We took the Crown Princess Dec 28-Jan 4th out of Fort Lauderdale to Princess Cays, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk.
We flew in the night before and used hotel points to stay at the Hollywood Beach Marriott in Hollywood, FL. We were pleasantly surprised with our room, very cozy and luxe. We hung out at the beach a bit the next day. The sand and water were pretty, but I could not enjoy walking along the beach because there were tons of jellyfish. It made me nervous so we left and grabbed some lunch along the boardwalk before heading to the pier.
Embarkation was pretty easy. We went straight to our balcony cabin on the Baja deck- B708. The room was nice, looked pretty much like the pictures online. I liked the layout with the bathroom and closet off to one side. There was plenty of room for all our stuff. The bed was very comfortable! The only complaint I have about the cabin is that I did not like the shower curtain- on the NCL Pearl, we had a real door on the shower stall. Water splashed all over the floor every day, which was annoying. Also- bring your own shampoo and conditioner- the ones they give you are terrible and don't lather whatsoever!
We read our Princess Patter and I saw there was going to be a poker tournament that night so we went to Gatsby's Casino to sign up. I love to play poker and that was one reason I chose this particular ship- I'd read about the PokerPro tables and was ready to play!
I thought the food on the Crown Princess was very good to excellent. One of the things I disliked most about NCL Pearl was the poor quality of food and the terrible service. Those were definitely not issues aboard the Crown Princess! We ate at the buffet a few times and found it to be pretty decent. I liked fried egg and black beans for breakfast. They had a Creole night at dinner which was excellent very flavorful and fresh tasting! I especially appreciated that there was a late night buffet available every day. I'd leave the casino around midnight and be a bit hungry so we'd head up there to eat pizza or make sandwiches, etc. As far as the dining rooms, we did Anytime Dining and found it works best if you call ahead in the morning to make a reservation or you will end up waiting in long lines. Service was excellent and the food was pretty terrific. One recommendation I can give you is the fettucine alfredo. This is on their "available everyday" dinner menu, but don't think of it as a back-up! It is the best fettucine alfredo I've ever had, very fresh and fluffy and light! I ordered it twice because it was so good. The soups and entrees were all very good. Desserts sometimes were a little strange- like they were trying too hard to be artsy. Some simpler desserts would have been better. But overall, dining and service were excellent, a far cry from our sad experience on NCL Pearl. Also make sure you try the pizza station by the pool. I had read alot on these reviews about how good that pizza is and I was a bit skeptical but it really is as good as everyone says it is!!
Passengers on this cruise were mostly couple in their 40s+, but there were a decent amount of families with high schoolers or college kids on winter break. One thing we noticed was the utter lack of diversity on the ship. On NCL, there were people from all backgrounds. Here, there were probably ten minority passengers on the whole ship! It was very weird.
We didn't really partake of any shipboard activities this time, since we came mainly to relax and read. My husband went to MUTS one night when they were showing Dark Knight. We used the fitness center a few times. It is crowded at all times, so you may have to wait for a machine. Also- it did not seem very well-ventilated, it got very hot in there with so many bodies! It was hard to find loungers on the pool/sun decks in the middle of the day. We had to wander around a bit and wait for people to leave. It was also a bit tough finding quiet- they have caribbean music playing all the time, it seems. It's nice and feel-good, but after awhile all that steel drum band stuff wears on your nerves.
We spent a lot of time in the casino every day. It was always hopping. I played poker pretty much every night. They had a $20 tournament the first night, a $100 tournament later in the cruise, and a $1-2 No-Limit cash game all other times. It was fun. Katherine, the casino hostess, is very nice and attentive to players.
On New Year's Eve, there were several places you could choose to be at midnight. We chose the pool deck to watch the countdown on the big screen, toasting with champagne and having streamers tossed everywhere. It was nice. Afterwards we went to Skywalkers Nightclub. That club was strange some days it was all college kids, others it was all older couples and you could never tell what it would be until you got there. It's a nice place though, very comfy seating.
PORTS- Princess Cays- crowded but pretty. Calm waters. We rented a clamshell, which I do not recommend. It does not allow breeze and heats up like an oven very quickly- I found I could not breathe well inside it! They provide a buffet lunch on the island that had decent offerings. Wake up early and get down to the beach quickly so you can a better spot. We were sitting a bit far back and only had a view of the back of other clamshells, which was kind of too bad.
St. Maarten- We got off the ship early this time and took a cab straight to Orient Beach. Sat in the Bikini Beach section since we saw a good available spot with an umbrella. There's a fair amount of seaweed on Orient Beach but it is still very lovely. We got food from the restaurant at Bikini Beach and the bathroom was surprisingly clean there as well. We stayed for hours and loved every minute of it. Had no trouble getting a taxi back to the pier later on.
St. Thomas- We were there on New Year's Day- woke up late from staying up late the night before. We didn't have long in St. Thomas so we didn't make it to the beach. Wandered around Havensight Mall for a bit, took a cab downtown. I hated Charlotte Amalie with its insane amount of jewelry stores. It was completely overwhelming. And there were not many choices for food. All in all, St. Thomas was my least favorite port but next time I would try the beach and I'm sure I'd have liked that better.
Grand Turk- INCREDIBLY CROWDED. It was only us on the Crown and a Costa ship that day but that beach and Margaritaville could not accommodate that many people. We got off the ship, tried to find a spot to sit, gave up and went back to the ship for a few more hours to read by the pool, waiting for some Costa people to leave. We went back later and managed to find chairs this time, but the sun was starting to go down. We walked down the beach for awhile. It's quite pebbly and hurts your feet a bit. But the water is some of the clearest, most beautiful Caribbean water you can imagine. The next day, I discovered that I had been eaten alive by the mosquitoes there so bring spray!
Overall, I thought the Crown Princess was a very nice vacation and I would recommend it to others. I enjoyed the room, the food, and the casino. I would take the Crown Princess again if it did a Southern Caribbean route since I'd like to get down to Barbados, St. Kitts, etc. The Eastern Caribbean islands all kind of feel the same to me. I would, however, like to try Royal Caribbean for my next cruise since I've never sailed with them before and every single person we have talked to says that they prefer RCI above all others!