We cruise often: RCL, Celebrity, HAL, Princess ( previously Renaissance, Orient Line, others). Crown Princess has been one of our favorite ships, but we were never aboard when it was full (about 3100 passengers) which creates unique problems(see below): We arranged our own air and took the fixed-fee cab from the airport to a good hotel in downtown Quebec, with a $10. cab ride the next morning to the cruise terminal.
Embarkation at the well-designed Quebec Cruise terminal at noon was efficient and fast, and we had lunch on the ship that day. The next day we took the Princess walking tour of Old Quebec. Several of the churches we were to visit were locked up and closed, so it was more of an outside architectural tour of the older buildings, to the guide's surprise. We sailed up the estuary to CornerBrook but the winds were so great that the Captain did not want to anchor or tender for fear that the winds would create subsequent problems, so after looking at CornerBrook from the deck we sailed out into the Atlantic. We were able to visit all of the other ports on the itinerary.
The Port lecturer only talked about several ports. He said he is a former bus guide. His information was not helpful at all, incomplete, occasionally inaccurate (compared with the guidebooks in the ship's library)and misleading.
The enrichment lecturer is an astronomer and presented astronomic information and observation. May have been interesting to other astronomers, but we and many others walked out due to lack of interest.
The Princess walking tour of Old Sydney was quite complete and thorough, showing the older homes and churches inside and out, and the heritage of the area. In the afternoon we visited the Fortress of Louisburg, which is about an hour's bus ride outside the City. It is a largely reconstructed 17th century fortress and City originally built by the French and reconstructed beautifully by Canada Parks. The Fortress is truly spectacular, has costumed guides firing flintlocks, and showing some of the completely furnished homes and other buildings. A wonder.
In Halifax NS we took the hop on/off double decker tour (Princess Tour)of the city , which was an excellent introduction to the City, and then went out to Peggy's Cove. The weather and visibility were perfect. In St. John NB we took the St. John Highlights ( showing us the circular defensive tower, the reversing falls - not reversing backwards when we were there due to tides-, and the town of St. Jon ending at the local market hall)which is what was there. There was a very large tent on the pier selling many Canadian souvenirs such as hats, jackets, sweaters, paintings, etc.
Bar Harbor was at the end of its normal season and many shops were closed or closing, some restaurants were closed, and the normal Acadia Park Explorer Bus was no longer running. We took the local Oly's Tour (bus) of the park which stopped at Cadillac Mountain and several other scenic points. It was well done.
We tendered in Newport and took the superb tour of the two Vanderbilt mansions, Marble House and The Breakers, which were educational and visually stunning. There were audio earphones on each tour, but we did not have enough time to tour Newport itself, which has many historic areas.
In Boston, took the ship shuttle ($15)from the ship to downtown Boston and then took a local hop on/off tour of the city, which in the excellent weather was quite good. There was a Halloween 'Best Dressed Dog' festival/parade at Quincy Market (Shuttle pick up point)which was added fun. Not enough time in Boston to tour some of the historic buildings, since the ship left at 4 p.m.
New York was the major problem port: The Brooklyn Red Hook terminal is now used by Princess Cruises and is not located near any subway station or bus line. Princess had no shuttle buses at all, with varying excuses ( too costly, not available, etc.) although other cruise lines have them routinely. There were almost no cabs due to Princess not arranging it in advance, and the Limousine companies had some vehicles taking up to 4 passengers into Manhattan for $43. The return was more difficult, but I took a subway to the nearest Brooklyn point and eventually found a passing cab to take me to the terminal. Princess had plenty of notice to do this, and many were disappointed. There were tours for those who wished, but as prior visitor I wanted to visit museums.
Norfolk had a shore excursion showing the huge Norfolk Navy base and some of the highlights of the city. Our Princess bus guide knew little about the city since she did not live there(she read from a printed sheet), our bus driver did not know the city and had to be told where to go from a map, and the sailor who came on board at the Navy base was diffiuclt to understand. Visually, it was interesting,
Charleston was perfect as to weather, scenery, and the tour . We booked a local (Charleston Tours)tour company with a small bus, great guide, and very interesting pre Civil War buildings and homes. Food in Charleston was excellent, and inexpensive. some of the churches have graves dating from the 1700's with remarkable tombstones.
The ship: clean, well maintained, excellent service and attitude from all of the staff, waiters, stewards. The scheduled Princess Passenger Service Director, James Deering, was replaced by someone else who never answered his pages or his phone. There were little things we noticed not done well, unlike the ship when Mr. Deering was aboard. There were long waits for elevators due to the full passenger capacity, and the 10-15 min. elevator wait to go to the scheduled early/late dining in the Botticelli Dining Room at the rear of the ship(only served by one set of elevators, since deck 6 is blocked from walking. The ship design precludes correction, but it was a nuisance. Dinner in the Botticelli dining room was generally good, comparable to Celebrity, RCL, other large Princess ships. The menu was varied, with some dishes better than others, as would be expected. The weakest selections consistently, were the desserts. They all looked gorgeous on the plate, but we all agreed (table for 6)that they were sweet, pretty, and flavorless. The same cakes, custards, etc. were served at the buffet. The best desserts were the Oatmeal and Peanut Butter cookies ( they often ran out). The large number of passengers created long (45 min) waits for a table between 6-8 p.m in the anytime dining rooms. The Buffet was excellent at Breakfast and lunch, with good variety and quality of selection. The Horizon buffet often was closed with dinner served in the Caribe buffet. Entertainment: There were several comedians and a puppeteer in the Explorer's lounge, which always filled up prior to the show. The production shows in the Princess Theater are the same ones we have all seen for the past two years, and we did not bother to see them again. They also had a poor magician, and an excellent musician, who played the Clarinet and Saxophone, as well as the Piano.
The ship had the usual Champagne fountain in the Piazza one evening. The Piazza also offers entertainment with jugglers, musicians, etc. at varying time during the day and evening. It also has a fine snack bar with sandwiches, soups, desserts (no flavor)and a coffee and regular bar (full charges).
The library book stock, except reference books, is quite limited compared to other ships, and should be replenished.
The on-board shops had a limited stock, which seemed overpriced, but there were several sales of old merchandise in one of the large dining rooms, which many ladies liked.
Debarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was efficient and smooth. We caught a cab to the airport which had the usual crowds from multiple cruise ships.