Crown Princess Cruise Review by HD-Bowie
- Sail Date: August 2006
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony
Have spent the last week recovering from a couple of injuries I sustained while climbing the water falls at Dunns River. Hope some of the information in this review will be helpful to those cruising on the Crown Princess in the near future. I apologize for the length but I have to admit, I took a lot of notes during the cruise
Embarkation and Disembarkation We arrive at Red Hook at about 11:00 a.m. after flying in from DC. We checked in with no wait, and went to the common waiting area where we met my BIL and SIL. I believe we started boarding around 12:30 and we able to go right to the cabin went to the Horizon Buffet for lunch and upon our return, our luggage was at the cabin and we unpacked. We selected Express Disembarkation (where you leave with your own luggage) and we stayed in our cabin on the balcony until 8:30 when our number was called. We were off the ship and through Customs (with no wait) by 9:00. We took a limo to LaGuardia and arrived there by 9:45.
Cabin we were in a mini suite with balcony - D209 next to my BIL and SIL we requested the door between the balconies was opened, and this was a nice way to visit with one another. A couple of mornings we ordered room service on the balcony it was delightful. Although the balcony was uncovered, we never had a problem with flying objects from above and even met some nice people on the balconies above us. Our room steward, Krys, was efficient and our cabin was serviced regularly throughout the day. He was very responsive if we needed anything.
As for the cabin entering the cabin, there was a walk-in closet with enough closet space and plenty of hangers to hang our clothes with room to spare, a shelf unit (where the safe was) with plenty of shelf space for clothing. The bathroom had a tub, which had more room than a cabin with a shower the bathroom was compact, but a nice size. Adjacent to that was the bedroom king size bed with two end tables with two drawers each, a mini refrigerator, TV and desk area the hair dryer was housed above the desk (there was room under the beds to store suitcases). A seating area was past the bedroom, with a full sized couch (pull out sofa), table and chair and another flat screen TV (note-one remote for both TVs and occasionally when changing channels, the remote would turn on the other TV). We did notice that you could not check your shipboard account via the TV something I missed from previous cruises. Next to the seating area was the balcony two lounge chairs, two regular chairs, a bistro table and smaller table. I have to say the couch came in handy as I sustained a back injury and it was nice to lie on the couch and take the pressure off my back for a little while. The mattress on the bed was the nicest I've had on a cruise, and the linens were definitely more top of the line both sheets and towels. We asked for extra pillows and our request was filled without delay.
Dining Options we tried for several months to select Traditional as we have enjoyed that on our past five cruises however, we were unsuccessful getting off the wait list. As a result, we went to the Maitre'D immediately after boarding the ship and requested at dinner time of 8:15 p.m., same restaurant, same table, same waiter. We were assigned to the DaVinci Restaurant and our request was met. We enjoyed the fact that we could enter the restaurant in the With Reservation line and not have to wait while those in the Without a Reservation line were sometimes given a pager and told to return when they were notified a table was ready for them. We had the same wait staff every night, and although there were problems at times with some food orders, Alex and Sergio were very pleasant and we enjoyed our dinner time with them. As far as the food selection in the dining room I have to say that I was a little disappointed several nights there was but one entrEe that appealed to me (and I'm not a picky eater). The food I ate was quite good, but I was disappointed in the selection. The lobster was well prepared, the beef dishes I had were delicious, there was a fiery shrimp offering that was excellent. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants. The seafood buffet offered at the sail-a-way was unbelievable king crag legs and lobster claws already cracked and waiting for to be eaten. Later in the week, a seafood buffet was offered in Cafe Caribe and we went there for an appetizer serving of crab legs, shrimp and lobster claws before our regular 8:15 dinner. I have to mention, when I ordered hot soups in Davinci the temperature of the soup was very hot (a wonderful treat), not lukewarm as is the case in some restaurants. I ordered chilled fruit soups on a number of occasions, and they were also very good. Although I found something every night, the desserts were nothing to write home about although I did enjoy the Love Boat chocolate dessert once (very rich) and there was a nice meringue custard dessert that was very light following a heavy beef meal. Others in our group enjoyed the souffles on a number of occasions.
Horizon Buffet nice selection of food, but the food display was very disorganized, the traffic flow was not well thought out and caused many bottlenecks. At breakfast, you could request specially prepared omelets, although that wasn't a well known fact. There were no trays the plates were larger than normal, however, it did seem like you'd have to get your food, find a table, and then go to find a beverage. There was a coffee cart that was utilized throughout the eating area for refills, which was a nice touch, however, the coffee served on the majority of the ship is made from a syrup, and many people complained about the coffee. There was a place to find good coffee, listed under the International Cafe section. Sometimes there were no tables available in the Horizon Buffet area and we would wander to the Cafe Caribe or outside on deck we could always find a place to sit. We did try the dining room for one breakfast the selections were good and the blueberry pancakes were awesome.
International Cafe located on Deck 5 in the Piazza - specialty coffees, premium coffee, coffee drinks, hot chocolate, and teas were available for an additional charge this is where the coffee card came in handy. $27.60 for 15 specialty coffees and unlimited brewed coffee please note there is a brewed coffee (not made from syrup) which you could get at the International Cafe for free anytime. There was also a premium Blue Mountain coffee available there for an additional charge. Once our party discovered the Blue Mountain coffee, two coffee cards were purchased. The coffee drinkers in our group all indicated the taste of the Blue Mountain coffee was far superior to anything they had on the ship (restaurants) and better than the free brewed coffee at the International Cafe. Not being a coffee drinker, I tried the hot chocolate once, but wasn't impressed and used my own packets I brought from home. There were free food offerings at the International Cafe as well pastries in the morning, sandwiches and salads in the afternoon, various items in the evening there were also specialty food offerings that were available for an additional charge. Our group used to go to the Cafe to get a to go cup of Blue Mountain coffee before heading off for breakfast. Remember to sample the chocolate chip cookies made several times a day and if you are lucky, you might get warm ones if you hit the cafe at the right time they really are worth the calories.
While at the cafe, throughout the day, various musical performances and demonstrations were offered in Piazza area. The classical quartet was fabulous as were the other performers it was a nice place to read a book, listen to the music and enjoy a beverage.
Entertainment the three production shows were the best I've seen of any cruises I've been on. The singers and dancers were excellent the lead singers had commanding voices and the dancers were very talented - as a mother of a former dancer, these performers were well trained and we were treated to some phenomenal dance combinations.
There was a comedian, Sarge, who we saw on two occasions he was a riot at both shows. I don't think I stopped laughing during his entire time on stage. I really appreciated that his act wasn't full of curse words I've occasionally have left shows on other lines when the comic was using too much blue material. Looking forward to Sarge's national tour beginning in January 07.
We saw a very talented ventriloquist (Kenny Bryd) and juggler (Randy Cabral) both were entertaining, although they both could use a little work on their material the ventriloquist was amazing as I never saw his mouth move as his manipulated his various characters. Singer Paul Emmanual had a wonderful voice and I wish I had seen his earlier show.
Activities there seemed to be a good mix of activities for all age groups. I attended several of the bridge lectures by Janis and David Waxman (being a novice, I picked up a lot of good information during these lectures). I was disappointed that so many of the Scholarship@Sea offerings included an additional fee I would have loved to have taken some computer course, but wasn't willing to pay the $25 for something I can get at work for free. I understand the need for additional fees for pottery pieces with the Ceramics@Sea classes, and that seemed like a popular class. I was disappointed by the port lectures (historical-Dr. Annette Logan, not shopping) and left during the first one, never to return. On previous cruises on other lines, I've been very impressed with the subject matter and lecturer, but this one felt like a personal travelogue by the presenter.
We did watch a couple of movies which were previously released that I had wanted to see but didn't get to the theater (Inside Man is excellent). MUTS is a great idea, however, the nights when movies I wanted to see were shown, there were other activities going on that I wanted to do, so I didn't utilize MUTS. Please note, during the day, you have a rent an earpiece for $2.50 (for the whole cruise) in order to hear the movies (though also presented in closed caption) this is a good concept so as not to bother those passengers on the various decks and pool areas. At night, the audio was played for the movie offerings and the earpiece wasn't necessary they even provide fresh popcorn while you're in your lounge chair watching the movie.
Casino my husband and BIL spent a lot of time in the casino playing black jack and Texas Hold Em as a matter of fact, my husband came in 2nd in the first black jack tournament! That will get you a hat, beer cozy and can of beer, and a T-shirt (he would have preferred to win the $500 jackpot). Both of them commented that the casino was the largest they have seen on a cruise ship and they both enjoyed that there were two tables available for Texas Hold Em.
Ports of Call Grand Turk we booked a Princess excursion, Bike, Hike and Swim although there was very little hiking on this tour the guide was very informative with information about Grand Turk and although the tour indicated that you should be in good physical shape to participate (unfortunately I'm not), however, I was able to keep up with the rest of the group - the biking was on fairly level roadways I'm not sure how much territory we covered and we had a brief time for swimming the water was crystal clear and you could see fish in the water nice water temperature and refreshing after biking. I would recommend the tour. We went to a pool/beach area across from where the ship was docked. This was a huge pool, with swim up bar (although people complained about the price of the drinks). There is a shopping area near the pool for those who don't want to go swimming.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica we hired a private company, Barrett Adventures, for our stay in Jamaica we made our own itinerary Dunns River Falls, water tubing, an excursion to an authentic Jamaican restaurant, Wassi Pottery Factory and a brief visit to Taj Mahal shopping area to buy Blue Mountain coffee. We were off to the falls and arrived well before the busloads of cruise passengers arrived so it wasn't as crowded as in pictures I've seen. While climbing the falls, I fell on several occasions and sprained my ankle, got lots of bumps, scraps, and bruises, and fell and hurt my tail bone (not one else in our group sustained any injuries). Despite the injuries, I loved climbing the falls and would consider doing it again. Our tour guide, Carolyn Barrett (owner of the company), climbed the falls with us and took a lot of digital pictures of our group. We then went tubing in a nearby waterway the water was cool (which was good for my ankle) with several small rapids. Note - we were told the rafting trip would last 45 minutes, but it was closer to 25 minutes but it was enjoyable just the same. She then took us to find authentic Jamaican jerk chicken about 30 minutes drive at which time the rains began. I'm really glad we did the water activities early. The food was delicious two orders of jerk chicken, festival (sweetened bread) and bammy (made from the casaba plant) all for $7.00 cokes were $1.00 each. The food was very good and interesting.
During our drive to the Wassi Pottery factory, our guide provided a wonderful travelogue lots of historical information and general information. We arrived at the pottery factory shortly after it had closed Carolyn asked if they could open the shop up and the owner willingly agreed. The pottery is beautiful and we purchased some vases and plates. The pottery is very unique and if you arrive earlier in the day, you can see various pieces in production. Apparently the shop isn't normally opened on Sunday, but will open if a cruise ship is in port. We ended up at the Taj Mahal shopping center where our guide bargained in two shops to get better pricing on the Blue Mountain coffee one shop refused to come down in price, and the other was very accommodating our group bought 7 pounds of coffee as a result. We were back to the ship with plenty of time to spare. Check out her website www.barrettadventures.com a really accommodating tour guide.
Grand Cayman we were at Grand Cayman on an earlier cruise in April so we just took a taxi to 7 Mile Beach and stayed for a couple of hours before the weather turned threatening. The water is very clear, but there were more large rocks in the ocean than we experienced in April, and it too awhile to find a sandy spot to stand on there was no undertow that day and I stayed in the water pretty much the entire time in the same spot. Back to Georgetown for some shopping, but did little of that as the weather became more and more threatening so we went back to the ship. As an aside, in April, we swam with the stingrays and really enjoyed that excursion. It's worth the price of the trip.
Port Canaveral did not leave the ship have been to the space flight center before and would recommend the trip for those who haven't been. Tonight was a formal night, and we were invited to attend the Captain's Circle Party before dinner as we have traveled on Princess before. It amazed me there were 3 cruisers who were recognized for the number of cruises they have taken 47, 31 and 24! Tonight was the champagne waterfall this started at 11:30 p.m. and at 12:30 a.m. I gave up and went back to the cabin but we enjoyed the dancing antics of our waiter, Alex, who is a real dancing machine.
Galley Tour some cruise lines have eliminated this tour, and I'm glad to see that Princess still permits it. It amazes me to see the size of the galley (one of many on the ship) and to see the amount of food that it takes to feed an army of 3100 passengers. The Executive Chef and Maitre'D provided an cooking demonstration before the tour, and they both were quite comical. Although there was no food production taking place during the tour, it was still interesting to see the various stations (and I have to admit, I'm glad there wasn't any food preparation taking place for food safety and sanitary reasons).
Only one incident on board ship worthy of note a false man overboard report. I'm not going to comment on who called the report in, but I must say the crew handled the event with utmost professionalism and the captain made sure to communicate with passengers on a regular basis. From start to finish, it probably lasted 2 hours yes, we were at dinner when we were asked to return to our cabins, and we returned to our table once we were given the all clear. There were a couple of issues I noticed during this time which could be addressed by a root cause analysis from a risk management viewpoint, but we really appreciated the on-going communication from the captain and cruise director throughout the event.
I know this post is long, but I tried to address some questions I've seen on Cruise Critic over the past several months. The ship is large, beautiful, and during our time on board, the seas were smooth with very little waves. IMHO, I still rate the food on Celebrity better than on Princess (presentation and taste). I think I will select Traditional seating whenever I book my next cruise. This is a large ship, and with 3100 passengers, we were able to find areas that we not too crowded there's enough activity if you are on the go all the time, and yet many areas to find solace if you so choose. There were areas of the ship I never did find (but my exploring was not up to my usual as I was contending with some injuries which slowed me down a little). I loved the mini suite with balcony, and would definitely choose that again. As most places we go, there are some people who think they are the only ones on the ship, and forget that other people are standing in line waiting for something and they'd march to the front and expect to get service. For the most part, fellow passengers were friendly and considerate of each other. We all have our own opinions and experiences, which is evident on this message board. Please accept my dissertation for what it is my own thoughts on our 9 days at sea.
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