Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crown Princess Review

I was reading through my previous entries and realized I never posted my opinion of this cruise. In a nutshell, this cruise was awful. We thought there was no such thing as a bad cruise but Princess proved us wrong. Here's the review I put on Cruise Critic.

Longest 7 Days of My Life....

Embarkation & Debarkation

We flew out of Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale the day before our cruise was to set sail. We booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott Airport. For whatever reason, it took us longer to get to the hotel from the airport than it took for us to get to FLL. The hotel was only operating one shuttle bus and there were quite a few of us so the shuttle got filled up quickly and we had to wait for him to drop off the group before us and then come back to get us. We loved the hotel. The room was great, the hotel was clean, and the staff was very helpful and friendly. The only drawback to this hotel is that the only dining options nearby are a mediocre seafood restaurant and Subway. If you want something else, you'll have to take a cab. There is also no shopping other than a Bass Pro Shops. The breakfast buffet offered by the hotel is an excellent value and quite tasty. The hotel offers a shuttle to the cruise port and unlike the shuttle from the airport, it was run very smoothly. We arrived at the port a little after 12:00 and this has got to be one of the quickest embarkations ever. There was a line to get into the building but once inside, there was absolutely no waiting. I think we were on the ship within 15 minutes of getting off the shuttle and most of that time was taken up by security. Debarkation went just as smoothly. Once they called our color number to come to the dining room, our seats weren't even warm before we were called to debark. Our bags were waiting in the terminal and the customs area was adequately staffed so we were off the ship in record time.

The Ship

The Crown Princess is a beautiful ship. It's very tastefully decorated and one of the easiest ships to navigate in our experience. We liked our balcony cabin but thought it felt a little cramped compared to our cabin on Carnival Legend. I don't think the cabin was smaller. It was just a different layout which changed the feel of the room. I only have three complaints about the ship itself. First, it rocks entirely too much and too severely. The very first night, we experienced a very rocky ride on our way to Princess Cays. There was also an awful rocky ride on our way to Turks & Caicos. This was truly the worst night of the cruise. It made it very difficult to get out and enjoy myself in the evening. My husband wasn't affected as badly as I was but dutifully stayed with me. Both nights, I spent the night curled up in bed because I was just too seasick too move. I threw up twice that night because I was so sick. We went up to the Lido deck the next day and saw that the ship was rocking so severely that most of the water had sloshed out of the pools. They had to refill the pools when we finally docked in Turks & Caicos. The worst we experienced on other ships when they rocked was difficulty walking in a straight line so this experience was very annoying to say the least. It bothered me so much that when we got home, I did some research about the Crown Princess and found that stability on the water has been a problem for this ship since her maiden voyage.

Second, the ship has no real walking deck. There is a track on the Sports Deck but you have to walk around it like ten times to get in a mile. We took the tour of the ship on the first day and the assistant cruise director suggested using the Promenade deck for walking instead. I tried that on the day we docked in Princess Cays. I realized that the deck is not a complete revolution around the ship. You run into some stairs at one end and have to go up and down the other side to get to the other side of the Promenade deck. I don't necessarily have a problem with this but two things interrupted the flow of my walk. First, they cordoned off half the deck for tender operations to shore in Princess Cays so that was half the deck that I could not get to. Second, with the amount of elderly people on this ship, I was constantly running into them trying to make it up or down the stairs. They move slowly so I had to spend quite a few minutes waiting for them to get out of the way. I finally gave up and went to the gym to work out on the elliptical.

Perhaps, my biggest problem with this ship is their smoking policy which we were not aware of when we booked the cruise. Obviously, we are non-smokers. As most passengers tend to do, one of the first things we do when we get to the cabin is check out our balcony. As soon as I opened the balcony door, I was hit by cigarette smoke. The cabin directly to our left was occupied by smokers who were on their balcony enjoying the first of many cigarettes during the cruise. We found out later in the day that the cabin directly to our right was also occupied by smokers. The end result is there was always someone smoking on their balcony and we weren't able to enjoy our balcony like we have on previous cruises. On the two port days when we did not really leave the ship, we were able to enjoy our balcony for most of the day because the smokers were gone, thank goodness. Other days, we'd either just open the curtains and look at the view from inside the cabin or stick our noses out to see if the air was clear before we went out there. We could also smell smoke as we walked down the hallways as well. I can understand allowing smoking in designated areas like the lounges and upper decks but why the cabin areas? Non-smokers should not have to suffer through this. We cannot avoid our cabins. We can avoid the lounges and upper decks.

Activities

For people in our age group (mid 30s) and younger, the Crown Princess has few activities of interest. My husband and I dubbed this the movie cruise because we spent a lot of our time either watching the afternoon movie in the Theater or watching MUTS. They had some really good selections and we got a chance to catch up on movies we've been wanting to see. We noticed the large number of elderly people on the ship and this appears to be the Crown Princess' core clientele because the daily activities reflected it. One of the activities was for grandparents to get together and compare pictures of their grandchildren. They even managed to make karaoke boring. On a ship where about 80% of the people are in the same age group, they all tended to like the same kind of music. So, it felt like everyone was singing the same song over and over again. We attended a few trivia events and they did make some attempts to appeal to the youngest people on the ship by offering activities using the Nintendo Wii. We took in a few shows and they were actually quite good. They seemed to only have one band that played everywhere on the ship. We'd see them on the top deck and they'd play later at night in the lounges. We would have liked more variety in this area. They also had a string quartet that played in the atrium at various hours. We went to see a comedy magic show on the first night and the performer really sucked. He has not mastered the art of timing and dragged out his tricks and jokes way too long.

Food

The food on the Crown Princess was a disappointment overall. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet every morning and enjoyed the lunch and dinner buffets for the first two days or so. After that, they started to go downhill. My husband and I are not picky eaters but we felt like that on this cruise. We like our food simple, hot, and hearty. There was very little of this to be found on the Crown Princess. There was lots of seafood and cold salads. Even in the dining room, beef was very hard to come by on this ship. We perused the dining room menu every day to see if anything sound appetizing. Most of the time, the food selections sounded weird and we opted for the buffet. On Italian night in the dining room, almost all the selections were pasta dishes with no meat other than the selections they serve every night. On other nights, it was mostly chicken and seafood on the menu. The buffet wasn't much better. The seafood theme was repeated throughout most of the cruise, with the crab and lobster legs appearing on the buffet at least 3 times that week. There was a German theme one night on the buffet and it was really just a selection of sausages, cold deli meats and weird cold salads (mackerel & potato salad anyone?). We've been to Germany and ate quite well while we were there. This is not all they eat over there. I got to the end of the line and the only thing on my plate was watermelon. I spotted some deviled eggs and excitedly put some on my plate. BIG MISTAKE. They were the nastiest things I have ever eaten. Very rarely do I spit food out once it's in my mouth but I just couldn't get that nasty thing down. We started eating exclusively from the grill for lunch and dinner around the 3rd day of the cruise. The grill food was good overall. The pizza was OK. The sauce was too salty for my taste, the crust too thin, and they only offered 3 kinds. The room service menu is very limited...mostly salads and sandwiches. We ordered room service a few times and overall the food was good. Few of the items we ordered arrived the way they're described on the menu. The menu stated the veggie sandwich is served on whole grain bread. Both times I ordered it, it was made with white bread. The grilled ham and cheese sandwich was delivered encased in a coating of egg and fried up like French toast. This was not mentioned on the menu and would have been nice to know before I ordered it. The dining room actually had pork on the menu on the last night and we were tired of burgers, hot dogs and pizza, so we chose to eat in the dining room. The pork dish I ordered was good and my husband liked his steak. We chose anytime dining and had pleasant table mates. The waiter was excellent. But this was not enough to make up for the lack of variety and appetizing food in other areas.

Service


This is where the ship shined. Everyone we encountered on the ship was friendly and helpful. We were lucky enough to get the best steward we've ever had on a cruise. Jeffrey was attentive, genuinely friendly, and we could tell he takes great pride in doing a good job. He was absolutely wonderful. Other than a few nights of wanting to strangle the captain because of the rough ride, we really enjoyed the staff.

Ports

We prefer to explore the places we visit and there is nothing to see in Princess Cays other than the beach so we stayed on the ship. In St. Maarten, we booked the Best of St. Maarten Beach tour through the cruise line. We enjoyed a tour of the island with a few stops along the way. The tour included about 2 hours at Orient Beach where we enjoyed lounging in the sun. The bus dropped us off near the cruise ship to do a little shopping and we walked back to the ship when we were done. St. Maarten was our favorite stop of the cruise. We didn't book any excursions for St. Thomas because I grew up there. I know the island inside out. From our balcony, I was able to enjoy watching the ship dock in Crown Bay. Apparently, the smokers on either side of us decided to sleep in that morning. It was a truly beautiful sight. For some reason, St. Thomas is the only port where we had to show our passport. I'm really not sure why. It is owned by the US, after all. There is a small shopping area right at the pier but, other than the iguanas sunning on the rocks, nothing really interesting. Since we were the only cruise ship in port that day, we were pleasantly surprised to find most of the stores open. We spent most of the day walking around and doing a little shopping. We left St. Thomas and finally arrived in Turks & Caicos after the ride from hell. We didn't book an excursion here either mainly because of the hurricane that had recently hit. We were slightly amused to see the ship offering a hurricane tour to view the devastation…very tacky. After the ship docked and my stomach settled a little, we got off the ship and walked around the cruise terminal area. There's not much going on here other than Margaritaville. We bought a few souvenirs and some overpriced candy and headed back to the ship.

We have never been on a cruise where we couldn't wait to get home. I was so happy to see Fort Lauderdale and just get my feet on solid ground again. I doubt we will ever book a cruise on Princess again. We booked this cruise because we wanted to try other cruise lines and still plan to try Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. It's going to be a while before we do that though. Right now, It's back to Carnival for us so we can fall in love with cruising again.

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