This is my first "formal" review, and I hope it is beneficial to others. I believe this is the first Canada/New England review for Crown Princess. My husband Rob and myself have cruised on 2 other Princess ships - Sapphire in 8/04 (Alaska-Inside Passage) and Star on 11/06 (Caribbean). We have not cruised with any other companies.
We flew from Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL (O'Hare) and Chicago, IL to NYC LaGuardia. To be safe, we flew in on Friday, 9/14/07. We ended up using Blue Shuttle to get to our hotel - Embassy Suites in the Financial District ($275 for the night, free breakfast on Saturday and 2 free cocktails per person on Friday). The hotel was very nice - different restaurants on site and free internet in the lobby. Concierge was very helpful as well. On Saturday morning, 9/15/07, we walked to Ground Zero to pay our respects, and then came back and got our luggage for the cruise. Hint - you can get late checkout (2pm) if you request it. We were outside with our luggage around 12:30pm, and opted with a car service to Red Hook, Brooklyn. It cost $45 + $5 toll, total $50. The driver was great, got us right to the terminal in 20 minutes. We gave our bags over to the terminal workers (with our Princess tags) and walked into the terminal. Approximately 12:50 - 1pm. We waited maybe 5 minutes to get to the counter, show e-tickets, passports, and credit card. From there, we walked straight thru to the terminal to the ship. Waited another 5 minutes maximum to get picture taken on ship. From there, we got to our cabin, C239 by 1:30pm at the latest. Dropped our stuff, put valuables in safe, and went to lunch in the buffet. Embarking was the easiest I've ever had. Princess employees everywhere directing us and answering questions. Our cabin was the same as any balcony cabin we've had. I didn't see any differences. I requested a robe and extra hangers from our steward Raul. I got the hangers quickly, the robes were being laundered. The buffet was crowded, as everyone was up there eating, which was not a surprise. The food was about the same as other Princess cruises. The Princess Patter stated there would be a Seafood Extravaganza at 5 or 5:30pm in the buffet - right at sailaway. Rob was all about this, and ate his fill! There were shrimp, lobster pinchers, and crabmeat (lot crab legs). He ate the lobster and crab and said the crab was wonderful, the pinchers were a bit tougher than lobster tails - though he still ate over 40 of them! This buffet went all night, so we didn't go to the formal dining rooms. We did meet our fellow Cruise Critics on the back of the ship at the bar and had a good time. The men didn't seem as "thrilled" with the meet and greet and the women - Rob included. I met some great people that I hope to continue chatting with.
The ship - Crown Princess. The ship is big. The hallways were so long, it seemed like they went on forever. Rob guessed 800 feet long on the Caribe deck. We're 35 and 37, so we are moderately active, but for those who can't walk as much, it is overwhelming. I would probably prefer a bit smaller of a ship in the future. I heard quite a few people, including friends we met on board, say they would not want to come back on the Crown - as it was too big and confusing. Rob and I never did get around without making wrong turns. The other interesting thing I noticed, was the golf/putt putt area on the sports deck. The ship is only 1.5 yrs old, but the golf area is horrible. The "greens" were bunched up and I never saw anyone playing. I don't think it was being maintained and looked quite bad. I think you had to walk around the sports deck 16 times for a mile, and it was at the top of the ship, and quite windy. Again, maybe not the best set up for walkers - one of our friends walked this and wasn't impressed with the track. People wouldn't move out of her way so she could walk, they were up there sight-seeing with cocktails. This was also the first time I didn't see any crew doing maintenance on the ship. I did see some railings with wet varnish, but usually the crew is painting and doing upkeep. Rob said with the salt water, there would always be rust and stuff, but it seemed like the ship might be so big, some maintenance was put off. Overall, the ship was quite nice - don't get me wrong. If it was my 1st cruise, I would not have known any different. And the other cruises I've been on were the Sapphire on its 1st season and the Star after the fire, so it was redone.
Our Steward, Raul, was good, but not great. BUT, he was also taking antibiotics for some throat thing and so we gave him a break on the little things. I had to request a robe two times to get it, and after using the pool towels, I had to ask for a replacement. Here is one weird thing that everyone commented on - The bedspreads are put under the bed at night, and a comforter is out on your bed. But there is no sheet, just the fitted sheet to the mattress, and then the comforter. Our friends asked for a sheet under the comforter, and their steward did this, and we then asked for this as well. So after that, we had a sheet as well as the comforter. It was too hot for the comforter for Rob. So, be sure to ask right away for this. We ended up tipping our steward $20 US plus all our Canadian coins. He was very nice and attentive, I think his illness probably caused the minor issues that weren't a big deal. Those steward/stewardesses work a lot of hours!!
Being the first on the Canada/New England itinerary, I think we may have had a few bumps that have been taken care of now. Our first port was Newport, RI. Tendering was a mess. Apparently, Newport had an international boat show going on and Princess was not aware of it. Those who took shore excursions in the morning got to their excursions - though quickly, and those in the afternoon may or may not have gotten to their excursions. The line to get back on the ship was probably 2-3 blocks long. There was alot of grumbling - only 2 tender boats were being used. We did not leave at 2pm as scheduled, as all the people were not on the ship, and then 6 people were "missing". Newport was a beautiful, quaint town. Rob and I just walked around and shopped. There is a store in Newport, Cuffy's, where we bought 12 t-shirts for $36.00. No tax on clothes. We got a shirt for all our nephews and nieces. Friendly people and a nice clean town. We waited to get back on the ship via tender for about an hour. Hopefully, this was a one time issue and won't happen again.
Our next stop was Boston, MA. We got in an hour late - 9am. So the captain stated we would leave an hour late, at 6pm instead of 5pm. Rob and I had purchased trolley tour over the internet and walked about a mile from the terminal to the Boston Convention Center and caught the trolley. There were shuttles at the terminal that would take you to and from Quincy Market for $8 one way and $12 round trip. You could purchase trolley tickets from at least 2 different companies in Quincy Market. We took the green and orange trolley and found the history by the driver very interesting and fun. We got off at Quincy Market and walked around - very touristy area. We didn't buy much in Boston. The line for the "real" Cheers bar, which is not in Quincy Market, was very long. Friends on the ship waited over an hour and then had to leave to ensure catching the boat. I ended up in the "teenage only" hot tub on the back of the ship, where I could watch the planes going into and out of Logan Airport. 2 Cruise Critic members I met also found the spot and that is where we were as we pulled out of Boston.
Our next stop was Bar Harbor, Maine. The tendering process here was very quick and efficient. This is also the only port where we purchased a shore excursion through Princess. We did the Acadia National Park bus tour and LobsterBake. There were 2 full busses for this excursion. We first did the tour through Acadia National Park, which was very pretty. The tour guide was very informative. We only saw the very beginning of the color change, which was unfortunate, but the weather was beautiful! We stopped at the top of Cadillac Mountain for some great pictures. There was no fog at all! We then went to the Lobster bake, which was in a hall or restaurant type place. It looked like a restaurant, but didn't serve people unless in parties that planned ahead. I don't particularly love lobster, so my husband had my lobster as well as his own. I could have requested a steak done to my specifications, but wasn't that hungry. The host of the lobster bake started us off with a bowl of mussels, and then came around offering move mussels for anyone who wanted any. Then we were instructed to go to the line for the lobster and sides. Per Rob, he said the lobsters were not quite a pound - though the excursion stated they would be 1.5 lbs. Desert was a blueberry type cake that was surprisingly good. Alcohol and soda was extra, as there was a bar in the hall. The one thing the ladies that were on the excursion with me all agreed on - the Blueberry Ale sounded delicious. When we got it, it was bitter and couldn't taste any blueberry flavor at all. So, buy a bottle and take a drink before each person buying a bottle, or skip the Blueberry Ale all together. Once the excursion was over, Rob and I went shopping through the town. There were some good buys on t-shirts and souvenirs. Most things were similar in the shops. There were some good prices for fleeces and hoodies. One store listed in the Princess shopping guide was Barks Harbor, which was for pets. The store was towards the end of the shopping, at the top of the hill. There was very little in there and expensive. There was also a sign stating the business and building were for sale, so that may have been the reason for so little inventory. Nobody was very impressed with the store, though we all wanted to go there from the Princess shopping guide. Bar Harbor was just a quaint, beautiful, scenic town that was friendly and fun.
Our next port was Saint John, New Brunswick. We didn't do much here, but got off the ship and was given a flower, which was a very nice gesture. I passed mine off to another passenger, as I didn't want to carry it around. There was a tent with vendors in it right in the terminal. Personally, I thought it was a cross between a craft fair and souvenir flea market. It was strange in my opinion. Rob and I walked up to City Market - which pretty much was a mall and looked around. I truly did not care for this port. We thought of going to the reversing falls, but were told that unless you go at the right time, there really isn't anything to see. I wanted to get back on the ship early and took a nap. Rob went back into the town to check out the distance his walkie talkies could get.
Our last stop was Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was worried that maybe I didn't like Canadian ports after my experience with Saint John. No worries. Halifax was very nice. There were shops around the terminal to look into, and restaurants to sit and have a bite to eat. I wanted to go to Peggy's Cove, but we got off the ship late and the tours had already left. There are alot of tours that you can look into once you get off the boat, but timing is everything. We were told it takes about 45 minutes to get out to Peggy's Cove, plus time there. So plan on 2.5 to 3 hrs minimum. People on the ship said once they got there and took a few pictures, the fog rolled in and there wasn't anything to see. The museum is right on the boardwalk and can be walked to with ease. People who have difficulty walking any distance might not be able to do this - the boardwalk was about ½ mile before you got to the majority of the stores, tours and restaurants. Again, most stores had the same type of items.
We choose Anytime Dining and waited maybe 5 minutes for a table for 2. The dining rooms are Michelangelo and DaVinci - I think on decks 5 and 6. We ate at both. The only night we made a reservation for dinner was Thursday, which was lobster night and formal night, and we didn't really need it, as the dining room was not busy. The service in the restaurant was very good. Our assistant waiters were very good. We had the same staff two nights in a row, and the asst waiter was a sweetheart named Winifred, and the waiter was somewhat aloof. Rob ordered two entrees (which he ate all of) and the waiter seemed put out by this. We decided that he was very stressed and diligent, he seemed to relax a bit towards the end of the evening. All our restaurant staff in the dining rooms were very good. In the buffet, if you wanted water, coffee or tea, the attendants would point you to where you could get it, but not help. There were alot of people walking around and talking, but not asking if you wanted something to drink or cleaning the tables. It seemed to be a bit unorganized. The free ice cream was found in the Horizon Buffet between 3:30 and 4:30pm. If the buffet was serving food on one side, the ice cream would be on the other side. There was nothing directing you to this, so it was a "secret". Almost like Princess doesn't want people to partake in this benefit, but has it and doesn't tell anyone where to find it.
The pizza and ice cream station (ice cream for purchase), and Trident Grill were opened from 11 am - 1am in the morning. This was a nice option if you wanted a slice of pizza or a chocolate shake (to purchase). On the other ships, I think they closed these around 6pm.
There was also the International Cafe on the 5th deck (I think). You could get free donuts, cookies, pastries. You could buy gelato, caramel apples, tapas for dinner and coffee/alcohol. It was a nice change and I did have a couple of sugar donuts one morning. We didn't go to the Vines Bar - a wine bar. The shops are pretty much the same. I forgot my wedding ring, so I did buy a "diamond"ring for $25 the first night, just so my ring finger wasn't naked! I got compliments on what a pretty ring I had from it!!
We don't have kids and didn't see many kids, so I cannot comment on the Kids Club.
We did go to the first Princess Popstar in Club Fusion, and it was a trainwreck! The participants were drunk and didn't know what they were doing. We didn't go back after the first night of that. On previous cruises, Princess Popstar had great talent and this was not the case this time. I can't blame the ship by any means, just a surprise. We didn't do much else for entertainment, though we heard very positive remarks about the comedians. One was a heavy set black man that was a comedian, but he left the ship in Boston. The other comedian who took over was also said to be good. There was a doo-wop band in the atrium on the sea day that was very, very good. We heard mixed reviews about the musical shows.
I was very excited to experience MUTS - Movies under the stars. First, I loved the popcorn that was handed out in the evening. I didn't go to any of the evening shows, but on Friday (our at sea day), Grease was shown at 4pm. I watched the whole thing and it took me back to the days of drive-in theaters. You can eat and/or drink while watching the shows. They also had Monday Night Football showing. There are blankets put on the chaises for warmth, and I did like this. I'm sure it is very different for warmer itineraries. The evenings did get cool.
This is somewhat hearsay, but important in my opinion. On Thursday evening, after midnight, the captain came over the speaker asking if anyone who had a donor card and was A+ blood and willing to donate, go to deck 4 - medical area. Apparently, a passenger was gravely ill and needed blood. We later learned that there was a huge response and the captain had to change course and stop the ship. The Nova Scotia Coast Guard met the ship and took the passenger off and to the hospital. The passenger had another setback but was getting better and had stabilized Friday late morning. The captain came on Friday morning giving everyone an update and thanking everyone for their assistance. I also heard from other passengers that a helicopter was used to transport a passenger off the ship, though I never heard about this from the Captain. But, if you have a donor card, you may want to take it in case of an emergency like that.
Also, the safes in the cabins are different and according to our steward, people lock them on accident and the supervisor has to come fix the problem. We didn't have the issue but our friends didn't work - the batteries kept falling out.
Disembarking - this was over an hour late. My tags that I received were for Grand Central or Penn Station, which was not what I needed at all. Check and verify your tags to be sure they are correct. People were complaining and grouchy, though that was nothing new. We got out around 9:30 (were scheduled for 8:20am), got to the bus to LaGuardia, and didn't leave the terminal until 10:30am. We had friends who we were going to meet at the airport (they didn't get the transfers) and they took a cab and ended up at the airport before us! And they got off the ship over an hour later! Traffic was congested and crazy. Our bus did not go through Manhattan - but I can't be sure what route he took. We had a 1pm flight, so we had plenty of time. Once we got to LaGuardia, Rob had to crawl in to the luggage area and get our bags and some other people's luggage, as the driver and helper were doing something else. The only thing I can say about disembarking is to be patient and expect to wait. The port employees were very quick - it was getting off the ship and the waiting on the bus.
Overall, it was a great trip. We had great weather, met great people and ate way too much! Though the ship is very big, it helped me walk off some of those extra calories! I will definitely cruise with Princess again, but if possible, would choose a slightly smaller ship. The crew was great, but seemed to be a little bit less helpful. My guess is they are overwhelmed with the amount of people on board. The ship is in good shape, but you can see some areas where the upkeep is not getting done or not being done as well. The itinerary is a great one, and I'm very glad to have gotten to cruise this part of the US and Canada!