Because of flight delays via Amsterdam, we landed in Copenhagen without our luggage. The Princess rep took us to the proper desk to file a report and at that point, I was just glad to be in the same city as the ship and figured that I would be wearing the same clothes for 17 days! Less than 10 minutes after arriving at the ship by bus, we were on board. We got a quick bite to eat and took a tour of the ship. She is lovely, much more understated than the Sun Class ships. Our inside cabin on Baja deck was more than adequate.
We filed a report about the luggage with the Pursers Desk -- after hearing about the flights, they commented that they were amazed I could laugh about things (just a sign of things to come!). The ship left port late, and as soon as it did we went to the shops to purchase something 'clean' to wear to dinner. (After all, I had on the clothes for 30+ hours by that time.)
We returned to the room to find . . . OUR LUGGAGE! KUDOS to Princess and KLM! We found out later that the reason that the ship left late was because a truck of luggage arrived (OURS).
After unpacking and taking a quick catnap (we had not slept much on the plane, so we had been up for most of 34+ hours by this time), we headed to dinner. We were seated at a table with three ladies from New York and this is where the Princess excellence began.
Our Waiter Roberto, Assistant Waiter Florin, Head Waiter Francisco and Maitre d' Sylvio were the BEST I have ever had. Francisco and Sylvio stopped by several times during each meal, many times sitting at the table with us and chatting. Our glasses were never less than 2/3 full until Florin would fill them again. They were all fantastic. I can't say I remember much more about the first evening dinner; we then went to the room and collapsed.
The First Full Day
We slept late on Thursday, and grabbed a quick bite in the Café Cabanna. We then confirmed our tour for London the next day and headed to the heated pools and hot tubs. It was a pleasant and relaxing day, with drinks in the swim-up bar and cocktails before dinner at Kipling's.
This was formal night, and getting ready for dinner, Tony discovered that he had left his tuxedo in the closet at home. Luckily, he had a white dinner jacket along. Our service at dinner was excellent, but Sylvio and Francisco were upset that we had not come to breakfast in the dining room. We promised them that we would before the cruise ended.
We skipped the show that evening. Tony headed up to the casino; I just relaxed and took in the atmosphere of the ship. I met up with our tablemates later in the evening in the Stage Door, which becomes the disco later in the evening. It is the Stage Door that holds the complaint I have about this ship. The DJ "Jazz" is the worst I have ever seen: he would be partying behind the bar with the bartender, etc., and the music would stop. Eventually, he would get around to doing something about it. I immediately complained to the Senior Assistant Cruise Director, who told me that they practically have to hand hold him. Again, something was said to "JAZZ" and he did get better, but he played the same horrible music every night. Several days later, I wrote a formal complaint to the Cruise Director -- more on that later.
After a relaxing and rejuvenating day at sea, we were up early as the ship sailed into Dover, England, past those beautiful white cliffs. We booked the "London On Your Own" tour and enjoyed the bus ride (about two hours) into London on what proved to be a lovely day, weather-wise. We hit the typical sites, including "The Disney Store." It was VERY busy at all the tourist sites, which is why in some cases it is really better to take tours that include entrance to what you want to see. Lines were very long at the attractions.
On to Paris
It was up early on Saturday, August 12 for our "Paris Highlights" tour. It is more than a 2½ hour drive from Le Havre to Paris, but worth it. The bus did stop halfway for a pit stop, which helped break up the tour. Our guide was very nice and spoke five different languages. There were times that I wished she would just shut up, but she was informative.
The guide kept the dialogue going as we made our way into the city, pointing out various points of interest. Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower, then on to the five major "city squares" by the Louvre; a photo stop in front of the Louvre where Marie Antoinette was beheaded; down the Champs d'Elysees, and on to lunch at a quaint restaurant named Chez Jenny.
After lunch, we headed to Notre Dame, where it was very crowded, but since we were with a tour group, we went directly in. We were able to explore on our own through this magnificent structure and then had some time on our own before heading back to Le Havre. Since it was the anniversary of my mother's death, I lit a candle in her memory. All in all, a very eventful and great day. The weather was fantastic.
The ship was quiet that evening, as many were tired from the days tours.
Sunday - Plymouth, England
The day dawned very cloudy and ended up being very NASTY -- rain and cool. I was surprised by this lovely port town: the downtown area was bustling. We strolled around downtown before heading down to the Mayflower Steps, at which point, the downpour started and we got drenched to the core. We stayed in this area of the city for quite a while before heading along the coastline and walking back to the ship. Even though it was miserable, it was quite a fun, relaxing day.
Monday found the Crown Princess in Dublin, Ireland. We opted to take the ship's shuttle ($4.00 per person) into town and explore on our own. We took one of the first shuttles and enjoyed another sunny, partly-cloudy pleasant day. We hit the typical tourist sites, including Trinity College, Dublin Castle and St. Patrick's Cathedral; we also had an Irish Coffee at a local pub. Late in the afternoon, a light drizzle began and we took one of the shuttles back to the ship.
On Tuesday, we were docked in Scotland, near Glasgow. We had opted for a tour into Edinburgh, which included entrance into Edinburgh Castle. It was another lovely day and a very scenic drive, approximately 1½ hours each way. We went immediately to the castle and were there, mostly on our own for about two hours. Then we proceeded on a tour of various parts of the city, including Holyrood Palace, then onto lunch at a local hotel right off the Royal Mile. Then after lunch, we had time on our own until we proceeded back to the ship.
Upon returning to the ship, we found that we were docked right next to the Royal Princess, so I got to see my favorite ship!
Tripped Up in Iceland
Wednesday turned out to be a pleasant, windy day, but we were able to sit out on the deck and enjoy the fresh air. Of course, the pools were heated, so a dip anytime was great fun.
Thursday dawned sunny and pleasant as the ship sailed into Reykjavik, Iceland. We headed off on our own -- it is quite a walk into town, but we decided to start walking instead of waiting for the shuttle. It didn't take long until we saw a cab come by; I waved it down and we were soon on our way.
We had considered having the cab take us out to the Blue Lagoon, but it would have cost about $140 roundtrip to go out there, but the driver would have waited for us for 1½ hours. We opted to stay downtown. We started out at the first shop we found, then headed over to the tourist information office to see what information they had. There is a bus to the Blue Lagoon that was considerably cheaper, but we opted to just explore. It is lovely, but watch the sidewalks, as the cobblestones are slippery.
On our walk, we headed down a flight of slate stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was a drainage grate. You couldn't tell by looking at it as you descended the steps that the grate was 2 inches lower than the landing, and of course, yours truly stepped just on the edge of the brick and the rest is history.
I was able to walk on the foot with no pain, but could feel it swelling. We found a pharmacy and purchased an ace bandage, then headed for a cab back to the ship. Once on the ship, I went to the Pursers Desk, and they sent me to the medical center immediately. The nurse showed up within a few minutes. She (Jo) looked at the foot and called the doctor (Johan). It showed no signs of breakage and he suggested that we wrap it and look at it again the next day. So be it!
Tony and I (on crutches) then went to get a hamburger. While eating, one of the pursers was sitting at the table next to us; he instructed me to go to the Pursers Desk and get a wheelchair. We went there directly after eating and within 10 minutes I was in a wheelchair! At least this happened when most of the ports were over and we had many sea days coming.
We enjoyed a lovely dinner on board that evening, with the dining room staff showing extra attention to me. I couldn't even wheel myself around the ship without a crew member trying to help me! KUDOS, PRINCESS! Only one problem: the wheelchair didn't have a drink holder!
Friday was another day at sea as the ship headed to Prins Christian Sund and Greenland. We spent the day relaxing, playing trivia, etc. It was quite an enjoyable day, made all the more so by all the 'mothers' and 'grandmothers' on board who, when seeing me in the wheelchair, continually kept checking on me! I went back to the doctor, and the swelling had gone down. He took X-rays and was able to find no breaks.
Saturday was the anticipated day of Prins Christian Sund cruising. Princess brought on board "Ice Captain" Tom and his wife, Geisala, from Denmark. Tom is a specialist in navigating through fjords and icebergs; it was his job to see if we were able to navigate the Sund. Of the past six Princess transatlantic cruises that had attempted to navigate the Sund, only one had been able to successfully do so. It was now our turn. Were we going to be able to make it, or were the icebergs too plentiful and big to safely transit this scenic waterway?
The day was foggy and rainy -- not a good sign. Then the clouds lifted a little, but still had intermittent rain, but we were heading into the SUND!!! This is an absolutely lovely transit, viewing glaciers and icebergs. The icebergs were much bigger than the ones I had seen in Alaska. At one point, the captain stopped the ship and took down a lifeboat with ship's photographers aboard for some breathtaking photos. One was of the Crown Princess next to an iceberg about half the ship's size! It was a magnificent day, despite the weather.
That evening, our tablemates (Mary, Anna, Ellen), the three ladies from New York, ran into the Purser's Secretary, Susan. They had met her last year on a Grand Princess Mediterranean cruise. We became friendly with Susan and her parents who were onboard from Australia. Susan included us on an invitation for drinks and dinner at the bistro that evening, in celebration of her birthday. Also invited, besides our tablemates, were the Ice Captain and his wife, as well as the Staff Captain!
We had a lovely evening -- much of the discussion was about the beautiful day transit of the Sund and the anticipation of stepping foot on Greenland, a port where few ships are actually able to land. The Staff Captain tried to convince me to allow the crew to carry me onto the tender so I could actually say I was on Greenland! I decided to refuse the kind offer, as I felt that if the seas were rough, it would put the crew in danger as well as me. At least I would have seen Greenland.
Sunday dawned foggier than anything I have ever seen in my life. You could barely see the railing on deck for the fog. Many passengers were walking around with frowns, as the captain announced that it didn't look good for actually disembarking in Greenland. But . . . slowly the fog lifted enough to bring down the tenders, and the throngs descended on the town of Qaqorttoq, Greenland. A town of only 3400 residents, hosting a ship with 1600 passengers, not including crew -- even the crew were excited to get off here! It is a very picturesque town and passengers were thrilled to have actually made it! That was the talk of the evening!
A Day, then NewfoundlandMonday found the Crown Princess at sea, enroute to St. Johns, Newfoundland. There were intermittently choppy seas, but overall a great day to enjoy trivia, etc. On Tuesday, the Crown Princess docked right downtown in St. Johns. Tony opted to explore on his own; I just chose to sit out on deck (a beautiful, warm sunny day) and enjoy the sun and views. Looking around the town, it was quite hilly but again, very picturesque. The townsfolk were out and about.
Wednesday and Thursday were sea days, with Wednesday being the better one, weather-wise. We relaxed around the pool in a lounge for a while, just enjoying the sun, with an occasional trip to the cabin to pack.
On Friday, the Crown Princess headed past the Statue of Liberty to her berth, and the decks were full of passengers enjoying the lovely view. We headed up to the Lido for breakfast, then retrieved the multitude of carry-ons from our room, before heading to the Atrium, Deck 5, where those requiring assistance were to meet.
Disembarkation began at approximately 8:50am, and things went downhill from there, no fault of Princess. For some reason, Customs was not allowing passengers off the ship in the anticipated time slots. And did panic ever set in among many passengers! We had anticipated leaving the ship around 9:15 -- we got called at 10:45. At 10:10, there were still passengers on the ship for 11:00 am flights and the Purser had no idea why Customs was doing this. It was the complete opposite in July when I sailed on the Pacific Princess out of and into New York.
We headed off the ship, got a porter to take the luggage and wheel me to the bus and then were on our way. Our flight was out of the Newark airport -- we arrived at the Continental gates at 12:10 and were met by many porters and personnel to handle wheelchairs. I was immediately put in a chair and over came a gentleman to process our tickets. Within 5 minutes, we were on the way to the gate. Our flight into Washington/Dulles was on time, and the end of an absolutely fabulous trip had come.
Impressions of the Crown Princess
I have heard some say that the Crown Princess is "dreary." Her atrium in particular isn't as "glitzy" as the Sun class ships. You must remember that she is 10 years old and some of this is attributed to the overall design. I absolutely loved the Crown, and Tony commented that he liked it better than the Grand. I think that some of the newer ships are designed to cram as much into the ship's hull as possible, but the Crown doesn't give this feeling at all. Her passageways are wide as you stroll from the Crown Court Restaurant to the International Show Lounge; there are sitting areas next to windows.
The use of light woods throughout gives her a light and airy feeling. In the stairways, Princess used stainless steel railings, etc., instead of brass as on many of the newer ships. This gives a less "glitzy" feel, in my opinion. The ship is kept in absolutely immaculate shape. Constant cleaning, shampooing, polishing and replacing keeps everything clean and tidy.
I would like to have a promenade that wraps around the ship, but she doesn't.
The Atrium, oval in shape, is three stories tall and was more than ample to hold the champagne waterfall, which ended up being quite a party; people danced in the atrium with the staff until after 1:30 am (just wish they would do that in the disco). On Deck 5 of the Atrium was the Pursers Desk, a grand piano for music and the Patisserie, along with an abundance of seating. Deck 6 Atrium has the jewelry and collectible shops and a bar; on Deck 7 are the clothing/logo shops. This area did tend to bunch up when sale tables were put out.
The International Show Lounge, where the nightly production shows are held, is basically three levels, but the upper two balconies don't hold many. It is not an unobstructed view, with poles in the way of some of the seats, just like many of the older ships have.
Our favorite hangout fast became the Intermezzo with David Crathorne at the piano (he was outstanding) and Kipling's, with two different trios playing throughout the evening.
The Stage Door became the disco in the evening. It was an older crowd, but after seeing the dancing at the champagne waterfall, I decided that it if the proper music was played, it could be hopping. However, the DJ, "Jazz," preferred to play the same 'rap-type' songs every evening, and many times wasn't even in the room at all, or could be seen behind the bar. I complained to William Garcia, Senior Assistant Cruise Director about him (we had met Will on a previous cruise). He said that the DJ had been told many times what was expected and they had to watch him closely. It seems that no matter what, John Lawrence, the Cruise Director, backed up the DJ. I then wrote a letter of complaint to Mr. Lawrence and have yet to hear from him about the situation. Instead, he told the DJ that I had a problem with his music and then "Jazz" called and confronted me about it.
The food in the Crown Court was VERY GOOD to EXCELLENT. Our Waiter, Roberto. and Assistant Waiter, Florin, took excellent care of us. Our glasses would barely get 2/3 empty before they were re-filled. If we made a special request, it was met. Our table became notorious for its jocularity and Head Waiter, Francisco, and Maitre d', Sylvio, would stop by our table several times during the evening to visit, even at times sitting and joining us. Francisco made special pastas for our tables on four evenings. Francisco asked us why we didn't show up for breakfast, so we told him that we would the next morning --when we went in for open seating, there was a RESERVED table just for us. As Tony said, we have never been catered to as we were on this ship.
Room Service consisted of typical fruits, cereals, etc. No hot items were available for delivery to your cabin. The Café Cabanna (Lido) buffet served normal buffet fare, average to good (believe me, no one went hungry), but the selection was less extensive than that on the Grand Princess. There was also a salad bar and the hamburger/hot dog selections.
The entertainment was the typical good Princess product. The pianist in the Intermezzo, David Crathorne was particularly good. The normal shows were as seen on most ships: revues, jugglers, magicians. One thing troubles me -- Princess has hired a new dance troupe, a Terhune Dance Troupe [Ed: No relation to our own Doug Terhune] to take over the shows on some of their ships. Their first show was towards the end of the cruise and it was beyond belief: HORRIBLE. The dancers were out of sync and acted as if they were bored. By mid-show, half of the passengers had left -- I have never seen this on any other ship before. Too bad that the dancers from this troupe didn't put the enthusiasm into the show as they did into partying, drinking and fondling each other in the disco each evening. However, by the farewell show, they had shaped up and this show was considerably better. Also, they weren't seen carousing as much.
The entire Purser's Staff, but especially Susan, Matthew, Dallas, William, Ophelia and Andrea were particularly helpful during all parts of the cruise. Matthew couldn't hardly believe that I could actually laugh when I reported the luggage lost to him on embarkation, especially after our flight. William was particularly helpful with obtaining my wheelchair and every time he saw me, would ask how I was doing and if there was anything that could be done. If I requested something, he took care of it, even if he wasn't on duty.
Cabin steward, James, was outstanding. After I fell, he got a stool for the shower, five extra pillows, and rearranged the cabin for the chair. If he saw me come to the cabin by myself, he always asked if I needed anything and would open the door to the cabin and wheel me in.
The Crown Court Restaurant staff was outstanding.
But Also . . .
The DJ, "Jazz" played horrible music, and was just plain out to party, not to play music. Cruise Director John Lawrence acted in a most unprofessional manner. When I wrote my complaint to him, he should have contacted me to discuss my views, not given my name to the DJ and had him contact me. Would a school principal, upon receiving a complaint about a teacher from a parent, just tell the parent to contact the teacher? I think not. I do intend to write a letter to Princess corporate offices to air my displeasure as to how the situation was handled.
Overall, an absolutely fantastic trip, one that Tony says he'd like to re-do. Yes, I'd definitely sail on the Crown Princess again too!
PHOTOS courtesy of Princess Cruises
John Mills has written many reviews for the SeaLetter and may be reached at: John.Mills@hq.doe.gov.
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