Princess aims for big-ship amenities with a small-ship feel, and the new Crown Princess lives up to this philosophy. Although the ship can hold over 3,000 passengers, it rarely feels cramped. The two exceptions are the Horizon Court buffet at lunchtime and performances on the Promenade Deck’s midship stage. Most of the time, guests have so many choices of what to do and where to eat that cruisers are spread throughout the ship.
Two of my favorite features of the Crown Princess are new to the Princess experience. The first is the ship’s “piazza-style” atrium. Though most ships have atrium areas, they’re not popular hangout spots. Princess is trying to change this perception by adding a 24-hour international cafe and providing a host of entertainers throughout the day in this section of the ship. On a cool mid-morning, I cozied up to the bar to indulge in one of the melting chocolate-chip cookies straight from the oven and a hot chocolate. Not much later, along came a very impressive juggler who tossed around bowling balls, knives, and peaches before freeing himself from a straight-jacket while riding a unicycle. Later on in the day, a barbershop quartet had a few couples dancing to old love songs.
My second-favorite spot is the Sanctuary, a sun deck up above the spa. In contrast to the extremely loud main pool areas (due to live bands and movies playing on Princess’ outdoor screen), the Sanctuary is quiet and peaceful. Cushioned lounge chairs invite cruisers to put their feet up, and the area’s Serenity Stewards offer cool drinks and cool towels. And you never have to leave this haven: Guests can order healthy meals from a special menu or indulge with a massage in one of the outdoor cabanas. Downstairs, a small pool is available for a refreshing dip, just steps away from the indoor portion of the spa. The cruise line is unsure how heavy the demand will be for spots in the Sanctuary. So while there’s currently free access to this area, Princess may implement a day-use fee later on.
The Crown Princess is a ship that offers something for everyone. If you’ve got time for a nine-night Caribbean sailing, you won’t be disappointed with Princess’s new baby.