The Caribbean Princess embarkation process was one of the poorer ones we have experience on a cruise. We arrived at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale at around 11:40 PM, and the line had started outside the cruise port building. There were two lines- one was regular guests, the other for the "special" ones who were of platinum and elite status. This being our first Princess cruise, we were in the long line. It took over half an hour before we went inside. Once inside, we stood in a frozen line for literally over an hour until we were rushed through security and then checked-in and got our room keys. Then it was just another 5 minutes and then we go on board at around 1:20PM. At no point did we get to sit down despite a mass of empty chairs beyond the security line & the line for checking in. No refreshments were offered, and the drabby and plain inside of the building did not exactly build any excitement or alleviate the stress of waiting to get on-board.
Compared to our last cruise with Disney, this embarkation process was downright awful. NCL was better with less waiting + refreshments, and even the Carnival Cruises we were on had quicker embarkation. So it was definitely a bad first impression by Princess to start the cruise.
Caribbean Princess Cabin Review
We had an inside cabin on the Aloha deck. It was nice that once we got aboard, we were able to head directly to the cabin to drop off some items. This was a nice surprise as usually we had to wait until 2 or 2:30 PM until the cabin was ready. Upon going inside there was a nice "walk-in" closet area to the right which is also where the bathroom was. This walk-in closet was definitely a nice design, with plenty of open shelves.
The bathroom was tiny and did not have a shower door for the one-person shower. There was no shower gel nor shampoo dispensers, though there was a small build-in shelf under shower head. After getting spoiled by the 2 bathroom feature aboard the Disney Wonder, this definitely was a step backwards. But it was very similar to other NCL cruise ships we have been on, but just not as good.
Caribbean Princess Dining Review
Anytime Dining is more flexible than traditional dining. You can make a reservation ahead of time, but you can also show up at a designated Anytime Dining restaurant and wait in line for a seat. Some of our favorite appetizers was the Vegetable "Spring Rolls" (should be called egg rolls as they were fried). The skin on this egg rolls were perfect- moist and not oily, and the filling was tasty. It was definitely the best egg roll we have tasted on cruises.
Best main entrees we tasted during the Caribbean Princess cruise included braised oxtail pasta, Pan-Fried Orange Roughy with Vegetable Hay, Seared Sea Scallops over Nicoise-Style Vegetable Ratatouille, Grilled Filet of Rockfish in Bay Shrimp and Chablis Wine Sauce and Broiled Lobster Tail and King Prawns with Lemon Butter Fondue.
Notable desserts included the delicious Passion Fruit Souffle and the Crem Brulee. They were very high quality and tasty offerings.
Overall we felt the food quality in terms of execution was slightly better than Disney, and superior to the main dining rooms of the NCL cruises.
Service was pretty good- the wait staff was very attentive and friendly. Hemant from Island Dining Room offered exceptionally good service. There was one glaring exception when on our first sea day, we were sat next to a "deployment station" inside the Island Dining Room. Our server 1)didn't introduce himself, 2)kept us waiting for over 25 minutes to order after we received the menus, 3) kept making loud banging sounds with cabinets on the station, 4)and generally had an aloft and impatient attitude.
Another complaint also is the lack of a kid's menu. Our two year-old ate adult dishes we ordered that we thought he would eat- fettuccine alfredo and ravioli for instance. But certainly Princess Cruises should add a menu for kids- unless of course it is by design to make things not as kids-friendly as some of the other cruise lines. (edit: On the last night of the cruise we were offered a kid's menu, but it's odd that we were not provided this before in all the other nights we ate at the Island Dining Room).
Milk cartons for whole milk were also not available, so we had to resort to carrying glasses of milk back to our stateroom at night from the buffet.
The Horizon Court and the Caribe Buffet dining areas provided some pretty good offerings. The embarkation night seafood buffet had steamed mussels, cocktail shrimp, calamari steaks, baked and smoked salmon. There was a Bavarian theme night with a lot of different German sausages which were pretty good. The "Oriental" theme lunch was not very good, however. Overall the selection was superior to Disney cruises but not as broad as the Norwegian cruises we have been on. Service was terrific just like in the Island dining room. We were asked and brought drinks upon sitting down, and empty plates were removed quickly. The buffet service certainly was superior to the often too-busy staff on the NCL cruises we have been on. I was appalled that only plastic mugs (= BPA city) were available at the buffet. We're pretty health conscious, so that lack of ceramic cups for hot drinks really bothered us.
Prego Pizzeria offered some of the best pizza we have tasted on cruises. The thin crust was excellent. The pizza was very popular but the chefs offered quick service.
Specialty-dining wise, we wanted to try the Crowne Grill and Sabatini's (the Italian Restaurant). Unfortunately all the spots were booked by the time we tried to make a reservation- so if you want to get eat at either one of those restaurants (especially Crowne Grill), I recommend that you make reservations immediately upon boarding by dialing extension x6219.
Caribbean Princess Entertainment/Activities
The cruise director Dan Styne was the funniest cruise director we have had on cruises. Throughout the cruise before shows he made quite a few LOL jokes on stage. The dancing and singing shows were generally pretty good, though NCL and Disney had better productions. The Caribbean Princess also had Hawly Magic one night and they were pretty good. Comedian Rodney Johnson performed the last night of the cruise with some very funny material. Too bad he was only on for on night. Seats at the Princess Theater were usually jam-packed and we found that you have to arrive at least 20 minutes early to get a spot. Princess also had live music on deck 5. It was also a venue for other performances such as a juggling act.
One activity we enjoyed was the free Zumba classes which took place during sea days in the afternoon. Lead by a Caribbean Dawn dancer, it was a fun and energetic way to burn off some extra calories ingested during the cruise.
Overall we enjoyed our Caribbean Princess Cruise. It was not very different than the NCL Cruises we have taken in the past, except there were way more seniors onboard. Also the food execution was slightly better, especially in the main dining room. Service was good overall. The cruise ports were interesting. Princess Cays (good BBQ, beach w/o having to pay extra), Aruba (cactus and rock garden) and Curacao (Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge) were all ports we never visited before, and we had been on quite o few Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruises.
We enjoyed our time aboard the Caribbean Princess and give it a rating of 4/5 stars.
Caribbean Princess Pros
-cabin ready upon boarding
-good dining room service
-good execution of food (= good chefs) in general in the main dining room
-breakfast ends at 11:30AM
-ports that differentiate from other cruise lines (Princess Cays, Curacao, Aruba)
-informative cruise summary sheet provided at the end of the cruise
Caribbean Princess Cons
-terrible embarkation process
-no ceramic cups for hot drinks at buffet restaurant
-no room to sit during muster drill
-internet is more expensive than other cruise ship/cruise lines
-no kid's menu provided until last night of cruise; no milk cartons for kids
-very bumpy when en route from Princess Cays to Curacao
-loud unnecessary in-cabin announcements at or before 10 AM woke us up a couple of times
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