Flew from Seattle Friday morning on United. Our flights were both on time.
Once we were in Fort Lauderdale the Best Western Plus Fort Lauderdale Airport/Cruise Port (1221 W State Road 84 Fort Lauderdale, FLORIDA 33315-2349 954/462-7005) shuttle was already there. A nice, free service that the hotel offers. When we arrived at the hotel the woman at the desk was friendly and helpful. We were quickly checked in and got a room on the first floor. It never occurred to us to ask for a non-smoking room -- didn't know that a smoking room existed anymore! There was a very faint smell of cigarettes, not enough to bother us or ask us to change our room. The hotel is very close to a strip mall -- we walked to Big Daddy's liquor store and got two bottles of wine -- they carried my favorite St Michelle's Riesling -- and we bought a bottle of vodka to put in our Shampoozles. Except for our snack pack on the plane we hadn't eaten yet so walked to Wendy's (which is in the parking lot of the strip mall) and to McDonalds (same parking lot and about 15 feet from the hotels front door). The bed and pillows were comfortable -- the room was very clean. There is a refrigerator and a microwave, coffee pot and iron/ironing board. We fell asleep shortly after eating our dinner.
Day '1' Embarkation
In the morning we sat out by the hotel pool and then walked to the Winn Dixie (because I'd never been to one!) and got a pair of sunglasses. Then to the neighboring cigar store and picked up a few stogies for the ship. We checked out of the hotel around 10:45 and asked the front desk person to call a cab for us. We didn't take the hotels shuttle van, so many people and so many suitcases (we just took carryon bags) -- when an independent shuttle van showed up we negotiated $12 for both of us ($6.00 each). We stopped at one hotel to pick up another couple and then straight to Port Everglades. What a sight to see -- seven ships in port!
When we were dropped off at the Crown Princess Pier we were directed to the Platinum/Elite/Suites preferred area. This was our sixth Princess cruise which put us in the Platinum category. The sitting area was already full (which did not make the woman in front of us happy -- she complained loudly, really made a spectacle of herself), we waited about 10 minutes outside until the group inside could start to check in. It took MAYBE 10 minutes to walk through the door, get checked in, have our photo taken, get on the ship and drop our luggage off in our room, all by 11:45!
Throughout the cruise, from the moment we walked on the ship until we left, every crew member was friendly and sociable. We walked around the ship for a bit, we'd sailed the Crown on it's second sailing six years ago but no way we could remember where things were. We had lunch in the Horizon Court and went back to our cabin to unpack. Before the Muster Drill we went to the Passenger Services desk to see if there was space available for the Behind the Scenes tour, we were put on a waiting list for a second tour if there were enough people throughout the cruise to sign up. Should have followed the advice of others on Cruise Critic and went straight there when we got on board. Enjoyed sailaway and noticed that Lisa, the cruise director was the assistant cruise director when we were last on the Crown.
After sailaway we took a short nap and then went to the DiVinci dining room. Anna, the hostess, was incredibly nice and remembered us through out the cruise. Because we were celebrating our anniversary we didn't want to share a table, so each night we requested, and got, a table for two. Okay... for our first dinner between the two of us we had: spring rolls (soggy), Caesar salad (perfect each night), Prime Rib with full loaded baked potato (it was wonderful), Shrimp cocktail, cream of mushroom soup (wow!) and Fettucini with chicken strips. For dessert we had carrot cake and the flourless chocolate cake -- the desserts were wonderful each night. Sailing was pretty rocky the first night, heard a number of people mentioning it. I always wear my wrist seabands for the first 24 hours and although I was a little woozy the first night, I took them off in the morning and never needed them again. We stopped in the casino for a few minutes after dinner -- played the quarter flipper game and a new game they have, Casino Vault. This 'game, of skill' is available to play 24/7, since technically it's not a game of chance. You can win $500 to $1000 (or combination of Apple Ipad and $500).
Off to bed.
We got up around 7:30 and had breakfast in the Horizon Court -- I love the smoked salmon with all the accompaniments, lemon, tomato, capers... I just skipped the bagel! Today we visit Princess Cays and we had rented a bungalow. Our receipt and tender tickets were in our room last night. We were on the first passenger tender to the island (I wore my seabands on the tender but it was smooth sailing). You meet under the Brazilian flag and are taken by tractor/tram to the bungalows. Unlike Carnival, Princess doesn't let you pick your bungalow, we were assigned to Red Hibiscus. It was a nice room with two loungers on the deck area and two outside under an umbrella with a wooden reserved sign. Inside the air-conditioned room is a table with table cloth and four chairs. They provide you with a bucket of ice and a pitcher of water. We were located directly across from the opening of the water -- a lot of the beach/water entry is roped off -- it was nice to be so close for swimming, snorkeling (gear not included) or floating (float mats are included). If you are interested, for $50 more you can have lunch delivered, we chose not too. Would we rent the bungalow again..... I don't think so. It would be nice if you had children so they had a place to get out of the sun but the Cabana's at Carnival's private island are so much better and provide so much more for the same price ($199) that Princess really suffers by comparison. We did, however, have a wonderful day and enjoyed every moment of our bungalow.
We snorkeled -- there were so many fish of so many colors and sizes and shapes... it was beautiful. We had purchased a water tight cover for our digital camera, similar to this http://www.thewaterproofstore.com/iphone.html - but we got ours on ebay for around $6.00. It worked great. The buffet wasn't great -- jerk chicken, ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs and fruit. I think there may have been some sort of pasta salad and cookies, I believe. If you worked up a hunger with the swimming and exploring it would have filled you up, but.... I didn't think it was that great.
We snorkeled and napped outside in the sun -- a wonderful day. We packed up and headed towards the tenders around 2:15, the line was very long so we, along with many others, found loungers in the shade and listened to music and watched the volleyball games.
Once back on board we changed our clothes and noticed it was Tea Time. The service was wonderful in the DiVinci dining room -- and the little sandwiches and scones and desserts were yummy. After Tea we went to the Casino for a class on roulette, black jack and craps -- with the intention of just going through the motions so we could get the $5 matched game coupon but I actually learned things about Roulette that I didn't know and reconfirmed that I have no interest in Craps! We quickly lost our $5 but it was fun. After a little nap (glorious, no guilt, uninterrupted naps were heavenly on this cruise!), we dressed for dinner. The French onion soup was sooooo good as was the Goat Cheese souffle. The souffle was so good that looking back I wish I would have ordered four of them and skipped the main entree -- not that it was bad, but the souffle was so good! The asparagus soup was fine. The fried chicken was good as were the steak medallions, the orange roughy was okay. Too full for dessert -- yes, shameful to pass it up! Donated $20 to the casino then off for a full night sleep.
Day '3' Sea Day
Oh my goodness, we stayed in bed til 8:00 -- were surprised that we slept so long. One of the perks of Platinum is you get 150 free minutes of internet use per Platinum member if the cabin. We were able to send emails home and instant message on facebook to check in with family.
It was a beautiful morning, the water was like glass. We walked the promenade deck and enjoyed the sun. We had been upgraded to an obstructed view cabin two days before the cruise. It was easy to pick out our cabin while walking on deck, as ours was one of very few on the Emerald Deck that had an unobstructed view! We had booked an inside cabin so having a window was a nice perk. When we got back to our cabin the door was decorated with balloons and a poster wishing us a Happy Anniversary -- it was nice. We checked out the Sanctuary area and then walked back to the adult pool in the back of the ship. Went swimming and sunned for a bit. Went to the Wheelhouse Bar for the Pub Lunch, we had prawns and chips and the fish and chips -- we tried the scotch egg but the sausage was a bit too 'sagey' for me. We had tea later in the day -- the raspberry mousse was delicious.
Went to the casino where we played, for the first time ever, 3 card poker. Now, my opinion of the casino is based on the cost per hour of fun. If we are having fun and can sit for an hour or so trading money back and forth then that is great -- I know in the long run all the money I set aside for gambling is going back to the casino but as long as it doesn't disappear in ten minutes I'm okay with it (otherwise I am very crabby!). We played for over an hour, came out ahead, tipped the dealer generously throughout the game, put our original amount we brought to the table away. I then took a portion of those winnings and with my new found skills (?) played roulette and won a few dollars. Walked away ahead of the game.
Tonight is formal night so got dressed up for dinner. The menu was disappointing for a formal night -- it was Caribbean Night menu, and while the food was good, having fajitas and jerk chicken is not formal fare. For dessert they brought a scrumptious cake with candles and sang to us, embarrassing yes, but you are only married 28 years once! We took the cake back to our room to snack on later, after returning $50 to the casino!
Day '4' Curacao
We sat by the pool this morning after a light breakfast and then watched on the port side as we approached Curacao. We got off the ship around 1:00. Stopped at the Starbucks to try the free wifi then walked to the Slave Museum. It is a very interesting museum, well worth the $9 for admission. So informative, well put together -- and there are banana trees growing in the atrium area! We walked to the waterfront, the pontoon bridge was open so we took the ferry. We had a Kaas souffle at a little vendor type restaurant. Found the KFC which traditionally we have to get a piece or two and take our picture! We walked past the Synagogue, through some of the stores, and went to the Floating Market -- so colorful. We bought a wedge of watermelon for $1.00 -- it was good. We slowly walked back to the ship, across the pontoon bridge. It was a very hot day -- and we had walked for about 5 hours -- so as soon as we got back to the ship we changed into swim wear and went to the Spa pool -- so nice and relaxing and felt great on our sunburned skin! Walked through Horizon Court but nothing caught our eye so we ordered room service -- pizza and salads. We were about to fall asleep when there were a number of announcements asking for four women/girls to call passenger services. As we were looking out our window, there was a crowd gathered on the promenade deck watching and waiting.... as we finally pulled away from the dock about 300 feet or so, a half an hour or so later then when we were scheduled to leave, here comes four females running and waving their arms at the ship hoping it would come back. Seems there are always a few on board who can't tell time! They had to fly to Aruba to catch the ship at the next port of call -- an expensive lesson for them.
Day '5' Aruba
We met Trikes Aruba representative -- whose name now escapes me, I'm sorry -- just outside the ships security area (just follow the path). The driver gets a quick lesson and you fill out a short paperwork form -- drivers license information etc. This excursion was bumped to our Number 1 excursion ever quickly. Off to the California light house and the Chapel of Alto Vista exudes tranquility on its dramatic setting above the sea. The chapel was the island's first Roman Catholic Church, built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953. Then to the Casibari Rock Formations and off to see beautiful beaches and a stop at a fish restaurant, on a clear day you can see Nicaragua just 13 miles away. This was a beautiful way to see the island, a 3 Â½ hour tour. When we were done with the tour we walked to Iguana Joes for a drink and the West Indian Patties (Pastechies). Did some souvenir shopping and bought some Aruba Aloe, much needed after hours in the sun! We got back to the ship around 3:00. The buffet wasn't to our liking so we got burgers from the grill and a combo of the chicken and greek salad from the piazza.
We had purchased the Ultimate Drinking Card (sticker), which really paid off for us. Many diet cokes, fruit smoothies and mocktails. After a fun filled day we went back to the cabin to take a nap, determined to watch the Crew Talent Show tonight. Instead of sleeping we went up to Skywalkers for the Platinum/Elite nightly hors devours. When we got back to our room we had a note that we would be able to take the Behind the Scenes tour on Friday -- happy campers!!! Dinner again in the dining room, if you slide the maitre d' a $5 the table he suddenly remembers you and the table you prefer suddenly is available! We had a combination of the fruit platter, Oyster Stew, Barley Mutton Soup, Steak and Turkey Pot Pie and the Duck. For dessert we had the sugar free Strawberry Mousse, which looked so pretty but tasted sugar free! After dinner we sat port side on the Promenade deck and star gazed -- saw Mars and Jupiter smiling down on us. Made it to the show and enjoyed ourselves. Back to the cabin at midnight and slept til 9:00!!! We never ever sleep that late!
After sleeping in we had breakfast in Horizon Court then went to Terrace pool to swim and sun. Saw Haiti at a distance, enjoyed our at sea day with trips to the casino, Tea, a walk around Promenade.... Formal night tonight, off to meet the Captain and free cocktails. Dinner was a crab and shrimp salad with caviar, fettucini, Caesar Salad, roasted tomato soup, lobster and shrimp, ribs and a frozen cookie for dessert. We were stuffed and exhausted -- no shows for us tonight.
Today we were up and out of our cabin by 7:30 -- a light breakfast and then sunned and swam in the Terrace Pool area. We sucked up as much sun as possible before going back to cabin to change for our Behind the Scenes Tour which began at 1:00. This tour is amazing -- something we wish we'd have done on our first cruise, not our 16th! We started in the theater under the stage and talked to the stage manager, then off to the dressing room where we talked to a dancer then onstage for a photo. Up to the Hawseholes area -- where I got to wear the hard hat for the photo! Can't remember the exact order but visited the galley (with a refreshing drink and cookies) -- loved watching the bun making machine. We went into one of the meat freezers, off to the photo lab, print studio, laundry room, medical center, engineer's room, the Bridge, up to the smokestacks and then finished the tour with champagne. This was nearly a four hour tour, with representatives from each area talking to us for at least 20 minutes, including the Captain. When we returned to our room we each had a Chef's jacket, a robe, personalized note pad and five 5x7 photos from our tour. It was another cruising highlight.
Changed our clothes and went to the casino to return all our winnings from previous days (!). Had dinner at the Crown Grill -- would gladly cancel the bungalow rental and east dinner at the Crown Grill every night. Had the black tiger prawns, a scallop and bacon appetizer, black and blue onion soup, goat cheese salad, lobster and the Kansas city strip steak and rib eye. For dessert we had the sampler. Everything was very good -- service was amazing. Very nice way to end the cruise!
We were out of our cabin by 7:45 then went to the Platinum waiting area for coffee and juice (pasties available also). We had planned to take a cab to the beach but when we woke up the weather was horrible -- raining and windy. We stayed on the ship til 9:30, by then the rain had stopped but still pretty windy. We walked over to the garage and went to the top level for great view of our ship and others. Took quite a few pictures before we got a cab to take us to the airport. Our flight was full so they offered to check our bags for free to our final destination -- that was nice, not to have to lug them through the plane or the Houston airport. Flights were smooth and on time and we were back in Seattle by 6:40 p.m.