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My wife and I are frequent cruisers, this was our 16th and 2nd on Princess. I am a NCL fan primarily due to entertainment focused more toward my likes and great attractions on their newer ship. The dates for the British Isles itinerary worked well in my schedule so we chose to sail on the Crown Princess in a S4 suite. The most important attraction for this cruise are the ports. While my wife is a Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones fan, I was less enthusiastic about the area. However, I became a big fan of the geography, architecture, and culture during our brief visits at the various ports. My personal favorites were the Paddywagon tour of Belfast with our wonderful guide Paul, and the Princess tour to the gorgeous Mont St. Michel. As far as the cruise goes, I tried to lower expectations based on my previous Island Princess cruise thru the Panama Canal. I started at about 3 stars but it slowly rose as the cruise went on. Our cabin was a bit dated, but clean and well maintained. We stayed in an identical cabin on the island so there was no unexpected surprises. Our cabin steward was very friendly and learned our schedule quickly so his fine work did not interfere - although the very intensive port schedule kept us off the ship for most of 10 out of 12 days. We had club class dining which was excellent. Our cruise ship was near full capacity, but we never waited to be seated. Food quality ranged from OK to unbelievable - I never had lobster thermador but found the Princess dish to be the best entree I had on the seas. Their version of baked Alaska was the best dessert I had on the seas. The club class dining staff really went out of the way to give you the best of fixed dining with the flexibility of anytime dining. I also liked being able to order steakhouse entrees from the dining room albeit at a fee. Princess went out of their way to have a very wide range of entertainment from folk to country to pop to classical. The Encore show with their headliner opera singer was amazing, but shows like their disco production show was very disappointing using only recorded music. I do give their performers high marks for their versatility, but I would prefer a more NCL focused entertainment - headliner shows like Rock of Ages and Jersey Boys, rock and pop bands, etc. The amenities on the Crown Princess were so so (No Flowriders, no go-karts, no water slides, etc). The gym was well equipped and I kind of liked the small running track (16 laps to the mile) as I was the only one on it and it was shielded much of the time from the wind. I liked using the Medallions (I bought a Fitbit watch carrier from Amazon to hold it). The checkin at home took longer, but embarkation was the fastest I have ever seen. Internet service was mixed - both my wife and I paid for unlimited service before we stepped on the ship. It was a hassle changing devices, I think I would pay for multiple devices next time. The internet was often slow, but most of the time was able to do some fair streaming. In the end, the main attraction for this cruise was the itinerary which ultimately resulted in my 4 star rating (5 for the great destinations, 3 for the actual cruise experience).

Amazing British Isle Itinerary on an Enjoyable Cruise Ship

Crown Princess Cruise Review by rsato

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
My wife and I are frequent cruisers, this was our 16th and 2nd on Princess. I am a NCL fan primarily due to entertainment focused more toward my likes and great attractions on their newer ship. The dates for the British Isles itinerary worked well in my schedule so we chose to sail on the Crown Princess in a S4 suite.

The most important attraction for this cruise are the ports. While my wife is a Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones fan, I was less enthusiastic about the area. However, I became a big fan of the geography, architecture, and culture during our brief visits at the various ports. My personal favorites were the Paddywagon tour of Belfast with our wonderful guide Paul, and the Princess tour to the gorgeous Mont St. Michel.

As far as the cruise goes, I tried to lower expectations based on my previous Island Princess cruise thru the Panama Canal. I started at about 3 stars but it slowly rose as the cruise went on.

Our cabin was a bit dated, but clean and well maintained. We stayed in an identical cabin on the island so there was no unexpected surprises. Our cabin steward was very friendly and learned our schedule quickly so his fine work did not interfere - although the very intensive port schedule kept us off the ship for most of 10 out of 12 days.

We had club class dining which was excellent. Our cruise ship was near full capacity, but we never waited to be seated. Food quality ranged from OK to unbelievable - I never had lobster thermador but found the Princess dish to be the best entree I had on the seas. Their version of baked Alaska was the best dessert I had on the seas. The club class dining staff really went out of the way to give you the best of fixed dining with the flexibility of anytime dining. I also liked being able to order steakhouse entrees from the dining room albeit at a fee.

Princess went out of their way to have a very wide range of entertainment from folk to country to pop to classical. The Encore show with their headliner opera singer was amazing, but shows like their disco production show was very disappointing using only recorded music. I do give their performers high marks for their versatility, but I would prefer a more NCL focused entertainment - headliner shows like Rock of Ages and Jersey Boys, rock and pop bands, etc.

The amenities on the Crown Princess were so so (No Flowriders, no go-karts, no water slides, etc). The gym was well equipped and I kind of liked the small running track (16 laps to the mile) as I was the only one on it and it was shielded much of the time from the wind.

I liked using the Medallions (I bought a Fitbit watch carrier from Amazon to hold it). The checkin at home took longer, but embarkation was the fastest I have ever seen.

Internet service was mixed - both my wife and I paid for unlimited service before we stepped on the ship. It was a hassle changing devices, I think I would pay for multiple devices next time. The internet was often slow, but most of the time was able to do some fair streaming.

In the end, the main attraction for this cruise was the itinerary which ultimately resulted in my 4 star rating (5 for the great destinations, 3 for the actual cruise experience).
rsato’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Dining
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Entertainment
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Cabin Review

Penthouse Suite with Balcony
Cabin S4
A comfortable cabin but without any standout features.
Riviera Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Belfast
    Sunday found the Crown Princess in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Unlike the rest of Ireland, Northern Ireland remains a part of Great Britain, leading to political and military conflicts over the years. Ray and Traci took another Paddywagon tour headed by a superb guide, Paul. The weather was more marginal with occasional light rain. Their first stop was at the Dark Hedges, an avenue of spooky trees made famous in Game of Thrones. Traveling the Irish countryside, Ray and Traci had never seen so much greenery.

    Next, the tour went to the famous Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World heritage site. The causeway, according to Irish lore, was created by a giant named Finn McCool making a pathway to Scotland. Ray and Traci didn’t get to see Finn, but did hear his booming steps at a distance. The site’s curiosity stems from the hexagonal columns at varying heights. For the scientific purists, volcanic drying during solidification results in formation of the columns.

    At Pauls advice, Ray and Traci skipped the visitor’s center charging 12.5 pounds to enter a glorified gift shop. Instead, they walked past the causeway (infested with hundreds of visitors) to an uphill path leading to the amphitheater, an enormous concave rock structure. They returned to the bus by walking back along the cliffs. Few site visitors made this added journey and missed out on some spectacular seaside geography.

    Making their way back to Belfast, the Paddywagon bus passed some beautiful beaches with impressive surf. Much to the travelers' surprise, surfing is a popular activity in Ireland and despite 50 degree temperatures and occasional rain, surfers could be seen catching waves off the beaches. Dunluce Castle, a seaside structure partially eroded into the sea, was the next stop. Traci was delighted to see this second location from Game of Thrones although it was heavily altered with computer graphics for television. Downtown Belfast was the final destination, with a tour of City Hall & a grand structure with a history museum occupying most of the first floor. A memorial to Titanic passengers was found outside, as the Titanic was built in Belfast.

    Downtown Belfast looked like many American downtown areas with shopping, restaurants, and many people milling around. Before returning to the ship, the Paddywagon bus took passengers to a street along the safety fence that splits much of Belfast. A somber Paul, discussed the long history of conflict between the Royalists (Protestants) and Nationalists (Catholics) which lives on today. While violence has subsided for nearly 20 years, neighborhoods, families, schools and the country remains quite divided. Safety fences which are locked at 7pm daily inhibit tensions from flaring. Although violence has subsided along with international media attention, tensions are still ongoing. Colorful and thoughtful murals impart the sadness and loss of the conflict and memorialize the events of the past. Paul thought his Paddywagon bus, despite being full of Americans would be at risk for rock throwers should the tour venture into Protestant neighborhoods. So called black cab tours are a much better options to tour both Belfast neighborhoods.

    The final stop was at the Titanic Museum (and adjacent Titanic Studios & the producer for Game of Thrones). Unfortunately, the museum was closed at the time of the Paddywagon visit, so only exterior photos could be taken from this attraction.
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  • Cobh (Cork)
    On Thursday, the Crown Princess stopped at Cobh (pronounced Cove) in Ireland. The tour leader Mike from Paddywagon tours brought Ray and Traci’s group to the famous Blarney Castle.

    The site included the castle with its Blarney Stone, a kiss of the stone according to lore, leads to 7 years of eloquent speaking. Neither traveler thought risking transmittable infection from thousands of fellow travelers was worth the purported gift of gab. Now, granting a wish like a 2020 World Series in Seattle would be a different story. In addition, the signs warned visitors that the line was 90 minutes long to get into the castle and see the stone, so Ray and Traci explored the other areas of the grounds. Pretty waterfalls, and areas of rock and wood were accompanied by signs alerting visitors to legends about past inhabitants like witches and druids. An interesting area of the complex was the poison garden where there was a large variety of plants that could be harmful and even deadly to humans. Everything from marijuana, poppy (opium), foxglove (digitalis) to poison ivy could be found growing in a well maintained garden. After leaving Blarney, the tour group headed to Kinsale, a small waterfront town with many pubs and shops. It seemed that pubs were more ubiquitous than Starbucks are in Seattle! Before returning to the ship, the bus stopped at St. Colman Cathedral – a most impressive church rising above the Cobh waterfront, signifying the importance of the Roman Catholic faith to the inhabitants of this small town. Cobh was the Titanic’s last stop before sinking, and Ray and Traci hoped history wouldn’t repeat itself with their ship.
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  • Dublin Castle
    From Trinity, Ray and Traci walked to Dublin Castle which primarily houses government offices today. With time being limited, they decided to skip a tour of the castle and headed toward St. Patricks & a church constructed in 1220.
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  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
    It was interesting to see a large portion of the church occupied by a gift shop to satisfy the wishes of the long line of tourists waiting outside. Leaving the impressive Anglican church, Ray and Traci walked back to the shuttle pick up area and endured the Friday afternoon traffic back to the ship.
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  • Trinity College
    Once downtown, Ray and Traci walked to Trinity University to see the Book of Kells. The famed book is a Latin manuscript with illustrations of the four New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) created by monks around the year 800. The stop at Trinity began with a guided tour of the historic campus led by a psychology student. After some very interesting insight about student life in Ireland, the group entered the Book of Kells Exhibit. The background about the books and how they were produced was interesting, and the two sections being displayed were quite impressive in condition and artistic quality & 1000 year old inks making pictures that appeared to be recently printed. The calligraphy also was masterfully done.
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  • Edinburgh (South Queensferry)
    Thursday was the final stop in Scotland at Edinburgh. The ship did not dock and used its lifeboats to shuttle people into the Queensferry port – the tender boat time and a 40 minute shuttle bus ride into town significantly delayed enjoyment of Edinburgh. Ray had obtained online tickets for Edinburgh Castle so they walked from St. Andrews square to Edinburgh Castle, built on top of a hill.

    Arriving shortly after 10am, Ray and Traci were fortunate to miss the huge crowds which later appeared even on a weekday off season visit. They joined one of the walking tours and learned about its rich history. The oldest existing structure at the castle – St. Margaret’s Chapel was originally built in the 1100s. Over the years, the castle expanded, parts demolished, and extensive renovations took place. Even today, the Royal Regiment of Scotland is garrisoned at the castle. A small cemetery for pets of soldiers is found within the walls.

    The large complex contains several museums housing the Crown Jewels of Scotland, War Memorial, and detailed exhibits of castle inhabitants and areas used as prisons for captured soldiers. While the complex has many replica cannons, a modern Howitzer is used to fire a 1pm charge daily. The crowds continued to grow as Ray and Traci left the castle and headed east on the Royal Mile. Nearby, they decided to stop at Camera Obscura – a tall building housing many types of illusions. On the top floor, a special periscope displays a 360 view of surrounding Edinburgh. Outside, balconies allowed visitors to appreciate the beautiful landscape on a sunny day. On the next four floors, tourists were treated to all sorts of optical illusions, electronic images, a disorienting light tunnel, and a maze built of mirrors. Camera Obscura was a nice diversion from the mostly historical sites visited during this trip. Ray and Traci walked further down the Royal Mile, stopping at Café Nero, Europe’s answer to Starbucks, and shared a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Their last stop in Edinburgh was at Holyrood, the Queen’s official residence while in Scotland.

    Fortunately, crowds were light at the end of the day, so Ray and Traci could appreciate the history and beauty of Holyrood. The tour featured great reception halls, offices, and dining areas used today for official visits but unfortunately no photos were allowed. This policy was sternly explained to Ray after he inadvertently photographed the elegant dining room!

    The surrounding grounds were immaculately maintained. Traci especially enjoyed the special exhibition of Harry and Meghan’s Royal wedding which displayed the wedding gown, veil and tiara. As is the case with many ship stops, time grew short and Ray and Traci had to take the reverse route on the bus and tender boat back to the Crown Princess. A Scottish band provided music for the ship's departure.
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  • Greenock (Glasgow)
    Monday marked the end of their first week of British Isle tours, and the ship moved on to Scotland with a port of call stop at Greenock, 45 minutes from Glasgow. Ray and Traci booked a shore excursion with Timberbush tours. The first stop on the tour was Stirling Castle, about 90 minutes away from the port.

    The castle has been strategically located on top of a steep hill and overlooked the River Forth crossing. Originally built around 1100, it was mostly destroyed around 1300 and then rebuilt – it was an active British Army training facility until 1965 at which time it was restored and now serves as a popular tourist attraction, concert venue, and even television set. At first, Ray was a bit lukewarm on visiting another castle, but after taking the 60 minute free tour given by castle staff, he was disappointed they only had 90 minutes total to see the site. The architecture was quite interesting with limewashed stonework on the outside giving it a golden appearance due to iron content of the sealant. Inside, regal furnishings gave the feel of its past life.

    One key difference between Stirling Castle and others is the extensive restoration required due to centuries of use as an active military facility – much of the tapestry and furniture are reproductions so not tarnished by age and available for visitors to use.

    Due to limited time, Ray and Traci didn’t get a chance to play king and queen by sitting on the dining hall thrones.

    Another nice touch is the costumed staff who look and talk “in period” giving a first hand description of life during the castle’s heyday. One staff member talked about the importance of golf, although the clubs looked quite challenging for players of that era.

    Reluctantly, the travelers returned to the bus without getting to explore more of the exhibits at the castle.

    Lunch in the quaint village of Aberfoyle was next, Ray and Traci found an excellent (and unbelievably inexpensive) restaurant called Liz MacGregors. Traci enjoyed a lentil soup and roll, while Ray had a very tasty grilled ham and cheese sandwich – called a toasty made with very thin bread. They also explored some of the shops and found a grocery store with unexpectedly cheap prices of American goods at least when British pounds are converted to US dollars. The last stop was at Loch Lomond, a large lake in the Trossachs National Park. Like many tours, the bus stopped at this shopping mall located along the lake. While the view was nice, Ray wishes they spent 5 minutes at the lake (mall) and an hour more at Stirling Castle. The tour guides James and David did a good job, and shouldn’t be blamed for the misallocation of time. Ray did some research after the excursion and could not find a tour that just went to Stirling Castle – something he would recommend for future travelers. Before the Crown Princess left, a Scottish bagpipe band serenaded the departing ship with traditional music from the shore.
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  • Invergordon (Inverness)
    The following morning, the ship docked at Inverness, a port in northern Scotland. Ray and Traci booked an excursion with a newly created travel company, Thistle Tours. The bus driver John and tour guide Becky, brought the Crown Princess group to Cawdor Castle, a private residence of the Earl of Cawdors family during the off season.

    During tour season, the estate is a busy destination of many visitors looking at the castle, the extensive grounds complete with a hedge maze and even a 9 hole golf course open to the public, and a glimpse into the life of todays aristocracy. The castle complex includes a drawbridge, ornate yet impractical bedrooms due to their lack of nearby bathrooms, and even a small dungeon for unwanted houseguests.

    Of course, since the castle is a residence during the off season, a kitchen well equipped with computer controlled ovens mixes in with much older furnishings. After exploring Cawdor Castle, the group moved on to Culloden Battlefield. The site of a major battle between British soldiers and rebels called Jacobites who were trying to restore the Stuart monarchy to the throne. Tragically, the battle ended as a massacre with the British monarchy reigning over the Scots. The television show Outlander has used the site for many scenes. After wandering around the sacred site, Ray enjoyed some macaroni and cheese, while Traci had a ham and chicken pie at the visitor center café. From Culloden, the tour group drove thru Inverness before reaching the famed Loch Ness.

    While Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness Monster has been in hiding recently, the legend lives on – in fact a whole Nessieland complex complete with hotel, restaurant, playground, gift shop and, of course, replicas of Nessie are found nearby. Another site made famous from Outlander, Urquhart Castle sits on a perch above Loch Ness which was seen as the tour bus headed back to the cruise port. Limited time prevented the group from stopping at the ruins of Urqhart castle (it was mostly destroyed in 1692 during battle between Royalists and Jacobite groups.) The bus passed through the town of Beauly, another site seen in Outlander, before dropping off passengers back at Invergordon.
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  • Le Havre
    Friday found the Crown Princess at sea sailing toward France where warmer temperatures and sunshine greeted the passengers. Ray and Tracis final stop on their European journey was Saturday in Le Havre, a port on the northern coast of France. Unfortunately, many of the popular tours involved long bus rides from Le Havre & some travelers went to Paris, some to Normandy, others avoided the 2-3 hour bus rides and explored nearby. Ray and Traci used their day to visit Mont St. Michel, a stunning island with a monastery and village built in the 9th century.

    In its rich history, the island has hosted religious orders as well as prisoners. Today it still hosts a small colony of 10 monks, but mainly serves as an amazing tourist destination. Its remote location discourages many from making the trip but Ray and Traci endured 2 ½ hours on the bus each way and appreciated the beautiful and unique location. A shuttle bus system brings tourists from the parking area across the bridge to the island. Their guide provided some relief from the crowds by using a route that bypassed the Mont St. Michel village before beginning the tour. When walking off the bridge toward the monastery, visitors can reach the ticket office / entrance by turning left under the arch flying a French flag. The normal route to the entrance requires visitors to traverse the extremely crowded village with its narrow and steep pathway shared by those coming and those leaving. After a 90 minute tour of the facility which included chapels, dining areas, work areas, cloisters and formal ceremony rooms, visitors descended into the village below with dozens of shops and restaurants. While the crowds were impressive when the tour began, Ray was overwhelmed with the onslaught of tourists arriving later in the afternoon. Ray and Traci decided to use their free time in the area to share a ham and cheese baguette from Le Brioche Doree, a French bakery chain. Surprisingly, all 31 people on the tour made it back to the bus early for the long journey back to the ship.
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  • Liverpool
    Saturday was another beautiful day, this time back in the United Kingdom at Liverpool. Ray and Traci planned on exploring the city on their own. After a leisurely exit off the ship, they wandered down the waterfront to Albert Dock, a tourist food and shopping mecca. A Liverpool branch of the Tate Modern art museum was their first attraction of the day. Using the very helpful Google Maps, they then found their way to Liverpool Cathedral, a beautiful Anglican church, just in time to enjoy a noontime concerto by the church organist.
    A short distance away, Ray and Traci found the much different Catholic church, the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

    Shaped like Disney’s Space Mountain, the structure was quite different than any other Roman Catholic Church either traveler has seen. The history was also very unique. Fundraising and initial construction started with the crypt below ground. This area was quite immense and included many different areas for events and performances. The initial plan was to build an immaculate traditional church – the model rests in the Liverpool museum. Unfortunately, the war and lack of finances prevented the execution of their plan and in 1962, this spaceship looking church was built next to the original crypt. The inside of the cathedral matches the modern appearing outside. From there, Ray and Traci wandered back to the waterfront along the streets of Chinatown. Many Chinese restaurants and shops lined the streets although surprisingly most were closed on a Saturday afternoon. Back at the waterfront, a statue of these local residents seemed to attract a lot of attention:
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  • Stonehenge
    The weather improved for Ray and Traci’s embarkation on the Crown Princess ship. They arranged pickup from a large bus that brought passengers to the Southampton Cruise Terminal. About halfway in the journey, the bus made a rest stop at an amazing area for motorists. A gorgeous modern building complete with sprinkler fountains for kids to play in had a wide selection of fast food and convenience stores including KFC, Krispy Kreme Donuts, Starbucks, and Burger King. Other European countries have similar truck stops, but the English had by far the nicest. These rest areas are something American road trippers need! Before arriving at the cruise terminal, the bus made a stop at Stonehenge. Simply put, Stonehenge is a collection of large stones over a cemetery.

    However, astronomers have found the placement of keystones highlight the summer and winter solstice along with other astronomical correlates. Many bodies were buried in the area along with worldly possessions & sadly, their security measures were much less effective than the Egyptian pharaohs so much of their treasures have been looted. Now sheep make their home around the site where a million visitors annually wonder what its purpose was. A landing pad for aliens? A spiritual mecca? Legos for dinosaurs? Fifty years ago there was no visitor center selling all sorts of memorabilia and visitors just walked among the stones. Now it is a UNESCO Cultural Landmark and one of Great Britains most popular destinations. Perhaps it is simply a case study in great marketing. While Ray and Traci were glad to participate in the great puzzle that is Stonehenge, they recommend combining a visit to Stonehenge with other area attractions (or perhaps a cruise ship boarding) in case others dont feel its calling.
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  • St. Peter Port (Guernsey)
    The ship’s first stop was Wednesday morning at Guernsey, an island in the Channel between France and England – but much closer to France. It actually has a very interesting history of being a territory of France, Great Britain, Germany in World War II, and then back to Great Britain. After taking a water taxi (tender) ride from the ship to the waterfront, Ray and Traci walked to Castle Cornet. They did not know anything about it except it was a castle. Three hours later they knew quite a bit. Castle Cornet is a military fort on the shoreline of Guernsey, built, destroyed, rebuilt, and refortified over the years to protect Guernsey.

    Cannons from the distant past decorate the seawalls, and visitors are treated to an actual cannon firing at noon daily. German bunkers built into the walls bearing traditional German female names once housed anti-aircraft guns. The complex now houses several museums dedicated to the castle’s history, militia and infantry battles, and a Royal Air Force squadron once stationed on Guernsey. If that wasn’t enough, 16th century herb and pleasure gardens are also seen. To finish off the visit, Ray and Traci listened to a resident who was in Guernsey as a child during the German occupation and brought the era to life with his stories. Castle Cornet was one of the very few attractions that Ray and Traci have visited with what seemed like an extraordinarily low price (10 pounds to enter). Having spent much of their limited time at Castle Cornet, they returned to the tender line for the ride back to the ship.
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