BACKGROUND: DH is 51 and I am 50, we are self-employed and we have cruised previously on RCCL, CCL AND HAL. We wanted this itinerary, but wanted to try a different cruise line. This was our 8th cruise.
GETTING TO OUR EMBARKATION PORT: We left a day early and flew to LGA from Atlanta via Air Tran. Our flight left on time, arrived on time, no delays; no problems with our luggage and all went smooth.
PRE-CRUISE HOTEL: We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Union Street in Brooklyn, several blocks from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, but quite a bit cheaper than the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. Less than 1 block from the subway, right around the corner from an excellent diner where we ate lunch on that Friday and breakfast on Saturday morning prior to embarking on the ship. The Holiday Inn Express had opened August 2006 and the rooms were really nice, the staff was wonderful and very helpful. We took the subway into Manhattan and spent Friday evening there. We went to Broadway, Wall Street, the World Trade Center/Ground Zero site, Times Square, Bryant Park, rode the Staten Island Ferry there and back, had a real New York pizza in Times Square, walked and walked and walked, rode the subway back into Brooklyn. In just a few hours, we saw a lot and, I think, did really well for having never been there before. Got up the next morning and had breakfast, packed our bags and the hotel staff called a car for us to get to the terminal. Taxi from LGA to Brooklyn was $28.00, car service from the hotel to the BCT was $14.00, and everyone was courteous and helpful. We got to the BCT around 1:00 pm.
EMBARKATION: We have bragged to others about how smooth the embarkation is in Mobile, Alabama, but they have nothing on the BCT. From the porter to every single person who works there, everyone was smiling, friendly, helpful, ready to assist, ready to wish you a great cruise. We went directly up to the counter, no wait, no muss, and no fuss. We were on the ship in 15 minutes. Could not believe it! As soon as we were on the ship, crewmembers were everywhere, greeting passengers with smiling faces, heard lots of "welcome aboard", asking "can we help you", showing everyone where the elevators were, making sure no one was lost. It was exceptional service and service with a smile. We went directly to our stateroom, which was ready and waiting along with our room steward, Beethoven. We will have more on this coming up. Wow, what a wonderful start to a great cruise!
SHIP AND PUBLIC ROOMS: First impression was, Wow! This is a big ship! The ship is absolutely beautiful. One of the first things we were given was a pocketsize deck plan and we carried this religiously. The design of the ship indeed keeps you from feeling crowded. Lots of places were you can find a place to get away from the crowds and, actually, you don't often notice the crowds except at the buffet and when getting back on the ship from the ports of call. Kind of figures that that would be the case, but even those times were tolerable except for the last port of call which was Newport, Rhode Island. The whole tendering process in Newport was a mess, but more on this later. There are plenty of elevators, we never had a long wait for an elevator, there are deck plans which we also used religiously at each bank of elevators. The ship is a little tricky learning to navigate, as nothing is straight on. But we did not find this to be a big problem. Just takes a little patience and a little effort to stop and think about where you are in relation to where you want to be. Lots of wood, beautiful furnishings, terrific dEcor, lots of windows, exquisite lighting and chandeliers, the Piazza is absolutely breathtaking, the lounges all have seating for groups as well as couples, I could go on and on. Even the Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe buffet restaurants are staggered in design so that you can sit off by yourselves or with a group at a large table. The layout here is a little tricky, too; needs to have a start point and an end point, but that is not the case so people often "cut in" and there were so many stations with such a variety of foods that you would often tend to bump into others. Here is another place where you must have patience. There are so many places to go and things to do that you can't do them all. Our favorite places became the Explorer's Lounge and the International Cafe. We went to the Princess Theater the first night for one of the shows and it was standing room only. True, you have to get there early to get a seat. Well, we ended up enjoying the entertainment at the Explorer's Lounge and skipped the theater. All of the shows in the Explorer's Lounge, such as the juggler, the comedians and the musicians and bands, were great along with the trivia games which were a blast (and we usually don't do those). Seating here, too, could be a little tight, but for just the two of us, we could usually find a seat if we got there at least a few minutes early. The International Cafe became a favorite spot for us as that is often where we would come in from shore (Deck 5) and we would grab something to eat and a cup of coffee. Everything we ate from the International Cafe was superb, better than anywhere else on the ship and we would catch some of the street entertainment or piano playing or other entertainment that was held there, too. Keep you Patters with you to keep track of all that is going on so you don't miss anything. Can't do it all, but can give it a good effort. Ship is spotless, by the way, and when the crew does the cleaning is hard to say. Never saw anyone scrubbing or vacuuming, but that they must do, as we never saw any kind of mess anywhere and with the large number of passengers that says something for the cleanliness and sanitation of this ship. Even the public restrooms were spotless. Our sailing was cooler and brisker than the Caribbean sailings, so we only saw a few people in the pools and hot tubs. Typical shopping fare, just more of it.
STATEROOM: Balcony stateroom, mid-ship, starboard side. Spotlessly clean, lots of storage, tastefully decorated, A/C worked fine, safe worked, plenty of hangers, bathroom a little small but plenty of storage there, too. We had faxed a request in to Princess special services for our bed to be setup as a queen bed with an egg crate mattress topper and two extra feather pillows and everything was exactly as we requested. Liked the design of the closet and dressing area separated by the wall from the bedroom area; made the room seem bigger and allowed easy access into the bathroom and plenty of room to get dressed. Full-length mirror is nice, too. Additional shelving there is great. We took four suitcases and had plenty of room for everything. Suitcases fit under the bed. Yes, the bedspread goes there, too, but we did not worry about it. Room was spotless. Bedding is very comfortable, duvet was great and we kept it, as our room got almost a little too cool at night. Probably this itinerary had something to do with the temps in the rooms. Nowhere on the whole ship was it too warm. Our room steward, Beethoven, was probably the best we have ever had. Found us in our room when we first arrived, greeted us by name, greeted us every morning and evening, kept our room spotless, gave us a complete rundown on the ship, how to contact him, can he do anything, do we have everything, was our room satisfactory, just simply the best. The balloons to celebrate our birthdays were a nice touch, too, and they lasted our entire cruise. The mailbox is nice, have not had those on any other ships. No, no towel animals, but we did not miss them, either.
DINING: We did anytime dining, which worked great for us. We only went to the dining room one night, which was our third night, asked for a table for two and were seated immediately. First thing we noticed was how rushed the wait staff was. We almost felt sorry for them. Did not care for the hard sell, though. One of the crewmembers came around selling raspberry liqueurs for $5 each and we had to buy one to get rid of him. Well, did not have to, but felt so obligated and that really did not sit well with us so we never went back. Frankly, the food in the buffet was better, in our opinion, but that does not say a whole lot either. Princess menus are very different from any other cruise line we have experienced and even on the buffets, we sometimes could not find anything to eat that we thought we would like. The foods were, in our opinion, too exotic. One evening, they even served goat! Well, that evening we ordered room service, which we had burgers and fries. Room service menu was a little limited. Pizza and burgers stopped being served at their respective locations at 9:00 pm. Not sure why so early. Maybe this was because of the itinerary? The pizza was good, burgers were okay, breakfast was great and the rest was okay. The International Cafe was by far the very best. Sandwiches and quiche were delicious along with the cookies and other treats. All free except for a few of the appetizers and the gelato. But, hey, 3 scoops were only $1.50 and the gelato was creamy and full of flavor.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES: You cannot do all that is offered. Keep an eye on your Patters because the entertainment and activities are to numerous to list. We enjoyed everything that was offered in the Explorer's lounge. We did MUTS one night, which was cold, but great. I can see where this would be really popular on a warmer itinerary. But, with enough wool blankets, anyone can be toasty and we were. Watched the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie and had a blast. MUTS was my favorite activity. There is something really neat about sitting under the stars, literally, and watching a movie. About 100 other people must have felt the same. Lots of "street" entertainment on the Piazza such as an Acapella Doo-Wop Group named Spank, which was great, a magician from England and a variety of other entertainment, all good.
SERVICE: Service on this ship was superb. Across the board, 100%, this crew was always smiling, always helpful, always there ready to do whatever it took for us to have a great cruise. From the maintenance and cleaning crew to the "chiefs", everyone always smiled, always said hello, always there asking if they can help us, can they do anything for us. This crew was simply the very best.
PORTS OF CALL: Keep in mind that this was the Canada and New England itinerary.
HALIFAX: Good walking around town. We took the hop on/hop off trolley tour to get familiar with the town and once we got past the Citadel and then made it to downtown, we got off and explored the rest on our own. Long, long line to get back on the ship but the line moved quickly. Not quick enough though as we "had" to buy a bunch of stuff from the vendors in the tent where we had to get in line at to get back on the ship! This was a very nice, very historical, very touristy town. The bagpipe troupe welcome was a really nice touch.
ST. JOHN: Took tour to the Reversing Falls and the museum tour. The falls are a misnomer, in our opinion, and there really wasn't much to see. We took the sightseeing boat, which got up close and almost too personal with the whirlpools, but we had fun, nonetheless. The museum in the market square was great; wish we could have spent more time there. Walked the pedway (overhead walkways which are enclosed and allow you to walk all over town without having to climb the hills rain or shine) through the city market and ended up in the old Loyalist cemetery and happened upon one of the clerks in the old courthouse who gave us a personal tour. Tons of history in this town and we could easily have done this on our own without any guided tours. The sole bagpiper farewell was wonderful and brought tears to our eyes. The melodies played until we had set sail and you could barely hear the music any longer.
BAR HARBOR: Probably had the most fun here. Would have been better if the weather had been a little nicer. Did not get any rain, but it was dreary and chilly, a lot of fog in the late afternoon so we could not see anything from Cadillac Mountain, but, oh well, one does not go the Canada and New England in October and expect all sunny and warm days. Went kayaking in the morning and had a blast doing that. Went on a lobster bake in the afternoon and it was great, too. Then took a bus tour through Acadia National Park, which was a beautiful tour, too. Tenders went well.
BOSTON: What can we say? Pier is ugly and nothing there. Rode with our tour group into town and walked the Freedom Trail. So much history, so much to see and do, you almost have to have a tour guide to try to see it all in one short day. Once we got into the town proper, we had a blast. Wish we had had time to grab a bit to eat in Little Italy. This is one place we may go back to someday when we can spend more time there.
NEWPORT: Have to say that this was a total bomb. Unless Princess changes its tender procedure here, they should skip this port next year and do a different port. Did not get off the ship until after 2:00 pm, had a shore excursion at 2:15 pm, tour operator held the tour for the passengers, got to the Breakers mansion, had to wait in line for almost 45 minutes, did get the tour of the Breakers but the Cliff Walk turned into a power walk to get us back to the bus as the ship was being held for us as we were due to set sail at 6:00 pm and we did not get back on the ship until 6:15 pm. This was proof positive that it does pay to book your shore excursion through the ship as the ship had to wait on us. Yes, the water looked rough, but once we actually got into our tender and set sail to Newport, the waves were not rough at all so we are not really sure exactly what the problem was but this generated a ton of complaints and unhappy passengers. This was not a good way to end an otherwise perfect cruise. We got into Newport at 10:00 am, mind you, supposed to be there until 6:00 pm. Some people never got off the ship at all. If the tender situation cannot be fixed, then Princess needs to change ports.
DISEMBARKATION: We disembarked when it was our turn. Did not want to have to carry our luggage off the ship so we did not do self-disembark. You have to be out of your stateroom by 8:00 am so we went up to the Horizon Court and ate breakfast and hung out on one of the open decks until it was our turn to go to Club Fusion, which was around 9:30-9:45. Our color was called right on schedule and we sailed right through. Follow your written instructions carefully and word for word and you won't have a problem. Those people that did experience confusion did not read their instructions carefully. Took a while to get off of the ship, but so what? We did not have a flight returning home until after 2:00 pm. We got to LGA in plenty of time and even got a flight home leaving one hour earlier. One piece of advice, get a yellow cab to get back to the airport. We took the next available car and paid almost $50. The driver told us that the yellow cabs are cheaper, but by then it was too late.
SUMMARY: Our first cruise on Princess and we were very satisfied. Got our money's worth, for sure. Don't sweat the formal wear issue. We saw lots of people in formal wear, but just as many in resort casual, lots of sport coats, especially with jeans and the majority of the passengers all were very nicely dressed. Some dressed up, some dressed down, but even in the buffet restaurants, people were dressed appropriately. Even those in jeans were not sloppy. Photographers did not swarm us as we have been on other cruise lines, which was a nice break. We did not go everywhere and do everything - couldn't fit it all in. Would we sail again on Princess? Yes. Would we sail again on the Crown? Maybe. Ship was wonderful, but a little too big for our taste. But, if the itinerary and price were right, no question, we would. Read Less