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Review of the Crown Princess
Cruise Date: January 2012
Booking: Cruise Line
Cabin number: C431
Cabin category: BA (Balcony)
Met a Princess on Crown Princess
Sailed on Crown Princess to Princess Cays, Curacao and Aruba. Crown had some Noro problems a few weeks before our cruise, but fortunately we had no health issues. A highlight was definitely meeting Lulu & Roundman from CLF (thus my title!).
We (DW & I, ages 58 & 50-something). Have 7 Royal Caribbean cruises, one Celebrity, one ancient Carnival, but this was our first Princess cruise. As a nine time cruiser but a Princess newbie, I went into the cruise with some reservations after reading some recent reviews. All I can say is, there must be another Crown Princess somewhere, because this one (in our opinion at least), offered a great cruise with no major flaws.
PRE-CRUISE: This was a replacement cruise for a Caribbean Princess out of New York that we were forced to cancel due to a family illness. Princess very nicely offered us a switch with some added incentives - too good to pass up. We booked Embassy Suites through Princess (included transfers from the airport to the hotel to the ship the next day). The hotel was great, an helped prepare us for a week of stuffing ourselves by having a free manager?s reception for two hours Friday night (free drinks, snacks), plus a very nice breakfast the next morning. The reception was so good that my wife filled up on snacks (while I filled up on drinks!) and wasn?t hungry for dinner. I walked to the shops behind Embassy and got a Grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich with fries for take-out at Gilbert?s 17th Street Grill. A delicious sandwich; I would definitely go there again, although there are many other options within easy walking distance (Duffy?s Sports Bar, Outback, Italian Restaurant).
I would stay at Embassy again, but I probably wouldn?t book through Princess. We could have done better pricewise by doing Priceline or shopping around. Still, my reluctance wasn?t with the hotel or their package price; it was with the Princess baggage and boarding process. 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 (?Hey suitcase, didn?t I just see you in my room an hour ago??), 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. That wasn?t the end: we were assigned the first of two buses to leave the hotel for a five minute drive. We were happy to be on the first bus (?We?re gonna beat those other suckers to the ship!?). Only problem was, we then had to relocate our luggage after it was unpacked from the bus so we could ?personally? hand it to the porter, who then placed it on a rack directly behind him. I?m not sure what that accomplished besides making the porter some extra tip money. So there we are, at the port. 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.
EMBARKATION: 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. No problems, similar to what we?ve experienced on Royal & Celeb.
THE SHIP: Crown Princess: immaculately clean, bit of a strange layout compared to some Royal Caribbean ships I?ve been on (?To reach your Dining Room, please proceed up the aft steps or elevators to Deck 7 and then find your way down to Deck 6"), but a very beautiful ship. We had a Caribe Deck Balcony cabin, mid-ship (C431) with a large balcony.
Irwin was our Room Steward. No towel animals (Does Princess not do this? Talked to others who had none), but we saw him several times a day and he was right on top of every request. 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; fairly poor condition to be honest, but they were in the process of replacing all deck furniture deck by deck. Decks above and below us already had the new items; by time you read this I?m sure all decks will have the new furniture.
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 equal (or lower) 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).
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 café 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 about Princess coffee. I found it okay; so did our table mates. Our waiter (Ray) was great: humorous and fast. Junior Waiter Carlos was good, but also stretched a bit thin. Maitre?d Vincenzo was at our table at least once every evening. 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. Personally, we enjoy having the same Wait Staff every night.
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.
CRUISE DIRECTOR STAFF: What makes a good or bad CD? I think we?ve had 8 different ones - all different personalities, enjoyed them all. Lisa Ball did an excellent job in our opinion. Her jokes were a bit dated (same as most CD?s), but she always had things happening onboard. 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: The days of big name entertainers on ships are waning. Still, 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. A favorite joke he told: ?KFC has a new Hillary Clinton chicken bucket. It comes with two large thighs, two small breasts, and a left wing?. Phil Tag: hilarious comedy: commenting on Oasis OTS, ?That ship is so big it has bad neighborhoods?. 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. The Theater was never crowded; other venues (Explorer?s Lounge, Club Fusion) filled up quickly but seats could usually be found.
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, you can find some comments from me on the Curacao boards. 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. Also, a little info below about FLL.
SHOPPING: Do they really have to have jewelry stores at every port?? My wife is getting too familiar with names like Effy, Diamonds International. Every port had the usual tshirts and souvenirs; nothing extraordinary that stands out. We also hit a Casino in Aruba. Big winners: 15 cents for me, 25 cents for DW.
OKAY, WHAT?S LEFT?: Overall impression of the crew: younger than most ships we?ve been on. On Royal Caribbean I?ve always found staff to be 100% friendly. On Princess, about 98% - nothing major, and probably more of an age thing. Lots of trivia and, seriously, probably too many things going on at once. But don?t take that as a complaint, its more of a compliment to the CD.
DEBARKATION: We had time to kill before our flight so we booked an excursion that included a boar tour on the Carrie B paddleboat, a bus tour of FLL, and a 45 minute shop/lunch stop on Los Olas Blvd. We were assigned an 8:15AM departure along with the rest of those on the excursion. My wife got sent to the Service Counter before she could leave. She still had $10 in OBC; we thought they?d just credit our account, but instead handed her $10.79. Whatever. Customs was painless. The excursion was okay, nothing great, but better than sitting at the airport for 6 hours!
CONCLUSIONS: We?ve been very happy Royal Caribbean cruisers. We did Celebrity last year mainly because they honored our RC level. Chose Princess because we wanted to drive to a port for a change (5 ½ hrs from NYC), but lost that opportunity when our plans changed and had to fly anyways. I much prefer Royal Caribbean over Celebrity personally. However, Princess also appeals to me; there?s a few things I like better on Royal, but there?s also things Princess does better. I don?t think you can wrong either way. Price and Itinerary will influence our future cruise choices, but I think we?d be very happy with any Royal or Princess ship. Although, on Princess, we might get a chance to cruise with Princess Lulu and King Roundman again (LOL!).
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