Crown Princess (long) review - Southern Caribbean, Feb 25-Mar 3

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#1
Brooklyn
1,670 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Hi all, just wanted to add my thoughts and review to the boards as I've found them very useful in getting ready for our sailing. On my last sailing with NCL, I wrote a day-by-day review, but didn't keep that detailed of notes this time, so will instead cover the highlights. Hope it is helpful to someone!

Background
I am 26 and sailed with my sister, who is 21, and about to graduate from college in less than 2 months. I thought it would be a great vacation during her Spring Break before she has to enter the working world. We both had a great time and really enjoyed most of the cruise.

Pre-cruise
My sister was headed from Michigan, with a connection in Atlanta, and I was headed direct from NYC LaGuardia. We planned on arriving late Friday, Feb 24 and Delta blessed us with many flight delays, so I ended up arriving in Fort Lauderdale near 11:30pm and my sister was lucky to get in at 1:15am. However, her luggage was scheduled for the first flight from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale the next morning, so we prayed it would actually arrive (otherwise she would have none of her packed clothing) and it DID. That was a huge relief the day of the cruise!

We stayed at the Hyatt Place in Plantation and it was about a 15 minute drive. The taxi would have cost $40+ each way from the airport, so I found a rental car through Thrifty for $25 instead (AutoSlash.com, if I'm allowed to share that site, is amazing). The Thrifty counter lady was extremely helpful and advised I could actually return the car to their Port Everglades drop-off location, rather than the airport, so that way we could avoid taking a taxi from the airport to Port Everglades as their Port Everglades drop-off location has a free shuttle to the cruise port. I was really happy to hear that! Hyatt Place was fine - consistent with all the other Hyatt Places I have stayed at, free wifi and breakfast too.

We were able to pick up soda, wine, and a waterproof disposable camera from the Publix near Port Everglades, which is located in the same shopping complex as Total Wines. We got to the cruise terminal around 11am and were shocked by how many people were waiting already, but embarkation was a breeze. Note that none of the main dining rooms were open for lunch on embarkation day (we checked the Patter and asked several crew), but the International Cafe and Horizon Court were.

Now onto the reviews of categories!

Ports
Princess Cays
We weren't terribly excited about this port, but it was a nice beach day. We found there were plenty of loungers available and the lunch was decent - ribs, hot dogs, burgers, chicken breast, cole slaw, corn salad, normal salad. It would have been nice for them to offer iced tea on the island though as the only free beverage was water. We also found out quickly that the Caribbean sun is very powerful, so don't forget sunscreen on your ears!

Curacao
I was most excited for this port, but found it a bit disappointing in terms of the "downtown" area across the floating bridge. It was a bit dirty and the shop employees definitely were not friendly - no greeting whatsoever and they glared like you were going to steal from them. A lot of stores carried counterfeit merchandise too (FunStation 3 for $50 anyone?), which I was surprised by. The area right outside the cruise dock - Renaissance Hotel and Fort Rif - was really nice though and both areas had free wifi and nice areas to sit. The shops were more touristy (Del Sol and Diamonds International anyone?) but the area looked very nice.

However, the highlight of Curacao was the Ostrich Farm excursion we booked through Princess. It was $50 per person for a 3-hour tour of the Ostrich Farm and some "art gallery" that makes cast statues of a "chichi" woman (total waste of time, IMO). BUT - the Ostrich Farm, oh it was glorious! They took us on a guided truck tour of the grounds and we learned a lot about ostriches, then got to feed some (photo op!) and stand on an ostrich egg. The baby ostriches were amazingly cute and they had some other animals on the land as well. They have a restaurant on the grounds, but we didn't have time to eat there, plus would feel bad about eating an ostrich after having fed them and seen their babies. The ride to the art gallery took maybe 25 minutes, during which the guide narrated the history of Curacao and some of the buildings, and we spent about 20 minutes at the art gallery and then drove to the Ostrich Farm, where we spent about an hour. The drive back took at least 45 minutes as we hit heavy traffic, but the guide gave us more interesting info on the island.

Aruba
We booked another Princess excursion of a snorkeling trip on a catamaran - $50 per person for a 3-hour tour again. The crew were very nice, but the snorkeling was tougher than we expected. The first snorkel spot was very close to the coast and we saw some coral about about 3 kinds of fish. TIP - take a bagel or other kind of bread with you to feed the fish. I know technically you're not supposed to take any food off the ship, so proceed at your own risk, but you will see a TON more fish that way. The second snorkel spot was further off the coast where the Antilla shipwreck was located, but the waves were much rougher. We spent most of the time choking on seawater and emptying our masks, but did see some of the ship. We were definitely tired after that though! On the way over, they served soft drinks and on the way back, you could also get rum punch. The sailing part was beautiful and a nice way to see the coastline of Aruba.

After lunch on the ship, we explored the area outside the cruise dock a bit. The shopping area seemed nicer and cleaner than Curacao and the people friendlier. There was an expensive mall with designer stores, but we found a Starbucks in it that had free wifi. If you proceed out the back of that mall, there are also some souvenir shops behind. As we walked back to the ship, we stopped at The Paddock, which is a waterfront restaurant/bar on the harbor. I only tried a Balashi beer (tasted like Amstel Light to me), but the food prices seemed reasonable and it was a great view. We looked at the shopping stalls nearby and found some souvenirs before we went back to the ship.

More to come, including entertainment, food, the ship, and always-controversial topics - Coffee! Chair hogs! MUTS! and more!
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#2
Northern California
2,667 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
Thank you for sharing you cruise with us! Looking forward to the rest
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WINE A BIT
YOU WILL FEEL BETTER
#4
Brooklyn
1,670 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Entertainment
We thought our Cruise Director, Lisa Ball, did a great job with activities and entertainment onboard. There was trivia about 3-4 times per day - up to teams of 6 - and the teams were HARDCORE. We joined up with some other people, but usually never even came close to winning. We watched the Oscars and Moneyball during Movies Under the Stars (MUTS), which was very cool. Kory Simon is a piano performer and did great shows at Crooners, including a fun Name That Tune game. I didn't enjoy his theater show as much, but he's very talented and extremely funny - highly recommended!

We noticed some of the events skewed older for the crowd, including a silent movie (Metropolis, 1927) for MUTS and a Name That Tune trivia session where there was only 1 song from past 1990. It was a bit annoying for us during trivia rounds, but I suppose it's the crowd they're catering to.

The 2 games shows we watched were the Newlywed Game, which was a hoot due to one lady named Judy. We participated in The Weakest One game show, which is a watered-down version of The Weakest Link. However, there is no incentive to keep smart people on the show because correct answers have no point/dollar value, PLUS votes are not written down, so everyone just starts ganging up on people when it comes to voting. Can you tell we were the first 2 eliminated, yet knew way more answers than the people who remained in the game?

Crew
We thought the crew was fantastic and friendly. Our room steward, Sandie, was excellent, and always greeted us with a smile and did a great job making sure we had ice, bath robes, pool towels, etc. We were also very impressed by the Anytime Dining waiters, who worked very hard and did a nice job. We didn't request any particular waiters for dinner, but we liked them all.

Food
We ate a TON on this cruise and were mostly impressed by the food. The only exception was breakfast, where I didn't love the food in the dining room or buffet, but it wasn't an issue as we ate all day long. Here are the highlights of our gluttony:
- International Cafe: Fantastic concept and so much fun to stop by at all hours for a pastry, dessert, soup, sandwich, salad, or warm cookie!

- Afternoon Tea: We only made it once, but we really enjoyed the finger sandwiches and sweets. Don't miss the chicken salad and seafood salad sandwiches!

- Dinner: Other than waiting issues with Anytime Dining (more on that later), we thought the food in the dining rooms for dinner was excellent - especially lobster and king prawns on the second formal night. It was so good that we saw multiple tables ordering a second entree of it! We also appreciated that we were normally able to eat within an hour for Anytime Dining as I had heard to expect up to 2 hours for Traditional Dining.

- Pub Lunch: Offered on Monday (sea day 1) and Friday (sea day 3), we really liked the Pub Lunch, which offered 4 entrees each time. Fish & Chips was offered both days, but the other items changed. The food came out very quickly too, so you don't have to waste time waiting for your food.

- Horizon Court & Cafe Caribe (buffets): I was surprised by the relatively small size of the buffets and they didn't have as large of selection as I expected, but we always found some good items. Cafe Caribe offered themed buffets on 2-3 nights. The staff cleared tables quickly and offered drinks almost as soon as we sat down.

Ship
We thought the ship was in fantastic shape, but it takes a couple days to get used to the layout. We quickly figured out that to get to the main dining rooms mid-ship from the aft, we had to cross at Deck 7 and then go down in the Piazza area. Speaking of, the Piazza was fantastic and we spent a lot of time around there are the International Cafe or watching the periodic entertainment that performed in the space.

We really enjoyed our inside stateroom - except the tiniest shower I've ever seen and the ever-dreaded shower curtain. Otherwise, the layout of the space was really good and didn't make you feel cramped at all. Plenty of storage too! The mini-fridge was a bit bizarre in that it didn't get cold unless the ice bucket was in there, so it seemed more like an insulated cooler than a fridge.


Issues & Non-issues
Disclaimer: These are the items I was worried about based on discussions on Cruise Critic and my opinions and perceptions of our experience. Please keep in mind that your mileage may vary.

- Anytime Dining: This was the worst. On the first night, we started waiting in line at 7pm at the one MDR that was open and by 7:20pm, decided to move to the line for the MDR that opened at 7:30pm because the first MDR line wasn't really moving (it was past the International Cafe). However, the MDR that opens at 7:30pm absolutely REFUSED to let any Anytime Diners in until 7:30pm, even though I had to assume that some people were done from the 5:30 traditional dining seating. We waited until 8pm to get into the dining room - a ONE HOUR wait. To eat dinner. We weren't waiting for Splash Mountain, just a basic service included in our cruise fare. To me, that is unacceptable.

On Sunday, I tried to make a reservation at 8am when the dining reservation line opened. However, they wouldn't allow any reservations between 5:45pm and 7:30pm and so the reservation times didn't work for us. We waited for 45 minutes to get a pager, after which we had to wait another 15 minutes. We were told on both nights that it wouldn't be any faster to share a table, so we just went for table of 2.

On other nights, we made a reservation, dined early (~6pm), or got lucky on Curacao day, when we were in port until 10pm, and didn't experience a wait. If we go on Princess again, I'm not sure if I'd do Anytime Dining or not - we liked "choosing" what time we dine at so that we didn't miss certain activities, but when you have an hour wait, that defeats the purpose. I was very angry about this and hope Princess tries to fix the issue, even though you'd think they would have figured it out by now...

- Coffee: We thought the coffee in the dining rooms was perfectly fine, but the coffee in the buffet was undrinkable. They may have been the same coffee, but that was my experience. I also brought Starbucks Iced Via and made that a couple times.

- Movies Under the Stars: Yes, MUTS was going on most of the day, but it was no louder than the music/games/band at the main pool. We usually sat out near the Lotus Spa pool and could still hear the noises from both the main pools. The aft pool didn't have noise issues that I noticed though. We enjoyed MUTS, but it got very windy at night, so a coat and the provided blanket were necessary.

- Noro: We didn't hear any issues of Noro during the trip. There were signs all over the bathrooms to wash your hands and use a paper towel to open the door, plus they required you to use the hand sanitizer before entering the buffet. They handed out salt and pepper packets, but left sweetener and sugar on the tables.

- Beds: The beds were fine.

- Chair Hogs: We didn't care about sitting close to the 2 large/main pools, so didn't have any issues finding loungers on deck 16 or 17, but we definitely saw a lot of the chairs unoccupied other than towels or flip flops. Princess crew members really should try to enforce the no-reserving chairs rule better.

There were also children in the aft pool, splashing around, and when a waitress was told, didn't do anything. The parents of those kids should have been thrown overboard. There are 2 large pools that kids can be in - stay out of the adult pools!

- Wine/Champagne: YES, you can bring wine and/or champagne onboard! We each brought one bottle. I assume this will prevent all future threads that appear on a daily basis, asking if you're allowed to bring wine, even though it's easily found by using Google or the search function on here.

Nice Princess Touches
After those complaints/issues, I found several nice, small things that I appreciated Princess doing:
- A log of the cruise on the last night, recapping the ports and ship information of the cruise.
- Fruit basket order form each day
- Champagne Waterfall
- A folding map of the ship provided at embarkation
- TV stations had a good number of TV shows & movies and a schedule of the stations was provided
- Disembarkation was very easy - by telling people where to gather at certain times, it avoided pile-ups and multiple PA announcements. We did easy walk-off and had no issues getting an elevator and were off the ship by 7:45am.

That's it! We had a great time and enjoyed the ship, food, and most of the ports. I will try to post some pictures later and if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask! Hope someone finds something helpful in this!
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#7
North East Florida
2,561 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
That was a very interesting review! Thanks. I loved it when you described Trivia on The Crown..as "Hardcore". That is an understatement. My Husband and I love Trivia, and are quiate good at it ( both former teachers). But on Princess..we have won perhaps three times on three cruises..and one of those was a pity prize.

It is stimulating..competetive and just lots of fun.

Glad you and your sister had such a good time. And Anytime dining on The Star..was perfect. On the Crown..chaos. It could be the number of passengers for each.

And that I.C. It is just a gem for Princess. I loved it. I also loved the coffee lattes at the coffee bar next to it.

Thanks for taking the time to write the review. I am still so steamed about the noro disaster that I forget the things about Princess............that makes her PRINCESS. NUMBER ONE CRUSE LINE.
#8
Ocala, FL
588 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Thanks for posting so quickly. Leaving on the 17th and getting so excited, this just ramps it up. Thanks for the inforamtion on anytime. When we booked we asked for anytime dining, but when our reservations were complete both couples going had 5:30 dining. I have been debating on trying to change it, but thinking now will leave it alone and see how we like that time - seems so early. Thanks again!
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#9
Kansas City
1,298 Posts
Joined Sep 2010
We were on the Crown 1/27 and had the 5:30 seating...at 5:30, the lines were beyond the IC...this was not good...it seemed like herding of animals. What is the problem with Princess and the dining rooms? We traveled on Celebrity the next week and casually went to dinner at the assigned time and there was never a line waiting??? Why not open the dining room at 5:15...telling people they cannot begin service until 5:30 to allow people to casually walk into dinner...
It was awful with pushing and stampeding to get into dinner...shocking really and a real turn off...
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#10
6,528 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Originally posted by attilathefun


issues & non-issues
disclaimer: These are the items i was worried about based on discussions on cruise critic and my opinions and perceptions of our experience. Please keep in mind that your mileage may vary.

- anytime dining: This was the worst. On the first night, we started waiting in line at 7pm at the one mdr that was open and by 7:20pm, decided to move to the line for the mdr that opened at 7:30pm because the first mdr line wasn't really moving (it was past the international cafe). However, the mdr that opens at 7:30pm absolutely refused to let any anytime diners in until 7:30pm, even though i had to assume that some people were done from the 5:30 traditional dining seating. We waited until 8pm to get into the dining room - a one hour wait. To eat dinner. We weren't waiting for splash mountain, just a basic service included in our cruise fare. To me, that is unacceptable.

Well to be fair to princess in that case, you did pick thee most popular time to show up for eating dinner. Shifting to just a littler earlier time might have helped the situation considerably.

on sunday, i tried to make a reservation at 8am when the dining reservation line opened. However, they wouldn't allow any reservations between 5:45pm and 7:30pm and so the reservation times didn't work for us. We waited for 45 minutes to get a pager, after which we had to wait another 15 minutes. We were told on both nights that it wouldn't be any faster to share a table, so we just went for table of 2.

That's very typical for most of the ships.

on other nights, we made a reservation, dined early (~6pm), or got lucky on curacao day, when we were in port until 10pm, and didn't experience a wait. If we go on princess again, i'm not sure if i'd do anytime dining or not - we liked "choosing" what time we dine at so that we didn't miss certain activities, but when you have an hour wait, that defeats the purpose. I was very angry about this and hope princess tries to fix the issue, even though you'd think they would have figured it out by now...

It's been that way for years now & if they had a fix they would have done it long ago.

- coffee: We thought the coffee in the dining rooms was perfectly fine, but the coffee in the buffet was undrinkable. They may have been the same coffee, but that was my experience. I also brought starbucks iced via and made that a couple times.

It was probably different adjustments on the machines. We've found the same thing depending where you get the coffee.


there were also children in the aft pool, splashing around, and when a waitress was told, didn't do anything. The parents of those kids should have been thrown overboard. There are 2 large pools that kids can be in - stay out of the adult pools!

Did you inform the passenger service desk to have them force the issue?

:d:d:d
#11
1,581 Posts
Joined May 2009
[quote=AttilaTheFun;32731822]
- Anytime Dining: This was the worst. On the first night, we started waiting in line at 7pm at the one MDR that was open and by 7:20pm, decided to move to the line for the MDR that opened at 7:30pm because the first MDR line wasn't really moving (it was past the International Cafe). However, the MDR that opens at 7:30pm absolutely REFUSED to let any Anytime Diners in until 7:30pm, even though I had to assume that some people were done from the 5:30 traditional dining seating. We waited until 8pm to get into the dining room - a ONE HOUR wait. To eat dinner. We weren't waiting for Splash Mountain, just a basic service included in our cruise fare. To me, that is unacceptable.

On Sunday, I tried to make a reservation at 8am when the dining reservation line opened. However, they wouldn't allow any reservations between 5:45pm and 7:30pm and so the reservation times didn't work for us. We waited for 45 minutes to get a pager, after which we had to wait another 15 minutes. We were told on both nights that it wouldn't be any faster to share a table, so we just went for table of 2.

On other nights, we made a reservation, dined early (~6pm), or got lucky on Curacao day, when we were in port until 10pm, and didn't experience a wait. If we go on Princess again, I'm not sure if I'd do Anytime Dining or not - we liked "choosing" what time we dine at so that we didn't miss certain activities, but when you have an hour wait, that defeats the purpose. I was very angry about this and hope Princess tries to fix the issue, even though you'd think they would have figured it out by now...

============================================

We agree with you. We had the same problems on the Ruby last year, long lines, long waits until you finally had to make a reservation for a set time. Guess nothing's changed. We'll see how it works on the Emerald later this month. Have decided to try Celebrity again after many years, and have booked a couple of cruises with them so we'll see how well it works. Don't hear so many complaints about the Anytime dining on their boards as we do on here. BTW, we booked Celebrity because of the itinerary, not the dining issues, but I'm still hoping it will be better.
#12
Wilmington, Ma
8,100 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Totally agree with you, Attila, the waits for Anytime Dining were ridiculous. Yes, we did show up early and that did not help. Also haven't quite understand 2 service areas in the middle of the dining room with a table in between. They wanted to seat us there and we refused. They were that close to the table that if we had rocked we would have had scrapings on our backs. Very bad placement. Seems that they should be expanding the number of tables for the ever growing Anytime Dining crowd

BTW, I also thought Kory Simon was the best entertainment they had on board. He really is talented. If you are cruising on the Crown, don't miss him
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#13
3,767 Posts
Joined Dec 2004
Thanks for your comprehensive, informative, well-written review. I hope that you will consider submitting it to the Cruise Reviews board for the benefit of those who visit Cruise Critic but don't participate on the message boards.

It's especially nice to finally read reviews of the Crown Princess that aren't focused on outbreaks of Norovirus that plagued the ship for weeks beginning with the 1/28 cruise when the virus struck on the final day of the sailing. I was alright, but DH and one of my sisters spent the last night of the voyage in their staterooms with nasty "symptoms".

Thanks, again, for the enjoyable review.
Chris
#15
New Jersey
296 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Thanks for the informative and entertaining review. We are sailing on the Crown this weekend on the same itinerary. We are booked for Anytime Dining, and I'm disappointed to hear about the long waits. We did two cruises on the Coral and AT worked very well. Perhaps the number of people on the ship makes for long waits.
You mentioned free WiFi in Curaçao and Aruba. Did you use it with a smart phone? I'm relatively new to the smart phone/iPad world, but would like to email home and not use the ship's Internet.
Thanks
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#16
Brooklyn
1,670 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Originally posted by speedyjane
Thanks for the informative and entertaining review. We are sailing on the Crown this weekend on the same itinerary. We are booked for Anytime Dining, and I'm disappointed to hear about the long waits. We did two cruises on the Coral and AT worked very well. Perhaps the number of people on the ship makes for long waits.
You mentioned free WiFi in Curaçao and Aruba. Did you use it with a smart phone? I'm relatively new to the smart phone/iPad world, but would like to email home and not use the ship's Internet.
Thanks
Yes, we used our iPhones to connect to the free wifi. In the Renaissance Hotel and Starbucks, it took several tries to connect and you had to open your browser to agree/register for the free wifi, which required your name, but you could use a fake one.
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#17
Brooklyn
1,670 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Originally posted by cruzinchris
Thanks for your comprehensive, informative, well-written review. I hope that you will consider submitting it to the Cruise Reviews board for the benefit of those who visit Cruise Critic but don't participate on the message boards.
Will do! Glad you enjoyed - was very fun to recap our great vacation!

Still waiting on my sister to upload her pictures... I want to share the ostrich photos!
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#19
440 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
Originally posted by speedyjane
Thanks for the informative and entertaining review. We are sailing on the Crown this weekend on the same itinerary. We are booked for Anytime Dining, and I'm disappointed to hear about the long waits. We did two cruises on the Coral and AT worked very well. Perhaps the number of people on the ship makes for long waits.
I was on the same cruise as the OP, and while I'm not disputing their account of anytime dining, I didn't have the same experience. We generally either called the dining line in the morning or stopped by the Maitre'd station after breakfast in the dining room and made a reservation for 7:30. We never waited more than a minute or two, and always had a table just for our party (3 people). To be fair maybe on one occasion there was a bit of a line and we did have to wait maybe 5 minutes until we were seated. The Maitre'd always recognized us and greeted us and made sure a table was ready for us - even making sure I had the type of chair I liked. It was not the same table everyday, different waiters. Some waiters were better than others but all were good.

One day we did not make a reservation because we wanted to eat earlier (6:30). When we arrived at the dining room they could not seat us right away but offered to walk us (and two other groups) to one of the TD rooms and we were sat at our own table (next to a window) right away, no waiting. No problems.

BTW, definitely agree with the OP's assessment about the dining room coffee. Yuck! Coffee drinks at the International Cafe though were very good. Got the coffee card the first day and it had enough "punches" on it for DW and I to have a drink or two every day.


In the weeks leading up to the cruise I was very apprehensive because of the noro outbreaks and the complaints about anytime dining. In fact I would have cancelled if I could have. As it turned out, there were absolutely no issues and it was a very nice cruise.

We were even able to get into the Sanctuary for the week. When we got up to the Sanctuary (probably about 1:30 or so) there were still 5 chairs available for the week. We booked 3 and the other 2 were booked shortly after that.
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#20
Calgary, Canada
2,679 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
Thanks for taking the time to review... we'll be on the Crown this fall and can hardly wait!! We had anytime dining on our other two Princess cruises and thought it went quite well for the most part, but we tend to eat somewhat later... usually after7 or 7:30, so I'm hoping that will still work out well for us this fall.

Looking forward to your pictures!
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Days at sea so far... 246 and counting