Crown Princess Cruise Review by tikcho
- Sail Date: February 2009
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Oceanview
Embarkation: We flew from Washington DC the morning of the cruise and arrived at the port around 11:30. We were quickly moved inside the terminal and given group #11 and at exactly 12 they started boarding. We only waited for about 15 min before our group was called and after 15 or so more minutes we were inside the ship - very quick and easy embarkation. We immediately went to our cabin, obstructed view on Emerald deck, same one we had last year on CB. The view was actually not that obstructed and you could see quite well above the lifeboats. It was 4 of us in a cabin so we pushed the bottom beds together in one side of the room so that my hubby, son and I could sleep on the newly formed queen sized bed and then my brother took the bunk bed on the other side of the cabin, which actually worked quite well and gave us enough space. The closed it huge and we had no problem fitting all of our clothes. You can push your suitcases under the beds which is an added convenience. The beds had really nice soft linens, but the beds were pretty hard. No biggie though, since I quickly fall asleep when the ship rocks. Also, there is flat-screen TV with quite a good selection of channels (not the 3-4 channels we had last year on CB) and a nice sized desk with a large mirror. Our steward, Rommel, came over right away to introduce himself - he was a great guy and I cannot say enough about him. By the 3rd day he knew our schedule to a T (when my son naps, his early bedtime, etc) and would go in the room as soon as we were out to make sure everything is done before we return. He always had a smile on his face and he even brought some chocolate-covered strawberries to our cabin for my son's birthday - great guy! We dropped our stuff in the room and went to the buffet for some lunch.
Buffet There are two buffet areas - Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe - both of them with two separate sides. Horizon court is the larger one and there is always a better choice of food there. However, it also the busier one. What we always did was circle all four sections of the buffets and find a table first, leave one of us there while the rest went to get the food. This always worked and we never had to spend more than a couple of minutes looking for a table. My brother got a soft drinks card ($29 for unlimited soft drinks) right away and he got pretty good use of it while the rest of us just had iced tea and lemonade for free (yes, lemonade was free, you just have to ask for it). Wait staff at the buffet is great, most of them were super attentive to our son, brought drinks fast, etc. We ate most of our breakfasts in the buffet (quick and easy), a couple of dinners as well as some late nights snacks. Breakfast selection was always good with lots of fruit, cereals ( no cheerios though which was a disappointment for my son), cold cuts and cheeses, eggs, ham, sausage, pretty much something for everyone. Yes, the line can appear long but what people don't understand is that there are many stations inside so you don't have to wait in the main line at the entrance, you can go directly to whatever station you want and get stuff quickly. At breakfast there were always free juices (apple and orange) so we would fill up a couple of glasses with juice and keep them in our fridge for my son who loves his juice during the day. I have to say that I was quite disappointed by the two dinners we had in the buffet (especially compared to CB last year when we ate most dinners in the buffet). The selection was not very good, the dishes were uninspired, many lacked flavor or were just odd combinations of things. If I have to compare this to Vegas buffets, this one would be the $6.99 buffet - enough food not to starve but definitely not great. There was always milk next to the coffee machine in each buffet area so we would fill my son's bottle with milk before bed and then we took a small glass of milk with us for when we woke up in the morning. Late night selection was also very poor - several times we went to the buffet around 11:30 to get a quick bite before going to bed and the only thing available were sandwiches, pasta, salad and desserts. I have to say though that the desserts in the buffet were always amazing and better than those in the dining room so we would sometimes sneak into the buffet mid-day to get a piece of cake, the chocolate Napoleon is to die for!
Pools After lunch on the first day, we put our son down for a nap but were woken up about an hour later for the muster drill. Our drill was in the Explorers lounge and everything went quickly and painlessly. We then went to the pool to watch the ship sail away. In general, I love Princess pools because 1) there are 4 or 5 pools on each ship compared to 1 or 2 on other ships and 2) they don't use sea water. Both main pool areas (Neptune's and the MUTS pool) are large and very well maintained. The pools are also very good size and the water was pleasant temperature. Yes, it is impossible to get a chair on the pool deck on sea days - there are chair hogs all over (one lady was holding 6 chairs by herself while waiting for her friends) and none of the staff cares. On the first sea day we went to the pool around 9 am and there were already no chairs on the main deck. Since my toddler likes to run around the pool, we just dropped our stuff on the ledge of the pool and played with him in the shallow area of the pool for a bit but the rocking of the ship made the waves so big that it was just not safe so we moved to the children's area. The MUTS pool was also very crowded most of the time but the two pools on the aft (I think one is adult-only and the other is a tiny pool on deck 16 aft) were not that crowded and provided a lovely view of the sea. There were also a bunch of hot tubs - two in each of the main pools and one in the back of deck 16. Those were full most of the time but you could always find a spot.
Children's area Since the main pools were too crowded while the ship was at sea, we spent a lot of our time in the children's area in the aft of deck 16. Our son does not qualify for the children's club but there was a lovely enclosed "kiddie" deck on one side of deck 16 (right behind the children's club) that turned out to be a bliss for us. They have several trikes, a plastic playhouse and a kiddie pool and the area is completely enclosed by glass so we were able to just lay on lounge chairs while we let our son play and run around. The only problem, as mentioned above, was the on the two sea days the pool's water was splashing all over and my son was scared to go inside but other than that we got many fun hours in that area and most of the time it was very empty - I guess not many people figured out it existed. Also, there is a hot tub right next to the children's area are when he got tired of playing we would all go sit in the hot tub (we sat him down on the ledge so that only his feet are in the water) and watch the sea behind the ship.
Layout of the ship - miscellaneous individual areas After the sail away party, we walked around to explore the ship a bit. Since we had been on the CB last year, this ship was very similar so we had no problem getting around. Most of the stuff is on deck 7 (Promenade) or decks 5, 6 or 15. The only main difference between the two ships were the International Cafe and Vines (wine and sushi place). After reading so many rave reviews here about the Intl Cafe I was really looking forward to checking it out but I have to say that I was very disappointed. I never tried the coffees as I'm not a big coffee drinker, but the food was just very plain. The breakfast selection was several types of croissants and pastries, which you could get in the buffet was well. Never went there for lunch but the "tapas" served for dinner were already pre-made dishes of 4 tiny things that cost $4. One tapa would be just a piece of shrimp for example or a small scoop of some kind of salad. I love tapas and was very much looking forward to trying the ones people raved about but paying $4 for pre-made refrigerated tiny tapas with no variety just did not work for me. Vines is right across from the Intl cafe and while we love sushi and would have loved to try it, it was not conducive to sitting there with a small child so we skipped it. It did look very swanky and hip and we heard from several people that the sushi was good if not great. Also on the Promenade level are some shops (I am not one for shopping on a ship), the Wheelhouse bar (English-pub type of place with some live music), club Fusion (more on entertainment later), and the Princess theater. The Casino and Crooners bar are on deck 6 and we did have some great late night martinis in Crooners which were great. The bar staff is super friendly, I requested extra olives for my martini and they brought me a great selection of stuffed olives to choose from. However, the piano man who was playing there each night was not very entertaining. I don't know if it was just a different crowd, a different time or what but last year on the CB there was a great piano player who played in one of the main lounges and there were always at least 50 people gather in the hallways, signing along, having fun. This time, Crooners was almost always empty and it was just not a fun atmosphere. One more thing to note, is that on deck 19 aft there is a fun mini-golf course that goes around the deck and also a golf simulator for those who want to practice. Both we kind of empty the few times went there. The gym is a good size but the ceiling is very low so my husband (he is 6'3" was not able to use the Elliptical machine because his head would hit the ceiling. My sister in law went to the gym every morning and said the trainers were very personable, talked to her for a while about eating habits, exercises, etc and she enjoyed going there. After we walked around for a bit, we had dinner in the buffet and by the time we got back, our bags had arrived. We were pretty tired that first day so we just had an early night while my brother went to the casino.
Day 2 - Princess Cays We woke up to a cloudy sky, chilly winds and a light drizzle. We had been to Princess Cays before so we decided to just go there for an hour or so, walk around a bit and then come back to the ship. The line for the tenders around 10:30 was very short so we got on one with almost no wait. We were able to find 6 chairs by the water pretty quickly and we let my son play in the sand for a bit. By noon the clouds have disappeared and it was actually turning out to be a really nice warm day and the crowds from the ship started arriving. We were sitting right by the volleyball court so my brother started playing and then he participated in a bunch of the games that the staff organized (pulling a rope, running, etc). My sister-in-law was just happy to lay on the chair with a book and my husband and I played with our son in the sand. We got in the water a couple of times but it was rather cold and not pleasant. BBQ style lunch was served around noon and it was OK - chicken, sausages, cole slaw, fries. The lines were very long and the wait was about 20 minutes. In the afternoon we left my son with my in-laws and we went on aqua bikes to explore a bit. The water was very clean and there were no waves so it was very relaxing (though a bit expensive - $30 for 30 min). When we got back, we discovered a really cool children's area, right by the lunch place - it was fully enclosed and had tons of slides and tunnels as well as a nice sized kiddie pool. My son loved climbing up and down the slides and spent a good hour there and by that time it was already 2 pm so we headed back to the ship. The tenders were coming non-stop so we only waited for about 15 minutes before we got on one. Overall, Princess Cays is a great place for people of all ages - great beach, clean water ( but chilly in February), lots of activities, free chairs. I did not find it particularly rocky - I think if you turn right from the tenders, that's where it gets pretty rocky but the rest of the beach is fine, no water shoes needed.
Dining Room That night was my mother-in-law's birthday so we had reserved a table in Michelangelo dining room for 6 pm. We had originally wanted early seating but were assigned anytime dining and it ended up being fine. There are two anytime dining rooms and most of the time we just called in the morning to reserve a table for that evening. Good thing we were early eaters (6pm) because they don't take reservations for 6 - 8 pm. We ate at both dining rooms and there is very little difference between them. They are both nicely decorated in classical style and gave off the vibe of a fine dining restaurant. Seating was always super quick with a reservation and the one night when we forgot to make a reservation we were seated within 5 minutes. However, the actual service in the dining room was SLOW and that is one of my gripes. For those with toddlers you know that it's almost impossible to have a toddler sit through an hour long meal, but it's too long even for adults to eat dinner for 2 hours. Almost every night we would finish dinner around 8 after being seated at 6 and I don't think it was our waiters' fault since they always seemed to be running around. Maybe they had too many tables because sometimes it would take 30 minutes before the waiter even came to take our orders. On a couple of occasions I had to ask the waiter to speed up the process because our son needed to go to bed and I have to say he did his best, so don't be afraid to ask. We brought a DVD player for him as well as books and toys to help pass the time but with dinner lasting over 2 hours sometimes one of us had to leave early with him. In regards to the food in the dining room, it was pretty good and there was a very good selection of meats and vegetarian items but very few items on the menu really stood out and several times the description of an item would sound great but the actual item would be just so-so. So while this was not gourmet food, it was perfectly fine and there was always something for everyone. I was disappointed by the lobster tail because it smelled very fishy and just did not taste fresh. All of us ordered it and we pretty much ate very little of it. But overall, waiters were very polite and attentive and we had some very good dinners, just super slow.
2nd night I stayed with the baby while my husband and brother went to the casino. Turns out my brother won the blackjack competition (and $500 bucks) so they came back to the room all excited so I left my husband in the room and went with my brother to celebrate. We got a drink in Crooners and then went to the Skywalkers night club. It's a pretty lovely club and the few times we went there were quite a few people but it definitely wasn't crowded. It has a lovely view during the day so we noticed some people would just sit there and read or play cards. We went once around 10 pm and it was deserted so I'm guessing it's a hit or miss.
Day 3 - day at sea The rocking of the ship started getting pretty strong last night and by the morning of day 3 it was very pronounced. After breakfast we went to the Neptune pool and the water was splashing so much that it was making the entire deck wet. So we walked around the ship a bit and then went to the children's pool and spent most of the day there. There were some pool games in the main pool but they coincided with my son's nap time so we missed them. We also had Pub Lunch at the Wheelhouse Bar - they only serve 4 items and beer but the Fish and Chips were yummy and my son loved the Bangers and Mash (sausages and mashed potatoes) - great great lunch!
MUTS My brother went to watch MUTS in the afternoon, he managed to find a good seat on Deck 16. Overall, most of the movies that they were showing on MUTS we had seen so we didn't spend much time there. We did see Eagle Eye one night and it was fun although the weather was kind of chilly and we had to bundle up a lot. The blankets really help and the popcorn was great. On some nights we even went there just to get popcorn to take to our room. This cruise was definitely colder than last year's so there were much fewer people watching MUTs at night. In any case, it's very romantic and a great way to see a movie.
3rd night This was the first formal night of the cruise and the night of the captain's reception. We were a little disappointed to find out that the reception was from 7 to 8:15 pm because we usually ate dinner at 6 and by the time we got out of dinner there were only 15 minutes left and the captain had already given his speech. They should have the reception start earlier and last a bit longer so it can accommodate everyone. But everybody we saw seemed to be nicely dressed and we took some formal portraits of our group (which later did not turn our so great because our son was very sleepy by that time and on photos his eyes were half closed). We also heard from some people that the wait for dinner that night (w/o reservation) was 30-45 minutes so be prepared. After dinner we walked across the piazza for a bit and there was a lovely Hungarian quartet called Quadri that was playing Italian and Hungarian songs. My son loved the music and danced and ran and jumped in front of the band for a good 30 minutes drawing applause from many passengers. Quadri played almost every night after dinner either in the piazza or in the Wheelhouse bar and we thoroughly enjoyed them. My in-laws were babysitting my son that night so we went to see the first comedian of the trip (forgot his name) and he was pretty good. Then we went to the casino for a bit and met some people who had walked out of the main show, Destination Anywhere, saying it was really bad. We are not production show people, so we never attended any of them, so can't give you any more info. After losing some money we decided to go to Club Fusion where they were supposed to have a karaoke hour (my husband is a good singer and last year won the Elvis impersonator competition of the CB) but the club was almost empty (maybe less than 20 people) and they were trying to get people to come and sing (a big difference from last year when the club was always full for karaoke) so we went to bed. By that time the ship was really rocking and I was starting to not feel so great so maybe it was for the better.
Day 4 - St. Marten Last year, in St. Marten we took a cab to Orient Beach and were frankly somewhat disappointed so this year we decided to stay on the beach in downtown. we just took a water taxi to the main downtown area and then walked further to the left and got 2 chairs and an umbrella for $10 right by the water. The beach was a bit narrow but the sand is nice, the water was clear and there were tons of water sports. They had a server bringing drinks and food and we had a great relaxing beach day. My brother rode a jet ski ($50 for 30 min), my in-laws spend some time strolling the shopping area 2 blocks from the beach (we are not big into shopping so they just got some small souvenirs) and my son loved running on the sand and splashing in the water. The only downside to this because is the steep incline once you're in the water - you make 10 steps and you're already neck-deep in the water. So it's not as kid-friendly for little kids but is OK for swimming. Also, there's a platform with a mini water slide anchored about 10 feet from the shore in the ocean and teenagers had a lot of fun playing on it. We had lunch on the beach and we headed back to the ship around 2:30. After a nap and some time at the pool we had dinner in the DaVinci room and then my brother went to the casino while my hubby and I went to see the Majority Rules game in Explorer's lounge. It's a very fun game in while the entire audience participates and we had a blast. After the game, we saw the second comedian for this sailing (again, don't remember the name but he is famous for his 250 catch phrases). He was funny but his routine was kind of jumping from one thing to another with barely any time to get the joke. After that, we went back to the room and fell asleep.
Day 5 - St. Thomas Last year was our first time on St. Thomas and we did a tour with Godfrey which we loved. My in-laws did not really want to go to the beach this time so they offered to take our son for the day while we took the tour again (my brother had never been to the island). They did some shopping in the cruise area (this ship docks away from the main downtown area) and then went back to the ship and hung out by the pool. My husband, brother and I were met by Godfrey at 9 am and he dropped us off in town for a couple of hours of shopping and strolling while he went to pick up some other passengers (there was an RCI ship docked downtown). We strolled for a bit, bought some souvenirs and found a lovely outdoor bar where we had a drink and enjoyed the sun. At 11 Godfrey picked everyone up for a nice tour of the island, stopping in some of the best overlook locations as well as the highest point on the island where they sell a killer daiquiri. Then , we were split up in two groups - one who went to Coki beach and another for Megan's Bay. Last year, we went to Sapphire beach but Godfrey told us that the restaurant and the restrooms there were closed so he was no longer recommending that beach so we decided to go to Megan's after all the rave reviews we had read. Well, I have to say we were very very disappointed. The beach is super tiny and narrow (maybe 20 feet wide), no lounge chairs, no umbrellas (there were trees in the back but the shaded part was already taken). The sand was full of fallen leaves, pieces of wood, etc. Yes, the water was shallow and pretty but there were no water sports (maybe a couple of boats but not sure if they were for rent) and only one restaurant that was a very basic shack. I truly don't understand how this could be one of the best rated beaches in the world - I have been on many beaches in FL, CA, Hawaii, Europe and Asia and this was not even close to the best one of them. On a good note, there are clean restrooms and changing rooms and the water was very clean even if a bit cold. Godfrey picked us up at 2:30 and we were on the ship by 3, ready for the sail away party. I highly recommend Godfrey's tour ($25 per person) - he is a great guide, super accommodating and gives you a great variety of things to do and see.
5ht night - that night was the second formal night and we took some more formal portraits (this time everyone came out great) and some more dancing to Quadri afterwards. It was our turn to stay in so we saw the early show featuring the illusionist in Princess Theater and then went to bed so that my in-laws can have some fun. The illusionist duo was OK but nothing spectacular. I have to say all the reports about the Princess theater filling up early are true. But we had no problem sitting on the steps and the visibility was quite good.
Day 6 - Grand Turk This is a new stop for us since last year's itinerary did not include this island. We were pretty excited about it after reading all the reviews here. Since the ship does not arrive there until 1 pm, which was right in the middle of my son's nap time, we decided to wait until he wakes up before going ashore. Turned out it was a good idea because by the time we got to the beach around 3 pm some people were leaving and we were able to find some empty chairs as well as a clam shell right by the water. The beach was really nice and soft and the water was the warmest of all the islands but we were very disappointed that the bottom of the ocean was almost completely covered by large rocks (not pebbles but rocks). I'm not sure why Princess chose this particular beach to build a pier, I'm sure there are much nicer beaches on this island. So we only spent less than an hour on the beach building sand castles with my son and then went to Margaritaville. There's always a party there so we got some drinks and went to the pool, which was almost empty by then (around 4 pm). It's a great pool with warm water, fun music and not too deep so it was perfect for swimming and playing with my son. We headed to the ship around 5:30 and bought some souvenirs along the way. We did not really see any of the rest of the island and it does seem a beautiful island so I would not mind to go back. But it would be better if we had more time to do some shore excursions and truly explore the island. That night was my son's 2nd birthday and our steward had decorated our door with balloons and left a little card from the captain. In the dining room ,all the waiters sang happy birthday to him and brought him a little mini cake with a candle which he thoroughly enjoyed. That night my brother and sister-in-law went to Skywalkers while my husband and I went to see the Marriage game. We saw it last year on CB and it was a blast but this year the cruise director Danny was not as good and he was kind of rushing through the questions so as a result the whole thing was kind of boring. That was followed by the finale of the Princess pop Idol, which was fun to watch as there are some talented singers onboard. Earlier that night my in-laws went to club Fusion for the Country Hoe Down and line dancing and they had a lot of fun there (if country is your thing). We grabbed some late night desserts from the buffet and headed back to the room around midnight.
Day 7 - day at sea Knowing that this was our last day on the ship made everyone a little sad but we managed to make the best of it. The weather was very nice and sunny so we spent most of the time by the children's pool and hot tub. My in laws went to see the culinary demonstration in the morning (they liked the tour of the galley afterwards) and then they put the baby for his nap while we went to the Neptune pool for the afternoon. The band was playing for a bit and then they had the Hairy Legs competition which was a lot of fun to watch. We also had another Pub Lunch in the Wheelhouse bar and started packing our bags before dinner. We decided to have dinner in the buffet since we were all tired of the 2-hour dinners and wanted to finish packing before it got too late. Disappointingly, maybe because it was the last night, the buffet selection was very small so we had a quick dinner and went back. My in-laws made it an early night while me and my brother went to play the Final trivia Game in Explorers lounge (those questions were pretty hard, we only got about 10 out of 20 and we are both avid trivia players). Afterwards, my husband and I got our final martini in Crooners and went to bed.
Disembarkation Was very quick and easy. We met at 9:20 in the Explorers lounge and were told to leave about 5 min later. We got off the ship within 10 minutes and got a porter right away who helped us find our luggage and go through immigration and we were in a cab to the airport by 9:45. Our flight left on time around noon and a few short hours later we were back in DC and 30 degree temperatures terribly missing the Crown Princess.
Several miscellaneous things-
Pizza and burgers - last year on CB we loved the pizza by the Neptune pool and were looking forward to it again this year. Well, for whatever reason, it just wasn't the same pizza on the Crown - this was just regular pizza that was fine but nothing special. Not sure why there is inconsistency between the ships The burger stand on the other side of the pool is just OK but we are not big burger people.
Crown Grille - we were determined to have dinner at one of the specialty restaurants on this cruise and since Italian is not really our thing we thought of the Crown grille. However, when we went to check it out, I was not super impressed by the dEcor (in the middle of the ship, open to people in the hallways, dEcor to classic and nothing special and the menu was just so-so, so we decided that we did not need to spend extra $50 on it. I know some people here love it, we just thought that the dining room food was fine and this expense was not worth it for what you got.
Fuel surcharge credit - we had booked in November and were supposed to get about $150 surcharge credit. Contrary to what some other here have said, this credit can be applied to the automatic tips (this happened with my son's credit since he did not have any charges on his card) and it was totally no problem.
The passengers Last year, we cruised the first week of March and coincidentally it happened to be spring break week so our ship was full of college kids, which we actually enjoyed since we ourselves are in our early 30s. We had great participation in all the games and activities, karaoke, etc. This year, we went a week early and it was definitely a different crowd. I have to say it was about 70% retired people and 30% families with young kids. We were told that there were 90 kids under 12 on board, we definitely noticed at least 20 toddlers, quite a few teenage kids as well, many from Canada. But almost no singles. My sister-in-law who is single had a blast last year because early on she met tons of college kids and hung out with them every night. This year she was a bit bored. Also, many of the events, like karaoke, pool games, etc, this year were not as fun because of the less people participating. I would not call this an old crowd but I would definitely recommend that people who are single go during spring break or on another line like RCI.
Toddlers on the Crown with very few exceptions, our son received a super warm welcome everywhere we went. There was always a booster chair brought quickly during meals, his meals were brought first in the dining room, all serves and stewards were willing to play/talk to him and we were never made to feel unwelcome because we had a small kid. The children's play area is much nicer than on the CB, the ship is so spacious that can provide hours of entertainment for a toddler even without the pools. The ports of call on this itinerary were perfect for young kids because there was always a beach nearby, they were safe and there were enough amenities. There are a lot of food in the buffet and the dining room suitable for a toddler and my son had a great time. Yes, I wish dinners in the dining room did not take 2 hours and I wish there was a detachable shower head in the bathroom (my son was a little scared of the big shower so someone always had to go in the shower with him and hold him high up so his head doe not get wet) but these are small gripes for such a lovely time. So I highly recommend the Crown for any families with young kids.
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