All aboard! After months of anticipation, Robyn (my sister) and I were ready to sail the Caribbean seas aboard the aptly named Caribbean Princess. We stayed practically across the street from where our cruise ship was docked at Pier 2 of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was wonderful waking up to the sight of our ship, merely moments away from making it our home for a week. After one restful night at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, we were ready to board the ship.
It was my first time sailing as a Platinum Captain’s Circle Member on Princess. I had completed five cruises prior to this one on Princess Cruises, so my membership status was upgraded to Platinum. I got to enjoy the perks of this immediately as we received Priority Embarkation. Robyn and I took a taxi from the hotel to the cruise ship terminal and handed our luggage over to the porter who would transport them safely to our cabin. We joined a large line-up of passengers outside the terminal, soon discovering that there was a shorter, secondary line for Platinum, Elite, and passengers who had booked a suite. Just as we moved over to that line, the crowd started to shift forward as people were being let inside the terminal. Normally, I would have to wait in a much larger lineup, but the Priority Embarkation check-in process was easy. We breezed through security and quickly received our cabin key cards. Despite the fact that this was Robyn’s first cruise aboard Princess, she was allowed to enjoy all of these perks, too. I mean, they’re not going to make her wait outside and board on her own since we were both in the same cabin!
Even though Princess will send you an email days before boarding stating that you should consider waiting until a later time to arrive, don’t feel as though you have to delay your boarding. We got to the pier around 11:00am and by noon, we were already eating food at the buffet before the majority of passengers had boarded the ship. If you wait until later, you might have to wait in a longer buffet line to get your lunch as everyone is usually pretty hungry right away. Conversely, if you wait until later in the afternoon, you likely won’t have to wait in any crowds to board the ship. Even if you are brand new to cruising and you choose to get to the pier early, don’t fret; they let everyone on the ship once the Priority Embarkation passengers have boarded, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long.
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Our cabin was an inside stateroom on the Caribe deck (deck 10), cabin C237. This was my first time booking an interior stateroom as I’ve always gone with either an obstructed window view, a window view, or a balcony in the past (I usually choose a balcony). However, this voyage was different. I was sailing with my sister, and we didn’t plan on spending much time at all in our cabin. We figured that we would save our money and book an inside room this time around. I must say that the room is quite cute. We requested that our cabin steward make our bed into two twin beds (I don’t want to share a bed with my sister, no thanks!). Like all Princess cabins, there was a desk, a flatscreen TV, a large closet, an in-room safe, plenty of drawers and shelf space, and a small bathroom. Almost immediately, we met our room steward, Ganev. He was racing around, making sure to prepare all of the cabins before the passengers started to board. He was incredibly busy, so we said hello and introduced ourselves, and left him to his work across the hallway. The cabin was very clean when we arrived, thanks to Ganev!
Horizon Court Buffet
After we checked out our cabin, we headed straight to the Horizon Court buffet up on deck 15. The buffet was not busy at this time, and we were able to choose all sorts of tasty lunch options. There was plenty of vegan-friendly and vegetarian selections in the buffet. I enjoyed a big bowl of salad with numerous veggies and a balsamic vinaigrette, potatoes, a zesty corn salad, vegetable rice, and a ton of fresh fruit! I think that I was craving the fruit the most, being in a tropical climate. The watermelon and the pineapple tasted particularly delicious. We enjoyed our meal at a table that had a great view of the harbor.
After lunch, we decided to complete this stamp card that we were handed upon boarding the ship. Basically, you wander around the ship and collect stamps from various spots, including the spa, the shops, the casino, and so on. It serves to help advertise Princess’ products on board, but also helped to acquaint ourselves with the ship’s layout. I was actually familiar with the layout of the Caribbean Princess, having sailed aboard her in the past. The layout is also incredibly similar to other Princess ships that I’ve sailed upon, the Emerald Princess and the Crown Princess. While we didn’t end up winning the draw, this exercise did help Robyn to become more familiar with the Caribbean Princess.
At 3:30pm, we were required to attend the Muster Drill. Robyn and I returned to our cabin in anticipation of the Muster Drill, to grab the life jackets from our room. To our surprise, our suitcases that we handed off to the porter had already reached our cabin! That was fast. We were able to unpack all of our clothes before we were report to our Muster Station (in our case, the Princess Theatre). For those who have never cruised before, the Muster Drill is a safety drill that is a requirement of law. We brought our life jackets to the theatre where there were instructions on how to wear it properly and what to do in the case of an emergency.
The Caribbean Princess began to sail away from Port Everglades en route to several Caribbean islands around 4:30pm. We headed up to Deck 15 midship for the party that we expected would include the ship’s band (Fresh Power), a frozen cocktail or two, and the views of yachts and mansions as we departed Fort Lauderdale. Alas, it was not meant to be. The wind picked up and the dark clouds moved in. Shortly after, it began to rain. We savored a few sights of Fort Lauderdale before we took shelter indoors.
We weren’t about to let a few raindrops ruin our fun! In the Piazza (the central atrium of the Caribbean Princess on decks 5-7), we grabbed some complimentary glasses of champagne at the new Effy jewelry store on board. Then, we wandered up to the Skywalkers Nightclub on deck 18 to enjoy another new perk of being a Platinum Captain’s Circle member, the Exclusive Elite Lounge. Every day between five and seven o’clock in the evening, there were complimentary pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres and $5.00 drink specials. The cocktail of the evening was the El Mejor Margarita (tequila, cointreau, orange juice, and margarita mix). We each filled a small plate with snacks – that evening’s feature was freshly made guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips. We picked the right night to go! The drinks were delicious. We enjoyed our food and drinks at the back of the nightclub with a few of the choppy seas. At that point, we were really starting to feel the ship swaying back and forth.
The Spa Raffle
We soon realized that it was already nearly 5:30pm, and we wanted to be at the Spa for yet another raffle! In our heels, we raced from one end of the ship to the other, noticing that many decks of the ship were actually flooded with water! The rain was really coming down and the wind had picked up, so water from the pools were splashing onto the outdoor decks. With the ship getting rockier, it was a wonder that one of us didn’t take a slip or a tumble as we furiously made our way to the spa. We got there just on time and took a seat. Out of the guests that had gathered, Robyn’s name was the first one drawn from the pot! She won a $50 spa credit, which she later used towards a massage. It was worth the run after all! Meanwhile, when we left the Spa area, we could see pool attendants and various staff members jamming towels beneath the doorway leading outside as the Spa Pool had overflowed and had started to flood the interior carpet.
Dinner at the Island Dining Room
And like on any cruise ship, it’s always time to eat! Dinner time had arrived and we went to the Island Dining Room on deck 5 of the Piazza. Robyn and I had selected Anytime Dining when we booked the cruise. There are two choices: Traditional Dining and Anytime Dining. With Traditional, you choose a seating time and you are seated at the same time each day and with the same people. There are advantages to this: you get to know your servers, you get to meet new people, and you get to have dinner at the same time each night. We chose Anytime Dining as we didn’t know when we would have dinner from day to day. We might be out on an excursion one day, or we might not just be hungry at that given time. With Anytime Dining, we were given the flexibility that we wanted. It meant that we would meet new waiters each night and we were able to dine at a table for two.
When we arrived, I explained that I had a special dietary request to the server. He promptly called over the Head Waiter, Joao. Joao was so welcoming and accommodating. He informed me that he could make certain menu items suitable for a vegan diet or I could choose whatever meal I’d like to eat. At each dinner service, I would be able to view the next night’s dinner menu and make my choices in advance. On that particular evening, there were a few menu items that already happened to be vegan, so it made my choices very easy. I ordered the Frozen Rum-Infused Pina Colada Soup to start, a chilled smoothie with coconut milk and pineapple. Next, I ordered the Watercress, Red Radish, and Iceberg Lettuce Salad with balsamic vinaigrette. For the main course, I chose the Conchiglie alla Campagnola, a shell pasta with marinara sauce, broccoli, capers and olives. The food arrived promptly and it was delicious. I have always had very high praises for the vegan meals that the chefs have prepared for me. The soup was probably my favorite of the three as I love the combination of coconut and pineapple! For dessert, there was an offering of fresh fruit listed on the menu, which definitely hit the spot. Unfortunately, Robyn was feeling the ship’s movement a little too much and wasn’t as hungry this evening. I’m very lucky that I’ve got my “sea legs” and I never seem to get seasick.
This is the moment on the blog where I’ll make a small request just in case a representative from Princess Cruises happens to be reading this: Princess, please offer a decadent vegan dessert! Even just for one evening or as an option at the International Cafe, it would be incredible to see one vegan cake, brownie, cookie, pie, bar, or pudding. I noticed that you always had a sugar-free option, and you always had a gluten-free option. As much as I love eating your delicious fruit plates and sorbets every evening, it would be spectacular if you offered a vegan dessert made without eggs or dairy products. It would be great for those with allergies and for those rocking the plant-based lifestyle.
After dinner, we took a seat at the Crooners Martini Bar on deck 7 of the Piazza and listened to the music of a guitarist and vocalist, Kieron Cox. He was taking requests from the small crowd in this intimate setting. Kieron seemed to know every tune and had a great singing voice. Not only was he a great guitarist as well, but he had mastered the art of using his looping pedals to create a drum beat and multiple guitar parts. At times, you could have sworn there was a whole band playing along with him. Robyn ordered a martini from the menu – gotta love the cover that reads, “Tee many martoonis”! The server brought the shaker to the table, shook up the martini, and poured it before our eyes.
Something I loved about the last cruise that I went on with Justin were the game shows. The cruise staff would regularly host a gameshow each evening in the Explorer’s Lounge where guests could participate. We would watch in the crowd as they were often very humorous and entertaining. Aboard the Caribbean Princess, I saw the Yes/No Game Show listed in the Princess Patter (the daily newsletter that lists the activities on board). This was more a challenge than a game show. The hosts would invite a participant to the stage, and try to get them to say the words “yes” or “no”. The participant had three minutes to try to not answer yes or no when replying to their questions or generally in conversation. This was surprisingly tougher than it seemed! Only a couple of people were successful in avoiding those two words, which it appears we say more often than we realize.
When we were wandering back towards our cabin, we noticed that a backdrop that the photographers use to take the photos was on display and unattended. Though the lights weren’t on, we decided it would be fun to pose in front of one of them. I snapped a picture of Robyn. Then, when I went to pose in front of the camera, the photographer had returned! Oops! One night on board and we were already being troublemakers.
It was a very eventful Embarkation Day on the Caribbean Princess!