by Linda Valter
Crown Princess 10 Night Mexican Riviera Cruise
New Year's December 26, 1998
I went on this cruise with my Mom (a little mother/daughter bonding.) To give you some perspective, this was my twelfth Princess cruise, my fourth time doing the Mexican Riviera milk run and my fourth time on the Crown Princess.
Because this cruise went round trip from Los Angeles and I just happened to be visiting my Mom in Northern California for Christmas, the flight down to LA was a snap. It sure beats those cross country hauls.
We arrived at the airport too early to go to the ship, so Princess had us cool our heels at a hotel near the airport. They had a hospitality room set up with cookies, tea and coffee. (Note that we purchased Princess's ground transportation.) Within the hour, Princess loaded all of us onto busses and we left for the 30-minute ride to San Pedro (no traffic, so this is why the ride went quickly.)
We found the check-in counter (arranged by decks and cabin numbers) where we had about a (gasp) two-minute wait. From there, it was the usual trek down the plank -- er -- to the traditional welcome aboard picture. We greeted the friendly Princess people waiting for us and scampered off to our cabin (Aloha 216.)
I loved the location of our cabin. We booked a guarantee for the least expensive outside cabin and got bumped up to the top. We did not get a balcony, but it felt as if we had one since our cabin was the furthest aft you could get. Right outside our cabin's door was the door leading out to the deck with the two Jacuzzis. No, we did not hear more noise than usual. No, I did not feel more vibration than usual (this ship does have a tendency to vibrate more than others I have been on). We were so happy with this cabin, I would look to book it again.
The rundown of cabin amenities: bath robes, hair dryer (not a strong one), shampoo, conditioner, lotion, TV (with a great selection of movies --not brand new ones, but good ones like "As Good As It Gets," ESPN, CNN and other taped programs from the Discovery Channel and the like.)
There are hundreds of reviews describing the ship and nothing new has been added. The Crown will go through a MAJOR renovation in, I believe, mid-April. The dining room will be renovated as well as other passenger areas.
The basics: most public lounges as well as the dining room are on the 7th deck, the casino is on the top deck and the disco (Stage Door) is on the 8th deck: very easy to navigate. With so many new ships entering the market, the best way I have found to describe ships and their public rooms is like this: there are ships with a few, but large, public rooms and there are ships with many, but more intimate, public rooms. The Crown falls into the first category. The public lounges are well done and clean -- no bells and whistles.
I do like the Crown and Regal (sister ships) for their great movie theaters. The movies playing were ones which were finised playing in land theaters, but as of then, had not come out on video (i.e. -- "The Avengers," "Zorro," "Antz, etc.)
The Weather/The Ports
In all of my visits to this part of the world, I have not encountered better weather than we had this sailing. Even the final sea day prior to arriving back in L.A. was beautiful and warm enough to "catch some rays" (this is the FIRST time this has happened to me.) We had temperatures between the lower and upper 80's with little to no humidity. Perfect!
Because we have done the sites before, we did not take a single tour (either by ourselves or via the ship.) Instead, we went to the Hyatt's beach in Acapulco (the pool and beach were packed by 11:00 AM), walked around downtown Zihuatanejo for an hour (not much to see but a fun flea market), visited Senor Frog's in Mazatlán (always a fun time), shopped at the stores and went to a hotel's bar near port in Puerto Vallarta (nice) and went downtown in Cabo San Lucas (stayed about 20 minutes).
For those who have been to Acapulco and more specifically, Baby'Os (a big disco in town) I am saddened to tell you it has burned down.
If you would like more information on the above ports, please feel free to ask. I am not an expert, but will try to be helpful.
Food & Dining
I have always enjoyed the food Princess served and this time was no exception. Because we had such great table mates (table for 4 in Second Seating, table #133), we often ordered one entrée each and then ordered 2 extra entrées to nibble off of. We often wound up creating many "surf and turf" nights. One surf and turf night we created that would be highly recommended would be the night they served grilled jumbo shrimp (that is one entrée) and Chateaubriand (another entrée.) Combining the two provided us with the best meal of the cruise.
Our waiters were wonderful (Raul and Luis from the Philippines). They were funny yet professional.
As always, if you want something special (ALMOST anything you can think of) give the head waiter 24 hours notice. They were very good about fixing us the type of salad we wanted and a few different types of pasta we preferred. You can get a preview of the next night's menu by asking your head waiter. Also, if you don't like something, let your waiter know. They can't help you if you don't let them know something is wrong.
We had, in my humble opinion, the BEST cruise director Princess has: Mark Iannazzo. He is funny and has a knack for getting passengers involved. Also, he demands the same from his cruise staff. This group was wonderful. One of the best shows during the cruise is put on by the cruise staff with passenger involvement -- it is called "Pub Night." I go to Pub Night every time because it is slightly different every time -- the passengers make it happen.
Our room steward (Maria from Romania) was the best we have had. We were gone for no more than 10 minutes one morning -- upon our return to the cabin it had been cleaned and made up. Mind you, we didn't even see her in the hallway when we left!
The bar and casino staff were kind as well.
I also had the great misfortune of making a visit to the ship's doctor. I had a nasty cough which kept me up all night -- that is, when I finally made it back to the cabin to sleep. Seeing as how I woke Mom up with this cough every night, she "encouraged" me to seek some help.
Office hours were held 3-4 hours a day (one hour in the AM and two hours in the PM.) Emergency care, however, was available 24 hours a day. I sat around for a long time; for some reason, there were many passengers who suffered broken bones this cruise. In fact, the first question the doc asked was whether he thought I had broken anything. Upon answering no, there was a great sigh of relief. Most of the broken limbs happened to folks off the ship. There were seven that I knew of -- one from a jet ski accident, another kid was thrown over the handles of a 4-wheel dune buggy, etc.
Anyway, the care I received was great. The meds did their magic and Mom and I were able to sleep in peace. However, this was not without cost. It was $45 for the office visit (to even get a Band-Aid, you had to see the doctor and pay the fee -- this encourages many to seek over the counter remedies available in the gift shop. My cough did not go away with over the counter stuff, so I was stuck.) The antibiotics and couple of other meds cost $36 which ran the total bill to $81. I should be able to get reimbursed for this from my healthcare provider.
Ship Activities/Passengers/New Year's Celebration
As I touched upon before, there was plenty to do aboard ship. Bingo was the usual hot item. One tour I took which was new to me was to see the "behind the stage" scene. Mark, the cruise director, hosted a Q & A session on life at sea and then gave us a tour of the back stage. Boy, those dancers have very little room back there!
I have to say this was the youngest group of passengers I have seen. I would say the average age was about 40-45. You could find enough passengers in any age group. I found a nice group of singles between the age of 25-35. We had a great time. I think this was because of the New Year's cruise, so don't expect this during non-holiday sailings.
This group of passengers also partied more than any other. New Year's was great; there is the balloon drop and free champagne, but what made it great was being aboard ship with family and a great group of passengers who wanted to have fun (and not having to drive home while hoping a drunk doesn't drive into you.) The disco was hopping until 7 AM the next morning (I was there until 6:30 and it was still full -- usually, the officers and crew outnumber the passengers late at night, but not this time.) Another night, the disco stayed open until 7:30 AM. The other nights it closed at the usual time of 2:30 or so.
A sad, boring event, but it went smoothly. We were off and running by about 10:00 AM (and we were one of the last to get off.)
While I have discussed the positives, there were a few negatives:
- First, the photographers were more tenacious than usual. I can appreciate being asked if you wanted a photo, but it should be an option, not a mandate.
- Second, they changed the type cake they serve for special occasions. I liked the rum cake (hence this is a negative for me) while others loved the new fruit cake. It was filled with fresh fruit and whipped cream.
- Third, while the buffet upstairs was good for lunch, the breakfasts were a bit dull. In addition, Princess used to offer grilled chicken breasts at the hamburger/hot dog station, but no longer does.
- Fourth, they no longer have the the multi-juice dispenser upstairs at the Cabana. One used to be able to get apple, orange, grapefruit and another juice out of one dispenser 24 hours a day. As far as I know, only orange juice is served there now, only in the AM.
These are relatively minor items, but they just seemed to stick out for me.
In all, this was an excellent cruise. The sea day/port day ratio was perfect (sea days are my favorite, so the more, the merrier!) The atmosphere aboard ship was great (we are stuck on doing New Year's aboard ship -- this was our third in a row.) Princess ran things smoothly.
I have always viewed Princess as a meat and potatoes type of line -- they are not fancy but what they do, they do well. FYI -- Princess has a couple of new ships coming out in the next five years. I am not referring to the Grand Princess twins, but rather the mid-size mega ship (mid-sized these days!). There will be two 90,000 GRT ships which will be long and narrow enough to fit through the Panama Canal.
Linda Valter is originally from California but now lives in Virginia and works for a Member of Congress who also hails from California. While she mostly cruises on Princess, Linda does hope to expand her repertoire in the future. She can be reached for questions or comment at: Linda.Valter@mail.house.gov.
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