Sunday, February 10, 2013

Princess Cruises, Princess Cays, Curacao and Aruba

In December 2012 my family and I decided to go on a cruise to escape the cold Toronto winter. I have always wanted to cruise aboard Princess Cruise Lines because I have read many good reviews and I expected excellence in service, food and amenities. They did deliver on some of my expectations but failed in other areas.

Fort Lauderdale

First we stayed in Fort Lauderdale which had nice beachs with lots of restaurants and shops.

 Being Food Network fans we just had to stop at the Primanti Brothers restaurant for their famous pizza and sandwiches which were delicious. The pizza was good and they didn't skimp on the toppings but the sandwiches although tasty were a tad dry.

We also went to the Fort Lauderdale Beach Park and took a drive down to Las Olas which is a great area to go shopping or to stop for dinner.

Leaving the Port
 The views leaving the Port of Fort Lauderdale were beautiful.

The Cruise:
As with many cruise lines there were good and bad aspects of our experience aboard the Caribbean Princess so lets begin with the good.
Ship Atrium
The atrium was also where the International cafe was located which was open 24 hours and had a variety of sandwiches, deserts, salads and coffee. During the day they had live performances in the atrium including magic shows and bands

The ship was decorated beautifully for Christmas and the party in the atrium complete with a balloon drop and Soca music was a lot of fun. However there were a lot of older people on this cruise unlike Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines so if you are looking for a younger more upbeat vibe then this may not be the cruise for you.

One of the things I loved the most about the ship was the back deck of the ship. The views from the back of the ship were beautiful and the pool was often the least crowded of the several they had on board. This was a great place to lounge during the day and have a drink.

Sky Walkers night club on the ship was one of the nicest designed night clubs I have seen on the seas thus far. The club is situated on the highest floor of the ship and hovers above the water boasting panoramic views of the ocean.
To access the club you must take the moving walkway enclosed in glass which takes you high above the ship's decks and into the night club. The only bad thing about this club is that it seems wasted on the older population aboard the ship. Most nights the night club was quite quiet and there weren't many people there. If you cruise with a group of people you can have a good time at this club otherwise the atmosphere is quite boring and the music is a bit old school.

Movies under the stars at night outside on the deck was a nice way to spend part of the evening. Staff came around to provide warm blankets and popcorn and the movies they screened were quite recent.

The ship does have an adult only area called the Sanctuary which is not included in the price of the cruise and which you can enjoy for an additional fee.

The theater on the ship was nice and the shows were very upbeat and entertaining. I enjoyed them more than the Carnival musicals which seem very repetitive. The singers and dancers were quite young and very talented.

Other aspects of the ship that I liked included afternoon tea, the pizza and ice cream bar, the lounges, trivia games and deck space

Princess Cays
The first stop on the cruise was a private Island called Princess Cays which is owned by Princess Cruise Lines. Princess Cays is located in the Bahamas and it has beautiful beaches. The cruise ship provided a barbecue lunch although the food wasn't very good and we had to eat aboard the ship.

The next stop on the cruise was Curacao which I was very excited to see. Curacao was my favorite stop on the cruise. The town was very colorful and pretty, the beach was nice and the town had a great night life. I loved the live Latin music, the outdoor patios and the famous blue Curacao liquor. Curacao is an island I would like to visit again to spend more time at the beaches and more time enjoying the night life. The only issue we had here was that it was difficult to navigate the roads. We rented a car and the street signs and roadways were a bit tricky.

The last stop on the cruise was Aruba. Aruba is a beautiful island with great beaches and many local markets. I enjoyed the interesting architecture and the numerous tourist stands outside of the cruise port. On one side of the island you will find the most populated beaches, restaurants and a chain of hotels. On the other end of the island it is rather quiet with lots of cacti and beaches that had rougher water and a lot of garbage and debris. I would definitely recommend staying on the tourist side of the island. Even though I liked Aruba I expected a bit more out of the island itself.

Over all the cruise was a lot of fun, the stops were all beautiful and I would consider visiting all the islands again in the future. 

The biggest downside with  Princess Cruises was the food. The food was bland and void of flavor and many dishes were extremely salty. There weren't many dishes I actually enjoyed on the cruise and I had to pre-order special meals in the dining  room because I did not care for the menu options. The staff were very accommodating with the menu substitutions but even then the food wasn't very good and I found myself eating the same few things almost every day. The Pizza was by far the best thing I ate on this ship along with the sandwiches at the International Cafe but aside from that none of the food impressed me. 

The service on the ship was rather good, the staff was very friendly, the amenities were rather standard although this ship did have a couple more pools. The design of the ship was nice, the colors were neutral and the ship layout was very convenient. 

Celebrity Cruises has had the best tasting food thus far compared to the other cruise lines I have been on. 

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