My son and I took Princess Crown Cruise 13 days Alaska Off the Beaten Path - Tour (KA6) starting from May 24, 2014.
This tour start with 7 days on cruise and then follow with 6 days in land. Before the trip, I purchased a blue Armani Jeans brand T-shirt for my son because we thought my son has to wear formal evening dresses for dinner in Specialty Restaurants. I also thought my son is still young and doesn't need to wear suit and tie, and T-shirts looks good enough for young men. He wore it in the cruise. Then we washed our clothes before we left the cruise for our land tour. I went to the laundry room to check my clothes when they were in dryer. I saw one of Princess staff turning his body immediately facing to my dryer and turned on the dryer which had my clothes inside when I opened the door of laundry room. I am one hundred percent sure the dryer I used was started and don't know why he was so scared and awkward. I saw his face, but I didn't havetime to find his name and ID before he ran away. I found many parts of T-shirt faded when I was folding my clothes. And other clothes include my son's red and green color T-shirts were all ok.
I report what happened to one of Princess Staff. But I still thought it is quality problem. So I contacted the Armani store where I purchased the T-shirt after the cruise tour. They checked and told me that is not their problem. They also told me that the T-shirt has cleaner odor which is not detergent for the clothes because we still can smell it on my son's T-shirt. I am shock and very angry. Therefore I believe that Princess staff who ran away using my son's T-shirt to wiping down the metal table in the laundry room. I reported what happened to customer service department of Princess one month later. Now Princess cruise pushes my problem aside and told me they cannot solve the problem because my tour is end. Now almost 3 months is over, nobody in Princess Cruise Company contact to me again. So I have to write my review here to tell everyone how Princess Cruise company treats customer. I would never take Princess Cruises ever again.
Plus - Allan and La Donna they get into the swing of the passengers
Negative - Shrimp cocktail with tomato ketchup and a hint of horse raddish flavour (not) as a sauce, followed by ribs with BBQ sauce (tomato ketchup with hint of Worcestershire sauce) Sorry chef get your sauces sorted.
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.
Our first cruise,we had the most awesome time!! The cruise member ALL were great. entertainment, food, everything! I have not a bad to say. We even sang in the Pop Choir and Sara is a great crew member. Zumba fun also. We are in our 50's and are still on a vacation high after a week. Loved our cruise! thank you
This was our first cruise on board the Crown Princess, but her class includes the Ruby and the Emerald Princesses which are exact replicas, and we have sailed on both of them. The tradition of creating new classes of ships built to one basic engineering design is a good one, since passengers feel that they already know the deck plan well from sailing aboard a sister ship. It also reduces time spent looking for various locals on board --- theater forward, dining rooms mid to aft, Piazza or centrum Decks 5, 6, & 7, Buffet and pool areas Deck 15 etc. etc. etc. The Crown Princess Captain Andrew Proctor can usually be seen at morning tea with his lovely wife in the International Cafe'. He says that he enjoys this area of the ship immensely because the open atmosphere invites informal conversations with passengers. This kindly gentleman sets the warm mood of the Crown Princess.
EMBARKATION On Princess ships embarkation is speedy and orderly. Baggage is taken at curbside and for wheelchair passengers there is direct access to Priority Check In counters. All passengers go to Check In counters individually marked witheach deck name. This system reduces long lines and needless waiting. The gangway once again was quite steep, which means reversing the swing away pedals on the wheel chair to protect them. Vincent also shut off his scooter to avoid jamming the motor or gears. This was our 88th cruise, so by now we know how to avoid equipment damage.
We arrived in Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, FL at 12:30pm and had assistance all the way to our cabin C303 where we dropped off our walker and hand luggage and were off to the buffet at 1:00pm. After lunch Vincent went to the Crown Grill Restaurant where Maitre D'Hotel Francesco Ciorfito assigned us an exquisite table for two, by the window, in the Da Vinci dining room. Personal Choice Dining allows us to dine at the same table every evening with the same wait staff. Now all that remained was the Boat Drill at 4:15pm. On Princess this is painless since the Muster Stations are indoors and seating is available.
THE SHIP The Crown Princess is the first of three ships in the Crown Class. She was built by Fincantieri Shipyards at Montefalcone, Italy in 2006. She is Hull #6100 to come from this venerable builder. There is an abundance of wood, brass and marble which contribute to its elegant interiors. Throughout the ship are many paintings and mosaics. Her Port of Registry is Hamilton, Bermuda. Her gross tonnage is 112,894, her length is 951 ft. and breadth is 118 ft. Passenger capacity is 3,150 and she sails with a crew of 1,200. She has a cruising speed of 22.5 knots. There are three sets of elevators: one forward, one aft and a Panoramic set of lifts mid ship.
Gala Deck 4 has crew areas and the Medical Center.
Decks 5, 6, & 7 (Plaza, Fiesta & Promenade) are all public passenger areas. Forward on Deck 5 there are passenger cabins and the Laundromat (other Laundromats are on Decks 8, 9, 11, 12, & 14 aft, and on Deck10 midship). The theater is located on Decks 6 & 7 forward.
Plaza Deck 5 midship are the Piazza, with live music and entertainment and the International Cafe', with terrific coffees and hot chocolates, not to mention marvelous desserts, salads, soups and sandwiches. Here is also served Italian Gelato (three huge scoops on a special elongated dish for a $1.50). There is a beautiful Peacock mural and mosaics everywhere and even on the floor. Midship are also the Internet Cafe', with its many interesting chiaro-scuro photographs of Venetian scenes, the Travel Cafe' Escapes, the Vines (a wine and cheese bar), the Future Cruise Sales and the Art Gallery. Aft is the Michelangelo Dining Room.
Fiesta Deck 6 midship has the Gatsby Casino, Reception Desk and the shops of Meridian Bay. Aft is the Da Vinci Dining Room, with its light maple wood walls and low ceilings and lovely art work. Aft is the Botticelli dining room, accessible only from the upper decks by the aft lifts. On Deck 6 forward is the lower level of Princess Theater with wheelchair accessible seats through a corridor.
Promenade Deck 7 has the promenade around the ship with the exception of the forward part, which continues through the stairs on Deck 8, Emerald deck. On Deck 7, forward there is wheelchair access to the upper level of Princess Theater. Here are also the Wheelhouse Bar with its nautical décor and the Library with its excellent stacks.
Decks 8 through 14 (Emerald, Dolphin, Caribe, Baja, Aloha and Riviera) are mainly for passenger cabins and suites.
Lido Deck 15 forward has cabins, midship are the Trident Grill with more mosaics, the Neptune's Reef & Pool with the Pizza and Ice Cream station. At midship there are also the Pool and the Movies under the Stars. Aft is the Horizon Court & Terrace for buffet dining.
Sun Deck 16 forward has the Lotus Spa with the Beauty Salon, Sauna and Massage rooms, Aerobics, Fitness Center and the Hearts & Minds wedding chapel. Aft is Sabatini's gourmet Italian Restaurant and the Adagio Bar with elegant entrances of wrought copper grape vines.
Sports Deck 17 forward is the Sanctuary, an exclusive area reserved for sunning and relaxation. All the way aft are the Teen Center with Chill Out, The Fun Zone, Off Limits and the Video Arcade.
Sky/Star Decks 18/19 have the Center Court, Cybergolf and the Jogging Track and the Skywalkers Night Club at the top.
This is a beautifully kept ship with much to do for all ages.
FOOD & SERVICE The service on board is top notch -- fit for a queen -- every afternoon at 3:30pm High Tea is served in the Da Vinci Dining Room. This is a must experience. Maitre D'Hotel Francesco Ciorfito is a patient and kind man dedicated to giving the passengers a wonderful experience on board. Head Waiter Giuseppe Renda made us welcome each evening in the Da Vinci. Sous Chef Federico Femiano sent us some marvelous specialities like Lucullus (egg plant rolled around angel hair pasta, baked with a tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano), and a Risotto ai funghi (mushroom risotto) that was delicious. Our waiters each evening were the very adept Douglas Garcia and his assistant Despot Cvedanovic. They served the meal at a nice pace and always with a smile. We especially like the crisp salads and innovative soups including the cold ones (Pina Colada, pear and peach were superb).Lunch time was always pleasant with the the very cordial waiter Enrique. Head Waiter Mihai Baroi was everywhere on board and overlooking everything. The luncheon menu is quite good, in fact we think the best afloat: including fried Calamari, Vitello Tonnato, osso buco, etc., items usually found in upscale restaurants only!
We ate dinner in Sabatini's ($20) with what seemed like 18 courses. Our table was next to a fountain and the delightful room design is repeated circles of round tables and wood décor with a huge Tiffany ceiling globe, similar to the one in the centrum. All in all a gorgeous room. All the breads on Princess are exceptional, but the Food & Beverage Supervisor Claudio Guarnieri told us that the Corporate Executive Baker was on board to "Tweak" the recipes and has already had great success with the focaccia.
Since this was our fifteenth cruise with Princess, we are now Elite members and were invited to breakfast in Sabatini's. Excellent! Mary recommends the poached eggs served over tiny roasted potato cubes in a snifter of sorts with Hollandaise sauce on the side. Vincent recommends the freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice with James Beard's French toast, or an excellent Belgian waffle. Sous Chef Ivano Milani (a student of Executive Chef Antonio Cereda) makes Sabatini's a terrific place to dine. Vincent, as an Italian, usually avoids Italian food when dining out, because he is afraid of being disappointed, but not on Princess with her many terrific Italian born chefs. We feel Princess has the best food on the seas. Hotel General Manager Martin Ford has every right to be proud of the service aboard the Crown: It is superb!
CABIN C303 on Caribe Deck 10 is a wheelchair accessible cabin with ample space. When entering on the left is a parking area for the wheelchair and next a triple armoire, with two sections for hanging clothes and one with shelves and a personal safe. Next, there is a flat screen TV and a refrigerator, a long counter area and one cabinet with two drawers. There is also a small round coffee table and two chairs.
When entering on the right, there is a large bathe with a fold up shower seat and a single sink with shelves for amenities. All was nicely tiled and kept exceptionally clean by our Steward Marius. There is a large queen bed with a puff quilt. The bed is flanked by two bureaus with four drawers each and a reading lamp too far away to shut off from the bed. The décor is blue, gold and cream, very cool.
The balcony is oversized and held two lounge chairs, two chairs and a table. There was a cover over half of it. It was very convenient, private and protected. We were very comfortable here and the chocolate dipped strawberries and fresh fruit daily made life a dream.
ENTERTAINMENT Princes always has excellent music in the Piazza, the Dining Rooms and on deck poolside. Cruise Director Ron Goodman leads off the cruse with a Sail Away at Neptune's Reef on Deck 15 and the music and dancing begin. In the Explorer's Lounge on Promenade Deck 7 there was an early movie "Oceans" and the cruise was off to a great start. The Princess Theater usually has two nightly shows: 7 and 9pm. We dined at 5:30 and sometimes made the early show. The Princess Orchestra and Dancers star in two shows "Motor City" and "Destination Anywhere."
The Piazza has many entertainers among which were "Duo Alia" (two gorgeous girls who did "adagio body balancing" a unique acrobatic routine. Then there is the Champagne Waterfall Party hosted by Captain Proctor and built by Maitre D' Francesco Ciorfito, where many ladies had their pictures taken with the gracious and patient Francesco. This was formerly held at midnight, but has now been moved to 7:30-8:30 pm with free champagne for all. There was an abundance of comedians on board. We thought the best was Cary Long in the Explorer's Lounge. The well organized "Princess Patter" lists all the daily activities and events—Go have a ball.
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart 5:00pm Day 2. At sea Day 3. Grand Cayman Arrive 7:00am Depart 4:00pm Day 4. Roatan, Honduras Arrive 10:00am Depart 5:00pm Day 5. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 7:00am Depart 8:00pm Day 6. At sea Day 7. Princess Cays, Bahamas Arrive 9:00am Depart 4:30pm Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL Arrive 6:00am Disembark 7:00
DEBARKATION Debarkation was as organized and simple as embarkation. Passengers were called by their luggage tag colors. Wheelchair Passengers met at the Crooner's Bar and, since our color was already called, we had immediate assistance, thanks to our new acquaintance F & B Manager Claudio Guarnieri. We were off, collected our luggage, and were through customs, passport check and outside awaiting our son Marcello by 8:30am. Excellent!
CONCLUSIONS This was our fifteenth cruise on Princess and another pleasant one. We are now Elite members of the Captain's Circle, so we look forward to more cruises on Princess ships for the enhanced benefits, such as complimentary Mini Bar set up, free laundry and professional cleaning services, deluxe canape selections and, most of all, the special breakfasts at Sabatini's! However, our next cruises will be a three day cruise to nowhere on the new Allure of the Seas Nov. 23rd and a seven day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the same ship Jan 23rd, 2011. Happy Cruising!
My husband and I have been on a Princess Cruise before and enjoyed it. The Crown Princess I must say is absolutely beautiful! We loved the food immensely. I loved the large Movie Screen out by the pool (which I utilized quite a bit) they showed All of the movies that were out in theatres...fabulous! At night while watching movies they give you a plaid light wool blanket if it's cold. One of my favorite places to visit onboard was the International Cafe'....free quiches,sandwiches, desserts of all kinds, nuts, apricots, dried fruits, etc. Wonderful!! The Entertainment was good not overly great! Overall I would give this Cruise a 4.5 stars out of 5
For our 17th cruise we flew to Heathrow and took the National Express coach bus to our port of Southampton, bookable on the net, 20 UKP return, and 10 UKP for seniors. Get the bus at the Central Bus Station in the terminal 1, 2, 3 area, follow the bus signage. Book ahead, buses to the ports are full. The trip is a little under 2 hours. From Gatwick it's a little over 3 hours. From the bus station in Southampton it's a 4.60 UKP cab to the ship, and 5.60 going back after the cruise.
We arrived at the Mayflower cruise terminal at noon, luggage handling was fast, and we had our ship card by 12:15. Then there was a holdup in boarding like the old days many years ago. After getting ship cards we were sent to a large lounge with several hundred people to wait to board by colored cards handed out. After an hour and 10 minutes our color was called, with about 50 other people. Then we discovered the reason for the holdup. A minor one was the ship's portrait photographers stopping the line for boardingphotos, which we declined, and kept moving. The major lineup turned out to be getting security photos done to match our ship cards. This is usually done at the ship card stations, and we saw camera cams there but not in use.
The Crown is a classy, well-appointed ship, similar in décor to the HAL and Celebrity lines, not gaudy like Carnival. We were surprised that a ship as large and new as the Crown did not have a soaring open atrium, but an older style closed atrium extending from deck 5-7. It also had the traditional promenade shops and bars along laneways rather than the newer open air street promenade concept.
There is a quiet adults only area with pool, luxury loungers, cabanas, and green foliage called the Sanctuary, with a charge of $10 per half day and $20 per full day. This is similar to the solariums on the RCL Vision class, which are free, and also has a closeable roof in bad weather which the Crown didn't.
We thought the upper level in the Da Vinci dining room would have an open center area allowing tables a view of the lower level, but it's closed in, permitting extra tables.
One nice little special spot we liked was out the back of the Horizon buffet, up either staircase on each side, where there are about 6 nice glass tables with comfy chairs, lovely stern view. The windows in Sabatini's alternate restaurant look out onto this space. These tables are usually occupied, hard to find an open one in nice weather.
Specialty features on the ship include Movies Under the Stars, which are on-deck giant screen movies night or day, extra padded loungers, blankets, free popcorn. Picture was a bit grainy but watchable, Also a miniputt course. No ice rink, rock-climbing wall, surf pool, or kid's water slide.
Nice to have laundrettes, made my wife happy. And the gym was great, large with lots of equipment, some machines you don't often see on ships. Easy to get on even at peak times, maybe because the folks were mostly older. Outdoor jogging track, 1/16 of a mile, was tight for passing people. No dance area by the pool band, strange, but that didn't stop some people dancing between the loungers, great band.
All together the design of the ship or attractions would not make it a “destination ship” for us, but if you love outdoor movies and don't mind paying for a quiet pool area it could be for you.
THE CABIN (inside Riviera deck 14)
We liked the walk-in closet/dressing area, no doors to mess with, and 2 electrical outlets on the vanity, didn't need the power bar this time. We were surprised there was only seating for 1, just the vanity chair, first time for that, our other ships had some type of side chair or loveseat. Our steward said outside cabins have seating for 2. There was a little round table in the closet, but we couldn't see anywhere in the cabin to put it, so we left it there. Widescreen TV, but can't check your ship account or book tours on it. Lots of storage space, robes, extra hangers on request. Hair dryer was on the weak side, not great for thick hair, bring your own if necessary. Good sized vanity. Loved having a fridge!
DINING/FOOD The dining room food was fine, equivalent to the other major cruise lines. About 10 entrees each night including alternates. We chose Anytime Dining which we love, and if you agree to sit with others they can seat you anytime you arrive. We often needed a table for 2 of which there was quite a few, but in some areas they were pushed so close together, a few inches apart, that there was no privacy. If you want privacy, note the table numbers you like, then call Anytime Dining reservations between 8-4 that day, give them those numbers, and they will attempt to reserve one of those table for you. In Da Vinci the private tables are 480, 481, 484, 441, and 437. Call soon after 8 for best preference. Every time we called early we got our request, and once calling later nothing was available.
There are 2 alternate restaurants that charge a $20 fee, a steak house and Sabatini's, for seafood and pasta. We tried the latter, had a combo lobster and shrimp dinner with a variety of starters and appetizers of which you are brought many samples to try, and it was wonderful, well worth the charge.
The food in the Horizon buffet was fine, but at peak times it was more crowded than other ships we've been on, hard to find a place to sit, and the joke among passengers was how long they had to circle to get a table. The staff try to help find people tables, especially if they already have their food. Ice tea always available, great lemonade, harder to find, but if you ask the staff they will get you some.
The pizza joint was good, several kinds rotated daily, nice thin crust. Burgers, dogs, and fries at the pool were good.
The International Café has an assortment of sweets and tapas, some for a fee. Gillatto ice cream is 3 scoops for $1.50. Free donuts, cookies, brownies, etc.
The song and dance floor shows and other entertainment were fine, but for the first time we've seen, shows were repeated on later days, apparently because the theatre can't seat everyone on the ship in 2 sittings, so they repeat in order to give everyone a chance to see the shows. People we talked to did not like that, wanted more variety.
We tried to get to the famous Pulpit Rock http://www.stavangertravel.com/news/pulpit-rock-norway.cfm), jutting out 2000 feet above the fjord, but with an early ship departure, all aboard was 3:30, we ran out of time about half an hour from the top and had to turn back. To get there you take a ferry across the bay which connects to a tourist bus going there. If your ship arrives in time for you to catch the 7:20 or 8:00 ferry, it will connect with the 8:30 bus, and you will be at the Pulpit Rock welcome center at 9:00. It's a hard, uphill climb mostly over rocks, often little ground to step on, not pleasant, about 2 Km each way, and no way to rush it without breaking an ankle. 100,000 people do it annually. If your ship leaves at dinner time you could do it, there are quite a few buses and ferries through the day. Here's the bus link which also includes some ferry times. There is also a bus leaving Pulpit at 1245 which isn't on the schedule. http://www.veolia-transport.no/getfile.php/Internett/Filer/Rutetider/Bussrute_tau_preikestol_eng%20%282%29.pdf
Here's the ferry schedule, all times are departures, for arrivals add 30-40 minutes depending if it's a speed ferry (bold) or not: http://www.tide.no/uploads/documents/Ferjeruter/Rogaland/Ferjeruter_Stavanger-Tau.pdfTrondheim
The ship offered a $5 shuttle to town, very reasonable since the local bus is about 25 NOK or $4. In the morning we did the 6 Km Ladestien (Lade) hike around the bay, pretty and easy. The #3 bus from downtown takes you there and back. Email if you need details. In the afternoon we walked around the town, lots of interesting historical sights to see. The 2 best pedestrian streets are Nordregate and Thomas Angells Gate. Fjordgate is also mentioned but we didn't get to it.
Again the ship offered $5 shuttle rides to town, 3 miles. In the morning we took the cable car up Mt. Storsteinen, lovely views from the top. To get there take the #26 bus from the stop downtown in front of Pepe's Pizza taking you across the bridge past the famous Arctic church. The driver can sell you combo tickets covering the bus both ways and cable car, which costs 120 NOK and saves about $12 over buying separately. The bus was jammed full, almost completely tourists, only a few locals who had a tough time getting off at their stops. The driver will tell you when to get off, but it's quite evident by everyone leaving. To get to the cable car station walk back the bus route one short block, turn left, and you will see the cable car station. Do this as early as you can, when we came down the cable car late morning there were tons of people in a long line out into the parking lot, with a 2.5 hour wait we heard. We had no wait arriving just after 9. Here's the bus system link: http://www2.uit.no/ikbViewer/Content/97797/THE%20BUS%20SYSTEM%20IN%20TROMS%C3%98.pdf
At the top there is a good open hiking trail up to the next peak, Mt. Floya, takes about half an hour, not a bad trail, uphill but lots of good footing, wide open with no trees going up so good viewing, past snowy patches left over from winter (snowballs in July), great views from the top in all directions. And if you want you can continue to the next peak too.
Downtown Tromso was pretty, and the 2 good shopping streets are Storgata and Grannegata. Cokes are 25 NOK ($4), and a simple lunch like a hot dog with drink is about 60-80 NOK. Free internet for tourists in the library, 2nd and 3rd floor, about 6 stations on each floor.
This port is a 30 minute drive from the most northerly tip of Europe, a cliff 1000 feet above the Arctic Ocean called the North Cape (NordKapp). It's a lovely rugged area to walk around, large reception center, expensive snacks, small bottle of water is $7. The ship tour there is $130, and 8 of us pre-booked a van with Verina at NordKapp Taxi for 1800 NOK, plus 215 NOK entrance, totaling 440 NOK pp ($73). There is also a local bus departing 1045 from the tourist office for 100 NOK, plus entrance fee, return trip leaving the Cape at 1:15. Here's the bus link: http://www.veolia-transport.no/timetables-bus/330-honningsvaag-north-cape-summer-article800-384.html
Honningsvag is a cute town to walk around, there are trails on top of the hills, or you can walk the highway along the coast. Cheap internet at the tourist office, one machine, I think it was 1 NOK per minute.
We took the cable car (Funicular) up Mt. Floyen, lovely views from the top. Get there early to avoid long lines. The station is an easy walk from downtown, about 10 minutes. At the top there is a nice network of trails, well maintained, more like roads, over hills, around lakes, very good signage.
Lots of downtown action around Torget, Torgalmenning, Strandgaten. Everything is expensive, and we were told the locals take the short ferry to Newcastle UK to do their shopping. A local TA told us all the internet cafes are out of business, but there were free stations at the library (Biblioteque), which we found.
We did the hiking trail that follows the famous Flam railway, and took the side trail to the Berkenfossen(?) Falls, very pretty. Flam is a small village, just some tourist shops at the dock, and internet.
From the Fjordcenter we did hiking trail A winding 1000 feet up the side of the fjord to the Vesteras farm, good trail, and from there, level side trail B to a great lookout with the ship way below. There are quite a variety of trails from Geiranger. The tourist office will mail you a great map, or get it here: http://www.geiranger.no/map_of_walks_with_descriptions.html
Small village, no serious shopping.
Very well done, off at 9:00, no announcements, you wait in a lounge and the crew tell you when to leave, by color code. Lots of cabs, 5.60 UKP back to the bus depot. Pre-book your National Express bus, people trying to get on were told they were full till mid-afternoon.
After Cruise in London
After taking the National Express bus to Heathrow, we got the hotel shuttle to the Crown Plaza Heathrow in West Drayton just outside the airport. We got the 4 star Crown Plaza on Priceline for $50. Internet rate was 80 UKP, or about $150. All Heathrow hotel shuttle buses are 4 UKP, no freebees here. After checking in, we got a cab to the nearby West Drayton train station (10 UKP), 20 minute ride to London, faster than the Tube from Heathrow. An all day TravelCard pass for all trains, subways, and buses is 7.50 UKP for off-peak travel (after 9:30 M-F, and all day weekends) in all zones 1-6, which covers Heathrow to London. Each trip by itself is 4 UKP. A peak Travelcard for use before 9:30 costs 14.80 UKP. Buy them at any tube, train, or bus station from the machines.
Speed trains run from West Drayton to London Paddington every half hour, take 20 minutes, and at Paddington you can transfer to the Tube. We took the Tube from there to St. Paul's Cathedral, and then back to Leicester Square and Soho, had dinner there, and then back to Paddington for the train to West Drayton. Soho and Chinatown are a hoot to walk around, tons of people even on Sunday evening, every kind of restaurant, café, and club, as well as the stage shows.
And finally, here's one for the books, the licensed cab drive from the hotel didn't know where the train station was, and the cab driver from the train station didn't know where the hotel was. They are about 1.5 miles apart.
Also, wait to get home to change your UKP back to your currency, the rate at Heathrow was about 15 percent worse than at home.
And lastly, at the Crown Plaza we overheard a guest complaining about being charged for minibar articles, and they were told there is a sensor in the bar, and if you move anything it's assumed you used it and are charged for it. Really.
Email us if you need more info: Bob7 (at) Canoemail dot com
-Bob and Wendy Evans July 2009
Summary Our extended family group of 5 adults and 4 teens cruised on Crown Princess August 8, 2008. Overall, I felt the Baltic cruise was excellent in terms of the ports of call, but only average for the shipboard experience, resulting in an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Weather was generally in the mid 60s with a chance of showers. Bring layers, a packable rain jacket with hood, and a folding umbrella. Pants and jeans, rather than shorts, were practical most days, although we did have a couple days that were sunny and in the 70s. The seas were relatively calm except for the night we sailed into Gydinia, when the boat was visibly rocking, making walking (not to mention dancing) a challenge. We heard that the prior sailing never made it to Gydnia because of the rough weather. Our itinerary was supposed to include a stop in Helsingor, but this stop was eliminated and instead we went right to Copenhagen arriving at 12 noon.
Shipboard Experience Overall I found the Crown Princess to be very similar to the Diamond Princess (which we had previously cruised on to Alaska), onlylarger. In terms of overall satisfaction, we liked the Diamond better than the Crown, mainly because it was less crowded and the service was better than the Crown.
Liked Salon, Spa & Fitness Center: We had good experience with both the salon and pampering services. The fitness center is large, although the free exercise classes did not live up to expectations.
International Café: Nice place to relax with a cup of real brewed coffee or tea. Note that coffee on the ship is otherwise terrible! The additional charge for coffee/tea in the International Café is worth it.
Entertainment: We enjoyed music by the band Amante, the comedy of Kevin Hughes, and a 70's night dance party. Most of the shows in the Princess Theater were not very good, although we liked the magician. The Troika show was AWFUL.
Port Lectures: The port lectures given by John Lawrence were excellent and informative. You can catch them live or watch a replay on your stateroom TV.
Teen Center: The four teens (ages 14 to 17) in our group made good use of the teen center Remix. On port days, games and activities were scheduled from 7pm to 1am. The teen dance party in Club Fusion was a highlight.
Currency Machine: Because the ship stops at so many different countries, only two of which (Finland and Germany) use the Euro, the shipboard currency-exchanging machine was a real convenience.
Did Not Like Swimming Pools: Temperature in the pools was 95 degrees, hardly refreshing. At the Calypso pool, "Movies Under the Stars" plays continuously on a huge screen; the loud volume makes relaxation impossible. The Neptune's reef pool was slightly better except during the loud (and bad) music sets by the band Endur. I did not get a chance to try the Lotus spa pool, but suspect it would be the best place to have peace and quiet.
Sanctuary: This is a special "quiet area" near the spa pool where you can sit on a deck chair and relax. However, the additional charge of $15 per half day is a rip-off and it did not appear that many people took advantage of this.
Anytime Dining: With Anytime Dining you can generally only make a reservation for 6:00, 6:30 or after 8:15 -- so if you think that you will be able to make a reservation "anytime" you will be disappointed. Instead, the in-between hours are "walk in." Since we were a group of 9, this meant that if we wanted to plan to eat together we had to choose to dine either at the early or the late time. Several nights we decided to split up (the five adults ate separately from the 4 teens) and we had no trouble walking into the dining room without reservations, although one night we had to share a table with another group, which was fine. Before you agree to share, know that you will not be served until the table is full. Therefore, it is better to share with a group that is already there, than to be the first group at a large table. A problem I see with Anytime Dining is you don't get to know your waiter and they have really nothing invested in serving you. On our prior cruise to Alaska, we chose the set dinner seating, had the same waiter each night, and the service at dinner was much better.
Food: Overall the food in the dining rooms was just average. Most of the appetizers and soups were very good, but the quality of the entrees was hit or miss.
Billing & Front Desk: On the last night of the cruise, people lined up for hours to get their bills to review. There were not enough people at the front desk to handle the inquiries. The situation was deplorable. Why Princess would not deliver a copy of the bill the day before the cruise ends is beyond me. Perhaps they want to discourage people from questioning their bills? You need to check your bill to make sure someone else's charges are not on it. One of the people in our group had an extra $2500 of shipboard charges on their account, which apparently had been charged to the wrong stateroom.
Princess Transfers: In Copenhagen, Princess transfers from the ship to the airport were about $60 per person. This would have been $540 for our group of nine. Instead, we pre-booked a 16-passenger van for about 980 DKK, which is a little under US $200. Our hotel concierge took care of this, however, you could do it directly through midibus.dk or another car service. If we had thought about it, we probably could have reduced our cost even more by taking on some additional passengers who were waiting in the very long taxi line at the port (I am guessing it was about an hour wait for a taxi). Therefore, my advice is NOT to waste your money on Princess transfers, but try to arrange a private taxi so you don't have to wait in the taxi line.
Ports of Call Overall: On the Baltic cruise you have to plan your port visits carefully. Consider whether you really want to cram a lot of sightseeing into a small period of time (which leaves you tired), or go at a more relaxed pace (but then you see less). Consider your energy level-- there is a lot of walking involved wherever you go. For us, the highlights of the trip were Copenhagen, Stockholm and St. Petersburg. We did not take the trip to Berlin.
Copenhagen: We arrived in CPH on Wednesday, giving us two days to look around the city before embarkation on Friday. Five of us took a taxi from the airport ($258 krone for a 10-15 minute ride) to our hotel (SAS Royal), the other four took the train. The taxi arrived first but train was pretty fast too! Of course it was too early to check in but the hotel took care of our bags and we walked to Town Hall Square, Stroget & Nyhavn where we had a nice lunch. Returned to the hotel for a nap and then spent the evening at Tivoli where the teens went on the rides, I enjoyed a pantomime show, and we had a great dinner at Groften restaurant. Entry was 85 krone pp and unlimited rides for the kids at 200 krone each. Thursday we did the hop-on hop-off bus tour from the Town Hall Square which we enjoyed tremendously. Hopped off at the statue of the Little Mermaid, and at the Danish Resistance Museum (WWII museum) then hopped back on to return to the vicinity of the hotel where we had a nice lunch at Axelborg Bodega on the Axeltorv. Dinner was fabulous Thai food at a place called Spicylicious, a lovely restaurant though we had to walk through the red light district to get there. Friday we enjoyed a great breakfast buffet at the hotel, took another walk down Stroget and had some of those great Danish hot dogs from a stand for 25 krone each. The hotel arranged a van to take our party to the cruise terminal. Embarkation was a bit hectic as it was pouring rain. Did I mention that it rains a lot in CPH? Make sure to always have a raincoat and umbrella handy! First order of business on board was to register the kids for the teen center. The next day was a relaxing day at sea.
Stockholm: The ship docked at 10am and we had to be back on board by 4:30pm, thus we had just over 6 hours to see something of Stockholm. There were several ways to get into town from the cruise berth, including a Princess shuttle bus ($13 round trip to Stromgaten Street near the Opera House) and a Hop on, Hop off (HOHO) open top tour bus. We opted for the HOHO sightseeing ferry, which was very enjoyable (100 Swedish Kroner or $15 US dollars per person). The ferry dock is just to the left of the cruise berth and departs at 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the hour. The HOHO ferry route takes you to Old Town first, followed by the Royal Palace, Nybroplan and then Vasa. We decided to sightsee in Old Town then go to the Vasa. Unfortunately, by the time we got to Vasa in the afternoon, there was a line to get in. That is the problem with 3,000 cruise passengers all trying to see the same attraction on the same day! We could have used more time in Stockholm, and really would like to go back again.
Helsinki: Princess offered a shuttle bus to the Esplanade ($10 round trip), which is near the famous Stockmann's department store. From there it is a short walk to the Market Square, where you can enjoy local food specialties and shop for crafts. From the Market Square, you can take the ferry to Suomelinna Fortress (5.50 euro round trip), where there is a very interesting museum focusing on the history of the fort, which was originally built by the Swedes and later used by Russia. The film was a good introduction to the museum and was offered in an array of languages. It would have been interesting to walk around the island and explore the fort, but as it was raining, we returned by ferry and took a LONG walk to the Rock Church. Worth the trip but of course it was filled with the same 3,000 cruise passengers all wanting to see it. Took the 3T trolley back to the Market Square (2.20 euro).
St. Petersburg: We spent a great 2 days in St. Petersburg touring with our guide Albina from Alla Tours. If you are touring with an independent company like Alla, you do not need a visa (Princess tries to mislead you into thinking a visa is required, but this is not true when you are touring with a licensed guide). Also, contrary to Princess warnings, there was no trouble disembarking. Ignore any instructions that Princess gives you to assemble in a particular room on the ship to be assigned a gangway pass. No gangway passes are needed. Just walk right off the ship using the forward gangway on deck 4. There are then 3 lines to go through passport control. One of these lines is designated for independent tour passengers and the other two are designated for Princess tours. Princess will try to make you stand in the line for the independent tours; however, if there is no one in the other lines you can go through passport control there. The people in the passport booth don't care which line you go through. We disembarked at around 7:10 am to meet our guide at 7:30 am. We were through in 10 minutes. Note that the line for passport control does form outside so if it is raining you'll need an umbrella or raincoat.
A highlight of our 2 days in St. Petersburg was the canal cruise. The city is beautiful as seen from the canals. We happened to do the cruise on a sunny day and it was wonderful. Alla had arranged a private boat for our group of 8, so we did not have to share the boat with other passengers and our guide used the microphone on the boat to explain the buildings and bridges we were seeing.
Unless you really feel you need to see the Amber room, I would skip Catherine palace altogether, it was so crowded with tour groups going through it. The excursion to Peterhof gardens was wonderful. We toured through the Catherine Block of Monplaisir palace on the grounds of Peterhof, which was not crowded at all and was very enjoyable. The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is not to be missed! But once again you will find crowds here. Beware of pickpockets; one of our party had her wallet stolen.
Tallinn: Our port stop in Tallinn was from 7 am to 1pm. After two exhausting days in St. Petersburg it was hard to be motivated to get off the boat at 7am. We slept in and did not see too much of Tallinn. Took the Princess shuttle bus ($5 each way), which takes you to the edge of "old town," a pedestrian only area with cobblestone streets. It is picturesque, but very touristy, and we were accosted several times by people selling souvenirs. We made it as far as the Town Hall Square. There is an interesting museum in the Town Hall (75 kroon family ticket, local currency only).
Gdansk: In Gdansk we signed up for a Princess tour as that seemed the easiest way to travel from the port in Gydinia to Gdansk (about a 45 minute trip). We happened to be there on Aug 15th and locals were celebrating the Catholic holiday Assumption of the Virgin Mary as well as the anniversary of Solidarity. The city was very festive and packed with people. Because of the holiday, St. Mary's church was only open to tourists limited hours, and as a result, it was super crowded. St. Mary's church is the largest brick church in Europe and worth a visit. We had a nice lunch of pierogies in a café in Gdansk. We tried several kinds and I recommend the mushroom pierogies!
Warnemunde: We arrived on a Saturday and it was sunny and in the mid-60's. We took advantage of the long port stop to sleep late while about 2,000 of our fellow passengers got up early to board trains and buses bound for Berlin.
We walked into Warnemunde (it was about a 10 minute walk from the ship) and were in luck because the fish market was open (it is just to your right before you cross the canal). Try the sandwich of herring, lettuce and onion on a roll, you won't be disappointed!
After crossing the bridge over the canal, we turned right and walked along the Am Strom, a pedestrian street that runs along the canal and is lined with cafes, ice cream parlors and souvenir shops. The atmosphere was very festive and the crowd was mostly German. We turned left near the lighthouse and walked out to the beach. The beach is very wide and clean. People were flying kites, playing beach volleyball, and sunbathing. It would be a good idea to wear your bathing suit under your clothes because there were not any places for changing, and bring towels from the ship. Or, if you fancy bathing in the buff, walk down to lifeguard station 5, which is the nudist beach. After sunbathing, we had an excellent lunch at the restaurant in the Kurhaus, an open-air cafe on the second level that overlooks the beach.
Overall, Warnemunde was one of our favorite port stops even though we did no sightseeing whatsoever.
Copenhagen: As noted above, there was no port stop in Helsingor. We arrived back in Copenhagen on a Sunday, which was unfortunate because most of the stores are closed Sunday. We took a taxi from the ship to the Town Hall Square and then walked to the Danish National Museum (Nationalmuseet). I highly recommend this museum, though we only did the ground floor, which takes you from Danish pre-history through the Vikings. There are some fascinating things on display. It was a warm day and the museum was not air conditioned so we had lunch at a nearby café. After lunch we took a look through the Dansk Design Center, which the teens especially enjoyed. We returned to the ship for our last night on board. What a great trip it was!