We have sailed Crown Princess on April 23, 2011 on a Western Caribbean itinerary. We had a balcony on Caribe and an inside across the hall. This is a REALLY long review, I tried to separate it in categories so it is easier to read.
Background: 2 adults (30ths), 1 senior (82 yo), 1 child (2yo), none are cruise newbies (this is a third one for DS). Sailed most of mass market lines except for MSC, Costa and Disney.
Embarkation: Took early morning flight from BWI and were in FLL at 9am. Had to wait around in the airport a bit before heading off to the port via grocery store and Total Wine. No lines to get in and we were in the group 1 to board. Waited around till about noon for Princess to begin check-in process and boarding. After it all started we were on the ship and in our room within less than 15 minutes. Super easy!
Rooms: LOVED the Caribe balcony, this is my 4th cruise on Princess and I can't believe I have been missing out on this! We have had mini suites twice before and I like this much more. IMHO Princess has the best closet layout with plenty of storage for everything. I always have issues storing the suitcases and space under the rods with hangers was perfect for that and DS's car seat. Yes the bathroom is small, but adequate. Personally I'll trade larger bathroom in minisuite for larger balcony on Caribe deck anytime. How much time do you spend in the bathroom anyway??? I also really like that Princess is one of the last mass market lines to provide individual bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and bars of soap vs. the dispensers I now see everywhere else. The dispensers just make it more "institutional" to me. Inside room had plenty of space also, however it was really loud. You can really hear the innerworkings of the ship there - motors, lifts or whatever the humming sounds were.
Ship: I really liked the ship. I have previously sailed only on Tahitian and Caribbean ladies from the Princess fleet and found Crown's layout very easy to navigate. We mostly stayed next to the aft elevators (cabins, buffet, MUTS and kiddie pool were all located near that elevator bank). Some posters commented that ship is in serious need of repair, I didn't find it so on the other hand I am on vacation and not performing an inspection of every square inch of paint and carpet. I think the layout and the schedule of activities with multiple things going on in different venues at the same time allows for great crowd control. Also I like the idea of different color carpets on starboard and port sides, makes it easier to find your way around.
Service: A bit of a lower point here. Room steward was good, did his job ($50 in advance helped I am sure). He was very sweet to DS who was celebrating his 2nd Bday on board and made him towel animals and left cookies every night. Some servers in buffet area were downright rude. One of them made a comment in response to my DH asking for just lemonade vs. alcoholic drink of "whoopti-doo lemonade". Lady at the coffee bar was rude and never once smiled in all 6 days I got our morning lattes there. On the other hand some staff was fabulous, welcoming and friendly.
Food/Dining: I have enjoyed the food on this cruise. It is a very specific point of view as everybody likes are different, so I would rather focus on dining experience vs. food. We ate in all "no-fee" venues on the ship and below are my experiences:
Buffet - a bit of confusing layout, but OK once you get a hang of it. Never did we have to go around looking for space. Even if only one side is open, you can always sit on the other side or in the Cafe Caribe. Breakfast variety was good, I loved that they premade tons of over easy eggs and you don't have to wait for them in the "to order" omelets line. Lunch was good also with at least 2 soups available, plenty of protein choices and tons of fresh fruit. Overall good variety of fruit was offered throughout the day. For dinner only Cafe Caribe is open except for the first night with seafood buffet (not to be missed, fab!) and selection I found to be somewhat limited, but quality better than other lines. Also at dinner buffet a person is doing flambe's with different flavors nightly.
Dining rooms - We had open seating and found Michelangelo dining room (deck 6) far superior in service to Da Vinci (deck 5), the only kink was that Michelangelo doesn't start service until 7:30 pm. We never had to wait for the table, shared a table once and had table for 4 for the rest of the cruise. Service was expedient for dinner courses but there was always quite a wait for desert course, don't know why. Kids menu was very good with regular kid favorites with grown up twists.
Trident Grill/Pizzeria/Ice cream bar - Good burgers, hot dogs, brats to order. Not a pizza fan, but my DH and DS highly approved of the offerings (cheese, pepperoni and "pizza of the day"). Ice cream bar waitress will give you soft serve (yuck to me), but they also have good regular ice cream available if you ask. Lines could be quite long after everybody boards for the day, but it is to be expected.
International Cafe/Sushi and Tapas - Great alternatives to buffet. Selection doesn't change throughout the cruise but offerings are yummy, service is really good and friendly. My DH was disappointed that gelato flavors stayed the same and didn't have chocolate (saved me couple extra pounds and $1.50 a pop :)). Sushi and tapas place is inside Vines bar and it is free with any wine purchase. Wine selection is decent and ok priced (we live in DC area, so $10 for a glass is not outrageous for us). Chef will make you a plate of sushi or sashimi or tapas with whatever items you want from his display.
Pool areas/Public venues: I have read a lot on how it is impossible to find a seat/lounge chair. We didn't have the same experience at all. We used MUTS pool as base (read DH nap space) and had an extra lounge for me and DS when we were not in kiddie pool. Didn't have any issue finding chairs, they might not have been "premium" but there was plenty. Same goes for public venues. Granted, we didn't attend any production shows, but we have seen both comedians, did trivia, watched marriage game and karaoke. You can ALWAYS find a seat.
Entertainment: Very classy but still has fun edge. My DS LOVED string quartet that played nightly in the Piazza, he was dancing there every night. They also had good jazz/latin/cover band nightly in Wheelhouse and good Caribbean style band too. Other act was "former Frank Sinatra" pianist, but that just read "over 60" to me and we haven't went. On a side note, the circus acts in the Piazza (hula hoop and unicyclist girls) were just bizarre to me, but that is my take only. Movie selections on MUTS and the cabins were great and I actually was able to catch up on newer releases. Went to disco one night for "New Year" party, good music, tons of people and a lot of fun.
Ports: We did all our own excursions except for disembarkation day. Turtle farm in Grand Cayman (great place, especially with kids but expensive taxi ride), Bodden "Best of Roatan" tour with Iguana farm and Monkeys (highly recommend, very professional and tons of info), Chankanaab in Cozumel (wanted to do dolphin encounter for DS Bday, but he freaked out in the water after dolphin bumped him) and we just spent a day at the kids playground area on Princess Cay. Tendering was not an issue in either Grand Cayman or Princess Cay, we didn't have to wait longer than 5 min to board.
Just for parents: I was afraid to try Princess with 2yo, but we had great time. Deck 17 has a kiddie pool right outside of kids club that is fairly large and also they keep 3 tricycles outside for kiddos to use around small track near the pool. Pool is not heated, but temp was OK. It is drained and refilled with heavily chlorine water daily. You can take your under 3 tot to play in the club, but we never did so. We did take advantage of large kids area on Princess Cay, it has tons of sand toys, little pool and huge playground gym with slides, tunnels and ropes galore.
Disembarkation: Our flight was not until 5:30 pm, so I have decided to do a tour in FLL to kill time. Worked out great! We were off the ship in less than 15 min including customs. Went on the airboat ride and to see the flamingos. Nice diversion for the after cruise blues.
- I love the diversity of where Princess passengers come from and age diversity too, we met Canadians, Brits, Irish, Israelites, Aussies and Mexicans of all ages
- PLEASE make stateroom folios available on TV so I don't have to stand in line at the pursers desk for 30 min just to get a printout while someone is endlessly questioning every charge to his room
- Love the cold towels after hot day, fruit baskets in the room and "free drink" events Princess passengers enjoy, PLEASE don't change that!
- We were on board during Easter and Youth staff did excellent job for Easter fair for kids with goody bags, games and dancing
- Thank you for in room Wi-Fi. Slow but usable nonetheless.
- Why are there no connecting staterooms on these ships? I don't care what category they are. We had 2 connecting balconies on NCL last time and it is so much better than rooms across the hall.