Best cruise - Relaxing and worth every penny
Crown Princess Cruise Review to South Pacific
We booked this 28 day cruise in May/June because we did not see it being offered again after 2015. Even though we had to eat a few bucks cancelling another trip, it was the best money we ever lost because this cruise was fabulous.
Embarkation: The biggest issue with this LA departure was the embarkation process. This needs to be reworked because it was insanely complex and unfair to passengers with physical disabilities. It is not just a Princess-specific problem but they can certainly influence some efficiencies and sensitivity training for the port staff. Princess should be more accommodating for those with disability and not simply board by elite status level... and that is something they can change. Nuff said.
Cabin: We booked a mini suite because balcony staterooms do not offer a sofa or love seat on which to sit. The MS was well worth the extra money because of the length of our trip. It may not be worthwhile to book for shorter cruises but we wanted somewhere to sit other than the bed or on a stiff-backed chair for a month. Aside from the cabin size, the Princess minis have a larger bathroom with a tub/shower combo. I abhor showering in a missile tube set up so this option was very valuable to us. Princess does not accord mini suites the same level of benefits that Celebrity does (separate dining room, priority disembarkation, etc.) so if a sofa and larger BR are not important to you, the mini may not be a good choice.
MDR: Our biggest "complaint" about MDR was service efficiency. Let me be clear - the food itself was fabulous but the servers were glacially slow at times. We actually left after waiting for dessert for about 20 minutes on one night. Four of our dinner mates completely changed their dining option because the slow service caused delays in getting to shows.
Horizon Cafe/Club Caribe: The buffet food options were also great. It was more convenient and relaxed to eat in these venues for dinner. Breakfast and lunch were another issue entirely. People seemed to put in roots when eating these meals. It was always challenging to find a table, no matter how quickly the tables were cleared and reset. Basically when someone got up, we grabbed the table and had to find someone to clear it. This caused a few meals to cool off a bit but it was manageable.
International Cafe: This was my favorite early morning hangout. I got up around 4am every day and headed down for a latte and quiche. Vilmer and Mateo got to know me to the point I didn't even have to state the order. A couple days I ran late due to having a cold (the virus ran through much of the ship). Even though the buffet changed from overnight to morning offerings, Mateo put a quiche aside for me, heated it up and brought it over to me. This is the kind of personal service that makes travel special.
We took a couple Princess-offered excursions. At Hilo we went on a home tour/moving brunch. The group was small and the personal nature of going to people's homes was great. The food served was local produce and specialties. Definitely recommend this one. At Kauai, we took the Movies and Waterfalls excursion. This was a lot of fun because the group size was limited. We watched movie and TV show clips, then visited the island location at which it was shot. Lots of Jurassic Park stories were shared.
We also booked a couple things with non-Princess vendors. On Western Samoa we did a private tour where just hubby and I were escorted around the island attractions, then enjoyed a lovely BBQ at a private beach club. On Bora Bora we booked a boat and driver who brought us all around the island and to a private spot where we could enjoy a refreshing dip. We also found rays and black-tip sharks. We would do both of these excursions again.
Ship activities: There was plenty to do but we didn't really join in a lot of the activities. There was both a passenger choir/chorus and a passenger ukulele band that gave concerts during the trip. Lots of special-interest group meetings, arts/crafts, enrichment lectures (former LA asst district attorney, naturalist, history buff).
Spa: If you like a nice thermal suite, you may be disappointed. I know I was. The suite was located in the bowels of the spa, there was no view, just a single room with five heated benches (always occupied), steam room, sauna, and showers. I just wasn't enthralled with the arrangements and did not feel it was worth the money.
Specialty dining: We visited the Crown Grill three times, it was ab fab every time. We tried Sabatini's once. The vibration and shaking ruined the dining experience for me to the point that I left before the entree was served. This restaurant is located on the top deck at the very back of the ship. This had a lot to do with the movement and shaking. Would not recommend going to this venue unless it's a port night and the departure is later in the evening.
Vow renewal: We decided to renew our marriage vows. Princess did a fabulous package and made the event very special.
Casino: We enjoy a little gambling (mostly slots, blackjack) but the machines seemed extremely tight and I gave up after a few nights of losing money in mere minutes. I could have just stood in the Piazza and handed out a few 20's - it was just that bad. The auto-shuffler takes the fun out of Blackjack entirely. Staff was nice but the experience was not enjoyable.
Disembarkation: We booked a transfer to LAX. It was a bit stressful because there was no assistance with bags aside from unloading them from the bus. Otherwise the process was efficient - much more so than the embarkation.
Princess is on par with Celebrity (IMHO). As previously mentioned, the mini suite was nice for the seating room but not for much else. On the other hand, Princess had better food quality, hands down. I can't compare this to RCL, NCL, or Carnival experiences because none of those measure up to this cruise or crew. Highly recommend this if you have the time.
(Will post photos another time)
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
Consider the dining at your own time flexible option if getting to the shows is important to you. MDR 5:15pm set schedule dining makes it near impossible to get to the 7:30 show.