Cruise Holidays - Attheta Travel

I am proud to be certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) as an Elite Cruise Counselor. The Cruise Counselor Certification Program is CLIA's most comprehensive training which requires agents to successfully complete a number of compulsory training courses and exams, attend cruise conferences, and conduct ship inspections. Anita Thompson, Attheta Travel

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cruise Feedback: Southern Caribbean Medley, Emerald Princess

Southern Caribbean Medley Cruise Summary – Emerald  Princess
January 17-27, 2012
Ned and Carolyn Nelson

Flights to Fort Lauderdale
            We flew Continental from Seattle through Houston because we wanted to stay away from the Midwestern winter problems.  Always a good plan.

Princess Pick up and Transfer to Sheraton Ft Lauderdale
            Princess Representative was waiting in baggage claim and had us 8 passengers on the bus in 20 minutes after our baggage was in hand.  Good Job
 
Sheraton- Ft Lauderdale
            An older property but with a great location right on the beach and within a block of the intercostal water taxi.  The bed was very good. You have to pay $10 a night for the Internet and their food prices are really high.  All things considered, I think we will go back to the Embassy Suites next time.
 
Princess Transfer to Ship
            Scheduled departure time was 1200 but we actually left at 1220 because of some late cruisers.  Bus ride is 10 minutes to the ship.  Princess took care of the baggage.

Embarkation
            We were directed into the priority boarding line because the regular line was so long and because we used the Princess Bus. The good news is that we were through security in about a minute and headed to check in.  Princess no longer makes you check in by decks instead you are directed to the shortest line.  Again, no line.  So after waiting for the boarding picture we were in our cabin 25 minutes after the bus departed the Sheraton.  Fantastic.

Sail away and Day 1- Ft Lauderdale
            The lines at the Horizon Buffet were painfully long but we were hungry enough to put up with the bother.  The mandatory Muster Drill was very crowded and seemed a little longer than normal probably because of the recent accident in Italy.  Sailaway in Ft Lauderdale is fun because of the crowds in the Condos and  on the beach.  Weather was perfect so it was a great way to start the cruise.

Day 2  - Princess Cays
            This was our third trip to Princess Cays.  Tender service was prompt and safe.  The grounds are perfect and we found lounges easily.  The bad news is that darn sun was really hot for us folks from Seattle.  Next time we are going to rent a clamshell cover.  We wanted to shop outside the gate but you now need a passport to do your shopping over there.

Day 3 – At Sea
            Princess has added activities so there is never an excuse that there was nothing to do.   There were 4 Trivial Pursuit games every day that were all filled to capacity.   You have to get up early to get a lounge in the sun because the cruisers are still putting their books and towels on them and then going back to bed or eating.   Princess does not enforce the no saving policy.

Day 4  -  St Thomas
            We took a taxi downtown and went through the stores.  Things are painfully expensive and we think the notion that this is a bargain center is way overblown.

Day 5   - Dominica
            We always use Princess Tours.  Too many horror stories about non-cruise line tours.  Took a  Princess bus ride around the island with stops at the botanical gardens and a waterfall.  We now like the shorter tours so we can return to the ship and do things there.
                                        
Day 6- Grenada
            Another bus ride around the island.  It was interesting to see the University which is where the US Marines staged a rescue back in the 80s.

Day 7 –Bonaire
            Our tour was a Glass Bottom Boat ride which was really neat.   There are 3 separate tours during the day and they are always all sold out so we were lucky.  Great hosts who know where all the marine life is.

Day 8 – Aruba
            Tour included a Butterfly Farm, the Aloe factory and a tour of the island.  The Butterfly Farm was the most interesting thing on the cruise.  We got some great pictures of Butterflies on Carolyn’s nose.  They loved her.  Other travelers were jealous.  NOTE:  There is a great Starbucks in the Renaissance Hotel lobby which is about a long block away from the pier for those of us who care.

Day 9- At Sea
            We love days at sea.  One thing we did not do is visit the Sanctuary which is an adult only area that you have to pay $10 for a half a day or $20 for the whole day.  Next time we’ll try it..  Again, no place to lay in the sun on any deck.  The Movies Under The Stars were always packed at night too.

Day 10 – At Sea
            This is the day you panic to do all the things you postponed earlier.  Princess asks that baggage be put out as soon as you can and so on this trip it seemed to be the most organized.  There were bags in the halls starting around 3 but they never seemed to be a problem.

Day 11 Disembark in Ft Lauderdale
            Princess is trying to improve on this usually painful part of the cruise experience.  We used EZCheck which meant our bags were sent directly from our cabin  to Seattle.  Princess will not let you sleep in.  They want to make sure you are out of your cabin by 8. We left the gathering lounge 30 minutes after the meeting time and were at the airport in 30 minutes later.  They let the EZCheck passengers off before all the folks looking for their luggage.  We will do this from now on.

The Emerald Princess Ship
            Typically wonderful ship.  Everything was clean and in good shape. 
     
Food (Dining Room)
            Thanks to Anita and Garry we always get a table with the perfect location and wonderful tablemates.  Great wait staff. We ate all dinners in the dining room.  Food was very good. 

Food (other venues on board)
            We try to use the dining rooms for breakfast and lunch too because of the crowds and to avoid the potential for picking up some diseases.  Wait times were minimal and we enjoyed the peace and quiet.  The International Café had good food all day.

Room Service
            Breakfasts were very tasty and always served right on time.
 
Cabin and Cabin Care
            This is the first time we have asked for an egg crate bed mattress.  Our bed was hard as a rock but much better after the addition.  Everything worked in the room.  Our attendant Manu from Thailand was very friendly and took good care of us.

Internet Service
            We paid the $100 for 250 minutes and used every minute.  The service is really slow especially on the last day. The Internet Café was always busy so we were glad we brought out laptop which worked just fine in our room.

Cell Phone Service
            We had notified Verizon to activate International coverage .  Service was excellent and our fees ranged from $1.49 to $2.99 a MINUTE depending on where we were.  Carolyn is hiding the Verizon bills because she talked a little too much.
 
Activities
            Too many things to do. We spent too much time addicted to the Trivial Pursuit games with our new friends.  We were obsessed with winning against some really smart competition.  We finally won the last game and proudly picked up our prize which was the $1.99 Princess Pen.  Ah, the thrill of victory.  After our victory we were recruited by a very nice English lady who was forming her team for the following cruise.  She really only wanted Carolyn but was willing to take me too.

Entertainment
            Princess is now running the Theaters shows 3 times every night.  And for the first time on any of our cruises we actually could not get into two of them. The cruisers get there early and are willing to stand in long lines to make sure they get in.  Production shows were good but the comedians, the hypnotist and others were only fair.  The lounge singers were good.  The Beatle Maniacs were especially good even with huge lines.

Shopping
            The SPA seemed to be especially busy on the ship.  Shops had the usual stuff which is not all bad. There are now excellent shopping areas just after you leave the piers in every port.  Prices did not seem out of line and there was good tourist stuff available.

Gambling
            We skipped gambling this trip because we can’t stand the smoke. Now that there is no smoking in Princess cabins the smokers all go to the casino. There were 2 No Smoking days in the casinos but the smoke smell lingers on.

Staff and Service
            Really good all around.  Princess does not be pushing drinks as hard as they used to.  There were hardly any waiters in the theater at all.

Tendering
            Very efficient at Princess Cays.

Disembark Process
            Usually one of our dreaded parts of cruising.  Princess is improving. See our notes above.

Transfer to Airport
            Took 10 minutes to fill up our bus.  Very efficient.  We are believers in Princess Transfers.  Taxi lines are very long when there are a lot of ships in port.

Ft Lauderdale Airport Departure     
            Be prepared for long lines and limited seating especially when multiple ships arrive.  There are more people sitting on the floors than at any airport we have ever seen. Not much food available in the US Air departure areas.  We are going to consider staying over a night after getting off the ship to avoid this problem.  Plus, it is a very long flight (s) back to Seattle after the stress of getting off the ship.
 
Insurance- Travel Guard
            Glad we didn’t have to use them;  but a necessity of cruise travel.