Caribbean Princess Cruise Tour (photos, tips, and cruising secrets)

Caribbean Princess Cruise Tour (photos, tips, and cruising secrets) 1

Our family recently went on our first cruise together aboard the Caribbean Princess by Princess Cruises. My husband and I honeymooned on a Princess cruise 22 years ago, but have not been on a cruise since. This time, we were sailing with our four children - ages 7, 12, 15, and 17. The European Capitals itinerary did not disappoint and we had an incredible, peaceful, and memorable time exploring Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France.

ABOUT THE SHIP: CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

The Caribbean Princess is a Grand-class cruise that can accommodate 3140 passengers. Grand-class refers to a ship's size and number of people (Grand class ships tend to carry 2500-3500 passengers). There are seven Princess cruises in this category: Grand Princess (built in 1998), Caribbean Princess (built in 2004), Diamond Princess (built in 2004), Crown Princess (2006), Emerald Princess (2007), and Ruby Princess (2008). Princess' larger ships are in the Royal and Sphere class. Princess' smaller ships are the Coral class.

Built in 2004 and last refurbished in March 2019, the Caribbean Princess is ready for an upcoming dry dock (where the ship receives renovations and updates). That being said, we felt that she was well cared for and kept in tip-top condition overall. The public areas were immaculate. The dining venues were spic and span with constant and careful service. Dishes were speedily cleared, tables were wiped clean, and trash disappeared with an almost magical level of speed and covertness. As for our state room, our steward kept it sparkling. He was friendly, but also stealthy - and did an outstanding job.

GUEST ROOMS ON THE CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

As with any cruise, there are a variety of room options to match your budget and/or your preferences. Inside rooms (without windows) are the most affordable option, followed by inside rooms with obstructed views, inside rooms with windows, rooms with a balcony, mini suites, family suites, suites, and grand suites. All suite rooms have a balcony.

For our recent cruise aboard the Caribbean, we selected E503 and E505, which are connecting interior rooms with obstructed views on deck 8 (very similar to the room pictured on the right). We picked these rooms specifically because these rooms are relatively mid-ship and we had heard that interior rooms near the center are excellent picks for anyone prone to motion sickness. This proved to be correct for our family. Although the rooms are small (measuring in at a tiny 158 square feet a piece!), we were quite comfortable since we spent very little time in the rooms themselves. We all slept soundly and peacefully - whether due to the pillow-soft beds or the fact that we were walking 10-15 miles at each port, we'll never know. Each room has a bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower - about the same size as our RV bathroom, perhaps a bit larger.

Note that your medallion also doubles as your room key. As you approach your room, the medallion unlocks your door for you. No scanning necessary! Superb technology!

DINING ON THE CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

When we originally booked a cruise, one of our top reasons for doing so was "the food factor."

Obtaining and purchasing food always seems to be one of the biggest challenges of family travel. Food is not only expensive, but it can also be terribly time-consuming to either scope out restaurants or find grocery stores & prepare meals. This is where cruising swoops in and really saves the day!

Included in your fare with the Caribbean Princess are:

  • Three Formal Dining Rooms: Coral (Deck 6, Mid), Island (Deck 5, Mid), and Palm (Deck 6, Aft)
  • Coffee & Cones: complimentary soft-serve ice cream
  • International Cafe: featuring sandwiches, pastries, and desserts
  • Salty Dog: a made-to-order venue with hot dogs, tacos, and French fries
  • Slice: A pizzeria
  • World Fresh Marketplace: a buffet

In other words, these venues offer complimentary all-you-can-eat dining with more than enough food options to satisfy every palate. Allergies are also easily accommodated - just let Princess know ahead of time on the app and they'll take care of the rest.

Formal Dining Rooms

The three formal dining rooms (also known as MDRs - Main Dining Rooms) are mirror images of each other and have matching menus. The menus change each day with some "Princess Favorites" on the menu that remain consistent. You can order an appetizer/starter, main entree, and dessert - or several of each - it's up to you! You'll be served by a professional wait staff in suits, adding to the elevated nature of this dining option. The entire MDR team in the Island Dining Room could not have been better on our recent cruise! Warm, funny, flexible, and always ready with a smile! All three dining rooms were open for dinner from 5:00-9:00pm. Depending on the day, they were sometimes open for breakfast or lunch too. Afternoon Tea, which includes complimentary tea or coffee and a selection of pastries/sandwiches, is also served at select dining rooms on sea days.

Coffee & Cones

Coffee & Cones was one of our favorite places on the Caribbean Princess! You can stop by anytime for a complimentary vanilla or chocolate soft-serve cone - with or without sprinkles! If you have Princess Plus or Premier, you can order specialty coffee drinks (like cappuccinos, espressos, and lattes) or ice cream sandwiches.

International Cafe

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The International Cafe is on Deck 5, towards the middle of the ship in The Piazza. It's looks like your typical coffeeshop, but with more food offerings, which are displayed in glass cases. If you order a sandwich, you can ask for it to be heated - which is quite nice. A revolving set of desserts are also available each day. Best of all, International Cafe is open 24 hours/day, which makes it a perfect pick for early risers or night owls.

You can order coffee or tea from the International Cafe at no cost, but note that there is a charge for specialty coffees unless you have Princess Plus/Premier.

Salty Dog

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Salty Dog is all the way up on the open deck on level 17. Walk right up between 11:00am and 11:00pm to make your order and then enjoy it out of doors at any of the tables around the deck.

Slice

Prior to our sailing, we had heard that Princess' Slice pizzeria was voted "best pizza at sea" - and now we know why! Featuring a perfectly chewy crust and quality cheese, we thought Slice's pizza was better than almost all delivery places back at home. Margherita, Pepperoni, and Vegetarian options were available every day - along with a daily special. Try the Four Cheese daily special when it comes up. Very impressive. We often made our way to the pizzeria for lunch, dinner, or even a late night snack. Two thumbs way up!

World Fresh Marketplace

Also referred to as simply "the buffet," World Fresh Marketplace was, hands-down, the most popular dining option on the ship. Located on deck 17, the buffet is well-stocked for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - closing in short increments throughout the day between meals and staying open until 10:30pm. You can swing by at anytime for a full meal, snack, or dessert. Even on busy port mornings when the whole ship convened on the top deck for breakfast, it was still pretty easy to find seating - even for our large party.

ENTERTAINMENT ON THE CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

We purposefully picked a cruise that had a port-heavy itinerary, meaning that we were out and about in various cities almost every day. In fact, we only had two full sea days, which was exactly what we had in mind since we prefer seeing new art, architecture, history, and culture over basking in luxuries at sea.

That being said, a new daily schedule is delivered to your stateroom each evening that lists times and locations for a wide array of activities and performances for the following day. There is something happening at almost every hour of the day - from live music and jugglers to game shows and comedians to ping pong tournaments and arts & crafts. Plus, Movies Under the Stars played almost every day and night on deck 17 - grab a blanket and some popcorn for a cozy activity.

SWIMMING, FITNESS, AND WELLNESS AT SEA

The Caribbean Princess has a number of swimming pools to choose from, including a few that are adults-only or designated for guests at the spa. Because our cruise was in Northern Europe in May, daytime temperatures were typically in the 50s-70s so very few people braved the pools. Our kids mostly had the pools and jacuzzis completely to themselves, which they loved. In fact, they swam almost every day!

As is the case with most cruise ships, the Caribbean Princess also has a fitness center (complimentary), a schedule of group fitness classes ($), and a spa ($).

FAMILY ACTIVITIES/SPACES ON THE CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

There are several different family spaces on the Caribbean Princess, all of which are at the back of the ship (aft) on deck 16.

Camp Discovery

Camp Discovery is a check-in program for children, divided by age group, ages 3-7 or ages 8-12. On the first day of the cruise, you are provided with registration paperwork. If you know ahead of time that you plan to use this (complimentary) service, you can also complete the registration online. There are specific hours of operation and you can always check the day's schedule of events on a bulletin board outside of the Camp Discovery rooms. On most sea days, there are activities between 9:00am-noon, 2:00-5:00pm, and 7:00pm-10:00pm. One really neat feature is that parents can grant their older children (ages 8-12) sign-in/sign-out privileges on sea days. Some activities offered at Camp Discovery during our voyage were decorate a water bottle, make a stained glass frame, foosball tournament, animal charades, and lego building competition.

If you are traveling with a baby or toddler (ages 2 and under), you are welcome to accompany them to Camp Discovery, but drop-off programming is not available.

Family Room

The Family Room is open to exactly who the name implies - families. Families can enter this room at anytime to play foosball, air hockey, or skee-ball. There is also a TV in the room, but there didn't appear to be a way for families to change the movie selection and the video games were out of order (which was fine with us).

Beach House Teen Lounge

Similar to Camp Discovery, parents must register their teens for this program. Teens can sign themselves in and out whenever they like (unless a parent specifies otherwise). Some of the activities offered during our voyage were ping pong tournament, friendship bracelet design, just dance challenge, karaoke, magnet making, and ice cream social. Hours are the same as the ones listed above for Camp Discovery.

Other Areas for Kids/Teens

  • Water Play/Ping Pong: Although not officially "just for kids," there is an outdoor area on deck 16 that has a water play zone (probably best for toddlers through age 10) and two ping pong tables.
  • Splash Pad: The splash pad on deck 16 is an ideal spot for toddlers, preschoolers, and pre-swimmers to enjoy water time in a shallow area. There is even a miniature water slide!
  • Sports Court: Again, this is not just for kids/teens, but there is a sports court on deck 17, which can be used for basketball or pickleball. Equipment is provided.

TIPS FOR CRUISING WITH KIDS | CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

A quick search about cruising on the Caribbean Princess with kids will land you on a hotly debated topic. Some people argue that the Princess cruise line is better suited for older adults. After all, other cruise lines have over-the-top amenities onboard such as water slides, zip lines, and rock climbing walls. That being said, we found the European Capitals cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess to be a wonderful match for our family. Because the itinerary was port-heavy, we were able to explore eight countries, walking 10-15 miles all over these cities. A fellow cruiser reported that there were only sixteen children onboard among the 3000+ passengers. Although that might be a downer for some families, our kids loved to have the swimming pools, sports court, and kids' spaces to themselves. They also enjoyed conversing with older adults over dinner and becoming acquainted with the other children onboard.

In summary, Princess Cruises are quite nice for families. The available amenities are more than sufficient and what child or teenager won't be satisfied with all-you-can-eat soft-serve at their disposable?

TIPS:

  • If you have 3 or more children, book connecting interior rooms. This was a super convenient option and allowed enough space for all six of us - especially since we really only used the room for showering and sleeping.
  • Register your kids for Camp Discovery on the first day. Even if you don't use it, it will be more convenient to have your kids all checked in. Remember that you can assign sign-in/sign-out privileges to older kids, ages 8-12.
  • Don't forget a swimsuit, flip flops, sunglasses, and goggles for pool time.
  • Note that not all of the productions onboard are family-friendly (nor are they rated for specific audiences). Be selective in choosing items on the schedule and be prepared to walk out, if necessary.
  • Note the times of Movies Under the Stars and steer clear of the main pool, if necessary. Some of the movies played have language, violence, and/or sexuality that is not suitable for children.

TIPS FOR CRUISING WITH TEENS | CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

If your teen has never been on a cruise, he or she is in for a treat. To put it succinctly, cruising is a teen's dream. Where else can you have unlimited food of all kinds (from pizza to gourmet), unlimited coffee and ice cream, and opportunities to explore the world?

  • Register your kids for The Beach House on the first day. Even if they don't use it, it will be more convenient to have your teens all checked in. Remember that teens have sign-in/sign-out privileges so they will be able to come and go as they please.
  • If possible, encourage your teens to attend the meet & greet event on opening night so they can introduce themselves to potential friends. Most teens will love the independence of wandering around the ship with a group of friends - playing pickleball, ordering lattes, challenging each other to a ping pong tournament, or enjoying late night conversations in one of the lounges.
  • Keep an eye on "tournaments" that are on the schedule - ping pong, pickleball, basketball, corn hole, egg drop, etc. The winner receives a medal and bragging rights - and many teens enjoy participating in these friendly competitions at sea.
  • Pack comfortable clothes and shoes for sea days - athletic sets, sun dresses, sneakers, sandals, etc.

EMBARKING & DISEMBARKING | CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

I don't have much to say here because embarking and disembarking was a breeze. Perfectly smooth and seamless. The process couldn't have been better. Using your medallion, you simply scan in and out at each port (and upon initial arrival and departure). Because medallions are linked to your individual account, your photo pops up, adding an extra layer of security and allowing for first-name service from the crew. Lines were almost never an issue and we could be on and off the ship again at each port city in a jiffy. Kudos to Princess!

PRINCESS PLUS ON THE CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

Is Princess Plus worth it? That seems to be the question of the hour and you'll have to answer it for yourself. For $60 per day per guest, you receive the following perks with Princess Plus:

  • Crew Appreciation
  • Wi-Fi for 1 device per guest
  • 20 Drinks Per Day (any drink up to $15 each): Bottled Water, Specialty Coffee, Juice Bar, non-alcoholic soft drinks, premium Lavazza coffees, cocktails, wine, beer, power shots (to boost your immunity and energy)
  • Unlimited Room Service
  • 2 Casual Meals per Sailing (Planks BBQ and/or Steamers)
  • 2 Fitness Classes per Sailing
  • 2 Premium Desserts per Day
  • Complimentary OceanNow Delivery to anywhere onboard the ship

Princess Premier, which is $80/per day/per person (compared to Plus' $60/day), includes all of the above - plus 4 Wi-Fi devices per guest, top-shelf spirits and craft cocktails up to $20 each, three professional photography prints, 2 specialty dining meals per sailing (Crown Grill and/or Sabatini's), unlimited casual meals, unlimited premium desserts, and reserved theater seating.

If you choose note to purchase Plus or Premier, you'll want to keep in mind that Crew Appreciation (a required part of sailing) is $16 per day per person for interior, oceanview, and balcony staterooms; $17 per day per person for mini-suite, cabanas, and Reserve Collection staterooms; and $18 per day per person for suites. Crew Appreciation is Wi-Fi is $24.99 per device per day or $44.99 per day for four devices. If you plan to purchase lattes, those will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-$5. Same with bottled water.

FAQ ABOUT THE CARIBBEAN PRINCESS

When was the Caribbean Princess last refurbished? When is the next refurbishment scheduled?

The ship was last refurbished in 2019 and there are rumors that it is scheduled for dry dock (when the ship will receive any necessary repairs and upgrades) this fall, 2024.

What sets Princess apart as a great cruise line?

The service! Princess employees are well-trained and wonderfully friendly, courteous, selfless, and interesting. Someone was always on-hand to answer questions and provide recommendations with a genuine smile.

What should I pack for my upcoming cruise on the Caribbean Princess?

I'm glad you asked! Check out my recent article: What to Pack for a Family Cruise in Europe.

What would make Princess cruises even better?

Thanks for asking! These are some things we’d love to see rolled out on cruises:

  • More quiet nooks and seating spaces that aren’t bars. *The Wheelhouse Bar is currently perfect for late night conversations and laughter, but we'd love to see even more seating areas that can be used for this purpose.
  • No smoking on the walking deck. Even if smoking isn't banned entirely, it would be ideal for it to not be permitted on the promenade so that people inclined to do laps around the ship might be able to do so without passing the smoking area.
  • More family-friendly entertainment and theatre entertainment options in the Princess Theater. We'd love to see the addition of partial or full-length shows for all audiences. Productions like Aesop's Fables, Anne of Green Gables, Cinderella, Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, or The Velveteen Rabbit could be widely enjoyed - not only by small children, but by everyone aboard.
  • Incorporate more family-friendly activities in the master ship schedule. These could be in the family room itself or elsewhere throughout the ship. Ideas: Charades, Cookie Decorating, Cooking Classes, Friendship Bracelet Making, Parent/Child Pickleball Tournament, T-Shirt Tie-Dying, etc.
  • In general, assume your guests are intellectuals, which they probably are. Many of the travelers that we talked to were doctors, lawyers, and holders of advanced degrees. As such, include a plethora of opportunities for learning: history lectures, music lessons, science labs, literature trivia, theatrical productions based on books, book club discussions, documentary screenings, etc.
  • Get creative with activities in The Beach House Teen Lounge: Basketball Competitions, Candy Buffet, Cooking Classes, History Trivia, Ice Cream Sundaes, Photo Booth (with free prints!), Pickleball Tournament, Pictionary, Ping Pong Tournament, Science Trivia, Taboo, Talent Show.
  • Utilize the performers that are onboard for special activity options. Perhaps add group voice lessons for teens? A musical theatre dance class? A beginning class on conducting?
  • Add corn dogs to the Salty Dog menu. (Hint: Get the recipe from Disneyland!)
  • Add smoothies and/or frozen yogurt to the PLUS package.
  • Laundry rooms were often hopping so more spacious rooms with larger machines (or more machines) would be helpful for future cruise ship layouts.

Would you sail on the Caribbean Princess again?

100% - Yes! The ship was a wonderful size - large enough to minimize motion sickness and provide plentiful activities, yet small enough to get to know other passengers. Although there were over 3000 passengers onboard, the ship never seemed particularly crowded - aside from the buffet on cruise port mornings. Even so, we could almost always find seats on deck, in the dining room, in the theatre, or in any of the lounges throughout the ship. All in all, the food was good, the service was superior, and the experience was top-notch. On the last day of our sailing, we were all daydreaming about adding on another week. Our next Princess cruise can't come soon enough!

Feel free to reach out to me on twitter with other questions about the Caribbean Princess. I'm happy to help!

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