Having sailed with P&O cruises for many years we chose Princess Crown Princess purely because of time constraints. If more time had been available to us we would have cruised with P&O , but as a transatlantic cruise from Southampton to our chosen destinations would have incurred an additional 10 days we chose Princess .
Initially we were very sceptical about our choice but overall I would say we were very pleased with Crown Princess and the overall operations of PRINCESS.
The similarities are very evident on board so I will try and highlight what we saw as the main differences and perhaps expel some of my previous concerns between the two company's.
Firstly, we travelled to Quebec as part of the brochure package which was originally shown as flying to Quebec and boarding there. Six weeks after booking, our confirmation showed that we were in fact booked to fly to Montreal and then be transferred by coach to Quebec. When querying this both with our Travel Agent and directly with Princess's neither seemed to know why this had changed or how long the coach journey would take. On privately investigating this, I discovered it to be a 3hr coach trip. I also requested that we needed to pay for an upgrade on our return flight from New York as we were purchasing Princess "extended "stay option. Unfortunately I did not feel that the Princess staff handling the request were as efficient as those at P&O
When arriving in Quebec after a long flight and long coach journey in the dark , the welcome was not exactly overwhelming. The staff not sure if they were Princess's or the Port Authority were very abrupt and obviously wanted to go home. There was no P&O courtesy of "we hope you have a lovely cruise and if there is anything you need on board just ask" . We were just told to follow the directions onto the ship after going through endless paperwork at the embarkation desk despite completing and confirming everything on line before hand.
Our cases took over 3 hrs to get to our cabin 2:00 am next morning) which bearing in mind we were the last passengers to arrive was a little disappointing.
Once under way the next day things got a lot better. We found the ship to be very friendly and a very similar layout to the VENTURA and AZURA. The function rooms are a little dark but do create a very relaxing atmosphere. Probably because of the time of the year there was a lack of children on board which does have an impact good or bad.
We had requested a table for 2 and unlike sometimes on P&O we had no trouble with our request. In fact for some reason the 2nd sitting for dinner was always half empty and so there were always tables for two and 6 always available and this was on traditional dining option.
The waiters were extremely courteous and attentive and the Maitre De in our restaurant an Italian gentlemen was a delight.
In respect of the restaurants and the food on board, I would say, surprisingly the portions were smaller than P&O but more than adequate.
There was definitely a smaller selection of food in the buffet area than P&O and bearing in mind unlike P&O where each day you have the choice of formal lunch in the restaurant or buffet lunch, apart from the one sea day no formal lunch restaurants opened.
Also a surprise was the fact that the formal dining room only has the minimal table settings laid out - soup spoons , desert spoons etc are only laid in between each course if needed. Maybe setting a table for dinner with all the condiments is a British thing but none the less it does make a nicer appearance at the table when entering the restaurants.
One advantage of Princess over P&O is that they have retained the additional plain options on the evening menu , something that we missed last year on P&O.
In respect of drinks these are certainly more expensive on Princess. The basic cost of drinks start of higher, and then when the 15% service charge is also added ( This is in addition to your end of cruise tips) drinks are very expensive (Bacardi and coke, whisky and coke Total $12.
The entertainment was probably the same standard as P&O, the normal theatre shows , comedian, singer etc. The Atrium had various musicians playing which was very pleasant and the trio's were excellent in the bars - better than recently experienced with P&O.
We thought on tender days the disembarkation for non tours passengers seemed to be very slick, previous experiences on ships with 3,000 passengers has been very slow but Princess have this sorted, hardly any time was lost - despite weather conditions causing early delays all went well and we did not feel that because we had not purchased a trip we weren't left on board for ages.
We did purchase two tours which included a lunch on each occasion.- $140 each person each trip) Whilst the tours were good we were a little disappointed with the lunches. In the past we have experienced select restaurants with waiter service (just like being aboard) but on these two occasions the food was buffet and were accommodated in large conference rooms so that a far greater number could attend. Not sure this was value for money , however the tours were well organised and well curated.
The port lecturers were televised but appeared to be a curator just reading directly from notes. This was not as professional or as well organised as P&O and the tours desks lines with queries was horrendous.
Cabins are of similar standard to P&O very well maintained and cabin stewards very attentive. On P&O you can expect room service and kettles in cabins, however due to safety issues kettles are not provided so we just ordered tea each morning from room service as we had already paid for on board gratuities. Not quiet sure why kettles are seen as a risk as electric hairdryers are fitted on the walls (which could be left on - dangling in cabins) and there are irons in the launderettes.
Laundrettes on Princess are not free . You will need to pay $2 for a washing machine and $2 for a tumble dryer again this is free on P&O.
My husband however was very pleased that Ice creams are available all day on the deck for free. Something that P&O had as one of its traditions but has sadly relinquished on.
Overall I found that Princess were more accommodating to customer needs than P&O have become over recent years, staff are exceedingly friendly and everything is very well organised.
I would certainly have no reservations on travelling with Princess again but if travelling from Southampton on our next cruise and we had to choose between Princess or P&O, I would have to say we would go with P&O , only because of the extra charges and cost of things on Princess.