My Wife and I are retired and had started cruising just about three years ago. Although we thoroughly enjoy cruising, we had never experienced a back-to-back cruise before and decided that, since the Crown Princess was offering a series of ... Read More
My Wife and I are retired and had started cruising just about three years ago. Although we thoroughly enjoy cruising, we had never experienced a back-to-back cruise before and decided that, since the Crown Princess was offering a series of short Coastal Sampler cruises from Los Angeles along the southern California coast to Ensenada, Mexico and back, it was about time that we tried a back-to-back cruise. Actually, three of them. The block of time we chose was a 4-day cruise to Santa Barbara, California and Ensenada, Mexico (January 22-26), a 4-day cruise to San Diego, California and Ensenada, Mexico (January 26-30), and a 3-day cruise to Ensenada (January 30-February 2).
We drove the 4 1/2 hours from our home in Las Vegas, Nevada to the Los Angeles World Cruise Center (located in San Pedro). Although in the past we flew to Los Angeles, this time we elected to drive rather than fly since we wanted to avoid the hassles of airport security and congestion, and we liked the freedom of the road. Leaving Las Vegas at 8:00 am meant we'd miss the morning commute traffic as we approached the Los Angeles metropolitan area and we'd get to the port in ample time to board the ship at the start of the embarkation process at 1:00 pm. We breezed right through the cities along the way and to the port and arrived about 15 minutes prior to the start of the boarding. We parked in the parking lot adjacent to Pier 93 where the Crown Princess was anchored. The parking fee is $12.00 per day and we found ample parking spaces available, and a shuttle bus to take us to the baggage drop-off point at Pier 93.
We have to give Princess cruises credit for making the embarkation process remarkably error-free and very pleasant. They've really got it down to a science. We are Platinum members and processed through check-in and security in a matter of minutes, but even when we were Gold and Medallion members we do not remember the lines being overly long and they moved pretty quickly without any irritating delays. The Princess staff guiding us through the boarding process and onto the ship were all cheerful and personable. We made our way to our cabin, dropped off our carry-ons, had a relaxed bite to eat at the buffet on the Horizon Court, checked the day's Princess Patter for the list of activities we'd be attending that night and were in time to attend the safety drill before the ship set sail.
The disembarkation process at the end of each of our short cruises was even smoother than the embarkation process. Categories of passengers were grouped together, given color-coded luggage tags and group by group were processed off the ship. Since we were to stay on the ship after the completion of the first cruise, we were given In-Transit tickets and met in the Da Vinci Dining Room to await our turn. We were to be the last group off. At the appropriate time, we disembarked, processed through customs, walked through and out of the terminal, were guided back to the entrance to the terminal and went right back into the waiting area and waited just about an hour before we were the first group to be called to re-board. This was repeated after the end of our second cruise, although then the wait in the terminal was under an hour. After the end of our third cruise, the disembarkation process was a bit more involved but hassle-free nonetheless. The Crown Princess, which normally docks at Pier 93 after each cruise, this time docked at Pier 41 because of the large number of cruise ships that were arriving at the port that morning. Again, the passengers were grouped together by categories (independent travelers who had made their own travel arrangements, those with early flights out of Los Angeles, those with later flights, etc.). When our group was called, we left the ship, picked up our baggage at the baggage pickup point and were guiding to a row of shuttle buses. We loaded our bags onto the bus and boarded it for the brief ride to Pier 93 and the parking lot where we had parked our car.
Our experience aboard all three cruises was similiar and best discussed together. We have always preferred AnyTime Dining to give us flexibility in the time we want to dine and to give us the experience of meeting and talking with new and different people. Yet we virtually always go in early (between 5:00 and 5:30) because we found that the waiting lines to get into the dining room are not as long then and move pretty fast. If one waits until 6:00 or so, then the waits tend to be a bit longer and the lines move a bit slower. The food has always been good and the service without reproach. The servers are attentive and friendly and try their best to please.
The evening's musical entertainment was rather important to us, because we like to dance. Each night we picked out from the Princess Patter where the musical bands would be playing that night and made our plans. The same groups played onboard for all three criuses. A band played rock and roll music in either Club Fusion or the Explorers Lounge, alternating with the Crown Princess Orchestra at different times and days, and in-between there was recorded music hosted by a DJ. Music was also played for short periods in the Piazza and well into the evening in the Crooner's Bar. The Princess Theater also had musical production shows and magic acts and comedians each night to entertain the passengers. In general, all the music was fun and entertaining and we danced a little to each.
One of the most pleasant surprises, however, was the Rockin Paradise Singing Duo that played exclusively in the Wheelhouse Bar starting at 8:30 pm each evening and well into the night. This singing duo, a male and female singer, was one of the very best we have come across in over three years of cruising. It was a joy dancing to their music. They have a wide range of songs that dozens of couples danced to, well into the late evening. Both singers have good singing voices and can carry a tune well and it was not only a distinct pleasure just to sit there and listen to them, but also to dance to their music. They have dance tunes of all varieties, from rock and roll to ballroom to country and western. They made our cruising experience thoroughly enjoyable and memorable, and singularly well worth the cost of the cruise. They should have been booked into a larger dance venue, like the Club Fusion, because so many couples danced to their music that the Wheelhouse Bar dance floor was crowded virtually the entire evening and couldn't accommodate all the people wanting to strut their stuff. It was kind of a nuisance to keep bumping into people on the dance floor and to watch your steps, constraining yourself so as not to impede others' dancing. We strongly recommend going on a cruise just to see and experience this duo in action while they are still on board. They will be the musical highlight of your cruise on the Crown Princess.
In ending, we take our hats off to the Princess cruise line for making the embarkation and disembarkation process such a pleasant experience. It was obvious that the Princess staff takes personal pride in being able to do this, making it seem effortless. The dining experience was great, whether in the dining rooms, the Horizon Court buffet, or the Specialty restaurants. We thoroughly enjoyed our three cruises aboard. We had cruised with the Crown Princess before and will do so again. It's a nice ship, kept clean, and staffed by wonderful people. As we drove back to Las Vegas we reflected on the days we spent aboard and already missed the experience we shared there. Read Less