We flew into LaGuardia on May 30th and took a taxi. The driver did not know where the Brooklyn cruise terminal was until he looked it up on a map and remembered dropping off a passenger for the QM2. The ride was long and traffic was heavy. When we arrived, no luggage porter seemed to approach us until we flashed some cash. My dad is a travel agent commodore and therefore received elite status and a black colored cruise card. This is equivalent to sixteen or more cruises. Many staff greeted him with, "Welcome back", but actually it was our first time with Princess! We went through a priority boarding line and were on the ship within ten minutes! For the life boat drill, we met in the Explorer's Lounge. It was comfortable to sit while the instructions were given. Tip: Get there early or you will not get a seat.
From our mini suite on Dolphin deck, there was a view of the Statue of Liberty. The cabin was a decent size for three people. There was lots of shelf space and a large closet, without doors (also an annoying squeaky floorboard somewhere in this area). The bathroom was small. The balcony, that fit four chairs and a table, was completely uncovered. I don't think we would have booked that cabin if we had known in advance. There was no shade and no privacy since everyone could look down on us.
Our cabin steward, Wilfredo, was fantastic! Whatever special request we made, it was taken care of promptly. My pull-out sofa bed was hard as a rock; egg crate foam was added by bedtime. Our bathtub didn't drain well- fixed by the next shower. The light above the mirror was burnt out- replaced by the next time it was turned on.
I found it odd that cabin numbers include a letter. D sounds a lot like E. Make sure you pronounce or say the deck when giving your cabin number. Twice, room service that we did not order was delivered to us. Maybe that was due to cabin confusion.
Everyone seems to say the same thing in their Crown Princess reviews, "The ship is huge!" They aren't kidding. It takes awhile to walk from one end to the other. However, public areas are more intimate and it felt like the ship was smaller and usually not too crowded. I loved the beautiful Piazza atrium. It was a nice place to sit and people watch, see street performers, or listen to music.
Outside on the Promenade deck, you can walk up the stairs to the bow of the ship. This is a spectacular spot! When the ship is sailing, it feels like you are gliding across the water (it was extremely smooth the entire trip). Some people saw dolphins here. Be careful if you go up there at night, since it is really dark.
I loved the variety of the lunch embarkation and first breakfast buffet. I had some great food and awesome strawberries! Through the rest of the cruise, the buffet quality seemed to decrease. Some time periods were incredibly busy and the buffet is not designed very well for such a small space. You will certainly bump into other guests as you try to get your food. Another problem was that items moved around from day to day. For example, in the morning, at first the juice was on one side of the area, but the next day it would be way over on the other. Also, there are no trays, just big platters. This wouldn't be so bad, but they heat them up so they burn your hands off! Tip: Save your hands and take plates from the area by the cold foods. Finding a table was also difficult, especially when the Cafe Caribe was closed. Many times, we walked from the Horizon Court to the Cafe Caribe in the back to find a seat. When the Caribe was open, it was usually less busy than the Horizon.
We had traditional dining in the Botticelli Dining Room at 8:15. Doors typically opened late. On the first night, we felt ignored when we sat at our table. No one greeted us, gave us menus or water for some time. Our appetizers didn't come until an hour later! Other nights were faster, but sometimes we wondered if we would make the 10:30 show. Several times, those at our table of seven received the wrong dish. It is somewhat understandable though, because our server had just been promoted to waiter and all of the dinner menus were new for this cruise. Still, the service was not as fantastic as on Holland America.
Dining hours were the same every day. It was difficult for us to know this for the first few days because we didn't get one of the little yellow dining cards until we asked our cabin steward. I wish they would just put the hours in the Patter instead.
I loved afternoon tea! The warm, melt-in-your-mouth scones are to die for! Both our dining room servers regularly worked at the tea and did a wonderful job.
Ice cream is only free for a certain time period each day. They have a choice of only two flavors. My dad, ice cream fanatic who nearly went into withdrawal, reported that one day it was either rum raisin or cantaloupe. It didn't help that our dining room server did not know what a la mode meant. After receiving no ice cream with dessert for a few nights, he learned to say "with ice cream", and then it came as a separate sundae.
For lunch in the dining room one day, I decided to have a veggie burger. I have never had a veggie burger before, but imagined that its texture would be similar to a hamburger. This thing that I had was really veggie mush between bread. I asked for something else. I was curious if it is normally like this or if the chef was just having a bad day, but I did not dare order the veggie burger again.
We ate at the specialty Italian restaurant, Sabatini's. We just walked in without reservations. They brought out platters of different dishes and arranged them on our plates. It was fun to sample many things that I had never tried before, like calamari. There were six courses: hot appetizers, cold appetizers, choice of soup, two kinds of pasta, an entrEe, and finally dessert. I chose the stuffed chicken as an entrEe. As I dug in, I noticed a dark hair on it. At this point I was so full, I didn't care. However, my mom had to mention it to a server. Before I knew it, the chicken was whisked away and the maitre d' appeared, apologizing and explaining their strict following of health codes and hair nets. "We are trying to figure out who it was", he said. I found this very funny and felt bad that I could only eat a few bites of the new chicken. I also hope that no cook was demoted to an oarsman position. I had a great raspberry tart for dessert and even more so liked the white chocolate mousse that my mom ordered.
The first show with a singer from the production cast was not very good. Many people walked out. I didn't think the production shows were as polished as ones I have seen on other cruise lines. "Motor City" was just ok for me. "Destination Anywhere" made me wonder what in the world was going on; how do you go from Elvis in Las Vegas to Old England? "What a Swell Party" was my favorite of the three productions. The musical/comedy duo Kimika was very fun. The hypnotist show was great! I laughed so hard, I cried when one man was an alien and only spoke a Martian language while another hypnotized person translated. I used to be skeptical of hypnosis, but I believe that it is real now.
We went to see Movies Under the Stars one night and it was nice. I would suggest claiming a chair about twenty minutes before the movie starts.
Cruise Critic Events
Our meet and greet was held in Skywalkers Nightclub at 2:00 on the first sea day. They provided snack mix, but no free drinks. I put together a game and the Cruise Director, Kelvin Joy, provided some prizes. We arranged another get-together on the second to the last day at sea, same time, same place. The cruise staff sent more prizes, a stack of trivia sheets, and a box of pencils for us. I was really impressed with them! The front desk gave me lots of ideas for trivia questions. For example, there are sixteen pianos onboard! I must also share some facts I learned from a fellow passenger who had been on the ship for 3 weeks: You can tell which direction an elevator is going without looking at the light-up arrow- it makes one dinging sound if it is going down and two dinging noises if it is going up. Also, the patterns on the hallway carpet are red on the port side and blue on the starboard. I would have never known!
West End, Bermuda: We wanted to book the Segway tour though the ship, but it was sold out. As we walked from the ship through a sort of park area, we found a yellow bus selling Segway tours. This tour was a few bucks cheaper than the one on the ship and he had openings left for the afternoon. It was tricky to learn to relax on the Segway. It never stops moving; you lean forward to go ahead or faster, lean back to reverse or slow down, and turn a handle to go left or right. At first, I felt like I would fall over, but I got used to it and really had fun. Hills were a bit scary. The guide was informative and made us feel comfortable riding those things for the first time. I recommend this tour! We also walked around the Clocktower shopping area and watched some glassblowing.
San Juan, Puerto Rico: Upon arrival in San Juan, the immigration line wrapped all the way around the Piazza, mid-ship, to Club Fusion, aft. It was insane. Luckily it moved fairly quickly. The officials took a quick glance at our passports and we were given a green card that no one even collected at the gangway. We walked to Fort San Cristobal, which is near the pier and bought a pass that is also good for El Morro. It was dreadfully hot and humid. After exploring San Cristobal we went back to the ship for lunch and then walked to El Morro, which is quite a hike to get to. It was worth it though.
St. Thomas: Only one other ship was here. We docked at Crown Bay and took a shuttle from the pier to downtown ($4 per person, each way). There are endless jewelry stores. I liked the open market better.
Grand Turk: We took a taxi to the lighthouse on the north side of the island and hiked along the trails. The tide was out and we could walk on the rocks on the beach. There were crabs and fish swimming in pools of clear water. I could hear a sizzling sound of thousands of tiny shells that were moving around. There were many large birds that just stood in the middle of the trails.
New York- Post-cruise: I think we disembarked before 10:00. There was a long line for taxis, so we waited in the disorganized (also long) line for town cars. We stayed a night in New York City at the Marriott Financial Center. We had a view of the World Trade Center site. Our hotel included a breakfast buffet for two at Roy's New York, which is in the hotel. This buffet was fantastic, and dare I say, better than on the Crown. Our hotel also included two subway passes (which we didn't use) and two tickets for the Liberty Island and Ellis Island ferry (long line, but there were food stands along the way). We took the Grey Line hop-on-hop-off double-decker bus on the downtown loop. This was a great way to sightsee! There was a long line for the Empire State Building when we went a few years ago, but there was no line for the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center! The view is almost better because you can actually see the Empire. Also, they have a clear ceiling elevator that is very cool.
I didn't know what to expect my first time with Princess, but it was a good cruise. I had fun and took hundreds of photos! Overall, I would rank Princess behind Holland America and Celebrity (mainly due to service). I would sail the Crown or another Princess ship if I liked the itinerary.
(View photos at: http://www.purplenorway.shutterfly.com/action/)