Crown Princess Cruise Review by osuffan: Three Virgins...Connoisseur Alaska Tour NA5...Crown Princess
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Three Virgins...Connoisseur Alaska Tour NA5...Crown Princess
Things to keep in mind as you read this:
1. First time cruisers.
2. Spouse is out of her comfort zone and is not adventurous.
3. 75 year old mother is in cabin right across hall.
4. Ship is huge with 3000+ people.
5. Expectation is that everything is paid for.
6. Not expecting a medium to hard sell to buy extras (Think time share presentation!!)
7. Weather was horrible with two days at sea that were very rough.
8. Two out of the three of us ended up getting sick 4-5 days into the cruise.
On July 4th 2014 three people embarked upon their first cruise. The cruise included a land tour immediately following the water portion. Three celebrations would occur on this cruise: A 30 year anniversary; A 75th Birthday; 32 year retirement.
We arrived in Vancouver and stayed overnight at the Quality Hotel in Richmond. I would highly recommend this hotel as an alternative to the higher priced downtown hotels. More Saturday morning we took a taxi to the docks. The taxi cost $35 and delivered us right to the cruise entry area. I would highly recommend this mode of transportation. Porters then took all of our luggage which eventually showed up in our rooms. More on this later.
We entered into a line that moved right along through customs and security. We had arrived at this area around 11:00. We then entered an area with chairs and this is where the cruise line took over. Someone made the decision to start boarding early and off we went. We were immediately stopped to take the embarkation photos. Let me stop right here and say that unbeknownst to us this was the first of what we found to be very intrusive picture taking. We also did not know that these pictures would be displayed for all to see and of course would be available to purchase for $20 per page. Each "page" consisted of either one 8x10 or a collage of three photos. Every time we turned around it seemed the cruise line wanted to take another photo. We started to say no very quickly. I'm talking about every port you stop at, every time you sit down to dine, as you walk through the picture gallery, etc...
After stepping on board there were plenty of Princess employees to help us find our cabins. My wife and I had a balcony room and right across from us my mom had her room. (See description of cabin.)
We found that Princess placed employees that spoke and understood english at strategic locations. However many, many, employees seemed to neither understand or speak english. We found this to be a problem when we would ask someone for directions or a general question about the cruise. As a matter of fact the only people who knew anything about our specific cruise was the people at the 800 number. You really, really need to know your own personal itinerary!!! The employees on the ship know only about their own area or specialty.
Don't get me wrong every single employee we met tried to help us. Our head waiter for our dining room visited our table every evening. Our room steward was fantastic. Our server was also fantastic. Everyone had a job to do and did it well.
As I said earlier every time we turned around it seemed that Princess was trying to sell us something or there was an extra fee. From the pictures to the bingo to the markers for the bingo cards to the so called auction to the drink programs to the specialty dining to the exorbitant fees for the Lotus Spa and the hard pressure sale of their products to the cost for the Sanctuary to the tour of the kitchen and then have to squeeze by the table where they are selling cookbooks and then at the end of the tour going into a room where they are selling leftover items from previous cruises. It all got to be to much and frankly turned us off on future cruises.
Now let's talk about the tipping. Princess charges $11.50 per day per person for tips. Other then your tour director if you take a land tour there are no other tips you HAVE to give. Tips are also automatically added onto any bar tab. When you break it down this is really not to bad. However it does make you stop and think how much are the people who are personally serving you getting?!? As soon as possible after boarding I would highly recommend going to the main desk and opting out of this tipping charge. Then give your room steward a good tip right from the start as well as your server and assistant server. In other words tip those people who actually serve you.
With regards to #4 above. Anytime you stick 3000+ people in an enclosed area there will be problems. If you try to go to a show or any event for that matter GET THERE EARLY!!!! I don't care how big the ship is, if you do not like a lot of people around you don't go on a cruise. Also it is impossible to sanitize a ship this big when you only have 4 hours to do so.
By the time we disembarked I would unscientifically estimate that half the ship had some sort of cold or ailment. My mom ended up almost having to go to the hospital and did go to the ER after getting home. She was diagnosed with bronchitis. I am still getting over whatever I had. Cold like symptoms. If you can I would recommend taking antibiotics right when the cruise starts.
Now the food and dining. Immediately after boarding the ship the buffet's were open for lunch. It was fantastic. As a matter of fact we found the buffet's to be better then the traditional dining. They seemed to have almost the exact same choices as we were given. We did a traditional seating for dinner at 6PM. First of all breakfast. You go to the buffets for breakfast. I kid you not. They have everything you could possibly think of for breakfast. Lunches are a different matter. When we were at port we wanted to dine at a local restaurant which we did. We even had dinner at Skagway. there was always a buffet open on the ship. The first dinner was a bit hectic for everyone passengers and servers. It settled down after that. The way the traditional dinners work is that you are given a menu. This menu will have 6 or 7 appetizer choices, a couple of soup choices, a couple of salad choices and 7 or 8 entree choices. Every night there are special choices in each category. You really can order whatever you want off of this menu. You want one of each appetizer...go for it. Let me make one thing clear. Except for lobster night there are no "high priced" choices. All of the prime steaks are at the Crown Grill. All of the specialty seafood is at the Crown Grill or Sabatini's. The food was good but I still think the buffet is the better value. SIGN UP FOR TRADITIONAL DINING but other then the formal nights and/or lobster night go to the buffet. And you can go to any of the dining rooms and view that nights choices and make your decision then. One more thing...If you do decide not to attend your traditional dining seating please let the dining room know. In addition to these there was also an ice cream bar, a poolside grill (great hamburgers), a pizza area, and the international cafe. All of these areas had free food. There was a charge for milkshakes.
Specialty dining......We did two specialty dining options that I would like to mention. As part of a promotion we received a voucher to attend one specialty restaurant. We choose Crown Grill. Hands down probably one of the best porterhouse steaks I have ever had. If we ever go on another Princess cruise I would definitely pay an extra $25 and do this again. Another "specialty dining" we did was an in room champagne breakfast. You can pick the time you want this served. We choose the day and about the time we were going to get to the glaciers. It was fantastic. More food then we could ever have eaten. And high quality food. I would highly recommend this option.
Drink programs. We did not purchase a program. Frankly I don't see how this is a good value. You have a fridge in your room. No you cannot bring alcohol onto the ship. But unless you are an alcoholic there is no way one person is going to drink $56 worth of booze in one day. You can bring pop and water onto the ship. So at the first port buy some! Or just get your pop fix at the port itself. The cost for a bottle or can of pop on-board is not that bad either. I don't see how the cruise lines are making money off of this unless people are just clueless or filthy rich. NOTE...I did purchase the coffee card. This is the only beverage option that you can share if you like and if you don't use all of the punches you can take it on the next cruise or give it to someone else.
Excursions.....The one Princess excursion we went on was very well organized and the tour guides were well spoken and informed. The decision to book tours ahead of time is a personal one. KEEP IN MIND that you have until 6PM I believe to cancel any tours for Monday morning (our cruise started on Saturday). After that any pre-booked tours have to be canceled at least 48 hours prior or you will forfeit your money. No negotiating. When we got sick, which we had no control over, we tried to appeal to many people to no avail. We ended up paying for an excursion we were to ill to go on. Based on the lines I saw many people wait to book their tours on-board. i will say this...We were offered the same tour that we had to cancel later that same day with an extra thrown in. We also heard of tours that were canceled due to lack of enough people signing up. So good luck with the excursions.
On Board Activities...On board activities were plentiful. Of course the obligatory casino. We attended dance classes, bingo, cooking demonstration and kitchen tour, comedian, art auction, band performances, stopped to watch some movie under the stars, and went to the Sanctuary pool and hot tub (Free). The minerature golf course and basketball courts were in sad shape. The fitness center looked pretty nice. My wife and mom got some things done at the Lotus Spa on the very first day. They ran some specials.
Princess Patter....The Princess Patter is a "newspaper" that shows up in your mailbox which is just outside of your cabin, later in the evening. This paper will list all the events upcoming for the next day.
Weird things to take with you.....take a highlighter with you to highlight those things in the Princess Patter you are interested in...take some regular tape with you to tape those things you will need for the next day on the obligatory big picture in your room or the mirror...maybe take some packing tape with you to send stuff in priority mail boxes back home...get a pair of comfortable water proof shoes to take the place of maybe two pairs...extension cord...don't forget chargers...binoculars...camera(s)...For women-Take at least 1 dressy sweater and a pashmina/extra large scarf for your shoulders. Some of the areas of the ship are rather chilly.
Do Not Take....A LOT OF CLOTHES....Believe it or not at the very first port there were nice jackets for sale at numerous shops for only $20...t-shirts $10...sweaters and hoodies $15...hats 3 for $10....These prices were consistent at every port we stopped in...Both men and womens items. And you need souveniers!
Men...Take one pair of dress shoes...one or two pair of dress pants..and 3 or 4 shirts to match them. Any more then that would be overkill. I wore shorts on the ship and jeans on land. The weather was chilly on our cruise.
Debarkation...I don't care what the Patter says...Get to your debarkation point at least 10 minutes early. This like everything else was well organized.
That's about it. We did take a land tour in conjunction with the cruise through Princess. Two days at Princess Denali and two days at Princess McKinley. By the way Mt McKinley and Mt. Denali are the same mountain! We had a fantastic tour guide and except for being sick had a great time. I would highly recommend this add on. HOWEVER...The train ride was horrible. 10 1/2 hours on a slow moving train looking at the same scenery over and over. Even though it is included in the price I would skip the train and find alternate transportation to the lodge.
After further consideration if it hadn't been for getting sick we would have had a very good time. There are many things that I wish I would have known beforehand and I have tried to convey these in this review. Less
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Cabin review: Crown Princess A341
As a first time cruiser the value of having a balcony cannot be overstated. If I ever cruise again a balcony is a must! This cabin was toward the middle of the ship with only one floor with balcony's above. It was called the Aloha deck. When you first enter the cabin and go about two feet in there is an alcove to the left. this space is your open closet (lot of space and about 26 hangers supplied), five shelf unit with door (about two feet wide floor to ceiling), a safe on one of the shelves, and a door to the bathroom. The bathroom has a very small shower (about 3X3), a flush toilet, and a small sink area with large lower shelf and very little counter space. The shower had good water pressure, and built in shampoo and soap dispenser. The only downside to the bathroom was that you could not plug in a polarized plug (one prong is larger). On the wall abeam the closet area is a full length mirror.As you pass the closet area and continue into the room immediately to your left is one single bed, a bedside table and another twin bed. The table has one light on it. (No alarm clock is provided!) Immediately against the second bed is another table with a light. Each table has a storage area. to the right of the second bed table is a desk w/chair. the desk is about four feet wide and ends just a few inches before the balcony. The desk has a drawer and a storage area with two shelves.There is just enough room to walk between the wall and the ends of the beds. As you walk into the room straight ahead of you is what looks like a cabinet that is your small fridge. there is a shelf on top of this that has an ice bucket and a tray. there is also a small round table and another chair that is cushioned. The TV is mounted in the corner on the wall.All in all we found the room to be very nice and appointed well. Everything was clean with very little wear if any.The balcony was good sized with two chairs and small table.
Port and Shore Excursions
the town of Juneau is weird. The state capital but you cannot get there driving. Flying or by boat and it is fogged in most of the time. There were a lot more higher quality shops here then in Ketchikan. Many of the same souvenirs just with Juneau sewed on instead of Ketchikan. My mom and I had lunch after the excursion at Tracy's crab Shack. GREAT PLACE! Kind of expensive but everything is in Alaska. We had crab legs, crab cakes, and crab chowder. We tried the scallops. They were disgusting. Stay with crab!!! We ordered two combos.
The Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching was awesome. You can get up pretty close to the glacier and there is a huge waterfall that you can stand right beside! Frankly we could have stayed there a little longer. They only give you an hour there. the whale watching was fantastic. We had a great captain and the tour guide was very well spoken and knowledgeable. We saw 7 or 8 humpbacks and got to see a bubble feeding, seals, orcas and of course eagles.
Misty Fjords Wilderness Cruise
As this was our first port we were excited. However my wife due to rough seas had gotten sick and had to back out of the Mist Fjords excursion. Cha-ching$$$. I canceled my fishing trip to stay with her. My mom went on the excursion. She said it was just okay. No wildlife was seen. When my wife felt better we went walking around town. Not a real big town. See my comments about the prices on souvenirs. We had lunch at Burger Queen. A local joint that I would highly recommend.
Mt wife and I loved Skagway. By this time my mom was pretty sick and did not leave the ship. This is a funky little town. We hiked one of the many trails around town and had a great time!! Other then that did a little shopping and hung out at the Skagway Brewing Company. The beer was great but wish we would have eaten lunch at the BBQ Shack.
Many of the people who went on excursions did not have a good time. The train ride which is advertised as one of the top excursions was boring I heard. No wildlife. The only people I heard that had a good time was those who rented a car or went on an independent tour into the tundra.