Getting on board the ship was swift and easy. We didn't encounter any lines and the people checking you in moved you right along. We got on the ship about 1:30ish but didn't have our bags delivered until after the muster drill which wasn't a problem. Being budget-conscious and having a desire to enjoy a few cocktails on our cruise, we did some research about bringing alcohol on board. We settled on packing a 1.75 L (handle) of vodka in one of our checked bags, a 12-pack of beer in a carry-on backpack, and about 8 bottles of wine in a cardboard box which we also carried on. We also put a luggage tag on a case of bottled water and two cases of soda all taped together. For good measure we gave the baggage handlers a decent tip, for what that is worth, and we had no issues whatsoever with any of it getting delivered to our room. It was well worth the planning, as it was nice to have a cold beer waiting for you in the room after a long day on the beach, and a cocktail or glass of wine while getting ready for dinner.
Overall first impression of the Crown Princess is understated elegance as opposed to the flashy, flamboyant and colorful decor of the Carnival Destiny. The state room was very comfortable, especially thanks to the balcony. The refrigerator was also a nice touch as it saved us from having to constantly fill an ice bucket to keep wine cool or having to fill cups of ice in order to drink soda. The expansive closet space and shelves were an added bonus. The bathroom was on the tiny side but adequate enough for what we needed. One downfall was the temperature. From the moment we entered the room it felt muggy so we set the thermostat to the coolest setting and it never really seemed to cool down. We spoke with other people who had the same problem and then a few more who had the opposite, their rooms were too cold. We concluded that it may have had to do with the side of the ship your room was on as those of us on the starboard side wished for cooler air and the port side needed warmer clothes. The Steward assigned to our room was Samuel and he was a joy! He was attentive, friendly, accommodating and humorous! Any time we saw him in the hall he would give us a bit of a jab about the amount of liquor we had. But he also made sure we had 2 wine glasses ready to go every night. Our room was on the 14th (Riviera) deck towards the back of the boat just down the hall from the Terrace (adults only) Pool which we frequented daily. Lounge chairs were limited at the terrace pool, especially on the days at sea but there were bar stools, tables and chairs that looked down into the pool that allowed for extra seating. The pool itself was great; clean and inviting. The other pool areas on the ship were less crowded, we never had an issue finding a lounge chair even on the days at sea, but were louder and allowed children. The mid ship pools also had entertainment, live bands, movies, games, etc. which were ok but we definitely preferred the relaxing atmosphere of the Terrace Pool. We utilized the fitness center 3 days on the ship. I had signed up for 2 yoga classes, both on the days at sea. There are two fitness instructors on board, Katie & (forget his name). Katie was the instructor who taught the yoga classes. Unfortunately I found the classes boring and less than challenging. About 20 people had signed up for the two classes and I would say about 15 attended the first day, some people even got up and left in the middle of the class. The 2nd day there were far less people in attendance, maybe 7? I don't know that it is necessarily the instructors fault as I'm sure she is required to cater to all age groups and fitness levels but if you're someone who is looking for a good work out these group classes are probably not the best bet. The fitness center itself was beautiful. Plenty of cardio and weight equipment. We received a tour of the entire spa on the first day and it was also impressive. If you're looking to pamper yourself be prepared to fork over quite a bit of $$$. It was worth taking the tour of the spa on the 1st day just to check it out.
Food was never a shortage on the cruise! We opted for a late seating (8:15) of the traditional dining which was held in the Boticelli Dining Room...the only dining room on board that offered this choice. The other two dining rooms, the DaVinci and the Michelangelo, were for "anytime" dining. We were assigned table #73 which originally was set for 10 people but one of the couples had to cancel the cruise at the last minute. So for the first few nights we were a table of 8. We were by several years the youngest couple at the table (we are in our late 20s/early 30s) but found our table mates to be kind, social and charismatic and thoroughly enjoyed their company. After the 3rd night one of the couples elected to switch their dining choice to the anytime dining so the remainder of the cruise was just the 6 of us. On our previous cruise with Carnival we had been paired at dinner with another couple that was about our same age and also from the Northeast (New York) whom we enjoyed spending time with each night. Although we did enjoy our table mates on this cruise, we were a little disappointed that Princess did not do as well with seating us with similarly aged couples. Our waiters were friendly and attentive. Leandro, the assistant waiter, didn't say much but poured our water and cleared our plates with a smile! Panya, the head waiter, was quite talkative. He gave us his recommendations on the appetizers and main dishes every evening and his recommendations were usually the best! He was very accommodating to any of our requests. The only slight downfall was at the end of our dinner he would be quite chatty offering his reviews of other ports and itineraries and going off on a tangent about his home land of Thailand. Overall the dining room experience was excellent. We utilized the room service continental breakfast option every morning so that we could eat a lighter fare and enjoy coffee and juice on our balcony rather than filling up our bellies at the buffet. It worked out great for us. On the last day we did go to the DaVinci dining room for the formal breakfast. There is an option to sit by yourselves but that would have typically resulted in a wait. We sat with 3 other people who were all friendly. The service was a bit on the slow side and the breakfast itself was tasty but not any better than what you can get at the buffet. We did eat at the buffet usually for lunch and/or a light snack before dinner and found that there was a lot of repetition in food choices and some things tasted as if they had been left out for too long. However, the buffet options were definitely an improvement to the options we had last year on Carnival. We did not partake in any of the private dining (Crown Grill or Sabatini's) or the smaller vendors (Vines, International Cafe) but did have lunch one day at the grill...burgers and chicken sandwiches which were decent but nothing to get excited about. The pizza was quite tasty though probably not as enticing for us Bostonians who are spoiled with delicious pies and have high expectations. The food at dinner was exceptional while the rest of the ships options were decent. Carnival for sure had better desserts!
Entertainment is not one of the enticing factors of going on a cruise for us. For me, I have zero desire to go to any Las Vegas style song and dance show or those that involve passenger participation. No thanks. We did however enjoy the piano bar on our Carnival cruise last year so thought that would be something we might check out this time around. Before we left we read on CC that Bert Stratton, pianist/comedian, was going to be on our cruise and people seemed to be generally ecstatic about his presence on the ship. This was reiterated to us by our table mates on the 2nd night. We checked out Bert (with an "e"!) that night in Crooners bar and got there at the tail end of a show. He definitely seemed talented and we decided to pay him a visit the next night as well, and the night after that, and the night after that haha. We attended pretty much all of Bert's shows with the exception of Thursday night when we attended the stand up comedian Troy Thirdgill's act. He was very entertaining and humorous though my only complaint would be that his crowd interaction at certain parts of his act prompted a few loud mouth individuals to interject on their own...one who was sitting right next to us. Quite annoying.