Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crown Princess Transatlantic



Crown Princess Review

Transatlantic December 2012


Just The Facts:

Ship:  Crown Princess
2012Transatlantic Cruise:  2 December through 22 December
Captain:  Andrew Procter
Cruise Director:  Lisa Ball
Ports: Venice, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Cannes, Barcelona, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada, Ft. Lauderdale, Galveston

This is my first Princess cruise since they last sailed from Texas several years ago. I am sailing with my DW (Dear Wife).  This is my 20th Princess cruise, 3rd transatlantic, and 77th overall cruise.

Travel
Ruzzini Palace Hotel - Venice
We began our trip at 6:30 am on Thursday (Nov29th) by driving to Houston to leave our auto with good friends from Alvin. After a nice Tex-Mex lunch we were dropped at the airport to fly AA to DFW airport. From DFW we boarded our American Airlines nine-hour international flight to Madrid, Spain arriving about 10:00 am on Friday.  We had a very long layover until we could board our Iberian/AA flight to Venice, but finally arrived in Venice about 7:00 pm.  We arranged transport through our hotel while en route so we were picked up by a driver at the airport who took us across the bridge to Piazzale Roma in Venice where we boarded a water taxi to take us to the Ruzzini Palace Hotel.  As tired as we were from travel, entering Venice on the Grand Canal in the early evening via water taxi is spectacular.  The lights of the Churches, Palaces, and Venetian buildings along the waterway is awe-inspiring especially for a first time visitor.  We were both quite impressed with this wonderful introduction.  We arrived at our hotel in the wonderful former 600 year old Ruzzini family palace.  The Ruzzini Place Hotel fronts on the Campo Santa Maria Formosa with a canal entry on the back side.  After dropping our bags in the room we asked for a recommendation of a nice place to eat and was sent to Al Giardinetto where we had our first wonderful Italian meal.  I had a very good penne pasta pomodora and a sea bass filleted at the table for me.  After dinner back to the hotel for some much needed sleep after an 19 hour travel day.

Venice
St. Marks Basilica - Venice
We really like our hotel, the Ruzzini Palace.  It’s located at Campo Santa Maria Formosa only a 10-15 minute walk from either St. Marks Square or the Rialto Bridge.  The hotel has a very nice breakfast buffet and our room was very nice so we really enjoyed our hotel selection.  The weather is overcast, but nice with temperatures in mid 40‘s.  This morning we were off to St. Marks Square where we found much of the square under water.  They install walkways so that you can get to the major buildings, fortunately there were not a huge amount of tourists.  We went directly to St. Mark’s Basilica.  It is very spectacular, so much gold used in the decor.  We wanted to visit Murano so when we were offered a Murano glass factory tour we took it.  We boarded a water taxi that took us to the factory where we watched a glass blower make several items, then for a tour of the showrooms where you have the opportunity to buy any variety of glassware.  We weren’t interested in any art pieces, but DW had some particular Murano glass bracelets in mind and so we purchased a few.  A water taxi returned us to the St. Marks taxi stand by 1:00 pm. Venice is ideal for walking, there are so many interesting shops and campos (squares) to be discovered. We went exploring in the Saint Marco area and stopped for a very nice pizza and coca-cola light at a pizzeria in the Campo St. Stefano.  We continued on to the famous Rialto Bridge that crosses the Grand Canal and looked at the market area on the opposite side.  Most of the market stalls close early on Saturday...these are the real markets, not tourist markets.  We began our return exploring towards St. Maria Formosa and the hotel and took a break with a bottle of local refreshment in the beautiful lounge area of Ruzinni Palace.  In the early evening we went back to St. Marks and all the water had receded.  We looked around the Piazza and then went to the famous Harry’s Bar for a Bellini, the signature drink they originated.  We then walked around and enjoyed a Peroni or wine in various bars and did some shopping until returning to the hotel for the evening.  A great day in Venice.

Day One--Sunday--Venice--Embarkation
Bridge of Sighs - Doges Palace - Venice
We slept in this morning, missing breakfast and as it was approaching check out time we packed our bags and had them stored for us so we could see more of Venice.  We went exploring and found our alternate hotel location and approached St. Marks from a new direction so that we could see the Bridge of Sighs.  We knew the weather would be wetter and cooler today so the plan was to tour inside the Doge’s Palace.  There was no ticket line and few visitors so we enjoyed a nice long tour of all the Apartments, Assembly rooms, and Justice Halls.  We were even able to tour the prison and cross over the enclosed Bridge of Sighs where the prisoners crossed over a canal to the Doge Place justice courts.  Another advantage of the ‘off season’ as that’s normally a limited tour.  The Doge Palace is amazing with most paintings and decorative architecture from 1500’s - 1600‘s, some older since it was first built in 9th century.  We then had a very nice late lunch at Ristorante da Carletto, then picking up some last minute souvenirs.  We returned to our hotel about 3:30 pm to retrieve our bags and request a water taxi to take us to the cruise terminal.  Although expensive (€90) it is the most convenient way to travel in Venice especially if you have luggage.  The taxi picked us up at the Ruzzini Palace dock, located literally just a few feet from reception and took us around the island to the water taxi stand at the cruise terminal where Princess Cruise Line  representatives take and check your bags for you.  It could not be easier.  We were in the terminal and checked-in at 4:00 pm and on the ship in just a few minutes.  We oriented ourselves to the ship and attended boat drill, our muster station is the Wheelhouse Bar a convenient location.  Princess had arranged for the Venetian Chamber Orchestra to perform in the Theater.  It was fantastic and very appropriate.  We decided to eat at the Horizon Court buffet on Lido deck as a time saver as we were still busy orienting ourselves.  They were putting the finishing touches with decorating the ship for Christmas, they had a crew come in and do it while the ship was in Venice for two full days.  The ship really looks beautiful.  We decided to attend the second show of the Venetian Chamber Orchestra and it was just as good if not better than the first.  We then settled into our cabin and our port side balcony was perfect for our late 11:00 pm sail away from Venice.  It was great watching us sail from the harbor and past St. Marks Square and out to sea.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
Aft decks - Crown Princess
It was a bit rough in the Adriatic over night, but still a much needed good nights sleep.  There was actually snow in the early hours.  Room Service woke me up, but I would have missed the MDR (main dining room) breakfast time if they hadn’t.  Breakfast was very good, I ordered fried eggs with bacon & potatoes.  A nice pot of hot milk as well.  This morning I arranged for our Elite member cabin benefits with our complementary mini-bar order and internet minutes. We are squared away although on a twenty day cruise we probably should have additional quantities and time.  The sky is clear, but the winds are 30 knots with gusts to 40 so still a nice roll to the seas.  We could see the island of St. Andrews off Croatia from the port side balcony mid day.  The Noon announcements by Captain Andy gave us a progress report of speed and weather.   They had Chinese food in the Cafe Caribe so I had a scallop seafood dish, chow main, and some spring rolls, I’m guessing there will be a different theme each day.  After lunch we had some much needed cabin time for rest.  It is very nice having the balcony to still be able to enjoy the sea even while resting.  Tonight is Captain’s Night so we dressed early and went to the Comedy show featuring Kelly Monteith.  He was very funny and we enjoyed seeing him again.  We went to the Princess Theater and attended the Production Show: ‘Destination Anywhere’ featuring the Crown Princess singers and dancers.  We then saw the Captain’s introduction and comments in the Piazza on the way to the Botticelli Dining Room for the special Captains Dinner.  I ordered the Rigatoni Pasta, French Onion Soup, Mushroom Stuffed Baked Chicken Breast, and Creme Brulee for dessert.  After dinner we returned to the cabin to watch the movie Brave, one of the movies we missed on the recent Disney Cruise.

Mt. Etna near the Straits of Messina, Italy
Day Three--Tuesday—at Sea
We had some very rough seas (Lumpy as Capt. Andy calls it) during the night, but it was very slight by early morning and it’s a beautiful clear day today.  I had the MDR breakfast special of a poached egg with spinach to start the day. We began passing through the straits of Messina about 9:00 am and you could clearly see the snow capped Mt. Etna and the volcanic smoke (the haze in the photo is smoke from the volcano). We had a very lazy day today with a lot of cabin time and a nice late Lido lunch.  The International Bar has gelato three scoops for $1.50 that is very good. We went to the Elite/Platinum cocktail social held daily from 5:15-7:15 in the Club Fusion lounge. They offer a discounted special cocktail or wine and very nice hors d’oeuvres that change daily.  Todays drink was a Chairman of the Board.  It was Italian night in the MDR and DW rated her pasta as excellent as was my dinner.  We turned in after dinner as we have an early day for Rome tomorrow.  The ship has been put on a noro-virus alert as they think someone brought it aboard.  Staff will be serving the food and they are instructing hand washing and other concerns.

Day Four--Wednesday—Civitavecchia, Italy
St. Peters Basilica - Vatican
We booked the ‘Rome on you own, by Train’ excursion so we ordered an early room service as our meet time was 7:45 am.  They have a nice Egg McMuffin style breakfast Sandwich that’s perfect.  We have visited rome previously so the goal was to go to places we may have seen, but didn’t have adequate time to enjoy previously.    We were shuttled to a special train at the port (not the train station) that took us to St. Petro station located near the Vatican in Rome where we were on our own for the day.  We went first to Saint Peter’s Basilica, then walked around ‘old town’ Rome.  We main sites we visited: Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Vatican again on the way back to the train station.  It was a LOT of walking, but there is so much to see and do in Rome.  We returned to the ship just before sail away and went to the Elite Lounge for a Mojito. I was dead tired so it was cabin time for the rest of the evening.  We ordered room service and the club sandwich is really outstanding-imagine a BLT with an additional layer of turkey.  Very pleased with room service so far on the trip.

One of the villages of Cinque Terra - Italy
Day Five--Thursday—Livorno, Italy
We met even earlier this morning for our excursion 7:00 am, but we do have a long journey.  We did the same for breakfast as room service is a good wake up call.  The weather was cool, but sunny.  Our excursion was to Cinque Terre, an eight hour tour to a series of remote villages, on the Italian Riviera now an Italian National Park and UNESCO heritage site.  We visited the villages of Manarola, Vernazza, and Monterosso.  We used the local train as transport between villages as there are no roads along this remote coastal area (in season I believe this part of the tour is by boat).  The villages are very picturesque and built into the steep cliffs on the sea.  We had lunch in Monterosso in a nice cafe before returning to the ship.  While traveling north on the bus we were able to see Pisa, the marble quarries of Carerra, and the snow capped Appian mountains.  BTW-from Monterosso you could see the Alps on the main continent.  DW had room service for dinner, but I went to the MDR for a nice meal.  The waiters are serving the bread and butter as part of the noro situation, I wonder if they change out the menus as those are being handled by various guests.

Day Six--Friday--Cannes, France
A little early for the Film Festival
It was great to sleep in this morning as we had no organized tour planned.  It was overcast and cool, but fine for touring the town.  We tendered into the city about 10:00 am and walked along the Harbor Quay into town.  We stopped at the location of the Cannes Film Festival for some ‘red carpet’ photos then to the famous Hotel Carlton the premier hotel along the Cote d’ Zur.  This is where Prince Rainer first met Grace Kelly.  We then walked through the old town area looking at shops along the way.  We really wanted to eat crepes and we really lucked-out finding a great place, Le Creperie, in the old town area.  We were the only english speakers there so it was a place for locals and the crepes were great.  We each had a crepe and shared a pitcher of wine and a dessert crepe. After lunch we did some people watching and visited the various shops.  A very pleasant day in Cannes.  We returned to the ship about 4:00 pm and went to the Elite lounge in Fusions where the special drink was a Cosmopolitan and the hors d’oeuvres were Shrimp...very nice.  We attended the production show: Whyte, two brothers who performed 50’s music.  We went to the MDR for dinner and it was very good, I had the Pumpkin & Squash Soup, an excellent Pasta, Veal Cordon Blu, and Bananas Foster for dessert.

Day Seven--Saturday--Barcelona, Spain
La Sagrada Familia - Barcelona
Very lumpy seas overnight (gusts of 70 knot winds), but it was a beautiful day in Barcelona, best weather of the cruise so far.  We again had a light room service breakfast as we prepared for the day. We have been to Barcelona before so we had a specific plan, we left the ship through the very nice cruise terminal and shared a taxi to La Sagrada Familia.  We spent a couple of hours here at this unique Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) designed basilica.  We then walked the ten blocks to Passeig de Gracia a grand boulevard leading to Plaza Catalonia with famous named designer shops, Gaudi designed lamps & benches, chic restaurants, and more.  We had only gone one block we came across a secondary location of Txapella the Tapas restaurant we had planned to stop at for lunch, but we stopped at this location as it was perfect timing for a break.  We shared a pitcher of Sangria and had some outstanding tapas, a perfect Barcelona lunch.  Another block and we were at La Batillo the famous Gaudi designed house that we toured on our previous trip to Barcelona.  Soon we were at Catalonia Plaza, the heart of the city and we enjoyed a gelato and people watched.  Crossing the square you reach the beginning of Las Ramblas the famous pedestrian avenue leading from Catalonia Plaza to the harbor.  We strolled the Ramblas all the way down to the huge statue of Columbus at the end and at the harbor stopping to get a few souvenirs along the way.  From here we took the port shuttle (€2.50) back to the ship arriving an hour before sailing.  The ship arranged for a Flamenco Show by local Jose De La Vega that was very interesting.  We sailed about 5:00 pm and it was finally warm enough for a balcony sail away.  For dinner we went to the Lido, where staff served the items from the buffet due to the noro concern.  They had Turkey at the carving station and the vegetables were nice.  After dinner it was movie time in the cabin. 

Rock of Gibtraltar
Day Eight--Sunday--at Sea
Seas were fair overnight and the weather is again very nice.  We had a casual morning and then a more formal enjoyable lunch in the MDR.  We explored more of the ship and passengers are enjoying all four swimming pools and the improved weather.  We passed through the straits of Gibraltar late this afternoon.  The ‘Rock of Gibtraltar’ was clearly in view on the starboard side of the ship as we passed as were the Atlas Mountains of Africa on the port side.  First time to have sailed through in day light.  We continued our casual day until we went to the Elite Lounge for the specials of the day: Margaritas.  They also had Guacamole that was surprisingly good.  We attended the production show:  Motor City with the Crown Princess singers and dancers.  It was a good show and we had seats on the front row.  They have a full complement of 10 dancers, many cruise lines have cut the number, I believe there are 6-7 in orchestra.  After the show it was time for dinner in the MDR, I ordered the Asparagus appetizer, Mixed Green Salad, a very nice Pasta, the Beef Tips, and Ice Creme for dessert.  We set our clocks back one hour for the first time tonight.

Day Nine--Monday--Lisbon, Portugal
Belem Tower - Lisbon Portugal
Smooth seas overnight as we now sail the Atlantic.  I had a nice MDR breakfast as I was up earlier probably because of time change. We also arrived in Lisbon earlier than the scheduled 12:00 noon time.  It was a beautiful day perfect for our highlights of Lisbon tour.  We first stopped at the oldest area, the Alfama Quarter, a Moorish section and walked some of the very narrow streets (certainly not the best area of the city).  We then drove through the Baixa area with large old town squares and Rossio Square the heart of the city.  We drove through Edwardo VII Park and saw the gardens and views of lower Lisbon.  We then drove across the 25th of April Bridge (pretty much identical of the Golden Gate and built by the same contractor) to the Christ the King statue on the opposite bank of the Rio Tejo.  The statue is supposed to be a bookend to the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro.  From here we had a great view of our cruise ship and the City of Lisbon.  We crossed back across the bridge to visit the Belem area and the monuments. We stopped at the Jeronimos Monastery built in the 16th century with the money from Vasco de Gama’s India voyages.  Then to the Belem Tower Fortress also built in the 16th Century and perhaps the symbol of Lisbon.  Here we had time to visit a nearby cafe and sample a Pasteis de Nata de Belem, a creamy custard cup and specialty to the area and some of the local Vino Verde wine.  Last stop was the Monument to the Discoveries commemorating Portugal's great seafarers.  After returning to the ship we had a hamburger and fries then each took a slice of pizza up to the balcony to enjoy the wonderful weather and view.  We are docked below the bridge and Christ statue on opposite shore.  Both were beautifully lighted as we sailed away after dark.  We decided to skip the MDR, but I made a dessert run to the Lido as we enjoyed cabin time.

Day Ten--Tuesday--at Sea
Mermaids Tail Bar on Lido Deck
Seas were smooth most of the night then we hit some high seas that continued through the morning on this cloudy day.  The ship is really rocking this morning.  I went up to the Lido for the first time for breakfast and it was very busy, I suspect because the MDR closes early @ 9:00 am.  Staff is serving due to the continued noro situation.  The are doubling up on the movies shown in both the Princess Theater and Explorers Lounge plus you have new movies on cabin TV.  DW had a Quiche and I the Gelato for a late lunch in the International Cafe, the Quiche was very good.  We did some afternoon shopping and they are offering 10% off on liquor when purchasing two or more bottles plus an additional 10% off if you are an Elite member.  We ran into Captain Andy while out and about this afternoon, always good seeing him again.  We had a light dinner in the Lido Horizon Court then watched the new Batman movie in the Cabin.  A good rest day.

Day Eleven--Wednesday--Ponta Delgada, Azores Islands (Portugal)
Volcanic Lakes - Azores
Fair seas overnight and we arrived in Ponta Delgada about 9:15 am almost an hour early.  It was a beautiful day with sunshine.  After our light room service breakfast we left the ship and arranged for a taxi tour of a part of the island.  We went to the Highlands area where the caldeira of an extinct volcano holds two lakes- one green and one blue separated by a narrow isthmus of lava.  A beautiful location with lots of pine forest.  On the drive there we past many lush green pastures and dairy herds so we were anxious to try the local cheeses.  We returned to the city and stopped at the new small shopping mall as it was mid day and the smaller shops are closed for lunch.  After a bit we walked down to the old town with its narrow cobblestone streets and many shops, stores, and restaurants.  We found a small local place, Casa De Pastos Tavares, to eat and it had primarily the local foods we wanted to sample. First we were brought a basket of fresh bread and a plate of local cheese and butter...the dairy we were hoping to sample.  We ordered a bottle of a local wine, a Portuguese vinho verde style.  I ordered a lunch plate that had very nice thinly sliced panfried pork and garlic with white rice and fried potatoes.  All very good.  The island is well known for pineapples so I asked if I could get some and they brought a whole pineapple for me to view then sliced and cored it and served as a dessert.  It was fantastic very sweet and moist.  We then did some shopping in the old town area including a stop at the local wine shop where we got six bottles of local wine and one bottle of pineapple liquor.  After a local beer and some WiFi access at a cafe near the pier we returned to the ship at the 5:30 return time.  Dinner tonight was good, I ordered a Scallop & Avacado Appetizer, Green Salad, Pasta in Pesto Sauce, Prime Rib with Potato and a Cherries Jubilee Cake for dessert.  It was cabin tine following dinner.

Cruise Itinerary
Day Twelve--Thursday--at Sea
Overcast and windy with very lumpy seas overnight and all day as we begin our six consecutive sea days.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and ordered the specials: a Papaya shell filled with mixed fruit and a traditional English breakfast.  Weather restricts the on deck activities so they have added movies throughout the day and a lot of indoor activities.  The Horizon Court had a seafood theme today with many varieties of fish on buffet, I had catfish.  We watched a few movies in the afternoon and took a walk along decks.  We had cabin time and a bottle of wine before dinner, tonight I ordered Scallops, Onion Soup, Pasta, Steak Diane, And Apple Pie for dessert.  Comedian Manuel Martinez was the primary entertainer this evening in the Princess Theater.  We turned back our time one hour tonight.

Day Thirteen--Friday--at Sea
Moderate Seas today and sunny weather, a great improvement.  I again had an MDR breakfast and ordered the special Huevos Rancherchos although they weren’t what we would call huevos rancherchos back on the ranch in Texas.  After breakfast I visited the Excursion desk and Future Cruise desk.  At 11:00 am we watched a very good British movie: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the Explorers Lounge, a movie I had never heard anything about and was very pleased with after viewing.  After the rather long movie we went to the MDR for lunch, I ordered a Salad, Pasta, London Grill, and Rice Pudding.  Much nicer so we had our walk partially on outer decks.  Tonight was the second formal night so we dressed for dinner then went to the Elite Lounge for Cosmopolitans.  Then we went to the Princess Theater to see British comedian Kevin Devane.  He was so bad he was somewhat entertaining.  It was then time for dinner and it was very good, I ordered the Crawfish Appetizer, Pasta, the Chateaubriand, and also had a Lobster when they brought a second helping around for the table.  I had a special chocolate pudding and a crepe for dessert.

Day Fourteen--Saturday--at Sea
Aft Pool - Crown Princess
Smoother seas overnight and a nice sunny day for a morning walk around the ship.  We looked at the shops and made another liquor purchase this morning as they were running out of certain brands.  We did the MDR for lunch and it was very good, I ordered Mexican Soup, Fillet of Sole, and a Blueberry Roulade with Marscapone filling that was the best dessert of the cruise.  We visited with friends and went to the Princess Theater to see the movie: The Hunger Games.  It was off to Club Fusion and the Elite Lounge cocktail gathering where we enjoyed some Cosmopolitans. The drink of the day was a Rob Roy, but we discovered you could have any of the previous DOD’s (drink of the day) for the special Elite/Platinum lounge special ($5) price.  The Production show was What a Swell Party a collection of Cole Porter tunes.  The show was very good and DW’s favorite of the cruise.  Dinner was good, I ordered a Pasta, the Fillet of Sole, and the Roast Beef entree.  We set our clocks back an hour tonight.

Day Fifteen--Sunday--at Sea
Seas were slight overnight so much improved.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and had Eggs Benedict with bacon & hash browns.  Very good and first EB of the cruise although they are offered at lunch in the MDR as a brunch option.  This morning was movie time again watching, The Help.  The morning started cloudy but it was the best weather of the cruise by afternoon.  We had lunch in the MDR: Chicken Tortilla Soup, Pasta, and a small assorted Seafood Mix.  We walked on deck and had balcony time this afternoon.  There was a reception for Circle C members in the Fusions Lounge.  It was nice to let Captain Andy pick up the tab today and the cocktails were good.  There  are 500+ Elites on board, 800+ Platinums and the top three members by sea days had over 800 sea days with the highest over 1100 sea days.  Hard to imagine. I will have just over 200 on Princess upon completion of this cruise.  We ate in the MDR for dinner and have fallen into a routine, with an appetizer, soup, pasta, entree, and dessert.  The dinners do begin to lose their uniqueness on a long cruise.  My entree was a nice fish fillet and so far I have not repeated any dishes although the choices are narrowing as there are a lot of repeats on the menu now.  Tonight we again set back our time another hour, first time we have done it two nights in a row, but tomorrow we will be on Atlantic Time, only one hour off Florida or EST and two off Texas Time.

Day Sixteen--Monday--at Sea
Pub Lunch
Fair seas and nice weather continue.  After all the continuous sea days we have fallen into a routine and we can by choice be lazy at home so we have decided to be more active on the remaining sea days of the cruise.  So for DW it was off to Zumba class and I had a nice MDR breakfast and then a Seminar at Sea.  The Seminar was very good, it was done by John Maxtone-Graham and the subject was the SS France that later became the SS Norway.  I wish I had been attending all of his lectures.  I actually bought his book, Only Way to Cross, almost 30 years ago while sailing on the SS Norway.  We then had a Pub Lunch with friends in the Wheelhouse Bar, this is a limited thing and only offered a few times on the cruise.  I had a Scotch Egg, they also offered Fish & Chips and two other items.  It was then off to the International Cafe to get the12:30 batch of fresh cookies, but they also had the Blueberry Roulade that I enjoyed for dessert a few days earlier for lunch.  Very good.  We had an afternoon walk around the ship and I took some photos for the blog, DW even hit the forward pool in the Spa area.  We went to the Wheelhouse Bar to listen to the La Bohemia String Quartet and have a cocktail before the evenings production show: Hypnotic Showtime with David Knight.  It was made more interesting when an MDR table mate became one of the hypnotized subjects.  Dinner had a good selection tonight, I had a Soup, Pasta, Red Snapper, Pulled Pork, and Cherries Jubilee for dessert.  It was nice busy day.

Day Seventeen--Tuesday--at Sea

Display in Crown Princess Piazza
Again smooth seas overnight.  It’s warm the weather will reach 80° but more overcast than yesterday.  I had a very nice MDR breakfast and DW was off to Zumba.  She says that the Zumba classes are very well done and the room was packed. I enjoyed the weather and walked the outer Promenade deck, a good start to the day.  Today we had a nice lunch on deck by the pool.  This afternoon we attended the Titanic talk by John Maxtone-Graham in the Princess Theater, very informative.  We went early to the Club Fusion for the Elite cocktail specials then to the Comedy Showtime featuring Mark Martinez.  We had some special Side Car cocktails at Crooners Bar before our special Italian night dinner in the MDR.  They served my favorite Princess dish tonight: Eggplant Parmesan and it was as good as I remembered it!  Double Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta, an Entree, and should have had Eggplant Parmesan for dessert. It’s that good. We turn back the clock to EST tonight and we picked up another television station or two today.

Day Eighteen--Wednesday--Fort Lauderdale, Florida  USA

Port Everglades
We arrived very early in port and those debarking began to get off early, but everyone is required to go through US Customs as this is our first port of entry.  We allowed those in a hurry to proceed and we took advantage of having telephone service and internet through my mobile hotspot to catch up on some personal and business matters.  We left the ship after 11:00 am and walked over to some nearby businesses.  We had a very nice lunch at a Tijuana Flats Mexican restaurant.  We picked up some goodies at a Walgreens and headed back to the ship boarding about 2:00 pm. for a 3:30 scheduled sail away.  Fortunately our balcony faces the harbor and the weather was great so we had a very enjoyable time watching the activity in the busy harbor.  I was also able to post the first portion of this review to the website.  We sailed away a bit late nearer 4:30 and all the balconies were full of pax to watch us sail out of Port Everglades through the channel and into the Atlantic.  We ate in the Cafe Caribe tonight, it was a beautiful night to eat on deck especially the aft deck behind the Cafe Caribe.  It was also a perfect night for MUTS (Movies Under The Stars) on Lido deck.  We didn’t attend, but the entertainment in the Princess Theater this evening was the Crew Talent Show.

Day Nineteen--Thursday--at Sea
Vegetable Carving - Crown Princess
Fair seas overnight and beautiful weather all day today.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and DW was off to Zumba.  The browsed the shops that are adding Caribbean displays and items for the new itineraries coming after we arrive in Galveston.  We watched the Vegetable Carving display in the Piazza and while we were there had a light early lunch of Quiche from the International Court. We attended the presentation called, All You Ever Wanted To Know About Passengers, But Were Too Polite To Enquire by John and Mary Maxtone-Graham.  It was very interesting, but I prefer the lectures.  Since the ship passed all the U.S. Health Inspections yesterday passengers were again allowed to serve themselves in the Horizon Court buffets.  I had a nice late afternoon salad since I could ‘build’ it myself and get the individual items in the quantities I preferred.  This was the third Formal Night of the cruise and we went to the Elite Lounge located in Fusions for cocktail. We then attended the production show: Disco-Blame It on the Boogie featuring the Crown Princess Singers & Dancers in the Princess Theater.  Immediately following was the final comments by Captain Andy and a complementary farewell cocktails in the Piazza.  Dinner was very good.  I had Escargot, Tomato Soup, Pasta, Beef Wellington, a Lobster Tail, and Banana Creme Pie for dessert.

Christmas Tree in Piazza
Day Twenty--Friday--at Sea
Very very lumpy seas overnight, we were rocking & rolling much of the night and morning.  We later learned that Capt. Andy had to change course due north into the approaching weather front in order to expedite a passenger evacuation.  I went to the MDR and DW to Zumba, but when we returned we had to leave our cabins as we are located below the center lido deck that was the staging area for the helicopter medical evacuation.  We went to Team Trivia that seemed very fun especially if your with a group.  We had a nice lunch in the Horizon Court, they had peel & eat shrimp and roast beef in the carving station.  They also had a special dessert display called the Pastry Extravaganza in the Cafe Caribe.  When we were allowed back in the cabin we did our packing since they ask for the bags to be placed outside the cabin BEFORE dinner.  We had our final cocktails in the Elite Lounge then attended the Farewell Show in the Princess Theater. The show included the Crown Princess Singers & Dancers, Comedian Manuel Martinez, and soloist Sonia Selbie.  A good show.  They also had a Christmas Show and also sang Christmas Carols in the Piazza.  Final dinner was good, Turkey was my entree and the feature was Baked Alaska.  We turned the clocks back and are now on Texas Time for our arrival tomorrow.

Debarkation--Saturday--Galveston, Texas
Princess calls it Disembarkation and it went well.  We usually do self, but didn’t want to impose on the friends picking us up and chose an 8:30 am time.  The color code given us was for that time.  Since we actually cleared customs in Fort Lauderdale the basically just took our Customs Declaration cards so it went quickly.  After a great breakfast with our friends in Alvin we were on our way home and arrived at the ranch about 4:00 pm.

Ship / Cruise

The Crown Princess is approximately 114,000 gross tons, 950 feet long and breadth of 118 ft. sailing since May 2006. There are about 2800 passengers this cruise so it’s not at full capacity as there are very few 3/4’s booked with only 20+ children on board.  The average age this cruise is 66 years-although it actually seems higher.  Very well dressed and polite experienced passengers for the most part.

Cabins
We have cabin R330 a standard balcony located on Rivera Deck (deck 14) between the forward and midship elevators on the port side.  The thermostat was good...a real working thermostat that raised and lowered the cabin temperature as needed.  They did have a very good selection of movies on the cabin television including some very recent releases.  Also some TV classics like the Love Boat a natural program for a Princess cruise.  I like the layout very much with the desk and TV on the balcony side of cabin.

Crew

Roderick our cabin steward was fantastic.  Our MDR waiters were also very good as were all the dining staff we encountered at breakfast, lunch, or the Horizon Court.  Every crew or staff person I encountered was professional and courteous.  Cruise Director Lisa was very good.

Food
I found the food to be very good.  We did the MDR most evenings, but not exclusively.  The Horizon court would get too full of bodies especially once the crew began serving the guests due to the norovirus prevention situation, but the food was good.  The lunches in the MDR were also very good and the menu changed daily.  The International Cafe had very good alternative choices and freshly baked cookies.  DW (a 30-year vegetarian) rarely is impressed with the food on a cruise, but was very pleased with the food on this cruise.  Pizza and ice creme was popular and also good.

Needs Improvement
The cokes we receive on the Soda Package will be fountain drinks, not from a can, and don’t taste the same.  The MDR breakfast hours end too early IMHO, 7-9:00 am are fine for port days, but much too early for sea days or for Caribbean cruises.  An interactive TV system so that you can check the status of your onboard account or something as simple as the dinner menu would be nice.

Duly Noted
Captain Andy’s noon announcements were always informative and clever.   I never needed or used the fan I brought along.  I enjoyed the classic Love Boat reruns they showed each day. We had the largest on-board account we have ever had, but this was also the longest cruise too, the tips alone were $460 plus a few ship excursions and it adds up quickly. 

Cruise Highlights

Venice was very special, a very unique city in the world.  We also enjoy Barcelona very much.  I had forgotten why Princess was our favorite cruise line until this cruise reminded me.  An outstanding cruise and a great asset for Galveston and Houston to have Princess Cruise Line back in Texas.
Balcony Sunset from Crown Princess





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