This is our review of our 11/28/96 cruise on the Crown Princess. This was our first 10 day cruise, but our 21st cruise overall, 3rd cruise on Princess, having sailed on many other lines including NCL, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Dolphin, Regency, Crown, Cunard Crown, Star Clipper and Costa.
The particular cruise which we took sailed round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale and visited 7 different islands in those 10 days (including Princess Cays), plus two days at sea. I personally would prefer more days at sea with fewer islands, but we made two of the island days into "sea days", as we basically were off the ship for maybe 45 minutes total in Nassau and Barbados.
For some unknown reason, the 10 day Crown Princess itinerary listed in the brochure is reversed every other cruise, with the port times adjusted somewhat. Our cruise happened to sail the itinerary in reverse of the brochure order--that is, we went to Princess Cays first, instead of last. Itinerary for our cruise with port times, tender ports, if applicable, dress, and some very random highlights, were as listed below. Please note that we do not go to ANY shows onboard cruise ships, so I have no idea what any of these shows were about. Also, movies noted are the ones played in the movie theater, which, unfortunately, were not the same ones played in the cabins. Movies played in the cabins were ones you have probably seen on video or on TV many times. Also, even though the printed information we received from Princess indicated THREE formal nights, TWO semi-formal and five casual, actual dress was TWO formal, THREE semi-formal and five casual.
Day 1--Thursday November 28 (Thanksgiving Day)--Leave FLL at 5 P.M.--Dress: Casual; Show--"Welcome Aboard Showtime"; Movie--Multiplicity.
Day 2--Friday--Princess Cays--TENDER PORT--9 A.M. to 3 P.M.--Dress: Formal; Show--"Let's Go to the Movies"; Captain's Gala Welcome Party; Line Dance Party; Flaming Fruits Midnight Buffet; Movies--Multiplicity, Independence Day.
Day 3--Saturday--At Sea--Dress: Semi-Formal; Show--"Showtime"; Laugh Night Party Time ("Upon the Sea, etc."); Movies--Dragon Heart, Independence Day.
Day 4--Sunday--St. Maarten--TENDER PORT--11 A.M. to 6 P.M.--Dress: Casual; Show--"Showtime"; (Presumably, not the same "Showtime" as the day before, but I wouldn't know--didn't go); Country Western Barn Dance and Good Old Country Hoe-Down; New England and San Diego Football Game; Movies--Dragon Heart, The American President.
Day 5--Monday--Dominica--8 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.--Dress: Semi-Formal; Show--"That's Broadway", Rock & Roll Dance Party; Movies--The American President, Eddie.
` Day 6--Tuesday--Barbados--8 A.M. to 6 P.M.--Dress: Casual/Island Attire; Show--"Cabaret Showtime"; Caribe Cook-out Sailaway; Island Night on Deck; Movies--Sgt. Bilko, The Rock.
Day 7--Wednesday--Guadalupe--8 A.M. to 5 P.M.--Dress: Semi-Formal; Show--"A Night on the Town"; Champagne Waterfall; Movies--The Rock, Executive Decision.
Day 8--Thursday--St Thomas--8 A.M. to 5 P.M.--Dress: Casual; Show--"Showtime" (Again??); Macarena Line Dance Party; Bathrobe & PJ Party; Movies--Multiplicity, Sgt. Bilko.
Day 9--Friday--At Sea--Dress: Formal; Show--"Odyssea"; Captain's Circle Party; Gala Midnight Buffet; Movie--Courage Under Fire.
Day 10--Saturday--Nassau--10:30 A.M. to 6 P.M.--Dress: Casual
Show--"Farewell Showtime"; Movies--The American President, Sgt. Bilko, Eddie.
Day 11--Sunday--Back to FLL at 8 AM
We booked our cruise about 4 months prior to sailing, paying 2 for 1, cruise only, for a category BA cabin on Aloha Deck, a standard cabin with balcony. We booked our own air through US Air, direct from Washington Dulles to FLL. We arrived in FLL about 12:15, got our luggage and a taxi (cost was less than $10 including bags) and arrived at the port around 12:50. We were shocked to see almost NO one in line in front of us and we were onboard within five minutes. Great job, Princess!
Even though we were allowed onboard, we, as everyone else was, were told that our cabin was not yet available and escorted to the dining room for a light lunch. We dropped our carry-on luggage at Kipling's Lounge, which they had set up as a baggage check until the rooms were available. Around 1:30 we finished lunch and headed to our cabin, after reclaiming our carry-ons. There was no one to show us to our cabin or carry our carry-ons, although I assume that, had we boarded after 1:30, that such would have been available. When we arrived at our cabin, the ice bucket had already been filled, although there was no fruit basket as of yet. Our bottle of champagne from our travel agent arrived later.
We had a category BA cabin on Aloha deck, which is a standard cabin with balcony. The space for the balcony comes out of the cabin space, so technically the standard cabins with balcony are smaller than the regular cabins. All cabins onboard CP have safes and refrigerators. The refrigerator was a little larger than your standard cube type refrigerator and would hold 4 wine bottles upright in the door, plus an additional 6 pack of cokes. In addition there were two semi-adjustable shelves in the refrigerator.
Cabins on CP have lots of storage space, with a large storage area by the bathroom consisting of 9 large drawers plus a safe and open storage above, in addition to about 6 feet of full length hanging space with an open shelf above the rod. Unfortunately our rather large suitcases would not fit under the bed, so we had to put them on the floor of the closet and they took up lots of space there. There were two glass shelves above the refrigerator and 2 drink glasses and ice tongs provided in addition to the bathroom glasses and ice bucket, of course.
The bathroom on CP is larger than many, with a mirror with storage behind it on two sides. The shower was a nice large size which did not necessitate the usual "too close" of a relationship with the shower curtain and the shower lip was such a good one I didn't get the floor wet all week. There are two hooks on the back of the bathroom door (which we usually used for the robes which are provided to all cabins), plus a clothes line in the shower. Shampoo, lotion and conditioner were provided, although Princess has done away with the little plastic bottles and they have those semi-plastic, semi-paper little containers which I find impossible to use in the shower.
In addition to the other storage, there was a bedside table with 4 drawers and a desk with chair and 4 drawers. There was a small tub chair and a small round table also. A hair dryer was provided above the desk, not in the bathroom.
The TV provided was a 13 inch TV with remote and showed a shore excursion and general Princess info channel, the Discovery Channel, a movie channel (OLD movies), CNN, ESPN International and a couple of music channels. The only good recent movies were shown ONLY in the theater.
Balconies in the standard cabins on Aloha deck are fairly cramped. The total size of the balcony was maybe 3 feet wide by the length of the cabin. The door is a swinging door, not a sliding door, so that makes it more difficult to leave open plus it really takes out of the usable space on the balcony. There are two small chairs and a 1 by 2 foot small square table on the balcony. On Aloha deck, the wall consisted of open rails above about a 10 inch tall solid wall. NOTE WELL--BALCONIES ON BAJA DECK ON CROWN PRINCESS HAVE A SOLID WAIST HIGH WALL. You cannot see out while sitting down.
Since this was Thanksgiving Day, there were two professional football games on TV, with our favorite Washington Redskins playing those da__ed Dallas Cowboys at 4 P.M. Upon checking out the various bars onboard, we discovered that Characters, on deck 12, is the semi-official sports bar onboard the Crown Princess. Supposedly--although this proved not to be true later in the week--if there is a football game on TV, it's supposed to be shown in Characters. Unfortunately for us and for our bar bill, the Redskins game was shown In Characters on Thanksgiving Day. We watched the Skins get pounded by the Cowboys while getting blasted. We also met up with Paul, who would be our favorite bartender for the week, plus Rick and Billie, a couple from California that we ended up bending elbows with over the course of the week.
The first night we might have blown off dinner altogether since we were in no mood to eat, but figured we couldn't do that the first night onboard, so headed to dinner. We had second seating, as always, with a table for 6 by the window. Both other couples were from Vancouver, British Columbia (along with about half the ship, it seemed. Actually, we heard that there was a group of approximately 270 persons onboard from Vancouver, plus lots of Brits. I would estimate that 25-30% of those onboard were either Canadian or British. It got so bad later on in the week, I was actually happy to hear another southern accent, as opposed to the standard British accent!) There was a concession to Thanksgiving for dinner--turkey with dressing, plus a somewhat unusual pumpkin pie. There were also several "Happy Thanksgiving" signs about the ship, although not nearly to the extent of the ones onboard the Celebration when we were onboard for Thanksgiving a few years ago. Since we had arisen very early this morning, it was off to bed early.
Friday was Princess Cays. We arrived around 8:30 and the ship started letting passengers off around 9 A.M. We were not in any hurry, so obtained a tender ticket number around 1100. We got off the ship around 10:20 and were still able to get chairs on the beach, although fairly far down the beach, past the restaurant and the snorkeling area. The weather was a little cool with some wind, but the sun shone most of the day. Princess offered the standard BBQ lunch on the beach. We didn't consider it warm enough to get in the water but it was certainly better than the weather we had left in Virginia.
Having been to Princess Cays, NCL's private island and Labadee (RCCL's private island on Haiti), I like Princess Cays best. Princess Cays is very manicured, with paved walkways almost all the way down the beach, lots and lots of wooden beach chairs with nice pads, a children's play area, etc. Labadee is Eric's favorite private island. Labadee is not as physically built up as Princess Cays, but is more classically beautiful as an unspoiled tropical island. Labadee also has much more space and more area to lay out under your own personal palm tree. Either one is lovely.
Friday night was the Captain's cocktail party in the atrium. There was no receiving line, as such--not that we missed it. Some first timers would miss the opportunity to stand in line to have their picture taken with the captain, though. There was lots of free champagne and some cold hors dourvres. Dinner this evening included a nice crab quiche, fettucine al fredo and beef tournado. This was easily one of the best menus of the week and the best beef dish, by far, of the week. Eric had the souffle for dessert and everyone at the table had cappuccino. For those real coffee afficiendos, Princess provides free cappuccino, espresso and cafe late with meals. After dinner, we won some and lost some in the casino, then headed off to bed.
Saturday was a day at sea. We ordered continental breakfast in the cabin. On CP, the cabin steward is responsible for delivering room service items, not some other waiter. We ordered our breakfast for 8:30 A.M. and almost exactly on the dot, our cabin steward called on the phone to state he was there with the meal and to please open the door. We had intended to order room service on a couple of other occasions throughout the week, but this ended up being the only time we ordered from room service.
Items available from room service for breakfast were juices, fruits, yogurt, cereal, breads & pastries, and beverages. Other (free) room service items available 24 hours were roast beef, turkey, tuna, vegetarian and club sandwiches. The menu stated these came with chips or cole slaw. One of our friends onboard stated you could get fries instead of the potato chips, although we didn't order them, so don't know. Also available were garden salad, chef salad and a caesar salad with chicken strips. Please remember also that, since all cabins on Crown Princess have a refrigerator, if you wanted some cheese for an afternoon or evening snack, you should just use some self-help and fill up your plate with cheese and crackers and take it back to your cabin, as we often did.
Items available from room service for a fee (in addition to alcoholic drinks) included a cold canape tray for $9.00 (15 pieces); a deluxe cold canape tray for $12.00 (including caviar, proscuitto, and pate de foie); fresh vegetables with cheese dip for 6 for $6.00; cheese and crackers (30 pieces) $8.00; chilled shrimp (12 pieces) $12.00; guacamole & chips (for 6) $6.00.
Saturday was a rather dismal weather day, with clouds and wind on and off all day. In the morning, we attempted to get some sun and observed one of the pools roped off and the swim up bar drained and water splashing up on the pool deck along 20 or 30 feet. We noted that, from the Captain's noon time message, that the sea temperature was supposedly warmer than the outside air temperature. We had pizza for lunch, then headed to Characters for a drink. Deciding that we needed to check out the casino before dinner, Eric won at Blackjack and I had fun at roulette. Even though it was still a little windy, we enjoyed our bottle of champagne and the chocolates our TA provided, sitting on our balcony at sunset.
Dinner that evening was Italian and not particularly memorable. As with most of the meals throughout the week, we had nothing particularly horrible, just nothing I would particularly care to repeat. I had the "always available" caesar salad, strip steak, and the pasta. The Tiramisu for dessert was good--not the best we had ever had, but certainly one of the best desserts of the week. After dinner we headed to the casino and I watched for a while the very good duo who sings there, while Eric won some money and it was off to bed.
Sunday was St. Martin, our favorite port in all the Caribbean. Since this is the only tender port on this cruise other than Princess Cays and the time spent here was actually LESS than any of the other ports (WHY????), we determined that we wanted to be on one of the first tenders off the ship. I waited for about 45 minutes in a very disorganized mob and finally obtained a ticket for the second tender. The ship started disembarking passengers around 11 A.M. Even though there was only the Ryndam in port besides us, we tendered into Bobby's Marina, instead of directly downtown. This makes for a bit of a walk to the main shopping district, plus there were no taxis at Bobby's, so we had to walk down to the courthouse area just to get a taxi. We took a mini-bus to the beach, along with 5 other fellows, for a very cheap $4 PP. For the first time we ever remember in St. Martin, we had a very surly taxi driver. He let us out at Bikini Beach instead of at Club Orient, which was where we wanted to go. He refused to take us on down the beach about the half mile to Orient, so we ended up walking.
The morning in St. Martin was kind of cool and windy with scattered clouds, but conditions improved in the afternoon. For those St. Martin afficienados's, Pedro's (a restaurant on Orient Beach) is STILL not open. They look like they are building a patio--possibly a covered patio--onto the new building. We ate lunch at Papagayo's, which is physically MUCH nicer since it was rebuilt from the hurricane. Prices, however, are outrageous, with a bacon cheeseburger and fries going for $10. We took a cab back to the ship, picking up the cab at Pedros ($15 for the cab), picked up some t-shirts for $3 a piece and some drinks at The Greenhouse before heading back to the ship. While having our drinks at the Greenhouse, we were watching all the returning passengers lining up to get back on the tender. We are still amazed at how many cruise passengers will see the tender leave, then immediately get in line for the next tender so they can be first to get on the next tender, even though it will probably be 15-20 minutes before the next tender leaves.
Once back onboard, we decided that we weren't interested in eating another lackluster dinner, so we skipped dinner and watched the Sunday night football game in Characters Bar. They had hot dogs in a chafing dish in Characters. Eric had one. I went over to the pizzeria and ordered a pizza, ate half of it and snuck the other half out of the pizzeria and across to Characters. For those uninitiated, for some reason there is no carry-out of pizza from the pizzeria. Actually, this was my goal for the week, to sneak a pizza out of the pizzeria and I succeeded, admirably.
Monday was to be Dominica, our first trip to this island. Ours was the only ship in port. Apparently Dominica only gets about 2 or 3 ships per week, which is a shame, as it's a lovely port. The ship arrived in port around 8 A.M., but it was approximately 8:45 before we left the ship. We wanted a tour to the Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls. There weren't any other couples jumping up and down to join us, so we opted to do a taxi tour on our own. The taxi driver would have preferred to wait around for another couple to join us but decided that he didn't want to lose the fish that he had on the hook, I suppose. We agreed to $50 (I think if we had tried, we could had gotten it for $40, but as it turned out, we have no complaints) for the cab for what ended up being an approximately 3 hour tour. After our return that evening, we looked at the ship shore excursion listing of prices of tours and discovered that we got a much better tour for less money than what the ship was offering. Are we surprised?? NOT!!. The cab was a very nice cab, actually, with a/c which worked wonderfully.
The taxi driver took us to the standard spots--the Botanical Gardens (waste of time), and the overlook over the city, with a good view of the ship and a good photo opportunity. Our next stop was Trafalgar Falls, where there are two waterfalls to take pictures of. The walking trip to Trafalgar Falls is a little rocky and slippery in spots, and about a 10 minute walk each way. I'm certainly not in Olympic shape, and I had no problem with the trip. There was an additional path you could go down to get closer to the water at Trafalgar, but we did not attempt that one.
We finished up the trip with a visit to the Emerald Pool. This was a much easier walk than the one to Trafalgar Falls, actually. We walked all the way down to the pool and we were one of the few fools to venture into the COLD water there. I do have pictures to prove that we went swimming in the Emerald Pool. I'm glad that we went there, but I'm not sure if I went back to Dominica that I would go back though, as it's not nearly as pretty as, for example, the pool in Grenada. On the trip back to the port, we took the route through the mountains and got some nice pictures of the fog-topped mountains and rain forest.
Overall, we were favorably impressed with Dominica. It is physically similar to St. Lucia--not quite so spectacularly beautiful, but close. However, the roads were MUCH better than St. Lucia. Dominica impressed me, however, as a country much more into the concept of preserving it's rain forest and natural beauty and less interested in courting tourist dollars for tourism's sake.
We got back to the ship about 1 P.M., and headed up for a buffet lunch. Buffet lunches aboard Crown Princess were, by far, the best meals of the day. There was always a fresh pasta, a salad bar, a couple of hot dishes (fried chicken, etc.), at least one cold meat (sliced turkey, etc.), a couple of assorted cold salads, a small make your own salad bar, plus hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken sandwiches, french fries, fruit, cheese, desserts and ice cream. The menu each day changed and was really quite good. We did not, ever, during the course of the week, eat lunch in the dining room. One favorite pet peeve of mine was that there were only paper cups for drinking cold beverages in the buffet. Otherwise, I found very little to complain about for the luncheon buffet.
I wish that I could say that the breakfast buffet was good. It was pitiful. Despite that, we ate there almost every day. (Slow learners!) No, really, we just don't normally want to spend a lot of time over breakfast while onboard a ship, especially when we're getting off the ship that day. The breakfast buffet was almost exactly the same thing, each and every day, with several fairly standard items missing altogether. Items that did not appear at all 10 days were omelettes (either fresh or pre-made, even though they made fresh pasta at lunch daily, so it would not have been difficult to have added made to order omelettes), french toast, pancakes, waffles, boiled eggs, hash browns and yogurt. Ham was available two days only. The regular menu was scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, cereal, watermelon, cantaloupe, fruit cup, eggs cooked to order (provided you wanted them fried!), toast, Danish and croissant. Unlike Celebrity and (sometimes) RCCL, the deck attendants on Crown Princess don't carry your tray to your table for you. They don't even hand you the tray and silverware and you are also required to dip out your food yourself. One thing we did notice was that they did bring around coffee and tea on a cart to refill your drinks, but the service was sporadic at best. Small items, but important ones to me.
After we had lunch on Monday, I had intended to get back off the ship and do some shopping for junk souvenirs, but we were so comfortable after the nice lunch that we just stayed on the ship. We laid out in the sun and had a couple of drinks at the swim-up bar. And by the way, that sign that they have in the pool stating that it is 86 degrees is a lie! It was very cold!! G!!
After sailing, we hit the casino before dinner, checking out the Jokers Wild promotion. This was one of the several promotions in the casino for the week. For a couple of hours that night there were two jokers in each shoe at Blackjack. The casino people were trying to do something a little different and we enjoyed it. The dealers on Crown Princess are basically all English and pretty nice people. We remembered one dealer from off the Sun Princess, as well as one bartender from the Sun Princess who also recognized us. ("Weren't you in the casino a lot?"--"Yea, that was us!" Kinda scary, huh?)
Casino tables on Crown Princess consisted of one Craps table, one Roulette table, one Let it Ride table, one Wheel of Fortune, one Caribbean Stud table and about eight Blackjack tables. The cheapest Blackjack table was $5, the slot for Caribbean Stud was $1, and the minimum chip value for Roulette was $.50. This evening, we both won a little at Blackjack and Eric lost a little at Caribbean Stud before heading down to dinner.
Dinner on Monday evening was probably our best meal of the week, by general consensus of our table. It was "the chef's choice"--meaning possibly, special dishes prepared by the chef? Anyway, I had a very good chicken dish, our table mates had scallops and Eric had the "always available" steak. We had an absolutely fabulous bananas flambe for dessert.
Other than Monday evening, we generally found the menu unexciting. As with many lines these days, Princess offers an "always available" selection--Caesar Salad, a beef strip steak, grilled chicken, and salmon. We never really had anything that was particularly bad, just everything was kind of blase--very plain with no sauce or everything covered in sauce, no particular taste. Vegetables were uninteresting, often overcooked, always pre-plated with the entre, as is Princess' custom. There was generally one type of salad offered in addition to the "always available" Caesar Salad. I had the Caesar several nights and enjoyed it. Otherwise, salads were always served with dressing already on them, with no available choice of dressing. We had quite a few good appetizers over the week including a crab quiche, the always popular shrimp cocktail, a spring roll, and caviar. I believe the only soup I ordered over the 10 days was the Jamaican Pepper Pot, which was actually quite good. Princess doesn't do a lot of my favorite cream type soups (cold orange, strawberry "melted ice cream" type). Pastas were generally good, not great, although I enjoyed the tortellini so much I had it for my entre one night. We had a very good beef tournado one night. Otherwise, beef dishes (especially the "always available" beef strip steak) were of only a mediocre cut of beef. Desserts were mostly uninspiring. The best choice almost always ended up being the souffle. There was no cheesecake offered at all until the last night. Two of our table mates ordered it and didn't even eat it. I was starved for cheesecake, so I ate it anyway. Probably the two best desserts we had were the bananas flambe and the cherries jubilee, which were both wonderful. There was baked alaska the last night, of course, but baked alaska is, of course, baked alaska! G!!
For the Sunday night and Monday night football games, the cruise director ran a football pool, selling squares for $5 a square, with a part of the proceeds going to charity. We didn't get in on the Sunday night pool, but did sign up for the Monday pool. And, even though the game was shown on the TV's in the cabin, it was not on in Characters, or any of the other public lounges. Deciding I needed to root for my $20 investment in the football pool, Rick, one of our buddies from the debacle of the Thanksgiving Day Redskins game, came to our cabin to watch the Monday night game. Having as usual managed to luck into my standard "5"s and "2"s, by the end of the game--at about 1:30 in the morning (they switch time on the ship) -- I was rooting for 2 field goals and a safety--without success, of course. Actually I got the safety, but no luck on the two field goals. I'm sure that we probably did succeed in ticking off the couple on one side of us though, as their "Do not Disturb" sign was generally out on their door by about 9:30 each night throughout the cruise, without fail. We then went up to the casino and were surprised to find it all closed down at 1:30, so we proceeded to The Stage Door for what ended up being more than a few shooters before bed. Guess since we couldn't close down the casino so we had to close down the disco.
NOTE WELL--Please be aware that on CP, the name of the disco is "The Stage Door". Do NOT book any cabins on Caribe Deck anywhere midships if you want to go to bed before 5 AM. I presume the disco is in the same place on the Regal. Therefore, avoid cabins on Caribe Deck on the Regal also.
Tuesday was to be Barbados and we had been there a couple of times before. Since this date was midway in the week and right between Dominica and Guadalupe, neither of which we had been to before, we had decided before we left home that we would be staying on the ship in Barbados, which is basically what we did. We had intended to go to breakfast in the dining room this morning. However, after we finally stumbled out of bed at 10 A.M., we settled for continental breakfast at the buffet. On CP, continental breakfast (croissant, coffee and OJ) is available until 11:30, only hour before the luncheon buffet opens up, which is a great idea.
We got off the ship for about a half hour to do some shopping at the shops right at the pier and to take some pictures of all the various ships in port. There was a large number of ships in port this day, with other ships in port being the Horizon, the Seaward, the Ryndam, and the Aida.
The Aida is a story unto itself. As we were sitting eating our breakfast, we noted a ship sitting at anchor--not at the dock--which looked unfamiliar. It looked brand new and looked very nice, except for the very weird looking set of huge LIPS painted across her bow. (I kid you not!!) We saw our dining room waiter and asked him if he knew the name of the ship. He said it was the Aida. The name sort of sounded familiar to me, then I remembered where I had heard it before--this is the brand new German ship which has a special section for nude sunbathing. Actually, we had made some preliminary inquiries into sailing the ship. However, we had found out that it was being marketed almost exclusively to Germans and the crew did not speak English and there was no casino onboard. Oh well--plenty of other ships to try!! We kind of wondered at the time why she was anchored outside the harbor even though there appeared plenty of room for her at the pier. We found out the answer once we returned home. Eric read a note on rec.travel.cruises from our old buddy Ken Stutt, who just returned from a cruise on the Star Princess. He said that the Star Princess had been docked alongside the Aida in St. Croix and the passengers onboard the Star had quite an eyefull of the nude sunbathing taking place on the Aida while the much smaller ship was docked next to them. Guess those "stiff upper lip" fellows from Barbados weren't going to have the same thing happen in THEIR port! G!!
After our bit of shopping and picture taking, we hopped back onboard for a buffet lunch, then a relaxing afternoon of lying in the sun. We had somewhat intended to do some laundry this day also, but intended up blowing that off and accomplishing not much of anything this day except some glorious relaxing. There was a kind of sailaway party on deck this day as usual, accompanied by Princess' version of jerk chicken and jerk pork served on deck. It wasn't particularly spicy but it was pretty good, and we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Wednesday was Guadalupe, our first trip to this port. Our day in Guadalupe ended up being one of our very favorite days of the trip. We had been torn, trying to decide whether to do a taxi tour or to go to the beach at Club Med and ultimately opted for the latter and were very glad that we did. Taxi fares in Guadalupe are expensive, somewhat like Martinique. The trip to the Club Med is only about 20-25 minutes each way but the taxi fare runs $30-$35 each way. Of course that fare is for the taxi, not per person, so you could cut your cost by sharing a taxi to get there. There was another beach at Gosier, which was a little closer to the ship and the round trip taxi fare was only around $40, but we didn't go there, so can't make any recommendations regarding that beach.
The beach by the Club Med is one of the best beaches that we have been to in the Caribbean. Part of the beach is clothed and part is clothing optional. The view from the clothing optional part of the beach is spectacular, with beautiful mountains in the background and blue green water. Throughout the length of the beach there is lots of shade from palm trees, but also lots of opportunity for sun. The beach is immaculate with no rocks, seaweed, etc., in the water and one could walk out probably a couple of hundred feet into the water and still not be over your head in water. This was the first beach that we have been on that they walked up and down the beach all day selling croissant and Danish! They were also selling pizza around lunchtime, plus drinks all day. In the area where everyone parks, as well as where the taxis let people off, there were also many little shacks selling all kinds of food. Thus, we had not needed to bring any food with us, although we did do so and we probably would again. We have a VERY small collapsible cooler which we always take onboard cruises these days, which has been one of our best purchases ever. Even though we were technically not supposed to bring any food off the ship, we went to the buffet on Tuesday and gathered up some cold chicken, cheese and crackers and took some fruit and drinks from our cabin. We spent from about 10:30 to 4:30 on the beach there and it was by far one of the best days of the cruise. We arranged with the taxi driver who brought us to pick us up when it was time to go back to the ship, which was probably a good idea. It was a busy place, but I didn't really see a huge number of taxis just waiting around.
Once back onboard the ship, we tried to get our friendly bartenders at Characters to make lemon drops (a kind of shooter) for us, but they didn't make them the same as the bartender at the disco, so we and our drinking buddies (who included the aerobics instructor, by the way!!), had to show them how. Dinner this evening was French night, with nothing particularly exciting except a very excellent cherries jubilee. After dinner we watched a little bit of the Island night on deck, then headed down to the casino for a bit, before checking out the champagne waterfall. For the first time onboard Princess, I didn't have my picture taken with the maitre d', but we did have several glasses of free champagne, along with some cookies and cold hors dourvres. Wednesday night we spent until about 4:30 A.M. in the disco, drinking lemon-drops and partying down. I don't really remember much else about Wednesday night! G!!
Thursday was St. Thomas. We ate a leisurely breakfast at the buffet, then headed out to do some Christmas shopping, including a very nice amethyst pendant and gold chain for myself! We had decided earlier in the week that we needed to buy something to leave at Characters, so we visited The Mini Mouse House in St. Thomas and bought "Pete, Repete". He is a parrot that basically repeats anything you say and flaps his wings. We presented him to Paul and he seemed to really appreciate it. For anyone going on CP in the near future, seek out Characters and see if Paul and the parrot (which I believe he was going to name SID) are still there and tell Paul and SID that Carol & Eric said hi.
As we were leaving St. Thomas, we enjoyed some cheese which we had scarfed from the buffet, plus a bottle of wine, sitting on our balcony and enjoying one of our favorite places in the world. Actually, I was surprised that we didn't spend more time on our balcony this trip. We did have some rather cool and windy weather early in the week, so I suppose that accounted for it a little bit.
Friday was at sea. On Friday morning, we made the mistake of going to the dining room for breakfast. Second seating breakfast was supposed to be at 8:45. We walked in almost exactly at 8:45 and circled the entire dining room looking for a clean table by the windows. There were none. We attempted to sit at our regular table by the window, whereupon our REGULAR busboy said that we couldn't sit there as the table was dirty. We ended up having to sit with another couple, who were fine people, but I didn't want to sit with anyone. We got exceedingly indifferent service from the waiter and they got my omelette order wrong. Incidentally, even though second seating breakfast was supposed to be at 8:45, they were still seating people who came in until almost 9:30. That explains why all the tables were dirty by the windows when we arrived. However, I find it inexcusable that when we came at our proper time we were the ones not served properly, not those who came in late. I wanted to complain to the maitre d' but Eric wouldn't let me make a fuss.
After breakfast, Eric took a deck chair all the way aft on Aloha deck. I hunted around for a while, then finally ended up finding a chair by the pool. This is as good a place as any to whine about the cheap deck chairs that they are introducing on Crown Princess. In the immediate area around the pool, the deck chairs are white PVC with nice comfy blue pads. Further out from the pool on the pool deck and on all the other decks, the deck chairs have a PVC frame and a fabric covering. These latter chairs I found extremely uncomfortable--much more uncomfortable than a plastic strap deck chair. Every time you sat up in the chair, the chair moved and it was almost impossible to sit fully upright in the chair to read. I hated the fabric covered chairs. I heard a couple of other people griping about the fabric covered chairs also.
In addition to the deck chairs, I objected to the beach towel policy on Crown Princess. You have to get beach towels from your cabin steward. This reflects changing financial times, I suppose, but I hate having only one beach towel to use, either onboard the ship or to go ashore. There were none available by the gangplank to go ashore and those for use on deck had to be only the ones you obtained from your cabin steward. Not to say that you cannot get more from your cabin steward, but it is inconvenient. Unfortunately, on a couple of occasions, our cabin steward did not provide us with ANY beach towels. Therefore, we ended up stealing towels off the stewards' carts to take ashore.
Our cabin steward provided merely OK service. In addition to sometimes not providing beach towels, on the first night I specifically requested an extra blanket, which he did not provide, until I asked him again the next night. I also asked for a shower cap, which he never brought at all. Otherwise, he provided all the standard things and he didn't cuss me out when I somehow forgot there was a chocolate on my pillow and slept on it, melting chocolate all over the pillow. (Don't ask!!) I guess he couldn't have been all bad!
Friday night was the Captain's Circle Party, for Princess past passengers. On this cruise at least, there were more past passengers than otherwise, with approximately 900 past passengers onboard. Champagne was fairly free flowing, along with a few cold canapes, but, again, there was no receiving line with the Captain.
After dinner, our friends Billie and Rick from California asked us to share a bottle of 150 year old Grand Marnier with them. We were honored by the thought and also enjoyed the fantastic Grand Marnier. I asked Rick for the bottle and it resides today on our special shelf reserved for bottles which represent special moments in our lives.
Saturday was Nassau, which we have been to umpte-umph times, so we weren't particularly interested in getting off the ship. Unfortunately, our friend the parrot--Mr. Pete, Repete--took a 9 volt battery, which they don't sell on the ship. Yes, Pete came with a battery, but he got quite a work out and ran the 9 volt battery down. It's amazing what that parrot learned to say in such a short period of time! Even though we arrived in Nassau around 11 A.M., we stayed on the ship till after lunch, then I took the camera off and took a few pictures and Eric walked downtown to get the battery.
We sailed for Ft. Lauderdale around 5 P.M. that evening. Amazingly, our disembarkation information stated that all bags were supposed to be out of the cabin by 8:30 P.M., which we felt was an extraordinarily early time. We did as we were told, to the extent of wearing our traveling clothes to dinner. Suitcases were being picked up as early as 6:30 P.M. and were carted off fairly rapidly.
We had decided that we were going to go to Tampa the day we left the
ship to watch the Redskins play Tampa. We had checked out before we left
home, what time Princess had been letting people off the ship. The past several
cruises, they had started letting people off at 8:15. Therefore, we took a chance
and booked a (fully refundable) ticket on a plane leaving Ft. Lauderdale at 9:30.
Well, it was not to be this morning. There were a huge number of ships in FLL
on December 8, including the Costa Romantica, the Costa Victoria, the Ryndam,
the Maasdam (??), the Sun Princess, the Star Princess, and an NCL ship that
we couldn't see anything of, other than the smokestack. I have no idea whether
the large number of ships in port was part of the problem or not, but the normally
orderly procedure for getting bags off the ship was _ucked up this day. We had
received a priority (RED) disembarkation designation. However, unlike previous
cruises, and probably because of the large number of ships in port, they didn't
even start letting passengers off the ship until 8:55. When we got off the ship, 3
of our 4 bags were nowhere in sight. To make a long story short, the baggage
people had screwed up the baggage so thoroughly that all the pallets coming off
the ship were a mixture of all colors instead of being all one color. Red baggage
tags were therefore spread throughout many pallets and were not accorded
priority. Therefore, our 4 bags were placed in 4 different pallets and it was right
around 10 A.M. before we finally received all our bags. As of 10 A.M., I would
estimate that fully half of the passengers still had not been allowed to disembark.
Needless to say, we missed our 9:30 flight. We were able to get onboard the
11:00 flight to Tampa. As the game turned out (Redskins stunk up the place),
other than the fact that we got some additional sun, we were sorry that we had
spent extra money on the game and tickets to Tampa. Incidentally, the Tampa
airport was full of disgruntled Redskins fans that evening!!
1). Not that we particularly cared one way or another, but there were not many
pictures taken for the 10 days, much less actually than on a normal 7 day cruise.
2). Again, DO NOT BOOK A BALCONY CABIN ON BAJA DECK ON CROWN
PRINCESS!! There is a waist-high solid wall on Baja Deck, such that you
cannot sit down and see out, unless you are Kareem Abdul Jabar. This is NOT
a problem on Aloha Deck on Crown Princess or on either Baja Deck or Aloha
Deck on Regal Princess. The brand new Princess brochure has a very small
warning disclaimer about the problem, but Princess reservations agents are
either unaware of the problem, or they deliberately lie about it, as they will deny
that the wall is solid if called for information.
3). Unlike on Sun Princess, only cold breakfast is available by room service--juice, fruit, yogurt, cereal, breads and coffee, not scrambled eggs, bacon, ham or
hash browns, like are available on Sun Princess.
4). Like Carnival and RCCL, Princess now has alcohol available in the shop for
purchase for use onboard. Prices varied, in that the Tanqueray was a good
price but the Bacardi was not.
5). Princess has a fruit bowl in every cabin. Technically you have to ask to have your fruit bowl replenished, but after we asked, ours was replenished with no problem.
6). We had a terrible wine steward (Jose). He didn't know wines very well, his
English was a little suspect and the service was very slow. Toward the end of
the 10 days, there was an additional wine stewardess provided to help out our
table. As it turned out, she happened to be Paul's wife (our favorite bartender
from Characters). She was very sweet and provided great service. I wish she
had been our wine stewardess throughout the week.
7). The ship's charge card was not validated until we were onboard ship. You
went to the pursers desk during the week to give them your credit card for the
automatic charge. Unlike Sun Princess, the onboard charge is a piece of paper.
Keys onboard CP are the plastic door keys BUT they have the room number on
them, which I do not particularly care for. Princess does provide you with a
plastic wallet to keep both your door key and onboard charge in.
8). All cabins aboard CP have large safes. They are a combination type that
you set yourself, which is much preferable to either a key or credit card lock.
Note, be sure to look closely when cleaning out your safe, because it has a lip
along the front edge and can hide chips, jewelry, etc without you noticing until it
is too late.
Overall, we enjoyed the trip very much, particularly the new ports (for us)
of Dominica and Guadalupe, and our favorite St. Martin. Crown Princess is a
nice ship but continues to be hampered by Princess food. Cabins are a decent
size and have good amenities, with safes, refrigerators, hair dryers, bathrobes
and fruit baskets in every cabin. The age group aboard the ship was older than
the normal Princess 7 day cruise, but not extraordinarily old. There were maybe
a half dozen children under 10 onboard. Please let us know if you have any
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