Crown Princess Cruise Oct 18 - Oct 27, 2006 Brooklyn-Gr.Turk-Ocho Rios-Gr.Cayman-Port Canaveral
Background - Married, retired, 50's, cruising since 1984, cruise two or three times a year, various lines. Usually cruise with good friends in tow. Couple traveling with us 40's working couple who we originally met on 1992 cruise of Celebrity Zenith. They were married during that cruise and we had pleasure of standing up for them. We cruise at least once per year with them since. Have sailed Carnival, Celebrity, NCL, Royal Viking, Princess, RCCL all multiple times.
EMBARKATION: Upon entry to the pier area itself it becomes obvious that the embarkation area is much more expansive than the Manhattan pier simply because they have lots of room to spread it out. We were greeted by multiple drop off lanes unlike Manhattan's single one. Dropping luggage off with porters the long term parking was within a couple hundred feet. Unlike Manhattan where payment is required upon entry, Brooklyn parking is done by receiving a ticket and then self parking. Payment is made upon your return. Pay your ticket before getting car to exit!
Next we entered a spacious terminal where we passed through airport type security. Yes they noted both my laptop and a bottle ( Chivas Regal ) in my carryon. I was asked to open my bag for inspection, more for the bottle I am sure. Having anticipated that only wine was allowed to be carried on I sneakily gift wrapped my sole bottle of scotch and declared it to be wine. I was allowed to pass without disturbing the gift wrap but that could be a hit and miss proposition. Since Princess offers 3.75 mil bottles of some alcohol too be purchased for in cabin use at a reasonable price ( see web page ) that might be acceptable instead of the sneak aboard method. A personal choice. I note that this is the first time any security screening has ever stopped me for a bottle so rumors of more stringent booze checking that I have read about would seem accurate.
Next we passed to ticket line and were handed a paper to sign swearing that we were of good health, not coughing or suffering from diarrhea and the like. That strikes me as strange since who, having paid, traveled, and anticipated their cruise, is going to own up to being ill knowing that they might be barred from boarding the ship? Being of current good health we signed the form, of course I would have signed it if I was dying. So like I said, what's the sense?
Processing was quick and line moved well. Before you knew it we were posing for our onboard photo and walking up the gangway.
CABIN: Both couples had selected Mini-Suites Cat AB on Dolphin Deck side by side, D624 and D626. It was spacious with plenty of closet space and hangars, plenty of shelving and a decent sized bathroom with a tub. The balcony was large enough to accommodate two lounge back type chairs, two metal chairs and a table. Having friends next door we elected to have our cabin steward open the door between balconies allowing them to adjoin. Within the area of shelves was an electronic safe. The cabin also had a small refrigerator that worked very well. There were no complaints concerning the cabin but the wall safe operated differently than prior ones we have seen. A simple operation, press enter and a 4 digit code you devise and enter again to program. Where it differed was that when left open for more than a moment of so it starts to emit an annoying chirping. This is to remind you that it is open, but also geared to deprogram after s fairly short span of time. Our travel mates also had problems with it not opening on command. Similar problems were noted with others as well requiring a ships staff member to come and open the safe. Response to such a request is quick and I would bet because this happens a lot. That was the only problem noted.
Our Cabin Steward, Lawrence, was fantastic. Greeted us early on arrival and handled every request without hesitation. He made it a point to greet us by name everyday and to ask us if there was anything he could do to make our cruise more enjoyable. He wasn't into towels animals and being a frequent cruiser I can live with that. He was into great service and again being very congenial. You could ask no more from a steward.
SHIP: Not much you can say bout the ship other than she is gorgeous. We were all very impressed with all the areas though it takes some getting used to finding your way around. If you are in the Bottichelli dining room ( traditional dining ) this is located aft Deck 6. However, you can only get to it via the aft staircase on Deck 7. So if you were mid-ship on 6 you would have to climb up a deck, walk aft, and then descend a deck. The Explorers Lounge which serves as a second show lounge as well had a great night club type feel to it. Plenty of bars and lounges all pretty much with some sort of music of entertainment in the evening. The main lobby or Piazza contains the coffee bar and others with shops on higher decks. There is often a piano player in residence or street acts happening, magician, acrobatic act and so forth.
We were happy enough with the show quality and variety. One of the comedians, a rather large gentleman called Sarge was highlight of the cruise. A black/Jew ( self described ) is a very funny comedian and also a talented singer/musician. He has been favorably noted in several reviews and we certainly concur, he was great.
Pool area's divided up but were comfortable and for most part well fitted with seating. This was the first time I saw the huge screen ( MUTS Movies Under The Stars ) and it was actually kind of astonishing. Can't say we ever spent a lot of time watching it yet I enjoyed the times I did. It does make that pool area pretty noisy however. Seeking peace and quiet we generally proceeded to the adjacent pool. The fact that the next area contained the excellent pizza stand and also the great hamburger stand didn't hurt either. My wife's favorite pool location was the small aft pool area for a nice more intimate quiet pool spot. There is limited seating there though.
The much spoke of new concept Sanctuary area for which you must pay for by half day segments, well honestly I didn't even go see it. There were plenty of comfortable locations to spend some relaxing time in so paying a fee to have a separate experience seemed a total waste to me. The bottom line for us was that the ship itself provides just about anything you could look for in a resort/ship experience.
DINING: We choose traditional dining with an assigned time and table. We had a great waiter in Dan and assistant waiter in Michael at table 118 Bottichelli dining room. You could not have asked for better service and congeniality. Bar and wine service is provided by the assistant waiter, normally something I am unhappy with in that it often interferes with service. In this case either Michael was one fast dude or he had a hidden bar around the corner. He was prompt with everything be it wine or a cocktail, yet water was still refilled quickly and course arrived promptly and so forth. The Head Waiter passed by daily and spent much time ensuring our needs were being met. The dining experience was superb! Food was excellent and Princess also has always available items like steak and pasta on the menu as well should a particular evening fare not be of your taste. It is our habit to request a cheese and fruit tray at our table at the start of dinner. After making the request it was provided each evening unasked for and the head waiter asked us if there was any particular cheeses we liked and provided same. Although we were at a table of eight there were but the four of us. The other two couples never showed during the cruise ( a shame since we enjoy meeting other cruisers ) though our waiter assured us that there were people assigned to the table. Maybe they saw us and ran? More likely they decided to use personal choice dining. The beauty of Princess over NCL is that you at least have an option between the two. Princess seems to be able to maintain the do it your way attitude for the passenger which is great and is found less and less on board ships lately.
Room service was prompt and accurate and menu was better than many found on ships lately. We generally only use room service for coffee, Danish and the like in morning and a pot of tea and cookies in afternoon. However I was surprised to see that you could order a cheeseburger from room service if desired. There was a wait at times in afternoon to get room service on the phone but once they answered the delivery was fast. I did find it unusual that room service presents you a check like paper to sign ( no charge for room service of course ). I would guess that some tracking check and balance system for them. There is also a space for a gratuity where you sign. We customarily hand the server $2 on delivery anyway so continued with our normal mode instead of writing in a tip. Service was always provided with a pleasant greeting and pleasant attitude.
Buffet area, I found that to be as satisfactory as any I have seen. A little confusing as most are with little islands of salads or desserts that cause people to wander a bit and bump into each other. Plates were large and plentiful, food was varied enough and desserts decadent enough to please me. Fruits were plentiful for those that like to eat healthier than I. Seating usually available without tremendous difficulty and outside pool area has tables and chairs as well for those that prefer eating outside. The Pizza is excellent for non-NY shipboard pizza. Heard many people comment about how good it was. Burger and fries also very good but I found hotdogs to be more of knockwurst type tube. My personal taste run more towards a nice slim dog but what the heck, can't have everything. The ice cream stand is next to the pizza stand, I will mention that in my nickel and dime section.
CASINO: Some different things here hadn't seen before. They have .01 cent and .02 cent machines, .25/.50 cent machines and $1 / $2 machine and $5/$10 machines. Some machine can be changed between denominations so have to pay attention to the initial setting when you sit. In example a dollar machine can be played for 1 dollar or two dollar a credit setting in addition to number of credits played. These machines have been seen more and more in casinos on land lately. What is really new, I have never seen it on land or sea, is the ability to collect your credits on your room key card. Also get more wagering cash right at machine via cabin key. Also collect points and receive instant $10 credit at machine for every 1000 points. I played 9000 points plus so received $90 cash during week for play.
Okay here is how it works. Your cabin key/boarding pass/onboard credit card is now also your gaming card. Besides accumulating points for play like land casinos it also allows for transfer of monies machine to machine. The first time you place card in a slot machines game card slot you are prompted for your birth date. Entering date of birth date correctly the next step prompts you to establish a 4 digit pin number. So now you put say a twenty into the slot machine and play. Maybe you hit or lose but you decide after some play to go to another machine. You can either cash out normally and coins drop OR you can transfer your remaining credits directly onto your card. Move to next machine and transfer credits in desired amount to new machine for play. For the most part this works well, however, there can be glitches. On one occasion I was transferring $98 back to the card when the computer server apparently glitched for a moment. No money on machine or card. That can give rise to a moment of hyper ventilating. Casino staff responded to my machine and could tell that the amount in question was $98 and completed the transfer to my card. I was told that this does happen from time to time when the server goes down or is overtaxed, usually towards the end of the cruise. Finally yet another ability of using card in machines is to get money credited to card for further gambler from onboard credit account. This could be a problem for someone with a gambling habit, makes it a little too easy, never have to leave machine to get more money. NOTE there is also a 3 percent charge on these onboard account transactions. No charge for the transfer of amounts from or to machines. This is all something I have never seen before either on land or sea casino.
Machines appeared tighter than even usual for ships. I can't say that there were no hits but can say very limited.
NICKLE & DIME department: I am now in a habit of looking at how much the N&D is utilized on each ship since onboard revenue became the big things on ships. Ice cream, not only the Haagen Daas but also the machine soft and extra for each topping. No more punch out bingo cards, now use marker, price $1. Embarkation photo $29.95, no I am not kidding! No where do they have sign with prices for photos either now, let it be a surprise Bingo grand prize limited $2,500 no longer based on amount of play. Normally you would expect a ship with this many passengers to have final bingo of upward 3 to 4 grand.
BARGAIN: Coffee card if you are a big brewed coffee drinker. You get card, unlimited regular brewed coffee and something like 11 lattes or espresso. Instant still free at buffet of course.
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