This was my second time on the Crown 8th on Princess and probably one of the top cruises I have taken out of 30. About two weeks before the cruise we received a call from our TA that we had been upgraded to the Penthouse Suite from our mini suite. But we were going from our midship location to the back of the ship. I think it took about 3 seconds to say it was worth the move!
Jet Blue to Fort Lauderdale, had purchased my tickets back in Sept. so the prices were okay. PRE-Cruise we stayed at the Bahia Mar, which we booked through Travelocity.com. I do not believe that I would stay there again! Although the location was okay, the rooms are definitely worn!
Embarkation: We arrived at the port a little before 11am and were put in the preferred boarding area for a little over an hour. Once embarkation started we were on the ship within ten minutes. Rooms were not ready till 1pm but we wanted to go to the Sanctuary first anyway and sign up for the week.
Suite: The cabin was nice, with a wet bar, walk in closet, huge bathroom with a tub and separate shower, dvd player, couch and chair as well as a dressing table, but the "WOW" was the balcony which was huge with real reclining deck chairs, and a table for 4. It was secluded and completely private. Two flower arrangement were delivered, champagne, canapes, an extended room service menu, a complimentary mini bar set up, corsage for formal night, free internet in the room. Our cabin steward was not the best we have ever had, one night there was no ice, we had to ask for bathrobes, one night there was no chocolates...the effort felt very minimal considering it was a suite.
Sanctuary: The secret is definitely out, but right now you can stiil book for the week if you you get up there fast enough when you get on the ship. The Sanctuary was absolutely worth the $280 for the two of us for the week. You receive assigned reclining, ultra padded chairs that are tours for the week. The staff in there was amazing, anticipating your every need...I do not think we really had to ask for anything the whole week. The staff will get you lunch, for a charge of $3.00 each, or drinks, cold water is provided, cold wash cloths, and the adult pool is right below. Not having to fight chair hogs was worth the price of admission! We used it before and after Ports And because there were 3 sea days it was wonderful!
Food: I have severe allergies, but did not have any issues ordering special meal preparation anywhere on the ship. Because we ate lunch in the sanctuary almost every day we never went to Horizion Cafe. Breakfast for suite passengers was in Sabatinis and it was wonderful, soft music playing, with A beautiful view, and incredible food. Service was outstanding! We also went up there for my birthday dinner and they created an entire menu just for my allergies, and I enjoyed a 5 course meal and a birthday cake! Dinner: Bottechelli table for 8 but there were only 6 of us. Service was not great, but we made the best of it. My favorite head waiter Florian was on the other side of the diningroom, and if you get him you are blessed! Room service: Was timely and the food was good. They always set up a table with a cloth and we had the choice of eating inside or on our balcony!
Activities: We participated in Zumba, which was good but was held outside which was warm, and on the astro turf type surface which made it hard to do the steps. There were so many activities you could be busy from day to night. I was impressed with the activities. I joined the Pop Choir, which meant I had to give up some time for the rehearsals, but I thought it was a lot of fun! The shows were good: I have never thought the production shows on Princess are as good as on other lines, but I thought this time they were very good. There was a few comedians who were funny, a hypnotist who was okay, and the other entertainment on the ship was very good.
Ports: Princess Cays: We had priority tendering and got to the Island around 10 am after Zumba! We had purchased the Beach Party and got snorkeling gear, and a paddle boat ride. The water was absolutely freezing and not optimum for snorkeling. The paddle boat was fun. We did not eat there but instead went back to the ship and had lunch there.
Curacao: We opted to just walk to town which was only ten minutes away. I had been there before, and none of the tours really interested us. It was a nice walk, and the shops were okay. I have never found the people there very friendly. We were never greeted when we walked into a store, or asked if we needed help.
Aruba: We went on the Lighthouse, Beach tour. The lighthouse Tour was nothing. We stopped at a lighthouse for ten minutes, and then got back on the "Big Yellow Banana Party Bus". The Moomba Beach was nice, the water was calm, but wish I had brought water shoes. The bottom of the sea was sharp rocks and coral pieces, and it was not comfortable to stand. There was also seaweed. The water was warm though, and we enjoyed our time there.
One thing we discovered is that if you have late seating, you can not make any of the theme nights.
Debarkation: We asked for a late debarkation. The Suite allowed us to have room service the last morning which was wonderful. The ship was an hour and a half ahead of schedule, and we were off the ship before ten. The line for taxis was insane! Our porter stayed with us until we were in our cab.
Post Cruise: We stayed at the Ritz Carlton, and it was a beautiful hotel. We had an oceanfront room, the was a beautiful pool area, incredible service, and excellent food. We would not hesitate to stay there again.
Fantastic Vacation! I would do it all again :)