My wife and I just returned from a fantastic 14-day cruise on board the Crown Princess. This was our 5th cruise overall and 4th on Princess. Last year, we were married on St. Thomas during our first cruise on the Crown. Princess delivered a great wedding and converted many of our family who joined us to second timers as well. So, it goes without saying that our expectations were high this time. Princess delivered again!
We spent the day prior at the Comfort Inn San Juan. It is not the greatest hotel, but the price is right, the location is perfect, and it works well for us. We spent the afternoon of our arrival shopping and exploring Old San Juan. We found some deals at the outlets and still had time to explore the history of a really great area. After exploring, we had a fun dinner at Latin Star, right down the street from our hotel.
We left the hotel at 11:45 the morning of our cruise and were at the port by 12:15. Embarkation was quick! We were through the entire process in about 30 minutes (including a trip to the duty free store to stock up on drinks). After boarding, we were happily greeted and directed to our room.
We chose an aft balcony stateroom, B749. And after having only cruised in mini-suites before, we wondered how a balcony stateroom would be. There were positives and negatives to the room. The balcony was huge. At one point, we had 10 chairs on the balcony for a champagne sail away. The room was clean, cool, and the stateroom attendant, Wanida was very good. The bathroom was small. At 6'3", I had difficulty with the shower. After 14 days, I finally got it, but was happy to take my first shower at home. Taking everything into account, we would probably sacrifice the bathroom in exchange for the large balcony.
The Crown Princess still looks new! Public areas are immaculate. Crew members are constantly cleaning, painting, dusting, etc.. It shows. We enjoyed the pool areas, MUTS is fun. The Superbowl on MUTS is incredible!! Princess provided snacks during the game too. The Piazza remained a favorite area for us too. We loved the wine and sushi at Vines. The food choices at the International Cafe were fresh and tasty. The service we received was outstanding. The gym was never overcrowded, the machines are top notch. My favorite space on the ship was the Thermal Spa. I used it almost everyday. I never saw more than 2 other guests while I was there.
Dining was different for us this time. The first week, we had a group of 10 who all dined together in the Michelangelo dining room (anytime). We received tremendous service from our waiter, Fin as well as the two head waiters both named Antonio. They made sure we were taken care of! The second week, it was just the two of us, but the service remained excellent and the food selection good. Princess has significantly changed their menu since last year and we enjoyed the changes which included crab legs in the dining room. We had dinner one evening in the Crown Grill and thoroughly enjoyed the meal there. We enjoyed the Pizzeria as well. We seldom used the buffets but when we did, we found them uncrowded.
The absolute dining highlight was the Chef's Table. My wife and I plus my parents attended along with six other guests. We had some introductory cocktails with Maitre D'hotel Furlan who explained the process, spoke of his history with Princess, and shared some interesting facts about the Crown. He then guided us to the galley, where we were given "lab coats", washed our hands, and were introduced to the great Executive Chef Martial Diffor. What a personality! If everyone approached their job with the passion and energy he displayed... He led us to a roped off area of the kitchen where we were served Champagne and appetizers. Chef Diffor spent a few minutes with each guest talking about his passion for great food and really getting to know us. We were then taken to a table in the dining room where the meal continued. The service was incredible!! Wines were paired with each entree which enhanced the already great taste of the food. Risotto was next followed by Bloody Mary sorbet. The main course was over the top! Filet, veal, and pork were served on Medieval hooks and then flambeed by the chef. These were then brought to our table and served with vegetables, sauces, and lobsters that the Chef had found at a Barbados market earlier that day. The main course was followed by cheeses and finally a coconut parfait. The ships photographers took pictures of each couple with the Chef and Maitre d' which were delivered to our staterooms the next morning. We were also each given a copy of Courses which was signed by the Chef and Maitre d'. They both joined us for coffee and more conversation. I was totally impressed by the class, spirit, and quality of the evening. I an grateful that we were allowed to participate.
Since we visited so many ports during our 14 days, I will only touch on some highlights:
St. Thomas-we took the ferry to St. John and went to Trunk Bay for snorkeling. It was great. We were the first ones at the beach and were alone on the underwater snorkeling trail. It was my first time to St. John and we were impressed!
Barbados-we visited Malibu beach and took the tour of the Rum factory. The beach is beautiful and the tour was fun. We also snorkeled with Sea Turtles on a ship's excursion. Quite an experience to get that close to such majestic creatures.
Tortola-took the tour to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. The beach and Baths were a great natural sight. The surf was rough though and we were not able to go into the water there.
Bonaire-the best snorkeling ever. We hand fed hundreds of fish the food provided to us by the resort. It was unbelievable. Bonaire is a clean, friendly, quiet island.
St Lucia-took a private island tour which included a trip to the drive-in volcano which we had not seen before. It was a long time in a car, but it was very interesting.
Overall, the cruise was the best of our previous cruises. The level of service on board was so impressive. During our 14 days on the Crown, we did not pass by one crew member without receiving a friendly greeting. This continued in the pool areas where service was fast and friendly. It continued in the piazza where everyone knew our names and what we liked. It continued in the dining room and during the Chef's table. It led right up to Captain Binetti who has got to be one of the most friendly people you will ever meet.