Our family of four (husband--53, wife--48, daughter--14, & son--11) thoroughly enjoyed enjoyed our New Year's cruise to the southern Caribbean on the Crown Princess. Having cruised on Celebrity and Disney a total 5 times before, we were surprised on how much we liked our first Princess cruise. The ship was lovely, in a traditional way, and well maintained. The cabins were fresh and up-to-date. The deck plans were easy to navigate after the first day. The Crown Princess ranked higher in food quality in its dining rooms and buffet than Celebrity and Disney. Celebrity and Disney has better food and service in their extra-fee restaurants, but who wants to pay $40+/person to enjoy a good meal every night.
CABIN: We had to adjoining mini suites on Dolphin Deck--D227 & 229. The staterooms were spacious, light, and inviting with a good sized closet and storage. There was plenty of room on the balcony with 2 lounge chairs and a small table. We never saw people on the upper decks staring down on us (as some reviewers have complained). The pretty bathroom was roomy for a cruise ship and had a full tub/shower combo with a quality shower head. We never had any problems with water pressure or getting the desired temperature we wanted. Our room attendant was friendly and efficient with a sweet smile. We were close to the forward elevators but never had a noise or congestion problem (and we sleep in when we can). NOTE: On embarkation day, our cabins were quite warm. Our room attendant said it was because all the hull doors were open to load passengers and luggage from Fort Lauderdale. The cabin cooled down in time for our late bedtime. Some passengers complained that their staterooms were too warm most of the trip; we did not experience this.
DINING: We chose "anytime dining" so we could chose which dining room and what time we wanted to dine. Sometimes we made reservations in the late morning for a table that evening or we just visited the hostess that evening who took our name and gave us a beeper that buzzed in 15-30 min. Be prepare--the first night had the longest wait of 45 min for a party of 2 because many people seemed to show up at the same time. Some passengers were grumpy and needed to just get a drink. The food in these dining rooms was surprisingly varied and delicious with attentive service. Most nights, (our active kids, 6 out of 7 nights, chose to eat at the delicious buffet) my husband and I ate at tables for 2 spaced so if you wanted to enter a conversation with another couple you could do so but with enough distance you also could have a private conversation. We ate at the extra fee/person ($25/person--not bad) Crown Grill twice. We enjoyed the thick steaks but the sides needed some inspiration. The ambiance and service was excellent. Sabatini's Italian restaurant had lovely surroundings but the food was better in the main dining rooms. My only real complaint about all the dining rooms on the Crown and actually all cruise ships we have been on is the lighting. The dining rooms are too bright for fine dining! The staff says it's to accommodate older passengers but the bright lighting takes away from the dining experience.
OTHER FOOD VENUES: The pizza was the best I have tasted on a cruise ship. The Horizon Buffet, though small, had good food with a nice variety. We never had a problem finding seats and it was the best place to get a healthy bite after a full day onshore. The Pub Lunch offered at the Wheelhouse Bar was yummy with authentic fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd's pie. The room service was average though always on time and the coffee hot. We would have liked a more expanded menu for breakfast that included eggs like offered on Celebrity. The International Cafe had a great vanilla bean latte and the gelato next door was delicious. I bought both a specialty coffee card and separate non-alcoholic drink card which was well worth it.
BARS: The Outrigger Bar overlooking the Aft was a great place to enjoy a drink at sunset. We loved Crooners for its variety of excellent martinis, enthusiastic service, and skilled piano player. Order the vodka martinis--Violetta and Lemon Drop. The Wheelhouse Bar was our late night destination with quality wine, cocktails, and service. We finished the evening at the Wheelhouse Bar almost every night, we loved the Swedish singing couple, Cinnamoon, which performed popular romantic songs to listen and dance to.
ENTERTAINMENT: We watched the main theater's opening show which gave you a taste of the performances of the coming week and we decided not to come back. However, the comedian who performed in this theater had everyone laughing in the aisles. The magician/comedian in the Explorers Lounge was really low class. We highly recommend Cinnamoon, the torch singer with piano accompaniment in the Wheelhouse Bar.
POOL/SUN DECK: We avoided the pool areas which were crowded as on every ship we have been on--too many lounge chairs occupied by skin cancer worshippers or their towels. The hot tubs were lukewarm at best but we did enjoy the conversations with fellow passengers from all over the US and Canada. The areas were always clean and well maintained.
KIDS CLUB: Since our kids are 11 and 14 years of age, they only used the kids clubs to meet other kids and then explore the ship with their new friends. My son enjoyed the basketball court, pools, and some of the games offered in the kids club.
My teenage daughter liked hanging out with her new friends at the teen only facilities.
SPA: The Lotus Spa was well maintained but uninspired. We had a couples massage which was efficient but a bit antiseptic. At least at the end of the treatment, we weren't bombarded with the usual hard sell to buy extra lotions and creams like other cruises do. We didn't experience the additional spa amenities since you had to buy a weekly pass not a more convenient daily one. One complaint was that the locker/steam rooms had the only restrooms on this end of the ship and many non-spa people came in and out of the dressing area.
SHOPPING: Boring shops compared to Celebrity and Disney. The usual duty free alcohol, perfume, and jewelry. If Princess updated their merchandise, it could improve sales.
PORTS: Curacao and Aruba were lovely with pristine beaches and friendly islanders. We just rented a taxi van on both islands and asked for a personal tour and then to be dropped off at a desired beach. See the part section of reviews to see my in depth critique.
Both embarkation and debarkation were efficient and friendly.
Oh, and I almost forgot. My $529 bar bill was taken care of/wiped clean since I won the Sweep the Bar contest. So make sure you ask for a punch card and get it punched for every drink or wine bottle you purchase and who knows you may win!!
We would cruise on the Crown Princess again definitely. We enjoyed Princess so much we have booked a Northern European cruise aboard the new Royal Princess for this June.