The cruise addiction strikes again, slightly earlier in the year than normal but hey, it was a bargain!
Here’s to the Crown Princess and all who sail on her. God knows I wish I still was! The Crown Princess set sail on the 13th May 2017, Captained by Justin Lawes, with 3,080 passengers aboard and 1,201 crew. We were bound for the Med but since a cruise ship can only go 25 miles an hour maximum, it would be a while before we got there.
Itinerary summer 2017:
Embarkation & 3 days at sea:
It may sound ridiculous but when I get on a Princess ship it feels like coming home (Yes, I am that much of a cheeseball) I have sailed on sister ships of the Crown and needed no assistance finding my way around. Wearing a ridiculous grin and so excited that I was virtually doing a jig (I dance when I’m excited) I was up onto the pool deck like lightening; in pursuit of two things I miss when I am not sailing the sea’s in my second home. Pizza, you may laugh but it’s award winning! And an ice-cream shake that I had missed so dearly on the Royal the year before.
Admittedly the next few days at sea where spent eating food. It’s just too good to resist! And when you can’t sunbathe because you are passing through the choppy Bay of Biscay it’s pretty hard to resist the call of your favourites, that are not available on dry land. The food coma did not stop me exploring the beautiful vessel I had found myself upon. Before embarking I had read many a review that the Crown was looking old and was in dire need of love. This could not be farther from the truth! The Crown set sail in 2006, she is 11 years old and no she is not the newest or the shiniest. But she does not look tired. She is immaculate! I called her home for two weeks and the only flaw I could find; was that her engine produced rather more noise than I am used too. Regardless, that had nothing to do with her appearance. Take it from me this Grand class ship is still very Grand.
During my explorations, I discovered a place that I would not have been permitted to enter previously. The Elite lounge! No I am not an elite, I wish I was. But alas I will be waiting a while. However I am a platinum and we are permitted to share with those more experienced than us. The Elite lounge aboard Crown Princess was in Skywalkers nightclub and it served canapés every night between 5pm – 7pm. It was a sweet touch. Although admittedly in my case, I preferred to stare at the view rather than to eat fussy foods like beef tartare. Still, I enjoyed the touch of elitism it came with as silly as that may be. It’s always nice to realise that loyalty is rewarded.
When the intrepid adventurers eventually found land – Our first port of call was Barcelona, Spain. Now personally Barcelona does nothing for me. Controversial I know…But if you read this blog often you will know that I have never been scared of being honest. Still, I set foot on land to absorb some warm Spanish sunshine and revel in the novelty of being somewhere I did not belong.
We had trekked into Barcelona on foot in previous years but this time we caught the local port bus. It is clearly marked outside the terminal and if you are confused someone will be around to point you in the right direction. Plus, at about one euro and fifty cents return it is much cheaper than other transfers on offer.
It dropped us off at the bottom of Las Ramblas and we spent a few hours walking the winding streets of the city. It may make me a heathen but honestly my excitement that day was purely focused around a macaroon ice cream sandwich, it was divine. You can find this heavenly item, in the middle aisle of La Boqueria market. Sorry, Gaudi but you have been out done.
This port had a 12pm arrival but unfortunately we did not wake to sunny skies to sunbathe as we approached the island. We awoke to a grey overcast sky and when I say awoke I mean turned on the bow cam! Because I do love a good inside cabin but you can’t tell if it is night or day. The weather ensured that most of the ship spent their morning in the theatre enthralled by the guest speaker. On their Southampton sailings Princess Cruises had arranged for a number of celebrities to come on as guest speakers. The week that we were on it was Harry Redknap. As a girl who has never much liked sport, his presence did not thrill me. But I am not Princess’ target demographic and he thrilled everyone around me, so that is all that matters.
After we experienced a delay in leaving Barcelona we miraculously managed to arrive in Ajaccio on time! The sun had not yet emerged from behind the clouds but it was warm in the humid sense and we all flocked onto land to see what it could offer. I had visited this particular port before and knew that it could not offer me much. Sorry guys I know it looks like I hate all ports…I don’t, I promise! It’s just that napoleon, a market stall selling mattresses and a tourist train that shows you a casino don’t exactly do much for me…
It is no secret that I am a big kid! Both in looks and in personality. Which is why a toy shop was the highlight of this particular port for me. On the main street there is a beautiful old fashioned toy shop. I always do think kids clothes and toys are stunning in European countries; there is a quality to them that we have lost in Britain, a childhood innocence that here has been replaced by technology. If you have little ones in your life (or you are a big kid like me) you definitely need to head in here.
If you have mastered the art of saying this port’s name correctly then you get bonus points! Civitavecchia is the official port for Rome, which is where most people headed (including a lot of the crew) But I had sailed in three times previously and explored both Rome and Civitavecchia so before we departed the UK – I had sat on good old google for hours seeking a new place for us to conquer. I settled on Tarquinia (I am still not sure of the Italian pronunciation of this one)
Tarquinia formerly known as Corneto, is an old city in the province of Viterbo, Lazio. It is known chiefly for its outstanding and unique ancient Etruscan tombs. It is in the opposite direction to Rome and can be reached via the local bus. The number two bus heads to Tarquinia and you catch it opposite Civitavecchia’s cathedral – Your tickets can be purchased from Pam Local, the supermarket that is just next door to the bus stop. If you have never been to Italy before, it is important to note that you cannot buy tickets on the bus! and you must validate your ticket once you are on the bus or you run the risk of being fined heavily.
I will admit that there was not much to do in Tarquinia itself. But I do love to add new places to the list of places I have visited! And there were some stunning views over the Italian countryside. Seriously, those views were the stereotypical Italy people dream off, I could have stood in front of them all day long. Plus, I got the added comedic element of watching a little old Italian woman try to explain to my Dad why he could not climb up onto the castle walls. She did not speak a word of English and he definitely does not speak Italian. It was a theme that continued for the day when a Spanish man attempted to hold a conversation with him on the bus; whilst my Mum and I laughed hysterically.
Livorno is the official port for both Florence and Pisa – On this occasion we decided to head back to Florence – Mainly because our family have a God awful sense of direction and last time we were there we failed to find the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Yes, now I have been there I realise that this is downright hilarious. Feel free to laugh!
Generally, we don’t do ships excursions so we made our own way to Florence. The train journey in itself was filled with people who made me laugh hysterically. Although I did have to muffle my laughter with my hands because they were only sat two rows away…An American who talked incessantly for most of the train journey proved to everyone in the carriage why most American’s do not have passports. When she asked the woman opposite her if she had ever been to this part of France before. Really!? Who confuses France with Florence. Completely wrong country.
We navigated Florence with more ease than previous occasions. A lot less getting lost and asking people who do not speak English where the heck we are. With the help of a few tourist style signposts we directed ourselves to the Ponte Vecchio. It is definitely a sight to behold! The Ponte Vecchio is a pedestrian bridge, with jewellery shops lining either side. Of course, the shops do not span the whole bridge there are handy viewpoints to admire the river and city skyline, with the dramatic dumo rising high above the terracotta roves. It was definitely Instagram worthy and I was so glad we’d been determined to see it.
Plus, on the other side of the bridge I ate the best Gelato I have ever eaten in my life and I have eaten a lot of Gelato. Unfortunately though I do not remember the name of the shop it came from! I know, I know, I have failed as a travel blogger. I was too busy stuffing gelato in my face, sorry guys. After said gelato, we wandered around Florence for a few hours taking in the sights and basking in the sunshine.
This port was not on our original itinerary! It was an oh so charming surprise. We were scheduled to go to Genoa but the Captain had announced the night before that we could not due to ‘operational reasons’. During this announcement he also proclaimed that we would be going to Santa Margherita; which as we all knew was a tender port. We didn’t all know that Captain…Most of us didn’t even know where it was!
Turns out Santa Margherita is part of the Italian Rivera, in fact, it’s next door neighbour is the ever so famous Portofino. However, I’m not sure many of the passengers ventured to Portofino. I think a lot of us were simply captivated by where we had found ourselves. I had never seen such intricate buildings! They weren’t stunning simply because of their architecture but because of the love and artistry that had been poured into their paintwork. It was so elaborate that at first glance you thought it was part of the structure of the building – It took a while to realise it was decorative.
Since, it was Sunday we weren’t sure how much would be open but our beautiful surroundings were thriving. Not only was everything open, there was also a market going on in the main square. It was wandering through that market eating a lemon pastry in the Italian sunshine that I knew this was my small slice of heaven for the year. Santa Margherita I wasn’t meant to visit you but you were my favourite port of the entire cruise! Good choice Princess Cruises, I’m sure a tender port was not convenient for you. But I, for one love a good tender port and was completely enamoured by the replacement port you gifted to us.
We elected not to get off in Marseilles for one very glaring reason…In our house we call Marseilles ‘The Ghetto’ and that is saying a lot because we are not from the nicest area ourselves. It had earned its nickname a couple of years ago when we visited it on the Caribbean Princess and we had no desire to explore its charms, or lack thereof, again. I have heard that Aix-En-Provence (a short distance away) is a thing of beauty. But since none of us drink wine I fear it would be wasted on us.
I had missed losing sight of the shore during the string of ports we had explored. So I was glad to wake up with nothing but sea in sight. Plus, it was the most baking hot day. Both the Captain and the Officer of the Watch claimed that it was only 21 degrees. But it was evident to everyone on deck that they were very very wrong.
We didn’t go see the Monkey’s in Gibraltar because quite frankly as a girl who hates people in her personal space the last thing I want is a monkey sat on my head…Not to mention that they might steal my glasses and this blind girl needs those to see. So we did the other obvious thing to do in an overcast Gibraltar we went shopping.
You may have noticed in pictures that I wear a stack of bracelets on my left wrist. Well, I wear those everyday without fail and a good chunk of them were purchased in Gibraltar. I’m a sucker for the American brand Alex & Ani but you just don’t see them in the UK; so I have a habit of picking up a new one whenever I am in Gibraltar. This years purchase has been hidden for Christmas (Yes, we start that early in our house)
But I did pick up a souvenir for now from a tiny jewellers that I want to recommend to my fine blog readers! It is called Beau Jangles and it is towards the far end or the strip – They do a range of jewellery which is all hand crafted. But it was the silver mantra bands that I fell in love with. In keeping with every travel bloggers innermost thoughts mine bares the inscription: fly the world. However there are a range of quotes/messages to chose from.
We were at sea for two days to get back to Southampton and whilst I love sea day’s I wish I could say that they were sunny…They were not. At one point I was sat watching a movie only for it to be interrupted periodically by our horn to warn people that we were coming through the fog. And for it to end prematurely thanks to a deluge of rain that soaked us in seconds, sending rivers of water running across the pool deck. Not exactly the tropical weather that I had hoped for. Note to self, do not go so early in the year in future. But on the bright side it was the smoothest Bay of Biscay crossing I have ever experienced – It was so flat that I was amazed when it was pointed out to me that we had very nearly finished passing through it.
Was Crown Princess as grand as her name suggests?
The four most important things on any ship are: Cleanliness, food, the entertainment and the staff. With that in mind lets get down to business:
Cleanliness: This one is a no-brainer! Every Princess ship is absolutely pristine. No matter which member of the fleet you get on you will be blown away.
Food: As aforementioned I generally just go around ships eating all the food. All of my favourites were readily provided to me and I welcomed them with open arms. If you are new here and you don’t know about my favourites and my long love affair with Princess; you can find them out here in my Royal Princess Review. Something that has had a lot of upgrades since my last time on board is pub lunch! There are so many options now.
Crown Princess did fall down in one area though…One of my favourites the International Café was a disappointment because of what looked like laziness or a lack of creativity on the part of the pastry chef. The cakes repeated every few days, rather than changing every day. Plus there was no lemon meringue pie which should be some sort of crime against humanity! I also really missed Gelato. But Crown Princess cannot be blamed for that because they never claimed to have one.
Entertainment: What can I say Crown Princess? I’ve had worse entertainment and I’ve had better entertainment. Some nights were spot on and others were a massive flop! To be fair, we’ll break it down into sections.
Guest entertainers: There were two that were absolutely amazing! They were very different performers but they both held the audience in the palm of their hand.
Tony Lewis a Robbie Williams tribute act – Who had not only mastered the music but also the mannerisms of Robbie, got an audience to wave their phones (the modern day lighter) in the air, stand up and dance and laugh hysterically. He performed both in the theatre and a few days later in one of the show bars. My favourite moment had to be when he got audience members up in the theatre to form Take That. I laughed so hard that my eyeballs actually leaked! It’s really a good job that I don’t wear eye makeup because I would have emerged from that theatre looking like the happiest panda.
Leanne Mitchell, the first ever winner of the voice. Appeared towards the end of our cruise and watching her perform really taught me something. Now fun fact about me, despite having danced for years I had never seen a ballet till earlier this year. I just didn’t think it was for me. I was wrong about that and I was wrong for holding the same opinion about opera because it took my breath away. Leanne Mitchell you gave me goosebumps! I have a whole new opinion about classical music.
Movies under the stars: This is normally my favourite thing but alas this year it was absolutely hopeless! I was excited by the movies advertised but so few of them actually graced the big screen that I need not have bothered.
Production shows: I had wanted to see Magic to Do ever since I hear Steven Schwartz was writing a production for Princess. If you don’t know who Steven Schwartz is then in simple terms he is the genius who wrote the music for Wicked. I was bitterly disappointed last year that it was not on the Royal but it was most definitely worth the wait! This mesmerizing show had me singing the songs for days afterwards. If you are on a Princess ship that has Magic to Do on in the theatre then go watch it, you can thank me later.
The other production show of note was actually ‘The Royal Variety’ but I feel that deserves a post in its own right! So watch out for that in future.
Piazza Entertainment: This was the same string quartet for two weeks! Princess you used to have acrobats in the Piazza can we bring that back please? There were a couple of one things in the Piazza though that were much more lively. One was a performance by the Production Cast which was a tribute to Princess and the other was the ‘British Proms’. Piazza parties seem to be something that Princess introduced for their 50th birthday but have continued to do because the guests enjoy them. This particular Piazza party was labelled ‘British Proms’ and featured top British hits from history, flags draped everywhere and red, white and blue balloons. It was on the last night and it actually had the best atmosphere. The happiness was infectious!
Captain’s Circle Meeting: This is not the kind of entertainment that everyone is privy too. But this sailing allowed me to attend for the first time and I was amused by the concept. My parents had reservations that it would go on forever! But it was a sweet, light hearted affair hosted by the ships officers. Although I was shocked by the most sailed passenger! They normally have sea days in the thousands but this year they had a lowly 900.
The Staff: I can’t be the only one who always gets off a ship with favourite members of the crew who have absolutely made my holiday! They will never read this of course but we will recognise them anyway simply because they brought so much joy to my life.
Faye: Faye works as a waitress in the International Café and is also the greeter for the Michelangelo dining room. Where she greeted us every night with the biggest smile and a little bit of mischief to keep us amused until we were seated.
Luis: Was a waiter in the Michelangelo dining room (He is currently home on leave) He is the biggest perfectionist and he wants nothing more than to make you happy. In our house we affectionately refer to Luis as Paddington since they share a country of origin (They are both from darkest Peru) and yes Luis’ English is so good that when we made that joke he completely understood. He taught me all about Peruvian history and even if I didn’t end up sat in his section he would always visit to check we were getting impeccable service.
Anthony: Was Luis assistant waiter and he complimented him perfectly (He is also currently home on leave) This lad was such a hard worker. But he was also a comic and always had time for meaningful guest interaction. I also learnt from Anthony that when you marry another member of the crew Princess always post you on the same ship. How cute is that!
Anil: Anil was my waiter when I was cheating on Luis…Anil was table 203 and Luis was table 204 so if Luis was full then we went to our second home – Where Anil never failed to look after us! It was the little touches that made Anil a stellar waiter, for example: When you sat down he would ask if you had plans for after dinner to make sure he could get you out in time. If you are getting on Crown Princess soon go see Anil just beware he will bring you extra dessert! So maybe take stretchy pants.
Uday: This mischief maker was Anil’s junior waiter and although he may need work with his crumb catcher he certainly doesn’t need work with anything else. He will keep you entertained at dinner time with trivia, magic tricks and dancing. Just don’t get him onto the subject of cricket he will talk about it forever! Uday was another who sought us out when we found ourselves with another waiter, just to say hi and check we were being treated okay. If you see him, comment and tell me whether he has been trusted to carry a Baked Alaska yet.
(Seriously: On the last night it was saying goodbye to my waiting staff that made me sad! Those four lads treated me so well that I just wanted to take them home with me)
Henry: The friendliest barman you ever did meet! No matter what time of day you saw Henry he was always happy. Plus his memory was insane! Even with thousands of passengers on the ship he remembered your favourite drink and card number. If you are getting on the Crown Princess anytime soon then you will find Henry behind the bar in Explorers. P.S: He also helps with trivia if you are stuck and will sing for you during karaoke.
Would I sail on Crown Princess again?
Absolutely! I would just book a mid-ship cabin for slightly less engine noise.
If you are sailing on Crown Princess soon or have sailed on her previously make sure to leave me a comment below. I’m always happy to have cruise related conversations!