Crown Princess Caribbean - Dec 12-19, 2009
We were on the December 12 -19th sailing of the Crown Princess for a 7 day Caribbean Cruise from Fort Lauderdale. We had sailed on the Crown in February 2008 on a 14 day Caribbean B2B but what ... Read More
Crown Princess Caribbean - Dec 12-19, 2009
We were on the December 12 -19th sailing of the Crown Princess for a 7 day Caribbean Cruise from Fort Lauderdale. We had sailed on the Crown in February 2008 on a 14 day Caribbean B2B but what attracted us to this itinerary was four new locations not visited and a very attractive price. We booked in July and looked forward to the December departure. We were pleased to be accompanied by two friends who were on their first cruise. Not taking any chances with winter weather, we left Halifax on Dec 11th and had no problems reaching Florida on an Air Canada flight via Toronto. We had chosen the Comfort Inn near Sawgrass Mills for an overnight which gave us an opportunity to do some pre-cruise and Christmas shopping. We rented a car at the Hollywood airport and were at our Hotel by 2:30 p.m. Off to Sawgrass until 7:00 p.m., then dinner at Cheddars which was a block from the Comfort Inn. After a complimentary breakfast on Saturday we re-packed the car and made our way to the beach at Lauderdale-by-the Sea for a stroll and to enjoy the quiet ambiance of this quaint area just north of Lauderdale Beach. The town square was nicely decorated for Christmas. We visited a few shops before heading to Port Everglades at noon to drop off our luggage. There were five ships including RCL's Oasis of the Seas departing that day. Traffic was heavy but we managed to rid ourselves of the luggage not to be seen again until we arrived in our cabin. We made a quick trip back to the Airport to return the car intending to take a shuttle back to Everglades. We were disappointed to learn that Avis didn't provide a shuttle to Everglades so we hopped a cab ($20 for 4) and were at the Crown in less than fifteen minutes.
The weather was quite nice (partly sunny and low 80's) through most of the day. As afternoon progressed, the skies began to get increasingly cloudy.
The embarkation was very quick and smooth. In all of fifteen minutes, we were in the Piazza of the Crown. Of course, the first thing we noticed was the decorative and festive Christmas dEcor. Even before heading to our room on Baja, we decided to head to Horizon/Caribe for lunch and embark on a walk to re-familiarize ourselves with the Ship. It's amazing how much you forget from cruise to cruise. We met our room steward, Edgar, who worked with quiet efficiency throughout the cruise. We unpacked. I tried to make a connection for a Chef's Table reservation but no luck. The call for the muster drill came and off to the Wheelhouse Bar we went. Upon returning to the cabin, back to the telephone and this time we managed to get our name on the Chef's Table reservation list. Never having done a Chef's Table but having read so much about it, it was a goal to be part of this experience on this cruise. We no sooner arrived on Deck 15 for the Sail Away, the Captain made an announcement that festivities were being moved inside because of heavy wind and rain. We were sailing away in darkness anyway, so we were not too disappointed. After a bit more ship exploration, a visit to the Sail Away Buffet in Horizon, we were off to the DaVinci Dining Room for our first dinner. Prime rib and pork luau were two of the main choices. The Princess Theatre beckoned at 10:15 pm for the first show with magician James Michael. There was a pleasant surprise on getting back to our Cabin. The mailbox contained a note that we had been chosen to be interviewed tomorrow at noon for the Chef's Table.
Day 2 - Sunday - At Sea
Each day started with a visit to the International Cafe on Deck 5 for a brewed coffee. I had purchased a coffee card on last years cruise on the Coral. Princess recognizes the punches not used on the card for future cruises. I enjoyed at least two large coffees each morning on the Cruise, used up two punches for specialty coffees and have five more punches for a future cruise. Not a bad deal at all.
Cruise Critic Friends www.cruisecritic.com http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1004584 We joined the Crown December 12 Western thread in late July. A group of forty or more participants had become cyber friends by the time sailing day rolled around.
We were a diverse group ranging in age from 30's - 70's from US, Canada, Germany and Wales. We had agreed to meet on the first sea day for a chat and some participated in a gift exchange. Sissy, our MC and organizer had printed badges and arranged for the Captain to drop by. In many ways, these meetings are like getting reacquainted with old friends. Captain Fortezze arrived at 11:45 a.m. He made some welcoming comments, answered questions and posed for pictures. The hour sped by too quickly but already we had become cruise friends for the next six days and hopefully some for the future. About thirty of a potential fifty CC friends made the gathering. We had to leave at noon to make our Chef's Table Interview. The interview was conducted by the maitre d'hotel. He informed us that there would be two Chef's Tables on this cruise and we were in line for the second one. Our friends and travel companions from Nova Scotia were also selected and we were informed we would be joining six other folks on Wednesday evening. I found out later that Marlene & Shannon, tow other CC friends made the first chef's table.
Our first lunch was in the dining room and table mates included Ken from Vancouver, Mike from Chicago and the same couple from Knoxville, Tennessee we had met at muster drill. We have had so many pleasant dining experiences with folks from all over the world. There is an interesting thread here on the message boards where many dining room horror stories are told. Some of our fellow cc'ers do have some rather unpleasant table mates we've learned. It would be interesting to know if cruisers are trending away from "traditional dining" and doing anytime dining now. Many cruisers seldom come to the main dining room and prefer a "buffet experience". To each his/her own.
Tonight is the first of two formal nights for this cruise. We had pictures taken prior to Dinner at 8 in DaVinci. Halibut and twin tenderloins were our main choices this evening. A wonderful couple from New Jersey were our table mates. "What a Swell Party" in the Princess Theatre followed dinner.
Day 3 - Monday - Grand Cayman: Monday was a sunny day for arrival at 7:00 a.m. at Georgetown. If you wish to go ashore you must tender here. We arrived on shore at 9:30 a.m. Not having any planned excursions, we simply walked out to the Main Street and made contact with Edgar Brown Tours for a two hour excursion for $10 pp. We were in a very comfortable small bus with about 12 others. We toured the capital, visited the Rum Factory for rum samples and cake, the dolphins, a place called HELL, a beach walk for 15 minutes and delivered back near the terminal by 1:00 p.m. After lunch and drinks at Margaritaville, some shopping, we caught a tender back to the Ship at 3:00 p.m. A stop at the International Cafe for the famous plate of three different gelatos hit the spot. There are at least seven different gelatos to choose from. Three scoops are only $1.50. What a way to cool off after a hot day on a Caribbean island! Mama Mia (the movie) was playing on the Deck 15 while the ship sailed away. Dinner choices in the DaVinci were turbot, shrimp diavolo and slow cooked roast beef and gravy (this is part of the new Princess Menu which features a different comfort food each day). Much to our surprise, two of our table mates this evening were two fellow cruise critics who hadn't made the initial Sunday gathering. We recognized each other immediately proving once again what a small world we live in.
Day 4 - Tuesday- Roatan, Honduras: Clocks went back an hour today so we welcomed the extra hour of sleep. The Crown was supposed to dock at Mahogany Bay, the new cruise terminal but didn't. It was another day to tender. In hindsight, we would not have seen the Downtown area had we not tendered. Poverty is rampant here and in full view to experience. Always one of the saddest aspects of visiting and experiencing local culture, the sights you see and information you receive on local life makes one most thankful for one's life opportunities. We hooked up with a local tour operator for $20 pp. There were 10 of us in a van. On the ride to Parrot Bay Resort, Percy our driver, told us of the local culture, his family and local personalities. We relaxed for two hours at a very quiet, private beach. Admission, chairs, a drink, and shade were included in our tour. Lunch (fresh fish & chips) on the beach was tasty and very reasonable. We were back on the Crown at 3:00 p.m.
Reservations tonight were in the Crown Grill. One of two alternate dining choices for $25 a person, this is an experience not to be missed. I'm sure there were at least ten courses in all. Scallops and fois gras, shrimp bisque, onion soup, giant prawns, an array of veggies, filet mignon, ribeye, New York striploin, lobster tails, and a multitude of desserts. Wow! We brought our own white and red wine to accompany the meal. Cecilly was our waitress. She was great and even enjoyed a taste of our wine. We have been to Sabatini's on other cruises but I prefer the Crown Grill. There is still that rack of lamb I have not tried. The Deck Party planned for tonight was brought inside because of rain.
Day 5 - Wednesday - Cozumel: Finally we would dock (International Pier) after tendering for the previous two stops. Cozumel would have eight ships in port today. Three from Carnival, the Aida, Disney Magic, RCL Independence and Norwegian Dawn. Cruisers were evident everywhere. The first folks we met when we arrived ashore was a couple we recognized from our neighbourhood who were on the Carnival. The terminal had lots of shopping, attractions and picture opportunities. We found a taxi for 6 of us ($5 pp) which brought us to Paradise Beach. There was no extra charge for chairs and shade on the beach. It was crowded and you were expected to buy drinks and have food from the bar. We shared a bucket of five cold beer. Lots to do and great water temps. We stayed for two hours and caught a taxi from the beach to the downtown for $10 pp. Did some shopping and found an internet cafe before getting a taxi back to the International Terminal. For the amount of time we had, shopping was every bit as good at the International Terminal as it was downtown.
We had been warned to eat very sparingly today because we would be doing the Chef's Table tonight at 7:00 p.m. Reflecting on last night at the Crown, we really had no need for much food anyway.
I'm not sure if other cruise lines have an equivalent of the Chef's Table but I'm positive the experience could not be any better. There are a number of very good postings on this site about this experience. There is one review that is a classic. It captured every small detail, and flavour in a humorous but informative presentation. I have posted a link to it at the end of my review.
Every Chef's Table has the same format and essentially is the same menu so it is tried and true. You meet at the International Cafe for a short gathering before being led through the Main Dining Room in uniform to the delight and astonishment of fellow diners. Once in the Kitchen you can watch meal prep, ask questions of the maitre d'Hotel and Executive Chef who are with you for the whole evening. Mssrs. Ferat and Pollara were delightful hosts. While in the kitchen, you are taken to a special area for canapEs and champagne (blue crab margarita, a pate with apple chutney, mini pizzettes with goat cheese and roasted new potatoes with sour cream and caviar). The Captain and other senior staff also joined us for champagne. Can you blame them! We then lost our uniforms and were taken to a corner of the DaVinci Dining Room to a large table of ten set with a huge floral centerpiece, wine crystal, china breadsticks and menus. A specially selected white and red wine flowed freely throughout the meal. Brandy and ice wine followed dessert. The first course was a lobster and asparagus risotto followed by a raspberry-lemon sorbet drenched with a flavored vodka. Roasted veal shank and veal tenderloin carved tableside with lobster tails was the main course. This was accompanied by a tray of vegetables. Baked camembert with pine nuts and port reduction and walnut bread was served. This was followed by a dessert tray of chocolates and berries. Not to be outdone, there was a second dessert course of an iced amaretto parfait, vanilla plume and brandy snap tuile served in a bowl of well words cannot describe this presentation so we'll leave the surprise ending! There was more but you do get the idea. We were then pictured as couples with our hosts and then as a group, each couple was given the Princess Cookbook (which was autographed) and the other a long stemmed rose. Needless to say, we closed the dining room that evening. We also lost an hour on the clock.
Day 6 - Thursday - At Sea: On Thursday morning we noticed there had been heavy rain and wind overnight, however we awoke to sunshine, 80 plus and sun most of the day. Had a relaxing day in the sun, broken at noon for the English pub menu in the Wheelhouse Bar. This is new and a popular feature. I think it might be available on sea days only. We had to wait until past 1:00 pm to get in. English-style fish and chips, a ploughman's pie, bangers and mash are three of four selections. Served casually with beer available, I recommend you do this at least once on the cruise This was our second formal night of the cruise. Lobster, king prawns, Cornish game hen, New York Strip were a few menu choices. After Dinner we enjoyed comedian Carlos Oscar in Princess Theatre and visited the Casino.
Day 7 - Friday - Princess Cays: We had never visited Princess Cays (Bahamas) before and would have been sorely disappointed to have missed this stop. High winds often prevent a stop here and today was no different. It was past 9:00 a.m. before the Captain determined he would allow tenders ashore. We were the first passengers (behind crew) to step foot on the beach. It was a rough tender ashore but the destination was worth it. We had our pick of chairs/location on the beach. Less than one third of the passengers came ashore that day. The day can be as busy or as relaxing as you wish. We chose to stay close to our chairs on the beach, enjoy a sumptuous buffet at noon and have a few beach strolls. Staff come ashore with food including salads, ribs, hotdogs, burgers, fresh fruit. We wore our "Santa" hats on the beach to add to the festive atmosphere and get some great souvenir Christmas pictures. A storm was predicted and moving in on us so the Captain decided to call us back to the ship for 2:00 pm rather than 3:30 p.m. We managed to get a final hour of sun on Deck 15 before it was time to go pack our luggage. Dinner (Landfall Theme) in DaVinci that evening featured the traditional Tom Turkey, NY Strip, barramundi and other goodies. We enjoyed the company of a couple from Boca, Florida. During dinner there was a most spectacular display of lighting that is not often seen. High winds and rain whipped the ship most of the night. What a way to remember a most delightful Crown cruise.
The disembarkation went very smoothly. Princess has a dining room breakfast service which is a nice touch for the final day. We were off the Crown by 9:30 am and at the Airport by taxi 15 minutes later. Check-in was quick and our flight to Halifax via Montreal was on time and uneventful. Many other cruisers were caught in a northeaster snow storm and flights to New York/Washington and other points were cancelled. Some of our cruise critic friends didn't get back home until Tuesday.
This was our first cruise in a month other than February/March. We lucked in with great weather for traveling and on the cruise. We had not been at any of the destinations before. We find a 10 day cruise to be a good length but in this case (Christmas season) the seven day itinerary was perfect. Cruises are great vacation travel value. Looking forward to a Mediterranean cruise next.
Here's the link to the Chef's table Review by Theora (Feb 22/09) and posted on March 27, 2009 - It's a great read.
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=956179&page=4 Read Less