Crown Princess 31- Day South America (December 4th, 2016 – January 4, 2017)
Total disclosure mandates that I reveal the following about my husband and myself: We do not like big ships, and he (especially) loathes crowds. The Crown ... Read More
Crown Princess 31- Day South America (December 4th, 2016 – January 4, 2017)
Total disclosure mandates that I reveal the following about my husband and myself: We do not like big ships, and he (especially) loathes crowds. The Crown Princess is a big ship and it was full to capacity on both legs of the cruise (Los Angeles to Valparaiso and Valparaiso to Rio de Janeiro). The relatively low fares attracted a wide range of passengers, and many of them, resulting in very crowded main dining rooms ( although the alternative restaurants were often almost empty), wall to wall bodies around the pools on sunny sea days, and some rude passengers. The elevators compounded the problem: there were four across the width of the ship on each floor, and one never knew until the last second which car would stop (though more often than not, it was the one furthest from you ). The doors also closed quickly and seemed ready to remove your hand, should you try to block them. This resulted in crowds of people shoving to get into an elevator before other passengers could exit the car.
SMOKING – My husband is a smoker and found the arrangements for smoking not the best he’s experienced on board, but not the worst. I was annoyed that they closed the bar beside the main outdoor smoking lounge very early in the evening. The cigar lounge in the casino was also a convenient place for meeting one another, and there was a bar nearby.
FOOD -- We’ve been disappointed in Sabatini’s on every Princess ship we’ve been on, and I’m sorry to say that the Crown was no exception. On the other hand, the food in the main dining room(s) was better than expected and generally quite good, as was that at the buffet (though I dislike buffets, where crowds are at their worst on any ship). The Crown Grill was exceptionally good, and we ate there several times, for the excellent food and service, to avoid the crowds in the dining room, and to have a table for two with no argument. We had an ongoing “thing” with the maitre d’ in one dining room. We would request a table for two, and he would attempt to have us seated at a long banquette, with tables so close together one could hardly squeeze through and a bad vibration (literally). We would politely decline, and he would then send us to the worst possible two-top in the dining room, such as one next to a large family with screaming kids. I remarked to my husband that he could have earned a nice tip if he’d been more accommodating, and my husband replied that he didn’t expect tips from this group of passengers.
EXCURSIONS -- Machu Picchu was the star attraction of the cruise, but my pre-Columbian aficionado husband decided to skip it. It was very expensive, but more importantly, it took up the entire three days that the ship was in Lima and Pisco, Peru, thus precluding visits to some fantastic museums. We did these by independent private tours, so as not to be rushed and were not disappointed. Our guide was so good that my husband plans to return and do a land tour of Peru with him. We always prefer independent, private tours, though these were not always easy to arrange successfully in South America. (We were stood up by the guides of two private, independent tours we’d booked and paid for.) Many of the ports of call have no dedicated cruise ship dock. In Lima, for example, the ship docked at a large commercial facility, and due to the distance and regulations, one could not walk anywhere. Those on private tours, or those just wanting to go ashore independently, were told to take a bus (provided) to one of two shopping centers. Having used the bus to return to the ship once, I would have despaired trying to hook up with a guide there. Those of us who had arranged with our tour company to pick us up at the entrance to the port facility were told to board the bus at the ship and ask to be let off at the entrance to the port. Great, but there were two entrances, which we did not know, and the bus used a different one on each day. Had we not had a cell phone, the number of the tour agency, and the help of two very nice policewomen on patrol, two of our best days would have been a disaster. It is also worth noting that many Lima attractions simply cannot be booked as independent shore excursions, because the tour companies have to allow an additional two hours, at least, for passengers to be bussed round-trip to the shopping center in order to connect with a guide or group. I am generally not a fan of ships’ tours, but a Princess excursion allowed me to see the Peruvian Paso horses and two additional sights, whereas an independent tour could not be arranged. The same situation occurred with a gaucho visit and barbeque from Buenos Aires; I despaired of finding an independent tour, and my husband and I ended up seeing Recoleta Cemetery, and having a nice shopping stop on a Princess tour, in addition to our time at the finca, with no sacrifice in quality or time in our visit to the latter. I was pleasantly surprised that the ship’s tour included everything – such as the opportunity to ride horseback – that was offered by the unavailable independent tour. Finally, some secret tour tips for anyone going on this cruise: a wine tour from Valparaiso , Chile; a cab “for the monkeys” in Puntarenas, Costa Rica; and a Ballestas Island tour from Pisco, Peru.
CABIN – We greatly enjoyed our balcony cabin (A202), and I had guessed correctly that port side was preferable on this itinerary. I had waited in vain for an upgrade to come through and was very disappointed when I first saw the size of the cabin. There was a place for everything, however, and by the time we reached Valparaiso and the second leg of the cruise, we had decided not to change cabins, even if the opportunity arose. We do not fall into the “all-you-do-is-sleep-there” camp. We love reading and napping on sea days, and seeing/hearing the water is very important to us, as are chance viewings of spinner dolphins, for example. In addition, we are not “joiners” and “doers” – we’d enjoyed playing Trivia on a smaller ship, but it was chaos on the Crown – and we often just escape to our cabin for peace and quiet.
SANCTUARY –For a fee of $40/day ($20/half day) Princess provides you with access to The Sanctuary, a serene and well appointed area for relaxing. I finally succumbed to temptation on one of the last days, when there was no room in or around any pool, and loved it. It was windy and cool, and an attendant brought me a blanket. The next thing I knew, he woke me for tea, which included a nicer assortment of goodies than we’d been offered in the crowded “tea room” by the only surly waiter we encountered on The Crown.
WEATHER – We cruised in fall to winter in the Northern Hemispheres and spring to summer in the Southern. The temperatures were pleasantly warm throughout the first segment of the cruise, but after Valparaiso, it was quite cool. We were never in freezing temperatures, but the next 10 days required a sweater on board and an added jacket for excursions. That was a third of the cruise (more than I’d anticipated in wardrobe planning), after which the heat of Buenos Aires was nearly overwhelming.
OVERALL VIEW OF CRUISE – Final confession: we have been spoiled by two, small-ship luxury cruises in the last few years, but we still think that Princess ranks far above most mass-market carriers. The fare for this 31-day cruise was amazingly reasonable, but we rued the fact that we didn’t book while they were offering free beverage cards. We enjoy cocktails and wine, and it was easy to accrue a total cruise cost approaching that of more “luxurious” lines. Throw in the cost of The Santuary, for sanity (if we’d used it more), and you’re really getting there. Add the very high cost of the ship’s excursions, and you’re flirting with an “all-inclusive” fare. We were glad we went, in any case. My husband discovered he could survive 31 days at sea (there was never any doubt about me), and we saw and did a lot, in great part due to a few private guides who were eager to share their country and related to us in a manner not possible with a larger group. Each country was unique and fascinating, and the people warm and friendly. If you don’t mind large ships and crowds, this cruise is highly recommended. Read Less