Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Brenda D. Eastern Caribbean December 23, 2007
We had a fantastic room Baja 749 corner back balcony. Afternoon sun, on the journey and wonderful moon views at night (ours was a full moon). This Balconey provides you with 2 chairs, and 2 loungers, as well as a table. Our Mom had B752, also a balcony, and the deck was smaller not having 4 chairs but 2. Our daughters had E502 window obstructed but fine.
The ship lacked the wow factor one feels when boarding a Princess ship. It was nicely decorated for Christmas but nothing fantastic with the actually design of the main foyer.
The staff seemed very average. We booked anytime dining. First night we ate in the Palm. The greeting was nothing exciting. The Baramondi? (South American fish) like Perch was awful. I am from the coast and love fish but not smelly fish! Very short menu and very non attentive staff. No napkins on your lap and no real pampering.
Each meal was so, so. Nothing was available that wasn't on the menu, as it was in the past. Waiters in the dining rooms wereso average with no personalities. Personalities were in the two fee-charged dining rooms. Sabatini's and Stering's Steakhouse had waiters that actually had personalities and the food had the taste of cruises of the past. I think dining in the regular dining room was the biggest disappointment.
Nightly Entertainment: Why have an 800 seat venue for 3000 plus people and only 2 shows? Also there was no real wow to the theater as seen on other cruises.
What is the deal with no trays in the buffet area or cafe? While you are busy pumping hand sanitizer, the staff is shoving you a napkin with silverware and a plate and send you on your way. So try negotiating your way through a buffet line with no tray. Not fun. It is actually ridiculous. Also once you find a seat, the waiter will reluctantly get you coffee, but some might show you where you should get your own.
After midnight the ship pretty much shuts down other than the casino. No entertainment at the small lounges or anything other than the disco was an option. Sarge was the best entertainment. The dancers were really a sad group -- nothing like a real show as I have seen on Royal Caribbean.
Some minor details that we missed was the lack of towel folding in the cabins and lack of dining staff entertainment that we had been used to. We always thought it was pretty neat when the staff would sing and dance for you on theme nights.
I guess the best was the weather, then the room. The staff worked as though they were just following the motions. The cocktail servers were swarming, as they have a quota to make and then get time off. Wait staff just served -- nothing special -- no conversation, nothing special. Rooms were clean and the bed (2 twins pushed together) was ok, but as time went on the split between the two became more noticeable.
We found the trip fine with the weather, land trips, and our room, as well as the family group. But if we were just the two of us, and we didn't have the great weather or the nice room, it would have been a long and boring trip.
We will try another line as the staff and the food are an important part of the experience for us.
Introduction On December 20, 2007, we embarked on our 21st cruise. We sailed Star Princess 21-day repositioning cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Buenos Aires. This was our first time sailing Princess.
Embarkation Embarkation was out of Ft. Lauderdale. It was the most disorganized embarkation we've ever experienced. We arrived at the port at 11:45 am, we boarded the ship at 4:05 pm.
Stateroom We opted for a mini-suite and we were located on Deck 9 (Dolphin Deck). The stateroom was great. We had a walk-in closet, a large bathroom with full-size tub as well as shower, a small sitting room with a loveseat, and a nice balcony with no roof.
I was a bit reluctant to take a mini-suite on this ship because of the “terrace effect" of the balconies. Balconies on Decks 12 and 11 can look down on the balconies on Decks 10 and 9. It also seemed unusual for the most expensive balcony staterooms to be on Deck 9 when less expensive balcony staterooms (not mini-suites) were on Decks 10, 11, and 12.
I had nothing to worry about regarding the "terrace effect" balconies or Deck 9. It was nota problem in the least. I loved the open balcony and on warm nights being able to look up at the stars. I didn't have a feeling of being "intruded on" by terraced back balconies above me.
Dining We enjoy traditional dining, so we selected that and had early seating in the Amalfi Dining Room. The other two dining rooms, Portofino and Capri, are open seating dining rooms. All three dining rooms are small and none of them are grand. The positives are that the dining rooms don't get noisy, and it works well with accommodating traditional and open seating passengers. The negatives are that there is no large, grand dining room that you find on non-Princess ships.
We had a table for six. We had four cordial dinner companions that we looked forward to seeing every night. Our waiter and assistant waiter were terrific. They knew all of our beverage orders and had them on the table minutes after we were seated. The food was good, not great.
Lunch was open seating in the Portofino Dining Room. Our waiters, for the most part, were fast and efficient. Again, the food was good, not great.
Most mornings we opted for breakfast on the Lido Deck. The breakfast foods up there were terrific.
Ports Our ports were Dominica, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad in the Caribbean; Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, Rio do Janeiro in Brazil; Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. This gave us ten glorious days at sea. We took some ship sponsored shore excursions as well as venturing out on our own.
Entertainment The Star Princess Production Cast was probably the most talented group of young people I've seen in a ship ensemble. They performed five production shows and all of them were good. The guest artists were less enjoyable. There were two comedians, one hypnotist, a classical music couple, and a female singer who loved singing Connie Frances/Vickie Carr/Brenda Lee type songs. We had the same singer for three separate shows. That was too many times for her.
The Enrichment Lecture Series on Star Princess was very disappointing. The quality of their material was poor as was their delivery.
Disembarkation Disembarkation in Buenos Aires was smooth. We opted to stay in Buenos Aires an additional six days after the cruise. Transfers to the hotel and the airport could not have run any more efficiently. The Plaza Hotel in Buenos Aires is in a terrific location. We had a ten minute walk down to Avenida de Mayo, and a ten minute walk in the opposite direction to Recoleta. The hotel dining room was superb as was the wait staff.
I came away from my first Princess cruise with mixed feelings. We selected this cruise solely on the itinerary and the number of days at sea. Here is how I rank the Star Princess compared to the other ships I have cruised.
Stateroom: A Balcony: A Dining Room: C Dining Room Staff: A Dining Room Food: C Public Rooms: B- Entertainment: B- Staff: A Shore Excursions: C-
I wouldn't hesitate to take another Princess cruise if HAL didn't have a similar itinerary. But, if HAL had something similar, I'd take that in a heartbeat.
We've been on numerous cruises on many lines and this is our second Christmas (2006 & 2007) cruise on the Coral. It was a repeat booking due to complete satisfaction.
Met some good friends (R&A) on first cruise on the Coral, who also joined us on this 2007 trip.
Everything was great. The entertainment (Denise Canby Trio) was with us for both trips. We spent seven nights enjoying both their music and company.
We will definitely book on this ship again.
For my wife and I, this was our 28th cruise together, our fifth and sixth with this line (as Princess Cruises). Truly, it was an outstanding itinerary. The first 20 days, from Bangkok to Sydney, visited exotic Asian ports before cruising along Australia's northeast coast. It's a long way from home so we opted to continue on for 12 more days to six more ports, ending in Auckland.
Embarkation was reasonably quick but our pre-registry both on-line at during our pre-cruise hotel stay failed to avoid a line-up. The ship was late leaving because of a medical emergency. If the captain had maintained a speed two knots faster, he'd have made our first port, Koh Samui, on time; as it was, the late arrival threw shore-tour arrangements into disarray. Tendering ashore, we discovered, is not a Princess strong suit.
The Sapphire is too big to moor at some cruise terminals, so we'd be bused in from a container dock. The tour office insisted on assembling us in groups on board before anyone could proceed ashore; a bus-number sticker was required before assembly. This rampant bureaucracy delayed every tour but one of allthose we took in our 14 ports. I saw no evidence whatsoever that anyone in the shore excursion office had ever taken any of the tours they sold.
The ports, however, were fascinating, none more so than Vung Tau, the (far-away) gateway to Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City), which is a teeming place of seven million people and three million motorbikes. They're officially communists in Vietnam, though no one seems too worked up about it.
At our next stop came an incident which illustrated how the people who ran the ship dealt with the passengers. After leaving Kota Kinabalu, we anchored offshore and a fuel barge came alongside for much longer than seemed normal. A rumor swept the ship: we'd run aground and had fuel offloaded, then reloaded after floating free! The cruise director denied the tale and pooh-poohed any notion that we should be told what actually happened, so the rumor fed itself. Many days later, we found out the truth: bunkering was not allowed at the dock in that port, so the fuel barge came alongside; its flow rate -- 50 liters per minute instead of the expected 300 -- kept it in place for many more hours than had been planned. But tell us? Nope. Communication about arrival times from Bridge to passengers was generally non-existent. And the daily Princess Patter might as well have been written in Los Angeles for all the help it was. Still free of charge, though. A daily newspaper, absent one written on board, cost from $3.75 to $15.
The pattern continued: interesting ports on shore, myriad minor annoyances on board. And oh yes, the nickel-and-diming. Princess has turned squeezing every last dollar out of every last passenger into an art form. All the big lines do it to some degree; this one is by far the most egregious. Pay $3 for pizza delivered to your room, pay $5 for a rose, pay $25 for an 8x10 picture, pay 75 cents a minute for the Internet (plus another dollar for coffee in the Internet cafe), pay $3.50 a day for a soda card, pay up to 30 per cent more than the market rate for on-board currency exchange, pay for soft ice cream and freshly-squeezed orange juice on the Lido Deck. Never mind sky-high spa prices, very pricey shore tours and pushing sales of bottled water when we got it for free on every tour but one; one takes all that for granted, at least on this ship.
There were some strong positives. The Princess Theatre is, in my view, the best showroom afloat: technically first-class, great sight-lines, great chairs. But at 700 seats, it's small for a ship carrying 2,700 and more passengers. The Brian Harding Orchestra was the best we've heard on a cruise, and all but one of the lounge bands were excellent; also the string quartet. The guest entertainers -- comedians, jugglers, magicians, singers and the like -- were pleasant but second-rank. Not one lifted the audience from the seats. The Princess singer/dancers were very good (particularly, after I met her on a back-stage tour, the nice blonde one from South Africa).
We found the ship very clean, the cabin storage space very good, the service at the front desk pleasant and efficient. Disabled access is excellent in public areas: we saw several passengers happily moving about in electric scooters. Once we got our room steward working on our schedule and not his, he did a fine job. Breakfast room service was very punctual. The extra-cost Sterling Steakhouse was fine, though you paid $15 each for a meal that used to be served in the main dining room. The safety briefing and lifeboat drill was far and away the best we've been through: serious, informative and very thorough. And the line's website was easy to navigate and use.
Now the negatives, nickel-and-diming apart. The lounges were well-designed for selling and serving alcoholic drinks, but not well set up for daytime events. I don't drink alcohol and I got very tired of Diet Coke, there being no mocktail of the day or lemonade available. The only forward-facing view lounge is Skywalkers, the late-night disco all the way aft. It was barely used during the day, but made a very quiet spot to put your feet up and read. Standard cabins, despite excellent storage space and quiet cooling fans, had the smallest shower stall I've experienced at sea, with inadequate hand-holds.
The Horizon Court buffet on Deck 14 has too few seats and a very confused system of food selection which forces passengers to squeeze past each other to move through it. The food variety was poor and the quality mediocre. Bar service on this deck (and others as well) was slower than should be the case.
We opted for the second sitting of "Traditional Dining;" Despite excellent wait-staff at our table, we had trouble getting to the 10:15 shows on time in the first 20-day segment.
Our second segment, 12 days to Auckland, began in Sydney, the pier a medium walk from the opera house, a work of genius from any angle. What a joy it was to experience the port as 2,500 people rushed to get off and an equal number rushed to get on.
The mood changed. It was as if someone had read the Riot Act to the crew about the quality of service. The new cruise director, a solid pro, was a vast improvement over his predecessor. We always got to the shows on time. The shore-tour desk was no better organized, but the ports were interesting and the weather had cooled to a pleasant level.
On January 21, we docked in Auckland and Princess got us off the ship efficiently. We got home to find that readers of a distinguished travel magazine had ranked Sapphire Princess last among big ships; not exactly a surprise to us. Were I a shareholder I would be both pleased with the impressive generation of on-board revenue and concerned that the number of passengers turned off by nickel-and-diming will outnumber those attracted by even deeper fare discounts. We had a wonderful cruise, have planned another on a much smaller Princess ship, but won't recommend this line without very compelling reasons which trump the problems we encountered.
This was a Princess Cruise, on the Sapphire, from Leam Chebang, Thailand to Sydney, Australia -- 20th December 2007 to 9th January 2008.
This is the first time I have attempted to write a cruise review and whilst it may sound a little harsh at times I have tried to be as honest and truthful as I can be. I am a 51 year old male from the UK and travelled with my wife and 2 sons ages 18 & 20 in 2 separate inside cabins on deck 10. This is approximately my tenth cruise. It was however my first cruise with Princess cruises.
Embarkation We had flown to Hong Kong where we stayed for a couple of enjoyable nights at the excellent Langhams before flying on to Bangkok, Thailand for a further three enjoyable nights at the wonderful Bangkok Hilton Millennium, booking our hotels independently from our cruise and flight itinerary. The first gripe I have is the luggage weight allowance. Princess Cruises booked these flights in the knowledge that you are embarking on a 20+ day cruise, including more than half a dozen formal and informal nights requiring suitable clothesto conform to their dress codes. My two suits and hard bodied suitcase weighed in at 15 kilos. That leaves me a further 5 kilos allowance to pack enough clothes, etc. to keep me suitably attired for the remaining 4 weeks. This is quite simply impossible and subsequently we had to pay several hundred additional dollars on both legs for excess luggage. Princess has the ability to increase the luggage allowance at the time of booking with the airline, however they chose not to, despite the fact that it would appear that non UK passengers don't seem to have this problem, yet UK passengers are paying up to 45% more than other non UK passengers (more on that later) and Princess is happy to supply flights to passengers not fit for purpose. We took a 3 hour taxi ride from Bangkok to Leam Chebang to embark the Sapphire Princess. The process was smooth and well organised and our excessive weighing baggage was at our cabin before we got there. We had been unable to book a better grade of cabin than inside and had been waitlisted since March 07. Despite further inquires at the customer services desk we were told the ship was full and we would have to stay in the cabins we had been allocated. The ship left that evening a little late due to a medical emergency.
The Cabin Or stateroom as they like to call it -- what can you say about an inside cabin? It was small but comfortable, the shower was extremely small and we were unable to shower properly due to the curtain constantly sticking to you during the process. The toilets in both cabins smelled of stale urine for the entire length of the cruise and despite several attempts by staff, they never managed to cure it. We had no tea or coffee making facilities, unlike most ships we had travelled on previously, and the TV programming was the worst I have encountered, around six channels of constant Princess Cruise infomercials, CNN out of sync for the whole cruise, BBC world and a few very old movies and poor quality programmes repeated constantly. Whilst I appreciate one doesn't go on a cruise to watch TV, there are occasions when due to illness, bad weather, etc. that there is little else left to do. Our cabin steward was called Marvin; I think we got off to a bad start as he seemed to take it as a personal insult when we pointed out the toilet smell problem. For the entire length of the cruise he was unhelpful, huffed and puffed whenever we were in the cabin and he wanted to enter it to clean, and he never ever greeted us with a good morning/afternoon unlike every other cabin steward onboard. Perhaps it was the time of year (Chistmas & New Year) and he was missing his family. I must say, however, that despite his persistent rudeness he did a very good job cleaning the cabin.
Dining We chose the Anytime Dining option as we didn't want to be tied down to a specific time. Now in theory this sounds like a great concept. You turn up to any one of the four designated restaurants anytime before 10pm, get shown to your table and enjoy your dinner. However this was not our experience on most occasions. I'm not sure if this was because the ship was full, but on at least 6 or 7 occasions we visited all 4 restaurants to be told there was nothing available from between 30mins to an hour. At this point you are given a bleeper which goes off when a table is available. Whilst this doesn't sound like a big deal you have to queue at each of the four restaurants before you are told there are no tables available, so in total the wait for the table on some evenings took up to 2 hours before we sat down to eat. And what was the solution to this problem that was suggested by the very helpful maitre 'd? Book a table at a specific time each evening to ensure you get seated! Well surely this defeats the whole concept of Anytime Dining and you may as well go back to set dinner sittings. The idea is great but seriously flawed.
The quality of the food and service was ok. The variety of the menu we felt was average. The best way I can describe this is when on a recent P&O cruise, after looking at the menu there was nearly always more than one dish we fancied. However on many occasions there was nothing we fancied on the menu. Not the best I have had and not a patch on P&O. Also, the lack of a traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas Day was unforgivable. This ship caters exclusively to US passengers and despite the bulk of passengers on this cruise being Australian, British and Canadian they were simply not catered for. The service we received in the four restaurants was varied depending quite simply on who served you. Our general experience was the Philippine & Thai waiters were pleasant, helpful and efficient; however the eastern bloc waiters were in general quite surly and a gloom seemed to descend over the table during service. One in particular took 25 minutes to acknowledge we had sat down. Whilst I realize it is unfair to generalize, this was our experience.
We had the occasional breakfast in the buffet, however after the outbreak of norovirus during week one the buffet was no longer self service and the staff member had to serve you with everything including the coffee and tea. This led to long queues and we stopped eating there.
Room service was poor. The stateroom booklet suggests you should have to wait approximately 20 minutes for the food to be delivered. On more than one occasion we waited longer than 20 minutes just for them to answer the phone. When they eventually did, their understanding of the English language was limited and ultimately they got the order wrong. The quality of the food was poor and the waiters who delivered were generally rude if you did not tip them. On one occasion my wife ask the waiter to take a tray away with some used plates on it, and he snatched the tray and left. Half an hour later we left our cabin to find he had dumped the tray outside the cabin next door.
Entertainment I have to say that with a few exceptions the entertainment was very poor, especially as this was Christmas/New Years and 20 long days, so you would think that Princess would make an effort (push the boat out, so to speak). I have to admit that I don't like dancing & singing costume type shows, or should I say miming shows (backstage tour guy said they don't even sing) and therefore can't offer an opinion on these. The exceptions were Deep Blue, a 5 piece band from Trinidad who played in Club Fusion most nights and were very good. Also, The Sapphire Princess Orchestra were outstanding together, with the exceptional string quartet whose name escapes me. The pianist was ok together with Allan & Lodonna. Bernhard Reid, the comedy magician, was amusing and the Checkerboard Guy was good. However, most of the rest were quite simply appalling. Masquerade, a four piece band from Las Vegas, were the worst band I have ever had the misfortune to listen to. They quite simply could not sing or play their instruments properly. One day whilst playing by the pool, I witnessed them stop and restart the same song 3 times. The female singer forgot the words regularly and the guitarist regularly played the wrong notes and would stop playing mid song.
Ventriloquist Kenny Byrd was strictly for kids but was billed as suitable for adults. The two American comedians were past their sell by dates and fluffed their lines regularly. The hypnotist took 30 minutes to explain his very average show and 15 minutes to perform it. There were others who were instantly forgettable.
The daytime activities were nonexistent unless you include the following: Trivia Challenge, Card & Games Get Together, Pictionary & not forgetting the unforgettable Afternoon Trivia Challenge. On a sea day it could become quite tedious and boring and this would force you to attend things like the overpriced art auction or bingo just to pass the day, especially if the weather was not good. I went to the library once which is quite simply not big enough and only contained a very poor selection of a few hundred books when I looked. Just a note on the bingo, I have to say this does not appear to be good value for the money. They would regularly take receipts on ticket sales of several thousand dollars per bingo session, yet with the exception of the final day, would only give a few hundred dollars in prize money, and this should be looked into. I found the cruise director Sami likeable, approachable and professional in her job. Unfortunately the same could not be said for her English female colleagues. They didn't seem to grasp the concept of the microphone and would regularly wail and shout into the mouthpiece with their high pitched shrill and patronizing verbal diarrheah. This had to be endured on a daily basis. My final word on the entertainment is regarding New Years Eve, the main event was in the atrium, not an ideal place to find a seat or get a drink, yet this was deemed suitable for a New Years Eve party. The other option was the indoor pool on deck 14, where the heat was incredible at 90 degrees + and everyone in their formal dress. The problem with a pool party is the pool is in the way and there are very few chairs, no dance floor & it's too damned hot! However there was a great venue on the ship to have a New Years Eve party, Club Fusion, lots of seats, great bar, fantastic stage and lights, big dance floor, air conditioned. So what's the problem? They thought it would be a good idea to show a film there on New Years! Why?
I was really fed up at the pool party but ended up in the Skywalkers Disco, which was not very busy at all until about 1am, and I ended up having a fantastic night despite my moaning.
Destinations The main reason we picked this particular cruise was the great ports it visited. One thing we learned early on is that organised tours are a very poor value for the money and we always make our own way independently.
Our first port was Ko samui. This was by tender and very time consuming, a complete contrast to Bangkok and a nice place. However we had a bad tender experience returning to the ship. After queuing for a long time to return we boarded a local boat that was being used along with the Sapphire tenders. After reaching the ship we floated around in the sea a few hundred yards from the ship for about an hour for no apparent reason. When we eventually boarded the ship I asked the security guy why we had been bobbing about for over an hour on the sea. He said he was unable to tell me as the Thai crew spoke no English and no Princess crew were onboard. Surely this must be a serious safety issue? I have to say that because of the size of Sapphire Princess we had to tender the majority of ports. This was both time consuming and tedious, taking away almost half of your allotted time ashore on some occasions. Also when you did arrive ashore there would inevitably be a 45 minute shuttle bus ride to the nearest town and these would finish an hour before the last tender, reducing your time ashore even further. Call me cynical but when you are ashore you are not spending on the ship and that doesn't bode well with Princess.
Singapore was great as was Vietnam and Malaysia, different and interesting. We had a further 7 sea days separated by our first stop in Darwin, Australia on New Year's Day. Now I don't know about you, but I don't think this was the best bit of planning I have ever seen. I feel sure with a bit of thought we could have managed a sea day on the first hangover of the year, and just to add insult to injury a late start was out of the question as you had to be back onboard by 3pm. Darwin, for all intents and purposes, was closed. We then visited a further two great Austalian ports before we sailed majestically into Sydney harbour at 5.30am. We managed to get a great spec above the bridge and it is an occasion that I won't ever forget, bringing this cruise to a memorable and fitting conclusion.
Conclusion Despite what you may think, we had a really great time on this cruise. However, we could have had an even better time given a few changes by Princess. There is no doubt that this is a magnificent ship. However, I do feel that Princess has gone too far to get more and more dollars out of you. In addition I have never queued so much in my life for almost everything. I think it's disgraceful that they charge your onboard account with a "Discretionary" $11 dollars per day per person (almost an additional $1000 with 2 kids in tow). You should cancel this as soon as you board and tip as you see fit, and not allow this to be used as a subsidy to Princess' disgraceful pay structure, together with the additional charges to get a decent meal, charges for coffee, and ice cream, constant cameras in your face revenue raising, a further 15% on drinks, the outrageous charges made by the spa & the grossly inefficient and overpriced internet connections.
But the thing that annoys me the most is the grossly unfair practice that dependent on your country of origin will depend on how much you pay for your cruise. We paid $25,000 for 2 inside cabins and flights, not including hotels. We came across Australians, Canadians and Americans who paid on average 40% less than we did. This cannot be right and leaves a bad taste in the mouth and smacks of sharp practice. This should be stopped.
Finally there is the 21 rule. This ship is registered in Hamilton and flies under the British Ensign. Princess targets the British market where we can drink alcohol at 18. It does not sail from the USA and is not required by law to have an age 21 rule, so why? P&O and Cunard both have an 18 rule. So, why am I bothered? Because this rule is unnecessary and unreasonable. Surely if the Americans don't want their children to drink alcohol then they can stop them. Don't enforce it on others who can drink sensibly. This stupid rule effectively ruined my 20 year old son's holiday.
We cruised to the Panama Canal, departing and returning from Ft. Lauderdale, accompanied by another couple. We did not utilize any ship-sponsored tours and have no comment on them.
We had a balcony stateroom, ample room to move about and excellent storage; service to our room was top-notch; we could leave for a short time and the room would be clean, beds made, by the time we returned.
Entertainment was generally very good with the exception of one comedian who "bombed". We played bingo every day (tip: bring your own bingo daubers, they don't supply). The jackpot starts out at around $1100 and increases $150/day until won, but the game is arranged so that it won't likely be won until the end of the cruise. Tip: wait until the last day, play then and make off with the jackpot.
The ship's crew and staff were fantastically friendly, smiles all the time even when confronted with some trying guests (not us, of course!).
Only one disappointment: The FOOD. It was not quite as good as we have experienced on other cruise ships; strange, exotic combinations of dishes but without a great deal of flavor. Wefound much of it to be bland, especially the coffee. Also disappointing: They charge for soft drinks, water, coffee service if requested in a lounge, etc. At current cruise prices, we felt these should be "no charge".
Princess has "anytime dining" which is great, but reservations need to be made because everyone wants to eat around the same time to save time for the shows.
CASINO was just "OK"; not many big winners, few newer video machines, many older 25-cent and $1 mechanical reels. The "cash out" feature in the casino allows you to transfer $$ in and out of a machine on your room/account card; very neat and handy.
All in all, we enjoyed our cruise and we felt that Princess gives good value and a pleasant experience for the money. Another tip: if you take this cruise to the canal, read David McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas" beforehand and buy Anne Vipond's "Panama Canal by Cruise Ship" -- you won't be disappointed.
We purchased our cruise and air arrangements directly from Princess Cruises about three weeks prior to the cruise. We had a guarantee reservation for a balcony cabin on deck 7. We were too late to make reservations for any land tours on the various islands that we were to visit but felt that we might find available tours in each port. As it turns out, we were wrong about that. Unfortunately, I did not read any of the other reviews about this particular cruise before leaving home. Had I done so, I would have picked up some very useful information that would have helped us locate car rental places on some of the islands.
We left San Francisco at noon on Dec 10, 2007 and flew to Los Angeles with American Airlines. There we boarded an Air Tahiti Nui airbus for the flight to Papeete, Tahiti. We were about an hour late departing so arrived in Papeete about one hour past the scheduled arrival time. We then waited in the customs line for at least half an hour. By the time we got our luggage and were bussed to the ship,it was about 2 am local time. When we arrived at the ship, we were told that we had been upgraded from the reserved balcony cabin to a suite. It was an outstanding cabin compared to those we have had on other ships. We had a 13-foot wide balcony separated from the room by a wall of windows. Our baggage had to be delivered to our cabin, so I was unable to sleep until it arrived around 4 am.
By 5:30 am, I was awake and out on the jogging track looking at the island of Moorea in the distance. This and Bora Bora are the prettiest islands on the cruise to view from the sea. They both have outstanding mountain formations. We were unable to schedule an organized tour of the island, so we took the tender to the island and started to walk along the road toward where we thought there might be a town. As it turned out, the town was several miles away, so we just spent some time near the dock and returned to the ship. The weather was very hot and humid and we were not in the mood to walk several miles. We spent an enjoyable day on the ship and took an afternoon nap to catch up on lost sleep.
The next two days were spent at sea. The ship had a variety of activities available, but we enjoyed time on our balcony each day and kept an eye out for flying fish.
On day five, we arrived at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands. The town where the ship was to anchor did not have a protected harbor and the sea was quite rough with waves up to a height of 8 feet or so. The captain came on the PA system and said that we he would not allow the tenders to load passengers in such rough seas. He was going to check the weather report to see whether we might stay at the location and go ashore at a later time of the day. A short time later, he indicated that the weather was expected to remain the same or get worse later in the day. He decided to raise the anchor and cruise around the island for the remainder of the day, then make for the next stop on the cruise.
On December 15, we arrived at Nuku Hiva where there was a protected cove in which to anchor the ship. We tendered in and took a free shuttle to a museum and hotel on the other side of the cove from where the tender dock was located. We enjoyed a tour of the hotel's garden and had a couple of $5.00 cokes in their restaurant. Some of the guests from the ship used the swimming pool at the hotel, but it was a very small pool and used just for cooling off. After that, we toured the museum. The lady that ran the museum had also built the hotel with her husband, but apparently no longer owned it. Now she ekes out a living by selling items at the museum and taking donations for tours of the small facility. On the way back to the ship, we got off the bus for a short time at a very pretty church along the harbor road. At the tender dock, there were a couple of buildings where the locals sold art objects and other creations made locally.
December 16 was another day at sea. The ship had a demonstration of vegetable carving followed by a tour of the galley. We enjoyed more time on our balcony.
On December 17, we arrived at Rangiroa. This is an atoll so there are no high mountains. The ship's newsletter had said the locals provided a bus, which charged $15.00 for a round trip into the local village. We went to the pier and waited for the bus. I few minutes later, a guy showed up with a Mercedes van and asked us if we wanted to go to the village. Assuming that this was the local bus, about 12 of us piled into the van and started down the road. The driver was a maniac and had no concerns about people walking the road or how fast he was traveling. He just wanted dump us off in town as fast as possible so he could go back for another load. As we were approaching the village, we passed the real bus going in the other direction. When we arrived at the village, we all wondered whether he would ever return to take us back to the ship or if he would just disappear. Fortunately, he showed up about an hour later. It was at least 10 miles to the village and would have been a long, hot walk back to the ship. The village consisted of a store and church surrounded by houses. It was not worth the ride. We all gave thanks when we arrived back at the pier safely. We could not get back to the ship fast enough.
On the morning of December 18 we gingerly traveled through a break in the coral reef surrounding the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa, then spent about two hours traveling within the lagoon to reach the town where the ship docked. This was the only island that had a dock other than Papeete. Two groups of porpoises greeted us along the way. After docking, we went ashore and visited several shops near the dock. Most of the merchandise carried by the stores was very cheap and junky stuff imported from China or some other Asian country. The only items of any value were the jewelry items and pearls produced by local artisans.
While we were walking toward the town from the ship, we saw a tornado over the water several miles away. We were so startled to see it, that we forgot to take a picture before it disappeared. I thought it might hit the island a little later in the day since the clouds were traveling toward us, but it never did. If anyone reading this review was on the cruise and took a picture of the tornado, I would like to have a copy of the picture.
In the late afternoon, a group of children came on board and put on a dancing show. The ages of the children ran from 4 years old up to teenagers and they all did a really fine job. I was amazed at how the little ones could move their hips almost as well as the older kids. Towards evening, a group of adult entertainers came aboard to provide a show scheduled for 10 PM that night, but we went to bed early. We heard the beginning of the show on the deck that was right above our cabin, but fell asleep anyway. As much noise as they made with their drums, we heard nothing.
Bora Bora was the next stop on the cruise. We arrived there at 8 am on the 19th and took a tour that went all the way around the island. Bora Bora is supposed to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world. I thought Raiatea was prettier, but Bora Bora did have some very beautiful water.
On the last day of the cruise, we arrived back in Papeete. We were asked to leave our cabin by 9 AM, but we were allowed to stay on the ship until our bus left for the airport at 7 PM. We also purchased a tour of the island and were on that from 1:30 until about 5 PM. This allowed us to eat all our meals on the ship before departing. We were able to check our carry-on bags on the ship until 6 pm.
Papeete has a much larger population than any of the other islands we visited and it is evident from the number of large buildings at the harbor and the very heavy traffic that is constantly passing through this area. The tour took us to the home of the author of Mutiny on the Bounty and several other books. We also visited a waterfall and the cove where one of the Bounty films was made. We had an American guide who had lived in Tahiti for many years and he did an excellent job of describing the sites and culture on the island.
Later in the day we took a bus to the airport and arrived there at about 7:30 PM. We had to wait on the bus until the people from the previous bus picked out their luggage, then we had to do the same. After that we got in line and waited almost 2 hours to get up to the check in desk. Luckily, they still had two seats together on the center isle. The flight home was good, but we ran into bumpy air several times.
When we arrived at Los Angeles, we had to wait almost an hour for our luggage to arrive on the turnstile. After picking up the luggage, we had to go through customs. Then we had to take a bus to the last terminal at the airport where we were to check in at United Airlines. Arriving at United, we saw hundreds of people lined up at the check in area and asked an employee if we could be moved up in the line, because we were short on time. They refused to help us. When we got to the check-in area, we were told that we were too late to board the plane and would have to go to another line and wait again for new tickets on a later flight. We did this and again waited for about half an hour. Then we had to wait about 20 minutes for the agent to create new tickets. After that, we were told to go upstairs and go through security. We did this and found a line going out the door and onto a walkway going to the parking lot. It took almost another hour to go through this line, and then we had to walk almost half a mile to the gate. When we arrived at the gate I noticed that we did not have boarding passes and asked the agent why not. She said we were on standby. The other agent did not tell us that. Luckily, we made the flight and arrived home about 4 hours behind schedule. Considering that we were flying during the holidays, I guess the trip home could have been worse.
SUMMARY The ship was nice, although it is showing some wear and needs repairs in several areas. The food was about the same quality as on most Princess cruises. As usual for Princess, the desserts were excellent. Restaurant and cabin service was very good. Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room had very attentive waiters and assistants. The shows were about average for Princess. There was one comedian/juggler that was excellent. We did not attend the production shows, so have no opinion about them.
I recommend that you try to reserve land tours on-line before leaving home. There are very few alternatives available when you reach port. Some passengers rented scooters, but the cruise line does not recommend that you do that. They can be very dangerous. If land tours are not available, perhaps car rentals can be arranged on-line.
Wanted to start off by saying that this was our first cruise, so I have no basis of comparison.
My husband and I just returned recently from our seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Dawn Princess. I had read some negative stuff on the boards about this smaller ship and I have to admit I was a bit nervous about how our cruise would turn out. However, we had a fantastic time and the trip exceeded our expectations!
Cabin We selected an unobstructed ocean view room at the VERY front of the ship (Dolphin deck). The location was not ideal for several reasons: long walk to and from elevators/stairs, lots of movement when the ship hit rough water, noisy when we entered and left each port. The room itself was perfectly comfy. Good size, lots of closet space, comfy bed. I loved having a vanity by the window. The comforter needed to be replaced (a bit faded), but the rest of the room was in tip-top shape.
Food The dining room was delish and definitely went above and beyond expectation. The only night I did not enjoy was Italian night asI thought the food a bit bland (my "fiery prawns" weren't spicy at all). Other than that, each dish was splendid and I now have an appreciation for chilled soup. Each dinner is five course (appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, and dessert) and you will walk away stuffed.
The Horizon Court Buffet was disappointing, but we only ate breakfast and lunch there. We've been to many buffets and this was not up to snuff, however, I did manage to find something each meal to enjoy. The pile of lox at breakfast was a definite highlight as was the fresh fruit. The hash brown "pucks" were just plain odd tasting. Not sure that they were actual potatoes… But overall, it's hard to mess up eggs, bacon and oatmeal. Lunch was unspectacular and the so-called sushi served at one meal was pretty dreadful. I do have to say that I was thrilled to find that I enjoyed the coffee.
We ate at the Sterling Steakhouse one night ($15 ea. cover charge) and we were not disappointed! HUGE, perfectly cooked cuts of steak. We each had a 17 oz. rib eye, but the cuts went from a petite fillet all the way up to a 22 oz. porterhouse that was massive. Delicious chocolate pecan pie!
We ordered pizza the last night of the cruise from La Scala and weren't impressed. The pizza was thin and bland. Not what we expected.
Ate once at the Balcony Grill -- pretty basic cheeseburger and fries.
Drinks OK, here is where you will want to keep your cruise card in check. Drinks are pricey ($4.75-$7.00 for mixed/blended drinks) and rather weak. The massive pina colada I had the last day of the cruise was more fruit smoothie than drink. I did enjoy a rather good lemon drop in the Atrium Bar, however and I heard their Bloody Marys were to die for. Next time I am buying a very reasonably priced bottle from room service and making my own drinks.
Activities Fun show ("Piano Man") and the performances were good. We frequented the nickel slots in the casino most nights. During the day, we just lazed around the pool or enjoyed excursions and didn't participate in bingo or trivia. There is always next trip…
Miscellaneous The photos are spendy ($25 for one 8x10) and some of the backdrops did not photograph well IMO (the plain blue and plain white seemed to wash people out), but we did buy one photo of each formal night (one Titanic backdrop and one on the stairs). If you have the time and are inclined, get your pic taken at each stop so you can pick and choose your favorites.
The onboard shops are not open during port time, so if you run out of sunscreen, need some Pepto, or want to buy a hat, don't expect to do it on the ship. I did not find the fragrance or cosmetic prices to be any better than in the US (but, they were sales tax free).
Overall The ship is in great shape and the service was excellent (Adel, our cabin steward, was awesome)! The fabulous food in the dining room far made up for the lack of excitement of the buffet. No, we didn't have a rock wall, mini golf, or a massive tropical pool, but we had a blast and are definitely looking forward to our next cruise. Princess treated us very well and we will definitely be cruising with them next time.
We sailed on the Golden Princess' sister ship, the Diamond, three years ago. While this ship is slightly older, it was very nice and we had a wonderful vacation.
The embarkation process has greatly improved in the last three years. From the time we were standing in front of our taxi at LAX until we were standing in our CABIN on the Golden, only 45 minutes had elasped. It was just terrific.
The cabins are small but nice. They had very adequate storage space for two people. There are lots of drawers and storage shelves, a refrigerator and a safe (we really like that). The bathrooms are small, showers only, but fine for a week cruise.
Although we requested the beds be made into the twin configuration, it was made up as a queen when we arrived. We requested the change and also the egg crate mattress covers and it was changed while we were at the lifeboat drill. I really recommend requesting the egg crates at least three weeks before departure so you can be assured of getting one. There were new mattresses being loaded onto our ship during the cruise,but only a very few, so I know it will take a while to redo the entire ship.
The food was excellent. If you are asked how your meal was, just say "excellent". It is kind of a joke in the dining room where the staff seems disappointed if you use any other term. Our meals were far better than three years ago. A lovely surprise for sure.
We had Anytime dining. That did not work well for us as we wanted a table for two only. You can have a long wait unless you want to join a larger table. The second night out they assigned us a table but we had to eat at 5:45pm. That worked out better than the very late other options we were given.
This was our eighth cruise and the entertainment was the best we have ever seen. Could it be just a "lucky" cruise or has Princess upgraded their entertainment? The production shows were outstanding as was the magician, Gaetano.
We have been on this itinerary four times so did not do any formal shore excursions. We like P.V. the best and found the shopping to be the most reasonable there. We walked into town, about three miles, then back to the Walmart store across from the pier for some last minute items.
Our inside cabin was Baja 625. I MUST WARN ANYONE who has this cabin booked -- we were awakened every night at 4am with noise from the galley. It was bad for about 45 minutes and then we got back to sleep. Two calls to the Purser's office and two chats with both the Captain and one of his crew did not resolve the problem. The odd thing was you could not hear it in the hall, only inside the cabin. I heard other passengers in that general area complain as well.
We had one small issue that we took up with the Purser's office regarding an onboard credit that was promised in writing on three different receipts directly from Princess. I suppose we asked for assistance about six times and provided all three receipts for them to copy. No one ever really took responsibility for resolving the issue so we finally gave up and decided to challenge the charges with Amex when we got home. One lengthy call to Princess reservations did result in a promise of a credit to our credit card which I am still waiting to see on my statement. I am wondering why the Purser's office cannot resolve such an uncomplicated passenger issue.
Those annoyances aside, we had a wonderful cruise and have booked the same itinerary and ship for our family on March 15, 2008. We had friends who were one day behind us on the Vision of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship. We met them in Mazatlan and they were disappointed in their trip. Apparently, it is an older and much smaller ship. I looked at the price and it was a lot cheaper than Princess. Guess you really do get what you pay for!
Overall Impression This was our second cruise, and we chose Princess again, based on our high satisfaction with our first cruise earlier in the year (see Caribbean Princess review dated Feb. 4, 2007). Our overall experience again far exceeded our expectations. The Crown Princess is a newer ship, almost identical in design when compared to the Caribbean Princess, and with a few very nice extra features, which are described below.
The ship is exquisite, with additional elegant design touches that add to the overall feeling of a luxury hotel.
Our inside stateroom was equally elegant, the service was superb, food generally equivalent to eating in a fine restaurant, and some of the entertainment and activities were first-rate.
Flights and Embarkation We booked our own flights to arrive a day earlier, flying American Airlines, and reserved a room at the Best Western Hotel Pierre, located in the Condado, a 10-minute, $12 taxi ride to Old San Juan and the ship terminal (and a 15 min., $19 ride from the airport). It was quite convenient and clean, modern enough for one night, and the room rates were very reasonable.
We arrived at the ship terminalat about noon, and we found that a lack of signage made it confusing as to where we were supposed to drop our luggage. We found it odd that no ship's representatives were there to guide people along to the proper area. After this minor inconvenience, there was a wait of about 20 minutes in relatively short lines, inside a very modern terminal, as the check-in procedure had not yet begun. When it did begin, it was quite fast and efficient, and we were on the ship by about 1:00 pm and were able to have lunch.
Ship and Staterooms The Crown Princess was less than two years old at the time of our cruise, and we saw little evidence of wear and tear, and no remaining damage from the incident in July 2006 (human error caused the ship to list at about 10 degrees off the vertical, sending passengers, furniture, plates, TVs and anything else not nailed down, flying across the floor. Many people were injured, some seriously. We were concerned about booking this ship, however our review of the information on this incident showed that it was due to an inexperienced (or incompetent) person taking control of the ship as it left port, and we saw that no other incidents had occurred.
The ship is absolutely beautiful, using high quality, very tasteful materials throughout, and every area of the ship is spotlessly clean. We will be posting photos on this website, many of which will show the elegance of the ship.
We took an inside stateroom on the Baja deck (deck 11), mid-ship near the central bank of elevators. This was convenient, since we had quick access to the piazza and three-story atrium, which is the "core" of the ship. Our stateroom was finished in rich wood veneers and wood trims, along with a wall-to-wall mirror behind the bed, and had very good lighting. There was ample room, and we never felt that we were getting in each other's way.
The bedroom itself was about 10 ft. x 11 ft., with the hallway, closet area and bathroom accounting for roughly another 50 sq. ft. There was a very well designed closet area, at least 6 feet wide with lots of room to hang clothes and store luggage. The bathroom, although compact, was well-finished, well-ventilated and functional. The relatively small shower posed no problem, although a large passenger may have a problem with its dimensions (and with the narrow width of the toilet seat!)
There was a bit of an odor coming from the toilet, and we eventually decided that it was caused by the heavily chlorinated water. We were never sure if that was the reason, and we never spoke to the steward about it, so we don't know if perhaps the toilet needed a proper cleaning.
Our stateroom steward serviced the room twice a day, and it was always left in immaculate condition (except perhaps for the toilet). We found that the steward was not overly friendly, and never asked us if everything was OK, although he took care of any small requests quickly and efficiently.
The stateroom was very soundproof, and had its own air conditioning thermostat. The comforter supplied is very thick, and without keeping the temperature down a notch, it can feel pretty hot while sleeping.
We never felt that the ship was crowded, and line-ups or long waits were never encountered, which is really amazing on a ship with 3,100 passengers and 1,200 staff.
Facilities and Entertainment This ship had some additional features, not seen on the Caribbean Princess: The International Café is a casual place to eat, with free food available during the afternoon, such as salads, quiches and fresh shrimp, along with a nice selection of cakes and pies. There are also ice cream and specialty coffees, at additional charge. After 4:30pm, tapas are available, at additional charge. The food is provided at a counter by a staff person, and you can choose a table near windows with wonderful views. We found this a great alternative to the buffets, since we don't tend to eat at the buffets. Crooners Lounge is a richly designed public-area bar, located near the main elevators, with pianists and singers performing. Vines Wine and Seafood Bar has some sushi and seafood available at additional charge, with a good selection of wines by the glass; The Sanctuary is a very quiet adults-only area located on the top deck, with luxurious chaise lounges, massage tents, and other features. There was a charge of about $10 per half-day or $20 per full day for use of this area, and it didn't seem like a lot of people were interested. The staff seemed very fussy about people looking at the area while clients were there, so this didn't encourage new people to try it.
The large fitness room is very well equipped, with most equipment by Precor: about 20 new treadmills, 8 new elliptical trainers, a good selection of weight training equipment (possibly not that new) and free weights, a few stationary bikes and about 15 spinning bikes. Most equipment has individual TV screens, and headphones with disposable earpiece covers are available.
The pools are very attractive, and since we were in different ports every day, except for day one, it was always easy to find a lounge chair.
The Princess Theatre offered different shows every night. We saw one "Las-Vegas style" musical/dance show, which was well-produced. Another evening, we saw a hilarious British singing duo.
In the Explorers Lounge, we saw a great female hypnotist show one evening, and a very funny comedian another night. There was a very good classical quartet performing in the piazza regularly, which we enjoyed immensely. And a highlight for us was a Canadian band called Wavelength, who appeared at several venues, playing classic rock of the 60s and 70s. Their singing and skills on the electric guitars and drums were outstanding.
We still find the cost for Internet service on the ship highly excessive, at a rate of about $2 per minute, including service charge, for a relatively slow connection. It is a high-profit item for the ship, although we are certain that their volume would increase considerably if the rates were lower.
Near most ports, there is usually an internet café, charging in the area of $4 - $6 per hour for a true high-speed connection. We easily found such facilities in Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua, and our favourite Internet café, by far, was Beans Bytes & Websites at 5600 Royal Dane Mall, Suite 12 in St. Thomas. It's right next to the main street facing the ocean, in the busiest tourist area of the city. It's a tourist attraction in itself, located inside a very historical building, with beautiful exposed stone walls and a very laid-back café serving food, specialty coffees and other beverages. It's worth a visit, even if only to meet the very nice people who work there. And their official Internet rate is only 10 cents a minute, with a very low minimum charge.
Dining Rooms and Bar Service We ate all of our meals in the "anytime dining" Da Vinci dining room, except for two late lunches at the International Café. Although the buffets supposedly have the same food available, we find it more relaxing to have table service. Most of the waiters and head waiters were wonderful people, and we usually asked to be seated in the same area, in order to have the same waiters.
The food was usually delicious, and very plentiful. A 3-course lunch was sometimes much more than we could handle, with dishes like chicken cacciatore, potato and chicken curry, filet of sole, Greek salad, fresh salmon salad, or potato and spinach latkes (pancakes). The 5-course suppers highlighted main dishes such as: orange roughy (a very nice fish) with asparagus, jumbo shrimp with lobster sauce, halibut with orange sauce, Italian-style veal chop, Chilean sea bass, huge scampi with marinara sauce (ultra-delicious!), huge crab legs (already out of the shell), lobster tail and giant tiger prawns, or freshwater barramundi with curry and garam masala sauce. Superb desserts included a grand marnier parfait with coconut (served as an ice cream cake with a nice fruit sauce), baked Alaska, or mango/banana strudel.
We found that asking the waiters what they recommend usually produced the best meal, since they know the trends of what people like, as the same menus are repeated every one or two weeks.
We never ate in the specialty restaurants, although this ship has done a wonderful design job on Sabatini's, the Italian restaurant. It is pure elegance, with the most beautiful furnishings, dishes and table settings, and probably worth the $20 per person cover charge just for the experience of eating there.
Wine and liquor prices were very reasonable, with a good selection of wines from $22 to $32 per bottle. Too many of the white wines were from California, but we did find a good Caliterra Chardonnay from Chile ($27), and a very good Rosemount Estates Chardonnay from Australia ($29). A very good Mexican Beer, Dos Equis, was $4.25, and a selection of martinis were $6.50 to $7.50.
Tipping Policy We tipped certain individual staff, in addition to the standard rate of $10.50 per person per day which is added to our onboard account. The extra tips went to our regular waiters, a couple of head waiters and our stateroom steward.
We found the tipping policy unclear for liquor ordered at bars and lounges. Although a 15% gratuity is always added automatically to such purchases, there is always a line to add an extra gratuity. One waiter explained that the 15% goes into a pool shared by all bar staff, whereas the "extra" tip goes directly to your server. We started giving small "extra" cash tips to bar personnel, who reacted very positively to this gesture.
Fellow Passengers We met a lot of very nice people on this cruise. The passengers came from a vast selection of geographic areas, and from all walks of life. There was also a varied group of ages, including many young adults, and not that many children, since they are still in school at that time of year.
There were, however, some very unrefined people who seem to be incapable of adjusting to the elegant surroundings and following the rules of the ship, and who prefer to bring their bad habits from home. Some examples: a woman placing her bare feet on a ledge behind a row of seats in the very plush Princess Theatre, during an evening performance, with her feet barely six inches from the heads of the people in front of her; two different groups of people resting their bare feet on the very nice upholstered chairs of the International Café, in an area meant for eating meals and enjoying fine coffees; a man diving into the Neptune Pool, when huge signs forbid diving in the relatively small and shallow pools; two different men yelling in rage at people who were blocking their view of the champagne waterfall event during the second formal evening, with one man jostling a passenger to make his point.
Unfortunately, no staff intervened on their own in any of these instances, except at the International Café, when a passenger mentioned it to a supervisor, who then promptly (although seemingly reluctantly) asked the offending parties to remove their bare feet from the furniture.
Ports of Call We visited six ports, including San Juan (the departure port), Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and St. Thomas. All were beautiful, lush islands, and we toured each one, seeing breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding countryside. We purchased a Barbados tour through Princess, and then arranged our own private tours in three of the other ports. We limited our visits to morning hours, so that we could spend the afternoons on the ship, which is a great time to be onboard, since it's relatively quiet until late afternoon when most people have returned.
When the ship returned to San Juan, we spent about three hours sightseeing before heading to the airport. There is a very convenient free tramway service that takes visitors around the city to all of the various points of interest. We found San Juan to be an especially beautiful and interesting city.
Disembarkation The disembarkation at St. Thomas was extremely well organized. We had ample time to eat a nice breakfast in the dining room until about 9am, and then we waited in one of the public areas of the ship. I was amazed at the lack of lines when our time to leave was announced, which was about 10:30am, and it took less than three minutes to locate our luggage in the terminal.
Areas for Improvement Princess could make improvements in some areas which would enhance their passengers' overall experience and safety:
Smoking is still permitted in various areas of the ship, including the promenade deck, which is a shame, since many people like to walk or jog there.
We were pleased to learn that Royal Caribbean is experimenting with non-smoking cruises, and it makes a lot of sense, considering that 75% of the population in most industrialized countries no longer smoke. It's also a great hazard, judging by the serous fire caused by a cigarette onboard the Star Princess in March, 2006.
On the Crown Princess, passengers are still free to smoke in their staterooms, in their beds and on their balconies (where that fire had started). The only solution is to restrict smoking to fully enclosed and ventilated "safe areas" only for smokers, and let's hope the cruise lines finally see the light of this growing trend, very soon.
Summary We enjoyed our cruise immensely, and we would definitely pick the Crown Princess again. We believe that Princess is a well-run organization, providing excellent customer service, and we would have very little reason to look at other cruise lines for future cruises.