Just returned from the Crown Princess's last sailing before being transferred to the German subsidiary. Not much point in commenting on the Crown because 400 Germans boarded the day we disembarked and were going to strip the insides on the 12 day trip to Hamburg. The ship has been sold out - mostly to Germans and German speaking people - for the June 15 or 16 sailing. From what one workman said, they were going to rip out the Dome casino and change it to an exercise room. They would also be creating 7 dining rooms and would have one small deck for nudists. (Not sure if he was pulling our leg about the latter but we did keep hearing that the ship would be nudist.) The cabins were going to be recarpeted but not changed in size.
As for my trip, it was terrific. Princess just can't do enough for you. I celebrated my birthday on board and had the usual balloon treatment and Happy Birthday sign over my door for the entire cruise - plus a small (they used to be big enough for the entire table) cake with singing.
Food for the most part was good. We did feel as if they were kind of cleaning out the larder at least as far as the steaks were concerned, but also felt it had a lot to do with stripping of the ship ... had to use up everything - even buffalo steaks, which wouldn't be high on my menu list but the escargot, lobster and baked Alaska were!
As to shore excursions - ended up only taking one in Cabo San Lucas because I wanted to see the natural arch (Los Arcos) ... turns out you can see it from the ship. Also, got to see the new Star Princess anchored next to us ... that's some ship! I took the glass bottom boat trip and it was a real ripoff. Small boat handling about 20 - saw two fish and the sea lions and Lover's beach and Los Arcos then took mini vans for a short ride to Georgios restaurant and our free drink. The tour conductor then hurried us back to the mini vans and our 2-1/2 hour tour ended up being less than 2 hours. Would not recommend this excursion. On the other hand, the new deluxe coastal cruise on a large catamaran was a big hit because they got to see a mother and baby whale and it just all around was a terrific looking boat.
In Acapulco, hired a taxi for 2-1/2 hours for $20 ... he took 3 of us to a recommended jewelry store and his recommended flea market (the latter was no deal ... the cover ups my friend and I had seen at the pier were twice as much and had dirty marks) and then to a super sized Wal-Mart. (My waiter said there was a free shuttle running to it but never did see it.) This Wal-Mart even had a beauty parlor and though everyone spoke Spanish, it was not hard to get across what we were looking for. There's also a CostCo here. Very smoggy in Acapulco.
Next stop was Huatulco - the Mexicans are trying to develop this into a new resort, but there isn't much there. You do have to take a tender in and it was pretty rough seas - so rough that a woman broke her arm and leg on the tender.
Then on to Puntarenas, Costa Rica - most of the excursions here involve long bus rides. They have a little train that runs from the ship to the end of the pier and then lots of vendors and a couple of blocks away was a cybercafe. Went online for an hour for $3 (considering the ship only had 3 laptops and they charge $7.50 for a minimum of 15 minutes) which was a good deal.
And, then the transit of the Panama Canal which is fabulous and worth the entire trip.
Next to Aruba where I had cancelled my tour to see the Natural Bridge and went shopping in several nice malls. And, to another cybercafe for $4 per half hour.
Then Ocho Rios where we docked at the Main Pier which has a loooong zig zaggy pier to the terminal under the hot sun and that's how you had to reach the buses for most of the tours. I'd guess it was at least 6 blocks long and hard on some of the passengers who aren't so mobile. Couldn't figure out why they didn't have pedicycles or something to transport people. Friends went on the catamaran trip to Dunn's River Falls and were picked up right at the ship. They said it was terrific.
This ship basically has Traditional Dining ... plus a pizziaria and the Bistro late evening at the Cabana Cafe. Had all my breakfasts and lunches at the Cabana Cafe - and also enjoyed the high tea.
As this was a 15 day trip, there were 3 formal nights (the other nights were Smart Casual). The first one was the Captain's Cocktail party - the second one in honor of the Captain's Circle members and the last the Farewell party. On this ship, the first and last parties are held in the atrium which covers 3 decks and no lines to meet the Captain ... the Captain's Circle you could meet him or the second in command. At the Captain's Circle party, the Captain told us about all the ship transfers and new ships coming online which Norm has covered in another post.
The Island party was spectacular on the Lido deck near the pool ... conga line and everyone got streamers and a huge banquet (as if we needed more food). Would have hated to clean up all that mess but it sure was fun to participate.
And, always a highlight on the Princess was the Champagne Pyramid - over 600 glasses stacked and then champagne poured over all of them and you could help with the pouring if you wanted. And, they dropped a couple of hundred balloons down three decks. Something special to see.
And, my favorite - lots of trivia games ... anywhere from 2 to 4 a day - great way to meet people. I particularly liked it because I won 13 prizes with various teams.
I brought 3 books with me and didn't read one. There's just so much to do ... or not, if you want to just relax.
The cruise staff are outstanding - couldn't do enough for you and always had a smile on their faces. It's very nice to feel so welcomed.
Normally this would be posted under a ship review, but with this ship being completely changed thought I'd put it here.
I'd highly recommend this 15 day transit of the Panama Canal. If anyone has questions, I'd be glad to answer them.
I cruise the Emerald Princess, Eastern Caribbean on April 16, 2012