Baltic Heritage - Crown Princess
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|Reviewed By: Stones, Keighley on 31st Jul 2013|
|Cruise Line: Princess Cruises||Times cruised before: 6-10|
|Cruise Ship: Crown Princess||Sailed: July, 2013|
|Destination: Norwegian Fjords||Age: 36-45|
Finally after being postponed on 2 occasions we decided to book up our Baltic cruise and started to shop around in May for last minute bargains for July. After studying various options we opted for Baltic Heritage aboard the Crown Princess. The decision was made easier since P&O and Cunard did not offer their getaway fares on 3 berth cabins and as Mum was coming along, we needed the larger room. We also wanted to visit as many ports as possible on a two week cruise and as this itinerary took in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Estonia and Belguim it was the perfect choice. We arrived at Southampton just after midday on 13th July and met up with Mum at the terminal. We immediately proceeded to check in and within ten minutes were onboard and finding our way to our 3 berth interior cabin. Having cruised six times in the past, this was the first time we had been able to go directly to the cabin without having to wait around and it was far more convenient and meant we could have a quick change and start to explore the ship. We found our cabin on Riviera deck (732) which was conveniently situated towards the aft of the ship with direct access to the adults-only swimming pool. The cabin itself had less wow factor than any of the previous ones we've been in on RCI, Celebrity and Carnival and was very plain and functional. It did however feel quite spacious and was relatively comfortable. Our luggage had not arrived so we made our way up one deck to the Horizon Court cafe which was already open for lunch. The food selection was great and everything was nicely presented but without frills. This continued throughout the cruise and we had few complaints however the main thing we noted was that the desserts were very bland and had little flavour. The mango/coffee/blueberry/pineapple/Baileys cheesecakes and desserts rarely tasted as they should with only a hint of the flavour that the title suggested. The main problem encountered on boarding day and throughout the cruise was the limited seating in the self-serve venues and most times we had to circle several times in order to find a place to sit. Incidentally this problem was often caused by other guests using the window-side tables to stare at the sea and chit chat even after they had finished eating. With so many different lounges and other spaces available on these large ships, I think it is very thoughtless of people to take up space in the dining venues when it is obvious to all that there is a shortage. After lunch we decided to relax at the Crown Terrace pool and a have a swim before departure at 4pm being as the weather was so nice in Southampton. By the time we got back to the cabin, the luggage had been delivered.
We decided to take it easy on the first evening and ate once again in the buffet restaurant and didn't bother with the theatre show as the piano entertainer didn't appeal to us. The first day of the cruise was a sea day so we spent the day exploring the ship and took in a couple of trivias followed by some sunbathing on deck. We found that the nicest place to relax was at the front of the ship near to the Sanctuary as there was a heated adults-only pool as well as adult-only hot tubs. Afternoon tea was taken at 3.30 in the Da Vinci dining room but as the tea was so weak and choice of pastries were so limited we didn't bother repeating the experience. Instead, on other sea days we decided to take the afternoon snacks in the Horizon Court and this turned out to be our favourite meal of the day. On the first sea day a formal night was planned so we decided to eat in the Michelangelo dining room but having not reserved a table in advance we had to wait about five minutes and eventually joined a couple who were already seated. During the cruise we dined in the sit down restaurant around five times, each time pre-reserving a table by calling the 'Dine-Line' from our cabin. The any-time dining worked really well and each time we joined others on a six-seater table. The meal selection was always good and there was an 'always available' section in case none of the specials were to your liking. We found the portions quite small and sometimes ordered two starters or two desserts which was no problem for the waiters. The food was generally tasty and nicely prepared however someone on our table always seemed to send something back to the kitchen due to the quality of the meat/fish. We did not have any drinks package and the cheapest glass of house wine was $6.95 plus tax and a cocktail worked out at just over $8 inc. tax. Water was served free of charge. After dinner we decided to check out the show in the Princess Theatre which tonight was titled ' Destination Anywhere' and was performed by the Crown Princess singers and dancers. The troupe were no better or no worse that singing/dancing troupes on other cruises and were average in their abilities. One of the singers did stand out as being not as good and their shows were all very average except for the 'Disco-Blame it on the Boogie show which was slightly better. Throughout the cruise, the entertainment was a mix of good and bad, the worst being David Copperfield a so-called comedian who appeared on UK tv in the eighties with Tracey Ullman on the show Three of a Kind. His show was painful to watch and got very few laughs from the audience. The best acts were Laura Broad - a British singer who appeared on Britain's Got Talent and Jimmy Tammley - a well-known ventriloquist (so good we watched both of his shows). David Moore was the resident pianist in Crooners bar but was given his own feature show in the Explorers lounge one evening and this proved to be one of the best shows of the cruise. A great piano player and very witty. The daytime entertainment and trivias were mostly hosted by CJ the DJ and these were usually of a musical nature e.g 70's 80's, Rock. The only way however to get a decent score was to try and build a team up with someone from the UK, USA and Australia as the questions were very mixed. Having previously cruised with Royal Caribbean I would definitely say that their entertainment/activities were better than those of Princess – in fact I would be far more likely to recommend RCI or Celebrity over Princess on almost all aspects. None of us felt that the Crown Princess had any wow-factor in the décor, furnishings, service or in any other area and probably would not choose to sail with Princess again unless there was no other alternative. Having said that, we met lots of other guests who had sailed many times with Princess and wouldn't consider any other company, therefore I guess it comes down to your own personal tastes. We felt that the service in the bars (especially Club Fusion) was appalling and on more than one occasion had to wait in excess of twenty minutes to be served. The staff were simply not attentive and it was almost impossible to get their attention sometimes and in general, the whole staff of the Crown Princess could do with some lessons in smiling. Some useful tips to bear in mind are as follows:
Tip 1 – Make sure you try out the Movies Under The Stars. Usually the movies play during the daytime and then again in the evening with the same movie repeated several times per day. Hot cookies/milk and popcorn are provided free of charge along with blankets to keep you warm on cool evenings. A great experience!
Tip 2 – There are great photo opportunities by going to the very front of deck 15 and then onto the viewing deck which is actually right on top of the bridge. Can be a bit windy but great fun.
Tip 3 – Escape the main swimming pools and try the small pool next to the Lotus Spa on deck 15. Most people think that this is only available for Spa users or those who pay to use the Sanctuary but in fact it is open to any adult. The pool is warmer and it’s far more peaceful.
Tip 4 – For those on ‘any-time’ dining, try to book a table in the afternoon before 5pm rather than just turning up at the door as there can be long waits.
Other things to note are; there are no self-service juice dispensers on the Crown Princess therefore if you’re used to being able to help yourself to fruit juice at breakfast or lemonade/fruit punch etc. at other mealtimes forget it. It is now necessary to request a glass of juice at mealtimes in the buffet areas and it can be extremely difficult to get a refill. Water and ice is still available from a self-serve dispenser. Coffee is also self service but has a very poor flavour. Teas are available but no hot chocolate as with other cruise lines. The itinerary of this cruise was the best part and all in all we had a great holiday. If it came down to a specific itinerary again and Princess was the best option, we would more than likely book it but would try other cruise lines first.
|Quality of Food|
Dec 06 2013 09:14AM)