Best For People Who Want
Roomy Princess cruise ships with ample choices for alternative
dining, wide-ranging fitness programs; true onboard weddings as
well as vow renewal; programs for children of all ages, tweens and
teens; balcony cabins; lots of nightlife choices, extensive golf
and snorkeling programs.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A more personalized cruise experience on a smaller ship,
Caribbean Princess entered service in 2004, the final sister
ship to the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess presented in 1998, once
the biggest cruise ship at sea, though that didn't last for long.
Caribbean Princess comes in at a heftier 113,00-tons and carries
about 410 more passengers at a capacity of 3100. Still, the
Carnival Conquest class at 110,000 tons, for example, can carry
close to 3400 passengers. This means that the space per passenger
ratio on these ships, though not as ideal as her sister ships,
results in lounges, theaters and dining rooms that are all intimate
enough to make passengers forget they are aboard a megaliner.
Thanks to shrewd layout, multiple dining venues, four expansive
outdoor deck areas (1.7 acres!), multiple sports facilities, four
pools, and nine hot tubs, passengers are rarely concentrated in any
one area. Meanwhile, the mega-ship amenities included for those who
can never get enough dining, entertainment, and fitness choices,
means the Princess ships of this class make the best of everything
for ships in this size and price range. Their programs for younger
passengers are exemplary, and their Lido buffet dining spot is open
around the clock.
Caribbean Princess was the first Princess ship to offer "Movies
Under the Stars," a huge flat panel projection screen showing near
first-run films outdoors next to the pool. This was such a hit that
the concept has been spread to other large Princess ships sailing
in the Caribbean. They recently started handing out headphones to
viewers to alleviate complaints from nearby cabins.
Having offered the first wedding chapel at sea (with the Captain
doing the honors) on Grand Princess, Caribbean Princess now also
features a complete professional digital photography studio in the
F/X Digital Photo Center for those all-important wedding photos.
The medical center is one of the most advanced at sea, the first to
offer real-time teleconferencing support from a leading national
cardiac care center in the United States.
The most incongruous factor about these mega-ships is that the
public rooms aren't much bigger than those on much smaller ships,
and there are surprisingly few bars and lounges for a ship this
size. The one head-scratcher to the design is the compromised
privacy of many balconies that extend out far enough from the ship
that people from several decks above can look right down into your
"private" enclave. From the Baja Deck, for instance, you can watch
other passengers on their Caribe and Dolphin Deck balconies. Caribe
occupants can in turn observe their counterparts on the Dolphin
Unlike the theme park atmosphere of some other cruise lines,
these Grand-class Princess ships décor bestows a refined,
understatedly elegant atmosphere, with hand-painted murals and
etched glass partitions in the dining rooms. Little apparent
expense was spared on materials, with rich fabrics, beautiful
woods, and marble everywhere, all topped of with a $2 million art
collection aboard each ship. The cabins are tastefully decorated in
soft, inoffensive shades -- beiges, creams and muted pinks.
The Club Fusion Showlounge, replacing the Vista Lounge, now has
slot machines thrown in and presents production shows, cabaret,
comedians and magicians. At night it doubles for a secondary disco
for those who get light-headed scaling the heights to
Skywalkers, the real disco, is suspended between two pillars
protruding high above the stern, fully 18 stories above sea level.
The moving sidewalk you ride up to Skywalkers is one of the most
breathtaking views on any ship, and one that many passengers
probably never discover.
As with all Princess ships, you will quickly find the Wheelhouse
Bar and the Explorers' Lounge offering cabaret, trivia
competitions, art auctions, and pre-dinner dancing. Churchill's
Lounge, the one-time sports bar, is now behind the casino and is
used for the cognac and cigars set. The sports paraphernalia is
still there, but seems oddly out of place.
The main gathering spot, the maple-paneled atrium paneled, has
boutiques, cafés and public rooms on each of its three
levels, all connected by a circular glass staircase. A string
quartet adds to the airy ambiance. The gigantic Casino contains
some 285 slot machines and gaming tables beyond counting. You can
view live sports on ESPN in the Sports Bar, or recline in leather
chairs while perusing any of hundreds of books in the beautiful
The Internet room on these Grand-class ships do not qualify as
"cafés" as there are no café-style treats available.
Even worse, there is no tech support and if you can find the
printer you may have to fix your settings on your computer to make
it work yourself. The connection is generally slow and
inconsistent. Sadly, these are some of the worst, and most
under-utilized, Internet centers at sea.
What can you say about a ship that offers three main dining
rooms instead of the usual multi-tiered, bigger than life one? They
are more intimate and definitely quieter, but like the Princess
"included in the cruise fare" cuisine, they are not likely to
elicit a "wow" response either. These main dining rooms predictably
offer Princess' Continental-style cuisine unlikely to win any
culinary awards, but also elicit few complaints. For gourmet
dining, try the alternative option, refined but not snooty,
Sabatini's Trattoria for a wonderful selection of Italian
antipasti, complemented with such garnishes as Sevruga caviar,
delicious pizza, homemade pastas, soups and breads. Salads are
tossed before your very eyes, and soup ladled into fresh bread
bowls. Seafood predominates on the list of main courses; there are
lobster, langoustines, tiger prawns, Chilean sea bass and scallops,
with red meat dishes also on offer. Save room for the exquisite
Italian pastries that will be wheeled before you toward meal's
The three principal restaurants, Island, Coral and Palm Dining
Rooms, seating just over 500 passengers, feature hand-painted
murals and etched-glass partitions. The drapes and carpeting in the
main dining areas absorb sound efficiently enough to preclude
diners having to holler across the table to one another.
Personal Choice Dining offers either traditional cruise dining
(In the Amalfi), with a set seating time (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.)
and the same waiter and tablemates each evening, or new
restaurant-style seating, allowing passengers to dine when and with
whom they choose, with each party seated at its own table, as at a
restaurant ashore (offered in the other two dining rooms).
Restaurant-style diners may be seated in either of the two elegant
main dining rooms any time between 5:30 and midnight. Many
passengers are understandably grateful for this reprieve from
having to hurry to dress for dinner in the traditional way after a
long day ashore.
Sabatini's, (surcharge $20 per person) described above, seats
100, the Sterling Steakhouse features Angus beef and other grilled
red meats (surcharge $15 per person). The Horizon Court is open 24
hours per day, with menu service at night, plus casual breakfast
and luncheon buffet. There's also a festive pizzeria. For $100 per
couple, you can book the Ultimate Balcony Dinner, to be served by a
butler who discreetly makes himself scarce behind drapes or out in
the hall between courses. The ship's photographer snaps a
complimentary photo while you're eating.
At night, the Horizon Court restaurant is transformed into Cafe
Caribe, serving up (what else?) Caribbean inspired cuisine with
full waiter service at fully set tables.
While Princess has a well-deserved reputation for good service
securely footed in its British roots, truly personalized service
may be too much to expect on a ship this size. That noted, cabin
stewards and waiters are both efficient and personable. And rote
processes that should be standardized and well executed on other
ships but often fail miserably, such as efficient disembarkation,
are generally practiced and polished to the point of excellence
A charge of $10 per person per day (including children) is
automatically added to your stateroom account for dining and
stateroom personnel. This applies to all passengers, adult and
child alike, whether or not they choose traditional or personal
choice dining. The amount may be increased or lowered at the
Purser's Reception desk during the cruise.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage
tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your
With a dozen or so venues for nightlife, you're virtually
assured of finding something that floats your boat, to coin a
phrase. There's no faulting the lavishness of the production shows,
which feature extravagant special effects. The performers in the
cabaret are a talented bunch.
are built out from the body of the ship so as to permit bigger
staterooms. Seven hundred ten of the 1300 staterooms have
balconies, ranging up to 257 sq. feet, but they're not very
private, as they're in plain view of the occupants of the cabin on
the next deck up. Standard inside staterooms are 160 sq. ft., while
outside cabins range from 168 to 210 sq. feet. Closet space is
minimal except in the suites; leave some things home! Mini-suites
with private verandas are 325 sq. feet. Vista Suites, called
mini-suites on other Princess ships, range from 515 to 800 sq.
feet. Sun and Dawn Princess offer larger minisuites for less
All staterooms have color TV with CNN and movies, a radio and
small refrigerator, and spacious bathrooms with storage space and
It is rare to find such ample fitness facilities. The four
pools, including a "swim-against-the-current" lap pool, are
uniformly gorgeous, thanks in no small part to colorful mosaics and
surrounding palm trees. Low marks, though, to whoever decided to
put the separate jogging track right above the spa, as the
relentless thundering of hooves overhead isn't terribly conducive
to one's enjoying her massage or beauty treatment. Even though
prices are substantially higher than ashore, spa services are very
popular, especially in the afternoon. You'll occasionally have to
stand in line for some of the more popular workout apparatuses in
the gym. There's a golf simulator and 9-hole putting green, and
courts for basketball, volleyball or tennis.
Seven- to 14-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the
Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for dark suit instead of tux,
while their distaff companions often prefer dressy pants to gowns.
The rest of the time, think smart casual.