lush in the interior and some of our table-mates enjoyed their excursion. We just decided to walk the main drag of St. George’s instead, and two hours later we were back on the ship enjoying the pool. Dominica has the dubious distinction of being the second poorest island in the Caribbean (after Haiti). It also is relatively unspoiled, because cruise ships are just starting to make it a regular port of call. There are few hotels on the island and air connections are skimpy. The island resembles many others with the ubiquitous rain forest and some waterfalls. Four of use hired a van taxi for four hours for $80. It was a good tour and saved us quite a bit of money vs. the ship’s excursion. In the end, in the Caribbean it’s the weather, the sea and the ship. And in this respect, the Dawn Princess acquitted itself magnificently. Paul Jaffe

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska/Candian Rockies

This review will tell you everything you need to know about our Alaskan cruise taken July/August 1997, and which included a pre-cruise land tour of the Canadian Rockies and a post-cruise land tour of Alaska. This cruise was to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and it was perfect in every way. We are "hooked" now and have already booked a Panama Canal cruise aboard the brand new Sea Princess (which will debut in October 1998) in Spring 1999.

Since this is after all a cruise review site, I will begin with the cruise itself and then backtrack to tell you a little about the two land tour packages we took. Embarkation The embarkation process was very smooth. We boarded in Vancouver, British Columbia, and in a matter of minutes we were photographed, whisked to our cabin, where we spent a few minutes and then went to explore the ship. This was our first cruise, so we were very anxious to look around, and I must say, there were no disappointments! Our Suite! Yes, I did say suite! We were very fortunate in that we had booked a mini-suite (a real splurge) and 3 weeks before the cruise, our travel agent called to say that we had been upgraded to a full suite! There was a nice-sized living room separated by a bar/wall-divider and a queen sized bed in the bedroom. Our veranda had 4 lounge chairs as well as a large round table with 4 chairs. And the best part was a palatial marble bathroom with a Jacuzzi, stall shower and the toilet area housed in a small adjoining bath!  We were even able to comfortably host a cocktail party for the couples we met on our pre-tour of the Canadian Rockies! The only downside with taking your first cruise in a suite, is that it is impossible to even consider a cabin without a veranda, let alone an inside one. (But then, how much time do you spend in the cabin anyway?) As for movement, because we were in an aft cabin, we felt more vibration than some of the people who were more centrally located. At times it seemed that we were right over the motors! But, it never presented any type of seasickness problem, but of course the waters near Alaska tend to be quite calm. The Ship What can I say! This is one gorgeous ship. The main atrium is just beautiful. The glass elevators are nice, but I enjoyed taking the stairs between floors. The dining rooms are lovely, and we thought the food was excellent. We had dinner in the dining room, but breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court food buffet (we found there were more choices there). Service was outstanding! Our waiter Antonio and our busboy Octavio made sure our every wish was granted. Our cabin steward, Gerardo, couldn't do enough for us. He even gave us his beeper number so that we could beep him during his break time in the afternoon! In fact, just about every person who worked on the ship was exceptionally friendly and eager to please. As you left your cabin each morning and passed the stewards in the hallway, every one would smile and say "Good Morning!" The entertainment was very good for the most part. A few evenings were a little weak, but we were having so much fun, so who cared? How to Dress The best way to dress during the day for changeable weather is jeans, a t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt on top of that and a light jacket (waterproof would be ideal!). This way you can peel off layers, or put them back on if the weather changes during the day. You will also need a heavier jacket or polar-fleece top for Glacier Bay or Athabasca Glacier. For you 1st timers, be assured that dress during the day is very casual. In the evening I saw a wide variety in people's choices--on the formal nights, men in tuxes, dark suits, and even some casual suits. Women in evening gowns, cocktail dresses, and "church" dresses. But no one seemed out of place or uncomfortable. One piece of advice Joe got from his cousin--buy a black double-breasted suit with a tux shirt and bow tie. It looks like a tux but you get a lot more mileage out of a black suit than a tuxedo. The Itinerary This was a 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise.  Day 1 was spent at sea, and it was nice to relax and have a chance to further explore the ship. Day 2 our port was Ketchikan. We opted to just explore the town on our own and pick up a few souvenirs for relatives. This was our warmest day and we took advantage of it by using the swimming pool in the afternoon. Since many people were still on shore, we had a small pool all to ourselves. Very nice if a bit chilly getting out! After dinner we hosted the cocktail party for our friends from the land tour and then we all trooped down to the English Pub Show which was great fun.  Day 3 we docked in Juneau and had selected the Wildlife Cruise. They guarantee that you will see a certain amount of different kinds of wildlife or they refund a portion of your money. This was very worthwhile and we saw a mother and baby humpback whale, harbour and stellar seals and a few eagles.  On Day 4 our stop was Skagway and we opted for the White Pass Railroad trip. It was very expensive though, kind of long, but great scenery.  Day 5 was spent cruising Glacier Bay. Here's where it helps to have a veranda. The day was cold and rainy (pretty typical I think), so lots of people had staked out window-side tables in the food court and were planted there for the entire day. But that meant that others who came in to have breakfast walked in with full trays and nowhere to sit. So I would suggest either the dining room and room service for this day and for the next.  Day 6 is another day at sea cruising College Fjord. This was a beautiful day and the scenery is spectacular. Another note on the benefits of having an aft suite with a veranda--while the people who were on the observation deck were braving cold and windy weather (since they were facing into the wind), we were on our veranda experiencing a lovely sunny afternoon in short sleeves! We were totally shielded from the wind! There was a passenger Talent Show at night that gave us a lot of laughs.  On Day 7 we awoke at dawn so that we could say our last good-byes to our new friends. I must admit I spent the morning crying my eyes out--for two reasons--leaving our friends (who all lived so far away) AND leaving the ship. If someone had said we could stay another two weeks, I would have called work and said EXTEND MY VACATION!! The Canadian Rockies This was the Princess land tour we took prior to boarding the ship. If you can possibly afford the time and the money--this was a spectacular trip which was every bit as enjoyable as the cruise! The added benefit was that after spending 5 days on a motorcoach together, the 14 couples aboard formed friendships which lasted aboard the cruise and even after the trip in our case! Our tour group was composed of couples ranging in age from mid-30's to late-60's. (Joe is 52, I am 48) There were people from the U.S., Japan, Cyprus and the majority from the United Kingdom, namely Scotland, England and Wales. Our tour guide and bus driver were knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant. AND we didn't touch our luggage from the time we joined the tour! We would arrive at our destination for the evening and would be told that we would find our bags in the room, we were already checked in, we'd be handed our key and asked what time we would like dinner reservations!  We flew into Calgary and spent the night (from Philadelphia, PA) because I always worry about missed flights, etc. This turned out to be especially fortuitous because it allowed us to arrive in Banff before lunch and have a whole day to explore the quaint town there. (The people who arrived in Calgary that day didn't arrive in Banff until dinner time, and only had an hour or so to walk through the town of Banff.) The hotel was the Banff Springs Hotel which looks like a castle sitting in the middle of a mountain! It was the most magnificent hotel I have ever seen. The bellboys wear kilts and there is a Scottish influence. The first time I saw a photograph of this hotel in the Princess brochure, I knew I had to stay there.  The next stop was Lake Louise and Chateau Lake Louise,voted the most romantic spot in the WORLD by the New York Times in the Valentine's Day article a few years ago! On the way to Lake Louise, we stopped for a ski-lift ride for magnificent views of the lake and chateau. It was very cold but there were millions of mosquitos!! (But, not to worry, this was the ONLY place we ran into mosquitos. But take your repellent just in case.) The next stop was Jasper and the Jasper Park Lodge. Here we had our own 2 room cabins (luxurious cabins!) with down comforters on the bed and an idyllic setting. The views from each of our hotel rooms were jaw-dropping! I should mention that each of these hotels are owned by the Canadian-Pacific chain, and I have never experienced such service in my life--it rivaled that on the cruise ship! Prior to our arrival in Jasper we visited Athabasca Glacier and took a snowcoach ride onto the glacier itself. If you do this, do bring a heavy jacket. And this was very exciting and memorable.  The next stop was Kamloops but this is just a stop-over Holiday Inn type place because the trip to Vancouver would be too long otherwise. However on the way we stopped for diner at Hacienda Caballo, where we had a wonderful barbecue dinner, open bar, paddle boat rides, etc. This might have been my favorite day of the whole vacation. Mere words can't do it justice--the way Princess knows how to pamper her travelers with roadside picnics, barbecue dinners and unexpected daily delights. The next day we headed to Vancouver and enjoyed a morning tour of Minter Gardens and the city of Vancouver. But, frankly we were too excited about boarding the ship to pay much attention to Vancouver. People Let me first start by saying that I never expected to meet ANYONE on this cruise. To be honest I would have preferred a table for two so that we didn't get stuck with people who we had nothing in common with. So it was much to my surprise and delight to meet so many lovely people on our tour bus. The most interesting couple on the cruise were also the oldest on the bus. Peter was English and a world traveler and adventurer (he had climbed to the Base Camp of Mt. Everest at age 65 and had to be rescued due to altitude sickness!). His wife Morag was a proud Scot--they live near Glasgow--and by the end of the trip her love and enthusiasm for her country rubbed off on me. We just happened to sit next to them on the first day of the trip (although I believe that it was meant to be) and "clicked" from the very beginning. After that Peter saved the seats next to them every day for us. By the end of the bus trip we were fast friends and by the end of the cruise, it was heartbreaking to say goodbye!!  Being first time travelers, we had chosen 1st seating for dinner. This was a mistake as more elderly passengers choose this seating as well as people with children. Understand, I have nothing against either group (in fact, we were pals with a couple approaching 70!), but it seemed that the more active passengers of ALL ages chose the later sitting. So, anyway we arrive at our table and find a retired couple in their early 60's and a family of four--mom & dad (40's), grandmother, and child (about 10). While they were nice enough people, we had little in common and conversation was work rather than pleasure. By the end of dinner I was almost in tears--this is what I had feared! After having such a great time on the bus tour, I was crushed at facing more dinners like this one. Joe tried to calm me down and we decided to walk around and look for some of our tour friends. We ran into John and Rosemarie (a lovely couple from Wales who we didn't get to know very well on the bus). They also had a bad dining experience. They were at a table with an Italian family who spoke no English and since the waiter was also Italian, virtually all the conversation was incomprehensible to them. We asked if they would like to join us if we were able to switch tables and they were delighted. Another couple, John and Sue, from England (who we met on the ski-lift ride!) had an awful experience. They were seated at a table with 3 elderly American women who REFUSED TO TALK TO THEM AT ALL! After dinner, Sue went back to their cabin and said she would never take another cruise! They also enthusiastically agreed to switch tables. Next we went to Peter and Morag's room. Their experience wasn't quite so extreme, but Peter complained that he hadn't said one word during dinner (and he LOVED to talk!) so they were happy to switch. We went down to the Purser's desk and explained and there was no problem at all! The next night we had 2nd seating and our dream table. Every dinner was memorable and a delight! So don't hesitate to ask for a change, if you run into a compatibility problem. However, I have to tell you that our original table-mates glared at us whenever they ran into us on the ship--Joe was going to approach them to explain that we had hooked up with friends, but they were so nasty he felt it was useless. A footnote: We have been corresponding regularly with Peter & Morag and Rosemarie & John, surprising them with a phone call on New Year's Day. In August we will visit Scotland, Wales, and England, spending a weekend with Peter & Morag, and having dinner with Rosemarie & John in Cardiff! AND Rosemarie and John are joining us on our next cruise to the Panama Canal in 1999! The biggest plus on this cruise was meeting people who have become life-long friends! Alaska Land Tour We disembarked at 1:15 p.m. and slept on the bus ride to Anchorage. Anchorage was a blur because we were exhausted!  The next day we took the Midnight Sun Express rail trip (bubble-top trains) to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge where we spent two nights. Mt. McKinley Lodge was nice but couldn't hold a candle to Jasper Park Lodge in Canada. One highlight was a gentle float trip down the Talkeetna River where we saw a mother bald eagle and her baby peeping out of their nest. Talkeetna was a quaint little town which is said to be the model for the town in "Northern Exposure". We also were lucky to have a wonderfully crystal clear day and were able to see Denali (Mt. McKinley) perfectly. We were told this happens rarely.  The next day we took a motorcoach to Denali to board our bus to Denali National Park. Didn't see much wildlife in the park but the tour guide/bus driver was terrific and this was also a highlight of this land tour. Then it was a return trip on the Midnight Sun train. (This, which I expected to be a highlight, was long and somewhat boring with just so-so scenery and outrageous prices in the dining car.) And so we arrived in Fairbanks, again utterly exhausted. We were told that the Riverboat Discovery Cruise would depart at 8:30 a.m. and decided to skip that. We had absolutely no regrets especially when we awoke to pouring rain the next morning  We slept late, had a leisurely breakfast and did a little shopping, etc. In the afternoon there was the El Dorado Gold Mine tour which was hokey but fun. And the next day it was time to say good-bye to Alaska and fly home.. Conclusion We would recommend an Alaskan cruise for just about anyone! We met kids who had fun, an 80-year-old couple who were enjoying themselves and lots of people in between. There are fun things to do for every activity level. Would we recommend Princess?? Wholeheartedly! They are the best!! We overheard one guy say "Princess is more organized than DisneyWorld!" We consider that a great compliment and agree wholeheartedly. Visit my website The Realm of the Dawn Princess for more photos and information on the cruise. Also feel free to e-mail me below if you have any specific questions!  Nancy & Joe Binder

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Nov 30, -0001

S. Caribbean

        This past February, my wife and I, along with two other couples, took a cruise on the Princess Cruise Line ship the Dawn Princess. Having never been on a cruise before, we scheduled some Shore Excursions through Princess. In time, we found that we could organize our own tours at less than half the cost of those scheduled excursions.         The day we landed at St. George's Harbor in Grenada, all six of

us had some type of Princess tour scheduled for the afternoon, but nothing scheduled for the morning. We hired a Taxi Van for the morning and toured all of the usual tourist spots, as well as some little spice stands up in the hills away from the more populated area. We bought spices at the spice stands for less than a quarter of the price the same spices sold for in downtown St. George. At the time, I didn't think to get a phone number for our Taxi Tour Guide, but we later found that he was fairly well known throughout all of Grenada. His name is John Wayne. That's right, just like the famous American actor from the western movies. If you go to St. George, Grenada, just ask for John Wayne at the taxi stand.         The following day, we landed at Roseau, Dominica. We didn't have any Princess tours scheduled, so we hired a taxi van for the whole day. In the morning, we visited all of the usual tourist spots. Our Taxi Tour Guide, Nicholson Ryley Rolle (Ryley), did double duty as a Field Tour Guide as well, leading us on an expedition through the rain forest and up a nearly vertical field of boulders to Trafalgar Falls. We spent the rest of the day traveling to more of the natural marvels of this beautiful island, as well as stopping at some of Ryley's personal favorite spots. Out of all of the tours we took during that entire week, the time we spent with Ryley was the most enjoyable. If you plan a trip to Dominica, you can contact Ryley through Linton's Taxi Service at 767-448-2558, or call him at home in the evening at 767-448-5516. Ryley’s e-mail address is: [email protected]          Our ship's Cruise Director warned us that there are some unscrupulous free-lance taxi drivers on these islands that will demand payment up front, and then not deliver. Make sure that whoever you hire for a taxi tour is a member of that islands Tourism Board. Both John Wayne and Ryley are members of their islands Tourism Boards. Both of these gentlemen went way above and beyond the call of duty for us, and we showed our appreciation by tipping them generously.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean Explorer

My wife and I cruised for one week on the Dawn Princess Southern Caribbean Explorer Itinerary. We had previously cruised on NCL's Dreamward (now the Norwegian Dream) and Fantasy Cruise Line's Amerikanis. . Here are some observations, recommendations and just plain pontifications regarding this cruise: 1. Things Princess and your travel agent should tell you but probably won't Ignore the cabin categories set forth in the brochure.

As far as I could tell, there were only four actual cabin categories: inside, outside, mini suite and suite. If you are going for an inside cabin (as we did), get the cheapest one you can. The same goes for any of the other types of cabins. The only difference between the cheap inside cabins and the more expensive ones is location - and here's the kicker - the cheap ones actually have a better location. We were on deck five, which is the lowest passenger deck. Most of what you will do on the ship except for sitting by the pool or eating at the buffet will take place on decks 5, 6 or 7, and the pool is on deck 12, so everyone has to take the elevator anyway. The dining rooms are on 5 and 6; the gangway is on 5; the shops are on 6 and most of the bars, as well as the theater and lounge are on 7. Deck 5 is far more convenient to just about everything than, say, and deck 11. The money you save on your cabin can be used to splurge on shore excursions, souvenirs and drinks. Except for location, every cabin gets the exact same service and amenities. We were probably in the cheapest cabin on the ship and yet we were one of only three couples seated at the captain's table. Also, ignore the ship's port talk. It is just a blatant sales pitch for the ship's tours and for ship-associated shops in port. They give you only basic information on how to see the islands on your own. (Although the port brochures placed in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise were actually very helpful). We were able to arrange private tours at several ports through taxi drivers for significantly less than the ship's tours where you get stuck riding around with a busload of octogenarians. We also became convinced after hearing their shopping tips that Princess owns a lot of stock in the company that mines tanzanite, because they sure pushed us to buy a lot of it. I would recommend that you spend the twenty dollars to buy the guidebook on Caribbean ports of call available at most major bookstores (sorry I don't have the title handy right now). That book gave us far more information than the cruise line did about how to see the Islands. That said, if you wish to do the more unusual tours, such as scuba, kayaking, bicycling, etc. the ship's tours may be more efficient than doing them on your own. This particular cruise is heavily promoted in Europe as a two-week cruise. I personally believe this is a positive factor, but some may not. Probably a third of the passengers were European, mostly from England. Be aware that the buffets and shows are geared to satisfy British taste as much as American. I personally thought the comedians and the cruise staff were a hoot, but there were some that didn't enjoy the distinctively British humor. Also, one of the lounges was closed off on two separate occasions to accommodate a private group from Greece. Because a third of the passengers are on a two week cruise, this cruise is subject to the axiom that the longer the cruise the older the passengers. My wife and I are in our mid 30's, and while we weren't the youngest people on the ship, we were close. I would put the average passenger age at close to 60. Of course, with 2000 people on board, there were still quite a few close to our age. Overall, this didn't bother us, but I can see how it may bother others, and you should go into this aware of the age factors. 2. The Ship The ship is flat out gorgeous. It is really hard to fault the design in any way. It is easy to get oriented and easy to find your way around. The crew is friendly and helpful and keeps the ship in tiptop shape, and there is a clear attention to detail that elevates many rooms from nice to outstanding. There is no place on the ship that is not well thought out. Take a little time to admire the artwork placed all around the ship. If I had to come up with a complaint, it is that during busy times you sometimes had to wait too long to get an elevator. But it didn't happen often, and was a minor problem at best. Don't worry about the number of people on board. A tremendous amount of thought and detail went into making it seem smaller than it actually is. There were times when I just could not believe that there were actually 2000 other passengers on the ship. We never had trouble getting a lounge chair, finding room in a hot tub (well OK once, but that's because a group had planted themselves there and refused to budge), or taking a dip in the pools. There is so much deck space, that you could usually find a place where you were virtually alone. There were little or no lines for the buffets, bars or other public areas. One possible negative. The ship seemed to rock more than the Dreamward. Although the weather was fine throughout the cruise, you definitely knew you were on a ship, and there were frequent shudders, which went right through the ship. Many people remarked on the motion. The captain explained to us that is were because the winds were coming from the wrong direction and that other weeks you can barely feel the motion. Personally, I had no trouble with the motion, but it was enough to cause my wife to get out the Dramamine on a few nights. Maybe we just got unlucky, but if you are prone to seasickness, keep this in mind. Some tips we learned that can save you some aggravation: A. Show up at least 15 minutes early for anything in the Vista Lounge, as most of the shows there are one time only affairs, and it can get really crowded at times, sticking you way in the back or even denying you a seat if you arrive late. B. Go to the pool and hot tubs at the rear of the ship instead of the one in the middle, especially on the day at sea. I think some passengers never figured out that it was back there, and we sometimes had the pool with its three hot tubs all to ourselves. Also, you can only take so much reggae music before your head starts to explode. C. Become a morning person. By midnight the ship is dead. There is some nightlife in the disco, but if you're still up at 1:00 you will be one of the few. Docking usually takes place by 8:00 a.m., and can be pretty noisy. If you're a light sleeper, don't plan on sleeping in. Heck. You wanted to go ashore anyway, didn't you? D. If you are starting to get too much sun, but still want to sit outside, go outside on deck 7, which has a roof over it. You'll have to endure the joggers though. 3. Food & Dining The food on the ship was usually good and occasionally excellent, but sometimes just average. The head chef is Italian, and you will do best to stick to the Italian dishes. A pasta course is offered with each meal, and was often the best part of the dinner. It is when he branched into other cuisines that it got dicey. The creme brulee we had on French night was a disaster. Also, I had to send steaks back three different times because they weren't done right. That said, if you're not expecting gourmet food, you will be very happy. The pastry chef deserves high praise. Almost every pastry we tried was excellent. If you have cruised before, and enjoyed the singing, dancing and entertainment by the wait staff that take place on many ships, this cruise may disappoint you. Except for the far too frequent out of key singing of happy birthday/honeymoon/anniversary at the individual tables, there were no real shows put on by the staff. Instead the service was more formal and professional, and the meal service closer to that of a fine restaurant. I did not consider this to be a negative, but you should be aware of the difference. We dined in the Venetian dining room. I am told that there was far more levity in the Florentine dining room, so if this is what you are looking for you should probably request that room in advance. Be sure to take at least one night to dine in the Horizon Court, where they offer a full sit down menu separate from the dining room. (This takes the place of a midnight buffet). Because it is prepared separately, and made to order, the food here is actually better and fresher than in the dining room. They have a nice selection of about 8 entrees to choose from along with daily specials. However, this is clearly where they train potential new wait staff, and the service, while usually enthusiastic, can sometimes be pretty awful. Do not miss getting the panna cotta dessert (sort of a creme caramel, only better). It was my favorite single food item on the ship. We actually took to coming here each night after the shows just for dessert. The buffets are all pretty good. Make sure you check out the horizon court at lunchtime, where they are usually grilling excellent sandwiches to order. The breakfast buffet is also very good, and will give you a chance to see what they eat for breakfast in England (is that really baked beans?). While you're sunning on the deck, pop in and grab a plate full of pastries to snack on. You're on vacation. You can lose the weight when you get home. Also, though it may seem odd, go for pizza in the pizza parlor at least once. It is excellent. They give you a whole small pie, but there's nothing to stop you from only eating one or two slices and leaving the rest behind (except the taste). We never got the ice cream, since we balked at shelling out two bucks for it just out of principle. 4. Clubs and Entertainment Alcohol on the ship is reasonably priced. If you've always ordered the bar brands, treat yourself to the top shelf brand. It is usually only another fifty cents to a dollar. I used the opportunity to try out a few expensive liquors that I had always wondered about but wasn't willing to ante up the dollars on to try in the States. Single malt scotches are especially a bargain, with brands that would cost 10 to 12 dollars a glass in New York or Philadelphia selling for $4.50 a glass. If you are a beer connoisseur My one complaint is that it was hard to get drink service on the deck. I usually had to get up and walk to the bar to get my own drink. Sounds petty, but you want to be pampered while on board. My favorite bar was the Windjammer bar on the very top of the ship. It's a great place to sit and watch the ship slowly sail away from port or to look at the people walking around the main pool area. It also seemed to attract a younger crowd than the other bars, possibly because you have to go up two flights of stairs to get there. I also liked the Wheelhouse bar. You really feel like you are in a luxurious club rather than on a ship. By all means, strike up a conversation with the bartender. Like Isaac on The Love Boat, several of the bartenders went out of their way to remember my name and favorite drink throughout the cruise. Really makes you feel welcome. As for the entertainment, well everyone has his or her own taste in entertainment. My wife and I didn't like the production shows on the ship, but many of the other passengers did. In my opinion, both of our previous cruises had better shows. The "Gotta sing gotta dance" show is the type of bare bones song and dance review that requires top talent to pull off. Suffice it to say the talent was far from top. The "Pirates" show was on the same time as the Newlywed game in the Vista lounge. We caught half of each, and found the Newlywed game far more entertaining. If you enjoy going to shows at the local playhouse, you will probably enjoy these shows. Just don't expect off Broadway, or even Vegas style quality. If our cruise was typical, most of the passengers are pretty reserved, so the loony audience participation stuff only worked on a small scale. Personally I find this to be no great loss. Though they scheduled things like pool games and a passenger talent show, they were usually canceled due to lack of interest. However, horse racing was massively popular. Just figure that if it is an activity enjoyed by the elderly, it will be popular (Bingo anyone?). The best show we saw was London Pub Night, where the Cruise Director placed audience members in awkward situations and basically made fun of them. Everyone but the participants had a good laugh. Assuming he hasn't moved to another ship, my best recommendation is to go to any show where Graham, the cruise director, is heavily involved, because he always kept people laughing. In contrast to the ship's shows, most of the bands that played in the lounges were very good (there was one exception). Since they sign on for six-month stints, it is likely that you will get different lounge entertainment than we had, but I would assume that the quality would continue. One big problem in my opinion is that the bands are mostly assigned to a single lounge throughout the cruise. This means that if you like or dislike a particular group, you end up going back to or avoiding the same place each night, which defeats the purpose of having so many options. For example, I really liked the Wheelhouse bar, but the band that played there at night was the one exception to the good quality lounge band. It was a mediocre wedding/country band, which tried to play every style of music to please the whole crowd, thus pleasing no one. I avoided going there after the band started to play. The other entertainment was generally stellar. There was a very good string quartet, which played in the foyer each night before dinner, a good jazz trio, a nice lounge act, and a truly wonderful piano player who was a virtuoso on both jazz and classical pieces. Of course, there was also the obligatory reggae band, which played by the pool each afternoon. 5. The Ports As I stated above, the pressure in the port talks to take the ship's tours is pretty intense. I think they deliberately tell you as little as possible about how to do the port on your own. If you do take the tours, be warned that every senior citizen on board (and there are a lot) will be on the tour with you. This is nothing against the elderly. Some of my best friends are elderly. I don't want to cross AARP or get on some geriatric hate list. Nevertheless, by definition a tour goes at the pace of the slowest person, and some of the best sites require some significant hiking to see. I had the misfortune to arrive at Trafalger falls in Dominica at the time the tour was there, and there's a big difference between being one of 20 or so tourists at the site and being one of 200 (fortunately I was able to wait until the tour left to really enjoy the site). When planning your trip, I would suggest that even the most spontaneous people plan in advance what you want to do on each given island. You have only a limited amount of time there, and don't want to spend your time in a "what do you want to do now? - I don't know, what do you want to do?" type of debate. Aruba: This port is designed with tourists in mind, and most people will feel very comfortable here. We went into the town, did some shopping, went to some bars and went into a casino for a while (and actually won a little, unlike on the ship). If you plan on doing some serious shopping, either do it here or on St. Thomas. While everyone from the ship crowded into the ship's "recommended" jewelry store, we shopped at some more out of the way places, and my wife got a ring at very good price compared to the States. We also went to some bars and cafes, met some people from some other ships, and had a good time. Check out Senor Frogs, a complete hole in the wall with a lot of character. Of all the stops, this had the best downtown. It's a shame that Aruba comes early in the cruise when most people are anxious to hit the beach instead of going to town. Speaking of the beach, we didn't go there, but I talked to someone who did, and he told me that the wind was blowing so hard they practically got sandblasted. La Guaira: Most of the passengers never left the ship at this port. Their loss. The port talk does its best to talk you into taking the tour, which runs $80 per person, and spends most of its time at a glass factory, where they apparently put on a heavy sales pitch to get you to buy glass figurines. Don't listen to them, and don't let the look of La Guaira scare you away from Caracas. La Guaira is a port. It's like docking in Hoboken, NJ and thinking you're really in New York City. There is a lot of poverty in Venezuela, but there are also some very nice areas. La Guaira just isn't one of them. We hired a taxi driver for the day for $100. The driver took us everywhere we wanted to go, walked around the city with us, pointed out all of the sites, translated for us when we wanted to buy souvenirs, paying for them with local currency and letting us reimburse him with US dollars, and took us to a nice local restaurant for genuine Venezuelan food. He was friendly, helpful and informative. I can't imagine a better tour guide. He stayed with us the entire day, and never left our side. All this for $60 less than we would have paid to sit on a bus, drive around the countryside and watch someone blow glass. (I have nothing against a glass factory except that there are a number of them in the States, and I hate to go all the way to Venezuela to see something I could just as easily see in Syracuse). Be aware that Caracas is a huge city, along the lines of New York or LA. If you would feel uncomfortable in New York, don't go to Caracas since it is almost as big, but foreign. But if you like the city, you will love Caracas. It has a feel and a personality unlike any city in the USA, and the people we met were all very friendly. It also has a very beautiful downtown. I'm sure there is crime and such, as in any city, but I never felt ill at ease while walking the streets there. Much like you don't typically go into Harlem when you visit New York City, you don't go to the bad areas of Caracas. Personally, Caracas was my second favorite stop (next to Dominica). Grenada: After spending the entire day in Caracas on Tuesday, we didn't feel up to a whole day of touring on Grenada. We just went into town for an hour or so. What a waste. We found ourselves thinking of the Titanic as the ships passengers all rushed to get on the lifeboats (which they used for tenders) while the string quartet played classical music in the foyer. This set a proper mood of disaster for the rest of the day in Grenada. You can't walk ten feet in Grenada without someone trying to sell you something - usually some disgusting looking spices on a string. The setting of the town is very pretty, but it is clearly not set up for tourists. There is actually very little to see or do there. Most of the other passengers who went to town were, like us, heading right back to the ship within an hour. I talked to someone who went to the beach, and they said that the beach was pretty, but they got so sick of people trying to sell them stuff that they left early. The guidebooks all say that the interior of the island is lovely, so maybe that part of the island would be worth the trip. However, you only get 6 hours in Grenada, and you'll spend an hour getting the tender in and back, so in my opinion it really doesn't make much sense to even leave the ship. Dominica: The only word I can use to describe Dominica is paradise. This is the most beautiful place I have ever been. There are no real beaches here, but you'll never miss them. You will be too caught up ogling the natural beauty and variety of Dominica's rain forests. Once again, we passed on the ship's tour and hired a taxi driver for a private tour. For $80 we hired a driver for the whole day, who drove us all around the island, took us to the main sites and answered all of our questions. This was actually a splurge, since you could have gotten together with two other couples and hired a driver in a van for around the same price. You absolutely have to go to both the emerald pool and Trafalger falls. Disney has spent millions of dollars trying to duplicate a place like the emerald pool, without coming anywhere close. It is a very easy hike down from the road, and you will only lose your breath when you get to the bottom and catch sight of the falls and pool. I didn't believe that such places actually existed. Don't mar the beauty of it by sharing it with 200 other people on the ship's tour. Trafalgar falls is equally breathtaking. Separate cascades come down on either side of you in the lush rain forest. Here's a tip for seeing Trafalgar falls. When you get to the viewing platform, you will notice a trail going further down the mountain. Don't let your guide talk you out of going down there. (You aren't allowed to go if you are on the official tour). The beginning part is not very steep and gets you a better close-up of the falls. And, for the truly daring (and spry), you can climb the rocks to the very base of the falls for an unbelievable view. Believe me the risk is worth it. In case you haven't figured it out, this was my favorite stop on this cruise. St. Thomas: St. Thomas is designed for cruise ship passengers. Some might say it's overrun with cruise ship passengers. You will be one of about eight ships in port when you get there. We spent the morning at Magen's Bay in St. Thomas. Magen's Bay is a picturesque beach in a tropical cove surrounded by lush mountains and forests. It is also as crowded as Ocean City in the middle of August. If you don't mind the crowd, it's a nice place to go. It's a U.S. National park, and there are changing and restroom facilities, a snack bar, and a gift shop. Despite the palm trees, there is no doubt that you are back in the USA. Rent a couple of floating mats and go for a swim. The water is lovely. We also went into town to do some shopping. That was a mistake. The merchants’ downtown are almost as annoying and aggressive as the peddlers in Grenada, but without the sympathy factor of Grenada's obvious poverty. Each jewelry shop has a pitchman that stands outside and hassles the tourists who don't enter their shop. Some were quite rude about it. We were in St. Thomas on a previous cruise, and the amount of aggressiveness has increased quite a bit since then. If you wish to shop, I would suggest you go to the shops near the port, which have comparable, and in some cases cheaper, prices and far less of an attitude. By all means, if you like to drink now and then, buy your allotment of duty free alcohol in St. Thomas. The prices are actually more than 50% cheaper than in the states. I bought a few bottles of Single Malt Scotch, which I wouldn't even think of buying in the states. 6. My Top 10 things to do on this Cruise: 10. Floating on a mat in the middle of Magans Bay, St. Thomas. 9. Bar hopping in downtown Oranjestad, Aruba. Don't miss Senor Frog's. 8. Sit down dining at the Horizon Court at a quiet table for two. 7. Sitting at the windjammer bar, smoking a Cuban cigar, and watching the ship slowly sail away from port as the sun sets. 6. Playing one of the three nickel slot machines hidden in the back corner of the casino. It takes so much longer to lose your money that way. 5. Taking an all day private tour of Caracas, Venezuela. 4. Snacking on the pizza margarita in the pizza parlor. 3. Sunning by the aft pool, sipping a pina coloda, and alternating between the hot tub, the pool and the lounge chair. 2. Sneaking yet another panna cotta dessert in the Horizon Court. Yum. 1. Touring Emerald Falls and Trafalgar Falls in Dominica. By far the highlight of the cruise.

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Nov 30, -0001

South Caribbean Explorer

Overall, the cruise was excellent. Obviously if I'm at a site like this so soon after the cruise I'm most likely going to go on another one. The ship: I was really impressed with the ship. Even though it's a couple years old, it was hard to tell. Everything seemed to be new or at least extremely well-kept. My only complaint was that they were re-varnishing all the handrails, so often you couldn't look over a railing without ruining

a shirt. Some of the hot tubs were out of order on a regular basis too. But other than that, excellent. The room: We stayed in an inside stateroom on the ninth deck. Three of us were in one room, but it was adequate. Our stewardess, Barbara, was excellent. She introduced herself the first day, and our room was tidy all the time. She even folded some of our clothes and put our bought pictures up in the mirror. Near the end of the week-long cruise they seemed to be having some problems with the sewage system, as the toilet water smelled. But it wasn't too bad. The food: Normally, we ate breakfast in the Horizon court area. It was a little disappointing. But decent for buffet food. We usually ate lunch in the dining room, and that was great. Usually the service was good, and the food was pretty good also. We had a second-seating dinner in the Florentine dining room, which is identical to the Venetian one a floor above. Our service was pretty good. The waiter, Benji, had to do more then necessary because our assistant waiter was incompetent and rude. I had to ask for refills on water several times. The head waiter, Salvatore, was a jerk. He hardly ever talked to us, and when he did, it was so obvious that he was doing it just for a tip. When we left on the last night without leaving a tip for him, he made a rude, sarcastic comment. There were three of us, and we sat at a six-person table. Our tablemates were a couple from Florida and their son. They were great company. The ports: Aruba: It was a little worse than what I had expected. We tried to go snorkeling, but it sold out insanely fast. So we just shopped the whole time, which wasn't bad. The shopping was quite good. Venezuela: We weren't really willing to pay $90 to go to Venezuela, so we made the mistake of getting off the ship and wandering around in La Guiara, Caracas' port city. What a dump. Although from what I've heard, Caracas is an interesting place. Grenada : We had to take a tender in because our ship was too large to dock. Luckily, we had gotten a rainforest/waterfall tour. The forest was lush, and the waterfall was also really nice. In addition, we got fresh bananas, and a look at a little spice "factory." Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. Dominica: At this port we decided to do whale and dolphin watching. Although we didn't see any whales, we did get to see some dolphins. They also took us snorkeling for a little bit. The area wasn't terrific, but it was interesting nonetheless. I heard that the Emerald pool tour is really good, although the second we got off the dolphin watching boat we were harassed by the local taxi drivers and drug dealers. (We got offered weed three times.) St. Thomas: We golfed at Mahogany Run here. Although the pictures of the course looked great, they failed to mention that there are only three that look like this. The course itself was dry, and difficult too. We were all a little disappointed by it. For $150 including club and cart rental, we could've done something a lot more enjoyable. The people who sat at our table went diving there, and said it was incredible. Entertainment: Usually we made ourselves busy with various activities, listening to the steel drum band, etc. Sometimes we sat poolside late at night. We attended the show "Pirates," which was more of a technical display of lighting technology than anything. For one, all the characters wore microphones, which in my mind is a sign of unprofessional actors. The plot was non-existant. The "Jammers" nightclub had a good atmosphere, although it was crowded. The Wheelhouse bar had an excellent jazz band playing nightly, and the decor was nice. We also enjoyed staying in the Horizon late at night, even though they had a cabaret act that was less than spectacular. They also had a "teen disco" which I assume wasn't that great because usually teens think they're "too cool" for that type of thing. Embarkation/Disembarkation : We arrived in San Juan at about 11 AM. There were Princess people scattered all over the airport, so it was hard to miss them. They took us out to the shuttle, and we were at the dock by 11:30. It seemed a little disorganized, but we there were enough employees to keep things running smoothly without too much of a wait. Even though the brochure said embarkation didn't start until two, were on the boat at noon. Disembarkation was well organized. However, Princess did a horrible job of arranging a flight home. We were off the ship at around 10 AM, but our flight didn't leave until 5:30. They offered two things to do in San Juan, neither of which appealed to us. So we waited in the airport, along with many others in the same position. I can understand them booking a flight that late, but they should at least ask the customer before they do it. We would've liked to be home in Denver a little earlier. Overall: It was a great experience. We're already planning our next cruise to the Mediterranean.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean Voyager

Background:   This was my fourth cruise.  I have previously cruised with Carnival and twice with Celebrity.  I am an airline employee and I booked through an interline travel agency about one month prior to sailing. Embarkation:   We flew nonstop between Atlanta and San Juan.  I had not affixed the Princess luggage labels to my baggage as I wanted to see them at the airport in Puerto Rico.  San Juan Airport

was quite chaotic since Saturday afternoon is a peak arrival time.  We bought a taxi voucher from the booth outside of baggage claim and proceeded to the ship.  We arrived at the ship at about 3:30 p.m. and there were about 20 people in line for check-in.  We left our luggage in a corner beside the x-ray machine hoping that we would see it again.  The check-in process took less than five minutes.  Once on board we were led to our cabin.  We waited nearly five hours for the last of our bags to show up.  We were later told that baggage left at the check-in desk was the last to be delivered to the room.  It would have been much easier to have attached the Princess luggage tags and not dealt with the baggage at the airport. Cabin:   Our cabin was a small, inside twin cabin, D333 on the Dolphin deck.  As I had booked through an interline agency I had no choice as to the exact location, only inside or outside.  The location turned out to be ideal.  The pizzeria and casino were on the same deck and the large lounges were one deck down.  I would not have wanted to be any closer to the bow of the ship, though, as the ship's movement was more apparent the further forward one went.  The cabin could have been converted into a queen bed configuration if we had desired.  There was a mini-fridge, TV, very good lighting, and adequate drawer and closet space.  The bathroom was very small but the shower had good water pressure.  I liked how the mini-fridge was not a mini-bar.  It was empty and could be used immediately for our own beverages.  We had purchased the "Special Occasions" package and the bottle of Moet et Chandon Champagne was waiting in an ice bucket.  This package was an excellent value.  For $79 we received the welcome Champagne, full breakfast with a bottle of Korbel sparkling wine one morning, hors d'oeuvres one evening, and a framed portrait.  The portrait alone would have been about $45 and the first bottle of Champagne $36.  Our Filipino steward kept the room spotless and we saw him only three times ... outside of our room waiting when we were late going to dinner! There are complimentary washers and dryers on most decks (bring your own detergent or buy some from the machine). Ship:  The Dawn Princess is a very large ship (77,000 tons).  Since the public rooms are spread over six decks it took nearly a full day to find our way around.  At first I thought that having the lounges, restaurants, and spas in so many different places was poor planning.  I later realized that this made the ship always feel uncrowded.  Although the ship was booked at or near capacity (2000 people) it never felt full.  The Sun, Lido, and Riviera decks are especially well-designed.  Scattered around these decks are four pools and five whirlpool spas.  We never had any problem finding a well-located deck chair, whether in the sun or the shade.  My favorite was the freshwater pool in the aft of the Riviera deck.  It was flanked by spas and away from the bustle of the central pools.      There are two main lounges, the Princess Theater and the Vista Lounge.  The theater was set up with tiered cinema seating facing a large stage.  The lack of tables here meant that one could enjoy the show without having to look around  cocktail waitresses.  The large production routines were performed here as well as recently released movies.  We felt the most motion in this room, though.  One evening after the show I felt like I was waiting to get off an airplane as it took 15 minutes to climb the stairs behind the elderly people barely keeping their balance.  The Chinese acrobat troupe nearly landed in my lap on the front row as their human pyramid was not designed for the motion.  The Vista Lounge was a more traditional setup with cocktail tables placed among the seats.  It was smaller than the theater so it was used more for comedians or individual performers.      Jammer's Disco is well-designed but under utilized until late at night.  The Horizon Court is a very institutional looking cafeteria but with outstanding ocean views.  The Venetian and Florentine dining rooms are identical rooms which feel smaller than they are.  The Wheelhouse Bar is the nicest of the lounges but unfortunately it is full of "unwanted" auction artwork.      The Salon and Health Spa is run by the cruise spa conglomerate, Steiner's.  I know why I have recently gotten good haircuts at home - all of the no-talent stylists are cutting and burning the hair of clients they will probably never see again in international waters.  One day Steiner's will actually train its workers to style hair.  Needless to say I was not happy with my haircut.  I got my hair cut on Celebrity's Century (in another Steiner's Salon, no less) on my last cruise and it was just as bad.  Adjacent to the Salon is a nice-sized, if underused gym and also an aerobics room.  I walked around the Promenade Deck six times (two miles) a day so I never felt compelled to use the gym.      The casino is a nice size in the middle of the ship and has table games and slot machines (even a few nickel slots).  It was never crowded.  The croupiers were English.  Clientele:   The ship made announcements only in English and usually just twice a day.  Probably half of the passengers were British.  There were no more than two dozen children on the entire ship even though there was a play center and video arcade.  The few Spanish and Italian passengers seemed to be bilingual.  The average age was 50+.  We are both 34 and we were definitely part of the younger crowd. Food and Beverage Service:   The meal service was the disappointment of the cruise.  The Italian night dinner in the main dining room was memorable but the other meals were nothing special.  The wait staff is mostly Eastern European.  They aim to please but we often felt rushed.  We had a reservation for the late seating but after the first night we couldn't stand the smell of our tablemates (Americans, like us) so we changed to the early seating.  The cruise itinerary we took really did not accomodate such an early dinner time.  The food was poorly prepared and potatoes were used with nearly every entree including chicken and fish.  In a word - bland.  Since the Princess ships are now British registered I guess they don't want to go out on a limb with their cuisine.  It's sad when one eats meals off fine china with silver utensils that could have been prepared better in the kitchen at home.  The fine dining atmosphere and service was omnipresent but the food was of the meat and two vegetables quality.  Even worse were the buffets.  They should be called leftover tables because the lunch buffets always had the soup and entree that didn't quite go over the night before.  The cafeteria-line presentation reminded me of eating in a boisterous college dining hall.  Princess really needs to improve its cuisine.  One other thing I have read about over and over again is the ice cream.  Princess has contracted this out so it is not included in the fare.  This really stinks and I was glad that we never saw anyone buy a scoop the entire week.  Ice cream is free in the main dining rooms only.  Once we went to the dining room after eating the sushi buffet lunch (semi-sticky rice around mysterious vegetable tidbits ... hardly any fish at all) just to enjoy an ice cream dessert.  For those on a diet there is a different and tasty sorbet every evening on the dessert menu.  The best items on the menu are the appetizers.  The caviar and crab cakes are good.  The pizzeria had tasty pizzas but they could add some salads or vegetables to their menu.  It stayed open until 2:00 a.m.  The only room service we had was continental breakfast and then a full breakfast one morning as part of our package.  It always arrived exactly on time.      The beverage service was good and very fairly priced.  Most cocktails were $3.95 plus 15% gratuity.  The wine menu prices were so inexpensive that I lamented lugging my four bottles of wine onto the ship.  The waiter would charge a $10 corkage fee if your wine was not on the ship's wine list.  Two of mine were but the other times we simply walked into the dining room with one glass each and no one seemed to mind.  We could always find a cocktail waiter walking around the pool decks but we were never overly solicited to purchase anything.  This relaxed attitude was most welcome. Entertainment:   The production shows were all very good.  The dancing girls never failed to delight their ancient audience.  We never saw the comedians but we heard all week that they were awful.  The pianist in the Atrium Lounge had a very dry sense of humor but he was musically talented.  There were two other small musical groups playing in alternating lounges.  The artwork I talked of in the Wheelhouse Bar was part of Princess' never-ending art auction series.  Almost every day there was another one.  No one seemed to ever buy anything and the junk just cluttered up a good portion of the Promenade Deck.  In my opinion the art auctions need to go the same way as the fee-per-scoop ice cream stand ... overboard!   We left San Juan about an hour late since we were waiting on late arrivals.  The first port was St.Thomas and since it is less than 80 miles away we still arrived on time.  St.Thomas is the cruise industry's favorite island and it is jaded.  The locals are pushy and everything is crowded.  Still, it has the infrastructure to halfway handle the large numbers of tourists.  We docked at Havensight which is about 1 1/2 miles from downtown adjacent to a slum.  Since we were there on a Sunday we were told the downtown shops would close at 1:30 p.m.  We had been there once before and found that there are no bargains so we took a cab to Magen's Bay Beach ($4 per person each way but since the driver conveniently didn't have change it cost $10 for the two of us).  The beach is very nice for sunning and swimming and it is safe for children.  After returning to the ship we shopped at Havensight which stayed open as long as the ship was there.  Duty-free liquor was the only thing cheaper than back home.      On Monday we docked off of St.Kitts.  We wanted to take the Nevis Sailaway excursion but I had put off paying for it ($84 per person) as I thought it was too expensive.  When we decided to go for it, it was sold out.  We were put on a waiting list and the purser called us at 6:45 a.m. saying he had a cancellation! I thought the weather must have turned ugly so I ran outside to take a quick look and called him back to take him up on the offer after verifying that it was not raining.  This excursion was excellent! We tendered to the pier and then boarded a catamaran.  There were far more people on it than would have been allowed in the USA.  I was about to get set in the mood of being crammed onto a windy wet sailboat when things changed.  The crew was very friendly and waited on our every desire.  They served everyone a round of drinks (non-alcoholic) as we headed down the coast for a snorkeling stop.  There wasn't much to see in the water but the trip was just getting started.  The sails were raised and we whisked across the channel to Nevis.  During the crossing the crew served drinks again, this time whatever you wanted.  We pulled up onto a beach in Nevis to find no one except the caterers for our beach barbeque! The beach was probably two miles long and it was all ours.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was festive.  On the way back to the ship the crew served more drinks and played island music and danced and talked with a very satisfied group of happy people.      The next day we were in Martinique.  We did not book an excursion here.  We docked directly at the pier in downtown Fort-de-France so we just walked around a little.  Since taxis are $40 an hour I would suggest taking a shore excursion if you want to see the island.  Those that we talked to enjoyed the trip through the rain forest to St.Pierre.  We went to the fort at the harbor entrance and enjoyed looking around even though the guide's English was unintelligible.      On Wednesday we docked at Isla Margarita, Venezuela.  The port is in the middle of nowhere.  We purchased the El Agua Beach excursion for $22 each.  The beach is about an hour from the ship and we only had about 1 1/2 hours to enjoy it.  The ship left shortly after 1:00 p.m. and Princess should either skip this stop or lengthen the stay.  Since there is nothing anywhere near the ship they should at least consider docking closer to the main town.  The beach was very beautiful but there were too many peddlers.      Curacao was our favorite.  We docked right downtown.  Willemstad is picture-postcard pretty.  The Dutch architecture along with the bright pastel colors are unforgettable.  We took a snorkeling trip to a shallow wreck on the reef in the Underwater Marine Park.  This excursion was a great bargain at $29 per person.  The snorkeling sight was very crowded but there was so much to see that it didn't really detract from the experience.  Rum punch and soft drinks were served on the return ride to Willemstad.  We had time for lunch on board the Dawn Princess before walking around the center of the town.  As we pulled away that evening the Queen Emma Floating Bridge swung open and the locals stood on the quay and waved.  Even though Curacao is a popular port of call its residents are much, much friendlier than in St.Thomas.  Friday was spent at sea reflecting on the busy week we had enjoyed. Disembarkation:   American Airlines and Delta Air Lines had representatives on board to arrange for advance check-in.  This was very convenient.  Since our flight didn't leave until mid-afternoon we booked an excursion to El Yunque rain forest.  We were one of the first groups off since we were on the tour.  The procedure took all of ten minutes.  Since we were already checked in for our flight we just dropped our luggage off at a truck with our airline's logo.  We had been given a sealed envelope earlier in the morning with the baggage tags.  We waited for about 30 minutes in the tour bus for a couple that never showed up but we still left at the time designated in the excursion brochure.  The rain forest was very interesting but about six hours were needed to see it and we tried to cover it in four.  After the tour the bus dropped us at the airport where we again saw a mass of humanity waiting for their flights.  I recognized a good many of the people and since they were half-asleep I'm sure they had sat around doing nothing for 4 1/2 hours.  If you have an afternoon flight don't just wait at the airport! Take a tour or walk around Old San Juan. I would recommend this cruise for almost anyone.  The food is not so good but it would be easier for Princess to upgrade the food than change the ship! The shore excursions were all professionally handled.  The entertainment was good and embarkation was hassle-free.  I imagine that the ship is well-suited for children as well.  It has a large facility for them which was rarely used.  There was only one deck party with a buffet.  It was a nice tropical affair but the food, once again, was barely edible.  In spite of this I would not hesitate to take a Dawn Princess cruise again simply because of the ship design and lack of crowds.  The laid-back atmosphere made for an extremely relaxing, unobtrusive week of tropical vacation.

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Nov 30, -0001

San Juan, At Sea, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St.

Background: My husband and I are in our late 40's and now living in Minneapolis. This is our 4th cruise, our first on Princess. The other 3 were on RCI (Song of Norway, Monarch of the Seas, Sovereign of the Seas). We travel with another couple our age from California. We had taken our teenage daughter on the previous two cruises, but this time she stayed at college and we took our 13 year old twin boys (their first cruise). We used Frequent

Flyer miles from Delta to purchase our airline tickets to San Juan. We left Minneapolis at 5:50am and arrived in San Juan at 2:40pm. This is our first time making our own flight arrangements and we think it is the best way to go. Once at the SJ airport, we were able to bypass all the other Princess cruisers waiting for the bus, grabbed a cab to the ship ($20 and quite the exciting ride), and were at the pier at 3:10pm. Princess still handled our luggage. We arrived at check-in before the busload of people, walked right up to the counter, and were in our room on the Dawn Princess by 3:30pm. The phone rang almost immediately, it was our friends from California, so we met in the Grand Plaza in 5 minutes.  Ship: We thought the ship was beautiful, very well-cared for without any signs of wear, tastefully decorated and spotlessly clean. We had a difficult time all week knowing which direction we were headed on board, often making wrong turns, but that is because we were too lazy to put much effort into figuring it out. The ship does offer a couple tours to orient passengers, so we think perhaps getting lost or turned around is a common complaint. We did find that if you want to get from one end of the ship to the other, the best way is to go to the Promenade Deck (7) and walk outside - by far the easiest way to get to either the Theater or Lounge, and to the elevators both fore and aft.  Stateroom: This is our first time with a window and we enjoyed it immensely. We needed a quad room and there don't seem to be many available. There was adequate closet/drawer space for all our stuff with all the bags sliding under the beds. The room was certainly larger than RCI rooms and the shower larger. It was nicely decorated with a refrigerator to store Cokes and Island beer. The two upper beds are stored in the ceiling so during the day there is plenty of room to move around. The room steward would bring them down while we were at dinner. The only down side to this is that there weren't four beds for afternoon naps, something we could have used a couple days! We thought the tv was much too small - the shelf it sits on would certainly accommodate a 19 inch and I think the tv was only a 12 inch. Lying in bed the picture wasn't large enough. Our friends had an inside room with the bed made into a queen. They also thought the room much larger than before but after our week of describing what we viewed out our window, they have definitely decided to get at least a window room next time. Our stateroom steward, Ronald, was excellent. I don't think we are particularly messy but he kept our room spotless and always called us by name. Food: We thought Princess food, while beautifully presented, was bland and forgettable. There were several soups that were excellent, but the desserts were just very good and we missed not getting Key Lime Pie. Very few entrees made an impression, although all beef dishes came exactly as ordered (medium was medium; medium rare was medium rare, etc.) The wait staff were very accommodating, especially to our boys. The pasta was very good and the boys often had it as their entree. There was never a problem substituting a different sauce (e.g. tomato instead of mushroom). Most nights our waiters, Leo and Armando, would bring several extra desserts so that we could try everything. They were really outstanding, always having the boys' milk at the table and refilling it throughout dinner. After the first night they figured out which twin was which, calling them by name, and always giving Ryan chocolate milk and Alex white milk. Princess had two bottles of wine in each of our staterooms, which we chilled and brought to dinner on four separate nights, and we were never charged a corking fee. Our water glasses were always kept full and after dinner coffee served promptly. At this point I would like to bring up a distressing situation we had in the dining room. A large family (14 adults, a boy about four and a girl about 2) were at the other two tables serviced by our waiters. After the first night, this family would come to dinner over the space of 1-1 1/2 hours. One couple arrived right at 6:15 each night, then the other 12 would drift in, some arriving as late as 7:50. You can imagine how difficult this was for our waiters who would have to play catch-up. Often our Head Waiter, Mario, would actually have to go to the kitchen to prepare their entrees (just because they arrived late didn't mean they didn't order EVERY course). The nights they had Bananas Flambe or Cherries Jubilee, the dessert items had been shut down so Mario would have to fire it up again just for this group.  I am sure that on Royal Caribbean the dining room doors were closed 30 minutes after dinner started, to prevent this type of abuse of the wait staff by inconsiderate passengers. I think Princess should do the same. While I must admit our service was incredible the first 45 minutes of our meal (before the majority of the others came in), we often had to wait 15-20 minutes between entree and dessert while Leo and Armando hustled to wait on the others. The only real upside to this was that this family was quite loud and boisterous, so we had a nice, quiet meal to start. By the time we did receive our desserts, the noise level was so loud we were grateful to escape. However, I must also say that their two children were the best behaved I have ever encountered, certainly with better manners than the parents. We didn't try the Pizzeria until Friday and were sorry we waited. It really is some of the best pizza and calzone we have ever had. Don't miss it! The outdoor grill food (hamburgers, grilled chicken, bratwurst, etc.) was fine both times we used it but the service was really bad, the only rude staff we encountered. We ate at the Horizon Court for breakfast and one lunch (most days we were in port so skipped lunch) and it was typical buffet food. This cruise is marketed heavily in Britain as a two-week trip and the food at the buffet reflected this - baked beans, English bacon, English sausages, etc. (we were told there were 800 British folk on board and it certainly seemed like it).  Entertainment: This is where we were really disappointed. Princess has horrible shows, a real disappointment. The magician, comedian, and jugglers we saw were fun and very good - the stage shows were boring and unimaginative. The final stage show was cancelled due to a dancer being injured - we were lucky (according to those who had seen it the night before) and got to see "The Sixth Sense" instead.  There were several other movies shown in the Princess Theater including "Notting Hill", "Arlington Road", and "The Thomas Crown Affair." They were usually on at 3pm or 10:45pm, not really convenient times. And they did not show these movies in the staterooms, which I am sure RCI did. There were other movies shown in the rooms, older ones like "You've Got Mail", "The Haunting", etc.  The string quartet in the lobby before dinner was great. The different lounge singers/bands were very good so these are worthwhile. We participated in Trivia and Passenger Feud, made a lot of fun by the cruise staff. Service: Really outstanding. We thought the overall service much better than RCI. The Cruise Director was very good (Paul Burns) as were his staff. They were always very friendly when you saw them in the public areas. On RCI the cruise staff seemed more interested in talking to each other, ignoring the passengers. Everyone was very accommodating and polite, except for those guys at the Grill.  The wait staff were all impressive. At the Horizon Court one morning, Larry had gone to get more coffee, leaving Ryan at the table alone. A huge group of Greeks or Armenians, travelling together and speaking a foreign language, started moving in on Ryan, sitting at his table even though he told them the seats were taken. Quite intimidating for a 13 year old. A waiter found Larry right away, telling him Ryan needed help, so Larry hurried over. This was not our usual waiter, but one near us in the dining room, who not only knew who we were but knew that Ryan and Larry were together. And took it upon himself to help Ryan. Quite impressive! Islands/Tours: We have been to Barbados before so rented a van and headed out. We wanted to visit Harrison's Caves again, which we enjoy, and saw most every back road of Barbados since I kept getting lost. But the islanders are very helpful and friendly so we had lots of fun. Driving on the left with the steering wheel on the right was a challenge but the boys listed "Mom's driving on Barbados" as a highlight of the trip. The Volendam and Galaxy were also in port here. St. Lucia was a delight. We all agreed it is the most beautiful island we have seen, very tropical and lush. We did the Land and Sea Tour to Mt. Coubril Estate and were delighted. The bus was new and comfortable, the driver and tour guide very good. The volcano was interesting, the Estate fascinating, and the Catamaran back to the ship a highlight. The Captain played great Reggae music, had the rum punch flowing and the passengers dancing. It rained the whole way back but we never cared. Great fun.  St. Kitts - we hired a taxi driver who gave us a tour of the Fort, the batik factory, the botanical gardens and an hour at Turtle Beach where the boys snorkeled. Very good tour and nice day. Cost was $120 for five of us. On St. Maarten we shopped a little in the morning then did the America's Cup Regatta in the afternoon. This is some of the most fun we have ever had. Three boats raced and we won! It's a lot of work, although I was just the timekeeper and my friend Judy was the bartender, so while we didn't work hard, our jobs were VERY important! I highly recommend this tour. Since we have been to St. Thomas twice before, we took the ferry to St. John's and spent several hours at Trunk Bay. Absolutely gorgeous and we felt it was just the amount of relaxing we needed after five pretty hectic days. The boys all snorkeled and loved it. The most beautiful water we've ever seen. The Nordic Empress and an NCL ship (sister to the Wind but I don't remember the name) were also in port. Disembarkation: We had a 1:00pm flight on Delta so were the third group off the ship. We found our luggage right away, checked it at the Delta truck, grabbed a cab and were at the San Juan airport at 8:45am. Here is another advantage of making your own reservations - we didn't have to wait for the bus to take us so were able to get on the 9:30am flight to Atlanta, made that connection, and were in Minneapolis at 2:45pm. We did have to wait for our luggage which was on the 7:00pm flight, but found waiting in the Crown Room in Minneapolis for 3 hours preferable to waiting 3 hours in San Juan airport. We could have driven home and come back, but decided we would watch football and drink Cokes instead.  Final thoughts: We had a great time. We missed the dancing waiters at dinner - Royal Caribbean dinners were just more fun. Princess was a very nice cruise line and we have no complaints. We found the level of cruisers to be classier, which we liked, but because the entertainment was so lacking, we doubt we would kill ourselves to do another Princess cruise. We did decide that you just have to try different cruise lines to discover what matters to you when you cruise. The robes in the room were lovely, but we hardly used them. We would rather have a larger tv. We missed the Viking Crown Lounge - we never did find a good place on the Dawn Princess to sit and watch the ship arrive in port or sail out. The boys enjoyed the video arcade but didn't spend a lot of time there. They had a great time, even though there weren't many children on board, and can't wait to cruise again. By the way, Larry rents a tux for cruising because it's so convenient - he likes to pack less stuff. I went to a rummage sale last fall and found the boys each an almost new, double-breasted suit (for $4.00 each) so they looked quite spiffy. They are growing like crazy so I wanted them to dress appropriately, but didn't want to spend a lot of money for a one-time dressy occasion. They loved dressing up. Goodwill and Salvation Army stores also have suits for cheap! There is no financial reason that everyone can't look good. About half the men were in tuxes and looked very nice.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

The cruise check-in prior to boarding went very smooth and quick in Seward. Princess does a great job at streamlining this process. We checked into our balcony cabin around 7PM for a 10PM sailing. Having only previously been in an inside cabin I guess I expected the balcony to be appreciably larger, not the case. The bathroom size was shockingly small but functional. Sure hope the newly built ships have improved in this area (probably

wishful thinking). The ship was easy to get around in after a couple of days. A tip here would be to do your homework as to the ships layout before you get on board (break it down to fore, mid and aft locations on the popular decks). Using the stairs helped as the elevators were slow. We went on several shore tours while in port. All the tours were excellent but our favorite was the 2 hour helicopter trip to two different glaciers. Be sure to take your camcorder and keep it on most of the time as it will be memorable. All the tours were well organized and on time. The food and wait staff were excellent and not disappointed at any time. Our cabin attendant was also excellent with no complaints. We would have preferred to have this cruise one or two weeks later (first two weeks in July) for warmer weather but as it turned out it was near ideal (low 50's at night and mid-60's daytime). The scenery and vistas are beyond words and I am ready to go back again. Prior to the cruise we took a three day side trip to Denali National Park (8 hour train ride northeast from Anchorage). This is well worth the extra time and money and be sure to take the 8 hour wilderness tundra bus tour. On a good weather day Mt. McKinley is visible. In Denali we stayed at the Grande Denali Lodge which is situated high up the side of a mountain and has great views. If you fly in thru Anchorage take the train south to Seward to meet the boat. The train ride is well worth the time and the sights were some of the best. Start your planning at least 6-8 months in advance and it's advisable to use an agent that has previously booked Alaska cruises and/or land trips. Bring good walking shoes, binoculars, wind-breaker jacket and small cameras or camcorders. We lucked out but do bring rain gear to stay dry. We thoroughly enjoyed our Alaskan adventure and wouldn't hesitate doing it again.

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