We have never been to the Caribbean and decided a cruise would be a great way to have an introduction to this part of the world. Since we were pleased cruisers on the Coral Princess to Alaska we decided to stick with the Princess cruise line. We were not disappointed.
We live on the West Coast and found a flight to Fort Lauderdale from San Francisco on Virgin America. It was a comfortable flight with plenty of legroom, plenty of entertainment via the seatback screen that also served as the ordering device for food and drink after the initial beverage service.
Our hotel prior to the cruise was the Springhill Suites in Dania Beach. The hotel was sold out because of the number of ships in port (4). The hotel staff was helpful in finding a place for dinner, a Cuban restaurant within walking distance, and suggesting BJs discount member warehouse across the street for wine. BJs will allow you to purchase wine at their membership desk without buying a membership.
Transportation to Port Everglades is arranged at a desk via KSA Transporation. The company provides fast transportation around Fort Lauderdale, however, the young man at the desk lacked experience in dealing with all the people and variations on requests. On the morning of departure, our 12:30 pm shuttle became a 1:30 pm shuttle. Mary, one of the drivers, seemed to be the only one who knew what was going on and what needed to be done.
Embarkation: When we finally arrived at Port Everglades, our luggage was quickly taken care of. We headed into check in and found no waiting. We were welcomed aboard and headed to our balcony stateroom on the port side. Our steward, Antonio, was in the area and welcomed us and made sure we had ice and anything else we needed. Antonio was great through the entire cruise. He greeted us each time we saw him, asked if we needed anything, and made up our room quickly when we were out.
The Crown Princess: is a beautiful ship. Everything is well maintained and clean. We are a couple who is interested in the operations of businesses so we enjoyed watching various aspects of the functions and logistics of this ship. During the cruise we saw a crew painting railings, washing glass, replacing carpet on a stairway, and retrieving and buckling up the transfer boats. Our bed was comfy, there is plenty of closet and storage space, and an adequate bathroom.
We enjoyed having a glass of wine in the afternoon on the balcony and watching the peace of the ocean or watching preparation as we sailed away from a port.
Dining: We had "Anytime Dining" and sat at tables with other people. On our third night we sat with a couple that we hit it off with and ended up having the rest of our dinners with them. This included the Chef's Table that we and the other couple had made reservations for.
We ate most breakfasts in the buffet and some late night pizza and desserts. The variety at breakfast offers a wide range of foods. We had lunch from the Trident Grill (hamburgers & hot dogs) on the first sail day while watching football games on MUTS. Other lunches and some breakfasts we dined on food from the International Cafe. We loved the IC. Three scoops of gelato for $1.50 is a bargain. Baked goods, paninis, salads, and desserts depending on the time of day are all delicious. We enjoyed a peaceful lunch from the IC while sitting on the Promenade deck. That deck is little used by and a nice quiet respite place.
We enjoyed all of the dinners. The Chef's Table was a fantastic experience. Executive Chef Guiseppe and the service staff provided outstanding service and a marvelous dinner. We will never forget that wonderful evening. This is limited to 10 people so we made our reservation as soon as we arrived in our stateroom.
One negative about the dinner food - the beef was overcooked. Both our prime rib and medallions of beef were cooked more at medium well instead of medium as requested.
Activities - We enjoyed MUTS bundled in blankets and having NFL games on that big screen. We found the Lotus pool perfect for a quiet retreat as well as the lounge chairs behind the pool. No need to pay extra for the sanctuary. We were impressed with the gym. Plenty of treadmills, elliptical trainers, exercise balls, and plenty of floor space. We did not use the spa services. They are more expensive that what I pay at home. There are specials on port days that may be worthwhile.
Entertainment - We saw a couple of movies in the Princess Theater. The theater is very comfortable. So comfortable that I fell asleep during one of the movies. We only saw the evening show the first night. Ron Goodman is the cruise director and was the cruise director on our Alaska cruise. He is upbeat and knows what is going on and where. The comedian on board was very funny. We went to another of his shows later in the cruise. For whatever reason, we weren't drawn to attend any of the other shows. Musical entertainment in the piazza was quite good. We enjoyed the satellite broadcasts on the stateroom TV. Good movies, BBC news, weather, port information at the touch of a button.
Service - The service was everything that we expected. Staff were pleasant and responsive. Several of the staff in the Michaelangelo dining room soon recognized us and we were warmly greeted each evening. The staff is one of the reasons that we would cruise with Princess again.
Port & Shore Excursions - Grand Cayman - no booked excursion. Roatan - privately reserved a shore trip. Cozumel - Shore trip to Tulum reserved with Princess. Princess Cays - beach equipment reserved with Princess. More on all these later. We are interested and seek out history and nature places to visit. We are only interested in shopping for folk art souvenirs and crafts of the local area. No interest in purchasing jewelry or alcohol. We recommend packing a Nalgene or some other water bottle. We took one every time we went on shore. It was very valuable especially in Tulum and Roatan.
Disembarkation - Since we had an evening flight back to San Francisco, we were not in a hurry to disembark. We had pre-paid for the Water Taxi and transportation through KSA. We kept our fingers crossed that all would go well with this based on the negative experience we had getting to the ship. Our luggage was picked up before we went to dinner the last night and was waiting for us when we got off the ship. We were actually off the ship earlier than originally scheduled. Getting through customs took some time. It is just a slow process and nothing can be done but be patient.
We took a KSA shuttle to a Comfort Inn after some juggling of the shuttles. From there another shuttle took us to a place to catch the Water Taxi. We enjoyed seeing the mansions and yachts as well as the narration of the Water Taxi staff. We got off at stop #3 and walked a couple of blocks to the Casablanca Cafe for lunch. Great place that faces A1A. When the KSA shuttle came to pick us up, the luggage was already on the shuttle. We were impressed with this part of KSA's service.
Overall, the Crown Princess met or exceeded our expectations. There is a lot to do or one can do absolutely nothing. We ended the cruise with a great tan and relaxed. We look forward to more cruises in the Caribbean.