Saturday, April 29, 2006

May 2006, Caribbean Princess Cruise -- Day 1, Continued

Saturday Night

Map of our itineraryThe map shows our stops on this cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. We are at sea all day Sunday and Monday, arriving in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Tuesday morning. Then the Caribbean Princess has stops at St. Maarten on Wednesday and Princess Cays on Friday.

We decided that this is a tropical vacation and we were not about to dress up. So we chose the less formal "Anytime Dining" option -- there is no set time to eat, no assigned tables, no strangers to eat with.

It's all the same food anyway. In the formal venue, the Island Dining Room, the dining experience is much more structured. You are assigned a specific meal service that's the same time every evening -- either 6:00 or 8:15 -- at the same table, served by the same waiters and you sit with the same dinner companions. And at some point during the cruise you get your picture taken with the captain. You can buy a copy of this photo if you wish.

The evening dress code in all the dining rooms (but not for the buffet) is "Smart Casual," except on formal nights. I think the intention is to have no one wearing bathing suits, shorts, tank tops or flip-flops. We decided to blend in and wore long pants and Hawaiian shirts for our dress up clothes. Apparently it worked, the waiters treated us fine. And brought us more food than we asked for.

There are two dining rooms for us "Anytime Dining" folks, the Palm and the Coral, on Fiesta Deck 6. Both have lovely decor, waiter service and table linens and you can eat whenever you want to during normal evening meal hours -- 5:30 to 10:00. You just walk in and ask for a table. One time we had to wait a few minutes to get a table for two, no problem. Also there are a couple of buffets -- one is open 24/7. Plus burgers, hot dogs and pizzas by one of the pools. Except for two speciality restaurants that charge an extra fee, all the meals and snacks are included in the price of the cruise. Drinks (beer, cocktails, fancy coffees and soft drinks) cost extra. Free, unlimited coffee, tea, iced tea and ice water are always available in the buffet, 24/7.

The boat was going through some rough waters and I knew I couldn't manage the buffet with my bad knee so we ate in the Palm Dining Room and the food and service was very good. During the meal the ship was rocking a lot more, we assumed it's like that, that's the way it is. It's a boat -- there are waves.

When we left the dining room I was having trouble walking and almost needed to steady myself by grabbing the heads of diners as we headed for the exit. I didn't. Later we found out it was really quite rough, unusually so, and the captain had taken us on a wide detour to avoid the worst of the choppy seas.

The ship's daily paper, Princess PatterThen we explored the ship a little to see it after dark. It is all quite beautiful and well maintained. When we got back to the room -- not tempted at all to join the "Ja'maican Me Crazy" Sailaway Party -- we read the ship's daily newspaper Princess Patter. It lists the events for the next day and is full of ads for the on-board shops. Lots o' sales and bargains!

The rocking motion of the ship was wonderful for sleeping and although we had no problems with being seasick we both took some mild motion sickness pills anyway. And slept well.

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