Tuesday 14 January 2014

Crown Princess: A Caribbean Cruise

We were up early on Saturday morning for the 4 hour drive down to Ft. Lauderdale. We loaded into the 12 seater van, and began our long drive. Between suitcases and 8 people we were loaded to the max. I was the navigator so I got to ride shotgun which was a fantastic way to make the trip! (I did offer to be navigator in the back, but everyone was fine with me staying up front). The first thing we did once on the road was get gas, the second was to find a Starbucks (thanks in part to me being navigator!) Once the truck was full of gas, and the passengers full of caffeine we set off along the highway. Pappy sort of second guessed my navigation at first as he was looking at a map which wasn't showing the way I had us going, but Google Maps prevailed and we eventually met up with the route outlined on paper. 

We stopped a few times at rest stops for bathroom breaks and such, but we made good time. Adam, Amanda and Brian slept in the back, while the rest of us listened to country music. We pulled into Fort Lauderdale around 11:30 and were at the cruise terminal fairly quickly. Adam, Amanda, Nanny, Pappy, Brian and I got out and headed for check in while my parents returned the van. The check in process didn't start until 12:00 so we didn't have to wait too long in the lines. By 12:30 we were boarding the Crown Princess, and by 1:00 met up for lunch. 

This was the first time any of us had sailed on Princes before - and was Amanda's first cruise. My initial impressions of the ship were that it was small, and I wasn't sure what to make of that. The rooms were ready as soon as we got on board which was a treat! Usually they aren't ready until an hour before sailing, so to be able to go directly to the room and drop off carry on bags was nice. Our cabin was also a treat - it was bigger then most, and had a bathtub. The balcony was a bit disappointing as none of them were private or covered meaning people could look down/over/up at you. They also didn't allow smoking on the balcony meaning Brian had to head back and forth to smoking sections. But the room itself was great! Two TVs, a couch, a desk... It felt roomy and comfortable. Nanny and Pappy had the stateroom category below us and found their room a bit cramped. I'd definitely stick with the same category next time. 

Our rooms were spaced throughout the ship, but it was small enough everything was easily accessible.  We met for lunch upstairs at the buffet and then each headed off to our rooms for the drill. I hate the drills and usually skip them but this ship scans your stateroom cards to keep track of who does/doesn't do the drill. I figured not going could lead to a hassle so we went, as did Amanda and Adam. My parents and grandparents all skipped it without problem... However I did have to show them where their Munster station was since at Day 3 they still had no clue! 

(I love my towel animals!)

There had been a whole bunch of drama over dinner time, as we all wanted the early seating at 6:00 whereas my grandparents wanted the later one at 8:00. We switched it for them and went late, but then they wanted it switched back to early after the first night! (Apparently 8:00 was too late for them because it meant even later shows. But we stuck with 8:00 and made the best of it - with some of us barely staying awake through dinner. *cough*mom*cough*. 

While I was initially unsure of the ship, the more I explored it, the more I enjoyed it. I liked that it was a bit smaller, as it was easier to get around. The restaurants and bars on board were all great - friendly service, good selection and great quality. The pools were also nice - the adult one was really small, so we stuck with one of the main pools. However this wasn't an issue as there weren't a lot of kids/teens on the ship - so the pool was basically an adult one anyways. The shops on board were pricy as most are, but there was some good selection. I didn't use the Casino but heard that it has gone to automated card dealing at the tables - so the odds seemed to be against you.

The entertainment was enjoyable - there were a few comics and some of the typical musical shows. We went to a few - but due to the late dinner seating a few nights we just passed wanting to head to bed. Brian wasn't a huge fan of this ship for a few reasons - the main one being the lack of smoking sections. There were very few of them, and offered no seating. He also tends to stay up late, and found that due to it being an older crowd most areas shut down by midnight. I have definitely come to realize that your cruising experience really depends on the person - what features/amenities are important to you plays a role in your personal enjoyment of the overall experience. 

(Golf at sea!)

This ship also does the whole "movies under the stars" thing and Brian, Adam, Amanda and I did that one night. They were playing Despicable Me 2 and it was a lot of fun. They have fancy deck chairs, blankets, and hand out popcorn and other movie snacks. It was a fun way to spend an evening and the movie was awesome! 

I had been to most of the ports that we stopped at, but it was a great mix. None of us got off the ship at Coco Cays, Bahamas. It is their private island, and like all others is basically just a beach and a few craft vendors. Instead we all stayed on board and enjoyed the pool which was much less crowded that day with most people heading off board.  

When we ported in St. Maarteen, Nanny and Pappy did a tour, Brian explored on his own, and Adam, Amanda, Mom and I took the water taxi over to the beach we found last year. We stayed there and enjoyed swimming, cold beers and the hot sun. 

(An amazing yacht we saw in port!) 

(Love the Christmas decor!) 

In St. Thomas, Adam and Amanda explored on their own, and Brian, Nanny, Pappy and I got off and went into town. It was a different port then last year, so we had to take a shuttle into the main area. Nanny and Pappy went back to the ship after about an hour, and then I went about 30 minutes later while Brian remained. It was a nice town, but very similar to all the other ports - basically they consist of jewellery store after jewellery store, with sales people standing on the street trying to entice you to come in. Mixed in are some souvenir shops as well as liquor stores. When you have seen one, you have seen them all. I did buy a pretty awesome multicoloured hat though. It was more expensive then the typical $10.00 ones you can find on the beach, but this hat is awesome! 

Our last port was Grand Turk, which I was excited for as it was an island I wanted to visit but never had. I had always heard of the sandy white beaches and crystal clear water. We had an option of an excursion to another beach, but it was $45.00 a person. Where the ship docked there was a cruise terminal that had a beach, shopping village and a Margaritaville with a really cool pool. We opted to stay there instead - but the water just wasn't the nicest. Not very clear, with a lot of seaweed and a bit rocky. Still it was enjoyable. Pappy, Dad, Mom, Adam, Amanda, Brian and I all came off the boat. Brian explored for a bit and then joined us at the beach. Pappy went swimming for a bit which he loved. He had wanted to swim in the ocean but Nanny had been concerned because he tends to swim far out ignoring any warnings. She worried less when he chose to come with us. Afterward he met Nanny and they did a trolley tour of the island. Dad headed back to the ship, and Adam, Amanda, Brian, Mom and I went to Margaritaville. I love Margaritaville! They are such fun places - especially in the islands where they tend to include pools, live entertainment and games. I got a chance to browse around the shops for a little bit, but again it was a lot of the same stuff. 

(My awesome St. Thomas Hat!)

Our trip home was mostly uneventful. Nanny and Pappy were on a different airline so we dropped them off at a different terminal and split up. Our plane was delayed due to problems at the Toronto Airport (there had been system problems and weather delays). When we got to the check in area we had awful customer service from one of the women working. She was without a doubt the rudest and most awful woman I have ever encountered at an airport. She was yelling at everyone, cutting people off and just generally being horrible. When we confronted her on her behaviour she just yelled "my job is stressful" and that "I'm doing the job of 3 people" and stomped away. Finally we got through the check in process (an hour later) and had another 2 hour wait. Fort Lauderdale airport is probably one of the worst to be stuck in. There is hardly anything there, and the most uncomfortable seats. The plane ride home was really rough with the airline stewardesses being seated for almost half the flight. It was a huge relief to finally touch down safely at home. 

Overall it was a really great trip. The weather wasn't always the greatest - we had a few moments where it was cloudy/rainy but the sun usually came back soon. The weather did make the ship really rocky, the motion actually got so bad at times that the pools turned into wave pools with the water swishing back and forth. The service was great - everyone was very friendly and helpful. The prices for drinks, games and any extras was also reasonable unlike the cruise the year before. I would definitely cruise with Princess again. 

It was also great doing a family trip. We tended to split up and do our own things, but we'd always run into each other throughout the day either at the pool, buffet or other areas. Nanny, Pappy, Brian and I did a wine tasting one afternoon. The wine was awful, but they had excellent cheese! Nanny and I also had time to hang out just the two of us, which was fun! I loved being able to spend all this time with everyone - and hope to do it again soon. 

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