Down East, Eastern Caribbean, that is
7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip)
Sail Date: March 31, 2012
Ship: Grand Princess
Cabin Type: Balcony
Traveled As: Couple
Reviewed: 3 years ago
Though my wife and I had been to a few Caribbean destinations before, our first Caribbean cruise was on Grand Princess round trip out of Ft. Lauderdale in 2012. That was also our first cruise with Princess Cruise Line.
If we made one potential mistake, one which did not come back to bite us, it was flying into town the same day the cruise departs. Now that is ok if you do want to save the price of a hotel stay the night before and presuming that your incoming flight will not be delayed or cancelled but looking back we realized the potential risk we took and from that point on we have made it the practice to arrive at the departing port city the day before.
Leaving Port Everglades, the ship enters a beautiful channel out to the open ocean. The views were very nice and as a photographer, made for keeping the camera busy. We were preceded by a Carnival ship and it was interesting to watch another cruise ship in the near distance and wonder where they might go if not to the same ports to which we are headed.
Once Sandy and I board a cruise ship, one of the first things we do is to take an exploratory walk around the ship. Just to see it. Of course somewhere during the time between boarding and departure from port will be the mandatory safety muster and dinner. Chances are the luggage will not be delivered to the cabin until a little later. That's ok. We'll unpack once we return to the cabin at the end of the day. Right now we want to see the ship, do dinner and see the push off.
Our first port call is to San Juan Puerto Rico. I wish the timing of the arrival had been such as to allow us more time there but as it is, it's not quite half a day. At least that did give us enough time to explore the historic fort and the old part of the city.
Other ports were St. Maarten and also St. Thomas, USVI. At both ports we enjoyed shore excursions of kayaking and snorkeling. Those being two of our favorite activities anyhow. The cruise ships dock at those ports close enough to enjoy local shopping up close to the pier so when we returned from our water activities before we went back on board we spent a little time exploring the local tourist shopping areas.
The final port was at Princess Cay, a private island area owned by Princess. A fun (and good) shore lunch on the beach and some snorkeling and beach time made up the day. The snorkeling could be potentially good but as it was just off the beach the rolling surf made it harder to stay still for any time at all. For someone trying to photograph the underwater scenery and fish life, that can make good shots difficult. Not that it was not fun to be out there anyhow.
As to anything being particularly unique or notable about this cruise, I can't say that it differed. The cabin (balcony cabin) was good. Comfortable, clean, roomy enough for us so that pretty much covered it. The food both in the buffet and main dining rooms was good. We've never had it not good on any of our cruises so perhaps we're just not picky people. There are always enough choices to insure having something you will like. I like it all so I'm good with the choices.
Onboard activities are very much the same as those we have encountered on other cruises before and after this one. We spend the day (sea days) checking out available program activities, sometimes spending a little time in one of the pools, eating (of course) and enjoying some quite cubbyhole to do some reading. After dinner, we go the early show which usually begins around 7 PM. For both sea days and days in port, the end of the day does see us enjoying the shows. We're not late night people but upon returning to the cabin at the end of the day, and that may be somewhere around 9 PM or so, while she watches some TV I will usually spend a little time dumping the day's accumulation of photos from our cameras to the laptop and I may even spend some time editing and processing some of those. It's just something I do anyhow. Even at home.
Back to the Princess Cay visit for a moment. This port is a tender port and once we had enough of the beach time we caught a tender back to the ship and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on our balcony enjoying the view back to the shore and the view of the tenders making the back and forth trips between the ship and the shore. That's some more reading time with the camera sitting on the little balcony table ready to catch something interesting through the long lens.
We only choose balcony cabins (there was one exception on one cruise) and in addition to opportunities such as the one at Princess Cay, to sit out there and enjoy the view back to land and I should add, the beautiful weather, once we arise in the morning either at sea or coming into a port, opening the curtains and stepping out on the balcony to view a place we have never seen before is enough a part of the cruising experience for us to never do it otherwise.
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