Crown Princess Cruise Review by suskies
- Sail Date: August 2006
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Balcony
Travel to port of embarkation -- We always like to arrive at the port city a day ahead of time, both to ease stress and give us an extra day of vacation. We drove to Manhattan the day before and treated ourselves to an Italian dinner and a Broadway show. We then drove to Red Hook the next morning, checking out at 10 a.m. Despite directions from both Cunard and Mapquest websites, we got lost (signage was very poor) but eventually got to the port by 11 a.m. There was plenty of parkingin fact, when we sailed, the lot was only half full. Check-in was smooth as silk, and then we waited comfortably in the terminal until boarding began shortly after noon. Our rooms were immediately available.
Hotel info -- We stayed the night before at the Hampton Inn Manhattan Times Square North. It was very clean and comfortable, a short walk to restaurants and Broadway theaters, and offered a very nice complementary breakfast in the morning.
Stateroom -- We stayed in Baja 246, a standard balcony room, and our children were right across the hall in Baja 248, a standard inside room. The Baja deck was a good locationmidway between decks 7 and 15, where most of the action is, so we were able to walk rather than take elevators. Our rooms were immaculate. In addition to beds, our rooms were furnished with two night tables with sizable storage space, a desk with some more storage space, a small cabinet that held a small refrigerator, a desk chair, a chair with arms, and a small round table. The staterooms were small (and the bathrooms miniscule) and the chairs and space not really conducive to relaxing. We had a long closet rod with plenty of hangers but just a few small shelves, so we hung as many clothes as possibleincluding T-shirtson hangers. Our balcony comfortably accommodated two chairs and a large round table, all in wire meshperfect for a relaxing room service breakfast.
Ship info -- The Crown Princess is the most beautiful ship weve been on in seven cruises. Take a special note of the flooringthe carpets and tiles in the public areas are simply magnificent! Many of the public areas are finished in warm, light wood tones that add a real note of refined elegance.
The Crown was more than twice as big as any ship wed ever cruised before, but it has so many public areas that it never felt crowded (except in the pool areas, which we avoided). We all agreed, however, that we like smaller ships better. We found it hard to remember where everything is located, and its quite a hike to get anywhere. I wore a pedometer on one day at sea, and I walked over seven miles! Just getting from our room at the forward end to the Caribe Cafe for an early morning cup of coffee was a quarter mile walk (taking the stairs rather than the elevator). For such a large ship, however, we were disappointed by the lack of quiet indoor spaces, shaded outdoor spaces, and a game room. We love to read and play board games on cruises, and we had a hard time finding comfortable spaces to do this. We were also disappointed that the outdoor promenade deck is so narrowit made brisk walking difficult.
The new piazza area at the bottom of the atrium is a wonderful innovation! Princess keeps it hopping with fun demonstrations, street performers, and elegant live music. The International Cafe is open 24 hours and has wonderful food not available anywhere else on the ship, including donuts and pastries in the morning, and salads and sandwiches as lunchtime, and awesome fresh baked cookies most of the day. The Vines wine bar is also a nice innovation. Twice we treated ourselves to a pre-dinner flight of three wine samples, which was great fun. One disappointment here: the only complementary beverage available in the piazza area to go with all these great treats is watera cup of regular coffee costs $1. Dining -- A split decision here: I love to try all kinds of food, and I thought the food everywhere was great. I dont expect top-flight gourmet food from kitchens cranking out meals for over 3,000 people, and the food exceeded my expectationseverything I tried tasted delicious. I mostly had fish for dinner, and it was always perfectly prepared
The rest of my family, however, prefers simple meat-and-potatoes type cooking and was frustrated by the lack of items to their liking, even in the Horizon Court/Caribe Cafe. The only chicken entree offered the entire week, for example, was plain roast chicken; the side dishes never included things like peas or plain mashed potatoes; and the soups never included basic comfort foods like ordinary chicken noodle or vegetable beef. Yes, there were always hamburgers and pizza available for lunch and always steak and plain roast chicken for dinner, but these got boring after a few days. And the steaks were our only dining disappointment: my husband and son like them medium-well, which the kitchen seems incapable of preparing. Every steak they ordered arrived well done if not leathery. They tried ordering medium but those arrived medium rare.
We all agreed, however, that the desserts were awesomethe best weve ever had on a cruise -- beautiful and delicious!
Activities -- We played Scattergories, went to the cooking show, saw the Price is Almost Right, and played in a couple of music trivia games (my husband won the '50s music trivia contest!). All were great funthe staff did a great job getting us all to laugh even when we scored a zero in Scattergoriesand we wish Princess had even more of these kinds of activities. We also went to a couple of the Scholarship@Sea lectures on old movies that were okay. While Movies Under the Sun/Stars is a great innovation and lots of fun, because kids are always around its pretty much limited to light family entertainment. My son saw "Capote" and "Good Night and Good Luck" in the Explorers Lounge, and we wish that more of these kinds of dramas were shown indoors during the day.
Service -- The entire staff always greeted us cheerfully, and service was almost always prompt, courteous, and efficient. Some staff volunteered helpful information, such as explaining how Anytime Dining works. My major complaint with service is that Princess hides too many of its treasures under the proverbial bushel basket. The International Cafe and Horizon Court/Caribe Cafe have no menus posted, for example, and I couldnt get a floor plan of the ships decks, which would have been a great help navigating such a large ship. But the best/worst example of this is the free ice cream offered in the Horizon Court from 3:30-4:30 each day. There is no announcement of it in the Patter, and to get to it you must walk past a sign that says, This side closeduse other side!!!
We were initially disappointed with the Anytime Dining staffwhile our waiters were professional, they were distant and seemed too busy to check if our food was too our liking. On our fourth night, however, we struck gold with Eugene and Valentin in the Michelangelo Dining Room, who were not only professional but warm and solicitous. We requested a table in their area every night for the rest of the cruise. Entertainment -- The entertainment on the Crown Princess was, overall, the best of any ship weve cruised! We ended up eating early just so we could see the shows in both the Princess Theater and the Explorers Lounge. We especially like what Princess calls variety entertainment: magicians, comedians, jugglers, and the like, and they were almost all great, especially comedians Rick Starr and Ross Bennett, juggler Randy Cabral, and pianist Glenn Smith. The best act by far, however, was hypnotist Steve Baynerwed never seen a hypnotist before and laughed until we cried! The one clunker was impressionist comedian Mark Verselli, who wasnt funny, didnt do good impressions, and had an amateurish delivery. Virtually no one laughed, and a lot of people walked out. The other entertainers were so good that we were wondering who hired this guy!
Shore excursions -- We took only one shore excursion: the Champagne Catamaran Sail & Snorkel from St. Thomas to St. John. It was absolute heavena beautiful boat ride and the best snorkeling weve seena coral reef teaming with all kinds of beautiful fish.
In San Juan, we simply got off the boat and walked around Old San Juan for a bit, enjoying the old architecture. At Grand Turk, we took a taxi into town and simply walked around for an hour. It was fascinatingmaybe one of the last chances to see a Caribbean island before it gets covered with glitzy hotels. The taxi drivers looked on themselves as tour guides and gave us a fascinating drive and narration of the islands culture and politics.
Bermuda was our favorite stop, however. We took a ferry over to Hamilton, walked around, ogled the businessmen in their Bermuda shorts and had lunch, then took a bus back that drove by all the beautiful beaches along the south coast. What an incredibly lovely island! We cant wait to go back there.
Disembarkation -- We were told that disembarkation would begin around 7:45 and that the staff aimed to have everyone ashore by 9:30, so we got the kids up at 6:30, ate breakfast at 7:30&.and waited. And waited. And waited. Disembarkation didnt begin until 8:30, and our color (about midway through the list) wasnt called until 10:30. We were asked to vacate our rooms after breakfast and wait in the public areas on the Promenade deck, which meant that 3,000 people were all crammed onto one floor. It was a miserable experiencepeople sitting on stairs, teens sleeping on the floor in the hallways, lots of luggage from people using the express walk-off option, bathrooms crowded and dirty. It felt like steerage on the Titanic! And to rub salt in the wound, the International Café was baking fresh cookies for the next cruise and wouldnt give us any!!! It was a shame to end such a great cruise on a sour note.
Summary -- While not perfect--no vacation is!--this was a wonderful vacation and a fun cruise for us. Any shortcomings were minor and didnt keep us from having a great time. We would definitely consider another Princess cruise, especially if they add an all-Bermuda itinerary!
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