Please enter your review.Perspective: My husband and I have cruised twice, both times on Princess. The primary attraction for us is the chance to see several places efficiently. (And, on this trip, it seemed an ideal way to travel with an older parent.) We're not particularly cruising enthusiasts, so this review will probably be most helpful to similar cruisers.
Embarkation: We arrived shortly before 1 p.m. and encountered a bit of a line outside the cruise terminal. The waiting area was shaded, though, and the line moved fairly quickly. Two of our bags had been delivered by the time we got to our cabin, and the third arrived while we were at the buffet getting lunch. Five stars.
The ship: It seemed in fine shape, about what you'd expect for a vessel that's got an army of people trooping through. Other than the carpet, the wear and tear wasn't noticeable. Certain places were crowded at certain times (Princess theater around showtimes, buffet) but mostly things seemed manageable. It seemed like it was possible to find a quiet, deserted place onboard most of the time. The Terrace Pool, for instance, was pretty empty except right around sail-away each day. Skywalkers was generally abandoned during the day, too. Four stars. Breakfast: We split our days between the dining room and the buffet for breakfast. Both were adequate, nothing special. Two stars.
Lunch: We hit the buffet most days for lunch but opted for pizza or burgers a couple days. The salad bar and the cookies were the best parts of the buffet. The pizza is surprisingly good. Three stars.
Sabatini's: We ate one dinner at the up-charge Italian restaurant. My husband and I tried it on our first cruise, on the Golden Princess. It's been moved to a better location on the Crown, with a lovely view out the back of the boat. The appetizers are served family style, and all you choose are your soup, entree and dessert. If anyone in your party is averse to seafood or is otherwise an unadventurous eater, you may not get your money's worth. Check the menu ahead of time to be sure. Four stars if you've got the palate for it; one star if you're a steak-chicken person.
Crown Grill: The up-charge steak restaurant was well worth the investment, everyone in our party agreed. One quibble: don't waste your time on the s'mores dessert. It's really just a milk chocolate cake with marshmallow crème filling. Four and a half stars.
Dinner: We had anytime dining and split our time evenly between the two dining rooms. We ate as early as 5:30 and as late as 8:30 and never encountered a wait of any significance. (We were always willing to share a table.) My husband thought the food was much better than we experienced on the Golden Princess in fall 2006. I thought some things were better, but by the end of the cruise felt like I was starting to see recycling in action. I order a pasta dish one night with a lobster sauce, and the lobster was very tough. Perhaps left over from surf and turf night? Another night I ordered gnocchi that was listed as being in a portabella mushroom and asparagus cream sauce. The dish held four slices of plain old button mushrooms, not a portabella in sight. And the sauce was a tomato cream - not a hint of asparagus anywhere. We were impressed with the fish each time we ordered it, so perhaps that's the way to go. Three and a half stars. Entertainment: Well, what can I say? We're in our 40s and perhaps not the target audience. We thought most of the entertainment was pretty awful. The one exception was the pianist in the Crooners bar - Larry Dunsmore. We ended up there most nights. He was gracious about doing requests, even when someone came in and demanded "My Way" five minutes after he'd already sung it. We talked to several different groups that thought the Russian show on the boat was so bad that they walked out after 10 minutes. Five stars for Dunsmore, one star for everything else.
Spa and gym: I never had trouble finding an empty treadmill, even on sea days. I'd recommend getting as far as possible from the area where the do classes and the personal trainer workouts, though. They turned up the sound on the music impossibly loud. I had a Swedish massage one day, which was very good. The spa does have a shower and locker area, but you'll have to find them on your own. No one at spa reception shows you there, or even tells you that they exist, which struck me as strange. I also had a great pedicure. Three and a half stars.
Excursions: These were a mixed bag. Helsinki City Highlights was probably our favorite. EZ St. Petersburg and Stockholm weren't particularly good. They hustle you through the Hermitage pretty fast on that tour, but if you're willing to wander away from your guide just a little, you can see more of the collection. We were pleasantly surprised by the Russian Folkloric show - the Army choir was impressive. People should pay special attention to the information about the amount of walking and steps involved in the tours and choose accordingly. Three and a half stars.
Internet Café: By far one of the biggest ripoffs ever conceived by cruise lines. The connections are horribly slow, and there's nothing quite so frustrating as waiting for a page to load when you're being charged by the minute. Unfortunately, sometimes jobs and real life force you stay in touch with the real world, even on vacation. One star.
Service: We had some really terrific service, particularly from our cabin steward and one of the bar stewards in Crooners. Particularly toward the end of the cruise, though, the service in some areas became snippy. We saw lots of mixed-up orders in the dining room and much slamming of plates and cutlery. At dinner on night 7, a server slammed a door so hard on one of the serving cupboards that everyone at our table jumped and looked around to see what had happened. Four and a half stars for the first half of the cruise, three and a half for subsequent days.
Now, I will say that the staff may have been a bit worn out by the passengers by the end of the cruise. Which brings us to…
Fellow passengers: My goodness. For folks who are mostly retired and at leisure, with the financial resources to travel and good enough health to do so… an awful lot of passengers were very, very cranky! Remember that everyone's cruise is more enjoyable if we're all on our company manners. It's unfortunate, of course, when you feel that the service you're getting is not what you signed up for. But try to handle your complaints productively and through proper channels. Listening to you kvetch is not what your fellow passengers signed up for!