It should have been a fantastic cruise with wonderful weather and the perfect season. An overcrowded ship and numerous issues made it not be the case.
4 out of 5
Embarkation was a breeze. We zipped through the registration process and were onboard in about 15 minutes. I've never had a better registration and embarkation process. Should be 5 stars but that artificially raises the average rating of the whole cruise.
Food and Dining
2 out of 5
First, the buffets were better than on any other ship that we've been on. The food was surprisingly edible and the variety was very good. We mainly hit them for breakfast and maybe a midday light lunch, though not for dinner.
The main restaurants were only slightly better than the food quality of the buffets. I don't know if that is more a compliment to the buffets or a hit on the main dining. Menu offerings were generally low in variety and in some cases either lacked imagination or tried to be too imaginative. Sometimes the offerings had very intricate ways of listing basic dishes. I don't mind basic dishes, and sometimes I actually think that they can be preferential, but dressing them up in name only doesn't make them better. There were a couple of nights that we considered leaving the main dining room and hitting the buffet because the selection wasn't there for us. Steaks ordered medium-rare to medium came out medium-well to well done; salmon was dry and basically a brick; a piece of prime rib that could be seen to have numerous lines of gristle was confirmed to be inedible when it couldn't be cut on the plate. The slice should not have been served in the first place.
We tried Sabitini's and were immensely disappointed. I'd put the quality as equal to that of the Olive Garden, and the menu had a lower selection of offerings. All in all, it wasn't nearly worth the $29 per person upcharge and the quality did not surpass the main dining room, and maybe that of the buffet.
We were told by numerous individuals at the end of the cruise that the Crown Grill was excellent and worth the extra charge, though we, sadly, did not experience it.
2 out of 5
The fitness center was well equipped. I never once waited for a machine. I didn't try any of the classes due to their competing with all of the other reasons that most people take cruises, i.e. excursions and onshore activities.
The pools were open most of the time and the heated water was nice on the few cool nights and days that we had while on ship.
This ship listed a capacity of 3080 people but we were told that we sailed with more than 3200 onboard. This made for a lot of competition when trying to plan onboard activities. Though the theater shows were entertaining, arriving 30 minutes before the curtain was to go up would find you turned away without an available seat. Arriving (and having to waste) more than an hour before showtime ensured a somewhat reasonable seat. I suspect that really prime seats were to be had if you wanted to invest about 2 hours or more of precious cruise time sitting in an idle theater.
On the other hand, visiting the clubs after 11:00 pm would find the places mostly filled by less than a dozen or so people. This caused a dramatic loss of energy in them and by midnight, you'd have the places mostly to yourself.
5 out of 5
I thought that the entertainment was mostly rather decent. The vocalists were very good, the bands/orchestras played on key and tempo, and the non-cruise line acts brought on to perform were quite entertaining. These, when you could actually get into the theater, were some of the highlights of the cruise.
Service and Staff
3 out of 5
I would say that the crew was generally first-rate. The all put on a happy face regardless of how rude or obnoxious some passengers tended to be. It is impressive how the crews are trained to put up with self-important and ever more frequently narcissistic tourists, and they do so with impressive self-control. With the ship overflowing with guests, The crew had difficulties at times staying on top of getting the proper flow during the dining experience, yet I blame a lot of this on trying to feed so many at a single seating time instead of staggered seatings.
3 out of 5
I never found the ship to appear to be unclean. In fact, constant and deliberate cleaning was something that is noticeable if one takes the time to actually observe.
Being a large ship, some of the decks are quite the intricate rat maze. Getting from the top decks down to some of the dining decks took more than a single elevator at times, or at least going to the correct position in the deck you are on that will get you to the correct area of your intended deck. For instance, from deck 15 (Lido) to get to the De Vinci dining room on deck 6 (Fiesta) could not be reached via the aft lifts, you had to go midship or to the forward lifts. It took a day or two to really learn the correct routes, especially when areas were closed for ports of call.
Cabin / Stateroom
2 out of 5
We recently took a cruise with our son on a Carnival Cruise so that we could enjoy the time with our grandkids. We had a balcony stateroom on that ship and the cabin space was much roomier on that ship than on this one. Our cabin on that ship had a sofa that converted to a small bed in which my grandson was able to sleep on with us. The balcony stateroom on the Crown Princess had room for the bed and not much else. The cabin also had a single chair by the door and a desk chair that tucked under the desk. There really wasn't much comfort to this cabin for staying in on sea days. Also, the TV screen was extremely dark, making viewing very difficult.
This is a moderately large ship. Get a ship map for each traveler when checking in as you'll need one to navigate the maze that some decks provide. They usually give one per cabin at check in but will provide more if asked.
This port was removed from our itinerary due to a lowered ship speed limit on the Saint Lawrence River to protect the endangered Atlantic Right Whale. The reduced speed did not leave enough time to make this port of call.
This was another beautiful stop and the entire island gave us the desire to fully explore it but time did not allow it. We viewed a handful of lighthouses and came away with a newfound appreciation for the importance of the job that they once performed.
Being the closest rescue port to the site of the Titanic tragedy, this area had a very interesting story to tell after that fateful night. Visiting the Fairview Lawn Cemetery was moving and it was good to follow that up with a visit to the Maritime Museum. The Citadel was also worth the visit, providing a great deal of history regarding the fort built in the mid-18th century to protect the growing city. We chose to take the hop on/hop off bus tour that provided easy transport to all of the city's major interest sites. I recommend this highly.
This city gets such a poor rating, not from the quality of the city but from the worst tour that I have ever been on being offered here. We chose to take the Reversing Rapids Railway Tour in this port. We have previously taken a train tour in Alaska on the White Pass & Yukon railroad that was spectacular. That was a tour from Skagway, not the Alaskan railroad from Whittier to Fairbanks. The scenery can be among the best you will ever see by rail.
So we saw this train tour to the famous reversing rapids on the Saint John River and thought it should be something that should be both scenic and very interesting. The bus was 20 minutes late picking us up at the ship but the ride to the depot was only less than 2 miles away from our port. That turned out to be a non-issue because the train wasn't in the depot when we arrived. After another 10 minute delay, the train arrived and we boarded the train. The train traveled no more than half a mile to the bridge over the reversing rapids. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon when we arrived and the tide was midway between low and high tide. Not only were the rapids not flowing spectacularly, the water was nearly still as the flow both upriver and down were equal. What we got to see was basically a lake with water flowing in neither direction. This was the chance of the tides that day, so I don't blame the tour company for the poor luck in the timing.
After about 15 minutes over the river, the train continued onward another half mile across the river to a switch track that provided a wonderful view of the wood chip piles of a paper company while the track switch was thrown. After another 10 minutes, the train reversed direction and continued no more than another 2.5 miles to another side track where our buses were waiting to take us on the 10-minute ride directly back to the ship. This "fabulous" experience of fewer than 4 miles of rail travel and fewer than 6 miles by bus was had for the bargain price of only $140 for the two of us. Pondering this, perhaps it was we that were had?
Bar Harbor is one of my favorite places in the eastern United States. The iconic coastline and the mountain views are spectacular, regardless of the season visited, if the harbor isn't socked in by fog. We were fortunate to visit on an equally spectacular fall day with 70-degree temperatures, clear skies, and light winds. Our lobster lunch was just the right touch to finish off our visit to this tourist favorite.
We hit Boston on a Friday and the tour that we were on visited the JFK Library in the afternoon, followed by what was supposed to be a tour of Boston's highlights.
In regards to the Kennedy library, that was very impressive. Presenting the account of JFK's life from childhood to his assassination, it was a moving tribute. Kennedy won one of the closest elections in our history. Though he won the electoral college 303-219, he won the popular vote by a mere 118,500+ votes out of 64 million cast. He was loved and hated nearly equally during his presidency. My best friend says that his mother used to literally spit at the TV whenever Kennedy was on, though after his death she drove the family to Washington to visit his body as it lied in state in the capital building. His term was difficult and he is recognized as one of our most popular and successful presidents of all time. Dealing with escalations of the cold war, civil rights, the Cuban missile crisis and organized crime, his less than 3 years in office were difficult at best. Had he not been assassinated, there is no telling how the Vietnam conflict would have gone because he wanted America out of there. It was after his death that Lyndon Johnson jumped us in with both feet and America was involved for a decade longer. Kennedy was also instrumental in getting our space program on track, and as a by-product, much of the framework of today's technologies were financed and developed.
Next, we expected to see some of the famous sites so important to our American history yet afterward, I find myself no closer to visiting these sites as at any other time in my life. Though the Kennedy library was worth the efforts, our tour afterward wound up being spent in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic in Boston center. We got to see lots of traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, the 19th century Trinity Church (not sure why this was included and it was mostly covered in scaffolding due to repairs, at that) and the finish line to the Boston Marathon. Oh, we did drive past the Boston Tea Party Museum because it was less than a mile from the cruise dock. I think that if there would have been a way to avoid doing so, we would have missed that as well. LOL. If I had wanted to drive around in rush hour and be frustrated at seeing nothing of major interest, I could have done the same thing in downtown Baltimore or Washington DC instead of downtown Boston. I'm still laughing about this portion of the tour.
This was the port of our cruise termination. Since we had a (cancelled) mid-afternoon flight home, we did not think that we had time to tour any of this city.
4 out of 5
Disembarkation was quick and painless. Like the embarkation, disembarkation was equally efficient. We had zero to complain about with this process. Should be 5 stars but that artificially raises the average rating of the whole cruise.
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