In a first-ever effort, Cruise Critic took its popular virtual series concept to a different level when editor Carolyn Spencer Brown launched the "Crown Princess blog-in-a-thread" on the Princess Cruises' message board.
The concept, to combine the immediacy of a virtual cruise report with the opportunity for casual interaction with community members, drew nearly 600 posts and some 60,000-plus page views, all during a relatively limited week-and-a-half time span. (You can still read the thread here though no more postings are allowed). What was especially helpful was the fact that although the ship had only one other sailing under its belt, enough folks were on the maiden -- and on Spencer Brown's cruise -- to complement the Cruise Critic reflections.
The highlights? Spencer Brown offers some observations:
Most popular subjects: Right up there were the coffee card, formal night designation and the issues relating to the Sanctuary. Also controversial were the International Cafe and charges for food items.
Most cantankerous: The customs process in San Juan (by the way, LunaMoon, we're still checking on that -- haven't heard back yet) that took three hours to complete, resulting in long lines and tropical tempers.
Members' Biggest Kudos: The Piazza, the ship's redesigned, three-story atrium, which featured entertainment throughout the day and night (from floral demonstrations and cooking classes to crazy stilt walkers and a fabulous barbershop quartet). The International Cafe, which prior to the trip had elicited much controversy for its menu of a'la carte-charged food items, had plenty of delicious fare to offer for "free", including the chocolate chip cookies straight from the cafe's oven.
Members' Biggest Disappointments: The Cruise Director's team, ranging from poolside entertainment to special group get-together requests.
Carolyn's Biggest Frustration: The WiFi set up was ridiculously antiquated.
Carolyn's Only Real Disappointment: Despite info to the contrary, the idea of a long, langourous lunch on sea days at either of the ship's specialty restaurants (we've tried it on other ships) was not available.
Carolyn's Biggest Surprise(s): That people really did ante up for The Sanctuary (it's worth it, but it was still surprising to see it full for a pretty pricey fee). Why was Vines almost always empty (she thought it was fabulous)? The elegance of Crown Princess' decor throughout the ship.
Carolyn's Best Surprise: The fantastic give-and-take feedback with Cruise Critic members, who bolstered her insights with observations of their own, and who offered invaluable information and reports from "the flood zone" of her hometown while she was cruising.
Stay tuned for Cruise Critic's full review of Crown Princess!
Cruise Critic's Zany Crown Princess "Blog" Attracts Massive Audience
July 7, 2006