When it launched in 2006, Crown Princess arrived with suitable fanfare as the first in a new class of cruise ship for owner, Princess Cruises. It was proudly showcased as being something of a ground-breaker, with more balcony staterooms than any other cruise vessel afloat at that time.
Not only did it break the 3,000 passenger barrier with 1,541 staterooms, but it debuted the new Sanctuary VIP deck area that was later rolled out across other Princess ships and copied by rivals. Everything was that much bigger and grander on Crown Princess.
The three-deck central atrium, called The Piazza, was larger and glitzier than before and a real hub of the ship with live entertainment, while the nearby International Cafe and its range of speciality coffees and sweet treats adding another dimension.
Crown Princess paved the way for a new generation of sister ships, including Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess, which swiftly followed suit with the same range of facilities.
In November 2018, service levels on Crown Princess will be elevated even further when it introduces Princess Cruises’ new Ocean Medallion – an electronic disc carried by passengers as a 'personal concierge', enabling crew members to personalise each passenger experience.
Where to eat
You won’t find as long a list of dining choices on Crown Princess as you will on rivals, but it covers all bases – and what this ship does, it does well.
The main three dining rooms are divided between fixed-time seating and more flexible anytime dining, with some featured dishes designed by celebrity chef, Curtis Stone, who has partnered with Princess Cruises.
Alternative options include the aforementioned International Cafe, which serves light bites, snacks and speciality coffees 24/7, and the Horizon Court buffet, which offers a decent selection of dishes.
But it is the speciality and special dining that are the jewels in this ship's crown.
Sabatini’s Italian trattoria conjours up the ambience of the Neapolitan Riviera with its atmospheric surroundings and impressive range of antipasti dishes. Eating here is an occasion, as it is in the Crown Grill steakhouse with its selection of prime cuts and hearty accompaniments. The Salty Dog Gastropub offers a more casual alternative, albeit with gourmet burgers, while the Crab Shack, located in Horizon Court, is the place for tasty fruits de mer.
It is worth splashing out for the impressive Chef’s Table as Princess offers one of the best such experiences afloat, with the novelty of pre-dinner cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the galley before sitting down for a personalised feast. The 'Ultimate Balcony Dining' package, where meals are served course by course on your balcony, is another memorable experience.
Where to sleep
Balcony staterooms take centre-stage on this ship as there are nearly 900 of them, including mini-suites, some of which can be adapted to accommodate families. There are also two-bedroom, two-bathroom family suites which hold up to eight people – ideal for extended family groups.
However, all the staterooms are comfortable and welcoming, decorated in a palate of pastel shades and oak trim, in keeping with the decor around the rest of the ship. A good design feature in several cabins is the walk-in open closet, which gives more of an impression of space and helps to keep clothing clutter out of the way. As you would expect, staterooms are equipped with a mini-bar, flat-screen TV and safe.
What to do
Crown Princess hits the balance of offering a good choice of activities, without going overboard or in your face. You won’t find water parks or rock-climbing walls, but it has two main pools and children’s splash areas for water babies of all ages, in addition to the kids’ clubs and teen areas.
A full range of pampering is offered in the Lotus Spa and thermal suite and there is plenty to occupy sports fans with the gym, jogging track and sports court. There is a good selection of classes, including the interesting Discovery At Sea programme of interesting lectures, star-gazing from the deck and fun competitions.
Evenings are busy with the main theatre hosting song-and-dance classics, magic shows and the Voice of the Ocean talent show spin-off from ITV’s The Voice. There are numerous bars, some with live music, quizzes or stand-up acts, while the pace hots up in Club Fusion or the Skywalkers nightclub.
What I loved
- The Sanctuary VIP deck area which, with plush loungers, al fresco massages and attentive services of Serenity Stewards who provide drinks, snacks and even MP3 players loaded with relaxing music, has the air of a private club, though it does command a fee.
- The Piazza, where virtually every time I walked past there was something going on – entertaining street performers, acrobats or live bands.
- Movies Under the Stars – the classic big screen experience where films played during the day, but it came into its own during evenings where you could sit on sun-beds snuggled under cosy blankets (if you needed them) and munch on popcorn.
If you want escape the bustle of the main deck pools and enjoy beautiful views at the same time, head for the lovely adult-only pool at the stern – ideal for sea days with its open vista over the ship’s wake.