Crown Princess Cruise Review by sun~
- Sail Date: November 2009
- Destination: Western Caribbean
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
This was my second cruise on a Princess ship this year. The first cruise on the Caribbean Princess was an average cruise experience, so I wanted to give Princess a second chance. I booked this trip with a friend from Calgary. It was a week without hubbies & kids. My friend had only sailed on HAL, and I have sailed on HAL, NCL, Carnival & Princess. I live in Ottawa, ON
We met up in Fort Lauderdale, and stayed at the Courtyard Marriot Fort Lauderdale Beach. Great location, nice hotel - even nicer that we got upgraded to a top floor ocean view room.
We got to the ship around noon on Saturday, with a fairly easy embarkation process. Once on board we headed to the Da Vinci dining room for lunch. No buffets for us! After lunch we headed to our mini-suite to check it out. Our cabin steward, Edwill, was in the hall and stopped by to say hi. Overall, he was a helpful fellow with a very dry sense of humor. We had terrific service from him all week.
Now about the rest of the cruise....
The mini-suite cabin D402 was spacious enough, but the dEcor was boring Princess beige (fire the designer already!). We asked Edwill to remove the ugly bedspreads for the week - he was more than pleased to tuck them away! The bathroom was a little smaller than you would get on a regular cabin on other lines, but a huge step up from the teeny tiny shower on our balcony cabin on the CB. This was a big plus. I like the open closet space as well. The uncovered balcony was nice that it was large, and was great to be perched over the ocean. I brought a beach umbrella with us so we could sit out if it was too hot. For the price we paid for a mini-suite guarantee (just over $800pp) we were glad we got a mid ship cabin, which is very convenient. We paid only $70pp extra to get the mini-suite vs. a balcony - it was worth it to pay the extra to get a tub. It was the cheapest deal for that week compared to everything else leaving from Miami or Fort Lauderdale for the cabin type.
Most of the service was good in the dining rooms, with a few exceptions. The maitre d' (two different gentlemen) in the Da Vinci dining room (we ended up there the most for some reason!) were very good in understanding we did not want to sit with others (we don't play well with others hehehe). For some reason, the hostess, Ivana, thought it was some sort of joke to greet us with 'sharing with others as usual' every time we saw her - that joke got old fast.
We didn't bother too much with the entertainment as neither of us are into production shows, so no comment there.
We went to the casino a few times, left a few dollars here and there, but it was all in fun.
We spent more time by the Terrace pool as it is the 'quiet' adults only pool. I liked the fact there was no 'shopping cart handle' on this ship, so the area wasn't shaded as on the CB. The bartenders by the Terrace pool were great - especially the ever smiling Sawat.
Princess Cays: we had a fun day swimming, reading and walking around. It was very crowded, but there were quiet places to be found. We had a nothing special lunch, but met up with some ladies who were doing the girl's week thing as well, and had lots of laughs. We met up with them several times during the week. We had a long chat with a fellow who marveled at the fact that people paid $199 for a private cabana. I must admit, we thought it a bit surprising too. The cabanas are tiny little sheds. I guess they bring you food (included) and drinks (at a cost) and a couple of loungers, but it just seems a little pricey. They are colourful though.
Grand Cayman: we booked stingray city with Captain Bryan (I have been with them before) around 10am. We got out to the stringray area about 10:30am, it was quite busy. I know those on ship sponsored tours would have had hundreds of more people there on the earlier excursions. If you can do an afternoon at stingray city, that is if your ship is leaving at 6pm, I would recommend it as it would be quieter. We did two snorkeling stops, but the water was very choppy. Afterwards we went into a couple of shops and wandered around.
Roatan, Honduras: this was the most interesting stop of the trip. We had our very own private "Guns & Grenades" tour of Roatan. We lucked out in getting our driver, Parson, to take us on an unvarnished look at Roatan. The first main stop was to the new Carnival pier that is nearly finished. It is massive, and it has a ski lift to take people from the pier to an area with restaurants & a beach. I guess they get enough people who are just too friggin' lazy to walk 500 meters. This may or may not be good for Roatan, as some people will not bother to see the real island and spend money in a very poor country. A shame for them.
We told him we are not interested in the touristy places like the Iguana farm and the monkey place. So instead, he took us to "spooky channel" which is absolutely spectacular. Too bad it was raining as it would have been wonderful to snorkel in that area. I know this has always been a major area for divers. He then took us through the roughest area in Roatan, where apparently the police will only go in swat team. This barrio is the area where they have had civil unrest in the past few months (yes things actually happened in Roatan, not only the mainland). Apparently people lit tires on fire to block roads and grenades were hurled at the police station. This barrio is not the place to be on a Saturday night, unless you like machete fights to go with your beer and politics.
Since we are interested in the people, politics and economics of an area, Parson was very happy to give a slightly different tour than many others receive. He took us to the shrimp processing plant, which is the main employer on the island. Laura and I were visibly shocked when the security guard let us in the shrimp plant grounds that he had a pump action shot gun. As Canadians we found it truly shocking. Parson explained that the guard had to protect himself as he would be beaten, or shot by those who would want to get on the grounds to steal equipment. He pointed out some fellow who was a 'bad guy' who had had his leg blown off by police. The bad guy learned his lesson and now is a carpenter. We were horrified to see the mayor of Roatan's home (his private residence) which is about 15,000 sq ft sitting on more than an acre (I am a realtor, so I could go on and on about this place lol), where as 200m down the road there are people living in corrugated tin shacks. The difference between rich and poor is startling.
Parson took us to Half Moon Bay for lunch, and my friend got to eat some conch fritters. It was a pretty rustic place, but the food was good and the local beer, salva vida, was cold. It was an excellent day.
Cozumel: took a cab to Chankanaab Park. Lounged around, drank wonderful frothy drinks, swam and wandered. It was a fantastic day. Even the scary clowns at Senor Frogs didn't put a damper on it!!
What happened to MUTS? It was football under the stars. One of the reasons we booked Princess was to enjoy some movies in the evening while out on deck. Three nights of football and one concert. MUTS is a dud. That sucked.
The food for the most part was average to poor. I had hoped it would have been an improvement over the CB, but that was not the case. For some strange reason Princess is obsessed with asparagus. Don't get me wrong, I love asparagus, but just about every meal - enough already!
Service levels in the specialty restaurants were inconsistent and need work. Our evening at the Crown Grill was nice, but should have been spectacular. Things like not removing extra place settings at all during our meal. There were two of us at a booth for four. Standard rudimentary stuff that should be addressed by the most junior of wait staff. My friend ordered lobster tails. The waiter came out with a huge plate. He then tried to put some on my plate, much to my horror (if I want something I will ask for it!). After he gave them to my friend, he dumped the asparagus from the lobster plate on our asparagus at the table. Yuck. That's all I want - lobster contaminated asparagus. All of it got wasted.
Our evening at Sabatini's did not start well. We had called the day before to increase our reservation from two to three. It was not put in the book at Sabatini's. The maitre d' was rude, surly and argued that we could not have possibly called. He said it was so inconvenient and he would "try" to fit us in (the place was virtually empty). They reluctantly got us a table, and we proceeded to wait for our friend. However, after 15 minutes she didn't show - which will be mentioned in the next section - the ugly - as she was in a huge line up.
The wait staff sniped and yelled at each other for various things - very inappropriate. I mentioned to the server, Gabriela that I do not eat seafood of any sort and to please leave it off the plate. I then got an appetizer with sardines. I said to her that I had asked for no seafood, and she proceed to argue with me that fish was not seafood!! She argued with her back to me half way down the restaurant. Holy smokes! Things could have been worse, a group of people who only spoke Portuguese came in and no one would serve them. The senior waiter kept yelling for Gabriela (yes, yelling) and at another poor fella with the unfortunate name of Despot. Senior guy wanted Gabriela to serve these folks, she said she didn't speak Portuguese, find someone else. Finally, someone was found who spoke Portuguese and the group was served. Oh, and the food was not memorable. We sent back the flavourless soup. I didn't complain about my over done chicken, I was too busy watching the crazy floorshow. Oh yes, and Sabatini's had many empty tables for the whole evening.
There were certainly some staffing issues that were not handled well by senior staff. Just as an FYI, I entertain a lot. I am out in high end restaurants on a routine basis. My friend does as well. My standards are quite high, so I don't expect too much on a cruise ship. However, there were some bad incidents that cannot go unmentioned.
During tea, I had asked for butter for my scone. Not too much out of the ordinary you would think. The response I got was "the galley is closed. It opens at 5." I was a little gobsmacked. The maitre d' asked a few minutes later how things were. My friend told him what had happened. He then proceeded to grill us on who did it, what did she look like, would we point her out. I said I didn't know, as she was behind me. He then yelled at one hapless server (loud enough for us to hear across the room). She then came over, visibly shaken and asked what she had done to us. I told her it was not her (she was in a black suit, and rude girl was in green) and tried to calm her down a bit. On the way out we pointed spoke the fellow and told him that it was not this woman and it was not right to chastise her in public. Absolutely shocking. This is not the first or second time I have seem senior staff yelling (yes, yelling) at staffers in public on Princess ships.
The incident was on our last night. We had received a notice to say the purser's desk couldn't process our credit card in USD (which is the cheapest way to pay BTW), even it was on a USD account (this was for the Canadians, Brits and other non US citizens with a non US address). We had to go down in person to have them process the card manually. Funny that this problem with this sort of thing only happens on Princess. Funny too that they will conveniently charge us a mere 3% fee and a "favourable" exchange rate. Skimming off the top is the real reason, but I won't go into that right now. When we went to the purser's desk after dinner, there was a HUGE line. All Canadians, Brits and non US citizens who were in the line were extremely angry. The staff was rude and dismissive. We stood in the line for two hours. I spoke with the assistant supervisor (not a senior staffer or officer to be found) Julianne, who was completely useless, and told her there were people in the line for hours. It was hot, stuffy and it was difficult for some seniors to stand for such a long time. I told her they should at least pass out water and find chairs for those who needed them. Of course, nothing was done because the staff was terrible. I also told her that since this was a Princess problem that they should waive the 'mere' 3% fee and charge at the daily exchange rate not their "favorable" rate (which could in fact be months out of date). She said she wouldn't do anything, since she had no authority. This incident completely soured us (and hundreds of others) for the trip. It seems that Princess uses this scam to make up a revenue shortfall. It is shameful that the front desk staff treated us in such a poor manner. Disgraceful.
My friend and I had a great vacation, off the ship. On the ship, it was ok, but there are too many issues to ignore. The senior staff really did a poor job on this cruise and they should be ashamed.
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