[Part 3, a continuing narration of my recent experience on the Caribbean Princess, Canada/New England cruise]
Let’s start with the Bars. On every cruise, the first place we visit on any ship is the bar by the pool. Because our cabin was just steps away from cool liquid refreshment, the bar at Neptune’s Pool became our “stop” on the way, and bartender “Rocky” became our new best friend. He saw us coming from a mile away, called us by name (presumably with the help of Medallion ID, of course), and was ready to serve with his best “Isaac” imitation.
Other than Rocky and the Neptune Bar, I can’t remember when bar service has been so lacking on a Princess ship. I don’t know if they were short handed or if they were focusing more on the folks ordering from the Ocean Medallion apps, but we were hard pressed to find someone to take a drink order in many places – the theatre, in the atrium, poolside, and, most notably, Vines, the wine bar. We stopped by to chat with friends as they were sipping wine before dinner, and no one was in sight to see if we wanted anything. BUT – watch how fast they come if you try walking off with their premium Vine’s stemware to enjoy elsewhere on the ship. When we finally did get service, the same missing waiter magically appeared from nowhere to chase me down in order to switch out the good wine glass for a cheaper travel version.
We skipped more shows and performances on this cruise than usual, either because we had seen the shows before, we were busy wading through a 3-course dinner in the dining room, or we were just plain tired. We are early-to-rise, early-to-bed people at home, and old habits die hard, even on vacation. Still, we did stay awake long enough to catch some very good acts:
Les Grands Hurleurs (Folklore Performance): Wow! Feet on fire! This energetic French-Canadian trio of talented musicians – guitar, bass and a foot-tapping fiddler – will make you want to dance in the aisles – or even your seat, and we absolutely loved them! Watch a video clip here: https://youtu.be/DXaKzLncmG0
Comedian, Richie Minervini: I can tell when a comedian is funny by how many tears of laughter I need to dry, and I needed half a box of tissues for this guy. He’s got quite a TV and comedy club history according to his website, though I didn’t recognize him and never watched the shows he was famous for (“King of Queens” or “Rosie”). In any event, he was hilarious, and his jokes hit their mark.
Static – I actually left David in the cabin one night and went out dancing to this lively, high-energy dance band. The two lead singers do an awesome job taking turns mingling with the crowd and encouraging everyone to get out on the dance floor and boogie to pop, oldies and disco.
Bravo – This was the only production extravaganza we experienced on this cruise. The Princess singers, dancers and orchestra came together to perform pop music with a side order of light opera. We had seen this show on a previous Princess cruise, and the vocals, costumes and choreography were as phenomenal as I remembered. It was definitely worth the re-run!
Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria. We had not planned on trying any of the added-fee specialty restaurants on this cruise, but made a spur-of-the-moment reservation at Sabatini’s, and we were not disappointed. We live in an Italian/American neighborhood in our home town and have the best Italian food around, so I was a little skeptical whether cruise ship Italian could compete. Turned out it was just as good as anything back home. Service was impeccable, the food expertly prepared and delicious. David had the foresight to remember to snap a photo of his trio of pastas.
While dining on our Italian dinner, we watched as waiter after waiter brought out a quartet of delectable delights to other tables. When the dessert menu arrived, we didn’t hesitate and each ordered our own. While we were waiting for them to arrive to the table, little did we know that singing waiters were going to surprise us with a cake for our anniversary. There was no way we could do double dessert, so we had them wrap the cake and deliver it to our cabin, which was a good move, because it would have been a damn shame if we didn’t have room in our bellies for these slanted glass goblets containing tiramisu, berries and chocolate sauce, panna cotta and one of the cruise line’s famous Chocolate Journey creations. Positively sinful!
Sabatini’s was, of course, the culinary highlight of the cruise, and Anytime Dining in our venue of choice, Island Dining Room, had some good offerings, as well. My prime rib was delicious, though I did hear several people complain it was tough. The always-available fettuccini alfredo was even better than I remember, and the French onion soup was amazing, as always. The best entree on the menu was the beef medallion, very tender and delicious. Service, on the other hand, was inconsistent, with long lags between courses, and accompaniments like butter and sour cream for a baked potato were slow in coming. One noticeable change was the steak option missing from the “anytime” menu, now replaced by a burger.
World Fresh Marketplace (a.k.a.Buffet ): With the exception of room service a couple of mornings, we had breakfast here most often. However, while everyone else naturally gravitated to the first stack of plates and nearby food stations, we headed on through to Planks BBQ and adjacent Steamers, both open daily in the mornings. It was far less crowded and much quieter, though by the end of the cruise, others had discovered our secret. In fact, Steamers is also where the omelet station is located, which made me wonder how many people weren’t even aware of its existence. Most of the same breakfast options were available here, and if they didn’t have it, the nearby main buffet did. We found the food generally good, with a wide selection of items to choose from.
International Cafe: This is my favorite snack venue on the ship, with complimentary salads, sandwiches, quiche and desserts. The adjacent coffee bar serves up some delicious specialty coffees for a fee.
Slice Pizzeria: Caribbean Princess does not have their famous sit-down Alfredo’s pizza restaurant, so this pool-side pizzeria was the next best thing, and served up fresh and tasty pies. The best part? It was just steps away from our cabin, so we could easily grab a slice whenever we craved it which, I confess, was too often. To our delight, they have added deep dish focaccia and sliced stromboli to the menu, which were delicious.
The Salty Dog: I don’t think we tried the burgers at this poolside grill, but the hot dogs were good. Plus, maybe I was inspired by the poutine (fries covered in gravy and cheese curds) I tried in Quebec City, but suddenly I wanted to smother my fries in toppings, so I ordered them covered in cheese and bacon.
Stay tuned for port reviews …