Steve (DOS) and I are currently on a 19 day cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess, sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to Vancouver, via a full transit of the Panama Canal, and a few port stops along the way. As I have a fairly slow internet connection, please forgive the typos and other mistakes! 😀
On this sailing there are only about 1,700 passengers, which means the ship is sailing at approximately 50% capacity, and we’ve only seen 2 well-behaved kids. This is actually two cruises lumped together back-to-back, with the first longer cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to San Francisco being 15 nights, and a shorter four day cruise from San Francisco to Vancouver. While capacity can always change in the next couple of weeks, we heard that the shorter cruise from San Francisco to Vancouver has only around 580 passengers on it, so the majority of the passengers are debarking in San Francisco. After the Vancouver debarkation, the Caribbean Princess is then going into a technical dry-dock for a couple weeks. It’s nice in these post-pandemic days to enjoy cruises that are not full and there are no lines and with four pools aboard, you can easily find your lively spot by the main pool or the opposite extreme in the quiet adult’s only spa pool among others.
I am writing this in the comfort of the onboard cabana we rented for this afternoon, as well as a few other 1/2 days on sea days, plus a full day on the day of the Panama Canal transit. Princess Cruises offers The Sanctuary on all its ships, and its billed as a private retreat from the masses (my interpretation of it. LOL!) While we have a wonderful aft balcony aboard, The Sanctuary is located in the very front of the ship, and offers outstanding service in an exclusive environment, sort of like a country club at sea.
You can rent a single lounge chair for $20 half a day or $40 a day per person, but we rented a cabana for two for $140 a half day (except a full day for Panama Canal day) for $250, which is quite reasonable considering all the perks that comes with it. (Huge outdoor sofa for lounging, fruit basket, two tables, extra chair, TV with wireless headphones, complimentary mini-bar with liquor setup, fridge, use of robes and slippers, and is framed and covered with an open air type fence and roof, and even comes with a ceiling fan! Also it includes two lounge chairs adjacent tot the cabana in a prime and semi private location at the very front of the ship, with a wonderful breeze to boot! We’ve never used it before, but it is quite nice I must say! The wait staff are very attentive and serve you drinks, lunch, afternoon tea and generally enjoy making sure you’re having a wonderful time!
This is our second day of the cruise and we are at sea today and tomorrow. We checked out of the Hyatt Place Hotel Ft. Lauderdale around 10:30am yesterday, and fortunately got a friendly and husky Uber driver, who was glad to help with our 8 pieces of luggage (4 checked and 4 carry-on.). I tagged this photo of DOS on Facebook: “Well we’re gone for a month. What do you expect!”
The ride to the port was only a mile or two, and we had our baggage unloaded, and then checked in very quickly.
We had a short wait to board, but waited in the Suite/Elite pre-departure lounge, and chatted with some of the fellow passengers a few minutes before we boarded around 11am.
I must say, Princess really does an outstanding job with the boarding and debarkation process. They have loads of staff available to check you in, and having the complimentary Medallion they send you prior to embarkation, really makes the process go even quicker.
Once aboard, we went straight to The Sanctuary to reserve our cabana for the days we wanted it. As you can’t reserve the Sanctuary loungers and/or cabanas ahead of time, many other people headed up to The Sanctuary as well. Fortunately we were there early so we got the cabana we wanted for several days on this cruise.
Next up we dropped our luggage off in our room, Dolphin 737, an aft Vista Suite which is very nice. We love being in the aft of the ship, as it’s quieter and you have a wonderful view of the wake out the back, and often a nice sunrise or sunset view as well.
We then toured the ship a bit, as this was our first time on the Caribbean Princess. This is our fourth Princess Cruise since November (all on different ships), and while the overall design is similar (ie. 3 level Piazza atrium in the center of the ship, theater in the front, main dining restaurants in the aft etc,) each ship is still individual with different decors and sizes of the lounges, specialty restaurants, and staterooms.
Oddly enough, the older and smaller ships such as this and the Emerald have more entertainment venues that the newer and larger ships such as the Enchanted. We took some photos of the public rooms of the ship before they got crowded which are shown below:
Later we went up to the pool deck and had an outdoor lunch of pizza and burgers by the pool area. On this ship, the Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) screen is located in a separate area of the pool by the outdoor dining area which is nice. On the larger Sky Princess, the MUTS screen is in the same area as the outdoor dining, and the movies blared thru the whole area, which was a bit annoying when you’re trying to eat and converse.
The Caribbean Princess also has a Skywalker’s Lounge on the very top (18th floor) deck, but this one has a slightly inclined moving sidewalk leading you to the scenic observation lounge by day; disco by night. The moving side walk was turned off when we were there, but we’ll have to go back at night when it’s moving, and see how the disco is at night.
Later we tried a couple of the bars before sail-away, including the aft pool bar,
And one of our favorites on Princess ships, The Vine’s wine bar.
For sail-away we were up on deck by the main pool, as we first watched the Celebrity Apex followed by the Celebrity Reflection depart Ft. Lauderdale.
We sailed out next, around 4:45pm, with one of the best sail-away parties we’ve seen on any cruise. The cruise director introduced the Princess Singers and dancers, who did 3 song and dance routines by the pool area, something that usually doesn’t happen on other cruises. I filmed a bit, and took some photos while we enjoyed the entertainment.
It wasn’t long before we sailed past the Ft. Lauderdale high-rise condos at the “point”, where the beach ends, and lots of people are waving and shouting from the condos, beach and rocks below. This is the same beach area (but a couple blocks further up the beach) where we stayed at Largo Mar back in November prior to taking the inaugural sailing of the Enchanted.
Back in the room, our checked luggage was waiting for us, and DOS and I took an hour or so unpacking and arranging our clothes, toiletries, medicines etc in our new home for the next 19 nights. I must say for a suite, the closet space is very small and poorly arranged, like it was on the Emerald, especially for a long cruise. We made the most of it though, and utilized every nook and cranny of shelving throughout the room.
After showering, we went to the Crown Grille specialty dining for our first dinner meal. As always, Crown Grill doesn’t disappoint, and on this ship, the restaurant is decorated a rich and masculine decor, with lots of woods, which reminded us of the landslide Capital Grille Restaurant. We were seated by the Maitre D’ in a nice and large booth by the window. DOS of course got his twin lobsters, and I got the bone-in Ribeye among the appetizers, salads, and later desserts. We didn’t leave hungry that’s for sure!
We then toured the entertainment areas of the ship, stopping by to hear some good and some awful karaoke. You’ve got to give everyone credit to everyone for trying, so even the bad was “good”. We just wished we had a gong for some of the bad karaoke!
So I’ll wrap up this post back to the present. It’s nearly 3pm now, and we’ve had our lunch here on the cabana, and relaxed comfortably here as well.
Oops, didn’t realize afternoon tea is delivered at 3pm! Wow, scones, sandwiches, dessert treats! Will definitely have to keep up with our daily long walks!
We started today with breakfast in Sabatini’s (specialty restaurant) which was very nice. Sabatini’s is a suite perk, and DOS especially likes going there each day as it’s quiet with only a handful of passengers and great service.
After breakfast DOS and I took a 35 minute brisk walk around the Promenade Deck to get our daily exercise steps completed. This ship has a nice wrap-around Promenade, which goes all the way around the ship, although you do have a front section you have to walk up a flight of stairs and then down again. Many of the newer ships do not have a true Promenade, so this is a nice feature for this ship which went in service in 2003. And only 2.7 laps equals a mile!
So that will wrap up this post. More later as the trip progresses, and provided the high speed internet keeps working. Bon Voyage, from The Steve’s!