We actually spent 4 days in London prior to the cruise. I arranged for Silver Fleet Car Service to pick us up at Heathrow and take us to the flat we rented on the East End. Ian was our driver and we had fun and informative conversations ... Read More
We actually spent 4 days in London prior to the cruise. I arranged for Silver Fleet Car Service to pick us up at Heathrow and take us to the flat we rented on the East End. Ian was our driver and we had fun and informative conversations during our 1 hour drive to the flat. We used the London Pass and the public transportation with the Oyster Card. Highly, highly recommend "Eating London - East End Food Tour!" Loved our time in London!
The day before the cruise, we again used Ian, Silver Fleet Car Service, to pick us up at our flat, and drive us to our hotel in Southampton, which was about an hour and a half drive, where we stayed at The Blue Keys Hotel, Bar, & Restaurant. Highly recommend! Colin was super helpful and welcoming. The food was excellent, and the drinks in the lovely back yard ever so relaxing. We walked to the "downtown area" of Southampton - very easy walk - and enjoyed a wonderful iced coffee in the park. The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and Colin made arrangements for our taxi to the port.
Embarkation - the port was about 10 min via taxi from our hotel, where Princess land staff were waiting to take our luggage right as we unloaded! Everyone was super friendly and smiling. As per our paperwork from Princess, we were to check in at noon according to their progressive check in times, which seemed to work well as we had no line to wait in to check in! From check in to board was maybe 30 minutes, very easy!
We were in cabin D208, Mini-Suite, which we booked as our 26 yr old daughter was traveling with us, so her bed was the pull-out couch, which she said was comfy. She also used the open shelves under the TV for her folded clothing - lots of room and worked out well. Our Steward was Jess, who was personable and welcoming.
As always, we chose the Anytime Dining, which works well for us. We usually went to dinner around 7:30 or so and if we had to wait for a table for 3, then it was usually just for 5-10 minutes. In previous cruises we have shared the large tables; however, with our daughter along, we wanted to enjoy family time. What we didn't care for this time, was the Maitre D really pushed sharing a table each night, "sharing is caring" - we, and others, didn't appreciate the pushing to share. Sadly, we didn't feel the food in the dining room was up to what we've experienced previously with Princess - nothing to ooh and aah about this cruise, but maybe it's due to being a larger ship than we've been on in the past.
*Buffet - we did eat some breakfasts at the buffet, and do like the "make to order" omelettes; however, the buffet area can get quite crowded as well as the table seating, so expect to share your table if seated in the indoor area - we usually ate at the tables outside as we enjoy that option.
*Crab Shack - we've enjoyed the Crab Shack on the Coral and the Island in the past and on the Crown it was quite good as well. (Now Princess charges if you want more crab.)
*International Cafe - we did get a seat in this area sometimes - it's very popular. We use coffee cards which saves us money in the long run! The sandwiches and most of the salads here were very good, but the desserts usually looked much better than they tasted, and I'm not complaining - saved me calories! LOL!
*Vines - fun wine bar with free (!) Tapas and Sushi. Enjoyed this bar!
*Entertainment - LOVED the two comediennes! Really very entertaining! The Crown dancers and singers put on a couple of good shows! The Cruise Director and his staff also put on a little song-dance the last night - very funny! Also, really enjoyed the Trivia this cruise having never tried before, so we will look for it in the future as well.
*Destination Expert - we went to her talks about each port; however, her pictures and some of her "helps" are many years old - she needs to revisit the ports and give current information.
*Room Service - very quick and the sandwiches excellent! We typically ordered morning coffee and such for sea days via the Princess Ap on our phones, (instead of putting the card out on the door), the night before - worked well!
*Princess at Sea Ap - we used this all the time. When we weren't together we messaged - would be nice if the message would alert you when coming in, but we just got used to looking at the message part of the ap if we weren't together.
*Internet - our daughter needed this for her online college classes - seemed to work well and faster than we've experience before. We bought the package prior to the cruise due to the extra free minutes offered.
*Cleanliness - we felt the Crown was kept very clean; however, there was a sewer smell on deck 7 all the time, thankfully it was only in that small area. No idea why.
*Photo Package - bought this for the first time prior to cruise - saved us a lot of money! AND we made sure to get some pictures when photographers were out and about, as well as formal nights.
*Ultimate Ship Tour - awesome behind the scenes tour of the Bridge, Engine Control Room, Galley & Food Production areas, Laundry Area, Area where the Anchor is in the front; Photo Lab/Print Shop; Backstage Production Show Area; Medical Center. Sign up right away at Passenger Services as space is limited - highly recommend!
*Movies Under the Stars - we LOVE that Princess has this!
*Disembarkation - Southampton - this needs to be worked on due to the luggage being set up on one end of the building, but the people were brought in on the opposite end so they had to get through the lines of people who already had their luggage and were trying to maneuver it to get out of the building!
PORTS - I booked non-Princess tours - cheaper, with less people on the tour were my goal. I researched and researched and we were thrilled with all of my "finds!"
*Zeebrugge - Bruges - we took the Princess Bus for transportation only into Bruges, where we walked to the old town square, enjoyed a cup of coffee and then joined a free 2 hour walking tour, which was very well done!
*Copenhagen - walked to the Little Mermaid statue to meet up with our Red Badge Walking Tour guide, Jeannie, who was fabulous! Highly recommend booking Red Badge Walking Tours/Jeannie - we had no issues and absolutely loved every minute!
*Stockholm - I booked Stockholm Guide & Cruise Services, Marco Giertz, for a private tour of this wonderful city, and he was amazing!! Highly recommend Marco!!
*Tallinn - easy walk into the square of Tallinn, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and joined a free 2.5 hour walking tour, which was also very well done by Heli, the guide, who has personal history in her family of when the Nazi's and Russian's occupied her town/country. She was amazing.
*St. Petersburg - we used SPB Tours for each day as they handled the VISA required, and we wanted to tour with a small group - we had 13 in our group. The first morning took longer to get off the ship and through Russian Immigration than the second morning, which SPB had told us was happening via an email just prior to our cruise. Highly recommend SPB! We saw so much, which was awesome; however, the crowds in the Hermitage were beyond belief! I think I'd give up the Hermitage for more time elsewhere, and we were there on a weekend with only 2 smaller ships in port with our larger ship, so not even close to the "normal" crowds we were told. Lunch each day was wonderful and in a "local" restaurant. Great weather while we were there, too! Also, the first night in St. Petersburg, Princess does bring on a local troupe of musicians, dancers and singers for the entertainment show in the Princess Theatre! We loved it!
*Helsinki - we used SPB Tours here, too, for a short 3.5 hour bus tour that stopped at the Rock Church, Senate Square, and the Market. The Rock Church was what we wanted to see, and with SPB got right in - no line to stand in; the Senate Square was also a nice stop and we climbed the stairs to see Helsinki Cathedral. The Market was also a fun place with locally made items and lots of food! Little shops were also lined up at the port so we actually shopped more before getting back on the ship!
*Gdansk - we took the Princess Bus for transportation only into Gdansk, where we beat the crowds to the Long Market! Enjoyed that area for a few hours and then boarded the bus again for a quick photo stop at the Solidarity Monument, then back to the ship. There are also free walking tours here but instead of 2 hours they are 3 or so hours and we didn't want to tie up our limited time here. ATM's - KANTOR in Gdansk - were very visible and plentiful on Long Market - vendors required the local money, most didn't take cc's.
The ship went under the suspension bridge - Great Belt East Bridge - during one of our last sea days - we enjoyed being up on an open deck during this time.
*Southampton - after disembarkation, the local guide I hired was waiting for us as we exited the building with our luggage. I "found" Chris, owner of Southampton Stonehenge Tours, online while doing my research, and he's a "find" of the best caliber! He took us to Salisbury Cathedral, where one of the four remaining Magna Carta's is kept, then on to Marlborough-West Kennett, and then to Avebury Henge and Stone Circles, before taking us to our hotel by Heathrow. A wonderful day of thousands of years old history! Highly recommend Chris!
We love cruising with Princess Cruise Lines and have another cruise booked for 2018! Read Less