May 2014 - Crown Princess to Alaska - Gulf of Alaska
Being flexible travelers who are destination-oriented, we look for the cruise that gets us to the places we want for the best deal. This time it turned out to be Princess Cruises and, more specifically, the Crown Princess because we wanted to see Hubbard Glacier and also cruise Glacier Bay. We were not disappointed! We also enjoyed our port stops. The Alaska cruise in general was so different from our previous cruises (3 in the Caribbean on Carnival and 1 in the Mediterranean on a European cruise line). It is hard to know if the difference was the location and weather, or if it was Princess. We knew that Princess tends to cater to a more mature crowd and expected a little more formality. The Caribbean itineraries with lots of beach/ water options naturally would tend to be more informal. It would actually be interesting to us to take a Caribbean cruise on Princess to get a real feel of the differences we saw with this cruise on the Crown Princess.
With that being said, there were things we liked better on the Crown Princess, and things we liked better on our Carnival trips. We have always chosen an inside cabin since we don't spend a lot of time there and prefer to spend our money doing things in port. Our cabin on this ship was beautiful and the layout with the entrance to one side instead of the middle helped to make it feel bigger. The bed and linens were very nice and comfortable, although it was also the case in our cabins on Carnival. We seemed to have more storage on this ship, tho. So we did prefer our cabin on the Crown Princess! The ship was also beautiful, and although it is a bigger ship, the public meeting areas seemed to be smaller than ones we have experienced before. It wasn't a huge problem, but seemed interesting to me! (We do love the Carnival Liberty, tho!) The cigar lounge, casino and theatre were all definitely smaller than ones we previously experienced. But we found ourselves enjoying the entertainment in the lounges more.
Entertainment and activities were similar, as was the food in the buffet areas. There was a hamburger bar, pizza, and ice cream bar available. The International Cafe was an interesting new twist, being located in the atrium. It was nice to have the option to grab lunch (it is served kinda deli-style) or dessert and perhaps watch any entertainment that might be happening. The only problem was finding an available table, or even chairs, so you might want to scope that out before getting your food! Nice area, tho!
One area that we were just a bit disappointed in was the dining room experiences. The food was okay, but we found ourselves missing the Carnival selections and quality! There was a time or two when nothing really stood out and we didn't know what to order, and there was a time or two when the food was really incredible! But overall, we were expecting things to be a step above Carnival, and we were not impressed! The serving staff was good, but more subdued--maybe this is a Princess thing? We didn't necessarily miss all the "entertainment" from the servers, but we would have liked to see more smiling and maybe even a little more friendliness. One of the dining room managers really didn't seem to be happy at all, and this sets the mood for when you enter the dining room. There seemed to be a little confusion with the AnyTime Dining, and we had to wait 30-45 minutes at least a couple of times. But others told us this was quite unusual. Since this was our first time to stray from traditional dining, we weren't expecting this much waiting. Maybe we chose wrong times to eat?
We would have liked to see hand santizers at the dining room entrances and in other areas of the ship. The only ones we saw were at the entrance of the buffets, but we did appreciate those.
Another difference, and we are not sure whether we like or dislike this, is that they do not do announcements in your cabins, nor very often through the ship. They take sort of a "hands off" approach, not disturbing you in your cabins. This is fine, unless you are busy and don't realize that you have arrived at this huge glacier or that there is a pod of whales on the port side, etc. They also do a "quiet" disembarkation, so you have to stay on top of things that morning! This was kinda nice, as long as you are confident in knowing the time! We did enjoy the less-party-like atmosphere of this cruise overall. Again, would this be different on a Caribbean itinerary when more people are out by the pools?
So was it a great cruise? Yes! Was it our best cruise ever? Not sure! It was so different with the demographics of the passengers, the weather, the location, and us not having our young-adult sons with us this time. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the itinerary. Would we cruise on the Crown Princess again? Definitely, if the itinerary and price were right! Not sure, tho, if it will stand out like the Carnival Liberty did for us, or if we are ready to commit our loyalty to Princess!