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I am overcome by jet-lag, and am drinking a pina colada made with blackstrap rum, but I shall do my best to convey how fabulous our trip on the Crown Princess truly was. An idea, first, of our group. My sister (who is an experienced cruiser, and who had handled much of the arranging of this huge undertaking) and her friend from work, my aunt and uncle (in their late 60's or so, and who are quite experienced cruisers though this was their first time on Princess), my brother and sister-in-law (with their two sons ages 3 1/2 and 5, none of whom had ever cruised before), my mom and step-dad (who had never cruised before), and my boyfriend and I (who were also cruise noobs). Also, please note that I tend to be a raging misanthrope, and the idea of being trapped at sea with 3200 other people was striking a touch of terror into my blackened little heart. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on March 1st, most of us, and since it was rather late at night, went directly (via complimentary shuttle) to the Hyatt Place North. This completely non-smoking property had incredibly comfortable beds, huge TVs, free wi-fi, and a lovely free breakfast in the morning. They also had a complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades, and got the 10 of us there in plenty of time to meet up with the last two of our party before embarkation. Once meeting up and giving our bags over to the porters, we hopped into the line. We joined the line at 12:01pm and were in our rooms by 12:30, even allowing for time to have our embarkation photo taken. It would have been even faster if there hadn't been quite such a large group of us (and Mom in a wheelchair for this bit due to a serious car accident a little over a year ago). Quite organized and quick embarkation, from what we could tell. We were all up on Baja deck with balcony rooms. Three of them were next to each-other, and they all opened up the partitions to have one giant balcony. The rooms had plenty of space, loads of storage, and the balconies were completely covered, which meant we didn't have to worry about any detritus falling from party-goers on upper decks. Some people complain about the showers being too small, but despite neither my BF nor I being skinny midgets, we had absolutely zero problems with either the size of the shower or being attacked by the shower curtain (even when showering with the bathroom door open). Half of us had the wonderful Rosa (from Mexico) as our Cabin Stewardess, and the other half had Edmundo (from the Philippines) as their Cabin Steward. I think we were all equally happy. Edmundo got the room with the little ones, and made them various towel animals during the cruise, including a monkey hanging from on of the hangers that had clips! Rosa was fabulous for us, and made sure that we wanted for nothing. We even left love notes with Post-Its on the mirror for her, and she responded in kind. She and Edmundo were always smiling and laughing, despite the incredibly long hours they work (on the last night, Rosa told us that she was done working at 10pm and back on at 5am the next morning!). We (my BF and I) found a certificate from my sister for a Balcony Champagne Breakfast waiting for us in our mailbox when we arrived to the room, which was an awesome surprise. We went in, oohed and aahed, did a little nesting, and then went down to the Piazza to get our Coffee Card, Soda Sticker, and a couple of raffle tickets. We then went up to Lotus Spa to take the tour of the spa and fitness center, and then it was back to the room to get a little snack from room service (so quick, even on Embarkation Day!) before Muster Drill (ours was in Princess Theater). Zipped through through that, and then headed to the aft open decks for sailaway. It's amazing to see how many residents of that area come out of their homes or on to their balconies to see us off. Some even had signs and banners up, and all were waving away like mad. Met a couple of people from here on deck as well, and then met up with most of the family in the Horizon Court for a nibble at the seafood buffet. When we got back to our cabin, our luggage had arrived and been brought in, so a bit more nesting was done. Because there were so many of us, with different ages, experiences, and goals for the vacation, we were able to experience a whole lot of different things. The only time we all sat down together for dinner was one night in the Crown Grill, and let me tell you, it was TOTALLY worth every single cent you pay ($25pp). They were accommodating with the young boys, bringing spaghetti for them (and bringing it early in the meal so that they wouldn't get totally bored) instead of making them choose something off of the rather adult normal menu. The service was impeccable, the food was astonishingly good, and the desserts...well, I'll just tell you that you should get the dessert sampler AND the three berry cobbler. You really don't want to miss a thing. (And if anyone can find a way to get me one of those adorable little crocks that the sampler size of Chocolate Obsession comes in, I'd be eternally grateful. I was quite restrained in not just sticking it in my purse.) My boyfriend and I were mostly nonplussed at our few Dining Room meals, as the service wasn't quite as nice as we would have liked (nor as nice as we saw other people getting). One evening, the hostess practically pelted our napkins into our laps. Guess she was having a bad day. Still, we liked the option of Anytime Dining, and none of the others had any complaints that we heard. Room service was always prompt and happy to fulfill any special requests we had. The buffets were great as well. I didn't find them to be chaotic, as some people here have said, and the food was really well done. The specialty nights in Cafe Caribe were great, especially the Bavarian Feast. We even tried something (by mistake, no less) that turned out to be a food revelation, and so I will tell you all: if you see the chocolate ginger cake being offered, TRY IT!!! International Cafe has friendly service, delicious coffee, and freshly-made donuts in the morning that are to die for. I was able to speak briefly with the Executive Sous Chef on board, and he had a lot of interesting things to say. He's been cruising for 14 years (8 with NCL, and now 6 with Princess), and he says that he actually likes Princess better. They give him the money he needs to get goof food, and when I asked him about the cutbacks and "Carnivalization" of the cuisine on Princess, he says, "Absolutely not. In fact, rather than cutting back, they're spending MORE." So there you have it, from a man who ought to know. Ultimate Balcony Dining: My BF and I did both the dinner and the breakfast. I'll start with dinner ($100/couple). If you hate being waited on hand and foot, if you hate LOADS of delicious food, if you hate incredibly competent service, free photos, and a gorgeous table set-up complete with flower arrangement and lantern for ambiance (since they don't do candles on the ship)...if you hate all of these things, DO NOT do Ultimate Balcony Dinner. Seriously. You'll be so mad when they show up right on scheduled time with cocktails and canapes. You'll be livid when you see how gorgeous your balcony looks, and when the photographer shows up to capture you in such a lovely setting. You will absolutely FROTH at the level of excellence in service, and the stunning taste of the food will make you so angry that you'll want to either fling it overboard or rub it in your hair. Especially the dessert (quinelles of mousseline, which are to die for). If you weren't rabid enough, wait until they bring cookies and maybe even fresh fruit for you to have with your champagne! We *did* have other things we wanted to do that evening, but after *three hours* of being pampered, we had to call in Fat. There was so much food that we even wound up bringing some of the fruit and most of the cookies down to the rest of the gang, who were out on their balcony playing cards. Breakfast is a bit more reserved. Your order is taken 24 hours in advance, the same with dinner. If there's anything on the set menu that doesn't agree with you (quiche lorraine, not so much for us), just mention it and they'll ask you how you'd like to substitute. They show up right on time with your breakfast, pastries, fruits, coffee, juice, and champagne, and then leave you to your own devices. Much less in-your-face than the dinner, but definitely appropriate. I couldn't handle that kind of service when I was barely awake. Sea Days: Lazy and wonderful. There were so many things to do, and yet we never felt like we absolutely had to do any of it. Pub Lunches in the Wheelhouse were delicious. The Mr. Sexy Legs contest by the pool was completely ridiculous and hilarious. We all found ways to enjoy ourselves. My uncle, who's been a professional musician for decades, brought his flute along, and got to sit in with the band in the Wheelhouse, and they liked him so much they invited him back for a second set! Princess Pop Star: A lovely experience. I qualified on the night of the first heat, and so many people came up to me during the cruise to wish me luck that really, I felt like I had already won (even though I didn't take first prize). They treated us like stars on the final night, keeping us in a VIP area, doing post-song interviews on the camera for all to see, and feeding us champagne. I definitely recommend it to anyone but the snotty. The snotty need not apply. It's too much fun for those who can't have a good time. Chef's Table: We were lucky enough to have Alfredo Marzi, Corporate Executive Chef for the whole cruise line, on board with us to conduct our Chef's Table. Apparently, he's only on the ship once a year, so it was a really nice thing for us. The food was exquisite, the wine was amazing, and again, the service was extraordinary. Once again, totally worth the extra money paid ($75/pp). They don't advertise this much on the ship, so I advise you to call and try to get on the list as soon as you board. The ship: She is gorgeous, and the crew keeps her absolutely spotless at all times. We didn't find the layout too awful challenging, even with my mother using two canes, as the elevators were never that long in coming and all seemed to be in working order. The recent drydock got her new carpets and tiles, as well, so everything was gleaming. We didn't attend the shows, so I can't speak to those. The Thermal Suite is really nice, but only buy the week-long pass if you're going to use it more than once! My brother used the fitness center every morning, and thought it was awesome. The Sanctuary was very peaceful, but also really deserted on the day my BF and I were there. Don't know about any of the other days. All in all, it was a wonderful experience for all of us. We got to see dolphins and flying fish as we were getting close to Grand Turk, and we spent a LOT of time on our balcony just marveling at the gorgeous views. I never ever felt too crowded, and felt more relaxed after being "trapped with 3200 people" than I usually do after spending time at home with minimal company. The Princess Pelicans program was great for the two young ones, and the people working there were very vigilant over their charges. We LOVE the Crown, both the experienced cruisers in our group and the cruising novices like myself. My boyfriend and I are already looking at what our next voyage will be!

Dreams come true on the Crown Princess!

Crown Princess Cruise Review by Theora

Trip Details
I am overcome by jet-lag, and am drinking a pina colada made with blackstrap rum, but I shall do my best to convey how fabulous our trip on the Crown Princess truly was.
An idea, first, of our group. My sister (who is an experienced cruiser, and who had handled much of the arranging of this huge undertaking) and her friend from work, my aunt and uncle (in their late 60's or so, and who are quite experienced cruisers though this was their first time on Princess), my brother and sister-in-law (with their two sons ages 3 1/2 and 5, none of whom had ever cruised before), my mom and step-dad (who had never cruised before), and my boyfriend and I (who were also cruise noobs). Also, please note that I tend to be a raging misanthrope, and the idea of being trapped at sea with 3200 other people was striking a touch of terror into my blackened little heart.
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on March 1st, most of us, and since it was rather late at night, went directly (via complimentary shuttle) to the Hyatt Place North. This completely non-smoking property had incredibly comfortable beds, huge TVs, free wi-fi, and a lovely free breakfast in the morning. They also had a complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades, and got the 10 of us there in plenty of time to meet up with the last two of our party before embarkation.
Once meeting up and giving our bags over to the porters, we hopped into the line. We joined the line at 12:01pm and were in our rooms by 12:30, even allowing for time to have our embarkation photo taken. It would have been even faster if there hadn't been quite such a large group of us (and Mom in a wheelchair for this bit due to a serious car accident a little over a year ago). Quite organized and quick embarkation, from what we could tell.
We were all up on Baja deck with balcony rooms. Three of them were next to each-other, and they all opened up the partitions to have one giant balcony. The rooms had plenty of space, loads of storage, and the balconies were completely covered, which meant we didn't have to worry about any detritus falling from party-goers on upper decks. Some people complain about the showers being too small, but despite neither my BF nor I being skinny midgets, we had absolutely zero problems with either the size of the shower or being attacked by the shower curtain (even when showering with the bathroom door open). Half of us had the wonderful Rosa (from Mexico) as our Cabin Stewardess, and the other half had Edmundo (from the Philippines) as their Cabin Steward. I think we were all equally happy. Edmundo got the room with the little ones, and made them various towel animals during the cruise, including a monkey hanging from on of the hangers that had clips! Rosa was fabulous for us, and made sure that we wanted for nothing. We even left love notes with Post-Its on the mirror for her, and she responded in kind. She and Edmundo were always smiling and laughing, despite the incredibly long hours they work (on the last night, Rosa told us that she was done working at 10pm and back on at 5am the next morning!).
We (my BF and I) found a certificate from my sister for a Balcony Champagne Breakfast waiting for us in our mailbox when we arrived to the room, which was an awesome surprise. We went in, oohed and aahed, did a little nesting, and then went down to the Piazza to get our Coffee Card, Soda Sticker, and a couple of raffle tickets. We then went up to Lotus Spa to take the tour of the spa and fitness center, and then it was back to the room to get a little snack from room service (so quick, even on Embarkation Day!) before Muster Drill (ours was in Princess Theater). Zipped through through that, and then headed to the aft open decks for sailaway. It's amazing to see how many residents of that area come out of their homes or on to their balconies to see us off. Some even had signs and banners up, and all were waving away like mad. Met a couple of people from here on deck as well, and then met up with most of the family in the Horizon Court for a nibble at the seafood buffet. When we got back to our cabin, our luggage had arrived and been brought in, so a bit more nesting was done.
Because there were so many of us, with different ages, experiences, and goals for the vacation, we were able to experience a whole lot of different things. The only time we all sat down together for dinner was one night in the Crown Grill, and let me tell you, it was TOTALLY worth every single cent you pay ($25pp). They were accommodating with the young boys, bringing spaghetti for them (and bringing it early in the meal so that they wouldn't get totally bored) instead of making them choose something off of the rather adult normal menu. The service was impeccable, the food was astonishingly good, and the desserts...well, I'll just tell you that you should get the dessert sampler AND the three berry cobbler. You really don't want to miss a thing. (And if anyone can find a way to get me one of those adorable little crocks that the sampler size of Chocolate Obsession comes in, I'd be eternally grateful. I was quite restrained in not just sticking it in my purse.)
My boyfriend and I were mostly nonplussed at our few Dining Room meals, as the service wasn't quite as nice as we would have liked (nor as nice as we saw other people getting). One evening, the hostess practically pelted our napkins into our laps. Guess she was having a bad day. Still, we liked the option of Anytime Dining, and none of the others had any complaints that we heard.
Room service was always prompt and happy to fulfill any special requests we had. The buffets were great as well. I didn't find them to be chaotic, as some people here have said, and the food was really well done. The specialty nights in Cafe Caribe were great, especially the Bavarian Feast. We even tried something (by mistake, no less) that turned out to be a food revelation, and so I will tell you all: if you see the chocolate ginger cake being offered, TRY IT!!!
International Cafe has friendly service, delicious coffee, and freshly-made donuts in the morning that are to die for.
I was able to speak briefly with the Executive Sous Chef on board, and he had a lot of interesting things to say. He's been cruising for 14 years (8 with NCL, and now 6 with Princess), and he says that he actually likes Princess better. They give him the money he needs to get goof food, and when I asked him about the cutbacks and "Carnivalization" of the cuisine on Princess, he says, "Absolutely not. In fact, rather than cutting back, they're spending MORE." So there you have it, from a man who ought to know.
Ultimate Balcony Dining: My BF and I did both the dinner and the breakfast. I'll start with dinner ($100/couple).
If you hate being waited on hand and foot, if you hate LOADS of delicious food, if you hate incredibly competent service, free photos, and a gorgeous table set-up complete with flower arrangement and lantern for ambiance (since they don't do candles on the ship)...if you hate all of these things, DO NOT do Ultimate Balcony Dinner. Seriously. You'll be so mad when they show up right on scheduled time with cocktails and canapes. You'll be livid when you see how gorgeous your balcony looks, and when the photographer shows up to capture you in such a lovely setting. You will absolutely FROTH at the level of excellence in service, and the stunning taste of the food will make you so angry that you'll want to either fling it overboard or rub it in your hair. Especially the dessert (quinelles of mousseline, which are to die for). If you weren't rabid enough, wait until they bring cookies and maybe even fresh fruit for you to have with your champagne! We *did* have other things we wanted to do that evening, but after *three hours* of being pampered, we had to call in Fat. There was so much food that we even wound up bringing some of the fruit and most of the cookies down to the rest of the gang, who were out on their balcony playing cards.
Breakfast is a bit more reserved. Your order is taken 24 hours in advance, the same with dinner. If there's anything on the set menu that doesn't agree with you (quiche lorraine, not so much for us), just mention it and they'll ask you how you'd like to substitute. They show up right on time with your breakfast, pastries, fruits, coffee, juice, and champagne, and then leave you to your own devices. Much less in-your-face than the dinner, but definitely appropriate. I couldn't handle that kind of service when I was barely awake.
Sea Days: Lazy and wonderful. There were so many things to do, and yet we never felt like we absolutely had to do any of it. Pub Lunches in the Wheelhouse were delicious. The Mr. Sexy Legs contest by the pool was completely ridiculous and hilarious. We all found ways to enjoy ourselves. My uncle, who's been a professional musician for decades, brought his flute along, and got to sit in with the band in the Wheelhouse, and they liked him so much they invited him back for a second set!
Princess Pop Star: A lovely experience. I qualified on the night of the first heat, and so many people came up to me during the cruise to wish me luck that really, I felt like I had already won (even though I didn't take first prize). They treated us like stars on the final night, keeping us in a VIP area, doing post-song interviews on the camera for all to see, and feeding us champagne. I definitely recommend it to anyone but the snotty. The snotty need not apply. It's too much fun for those who can't have a good time.
Chef's Table: We were lucky enough to have Alfredo Marzi, Corporate Executive Chef for the whole cruise line, on board with us to conduct our Chef's Table. Apparently, he's only on the ship once a year, so it was a really nice thing for us. The food was exquisite, the wine was amazing, and again, the service was extraordinary. Once again, totally worth the extra money paid ($75/pp). They don't advertise this much on the ship, so I advise you to call and try to get on the list as soon as you board.
The ship: She is gorgeous, and the crew keeps her absolutely spotless at all times. We didn't find the layout too awful challenging, even with my mother using two canes, as the elevators were never that long in coming and all seemed to be in working order. The recent drydock got her new carpets and tiles, as well, so everything was gleaming.
We didn't attend the shows, so I can't speak to those. The Thermal Suite is really nice, but only buy the week-long pass if you're going to use it more than once! My brother used the fitness center every morning, and thought it was awesome. The Sanctuary was very peaceful, but also really deserted on the day my BF and I were there. Don't know about any of the other days.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience for all of us. We got to see dolphins and flying fish as we were getting close to Grand Turk, and we spent a LOT of time on our balcony just marveling at the gorgeous views. I never ever felt too crowded, and felt more relaxed after being "trapped with 3200 people" than I usually do after spending time at home with minimal company. The Princess Pelicans program was great for the two young ones, and the people working there were very vigilant over their charges.
We LOVE the Crown, both the experienced cruisers in our group and the cruising novices like myself. My boyfriend and I are already looking at what our next voyage will be!
Theora’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BE B231
Great completely covered balcony, fairly quiet location. Some of the Cruise Director's staff appear to live up here, but no noise from them at all. Close to elevators, Lotus Spa, fitness center. Far enough forward that there's little to no light pollution from the upper open decks during late-night party activities.
Riviera Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Grand Turk
    Grand Turk is gorgeous, and the ship docks pretty much right there on the beach, so you don't have to go far for shopping or relaxing in a lounger at Margaritaville. (I have heard, though I didn't go there myself, that you can skip the crowds and the party scene at Margaritaville if you just go a little ways further down the beach to a place called Jack's Shack.) It seems as though the ship wants to keep you in that small little area right by the docks, though, and that's kind of sad. Cockburn Town seems lovely enough, and I heard great things about it from those who actually chose to leave the Sanctioned & Sanitized Tourist Area behind and sally forth into the wilds of it.
    I had my one and only real excursion planned there, which was the Gibbs Cay Snorkel & Stingray Experience. Seeing as I'd never snorkeled before, it was probably the best place for me to learn. It was *not* overrun by fish, though there were some really lovely ones, the waters were clear and calm, and we had the better part of an hour to just paddle around on our own. The stingray experience came first, though, and it was the reason I was there. As we pulled up, you could see that the rays knew it was snack time, because they came out of their comfy little sand forts and started cruising around. Soft as kittens and even more gentle, everyone got a chance to feed a ray, as well as hold one, give one a kiss, and get a "stingray massage" (a guy holds a stingray and stands behind you rubbing the ray up and down your back, even plonking it on your head for a moment). So amazing!!! The only teensy little disappointment was hearing that there was no rum punch or Painkillers to be had - just regular fruit punch or water. Trust me, though, the lack of booze would certainly not stop me from taking this excursion again.
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  • St. Maarten
    We really really wanted to head over to the French side of the island to hang out in Marigot. We were, however, thwarted. They were having their Carnival that week, and all the shops and restaurants were closed in honour of it. Still, we made the best of it. After room service breakfast (where all of our write-ins were brought to us with no problems at all), we ventured ashore and hit the water taxi ($6pp/rt). Having no excursions planned, we found a little french cafe on Old Street (Au Petit Cafe), and found a treasure! Really pleasant, smiling staff, and NO pressure to order tons of food. We sat at a table outside and watched the world go by, eventually having a snack and doing some relay shopping (he'd go, then I'd go). The food was delicious, and the attitude was so nice and relaxed that you'd hardly know that there were THREE ships in port. (The rest of the streets were crazy crowded.) After that, we wandered around, poking through a local grocery for island fruits (we were denied), seeing chickens stalking along the sidewalks, and finally going the full length of Front Street on our way back to the ship. Mom went to (I think it was) The Wet Bar and said she had the best chicken wings she's ever eaten in her life. If you're looking for jewelry and electronics, St. Maarten can't be beat. Also, make sure to go to the Guavaberry factory and get a Guavaberry Colada. DELICIOUS! We got back to the ship to find that they were handing out ice cold towels, which was absolutely perfect after being hot and sweaty all day.
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  • St. Thomas
    Got a bit of a late start, and so we missed the Pirates Water Taxi "Tour" (the last one leaves the ship area at 10:30am, and you MUST buy tickets ahead of time!!!). We got a regular taxi to Havensight ($5pp), did a little shopping, and then walked over to the Paradise Point Sky Ride. On the way there, my BF noticed a place selling shaved ices, and he stopped there while the rest of the clan kept going. He appeared at the bottom of the stairs with them just as we were getting ready to board the tram, so I ran down and retrieved them (he didn't go up with us). Breathtaking views and delicious soursop shaved ices are a match made in heaven. Once at the top, we checked out the birds and watched Troy The Cockatoo ride a bike. Then it was time for snacks. The only problem was that the waitstaff and cooks seemed to be more on Island Time than normal, because it took almost an hour to get our food! Still, the Bushwackers were delicious and the view from up there is pretty amazing. I will tell you, though, that some of the taxi drivers in that area can be a little (read: VERY) pushy if they think they might be able to get you in their vehicle. Learn to be firm, say no thank you, and continue walking.
    Also, if you're there shopping for inexpensive cigarettes, note that the best deals were to be had in, where else? KMart. Go figure.
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