December 10 –20, 2000
The Panama Canal
Princess at Anchor in Gatun Lake
slightly under 70,000 tons, this lovely ship has the feeling of a
smaller, more intimate vessel. Christened
in 1990 by film legend Sophia Loren, Crown Princess was Princess
Cruises’ first ship in this “larger” size range and served as
the fleet’s flagship—sharing that honor when twin sister Regal
Princess joined her the following year.
Sadly, these sleek ladies will leave the Princess fleet to join
Aida Cruises (P&O's German
operation) in the coming years.
multi-million dollar refurbishment, Crown Princess gleams with
polished wood, marble accents, and an overall elegant, yet understated
combination of pastel fabrics and carpeting.
The centerpiece of the makeover is the three-story atrium lobby
with its stylish chrome-like dolphin wall sculpture, delightful
murals, sweeping grand staircase, and trio of rippling waterfalls.
New windows added behind La Patisierie bar on the lowest level
admit cheerful sunlight to an area that must have previously felt
confined and gloomy.
The Crown Court
dining room also received special attention with rich fabrics and an
arrangement of room dividers that create an intimate ambiance.
Unfortunately, the tables are quite close together and the
noise and lighting level was often high.
Candlelight was a nice touch on formal evenings and a
traditional afternoon tea in the Crown Court was served with musical
A new addition,
the well-stocked Youth Center kept the small number of children on our
Feeling sophisticated? Try the
Intermezzo. For dancing
cheek-to-cheek, Kipling’s is the spot.
To sip bubbly, Chianti offers a selection of champagne, wines,
and spirits with a view overlooking the atrium.
Try your hand at cards or the slot machines in The Dome or
brush up on karaoke and the Macarena and join the action in The Stage
Door. Or slip into something
cool at Flipper’s swim-up bar. Characters
is a whimsical bar populated with stuffed animals where funky drinks
are served in a no smoking allowed atmosphere.
By far my favorite spot during our Crown Princess cruise was
Intermezzo where pianist David Crathorne entertained before and after
Not technically a
“lounge” in the usual sense, La Patisierie deserves special
mention—complimentary fresh brewed coffee (the very best on the
ship) was available with pastries in the morning and cookies in the
afternoon. I loved it for its
alternating morning serenity and afternoon activity.
Only Chianti’s rivaled it for people watching.
Champagne Waterfall, a Princess Cruises tradition
– The International Show Lounge hosted a wide variety of daytime
activities and nighttime acts. From
Bingo to production shows and magic acts, there was something to
appeal to every taste. A real
crowd pleaser was the Panamanian Folkloric Show depicting the musical
and dancing cultures of Panama.
Days at sea were
filled with self-improvement lectures, art auctions, dance lessons,
pool games, arts and crafts classes, wine tasting seminars, and trivia
games. And those are just a few
of the available activities. Many
passengers enjoyed the well-stocked library and card room for quieter
pursuits. Rather utilitarian in
appearance, the card room nevertheless contains a fascinating array of
Crown Princess memorabilia, including a display case with photos of
her christening. Crown Princess
has a real movie theater and a different film was featured every day,
repeated four times.
One of the most
popular entertainers onboard was David Crathorne.
An extraordinary showman, he sings and plays the piano with
genuine zest. His “Salute to
Andrew Lloyd Webber” concert was so well received that every chair
in the atrium was filled and the audience lined the upper floor
railings and sat on the grand staircase.
We were somewhat
disappointed that evening deck parties were cancelled because of high
winds, but calm seas and a spectacular Champagne Waterfall more than
made up for them. Since this
was our first Princess cruise, we relished the festivities. With
streamers raining down from all levels of the atrium, it was like an
early New Years Eve celebration. Formal
nights on Crown Princess were particularly gracious because passengers
didn’t dash to their staterooms after dinner to change into casual
attire—a real consideration for those of us who enjoy dressing up
for the entire evening.
Spa & Gym
– This is one area where the facilities are showing their age
and could use some sprucing up. Despite
the rather Spartan surroundings, the sauna and steam room were great
and I had a relaxing massage with no sales pitch for Steiner products
Food – We
all know how subjective the matter of cruise cuisine is and my taste
is far from gourmet. Mel and I
generally had a buffet breakfast in Café Cabana or pastries and
coffee in La Patisierie. Lunches
were either from the poolside grill or in Café Cabana.
One evening we enjoyed pizza in Presto, but for the rest of our
cruise we had dinner in The Crown Court dining room.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meals (I didn’t have to grocery
shop, cook, or wash the dishes—what’s not to like?).
Several dishes stand out, including a spicy shrimp dish freshly
prepared at the lunch buffet, the evening pasta selections, and yummy,
sinfully rich chocolate desserts and soufflés.
Service – It
would be difficult to find fault with the wait staff on Crown
Princess. After a somewhat
shaky beginning with a tardy room service order, our cabin steward
provided exemplary service. Our
waiter and his assistant were somewhat hampered in their efforts by a
couple assigned to our table who were invariably late almost every
evening, but overall their performance was very professional.
The absence of proper sommeliers certainly wasn’t missed; our
waiter served wine and cocktails without missing a beat.
We were a bit
surprised that the white-gloved stewards who greeted us upon
embarkation didn’t show us to our stateroom.
However, they helped us with our carry-on bags as far as the
bank of elevators closest to our cabin and gave us directions to find
And why has
Princess eliminated butler service for suite passengers?
Well, it seems that many past passengers are upgraded to suites
and then reward the cruise line’s generosity by complaining about
another person to tip! As first
time Princess cruisers, we weren’t upgraded but would gladly have
tipped a butler for the privilege of sailing in a suite for the cost
of a balcony stateroom. Actually,
our room steward was wonderful and took care of picking up and
delivering laundry/dry cleaning and even had Mel’s dress shoes
shined. We really couldn’t
have asked for more pampering.
of Vows--Social Hostess Kay Coxall, Mel, Linda, and Captain
Andrea C. Poggi
– We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary
and made it very special with a Renewal of Vows package.
We truly felt like we were on the Love Boat when we renewed our
vows at a private ceremony presided over by Captain Andrea Poggi and
Social Hostess Kay Coxall. It
was a romantic occasion with flowers and champagne and we’ll never
forget it. There were quite a
few couples on board celebrating anniversaries, honeymoons, and
birthdays on our cruise as well—the Princess staff was kept busy
preparing luscious cakes and balloons decorated the hallways.
This ’n That
– This is a minor rant, but the daily Princess Patter doesn’t
list meal times for the various dining venues.
The stateroom directory lists times, but we discovered that
bistro service in Café Cabana didn’t begin until an hour and a half
after buffet service concluded. Thus,
we were too late for the buffet and too early for the bistro, yet the
directory listed continuous service. Since
Presto was open, we had pizza the evening when we didn’t feel like a
full course dinner. Not a big
deal, but the same thing held true for the lounges—having the hours
posted in the Princess Patter would be a nicety.
We were never sure if a lounge would be open until we got
contemporary artwork graces the Crown Princess.
Two particularly striking pieces are the Andy Warhol and Tom
Wesselmann still lifes hanging in the lobby outside The Crown Court.
But why, oh why, do the “art auction” displays have to
intrude on the carefully selected collections that enhance ships’ décor
these days? I understand on
board revenue enhancement, but I hate tripping over easels and being
assaulted by “art.”
On the other
hand, the location of the casino in the dome is refreshing.
Unless you really wanted to gamble, you didn’t have to pass
noisy, clanging slot machines.
One of the
ship’s several laundry rooms was right down the hall from us—very
convenient for pressing out a few wrinkles in my dresses.
I was amazed to see men leaving the laundry room with
freshly folded clothing the last night of the cruise.
It wasn’t one of my priorities.
were handled quite well and the ability to pre-book them is an added
convenience. The Purser’s
staff was extremely efficient and cheerful, even when faced with an
intractable curmudgeon. For
convenience, personal two-way radios were available for rent for a
nominal charge per unit/per day.
Did I mention the
live plants and fresh flowers? Crown Princess had some of the
loveliest flower arrangements at sea. Christmas trees and other
holiday finery lent just the right touch for the season.
To sum it up, we
thoroughly enjoyed our first Princess cruise.
Now, I can’t wait to get our Captain’s Circle membership
credentials and begin planning our next Love Boat cruise!
Back to Crown
© 2000 Linda Coffman
Photo Credit--Princess Cruise Line & ©CruiseDiva.com
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