Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Used Pontoon Boats - The Explorer and Classic Southern Caribbean cruises on Crown Princess

Hi gang, Rick here Used Pontoon Boats with a great article brought to our attention.
February 2 – 16 2008. Fourteen splendid days combining Explorer and Classic Southern Caribbean cruises on Crown Princess. I make a precruise overnight at Sheraton OSJ. This is a very borderline 3 diamond casino/hotel. It is, however, only a short stroll to Pier 4, Crown’s usual dock. A word of warning: Do not, repeat DO NOT, accept a back room. The extremely amplified noise, oops “music”, from the casino duo reaches into those rooms until 3AM!!!

Boarding, which begins about 12N is quick, forty minutes from terminal entrance to cabin. No lines were evident either week. Note: There are duty free booze shops inside the terminal. You may carry liquor on board either in your carryon or by container. No questions are asked. The ship, less than two years old, is in nearly faultless condition. The crew continues the maintenance on her daily. They were stripping and revarnishing all the outside wood during Week Two.

My cabin is on Lido Deck 15, close to the pools and buffets. An egg crate topper makes the mattress comfortable. The hard working cabin steward is Rungpana. She absolutely earns an add-on tip. MUTS oversees the Calypso pool with daytime videos and movies at night. There are few in attendance, except for the Super Bowl which was SRO. We’re sailing full both weeks, but there is nary a wait in either Anytime dining room for a “share”. Buzzers are handed out for special seating requests. The dining staff is efficient and the food first rate, much better than the lido buffets. Lunchtime offerings included Red Snapper and Cioppino, always perfectly prepared and presented. Formal nights evince “code worthy” apparel. However, fewer than twenty percent are wearing tuxedos, perhaps an equal number in suits, the remainder wear a mix of jackets and dress pants. There is very little “sparkle” among the ladies.

I discover that large groups on board ship can make a difference, especially when they’re all closely acquainted. During Week Two there are two large groups on board. Five hundred folks are with an insurance company, all from Tennessee. The other is a large contingent from a paint manufacturer. Individually they’re good people, but when assembled in the dining room the clamor approaches record decibel levels. A bar room atmosphere prevails throughout every evening. One night is so loud I can’t stand the racket and escape to the Café Caribe for dinner. That’s when I discover that this ship’s buffet food is no match for main dining room fare.

Port Activities:My interest narrows to boat snorkel trips. If that’s not in your repertoire, skip to the in transit and disembarkation lectures.

Week One (Explorer):Feb 3 – St Thomas: Ship’s snorkel with Capt Nautica .
http://www.captainnautica.com/feedback.phpA high speed (35 knots) pontoon boat takes us to Buck Island. First stop is over freighter wreck, visibility is very poor, few fish and less coral. Second stop is on lee side of island, Turtle Cove. Visibility is much better. Did a swim-along with a turtle family, also Stingrays and a Barracuda.Feb 4 – St Kitts: Crown arrives late so Nevis Sailaway cancels snorkel portion of trip. Arrive at beach for swimming and lunch. Sail back becomes booze cruise. Feb 5 – Grenada: First time here so I take an island highlights land tour. Vehicle is a small minibus with about nineteen of us on board. Beautiful island, pop. 100,000. Frequent stops with good views. Bus driver/guide, Louise, is excellent. A good introduction to the island.

Feb 6 – Bonaire: Catamaran snorkel with Woodwind
http://www.woodwindbonaire.com/cruises.html, . Boat is crowded with 25 passengers, but both the crew, Deirdre (Dee) and Ulf, and the snorkeling is first rate. Lots of marine life and live coral with some fish and turtles. First stop is near shore, mainly for orientation and any who require snorkeling guidance. Second stop, near Klein, is much better. There’s a strong current, so we drift snorkel.Feb 7 – Aruba: Booked NW Sail And Snorkel. Operator is Red Sail Sports, so I figure why not? Huge mistake!!! 125 people are crammed onto a catamaran, like sardines in a can. There aren’t even enough seats, unless you count the foam pads placed on the net. This is a disgraceful instance of squeezing every last dollar out of the suckers, that’s us folks. I can’t envisage suffering thru this so I immediately leave their boat and request a refund. There were no questions asked.

Week Two (Classic)Feb 11 – Barbados: Full Day Snorkel trip on Silver Moon II.
http://oceanadventures.bb/sailing.htmGood crew with 24 snorklers on board, but it’s a large cat affording adequate space. First stop is the ritualistic swim with the turtles. Second stop is at a near shore reef. There’s lots of large, live, coral formations, but few fish. Lunch on board follows.

Feb 12 – St Lucia: Full day snorkel with Dive Fair Helen.
http://www.divefairhelen.com/cruise_ship_special.htmBoat meets us at ferry dock just across from cruise ship. Bumpy ride to dive shop at Marigot Bay. Ten snorkelers and nine divers board boat and head for Anse Cochon. Excellent marine life. The reef is easily accessed from the Tiki Village beach. Lunch is served on board, then a second stop at Richmond’s Trench. Large coral formations on each side are near the surface. A good day with an excellent operator. A big thumbs up for DFH.

Feb 13 – Antigua: Full Day snorkel with Eli’s Eco Tour:http://www.adventureantigua.com/tour.htmlToday’s boat Captain is J.D., not Eli. Tony was both narrator and snorkel guide. Tony proves to be a good replacement for Eli. A very windy day, 25 knots, makes for a rough ride to the North Shore. First stop is Bird Island beach for a short hike and/or snorkel lesson. There were two more stops, the last at Hell’s Gate. The weather and seas are too rough to snorkel over the reef to the Atantic side, so I just snorkeled between boat and reef. Nice coral and reef, but sand covers most of it and few fish venture out. Lunch is served on board. There are other options here including a climb to the top of Hell’s Gate via the island cave, which most choose to do. Good or bad weather, Eli’s is the best snorkel excursion in the Caribbean.

Feb 15 – Tortola: Full day snorkel with Patouche.http://www.patouche.com/day_charters.htmIt’s another windy day. We sail Shamwari to the leeward, smooth, side of Norman Island. The first stop is at Treasure Caves. We snorkel along coral reefs and gardens and enter three of the caves. The island and caves were reputedly the inspirational source for Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. Lunch is at Willy Ts, a floating restaurant. Willy T’s is a good divergence from the inevitable barbecued chicken on the snorkel boats. Patouche is a class act. Be aware that Patouche, on the close of this day, relocated their operation from H.R. Penn Marina to a location near the airport.

Disembarkation: Express walk off begins as soon as the ship is cleared which is scheduled for 8:45AM. Clearance is announced at 7:45AM on Feb 16. Tours are offered for those with late flights. I take the Yunque Rain Forest Tour. It’s an interesting trip and a good time killer. We arrive at the airport a bit early, 12:30PM. SJU is a mess with poor signage, long lines and lousy food joints. Subway has a loooong lineup. Note to Continental Elite passengers: The President’s club has to be the worst on the planet. No snacks available, few magazines anyone would want to read and a limited number of newspapers which arrive late. It’s still better than the appalling terminal.

The Princess “EASYCHECK” baggage service and on board airline service is easy peasy. For a $15 fee you collect your luggage in the cruise terminal, deliver it to the EASYCHECK drop off point, and you don’t see it again until you are home. Your airline boarding pass, which includes baggage claim number(s), along with instructions are delivered to your stateroom the last evening. This greatly eases the pain at the airport. There are airline, flight departure time and connection restrictions so it’s not available to every one.

In Transit: Turnaround day offers two options. All passengers must leave the ship to go through immigration in the terminal. You may disembark at any time after the ship clears, but are not allowed to return to the ship until embarkation begins. If you prefer to stay on board, or visit OSJ later in the day, you gather in the Michelangelo dining room at 10:45AM to be accompanied through immigration and then reboard.

I really do like this ship. Katy Hepburn would definitely declare Crown as “Yar”. The interior design minimizes her size and the numbers of passengers. It is an attractive ship that has more than a few appealing venues, prominent are the International Café, Wine bar and Café Caribe. Best of all is the staff. They are universally courteous and friendly without fawning. Finally, if you like water sports this is an excellent itinerary. It’s not quite up to some of the Western Caribbean ports such as Roatan, Cozumel and Belize, but there are definite contenders here: Worth honorable mention are Bonaire, Aruba, St Lucia and Tortola. All of which are definitely worthwhile. Welcome aboard. If you don’t love it, it’s at least preferable to work so enjoy.

Thanks to Stevesan, Blue Ribbon Cruiser......Houston, Texas

1957 USS General A.E. Anderson Tokyo to San Francisco1999 Norwegian Sea W Carib & RVI Europe 2000 Mercury W. Carib & Volendam S Carib2001 Viking Star Danube River & Veendam E. Carib 2002 B2B Veendam Alaska 2003 B2B Zuiderdam W&E Carib2004 Maasdam E Carib2005 Grand Princess W Carib, RVI Europe & Veendam S Carib2006 Grand Princess W Carib2007 Grand Princess WCarib2008 Feb 2 Crown Princess S Carib

Used Pontoon Boats, By Rick Ostler
Pontoon Enclosures-North American Waterway

Also we value your comments, if you can add more info in regards to this article please do so. Thanks............Rick

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