Don't let the title of this review completely throw you. I am not here to complain about my recent cruise. In fact, despite the one major problem we had onboard, this was the most wonderful week I have ever had aboard a cruise ship.
Let me begin by stating that I am a 48 year-old male, single. I have cruised about 6 times total, 2 with Royal Caribbean and 4 with Princess. I prefer Princess, hands down and since I always book a single cabin I earn 2 cruise points with every trip. As of today I am a Platinum member and I am working on becoming Elite.
This particular cruise I traveled with dear friends who shared a cabin next to me. We booked balcony cabins, Aloha deck, starboard forward. My initial concern was that being in the front of the ship we would experience more movement but this turned out to be a total myth. From our experience and talking with our room steward Mario, we learned that ship movement is generally the same wherever you are.
The Crown is a wonderful ship, though as some have mentioned, looks a little worn. Since the ship is going into dry dock in the upcoming months I am certain that it will be wonderfully renewed.
Let me break down some of the finer points of our trip...
This turned out to be the most frustrating part of our trip. We arrived very early, and were actually the very first people to arrive on line the morning of April 30th. The ship had just begun to disembark but it didn't take long until a porter arrived to take our luggage. The entire Princess Port Everglades ground crew were extremely competent and friendly. One Porter came over to our group with a huge smile on his face, to announce that he had just become a grandfather.
This was a difficult embarkation due to the fact that the disembarkation was running rather late due to the fact that there were Royal Wedding parties that ran into the early morning. As we stood in line outside the huge terminal double doors we found that people were cutting in line. Now mind you, we knew that PLATINUM and ELITE passengers had their own separate line, but there were people who just felt like getting in that line without having the status -- and nobody from Princess was at the line to check tickets. Being that one of my friends is from New York, he immediately took on the job of asking people what their status was before they tried to cut in line.
Next, we were taken into a very large hall where we were seated in seats according to our group number. This also turned out to be rather difficult because your original placement in the line had no worth once inside. We were somehow fortunate that once they began boarding (which was around 11:45am) we were in the front of the line.
Once onboard I booked Sanctuary for my friends and I for the entire week. We have done Sanctuary on previous cruises, and since we knew that we were not going to be going off the boat at all, we felt that booking it for the entire week was a worthwhile investment. It is my understanding that Sanctuary sold out within the hour though amazingly, it remained empty for most of the week. People that bought an entire week's access didn't use it much.
By the way, I discovered that there are about 57 chairs in Sanctuary and they hold about half of that for week reservations.
OOOH THAT SMELL!
From reading the Cruise Critic message boards we were aware of the possibility of sewage smell. Many reviews prior to our cruise complained about it. I even called Princess Customer Care and asked why they had not done anything about it. Even though I was assured they were working to correct it -- and former cruises assuring me on the message boards that it should be the least of our problems -- the smell was there. In fact, it seemed to reside in the Sanctuary area. At times, the odor was very, very strong. We would be lying in the sun and all of a sudden you would just get a whiff of the rotten odor.
OUR WEEK ABOARD THE CROWN: THE FOOD
So, my friends and I kept things rather simple. We never got off the boat and all our meals were eaten in the Horizon/Caribe buffet. The last thing we wanted to do was get into a pair of slacks just to eat at the dining room --- though we made an exception for The Crown Grill on two separate nights.
Despite the fact that many complain the quality of food has gone down, we did not find that to be the case. Outside of the desserts, we were amazed by the selection of food available at the buffet and how good it tasted.
For breakfast, the highlight was Eggs Benedict/Florentine. Sadly, it was only served twice during the entire cruise. Lunch always had an interesting selection of hot and cold dishes. My personal favorite was the short ribs served on embarkation day. For dinner, there was an outstanding spread of meat selections including theme nights (one of which was German).
Sadly, the desserts are the most disappointing aspect of the meal. This has never changed in all the Princess cruises I have taken. Basically, desserts are bland. There is no flavor -- no flavor to excite the palate. One cake tastes the same as another. Really, you could buy better cakes from Costco.
Service at the buffet was top-notch. There were always servers close by to offer drinks/coffee and make certain that you find a table. Unfortunately, the most disorganization could be found at the Horizon buffet. It is poorly laid out and people are just everywhere once inside.
We ate dinner at The Crown Grill two nights in a row, and as always, that turned out to be a wonderful dining experience. We had the most wonderful server, Gosia (from Poland). The first night I had the Porterhouse (which was huge but very fatty), and the second night the Filet Mignon (which was perfect).
We tend to skip the onboard shows in the Princess Theater. They can usually be hit and miss, and really, nothing excited any of us about what was scheduled for the week.
Where we did find ourselves firmly planted each night was in the Crooner's Bar on deck 7. We discovered Ray Coussins on the first night and fell in love with his piano music. Ray played piano for Frank Sinatra for 13 years. He is an absolutely incredible talent and we became enchanted with his performances each and every night.
We were very fortunate to spend some personal time with Ray while he was on ship. He was hanging out with us in The Sanctuary, telling us many fascinating stories about his days with Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. He is an incredibly warm, wonderful individual and we hope to remain in contact with him for many years to come. His performance in the Princess Theater with the house band, on the final night of the cruise, was nothing short of a commanding performance. You really need to make the effort to see this man perform.
THE PERFECT WEEK TO CRUISE
This was The Crown's final Caribbean Cruise for the season. After our week onboard, the ship was heading out to Europe.
I do believe we picked the perfect week to be onboard her. It was the last week of April, just following Easter Vacation. We watched as truckloads of kids came off the ship prior to boarding. However, it was our amazing luck that there were hardly any kids on our ship. In fact, the only children we saw were preschoolers. To be on a cruise without kids running all over the place unsupervised or jumping in and out of the pools is a wonderful experience. And listen, I am not a kid hater, but when you have a ship full of them while on vacation it does become annoying.
Internet access was also amazingly fast. I bought a package of 300 minutes and each time I logged on, I enjoyed a connection that was incredibly speedy. It didn't seem like there were many people hogging the bandwidth with laptops. I was shocked to learn from reading the message boards that people actually use SKYPE while on board. Shame on them!
Fort Lauderdale is a horrible city to cruise into. Their airport is tiny and there is usually more than one ship disembarking the same day you are. In fact, the day we arrived there were 3 other ships in port including The Oasis of the Seas.
We anticipated problems. For that reason we chose to use the EZ CHECK program where our bags would be taken from ship to airport directly. We also asked for Express Walk-off so we could beat the crowds to the airport despite the fact our flight was at 2pm.
This turned out to be a bit of a problem. You "technically" cannot do EZ CHECK and Express Walk-off as it poses security problems. As I walked off the ship at 7:10am I was nabbed by Security once my cruise card was scanned. I was escorted directly to immigration by a Princess cruise member. Immigration asked me a bunch of questions about my purchases (which I had none). It was mostly a non-problematic experience but a direct result of doing an Express Walk-Off prior to my bags being scanned by the cruise ship.
Our week aboard The Crown was simply amazing. The entire crew went out of their way to be hospitable and friendly. It's an awful job working on a cruise ship as these people work 10 hour days/7 days per week and get very little breaks. They have to deal with demanding passengers day in and day out. Yet, through it all, they do it with a huge smile on their face.
Princess may not have the best shows or the most dynamic ships, but I continue to remain loyal to them because they really treat their passengers well. They really are the "best bang for the buck" and I have yet to have a bad Princess cruise.
I am now sitting here at the Fort Lauderdale airport feeling very sad about going home. I hope to book another cruise very soon.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to mail me at: