My husband and I just returned from our March 31st sailing on the Crown Princess. We are in our early to mid 30's and do not have children. I am a school nurse so I must travel during peak season. Unfortunately, that means putting up with kids on our vacations! We have been on 2 cruises prior (Norwegian and Carnival). We were booked on the Star Princess last spring but our voyage was cancelled due to the fire 2 weeks prior to our sailing. Princess gave us roughly $450 off this sailing and upgraded us from Balcony BG to Balcony BB due to our inconvenience last year (classy move). This was our first time with a balcony and it will not be the last. Balcony cabins are the only way to go!
Due to both of our schedules, we flew down to Puerto Rico the morning of the cruise. Trying to save $500 we booked a flight with a connection in Memphis, TN (never again). We figured we had plenty of time for error considering we had until 9pm to board the ship. Well, lucky for us we had that extra time... Our flight from NJ was on time. Our flight from Memphis was on time. Unfortunately, as we were 70 minutes away from Puerto Rico, the pilot turned the plane around and headed north. A passenger appeared to be having a heart attack and we had to make an emergency medical landing in Miami (the passenger appeared to improve prior to his departure from the plane). Due to this unfortunate delay we arrived at the ship (with our Princess transfer) and were onboard by 7:45pm.
We booked the Crown Princess for three major reasons: #1 for the itinerary, #2 for an upscale ship and attentive service, and #3 for quality of food. Two of the three criteria were met. I will break it down into a few categories that were important to us.
FOOD A little background: we are food snobs. We requested traditional dining with the late seating (8:15). To our dismay, we were given anytime dining. With a 5 minute wait at the purser's desk my husband was informed to see the Maitre D' in the dining room and request a table. Problem solved. We had a table for two at 8:15 the entire voyage.
We had high expectations for food. After being on Carnival last year and having OUTSTANDING service and food- we could only imagine how our experience on Crown Princess would be. In a word: MEDIOCRE. Not bad, but definitely not good. The first three nights were mediocre, at best. The fish was dried out. The filet mignon was not fit for a dog. On the fourth night, very frustrated with the quality of food, we ate at Sabatini's (their Italian specialty restaurant). Finally, our first good meal! You pick your entrEe and they bring out every appetizer on the menu. The antipasto, crab cakes, and minestrone soup were some of our favorites. Food was making a turn for the better...our next night in the dining room I had the crab legs, my husband had a chicken dish AND the crab legs. Both of which were very good. We had the lobster tail on the second formal night- also very good. The last night reminded me of the first three- mediocre. Both the soups and the desserts were my husband's favorites. The pizza was good (great afternoon snack after ports). The buffet was a free-for-all. You can't mess up salad!
SERVICE Our server, Emery from Romania, was good… not great. Our room steward, Ricardo, was sick the first night and it was reflected in our service. Our room was clean- but he did not do anything extra. I sceeve the generic bedspread and immediately took it off the bed. I asked our steward twice to keep the bedspread under the bed. "IT" appeared two more times despite my request. Everyone else on the cruise was very pleasant and accommodating. The ship itself was grand! Very big, very beautiful, and very clean. We did, however, notice the movement to be a little more than previous cruises (not to the point of sickness, just awareness).
PORTS St. Thomas- originally planned to take a 45 minute ferry to St. John and go to a secluded beach. We changed our mind due to our hectic travel the day before. We took a cab to Megan's Beach. It was CROWDED but beautiful. The water was crystal clear with moderate surf.
St. Kitts- took a cab to Friar's Bay (just past Frigate Beach). We chose this beach because we heard it would be less crowded than Frigate. Good choice! There were lounge chairs and umbrellas available to rent ($10 for 2 chairs). There was a local "hut" bar that had cold beer for sale. The water was beautiful. It was warm, calm, and crystal clear. We brought our own snorkel gear and there was great reef right off of the beach.
Grenada- stayed on the boat and heard it was a wise choice. We heard the island was run down and the natives harass you into buying their junk.
Bonaire- Booked a snorkel trip with Wanda from Sea and Discover. She picked us up right outside our boat. There were 3 other people on this tour with us. Wanda was amazing. Not only did she give us a brief lesson on the local fish we would see- she jumped in the water with us and pointed out all different fish and their behaviors. It was an awesome trip. She charged $42/person for a two site snorkel. We watched all of the fools from Princess cram onto a "pirate ship". Approximately 80 people were dropped off in one spot and left to figure it out for themselves. They paid $60 and up- they did get a rum punch (as if that makes it better!). If you want to get a more personalized experience- call Wanda!
Aruba- This was the port that made me want to take this cruise. Everyone raves about Aruba. I was NOT impressed. The beaches were crowded. The beach restaurants and bars were very expensive ($4.75 for a Heineken nip). And worst of all- the water murky. I was in the water up to my waist and I couldn't see my thighs. I am not saying Aruba is a bad place- just that there are many other equally expensive islands we would prefer to go back to (Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos).
ENTERTAINMENT After dinner we always popped our head in the shows. My favorite was the Motown Show. There was a blonde girl that could belt them out! Sarge, the comedian, was funny. There were two other comedians/magicians that I recall. Unfortunately, they were in the lounge that doesn’t seat a lot of people- so if you don’t get there early it is standing room only. Another night there was a “lounge lizard” as my husband puts it. He tried to push his CD at the end of his show- I wouldn’t take it if it was free.
There were plenty of bars and lounges to choose from. Too many, actually. Skywalker’s nightclub is an awesome conception. It was on the top floor of the ship; windows everywhere; fabulous cocktail service. The only thing it lacked…PEOPLE. It was empty. I was banking on some late night dancing to work off the empty calories in my martinis! CASINO Ultimately we spent every night in the casino. There was PLENTY of entertainment just with the fellow gamblers. The dealers were extremely friendly. Some of my favorites were Sasha and Angel. My husband loved the fact that they had two Texas Hold‘Em tables (I don’t know if he ever made it back to the room before 2am).
POOLS/GYM/SPA There were plenty of pools to keep everyone happy. Our favorite was below the sanctuary, connected to the gym. It was an ADULT ONLY pool with two Jacuzzis. There was another adult only pool on the aft of Riviera (our floor). The gym was clean with plenty of current equipment. Bring your own water because the water fountain has warm water! The spa… the massage was very good. The facility was basic. Don’t expect the whole spa experience.
OVERALL A cruise is what you make of it! Last year we thought we got “stuck” on Carnival because of the last minute cancellation on the Star Princess due to the fire. To our surprise, it was great! We avoided the crowded pools and we knew going in to it that there would be a “trash factor”. You need to search for what makes you happy. Overall, we had a great cruise on the Crown Princess. Our only complaint would be the food. If the food was better we would use Princess again. Next time, we’ll try Celebrity or Holland America.