This review is based on my objective opinion and observations.
We try to take one cruise a year. The last time we sailed on board Princess was in 2010. In 2011 we sailed with Celebrity. Last year we opted for a land vacation by renting a Class A RV for 15 days. We are a family of four and brought along my Mother.
I do most of the planning when it comes to vacations. The wife is rather busy with school and the house hold. I have a confession to make. We booked a mini suite on the Emerald deck E730. Yes the one with the extended balcony. And an inside room D720. In order to have the same Muster Station, and not wanting to lose our coveted covered extended balcony, I requested do not upgrade. On March 6, I received a voice mail from our TA. I called her back and she informed me that we had been upgraded to a family suite. Initially my heart sunk as I did not want to be apart from the other room. Our TA informed us that we were now assigned rooms D106 and D102. OK, now I am cool about most of it although I heard people complaining about how windy it is out on the balcony. I also debated on whether to inform the wife that our room assignment changes.
We drove to San Antonio on Friday March 8, picked up my mother and from there to Houston. We spent the night at the Double Tree hotel in downtown Houston. We chose this hotel for its location to the Aquarium. We walked to the Aquarium for the little ones to see the place and met with my mother's brother for dinner. The following morning, in order to avoid any potential traffic issues on I-45. On the way down to Galveston, we stopped at Panera for breakfast. We arrived in Galveston around 11 am unloaded our luggage, the stevedore helped us staple the luggage tags, and off I went to park the vehicle.
I walked back to the dock, gathered the family and carry one and proceeded to check in. We went through security and filled out the health forms. We had one Black box wine, a 12 pack of Coke Zero and a 24 pack of Perrier. We had no issues at all going through security. Afterwards, we were directed to the main line. I informed the attendant that we were in a suite and she allowed us to switch lines. There was nobody ahead of us. Passports checked, credit cards checked, key cards issued and off we go to the Elite/Suite lounge. As we try to go in, we were asked for our Elite pass. I informed the waiter that we were not Elite but were in a full suite. We were allowed into the lounge and not even five minutes later, everyone in that lounge was escorted to the gangway in order to board the ship. Once on board the ship, we headed to our assigned rooms. At this point, the wife has yet to realize that we are heading to the front of the ship rather than the aft section of the ship. When sailing Princess, we always get a mini suite on the Emerald deck.
As we approach the room, I tell the wife that it is confession time. I informed her of the room change. She gives me that look (well I leave it up to you to decide which look). I informed her that we are now in the family suite and I open the door to the cabin. The first thing she noticed is the flower arrangement I order for her. Additionally, all suites come with a flower arrangement as well.
The room set up is not bad. The main room is like a mini suite. The bathroom is like that of a mini suite as well, not as fancy as the other suites but include all the amenities that come with a suite. The location of the sofa bed is on the opposite side of the beds because there is an additional sofa bed perpendicular to the other sofa bed. On the opposite side of the 1st sofa bed is a large screen TV with a DVD player and a DVD menu. In front of the 2nd sofa bed is a small table. The diagram shows a total of four chairs and two tables in this living room area. We only had one table and one chair. Between the second sofa bed and the big screen TV is a door that leads to the inside room which can sleep up to four guests. The balcony has the regular wooden furniture that comes with a suite. Two chase loungers with a small table, two chairs with a full size table. The diagram show four chairs and two full size tables. There were no palm trees in our room either. These misrepresentations were not an issue for us. We found the actual room set up to be practical for us.
We walked all the way to the back of the ship and took the elevator up to the youth center and check out the Pelican area. We were greeted by the staff inside. Now here is a first that I have never heard before. Please do not construe this as policy. It may have been an experiment for this particular sailing or something that they do exclusively onboard the Crown. Our youngest one is still on diapers but within the age group allowed at Pelicans. The staff allowed us, on a trial basis, to let her enroll into the program with a few caveats. They do not do the diaper change thing would not be allowed to participate with the program while were out on an excursion. Needless to say, we were delighted. Off we went down to the Crown Grill to make a reservation for that night. Then we went to the International Cafe for lunch located at the plaza level. I was disappointed that they no longer make the shrimp salad the way they used to with light oil and lime juice. Now they make it with a cream based dressing and does not taste the same as the shrimp salad we stated back in 2010.
After lunch, we went back to our stateroom. Our luggage was already outside our room. We proceeded to unpack and put everything away. We met our cabin steward Yevgen. What an outstanding lad! He went over the perks that come with the suites, told us that he would later bring us our "small" bottles of champagne and went to bring us the appropriate size flotation vest for our little ones. We gathered our vests and proceed to go down to the theater in order to beat the crowd before the Muster alarm sounded.
After Muster, we went back to our room and dropped off the vests, then went up to the lido deck for the sail away party. We went back to the room to get ready for dinner. We fed the little ones and took them to Pelican's. We signed the little ones in and we were provided with a pager in case they needed us. Down we went to the Promenade deck and had the wife and mother wait while I went down to Vines to purchase a couple of bottles of red wine. In the past, Vines would offer wines that one could only get there and were not available at the restaurants. This is no longer the case, at least on board the Crown. In the past, we were able to borrow the appropriate wine glasses to use with the wine you at a specialty restaurant. Again, this is no longer the case, at least on board the Crown Princess.
So off I go to meet my party at the Crown Grille. We go in and find out that they sell the same wine inside the restaurant. I felt bad for the waiter as he could have received part of the 15% gratuity from the wine. We were finished with our second course and waiting for the main course to arrive when the beeper went off. Off I go to Pelican's. Our youngest one missed us. She gave me a big hug and we both went back to the Crown Grill hoping that everything would work out. Thank goodness for smart phones. Thank goodness for Wow!Wow!Wubbzy. That game kept the little one entertained and we were able to finish dinner, eat dessert without interrupting anyone else's dinner. It also help that we were sitting in an area isolated from other patrons. After dinner we went back upstairs to Pelican's to check out our oldest one and we went back to our room for the night.
The next morning we went up to Sabatini's for breakfast. Since this was our first time eating breakfast at Sabatini's the manager confirmed that we were staying at a full suite and proceeded to take us to our table. What an awesome concept! The menu is pretty simple. Whatever you want, however you want it, they will make it. For me, eggs benedict, but instead of Canadian bacon, smoke salmon.
By the way, the wines that we drank and recommend (we bought and drank wine six nights) are Chateauneuf-du-pope by Serabel and Le Bocce Chianti Classico.
From the bar set up, we had Vodka, Cognac, Scotch, and Gin. We do not drink Gin, and Yevgen swapped the two Gin bottles for Scotch. On Sunday, we had our first Gala dinner. We were also invited to the Captain's Circle cocktail type event which was held at the theater. We chose not to attend this event. Those who know us know that we actually spend a lot of time relaxing at our stateroom. Yevgen also made towel animals for each of the gala dinners. The little ones were delighted.
I read many complain about the family suite's balcony being useless out at sea. There were only to instances where the wind was an issue out on the balcony. We simply used the chase loungers and had the wall block the wind. The weather was also great for our uncovered balcony. It was mainly overcast and therefore not much of an issue with sun burn on our way to Roatan. Many have voiced their concern about having a balcony with little ones on board. Our rules were pretty simple, no little ones out on the balcony without an adult being present. If the adult went inside, so did the little ones. Please ensure that one locks the balcony door as our little ones were able to open and close the heavy door when left unlocked.
One of my complaints with Princess is that their balconies are always dirty. During this cruise, the glass on all the balconies was actually cleaned while on port by the room's respective steward. Also, the beds were very comfortable. One complaint is the excessive use of salt on the food, in particular with the dinner meals. How bad was the salt? Let me put it this way, I had a hard time removing my wedding band every night at bed time.
Another first, at least for us is the charge for Limoncello at dinner. In the past, one would be charged only for the souvenir glass. Now, you get charged for the drink and for the souvenir glass. The Photography staff will not put your pictures aside anymore. Now, they direct you to put your photographs at the bottom of certain display racks.
Another perk that we used was the complementary dry cleaning service. We did not have any issues with damaged, discolored, or shrunk clothing. Mostly was simple wash and dry service with a few dry cleanings here and there.
One night, we decided to try the new dinner menu at Sabatini's. I had read some bad reviews about the food. On the Crown, Sabatini's is actually located on deck 16, right underneath the tween center. One can hear stumping from the children running around and the sound check from the Adalgio bar next door (maybe it was a sound check from the tween center). The service was great. The food was not that great. The texture of the calamari was at point. Unfortunately, the breading (flour) was soaking in oil and not sticking to the calamari (as compared to the one on the main dining room). The lobster cooked three was also a disappointment. The lobster was too salty and the taste was nothing to rave about. The lobster in the main dining rooms is much better. The lobster served at the Crown Grill was outstanding. Limoncello and cappuccino are no longer included with the dinner price at Sabatini's. I loved their fresh made pasta (that particular night was ravioli night). I also liked their fresh mozzarella. My mother ordered the veal chop which she loved. Another disappointment was that they no longer offer Tiramisu. This may be a non-issue for those who live big cities. But we live in a small town that is 150 miles away from civilization. Therefore we were looking forward to having Tiramisu at Sabatini's.
For those booking a room toward the front of the ship please be aware that you will hear the sound when the crew releases the anchor. I thought this would be an issue for those on the lower levels. Regardless, please remember this in order to avoid waking up in a panic. No worries, we knew exactly what was happening. But I just want to forewarn those who may not be prepared for this type of wake up call.
Another issued we encountered was on our way to Cozumel. The winds were pretty strong. I would say 30-40 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 60mph. The forecasted high for Cozumel was 72 degrees. So I woke up around 2 am and went to the front desk (Purser's Office) and asked about cancelling our island beach tour. The girl working the desk took a look at the patter to confirm the forecasted temperature and in a condescending tone, looked at me and explained that I could cancel but there would be a cancelling penalty of 100% of the purchased price. I went back to my room and was unable to sleep as I was worried about our little ones. We woke up at 0530 hrs. and headed to the buffet for breakfast. We met our tour guide at the dock who informed us that they were cancelling the excursion due to the weather. Go figure!
The DVD player in our room was not working. We reported this to our stateroom steward and had someone come in a replaced the DVD player. Another first for us was having a baked Alaska parade at the anytime dinner room.
Compared to our previous Princess cruise, the staff was very friendly and polite. Every time we would walk by an employee we were not only acknowledged but greeted as well. I did witness the crew taking food away from the guests while disembarking at the ports. Regardless of the warning on the patters and with public announcements both via the TV and the speaker system, some still thought that the rules did not apply to them as they attempted to walk off the ship with fruit on hand. Another thing that we witness is a youngster pulling corals out of the sea in Roatan. Luckily the family did not receive a fine. Yes there were plenty of law enforcement personnel on the west end of the island. Another peccadillo was a lady smoking at the casino.
For disembarkation, we requested that both of our rooms would be allowed to leave together at the same time. We each received a different luggage tag. Luckily, our room had enough tags for both rooms. The disembarkation lounge is another perk that we enjoyed. We were scheduled to disembark at 1040 hrs. We were off the ship by 0930 hrs.
Yes, there were many negatives but the plusses were there as well. The wife and I agreed that this particular sailing was our best one with Princess. We were extremely delighted with the SERVICE provided by the staff at the Crown Princess.
The Children's program was superb. I believe that one thing that helped us was that each time our pager went off (a total of three times), we went straight to the club to pick up our youngest one. She only had issued late in the evenings. During the day, she had no problems being for the duration. We always had breakfast and lunch together. With exception to the nights we ate at the Crown Grill and Sabatini's, we always ate dinner together as well. Our oldest one loved the Children's program and did not want to leave the ship at the end of our cruise.
We will be back!