The Skinny on my Princess Cruise
I had been looking forward to this vacation for months. One week away, on a cruise, hitting some of the most beautiful islands in the caribbean. And then I caught a cold. Which meant the food that I was going to be enjoying on the high seas was going to be tasteless. And the strawberry margaritas I was dreaming of...again...nothing.
So here I am on our way to St. Maarten where all the women will be shopping but I will be joining my family on a beach excursion to the French side of the island on a beach offering partial nudity. Lovely. While my mom and her friends shop for diamonds and tanzanite, I'll be wincing at some topless women lounging on the beach while I cover my kids' eyes.
So the vacation. What have I enjoyed? Let's see. The Princess Cruise line offers great entertainment - from comedy shows, to bands performing in their side bars to a karaoke experience where you can sing with a band; and a piano bar called Crooners featuring a piano man who sounds like a cross between James Taylor and Billy Joel. Okay - not quite, but he is pretty awesome. What I absolutely love are the Movies under the Stars option. You get to sit on a lounge chair and cuddle up with a blanket and popcorn as you watch movies that have recently been released on DVD (This is It, Night at the Museum II, Harry Potter, Mamma Mia and many more).
As far as the food - it's not as amazing as some other ships I've been on - like Celebrity and Royal Caribbean - but then again, I do have a cold so I can't tell whether or not my taste buds would have been delighted by the culinary creations on the ship.
Things that are missing from our cruise experience - the midnight buffet. While food is plentiful, there are no ice sculptures or masterpieces in the pool area featuring mouthwatering creations. I mean seriously folks, how could there not be a chocolate fountain on board? There is a pizza and ice cream bar, two restaurants that are not part of the meal plan (we loved Sabatini's) and a dessert cafe, plus there's a wine bar with sushi and tapas and a cafe with cappucinos, latte, smoothies and tons of desserts.
I've also found that everything - except our dining room reservations, are first come first served. Which means if you don't get your butt to a lounge chair by the pool at the crack of dawn, well you're pretty much going to be sitting behind a pole in the shade for most of the cruise (that would be us).
The staterooms are very nice. While our room isn't that spacious, the kids are loving their bunk beds and I am loving the bed linens. Each bed comes with a cozy comforter with a soft duvet covering (no scratchy bedspreads). Plus, the chocolates and cookies left in the room by the steward each night aren't too shabby either.
As far as the cruise staff, let's just say that even though this is technically the "Love Boat," you will find no Captain Steubing, Doc, Issac, Gopher or Julie the cruise director on board. You will find Mark from England, a long haired girl from France whose nickname is 'Frenchie,' another guy from Australia and several more from Italy, Macedonia, Chile, Zimbabwe and many more countries around the world - I just haven't had a chance to read all the name tags. I guess Americans aren't applying for jobs aboard cruises. Instead, they're the ones lining up for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, coffee and drinks.
The girth of the passengers onboard is what truly troubles me the most about this vacation. Now don't get me wrong. After this trip, I'm hitting the nearest Weight Watchers center to shed at least 15 pounds. But the people onboard who I've encountered on a daily basis are so grossly overweight that some need to lose an entire person in order to reach their normal size. It's actually kind of ironic. During this trip, I'm reading a book called "The Power of Half" which shares the story of a family who took half of what they owned and donated it to charity. I say, if these people donate half of what they eat to the malnourished, the world would be a better place and they would be a whole lot thinner.
The other major gripe I have is that I constantly feel as if someone is trying to sell me something. It's fine when I walk off the ship and a woman comes up to me asking if I want my hair braided, but onboard, every day and night, there are options to spend more money even though this is an all inclusive trip. $30 for Bingo cards. $45 for a spa manicure. $25 for a wine tasting and another $9.50 for a follow up wine tasting. $25 for a shopping guide filled with over $400 in savings. $4 for a shot glass with limoncello in it. $6 for a tall beer glass that lights up. The only thing I have purchased which has proven to be economical is a beverage card that charges me $4.95 per day for unlimited Coca Cola beverages. And I've been using that card to quench the thirst of my entire family.
And one more thing. I also sat through a shopping show with the ship's expert who could also double as a QVC host. Except here's the difference. On QVC, you usually get a ton of great deals. Not so much in the places this expert suggested we shop. I was particularly interested in checking out one of the stores because she said we'd be blown away by the prices. You could say that again. While trying on a pair of blue diamond earrings in St. Maarten, I casually asked the price and the man behind the counter grabbed his calculator and proclaimed...$995 dollars. Bargain of the century? I think not. I left the store deflated and empty handed.
Now for the burning question - would I ever go back on a Princess Cruise? Drumroll please. Probably not. While the entertainment is quite good, there are too many things that did not live up to my expectations. I also think that this ship is best for older cruisers (50 and older) not families traveling with kids. While there is a kids' camp on board, my kids opted to stay with us and attended comedy shows and watched movies under the stars. They also ate...a lot.
All in all, while the cruise was enjoyable, it was certainly not one of my favorites. I still have incredible memories from our Celebrity cruise to Bermuda and that one by far stands out as the best experience we've ever had on board a cruise ship. And while we may decide to cruise again in the future, I think we'll be giving the sea a rest for a long while. Better run - I've gotta hit the gym and work off the tire that has now comfortably settled in around my midsection.