Here is my full review of our recently taken Crown Princess British Isles Cruise:
I have put Grade School Letter Grades (A to F) on most of these:
1) Embarkation/Disembarkation: A
Could not have been smoother. No worries whatsoever. Smooth and well organized on both ends. We had spent a night at the Grovesnor's House Hotel in Mayfair and had Princess pick us up. Were on board in minutes.
2) Cabin: B
We were upgraded to a BC Category balcony (Aloha Deck) from an obstructed view window. Nice touch. Closet space was huge with about 30 hangers. Bathroom a bit small and shower was very tiny and hard to negotiate. Balcony was nice. Bed was a bit firm. Order a bathrobe and daily fruit plate, and different pillows if you want.
3) Cabin Steward: B
Felix our Cabin Steward was pretty good. He had a workload of 19 cabins without a helper. Most cruise lines have a main steward and an assistant. Not so here, thus some times you would wait for hours to have your room made up. Princess seems to be cutting costs here. But Felix did a great job regardless. Room was always spotless after he cleaned.
4) Dining: C
I have talked at length on another thread about the Norovirus outbreak and Code Red lunacy, so I'll save it for now. The buffet was hit or miss. The oatmeal and scrambled eggs seemed to be in a warming tray for hours and congealed into a disgusting and mostly inedible mess. I highly liked the made to order omelets and the over easy eggs instead. Milk was only available out of warm pitchers near the coffee stations; no milk cartons. For lunch and dinner there was always a carving station and some pretty good selections. Again hit or miss on the quality. The Warm Desserts were good (Cherry Jubille, Banana Foster and the like). MDR (Michelangelo's) was just okay. Food quality was not outstanding but there were some good selections. The fish dishes were generally pretty good as were the soups and rolls. Sabatini's was excellent. Do try it once during your cruise. It was a great experience. Bring an appetite! For our Anniversary, we went to the Crown Grill. Our waiter was inexperienced, clumsy and forgetful, so not a great experience, although the food was pretty good (not excellent).
5) Activities B
Mostly port days, so few on board activities. We liked the Twice Daily Trivia, the Bingo and the Horse races. Casino was large and had some interesting slot machines, but do not expect to go home with a profit. Pretty tight machines. Casino: Only open about half of the cruise BTW. Surprised that they had no Enrichment lectures on the places we were seeing. Did go to one of their port talks however towards the end of the cruise, and there was substantial history presented on it. Wish I had known that earlier as I has assumed "port talks" were about shopping, eating etc. The port talk lady was excellent. We were usually off ship in the afternoon, but apparently there were "cultural presentations" (i.e folk dancing, music, etc) presented 3 times over the cruise. Catch those if you can.
6) Ports A
We chose this cruise primarily for the Itinerary, and it lived up to our expectations. We really liked Dublin, Cork and the 3 ports in Scotland. See below for details.
7) Shore Excursions B
As discussed on the Princess boards frequently, they were very expensive. But for the most part Princess did a good job in organizing them. We chose the Princess excursions for the security of knowing we would not miss the ship on return. We mostly chose afternoon half-day tours which avoided the crowds. Most of our tour guides were excellent, one was just fair.
8) Spa/Fitness Center A
Excellent staff and just as expected. I always enjoy the thermal suite. It's a welcome retreat. Try it.
Loved the ship and the layout. Bathrooms were very very clean. The cruise would have been an A overall, apart from my dismay with which they handled the Norovirus. The buffet area during "Cod Red" was a disaster. Wash your hands people so that you do not bring this Code Red situation into play!
Our Port Experience:
1) Guernsey, Channel Islands - A small Island worthy of a few hours. A good place to get started as the first port on this very port-intensive itinerary. Must tender though, and on our day, the seas were quite rough.
2) Cobh (Cork) Ireland - Absolutely Beautiful. A nice sunny day. We went to Blarney castle on the afternoon tour (and kissed the Blarney stone!). We did miss the crowds as most people were there in the morning and early afternoon. The scenery in this area is breathtaking!
3) Dublin, Ireland - The history here is astounding. Did an afternoon tour and visited the Irish National Museum. Could spend a week here easily.
4) Liverpool, England - Most people did the Beatle's tour. We did something a bit different..went on the afternoon tour to a town created by Lord Lever of the Lever Brothers Soap Company. I'll save you the details, but it was surprisingly delightful. Had scones and tea in a 5 star hotel. Great!
5) Belfast, Ireland - Wife was not feeling well (not Noro, thank goodness!), so we unfortunately skipped it. Perhaps someone was telling us something. There was a bomb scare that day which delayed some returnees for over 2 hours on their excursions back. Rare occurrence, but it happened. We had a pleasant day on the ship, nonetheless.
6) Grenock (Glasgow) Scotland - Scotland is beyond beautiful and the people are beyond friendly. Our 3 favorite ports were in Scotland. I explored the port city during the day (they have free tours from the welcome center) and then we had an afternoon tour of Glasgow in the afternoon including their Art Gallery. Exceptionally great day!
7) Invergordon (Inverness) Scotland - Now we are in the highlands. Even more beautiful. I explored the port town during the day, which was absolutely charming. Then we did a bus tour to Loch Ness and Inverness during the afternoon. Well worth it. Try the Scotch Whisky!
8) Edinburgh, Scotland - I had been here before some 30 years ago and remember how impressive this city was. Do explore the castle and Holyrood and the Royal Mile. You will not be disappointed. Luckily, the bus missed the afternoon rush hour traffic due to "bus-only" lanes. Be careful if you are in a car as you will encounter traffic getting back to the port and then you have to tender.
9) Le Havre, France - I've been to Paris before, so it didn't seem worth the very expensive and long ride into the city. We also arrived on Ascension Day, a national holiday, and most everything was closed so we basically skipped France. This is a "British Isles" tour anyways, and we had an early wakeup call for disembarkation day. Had a relaxing day on board instead.
10) Southampton, England - We had a 7am disembarkation for a 4pm flight, so we opted for the Princess Stonehenge tour with airport transfer. It was excellent. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and so polite. We also had time to explore Salisbury and a drive by of Windsor Castle and Runnymede. Excellent way to end our trip!