I am pleased to write this a couple of weeks after returning from three and a half weeks away, the first part of which was our very first transatlantic cruise. We chose the Celebrity Eclipse, fantastic it was too. This was our first Princess cruise and although it transpired not to be quite the same standard as Celebrity we had a really nice week in the Southern Caribbean
On arrival at Ft Lauderdale we disembarked Celebrity and took a taxi around the docks to the terminal the Crown Princess was docked at - embarkation was a bit of a zoo but we were obviously early so on reasonably quickly after a seated wait in the terminal building, we were quite early having only to travel around the port and we were on board by about 12.30, no welcome drink so that is the first minus for Princess. We headed to our cabin as we had been told that they were ready, sadly not and the cabin steward was actually working on it as we arrived. We dropped the hand luggage and told him to finish and went off to explore and find the various cafes and restaurants etc.
We were on the port side of Lido deck (15) and only four cabins inside the corridor from the main door to the forward pool and between that and the forward lifts so as the week progressed we found this automatic door open more than closed thus the corridor got quite warm. For a ship built in 2006 I possibly expected better corridors but there were signs of several bumps and bangs from luggage and cleaners carts and it did not look as well maintained as other ships I have sailed on.
That said the cabin was a reasonable size, they are never massive and we did not expect larger. When we returned to our cleaned room to unpack we found the carpet had not been vacuumed and worse was to come when I opened the balcony door and found a mass of stripped white paint on the floor and chairs. They had obviously been doing some remedial work, that is good, but not cleaned up after themselves so that is poor. Being the Saturday and start of the cruise I reported it to the room steward who said he would get it sorted. It was the Monday before this was done.
Early the first evening my wife lay on her side of the bed to test it and almost disappeared into the mattress that was, to be honest, worn out. Again we reported to the room steward and asked that it be changed, but were told no spares were available and they added a topper but first night not very comfortable. We again reported this time to the guest services desk the following day and finally by Tuesday we got it changed.
On to our initial search around the ship. We passed the pool areas and found these fine with plenty loungers, tables and chairs, wood a little dark in comparison to what we have seen on other ships but it was nice and whilst on board a lot of varnish work was done. We went into the buffet areas and after a complete walk round of both areas decided to have a spot of lunch. Got a table no issue and off we went and selected some food that we found of good standard and hot. I was disappointed that the crockery was of the melamine type and to be honest this gave it a more Denny’s type feel to the café and spoiled what was actually a nice experience. These rooms are quite low so it doesn’t help make it feel spacious but once we got over the crockery issue we enjoyed the food.
We used the buffet for breakfast daily and again found this of decent standard, plenty choice but a little repetitive. It was nice to be served by the waiters with coffee, juices etc. (a plus here for Princess against Celebrity).
In the evening we had opted for the anytime dining giving us freedom with timings and of course you can select to eat alone as a couple or join others as you so wish. My wife and I generally prefer our own company and there were two floors to choose from although the menu was the same in each room at least you had a choice of which queue was the shortest.
The hosts in both rooms were always trying to get couples to share but as we wanted our own table we occasionally had a short wait, nothing too long to worry us however. The food was always tasty but I think the menu a little ‘samey’ with the vegetables often the same night after night just presented with different meats. I will say that all the beef I ate was excellent and all food well cooked, well served by good waiters and service timely on the whole. We had the same waiters for three nights and they were very good, but all the waiting staff where a real plus for Princess. As opposed to Celebrity main dining room I would say a 3.5 to Celebrity 4.25
We took the afternoon tea most afternoons and that was a real plus for Princess, very well done, very tasty and extremely professionally served.
A couple of lunches were taken in the buffet, one from the excellent pizza station, a couple in the International café that had great sandwiches and two in the Wheelhouse Bar where they were serving a British pub lunch as a special. My steak and kidney pie and chips (fries) were as good if not better than any I have had in the UK.
There are many bars and all are attractive, if a little dark in the day. They do however come to life at night with lots of entertainment scheduled in them all.
This was of a good standard by shipboard entertainment standards, we enjoyed all the production shows, they were all extremely well staged and very enjoyable to watch plus we had some very reasonable guest entertainers with Patrick Murray & Matilda being the highlight on our trip.
The cruise director and her staff worked hard all cruise and there was always something going on to either watch, join in or enter. On the last night they hosted a mini show, Ye Olde London Pub Night in the Explorers lounge and that was a great sing-a-long although I am not sure the US guests on the ship understood much of what was going on. I did miss the availability of the 4 page daily newspaper that you get on other ships and I really believe that they need to introduce it.
I was surprised when ordering gin and tonic to be asked if I wanted single or double, previously I have always found the standard serving on other ships appears to be almost a double, I will say on Crown Princess they are not as free with the alcohol but service was always speedy.
Ports of call…
The main reason for us taking this cruise was to see Curacao and Aruba and we certainly enjoyed both and we would certainly go back to both. I am not a real beach person but I also enjoyed the Princess Cays, a well thought out place with plenty loungers and the BBQ that they put on was excellent. I even swam in the sea much to the surprise of my wife.
We enjoyed the sea days and also the fact on this ship you have a full promenade deck (a few steps at the front to negotiate) to walk round which was very nice.
Disembarkation was great as we chose to do ‘walk off’ with our own luggage and we were off through Passport Control and in the bus to go for a hire car in under three quarters of an hour after breakfast.
Overall we had a really nice relaxing cruise slightly marred by our expectations possibly by being on the Celebrity Eclipse for 13 nights beforehand. We met some very nice people, enjoyed ourselves and found the company Executive chef’s demonstration in the theatre very interesting. I like the cruise log that was supplied at the end. The shows after dinner were good, food was good if a touch repetitive. The staff in areas very helpful in others less so but all in all I would say this was just under a 4 star vacation and Celebrity the prior fortnight close to a 5 star trip.
Would I choose Princess again, yes on the whole I would give them another go, there were more positives than negatives. Would I choose Crown Princess again, maybe but I think I may try a different ship to get a better feel for the company. If Celebrity & Princess were running like for like cruises on same dates to same ports I think I would opt for Celebrity however even though it may cost a little more.