Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Overall Experience on the Emerald this Winter

We feel like the Emerald is our second home, we know the nooks and crannies and which way to go to get around crowds, where to find a quiet spot, when to shop and when not to.  We recognized faces, areas and ports like old friends.  This year when we decided to do 30 days instead of our regular 20 we were not sure how we would like it.   We had done three cruises of 30 days in a row prior but we had never done 3 back to back ten day cruises and were wondering how it would work out repeating itineraries and returning to Florida every ten days.   Our friends Jeannie and Greg are on all winter and we have often commented that that is something we could maybe do when we retire too and this was sort of a try out I guess.

Rosmary and Sara
Ryan and Christina
The ship is beautiful, the crew work very hard at keeping it up to the standard we have come to know and love.  But there are a few areas that are need some TLC, especially in the cabins where numerous dings and tears are noticeable.  Any issue that needed addressing in our cabin was taken care of efficiently by first our steward and then any necessary person – plumber on one occasion who rectified an issue very quickly.

Mechelll and Jill

Natalian and Courtenay

With this ten day cruise we recognize familiar faces in the passengers too, on each cruise we ran into people we had sailed with in the past.  This ten day voyage is popular with many die hard cruisers and many do it as a back to back and many also do it for longer.  This creates a unique dynamic on board, many more elite members than on a normal seven day voyage and from what we gather from talking to many of the crew a lot more demands.

Carin and sorry don't know his name


When sailing for a few cruises you get into your routine you find yourself visiting the same areas around the same time every day.  You get to know the crew by name, and they know your name as well and often if you are late or don’t stop by one day they comment on how they missed you or how they were concerned about you.



As we walk the halls we get a common comment “oh you are still on” or “are you staying on another voyage”.  The ship soon feels like home and the passengers that come and go each voyage are like guests and we find ourselves assisting with answering questions on directions the first few days. 

Elda and Nathan

Frenchie with Leesh and Kyle

We also catch ourselves being a little over protective of the crew and come to their defense or assistance when we see an injustice.  After all they are like family to us now.


We have now completed our 36th Princess Cruise, seems like just yesterday we were aiming for that Platinum card.  We know we are loyal to Princess, and sure we have tried other lines and we may try them again, we know deep down that we are staying with Princess.


Greg and his girlfriend

As the voyage comes to an end we know we have not only gained a few pounds but we have gained numerous friends.  But not just friends but family, our Princess family has expanded. 


Leesh and Lexi

So when people ask us why we love to cruise, it is easy – it is like seeing family again.

Big shout outs and thanks go out to:  Elda, Nathan, Ron, Melldon, Beverly, Kolmang, Kataryn, Natalia, Sara, Mechell, Jill, Carin, Ian, Frenchie, Lexi, Leesh, Alex, Cory, Kory, Ryan, Christian, Sushi Chef, Rui, Greg, Elsa, Efren, Nelson, Ana, Thai, Peter and especially to Johan for making our vacation so special.

Sea Day

I wish I could write something more exciting but I am having a hard time coming up with a different description of – doing nothing but relaxing.

We woke around 8 am and the fact we are able to sleep until we wake without the thrusters to wake us up coming into port is a treat.

YEAH sea day!  I know some people dislike them, but for me it is a forced relaxation day… yeah I can hear you all now…. As if I need a reason to relax on board.  Okay okay, but it is a forced day to relax and not feel like I should do anything I don’t want to.  The only downside of sea days is nobody gets off the ship! 

So we have to share the Atrium and the coffee bar with a lot of people who would do almost anything to get a table and seat, and don’t dare stand up to get something because someone is eyeing that chair!
Ron takes care of my coffee needs
But we are settled in nicely at a nice table and I see Beverly and before I can even ask she says “cappuccino and English Breakfast tea?” yup…. Oh we are going to miss this service.  And when I come back to the table Bernie has just gotten a tea and latte from Ron at the coffee bar.  Oh my what is a girl to do with two espresso drinks!  Well sit back and relax and do my Sudoku and enjoy them.

Oh this reminds me…. I went to the Sudoku up in Adagio Bar this morning being hosted by Corrine and there were not many of us playing but I came in second, but sadly still no prizes.  Really Lee (our CD) time to throw a few prizes down to some of the other activities, even a pen would have been nice! 

Back to the coffee bar and relaxing….. yup you know me!  Bernie and I sit and talk about the trip and the wonderful experience we are having.  We comment about some of the staff we now call friend and part of our Princess Family.  Every staff member keeps asking “are you staying on for another ten” sadly no.  Next question to us is then “when is your next cruise” sadly none booked as of yet.  But I am sure we will sail again this year some time.

The Bijoux sale is happening in the dining room this morning – basically flea market at sea, I know there are good deals there, and I even bought a few things the first voyage.  But I hate how it is organized and the crowds and people freak me out.  I don’t like how they have it set up, the entrance is also the exit and the long lines to pay deter me from buying anything anyways so why do I bother even going in.  I don’t know --- but it is like slowing down to see an accident I just am drawn to it. 

My tummy is upset – could it be the two espresso drinks!   I decide to head back to the cabin and relax on the deck and read and sip a club soda to settle the tummy.  It works great and later on I am take a look at the Patter and see that it is Mexican Buffet in the Café Caribe so I head there for a small bite to eat.

I should state what has been going on today that I didn’t participate in but did happen….. galley tour, Movies Under the Stars is showing the Devil Wears Prada and Princess Bride, Body Sculp boot Camp, Zumba (sadly haven’t made it to any of the classes this cruise), Slot tournament, Morning Trivia (way too many serious players for me), Ice Carving Demo, Pub Lunch, Bingo, Ballroom Dance Class, Art Auction, Bar Wars, Movie in Princess Theater:  Butter, Grape Vine Wine Tasting (never made it to any of them), French Class, Afternoon Tea and much much more.

Natalia and Courtenay

I want to do a huge shout out to Natalia from Russia who works in Facets who went a step above to help a passenger.  A Canadian couple we met the first night who are both in wheelchairs accidently ran over their pair of glasses and the lens popped out and the frame was damaged.  Natalia took the glasses to an optometrist in St. Thomas and got them fixed for them at no charge!  Now that is why we love Princess!

It is formal night tonight…. We are not dressing formally but will dress nice, it seems that the dining room is not enforcing the dress code so we will be find in nice pants and blouse and Bernie will wear a tie but we are tired of dressing up and I don’t think I would be comfortable in my formal dress anymore anyways.

We head down to the Michelangelo dining room for 7:30 and we are happy to see Elda again.  We are at our usual table but it is busy around us.  It is so noisy I can barely hear myself think and there is so much going around with waiters, junior waiters, head waiters dashing all around us.  It is a little off putting and very distracting.  I think this is one thing I really dislike about the dining room is when it is busy it is not an enjoyable evening.  I wish there was somehow to create a more intimate setting where we can relax and hear everyone at the table and not have people rushing around us.

I feel for Elda today, she is very busy and both Bernie and I are wanting to not eat much as we are meeting up with Johan later and I know he will have the spicy tuna sushi in vines for us so we want to save space for that. 

I start with the Thai Salad Rolls and sadly the rice paper wrapper is hard, this usually means it has been sitting for a while.  I am having no luck with appetizers this trip but don’t feel like returning it as Elda is just too busy and I just eat the insides.  My second course is the tomato soup and I love their tomato soup!  For my entrée I have the short ribs.  This is the first time I order it, but I had tasted it the past few cruises when others have ordered so I made sure to order it this time.  I don’t eat much of it (again I am saving room) but I really enjoyed it.

Carin the photographer is set up outside the dining room but tonight I take the picture

We opt out of dessert and coffee/tea to head over to Vines, plus the dining room tonight is just not enjoyable with so many people in it. 

Ryan and Christian

We are joined by Johan, and others and we share wine, sushi, and lots of laughs and reminisce about our holiday and old memories.  Ryan and Christian take very good care of us and Meldon assists with a special after dinner drink – ZING.

We want to catch Blame it on the Boggie 10:15 show and we run in and sit right in the front.  Those dancers, singers are great, still don’t care for the wigs but really enjoyed the performance tonight and it seemed like they had an extra boost of energy!

We are back in the cabin just after 11 pm and we are greeted with a lovely note on the bed from Princess wishing us a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Thermal Suite

I wanted to write a bit about my experience again in the Thermal Suite.  As some of you may remember I first tried the Thermal Suite last Fall on the Star on a short re-positioning cruise.  That experience was not the best because it was just so busy and my thought was that they must of oversold the package for the two day trip as it was always so crowded.  So I wanted to try it again to see how a longer voyage would compare.

On the first day of my last ten day cruise I went on a tour of the facility.  The facility compared to the Star is similar but it seems like the Star’s Thermal suite is bigger and certainly laid out better in my opinion. 

With the Emerald you have to check in at the desk, hand over your card where you are then given a robe to wear.  I changed into my bathing suit in the Women’s change room and put on my robe then walked thru the spa area and down a flight of stairs to the Thermal Suite – note there is a wheelchair accessible lift if needed. 

The area is one very large room with three different rooms or experiences to enjoy with the main area having five heated stone lounge chairs.  There are two shower experiences – one on each side, but one of the showers the wand did not work the entire ten days and a few times the temperature would fluctuate so much it was not always a relaxing experience.

Now for the four different Thermal Suite experiences. 

Scented Steam Room:   very small room that could accommodate comfortably two people, four if you wanted to be intimate.  Now from past experience I know that this room is supposed to smell of Eucalyptus but I never once smelled anything let alone Eucalyptus.  Nor did I ever feel like this was a very hot steam room.  There is a fountain that didn’t work but if it did I am sure it would have been nice.  Overall I enjoyed the room as I really enjoy a steam room but this room was not hot enough, and often cooler than the gentle steam room, and really missed the scent.

Gentle Steam Room:  This is right beside the Scented Steam Room and is much much larger.  It had numerous benches, four water spigots and bowls and another fountain, but that one was broken too.  There is no scent in this room, but there is not suppose to be a scent.  I like this room as it was often hotter than the earlier one.

gentle sauna
Gentle Sauna:  This is a very appealing looking room with a large heated bench on each side of the fountain – but again the fountain doesn’t work!  The room is warm, not hot, and not like a sauna.  When I asked about it, I was told it was the right temperature as it is a gentle sauna – okay, but not sure what to do here.  I like the heated benches that are very warm, certainly warmer than the heated lounges in the main area.  I did relax in here but would of preferred a hotter sauna and would of really have enjoyed a fountain to have a bit of a background relaxing sound.

The main area with heated lounges:  very pretty looking, a lovely green hue to the room, lovely lighting that was very relaxing.  The lounge chairs are popular and was disappointed that people would actually stake out their lounge chair with a towel and their stuff while they visited the other rooms here.  I would wait till I was ready to use a lounge chair before putting my stuff on one, this way others could enjoy when I wasn’t.  The lounge chairs themselves are comfortable and warm and I did enjoy relaxing on them.

With the Thermal Suite being situated just below the workout area the sounds of the heavy beat from the music and the banging coming from when there is a workout above were very off putting.  I often tried to plan my visits to the suite when there was no scheduled work out.  But often my relaxation was interrupted by a thud or a boom which could even be heard in the saunas and steam rooms.  Very poor design by Princess. 

Overall the Thermal Suite is nice but certainly not relaxing and in need of some repair and sound proofing.  Fix the fountains in the rooms; create more of a sound barrier between the room and the gym upstairs.  I think piping in some soothing sounds into the rooms would also be nice to create a more relaxing atmosphere.  Also a nice aromatherapy should be added to the rooms, especially the one steam room that says it has a scent but doesn’t.

In the end I paid $100 for a ten day access to the suite, it is free for those that are staying in a full suite.  I visited the suite 6 times and did enjoy it but would never do it again.   I never felt it was worth the extra money and the free steam room and sauna were just as good if not better.  In fact twice I went to them after visiting the Thermal Suite to get a hotter experience.  I found the staff to be nice but not overly welcoming and long queues at the front desk a little frustrating when all I wanted to do was hand in my card or retrieve it but had to wait for customers to pay or make bookings.

I think Princess needs to work on the Thermal Suite Experience some more and fix the areas that are currently broken and maybe add to it to make it more special before I will do it again or recommend it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

St. Thomas

This is our third visit here this cruise and the first time at Havensight.  Many people prefer Havensight because of all the stores in the port, but since I am not a huge shopper and definitely like to get away from the stores at the port I prefer a quieter Crown Bay and the option of going to Water Island.  But that is not an option today, plus we really don’t need any more sun as we are still suffering from our sunburns.

We head to breakfast where I have the most delicious waffles with sausage and orange juice and we try to figure out what we want to do.  We get as far as heading down to the International Café for coffee.  Now this is cruising!

We watch the crew muster for their Assessment Party Drill – where most crew have to participate in.  Always interesting to be on board when they do this drill and see what happens.

We chat with Meldon for quite a while, he is the bar supervisor down in the Coffee Bar, such a dear and so helpful to all passengers even the ones we personally would strangle, but somehow he as well as all the staff here have the patience of saints!

 We decide to head off the ship and walk to town, it is very hot out and the Disney Fascination is right beside us, lots of kids on that ship.  I love kids but don’t know about sailing with a whole bunch of them, but would certainly recommend it to families.

We walk thru the Yacht club along the water to town and with five ships in port it is crazy.  Once downtown it is hard to even walk on the sidewalk cause of the crowds, plus there are so many people trying to talk you into going into their store and people stop and look.  I felt bad as I walked into one woman who stopped suddenly and boy did she get mad at me.  I had it at that point and we walked towards the waterfront.

We decided to stop and get something cold to drink, raspberry lemonade did the trick and we got a light meal of appetizers at the Green House overlooking the beautiful harbour.  The place was packed soon after we arrived.  The food was great and I can highly recommend their bang bang shrimp but because it was so busy service was very poor.

the view from our table
Walking back to the ship we take pictures, admire the scenery and comment on the traffic.  Somehow it just doesn’t compare to Bonaire or St. Lucia or Dominica.

Back on board around 1:30 and our usual haunt is calling.  We get a cup of tea and Bernie gets a sweet to enjoy with his tea before returning to the cabin so I can write yesterday’s blog and neither of us can stay awake.  What is going on? 

Two hour nap, yup that is what I say…. Boy I feel rested but amazingly I can rest more.  Guess it does the body good.

We are pulling out of the pier, thrusters have to work double time today as we are sandwiched between the Disney Fascination and the Carnival Dream.  We pull out horizontally from the pier then back out of our parallel spot then spin around to head out to the Atlantic.

Have to say sailing away from St. Thomas is one of the prettier spots.

I throw on my bathing suit and decide to head to the Thermal Suite.  It has been a few days since I was last there, mainly because of the effects of Barbados (rum and sun) but I am looking forward to it tonight.  When I arrive up there, there is only one other couple and I relax in the steam room, then I shower then head into the gentle steam room, then shower then head into the steam room and when I come out and am drying myself before heading into the heat room I hear BANG!  Then the man screams, then the woman screams – they are both on the heated loungers and the metal lattice that is attached to the wall has fallen down and hit the man.  He has a small cut above his left eye brow and his leg is smacked pretty good.  I run out to tell one of the spa staff to call for assistance and stay with them till someone arrives.  My heart is pounding!  The screams alone freaked me right out.  I am sure the guy will be totally fine.  At worst he may need a stitch or two and I am sure Princess will take care of his needs. 

Back in the cabin and time to shower and get ready for dinner.  We are dining at Sabatinis tonight at 8 pm with Johan.  I am really looking forward to it, I wasn’t going to eat in the dining room anyways as it is the Chef’s Dinner and it is not one of my favorite menus.  The Café Caribe is offering the rice table theme and we would of dined there if the invite didn’t happen.

Tomorrow we are at sea and then Princess Cays before heading home.  Tonight we received our disembarkation information.  It is sad to see but inevitable.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

St. Kitts – Monday

I wish I could start this day with something exciting! Something memorable!  Something you would tell your friend!  But I can not!

After a very early night last night and a good sleep I wake still feeling the effects of those rum punches.  We pull into port and we are right across from the P & O Ventura ship which the exact same ship as ours.  It is pretty cool to look at the same ship but with a few little differences.  We notice immediately that they allow smoking on their balconies and there are a lot smoking out there.

We see that they have the same horrible hard plastic flooring on their balconies as we do but it is green in color.  Their deck furniture is similar to the deck furniture they are replacing on most Princess ships.  Up on the top decks it appears like they have the same covered area at the front where the Sanctuary is on our ship but it seems to be just regular chairs and open to everyone.  They do not have MUTS, is instead a covered pool area like the Grand/Star/Golden has. 

We got so much sun yesterday that my back is in pain (where I obviously did not put enough sun screen on) and the last thing we want to do today is go to a beach and get more sun.  We know the port area here like the back of our hand and since neither of us wants to shop, and we have done numerous tours of the island we decide to stay on board.

We lounge out by the pool in the covered areas (and good thing as some light Caribbean showers do pass us) and watch the cruise staff set up the strings for the Island Deck Party happening latter.

Our afternoon was so boring, but just what we needed.  A bite in the Horizon Court and then back to the cabin and a nap.  I swear if we get any more relaxed they will be throwing dirt on us.  When we wake we wander down to the coffee bar for some tea and chat with the staff there.  Kateryna, Bethoven, Meldon and Ryan take such good care of us.

All aboard is 5:30 and the Ventura is leaving its’ berth and we have dueling horns!  I captured it up on video but will have to wait till I get home to put it up on this blog because I need faster internet to do that.  It was really neat waving goodbye to everyone on board and the crew from each ship waved huge hand signs and Ciao signs.  One of the better sail away we have ever had.

We decided to invite some friends over for sail away and we get some finger food, pizza and we raise our glasses to a great cruise.

Around 8:30 we wander around and catch some of the entertainment happening on board.  Lots going on tonight.  We catch Lubo and Lucy in the Atrium (he does a balancing act).  We catch the comedian Rodney in Explorers, well we only caught a bit of his show as it was too full to find a seat and we arrived late so we stood at the back and watched for about 15 minutes.  Leeshe is doing a line dancing classes that covers the steps to tonight’s dance party.  It is being held kind of late and she covers it very quickly before we all rush upstairs to take part in the Island Deck Party.  It is a good time, but not many people are here, maybe a couple hundred but that is it.  Again once the flash mob is done and the group dance is done the lead singer from Accent takes over and the energy level dies, especially when he does the Congo line, you see a mass exodus of people from the dance floor.  I wish Lee and Frenchie had more involvement in the party, I missed their energy here.

We look at each other and say “well, another great day”.

The key to cruising is to do what you want and not to feel guilty about doing nothing and that is just what we did today!