When: December 19th 2015-December 30th 2015
Total length: 10 days, aboard the Royal Princess ship
Departure: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Ports of call: Bahamas, St. Maarten, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, Curaçao
Weather: Hot and humid. 25-35 as we got closer to the equator
I decided to take my own advice this time, and come to Florida to stay a day in advance. This way, we didn’t have to worry about rushing to the boat and getting an early flight to Miami. We found that coming into Miami instead of Fort Lauderdale worked out to be hundreds of dollars cheaper. Miami is only about half an hour from the Fort Lauderdale pier.
The Marriott Hotel
We wanted to stay somewhere that would have a complimentary shuttle to take us back to the Miami airport so that we could catch our next bus to the pier. The Marriott was right down the street from the airport and had a nice big and accessible bus for us to use. This was the only place we could find that had an accessible shuttle. The bus didn’t necessarily need to be ordered, but it does make it easier for us to not have to wait for it to come eventually. When we got out of the airport, we had to go to the hotel shuttle area and flag someone from the Marriott down. The bus can get busy, but I was able to fit two wheelchairs in.
The hotel room was large, and accessible. I got a complimentary cot to use. It did take a while for people to bring extra towels and blankets though. The bathroom had a walk in shower that may be a bit narrow for some. It did have a shower seat (see below). It was not very open, but it worked well for me. There was a hand held shower head.
The restaurant downstairs had delicious food. But salty! Our first reminder that we are in America. There is also a Starbucks. The internet was complimentary and fast in the lobby (only).
Getting to the Pier
We did some research, and found that accessible taxis were going to cost a lot of money, especially since we had 2 wheelchairs and 5 family members in total. So we took a chance and went with the Princess Transfers ($28.50/person one way). We got this at the airport. Go to arrivals, and search around the carousels for someone holding a Princess sign. The bus worked out well, as it was like a Greyhound bus. I would call and confirm it will be there that day, as ours was not booked somehow. We did go through a travel agent. But no worries, we still got on. The airport to the pier was only half an hour. There was a lot of traffic getting to the pier. So plan for an hour’s journey.
The procedure to get on the boat was very simple. There is always someone there to assist you. You go through security and check in. We were able to go straight to our rooms.
Our State Room was different than the one in my previous blog. This time we were 3 to a room, with my parents next door to us. We had balconies that opened up to create one longer balcony. Note: the balconies were a bit narrow. Non accessible balconies have a lip to get over, but accessible ones have a mini ramp and incline to get in and out. I am always cold, so it was actually nice to have the balcony to open up and add humidity to the room. It would be great to sit out there (when it wasn’t too hot!) and have some privacy from the busy areas of the ship.
The bed situation was a bit unique. Since there were 3 of us, we had to open up the bunk beds. There was no way I could get into bed with a bunk bed above my head, so my sister slept above my attendant. You can have them closed during the day, but require a special key. It would be a bit of a nuisance to have to constantly ask the room attendant to come open/close it. You may be able to ask for a small bed to be added if you need 4 to a room.
For a description of the bathroom, see my previous blog here.
It is the exact same set up. Really well done. All doorways in accessible rooms are very large.
The TV had some live programming (TSN, other boring channels) but also had on demand entertainment. If you missed a movie night on the ship, it would appear the next day in the movie section. Really well done, a great improvement to the ship.
Internet: Something new was that you could pay for internet (expensive) and use it anywhere on the ship. It was a bit dodgy in service, unfortunately. See my port of call areas on where to get internet. They also have an app that you can use like iMessenger to communicate with other passengers whilst on the ship (free of charge). You could also read the Princess Patter newsletter on it.
Around the ship
This was a relatively new ship, as compared to the one I took in 2011. All of the features I wished that they had (i.e. accessible buttons, less steep ramps), they had added. The hallways in the cabin areas I think were even a bit bigger. It was beautifully decorated for the Holidays. If you get cold easily, bring a sweater. Even though it was hot outside, they crank the AC inside.
We did go at Christmas, so it was very busy. Find your spot and keep it a secret! It took us a few days of sitting in bad spots (the smoking section) before we found a great area. Go to the 12th floor and go to the buffet area. Walk alllll the way to the back, and you will be at an outdoor area where you can sit and eat food, as well as lounge on the couches. The wind wasn’t too bad here on most days. There is both covered and uncovered spots.
If you would like to sit somewhere to sun bathe, this can be a bit tricky. There are great spots on the top decks, but they are so windy, people will actually fall over. The smoking area has well, smoke. The pool areas are better, but they play really loud music and movies throughout the day. Maybe I just hate people that much, but it was not my area. I much preferred the back of the ship where it was quiet.Your own balcony may come in handy.
It’s a given that cruises have amazing food. Even with it being Christmas, the food was still delicious. Our wait times though were outrageous in the anytime dining. Dinner would take 2.5 hours. Unless you ate at 5pm, which we did. Then it was only an hour and a half. I would pick one of the restaurants that cost extra ($25 surcharge) and try it. You don’t wait, and the food is incredible. We did the Italian restaurant and I still think about the pasta from time to time.
Something I found different about this cruise was that everything cost extra. It wasn’t like this on my old cruise. You wanted to go to the cafe? All drinks and treats are extra. All activities were especially expensive. Bingo was $35USD and you had to pay for the friggin bingo dabber!
There were lots of activities to do each day, and shows to see. My family seemed to enjoy them. I’m not one for watching shows though.
Ports of Call
Getting off: all the ports of call (with the exception of Bahamas, see below) had easy to use ramps to get off. I didn’t have to get out of my chair once. I did not find any accessible vehicles on the island.
This was a tender, and therefore I could not get off. In order to get off, you had to be able to walk on your own out of the chair. My mom and sister went and said it was nothing special. The food was terrible and there was only a small beach.
This place was relatively interesting. They had a water taxi that was actually accessible! We took it across to check out the town. We sat at a little café and used their internet. We also walked around and looked at shops. Most weren’t accessible, but they weren’t that nice anyways. The architecture was nice to look at. You could also rent chairs for the day ($25USD) and sit on the beach. I wouldn’t put an electric chair on the sand though as it is too fine. You could sit under a tree next to the sand. My sister did witness a machete fight, so maybe be careful for that.
Photo above: This was right off the ship (no water taxi needed). You could check out some small shops.
I would describe this place as the least accessible island I went to. It was also the sparsest. Right off the ship there is a warehouse with lots of stalls for the usual trinkets. We took a bit of a walk down the street (we had to walk through a cargo area, not the nicest but at least it was accessible). There was a small food stand that had wifi. We just bought some drinks and used it. Unfortunately, it was raining so we didn’t venture out further. But honestly, it would not have been worth it anyways. Skip this island and just stay on the ship.
Photo: warehouse with stalls
Photo: stall (with red tent) to get wifi
Grenada- Christmas Day
This was a really nice place to spend Christmas day. There was a small square that we walked out to and met a man (he just came up to us) who gave us a walking tour around the island. The island has a very interesting political history. There weren’t a lot of cars, so I could roll directly on the street. The views were beautiful and I loved seeing the old churches.
Wifi: We just used a cafe, because the stand selling wifi was overloaded with too many people using the server. We bought a water bottle from subway, since we thought they had internet (it came up on our phones). Turns out they don’t, so that was a waste. So try to see if people are on their phones in advance of purchasing anything.
I really enjoyed this island. Everything was very close to the ship and all flat. There were some shops right in front, as well as a nice sit down café for internet. Down the street there was an open market with unique stalls. I purchased a really pretty hand made Christmas ornament and flavoured salts. The town also had some interesting stores, most having one step to get into, so I just walked along the street. However, it was so incredibly hot since we were almost at the equator. Therefore, we went back to the ship.
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Photo: shops right off the ship. Market was located to the left of the stores in photo.
Photo: open market
This port of call was adorable. I felt like I was in Europe. This is a Dutch island, and had colourful buildings throughout. There was a long, smooth pathway that you could walk along the ocean. Lots of shops that were accessible (expensive ones by the stone fortress). As you got into less touristy areas (further into the town), it became more uneven on the sidewalks. You weren’t missing anything anyways. There is a place that you could take a boat to, but there was a long line and I wasn’t sure if it was accessible. I am presuming it was more or less what we walked around in.
wifi: there is a starbucks close to the ship. The area around the ship also has free internet that anyone can use.
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My overall thoughts of the cruise
- I loved the ship. Accessible and delicious food.
- Rooms were great, as were staff
- A bit overwhelming since it was Christmas. Eat dinner early to avoid crowds
- Find your spot by exploring ship thoroughly on the first day
- Bring warmer clothes for the indoors
– I was pleasantly surprised at all the stops I could get off and explore. Remember, you’re not really going on a cruise to learn the culture of the countries you visit