Caribbean Princess maintains a laid-back ambience, allowing for laugh-out-loud fun that's never too boisterous. From baby boomers on the dance floor doing the hand jive to middle-aged cruisers competing with gusto in a paper plane competition and families guessing which silly law is real or not, people are on the ship to have some old-fashioned fun.
You won't find water slides or heart-pounding activities, and while Princess passengers aren't teetotalers by any means (a glass of wine being most people's poison), you won't see anyone staggering around after midnight either. What you will find are gregarious sorts who like to travel to new places, sing along with the piano guy in Crooners and have a good laugh at a guest comic's show.
It's not just all silly fun -- some of the ship's best attractions are more cultured. Trivia is standing-room-only and full of die-hard players, art lectures and auctions are well attended and the best stage show is full of operatic arias. Passengers on Caribbean Princess also eat up destination talks and enjoy participating in arts and crafts, and musical instrument lessons inspired by the locales the ship visits.
Lest you think Caribbean Princess is all about indoor pursuits, the ship has an impressive four pools and lots of sun deck space, so there's plenty of opportunity for soaking up some rays and catnapping the day away. It also features the Reef Family Splash Zone, with a kiddie pool, hot tub, whale-themed water playground, oversized games and a mocktail bar.
Caribbean Princess is also one of the most high-tech ships in the Princess fleet, boasting the OceanMedallion system, which replaces the traditional keycard with a casino chip-sized "medallion" that enables cruisers to order food and drinks on demand from almost anywhere on the ship (using a related app on their cellphone), locate any member of their cruise party and unlock their cabin door before they step in front of it.
The tech is pretty cool (who doesn't love having a piece of pizza and a beer delivered to them poolside!) but may be wasted on some of the older passengers who aren't so tech-savvy. The remaining cruisers, a mix of ages, though mostly in the boomer set, invariably give the tech a whirl, especially those with kids in tow during the holidays and school breaks.
While it may seem at times like Caribbean Princess is trying too hard to offer something for everyone -- multiple dining venues for foodies, a splash park for families, high-tech for the young (or young at heart) -- it all manages to blend seamlessly, creating an overall feel that's refined but comfortable and easygoing as well.
Daytime: The dress code onboard Caribbean Princess is casual during the day.
Evening: Most evenings are smart casual, though depending on the length of your cruise, there will be one or two formal nights as well. Most evenings you'll see men in trousers or dark jeans and collared shirts and women in dark jeans, nice slacks or skirts with blouses or simple dresses. On formal night, most cruisers go all-out; you'll see plenty of men in suits and even tuxedos and women in ball gowns and cocktail dresses. (You'll also see a fair number who don't dress up at all, but they go to the buffet for dinner.)
Not permitted: In the dining rooms, items such as shorts, pool wear, distressed jeans and baseball caps are not permitted; shoes must be worn at all times.
The Princess Theatrr spans Decks 6 and 7, and is used for a variety of entertainment offerings from big-stage song and dance productions (there are usually three to four, depending on cruise length) to guest acts that on our 12-night British Isles cruise included an Olivier-award winning West End singer, a concert pianist, comedian and Harlem-based Motown cover group. Fun fact: Hidden in the arm of each seat is a drinks tray that you can pull out to put your drinks on if you'd like.
The best show (which ranks among the best we've seen at sea) is "Bravo!," which features opera's greatest hits as well as a few popular songs done in operatic style. Princess flies in a professional soprano for one or two days to do the most complex of the arias. Between the extraordinary talent of the singers and the ballroom dancing that accompanies many of the songs, the show is the one you don't want to miss.
Whether sea day or port day, Caribbean Princess packs in a lot of activities. Most days you'll find morning and afternoon trivia sessions, game shows, art enrichment lectures, spa seminars (be prepared for a hard sell), retail sales events, bingo, sports tournaments (free throws, golf putting) and classes that range from dancing to crafts and, on our British Isles sailing, pennywhistle.
Don't miss some under-the-radar activities in partnership with Discovery, including the High Seas Heist cruise-long mystery game and a pop-up, inflatable planetarium in the theatre.
Movies are offered from early in the morning till late at night, both inside and at Princess' signature outdoor Movies Under the Stars. Film choices lean toward just-out-of-the theatre hits.
Additionally, a selection of games are always available on digital wall portals including trivia, a word scramble game, a scavenger hunt and a shape matching game for the younger set. Those using the OceanMedallion apps on their phone can also play trivia or participate in a build-a-poker-hand pub crawl.
Caribbean Princess comes alive at night with live music or crew-led fun in virtually every available space on the ship, including the Piazza. The fun starts early in the evening and goes until about 1 a.m. (or later, depending on the crowd); you'll find big-stage entertainment in the theatre, live or recorded music in the lounges -- sometimes with ballroom or line dancing -- and interactive game shows or trivia in the Explorers Lounge. Plus, the ship's nightclub opens at 10 p.m. with a buy one, get one for $1 happy hour.
The casino is also open until late whenever the ship is out to sea. Here you'll find lots of slot machines and table games including roulette, craps, blackjack, three card and Texas Hold'em. If you want to play Texas Hold'em against other players, it'll be on the electronic table and not with a dealer.
One of the ship's signature activities is the "Voice of the Ocean," created in partnership with TV's "The Voice." Interested karaoke aficionados audition the first two nights of the cruise for a spot in the final sea day afternoon finale. Those chosen practice with coaches throughout the sailing and then perform onstage in front of a packed audience to win it all. We were told by others who have seen the show before that it can be a lot of fun, but on our sailing the talent was fairly mediocre, the audience lacked energy and the entire spectacle became just too embarrassing to watch.
There are plenty of bars and lounges to be found on Caribbean Princess, with most used for various activities during the day and live music or entertainment of some kind in the evenings and at night.
Lobby Bar (Deck 5, midship): This small bar is located in the Piazza, near the International Cafe. You'll find a basic lineup of beer, wine and cocktails here; it's most popular in the late afternoon and evening when there's live music in the Piazza.
Vines (Deck 5, midship): Located in one corner of the Piazza, Vines is Caribbean Princess' dedicated wine bar with several varietals on offer. It also hosts wine tastings and extra-fee wine and chocolate pairings and wine blending classes. Additionally, all glasses of wine come with a choice of sushi and tapas, so you can make an afternoon snack or even light meal of your wine habit. Just a sampling of the wines you'll find on the menu includes Wild Horse pinot noir, Silverado sangiovese, Ancient Peaks merlot, Jekel Riesling, Estancia pinot grigio and Silverado sauvignon blanc.
Churchill Lounge (Deck 6, forward): Churchill is Caribbean Princess' cigar bar and also doubles as a sports bar, having access to some sports channels you can't find anywhere else on the ship or in the cabins. It's intimate, dark and atmospheric with comfy armchairs and sofas, but it does smell strongly of smoke.
Crooners (Deck 7, midship): Good luck finding a table at this small piano bar, especially once the music gets going in the evening. Located on Deck 7, two decks immediately above the Piazza, Crooners is not a sing-along bar in the traditional sense; nevertheless, you'll find yourself humming along and tapping your foot as song after familiar song is played.
On nights when the piano player/singer hosts music trivia sessions like Name That Broadway Show Tune, it's standing-room-only, and even the hallway alongside the bar will be packed shoulder to shoulder with people. (On our cruise the Name That Broadway Show Tune session was so crowded that subsequent music trivia sessions were moved into the Explorers Lounge.)
Explorers Lounge (Deck 7, midship): We kind of love the colourful kitsch of this largish lounge with its Egyptian decor (think golden sarcophagi and paintings of Egyptian sand sculptures) and African animal-print rug in red, gold and green. At the front of the lounge is a small stage and sizable dance floor surrounded on three sides in an arc with three tiers of seating -- mostly lacquered wood tables with seating for four, plus loveseats and armchairs.
Explorers Lounge is used throughout the day and into the night for trivia and interactive game shows, art lectures and auctions, dance classes, live music and dancing, and occasional afternoon movies.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7, midship): Probably the quietest of all the lounges on Caribbean Princess, the nautically-themed Wheelhouse Bar is located between Explorers Lounge and Sabatini's and is a bit inset so it's easy to miss. Wheelhouse is mostly used in the evening for solo travellers and LGBTQ get-togethers; a live band plays jazz and soft rock.
Club Fusion (Deck 7, aft): A Western-themed lounge (think paintings of cowboys, lots of wood and leather, and a Western-style saddle displayed at the entrance), Club Fusion is packed during most events -- unsurprising since it hosts a roster of bingo, trivia and dance classes during the day and karaoke, concert broadcasts and dancing with either prerecorded theme music (50s jive, 70s disco, etc.) or a live band from early evening till late. The large space features a spacious dance floor and three tiers of seating, mostly round wooden tables with brown leather chairs.
Grand Casino Bar (Deck 7, forward): This small bar is used primarily by people playing electronic games embedded in the bar, as well as by the waiters who serve drinks to players sitting at the table games and slots.
Outrigger Bar (Deck 15, aft): This small bar is located way at the back of the ship and is quite underused on colder-weather itineraries. In the Caribbean, this is a popular bar due to its wake views and proximity to the adults-only aft pool.
Calypso Bar (Deck 15): This is a simple pool bar with limited seating located near the Calypso pool.
The Mix (Deck 15): Located between Salty Dog Grill and Slice Pizzeria, The Mix is a standard pool bar, located close to Neptune's Reef & Pool.
Tradewinds Bar (Deck 16, forward): Yet another pool bar, Tradewinds is located one deck up from Neptune's Reef & Pool.
Morgan's Bar (Deck 17, aft): Located at the back of the ship, Morgan's Bar is a relatively quiet bar most of the time, used mostly by parents hanging out by the kiddie splash area and pool and nearby hot tub. It's got a special menu of mocktails for kids, topped with cotton candy and Pocky sticks.
Skywalkers Nightclub (Decks 18 and 19, aft): This is the ship's nightclub, though it gets a lot of use during the day as a game room and a quiet place to read a book or watch the ocean. Most nights the dancing gets started at 10 with themed music (70s or 80s, Motown, Latin, British Invasion, etc.) and then continues with DJ'd tunes that span all music genres and keep people on the floor till after midnight.
Caribbean Princess has an impressive number of pools -- four, plus a plunge pool and wading pool for kids -- when most cruise ships have only one or two. Two pools are reserved for adults only.
The main pool is the Deck 15 Neptune's Reef & Pool; it can be quite crowded on a warm-weather sea day. Almost as popular is the nearby Calypso Reef & Pool, located right outside the World Fresh Marketplace. The adults-only Lotus Spa pool is accessible via the spa on Deck 16, but you don't have to use the spa or pay to use the pool; just be careful not to take the stairs up from the pool to the Sanctuary. That's a for-fee space, and you will be kicked out if they catch you sitting there without paying.
The aft-facing Terrace Pool on Deck 14 is an adults-only area with great views and lots of loungers. It's typically quieter than the two main pools.
Deck 17 features The Reef, a water play area for kids overlooking the back of the ship beneath the Skywalker's Lounge walkway. There's a whale-themed splash area with a toddler slide into a wading pool, small four-feet deep kid pool and a hot tub set at kid-safe temperatures. The Reef also has a bar (complete with mocktail menu for kids), whale murals perfect for selfie backgrounds and a semi-shaded lounge area with couches, shaded pod-style loungers and oversized games of Connect Four.
You'll also find seven hot tubs, all located near a pool. Children must be potty-trained to use either the pools or the hot tubs.
The ship's sports complex is at the back of the ship on Deck 18. It has a small (probably less than half-court) basketball court, which can also be set up for volleyball games. Further midship on Deck 17 is the Princess Links course, a golf putting practice space; Deck 16 houses two Ping-Pong tables (one on each side of the ship).
There is no jogging track on Caribbean Princess, but you can walk around the perimeter of Deck 7; 1 mile is approximately 3.5 laps around.
There are numerous spots on Caribbean Princess to sun yourself, from loungers surrounding the midship pools (Neptune and Calypso) to the Deck 17 Sun Terrace to the adults-only, extra-fee Sanctuary. The plush Sanctuary costs $20 for a half-day or $40 for a full day; when you sign up, you'll get to pick which padded lounger or daybed you want and it'll be yours for the duration of your stay.
If you're thinking of sticking close to the pools, keep in mind there's usually a movie on the big screen by the Calypso pool. If you're looking to read or relax while sunbathing, that pool might not be the best spot.
Most of Caribbean Princess' main service desks can be found on Deck 6, including the guest services and shore excursions desks. You'll also find the Future Cruise and Captain's Circle offices on the same deck, tucked into a corner near the Crown Grill, kitty-corner to the shore excursion desk. Most of the ship's retail shops are on Decks 5 and 7. Nearby, on Deck 5, is the art gallery, where paintings by artists such as Peter Max are on sale.
Deck 5 is also home to the ship's combo Internet Cafe and Library, which is mostly decent-sized with one wall lined with bookshelves plus a couple of armchairs; it's not a quiet place for reading at all -- better to borrow a book and find somewhere else to read. The Internet Cafe is always open but only manned during set hours. A single internet plan is available for sale, and prices are reasonable at about $20 per day for the superfast, unlimited MedallionNet Wi-Fi ($10 per day if you purchase on the first day of your cruise).
Questions about OceanMedallion are handled at Ocean Front, located on Deck 7 at the aft end of the photo shop. Hours are limited, though the first few days of the cruise sees a longer schedule than during the rest of the sailing. You can also buy medallion accessories here including bracelets, necklace clips and more.
On Deck 7, you'll find the photo gallery, where hundreds of photos line the walls, and items like scrapbooking materials, GoPros and camera accessories are for sale. Photo packages are available for purchase, and you can also schedule a session with the Platinum Studio for professional studio photos.
Cruisers looking to do their own laundry will find launderettes on Decks 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14. You need a token to use the washer and dryer; tokens, as well as soap are available through keycard-operated vending machines. Each costs $2.50, with the total cost added to your onboard bill.
Caribbean Princess also has a wedding chapel for anyone looking to get hitched at sea or renew their vows. A variety of wedding packages are available.
Other services onboard include a medical centre on Deck 4 and an ATM located near the casino.
The ship's Lotus Spa is located on Deck 16 and offers a variety of facials, massages, seaweed wraps, acupuncture, medi-spa treatments and more. Prices are similar to what you'd find in a big city, with massages ranging from $159 to $259 and facials costing $165 to $184. There is also a special spa menu for teens.
Serious spa goers should take advantage of the 10, 20, 30 package -- purchase three treatments and receive 10 percent off the most expensive one, 20 percent of the second most expensive one and 30 percent off the least expensive of the three. Also keep your eye on the daily Princess Patter for spa specials.
Inside the spa, you'll find the ship's salon, offering manicures, pedicures, and hair treatments and styling, as well as services for men.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to the price of each treatment.
Also inside the spa is the ship's Thermal Suite, which features a Turkish bath, dry steam room, aromatherapy steam room, heated lounge beds and fog mist shower. You must purchase a full-cruise pass to use the Thermal Suite. Fares vary by sailing length and can be priced per person or per couple.
There is one sauna and one steam room in both the women's and men's changing rooms in the spa.
Right next to the spa is the ship's fitness centre, which seemed small for the size of the ship, but offers a good variety of equipment from ellipticals and treadmills to weight machines, standard exercise and recumbent bikes and rowing machines. There are also free weights up to 75 pounds. Fitness classes including free Zumba and extra-fee yoga, TRX and spinning. Sixty-minute personal training sessions cost extra.
There is no jogging track on the ship, but you can walk around the perimeter of Deck 7; 1 mile is approximately 3.5 laps around.
Dining on Caribbean Princess runs from just OK to really quite good, with the best dishes served in the speciality restaurants (Crown Grill gets the highest marks) and at the $95-per-person Chef's Table. The World Fresh Marketplace runs hot and cold; our favourite dish on the entire ship was a simple quinoa with caramelized onion side offered one night in the Marketplace, but on other nights we couldn't find anything that appealed to our taste buds. The main dining room always satisfied.
One of the best things about dining on Caribbean Princess is the plethora of choices for any meal with five venues open for breakfast, seven for lunch (five on a port day) and eight for dinner.
Most dietary restrictions can be catered for if you alert the line to your needs before you cruise. Even if you forget to tell them, there are always vegetarian options, gluten-free bread and sugar-free choices at dessert, and if you talk to the maitre d' once onboard, you can arrange special needs meals for each day.
Island and Coral Dining Rooms (Decks 5 and 6, midship): Caribbean Princess has three main dining rooms, one of which is reserved only for suite and Club Class mini-suite passengers. The Island and Coral dining rooms are for everyone else.
Breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner are served every day in one of the dining rooms; on sea days, lunch is also served in one of the restaurants.
For dinner, both dining rooms are open to passengers with Anytime Dining, Princess' flexible dining program that enables cruisers to show up anytime they want during dinner hours (waits are usually 20 to 40 minutes). To avoid a long wait, you can make a reservation for the time you want. One of the dining rooms (Coral Dining Room on our sailing) is first reserved for a set-time 5:30 p.m. early-dinner seating, opening for Anytime Dining after 7:30 p.m. (There is no late set seating.)
Breakfast in the main dining room features two menu items that change daily and a full list of standards available every day.
On sea days, lunch is served in one of the two dining rooms from about noon to 1:30 p.m. The menu includes brunch selections, as well as starters, soup, salad, pasta, entrees, burgers, combos (soup and salad, or soup and a sandwich) and desserts. Desserts are varied and delicious.
Afternoon tea, served every day from 3 to 4 p.m. consists of finger sandwiches, pastries and cookies and a selection of teas.
The dinner menu most nights includes a changing menu of starters, soups and salads, mains and desserts. Items listed under Princess Favorites are available every night. Vegetarian options are marked with a "V."
Some nights the menu also features a "Crafted by Curtis Stone" item, brought to Princess by its partnership with celebrity chef Curtis Stone. Choices might include seafood stew with Chilean sea bass, black mussels and clams, or chicken and leek potpie.
Desserts also include a selection of always-available items and nightly specials. On rare evenings, a Chocolate Journeys option (created in partnership with chocolatier Norman Love) is available as well. The one we encountered was a chocolate pistachio dome with almond and pistachio nougatine; it got rave reviews.
Palm Dining Room (Deck 6, aft): The Palm Dining Room is an exclusive main dining room reserved only for passengers staying in suites and Club-designated mini-suites. It uses the same menus found in the Island and Coral dining rooms. Seating in Palm is set seating only, with early dinner at 5:45 p.m. and late dinner at 8 p.m.
World Fresh Marketplace (Deck 15, midship): Essentially the ship's upper-deck buffet, World Fresh Marketplace is a conglomerate of food stations designed to decrease congestion and move cruisers through the buffet more quickly. The U-shaped space is located between the midship Calypso Pool and the aft Planks BBQ and Steamers Seafood restaurants.
There are identical setups on either side of the Marketplace, each with three rows totalling about 15 themed stations that change from lunch to dinner, though some -- such as Eastern and Western Destinations, the Garden Soup Kettle and the two Pastry Counters -- are always there.
It can be a noisy spot, and seats during peak times (embarkation day, sea day breakfast and lunch) are hard to come by. If you can't find a place to sit at lunch, you can head to the back and sit in Steamers or Planks BBQ or try to find one of the few tables located outside by the pools.
World Fresh Marketplace is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering food throughout the day. At breakfast, you'll find all the usual morning offerings, but if you want eggs made to order, head back to the buffet lines in Steamers or Planks. Lunch offers Indian, Middle Eastern, Italian and Mexican dishes; a carvery, soups and sandwiches; prepared and DIY salad fixings and more.
Dinner selections are similar though smaller in number, plus a Family Kitchen island with items like corn dogs, pasta with marinara or Alfredo sauce, and French fries. Only one side of the buffet is open for dinner most nights.
At the two Pastry Counters, you'll find a selection of cakes, cookies, brownies and other dessert favourites at both lunch and dinner. The nearby "Specialty Shop" has a selection of gluten-free desserts (a real rarity!).
The Salty Dog Grill (Deck 15, midship): A poolside grill with gourmet ambitions, The Salty Dog Grill features items like the triple smoked burger with hickory-smoked bacon jam, smoked Gouda and barbecue onion sauce; a grilled chicken sandwich with dill and lemon aioli, cucumber and tomato; and two flavours of "street tacos."
The star menu item is the extra-fee Ernesto burger, which was created by Los Angeles-based chef Ernesto Uchimura specifically for Princess Cruises. The Ernesto features fresh ground rib-eye and short rib patty with grilled pork belly, aged Gruyere, caramelized kimchi, beer-battered jalapeno and charred onion aioli.
If you're just looking for more traditional poolside grill options, the closest item on the menu is the Princess Classic burger with tomato, lettuce and red onion, plus a choice of cheese. There is no plain hot dog though; instead The Salty Dog Grill serves an all-beef sausage-like hot dog, with your choice of toppings, and the "Salty" chilli cheese dog. Sides on offer are loaded fries with either chilli cheese or bacon and cheese. Veggie burgers aren't available.
Slice Pizzeria (Deck 15, midship): Also located poolside is Slice Pizzeria, with both standard and more trendy options. Gluten-free versions of the thin-crust pizza are available upon request.
Steamers Ramen Noodle Bar (Deck 15, aft): Open only for lunch in the space normally used for the dinner-only, extra-fee Steamers Seafood restaurant is this simple choose-your-own-fixings ramen noodle bar. Choices include two ramen noodle styles (soba or glass) and two broth choices (chicken or beef), plus a selection of vegetables and meats (chicken, beef, pork and seafood), from the buffet line. Lunch hours are more limited than at other venues, usually between noon and 1:30 p.m. (There's also a small standard breakfast buffet in Steamers every morning.)
Planks Lunch (Deck 15, aft): Similar to the Steamers ramen noodle bar, the Planks buffet lunch is held in the space occupied by the dinner-only, extra-fee Planks BBQ restaurant. Selections might include an open-faced roast turkey and potato on white bread sandwich, triple-deck grilled cheese, an open-faced pork belly and Swiss on sourdough bread sandwich and grilled mac 'n' cheese on white bread, along with a choice of sides. Lunch hours are more limited than at other venues, usually between noon and 1:30 p.m. (There's also a small standard breakfast buffet in Planks every morning.)
Coffee & Cones (Deck 15, midship): Most of the items at this speciality coffee and ice cream shop cost extra, but you can get free soft serve vanilla and chocolate ice cream in a cup or cone. Complimentary extras include sprinkles and whipped cream.
British-Style Pub Lunch (Crown Grill, Deck 6, forward): On sea days, you'll find a British-style pub lunch on the lineup of the day's activities. Open for about two hours (usually from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), the menu has just four items on it: bangers (sausage) and mash, fish and chips, ploughman's lunch and steak and kidney pie. The only dessert provided is a bread and butter pudding. For aficionados of British or Irish pub food, the offerings at this Princess staple might disappoint, but we enjoyed our fish and chips, nevertheless.
The International Cafe (Deck 5, midship): Light bites, including a delicious selection of pastries, plus coffee and tea (basic and for-a-fee specialities) are available 24 hours a day at this popular spot in the Piazza.
During the early hours, the selections at The International Cafe are more breakfast oriented, but as lunch approaches, breakfast pastries give way to a variety of cakes, flavoured puddings and fruit tarts. At least two choices are sugar-free. More substantial snacks are also available from late morning to late afternoon, including a hearty selection of sandwiches, steak and kidney pie, quiches, salads and a soup of the day.
Room Service: The Princess room service menu is comprehensive, complementary and available 24 hours a day. It includes soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as a selection of hot dishes and pastry items.
Additionally, select drinks and a limited selection of food items are available through the OceanNow app (you'll have to have downloaded the app to your phone before your cruise), for delivery to select locations throughout the ship. There is no charge for the service, above and beyond the cost of any items you are ordering. Options include free choices, as well as those that cost money.
Crown Grill (Deck 6, forward); $29 per adult and $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12: Princess' most popular speciality restaurant is its steakhouse, the Crown Grill, with a menu consisting of seafood entrees and chops. Crown Grill is only open for dinner, though on sea days the British-style pub lunch is held here.
Starters are black tiger prawn, carpaccio of pine nut-coated lamb loin, Mediterranean-style spiny lobster cake and pan-seared Pacific scallops. Soup and salad choices are shrimp and pancetta bisque, black and blue onion soup, mixed salad and a marinated goat cheese and heirloom tomato salad. Diners in the mood for seafood can choose a mussel pot, Chilean sea bass and brioche-breaded king prawns, grilled tiger prawns or a 4-ounce lobster tail (add the lobster tail to one of the meat entrees to create your own surf and turf dish).
But what the restaurant is known for are its steaks and chops, which include Sterling Silver beef chop, Madeira-glazed Wisconsin veal chop, New Zealand double lamb chops, Sterling Silver pork chop, porterhouse, New York or Kansas City strip steak, rib-eye and filet mignon. Side dishes (order as many as you want) are delicious. Try to leave room for desert, as the choices are ultra-indulgent.
Sabatini's (Deck 7, midship); $25: A longtime Princess favourite, Sabatini's underwent a complete overhaul in 2017 that included scrapping the old menu and replacing it with an entirely new one created in partnership with Los Angeles-based chef Angelo Auriana. The menu consists of five courses (diners choose one item for each course), plus the aperitivo, which features warm mini-whole wheat loafs, a Tuscan tomato and pepper spread and prosciutto. Your waiter will help you through the menu because the order of the dishes can be a bit confusing.
First is the antipasti; the five choices all have Italian names with the English explanation below. As a second course, you can choose either a celery, mushroom and hazelnut soup or an escarole, celery and pear salad. Second and third courses are the pasta and main entrees. There are six main entree choices including trout rolls, breaded veal with potatoes and artichokes, rolled pork belly Toscana and the Roman seafood al cartoccio with grouper, shrimp, black mussels, scallops, potato and artichoke. If you can't decide on just one pasta or entree, you can pay $10 for each additional choice.
The four dessert choices include the obligatory, but interestingly shaped, tiramisu, plus vanilla panna cotta and fresh berries. There's also the you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it Rocher by Norman Love, which looks like an oversized Ferrero Rocher candy in a terrarium globe. (There's also a delicious tiramisu martini on the menu that tastes just like liquid tiramisu!)
Steamers Seafood (Deck 15, aft); $12: On our sailing, smallish speciality restaurant Steamers was rarely frequented, which we were told had more to do with the cold-weather itinerary we were on than anything else. Yet the food was also mediocre, with a limited menu consisting entirely of shellfish, with the only exception being a crab-stuffed flounder that can be made without the crab. (However, it's drowned in hollandaise sauce and not very good.)
The menu consists of two starters and three entree choices: black and blue mussels with scallops and kielbasa sausage; steamed clams with shrimp and andouille sausage with a choice of three sauces; the "Princess Broiler," which comes served in a large skillet pan and includes broiled scallops and shrimp, and the crab-stuffed flounder, with a side of crispy seasoned fries. Diners can opt to add lobster tail and crab to any of the entrees for just $10.
Dessert choices are limited to just three items. Also on the menu at Steamers Seafood are speciality cocktails with names like Mermaid's Wish and Captain's Bounty.
Chef's Table (Deck 5, midship); $95: The most exclusive dining event on Caribbean Princess is the multicourse Chef's Table with wine pairing, which takes diners behind the scenes into the galley for hors d'oeuvres and Champagne and then to a beautifully appointed table (either in a main dining room or a private room) for the lavish meal. The meal changes each time depending on the mood of the chef. Special diets will not be accommodated; diners should be up for just about anything.
Chef's Table is offered once or twice per cruise depending on cruise length and fills up almost as soon as it's announced in the daily Princess Patter. Also, to participate in Chef's Table, diners are required to sign a document that says they have not had any gastrointestinal or respiratory illness within the last 48 hours, wear a white lab coat-like jacket while in the galley and not wear shorts or open-toed shoes.
Planks BBQ (Deck 15, aft); $12: The only complaint we heard about this meat-lover's paradise was that it served way too much (good!) food. A casual dinner-only eatery, Planks BBQ features round or block wood tables adorned with blue masonry jars and paired with silver-studded leather-backed chairs. Three courses are included in a Planks meal: appetizer, main course and dessert.
For the main course, diners choose four of six barbecued meats -- sou'wester pulled pork, chilli-spiced roasted tri-tip, kielbasa smoked sausage links, Caribbean island smoked chicken drumsticks, hard cider barbecue pork ribs and chipotle barbecue meatballs. (If you're having trouble deciding, the tri-tip, ribs and sausages get the highest ratings -- and you can add an extra meat selection for $4.)
Along with the meat, each plank also has a "heaping" serving of sides. Sauces -- tangy apple butter and cider, and steakhouse smoky bourbon and ale -- are served on the side and you can always ask for more.
For those who have room for more, dessert choices are banana pudding, chocolate cake or a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Be prepared to unbutton the top button of your pants when all is said and done.
Breakfast With Stanley (Deck 6, midship); $10: Held once per cruise on a sea day in the Coral Dining Room, this breakfast event lets kids enjoy a bear-themed menu (including pancakes arranged to look like a bear face), special gifts and a photo opp with Princess mascot Stanley the Bear. Accompanying parents can enjoy options from a limited breakfast menu. Warning: Stuffed animals and other Stanley-themed items from the gift shops are for sale right in the dining room.
Coffee and Cones (Deck 15, midship); a la carte: Other than the soft-serve ice cream, everything at Coffee and Cones carries a surcharge. But $3 is a small price to pay for the delicious ice cream sandwiches you'll find on offer. Our favourite was the mint patty with peppermint ice cream nestled between two chocolate chocolate-chip cookies. Also available are speciality coffees (hot or cold).
Ultimate Balcony Dining (Your Cabin); $45 for breakfast per couple and $100 for dinner per couple: The fanciest room service on your balcony you're likely to encounter at sea, two Ultimate Balcony Dining options are offered on Caribbean Princess (and you must have a balcony to order them). The first, the Deluxe Breakfast, can be served from 7 to 11 a.m. and includes a chilled half-bottle of sparkling wine, fresh breakfast pastries, smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, a medley of fresh fruits and berries, and quiche Lorraine.
The four-course Deluxe Dinner is available from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and features pre-dinner cocktails (one per person), four canapes per person and a half-bottle of chilled sparkling wine. Dinner itself can consist of items from a set menu, the evening's main dining room menu or a special request. An extravagant dessert is also included.
Vines (Deck 5, midship); a la carte: The ship's wine bar offers tapas-style snacks when you buy a glass of wine. Food cannot be purchased separately from the wine, nor can you get food if you want something nonalcoholic.
Cabins on Caribbean Princess are comfortable if a bit small in the more basic categories. They're generally in good shape and feature Princess' signature Luxury Beds, which is one of the most comfortable beds we've ever encountered on land or sea. The beds can be configured as two twins or one queen.
Other furnishings include a desk with several small drawers and a chair, and an extra armchair. All rooms feature a safe in the closet, a mini-fridge, a wall-mounted hair dryer and one or more flat-screen TVs with a variety of channels, including several ship-specific and movie channels.
Except in the larger suites, outlets are quite limited, with most rooms having just two 110-volt power outlets (near the desk, not the bed). For a ship that spends part of its time in Europe, the lack of one easily reachable 220V outlet is surprising. (You can get an adapter from the Passenger Services desk if you ask for one, and there is actually a hidden 220V outlet behind the bed, requiring passengers to pull the bed out and squeeze behind it to reach.)
Bathrooms in inside, ocean-view and balcony cabins are all small, with tiny shower stalls and three small shelves near the sink to store your toiletries. The shower itself has one storage nook, which is barely large enough to hold three small TSA-approved bottles or one larger bottle. Wall-mounted dispensers hold shampoo and shower gel; we used them as a ledge for our razor and soap.
The showers have clingy curtains and drains that work very slowly. If you're not attentive and your cabin steward does not clean the drain (as ours didn't do for the first half of our cruise), the shower will overflow and flood the bathroom, as we learned the hard way one morning.
There are several wheelchair-accessible cabins spread across a variety of cabin categories.
Inside: Interior cabins, ranging in size from 158 to 162 square feet, are fairly small by modern industry standards. Select inside cabins have third and fourth berths via pull-down beds in the ceiling. Furniture in the room includes a quasi walk-in closet (it's an open-door layout directly opposite the bathroom door), a desk with a mini-fridge on one side and three drawers and three open-sided shelves on the other, one desk chair and two bedside tables.
Oceanview: Ocean-view cabins range in size from 146 to 206 square feet and feature a large picture window with either a full or obstructed view; windows have a deep ledge, which can be used for extra storage. Select cabins have third and fourth berths via pull-down beds.
Like inside cabins, ocean views feature a semi-walk-in closet and two bedside tables, but the mini-fridge is in a tower cabinet opposite the desk and the desk has just the three drawers and no extra shelving. There are two chairs in ocean-view rooms (one desk and one armchair style).
Balcony: Balcony cabins range in size from 214 to 222 square feet, including the balcony. The interior layout is identical to ocean-view cabins, and the balcony has a floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass door and is furnished with two chairs and a small table. There are also six premium balcony cabins spread across Decks 8, 9 and 10. They differ only in that they are larger, 240 to 298 square feet, and have aft views.
Standard Mini-Suite: Mini-suites on Caribbean Princess are about 323 square feet, with an approximately 57-square-foot balcony. Because of their larger size, mini-suites feature a separate sitting area with a sofa bed, armchair and coffee table, and there are two TVs, one in the bedroom and one in the sitting area; under each TV are a counter and two shelves of extra space. Select cabins have a pull-down bed for a fourth passenger.
Balconies have a table and two chairs, each with a small ottoman. The bathrooms in all mini-suites have a tub/shower combo with a massage showerhead and two small glass shelves. The only perks for passengers in standard mini-suites are upgraded toiletries and a welcome glass of Champagne.
Club Class Mini-Suite: Mini-suites that are designated as Club Class are located midship and come with premier dining benefits including an exclusive main dining room (the Palm Dining Room) reserved only for passengers staying in Club Class and higher-level suites. Other Club Class perks are priority embarkation and disembarkation, a free one-time wine setup that includes a half-bottle of red wine and a half-bottle of white wine on embarkation day, upgraded bathrobes and evening canapes on request.
Suite: Caribbean Princess offers seven categories of suites ranging in size from 460 to 1,277 square feet (including the balcony). All suites have a bedroom separated from a seating area, a sofa bed, walk-in closet, two flat-screen TVs, bathroom with either a tub/shower combo or separate tub and shower (some have whirlpool tubs), upgraded bathroom toiletries and lots of storage space. Suite balconies range in size from 114 to 181 square feet and feature two loungers, a table and two to four chairs.
All come with the same robust line-up of perks including one free mini-bar setup and free daily bottled water, free Lotus Spa Thermal Suite access, free same-day laundry service, free dinner in a speciality restaurant on embarkation day, free speciality dining breakfast with included mimosa, priority speciality dining and shore excursion reservations, an upgraded room service menu and priority disembarkation at tender ports.
Suites are as follows:
Fiesta: The seven window suites (there is no balcony) are each 319 square feet and are all located on Deck 6.
Vista: There are six aft-facing Vista Suites, ranging in size from 460 to 495 square feet, including the balcony. They can be found on Decks 8, 9 and 10; the largest of the Vista suites are on Deck 10, the smallest on Deck 9.
Penthouse: There are 15 Penthouse Suites on Caribbean Princess with most located on Deck 14; three (located on Decks 10 or 12) are aft-facing. All Penthouse Suites are roughly the same size, about 530 square feet.
Premium: Two Premium Suites can be found on Deck 15; each is 568 square feet.
Owner's: Caribbean Princess has one Owner's Suite on Deck 12. It's 687 square feet.
Grand: The 1,277-square-foot aft-facing Grand Suite is located on Deck 12 and differs from other suites in that it has a fixed queen-sized bed, plus a dining area with a large table and six chairs, as well as a large sitting room and a small dressing room. The oversized balcony features two loungers, a large table with four chairs and a small table with two chairs.
Two-Bedroom Family: Caribbean Princess has a couple of two-bedroom family suites that are perfect for families or groups of friends who want to share the same space. Sized at 427 square feet, the suite can hold up to six people in three rooms: one large bedroom (two twins convertible to queen), a second smaller one (two fixed twins) and a sitting area (two single sofa beds) connecting the two. The room also has two bathrooms, one with just a shower and another with shower/tub combo.