This was the first time on the Crown and this class of ship, but our second time on Princess. Overall we had a wonderful trip, highlighted by the interesting people we met and helped by the overall ambience of the ship. There were a some glitches, but they won't keep us from cruising again with Princess. We will be careful of itineraries, however. So, here goes - our unvarnished opinions, with which, I'm sure, others may beg to differ (I am also posting this under Ship's reviews):
The Food - We had anytime dining and found the food to be generally good - not overly salted or dried out - but sometimes uneven. The steak were tasteless the first few times but I think someone must have alerted Princess. By the Captain's Dinner the filet was excellent. The Surf n Turf was uneven with the lobster being dry but the steak perfect or vice versa. The crowding was bad the first two days; better afterwards. It took 50 minutes to be seated the first day, but we fortuitously, ran into friends with reservations, who invited us to join us the second day. After that we went late or reserved. A note about reservations - you may not be able to get through for an hour the first day. Rating - 4/5
Scheduling of tables is not allowed but we met folks who were able to do so.
Requesting tables or sections was also not allowed but we managed to do so, a couple of times. The headwaiters seem to have phenomenal memories and sat us in the same section or with a particular waiter a couple of times. They will accommodate special requests, like more vegetables or for the rolls to be warmed.
Dining Room Service - onlya 4/5 since there was one really bad night where we weren't acknowledged, or got a menu for 10 minutes after seating. After pointing this out, service really picked up (courses being served as the old plates were removed) & we noticed an assistant maitre'd assisting with service for the area. Things seemed slower when seated at a table for 6 since all the tables in the area seemed to be for multiples, and there were lots of empty tables often around 7:30- 8 PM. This seemed to be an "early" ship.
Crown Grill - 5/5. Worth the extra charge. Best meats of the trip, and great service despite there being a few large group tables.
International Cafe - 4/5. Tasty offerings, but the variety didn't change much. These also tended to be calorie & carb heavy so you had to pick and choose carefully.
Coffee Bar - 3.5/5. For some reason the taste of the latte changed the last three days of the trip. This may have been a stronger batch of expresso or something - it seemed too bitter. The supervisor here was not pleasant at all, but the other staff was good. Organization seemed to be at cross purposes with everyone doing everything. Perhaps, it should be more like Starbuck's or Peet's where a couple people take orders, and others fill them, especially during the morning rush.
Harvest buffet - 3.5/5 Only dined here a couple of times and it was crowded. We had to go all the way to Cafe Caribe for seating. A couple times for breakfast, I would just grab a plate and take it to the room. You'll have to ask the waiter for silverware or find the station among the tables.
Pizza & Ice Cream - walk up service - rarely anyone there in the late afternoon when we indulged. 5/5
Grill - husband said it was good & very quick. 5/5
Cruise Director & Staff - We enjoyed Ron Goodman and appreciated that he came to our MeetnGreet. Since this on Day 3 (our sea day) he was kind enough to address the crowding problems even though this was not the purpose of the gathering. He even divulged the location of his office and told us to come find him if there were any more issues. Princess emphasizes that if something's not right, they need to know or they can't fix it. 4.5/5
CD staff - the staff member handling the mike during tendering was trying to lighten things up, but I'm not sure how useful the comments he made were. Factual information (6 tenders, 30 minutes one way, 125 people each) was useful but things like "Please don't throw your tender tickets at the staff", "please don't throw hot drinks", "We can't sell you a lower number" probably weren't useful since people were already very irritated. Giving a reservation time slot might have been more helpful. 3.5/5
Layout - 3.5/5 There are some architectural mysteries on the Crown.
The Dolphin Deck minisuites are all uncovered - a design flaw according to my TA. The mini suite itself was roomy and we felt like we had enough space & weren't cramped. Note: there are two thermostats!! I froze the first two nights - the one on my side was set on maximum cold, and DH's was pushed up every time I passed it. DH claims I didn't see it because it was over my line of vision!
Having to go up, then down to get to Michelangelo dining room is also a bit strange. You can't get there directly from atrium/plaza area.
It is true the walls are metal. We had large magnet hooks from Crate & Barrel that were strong enough to hold an umbrella or jacket. And if you get some with clips, you can hang up your Princess Patter or notices.
Art gallery - too big and since we have no interest in buying art on a ship, a waste of space. 0/5
Casino - bigger, nice. Fairly busy on this cruise. Not enough video poker machines for the demand. 4/5
Theater - bigger, but not big enough for the size of the ship. You have to go at least 15 -20 minutes early. Often there are seats down low if you enter from deck 6 rather than from the back on deck 7. Take a book! It's not Broadway, but a pleasant way to spend an hour. Shows - 3.5 to 4.5 out of 5.
Other activities - didn't do bingo, or other games. We tried to go for bridge after the first few days, but everyone was involved in a game and no one came to see what we were interested in. Lots of card games all over the ship this trip.
Tours - We like to do things on our own, but some folks were disappointed when their tours were cancelled for various reasons.
Tendering - a barely passing 1/5 . This wasn't done well at all - Princess tours were called and given priority over other longer waiting passengers, so that those tours could start on time. We missed an independent tour and gave up on even getting into port after waiting 50 minutes on another. We were being told it was 30 minutes one way, and that didn't include loading or unloading. Not sure how true this was, but it was CD staff who announced this. I read later that the dock was only 10-15 minutes away in Newport, so not sure why the discrepancy. We were also told 6 tenders were running, but doing the math at 125 passengers per tender x 6 tenders and with 6 groups ahead of us (assuming no Princess tours was pushed ahead) we were looking at another hour. As it was, they announced at 1 PM that there was no waiting for tendering, but all aboard was at 4 PM.
At Bar Harbor we were delayed an hour supposedly due to immigration being late. Immigration (when asked by a CCer) claimed they were waiting at the dock for Princess for an hour.
Other CC have posted that on other ships (not sure if it was Princess), those on tours met in one place, those on independent tours met in another, and there was a third place for those just going into port. That would have been fairer, IMHO.
Service - overall 4/5. Notes:
Steward - ours was very good, pleasant and efficient. Had our bags on the plastic sheet in the room when we arrived late in the afternoon. Fulfilled all our requests by the next day at the latest.
Dining room - good except as noted. One especially good waiter in Michaelangelo - Ganna.
International Cafe - see note above
Front desk - efficient and helpful when we needed them. However, since Platinum & Elite get priority, there should be designated spots for them, since it is disconcerting to think you're next and have a Platinum or Elite passenger go up to the desk in front of you.
Ship's Tour - 5/5 but there should be something more interesting for the ladies while the guy's get the engineering department's long version tour.
Entertainment - overall 3.5-4.5 Theater shows are discussed above. Other venues:
Piano Bar- this was a huge draw on the Star. Not so on this ship. The pianist played well enough, but seemed to be faking or talking the words. Not sure if he had a sore throat or what.
Wheelhouse - the group seemed to be good, but there weren't very many people in there whenever we walked by.
Ship's musicians - excellent, but it would have been nice to have other small groups. The individual musicians were good. The specialty performers were always on when we were doing other things so we only saw bits of the hula hoop girl and the body balancing.
Internet - slow as discussed elsewhere. The staffer wasn't there much, except for first day. We found it easiest to log on on the iPad late at night or early. We ended up checking in for our flight home by iPhone faster than the computer. Good thing it was in the US - I was ready to call a daughter to do it for us.
MUTS - weather didn't allow for much. There was only one movie we would have seen (Invictus).
Gym - I'm in fitness, so I paid attention to this area. It was much bigger than the Star. There were enough cardio machines with TVs. The weight machines were not that great but there were three racks of dumbbells. That area was a bit crowded when you got more than 3 people in there. There were also spin bikes, stability balls, and BOSU balance trainers. No kettlebells or TRX, or foam rollers The scale is here on the aerobics floor. I didn't take any classes (only 3 a day offered - 1 is paid) and didn't see the trainers much - what else do they do all day? They seem to be pushing "cleansing & detoxing" programs in their printed matter. Since there's not much science behind these, I find this personally irritating .
Spa - I refuse to patronize a Steiner spa, due to hard sell based on inaccurate information, during a massage on the Star. I can't believe I left a tip when I was being "sold" during my relaxation time.
Other features - pools, spa, Jacuzzis - not used much due to the weather.
That's all folks - we had a good time despite the glitches, are grateful that we can go. We are sailing on the Crown again next year for a UK round trip Southampton to Southampton - only two tender ports. Thanks for reading. Happy sailing to all, and hope to meet some of you sometime. Thanks also to Cruise Critic folks. You and Tripadvisors have been invaluable for our vacation planning.