My husband and I, who are in our early to mid 30's, took the Princess Cruise on Crown Princess through the Baltic from Southampton, England to what were supposed to be ports at Belgium, Copenhagen, Sweden and Norway this past May/June ... Read More
My husband and I, who are in our early to mid 30's, took the Princess Cruise on Crown Princess through the Baltic from Southampton, England to what were supposed to be ports at Belgium, Copenhagen, Sweden and Norway this past May/June 2017. We would not sail with Princess again, but we liked all of the places we saw with Belgium and Norway being our favorites. Starting out, our Princess bus transfer to the boat left over an hour later than what our paperwork said, so we were waiting around at the bus station for a very long time since we had arrived early. Then, the boat had issues right off the bat and left Southampton about 6 hours late due to a supposed technical problem with its network system. This caused us to arrive in Belgium the next day around 2pm instead of in the morning as planned. Our tours were cancelled as a result and Princess reimbursed tour costs and provided a $100 per guest credit to compensate, which we didn't feel was adequate for the missed experience after we had flown 11 hours from California to see these places and Belgium being the one we were most excited about and looking forward to. Additionally, Princess did not verify in advance with Belgium authorities that they had adequate immigration information on the Princess guests to allow us in Belgium. This resulted in non-European guests including ourselves having to wait in a roughly 2 hour line on the boat to turn in our passports and be given a paper copy of them. The process was disorganized chaos with guests not understanding where the line was supposed to be forming with multiple lines breaking off the line, no signs to assist and the staff rude and unhelpful. During this time, European passengers were allowed to leave the boat and enjoy Belgium. Once finished with the passport line procedures, non-Europeans were left waiting in lounges to find out the fate of their tours (all cancelled) and when they could leave the boat, which lasted at least another hour before we were finally allowed off the boat at 4pm and expected to figure out how to get to town on our own since our tours were cancelled. However, Princess would not assist us at all with getting transportation to Bruges, which was very difficult as there were many guests all standing on the street trying to get cabs at the same time with not many arriving often and the cabs preferred Euro's, which guests who had booked tours didn't realize they would need. We managed to get a cab and make it to Bruges where we were able to walk around and enjoy the town on our own for a little over 2 hours. We found some nice bars to do a beer tasting and good chocolate shops. Bruges was amazing and we just wish we could have spent more time there since it was by far our favorite stop, but the boat was leaving Belgium at 7:30pm.
Copenhagen was our next stop and there were no issues with timing or immigration as Princess had our passports already collected, although I did feel a little uncomfortable leaving the boat without our passports on us. We had a 7.5 hr Princess tour in Copenhagen seeing a castle, Tivoli Gardens, some other sights and a canal tour. The tour was fine, but a little too long and boring for me, so we decided to stick to shorter tours in the future. We were supposed to be in Sweden the next day, but due to high winds and that the Sweden port would require us to tender, rather than dock, we were told on the afternoon of Copenhagen day that Sweden would be cancelled and we would be spending an extra day in Copenhagen instead. The guests were very upset after missing out on most of Belgium as well. We went to guest services to ask for information on how to get to Sweden from Copenhagen on our own (a bus or train schedule with pricing and timing information) since we had heard Sweden was very close to Copenhagen, but the boat would be leaving at 3pm, so we wanted to make sure we'd be able to get back in time. We weren't able to find this information on our own as the Internet fee was a whopping $9 per 15 minutes of use. A guest services employee told us that Princess employees would be working all night to provide more information to guests and we would have the information we had requested on Sweden in the morning. This never happened, so we spent another day in Copenhagen walking around the town, but we did not find Copenhagen to be very lively or fun, so were pretty disappointed. After the boat left that day for Norway at 3pm, we were informed that Norway authorities would need to see all non-European guests' passports again (these had been provided back to us that morning via our concierges). We then had to wait in a line that took 1.5 hours to show our passports again, but at least were allowed to keep them this time. Our Norway tours were unaffected and went well. We enjoyed our time in Norway, although it wasn't a very long day there as the boat left at 3pm. More time would have been nice because we loved Norway and enjoyed seeing the sculpture park, viking ship museum and ski lift. We had spent some time exploring the town on our own and having lunch, which was fun. That was it for our ports.
The boat itself was nice, very beautiful and well maintained. It's quiet large; I believe there were 3,000 guests. Our room was nice and spacious enough. We had a balcony room, which I would recommend as we liked sleeping with the slider open to feel the breeze and listen to the waves. Very comfortable bed and good movies available on TV. There were some minor issues with bathroom plumbing in that about 10% of the time when we flushed the toilet, the flush would be delayed about 1-5 minutes, but never long enough that we needed to report the issue. Our main issue, other than the immigration drama and chaos, was we found the service on the boat to be pretty awful. I am not a fan of the mandatory built-in gratuities as it seemed the staff felt no motivation to be friendly to guests. The service at dinner was pretty bad. The waiters were not friendly and it took forever to take our orders, bring drinks, get through each course, so dinners would last about 2 hours. One night there was something floating in my husband's beer. He showed the waiter and it still took about 20 minutes for him to get a new drink. Only the fancy for extra pay restaurants receive good service. We had good service our night in the fancy Crown Grill restaurant. I will say the food itself was great though in both the fancy restaurant and the regular dining rooms. I enjoyed all of my meals at dinner. We just avoided the buffet restaurant because the food there was not good. We ate with different people every night and the common topic of conversation was that everyone else seemed as disappointed and unimpressed with Princess as we were. I think we would look into Royal Caribbean as it sounded like people liked their experiences on that better and that the vibe was more lively and possibly more clientele around our age.
We felt very nickel and dimed by Princess. My husband paid for the all-inclusive beverage plan, but we couldn't get a soda with room service without being charged for it. Room service was slow, approximately 45 minutes. My husband had upgraded from the soda plan to the all-inclusive alcohol beverage plan, but we still received charges on our end of the week bill from when he had ordered two drinks at once (something bartenders didn't explain well) and were charged for an extra soda package incorrectly because we hadn't returned my husband's plastic tumbler (something we were never told to do). This situation was a mess and resulted in us waiting in a long guest services line to get our final bill, then waiting again in line to contest the excess charges, then my husband waiting in line again to turn in the plastic tumbler to get the extra soda package charge wiped off, which was silly because the alcohol package included soda, so there was no reason he should've been charged for both. Yet still, we ended up having to wait in the line yet again together because apparently he had to show my cruise card in addition to his own even though the extra soda charge was for him and not me. It made no sense. All in all during the week, we waited in line at the guest services desk and tours desk probably around 10 times and for way too long. I don't think I heard an apology for any of the circumstances that arose at any point during the week.
We also found the cruise activities to be geared toward older guests with activities like best hits of the 50's and 60's, bingo, learn the cha cha, etc. We tried the Magic to Do musical show and it was painfully boring and nonsensical. There was a comedy show with a mentalist that was good though. Most guests were 50 or over, probably at least 80%, so we didn't really bond that well with guests on the boat and found the activities boring. Maybe around 10% of guests were kids or teens and only at most 10% in our age bracket of 20-49 and most of them were there with their kids. The pools and hot tubs were always filled with kids, so that wasn't a great option. The gym was nice though, large with lots of clean equipment. My husband enjoyed gambling in the casino as well and the casino staff was nice.
That pretty much sums up our experience. We would not recommend this cruise to non-Europeans as it's too chaotic and time-consuming to deal with the new immigration rules during this time of heightened security in Europe, at least not on such a large boat where so many people need to get through the immigration procedures at the same time. That and because of how poor the service was on the boat. We did enjoy the cruise format though and the idea of waking up and being able to explore a different country each day. I'm interested in possibly cruising on Royal Caribbean for a Mediterranean or Greek Isles cruise in the future, as well as possibly doing a river cruise through the Rhine as I imagine a smaller river cruise would hopefully have better service and not have the time consuming immigration issues since there would be fewer passengers. Read Less