Crown Princess Norwegian Interlude 28th July to 4th August 2011
This is was our first cruise as we usually travel independently, therefore our first cruise review. The opinions expressed are ours (feel free to express your own) any facts or events mentioned are true we have photographs to support. Lastly we are Brits so other travelers may misinterpret some words ie Thongs in Australia are shoes, but in the UK are underwear.
We drove down to Southampton and stayed in a Holiday Inn with parking included the first night so didn't use any transfer services. On waking in the morning we opened our curtains to see our home for the next seven nights. The crown Princess had docked overnight and towered over the waterfront what a sight. We booked a local taxi to the terminal through the hotel cost £5.50.
We arrived at the terminal at 1145 our bags were taken, documentation completed, photographs taken and in our suite by 1225. Superb Service, I wish airports were so organized.
The cabin, sorry suite, was an inside one on Calibre deck. We found the room to be spotless with plenty of storage space and well equipped. Our steward Christopher was superb always smiling and always ready to help if needed.
The whole ship was fantastic, clean and well looked after by the staff most of whom had a smile on their faces and always said hello. As we was 'Anytime Dinning' we had the choice of restaurants and used all three, The Michelangelo, The Da Vinci and The Horizon Court, but preferred the Michelangelo only because the Matre De was more welcoming. We found the food to be good, the menu's well balanced and the waiting staff to be very good or good. The International Cafe was superb but as the ship was full the staff struggled with the demand but were always smiling. My wife loved the cakes and salads. The Trident Grill & Pizzeria provided excellent snacks during the day. We didn't eat at Sabatini's which had a $20 cover charge but did eat at The Crown Grill $25 cover charge, here I had the best steak I've had in a long time, The server Ilyan ( Bulgarian ) explained every cut of meat offered advice and was simply superb.
There was never a night when we didn't have to queue for dinner even though we arrived at different times. We tried to book but were told as we wanted a table for two we couldn't. We found out later that you could, perhaps the colour of our cruise card made a difference. We always, when asked agreed to sit with others but on our first night were seated on a table for six with four guests from Belgium only one of whom spoke English the rest only Flemish which they spoke between themselves, which made it uncomfortable for us.
After reading about the Chefs table on cruise critic we applied for and managed to get two places cost $75 each. The format has been mentioned previously so I won't go into detail. However we encountered a problem with the serving of the wine, which we complained about. This resulted in a meeting with the food and drinks manager. We explained that we did not want a refund as the food was superb but informed him of our experience so it wouldn't happen again. Further details will be supplied if you contact me directly. At the end of the evening we received a cookery book signed by the chef, a menu and photographs. The ladies received a rose.
There was a big push on sales of Wine, Wine Tastings, and the first couple of days Ultimate Drink Packages and Coffee Cards, reminded me of the old time share touts.
During the cruise there were two formal nights. Prior to the first another passenger mentioned that he'd forgotten his jacket so would have to eat in the Horizon Court. He needn't have bothered as we noticed people entering the dining room with shirt sleeves, open collars and NO Jackets in one case a man was wearing walking boots. I'm not a great believer in formal nights but if you're going to have them, stick to the rules. The standard got worse on normal nights with Jumpers, Tee Shirts and Jeans being common. We actually followed a couple out of the dining room one night, he was wearing a suit & tie but had white training shoes on she wore a dress with shoes that flashed led lights as she walked. Made us and others smile.
We also noticed cans of beer be brought into the dining room which when empty were crumpled and left on the table.
The entertainment was as we expected. The shows good and well attended, the comedian (worked with Benny Hill) not so good but passable after a few drinks. The resident group Indigo was good as were the pianist and string group. There was a BMX trick cyclist who had great skill but always seemed to be performing the same tricks in the plaza.
Took a tour of the Gym and The Lotus Spa both well equipped BUT every staff member we met was selling and selling hard even the Gym Guys who did a great presentation but during the last five minutes were selling detox diets and personnel assessments, which my own gym do for free.
As this was UK school holiday season we expected to see kids, which we did, most of who were well behaved. As expected a number of passengers were physically disabled and were using walking frames, sticks, crutches, wheel chairs and mobility scooters. We encountered passengers from all nations including the UK, USA, France, Belgium, Spain, Japan and China. The Chinese passengers were the most entertaining as they were in groups of no less than six, always talking loudly and always smiling. We have travelled in China and understand some of their ways, but being in a full lift and having seven more Chinese people get in does make you despair.
I was a bit disappointed to see adults sat in the hot tubs with drinks in bottles, cans and glasses. Also kids in water wings in the tubs. The pools were always packed with both adults and children with inflatable toys.
The ports of call were Bergen, Hellesylt, Geiranger, Olden, and Stavanger.
Having been to Bergen before I knew what to expect but didn't expect to be docked in the Industrial dockyard and having to queue for 1 hour and 10 mins to get off the ship and board the courtesy coach to the centre. The last time I arrived we stepped off the boat into the town. However I've got to admit that the Crown Princess is a lot bigger than the ferry I last used.
Schedule showed docking between 0800 - 1000, we had decided prior to arriving here that we wouldn't disembark. However it was only on arrival that we were informed that only passengers on a prepaid excursion could disembark.
This was a tender port. Disembarkation was a dream the tenders well organized and we had a great day walking around the area.
We had booked an excursion hiking to the Brenndalsbreen and Brisdalbreen Glaciers cost $258 prior to the cruise. Once again the organization of disembarkation was superb. We were split into two groups, each group to a coach and each coach having a local guide and driver. We arrived at the start of the first hike through some very scenic countryside. The guide explained that it was a hard climb to begin with but leveled off later on. We soon noticed that only one guide was leading the two groups, as the other guide had left with the coach and the guide was leading from the front. Okay we had been warned that the hike was strenuous so no problem there but after 40mins hard walking we realized that we were towards the rear of the group and with others were losing the trail. We never made it to the Glacier but encountered others who had and followed then down to the coach. 16 other people were in the same position as us. We boarded the coaches and were taken for a great lunch near to the start of the second hike. This proved a lot easier than the first and well sign posted.
The last stop in Norway, easy disembarkation onto the quayside. A very easy town to navigate and plenty of shopping including street markets.
Opted for late disembarkation was allocated Gold 5 at 0930 which was perfect. Only problem encountered was the number of bags on the floor in the Horizon Court during Breakfast. When called we were off the ship, collected bags and in the taxi in 15mins Superb.
The Crown Princess is a very, very, large ship and when full becomes crowded. The Infrastructure is superb as too are the staff, with some very few exceptions. We met some really nice fellow passengers but we also met some who had a severe lack of manners, usually the older ones. Entertainment was better than expected. We didn't like the big push on sales which left us feeling as targets not guests. The food was very good and in some cases superb. If you disagree try cooking for 3,200 people. We did enjoy the cruise but may try the Grand next time, due to there being more public area.