First let me state that I am an Elite member of the Princess Cruise Lines. I have cruised about 35 cruises with Princess and other cruise lines, so I say this to make clear that I do have some experience with most cruise lines. Princess has usually been our favorite, especially in the 80's, but since then we have noticed a decline in service, quality and personnel.
The ships are nicer and larger. The rooms as a whole keep getting smaller. I sailed on the old Crown Princess as well as the new one. I find that most of the staff are just workers, there to do as little as possible. It seems that the best staff members are the ones that make up the rooms.
Food on Crown is nothing to brag on. It does however keep you alive until you arrive back at your beginning point where you can get real food. But it is consistent, it is always cold and tastless. But I will admit that I am a picky eater and I don't eat sea food. I have always made it a point to eat notingthat lives in its bathroom, if you know what I mean. But to be fair, the food on the other cruise lines is about as bad. Carnival is only somewhat better.
But on Princess' behalf, they do have the best getting on and getting off program in the business.
They also have some of the worst destinations. Tortola and Grenada are among the worst places to stop in the Caribbean.
Prices are also higher on Princess than its parent cruise line, "Carnival." I will probably cruise on Princess again, but only if they become more competitive in price with other cruise lines. And by that I mean, some prices may be cheaper than others, but check it out, they make 2 or 3 stops on a 7 day cruise, where Carnival has cruises that make a stop every day of the cruise.
To sum this up, I don't expect anything extra on any cruise. I make no demands on anyone. I would be just fine doing my own room, and waiting on myself in the dining room as well as other places on the ship. A lot of the time the staff are in the way.
Prologue -- Oh, Crap!!! A Hurricane!!! The hurricane season has been fairly benign here on the east coast. That is until time for our long awaited cruise on the Crown Princess November 3rd. Sure enough Hurricane Noel is headed up the Atlantic. It will pass far enough off the coast to avoid storms but close enough to cause winds that could delay or cancel our flights to San Juan. Friday November 2nd is very windy at the Jersey Shore, but the winds in Philadelphia are still moderate. The winds remain moderate on Saturday morning so there will be no weather delay or cancellation.
Princess Wants us to Fly on What? We booked cruise air because we were flying in the day of the cruise, not something we care to do normally, but due to work schedules we did not have any options. We check in at Philly for our 6:10 am flight to Dulles outside of DC, the first leg of our flights to San Juan. Marj, who is a nervous flyer but improving, takes a look at our little commuter jet (50 seats) and wants to know if I amkidding her. The flight goes smoothly and we have a seamless connection to San Juan on an Airbus, much more to Marj's liking.
The airlines continue to nickel and dime us for services that were formerly complimentary. United Airlines charged us $2 per bag in addition to a gratuity to check our bags curbside. Since the inside line was miles long at 4:30 am, we gladly paid the charge. On the plane we paid $10 for two "snack boxes" after determining that they really were not that unreasonable.
Good Afternoon San Juan!!! We arrived on schedule at San Juan just after noon and were greeted by a bevy of Princess reps who directed us to our baggage carousel. Shock of shocks, our baggage was already being unloaded. Because I frequent Philly International I am used to waiting nearly forever for my bags. After retrieving our bags we are quickly directed to a bus by the Princess reps. Our bags are loaded onto a separate truck and taken to be loaded directly onto the ship. The bus is old and creaky with a questionable suspension but does have functional air conditioning, so we are happy. The journey to Pier 4 in Old Town San Juan takes about 20 minutes.
Embarkation We arrive about 1:15 pm at the pier and there is a long line, thankfully under cover, to board. It moves rather quickly and we are onboard in our cabin by 1:45 pm. We head to the Horizon Court for lunch and disembark to walk around and explore Old Town San Juan. We like the fact that sail away is 11 pm, giving us that chance. We return to the ship for dinner and the muster drill which occurs at 8pm. We enjoy sail away on our first balcony. The port is very pretty lighted up, especially the forts.
The Ship and our Cabin The Crown Princess is huge at 113,000 tons, but we are very comfortable with it as we were on its sister ship the Caribbean Princess last year. There are several differences, the steakhouse, the Crown Grill, is located where Sabatini's, the Italian trattoria was located on the Caribbean Princess and Sabatini's is located on the Sun Deck (16th). Vines, a wine bar, is located on the 5th deck and Crooner's, the piano bar, is larger and located on the opposite side of the 7th deck. The dining room on the 6th deck aft is now the traditional dining venue. There is an adult's only area on the 16th deck spa area called the Sanctuary, which charges $10 for a half day and $20 for a whole day. We found no compelling need to spend this money for quiet, seeing that we had a balcony. We also did not patronize the extra charge restaurants as we are quite happy with the fare in the dining rooms. As on the Caribbean Princess, we never felt crowded, despite the ship being full.
Our cabin was C701 on the Caribe Deck and included a very large partially covered balcony. We found the cabin to be roomy enough except for the miniscule bathroom. People over 300 pounds would have difficulty fitting in the shower. The alcove between the bedroom and bath provides more than adequate storage for luggage and clothing. For some reason the drawers on the desk and the nightstand took great force to open which is not very convenient. Our steward was named Penta, from Thailand, and provided us with superior attentive service during our cruise, to the extent we gave him an extra tip above the automatic tip placed on our account, which is now $10.50 per day per person.
Overall, we found the ship to be clean and well maintained. The crew was courteous and helpful, the servers were very attentive. Despite complaints from others in these forums, I did not have any trouble or detect an attitude when I used my soda card.
Overall I would have to give the ship very high marks and really not much to complain about.
There were two formal nights, one on the at Sea Day and one on the day between Tortola and St Thomas. It seemed many more people dressed formally on the second night. The enforcement of the dress requirements was spotty at best.
The entertainment onboard was good; we mostly went to see the comedians. The singer in the Crooners Lounge was a female and very good. We did not attend any of the production shows. We did take ballroom dance lessons and brushed up on Meringue and Swing. For some reason, there were no other lessons that week, although there was supposed to be two more.
We found the dining in the main dining rooms to be very good and found no reason to spend the extra for Sabatini's or the Crown Grill. We were on anytime dining and did not have to wait on any night for seating. We did enjoy bringing our breakfast up to the balcony from the Horizon Court Buffet and enjoying it with coffee ordered from room service. The food on the buffet was good, but standard buffet fare. The pizza, served adjacent to the pools on Deck 15 was good thin crust and featured cheese or pepperoni as well as a special of the day. The burgers from the grill were good and made to order. Our major complaint about the food was what was not offered. No escargot and no crème brulee.
The Itinerary This is a very port-intensive cruise, calling at Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and St. Thomas before returning to San Juan. The cruise kicked off with one day at sea.
Barbados: In Barbados we docked next to the Queen Mary 2, which followed us into port. Princess really dropped the ball on this port because there were no Princess personnel or signs to direct us to our excursions. We only found by chance that you have to go through the duty-free shopping mall to the other side to board your excursion. That information came from QM2 reps at the end of the pier. We went on the "Best of Barbados" tour purchased through Princess, which took us to Gun Hill, a plantation and Orchid World, where Marj found out why she has killed so many orchids. The guide was very good and informative. We topped off the day by shopping in the duty-free mall at the port. The QM2 sailed out prior to us with a great exchange of salutes.
St. Lucia: We next sailed into St Lucia which was by far the most tropical and lush of the ports visited. The QM 2 also called there but had to dock outside the harbor and tender because of her draft being too deep. The P&O Oceana joined us in port. We opted for the "St Lucia by Land and Sea" excursion, again through Princess. This excursion turned out to be a near disaster in the making. We were loaded into a former Japanese transit bus of questionable vintage and mechanical condition. We stalled seven times while climbing the mountains which can be pretty scary. We did not allow this to ruin our enjoyment of this beautiful island. We visited a plantation where we had lunch and when we got back to the bus we were greeted with the engine compartment opened and repair in progress. Our guide, who was good, commandeered a couple of smaller busses who just arrived to take us through the town of Soufriere and to see the volcano. After the volcano, we proceeded in our old bus, downhill all the way thank goodness, to the catamaran for the rest of our tour. The catamaran was dangerously overloaded and neither the crew nor signage gave us any hint where the life preservers were, if they had any. The "placid beach" we stopped at had rough surf and rip tides. Vendors besieged our catamaran on kayak. In general, we found the vendors on St. Lucia to be the most aggressive we have encountered outside of Jamaica. When we got back to the ship we filed a complaint at the tour desk. We were later informed we would get a 40% refund but when we got our bill, they refunded the entire amount. We sailed out of the harbor at Castries ahead of the P&O Oceana amid an exchange of salutes between the ships. The ships were sufficiently close to each other that there were jovial exchanges of shouts of good wishes between the passengers which was great fun. We were exhausted at the end of the day and did not last too long after dinner.
Antigua: We chose a relaxing beach day at Antigua and it was a good choice as we were still tired from St Lucia. We went to Runaway Bay for a nice morning on a beautiful beach, returned to the ship for lunch and shopped in St Johns during the afternoon.
Tortola: We arrived at this gem of an island expecting to be tendered and much to our pleasant surprise we docked instead. Our "Tortola by Land and Sea" tour, booked through the ship, was the polar opposite of the St Lucia tour. The open air taxi bus operated flawlessly and the catamaran had plenty of room and safety equipment. The guides on both the catamaran and bus were well informed and pointed out many of the partying as well as historical ways of the islands, including one place that has wild full moon parties and has many brassieres hanging from the ceiling. For some reason my wife indicated that she really wouldn't want me to go there if we visit Tortola in the future. We did agree that Tortola was added to the short list of islands we would like to visit again for a long-term stay, along with Grand Cayman.
St. Thomas: This was the final port on our cruise and is only 20-some miles from Tortola. We sailed a rather circuitous route by way of St Croix and covered 146 nautical miles that night. Since this is a US territory we had to clear immigration starting at 7:00 am in Club Fusion. The line was extra long, but progressed quickly and we were up in the Horizon Court buffet for breakfast before 8am. We were in St Thomas the year before on the Crown Princess so we took a taxi into town for shopping but decided to ditch a beach stop in favor of relaxing by the pool on the ship. We docked at Crown Bay which is still being developed and only has a few shops opened. It will be a very nice facility when finished. There were no problems with taxis to any point on the island and prices were clearly marked at the taxi stand. Taxis to town were $4. The Emerald Princess was in port at the same time and docked at Havensight. The reason was that the Queen Mary scraped bottom at the second berth at Crown Bay so they need to do a little dredging before they can dock more than one ship.
Aw Shucks! San Juan Again!!! All good things must come to an end and we arrived in San Juan at about 5 am on Saturday, November 10th. After breakfast we went to our designated waiting area in the Casino and disembarked around 9 am as we had a noon flight out of San Juan. The scrum for luggage was horrendous but cleared customs and got out quickly and boarded the same old but reliable bus back to the airport. Once again, as in our other ports, hiring a porter speeds your way out of customs.
Surely Miami International Airport is the Official Airport of Hell We were a few minutes late out of San Juan so our 1 hour 35 minute connection time at Miami was reduced but still reasonable. That is until you have to walk what seemed to be miles to get between concourses for American Airlines. There are no moving sidewalks or any shuttle vehicles to take the infirm and elderly to their gates. We made it just in time to catch our plane with very few minutes left over to grab a couple of sandwiches to eat on board. One lady off our cruise had to take a wheelchair because she could not make it on foot. No airport should treat its passengers like this.
Home Again and Here Comes the PCD We arrived home late Saturday night much to the delight of our pets. We did have one small antidote for Post Cruise Depression (PCD); we purchased two future cruise credits onboard for $100 dollars each and it is good for a deposit for one person. You also get up to $50 onboard credit per person. They are good for four years and are fully refundable if not used.
Overall I would rate this cruise very highly and would not hesitate to recommend it to others, and I would go back without hesitation.
This was our 20th cruise, 6th time on Princess. We flew from Los Angeles a day prior and stayed at the Brooklyn Marriott.
Embarkation was quick, no waiting at all.
Our cabin was way in front, noisy and a lot of motion.
The ship itself is very beautiful.
The gym has plenty of treadmills.
The food was average--lunch buffet was good, but breakfast was below average. We had anytime dining which worked out well for 2 people.
The pools were always crowded and there is little shade.
The entertainment was the usual--we had seen the shows before.
The service was average.
We enjoyed the itinerary and had pretty good weather. We did our own thing in the ports.
Hated to leave when it was over. A large NY crowd as expected.
I sailed on the Crown Princess last summer doing their Baltic itinerary which included St Petersburg.
This ship is enormous and is designed to extract money from passengers at every turn. I'm used to ice cream being a free treat, but on this ship it was $3.
After spending $399 for the two-day tour of St. Petersburg, they want $3 for a bottle of water as you depart. The land tours were well organized and visited all the places advertised. If you are used to exploring on your own, you will have the feeling of being herded like cattle.
The most disappointing thing about this cruise was the food. It was not good even by banquet standards! I ordered what sounded like wonderful fish entrees three times and the fish was old and unacceptable each time. If one pays the additional fee to visit the "upscale" restaurant, the food is much better.
Stopping a couple of times at the buffet for lunch, I found the fare there to be dull and tasteless.
I sailed for 1 week with Princess on The Crown Princess with 7 other people. We are in our late 50's to early 60's. We experienced a terrible situation on the ship when we were approached to participate in the "sexy legs contest."
To make a long story very short, the Princess hostess in charge of the event planned an entire group of situations that she involved us in and did not inform us as to what was going to happen. My partner was the last man to be in the contest and he was told to throw in the judge (there were 3 judges, myself included). He did as he was instructed, only to find out this person was deathly afraid of water. The hostess announced on the microphone that my partner did it on his own, and that Princess had nothing to do with it. We were in shock. We questioned her. Needless to say our entire trip was ruined due to this. All of the people on the ship were calling Andy all sorts of dirty names. They even remembered him at dinner and in the halls.Well, my trip and his was a waste of money. We paid $3000 to be humiliated.
I contacted Princess and informed them of this. It took them 8 weeks to get back to me to basically say "too bad." I have sailed with several companies and I have never been treated this way.
I appreciate you allowing me to express how I feel about this experience. Thank You.
Overall Impression This was our second cruise, and we chose Princess again, based on our high satisfaction with our first cruise earlier in the year (see Caribbean Princess review dated Feb. 4, 2007). Our overall experience again far exceeded our expectations. The Crown Princess is a newer ship, almost identical in design when compared to the Caribbean Princess, and with a few very nice extra features, which are described below.
The ship is exquisite, with additional elegant design touches that add to the overall feeling of a luxury hotel.
Our inside stateroom was equally elegant, the service was superb, food generally equivalent to eating in a fine restaurant, and some of the entertainment and activities were first-rate.
Flights and Embarkation We booked our own flights to arrive a day earlier, flying American Airlines, and reserved a room at the Best Western Hotel Pierre, located in the Condado, a 10-minute, $12 taxi ride to Old San Juan and the ship terminal (and a 15 min., $19 ride from the airport). It was quite convenient and clean, modern enough for one night, and the room rates were very reasonable.
We arrived at the ship terminalat about noon, and we found that a lack of signage made it confusing as to where we were supposed to drop our luggage. We found it odd that no ship's representatives were there to guide people along to the proper area. After this minor inconvenience, there was a wait of about 20 minutes in relatively short lines, inside a very modern terminal, as the check-in procedure had not yet begun. When it did begin, it was quite fast and efficient, and we were on the ship by about 1:00 pm and were able to have lunch.
Ship and Staterooms The Crown Princess was less than two years old at the time of our cruise, and we saw little evidence of wear and tear, and no remaining damage from the incident in July 2006 (human error caused the ship to list at about 10 degrees off the vertical, sending passengers, furniture, plates, TVs and anything else not nailed down, flying across the floor. Many people were injured, some seriously. We were concerned about booking this ship, however our review of the information on this incident showed that it was due to an inexperienced (or incompetent) person taking control of the ship as it left port, and we saw that no other incidents had occurred.
The ship is absolutely beautiful, using high quality, very tasteful materials throughout, and every area of the ship is spotlessly clean. We will be posting photos on this website, many of which will show the elegance of the ship.
We took an inside stateroom on the Baja deck (deck 11), mid-ship near the central bank of elevators. This was convenient, since we had quick access to the piazza and three-story atrium, which is the "core" of the ship. Our stateroom was finished in rich wood veneers and wood trims, along with a wall-to-wall mirror behind the bed, and had very good lighting. There was ample room, and we never felt that we were getting in each other's way.
The bedroom itself was about 10 ft. x 11 ft., with the hallway, closet area and bathroom accounting for roughly another 50 sq. ft. There was a very well designed closet area, at least 6 feet wide with lots of room to hang clothes and store luggage. The bathroom, although compact, was well-finished, well-ventilated and functional. The relatively small shower posed no problem, although a large passenger may have a problem with its dimensions (and with the narrow width of the toilet seat!)
There was a bit of an odor coming from the toilet, and we eventually decided that it was caused by the heavily chlorinated water. We were never sure if that was the reason, and we never spoke to the steward about it, so we don't know if perhaps the toilet needed a proper cleaning.
Our stateroom steward serviced the room twice a day, and it was always left in immaculate condition (except perhaps for the toilet). We found that the steward was not overly friendly, and never asked us if everything was OK, although he took care of any small requests quickly and efficiently.
The stateroom was very soundproof, and had its own air conditioning thermostat. The comforter supplied is very thick, and without keeping the temperature down a notch, it can feel pretty hot while sleeping.
We never felt that the ship was crowded, and line-ups or long waits were never encountered, which is really amazing on a ship with 3,100 passengers and 1,200 staff.
Facilities and Entertainment This ship had some additional features, not seen on the Caribbean Princess: The International Café is a casual place to eat, with free food available during the afternoon, such as salads, quiches and fresh shrimp, along with a nice selection of cakes and pies. There are also ice cream and specialty coffees, at additional charge. After 4:30pm, tapas are available, at additional charge. The food is provided at a counter by a staff person, and you can choose a table near windows with wonderful views. We found this a great alternative to the buffets, since we don't tend to eat at the buffets. Crooners Lounge is a richly designed public-area bar, located near the main elevators, with pianists and singers performing. Vines Wine and Seafood Bar has some sushi and seafood available at additional charge, with a good selection of wines by the glass; The Sanctuary is a very quiet adults-only area located on the top deck, with luxurious chaise lounges, massage tents, and other features. There was a charge of about $10 per half-day or $20 per full day for use of this area, and it didn't seem like a lot of people were interested. The staff seemed very fussy about people looking at the area while clients were there, so this didn't encourage new people to try it.
The large fitness room is very well equipped, with most equipment by Precor: about 20 new treadmills, 8 new elliptical trainers, a good selection of weight training equipment (possibly not that new) and free weights, a few stationary bikes and about 15 spinning bikes. Most equipment has individual TV screens, and headphones with disposable earpiece covers are available.
The pools are very attractive, and since we were in different ports every day, except for day one, it was always easy to find a lounge chair.
The Princess Theatre offered different shows every night. We saw one "Las-Vegas style" musical/dance show, which was well-produced. Another evening, we saw a hilarious British singing duo.
In the Explorers Lounge, we saw a great female hypnotist show one evening, and a very funny comedian another night. There was a very good classical quartet performing in the piazza regularly, which we enjoyed immensely. And a highlight for us was a Canadian band called Wavelength, who appeared at several venues, playing classic rock of the 60s and 70s. Their singing and skills on the electric guitars and drums were outstanding.
We still find the cost for Internet service on the ship highly excessive, at a rate of about $2 per minute, including service charge, for a relatively slow connection. It is a high-profit item for the ship, although we are certain that their volume would increase considerably if the rates were lower.
Near most ports, there is usually an internet café, charging in the area of $4 - $6 per hour for a true high-speed connection. We easily found such facilities in Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua, and our favourite Internet café, by far, was Beans Bytes & Websites at 5600 Royal Dane Mall, Suite 12 in St. Thomas. It's right next to the main street facing the ocean, in the busiest tourist area of the city. It's a tourist attraction in itself, located inside a very historical building, with beautiful exposed stone walls and a very laid-back café serving food, specialty coffees and other beverages. It's worth a visit, even if only to meet the very nice people who work there. And their official Internet rate is only 10 cents a minute, with a very low minimum charge.
Dining Rooms and Bar Service We ate all of our meals in the "anytime dining" Da Vinci dining room, except for two late lunches at the International Café. Although the buffets supposedly have the same food available, we find it more relaxing to have table service. Most of the waiters and head waiters were wonderful people, and we usually asked to be seated in the same area, in order to have the same waiters.
The food was usually delicious, and very plentiful. A 3-course lunch was sometimes much more than we could handle, with dishes like chicken cacciatore, potato and chicken curry, filet of sole, Greek salad, fresh salmon salad, or potato and spinach latkes (pancakes). The 5-course suppers highlighted main dishes such as: orange roughy (a very nice fish) with asparagus, jumbo shrimp with lobster sauce, halibut with orange sauce, Italian-style veal chop, Chilean sea bass, huge scampi with marinara sauce (ultra-delicious!), huge crab legs (already out of the shell), lobster tail and giant tiger prawns, or freshwater barramundi with curry and garam masala sauce. Superb desserts included a grand marnier parfait with coconut (served as an ice cream cake with a nice fruit sauce), baked Alaska, or mango/banana strudel.
We found that asking the waiters what they recommend usually produced the best meal, since they know the trends of what people like, as the same menus are repeated every one or two weeks.
We never ate in the specialty restaurants, although this ship has done a wonderful design job on Sabatini's, the Italian restaurant. It is pure elegance, with the most beautiful furnishings, dishes and table settings, and probably worth the $20 per person cover charge just for the experience of eating there.
Wine and liquor prices were very reasonable, with a good selection of wines from $22 to $32 per bottle. Too many of the white wines were from California, but we did find a good Caliterra Chardonnay from Chile ($27), and a very good Rosemount Estates Chardonnay from Australia ($29). A very good Mexican Beer, Dos Equis, was $4.25, and a selection of martinis were $6.50 to $7.50.
Tipping Policy We tipped certain individual staff, in addition to the standard rate of $10.50 per person per day which is added to our onboard account. The extra tips went to our regular waiters, a couple of head waiters and our stateroom steward.
We found the tipping policy unclear for liquor ordered at bars and lounges. Although a 15% gratuity is always added automatically to such purchases, there is always a line to add an extra gratuity. One waiter explained that the 15% goes into a pool shared by all bar staff, whereas the "extra" tip goes directly to your server. We started giving small "extra" cash tips to bar personnel, who reacted very positively to this gesture.
Fellow Passengers We met a lot of very nice people on this cruise. The passengers came from a vast selection of geographic areas, and from all walks of life. There was also a varied group of ages, including many young adults, and not that many children, since they are still in school at that time of year.
There were, however, some very unrefined people who seem to be incapable of adjusting to the elegant surroundings and following the rules of the ship, and who prefer to bring their bad habits from home. Some examples: a woman placing her bare feet on a ledge behind a row of seats in the very plush Princess Theatre, during an evening performance, with her feet barely six inches from the heads of the people in front of her; two different groups of people resting their bare feet on the very nice upholstered chairs of the International Café, in an area meant for eating meals and enjoying fine coffees; a man diving into the Neptune Pool, when huge signs forbid diving in the relatively small and shallow pools; two different men yelling in rage at people who were blocking their view of the champagne waterfall event during the second formal evening, with one man jostling a passenger to make his point.
Unfortunately, no staff intervened on their own in any of these instances, except at the International Café, when a passenger mentioned it to a supervisor, who then promptly (although seemingly reluctantly) asked the offending parties to remove their bare feet from the furniture.
Ports of Call We visited six ports, including San Juan (the departure port), Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and St. Thomas. All were beautiful, lush islands, and we toured each one, seeing breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding countryside. We purchased a Barbados tour through Princess, and then arranged our own private tours in three of the other ports. We limited our visits to morning hours, so that we could spend the afternoons on the ship, which is a great time to be onboard, since it's relatively quiet until late afternoon when most people have returned.
When the ship returned to San Juan, we spent about three hours sightseeing before heading to the airport. There is a very convenient free tramway service that takes visitors around the city to all of the various points of interest. We found San Juan to be an especially beautiful and interesting city.
Disembarkation The disembarkation at St. Thomas was extremely well organized. We had ample time to eat a nice breakfast in the dining room until about 9am, and then we waited in one of the public areas of the ship. I was amazed at the lack of lines when our time to leave was announced, which was about 10:30am, and it took less than three minutes to locate our luggage in the terminal.
Areas for Improvement Princess could make improvements in some areas which would enhance their passengers' overall experience and safety:
Smoking is still permitted in various areas of the ship, including the promenade deck, which is a shame, since many people like to walk or jog there.
We were pleased to learn that Royal Caribbean is experimenting with non-smoking cruises, and it makes a lot of sense, considering that 75% of the population in most industrialized countries no longer smoke. It's also a great hazard, judging by the serous fire caused by a cigarette onboard the Star Princess in March, 2006.
On the Crown Princess, passengers are still free to smoke in their staterooms, in their beds and on their balconies (where that fire had started). The only solution is to restrict smoking to fully enclosed and ventilated "safe areas" only for smokers, and let's hope the cruise lines finally see the light of this growing trend, very soon.
Summary We enjoyed our cruise immensely, and we would definitely pick the Crown Princess again. We believe that Princess is a well-run organization, providing excellent customer service, and we would have very little reason to look at other cruise lines for future cruises.
My wife and I traveled with a group of 12 Oct 20 to Oct 27 Crown Princess repositioning cruise Brooklyn to SanJuan PR. We are cruiseaholics, numerous lines, 1 to 3 cruises per year. Started cruising 1984 and been at it ever since. Age 50's, our group diverse, friends and their adult kids, past cruisers and newbies. This was our third Princess cruise, sailed last year NY to NY on Crown 9 day. Sailed Coral Princess to Panama canal previously.
Embarkation Was absolute breeze, plenty of stations open, Brooklyn far surpasses Manhattan in that regard.
Since ship was repositioned to a somewhat different itinerary, St.Thomas, Antigua, and St.Kitts. In St. Thomas we docked at pier opposite Havensite Mall side that we are used to. They have built up that area now somewhat with stores and taxis are available readily. Really no impact for going into town ( $4 per person cab ) or to Megans Bay or wherever. Only tram to Paradise Point which is within walking distance of Havensite is a cab ride from Crown Bay Pier.
Antigua was nice, we elected to shop until you drop. Some travel mates did kayaktrip and loved it.
St. Kitts was the first time there for us and we liked it a lot. Took the island train tour through cane fields etc and it was great! Upper and lower decks. upper open to air ( almost everyone took that ) lower enclosed and air conditioned. Seat for each person in each area so you can change between upper and lower as you want, Train rocks a lot but still fun ride. Clean rest room in each car, decent enough seats, complimentary refreshments served. Even choir group comes by each car and sings. ( I asked the witch Doctor ou e ah ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang, boy had not heard that one in years. Pier area new, people very nice, told they are trying hard to become more of a destination for cruise lines. Best deals to be had were there.
Cabin Had same cat last year. Very nice size wise, bed couch good sized balcony. Balcony does jut out so all overlook it. Cabin steward very good; no complaints at all.
NOTE: Friends in group had aft suite A750 with a huge balcony. We had 12 people on it for sail away and easily could have had another 12 comfortably.
Dining We prefer Traditional second seating. We found food and service to be excellent. Food is always a personal taste but Princess always has a few items like beef tornadoes ( excellent ) available every night if nothing on menu strikes your taste buds. We asked for a cheese platter at start of meal for the table and our request was handled without problem. Although Princess has followed most lines in eliminating bar waiter and wine steward service did not suffer as bad as it sometimes does. The assistant waiter handled all orders promptly and table service was more than adequate despite his extra duties. I still believe traditional dining offers far superior service since you come to know your wait staff and they you.
Many varied items available during day from hamburgers to pizza ( which is very good, this from NY pizza lover ) to buffet items. Burgers and pizza served at stations by pool area. Ice cream located next to Pizza but whereas pizza is no charge item, ice cream is not.
Coffee: Yuk like most all lines. Knowing this I bought coffee card $27 which allows for unlimited brewed coffee at Piazza coffee bar and 15 ( I think ) specialty coffees ( not alcohol coffees ) like espresso, capuccino, and latte's. They punch your card when you get those, they do not for regular brewed coffee. They have to go cups too. For anyone that likes real coffee definitely way to go. Also can order specialty coffees at dinner table with card which will again be stamped.
Staff All staff were friendly, helpful, and a pleasure to deal with. Staff make a cruise more than any other factor in my opinion. No complaints, even Purser staff were a pleasure.
Odds & Ends Casino was operated smoke free one night after 6 pm. I am a smoker, had no problem with that just didn't go that evening. Show lounges smoke free as is dining room of course something I have no problem with. However some lines are obviously experimenting with going more and more smoke free. I have no problem as long as a smoker has some alternative. It is up to the lines to decide if in their interest to continue down that path. I will not sail any line that goes too far and over limits my ability to smoke but that is fine too. There product and my choice which is a okay. Far better than localities making laws as they have in my state. I don't mind when I company makes a business decision versus lawmakers legislating behavior. Okay that was my editorial comment.
Easy, too easy, to get money in casino via cruise right in machine or ATM at entrance. You can literally just push some button on slot machine and have amounts transferred via your cruise card right to the machine. This cruise casino was extremely good to me. Hit $1200 on $5 machine right away followed by another $500 after they paid me on same machine. Decided to be good for a change and brought most of that home for once. NOTE $1200 and up issued W2G unlike the good old days gambling at sea. Other than my hits didn't see or hear of any really decent action on slots. Wife lost probably what I won but hey that's HER money.
Cigs and booze cannot be purchased in stores for use during cruise, Something that always ticks me off. Delivered last night of cruise. You can buy via room service booze packages in example 3.75 liter bottle of JB scotch with 2 cans of club soda something like $22 and deliverable in your cabin for drinking during cruise. You can not substitute say Dewars for JB though, JB or leave it. You can buy 3.75 liter of say JW Black for $22 no mixers for your room. Cigs can be purchased by the pack at bars for $4 a pack.
Entertainment featured many comedians and was good for most part. We never went to main show lounge but routinely went to 7 pm pre dinner show in smaller show lounge next to photo gallery area and convenient to our dining room.
Bingo, we no longer participate in, over priced compared to days gone by. Photo's we never buy any more, again over priced in our humble opinion.
We had a great cruise and Crown Princess and Princess in general so far has been one of the best lines overall for us recently.
Electronic cruise ticket was no problem.
Disembarkation went smoothly. They do ask you go to your disembark lounge or area and you almost really have to since they don't announce colors everywhere. They use staff in your area to advise you that time for you to go. We went to breakfast open seating in dining room for disembark morning and it was good, fast, and friendly service. Far better than buffet area which was crazy crowded!
We purchased cruise bus to airport ticket while onboard via excursion desk for $15 per person. Plenty of taxis were also available at port.
Finally, sadly there was a death from what we heard was a heart attack. One of our group had spent day at beach previously and conversed with one of the gentlemens group during the day. It was reported that he was in his 50's and again one of our party witnessed his attack near the casino entrance. We heard the Code Bravo called to respond medical staff. I was told that the response was quick and cpr rendered but that it was of no consequence unfortunately. I mention it only because I have noted a couple of references about it on a board here and there.
I left a lot out but after years of written reviews and so many reviews being available now a days I try to keep it basic. This will be offered in a couple locations. If there are any specific questions that I might be able to answer please email at firstname.lastname@example.org . In the subject area be sure to write CROWN REVIEW so I don't dump it as spam mail in error.
So as overall our Crown Princess Cruise was excellent.
Background DH is 51 and I am 50, we are self-employed and we have cruised previously on RCCL, CCL AND HAL. We wanted this itinerary, but wanted to try a different cruise line. This was our 8th cruise.
Getting to Our Embarkation Port We left a day early and flew to LGA from Atlanta via Air Tran. Our flight left on time, arrived on time, no delays; no problems with our luggage and all went smooth.
Pre-Cruise Hotel We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Union Street in Brooklyn, several blocks from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, but quite a bit cheaper than the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. Less than 1 block from the subway, right around the corner from an excellent diner where we ate lunch on that Friday and breakfast on Saturday morning prior to embarking on the ship. The Holiday Inn Express had opened August 2006 and the rooms were really nice, the staff was wonderful and very helpful. We took the subway into Manhattan and spent Friday evening there. We went to Broadway, Wall Street, the World Trade Center/Ground Zero site, Times Square, Bryant Park, rode the Staten Island Ferrythere and back, had a real New York pizza in Times Square, walked and walked and walked, rode the subway back into Brooklyn. In just a few hours, we saw a lot and, I think, did really well for having never been there before. Got up the next morning and had breakfast, packed our bags and the hotel staff called a car for us to get to the terminal. Taxi from LGA to Brooklyn was $28.00, car service from the hotel to the BCT was $14.00, and everyone was courteous and helpful. We got to the BCT around 1:00 pm.
Embarkation We have bragged to others about how smooth the embarkation is in Mobile, Alabama, but they have nothing on the BCT. From the porter to every single person who works there, everyone was smiling, friendly, helpful, ready to assist, ready to wish you a great cruise. We went directly up to the counter, no wait, no muss, and no fuss. We were on the ship in 15 minutes. Could not believe it! As soon as we were on the ship, crewmembers were everywhere, greeting passengers with smiling faces, heard lots of "welcome aboard", asking "can we help you", showing everyone where the elevators were, making sure no one was lost. It was exceptional service and service with a smile. We went directly to our stateroom, which was ready and waiting along with our room steward, Bethoven. We will have more on this coming up. Wow, what a wonderful start to a great cruise!
Ship and Public Rooms First impression was, Wow! This is a big ship! The ship is absolutely beautiful. One of the first things we were given was a pocketsize deck plan and we carried this religiously. The design of the ship indeed keeps you from feeling crowded. Lots of places were you can find a place to get away from the crowds and, actually, you don't often notice the crowds except at the buffet and when getting back on the ship from the ports of call. Kind of figures that that would be the case, but even those times were tolerable except for the last port of call which was Newport, Rhode Island. The whole tendering process in Newport was a mess, but more on this later. There are plenty of elevators, we never had a long wait for an elevator, there are deck plans which we also used religiously at each bank of elevators. The ship is a little tricky learning to navigate, as nothing is straight on. But we did not find this to be a big problem. Just takes a little patience and a little effort to stop and think about where you are in relation to where you want to be. Lots of wood, beautiful furnishings, terrific décor, lots of windows, exquisite lighting and chandeliers, the Piazza is absolutely breathtaking, the lounges all have seating for groups as well as couples, I could go on and on. Even the Horizon Court and Café Caribe buffet restaurants are staggered in design so that you can sit off by yourselves or with a group at a large table. The layout here is a little tricky, too; needs to have a start point and an end point, but that is not the case so people often "cut in" and there were so many stations with such a variety of foods that you would often tend to bump into others. Here is another place where you must have patience. There are so many places to go and things to do that you can't do them all. Our favorite places became the Explorer's Lounge and the International Café.
We went to the Princess Theater the first night for one of the shows and it was standing room only. True, you have to get there early to get a seat. Well, we ended up enjoying the entertainment at the Explorer's Lounge and skipped the theater. All of the shows in the Explorer's Lounge, such as the juggler, the comedians and the musicians and bands, were great along with the trivia games which were a blast (and we usually don't do those). Seating here, too, could be a little tight, but for just the two of us, we could usually find a seat if we got there at least a few minutes early. The International Café became a favorite spot for us as that is often where we would come in from shore (Deck 5) and we would grab something to eat and a cup of coffee. Everything we ate from the International Café was superb, better than anywhere else on the ship and we would catch some of the street entertainment or piano playing or other entertainment that was held there, too. Keep your Patters with you to keep track of all that is going on so you don't miss anything. Can't do it all, but can give it a good effort. Ship is spotless, by the way, and when the crew does the cleaning is hard to say. Never saw anyone scrubbing or vacuuming, but that they must do, as we never saw any kind of mess anywhere and with the large number of passengers that says something for the cleanliness and sanitation of this ship. Even the public restrooms were spotless. Our sailing was cooler and brisker than the Caribbean sailings, so we only saw a few people in the pools and hot tubs. Typical shopping fare, just more of it.
Stateroom Balcony stateroom, mid-ship, starboard side. Spotlessly clean, lots of storage, tastefully decorated, A/C worked fine, safe worked, plenty of hangers, bathroom a little small but plenty of storage there, too. We had faxed a request in to Princess special services for our bed to be setup as a queen bed with an egg crate mattress topper and two extra feather pillows and everything was exactly as we requested. Liked the design of the closet and dressing area separated by the wall from the bedroom area; made the room seem bigger and allowed easy access into the bathroom and plenty of room to get dressed. Full-length mirror is nice, too. Additional shelving there is great. We took four suitcases and had plenty of room for everything. Suitcases fit under the bed. Yes, the bedspread goes there, too, but we did not worry about it. Room was spotless. Bedding is very comfortable, duvet was great and we kept it, as our room got almost a little too cool at night. Probably this itinerary had something to do with the temps in the rooms. Nowhere on the whole ship was it too warm. Our room steward, Bethoven, was probably the best we have ever had. Found us in our room when we first arrived, greeted us by name, greeted us every morning and evening, kept our room spotless, gave us a complete rundown on the ship, how to contact him, can he do anything, do we have everything, was our room satisfactory, just simply the best. The balloons to celebrate our birthdays were a nice touch, too, and they lasted our entire cruise. The mailbox is nice, have not had those on any other ships. No, no towel animals, but we did not miss them, either.
Dining We did anytime dining, which worked great for us. We only went to the dining room one night, which was our third night, asked for a table for two and were seated immediately. First thing we noticed was how rushed the wait staff was. We almost felt sorry for them. Did not care for the hard sell, though. One of the crewmembers came around selling raspberry liqueurs for $5 each and we had to buy one to get rid of him. Well, did not have to, but felt so obligated and that really did not sit well with us so we never went back. Frankly, the food in the buffet was better, in our opinion, but that does not say a whole lot either. Princess menus are very different from any other cruise line we have experienced and even on the buffets, we sometimes could not find anything to eat that we thought we would like. The foods were, in our opinion, too exotic. One evening, they even served goat! Well, that evening we ordered room service, which we had burgers and fries. Room service menu was a little limited. Pizza and burgers stopped being served at their respective locations at 9:00 pm. Not sure why so early. Maybe this was because of the itinerary? The pizza was good, burgers were okay, breakfast was great and the rest was okay. The International Café was by far the very best. Sandwiches and quiche were delicious along with the cookies and other treats. All free except for a few of the appetizers and the gelato. But, hey, 3 scoops were only $1.50 and the gelato was creamy and full of flavor.
Entertainment and Activities You cannot do all that is offered. Keep an eye on your Patters because the entertainment and activities are too numerous to list. We enjoyed everything that was offered in the Explorer's lounge. We did MUTS one night, which was cold, but great. I can see where this would be really popular on a warmer itinerary. But, with enough wool blankets, anyone can be toasty and we were. Watched the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie and had a blast. MUTS was my favorite activity. There is something really neat about sitting under the stars, literally, and watching a movie. About 100 other people must have felt the same. Lots of "street" entertainment on the Piazza such as an Acapella Doo-Wop Group named Spank, which was great, a magician from England and a variety of other entertainment, all good.
Service Service on this ship was superb. Across the board, 100%, this crew was always smiling, always helpful, always there ready to do whatever it took for us to have a great cruise. From the maintenance and cleaning crew to the "chiefs", everyone always smiled, always said hello, always there asking if they can help us, can they do anything for us. This crew was simply the very best.
Ports of Call Keep in mind that this was the Canada and New England itinerary.
Halifax: Good walking around town. We took the hop on/hop off trolley tour to get familiar with the town and once we got past the Citadel and then made it to downtown, we got off and explored the rest on our own. Long, long line to get back on the ship but the line moved quickly. Not quick enough though as we "had" to buy a bunch of stuff from the vendors in the tent where we had to get in line at to get back on the ship! This was a very nice, very historical, very touristy town. The bagpipe troupe welcome was a really nice touch.
St. John: Took tour to the Reversing Falls and the museum tour. The falls are a misnomer, in our opinion, and there really wasn't much to see. We took the sightseeing boat, which got up close and almost too personal with the whirlpools, but we had fun, nonetheless. The museum in the market square was great; wish we could have spent more time there. Walked the pedway (overhead walkways which are enclosed and allow you to walk all over town without having to climb the hills rain or shine) through the city market and ended up in the old Loyalist cemetery and happened upon one of the clerks in the old courthouse who gave us a personal tour. Tons of history in this town and we could easily have done this on our own without any guided tours.
The sole bagpiper farewell was wonderful and brought tears to our eyes. The melodies played until we had set sail and you could barely hear the music any longer.
Bar Harbor: Probably had the most fun here. Would have been better if the weather had been a little nicer. Did not get any rain, but it was dreary and chilly, a lot of fog in the late afternoon so we could not see anything from Cadillac Mountain, but, oh well, one does not go the Canada and New England in October and expect all sunny and warm days. Went kayaking in the morning and had a blast doing that. Went on a lobster bake in the afternoon and it was great, too. Then took a bus tour through Acadia National Park, which was a beautiful tour, too. Tenders went well.
Boston: What can we say? Pier is ugly and nothing there. Rode with our tour group into town and walked the Freedom Trail. So much history, so much to see and do, you almost have to have a tour guide to try to see it all in one short day. Once we got into the town proper, we had a blast. Wish we had had time to grab a bit to eat in Little Italy. This is one place we may go back to someday when we can spend more time there.
Newport: Have to say that this was a total bomb. Unless Princess changes its tender procedure here, they should skip this port next year and do a different port. Did not get off the ship until after 2:00 pm, had a shore excursion at 2:15 pm, tour operator held the tour for the passengers, got to the Breakers mansion, had to wait in line for almost 45 minutes, did get the tour of the Breakers but the Cliff Walk turned into a power walk to get us back to the bus as the ship was being held for us as we were due to set sail at 6:00 pm and we did not get back on the ship until 6:15 pm. This was proof positive that it does pay to book your shore excursion through the ship as the ship had to wait on us. Yes, the water looked rough, but once we actually got into our tender and set sail to Newport, the waves were not rough at all so we are not really sure exactly what the problem was but this generated a ton of complaints and unhappy passengers. This was not a good way to end an otherwise perfect cruise. We got into Newport at 10:00 am, mind you, supposed to be there until 6:00 pm. Some people never got off the ship at all. If the tender situation cannot be fixed, then Princess needs to change ports.
Disembarkation We disembarked when it was our turn. Did not want to have to carry our luggage off the ship so we did not do self-disembark. You have to be out of your stateroom by 8:00 am so we went up to the Horizon Court and ate breakfast and hung out on one of the open decks until it was our turn to go to Club Fusion, which was around 9:30-9:45. Our color was called right on schedule and we sailed right through. Follow your written instructions carefully and word for word and you won't have a problem. Those people that did experience confusion did not read their instructions carefully. Took a while to get off of the ship, but so what? We did not have a flight returning home until after 2:00 pm. We got to LGA in plenty of time and even got a flight home leaving one hour earlier. One piece of advice, get a yellow cab to get back to the airport. We took the next available car and paid almost $50. The driver told us that the yellow cabs are cheaper, but by then it was too late.
Summary Our first cruise on Princess and we were very satisfied. Got our money's worth, for sure. Don't sweat the formal wear issue. We saw lots of people in formal wear, but just as many in resort casual, lots of sport coats, especially with jeans and the majority of the passengers all were very nicely dressed. Some dressed up, some dressed down, but even in the buffet restaurants, people were dressed appropriately. Even those in jeans were not sloppy. Photographers did not swarm us as we have been on other cruise lines, which was a nice break. We did not go everywhere and do everything -- couldn't fit it all in. Would we sail again on Princess? Yes. Would we sail again on the Crown? Maybe. Ship was wonderful, but a little too big for our tastes. But, if the itinerary and price were right, no question, we would.
We like Princess and can recommend the line; we cannot recommend the Crown Princess. It's not that The Crown Princess is too large. It's too small. The Island Princess carries fewer than 2,000 passengers, the Crown Princess over 3,000. That's an over 50% increase in passenger load. The ship and, especially, the public areas on the Crown Princess are not 50% larger than those on the Island Princess. Many appear to be about the same size. Same two pools, just a 1,000 more passengers to use them.
It also appears to be understaffed. Dinner was an hour and a half to two hours. Half, or more, of this time was spent waiting for service. We had to ask for items more than we should have -- no bread, dining implements missing, wrong food, courses missed.
Contrary to what the CruiseMates review says, the Horizon Food court is not open 24 hours. It closes at 5:30. There is a very small auxiliary buffet just aft of the Horizon Food court that is open after 5:30. It would be too small on a 1,000 passenger ship. The lines to get in were long.The food was certainly above average. Being forced to dine in the very slow service main eateries or stand in a Disney theme park length line to enjoy it did not enhance the dinning experience.
There are lots of activities. There's a line I was told about St Martin, "There's everything to do and nothing to do". On the Crown Princess the "Everything to do" part is true. Finding a place, other than your cabin, to do nothing is a task.
We liked the two days at sea going and coming. Our take on the Caribbean is it's like pizza and there's no such thing as bad pizza. There is always something new and different to try. An exception to this might be Grand Turk. When the Crown Princess arrived we more than doubled the population -- Grand Turk has 3,800 inhabitants, the Crown Princess a crew and passenger compliment of over 4,200. There is very little there. There were un-crowed beaches, good snorkeling, a great Margareta Ville and, of course, trinket and duty free shopping. Certainly worth one trip.
We sailed on 2 back to back seven day Crown Princess Cruises from San Juan on 2 different routes. The ship is beautiful. We had a balcony on the aloha deck. We lucked out and recieved a handicapped room. This was almost twice as large in the bedroom, bath, and balcony. At first we thought all of the cabins were like this. It turned out there were only 16 such balcony rooms on the ship. We dont know why we were assigned this. The ship is very high but it was incredibly stable at night. Very quiet. Both cruises were sold out, 3,000 pax, but the ship never seemed crowded. I often caught myself thinking "where is everyone ".
The lounges and bars were beautiful and never seemed crowded. The main theater was filled on 2 nights but on other nights there were plenty of seats. The shows and competitions were fun although maybe 4 of the 8 comedians were not funny. The dance classes were good. I thought they had an excellent cruise director the 2nd week and a very good staff. The surcharge crown grill is excellent. I cansay this was the best lobster, brazilian grilled, and best fillet that I have ever eaten. Sabatinins was also good but not like the crown grill. I dont really care for the princess buffet. I thought it was even less than last year on the princess sun. The new international cafe is a good idea. Very good coffee here but its extra. Alot of interesting pastry and gourmet food that was sometimes free and sometimes at cost.
I likes the entertainment in the piazza. This was varied and made for a nice setting. Sting quartets playing tangoes is one I will remember. Skywalkers nightclub is moved forward on the sky deck on the crown compared to the other grand class ships. This is a great idea. It allows for a fantail pool , bar, and plenty of lounging areas at the rear of the ship. I thought the movies under the stars was a grotesque noise maker. They would have this on at 9 in the morning with loungers staring blankly at it.
It was ok for parts of the football games but the games were available elsewhere on the ship.
The new sanctuary area did not seem to be very popular. I thought it looked more like an assissted living area. There were some incidents of topless sunbathing in the middle of the family pool areas right next to the pool. The princess policy is that topless sun bathing is not allowed. They did put a stop to it there and also at the lotus pool. Im not against it but it should be done in the more discreet areas of which they were several on the ship. Topless bathers in those areas seemed to be left alone. Princess should just take the leap and have an official topless area. Of course this would be $10 extra or $20 if you want to sun both.
They installed sprinklers over the room balconies and replaced the furniture with a more fire resistent type. This is new since the fire on the star princess. This was good as we often found burnt matches on our balcony.
A very special thing was one of the head waiters, Francisco. He arranged for my wife's special diet dessert every night even though we dined in many different resturants. All we had to do was tell our server of this standing special order and they would be able to get it. I like the atmosphere on princess. There were many brits on 14 day cruises as princess flies charters right into San Juan for them.
Formal nights were great , many tuxes, kilts, and beautifully dressed women. Our room stewart, Rogerlio, was also a special part of the cruise. We had some good conversations and alot of laughs with him.
This was a fabulous cruise and vacation.