3.5

Princess Cruises

Review Summary

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Pros

  • An impressive number of pools, including a small adult-only Terrace Pool
  • Some of the most authentic shore excursion offerings industry-wide
  • Princess Luxury Beds are some of the most comfortable on the high seas
  • Buffet with 24-hour cereal station, and cooked to order stir-fry and pasta 
  • Steakhouse, Italian, seafood, and barbecue specialty dinner options
  • Skywalkers and Club Fusion available for nighttime dancing
  • A handful of bars; live music at Crooners, The Piazza, and Wheelhouse 
  • The Chef’s Table offers an excellent tasting menu
  • Theater performances, Movies Under The Stars, and a casino
  • Youth and teen center with activities and lounges for ages 3 to 17 
  • Daytime activities such as trivia, dance lessons, and lectures
  • More interconnecting staterooms added thanks to the 2017 renovations

Cons

  • Outdated common areas and staterooms show ship's wear and tear
  • Not as many specialty dining options or bars as some ships
  • No major kids' features, such as a waterslide (pro for some)
  • Crowding can be an issue at the buffet, main pools, and theater
  • Out of service public restroom facilities can be a ship-wide problem 
  • Consistently long wait time for anytime dining
  • Fee for adult-only Sanctuary lounge area
  • Fees for casual-dining Steamers and Planks BBQ feel unjustified to some
  • Lack of basic amenities in the spa including conditioner and lotion

Bottom Line

The 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess is a solid option for cruisers seeking good food, quality service, and a low-key feel. An impressive number of pools are on offer: five main freshwater pools, including the small adult-only Terrace Pool and a tranquil Spa Pool. Other features include a casino, jogging track, half-court basketball court, putting green, and art gallery. At night, passengers can enjoy HD movies outside or head up Skywalkers Lounge for dancing in the spacious club. The ship was renovated in April 2017 and cabins received comfortable new beds, but decor throughout could still use further updates. Also note that the number of bars and specialty dining options is a bit limited, there aren't any big-ticket features for kids, and the sedate atmosphere isn't for everybody. (Royal Caribbean, a comparable line, tends to be a bit more active.)

What's Included (and What's Not)

On the Caribbean Princess, most basics are included, but you'll need to pay up for specialty restaurants and adult-friendly amenities.

In addition to your stateroom, passage on Caribbean Princess includes access to anytime dining or traditional dining in the main dining rooms, as well as meals at the 24-hour World Fresh Marketplace buffet. Access to the casino and any of the ship's bars, lounges, and clubs are free of charge, as is the fitness center

Located in the Piazza, The International Cafe is open 24-hours a day and offers specialty coffee options for a fee. A coffee card can be purchased on board for $35.65, and it covers 15 coffee beverages. 

Not included are the specialty restaurants. Crown Grill costs $29 per person and Sabatini’s costs $25 per person. The two casual specialty restaurants Steamers Seafood and Planks BBQ both cost $12 per person. On the plus side, room service is available 24 hours a day free of charge.

There is an all-inclusive beverage package starting at $57.45 per person per day, which covers all specialty cocktails, regular cocktails, juices, soda, and wines by the glass. It’s important to note that while this beverage package is offered based on a daily rate, you must purchase the package for the entirety of your cruise. Other drink packages are also available and outlined below in the drinks section

There is a fee to use the Lotus Spa’s indoor Thermal Suite, which includes the use of heated stone lounge chairs, a rain shower room, and sauna, but the number of passes available is limited and the amount is subject to change depending on the length of the cruise. However, the Lotus Spa’s changing rooms offer the use of a sauna and steam room for free. The adult-only Sanctuary lounge area has a limited number of half-day passes for $20 and full-day passes for $40; there also may be passes available for the length of the cruise (these will likely run about $30 per day). Massages, beverage service, and private cabanas are all available in the Sanctuary at an extra cost.

Internet packages can be purchased in time intervals starting with 120 minutes for $69, and go up to 680 minutes for $199.

Gratuities start at $13.50 per person, per day for passengers staying in an Interior, Ocean-View, or Balcony room. Mini-Suites are slightly higher at $14.50 per day and suites are $15.50 per person per day, which can be prepaid or are automatically applied to passenger accounts onboard. Gratuities, comparable to tips, go toward stateroom attendants and other crew members including kitchen, entertainment, and specialty restaurant servers. The amount can be modified at the guest services desk anytime before the final day of the cruise after which you will be required to pay the allotted daily gratuity. Guests also have the option of paying gratuities as they go, which can be arranged onboard at guest services.

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Oyster Ship Review

A laid-back ship with a convivial, casual atmosphere, but less in the way of activities

Common areas of this laid-back ship, such as the lively Piazza, maintain a casual atmosphere, though lacks the number of features found on other ships

For those looking for nonstop entertainment, more food and drink venues than you can count, and a wide variety of activities, the Caribbean Princess might not be the right choice. To be clear, it has solid offerings in all of those departments, but the atmosphere is decidedly at ease, and the crowd here typically skews older. On the other hand, this is a great ship for those who will enjoy lounging by the pool, playing trivia, watching movies outdoors, and taking in live music at one of the bars. Families seeking ample stimulation for their kids in the way of waterslides, 3D movie theaters, and the like might want to consider Royal Caribbean instead -- which is a very comparable line to the Princess overall, except that it's more kid-oriented. Those looking for a boisterous poolside scene with entertainment (contests, dancing, and such) might prefer Carnival. 

In terms of the ships overall look and feel, the Caribbean Princess is suffering from overdue upgrades and repairs, this despite an $8.2 million renovation completed in April 2017. Many of the public spaces including the atrium, lounges, and restaurants feel outdated and slightly worn since Caribbean Princess’ inaugural sail in 2004. The same can be said of the public restrooms throughout the ship, the majority of which were "out of service" at the time we sailed in May 2017. The ship’s staterooms could also use a major overhaul in terms of furniture and repairs, and are rather basic in terms of style -- though the Princess Luxury Beds were a welcome addition. 

Those deciding between different Princess ships should note that Caribbean Princess is very similar to the line's Grand-class ships, except that it has an additional deck of cabins. This ship did not add additional public spaces to go along with the extra cabins, however, so the Caribbean Princess can feel a bit more crowded than the Grand Princess, Golden Princess, and Star Princess. It also lacks the indoor pool found on those ships. The Caribbean Princess is the only ship in the Caribbean class. The Crown class of ships has a similar passenger capacity to the Caribbean Princess, but a slightly altered layout. The newer Royal Princess lacks the Skywalkers Lounge (dancing takes place in the atrium) as well as ocean-view cabins (for an ocean view, passengers will have to upgrade to a balcony), but it's a more elegant ship overall. The Royal Princess has full padded loungers on its Promenade Deck while the Caribbean Princess is narrower and only has chairs, but the Caribbean Princess Promenade Deck goes all the way around; the Royal's is interrupted by lifeboats. 

As part of an effort to lure more families to the ship, the renovation did bring improvements to the Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center, which has a fresh look and better programming. More interconnected staterooms were also introduced. The next phase of improvement, slated to roll out summer 2018, is the use of Ocean Medallion – a wearable technology that allows guests to interact and communicate with the ship in a mobile way, from making reservations at one of the ship’s specialty restaurants to booking shore excursions.

One area where the Princess line particularly excels are its off-ship offerings via the "Local Connections Program." Princess partnered with local businesses in select ports to offer one-of-a-kind tours and experiences for cruisers to get a taste of the local flavor. These offerings don’t disappoint and are one of the most appealing features of the Princess line. 

Cabins

3.0

Luxury beds that don’t match the outdated decor

The Interior Cabin could stand a major facelift: furniture, artwork, and decor are a bit drab

There are a total of 1,556 cabins, including around 900 with balconies. Categories include Interior, Ocean-View, and Balcony Cabins, as well as Mini-Suites and Suites. There are also seven Window Suites, a category not available on many other Princess ships, located on Deck 6; they're a good pick for those who want the benefits of suites but no balconies. The Two-Bedroom Family Suites (there are two of these) have two bathrooms and a large living room; they can sleep up to eight. 

Staterooms start at 158 square feet; Mini-Suites, starting at 370 square feet, are a significant space upgrade, and have a separate seating area with a sofa bed. Those who upgrade to Club Class Mini-Suites get premium cabin locations, as well as perks such as expedited dining room seating and special menu options, priority reservations for specialty dining, and priority embarkation and disembarkation; guests in Suites get these extras as well. Suite guests also get free minibar items (but no free refills) and free laundry service. (Passengers not in suites should know that there are self-serve laundry rooms available on the ship, something not offered on some competing cruise lines; use of the machines incurs a small fee.)  

All cabins are equipped with Princess Luxury Beds, mini-fridges or minibars, Wi-Fi (for a fee), and hairdryers. Bathrooms have showers equipped with shower gel and shampoo; some categories also have separate tubs. Though the Princess Luxury beds are super comfortable, the furniture, artwork, and general interior of staterooms are in need of a major facelift. Bathrobes and slippers are available in any stateroom upon request. 

On our sailing, we stayed in a Balcony Cabin, which was fairly compact at 214 square feet. While the balcony was a nice feature and included two chairs for lounging, the bedroom lacked a couch or sitting area, with the exception of a desk tucked away in the corner. The closet, which was located parallel to the bathroom, was relatively spacious considering the size of the room and provided ample space for suitcases, hanging clothes, and shoes. An adjacent shelving unit equipped with safety deposit box also provided more space for folded clothes.

Food

4.0

Quality food and excellent service, but the buffet can feel a bit crowded

Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, the specialty fine-dining restaurant onboard, serves homemade pasta and upscale fare

The Caribbean Princess has three main dining rooms -- Coral, Island, and Palm, and the latter is reserved for those staying in Suites or Club Class Mini-Suites. Dining times are 6 pm and 8:15 pm, or guests can choose "anytime dining" and swing by at any point between 5:30 pm and 10 pm. Note that wait times for anytime dining are typically long. On our sailing, the main dining room served solid dishes done well.

The Crown Steakhouse, considered Princess’s signature restaurant, is an excellent option at $29 per person and offers a selection of steak, seafood, and a comprehensive wine list. Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, Caribbean Princess’ other specialty fine-dining restaurant, received an overhaul in 2017 both to the interior design and the menu. All of the pastas here are handmade, and there's an emphasis on using some non-traditional ingredients such as mint and marjoram. Dishes include everything from tortellini served with roasted lamb, to cacio e pepe, to pappardelle served with a nebbiolo-braised beef cheek, to risotto. The porchetta and breaded veal are not to be missed here, nor is the creamy burrata appetizer. We enjoyed the menu options here so much we dined not once but twice here on our weeklong voyage. Note that specialty reservations must be made after boarding the ship (some lines allow reservations to be booked in advance); passengers can call the dining hotline from their stateroom to make a reservation. 

There are also two casual specialty options: Steamers Seafood and Planks BBQ. Both restaurants are offered at a cost of $12 per person. Steamers serves East Coast inspired seafood fare including black and blue mussels, shrimp and crab stuffed flounder, and clams. King crab legs and lobster tail can be added to any entree for an additional charge of $10. However, Steamers food doesn't merit the extra fee.

Planks BBQ is the other low-cost specialty option offering family-style ribs, sausage, and chicken plus homemade barbecue and all the fixings including fries, coleslaw, and dill pickles. During the day, Planks serves a free limited buffet that includes a ramen bar, which was quite good on our sailing.

Arguably the most elegant dining option is the Chef’s Table, which can be booked upon embarkation in the cruise ship terminal or directly onboard. The experience includes a group of up to 10 guests and includes a tour of the main galley followed by a tasting menu designed by the chef. Dishes for the Chef’s Table will reflect the destinations you’re traveling to, which gives it a fun local spin, and the meal is followed by a conversation with the chef.

The World Fresh Marketplace is an upscale buffet option that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As the name indicates, some of the offerings have an international spin, such as French crepes and German sausages. There are also a breakfast anytime station, and a PB&J bar. At dinner, passengers can also expect made-to-order pasta and stir-fry. The renovation in 2017 upgraded the look of the buffet and the quality of the seating, but because part of the seating area is now being used for Planks and Steamers, there are fewer free spots at dinner. It's fair to expect crowds at the buffet.

Located next to the pool, The Salty Dog Gastropub offers ribeye burgers, brats, and cheesy fries. We had the opportunity to try the burgers and brats and were not disappointed. Directly next to the Salty Dog is Slice Pizzeria, which promises New York style thin crust but under-delivers.

Finally, a free pub lunch is offered in the Wheelhouse Bar on Deck 7 mid-ship on sea days, and features British-inspired fare, from fish and chips to bangers and mash. It's a fun food option that’s worth seeking out.

Drinks

3.5

Multiple bars clustered around the three-story atrium, plus four pool bars

Crooners Lounge & Bar serves drinks like martinis and margaritas from a clubby, Sinatra-era-like space with live music

A central entertainment hub of the ship, the Piazza on Deck 5 sits under a three-story atrium and holds regular performances. Many bars and entertainment venues radiate out from here, such as the International Cafe, Vines Bar, and Lobby Bar

The International Cafe serves specialty coffees including cappuccinos, macchiatos, and lattes. Food items including sandwiches, croissants, and salads are free with a coffee purchase. Vines Bar offers a number of wines by the glass, bottles, and wine flights. Tapas or sushi are free with your drink -- an extra not all passengers know about. Oenophiles can purchase wine bottle packages starting at $161, which is inclusive of seven bottles, followed by 10 bottles for $210 and 12 bottles for $240. The Gold Tier, which includes higher value bottles, starts at $217 for 10 bottles and $336 for 12. Note that wine packages aren't always available; it may depend on the length of your cruise. (It's more commonly offered on longer itineraries.) Each passenger can also bring a bottle of wine or Champagne onboard, and it's free to consume in your stateroom; a $15 corkage fee applies if consumed in restaurants. 

Crooners Bar in Deck 7 is tucked off of the side of the stairs leading down to the Piazza, and strives for a Sinatra-era vibe. Expect live piano music and a drinks menu that includes martinis and margaritas. Wheelhouse Bar on Deck 7 is located outside of Sabatani's Italian Trattoria, and has a clubby, maritime feel as well as an extensive whiskey menu; trivia contests are often held here during the day. Churchill Lounge outside of the Theater on Deck 6 also has a clubby feel -- think: brown leather, wood, and green walls -- and its multiple TVs usually play various sports games. Smoking is allowed in this bar. 

Poolside drinks are also served up at the ship's four pool bars serving the Calypso, Neptune, Pirates, and Terrace pools. 

In addition to the all-inclusive beverage package starting at $57.45 per person per day, there is a Soda and More package that costs $8.05 per person per day and comes with unlimited soda, mocktails, and juice. Regular coffee and tea is available free of charge. Unlike some other cruise lines, Princess allows passengers to bring their own soda and water onboard.  

Multiple venues for live music, a few spots for dancing, outdoor movies, and production shows

Skywalkers nightclub provides a swanky space to dance and drink

For late-night dancing, Skywalkers nightclub on Deck 19 is the main place to boogie. It's accessible via people mover and strategically placed at the highest point of the ship on Deck 19 (hence the name) so that no one will be disturbed by the music and the partying late at night. A full bar is available here as well. Some avid Princess cruisers refer to the distinctive exterior of Skywalkers as a "shopping cart handle" and on some later ships it was placed at the aft of the ship rather than the stern, an upside for those who don't like the shadow it casts over the Terrace Pool

Princess Theater on Deck 7 features everything from Broadway-type performances to comedy shows and magicians. We had the chance to experience their signature show, Bravo, which is hailed as one of the best performances you’re likely to see on a cruise ship, and features a selection of opera, Broadway, and musical performances. The casino, where smoking is allowed, is located right next to the theater and has its own bar. Explorer's Lounge on Deck 7 offers nightclub-style performances and dancing, and Club Fusion -- also on Deck 7 -- has a dance floor too, as well as activities such as karaoke contests. 

Movies Under the Stars is a popular pastime on Caribbean Princess, and throw blankets are available as is free popcorn during showtime. The movie screen got an upgrade in 2017 for an even better, clearer picture, and it hangs above the Calypso Pool

There are a few shops surrounding the ship's main atrium selling sundries, designer handbags, sunglasses, and jewelry; duty-free liquor and wine is also for sale in the Vines wine shop.

An impressive number of pools offering different vibes

The lovely Spa Pool provides a quiet space for adults, and the surrounding Sanctuary lounge includes loungers and canopied shade

The Caribbean Princess stands out for its pools. Located on Lido Deck 15, the Neptune Pool and Calypso Pool are the two largest options on the ship and each come with a set of whirlpools. They are set within close proximity to grab-and-go food options Coffee & Cones, Slice Pizzeria, and the Salty Dog Grill. On warm-weather days -- especially sea days -- these pools fill up quickly, so it's best to grab a spot early.

Located in the rear of the ship on Deck 17, the Pirates Pool is a tiny kids-oriented pool, with adjacent splash pool and whirlpool, offering a sense of privacy and terrific ocean views. There's also a small paddling pool on Deck 17 by the Youth Center. On Riviera Deck 14 is the diminutive adult-only Terrace Pool, a quiet standalone option. The lovely, quiet Spa Pool is also for adults only and is free to use, although the posh Sanctuary lounge area overlooking it is not. The Sanctuary has high-end thick-cushioned loungers, and a mix of sun and canopied shade. 

Beautiful spa with a variety of expensive treatments, and heavy handed upselling

The beautiful on-site Lotus Spa features Asian-accented design

Located on Deck 16 in the front of the ship, Lotus Spa is a beautiful space with an Asian-accented design. It has a wide variety of treatments, from traditional Swedish massages to deep tissue massages to a Chocolate Body Indulgence to an Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow treatment to seaweed wraps. The spa works exclusively with Elemis products, which technicians push you to buy upon completion of your service. The ship also offers acupuncture treatments by a specialist as well as teeth whitening. A full-service salon is also attached to the spa and offers everything from hair and nails to makeup services. Note that a 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to every service in the spa and salon. 

We experienced the Absolute Spa Ritual which included a pro-collagen facial and full body deep tissue massage. While the service itself was excellent, we were surprised by the forceful amount of upselling of Elemis spa products, as well as the lack of lotion and conditioner in the spa’s changing room. When asked if we could get products to wash off following the massage, we were told we could purchase them for an additional fee from the salon. 

Directly behind the spa is the full-service fitness center, equipped with free weights, exercise machines, and an aerobics area. Classes are offered daily as are fitness seminars and personal training services (fees apply).

Family

4.0

Lacks big-ticket kid-friendly features which may leave active kids bored

There are spaces for kids, including for teens, but the ship lacks the big-ticket kid-friendly features of other ships

While there are family-friendly activities and amenities onboard, this is not necessarily a ship that is geared toward kids. After the 2017 renovation, the Caribbean Princess does have more interconnected staterooms as well as updated kids and youth center and programming. But unlike many other ships this size, there are relatively few activities for kids to choose from. (For example, there are no waterslide or waterworks areas.) 

The Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center includes The Treehouse, a forest- and animal-themed play area for kids ages 3 to 7; The Lodge, an activity center and hangout for kids ages 8 to 12; and The Beach House, a contemporary beach themed lounge for teens ages 13 to 17. "Mythbusters" is a hands-on, science-driven programming option, and Camp Discovery is aimed at immersing young cruisers to the culture, nature, and customs of the region they are traveling to. Note that children must be potty trained; youth center staff cannot change diapers. In-cabin babysitting is not offered, but group babysitting is available from 10 am to 1 pm for children ages 3 to 12, for a fee.

Infants must be 6 months at the time of disembarkation to be able to sail, though for certain itineraries, such as transatlantic crossings, infants must be 12 months. Pack 'n Plays can be provided upon request. Swim diapers are not allowed in any of the pools. 

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