One of the larger and newer Princess ships - lots of shipboard activities but not too big for personalized serviceBest For People Who Want
A roomy ship with ample choices for alternative dining, wide-ranging fitness programs; true onboard weddings as well as vow renewal; programs for children of all ages, tweens and teens; balcony cabins and mini-suites; plenty of nightlife choices, extensive golf and snorkeling programs.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Small-ship cruising, extensive room service menu options, enrichment lectures, all-inclusive shipsOnboard Experience
Crown Princess entered service in June, 2006, a near sister ship to the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess presented in 1998, once the biggest cruise ship at sea, though that didn't last for long. Crown Princess comes in at a heftier 113,00-tons and carries about 410 more passengers at a capacity of 3080. Therefore, as opposed to the eerily empty feeling you can get aboard the spacious 2700-passenger Grand-class vessels, on these ships you get more of a feel of "abuzz with activity", akin to the 110,000-ton Conquest-class ships of Carnival that can hold as many as 3400 passengers.
However, thanks to shrewd layout, multiple dining venues, four expansive outdoor deck areas (1.7 acres!), multiple sports facilities, four pools, and nine hot tubs, passengers are rarely concentrated in any one area. Meanwhile, the mega-ship amenities included for those who can never get enough dining, entertainment, spa and fitness choices, means the Princess ships of this class make the best of everything for ships in this size and price range. Their programs for younger passengers are exemplary, and their Lido buffet dining spot is open around the clock.
One new feature which is a first for Princess is the Sanctuary, an adults-only spa-like space on the upper-most forward deck featuring quiet music and surroundings of lush greenery referred to by Princess as a "pocket of tranquility". There are outdoor cabanas where one can receive full massage services from the onboard Lotus Spa, or there are casual neck and shoulder massages available. The space also offers signature beverages and light meals such as smoothies, energy drinks, flavored waters and lemonade. A menu features fruit skewers, lettuce wrapped spring rolls, and spicy tuna.
An adjunct to the Sanctuary is the Thermal Suite, an area within the spa offering steam saunas infused with aromatherapy essential oils such as eucalyptus or lavender, a dry sauna, rainmist showers and heated ceramic "zero-gravity" beds to rest upon after your steam.
Another new feature is a spiced-up atrium known as The Piazza, featuring the a 24-hour International Café with sandwiches, tapas and special coffees available for very reasonable prices; and Vines, a wine bar where one can get expert advice from the on duty sommelier and sample a variety of fine wines by the glass. On the Piazza stage, various entertainers will appear seemingly out of nowhere to amuse and entertain you; jugglers, close-up magicians, tumblers and an assortment of costumed oddities.
Crown Princess also offers "Movies Under the Stars," a huge (300 sq. ft) flat panel rear-projection video screen and 6900 watts of sound power to show up to four different near first-run films daily outdoors above the pool. This was such a hit on Caribbean Princess that the concept was added to all the large Princess ships. On some ships they hand out headphones to viewers to alleviate complaints from nearby cabins.
Having offered the first wedding chapel at sea (with the Captain doing the honors) on Grand Princess, Crown Princess also offers true marriages at sea, as well as vow renewals. A complete professional digital photography studio in the F/X Digital Photo Center is perfect for those all-important wedding photos. The medical center is one of the most advanced at sea, the first to offer real-time teleconferencing support from a leading national cardiac care center in the United States.
The most incongruous, and arguably pleasing, factor about these mega-ships is that the public rooms aren't much bigger than those on much smaller ships giving it the feel of a much smaller ship than it really is. The one oddity of the "Grand-class" design is the compromised privacy of most balconies that extend out from the ship in a pyramid-like stacking arrangement which allows people from several decks above can look right down into your "private" enclave. From the Deck 11, for instance, you can watch other passengers on deck nine and ten balconies. Deck 10 occupants can in turn observe their counterparts on the Deck nine.Decor
Unlike the theme park atmosphere of some other cruise lines, the décor on Princess ships extends an understatedly elegant and refined atmosphere, with hand-painted murals and etched glass partitions in the dining rooms. Little apparent expense was spared on materials, with rich fabrics, beautiful woods, and marble everywhere, all topped off with a $2 million art collection aboard each ship. The cabins are tastefully decorated in soft, inoffensive shades -- beiges, creams and muted pinks.Public Rooms
The main gathering spot, the three deck tall, open Piazza, has boutiques, the 24-hour International Café, the Internet access room, the Vines wine-tasting room and and passenger services, all connected by circular glass staircases and glass elevators. It's the best people-watching place on the ship, especially when there's a string quartet playing a piece you adore, but watch out for the street performers who will sneak up on you and make you a captive audience of two. Among the nearby public rooms are the casino, entrances to the two open-seating dining rooms, and the shore excursions desk.
We favor the maritime-themed Wheelhouse Bar, full of memorabilia and paintings, not to mention comfortable leather wingback chairs, a small dance floor, and a piano singalong motif that will make you want to use it. The safari-themed Explorer's Club offers cabaret, trivia competitions, art auctions, and between-meals dancing. The gigantic Casino contains some 285 slot machines and gaming tables beyond counting. You can relax in the Cigar Lounge, or recline in leather chairs while perusing any of hundreds of books in the beautiful library.
The main showroom, the Princess Theater, presents production shows, cabaret, comedians and magicians. With seating for 1600 we found it unusually cramped with airplane-like seats jammed together and not enough footspace to allow for fast escapes during a brief production show set changes. Once you're in there, your stuck for the entire show unless you sit on the aisle. The upside is that everyone has a great view of the stage.
The Club Fusion Showlounge offers live dance combos for various kinds of music, Latin or Rhythm & Blues. Karaoke contests and theme-parties such as a "'60s British Invasion" also happen nightly. Later on, it doubles for a secondary disco for those who get light-headed scaling the heights to Skywalkers, the real disco on high at the stern of the ship. Unlike the smaller Grand-class vessels, however, Skywalkers is no longer suspended high in the air. It lies on Sky Deck and now has a large balcony included for smokers and those who favor the wind-blown look.Cuisine
What can you say about a ship that offers three main dining rooms instead of the usual multi-tiered, bigger than life one? They are more intimate and definitely quieter, but the decor is not likely to elicit a "wow" response either. There are three dining rooms, two dedicated to "personal choice" dining which means open seating and country-club casual dress nightly from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. For the more traditional minded, the third dining room, deck six aft, offers the standard cruise line seating, early at 6:30 and late seating at 8:15 (subject to change). Diners are assigned tables and tablemates, and are serviced at the same time and by the same waiters every night.
Unlike many cruise lines, Princess does not have an executive chef designing the recipes for the entire fleet. Each ship has its own executive chef who is responsible for the menu creation. This means cuisine is more tailored the region the ship is cruising, a nice touch. It also gives the chef the ability to change food selection according to passenger response. In talking to the executive chef on board, we were told that the best food is served in the open seating restaurants (though the menus are identical in all three main dining rooms) because of the ability to cook food as it is ordered, rather than according to a pre-determined time schedule. Our food always arrived hot and perfectly prepared.
The ship offers two alternative dining spots carrying cover charges. First is Sabatini's Trattoria where guests are required to try a little bit of everything on the menu, the only choice being your main course. The second premium dining option is Crowne Grill, featuring chops and seafood, and the one we preferred.Restaurants
The three principal restaurants, the Michelango, Da Vinci and Boticelli Dining Rooms, seating just over 500 passengers, feature hand-painted murals and etched-glass partitions. The drapes and carpeting in the main dining areas absorb sound efficiently enough to preclude diners having to holler across the table to one another.
Personal Choice Dining offers either traditional cruise dining (In the Boticelli), with a set seating time (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and the same waiter and tablemates each evening, or new restaurant-style seating, allowing passengers to dine when and with whom they choose, with each party seated at its own table, as at a restaurant ashore (offered in the other two dining rooms). Restaurant-style diners may be seated in either of the two elegant main dining rooms any time between 5:30 and midnight. Many passengers are understandably grateful for this reprieve from having to hurry to dress for dinner in the traditional way after a long day ashore.
Sabatini's Italian Tratorria dining begins with focaccia bread and olive oil. next comes a wonderful selection of Italian antipasti, complemented with Sevruga caviar, delicious seafood salads, homemade pastas, and soups. Salads are tossed before your very eyes, and soup ladled into fresh bread bowls. Seafood predominates on the list of main courses; there are lobster, langoustines, tiger prawns, Chilean sea bass and scallops, with red meat dishes also on offer. Save room for the exquisite Italian pastries that will be wheeled before you toward meal's end. The service charge is $20 per person.
The Crown Grill, featuring Angus beef and seafood specialties all custom-prepared in an open, theater-style kitchen, is the restaurant most preferred. The courses are served traditionally; salad, appetizer, soup, main course and dessert. The difference is in the quality and careful preparation. Using our meal as a sample, the carpaccio of pine nut-coated lamb loins with gooseberry chutney was the most unusual and delicious carpaccio I have ever tasted. Soups and salads include rockfish chowder or marinated goat's cheese. Main courses include a four-ounce Maine lobster tail, or for an additional $9.99 you can have an entire 24 to 32-ounce lobster, split and either grilled or steamed (your choice). Other main courses (no extra charge) are steaks of every traditional cut, lamb rack, pork, veal or beef chops; and seafoods including mussel pot, striped bass and tiger prawns or Australian barramundi. The recommended dessert choice is the chef's sampler which includes a small portion of every dessert offered. Service charge is $25 per person.
The Horizon Court is open 24 hours per day, with menu service at night, plus casual breakfast and luncheon buffet. There's also a festive pizzeria. For $100 per couple, you can book the Ultimate Balcony Dinner, to be served by a butler who discreetly makes himself scarce behind drapes or out in the hall between courses. The ship's photographer snaps a complimentary photo while you're eating.
At night, the Horizon Court restaurant is transformed into Cafe Caribe, offering a self-service buffet of tasty hot food in a very casual setting. Once seated there is full waiter service at fully set tables for drinks or anything else you may need. The courses change nightly, and it stays open until 4:00 a.m. (when breakfast begins). There is no service charge.
Room service on Princess ships is probably among the most limited you will find in this price range. They will not serve you a hot breakfast unless you opt for the $25 per person champagne balcony indulgence. They will bring you hot coffee, juice, rolls, cereal and yogurt. Lunch and dinner include the usual club sandwich, hamburgers and apple pie. There is no option to choose from the dining room menu, even during regular dinner hours. If you want a hot, fresh pizza they are delicious and enough for two people, but there is a $3 delivery charge.
The International Café in the Piazza offers a number of tidbits for just $1 apiece, including shrimp salads, tapas style hors d; oeuvres, and the best "service charge" items on the ship, the six scoops (choice of three different flavors) of real Italian gelato for a mere $1.50. You won't mind paying since the portion is more than enough for two people and includes toppings.Service
While Princess has a well-deserved reputation for good service securely footed in its British roots, truly personalized service may be too much to expect on a ship this size. That noted, cabin stewards and waiters are both efficient and personable. And rote processes that should be standardized and well executed on other ships but often fail miserably, such as efficient disembarkation, are generally practiced and polished to the point of excellence here.Tipping
A charge of $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account for dining and stateroom personnel. This applies to all passengers, adult and child alike, whether or not they choose traditional or personal choice dining. The amount may be increased or lowered at the Purser's Reception desk during the cruise.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion. Every room service delivery must be signed for, and next to the signature line is the opportunity to add a gratuity - hint, hint.Entertainment
With a dozen or so venues for nightlife, you're virtually assured of finding something that floats your boat, to coin a phrase. There's no faulting the lavishness of the production shows, which feature extravagant special effects. The performers in the cabaret are a talented bunch. As stated, the theater itself is rather cramped and not easy to escape unnoticed.
The Internet room on these Grand-class ships do not qualify as "cafés" as there are no café-style treats available. Another drawback is the limited number of wi-fi wireless enabled areas on the ship, pretty much limited to the piazza area. It is too bad to see a modern ship without Internet access in the cabins. The connection speed was spotty, but usually fast enough to be workable. Tech support was almost invisible, but fellow passengers are knowledgeable enough these days to help in almost any situation.Cabins
are built out from the body of the ship so as to permit bigger staterooms. 710 of the 1300 staterooms have balconies, ranging up to 257 sq. feet, but the balconies are not very private, as they're in plain view of the occupants of the cabin on the next deck up. Standard inside staterooms are 160 sq. ft., while outside cabins range from 168 to 210 sq. feet. Mini-suites with private verandas are 325 sq. feet. Vista Suites, called mini-suites on other Princess ships, range from 515 to 800 sq. feet. Sun and Dawn Princess offer larger minisuites for less money.
Closet space is minimal except in the suites; leave some things home! There are launderettes available on nearly every passenger deck, with coin-operated washers & dryers, ironing boards and soap and softener for sale in vending machines.
All staterooms have color TV with CNN and movies, a radio and small refrigerator, suites have spacious bathrooms with storage space and hair dryers, but any cabin of balcony category or less has a tiny bathroom with "huggy" shower curtains and barely enough rack space for towels for two.Fitness/Spa
It is rare to find such ample fitness facilities, especially when you add in the Sanctuary and the thermal suite which serve as extensions to the existing spa and offer many of the same services and more. The thermal suite is offered for $10 per day, or at a reduced price for the entire cruise, reduced even further for pre-paying couples. Costs will be pro-rated if you decide to join mid-cruise.
The four pools, including a "swim-against-the-current" lap pool, are uniformly gorgeous, thanks in no small part to colorful mosaics and surrounding palm trees. Low marks, though, to whoever decided to put the separate jogging track right above the spa, as the relentless thundering of hooves overhead isn't terribly conducive to one's enjoying her massage or beauty treatment. Even though prices are substantially higher than ashore, spa services are very popular, especially in the afternoon. You'll occasionally have to stand in line for some of the more popular workout apparatuses in the gym. There's a wrap-around promenade deck for long walks, a golf simulator and 9-hole putting green, and courts for basketball, volleyball or tennis.Attire
Seven- to 14-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for dark suit instead of tux, while their distaff companions often prefer dressy pants to gowns. The rest of the time, think smart casual. Formal attire is only required in the traditional dining rooms, though most people opt to dress up no matter where they are headed that night.
Ruined 40th birthday.
We are new to the cruising world and are seasoned travelers, but thought it would be fun to try a cruise for an upcoming 40th birthday celebration. Little did we know that when you see a time listed for arrival, that it doesn't mean you can actually get off the boat. Don't get me wrong, I understand that it could mean plus or minus a few hours, but 6 hours! Princess cruises know that you cannot leave the boat until 7 am, but they purposely tell you that arrival is 1 am. Isn't that wrong or did I just assume something that I shouldn't have. Being the seasoned traveler, I based this assumption on the simple fact that if an airline, bus or car service tell you that you will arrive at a certain (give or take, weather permitted of course) time at your destination you can get off. This is like an airline telling you that your arrival time is 10 pm, but you can't actually get off the plane until 7 am.
How can some plan any "private" tours or their own sight seeing around aschedule if they keep the real times to themselves. Seems to me that it really is about forcing you to pay the higher fees to take one of their excursions.
the cruise was awesome the ship was great the staff were excellent but the food was terrible .It was cold not well presented in the buffet areas . We tied the restaurants and not much better.the internet service was horrible ,never worked very slow When I got back I phoned Princess about this cruise and complained . They gave me no satisfactory reason for this bad food and internet service , so I asked for some rebate of my fare. they told me to seek legal council. Not a great pr move on their part, so I guess it is buyer beware . Plus we had an outbreak(supposedly) of noro virus on board, 50 sick out of 2600+crew. I really do not think it was noro virus ,since this spreads very quickly. My thoughts are with food poisoning because of cold food. Hopefully cruisemates will be unbiased and release this review
A Royal Caribbean Fan Impressed by Princess
We (DW & I, 50's), did a Southern Caribbean cruise on Crown Princess (private island of Princess Cays, Curacao, Aruba). Crown Princess, (in our opinion at least), offered a great cruise with nothing lacking.
PRE-CRUISE: We booked Embassy Suites through Princess (included transfers from the airport to the hotel to the ship the next day). No complaints about the hotel itself (Princess arrangements were another story). They had a free manager's reception for two hours Friday night (free drinks, snacks), plus a very nice breakfast the next morning. I would stay at Embassy again, but I probably wouldn't book through Princess. We had to be with our bags in our room at 9AM (they came to take the bags around 9:45), then we had to go to the lobby at 11AM, identify our bags, then check in with a Princess Rep to get a seat on the bus to the Port. That basically blew the whole morning which could have been spent seeing more of the local sites. We were assigned the first of two buses to leave the hotel for a five minute drive.Our luggage has a mind of its own apparently; it decided to take the second bus. By the time we got our bags, tipped the porter for moving them two feet, and approached the embarkation desks, it was after 1PM. I can't really comment about Embarkation itself: it was very easy, but by time we went through the whole process, almost everyone else was onboard.
THE SHIP: Crown Princess: immaculately clean, a very beautiful ship. We had a Caribe Deck Balcony cabin, mid-ship with a large balcony. No towel animals (Does Princess not do this? Talked to others who had none), but a very attentive Room Steward. Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, along with medium sized soap bars were provided in abundance. CNN and ESPN (but often the International versions) could be found on tv along with numerous other channels. Lacking: many newer ships allow you to view your portfolio on your tv screen (some even offer face-recognition technology for the photos they take of you). Those are not available on Crown Princess; you have to go to the service desk to get a copy of your statement. I was told that they will shortly have self-service kiosks where you'll be able to check by yourself instead of standing in line at the Service Desk. Our balcony had four chairs and a table; some rust was apparent on the balcony, but nothing major. The wooden rail was freshly varnished.
FOOD: We were impressed. I thought the portions in the Dining Room were more than ample; presentation seemed nicely done to me. Let's face it: food is very subjective, and I spoke to another cruiser who said the food quality and presentation was better on her previous Princess cruise. For us we could only compare it to Royal & Celebrity, and, while my pre-cruise expectations were to find food in slightly lesser quality, I feel Princess had a more creative and varied menu. I tried several main courses I never had before in nine cruises and enjoyed them all (strange way of serving cold soups though). Have to mention: I'm not much of a fish eater, but the fish choices looked so interesting I had fish 3 nights in a row (You can always get a good steak somewhere, but unless you live near the ocean, seafood is a different story). One night I had Cioppino, a fish stew. If you had told me before the cruise I'd be eating (and enjoying!) a fish stew, I would've called you a BS'er. Good hamburgers and hot dogs on the pool deck (also grilled chicken, more). Best pizza I've ever had on a cruise ship. Free ice cream on the pool deck (soft or hard). I had the deluxe soda card (included virgin drinks and shakes); DW went for the regular. Iced Tea was a little hard to find, but bartenders or waiters would usually honor a request for Iced Tea even if the buffet area was closed.
The buffet: food quality equal to other ships, but Royal and Celebrity have a better system. Crown's buffet area seems too crowded. We had fish & chips at the Wheelhouse Bar (offered for lunch twice this cruise), had one DR breakfast, and had many snacks on Deck 5 at the little cafÃ© there. We did not try the specialty restaurants (we were very happy with the main DR); spoke to some who did and raved about them. There are many complaints on CC about coffee. I found it okay; so did our table mates. . We had the Botticelli DR, late seating (8;15PM). To me the late seating interfered with some activities we wanted to see, and most cruisers seemed to think Anytime Dining was the way to go.
The Pool areas were nice (larger pools than many ships). We looked at The Sanctuary, never felt a need to book it - plenty of space near the pools on most days. Some people complain MUTS is distracting. You have your choice of several other pools without MUTS, so that's not a valid complaint. We wanted to see a movie on MUTS, but late dinners and a few cold nights prevented us. I like the concept though. Another case of misleading info on CC: The Theater - many posts about it always being overcrowded. Maybe it was because we had the late seating, but we never had trouble finding good seats, and the theater was never full for any shows. The lounges used for comedians, Karaoke and games: Now THOSE tended to get crowded, but we never missed anything.
CRUISE DIRECTOR STAFF: Lisa Ball did an excellent job in our opinion. She and her assistant Chris hosted a slide show of "Behind the Scenes" crew areas and spent an hour answering questions about Ship Life. She was also visibly present after every theater show. And Chris (Deputy CD) is certainly capable of having a ship of his own some day soon.
ENTERTAINERS: Crown had a very good mix. Wayne Hoffman, a mentalist, had a bizarre (meant as a compliment) show. James Michael offered a "Hello Kitty" segment in his act; it was funny but I'm trying to keep that mental image out of my head. Phil Tag: hilarious comedy. Good mix of entertainment (even jugglers and more) each day in the Piazza. Not too many cruisers would think a piano player would be an entertainment highlight, but Kory Simon had a last night show that was as entertaining and amusing as anything else we saw. He performed to packed rooms in the Crooner's Bar several nights also.
EXCURSIONS: On Princess Cays I rented a Kayak. Fun, but in retrospect I'd spend a few more bucks and rent a Hobie Cat Trimaran - more speed and fun, less work. In Curacao we did the Sunset Cruise - disappointing, (there was no Sunset!). The catamaran took us out to sea (always trolling speed), returned to shore 5 minutes before the sun set. On top of that I just found out we actually returned 45 minutes earlier than scheduled; therefore, no reason to miss it. In Aruba we did our own thing: local bus to Palm Beach, rented two loungers for $5 each, rented a float for $5, had lunch at Senor Frogs.