Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday - Falmouth Jamaica

This review is my own personal experience... if you would like more information about cruising check out my Facebook Fan Page Cruising-Princess-Cruiseline-with-Vickie where knowledgeable cruisers share their experiences.
We are not docking until 10 am but we feel lazy.  We relax in the cabin for awhile and we decide to try out the Windjammer for breakfast (our first time dining here)  We are up there at 9:45 thinking that would be a good time because most would be getting ready to head out.  NOPE!  The place is a ZOO, jammed, you can barely move.  (note the pictures below are from a different time when we were at sea)

There are just not enough table for everyone.  In fact the seating seems less than on other ships' buffets.  And the layout is so that when you are entering and exiting Windjammer (which is the same location) you have to walk by and thru the food stations which are already crowded with people picking out food and balancing plates.  This just makes the area more crowded in trying to get food. 

The food was good though, typical buffet food.  I found the food to be poorly laid out and with all the crowds it is hard to get to the food cause there are even people standing around chatting with others.  One area I found frustrating and a big negative was they serve juices, water, ice tea and lemonade on trays for people to grab.  But they fill these cups on the trays and the overflow creates a half inch of the liquid.  So you grab a glass and the bottom drips the liquid down on the floor, on your clothes and well just a mess.  You can see the cups in the pic below to the right.  
Trying to find a seat was hard, we even tried to find a table to join but not even able to find that.  We stood around and then we saw a couple leaving so we swooped in and joined another table and pushed their dirty plates to the side.  I also wish they would of had seating outside a missed opportunity.   The really only place to sit outside on board is a small area outside the Solarium buffet, and a small outside are by the Wipeout Cafe.  

Positives are:  wait staff were very helpful with getting beverages like coffee/tea and tables were cleared as quickly as they could in order for others to be sat.  It was so crowded they started playing this canned announcement about if you are finished please vacate the table.  They played it about five times and it did work to help people to move on.    We both love the variety of fruit on offer and it is all ripe. 

Bernie is frustrated with the experience in the Windjammer, which is so odd, because normally it is me that hates the breakfast buffet experience but this time the roles are reversed.  But again, for Oasis their Windjammer is definitely not big enough, it is comparable or even smaller that the Horizon Court on Emerald, and I think it had less seats, especially if you consider all the outside seats on the Emerald class.

We head down to deck 6 Boardwalk to get a donut to enjoy with a coffee but the Donut shop closes at 9:30, fine we then head to Starbucks and get our coffee then head to the Promenade Cafe to get a danish or something, but they are pulling out the plates with the danishes on them as they stop serving them at 10:30 (time currently is 10:35).  They are putting cookies and sandwiches out in the display case so we ask for one of the danishes, they respond "sorry they are no longer available" okay "can I have a cookie then" "sorry they are not available until 11".  Again we are surprised - sure I can do without the extra calories, but the issue is I am a passenger and having a cookie or danish to go with my coffee is something that would make my experience better.  So currently at 10:45 I can't get a donut or a danish anywhere close by unless I pay for one at Starbucks. 

As we sat there about 20 people approach the display case and asking for something only be told "come back later as it opens at 11"  how weird and this was a sad realization throughout the ship we kept encountering.  I have never experienced this on board a Princess ship, sure the International Cafe changes over their food too at 11 but it is available up until 11 and if it is in the case it is available.  It is about the customers.

We are both chatting and of course the experiences this morning are on our mind.  We both comment that this ship sure has a ton of things that are extra fee.  Sure you can get away with not paying extra but you will have to be aware and ready to pay if necessary. 

We decide to head ashore, we have no formal plans again today (this trip was all about going with the flow and experiencing).  We change and head ashore.  Again their disembarkation is very very smooth.  Often on Princess you have to queue up to get off even at times a line of 10 people or so, but here there are lots of stations to ping out of security.  Also I love the gangway button in the elevator and the signs directing you to the gangway.

We wander around the huge port area, it is all very new (only two years old) and there are lots of construction going on.  Entertainment all over and lots of shops.  But they are the usual shops and we just glance in and try and find the shuttle station that we had read about in a previous review.  At first we thought of just going to the beach but neither of us feel up to the ride over and then more sun, plus we want to explore.
We exit the port area.  Yes you will be asked a lot "Come see my stuff" "Check out my store"  "Great Deals" but every time we were able to say a polite no thank you and it worked, and we just kept walking. 
We wander to the end of the small street and head right walking around.  A lot less people hounding you here.  We found all the locals to be very nice and everyone we passed said hello.  Once we left the port "touristy" area we were not bothered except for a few taxis asking if we wanted a ride or a tour, again a polite no thank you.  Really this port is no worse than most Caribbean ports or Mexican ports the locals depend on the tourist and their culture is to busk or call out trying to get a sale.  This is the joy of travel, experiencing the different cultures and we embrace it.
We wander along and come across a school.  We quickly are approached by three little boys and we introduce ourselves and make friends with them.  They love to chat and are telling us all about their school, their country, and asking us about the ship.  We end up chatting with them for over a half hour, they even insist we come and meet their teacher.  Since it was their lunch hour we do stop in and say hi.  Her class is very nice, she has a lot of kids (I believe she said she had 30 students in her class) she said she had been teaching for 26 years!  Wow she looks like she is 30... and the boys obviously like their teacher. 
The boys are still following us, even after we leave the school and they of course want us to tip them for showing them around but we refuse to give money out like this but we do have our Canadian pencils and Canada temporary tattoos and we give them one each.  They seem happy and they wander back, especially when they hear a teacher yell at them to get back.  Kids will be kids.
We are walking around some beautiful residential areas, sure the house don't look like what we are use to but there is beauty in everything, you just have to look a little closer or differently.

We head towards the "downtown Falmouth" it is a small town but lots of interesting shops.  We see a bakery that offers spicy beef patties and we make our way in.  We are the only tourists and not sure how things work here but soon we figure out, you order at the cash and then take the receipt to the counter and they get you the items.    We each get one beef patty and a pop and kind of cookie/tart that has a roasted coconut filling.  All for $5.  The patties are so good, hot and very flaky.

I forgot to mention that something that RCI doesn't do is put out a very detailed port information page.  The pages they give us are only about the endorsed shops.  No information about the port, it's history, the culture, the population, the capital.  No information about currency, beaches, taxi fares, sights to see.  I never even thought that other lines didn't do this automatically.  I now appreciate that this is something Princess does for every port, sure some ports have more information than others but they usually cover basic information about the port, including history, currency, banks, foods, fares to travel somewhere often, sights to see and of course they too have a map (sometimes very basic, but normally rather large) with information we might be interested in.
handmade cart, looks like it weighs a ton

We wander around a bit more and head back into the port area and then back onto the ship.  Surprisingly the guy in front of us is wanting to bring some fruit on too, and it is confiscated.

We decide it is now time for some sun and we choose the sports pool.  It has three tiers and a nice pool, but it is busy with lots of kids. 

the view from our seats, great reflection off the Viking Crown Lounge
Someone needs to proofread the garbage cans.  Unless Saes the Waves is a new concept
the pool we were at (pic taken on a different day)

After 1.5 hours in the sun we wander around on deck and check things out.  Always lots to see on board.  And since this top decks are the only area you can see the water we sit in some chairs and look out and enjoy the view.


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