Last updated Feb 5, 2001 (still under construction, more pictures coming)
Dec 30, 2000 to Jan 6, 2001
This page is to refresh our memories of the great time we had and to share them with our friends.
Captain: David L Christie
857' long, 133' wide, 185.4' above keel, 2270 passengers, 880 crew, 22.2 knots top speed
From Ft Lauderdale to Princess Cays, Ocho Rios, Jamaca, Grand Caymen, Cozumel Mexico, back to Ft Lauderdale
Click for map
December was one of the coldest months I can remember in the Phila area, with temperatures diving down to 5 degrees F. on at least 2 occassions and below 15-20 on many occassions. We were ready for warmer temperatures.
Friday, we left Phila at 725am on Midway AirLines with snow threats of up to 16 inches that night (only a few inches actually fell). It was about 58 degrees in Ft Lauderdale under partly cloudy skies. Friday afternoon, we went to the "Cirus" Swap Shop on Sunrise Blvd, between I 95 and the turnpike, a giant indoor/outdoor market. Maria and I really enjoyed this. Beside the tons of junk, there were some very interesting novelities. It was the biggest of its kind that we ever saw. We had dinner at a Cuban restaurant in Miami that Skip was familiar with. The food was quite good. We stayed Friday night at the "Best" Inn (3711 Ocean Blvd). We didn't get much sleep because of the bar and loud party below that lasted till after 4am.
Day 1 Saturday We were "On board" by 1 PM. We had a Buffet Lunch on board. The ship left port about 7 PM
Day 2 Arrive Princess Cays 10am (leave 5pm). Tender service from the ship to shore. Buffet lunch on the Island
Day 3 Monday: All Day At Sea
Day 4 Ocho Rios, Jamaica 8am (leave 5pm)
Day 5 Grand Caymen 7am (leave 4 pm)
Day 6 Cozumel, Mexico 9am (leave 7 pm) [1 hour time change, back the night before, ahead the night after]
Day 7 Friday: All Day At Sea (packing; most suit cases to be picked up by dinner)
Day 8 Arrive Port Everglades - Ft Lauderdale 7 AM We enjoyed an early Buffet breakfast (we were off the ship by about 930am)
Our Group (10 of us)
Gene & Maria Mitchell; Steve, Jo, Adrienne, and Susie Banko; Paul, Mary-Pat, Jerry, and Aaron Brown. This was the 10th cruise on Princess for the Banko's. (Jo is Maria's sister). Arrangements for the cruise were made last summer by the Banko's and World Wide Travel of Harrisburg. Click Pix #1 - Pix #2 (Right click once the Picture is loaded and save to your hard drive) - the whole picture will not show on your screen till you save it and then view it because of the high resolution - capture the pictures soon because I will have to cut the file size in the near future.
Although we like to do things ourselves, most of the time, our little group added a dimension of doing things that we may not have otherwise done. This circle of family and friends with us made our vacation extra special. Thankyou Skip and Jo for inviting us. We also enjoyed your company, Paul and Mary-Pat. As I think on this, we probably did more things because of our group than if we had been alone.
Prior to arrival at the ships Port Everglades terminal, we were given tags for our baggage with our Stateroom number. Baggage was collected upon arrival at the terminal. We were then given forms to fill out prior to getting in line. We were also given these forms last fall and told to mail them in, which we did. Naturally, they never reached the cruise line, so we had to fill them out again. Lines were grouped by deck and stateroom. We received an ID card with magnetic strip which activated out stateroom door and it was also used to charge any purchases on board to the stateroom account, linked to a credit card on file. (Drinks, pictures, store purchases, etc) We were then directed to a passage to the ship. The card is also used everytime you get on or off the ship to determine who is on board at any one time. Pictures were taken of those going on board for later purchase. I would have liked to have the picture of Maria and I boarding the ship, but we were not together because of returning the rental car. Skip and I looked for the rest of our group and found them in the Horizon buffet. We determined that they had been to the stateroom because the hand luggage was there.
Dolphin Deck (Deck 8) Room 232 We had an inside cabin with a queen bed that was very comfortable. The Browns and Bankos were just down the hall in adjoining rooms. The room was very comfortable. There was closet space and drawers for all we brought. Our stateroom attendant greeted us the first night, having learned our name before, and he seemed to be near almost every time we went to the stateroom, pleasantly greeting us .
There was a small television. Several channels were Princess channels including a view from the bridge (see "the cam"). There were channels on safety and channels about out destinations. There was CNN and a channel with movies. There could have been a better news channel like the "All News Channel" and we definately missed the "Weather" channel to see what we missed at home.
Our First Day
We all enjoyed a great buffet lunch and then sat out on deck for a bit. I went for my camcorder and taped a good bit of the ship.There was a Princess Patter, the ships daily news bulletin at our stateroom, but we were so overwhelmed, we didn't read it right away. We missed the 3 & 415PM tours of the ship, because we didn't read it. We learned to read it every day.
At 515PM, we had a "muster" exercise. It was announced over the ships public address system. On signal, we went to our staterooms and brought our lifejackets to a designated area where we learned emergency procedures. Our area was the Princess Theatre.
I really wanted to see us pull out of Ft Lauderdale, but we were at the first seating in the dining room. I guess I didn't miss too much, because it was dark. We did learn there was a party on deck for this.
After dinner, the shows and activities began.
On returning to our staterooms we found 3 bottles of wine/champaign, 2 compliments of Princess and one, World Wide Travel. We also received 2 hand bags. The bottles made it home, still corked, which we will save for company and special occassions. (Maybe a reunion - picnic this summer). We had purchased canned ice tea and sodas, some bottled water, as well as some coolers before we came on board. Although I drank a few, I think it was a waste, and we should have consumed the comp wines instead.
Saturday, Tuesday, and Friday nights dress was casual. Sunday and Wednesday was formal dress. Thursday was casual/tropical.
Unlimited food and the best you could find
We ate most breakfasts (buffet) in the Horizon Court (Deck 14) You name it, it was available: as much as you wanted. On morning, we ate in the dining room.
We also ate all lunches (except the Princess Cays Island buffet) at the Horizon Court. There were almost unlimited choices of hot and cold foods.
We ate all Dinners in the Neopolitan Dining Room (Deck 5). 6 PM First Seating. You were allowed to order more than one salad, appetiser, and even the entre. One night, the rack of lamb was so good, I did order a second plate. It was common to order more than one appitizer, entre, and desert.
There was a pizza bar and a grill that Maria and I didn't get to check out. Maria did say she wanted a pizza, but we never seemed to find the time or had the room and it doesn't do well on our diet. We both like pizza. We also wanted to try the burgers, but there was too much other good food.
There was an ice cream bar where ice cream was charged for. That didn't bother me, but I did run across a lady who was complaining about it because she had been on another cruise line where ice cream was free.
Activities On Board
This cruise was over New Years and the new millenium. Princess had a hell of a party. I'm sure the ship's stabilizers were in full operation. The ship survived Y2K1 with no problems. We normally do not go to new year's parties, but did stay up for this one. We are not normally drinkers either. We did enjoy a drink for the occassion since we had a designated driver.
Swimming in the warm pool - it must have been about 90 degrees. I went swimming on 2 occassions, trying both the main pool and also the adult pool; I should have done it more .It was most relaxing.
Bingo - Maria and I played bingo 5 times at $20 a pop. This is something we normally would not do, but enjoyed it. There were big cash prizes and a jackpot that went off the last day. The room was packed for the final days game.
Casino- Maria and I did the slot machines on several occassions. We lost $30 over several days. One night, we won $37 and decided that was a good time to stop.Skip was big on cards.
Tour of the Navigation Bridge: extremely interesting. It's very impressive. They demonstrated how they could determine if another ship was on a collision path miles away. There were also human lookouts on duty at all times. ( I noticed 3 radar antennas and about 4 satellite antenna domes) The ships communications must be very impressive. (Computers and Communications are my special interest). The pictures I took turned out well and I may post them on this page in the near future.
Afternoon Tea - we tried tea one afternoon. The mini sandwiches and mini desert cakes were very filling. It was fun to do it once, but we didn't need the extra food. There was so much of it there.
Shows, at least 2 every night: a magician (Gaetanio) , commedian/jugler (Thein Fu), comedian (Dave Heanen), several musicals including Bobby Arvon, writer and singer of Happy Days theme song. (He was great! We went to both of his shows) I even got a chance to talk with him twice during the cruise. Great guy too! Shows were in both the Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge. There was one show in the Vista Lounge that was completely full and there were no further seats. I have added the show titles for review. Movies were offered, but we decided we could see them elsewhere, off the ship. The shows were one of a kind. The theatres were very well equipped. The lighting and effects rivaled the best of theatres and the sound system including wireless microphones for all actors was exceptional.
The cruise director, Peter Tredgett, and his assistants: Susan, Kelvin Jay, Donna Dobson, and others were very interesting and entertaining. There was alot of electric between them. I have not seen any similar group work together the way they did. I liked the heavy english accent and humor. The neat side step that Peter does while talking is interesting. Skip mentioned that none of the other cruise directors on his other cruises had the same personality and bonding with the rest of his staff as Peter did. I agree he was special. I would almost want to be able to find out if he was on our next cruise, before we chose it. We all felt we had the best Princess had to offer.
Line Dancing: I watched Line Dancing lessons one afternoon. Donna was great. We went back one evening to watch Line Dancing again at the Hoe Down.
Most of our group attended the Karoke in Rocky's Bar on at least 2 occassions. Mary-Pat auditioned well for the crowd.
Mary-Pat also entered the talent show on the last day. She was very good. We got there just in time for her performance.
There was a demonstration of ice carving on Wednesday. There were ice carvings most of the time at the entrance to the Horizon.
We participated with Skip and the others of our group on a couple of the Trivia sessions.
Culinary Demonstration and Tour of the Kitchen (Friday): - the demonstration in the Vista Lounge with some of the kitchen/dining room staff including our Maitre d' (Mario) was excellent as well as great entertainment. I got some good videos of the kitchen. It's very impressive.
There was organized walking around the ship's deck every day. Three times around was a mile. We did that most of the days.
Click for Live Cams on board (choose Sea Princess Atrium or Bridge)
I wish I had thought to tell Mike and Anne to check the CAMS while we were at sea.
I have checked them several times, and sometimes, the views are clear in my memory as well.
Weather and Details of Stops
The weather was windy and chilly, about 58 degrees as we left Ft Lauderdale. After we got out into the ocean, the waves made the ship roll a bit. It wasn't bad, but you felt it.The effects of the weather in the NorthEast were felt all the way down into the Caribbean. When we arrived at Princess Cays the next day, it was still quite windy and chilly, 57 degrees. The crew went ashore ahead of passengers to set up a giant buffet lunch. Water activities were available, but few participated due to the chilly wind. We enjoyed the beach and food, walked around a bit, I took lots of videos, and we went back to the ship about 2PM.
When we arrived at Ocho Rios, Jamaica on Tuesday, the weather was warmer, about 81 degrees. The ship was able to dock here. We rented a taxi, with the "professor" as our driver and guide. Our first stop was the river for tubing, but we were too early. We went to Dunn's River Falls where we climbed up the middle of them. Pix # 3 . After that adventure, we went back to the tubing location on the White River. It was muddy and rapid. No one gave thought as to possible dangers ahead. After about 5 minutes or so whizzing down the river, I hit a rock with my bottom, yelled out, and then Maria hit the same rock, really slamming it. Adrianne racked her foot good. Shortly after that, I found my self snagged on a branch which flipped my tube. I held on securely to it. One of our guides, Rambo, came to my rescure. After making sure I was OK, he found several others of our party flipped and in trouble. Jo went under in a whirlpool. She was quickly pulled up. The Brown's camera took a bath. Everyone except skip flipped off their tube. There was a spot to get out of the water and rest. Everyone took a break. Jo, Adrianne, and Susie refused to go further. The rest of us continued on. It was much better from this point. We finally reached civilization, first seeing a power boat. A short distance ahead, a dock, and buildings were in view, as well as the ocean. The professor was there waiting. Skip informed him that he needed to find the 3 girls. After a short shopping stop, we headed back to the ship for a late buffet lunch.
On Wednesday, we arrived at Grand Caymen. The weather seemed better yet, although it was only 80 degrees. Tender service took passengers to shore. After looking in many of the local shops, Maria, Jo, and I walked about 2.5 miles to the 7 mile beach. We did some shopping along the way. There was a public entrance at one of the bigger hotels. $2 admission allowed us on the beach. The rest of the group went on another tour. After baking and swimming a bit, the others met up with us there. Later, Maria and I walked back the same way we came. Jo went with the others, taking public transportation back.
Thursday found us at Cosumel, Mexico. We shopped a little, but Maria and I weren't turned on much by the area. The others went off on a tour or something. There was a short rain shower. Maria and I went back to the ship to enjoy the ship's activities.
Noel, who took care of our stateroom was very personable and efficient. He stood out as special from the other attendants we saw.He seemed to know our names immediately.We saw him many times a day in the hallway and he was always pleasant to talk to.
Our waiter and his assistant, Alfredo and Tony, were also excellent. They were efficient, polite, and entertaining. We watched some of the other waiters and think we had the best ones on the ship.Gocimo, the head waiter was also interesting and entertaining.
On our second to last night, Maria mentioned our little 1 year old toy poodle which we left with the vet. - she was homesick for her. I decided I was too.
I gained only 4 pounds. Maria was worried it would be much more. She did about the same. I was careful with the "carbs" at breakfast and only had rolls with dinner on 2 occassions, which I normally don't touch. Princess never announced the winner of the "food contest" that Peter kept referring to.
I took my portable "Street Pilot GPS" which allowed me to see where we were. I could have been a backup if the ship's system failed. I punched in way points along the way, including the exact spot we were positioned at the stroke of midnight on the new millenium. Although I also took a 2 meter hand held ham radio along, I didn't get a chance to use it, first because I never got an answer from the captain as to whether I could use it, and second, I am not sure I would have had time. I did note that the ship rented portable hand helds, and had I thought of it, I should have taken mine along. I will next time. I took my portable hand scanner along to do some listening, but only had a chance to turn it on one time.
The ship experienced 2 problems along the way. The pool pump burned up on one occassion and there was an engine problem that left us sitting still in the water for 2 hours on Friday. We knew something was up with an announcement for a crew on the pump incident. The captain announced each time what was happening and passengers seemed to take everything in stride. The ship's crew seemed to be able to handle both problems very well. I would guess they are prepared for anything. We were about 23 miles off Cuba and wondered how long we would drift. Not to worry, mon! It was only 2 hours and we found the ship back up to speed. I liked being informed as we were.
The art work in the ship was beautiful. The atrium, elevator lobby, and stairways were decked out with very expensive art. Several art auctions were part of the program, but that was not our interest.
Princess photographers were everywhere. We bought a formal picture of us and one of Maria. We also bought a picture of our group from the New Years Party and from the Falls on Jamaica. There was another one from the Falls also. Pictures can be clicked on above to load. They are high resolution and may take a minute each. I am not displaying them without the clicking because of the time they take to load. I may put some other pictures up in time. I took several pictures with my digital camera and about an hour of video on my camcorder. After viewing the video, I wish I had taken the cam more places and to more ships activities. We also purchased the ship's video to suppliment our videos. Maria and I have viewed the purchased video and are glad we got it. I enjoyed the cruise so much that I forgot to use the camcorder and camera on many occassions. I would have liked to have videos of the bingo games, the theatres, our dining experience, as well as some of the off ship activities. I was afraid that something would happen to the camcorder, though.
We made use of the laundry facilities on Thursday and experienced no lines. We felt that if we waited till the last day, we might never get our laundry done.
Saturday, Jan 6: The procedure to disembark seemed very organized. We got up early, finding ourselves docked already. We ate our last breakfast at the Horizon. After breakfast, we collected our hand bags and went to the atrium for our color tags to be called. I think we were off the ship by 930am. After getting a rental car, we went to a large mall, except Skip, who went golfing. Maria and I met my brother, Dennis, at 2PM at the motel, who drove down 4 hours from Ormond Beach. He took us first to see the house in Pompano where my mom and dad once lived on SE 8th St. It was such a beautiful house on a lake, just off the Inter Coastal. We then went to see Aunt Helen, a short distance away, who we haven't seen in 19 years. She looked very well. She didn't want to go out for dinner, so just the 3 of us went to a steak house. Sunday morning, we got up a 445am to head for the airport.
Return to Phila
The flight from Raleigh to Phila was downgraded to a small plane, one of the smallest commercial lines I have ever been on. We actually pulled away from the terminal a few minutes early. The flight was fairly smooth and it arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Our bags arrived fairly quickly to the claim area and the bus to the parking facility seemed to arrive quickly as well.
We found several inches on snow on the ground on our return. The roads were clear though. Temperatures had moderated a bit to 35 day and 25 evening. Mokka was retrieved Sunday afternoon about 430PM and very happy to see us.
At about $3000, all items considered, we definately had the vacation of our lifetime. I don't know when we (the Mitchells) will be able to do it again, but I will be dreaming about it and looking to find the means. We also had wanted to do the Amtrak trip to California again. The cruise is most likely to win. Maria had reservations about going on the cruise. It had been a dream of mine for years and I had pushed a little. She has now mentioned another one several times.
Page and comments by Gene Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org)