Recently back from cruise round Britain on Crown Princess. This is my (lengthy) review.
Very BIG of course. At first I thought I would not like it, but it grew on me! Although I was still going the wrong way after 12 days on board!
Very good variety. A big theatre, with excellent shows. It was never full (except on the night in Glasgow when a Scottish group came and did a Scottish show, pipes, drums, singing and dancing) so you could easily get a seat even if you were a bit late. There were two shows a night at 8.15 and 10.15pm. There were some excellent singers and a really funny comic who used to write for Benny Hill and did a lecture on him, as well as the resident show team. The show on the penultimate night was spectacular. There were also various shows in the myriad of bars. There was a huge casino. Also a jogging track, putting course (bit too windy for that!) and 3 swimming pools (one adult only) plus a children’s area with their own pool. I didn’t use the Lotus Spa, as I learnt my lesson on Jewel of the Seas – far too expensive AND they try to sell you lotions and potions and expect a tip. Save that sort of thing for Thomson or Fred Olsen ships - much cheaper!
There were 4 art auctions if that is your thing (not mine) and live port lectures which were then run on a continuous loop on the cabin TV. There was, of course, being a Princess ship, “movies under stars” Bit cold going round Britain, but tartan rugs were supplied! And many people were using them!
We were on deck 5 and the cabins were not really very big, and it was not helped by the upper beds which you bumped your shoulder on when you got out of bed, even though they were folded away. So beware if you chose #P241 as it is not marked on the plan in the brochure as a 4 berth. Still, it was adequate and had plenty of coat hangers. Smallish shower room, but spotlessly clean. There were supplies of shampoo and conditioner and also body lotion and soap, but strangely enough no shower gel. The hair dryer is, sensibly, in the cabin and not the shower room and pretty powerful. There is only a USA style socket in the cabin, plus a shaver plug in the bathroom. There is plenty of room under the bed for cases. It was not worth having a balcony for going round the British Isles, but we have booked a balcony for out next trip on her in the Caribbean. TV only showed CNN, no BBC News 24, plus some films and usual ship video cam. Chocolates on the bed each evening, but no towel animals!
We had booked second sitting, but after 3 nights sitting on our own on a table for 6, we decided to change to “Anytime dining” Sometimes we went to the dining room and sometimes we went to the buffet. Both were good, although I liked the buffet as you could sit by the window, watching the sunsets and you could eat as little or as much as you wanted.
PORTS OF CALL
A word of warning, most of the trips had been booked online before we got on the ship. My link to the excursion brochure did not work on the email they sent me, so it is worth contacting Princess and getting them to send you a copy by email, and booking before you go if you really want any particular trip. Our ports of call were:-
ST PETER PORT – GUERNSEY - We had already done the Island tour on a previous cruise, so we explored the port, very pretty and lots of shopping (even an M&S where I bought jeans for OH as he had not brought any with him!!) The Island - Triptour is recommended, though, if it is you first visit.
HOLYHEAD - all trips booked, so we took the shuttle bus and got a taxi to Beaumaris Castle and came back via Llanfair…....whatever! It was great, the driver was wonderful and full of local knowledge and it worked out £25 cheaper than going on the trip and obviously if you can share with another couple it works out even cheaper.
DUBLIN - Shuttle bus to town and then went round on the Red Hoho bus. I was a bit disappointed with Dublin, it seemed a bit “run down” but I know they are having financial difficulties.
BELFAST – Loved it! Free shuttle bus put on by the city council, lots of tourist information and we went round on the local open top bus – Allen’s Tours. It was excellent – there was a live guide and he took us to the Harland and Wolff shipyards where the Titanic was built, Stormont, Crumlin Road, Shankill Road etc as well as the town centre. My favourite city, I think and would love to go back and do some shopping! And also to see the Titanic Centre which opens next year.
GLASGOW, FROM GREENOCK – Don’t get a taxi, get the train to Glasgow. You can walk via the shopping centre or get a taxi to the station. The train fare is £6 each return and a very nice clean quiet train ride awaits you. Tip – sit on the left of the train as that is where the scenery is. We took the Hoho bus round Glasgow and again it was very good. You can get it just outside the railway station.
KIRKWALL, ORKNEYS – loved it! We managed to book a ship’s trip for this and took a scenic drive to Stones of Stenness, Scapa Flow and the Italian chapel. The guide is an ex-teacher who moved to Orkney when he retired and he was very informative. Kirkwall, itself is very picturesque and St Magnus Cathedral well worth a visit.
EDINBURGH FROM SOUTH QUEENSFERRY – we were anchored near the Forth railway bridge – it is quite a spectacular structure. We got the tender boat to the port and were offered a shuttle bus for £10 each return to Edinburgh. This seems quite expensive, but it is quite a distance. There is also a train, but not sure how far the station is, but it might be a cheaper option. Again, we took the Red Hoho bus and as it was raining we had to sit inside, so didn’t really get the best out of it. Also, because the Festival was on, it was difficult to see the city properly, so would like to go back there again for a few days. To be honest there is too much to see in a day.
INVERGORDON – We were quite tired by the time we got to Invergordon, and I was incubating a horrible cold! – so we stayed in Invergorden instead of going to Inverness. It is not a very big place, but the people were so friendly. We went to visit the church and were given free tea and cakes, then we visited a small workshop, where a lady had made all sorts of pictures illustrating various poems which she explained to us. I bought some shoes in the small shopping centre, walked down to the end of the town, where there was a fete and boats racing for the RNLI, then went back to the ship for lunch and sat on the deck in lovely sunshine!
We then had a day at sea, which was wonderfully sunny and warm, before we arrived at Le Havre.
LE HAVRE – why we went to Le Havre on a trip round Great Britain, I don’t really know! I suppose it was so people could visit Paris. Well if you want to spend 3 hours each way on a coach to spend 4 and half hours in Paris – go for it! We spent 4 and a half DAYS there some years ago and I’m sure we didn’t see half of it. We decided to explre Le Havre. We got the shuttle bus, thinking it was going to the city, but no, it just took us out of the port gates and stopped at the next dock! We then had to walk back to the town, which was virtually where we had come from! Everything was closed as it was a Bank Holiday, so we met up with another couple off the ship, had a coffee and walked back to the ship, where we spent the afternoon, sunbathing. The shuttle bus had cost us $24, so I went to the desk and asked for a refund for the return journey, which they grudgingly gave, saying that the bus couldn’t go into town as it was bank holiday – what??
We arrived back in Southampton to a lovely drizzly day and drove home. Anyway, all in all it was a great cruise and we are looking forward to going on the Crown Princess again in the Caribbean, when hopefully we can use the putting course and do a bit more sun bathing!