This is our review of the Crown Princess' March 1st sailing to the Eastern Caribbean. I'll leave the overall rating until the end.
Dining service and staff in the Botticelli Dining Room were tremendous and the food was excellent. Our waiter (Rico) and assistant waiter (Ryan) were friendly and efficient and it was a pleasure to spend the week with them. Additionally, the head waiter (Artur) attended to our needs and visited out table twice a night. He was watching and making sure all went well. Oh, btw, the Alaskan King Crab and Key Lime Pie are must haves!
Our room attendant Rasvan was likely the best we've ever had. He was friendly and liked to chat with his customers and always did a fine job. What great luck we had getting him!
Two good comedians were on the ship and that's a first for me. Typically we expect only 1 comedian so it was nice to get 2.
The pool at the aft was a nice quiet spot to get some sun and relax with minimal hassles and noise. I wish I had spent more time out there.
The house band (in the explorers most time) was really, really good
Best entertainment in the theater for the week was the staff talent show. They were awesome and it was a real treat to watch. Good job!
Embarkation/Disembarkation - good job.
The Acapela Singers in the Piazza - they were really good.
Ship condition and looks - beautiful.
MUTS was a neat thing but we honestly didn't spend much time out there but many did and it looked like they enjoyed it.
The fresh brewed coffee down at the International Cafe. And since our room was right down the hallway, one was always able to find delicious lunch items close by.
The galley tour - well worth the hour or so.
The magician - been there done that. Every trick he did was old school stuff. Nothing special.
The CD staff - man they were close to going into the "Bad" section below. The CD was seen only when introducing acts in the main theater and occasionally down in one of the lounges. The reason I say they were close to bad was because of the lack of on deck activities. Some issues there I think. I was thinking about this on the way home and wondered if there was some cultural clash going on between the more senior CD staff (almost entirely 100% British - there was one Aussie) and the rest of the crew members - just a thought.
I have to say we were disappointed with Horizon Cafe. The food was passable but my Gawd, the service was in a word, failing. Trying to find someone up there smiling was next to impossible. To me it was like they were all on Ritalin or something. All walking around with their heads down and dour looks on their faces. It really killed any chance of a decent mood. At one point, DW asked one of them for some lemonade and was promptly told to "find someone else" since it was not their area. The manager up there said "what would you like me to do" when my wife mentioned this to him. I'll tell you what you do - you tell all servers up there that when they are asked by a passenger to do something you say "I'll take care of it". You go find the guy who is responsible for the area or you serve the customer yourself. You most certainly do not send them on a wild goose chase.
Also, the organization of the buffet is confusing. One last thing on this, on the last stop in Grand Turk we had a late stop and when people returned to the ship, most around 6:30, they found only Cafe Caribe open serving Indian Food. Horizon cafe (both sides) were closed and if you were not an Indian food fan, well you are SOL I'm afraid. I do believe there is a real attitude problem in the Horizon Cafe and it seems poorly run to me. I'm sorry, but I have to say RCI has it all over Princess when it comes to the buffet.
Evening nighttime activities up on deck were practically non-existent. If you didn't do MUTS then the upper decks were like ghost towns. The one night they did have their Caribbean Party (much touted by the CD) it consisted of a band playing - nothing else. The other 6 nights it was dead as a doornail up there.
The Internet support guy - a pompous A#@ to be honest. Anytime anyone asked him a question he certainly made sure you knew you were interrupting his chat with "Maria". Yeah, I watched over his shoulder for a while on more than one occasion because I (being an analyst myself) couldn't help but wonder what deep technical stuff he was doing. Well he was busy not doing his job while some customers fumbled their way around.
Why close the putting green at 9PM? My son and nephew were asked to leave at 9PM one evening as they were closing. Makes no sense to me.
Summary: Being RCI cruiser for the last 5 years, we expected we'd find some things Princess did better than RCI and some things they did poorer and we did find that. We also expected to enjoy our week in the sun and we did enjoy it. Would I cruise Princess again? Sure, but the cruise was not in the category where I would say "Man we really have to do Princess again". Overall, I have to say they rank a notch below RCI because of the Horizon Cafe. If they could fix that then I'd put them in the same league.
One question I would like answered is: On our first day were were supposed to stop at Princess Cays but because of high winds we were unable to. I'm ok with that. However, when the Commodore was trying to dock at Grand Turk on our second to last day, he announced that because of the high winds he was not sure we would stop. Again, I'm ok with that too. But he did say if they were unable to stop at Grand Turk they would give us a port day on our last day (Saturday) at Princess Cays. My question is - if they could stop on the way back why not just make that the norm. If they miss it first day, then every attempt should be made to pick it up on the last day.
Overall rating: On a scale of 1-10 here is where we rate our last 5 cruises Crown Princess 2009 - > 6 out 10. Radiance of the Seas 2008 - > 9 out of 10 NOS 2006 - > 7 out of 10 EOS 2006 - > 8.5 out of 10 EOS 2004 - > 9 out of 10