Southern Caribbean Cruise aboard the Crown Princess
November 6, 2013 and November 13, 2013
(We did the same cruise back-to-back)
Check-in was opened by 11 AM and went smoothly. Then, progress came to a standstill - The ship was just finishing a Transatlantic Cruise and the US Coast Guard was doing its inspection of the vessel. That, coupled with the Customs/Immigration officials finger-printing disembarking passengers, delayed clearance of the ship. So, we waited in the lounge for boarding to begin which didn't happen until after 1 PM.
I don't like the design of the Crown Princess (as compared to the Grand Class of Princess ships). There are very few lounge chairs in shaded areas. The back deck has very little space for lounge chairs. In the Calypso Pool area, there are wall-panels that separate the deck into sections. Three years ago we were on the Crown Princess and they put lounge chairs in these sections. But, the Movies Under the Stars is located in the Calypso Pool area and the walls blocked the view of the movie screen. This trip, they put tables and chairs in those sections which is better use of the space but it makes for less lounges in a shaded area. There are some wall-panels in the Neptune Pool area which limits your view of the pool and any activities that are going on there. The walkways through the Calypso and the Neptune areas on Lido Deck are very narrow. If someone is coming down the aisle in a scooter, you have to wait and step to the side to let them pass. In the Calypso Pool area, there are large slanted poles that protrude into the walkway. They are wrapped in thick white padding so they are noticeable and you don't hurt your head on them. During our first week aboard, they were having trouble with the air conditioning in some areas of the ship. We had friends aboard with a cabin on Riviera Deck in the 600's section and they were very uncomfortable because the air conditioning wasn't working well. You could feel the temperature change as you walked down the hall. There was plenty of hot water in the shower. In fact, it was challenging to keep the water from being too hot. But, in the middle of your shower, the hot water would cut out and you'd end up taking a cold shower for a few minutes. Then, the hot water came back. So, if you attempted to correct the temperature by turning the temperature control hotter, you ended up getting scalded when the hot water kicked back in. Overall, the ship was very clean and well-maintained
In the Main Dining Room, the food was some of the best that I've had on Princess. There was plenty of variety on the menu each night and most things I ordered were very good to excellent. The only bad thing I can say about the food is the "Mystery Meat" that they are serving under the guise of "Beef Tenderloin". The Beef Wellington supposedly was made with beef tenderloin but it certainly didn't look like it or taste like it. We mentioned this to our Head Waiter and he carefully responded that they serve what is prepared in the kitchen and, if we weren't satisfied with our meal, they would gladly return it and serve something else. The food in the Horizon Court at both breakfast and lunch was also very good. A nice variety each day of practically everything you could ask for. The Pizza was excellent, as usual. And the Grill did a great job with the burgers and fries. I didn't like the ice cream they were serving but it is free and there was usually a line of people each afternoon waiting to get their share. The International Cafe was open 24 hours serving sandwiches, desserts, and cheeses. They also sold coffee there (and alcoholic beverages). We ate at the Crown Grill on evening and the steaks there were excellent - the Filet Mignon was the real deal!
This is an area that Princess has noticeably improved over the past few years. The service was always pretty good on Princess but sometimes seemed a bit impersonal. Now, everyone greets you with a smile and asks if there is something they can get for you. At breakfast in the Horizon Court, they quickly clean off tables to make them available for use. Then, as soon as you sit down, there is someone there asking what you'd like to drink - pouring coffee and juices. Service in the lounges and on the outside decks is equally as good. In the Main Dining Room, we had alternative dining and had the opportunity to be served by many different waiters. They were all excellent! Our meal was served at a perfect pace - not rushed but not sitting there waiting with no food in front of you.
There was always multiple things going on both day and night. They had four different bands on board playing in different lounges practically every night. Of course there was a piano man playing every night. Add to that the Crown Princess Show Cast of four singers and a bunch of dancers, and the comedians, magician, and ventriliquist - you couldn't figure out how to see it all. Many of the shows were offered more than once which helped in getting to see what you wanted. And, on top of all that, were the activities being hosted by the Cruise Staff.
We stopped at three ports each week: Princess Cays, Curacao, and Aruba. We never get off the ship at Princess Cays so I can't comment on that stop.
Curacao - the Crown Princess docks at the Mega-ship Pier (which is not in the river). It's about a 20-minute walk to the movable walking bridge that leads into town. There are many shops along the way and a craft market just before you get to the walking bridge. We arrived at 2 PM which was not the best timing if you wanted to tour the entire island. The stores close at 5 PM in town so, if you wanted to shop, you needed to get going. There were plenty of taxi's offering tours.
Aruba - The Crown Princess docks downtown. It's an easy walk to get from the ship to the shopping area and the craft market. There is now a Hard Rock Cafe Apparel store just a few blocks from the ship. As you leave the dock area, there are plenty of taxi's offering tours of the island.
After the first week, we had to disembark so they could clear the ship and we had to go through US Customs/Immigration. That went very smoothly. We were led off the ship, US Customs check our passports, and then we were led back onto the ship. Took a total of 10 minutes.
After the second week, we had to "really" disembark. We had to vacate our cabin by 8 AM. So, we were up early, gathered our stuff and went to the Horizon Court for breakfast. We hung out there until closer to our disembarkation time. We were assigned a location and a time to show up there for the disembarkation of our "color code". Our group was called pretty close to the scheduled time. The gangway wasn't overly crowded. We walked off the ship into the terminal, found our "color code" where our luggage was sitting. There were plenty of Porters available - we got one immediately and he gathered our luggage and hauled it through US Customs. We had our vehicle parked in the garage and the Porter took our luggage right to the vehicle. Couldn't have been any easier.
Can't wait to cruise again! Next up is the Mexican Riviera aboard the Sapphire Princess.