We have just returned from the September 14, 1991 sailing of the Crown Princess to the Western caribbean. Overall we rated the cruise very good, with the ship itself rating an excellent, the entertainment an excellent and the food merely OK. More about the food later.
To give a background for comparison, these are the ships we have sailed before--NCL Seaward, NCL Sunward II, Carnival Celebration, Dolphin SeaBreeze, Regency Regent Sun, Regency Regent Star, and Carnival Fantasy.
WHAT WAS GOOD --
Pool deck and "The Dome"--The pool deck was well laid out, with lots of room and very comfortable deck chairs. There always seemed to be plenty of chairs available and always plenty of fresh towels also. One of the pools had one glass side, so that you could walk up beside the pool and see "swimming feet". We thought that was fun. The pizza restaurant served wonderful pizza and was open long enough hours so that everyone could take advantage of it. "The Dome" is a unique entertaining area, with combination lounge, casino, bar, observation deck, all in one. The couple who usually sang in the Dome in the evening were also wonderful singers. Some reviews I had seen of the ship complained that the noise from the slot machines and gaming tables made the area noisy, but it did not bother us. The pools and jacuzzis were open late in the evening, so that some people could (and did) take advantage of them late at night.
Rooms--We had a category BB cabin on Aloha deck, with a small balcony. It was definitely worth the extra money for the balcony. A word of warning to those booking on the Crown--AVOID CABINS ON BAJA DECK WITH A BALCONY. You cannot see out without standing up. There is a solid rail all the way to waist level. I heard several people complaining about that solid rail. Incidentally, we saw the Regal Princess up close and they have corrected that problem on the Regal. There are no solid balconies to waist level on the Regal. The balcony--as opposed to the verandah, is very small. There is only room for two small chairs and a small table. However, it was WONDERFUL! I talked to several other people who had booked balconies, and all of them thought that the balcony was well worth the money, although those on the Baja deck were not happy with having to stand up to see out. I had breakfast on my balcony a couple of times, and it was the greatest! The category BB rooms are very nice, with plenty of storage space, both drawer space and space in the bathroom. The shower was larger than on any newer ship that we had been on. One thing we noted, however, is that the space for the balcony comes out of the space allotted for the room. So the category BB cabins are physically smaller inside than the normal outside cabins. As with all over the ship, there were signed numbered prints in the room, wonderful touch. Satellite TV was available most of the time, with 24 hour news and sports, although that was not updated very often.
Contrary to the listing of movies in the cabin by Bill Powell for the Regal, the movies in the cabin for the Crown were not too great. Following is a list of movies in the cabin--Chorus of Disapproval, Strapless, No Way Out, Another Woman, Eight Men Out, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Married to the Mob, Couch Trip, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Switching Channels, Winter People, A Room with a View, Without a Clue, Nuns on the Run, Handful of Dust, She Devil, Paris by Night, and Dealers. Movies in the theatre were King Ralph, Home Alone, Green Card, King Ralph (again!!!), Class Action, Sleeping with the Enemy and Reversal of Fortune.
Our cabin steward provided wonderful service, always keeping our towels immaculate and fruit bowl full. He also was kind enough to open our cabin door for us one evening when we returned from the "party boat" in Cozumel, since we were too smashed to figure out which way to put the key in the door!
Public Areas--The public areas were, in general laid out well and beautifully decorated. The 3 story atrium in the center of the ship is gorgeous and provided a wonderful backdrop for the Captain's cocktail party and the champagne waterfall. One very nice idea was the "group picture" at the Captain's cocktail party. Despite the fact that the picture was taken of several hundred people, it turned out very well, and is one of the nicest momentoes of the trip we have. Carpets all over the ship are custom designed and beautiful to look at. All over the ship there was original art work and signed, numbered prints. I was always walking up a new staircase and discovering a new art work. Speaking of stairs, there were plenty of elevators and little waiting for elevators. The only problem was due to the fact that the "Dome" was on Deck 14 and most of the ship only goes to Deck 12, so you had to be careful which elevator you chose if you wanted to go to the Dome.
Shore Excursions, tenders, etc.--For a trip that was supposed to have been an all "tender" trip, there were very few problems with tenders and the tender service was remarkably prompt at getting people off the ship. There were four tenders running from the ship first thing in the morning in Jamaica and in Grand Cayman, and there were no tender tickets assigned, but we were off the ship pretty quickly each place without it. In Cozumel, when we first arrived, they used a huge tender from shore which seated around 400 and gave out tender tickets for that. After a couple of hours they used the ship's tenders.
Shore excursions we generally find to be overpriced and not worth the money. We did, on this trip, book the tour to go to Stingray City in Grand Cayman. Unfortunately the boat we were to go on developed mechanical problems, and we were unable to take that excursion. We attempted to book it on our own, but it was too late in the day. The moral of that story is, either don't count too heavily on a particular shore excursion or get right off the ship first thing in the morning and find someplace to book it yourself directly with the provider. You can probably do it cheaper also. We did get our money back for that trip, but were disappointed nonetheless. Not that this problem is limited to Princess, but we felt shore excursions were pushed much too heavily to the exclusion of giving info on getting around on your own in port. We did take the "party boat" excursion in Cozumel, on which they served unlimited rum punch. My husband says that I enjoyed it immensely. I do not remember much of the trip except the hangover the next day!
There was one good idea which I had not seen on a ship before. There was a drop box for ordering shore excursions. Wonderful idea and eliminated lines of any kind unless you were a masochist and demanded to stand in line. I don't know why other ships do not use this method.
Entertainment--We only went to a couple of the "sit-down" shows, primarily because we were just not in the mood. The shows that we did attend were wonderful and from discussions with our table mates at dinner, all the shows were as wonderful as the two we saw. One rather unusual thing, on a couple of nights, the main show was BEFORE dinner for second seating. I suppose that is because some second seating passengers think the shows are too late after dinner. We like to be up on deck around sundown, so we did not particularly like the idea of the show before dinner. There was wonderful entertainment available in the other lounges on the ship and we particularly enjoyed the steel band and the couple who sang in the dome.
General observations--You could NOT pay cash for drinks, shore excursions, shop purchases, etc.. Most people just billed everything to a credit card. You just signed a blank slip and there was a preliminary statement of your account delivered to the cabin on Thursday and a final bill delivered Friday night/Saturday morning. That eliminated long lines to pay, but you could run up a very large bill very fast. Particularly in the shop and for shore excursions, I think they should offer the option of paying immediately by cash or credit card, although you could pay every day or however often at the purser's desk.
The cruise director gave the best debarkation talk of any ship we have sailed on. His talk was informative and direct and understandable. His talk, as well as the shore excursion lectures, port talks, etc., was re-played in the cabin, which was nice.
There is a forward observation deck on Deck 10 which is not well publicized. You have to be on the right side of the ship to even find the door to get forward. Leaving Ft. Lauderdale, we were about the only passengers there, with about 15-20 crew members. I think that most people never found that deck, as we were very often the only people there.
We waited in almost no lines for all of the week. I waited the last evening in a line of about 10 people to pay our bill, so that we would not have a huge credit card bill, but I did not have to wait in that line. We never waited in line to eat. We did see some lines at the buffet restaurant at the beginning of the lunch hour, but we just waited a while till the crowds thinned out a little. Further in the spirit of no waiting in line, there was no receving line for the Captain's cocktail party. I certainly did not miss it, although some wanted to have their obligatory picture taken with the Captain and were disappointed. We did wait in line one evening for one midnight buffet and decided afterward it was certainly not worth the wait. More on food later.
Service was, in general, good. We never saw a problem with dirty dishes in the buffet restaurant, although I would have appreciated a busboy coming around with extra coffee in the morning, as we have often had on other ships. We appreciated the fact that the photographers took their usual pictures, but they weren't nearly as pushy as some other ships we have sailed on. Bar waiters and waitresses were available, but not pushy. They would walk by often, so that you could catch their eye if you wanted a drink, otherwise they would just keep trolling.
The selection of beer was rather limited, only Budweiser, Heineken and one other import, which I can't remember, and rather expensive at approx. $2.50. The supply of alcohol for purchase on board ship was pitiful, about 15 selections altogether.
WHAT WAS BAD--Well, the answer is that we found almost nothing to complain about except the food, but we were very disappointed in a lot of things about the food.
Our major complaint with the food was not normally that we had anything inedible, just that it was mostly very uninspiring. The best way that I can describe it is that on most ships, I have trouble deciding what to order from the menu because it all looks so good. On the Crown, I usually ordered only salad and entre because the appetizers and soups and desserts were unappealing. Our table consisted of 4 couples, all of whom were booked in either category BB cabins or suites. The general consensus of the table was the same as mine, food mostly OK, but not great.
OK--for specifics, beef dishes were generally good, but overcooked. However, the beef was usually a very plain, unadorned piece of meat. Fish dishes were generally not great, although I had some scallops in a puff pastry one night that were excellent. Pastas were generally good, although pushed too much by our head waiter. A couple of nights we practically had to beat him off to keep him from serving us pasta in addition to the entre we had ordered.
There were NO lite entres available at any time, except for items which were listed as low in cholesterol. Salads were virtually ignored as a course, other than the Caesar Salad. There were about 4 different dressings available and those did not change at all from night to night. Dressing was placed on the salad in the kitchen, so if you didn't want a lot of dressing, you were stuck. I also like for the dressing to be offered at the table, so that you can look at it and decide whether you want that particular dressing. Caesar salad was the only salad which we had that was good. Unfortunately it was way too much of a good thing. We were served Caesar salad, basically without being asked whether we wanted it or not, for FOUR straight nights. By the third night in a row, no one ordered it, it just CAME. And then the fourth night in a row, the Caesar was the ONLY salad on the menu.
French night menu was the only night that the food was genuinely awful. The only "French" items on the menu were the escargot (which was reportedly good--I don't eat things that crawl) and the French onion soup, which was AWFUL!!! Five people from our table ordered it and none finished more than a spoonful. It was SWEET! The entres included turkey (real French) and prime rib (for the second time). And of course, the perennial Caesar salad. Everyone in our end of the dining room was complaining about the menu and the food that evening.
Desserts were unimaginative. They were basically the same every night, with the exception of the cherries jubilee, baked alaska and pineapple surprise. There were no pies or cakes at dinner and no ice cream on the menu for dinner, although by the end of the cruise, I just ordered it anyway.
Midnight buffets were very missable. One night we went to the "Flaming Fruits". What we got was fried bananas and poached pears. There was no ice cream, no cherries jubilee, no peaches flambe', no nothing. In general, there was very little offered on the midnight buffet and certainly not worth the wait. One night the midnight buffet was FISH AND CHIPS!!!
Breakfast and lunch buffets were OK, but not spectacular. Breakfast was basically the same every day. There was an OK selection of about 4 fruits each day, in addition to bananas, oranges, and apples, but the hot food was the same every day, with the exception of having ham two days. There was eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, sausage, toast and assorted rolls, croissants, danish. I would have liked to see pancakes and french toast at least once. They were available in the dining room. Eggs benedict was not available even in the dining room.
Lunch buffets were OK, although again there was very little difference in the selection from day to day and the selection of salads was very limited. Hamburgers and hotdogs were good, although if I had my choice, I would have had the pizza every day, as it was wonderful.
There was coffee, hot water for tea, orange juice, lemonade, milk and iced tea available 24 hours in the buffet restaurant. Unfortunately the coffee was way too strong and the ice tea was only so-so.
Service in the dining room was OK, not great. We ate at the
second seating and often felt that we were rushed. We take the
second seating on purpose so that we do not have this problem and
have never had it before. We were usually served our salad and
appetizer at the same time. I do not think that is proper service
and we felt it was being done to save time. It happened almost
every night. Our water glasses were usually empty throughout the
whole meal. The only nights when they were not empty were nights
that we ordered wine with dinner. The bread was served on a
individual bread plate (usually one roll and a breadstick) and we
never got any more until the last night. On every other ship we
have just been brought additional bread. On the Crown, we even
asked for additional bread one night and never got it. The waiter
made several mistakes, placing the wrong food in front of us. We
had coffee after dinner every single night and by the last night,
the busboy was still having to ask whether we wanted it or not.
In summary, we had a wonderful time and would go again on the Crown in a minute, especially with a balcony (or preferably a verandah) and if the food had been better, it would have been my favorite ship to date by far. If there is anything which we haven't posted about that you have a question on, fire away!
Carol & Eric in VA
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