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Caribbean 0206
Caribbean 0206

Cruising on the Sea Princess

Ft Lauderdale - Princess Cays - at sea - Tortola - St. Maarten - St. Kitts - St. Lucia - Barbados - St. Vincent - Trinidad- Bonaire - Curacao - at sea (2 days) - Ft Lauderdale

 
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Rating (out of 5):    Ship    Food    Service    Itinerary

There are very few 14 day cruises offered in the Caribbean. We were delighted to find that the Sea Princess was doing 14 day itineraries out of Ft Lauderdale that hit many of the smaller islands that we had never visited before. The only unusual thing was that halfway through the itinerary, in Barbados, about half the passengers would disembark and new ones would take their place. The Barbados crowd were mainly from Britain.

Pre-cruise (Feb 24) - A Day in Ft Lauderdale

As usual, we flew to Ft Lauderdale a day early, just in case. This time it paid off. The flight was Calgary to Toronto, and Toronto to Ft Lauderdale. When we arrived in Toronto, we had to collect our luggage so that we could go through the US customs pre-clearance. Two of our bags appeared on the carousel (my bag and our snorkel bag), but Marj's bag didn't appear. A number of people were also waiting for one or more pieces of luggage. It turned out that the plane from Calgary was full (in the luggage area), so they arbitrarily shunted some bags to a later flight. This later flight would miss our FLL connection, and the luggage would arrive in FLL the next morning (boarding day).

We overnighted at the La Quinta Suites in Hollywood. There is a nice shopping mall just a short walk away. As we walked over to the mall, there was a huge rain puddle on the road. Just as I came even to the puddle, a car went roaring by and just soaked me - head to toe! We went to Quizno's for dinner and I ate as I dripped dry.

Day 1 (Feb 25) - Boarding in Ft Lauderdale

The next morning, we caught the shuttle back to the airport to pick up our missing luggage. There, we booked the Princess bus to the cruise dock. Theoretically our luggage was to be put on the bus and we wouldn't see it again until it was delivered to our cabin. However, at the cruise terminal, we were asked to remain onboard the bus until our luggage was unloaded and then we were to go out and "identify our luggage to ensure it made it OK". I thought this was really strange, but then I saw the porters lined up with their hands out waiting for tips. This whole sham was just so that the porters could get tipped. Why didn't they just say that?

It was a beautiful sunny day and we were anxious to check out the Sea Princess. We had sailed her 5 years ago in Alaska. Since then, the Sea princess had been through two major refurbishments. The first was when she was relocated to the P&O fleet (sister company to Princess) as the Adonia. Then after a year or so, she was transferred back to Princess picking up her previous name again.

We arrived early at the terminal. Embarkation went smoothly and we hustled to our room to dump our stuff. We headed to the buffet for sustenance before exploring the ship. The Sea Princess was in wonderful shape. It really is a gorgeous ship. It is set apart from most other cruise ships in that the Horizon Court buffet area is at the front of the ship and the gym is at the aft of the ship.

This cruise had a very active CC group, so after the lifeboat drill we met with a number of the CC folks. The group was to play a large role in our cruise and we had so much fun with the other members. We were lucky to have a CC couple in the cabin next door, and another in the cabin directly across the hallway. It was shaping up to be a great cruise.

Day 2 (Feb 26) - Princess Cays

It was a windy, choppy day today. We were supposed to anchor at Princess Cays at 10:00 AM. Next to Half Moon Cay (HAL's private island), Princess Cays is our favorite Caribbean beach. We were warned (over the ship's speakers) that we may not be able to anchor due to the weather. Sure enough, when we arrived at the southern tip of Eluthera Island, the ship was unable to anchor. Although we were disappointed to miss this favorite port, the rest of the cruise was right on schedule, with no additional weather problems.

So, this port day became a sea day. Some exploring, some reading and a workout in the gym rounded out the day. Because we're up early every day, we like to eat early. We were Personal Choice dining (PC), and hit the dining room about 6PM. Even though it had been open for 1/2 hour, it was almost empty. This happened every evening, and we ended up sitting at the same couple of tables, same waiter and same group of dinner partners each night.

Day 3 (Feb 27) - A Day At Sea

This was a warm and sunny (scheduled) day at sea. We had booked a balcony cabin on the Caribe deck. The Sea Princess, being an older ship, has strange baclonies. Rather than the balcony projecting past the skin of the hull, it is build within the hull and a rectangular cutout of the hull provides the opening to the outside. The balconies on the Aloha, Baha and Caribe decks are the same size, but the cutout is much larger on the Aloha and Baha decks, making them feel larger than the balconies on the Caribe deck. If we book a Sun class ship again, we'll be sure to reserve on the Aloha or Baha decks. On our previous cruise (Alaska, 2001), we were on the Aloha deck.

The gym on the Sea Princess was roomy with lots of equipment. Once again I was disappointed that Princess has no rowing machines. Somehow, they seem very nautical, but not on Princess. The equipment was well maintained.

In the afternoon, we went to a meeting organized for the CC folks. It was great meeting everyone, although we had already met a number of them in the past two days. This was the first formal night. There were only 3 formal nights on the 14 day cruise, which suited us (pun) just fine.

Day 4 (Feb 28) - Road Town, Tortola, BVI

We arrived in Tortola soon after sunrise. We didn't book an excursion there. Instead, we had planned to join some other CC folks and take a van over to Brewer's Bay for the morning. The van took us over the hills, with a stop for an awesome view of the harbour. Brewer's Bay was a lovely beach, with fine sand and lots of shade. A few of us donned snorkel gear and headed out into the bay. I swam over to an area where brown pelicans seemed to be hanging out. There was a huge school of small herring (4" long) that went on forever. As I was snorkelling about, the pelicans were diving all around me, scooping up mouthfulls of fish. I've never had an experience like that before.

After the beach, we drove back to the ship for lunch. Then we headed back into town to wander around the area and try to get a good picture of the ship. It was a very pleasant day and Brewer's Bay was just great.

Day 5 (Mar 1) - Philipsburg, St. Maarten

After our previous experience with St. Maarten (9 ships in harbour), we decided not to do an excursion here. Instead we just got off the ship on our own and wandered around the town. Once again it was very crowded, but we enjoyed the walk around anyway. We did a little shopping and then headed back to the ship.

After lunch we just relaxed on the ship. We spent some time on the upper deck looking at the view of the island. I finished with a workout in the gym and then we prepared for dinner. I think that the next time we visit St. Maarten we'll have to do an excursion. We haven't been to Marigot or the west coast at all. On an earlier trip we did Cul de Sac and Pinel island.

Day 6 (Mar 2) - Basseterre, St. Kitts

We pulled in to St. Kitts at sunrise. We had booked a snorkelling excursion. We boarded a catamaran right at the cruise dock and headed down the coast. We could see Nevis to the south. The snorkelling was pretty good and the boat was lots of fun. On the way home from the snorkel, the run punch flowed rather freely. We shared the experience with another CC couple, so that made it even more fun.

After the snorkel, we reboarded the ship for lunch. In the afternoon, we headed back into Basseterre and walked around the town. There was a lot of construction going on. I'm not sure if it was new construction or reconstruction from storm damage.

We spent the later part of the afternoon back on the ship. I did my usual gym workout. My cool-down DVD for the trip was "The Honeymooners" complete edition. There were enough episodes to keep me going throughout the cruise.

Day 7 (Mar 3) - Castries, St. Lucia

We arrived in St. Lucia (Castries) early in the morning. It was a bright and sunny day. We had booked an all-day tour of the island through the cruise line. The bus picked us up soon after we were docked. We headed through the town and then south along the coast. We stopped high up on a hillside for a view of the ships in the harbour. There was a market there selling the usual t-shirts, jewelry and vanilla. Continuing down the coast, we stopped at Anse La Raye. The island has a lot of poverty, and this village was very poor, judging from the small shacks and yards. We bought some banana ketchup from the small market there.

We then headed south again stopping at La Soufriere for lunch. After lunch we visited the sulphur cauldron of the volcano, nestled between the two Pitons. Not much of a volcano after walking over Kilauea, but interesting nonetheless. After the volcano, we reversed our direction and headed back to Castries and the ship. It was a very interesting tour and we really enjoyed it. I did feel sorry for the bulk of the native population who couldn't afford to leave the island, let alone cruise the world. We are so lucky!

It was late afternoon when we got back to the ship. Just time to squeeze in a gym workout and then get ready for dinner.

Day 8 (Mar 4) - Bridgetown, Barbados

We arrived at Barbados around 7:00 AM. There was a lot of reconstruction occuring on the cruise dock facility. Maybe they had sustained some hurricane damage from the previous season. We had nothing booked for the morning, so just relaxed on the ship. I did my gym workout and we had lunch at the Horizon Court.

For the afternoon, we had booked a private snorkelling excursion (called "The Thriller") with some CC friends. It was great. The boat was amazingly fast. We hit three different snorkelling spots. The first was a sandy area that was the home of several green sea turtles. The guide had squid for them, so they swam all around us. Then we headed to a coral bed that had lots of colourful fish. The final stop was at a group of underwater wrecks - some accidental and some on purpose. There were lots of fish making the wrecks their home. As we were scooting between snorkel sights, we passed the "Octopus", a multi-million dollar yacht owned by Paul Allen.

Once we were done snorkelling, the rum punch came out. It was delicious. They used a pre-mixed punch, but added some ground nutmeg and a dash of Angostura bitters to each glass. Yumm!

After the excursion, we boarded the ship to get ready for dinner. The ship stayed until midnight, but we didn't leave the ship after dinner. This was also cruise start / termination for the folks boarding through Barbados. We were amazed at how the smoothly the transfer went. With about 1000 people changing, we didn't even see any suitcases in the halls. I had feared a general mess in the hallways, but this never materialized.

Day 9 (Mar 5) - Kingstown, St. Vincent

Once again we arrived early in the morning. Another sunny bright day. We had booked an all-day excursion with "Wayne". Marj wasn't feeling too well that day, so I went solo (but with several other CC folks). We boarded the 12 passenger boat at the cruise dock. We left Kingstown and headed north up the coast. Cap'n Wayne pointed out many sights along the way, including the major locations where parts of "Pirates of the Caribbean" was filmed. We stopped at the north end to hike into Baleine Falls. The trail had been obliterated by a rock slide, but we scrambled our way in. There was a beautiful waterfall and pool at the end of the trail. The footing was trecherous in places, and Wayne mentioned that we might be the last group he takes in there.

After the falls, we headed partway back and stopped at a beach restaurant for lunch. It just happened to be at the beach where a large movie set (town and docks) still remained from "Pirates". We had a great lunch and wandered around the movie set. Then we zoomed further along the coast to another black sand beach where we snorkelled for a while. The snorkelling was pretty good. Then we headed back to the cruise ship. It was an excellent outing.

We arrived just in time for sailaway and dinner. I would certainly recommend this excursion as it was a lot of fun, and we saw a lot of the island.

Day 10 (Mar 6) - Port of Spain, Trinidad

We pulled into Port of Spain at sunrise. Approaching the dock, we passed a number of sunken ships, the water being shallow so they were only partially submerged. Would this be the fate of the Sea Princess? Whoa, no we were safe and sound. We had booked a city tour excursion that left around 9 AM. We learned that Trinidad was the industrial island and Tobago (much, much smaller) was the tourist island with the nice beaches. We stopped on a hillside lookout to get some great shots of the cruise ships in the harbour. Then we went to a botanical garden and spent an hour or so wandering through the beautiful gardens. Finally, we headed up a mountain side to a Benedictine monestary. We toured around the monestary grounds and a guide explained all about the Benedictines. To help raise money, the monks make specialty yogurts. It was a very interesting tour.

We got back to the ship in time for a late lunch and some R&R onboard. We didn't get a chance to go back into the city, as the ship left at 2 PM. We did enjoy our tour around the city, but would like to spend some time in Tobago. Some other cruise!

Day 11 (Mar 7) - Kralendijk, Bonaire

We were looking forward to Bonaire very much. As our snorkelling standard (for comparison) is Hawai'i, we had been a bit disappointed with the snorkelling in the Caribbean. Several friends had assured us that Bonaire was the place to snorkel. They were right. We arrived in Kralendijk at noon. We had booked a two site snorkel with two other CC couples, so we were a small group of 6. It was a bright sunny (ie. hot) afternoon as we waited on the dock for Caren, of Sea & Discover. She is a marine biologist and knows the sea life intimately. She took us to two different snorkel sights (yellow submarine and 1000 steps), both of which were very good. What made it especially interesting was Caren's explanation of fish behaviour. This added a whole new dimension to the snorkelling experience.

After the snorkel, we headed back to the ship for dinner. The town of Kralendijk is gorgeous, very clean with pastel coloured one or two story buildings. Bonaire is certainly on our list of islands to return to. A wonderful day!

Day 12 (Mar 8) - Willemstad, Curacao

We arrived in Curacao just after sunrise. It was an overcast day. That was unfortunate as the colorful pastel buildings really look best in the sunshine. What a gorgeous town. I think Willemstad is the nicest town in all of the Caribbean islands. We had booked a morning snorkel excursion. The boat picked us up at the cruise dock and we headed south along the coast. The snorkel site was at a sunken tugboat that was slowly turning into a coral reef. There were lots of fish there. We swam quite a distance past the tugboat and saw lots of coral and fish. It was a pretty good snorkel.

After we got back to the ship, we headed to the sit-down dining room for lunch. Then we jumped ship and did a walking tour of the town. The pontoon bridge across the river was missing (being repaired), so we took the ferry across to the main part of town. The sun came in and out, so I did get a few pictures in the sunshine. We spent most of the afternoon wandering around, then headed back onboard for a gym workout and dinner. What a great day. Curacao is definitely on our "return list".

Day 13/14 (Mar 9/10) - Two Days At Sea

We really enjoyed life aboard the Sea princess. One innovation that they're adding to the Princess fleet is MUTS (Movies Under The Stars). This consists of a huge LCD movie screen flanked by 1 zillion watts of speakers. This is on the top deck by the main topside pool. Despite the intimidating size, the system is very unobtrusive. Movies are shown during the day (the screen is perfectly visible even in the bright sun), but the sound is turned off. To listen, you use wireless headsets that are distributed free to each cabin. If you don't look at the screen, you'd never know that a movie was playing. In the evening, after the pool crowd has gone, the deck chairs are repositioned towards the screen (with red plaid blankets and thick lounge pads) and the speakers are turned on. The speakers aren't blasting loud (just right) and the sound is very clear. A great innovation!

We really enjoyed our last two days at sea. Reading, visiting, walking around the promenade deck. It was a great ending to a terrific cruise. We also had a second CC meeting that was a farewell for those of us originating in Ft Lauderdale, and a welcome for those originating in Barbados.

Day 15 (Mar 11) - Ft Lauderdale and Home

Early morning, and we're heading into Port Everglades harbour. Time to say goodbye to the Sea Princess. We didn't want to leave. Speaking of not leaving, we saw the lady (several times) who has been living aboard the Sea Princess for three years. Sounds like a great life!

Disembarkation went pretty smoothly and we were heading back to the airport. It seemed a long time since we had boarded the ship. All in all it was a fabulous holiday.

For people who like port intensive cruises (I do), this was an awesome itinerary. The ship, the food, the service - all were wonderful. I give this cruise 5 stars in every category.