This Wine Country Coastal Cruise on the Crown Princess departed from Vancouver, stopped in Victoria, Seattle, Astoria, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, and ended in Los Angeles. I am a 41 year old woman who enjoys travelling on her own. ... Read More
This Wine Country Coastal Cruise on the Crown Princess departed from Vancouver, stopped in Victoria, Seattle, Astoria, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, and ended in Los Angeles. I am a 41 year old woman who enjoys travelling on her own. This was my fourth cruise with Princess, and the third time I have taken a cruise on my own, and overall it was a great experience.
I flew into Vancouver from Florida the day of the cruise and took the Princess transfer to the ship. I arrived around 12:30. A Princess rep with a sign greeted me when I exited the customs area and directed me to another person who took my bags so they could be delivered directly to my stateroom. I then waited in line to board a full-size charter bus. The first bus filled up, but I only had to wait about 10 minutes for another bus to arrive. The bus driver was very affable and gave us a narrated tour as he drove us through Vancouver to the port. At the pier, there were no lines and I was checked in and onboard the ship in about 5-10 minutes.
Once onboard the ship, I made my reservations for Sabbatini's and the Crown Grill, and purchased the all-inclusive beverage package which, for about $50/day, includes all alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages $10 and under, including coffees, teas and bottled water (and Perrier, which I drink a lot of). When I returned to my stateroom, my luggage had already arrived. The stateroom, which was officially an obstructed oceanview cabin, had a great view, with the only obstructions being a platform above and below the window (but nothing that really marred the view).
Food & Dining:
As a solo cruiser, I usually sign up for Traditional Dining, as Princess is very good about seating solo cruisers together. This time, I selected the early seating so I would be able to catch some shows in the evening, but the early seating ended up beginning at 5:30 (not 6:00, like I thought), which was really too early. The maitre'd initially seated me at the wrong table, which created a somewhat uncomfortable situation when I had to relocate to my correct table a bit later. However, I was happy to see that Princess had seated me with four other solo cruisers and we had a great time every night that I dined with them.
The food in the main dining room was of good quality and our waiter, Elmer, was also excellent. My only complaint would be that the assistant waiter took her time about taking my drink order every night and rarely offered a refill unless I flagged her down.
Formal nights were Monday (Seattle) and Thursday (San Francisco).
The food at the Crown Grill was very tasty, except for a lobster cake appetizer that I think upset my stomach later. I was happy that they gave me a decent table close to the window this time, as the last time I dined in the Crown Grill I was seated out front right by where everyone is walking by and looking at their photos in the photo gallery. I observed another couple who was seated at that table request to be moved, and their request was declined, even though there were plenty of other open tables.
Sabbatini's was excellent as always. I dined there with a couple I met onboard and we all agreed it was superb.
I only dined in Cafe Caribe once, for the Bavarian Bierfest night. I had looked forward to the German food, but the spread was less than impressive. Also, instead of holding it in the separate Cafe Caribe area, they just mixed it in with the regular Horizon Court buffet, which took the shine off the theme night idea.
For breakfast, I generally dined in the formal dining room. Be aware that, if you do not want to share a table, you may have to wait a few minutes. I was okay with that, as breakfast is the one time I really like to dine alone. The breakfast menu included all the standard breakfast fare, plus two daily specials, which included such things as English Breakfast, Blueberry Pancakes, Huevos Rancheros, Traditional Swiss Muesli, French Toast, etc. I usually had the special, and they were all very good. I tried the International Cafe on a day when I was in a rush and also enjoyed their yogurt/granola/fruit parfait and pastries.
For lunch, when I was not in port, I generally had a burger or pizza up on deck, which I always enjoy. I did not try the Pub Lunch this time, nor did I eat lunch at the International Cafe, although I heard good reviews.
As I had purchased the all-inclusive beverage package, I took the opportunity this cruise to try out all of the various watering holes on board and definitely identified a few favorites. For sailing out of port, the best venue is the Outrigger Bar at the aft of the ship. For hiding from the crowd, the Adagio Bar by Sabbatini's is a fantastic hidden gem. The bartenders at Crooners are probably the best on the ship, but unfortunately it gets crowded very early.
For great people-watching, I loved Vines, which is located in the Piazza, so you can watch the official and unofficial entertainment while you try the different wines. Every order of wine entitles you to a plate of tapas or a plate of sushi, which were both delicious. The tapas changed every night, but it generally consisted of a plate with four or five items (such as bruschetta, chicken skewers, wrapped asparagus, meatballs,etc.). The sushi generally included a plate with one slice from a roll, and three pieces of sashimi with some seaweed salad and other sides. If you have the all-inclusive beverage package, this is where you can really get your money's worth. In fact, because I had that package, I did not sign up for any of the $10 or $25 wine tastings, as I figured I could make up my own wine tasting throughout the cruise. And get great tapas and sushi with it.
Princess also has a nightly happy hour in Skywalkers for Platinum, Elite and suite passengers. When I first boarded the ship, there was an invitation in the stateroom that listed the food action stations and drink specials they would be offering every night. Unfortunately, the happy hour is from 5:00 to 7:00, which conflicted with the first dinner seating, so the only night I was able attend was the night I ate at Crown Grill. That night they had chips and salsa and reduced-price mojitos. Because I had purchased the all-inclusive beverage package, the prospect of reduced-price drinks did not entice me to try to attend the other nights.
I cannot comment much on the entertainment, as I did not attend any of the production or other Princess Theater shows, other than one magician who was, unfortunately, terrible. I did, however, watch a movie, and I attended the always-fun Princess Pop Stars competitions and most of the trivia. I especially enjoy the trivia, as it is a great way for a solo cruiser to meet other passengers by joining their team.
The Casino had non-smoking nights on both formal nights. Unfortunately, the casino manager refused to open the Caribbean Stud Poker table for me. She kept insisting she did not have enough dealers, even though there were always dealers standing at empty tables like Fun 21, which nobody wanted to play.
This cruise included three rounds of Snowball Jackpot Bingo, where all of the prize amounts were based on the amount of tickets sold. Beware of the $500 Speed Bingo, though. The ship sold $10 one-game Speed Bingo tickets, with the winner to receive $500. However, after selling the tickets, they announced that because they had not sold as many as expected, they were reducing the prize to $350. Not good, Princess, not good. I told the gentleman who won that he really needed to demand the full $500.
The weather in all ports was sunny and clear, a bit cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon.
In Victoria, Butschart Gardens was great, but I also heard great reviews of the Pub Tour. If you are considering taking the whale watching tour, you may want to wait for the whale watching in Santa Barbara.
In Seattle, all passengers were required to disembark the ship at an assigned time in the morning and nobody could re-board the ship until everyone had passed through customs and immigration. If you are not planning to go ashore, you don't have a choice, so you may as well plan on doing something in Seattle. Also, if you book your own tour, be aware that you may not be able to get off the ship in time to make your tour. If you are a solo traveller, be prepared for extra attention from customs, as we are apparently deemed inherently suspicous.
In Astoria, I took the Cannon Beach and Seaside Shopping excursion. Seeing Haystack Rock was great, but I would have preferred to spend more time at the beach, rather than the time we had in town for shopping.
In San Francisco, we docked at the brand new Pier 27. Unfortunately, being the first ship to try the new pier turned out to be a bad thing, as the gangway did not work, and we were not able to disembark until 2 hours after we docked. If, like me, you book a private tour, be aware that there is never a guarantee that you will make it off the ship on time. I took a private shuttle tour of the city and Sausalito, with a ferry ride back to the port, but the highlight was certainly sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge at sailaway (and also on arrival, for those who wanted to get up at 6am).
The best tour by far was the Whale Watching tour in Santa Barbara. The weather was beautiful and we saw hundreds of dolphins and sea lions, plus a few humpback and meeki whales (including a mother and her calf). The guide was very knowledgeable and everyone agreed that the tour exceeded their expectations.
This cruise seemed to attract a lot of seasoned travellers so the Platinum Disembarkation Lounge in the Wheelhouse Bar was packed and there was a line to get in. After breakfast, I decided to go to skip the platinum lounge and go to my regular assigned waiting area in the Explorers Lounger, where there were plenty of seats. I had a 1:00 flight and was assigned to meet in the waiting area at 8:45. Disembarkation in Los Angeles was quick and smooth and the port employees were very friendly. Having read that cab fare from the port to the airport runs around $75-100, I opted to buy the Princess transfer, which worked very well and got me to the airport by about 10:00, in plenty of time for my flight.
The Wine Country Coastal is a great itinerary with a nice variety of ports. There were very few children and families on board. Instead, this cruise seemed to attract adult frequent cruisers who were looking for something a bit different. There were also quite a few solo travellers on board and all of them seemed to be having a good time. I would definitely sail this itinerary again.