My wife and I (early 60's) were so much looking forward to this cruise. After being in the deep freeze of the "Polar Vortex", we were especially ready for some warmth and sun on our 7 day cruise to the southern caribbean region (Jan. 11-18).
We flew out the day before from Milwaukee on a direct flight with Southwest Airlines to Ft. Lauderdale. You never want to take a chance with bad weather in Wisconsin. We booked a room at the Hampton Inn & Suites by the airport in Hollywood, Florida. We were pleased with our choice of hotel. They provided free shuttle service to and from the airport. They also had shuttle service to the cruise terminal the next morning at a cost of $10.00 per person which we took. The hotel is located in a good area next to the Oakdale Plaza. There are several hotels in this location, including the Comfort Inn & Suites next door. Across the road is a Springhill Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and the Hyatt Place & Hyatt House Hotels. Several fast food restaurants are within a block or two. We ended up having one of the best fish fries ever at the Hollywood Alehouse. It's located just around the corner from the Home Depot in the plaza. Our hotel even had 10% discount coupons for the place. If ever staying in this area, I highly recommend you check it out.
The next day we were able to board the 10:00 AM shuttle to Port Everglades. We made our shuttle reservations with the hotel the day before when checking in. It's best to book it early to get the time you want. We first had to drop off some folks at the Royal Caribbean cruise terminal, then it was on to our terminal for the Crown Princess. We arrived around 10:30 and went straight to the preferred boarding entrance for platinum & elite passengers. Their were only a few people in front of us and we were up to the counter and ready to be checked in when all of a sudden the computers went down to process the cruise cards. Well, this took about a half hour to correct while we waited. The time went fast as we chatted with other passengers, then we were on our way upstairs to the Elite Lounge area to wait some more. We were the first people to walk into the lounge, but less than 30 minutes later we were walking across the plankway to board the Crown. By this time it was 11:30 AM and we thought the whole process went quite well.
Once onboard we headed to our cabin on Emerald Deck (E219) to drop off our carry on bag. There, we had the chance to meet our cabin steward Chi from the Philippines. He really did an outstanding job through out the week taking care of our cabin and all our needs. Recently becoming Elite in the Princess Captain Circle is a real plus. Our refrigerator is now stocked with complimentary alcohol, soda and water. You can make the selection you want by calling room service. We also had free laundry service which my wife really enjoyed during the week and the grapevine wine tasting event was another nice perk we attended later that week.
After checking out our cabin we headed up to the Horizon Court Buffet for lunch. Being one of the first passengers onboard, it wasn't very crowded at that point. We enjoyed a light lunch with some dessert to top it off. I have always loved the Princess desserts when cruising and enjoyed many during this week. Afterwards, we explored the ship while doing the treasure hunt by getting cards stamped at different locations through out the ship for a chance to win a prize at the sail away party. No such luck winning, but it was fun checking out the Crown Princess which was in top notch condition. Princess employees were constantly cleaning this beauty of a ship each day!
Our muster drill was held in the Gatsby's Casino, which seemed uncrowded for the drill. I found out afterwards that 800 people were doing back to back cruises and they weren't obligated to attend the the muster drill the second week. Many of these folks were Canadians. I think these and the US passengers were equal in number on this cruise.
We had a beautiful day for our sail away out of Ft. Lauderdale, sunny and in the 80"s. The weather during the whole week was great. We had a bit of rain in Curacao, but the sun came back shortly after the rain was over. Our last day on Friday (sea day) was a bit cooler and cloudy, but no big deal as we had plenty to do around the ship. I think everyone was happy with their new suntans they obtained during the week.
During the cruise, my wife and I ate breakfast and dinner at the buffet. We never made it to any dinning rooms during the week. We were always pleased with the selection of food. One night they had the Bavarian Bierfest Dinner Buffet, always my favorite. Another night they had the Italian Tratoria Dinner Buffet, it too was awsome. Lunch usually consisted of catching something at the "International Cafe". If we were top deck catching some rays, we would enjoy the best pizza at sea or head over to the Trident Grill for burgers, hotdogs and fries. Beleive me, Princess fed us well!. One venue we forgot to make was the pub lunch in the Wheelhouse Bar on sea days. We have done this on other Princess ships and it is always outstanding.
Our itinerary consisted of 4 sea days and 3 port stops. Our first stop was at Princess Cays in the Bahamas on Sunday at their private beach. We always enjoy this tender stop to just relax, swim and absorb some sun. Then to top it off, the Princess crew puts together a fantastic beach barbecue buffet for everyone. It was a very enjoyable day for us . Our next stop was on Tuesday in Curacao. We decided to just walk around and explore the surroundings on our own. Willemstad is the capital where we wandered over too. To get into the town you have to cross the "Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge" which was constructed in 1888 and nicknamed the "Swinging Old Lady". The bridge swings open to allow ships to access the bay. It has been recently restored and is really a neat experience to walk over. Curacao also has several old stone forts which have been converted to hold retail shops and restaurants, very historic. A Dutch colony to start, but is now an independent country. They are famous for Curacao Liqueur, especially the blue Curacao. You will see the words Bon bini all over the island which means welcome. We had a great day here, enjoying some drinks at a outdoor cafe and listening to some local music. Our final stop was Aruba on Wednesday. We have been here a few times in the past, a favorite for us! Aruba is one of the three ABC islands off the coaast of Venezuela (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao).This day we signed up to take a tour and beach excursion on the famous banana bus. We visited the historic California Lighthouse and then traveled through the hotel zone where all the beautiful resorts and beaches were. The white sand beaches are gorgeous with so many grass huts up and down the beach fronts. . We had 3 hours to spend at Momba beach which is centered amoung the resorts. We did some swimming, but took more time to stroll up and down the beach to check out the hotel resorts. Everything was so picture perfect that it made you think about doing a land vacation at one of these resorts. The pools were beautiful and most of the hotels had casino's in them. The whole day was super, sunny and warm. We also had a fun and very knowledgeable tour guide that drove the bus. After the the excursion was over, we were dropped off near town for a little shopping.
Back onboard, the Crown Princess had some of the best entertainment during the week I ever saw on a cruise ship. Our Cruise Director Lisa Ball and her staff were fantastic. I think between Samantha Hawker-Thomas who we had on other Princess cruises and Lisa, they are the best. Lisa could sing, dance, act, joke and was everywhere onboard. She had a great personality and was very approachable for the passengers. The production shows with the singers and dancers were outstanding. There were 3 shows during the week, "Destination Anywhere", "What A Swell Party" and "Premiere Season Disco-Blame it on The Boogie". Also, along with Lisa and here staff, the singers and dancers performed in the "Ye Old London Pub Night" in Explorers Lounge. This production is new on Princess ships. It was the first time we ever saw the show, very entertaining, funny and passengers do get envolved. Comedian Al katz was also onboard for a few shows, he was good, but I thought one of the best acts was ventriloquist Patrick Murray with his Jamacain puppet "Matilda". We couldn't stop laughing, the guy has an incredible talent with his voice. Another great act was Tom Franek a fantastic piano entertainer who played in Crooners Bar at night. This guy could sing and make you laugh so hard that your head hurts. His bowties and wild sport coats were classics. He actually played 3 shows in the Princess Theater one night to full houses, the guy had amazing talent. Movies Under the Stars was a big draw for all the NFL football games. Some of the movies shown up there at night were "Now You See Me", "The Way Way Back", "Despicable Me 2", "World War Z" and "Wolverine" with Hugh Jackman. That was the only movie we actually saw other than some NFL playoff games. Their was always something to do onboard with lots of triva, game shows, bingo and time spent at the casino. One other great event was the "Ultimate Deck Party" on Tuesday night when we left Curacao. Held on deck 15, mid ship, everyone was in a party mood. The place was packed with a live band playing. So many people just having a good time and dancing. It was the most dancing my wife and I have done in years, lot's of fun. Other highlights during the week for us was seeing the culinary demonstration show in the Princess Theater. Executive Chef Jozef Lisner and Maitre D Ignazio D'Agostino were amazing and hilarious. If you wanted afterwards, you could tour the kitchen galley which we passed on. We also did the backstage tour with the Company Performance Manager and Senior Production Manager. It was very cool getting up on the stage and having the bright lights shined down on you. You get the idea how it feels when the singers and dancers perform. We were also taken back into the dressing area where the performers get ready. They have a conveyor hanger three stories high with roughly 2,000 costumes attached. They hit the switch to rotate the costumes they need at any moment. The place was packed with hats, wigs and shoes galore. Very interesting tour!
We truely had a wonderful week onboard the the Crown Princess. Tony Yeoman was our Captain, he kept us informed with weather conditions and general information through out the cruise on the address speaker system and was always out and about talking with passengers. Our last night onboard, we took in the International Crew Show in the Princess Theater. Their were some very talented crew members performing, but the last act was Lisa and her staff performing the O' cruise ship favorite "If I Were Not Upon The Sea". I've seen this several times on Princess ships, but it's always so funny to watch. Different Cruise Directors and their staffs do change the routine from time to time. Always a must to see.
Saturday morning we arrived back to Port Everglades on time. Disembarkation was a breeze. We did the express walk off with our suitcases. We cleared customs in no time and were at the airport by 9:00 AM. Once at the airport, it was a different story. The place was packed solid with travelers. I found out eight cruise ships were in port that morning. It took us nearly 2 hours to check our baggage in and then go through the security check point. I couldn't believe how long the lines were. Then when we were inside the terminal and waiting at our gate location, they annouced all flights would be delayed between a half hour to a hour because of construction and only one runway operating. Our flight was delayed 40 minutes, not bad. We made it back to Milwaukee okay, only a hour late. But guess what was waiting for us, snow! It snowed 2 inches driving back home that evening, slow going on the interstate. Had to shovel the stuff when we got home. It was a long day, after shoveling and unpacking I was ready for down time. We slept good that night.
Our next cruise is again on the Crown Princess come May 3rd. Will embark in Los Angeles and work our way north to Vancouver on a seven day cruise. Can't wait to board this beauty of of a ship again.