This was my 8th cruise but first on Princess. I was with my mom and she cruises Princess at least once a year. I thought the ship was clean and in good shape. There are so many bar/lounge options, several pools, etc and the ship never seemed really crowded to me except for a few occasions: lifeboat drill, trying to get off the ship in Victoria and waiting in line for dinner, etc. We liked Crooners and went there every night before dinner for martinis. It is a great spot to people watch and the waiters were great in there. The only crew member who took time to learn our names was Anthony in Crooners. Usually on past cruises it seemed like more of the staff tried to remember you by name. We had a mini-suite and it was perfect.
The food in the dining room was pretty bland and not that good. It did improve as the week went on. We went in The Horizon Court to make cheese and fruit plates to have in our room for cocktails on our balcony. The HC had a lot of options, some of them pretty random, and I had a hard time finding something that looked good other than the cheese and fruit. The pizza by the pool is excellent, it is pretty sad when your best meal on a cruise is pizza, but that was the way this cruise went. My mother said that the dining room food on the Crown was by far the worst food she had had on any Princess cruise. They usually go on 2 week cruises, if I had been on the Crown for two weeks I would probably be dreading dinner in the dining room by the end of the cruise. The options just were not very appealing on the menu and the presentation was boring. I am not a picky eater and understand that when cooking for 3,000 people it isn't going to be gourmet. I'd give the food in the dining room a C. Also, we had anytime dining and never made a reservation. 2 nights we waited in line over 30 minutes, our fault for not making reservations but the people with reservations were waiting for over 30 minutes too, just in a separate line. The the maitre d's still seemed unorganized and crowd control could have been handled better. On my next cruise I would just go ahead and book the late seating for dinner. We always ended up wanting to eat around 8:00 anyway and I think you would get better service if you had the same waiter every night.
I enjoyed this itenerary very much. We booked excursions through Princess for each port and they were all good. In Santa Barbara we went to two wineries in Santa Ynez. That was probably my least favorite tour, it was basically just a trip to see 2 tasting rooms and sample 6 or so wines at each venue. I'm glad we did it though because it was a really pretty drive and we were back in time to enjoy Santa Barbara a little bit too, so it was like two trips in one stop. The same for San Francisco, the wine tour there was excellent and we had lunch in Sonoma and still had time to walk down to Pier 39 before we got back on the ship. We had beautiful weather the first four days. It was rainy and chilly in Astoria but we still went on our tour to Cannon Beach and Seaside. I'm glad we booked that tour because it didn't seem like Astoria had much going on. Victoria was gorgeous and we loved the tour to the Butterfly Garden and Butchart Gardens- amazing!
Embarkation was very quick for us. We were dropped at the port around 1:00 and on the ship within 20 minutes. That is a definite perk of being a Princess Platinum cruiser (my mom).
A few things were very unorganized though. Getting all of the tour groups off the ship in Victoria was chaos, it took almost an hour. I think the Crown needs to work on staggering times for things so you don't have 500 people trying to get off the ship at the exact same time for tours booked with Princess. Even if they staggered the times by 15 minutes it would have helped. Also, the airport transfer to the Vancouver airport was great until they dropped us off. If you were taking a Princess airport transfer to the airport they sent your luggage to the airport on a truck. So hundreds of people were standing in line trying to get their luggage at the airport, it was a mess.
Average food doesn't make or break a trip for me and we had a fabulous time. I would recommend this cruise because of the itinerary and I enjoyed the ship. I would definitely sail on Princess again, but probably not on the Crown because of the food. I have been on NCL, Royal Caribbean and Carnival and Princess is definitely my favorite because it's not cheesy. The majority of the passengers seemed to be older and laid back BUT that probably had to do with the itinerary. No silly games and loud music by the pools, it was a very relaxing trip.