Background Information: This was the 4th cruise for DH and I. Our first was Celebrity; then 2 on Royal Caribbean. It was our first Princess Cruise. It was also our last Princess Cruise. Our Celebrity Cruise was wonderful. The two RCCL cruises were on very big ships. We were convinced by many people that the Crown Princess was a beautiful ship and that its primary competition is Celebrity. We were also convinced that although there are 3000 guests onboard, there was a small ship feel on this ship. We decided to try it. Hotel: We flew in the night before the cruise (Saturday night). We stayed at the Hilton in Ft. Lauderdale near the airport. The hotel was nice. We chose this hotel because it has a restaurant onsite. However, when we arrived, checked in, and asked the front desk where the restaurant was, they directed us. What they neglected to tell us was that the restaurant was closed at 2 p.m. so that dinner can be prepared. We were sent by the restaurant staff to the bar. Service at the bar for the restaurant food was very slow. We had breakfast at the hotel in the morning. Food was okay, but pricey. Saturday night we had dinner with several couples from cruise critic at the Quarterdeck - Moderately priced with decent food. We enjoyed meeting our CC board friends.
Embarkation: We arrived at the Port terminal around Noon and received #8 for boarding. The terminal was full of people and we thought embarkation would take 'forever'. We were pleasantly surprised. Once they started calling numbers, check in was quick, easy and well organized. We started the trek from the terminal to the ship. Every couple of feet was a photographer wanting to take our picture. Note to Photographers - Stay out of the passengers faces. We see you there. We don't need our pictures taken every 50 feet! If we don't look interested, leave us alone!
Ship Information: Our cabin was on the Caribe deck. We had an extra large balcony (thanks upgrade fairy) in the forward part of the ship. Elevators are placed well. Cabin was clean and well designed. As soon as possible, we made our reservation for Sabitini's. We then went to buffet for lunch. We had traditional dining reserved (confirmed in writing) for the second seating. We noticed that our Sea Pass said "anytime". We found out where to go to get this corrected. I waited online for close to 30 minutes only to be told to speak with the Maitre D that evening. We arrived at the dining room a few minutes early so that we can speak with the Maitre D, however, we couldn't get into the dining room until it was 'time' - more waiting. I stood behind someone who was speaking with the Maitre D. By the time the gentleman had finished, there was a line over to the side. One of the staff members wanted me to go to the back of the line. Fortunately, everyone on line knew that I had been there for quite some time, so I was next. Maitre D confirmed that we had the reservation, gave us a temporary table and told us that we would receive a note in our cabin with the correct table for the next night (We are still waiting - one of several notes we never received). The second night we met our tablemates and enjoyed their company for the rest of the cruise. We are still in touch with our new friends. We found the ship to be poorly laid out. We figured out the carpet color for port and starboard. However, once on Decks 5,6,& 7, and the pool/buffet decks, I would get very confused as to which way to go to get to the dining room, buffet, forward, aft, etc. The traditional dining room is aft. However, it is located behind one of the anytime dining rooms. You can't go through the anytime dining room to get to the traditional. You have to go up one deck or down one deck, walk all the way to the aft elevator, and then go to the correct deck. If you make a mistake and go forward when you should've gone aft, you have to go start all over again. Not a good system for hungry people.
Casino: large, nicely set up, not crowded. However, blackjack tables use a continuous shuffle machine. Now the pools: We found the pools to be discriminatory against everyone who is not young and/or agile.
Both main pools on the Lido deck are identical. You step down onto a tiled platform that gets wet from the pool. There is a ladder that you use to go into the pool. But here are the problems: 1) the shallow end of the pool is 5'3" (deep end is >7'). Therefore, shorter people (I'm 5'2") can't stand in the pool - you have to swim, tread water, and/or 'bob'; 2) there is no shallow/wading area in the pool; 3) There are no ledges or steps around the pool on which to sit and get your legs wet; 4) if you do manage to sit down on the tiles, unless you are young and agile, there is no graceful way to stand up. The Terrace Pool located aft on the Riviera Deck is slightly better - it is 5'2" all the way around, but there are steps in the pool that you can sit or stand on. However, there are not enough deck chairs! Movies under the Stars - Nice touch. Enjoyed the Josh Groban concert and Wall-E. No Midnight Buffets at all. We know that most ships have stopped the midnight buffets. The RCCL and Celebrity cruises each had 2 midnight buffets - one on Caribbean night by the pool which had scrumptious fruits, vegetables, desserts served during the pool party. The other was the Grand Buffet on the last formal night. It's amazing the artistry and creativity these chefs have. This was missed on the Princess cruise. Also missing from the Princess cruise - THERE IS NO OMELET STATION!!!! We also never found the "free" ice cream or cookies and milk in the afternoon. We did order the Ultimate Balcony Dining for breakfast. There is a charge, but the breakfast was worth it. Two problems: I don't eat pig meat (DH does). I was assured that the quiche would be made without the bacon (it wasn't - therefore remained uneaten). In addition, they were supposed to bring the food at 9:15 - they showed up at 8:00 (the knock on our door woke us). The order form did say 9:15.
Ports: We've been to St. Maarten and St. Thomas before on other cruises. St. Maarten we took a cab to Orient Beach. Beautiful beach. Beach chairs have gotten pricey, but we rented them anyway. Rained the day we went to St. Thomas. We went to the old Synagogue (walking distance from the ship). Beautiful historic building. We then took a cab to Paradise Point. By the time we took the cable car up to the top, it was raining very hard. We had lunch and I had a Bailey's Bushwacker - try it, you'll like it! Princess Cays - waste of time. Very crowded, seats close together. Everyone wants to eat at 11:30 so lines were long. We tendered over, took pictures, got wet, tendered back to the ship where we had a quiet afternoon. Grand Turk - port had just reopened 2-3 weeks prior to the cruise. Also waste of time unless you scuba dive or snorkel. More crowded than Princess Cays. You have to go through the shops to get to the beach or pool. Only sardines in a can are packed closer together than the beach chairs on Grand Turk. The water is full of rocks and the sand slopes downward. I fell on the rocks, scratched my toe, got out of the water and DH and I went back on the ship. The other problem with Grand Turk is that we didn't arrive until 1 p.m. The ship stayed in port until 7 p.m. It got dark at 5 p.m. (it was November). Why we had to stay until 7 p.m. when it was dark at 5 is anyone's guess.
Sabitini's - WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY - fantastic food, great service. Phenomenal! Dining Room for breakfast - stops seating as early as 9 a.m. Buffet for breakfast - hard to find a table especially on port days when everyone is trying to eat before getting off the ship. Photographers continued to be everywhere all the time. Hard to get away from them. Coffee card was a waste. The coffee in the buffet and dining room was not bad. We did go to international cafe several times during the cruise; however, not enough to get our money's worth for the card. We would've been better off just paying the $1 for the 'real' coffee or the money for the specialty coffee. Lounges were nice. We went to a couple of shows. There were seats available in the theater and the couple of shows we saw (salute to Motown and salute to Broadway) were wonderful. Lobster night was not on a formal night. Didn't make sense to anyone. I participated in the "On Deck for the Cure". Thanks Princess for partnering with the Susan B. Komen org for breast cancer awareness, education and cure. Staff - for the most part they were friendly and helpful. Disembarkation was smooth. Only took a couple of minutes to find our luggage and get through customs. We took a shuttle from the ship to the airport (worth the fee). Appeared to be a little disorganized finding the right bus, but no problem. In summary, this cruise was mediocre. As a result, it will be a long time until DH and I cruise again and never again on Princess.