finished the 18-day transatlantic voyage of the Crown Princess, a cruise
which was largely appealing because of the promise of visiting Iceland and
Greenland. We did not have high expectations for Princess Cruises since
their purchase by Carnival, and our expectations were also lowered because
of the insanely low price (less than $6k for two, for 18 days with a balcony
room!). But we had to see if the comments we had heard about the Crown
Princess were true.
|Lots of deck space on the Crown
||Nice deck top bars
If you plan
on doing the Crown Princess trans-Atlantic in 2009, beware that Copenhagen
is super-expensive (see my notes here), and also note that there exists a
likelihood that the typical September bad weather may prevent the Crown
Princess from visiting Iceland and Greenland.
embarkation in Copenhagen was amazing, the fastest and smoothest we have
feel of the Crown Princess reminded us of a Holland America cruise, with
hundreds of elderly refugees from the nursing homes, clogging the
passageways with their walkers and electric wheelchairs. The Crown Princess
transatlantic cruise definitely attracted a mature crowd, and the average
age of the passengers is well above that of a typical Carnival, Celebrity or
Royal Caribbean cruise.
The elderly folks love the slots
Any cruise of
more than two weeks duration attracts the geriatric crowd, especially since
cruises are now cheaper than nursing homes. Be prepared for senile
passengers, and old people habits for 18 days. We saw drooling at the dinner table,
demented tirades, and one poor old fellow who crapped his diaper in the elevator.
Princess does not say how many body freezers they keep in their on-board
morgue, but judging by the sad state of many of the passengers (many of whom
appears to be on their last cruise), it’s a safe bet that a few passed-away
during our voyage.
See my notes
here on how
cruise ships have become a less expensive alternative to assisted living,
floating nursing homes.
On a positive
note, activities for the younger crowd were less crowded (e.g. the gaming
tables, Cybergolf), an unexpected side benefit of riding on the Crown
Princess is one of the Princess’s larger ships, with a capacity of over
3,000 passengers. The cruise price was very, very good, and if you leave
any high expectations at the door, you can have a great time. The Crown
Princess was built to hold many staterooms, and you will not find the
expansive open areas that you find on the Freedom Class vessels. There is
also an acute elevator shortage, and it’s not uncommon to wait many minutes
to get a lift. Also beware that many Crown Princess passengers don’t know
basic elevator etiquette, and the fogies will rush the doors as soon as they
open, not allowing the existing passengers to get off!
|The staff on the Crown Princess appears
disorganized at times, and they do not always do a good job policing
the decks. Left is a photo of a broken glass shard that I saw
on a deck stair.
It was clear that someone cleaned-up the bulk of the broken
glass, but they did not do a through job.
In the Caribbean waters you will see lots of sea life from the ship
including playful dolphins and flying fish:
Flying fish are abundant
aboard the Crown Princess
on the Crown Princess is an obsession, and we were well-pleased to find
their commitment to good practices. Dining on the Crown Princess was fair
to average, on par with a typical Carnival or Royal Caribbean fare, nothing
special, but not bad either.
In our 18
days afloat, we ate many meals on the Lido deck at the pizzeria, hands-down
the best food on any of the dining areas.
dining rooms (Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo) are nothing special,
the typical “pretend” elegant food. Wafer steaks and crawdads pose as Surf
and Turf, etc, and if you have a vivid imagination you can have a
world-class dining experience, as the Crown Princess staff does superb job
in making mediocre ingredients look appealing.
The Crown Princess also has
the “Café Caribe”, which features a gringo take on regional cuisines, but
it’s not authentic, and the flavors are toned-down to meet the blandness
requirements that old codgers demand.
Elegant Crown Grill - Ask for Ariel
Menu at Sabatini's
Italian – The Sabatini’s restaurant is at the rear of the Crown
Princess. Unless you specify “fast” service, they will keep you for
more than two hours, which is great if you want to linger and take-in
their cheesy fake Italian ambiance. As for the food, it’s quite
authentic, and if you like fish you will love it. If you are a beef or
chicken lover, you will find the menu disappointing.
Steaks – The Crown Grill has a super-helpful staff with
outstanding service, but sadly, only mediocre beef. For appetizers, try
the French onion soup, and lobster cakes. Their fish is superb (try the
paper-wrapped Barramundi), but the steaks are thin and not up to USDA
Prime quality. The Crown Grill is highly recommended for shellfish,
especially the Brazilian lobster tails. If you don’t want to spend two
and a half hours dining, just ask Ariel for faster service and he will
happily speed-up your food delivery.
Deck Snacks – The Trident Grill has the same old mediocre fried
burgers and hot dogs, but they have knockwurst and sauerkraut, a nice
touch. The best restaurant on the Crown Princess is their Lido
Pizzeria, fantastic, some of the best pizza afloat.
|The Crown Princess has the best
||Skip the mediocre Ice Cream
excursions on the Crown Princess
Princess’s shore excursions exhibited vast differences in quality, from
outstanding to poor, and we were pressured to book quickly because many of
the tours were marked as “full” when we boarded the ship. Resist the
pressure to book quickly and take the time to research each tour on Google
(priced at only $24 per hour).
rip-offs – Many of the shore excursions offered by the Crown Princess
are thinly veiled sales pitches, taking the passengers from gift shop to
gift shop. Also, beware of “shuttle” tickets, which for groups of three or
more, are more expensive than hiring a taxi.
excursions are spectacular (Oasis Divers scuba tours on Grand Turk), others
are giant rip-offs. Here are a few that we were suckered into on the Crown
-Our first experience with a port tour rip-off was in Belfast, where we
took a tour led by an elderly racist woman who reeked of stale whiskey
and cigarettes. Within five minutes, she managed to alienate almost
every person on the bus. To offend Americans she said “You are such a
lovely people, I’m so sorry we lost you”, and she was even more
offensive in her open hatred of the Scottish people. Janet suspected
that she was drunk.
Johns – This was one of the worst rip-offs of all. We took the “Rum
and Rascals” rip-off tour, which sounded like a pub crawl, but which
was, in reality, nothing more than a $99 each visit from gift shop to
We found huge
differences in the quality of the cruise staff that ranged from
super-friendly and helpful to extremely rude and surly. We also noted a
sharp decline in spoken English skills. One morning I was served a frittata
where the cook had dumped an entire salt shaker into the batch, effecting
perhaps a dozen servings. I tried in vain to alert the Maître’ De, who
could not understand me, and I have no doubt that his poor English caused
other passengers a salty surprise.
that the Crown Princess is not a “high end” cruise option, especially when
it comes to dinner room service. The morning room service was always
exceptional, prompt, correct and friendly, but beware of their shoddy
evening room service.
evenings we ordered room service from the dining room menu, only to have the
order delivered cold and incorrect, each and every time. On one formal
night, we attempted to order room service, only to be told by the Crown
Princess staff that it would take at least an hour and that they would
deliver the food cold. We got the distinct impression that they had no
interest whatsoever in accommodating the passengers.
room staff aboard the Crown Princess
staff went out of their way to be attentive, often to the point of showing
bad manners. To be fair, the majority of the elderly passengers love being
fawned over with, “Russian Tea Room” style service, with people hovering
over you and watching your every move. While elderly folks love this type
of service, we found it annoying to be interrupted in mid-sentence by a
pandering waiter, selling tickets to a lame wine tasting (it’s really clear
to us that they are given a financial incentive to sell these things). On
one occasion a waiter eavesdropped on us and he felt like he had the right
to interject himself into our conversation! It goes without saying that we
spent many evenings dining in our cabin.
overall the cruise ship staff was very helpful, they had clear ulterior
motives, and I suspect that the cruise staff was given cash incentives for
selling junk to the passengers and our Crown Princess cruise seemed like a
constant sales pitch. The Crown Princess claims to have a low
customer/staff ratio, but they use it to annoy passengers with incessant
pandering of services. The Crown Princess staff will interrupt you at lunch
and dinner, trying to sell you things (cookbooks, wine tastings), and they
will even interrupt you in your stateroom, calling your room to try to sell
unwanted spa treatments.
the Cybergolf – Don’t even think of using the Cybergolf facility.
It’s overpriced ($40/hour) and poorly designed, with a busy passageway
right between the hitting areas. When we played, we were constantly
interrupted by old farts asking inane questions “is it free”, “how do
you play it”? When we played Cybergolf, Lisa (a Crown Princess
assistant cruise director), chatted loudly on the phone with friends,
and when we asked for courtesy silence when we hit out shots, she became
very rude and surly.
the Casino staff – During my voyage on the Crown Princess, I hit big
on a penny slot and changed $191.75 in quarters, receiving only $119.75,
an obvious transposition error. When I complained, I was told that I
was mistaken! I asked for the manager and was told that they would do
an audit in a few hours. They called our stateroom a few hours later
saying that the books balanced perfectly. It was only the next morning
that they admitted that they shortchanged me, and their free bottle of
wine was a small consolation for the unnecessary outrage at the Crown
Princess’s inept staff. To add insult to injury, the Casino manager
made me come to the casino three times before they paid me.
dealers also vary widely in quality. At the roulette table, the
staff varied from exceptionally competent to real dullards, some of whom
required supervisor assistance to compute the payouts properly. If you
play roulette on the Crown Princess, watch the staff carefully.
lines have a nasty habit of making unverifiable claims of “acts of God” in
order to skip ports. On our voyage, the Crown Princess skipped Iceland
claiming storms, yet the Web showed waves of only 14 feet (far less than the
18 foot wave which we experienced enroute to Greenland. On the cruise we
spoke with other passengers who claimed that the seas are rarely calm enough
to visit Iceland, and one person said that this was their third aborted
attempt. From what I’ve read, missed ports are often not what they appear
to be, see
my notes on cruise ship missed ports.
that as of September 2008 the Crown Princess port at Grand Turk Island is
closed indefinitely, ostensibly due to the storm damage. I have lots of
friends on Grand Turk, and while the island was devastated, the cruise ship
port received very little damage. The Cat4 Hurricane (Ike) that clobbered
Grand Turk devastated many popular tourist attractions (the Salt Raker
Hotel), the Front Street was clogged with debris. The folks on Grand Turk
are hopeful that there will be enough shore excursions open by early 2009 to
resume the Grand Turk port.
Grand Turk is
noted for some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the northern
hemisphere, and if the port is open, make sure to book an excursion. It is
still unclear if the reefs were damaged, but you should contact Oasis Divers
before booking a scuba dive.
examining the daily activities it’s clear that the Crown Princess caters to
the over 80 crowd, lot’s of ceramics, plus Jenga, bridge and bingo and
sedate activities, I reminds me of a first-class assisted living home:
The Princess Patter - Caters to geriatrics
Crown Princess is the place to be if you are among the over-80 crowd, an
affordable cruise with activities that are designed to meet your needs. In
the broader market, the Crown Princess 2008-2009 itinerary will be competing
with a flotilla of competing vessels, clogging the Caribbean Sea with tens
of thousands of passengers every week. When evaluating the Crown Princess
for their 2009 Caribbean voyages, it all boils down to the ports and the
prices. Dollar for dollar, The Crown Princess cannot be beat, but you get
what you pay for, so leave your high expectations on the gangway.
Architectural features of the