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Jewels of cruising on a Crown Princess

Ten things we liked about the Crown Princess, the ship that in seven days carried us to three Western Caribbean ports from Galveston, in no particular order:

The Ultimate Ship Tour

Usually, tours of the innards of a ship are a one-time experience because a galley is a galley, a print shop is a print shop and a laundry is a laundry. This one was almost three hours and the time flew, even during the longest stop, the Princess Theater. If there was something we didn't see in the theater (okay, we missed seeing performers changing costumes), we'd be hard-pressed to find it, and we left with a genuine sense of what it's like on the other side of the stage lights. And, of course, it never gets tiring to visit the bridge of a cruise ship.

The Cruise Director

Lisa Ball has been honing her skills for almost six years on Princess ships. Unlike some cruise directors, her style is not "over the top" and she is the epitome of professionalism. And if you'd like to know more about her, check on our blog regularly.

Muster Drill

Are you kidding? How can anybody like a muster drill, the "fasten your seat belts" instruction, to use a flight analogy? This one lasted nine minutes, was taped by the captain, played regularly on state-room televisions and covered everything ("If you do go in the water…"). And guess what? At our muster station, everybody was listening for a change.

Man from Vines

Vines is the wine tasting bar that's part of the piazza, the Princess moniker for an atrium. The wines were fine, as they say, but the real star was the ship's lone sommelier. Eduardo Angulo Solis seems a little un-traditional as sommeliers go, encouraging customers to pair food and wine and decide for themselves what works, with a little coaching from an expert. This young man from Chile takes a leave from Princess to spend a year studying to become only the second master sommelier in his homeland, Chile.

The Elevators

At first it was a game: Which side of the door will the illuminated buttons for each deck be on, because they always seemed to be on the side where you didn't look. Then we realized we weren't the only ones playing the game…most passengers were asking the same question, and most were getting it wrong. Talking about it beat elevator music.

Gatsby's

This is the trade name for Princess casinos, and we didn't like it for the reasons you might think, but for the one night on the cruise when smoking was banned. Not everybody agreed…we did see one woman, playing a slot machine and chewing on an unlit cigarette.

Space in Balcony Rooms

On most cruise ships, it's hard to find room for all your clothes, some of which get tucked into drawers and cabinets made for other things. On the Crown Princess, the closet was about eight feet long and, with shelves on top and an adjacent cabinet, why….we clearly didn't bring enough clothes!

The Piazza

This is going to be a staple on Princess ships, and we can see why. It's a gathering spot, as atriums always are, but the Princess Piazzas are busy and entertaining, and adorned with many things Italian (the pizzas are coming!)

Captain Andrew Proctor

A Scotsman of the sea (how many of those are there), he didn't agree to an interview, but he did tell us the secret to making haggis edible: "Mashed tatties [potatoes], mashed turnip…and 12-year-old gravy!"

The Crown Grill

As spectacular as the filet mignon was at this specialty restaurant ($25), the side plates of potatoes and spinach and cream corn and French fries (and more) were perhaps more impressive. It prompted this comment: "I could make a meal of the sides." Yes, even without the 12-year-old gravy.


Holland America Zuiderdam
7 nights
May 18, 2013
Vancouver (return): Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Inside Passage
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.hollandamerica.com

Crown Tour Educating Passengers

ON BOARD THE CROWN PRINCESS — Ten things we learned yesterday during the Ultimate Ship Tour ($150) of the Crown Princess, somewhere on the sun-stroked waters of the Gulf of Mexico:

1. This era of more sensible eating hasn't really impacted the ratio of the 20 to 25 tons of food consumed each day, but it has resulted in soy milk moving from the list of "dietary items" to the main menu. Veggies and meats are still ordered and prepared in the same proportion, although the passenger demographics affects salt content. The salt consumed by a ship full of Americans is double that of the salt consumed by Europeans.

2. Performers recruited for shows in the Princess Theater have to be multi-talented — How many people do you know who can sing and dance to hip-hop, jazz, tap, disco and ballet? — and spend four to six weeks rehearsing at the cruise line's studio adjacent to headquarters in Santa Clarita. Princess claims it has more space devoted to entertainment per ship than any other line.

3. X-rays taken in the medical center are transmitted to a radiologist in Texas for interpretation, and returned to ship doctors within 24 hours.

4. Bakers make between 20,000 and 24,000 rolls every day.

5. Almost everything you don't see happening on a ship — food preparation to laundry to photo processing to cleaning — is going 24/7.

6. The ship's anchor is not what keeps it in place when it parks to tender passengers ashore, as it will this week in Belize, so much as the chains that drop the anchor to a depth of about 180 feet…and, while this doesn't apply to cruise ships, the anchor well (right) on cargo ships is a popular place for stowaways to hide.

7. Helicopter evacuation for critically ill patients is far from automatic. The ship has to be inside 350 miles of helicopter service, the weather has to be good enough for 'copters to fly and the patient has to be capable of surviving a helicopter transfer.

8. The Crown Princess burns about 1,000 tons of fuel on a typical seven-day cruise like this one to the Western Caribbean, at a cost of approximately $100,000 per day, and requires about 220 liters of clean water for each passenger every day.

9. Costumes for the 17 theater performers — and there 1,600 of them (costumes, that is) are made to be long-lasting and flexible. That's flexible, as in size. Two seamstresses can change costume sizes to go up or down by several sizes. Going up might be a service Princess can offer customers who eat too much.

10. The reason the funnels are the dirtiest part of the ship is that for safety reasons it's off limits to crew except when all the engines are shut down, and that can only happen in three North American ports — Alaska, Vancouver and San Francisco — where electrical systems can be kept running by plugging into outlets on the shore. And the closest any passenger can get to the funnels is just above Deck 16, some 190 feet above the water, and the only way you'll get that close on the Crown Princess is on the Ultimate Ship Tour.

 


Carnival Pride
7 nights
April 21, 2013
Baltimore (return): Port Canaveral, Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67
www.carnival.com

 

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