For many cruise connoisseurs, Princess Cruises is the ultimate cruise line: a balanced blend of megaship excitement with traditional relaxation and cruising glamour. Princess Cruises served as the floating set for The Love Boat television series, and today the line still embraces the regal, romantic aspects of ocean travel.
The Princess Cruises Fleet
The Princess fleet is generally made up of larger ships, but the overall complement is smaller than most mainstream cruise lines with only fifteen total ships in five general classes. Nevertheless, Princess Cruises offers a comparable variety of shipboard experiences for all passengers.
The smallest Princess ship is the Tahitian Princess, with a double occupancy capacity of just under 700 passengers with limited South Pacific Polynesian voyages. At the other end of the spectrum, the largest ships are the Diamond Class and Grand Class ships that can support approximately 2,600 passengers on each luxurious voyage - making these ships among the largest in the world. The single largest ship in the Princess fleet is the Caribbean Princess, with space for 3,100 passengers. Every Princess ship, no matter what its class or size, creates amazing intimacy without overcrowding and offers passengers the epitome of the cruising lifestyle.
Though Princess Cruises is headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, the majority of its voyages depart from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Other departure ports include Seattle, Washington; Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; San Juan, Puerto Rico; New York, New York; and Galveston, Texas. Seasonal voyages for Alaskan itineraries depart from Vancouver, British Columbia and Anchorage, Alaska. Other ports may change depending on each ship's particular schedule, and additional international departure ports are available for more exotic voyages.
Each Princess cruise ship is decorated in minimalist, neutral blue and beige tones for a relaxing and soothing atmosphere reminiscent of the ocean and windswept island beaches. Understated, muted lighting and graceful statues mirror the calm atmosphere and enhance the pure romance of a trip at sea.
Despite the smaller fleet, Princess offers a wide variety of itineraries, including eastern Caribbean cruises, western Caribbean cruises, Mexican Riviera journeys, Hawaiian adventures, Alaskan cruises, Panama Canal voyages, and a number of international destinations including Australia and the South Pacific. The vast majority of Princess voyages are seven nights or longer, with more exotic itineraries stretching for two weeks or more and including several ports of call. Most ships change itineraries throughout the year so it is best to consult a travel agent if you are interested in a specific vessel.
Similar to other mainstream lines, Princess Cruises offers a wide range of onboard activities for different passengers' tastes. While the majority of Princess passengers are older, more families are experiencing the line, particularly during holidays and school vacations. With that in mind, Princess ships have begun offering more activity options suited to younger passengers, including children.
Princess Cruises excels in dining options, offering both traditional seating times in the main dining rooms as well as "anytime" dining when the maitre d' will seat arriving guests in a more flexible setting to accommodate individual mealtime preferences. The larger ships, Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, exceed even standard dining options by offering four small themed restaurants in addition to the main dining room. Passengers interested in the "anytime" dining option can choose between these restaurants, with Italian, steakhouse, Asian, and southwestern themes in addition to standard menu choices.
Most Princess ships also offer alternative, reservations-only restaurants for an additional charge. Casual options are always available, including a 24-hour buffet at the Horizon Court restaurant. Children's menus, healthy dishes, and vegetarian options are offered to meet any special dietary concerns.
Snacks and room service are always available, including coffee, pizza, hot dogs, and pastries. A word of caution, however: Princess ships do not feature free ice cream; instead, there is a minimal charge for Haagen-Dazs or Princess's house brand.
Like all mainstream cruise lines, Princess Cruises offers a variety of evening entertainment ranging from Vegas-style review shows to individual acts such as comedians, ventriloquists, acrobats, and magicians. Individual musicians spice up lounges and other public areas with piano, guitar, and string arrangements suitable for dancing or just light entertainment. Dance clubs feature state-of-the-art sound systems and expert DJs, and other options include first-run movies and passenger games and contests.
Spas and Fitness
The Lotus Spa is available for passengers interested in indulgent pampering, including massages, facials, manicures, body polish treatments, and tanning sessions. Different treatments are targeted toward both men and teens to provide luxurious experiences for every passenger. Yoga and Pilates classes are also offered in the Spa.
For a more vigorous workout, passengers can participate in aerobics classes, water volleyball, and the swim-against-the-current lap pool. Jogging tracks are standard, and the gym offers free weights as well as a variety of exercise machines.
Casinos on several Princess ships are themed, such as the Parisian atmosphere inside the Island Princess's casino or the illuminated domed ceiling of the Diamond Princess's casino - one of the largest casinos on any cruise ship. Slot machines abound on every ship, and a variety of table games including blackjack, poker, and roulette are also available. Bingo games are arranged throughout each cruise.
Games and Contests
Games and contests make everyone a winner aboard Princess Cruises. Karaoke nights are often arranged to find a "Princess Idol," and many activities are adaptations of popular game shows. Humorous contests such as the belly flop competition and the Newlywed / Not-so-Newlywed game are staples aboard most Princess vessels.
With the growing popularity of family cruises, Princess ships now offer extensive children's programs for different age groups, including teenagers. Traditional activities include craft projects, games, snack parties, movies, and assorted contests. The youth and teen centers are equipped with splash pools, ping-pong tables, games, movies, and teen clubs, and all children's areas are staffed by experienced counselors.
Several educational children's programs are available, with a variety of classes focused on the cruise itinerary and ports of call. This enables parents to explore ports freely while their children are introduced to different natural and cultural features of the area.
Limited group baby sitting is available for a nominal fee, but no private in-cabin baby sitting is offered.
Princess Cruises offers an extensive enrichment program for passengers of all ages that includes computer, cooking, finance, wine tasting, photography, and arts classes. On Caribbean voyages, passengers can also work toward a scuba certification. Large-group classes are free of charge, but smaller groups or individual, private lessons have additional charges.
Behind the scenes tours are also popular activities aboard Princess ships, and may include galley tours as well as backstage theater tours. These activities are infrequent and often fill up fast, so be sure to arrive early if you are interested.
Cons About Princess Cruises
Because of the small fleet size, the biggest detriment to Princess is the limited availability of itineraries, particularly the lack of shorter voyages. For inexperienced passengers, it may be best to try a shorter voyage on a different line before committing to a longer journey with this line. For particularly athletic passengers, the gyms may feel small and cramped, and compared to other mainstream lines with their glitz and glitter, the décor aboard Princess vessels may appear more bland than restful.
With a Love Boat history, Princess Cruises embodies the romance and luxury of the sea coupled with the thrill and excitement of modern cruise vacations, the perfect choice for discriminating passengers with a taste for adventure.