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Rich and Helen

Crown Princess cruise and review.

Crown Princess cruise and review.

This would be our first time cruising on a Princess ship, made extra special by the fact that we were visiting our son midway through his contract onboard. We boarded her in Civitavecchia and I have to say that this was by far the best embarkation we have ever experienced. We literally went from being shoreside to inside our room within 12 minutes (yes I did time it).

The Crown Princess was waiting for us to board in Civitavecchia.

For this voyage we had an ocean view room on deck 5, conveniently situated off the art gallery, next to the main piazza. The room was spacious and well laid out. Our room was a four berth room and unfortunately the two bunks hanging off the side walls did make the room feel smaller with the main bed configured as a double, but this is really only an issue when getting in or out of the bed, and believe me you won’t want to leave the bed once you get in it! The mattress, pillows and bed linen are amazing with just the right level of softness. The bathroom is typical of any average cruise ship bathroom with a small shower and dreaded shower curtain, but the water was always hot and the good water pressure meant I often didn’t want to get out.

One of the first things we do on any cruise ship is try to establish which bar is going to become our regular. Being cocktail lovers this was easy on the Crown Princess and most evenings resulted in a visit to Crooners bar to watch the world passing by in the main piazza and sample some of the special cocktails only available in this bar. However, if we fancied a nice glass of wine Vines bar was only a couple of decks down, also in the main piazza, with the complimentary evening tapas and sushi to accompany the many fine wines on offer there making this a very tempting alternative.

Whenever cocktails and wine didn’t quite cut the mustard we would venture to the Wheelhouse bar, a more traditional pub-like venue serving great beers often accompanied by some lovely piano music. The small dance floor meant it often attracted couples who wanted the opportunity for a quiet dance. It was also a convenient stop for a pre-dinner drink if dining in the Crown Grill next door. In the evening half of the Wheelhouse bar is set aside for dining from the Salty Dog menu (at a small surcharge) which gives the bar a nice lively feel to it. The other venue we enjoyed was the Explorers lounge, with its large bar and accompanying stools we were able to sit up at the bar and chat to the bartenders and other guests. Explorers bar is the largest venue after the theatre and the large dance floor means there is usually live music in the evening, as well as this being a popular alternative venue to the theatre for comedians, quizzes and other entertainment, such as Liars Club which we loved. Another venue used for trivia and live music is Club fusion which is located at the aft of the ship. This is another large venue with plenty of seating and a large bar, but not an area we ever ventured into.

If we fancied a quiet drink away from the crowds then we would venture up to Adagios bar, with its lovely lofty aft views. Situated next to Sabatinis for pre or post-dinner drinks when dining there, and perfect when you’ve had enough of people watching and just want to go somewhere to savour a peaceful drink. We aren’t really late night people but we did manage to stay up long enough on one evening to make our way up to Skywalkers bar, the late night DJ venue at the aft of the ship. The bar here doesn’t open until quite late but if you like a late night boogie this is the place to come, and during the day its a great place to come and get away from the crowds and enjoy those sea views.

As soon as we boarded Crown Princess we went straight to the Sanctuary area to decide if this was something we would like to take advantage of. This is an adult only area at the front of the ship with padded loungers, shading canopies, awesome views and plenty of peace and quiet. For the supplementary charge you get to choose your sunbeds, have attentive servers who will bring you complimentary tea, coffee and flavoured water whenever you want it, as well as drinks from the bar, and afternoon tea. Alongside this is an adult only pool and two jacuzzis which are available for all guests, but tend to be relatively quiet given that they are ‘tucked away’. The Sanctuary is not a cheap option but great if you really want to relax and get away from it all while being looked after by discreet but attentive staff. If the whole voyage seems a bit of an indulgence then maybe treat yourself to an afternoon or two, or a sea day. We took out a whole voyage package but in hindsight we would probably just choose to go there on an occasional afternoon and the sea days.

Whilst the Sanctuary area takes up most of the front of the ship there are three other main sections to the top deck outdoor area. The back pool is a quiet area perfect on a sea day for enjoying the wake views with its own bar and conveniently situated near the buffet restaurant. The next pool along houses the outdoor movie screen which shows sports, concerts and movies throughout the day, also with its own bar. The pool is mid sized and has two jacuzzis with some lovely staged decking with sun beds set out over four floors. The largest pool is located in the middle of the ship and also has two jacuzzis. This is also where you can grab a burger, tacos, pizza, ice cream, coffee and milkshakes through the day and late into the evening. There is a large sunbathing area with plenty of shaded areas around the pool and a deck circling above the pool with a large outside bar. This pool is a lively area with music playing and things like trivia taking place during the day.

The Crown Princess is a dying breed of ship in that it has a promenade deck that allows you to completely circumnavigate the entire ship. This is located on deck seven but forces you to climb up one flight of stairs to deck eight at the front of the ship. It’s perfect for that after dinner stroll and is conveniently adorned with teak chairs and loungers if an overwhelming desire to sit and enjoy the view takes over. Talking of views, one of the hidden gems we found on the Crown Princess was the open deck above the bridge at the front of the ship, perfect for those scenic sail outs. We particularly enjoyed the magnificent view we had watching the sail out from Kotor from up here.

 We love a traditional promenade deck that allows you to walk all the way round the ship.

We love a traditional promenade deck that allows you to walk all the way round the ship.

If a walk round the promenade is not active enough for you there is a very well equipped gym with lots of treadmills, ellipticals, weights machines and a large exercise area for classes such as yoga and stretching. This is attached to the spa with the reception to the spa located at the entrance to the gym, conveniently with doors out to the Adult only Sanctuary pool and jacuzzis. The spa has a number of treatment rooms, well appointed changing rooms with robes and slippers and an extra charge area housing hot stone beds, steam rooms and saunas. Although we occasionally made use of the gym we didn’t have any spa treatments or use the indoor spa area.

Princess is renowned for its fantastic food and has a number of venues to enjoy a variety of dining options. The informal Horizon cafe and adjoining Cafe Caribe is the go to for day long buffet style food, opening early morning for breakfast before moving on to lunch, then afternoon snacks and the evening meal before closing at 11pm. The food on offer here is plentiful, varied and good with excellent labelling for people with food allergies or intolerances. The seating area is comfortable with staff on hand to bring you drinks to accompany your meal. Whilst we really enjoyed the food on offer and ate here often, we were disappointed by the use of plastic plates, mugs and glasses. While we realise the need for plastic glasses the whole experience would have been a thousand times better if we the food was served on China crockery.

The Horizon Court buffet.

For this reason we quickly decided that our preferred option for breakfast was the main dining room, in this case the Da Vinci restaurant, the only restaurant open for breakfast and lunch then later becoming an anytime dining venue in the evening. This is one of three main dining rooms, along with the Michelangelo, the any time evening venue and the Botticelli, the traditional seating restaurant. We only dined in the Da Vinci restaurant and generally service was good and food tasty, especially those renowned chocolate journey desserts.

The three specialty restaurants are the Crown Grill, a seafood and steak house; Sabatinis, a fine dining Italian restaurant and Salty Dog, a Gastro pub section of the Wheelhouse bar. By far our favourite of these three venues was the Crown Grill where we savoured a four course meal and a fine red wine which included a delicious filet mignon and an amazing assiette of desserts - what’s not to love!?! Sabatinis has a lovely open feel to it with attentive service which again serves a four course meal, including a traditional pasta dish and some fine Italian desserts. Crown grill and Sabatinis both attract a $29 surcharge per person whereas Salty dog is $12 per person. And if value for money is your thing then Salty dog is the one to go to. The menu features a number of dishes from which each person chooses two, one as a starter and one as a main but they are all quite large. We all choose to try the Ernesto burger which lived up to the hype, even though it defeated me!

For alfresco eating the outside Salty dog grill serves burgers, tacos and fries all day long and late into the evening for those after dinner munchies. This is located around the main pool along with the Slices bar which serves delicious, authentic pizzas and open sandwiches, conveniently located next to the coffee and cones bar where you can get a complimentary ice cream or grab a coffee or milkshake.

The International cafe is situated in the central Piazza and is the snack food and coffee bar that is open 24 hours a day. It offers a variety of seating around the coffee bar and in the atrium with table service or takeout drinks from the coffee bar. The food on offer here varies throughout the day ranging from pastries in the morning, panini and salads at lunch and cakes and cookies in the afternoon. The piazza is a great place to sit at any time of the day and often has musicians playing from early evening offering a range of music from piano to the ships band, the three piece classical band and jazz. The piazza became a firm favourite for us to visit for a late night cup of tea and cookie before retiring to bed.

Whilst we spent too much of our time on board eating or drinking there was a variety of other things we could spend our time doing. The theatre spans three decks and is located at the front of the ship, with two show times most evenings. On our ten day trip there were a number of shows on offer from magic to tribute acts and the usual in house singing and dancing shows, of which we had three, all of them entertaining and well performed. The other event not to miss is the Captains party which features the infamous Princess champagne fountain and later in the evening a ballon drop. There was live music playing all evening in the main Piazza which created a lovely party atmosphere, even though it did at times feel a little bit squashed with everyone trying to dance in the relatively small atrium area.

Another lovely way to spend a balmy evening is watching a movie on the big screen out on the open top decks. The sunbeds get transformed into ‘cinema style’ seating with padded cushions and blankets for if the evening gets cooler. There are bags of popcorn readily on hand from the outside Slices food bar where you can also get ice cream or pizza to chomp on while watching a movie. We were cruising late in the summer so didn’t hold out much hope of being able to watch a movie under the stars but we were lucky enough to get a reasonably warm evening when sailing out of Corfu and enjoyed a movie that had been showing in the cinema only a few weeks beforehand. The only complaint we had about the evening entertainment was that with these and all the other venues and bars, such as Explorers and Crooners, we couldn’t be in two places at once and often had to choose between two or three things we would liked to have done of an evening.

 We loved watching a movie under the stars as we left Corfu.

We loved watching a movie under the stars as we left Corfu.

Two of the ships most popular areas are only open when the ship is at sea, the casino and the shops. Whilst we don’t ever go to the casino, the one on the Crown is huge and very well utilised on the evenings at sea. There are a variety of shops from jewellery shops, cosmetic and perfume shops, clothes and gift shops and general provisions, all well stocked and tempting!

So all in all our first sojourn on a Princess ship had been a success. We liked the traditional feel of the decor and the variety and style of entertainment on offer. We found the variety and quality of food on offer was generally very good and the staff were generally happy and attentive. Princess cruises, we will be back!

The top ten DON'TS of river cruising

The top ten DON'TS of river cruising

Our three day Tuscan Road Trip and stay at Villa I Barronci.

Our three day Tuscan Road Trip and stay at Villa I Barronci.