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Princess Cruises: Crown Princess

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Apr 28, 2017

Review of Crown Princess

Casey Age: 22 Occupation:Student Number of Cruises: 3 Cruise Line: Princess Ship: Crown Princess Sailing Date: 2016-06-14 Itinerary: Alaska Overall, the stops were very fun, however it would have been more fun if I wasn't on a boat the whole time. My family and I agreed that we won't be going on another cruise anytime soon. The service was not good. You can tell the employees didn't want to be there. The major disappointment was getting into Victoria,

BC 2 hours late. Once we docked, they couldn't let us off the boat because of a group of people that weren't cleared. I feel like it would have been smarter if they dealt with that group of people before docking. Another thing, on one of the last days, they painted some things and the whole ship smelled of paint which was unpleasant. I am a vegetarian and I found the food to be extremely infuriating. The buffets did not have adequate signs. It was almost impossible for me to dissever what had or didn't have meat in it. There was meat hidden in thinks like potato salad. It was difficult to ask the employees because they were unaware and didn't understand. I went to get ramen at the buffet and asked if they had vegetarian miso broth, the employee said yes but it turns out it was chicken miso. It was better for me to dine at the sit down restaurants but ultimately, I didn't completely trust Princess with my food. They have non-vegetarian meals labeled as vegetarian. I mean, literally, "Vegetarian blah blah blah, with salmon" It's kind of ridiculous. My stateroom was good. I didn't spend too much time in it. The only thing that really bothered me was the first night I went to take a shower and there was a ton of hair on the walls of the shower, absolutely disgusting. Makes me wonder what else they didn't clean. There was karaoke which was fun. There was also bingo and outdoor movies. Make sure to book your excursions with the excursion's website/phone number only. Not through any second party (other than the Princess) There seems to be a lack of communication if not directly booked. Overall it was a fun trip, I very much enjoyed the stops. The cruise part was fun because we made it fun with our friends and family. In the future, we will not be traveling by cruiseship

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By howdy69

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Apr 4, 2017

Top best

This is one of the top of the line ship going to Alaska. Very luxurious and breath taking.

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Mar 3, 2017

A Ship Too Large

This was our first large ship experience, and we found it crowded and tiring. The huge size made getting anywhere a daunting hike, especially for someone with mobility issues. Waits for elevators were frequent. Just feeding such a large number of passengers makes hot food a virtual impossibility, except in the intimate little International Cafe. Food quality was not of the best compared with comparable cruise lines. Think flavorless bacon, meat sometimes

tough, little variety in fruit or vegetables, almost no ethnic cuisine except for occasional steam table offerings in the Lido. We missed the themed meals (Italian nights, etc.) and special food events such midnight buffets that we are used to on other cruise lines. Public spaces were crowded, noisy, and echoing, with insufficient seating for events in the atrium. In fact, except for the meagerly stocked library, it was hard to find anyplace to sit, especially a quiet place. In favor of the Crown Princess, the itinerary was imaginative (Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Cape Horn). Stability was quite good considering the rough seas in the far southern latitudes. The open dining option worked very well for us; seldom a wait for a table for two, if we picked our times carefully; but then, we usually dine late even at home. Service throughout the ship was friendly and helpful.The crew is drawn seemingly from all the world, but command of English was generally quite good. Overall, we wouldn't be tempted to travel again on a ship this large.

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Mar 3, 2017

A Ship Too Large

This was our first large ship experience, and we found it crowded and tiring. The huge size made getting anywhere a daunting hike, especially for someone with mobility issues. Waits for elevators were frequent. Just feeding such a large number of passengers makes hot food a virtual impossibility, except in the intimate little International Cafe. Food quality was not of the best compared with comparable cruise lines. Think flavorless bacon, meat sometimes

tough, little variety in fruit or vegetables, almost no ethnic cuisine except for occasional steam table offerings in the Lido. We missed the themed meals (Italian nights, etc.) and special food events such midnight buffets that we are used to on other cruise lines. Public spaces were crowded, noisy, and echoing, with insufficient seating for events in the atrium. In fact, except for the meagerly stocked library, it was hard to find anyplace to sit, especially a quiet place. In favor of the Crown Princess, the itinerary was imaginative (Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Cape Horn). Stability was quite good considering the rough seas in the far southern latitudes. The open dining option worked very well for us; seldom a wait for a table for two, if we picked our times carefully; but then, we usually dine late even at home. Service throughout the ship was friendly and helpful.The crew is drawn seemingly from all the world, but command of English was generally quite good. Overall, we wouldn't be tempted to travel again on a ship this large.

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Jun 13, 2016

Alaska

Overall, the stops were very fun, however it would have been more fun if I wasn't on a boat the whole time. My family and I agreed that we won't be going on another cruise anytime soon. The service was not good. You can tell the employees didn't want to be there. The major disappointment was getting into Victoria, BC 2 hours late. Once we docked, they couldn't let us off the boat because of a group of people that weren't cleared. I feel like

it would have been smarter if they dealt with that group of people before docking. Another thing, on one of the last days, they painted some things and the whole ship smelled of paint which was unpleasant. I am a vegetarian and I found the food to be extremely infuriating. The buffets did not have adequate signs. It was almost impossible for me to dissever what had or didn't have meat in it. There was meat hidden in thinks like potato salad. It was difficult to ask the employees because they were unaware and didn't understand. I went to get ramen at the buffet and asked if they had vegetarian miso broth, the employee said yes but it turns out it was chicken miso. It was better for me to dine at the sit down restaurants but ultimately, I didn't completely trust Princess with my food. They have non-vegetarian meals labeled as vegetarian. I mean, literally, "Vegetarian blah blah blah, with salmon" It's kind of ridiculous. My stateroom was good. I didn't spend too much time in it. The only thing that really bothered me was the first night I went to take a shower and there was a ton of hair on the walls of the shower, absolutely disgusting. Makes me wonder what else they didn't clean. There was karaoke which was fun. There was also bingo and outdoor movies. Make sure to book your excursions with the excursion's website/phone number only. Not through any second party (other than the Princess) There seems to be a lack of communication if not directly booked. Overall it was a fun trip, I very much enjoyed the stops. The cruise part was fun because we made it fun with our friends and family. In the future, we will not be traveling by cruiseship

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Dec 30, 2012

Mediterranean

I boarded the Crown Princess on November 20th for Eastern Med ports to Venice and a transatlantic voyage back to Galveston, arriving December 22nd. I've cruised extensively (over 500 days in the last ten years) but this was my initial cruise on Princess. This 32 day cruise was the worst sailing I've ever experienced by far for the following reasons! There was a massive outbreak of the norovirus onboard because of unsanitary conditions and the lack

of preventive measures the first 14 days of the voyage. In addition, the service was horrible with most crew often more concerned with socializing and talking among themselves than providing service to passengers. Plus unauthorized billings were posted to my account and I spent several days correcting the mistakes. We were also "held hostage" in the dining room for over two hours when required to process through customs in Florida without any explanation from Princess. The food selection in the buffet was minimal and often cold and unappealing. If you are considering booking a cruise on this ship, I would recommend you reconsider and focus on many other ships that deliver the type of services and safety appropriate for the fees you pay!

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Nov 15, 2012

mediteranean

Princess cruise offers acceptable standards but extremely disappointing customer service. Before and after the cruise I noticed that serious weakness. Now I am very upset because on my last cruise in september 2012 I bought and paid on my credit card $700 of photos taken on that cruise. Their sale pitch was that they would deliver those at my door. Six weeks later I have not received anything and trying to get an answer or explanation is a

nightmare. I called several times, i wrote and still... nothing!!!!.They behave like ...we have your $700 now and we couldn't care less about you.We are not talking here about being overcharge for a $6 drink,this is about $700 i gave them based on trust. Never again Princess cruise. good food good cabin good entertainment good destinations

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By Mary_CR

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Jun 2, 2012

Caribbean

This was our first cruise. Overall we enjoyed the cruise experience. However, we are greatly disturbed by the concern of princess employees for our belongings. We carried my laptop as carry on luggage from home to the arrival at the dock. At that time we were told by an individual, with princess on his uniform, to just put our carry on luggage with the other bags. We informed him that this was carry on and we would take it with us. He said again,

more sternly, just put it with the others. Not knowing any different, we followed his instructions. After leaving port, i attempted to contact our family on the laptop and discovered it had be crushed out of shape and the screen had a very large black area in the upper top left corner of the screen. The damage resulted in my having to pay the cost of using onboard computers which were very slow and very expensive. I brought this to the attention of customer service and filled out a damage claim. After arriving home I contacted princess to follow up with the claim and was told to contact my homeowner's insurance company to see if they would cover the cost. They would not so after contacting princess again, I was told to fill out another claim form and submit, with pictures to their office in California. Long story short, the claim was denied and the reason stated by princess was the personal on the docks are not princess employees, but are contracted by them to handle the baggage on the dock and move it to the ship. Doesn't that make them princess employees? The cost of the laptop is not the issue. But I feel princess does not have the passengers interests at a very high importance level. We will never cruise with princess again. Our money will not make a difference to them, as others will still choose their cruise line. We will do our best to tell any and all not to choose princess. Average. Some good, some not so. I feel a two week cruise should have a different menu for the second week. OK Didn't use them, just enjoyed the leisure time.

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Apr 4, 2012

Southern Caribbean

The ship, food and entertainment were terrible. They wanted my son to use a broken cot to sleep on, he ended up sleeping on the floor for the entire cruise. They were serving spoiled food at the buffet. The entertainment was awful only the comedians were good. Thank goodness for beautiful island so the whole trip wasn't a write off. When customer service was contacted they offered me a $200 on board credit but then told me it we be of no use

because I said I would't cruise with them again. NEVER cruising with princess again!! The food was very poor. According to staff on the ship they have taken many things off the main dinig room menu and put it in the specialty restaurants so you now have to pay for it. The buffet was awful. We ended up eating hamburgers and hotdogs for most of the trip! The room attendant was very good. However they brought a broken cot to the room for my son to use for the week. He ended up sleeping on the floor for the week. Pool was good and the Movies under the stars was good. Layout of the ship was terrible. Took the Hato Caves and Willenstad walking tour excursion which was very good.

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Mar 9, 2012

southampton to norway

Very enjoyable itineary, however the standard overall of the ship was poor. on the 8th deck i noticed a broken fire sound alarm. In mid ship i could not help my eye be attracted to the wearing of the carpet on the stairs. The breakfast room was no more than a cattle market at any time of the morning. Too many passangers for such a small space and service provided. Hence why i ordered breakfast to my room, to avoid long lines of people, and

sitting down to cold foods. Very avarage to other cruises i have been on. I loved it. Just what i had booked, and paid for, spaceious and clean, fantastic cabin boy attended to all my needs and more. he was fantastic, and so helpful and polite. Very average to other cruises i have been on. Very over priced.

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By dh_CR

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Dec 11, 2011

southern carribean

Took the Crown Princess because it is owned by Carnival. Booked early when it was still going to Curacao and Aruba. Itinerary changed to Bonaire and Aruba after made final payment. This cruise is specifically for over the 70 age crowd and repeat Princess cruisers. Food was chopped fine as to accommodate dentures and was not even as good as hospital food, lacking in taste, but good presentation. Just not impressed at all. Movies under the stars

is being used as the ships main entertainment with Clark Gable movies, etc. Comedians are funny if over 70. There was so many seniors carts on the ship they should have had races to see who could go the fastest. Cabins are extremely small and my 5 foot 4 inch, 140 lb. body barely fit in the shower. If this is your first cruise, forget it, as they do not let you know where to get a drink package, coffee package, or how to find your way around the ship. Had to navigate through cabin hallways to get anywhere, no direct access. This cruise is just too expensive for what you get, too many extra charges for water, soda, coffee, alcohol, sancturary $20 day, etc. I would rate the food at a 2/5. Olive Garden serves better pasta and Princess served rusty lettuce salads every single day . Dining room food entre okay but lacked vegetables. Very hard outer crusty bread with no substance inside. Ask for soft buns. The chef served a few things I just could not force myself to eat, tomato soup that had too much lemon in it, watermelon and pumpkin seeds, watermelon was virtually mush. Not once, had a piece of pineapple that was ripe. If you are coming from a Retirement Home the food would be exceptional. Baked Alaska was just ice cream with meringue, no brownie base. The food in the Cafe Caribe was by far the best on the ship and after visiting the dining room in the afternoon to see what they were serving and not finding anything appealing we ate there instead. We ate in the dining room for the 2nd formal night, lobster and shrimp, it was very bland. I would suggest that they get a new head chef or start thinking about the under 70 age groups when it comes to food. Stateroom very small. Room for bed and about a 2 foot walking clearance. Thank goodness we had a balcony and this was the very best part of our room. Bathroom extremely small. Could hardly move around in the shower to wash my hair. Bring your own shampoo and conditioner, theirs may be fine for virgin hair only, made mine very frizzy. Surprisingly they had adequate closet space for two people. But there was no way both of us could get ready for dinner at the same time, one had to lie on the bed or sit on the balcony while the other got ready. Mattress very hard. I had mine changed with no problem. Cabin steward very efficient, but no animal towels made up at nighttime. Coffee served in the room in morning arrived consistently 10 minutes early. No captain announcements heard in the cabin. On board activities are good if you are over 70. All shows geared to over 70. Princess theater shows just repeats. The princess patter would say one thing and then another would happen. Times changed. Tour of the ship was too early at 2 pm on embarkation day, we missed it as could not find the 18th floor. Had a terrible time navigating around the ship, elevators do not have enough information in them as to what deck to go to for what service. Botticelli dining room difficult to get to. Not all elevators go to all decks. Just nothing offered that was fun for under 70 unless you like to play Bingo. WE did no excursions that were booked through Princess. This was an unforgettable trip (never again). I am 53 and traveled with my husband 47. We simply would not take another Princess cruise. Everything is aimed at the retirement crowd and return cruisers. Once on board, in order to have a good time you really need to bring $1000.00 US each to spend on extras, so you can enjoy a cappuccino coffee x2 was $8.00, water in your room 3.75, a glass of wine 7.95, crappy picture on formal night (40$), a place to lay on a lounger (Sanctuary 20 a day each), massage approx $100, acupuncture $150 first visit, coffee card $29, 6 coke package in room $11, coke on decks $50.00, juice ?, too many extra charges, even the airline offered free coke, and drinks while flying. People say that Princess is better, I don't think they have cruised with other lines so cannot compare.

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Aug 6, 2011

UK

I have cruised with Celebrity and with Princess (Alaska and the UK). Princess is lacking on so many levels. The phone in my room didn't work, and after talking to guest services three times, I gave up trying. Our sink required repair as it wouldn't drain. Hopefully the next occupant of that stateroom will have better luck. In two different laundry rooms, machines were out of order and the dispensers didn't dispense detergent (they did take the

quarters, however). We bought 150.00 worth of minutes on wifi and were able to use approx. half simply because we could never get on. The cruise is charging up front for something it cannot deliver. The two tours I booked were rushed and and overpriced. The food in both the dining room and the Horizons Buffet was sub-standard. Really unsatisfactory. I did enjoy the coffees and light lunches at the International Cafe on Deck 5. Phone not working, sink needed a repair, both lamps were loose and wobbly, and the pillows were terrible (lumpy and small). Our cabin steward was great though and we appreciated her efforts. Make your own arrangements for excursions. Apart from some problems with the cruise, the staff was helpful and friendly and we loved the UK. I will not cruise with Princess again.

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Apr 5, 2011

weatern carribbean

A lovely ship, with nice amenities such as movies under the stars and during the day, several pools with activities at each, very good entertainment, comedy shows a hypnotist, zumba classes...... However, not enough to do for a younger crowd day during the day.... somewhat quiet. the mini golf was almost unplayable, no organized basketball games, small gym... trivia, bingo and dance lessons during the day not enough for a younger crowd. Any

time dining is a free for all.. you are not allowed to make reservations between 6:00 - 7:30 but you must show up and get a beeper. Creates stress on a vacation and a feeling of being " with the masses " the matre d actually has words with you if you question the policy... why not let the passengers make reservations for the time they do want to eat? if you do not then you stand in line and receive a beeper. The first 45 days of the cruise the food was barely tolerable but i believe they wanted to leave you with a fond memory and the last 3 days very good.... The buffet was average at best, and the availability of snacks limited... Very nice everything worked properly and we were upgraded free to a lovely balcony Well run by the staff who was very entertaining, but limited.... day time needed more fun activities for the younger crowd.... We loved the a.t.v in cozumel, great adventure and accessible for all ages.... Overall great fun, but have enjoyed the Royal Caribbean ships more.... more accessible snacks/light food during night and day, more activities parades, quest, ice skating etc..

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By Greg_CR

  • New

Jan 23, 2011

Cozumel

We had a wonderful time with few exceptions. We had gone on two previous Carnival cruises (last 2 years), Norwegian (about 10 years ago) and Princess out of Boston (15 years ago) this cruise was better than those. Better than the two previous Carnival cruises we'd been on but only "good". The deserts were not very good and the main courses are good but not the 5* dining they seem to like to portray it as. The quality of the food seemed to diminish

with the number of days onboard and the deserts (other than the cookies) were not up to par. The buffet lines were very manageable, we only had one night where we waited 10 minutes to get to the food. We had a balcony stateroom (R623) on the Riviera deck (directly below the food court and we were concerned about noise). It was very quiet but small. The beds are too hard for my taste but not so bad that I couldn't get used to it. The shower is particularly small and we wondered how some of the larger passengers made do (I'm 5'10", 200 lbs and I had trouble turning around). We chose a balcony but for the first time, we picked the lowest category and let the cruise line pick the room for us. This turned out very good and I would take the chance again to save the $. We did have a chance to look at a suite before we left. It was huge and had a soaking tub and good size marbled stand-up shower. Worth the extra $, maybe if it's a special occasion. They had plenty to do. The dance/singing shows are geared to a much older crowd but they had 2 comedians and a comic magician who were all very good. They also had the usual fare like game shows, bingo, ice carving and the like. The party scene is subdued compared to Carnival but this was a pleasant change for us. They had a few deck parties but most nights were "movies under the stars" at the main pool. The crowd, in general, was older so I think the lack of pool side parties was appropriate and there is a nightclub for the younger crowd. We did a turtle farm in the Caymans and Gumbalimba park in Honduras. The turtle farm was ok, the part we liked the best was a freshwater pool with waterfall that most people didn't seem to take notice of so it was quiet and very nice place to relax and swim. What they didn't tell us was you can go across the street and watch people swimming with the Dolphins. It's free to get in and $20p.p. if you want to join them. Also, you can walk to the right of the dolphin encounter to the rum cake factory. We had missed out on the more expensive excursion to the Dolphins and rum cake but the turtle farm alone was still available. Turned out we could easily do all three with just a ride to the turtles. Gumbalimba Park in Honduras was our favorite excursion. The tour guide we had was wonderful and she gave us plenty of time with the monkeys along with island information. The park has birds, lizards, and monkeys that you can hold and has lush forest areas to explore as well as a beach. Princess Cays Island is just a large beach. There were plenty of chairs but you can reserve (or purchase once on the island .... there were plenty empty ones) a shaded lounge (for 2) if you like. Our main problem with this port is that the tenders took forever. They use the lifeboats to get you to shore and it took us an hour (most waiting in a hot room) to get off the ship. We also tendered in Honduras but they used larger ferries that made the process much smoother. They do serve an included lunch which was nice. We arrived for embarkation at 1:45 and breezed onto the ship with no lines. I had requested a few things for the cabin, none were done and it took me awhile to track down the steward but by bedtime they had it all right. We went for the "anytime" dining option which worked out well for us but if you want a particular table size, you can call to make reservations instead of waiting (we only waited 15 minutes at the most). All of the staff were good but we didn't get that outstanding person that we normally find on cruises. Our steward did his job but was not as attentive as those we have encountered on Carnival. The room was very small but we liked being on the Riviera deck because coffee was close by in the morning. The Riviera deck balconies are shaded by the deck above so sun bunnies would not like this but it worked for us. We also found the room to be very quiet with no toilet flushing noises or noise from above. We also didn't hear slamming doors all night which has been a problem for me on other cruises. I assume this was due to the older crowd and people understanding that others are trying to sleep. After reading my review, I see I am being very picky. The truth is, we had a great time and will do a Princess cruise again (sans Princess Cay). They don't pay as much attention to detail as in the past but the overall experience was excellent. Next year will either be another Princess or a Holand cruise

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Dec 26, 2010

Grand Turk

We will never again sail Princess.This ship is riddled with issues. Overall, very poor customer service and care. We are not first time cruisers and have several ships to which we can make comparisons. This one was the worst. They completely ruined our vacation. Other passengers were very angry at the Any Time Dining reservations. They made their reservations only to find that there were no available tables when they got there. Why make reservations

then? Any Time Dining is NOT the way to go. (Unles you enjoy eating in the Horizon Court...NOT!) Other passengers said the cruise line messed up their birthdays-one woman who is actually 44 was given a birth year to be 13-so she was not allowed in the casino! She said they never were able to fix the problem. The crew notified us an hour late that when we were arriving back to Port Everglades we were at Pier 29! A long way from Pier 2! So they had 2 small shuttle buses for 3000 passengers to take us to where we should have been at pier 2. In addition, the bus driver was waving a dollar bill at us announcing that he would appreciate being tipped. What a nightmare! The food at the Horizon Court was HORRIBLE. Breakfast was cold-cold-COLD. I selected a waffle which was so hard I couldn't even saw through it with a knife. The eggs were cold and runny. They did not have any egg stations where you could order an omelet. The selections for lunch were not very good-the meat and pork slices were like shoe leather. So we ate bread and salads.The only place to eat on this ship is in the restaurant. Breakfast there was ok. AT least you can get hot food there. There is a small pizza station on deck 15 which was good. This was the first cruise we went on where we actually LOST weight. The staeroom was ok. The bed was very lumpy and hard-in need of replacement. Very small showers. They had a young lady from Australia calling the final jackpot Bingo-she completely messed up the color cards, called out incorrect numbers on the lines and mangled rhyming every number she called. She was horrible and many people were angry. They need to remove her from calling Bingo. The Spa was nice especially during port days when you could have the whirlpools and spa area almost to yourself. This trip started out badly. When we arrived at the port, it was raining, not unusual for Florida. The porters took our luggage and other passengers told us that during a downpour, the porters ran for cover and left our luggage out in the pouring rain for over an hour. When our luggage arrived that evening, we had puddles of water inside the bags and of course our clothes were completely soaked. After we complained, they laundered our clothing and returned it 2 1/2 days later. Dry clean only clothing was ruined. We had no clothing for that period of time-we missed the formal night dining and our 5 day cruise was ruined from the get go. They couldn't have enough customer care to even throw a tarp over the luggage or make arrangements to protect our luggage in the rain. We will never sail Princess again. Very, very poor customer care.RCCL and Celebrity have never treated us so poorly.

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Dec 21, 2010

western carribean

Overall the cruise was Good. HATED the REAR FACING CABIN. If you like to vibrate 100% of the time even in ports etc., then you'll love the cabin--we hated it. I had to take down any empty hangers because of the constant clattering. The room steward would hang them back up and I would take them down because of the noise. There was no stopping to the vibration. Even when we docked in ports and even when we docked back in Ft. Lauderdale when

we arrived back home--it was constant vibration, vibration, vibration, I cannot see why people love the rear facing cabins--all they do is vibrate. This was my sixth cruise and I had never had constant vibration. And of course, if the seas got worst you not only had the constant vibration, but also the wave motion. The wave motion is better than the constant vibration. Very iritating. Grand Caymen had high waves so they cancelled all watersport activities including going to the beach. Cloudy cool day in Grand Caymen 72 degrees with very little sun. Cozumel was not much better, cloudy and very little sun with the high going to 73 degrees, even Roatan, Honduras was cloudy with some sun , but again cool 73 degrees. The water was actually warmer than the air temperature. You had to have a jacket if you were on anykind of snorkeling trip which we were. Thank God, we brought our zip up sweatshirts. The food was okay in Horizon Court--it was always hot, but just okay. Food on Deck 5 was better at the pastry shop/salads & sandwiches. Pizza was always hot. Hamburgers were made to order. Room Service was okay--food was not piping hot at all. Now the Crown Grill was EXCELLENT!!!! We ate there 4 nights and should have eaten there every night. Anything we tried on the menu was EXCELLENT!!!!. Steaks were cooked to perfection!!!! And very tender--especially the NY Strip Boneless and Filet of Mignon. The 22 oz Porterhouse was good, but the other two were GREAT!!! All the sides we tried at Crown Grill were AWESOME!!!!. You can have as manny steaks as you want, as many sides as you want, as many appetizers and salad as well as desserts. And for a mere $25.00 per person--it is a steal!!! The steak house can be compared to Ruth Chriss, Morton's, Gibson's any high priced steak house. The food at Crown Grill was OUTSTANDING and could not be compared to any of the other restaurants on board. Even the Iceberg Lettuce was above average at Crown Grill, but the Iceberg Lettuce you got at Horizon Court or in the regular dining rooms was not up to standard -- not as fresh!!! I think you know how I felt about the stateroom---Constant Vibration---Constant Vibration---Constant Vibrations Rear Facing Cabin Baja 749. Balcony was twice as big as a regular balcony cabin and the view was AWESOME, but that did not make up for the Constant vibration constant vibration. As I mentioned the hangers constantly clanged against each other and was very annoying--you had to take them down. The room was clean, had plenty of storage for clothes and suitcases. Room Steward was great. Always knew when to come in to clean. There were times we thought he had a spy cam as to when we were leaving. He was great, but the Constant Vibration really got to you--couldn't wait to get off the ship at the end. It was a blessing that it was only a 7 day cruise! There was a lot to do, you almost had to plan your day on sea days and decide what to do. The Movie Under the Stars and the movies in the Staterooms were great. Had a lot of variety as well as seeing movies that had just come out on DVD or movies that were about to come out on DVD> I know when I came home to buy a couple of the movies we had seen (we had missed part of the movie because of other activities), I was told--Oh that movie doesn't come out until next week. The Adult Only Swimming Pool at the Rear of the Ship of Deck 14 (Riviera) was kept at a warm 85 degrees, which enabled you to go swimming since the other pools were frigid and there was no one in them because the air outside during the day was only 70 to 72 degrees. We did the western carribean. There was always something to do if you wanted to. We booked all of our excursions through the ship since we like to snorkel (we bring our own equipment). If you book through the cruise ship--if you snorkel boat/catamaran breaks down--they will hold the ship until your tour returns. If you go it on your own--you will be on your own to get to the next port. The excursions are always well organized. Boats are very clean and you always have a lot of fun. Don't like the fact that they always ask for a tip at the end. You pay premium prices for the excursions. And of course they always try to sell you something, whether it's their t-shirts or the pictures that they have taken of you. The trip was a nice get-a-way, but next year, I will do the eastern Carribean vs. the Western Carribean. The only warm day we had was the past day of the cruise when we docked at Princess Cays in the Bahamas. Sunny--not a cloud in the sky and warm (they said it was only 75, but it felt like 82 degrees in the sun. Thank god, we rented a Clamshell--you could not stand to be in the sun for any length of time since it was so HOT!!! Saw a lot of people get burned the last day, because they did not realize how potent the sun was. It was 80 degrees in Miami when we got back as well. Hated the rear facing cabin because of the constant vibration. Will not make that mistake again. I still can't believe they charge extra for them as well as putting most of the SUITES back there--imagine paying $2K a person for a suite and constantly vibrate----nothing is worth that. Also, Princess made a big deal about us not having passports!! We had our birth certificates and picture ID. They lead us to believe that they were not going to let us on the ship because they had gotten fined. But on the Princess website, it states passports are highly recommended NOT REQUIRED!!!. When we got to Customs, they said absolutely nothing about us not having passports since we left Ft. Lauderdale and returned to Ft. Lauderdale, but the way Princess acted at the beginning of the trip you would have thought we would have problems returning at customs. At the beginning of the trip, they would not let us on the ship--there were quite a few of us and they hearded us to a room and made us wait for 40 minutes, before they decided they were going to let us on. But as I said, when we got back to Ft. Lauderdale, Customs did not say anything. They asked me what my Dad's middle name was and they asked my husband what his mom's middle name was. And said okay. They did not check our carry on luggage or anything.

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Dec 5, 2010

Western Caribbean

First off, let me explain that I have been on 10 cruises with Carnival Cruise lines and this was my first cruise with Princess. My wife and I are in our mid 50's, so we arent exactly spring chickens but I found that I am much younger than I thought I was. I wanted to find out what the differences were between cruise lines and this is what I found: I am a night owl and I really enjoy night life, especially a good rock cover band. If that is what

you are looking for then don't book on Princess. This is an "older folks" cruise line and you will find the sidewalks rolled up at 11pm and a virtual ghost town after midnight on board. There is always the skywalkers lounge which stays open till later but is mostly used by the younger crew members and no dancing at all from my experiences. There was a caribbean band that played on the pool deck almost every afternoon and the lead singer was amazing at the energy level he had. Talent wise, he was so-so and his back up band was ok but nothing spectacular. I heard the song "hot hot hot" one time too many on this cruise and never did understand the words of his very thick caribbean accent songs. There was another 3 piece band that played in the wheel house bar that was also so-so and played mostly 50's and 60's ballads and a few dance type tunes. Again this was nothing special and the cruise line missed yet another chance to provide some exceptional talent. The music reminded me of what you would hear in a cheap hotel bar on shore...a little talent and one musician that carried the rest of the band through songs that were the worn out songs you always hear at 60's bars. The vegas style shows in the princess theater were exceptional and their show "Motor City" (a MoTown review" was really good even if it lacked the "funk and soul" of the music's original artists. The orchestra for the theatre were all top notch although under used during the cruise. Almost daily there was some sort of entertainment in the ship's piazza which included some jazz, some piano, some violin music. Not my cup of tea but the older folks seemed to enjoy it. The food was so-so. The beef that was offered in the dining rooms was good quality beef but not particularly seasoned. It was cooked to order and presented beautifully. Other items in the main dining rooms was on par for what I have come to expect from Carnival's dinning rooms although overall I really feel like Carnival has better food and better selections of food than Princess has. The cleanliness of the dining areas was by far superior on princess. The food in the buffet lines were ok, but nothing to write home about. I usually ate breakfast and lunch at the horizon buffet and could usually find something that resembled food I was used to. It is strange that for breakfast there were grits on the first day of the 7 day trip and the last morning of the trip. All other days had cream of wheat (which didn't seem to be getting much attention?) Eggs cooked several ways, pastries, and bacon and sausage was the usual fare for breakfast as well as several types of cereals and a lot of fresh fruit. The room service was top of the line and the condition of the ship, including it's cleanliness, was excellent. The Crown princess is a relatively new ship and it shows because there is not much wear and tear on the ship's features and interiors. The beds were made up and the rooms cleaned several times a day and there was always fresh towels in place. There as no shortage of hot water for showers and the toilets flushed as needed. The balcony was ample in size and privacy. The bed was comfortable and was covered with a comforter that doubled as a top sheet. It was warm enough at night and the air conditioning in the room was ample providing that the sliding glass door to the balcony remained closed. The steward was friendly and knowledgable and his english was acceptably good enough to carry on conversations. I ordered room service sandwiches at 2am several nights and it was delivered in a timely manner and by uniformed personnel. Overall there was a lack of coordination for the activities and the main reason is that start times were staggered so that you had to choose one activity or the other, but not both or several activities in a row due to start times that conflicted with each other. The hot tub and pools were clean although the hot tub was noticeably cooler than it could have been to be relaxing. The comedy shows were entertaining and funny. The stores were clean and their prices were reasonable. Of course there was the same jewelry and watch sales as well as some out dated clothing sales on board. The game shows in the lounges was fun to watch and participate in, again geared toward an older crowd. The alcohol seemed to be watered down except for the last night of the cruise. After several large vodka martini's I still didn't even have a buzz and should have been completely drunk if the alcohol was full strength. This is nothing new and I have experienced the same thing on the Carnival cruises. I had 2 massages in the Spa and the young lady giving the massage was professional and VERY thorough. I completely felt like I had rubber legs when she got through with me and wish I had her at home to go to for stress relief. These were steep in price, but you only live once.. I enjoyed both of them tremendously! We took the sailing trip out to the stingray sandbar trip in the Grand Cayman's and we absolutely loved the experience. From the moment we got on the catamaran sailboat the crew had us all at ease and were extremely friendly and knowledgable. They educated us on what we were going to experience and helped us to swim with these magnificent creatures and the stingrays actually seemed to crave our attention and caresses. Sailing back on wind power tot he dock was a pleasure also. Pricing for the pictures of this excursion are a little steep, so be prepared if you want professional pictures to document the experience. Overall, my wife loved the trip. Keep in mind she is an early bird that gets up with the sunrise and goes to bed at sunset most days. I, on the other hand, am a night owl and I sometimes go to bed at sunrise. The trip was almost misery for me although I did ok with it. The total lack of after midnight entertainment was definitely a thumbs down for me but it didn't bother my wife at all. There were children on the ship, but they were rarely seen or heard from and then only around the pools. There is a deck that caters to teens and younger children and they do a great job of keeping them busy and out of the way. There are also quite a few walkers, wheel chairs and hover-rounds in use on the ship by the older passengers. There are even hydraulic lifts to assist older folks getting in and out of the pools and hot tubs if needed. The ports of call are nice but I had been to all of them before except for the Roatan, Honduras port. The shopping at ports is pretty much all the same with the only differences being the names on the t-shirts. I have noticed that prices on goods at these port side shops seems to have risen in the last year quite a lot. Overall I had a good time but I doubt I will cruise with Princess again until I am MUCH older.

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Aug 5, 2010

Norwegian Fjords

My husband and I are avid cruisers and usually travel on luxury lines(Regent, Seabourn etc) we were hoping to find a less costly alternative. We know several people who have enjoyed Princess so we gave them a try. The Princess representative was 11/2 hours late meeting us at Heathrow and the travel papers provided by the cruise line didn't list the London agent. We were just about to buy bus tranfers when he arrived. The rest of the land portion

was without incident. On our return to Heathrow we were told we were not booked on the flight listed on our itinerary and there were no seats on the flight we thought we were booked on. Thankfully the AA supervisor was able to help us. The food was very ordinary. The Horizon Court offers the usual buffet fare. The service was excellent with your empty plates quickly removed and your beverages always refilled. The Calypso Court offers a smaller selection of buffet dishes but the service is night and day from the Horizon. The wait staff spent more time talking with each other than helping passengers. I asked for non fat milk for my coffee and the waiter never returned. We ate dinner in the Da Vinci dining room and while the food was nothing special the service was outstanding. We had anytime dining and were always able to get a table for 2 whenever we went in. We had a balcony staeroom. It had plenty of storage and was always kept clean. The balcony was nice size with comfotable seating. The stateroom was tight and the decor was 80's motel. There was lots to do everyday we were at sea. Meeting and leaving the ship for excursions were very well exected by the staff. The land portions were not as well run. A passenger became very ill during one tour and there was no emergency plan in place. No one from the ship accompanies the tours. My husband and another passengers had to assist the passenger and his companion and help them back to the ship. The service, friendliness of the staff and the space ratio make it a good value for the money. The food, while beautifully presented, is ordinary. This seems to be a great line for multi-generational groups. They have lots of activities for kids and offer a childrens menu in the dining room.

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Mar 22, 2010

Caribbean

This is a big ship that holds lots of people. After the first day, it seemed as though the crowd dispersed well, although there were never enough deck chairs on sea days. It was just me and my husband traveling and we were located on the Riviera Deck 14, so it was very handy to the adult pool deck on 15 aft. I'm an early riser, so I would normally go to the pool area and reserve our two lounge chairs pretty early. By 9:30 am to 10am on sea days,

there are almost no vacant deck chairs to be found. I'm a selective eater and I found the food to be satisfactory. I eat mostly fish and vegetables and those are fine from either the buffet or the regular dining room. However, my husband, a beef eater, ordered "medallions of beef" and "New York strip steak" from the dining menu on two separate occasions. He said both cuts of meat were only so-so and were from the same part of the cow, but were "trimmed" to look like the real things. Obviously, the best cuts of beef are saved for the Crown Grill, the on-board restaurant that charges a cover. I've heard that the specialty restaurants are really good but we are not big eaters so we did not go to either of the specialty restaurants. There was always a lot of fresh fruit available at the buffets. I eat a lot of bananas and they never ran out, so I was happy. The stateroom was fine. Not as large as those on Carnival or Royal Caribbean, but it was nice. I was disappointed that the balcony only held two sit-up type chairs and a small table. I like to lay in the sun on the balcony, but the way it was shaded there was no sun hitting the balcony anyway. The deck staff was always professional and efficient. Our room was kept clean and the bed seemed to be always made unless we were in it. I'd give the stateroom staff 5 stars on this ship. Onboard activities are sort of meh. Typical cruise-ship fare. If the hypnotist has a show on your cruise, be sure to see it. I thought it was pretty good. The gym was really nice, but seemed to be always crowded. I signed up for a yoga class one day and didn't realize they charged for it. These types of exercise classes used to be included in the all-inclusive fare, but the cruise ships have gotten greedy as of late and charge for everything now. The class was O.K., but not worth the $20 they charged for it. We had been to all the islands prior to this cruise and have done several of the excursions in the past and taken taxi tours, so we didn't sign-up for any this trip. I would have liked to take a taxi to downtown Cozumel because the shopping prices there are better than the shops surrounding the port, but it was a bad weather day when we were there so we didn't go into town this trip. Again, the cruise lines are showing their greed. Each of the ports are now set up Disney-like and if you just get off the ship and walk around, you really don't get any of the flavor of the individual islands. Each island had its tourist shopping area as soon as you get off the ship. All the stores are the same, only the T-shirts change island names. I mean, how many Diamonds International and Del Sol shops do you need to visit? Also, gone are the days when you could approach and barter with individual taxi drivers on the islands. Now you dicker with the taxi dispatchers while the actual drivers sit off in a side lot watching to see if they're going to get called over. At Roatan we wanted to take a taxi to a nearby mall that housed an internet cafe and were told that it would be $20 each, each way. That was $80 to go about 6-8 miles roundtrip which we found to be ridiculous. As we turned to go, the dispatcher called out $60, but we just kept walking back to the ship. Having been to the islands several times, it was as expected. The port shopping has expanded and, as mentioned above, most of the shops are the same at each port. The cruise lines will try to deter you away from exploring the islands on your own as they want to get those $$ you brought in their pockets. If you can venture out of the port shopping areas on your own, I'm pretty sure you would get much better pricing. But if decide to sign up for the overpriced ship excursions and deal with the port taxi dispatchers and rental car companies, you will pay a premium price for sightseeing. We weren't able to visit Princess Cay on the scheduled Friday that we were there. The Captain determined that the wind (coming out of the West) was causing too great of a swell/chop in the tendering area so he pulled anchor. Of course there was a stampede for the deck lounge chairs when that announcement was made as it then became a sea day. But it was a gorgeous sea day and a wonderful last day to an enjoyable cruise. We've learned a couple of a years ago to just go and enjoy the ship and cruise itself and forget about the shopping. Once you've been to these islands a time or two, they don't change much. Most anything they sell you can find better prices for at home. I've become just content to enjoy the sun, sleep, read, eat and watch the ocean go by. I'm ready to go again.

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Mar 4, 2010

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise on Princess after NCL (1) and Celebrity (4). Overall, there's nothing better than being on a cruise. We liked the price and size of the room (Junior Suite), but there were several negatives. We, like many, look at the ship as being the main point of the cruise and not necessarily the itinerary. As with many ships, seats were hard to find at b-fast and lunch. The entertainment so-so and the timing of the main shows and

the time necessary for dinner made it difficult to get from one to the other...and find a good seat. The layout of some decks was strange too...not being able to go from one end to the other without going up or down a deck. The food left a lot to be desired. The main buffet for breakfast and lunch is mediocre at best. The main dining room dinners were about the same. Instead of wondering what to order because everything appears really good, I was left wondering what to order because few things on the menu appeared good. The stateroom was wonderful! Very spacious (Junior Suite) at a cost that was less than much smaller rooms on NCL and Celebrity. Plenty of room to hang clothes and and several shelves for t-shirts and other accessories. On board activities were just ok. The rules on some of the games need to be thought-out a bit better. Have been to Grand Caymen before and have always done the rays and snorkel excursion. We have found that other excursions are too expensive and very overrated. We would rather spend time on the ship with fewer people aboard and enjoy the pools. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived around 2pm and there were no lines. Our party of 6 adults left the bus and were on board the ship in about 10 minutes. The service staff throughout the ship are wonderful. On-time arrivals and departures. Crowded buffet area at mealtimes with food that was far below that served on Celebrity. Overall, this was a wonderful cruise with the size of the room and cost well worth it.

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Mar 4, 2010

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise on Princess after NCL (1) and Celebrity (4). Overall, there's nothing better than being on a cruise. We liked the price and size of the room (Junior Suite), but there were several negatives. We, like many, look at the ship as being the main point of the cruise and not necessarily the itinerary. As with many ships, seats were hard to find at b-fast and lunch. The entertainment so-so and the timing of the main shows and

the time necessary for dinner made it difficult to get from one to the other...and find a good seat. The layout of some decks was strange too...not being able to go from one end to the other without going up or down a deck. The food left a lot to be desired. The main buffet for breakfast and lunch is mediocre at best. The main dining room dinners were about the same. Instead of wondering what to order because everything appears really good, I was left wondering what to order because few things on the menu appeared good. The stateroom was wonderful! Very spacious (Junior Suite) at a cost that was less than much smaller rooms on NCL and Celebrity. Plenty of room to hang clothes and and several shelves for t-shirts and other accessories. On board activities were just ok. The rules on some of the games need to be thought-out a bit better. Have been to Grand Caymen before and have always done the rays and snorkel excursion. We have found that other excursions are too expensive and very overrated. We would rather spend time on the ship with fewer people aboard and enjoy the pools. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived around 2pm and there were no lines. Our party of 6 adults left the bus and were on board the ship in about 10 minutes. The service staff throughout the ship are wonderful. On-time arrivals and departures. Crowded buffet area at mealtimes with food that was far below that served on Celebrity. Overall, this was a wonderful cruise with the size of the room and cost well worth it.

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Mar 4, 2010

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise on Princess after NCL (1) and Celebrity (4). Overall, there's nothing better than being on a cruise. We liked the price and size of the room (Junior Suite), but there were several negatives. We, like many, look at the ship as being the main point of the cruise and not necessarily the itinerary. As with many ships, seats were hard to find at b-fast and lunch. The entertainment so-so and the timing of the main shows and

the time necessary for dinner made it difficult to get from one to the other...and find a good seat. The layout of some decks was strange too...not being able to go from one end to the other without going up or down a deck. The food left a lot to be desired. The main buffet for breakfast and lunch is mediocre at best. The main dining room dinners were about the same. Instead of wondering what to order because everything appears really good, I was left wondering what to order because few things on the menu appeared good. The stateroom was wonderful! Very spacious (Junior Suite) at a cost that was less than much smaller rooms on NCL and Celebrity. Plenty of room to hang clothes and and several shelves for t-shirts and other accessories. On board activities were just ok. The rules on some of the games need to be thought-out a bit better. Have been to Grand Caymen before and have always done the rays and snorkel excursion. We have found that other excursions are too expensive and very overrated. We would rather spend time on the ship with fewer people aboard and enjoy the pools. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived around 2pm and there were no lines. Our party of 6 adults left the bus and were on board the ship in about 10 minutes. The service staff throughout the ship are wonderful. On-time arrivals and departures. Crowded buffet area at mealtimes with food that was far below that served on Celebrity. Overall, this was a wonderful cruise with the size of the room and cost well worth it.

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Dec 27, 2009

Western Caribbean

My wife and I enjoyed the cruise. The Crown Princess does an excellent job of packing us in, mustering us, and disembarking us. They're not bad on the steps in between either. Accustomed to the promenade deck of the Voyager class Royals, we thought that the piazza was too crowded for the formal reception on the second night. So much for our only complaint about the cruise. Food is better than that of the Royals. We dined traditional with first

seating. We were blessed with great table mates and two servers who were not just good servers but a good partnership, which this bridge player appreciates wherever he sees it. Every dinner was to enjoy. Breakfast on the Lido deck is also better than that of Windjammer. Since I tend to eat a farmer's breakfast on cruises, that's important! The Columbian coffee is a mite stronger and funkier than most of us Americans are used to; mixing half real coffee with half decaf is a good idea. We did not try the specialty restaurants. Ocean view stateroom was smaller than what we had on Royals. Moreover, we were on Deck 12 with Princess, vice Deck 6. Since winds were 25-30 knots [add 4 or 5 for miles per hour] we felt the motion more this time than before. We're used to it, but anyone thinking of cruising has a right to be advised of this. Our room attendant was also great. Shows in the theater were great, but not as many as were in Royal. However the piazza had Spank, a great doo-wop group, and a good classical quintet. Comedians were OK but in cabaret venues, which were crowded. Do spend the day in Princess Cay, and do rent a clam shell. Do rent a paddle boat too. On Grand Cayman, do schmooze with the dolphins, or any of the animals. On Cozumel, do hit the beach and book the excursion with the grub. And do hope you can get sunshine at Roatan, so you can tell me about your excursion there. Hurricane Ida visited our ports of call just before we did. She left somewhat rough seas behind. The Crown looks somewhat top heavy and is crowded for its size. However we only noticed it bad during the first formal night reception, and we enjoyed the cruise.

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Sep 22, 2009

England-Scotland-Ireland

This was our first cruise with Princess and my best Hugo Boss coat was stollen in my cabin! When leaving the boat we noticed that we had left my coat in our locked cabin. Wanting to get back on the boat, we were told, not to worry, if we did not need it immediately, I would be returned to us rapidly since they knew our name and cabin number. We followed up many times and were reassured that all was fine. We finally received a letter saying that they

did not have it. No sorry, no apologies, no concerned, it was our problem and not theirs. To tell you how upset we were and still are. It's never happened to us before. Yes, a beach towel and bathing suits in Cuba; but certainly not an expensive coat, in our stateroom, on an expensive 3 person European Cruise. We enjoyed our cruise, even though we much prefer Royal Carribean's service and ship layouts. The food was good, the service onboard was nice and the entertainment interesting. The boat is a labyrinth, displayed on many smaller floors, so it makes it difficult to circle around for a pleasant walk. The "under the star cinema" is most interesting, however, it was cold and they could not supply blankets (or very little) so you could not stay long enough to watch the entire movie. The buffet dining room is small and places to sit are hard to find or...very far, which makes it difficult to go back and forth to the buffet. As for the Port of Call itinerary, we found it not adequate and could hardly reach the person in charge...so we fell we were not well guided by Princess in comparison with the service offered on other cruise companies. All in all, I still can't accept the fact that Princess will not do anything about the fact that a robbery occured in our locked stateroom and most of all, that they deny all responsibility! What a disapointment.

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Jul 27, 2009

west coast of Norway

Embarkation: For our 17th cruise we flew to Heathrow and took the National Express coach bus to our port of Southampton, bookable on the net, 20 UKP return, and 10 UKP for seniors. Get the bus at the Central Bus Station in the terminal 1, 2, 3 area, follow the bus signage. Book ahead, buses to the ports are full. The trip is a little under 2 hours. From Gatwick it's a little over 3 hours. From the bus station in Southampton it's a 4.60 UKP cab

to the ship, and 5.60 going back after the cruise. We arrived at the Mayflower cruise terminal at noon, luggage handling was fast, and we had our ship card by 12:15. There was a holdup in boarding like the old days many years ago. After getting ship cards we were sent to a large lounge with several hundred people to wait to board by colored cards handed out. After an hour and 10 minutes our color was called, with about 50 other people. Then we discovered the reason for the holdup: a minor one was the ship's portrait photographers stopping the line for boarding photos, which we declined, and kept moving. The major lineup turned out to be getting security photos done to match our ship cards. This is usually done at the ship card stations, and we saw camera cams there but not in use. THE SHIP The Crown is a classy, well-appointed ship, similar in decor to the HAL and Celebrity lines, not gaudy like Carnival. We were surprised that a ship as large and new as the Crown did not have a soaring open atrium, but an older style closed atrium extending from deck 5-7. It also had the traditional promenade shops and bars along laneways rather than the newer open air street promenade concept. There is a quiet adults only area with pool, luxury loungers, cabanas, and green foliage called the Sanctuary, with a charge of $10 per half day and $20 per full day. This is similar to the solariums on the RCL Vision class, which are free, and also has a closeable roof in bad weather which the Crown didn't. We thought the upper level in the Da Vinci dining room would have an open center area allowing tables a view of the lower level, but it's closed in as well, permitting extra tables. One nice little special spot we liked was out the back of the Horizon buffet, up either staircase on each side, where there are about 6 nice glass tables with comfy chairs, lovely stern view. The windows in Sabatini's alternate restaurant look out onto this space. These tables are usually occupied, hard to find an open one in nice weather. Specialty features on the ship include Movies Under the Stars, which are on-deck giant screen movies night or day, extra padded loungers, blankets, free popcorn. The picture was a bit grainy but watchable. There was also a miniputt course which we enjoyed. No ice rink, rock-climbing wall, surf pool, or kid's water slide. It was nice to have laundrettes. They made my wife happy. The gym was great, large with lots of equipment, some machines you don't often see on ships. It was easy to get on even at peak times, maybe because the folks were mostly older. The outdoor jogging track, 1/16 of a mile, was tight for passing people. There was no dance area by the pool band, strange, but that didn't stop some people dancing between the loungers, great band. All together the design of the ship or attractions would not make it a "destination ship" for us, but if you love outdoor movies and don't mind paying for a quiet pool area it could be for you. THE CABIN (inside Riviera deck 14) We liked the walk-in closet/dressing area, no doors to mess with, and 2 electrical outlets on the vanity made it so we didn't need the power bar this time. We were surprised there was only seating for 1, just the vanity chair, first time for that. Our other ships had some type of side chair or love seat. Our steward said outside cabins have seating for two. There was a little round table in the closet, but we couldn't see anywhere in the cabin to put it, so we left it there. There was a widescreen TV, but you can't check your ship account or book tours on it. There was lots of storage space, robes, extra hangers on request. The hair dryer was on the weak side, not great for thick hair, bring your own if necessary. There was a good sized vanity. We loved having a fridge! DINING/FOOD The dining room food was fine, equivalent to the other major cruise lines. About 10 entrees each night including alternates. We chose Anytime Dining which we love, and if you agree to sit with others they can seat you anytime you arrive. We often needed a table for 2 of which there was quite a few, but in some areas they were pushed so close together, a few inches apart, that there was no privacy. If you want privacy, note the table numbers you like, then call Anytime Dining reservations between 8-4 that day, give them those numbers, and they will attempt to reserve one of those table for you. In Da Vinci the private tables are 480, 481, 484, 441, and 437. Call soon after 8 for best preference. Every time we called early we got our request. Once, we tried calling later and nothing was available. There are 2 alternate restaurants that charge a $20 fee, a steak house and Sabatini's, for seafood and pasta. We tried the latter, had a combo lobster and shrimp dinner with a variety of starters and appetizers of which you are brought many samples to try, and it was wonderful, well worth the charge. The food in the Horizon buffet was fine, but at peak times it was more crowded than other ships we've been on. It was hard to find a place to sit, and the joke among passengers was how long they had to circle to get a table. The staff try to help find people tables, especially if they already have their food. Ice tea is always available, great lemonade that's harder to find, but if you ask the staff they will get you some. The pizza joint was good. There were several kinds rotated daily with a nice, thin crust. Burgers, dogs, and fries at the pool were good. The International Cafe has an assortment of sweets and tapas, some for a fee. Gillatto ice cream is 3 scoops for $1.50. Free donuts, cookies, brownies, etc. ENTERTAINMENT The song and dance floor shows and other entertainment were fine, but for the first time we've seen, shows were repeated on later days, apparently because the theatre can't seat everyone on the ship in 2 sittings, so they repeat in order to give everyone a chance to see the shows. People we talked to did not like that, they wanted more variety. PORTS Stavanger We tried to get to the famous Pulpit Rock, jutting out 2000 feet above the fjord, but with an early ship departure, all aboard was 3:30, we ran out of time about half an hour from the top and had to turn back. To get there you take a ferry across the bay which connects to a tourist bus going there. If your ship arrives in time for you to catch the 7:20 or 8:00 ferry, it will connect with the 8:30 bus, and you will be at the Pulpit Rock welcome center at 9:00. It's a hard, uphill climb mostly over rocks, often little ground to step on, not pleasant, about 2 Km each way, and no way to rush it without breaking an ankle. 100,000 people do it annually. If your ship leaves at dinner time you could do it, there are quite a few buses and ferries through the day. Trondheim The ship offered a $5 shuttle to town, very reasonable since the local bus is about 25 NOK or $4. In the morning we did the 6 Km Ladestien (Lade) hike around the bay; it was pretty and easy. The #3 bus from downtown takes you there and back. In the afternoon we walked around the town. There were lots of interesting historical sights to see. The 2 best pedestrian streets are Nordregate and Thomas Angells Gate. Fjordgate is also mentioned but we didn't get to it. TROMSO Again the ship offered $5 shuttle rides to town, 3 miles. In the morning we took the cable car up Mt. Storsteinen, lovely views from the top. To get there take the #26 bus from the stop downtown in front of Pepe's Pizza taking you across the bridge past the famous Arctic church. The driver can sell you combo tickets covering the bus both ways and cable car, which costs 120 NOK and saves about $12 over buying separately. The bus was jammed full, almost completely tourists, only a few locals who had a tough time getting off at their stops. The driver will tell you when to get off, but it's quite evident by everyone leaving. Do this as early as you can, when we came down the cable car late morning there were tons of people in a long line out into the parking lot, with a 2.5 hour wait we heard. We had no wait arriving just after 9. At the top there is a good open hiking trail up to the next peak, Mt. Floya, takes about half an hour, not a bad trail, uphill but there is lots of good footing. Its a wide open trail with no trees going up, providing good viewing, past snowy patches left over from winter. There great views from the top in all directions. If you want, you can continue to the next peak too. Downtown Tromso was pretty, and the 2 good shopping streets are Storgata and Grannegata. Cokes are 25 NOK ($4), and a simple lunch like a hot dog with drink is about 60-80 NOK. Free internet for tourists in the library, 2nd and 3rd floor, there are about 6 stations on each floor. HONNINGSVAG This port is a 30 minute drive from the most northerly tip of Europe, a cliff 1000 feet above the Arctic Ocean called the North Cape (NordKapp). It's a lovely rugged area to walk around, large reception center, expensive snacks, small bottle of water is $7. The ship tour there is $130, and 8 of us pre-booked a van with Verina at NordKapp Taxi for 1800 NOK, plus 215 NOK entrance, totaling 440 NOK pp ($73). Honningsvag is a cute town to walk around, there are trails on top of the hills, or you can walk the highway along the coast. Cheap internet at the tourist office, one machine, I think it was 1 NOK per minute. BERGEN We took the cable car (Funicular) up Mt. Floyen, lovely views from the top. Get there early to avoid long lines. The station is an easy walk from downtown, about 10 minutes. At the top there is a nice network of trails, well maintained, more like roads, over hills, around lakes. There is very good signage. There is lots of downtown action around Torget, Torgalmenning, Strandgaten. Everything is expensive, and we were told the locals take the short ferry to Newcastle UK to do their shopping. A local TA told us all the internet cafes are out of business, but there were free stations at the library (Biblioteque), which we found. FLAM We did the hiking trail that follows the famous Flam railway, and took the side trail to the Berkenfossen(?) Falls. It was very pretty. Flam is a small village, just some tourist shops at the dock, and internet. GIERANGER From the Fjordcenter we did hiking trail. A winding 1000 feet up the side of the fjord to the Vesteras farm, good trail, and from there, level side trail B to a great lookout with the ship way below. here are quite a variety of trails from Geiranger. The tourist office will mail you a great map. It is a small village without serious shopping. DISEMBARKATION Very well done, off at 9:00, no announcements, you wait in a lounge and the crew tell you when to leave, by color code. Lots of cabs, 5.60 UKP back to the bus depot. Pre-book your National Express bus, people trying to get on were told they were full till mid-afternoon. After Cruise in London After taking the National Express bus to Heathrow, we got the hotel shuttle to the Crown Plaza Heathrow in West Drayton just outside the airport. We got the 4 star Crown Plaza on Priceline for $50. Internet rate was 80 UKP, or about $150. All Heathrow hotel shuttle buses are 4 UKP, no freebees here. After checking in, we got a cab to the nearby West Drayton train station (10 UKP), 20 minute ride to London, faster than the Tube from Heathrow. An all day TravelCard pass for all trains, subways, and buses is 7.50 UKP for off-peak travel (after 9:30 M-F, and all day weekends) in all zones 1-6, which covers Heathrow to London. Each trip by itself is 4 UKP. A peak Travelcard for use before 9:30 costs 14.80 UKP. Buy them at any tube, train, or bus station from the machines. Speed trains run from West Drayton to London Paddington every half hour, take 20 minutes, and at Paddington you can transfer to the Tube. We took the Tube from there to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and then back to Leicester Square and Soho, had dinner there, and then back to Paddington for the train to West Drayton. Soho and Chinatown are a hoot to walk around, tons of people even on Sunday evening, every kind of restaurant, café, and club, as well as the stage shows. And finally, here's one for the books, the licensed cab drive from the hotel didn't know where the train station was, and the cab driver from the train station didn't know where the hotel was. They are about 1.5 miles apart. Also, wait to get home to change your UKP back to your currency, the rate at Heathrow was about 15 percent worse than at home. -Bob and Wendy Evans July 2009

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Apr 17, 2009

Eastern Caribbean

It was OK. I would not cruise on that ship again. The casino was fun. Don't play the slots! No one won. Blackjack was fun though. The last night of the cruise we were eating in the Italian specialty restuarant, which was most delicious, we were too full to eat our desert. The manager said he would have someone deliver our deserts to our cabin. When we got back to the cabin later on that evening our deserts were there. The next morning as

we are rushing to get out of the cabin and leave I look for my sunglasses, brand new Versace glasses and they are gone! We went down to guest relations and the line was about 100 deep so we just left the ship. When I got home I realized that they had taken a pair of my jeans as well. The food in the specialty restaurants was very good! We had a suite but were very disappointed. Did not compare to the suites on NCL. Warning! Don't leave anything that you value around your stateroom! Do not let the restuarant wait staff deliver anything to your cabin while you are not there!!!!

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Apr 14, 2009

Eastern Caribbean

This was our first cruise. We were impressed with the comfort of the ship, the staterooms, and overall logistics and coordination. We rarely had to wait in a line-up and the disembarking for shore excursions was convenient. Cruising was smooth and fairly quiet. The rooms were spacious and beds very comfortable. Our cabin steward and waiter were excellent, so accommodating caring and friendly. We were very displeased with the constant up-selling.

The Princess Cruise tagline is "escape completely," but we never felt at ease due the constant up-selling. When dining, waiters were promoting additional drinks or the next day's events. At the Spa, we were encouraged to buy products. We were somewhat disappointed with the food. We expected more local fresh fruits and better variety (Florida and Eastern Caribbean). The food was not much different than the variety at our local Canadian grocery stores. Although the evening dining menus were very nice, I would only classify 3/7 meals as excellent. The Stateroom offered more space than anticipated. We booked a room with a window, but in hindsight, we should have paid the additional price for a balcony. It would have provided more privacy for sunbathing and offered an escape from the crowds during at-sea days. The steward was excellent - friendly and accommodating. Rooms were cleaned and checked regularly. Onboard activities were okay. We did not participate in many activities. We enjoyed the Casino, Fitness Centre and watched some of the side entertainment acts. My wife purchased a message at the Spa, and we both participated in the wine tasting. Unfortunately, the both experiences involved an up-sell attempt which took away from the "vacation like" experience so commonly advertised - my wife felt more after the message avoiding the up-sell on creams and other products. Don't Miss - For a relaxing beach experience, take a taxi to Sapphire Beach, St. Thomas. Bus tours can be okay, but sometimes the "play by play" can be tiring. A quiet taxi ride in a smaller vehicle allows you to experience the roads and scenery. It can be pricey $11 per person one way, but it's a nice change from the crowds.

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Nov 30, -0001

Baltic Sea

We had a great time on this cruise. It was more excursion intensive than I had realized so we were glad towards the end of the cruise when we had a little more time at sea to relax. The ports of call were phenomenal. We saw enough palaces to last a lifetime. The churches are works of art. The winding cobblestone streets were fun to explore. All the people we met in port were friendly and helpful. Rick and I would love to go back to Tallin, Gdansk

and Berlin. They are beautiful cities and we didn't have near enough time to enjoy them. We only had a few sunny days and most of the time it was cloudy and rainy but it didn't really stop us from doing things on the tours. Because of the cool rainy weather we never used the pools nor were out on deck at night. Travel in Scandinavia is extremely expensive, so although we didn't have much time in each port it was definitely more economical to eat and sleep on the ship. The Crown Princess is a huge ship but we didn't feel that there were too many people, even though the ship was completely booked with 3,200 passengers. We chose anytime seating for dinner which gave us the opportunity to meet many people as we joined a different group every night for dinner. I've been a bit disappointed in the food, but I will no doubt gain weight even though I am trying to be careful. There was always an option to get a steak or salmon if you didn't like any of the menu options. We had a cabin with a balcony. It was a standard cruise cabin, nothing special, but it was always clean and not overly worn. The bed was too hard for me but our cabin steward put a foam mattress on the bed for me and that made it comfortable enough for me. They had the same activities we've experienced on other cruises -- trivia games, ice carvings, cooking demonstrations, etc. We only had one day when it was warm enough it sit out on the deck without an extra layer of clothing. This cruise was port intensive which is what we like. The St. Petersburg excursions are very expensive but you have to have a Russian visa to get off the ship if you are not with a Russian tour guide. You don't need a tour to explore Tallin or Helsinki. You can also do Stockholm and Copenhagen on your own if you plan ahead and have a tour book. We always learn a lot from the tour guides, especially in history rich cities like the ones on this itinerary so we tend to go on excursions. We arrived at our hotel in Copenhagen about 4 pm and immediately headed out. Copenhagen is an interesting city in that the very old buildings are intermingled with very modern ones. The city library is a stark example where the original royal library from the 17th century built in red brick is attached to a newer section that is all black glass. Copenhagen is a city of bicycles. It is definitely a major form of transportation to work and to get around the city for many if not most of the people. There is a separate bicycle lane on all the roads between the sidewalk and roadway and it is dangerous to walk in the bike lane. The bikes are not the racing variety we see most often in the US. They have wide tires, fenders and upright handlebars. Hundreds of bicycles are everywhere in front of the train station, office buildings and on the street. It is also interesting that very few were locked. We ended up in an area called the Nyhavn which means new harbor. It is actually a canal that was built in the late 17th century to bring shipping into the city. This area has lots of restaurants and was a hubbub of activity. We found the little restaurant recommended by our hotel concierge and had a pleasant dinner in the restaurant's courtyard. Everything is very expensive in Copenhagen. The meal was about twice the price you would pay in the US. After dinner we found the canal tour boats and took an hour tour through the many canals and waterways of Copenhagen. We also saw many of the islands that had both historical buildings and modern residential areas. Unfortunately we were so tired and jet-lagged that it was hard to stay awake. Rick slept through most of it. The next day we headed out to Rosenborg palace was built by King Christian IV in 1606-34 as a summer castle. It was designed in the Dutch Renaissance style and the next three generations of kings lived there. King Frederik IV built Frederiksberg castle in 1710 at which time Rosenborg was used only occasionally. As all the palaces we saw, Rosenborg is now a museum. The first two floors had many paintings and collections from the royal families that demonstrated their wealth. The third floor was the long hall that was probably used for balls but had the thrones for the king and queen now. The cellar holds the treasures including a gold crown that weighed 7 pounds. From there we headed out to see the changing of the guard at the Amalienborg Palace. By the time we got there the crowd was already very large, however we actually ended up a good place to watch the guards walk in. They were very majestic with their tall black fur hats. A woman next to us shared with us that her son was one of the guards that we were watching. We walked to the royal pier and it started to pour rain so we walked over to the Nyhavn and ate lunch. Next to us at the sidewalk cafe were two couples from Canada who had just left the ship that we were going on. They had a great time but their ship wasn't able to go to Gdynia because of strong winds. We arrived at the ship around 2 pm. The embarkation process was quick and easy and our luggage arrived promptly after we went to our cabin. We left Copenhagen at 8:00 pm and headed off on our 10 day adventure at sea. We went to the welcome aboard show and they gave some interesting information about the nationalities of the passengers. Forty-nine countries were represented. Of the 3200 on board 1800 are Americans, 380 Brits, 260 Canadians, 65 Israelis, over 200 from Mexico. At Sea August 9 The first day was a day at sea. It was sunny outside but it was also a bit chilly. A number of people sat out on deck in the areas protected from the wind thus there was no shortage of deck chairs, which is often a problem on warmer cruises. There are 3 pools which at least one was heated. I was surprised that none of the pools were covered since the ship we were on for our Mediterranean cruise had a covered pool. We kept busy the first day taking part in a number of activities. We went to the first port lecture on Stockholm. The port lecturer, John Lawrence, was very good. He had a good sense of humor and gave a lot of practical information about transportation options, how to get certain places, some history on each port city and some background on the major points of interest. We participated in a trivia game. We went to the casino where we won a little money. After dinner we went to the show in the main theater. The entertainment has been plentiful. Each night there are two different shows, each with two performances so that we could generally see both. They also have recently released movies on the big screen over one of the pools. They were sparsely attended because it's either been raining or too cold to sit on deck to watch them. Stockholm, August 10, 2008 The city of Stockholm was established around the year 1250 when a fortified town was built on the island of Gamla Stan (old town). Stockholm is build across 14 islands. The Swedes have not been at war since Napoleon's time so Stockholm has been spared the destruction that occurred in many of the other cities we visited. We didn't take an excursion in Stockholm but I had done some research ahead of time and had identified several things for us to see. We first went to the Royal Palace where we joined a tour of the Royal apartments. The rooms were numerous and covered with beautiful murals, especially the ceilings. Gustov III had a state bedroom where people were given a special honor to watch him get dressed in the mornings. He was killed in 1792 because he was a harsh ruler. Sweden still has a King and Queen but they no longer live at the palace. They do, however, use the palace for state business. We next went to the City Hall. The City Hall is the home of the civic government as well as the place where the Nobel Prize ceremony takes place each year. The City Hall was built between 1911 and 1923 and is a large, red brick imposing structure. Alfred Nobel was a chemist that invented dynamite in the late 19th century. He became quite wealthy as a result of this invention and others but was disappointed when it was used for destructive rather than useful purposes. He never married and had no heirs so he established the Nobel Peace prize leaving his fortune to fund it. Inside City Hall we took a tour. As we entered, the first floor is designed as an Italian Renaissance castle square. The Nobel laureates walk down into the hall by way of a magnificent marble staircase carefully designed to safely descend wearing a robe.The next room we visited was the city council room. The city council consists if 101 members, currently 52 women and 49 men representing several different parties. The room has an intriguing ceiling that looks like the inside of a Viking boat. The City Hall is also a popular place to get married. The small room where the ceremonies are conducted is adorned with 17th century tapestries depicting romance and wedding scenes The next room we saw was the reception hall where the Nobel laureates meet the royal family. It is adorned with blue columns and magnificent frescos on the walls. It is called the Prince's room since he funded the artwork on the walls. The most impressive room was the Gold Hall used for the Nobel laureate ball. It can also be rented for private functions. This huge hall is covered with mosaic tiles depicting the history of Sweden. The gold tiles actually contain a thin layer of gold sandwiched between 2 layers of glass. The wall at the end of the hall has a mosaic of Queen Maletta, the mythical patron of Stockholm who guards the city to provide peace. This depiction of the character was controversial because the features are somewhat grotesque. Our last stop in Stockholm was the Riddarholm church, a 700 year old monastery chapel where past monarchs are buried. Religious services no longer take place here and it is a memorial and burial church only. The floor is covered with over 200 graves. Several side chapels also had the sarcophagi of past monarchs and their families. On the walls hang the coats of arms of the Knights of the Seraphim Order. When a knight dies, his coat of arms is put up. It has a cast iron spire since several previous wooden ones were destroyed by fire. We walked the narrow cobblestone streets on the Gamla Stan, crowded with tourists as well as locals since it was Sunday. We didn't buy anything since things were very expensive. So we bought some ice cream, which was a popular thing to do, and made our way back to the cruise shuttle bus. Another popular site that we didn't have time to visit is the Vasa museum. It holds a 300 year old ship that sank on its maiden voyage in the Stockholm harbor. It was raised in 1956 and put on display in this museum. Our ship sailed at 5 pm. It was formal night with the Captain’s reception which means they had complimentary albeit watered down cocktails in the main atrium. We had dinner and met more new people and enjoyed a musical review as well as a somewhat crazed juggling comedian who used Rick's shoe in his act. Helsinki August 11 We had an excursion reserved for Helsinki, but it is an easy city to get around on your own, especially the old historic part. Our guide today was Lisa. Helsinki has a population of 500,000 in the city and 1 million in the metro area which is 20% of Finland's population. 85% of the population is Lutheran. Finland was annexed by Sweden in the 13th century. As a result most street signs are in both Swedish and Finnish. In 1809 Finland passed from Sweden to Russia by treaty. Many of the buildings in Helsinki were built during the Russian rule and they are built in the same baroque style as in St. Petersburg. During the Russian revolution of 1917 Finland declared its independence and has remained so ever since. Helsinki was founded in 1512 and became the capital in 1812. The Russians invaded Finland in 1939-40 but the Finns successfully repelled the Russian army through the leadership of Marshall Gustav Mannerheim, a popular figure in Finland. The climate in southern Finland where Helsinki is located is more temperate that I thought. They have only a few weeks of snow last winter. In Finland, Copenhagen and Russia our guides said that over the last few decades the weather has been getting warmer. The upper third of the country called Lapland, is in the Artic circle and it is much colder there. Only Laps are allowed to own reindeer which they raise for the meat. Our first stop was Senate Square which is dominated by the Lutheran Cathedral of St. Nicholas. From there it was a short walk to Kauppatori Market located on the water front. Here vendors have stands of fresh foods, handicrafts and souvenirs. While we were perusing the various goods, it started to pour down rain. By the time we were able to get our rain gear out we were already soaked. Our next stop was at the Temppeliaukio Lutheran church carved and blasted into solid granite in 1960 to create a below ground sanctuary. It is a modern church with an impressive organ and walls of granite. We made our way back to the bus through the crowds and rain to proceed to our lunch spot on the way to the town of Porvoo. On the motorway we saw many trucks carrying new cars headed to St. Petersburg and Russia. The countryside was fairly flat with many rivers and pine trees. 10% of Finland is lakes, 70% forest and 10% farm land. They grow enough food in southern Finland to feed themselves, although some items are imported. We stopped for lunch with several other bus loads of people from our ship at a farm that had converted a large barn into a banquet hall. We were served a mystery meat described as a beef roll but it wasn't very tasty. We chatted with the people from the cruise where one of the frequent topics, after the perfunctory questions about where everyone lives, is a discussion about how many cruises you've been on, which cruise lines and itineraries, and what you liked best. Almost everyone we met had been on several previous cruises. We proceeded onto the town of Porvoo which is the second oldest city in Finland, founded in 1346. Porvoo means Castle River. It has been rebuilt several times with colorfully painted wooden houses. It is a picturesque little town of cobblestone streets. The rain had let up so we roamed the two main streets looking in shops and buying a few souvenirs. They had a candy store with wonderful locally made chocolates crowded with other members of our tour and we bought some bags to bring home. We ended our tour back in Helsinki at a memorial to the famous Finnish Composer John Sevalius. We returned to the ship around 5 pm. St. Petersburg, August 12 The first day of our 2-day tour of St.Petersburg started very early. This was the only port that we had to go through passport control when we left the ship. We also had to leave a photocopy of our passports with them. We met our tour guide, Irene, and boarded the bus. The quality of the bus was very similar to the ones used in all the other ports. This was also the tour where we were given a receiver and headphones and our guide used a headset to talk to us. This equipment made it easier to hear her as she walked ahead of us and explained things. The city of St. Petersburg was established by Czar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, in 1703 as a seaport to provide access to the Baltic Sea. Russia had become isolated when the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 and closed the southern access. Peter the Great wanted to modernize Russia when he became Czar in 1689. When he established St. Petersburg as the capital in 1703 he had forests cleared and swamps drained to form the new city. When he built the Peter and Paul fortress to guard the river mouth, he hired the best Italian, French and German Architects to design palaces and buildings in the baroque style. Outside the city he built Peterov Palace to rival Versailles. Peter's daughter, Elizabeth, and granddaughter, Catherine II, were powerful rulers who continued to build the city and the Winter Palace. St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd in 1914 when Russia went to war with Germany. It was renamed again in 1924 to Leningrad and after Lenin's death the name was restored to St. Petersburg in 1991. St. Petersburg has been referred to as the Venice of the north since it is a series of islands connected by bridges. The main river is the Niva. Our first stop was Peter and Paul fortress. The cathedral was designed by the Italian architect Trazini. Although it was a Russian Orthodox church, it does not have many of the traditional features of that faith's churches because the designer was not Russian. The bell tower is 122M and is the highest point in St. Petersburg. The tombs of most of the Russian Czars are in this church including that of Peter the Great. There is a special chapel for the remains of Nicholas II and his family who were murdered by the Bolsheviks. Their bodies had been left at the house where they were killed but their remains were brought here in 1998. The fortress was never attacked and at times was used as a prison. Peter I banished his first wife to a convent and imprisoned his son from that marriage here. His son was tortured and eventually died. The jail was closed in 1920. Our next stop was the Winter Palace and the Hermitage. The Winter Palace was built by Elizabeth who wanted a grand palace with 1,000 rooms. She also had over 15,000 dresses at the time of her death and depleted the state treasury. Elizabeth died before the palace was completed. Catherine II completed the palace and was the first monarchy to live there. In the mid 1800's fire destroyed much of the palace but it was rebuilt. Catherine II loved to collect art and The Hermitage is now a museum containing more than 3 million works of art including the works of most famous artists such as Di Vinci, Rafael, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, and Van Gogh. As we toured room after room of art, gilded and painted ceilings, and jeweled furniture I could understand why the Bolshevik revolution occurred. We had lunch in a large banquet hall with several hundred other people from our cruise ship. The soup was good but the beef stroganoff was mostly gravy. Everyone was given a shot of vodka but few drank it. Musicians and a vocalist entertained us singing Russian folk songs. We continued our tour with a canal boat ride. It was a nice sunny day and we were given a glass of champagne as we glided through the canals and Neva River. As we passed under a bridge a boy about 16 years old waved and smiled at us. When we returned to the canals from the river he was there again on a bridge, waving and smiling. We watched him run along the canal just in time to meet us at the next bridge and wave. As we looked ahead we saw another boy keeping pace with the boat in front of us. It became clear that they were looking for tips at the end of the cruise. After putting out that much effort, he earned a tip from us! On our canal tour we also saw the WWI cruiser Aurora that fired the shot that signaled the start of the Bolshevik revolution. After the boat ride we went to St. Isaac's cathedral which has a large gold dome. St. Isaac was the patron saint for Peter the Great. It is the fourth highest cathedral dome in Europe. It was built between 1818 and 1858 but was actually the fourth cathedral on this site. As in most of the cathedrals we saw, the paintings that cover the walls and ceilings are actually mosaics because canvas paintings don't fair well in the high humidity. In the apex of the dome is a silver dove. The walls are made of marble. 48 Kg of gold were used in the dome. It was built to accommodate 10,000 standing worshippers. During the communist era everything of value was taken, the beautiful mosaics were covered and it became an anti-religion museum. As with most of the historic sites we saw, it was returned to its former glory after the end of communist rule. Our final stop of the day was at the Church of Spilled Blood. This magnificent church is very different from St. Isaacs. It has onion shaped spires and the colorful exterior associated with Russian Orthodox churches. Czar Alexander II carriage was bombed in 1881 on this site. His son, Alexander III, built the church as a memorial to his father. The mosaics were reconstructed starting in the 1970's and was completed in 1998. Services were held here only once a year on the anniversary of Alexander II's death and were attended only by the Romanov family. St. Petersburg, August 13 We started our day with a tour of Peterov Palace outside the city. It was built as a summer palace in 1714 by Peter the Great and enlarged by his daughter, Elizabeth. It is an enormous structure built to rival Versailles on a 300-acre park and a series of spectacular fountains. We went through a dozen or so of the magnificently decorated rooms. A separate large building was the residence for the Queen's ladies in waiting. The palace also had its own St. Peter and Paul cathedral. The grounds are even more spectacular with 100's of fountains. Since the tour company arranged to have our group tour before the museum usually opens, not all the fountains were on. The canal on the grounds goes out to the Gulf of Finland. Our lunch on this day was a little better. We still had the shot of vodka waiting for us but we also had potato cakes topped with caviar, soup, potatoes and fish. We were again serenaded by musicians and a singer wearing traditional Russian costumes. We next went to the Yusupov palace which was not as spectacular in its furnishings as the Winter Palace but is known as the place where Rasputin was assassinated by Felix Yusupov and other relatives of the Romanov royal family. In 1910 Felix Yusopov invited Rasputin to a dinner at his home and poisoned his food with cyanide. When he showed no signs of getting ill, Felix shot him twice. Rasputin was a large man and he ran from the palace even after being shot. He was shot several more times and then dumped in the river. They thought his body would be washed out to sea but his body was found and Felix Yusopov was sent into exile to France. We again toured room after room of expensive furnishings including a bedroom with an onyx fireplace and another room with a malachite fireplace. The Yusopov palace has a music hall where we were serenaded for a few minutes by a group of 5 men. The acoustics were very good. The palace also had a home theatre that was very ornate and held about 200 people. Members of the family enjoyed writing and performing in plays. Our ship left St. Petersburg at 6:00 pm and we headed towards Tallin. Tallin, Estonia, August 14 This is a delightful city that has maintained the old city center as it was in the 16th and 17th centuries. In some ways it reminded me of Disney World with its spires and colorful buildings. The Danes conquered Tallin in 1216 and built the walled fortress on Toompea Hill. The city has an upper level with the citadel and a lower level where the shops and craftsmen lived. The German Teutonic Knights followed in 1346 giving Tallin the look of a medieval German town. The Swedes ruled from the mid 16th century until Peter the Great from Russia captured Tallin in 1710. Estonia received independence after World War I, but lost it again in a pact between Hitler and Stalin in 1945. It wasn't until 1991 that Estonia became an independent nation again. This diverse history is reflected in the different churches in town. St. Nicholas served the German community while St. Olav was for the Danes and Swedes. There is also the Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral adorned with the typical onion bulb spires. We took a bus to the upper part of the city and got to see the remaining fortress wall that still surrounds much of the old city. 26 towers still exist along the wall, including "Fat Margaret" and "Tall Hermann." On Toompea Hill is Palace square, the home to the pink Baroque Toompea Castle which is now the Estonian parliament. Across the square is the Russian Orthodox Nevsky Cathedral, still a functional church for Russians who still live here. We visited the Dome Church which was built by the Danes in the 13th century as a Catholic church but became Lutheran later under German rule. Many German noblemen are buried inside. We left the tour at this time because they were going to see another palace outside the city and we wanted to see the lower town. On the way we saw some enterprising individuals encouraging tourists to try archery. There were also carts where people dressed in medieval attire were preparing sugar coated almonds for purchase. We went to the Woolens Market where locally made sweaters and hats were sold and where I bought a sweater for myself. We sat at the large town square and had some refreshments while watching all the tourists scurry around. The city hall on the square is 600 years old. We visited the Cats Well, where they used to throw dead animals and cats into it because they thought it would make the water better. On our walk back to the ship we passed the house for the brotherhood of Blackheads. This was an organization of single men established in 1399 that raise money to take care of widows and single women. Another building was the office of the KGB during the years of Soviet rule. The ship was only in port until 1 pm so we had lunch in the dining room. We listened to the port lecture on Gdansk and had some rare down time before dinner. The only time we experienced rough seas was that night on the way to Gdansk but it was calm by the next morning. Gdinya/ Gdansk August 15 Like Tallin, this city was ruled by the Teutonic Knights in the 14th century. The German name for Gdansk is Danzig and it went by this name during much of its history. It became a free city under Polish kings in 1466. The city flourished as a center of maritime trade and many beautiful homes were designed and built by the wealthy merchants in the 17th century. This area is also known for the mining of amber, a stone used in jewelry. The wars of the late 17th century hurt Gdansk's prosperity and it was occupied at different times by the Swedes, Russians, French and was a part of Germany until 1919. After World War I it became a free city once again until Hitler's army attacked the harbor September 1, 1939 starting World War II. The city was essentially destroyed by the Russians during WWII. It took many years to restore the buildings to their previous glory. They attempted to use the rubble to rebuild wherever they could but you can often see where the original foundations or partial facades were and where new materials had to be used. The port where we docked was Gdinya which is about a 30 minute drive to Gdansk. Gdansk at one time was an important port, but was not large enough for modern ships so a larger port was built in Gdinya in 1920. It was a holiday in Poland the day we visited. We were given two different explanations for the holiday. We were told it was a religious holiday to honor the ascent of Mary into heaven and it is also a political holiday for the anniversary of the battle of 1920 when the Poles were victorious in a battle against the Red army. Many of the shops were closed due to the holiday but there was also a festival going on with lots of street vendors and the main street was blocked off for a marathon race. Our tour guide had a long unpronounceable name so she told us to call her Agnes. Her English was not great, but after awhile I figured out her accent and was able to follow what she was saying for the most part. Once we departed our bus Agnes tried to move our group quickly towards St. Mary's Church since we could only visit before a religious service started. When we got to the church the service was starting, but we went in through the back of the church so she could show certain aspects to us. It is the largest church in Poland and the largest brick church in the world with a capacity for 25,000 people. The church was built as a Catholic church between 1343 and 1502 but later became Protestant. In the church we saw the wooden sculpture, Madonna of Gdansk, from 1404. In the same alcove with the Madonna was the Last Judgment painting by Hans Memling painted in 1470. The church has several other interesting works of art including an astronomical clock. We existed onto St. Mary's Street, the oldest street in the city. Many of the homes were built using stone and brick in the 15th century. As we walked the streets she showed us the stone gates to the original walled city, the armory, and many beautifully restored homes along Long Street. The Town Hall carries the coat of arms of Gdansk, 2 crosses and a crown. Long Street was blocked off for the marathon race finish line and it was hard to hear our guide due to all the announcements on the loud speakers and music from the bands. We had about 40 minutes of free time and decided to check some of the souvenir shops to find Gold Vassar, a local form of vodka with gold flakes in the bottle. We found some in a little deli/ convenience store and then went to find our group. On our way back to meet our group we heard cheers from the crowd so we watched anticipating marathon runners. What we saw were people racing on roller blades. Later on when we were headed to the bus we did see marathon runners returning into the town. We met our group at a bridge by the Green Gate and saw the buildings from the 15th and 16th century along the river used to load cargo off and onto ships and the warehouses for storage. Our next stop was at the Solidarity Museum commemorating the uprising on the shipyard docks of Gdynia and Lech Walesa. During Soviet rule after WWII much of the food produced in Poland was being shipped to Russia while the Poles didn't have enough food to eat. Walesa and others organized a shipyard strike in 1980 and crafted 21 demands. The government responded to most of the demands but martial law was established 16 months later resulting in many protesters being arrested, injured or killed. The first election for a prime minister was held in 1989 and Walesa was voted in as the first president. From the Solidarity museum we went to the port where there is a monument that looks like a sword marking the spot where the Nazi Navy bombarded the Polish harbor defenses starting WWII on September 1, 1939. The small Polish garrison held the Germans off for 7 days but were finally beaten. The last stop on our tour was at the beach town of Sopot. In the 18th century Joseph Hoffner, a general in Napoleon's army was injured. On his return to France he came across the healing mineral waters of Sopot and stayed to recuperate. He stayed after recuperating to establish a clinic to help others. It is now a resort area with a massive Grand Hotel built in 1924. Many famous people have stayed at this hotel including Hitler. There is also an extensive white sand beach, but it was raining so not many people were out. We returned to the ship and enjoyed a late lunch. This was also the only day I had time to use the fitness center. We had made late dinner reservations at the Italian specialty restaurant and enjoyed a nice relaxing meal. We saw another show and headed to bed. Berlin, August 16 The ship docked at the port town of Warnermunde, Germany, but most of the passengers like us had excursions into Berlin. The cruise line had reserved a train for us that left from the pier, and went directly into Berlin. The 2 ½ hour ride went much faster than I had anticipated. I stayed busy talking to other people in our car and worked on this journal. The tour company also had representatives on the train to give us information and to answer questions. We arrived in Berlin around 11:45. Our guide on the Jewish heritage tour was Olav. Our first stop was the Berlin wall. Portions of it still stand in different parts of the city. It has been painted by many different artists and looks like high class graffiti. The wall was a 96 mile circle around East Berlin and was put up almost over night in August of 1961. The wall came down in November of 1989 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. We quickly drove by a number of famous Berlin landmarks such as the East Berlin TV tower, the Berlin Cathedral, and the Alexanderplatz. Our first stop was at the monument to Victims of all Wars which is next to the University of Berlin. Across the street is the Opera house plaza where books on science, democracy and liberal philosophies were burned in May 1933. In the center of the plaza is a window that looks down onto empty bookshelves as a memorial to the event. This memorial was designed and built by an Israeli in 1994. As we rode the bus to the synagogue, Olav shared with us the Jewish history of Berlin. We visited this Ryger Street synagogue but were not able to go inside since it was Saturday. It held about 3,000 people, and was most likely a reform congregation. It was set on fire during krystal nacht but the fire department put the blaze out before it was severely damaged. In 1940 the Nazis made it an Arian museum. It was damaged by allied bombs during WWII but repaired. Today it is a small synagogue and mostly the offices for the Jewish community. Today there are 8 synagogues in Berlin. Our next stop was the Jewish Museum. The building itself is a very unusual shape. The designer Daniel Liebscon, says it represents a broken Star of David. The museum has 3 major parts - the holocaust, exile, and continuity. We visited two exhibitions that were quite impressionistic, the holocaust tower and the Garden of Exile. Walking into these areas there are no items exhibited, but the design is supposed to give you a feeling of what the holocaust and exile were like. We had a little time to walk through some of the halls that provided more history about the Jews in Europe and we also had lunch there. Our next stop was Check Point Charlie, the only gate to the Berlin wall where people could pass between West and East Berlin. From there we went to the Holocaust memorial which was also unusual. It is about one square city block of rectangular blocks of concrete. We had two more quick photo ops at the Brandenborg Gate and the Reichstag. The Brandenborg Gate was one of 18 gates to the city built in 1791. The Reichstag is the German parliament. We returned to the train station and took our train back to Warnermunde. We enjoyed a German beer and conversation with others in our car on the way back. Copenhagen, August 17 Our final day of the cruise was back in Copenhagen. We signed up for a tour of castles, but they were more like palaces of which we had already seen plenty. Our tour guide, Florica, started our tour with a stop by the statue, the Little Mermaid, in the Copenhagen harbor. It is a small statue that has been vandalized many times over the years, but remains a famous landmark. From the harbor we had a pleasant drive along the sea north to Kronborg Castle. We saw many nice homes along the seafront although they had very small yards and were not extremely large considering that they were worth. Some of the houses had thatched roofs. Kronborg Castle was built in 1557 by Frederick II along the narrow passage between the North and Baltic Seas. Taxes were collected from ships to pass through the Oresund, making the royalty quite wealthy. Shakespeare wrote about it as Hamlet's Castle although he had never been to it. When the Swedes conquered Denmark in the early 18th century the castle was looted and it is in the process of being returned to its previous glory, thus it was not the most spectacular palace we saw, however it was the only one with a moat. From Kronborg Castle we went to Fredenborg Castle where the royal family stays when they are not in their primary residence in Copenhagen, the Amalienborg Palace. It has a large grounds and we were able to walk up fairly close to the main building although the royal family was away in China enjoying the Olympics. The last palace we visited was Frederiksborg castle built by King Christian IV. It was a magnificent palace but it was very close to closing time so we had to rush through it. We visited the chapel which was larger and more ornate than many cathedrals. The other impressive room we visited was the ballroom with many paintings on the walls and ceiling. Our last stop was Tivoli Gardens back in the city of Copenhagen. It is referred to as an amusement park, but it is not like the amusement parks in the US. As you stroll the walkway there are stages for performances. There were musicians and singers on two of the stages. Many restaurants are available for dining and there are beautiful gardens. There are a few amusement rides in one corner for the more daring. We only had 45 minutes inside the park before our tour returned to the ship. We saw a couple that we had met earlier in the week, Jay and Christina, at a sidewalk restaurant. They invited us to join them so we had a quick beer and heard about their one-day private excursion to Moscow while we were in St. Petersburg. We returned to the ship, had dinner and packed up. We put our luggage out before going to bed. The next day the cruise line had the departures well organized so that it was not crowded in any of the waiting areas or as we departed the ship. Instead of claiming our luggage on the pier, they took us to an area at the airport where our luggage was under a tent. We claimed it and went into the adjacent building to check it in for our return home. They then had a bus to take us to the main airport terminal. Since there was only one busload of people going through this process at a time, it was far less hectic than we've experienced with other cruises. While we waited in a lounge for our departure, I worked on this journal, although I finally completed it 3 weeks after we returned home. We had a great time, saw some places that I would not have thought of going on my own and met some really interesting people. I would like to go back to several of the places we visited some day.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

We were thrilled with our cruise. The ship is beautiful, the help were certainly above and beyond and the food was better than our previous cruise on the Royal Caribbean. We had anytime seating and never had to wait and the specialty reataurants were great. We met terrific people also. The entertainment was enjoyable and first rate and we had something to do all the time. If we were asked to come up with our least favorite part of the cruise

it would have to be the elevators. They were really slow and often there was one or two out of service. We are looking forward to our next cruise on the Princess line! Great. Better than we expected. The excursions were only so so. St. Thomas was our favorite.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

It was OK for 5/7 days. However, NEVER admit to being ill. I drank too much rum or had a bad food expericence. Woke up fine but my wife and I agreed that if it was from the food, then medical should know about it. They put me in cabin "isolation" and then forgot about me - my cruise was over. Princess does NOT provide any service for those in isolation except room service, but food takes 45 min and they won't tell you the menu - you have to guess.

The food shows up all at once, so you can watch your sorbet melt as you eat your appetizer, and your main is barely warm. Although they could let you out and into a sanitized area to get some sunshine, they refuse. Princess also won't give you your money back. So, IF you actually have norovirus (they used to test for it but have removed that ability), and IF you go into the public, and IF you contaminate someone else, THEN it might be best for you to sacrifice your cruise with no compensation for the good of all the other passengers - but there is no incentive. Also, I asked to speak with the Passenger Services Director, and he refused to speak with me. The specialty restaurant was very good, but we couldn't understand why that type of quality wasn't standard in all the restaurants. The food wasn't bad, but it seems like the previous 2 Princess cruises as well as the Disney Cruise were better. Not bad until I was confined to it. Then it was a problem trying to have meals in there, especially when my wife joined me. Once isolated, Princess should have provided a DVD player and a list of movies or a gaming capability. Fairly standard. No guest lecturer this cruise. Enjoyed both the America's Cup challenge in St. Maarten and the Champagne Sail to St John in St Thomas. My excursion in Grand Turk was cancelled by Princess due to quarrentine. Until Princess decides that all of the passengers on the cruise deserve service and respect, I'll not cruise with them again. It seems like they went out of their way to ensure I would never come back.

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