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Island Princess

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Island Princess is one of the two 92,000-ton Coral-class ships -- the other is Coral Princess -- that offer transits through the Panama Canal. They were custom-built to do so and are the only two Princess ships in the fleet small enough to get through the locks.

A 2015 dry dock added 121 staterooms and reorganized and refurbished certain public areas of the ship to accommodate the new cabins. The Horizon Court was remodelled to improve passenger flow, and its updated design includes the addition of an Italian pastry shop. If you sailed the ship previously, you will feel like a first-timer as many public spaces have changed locations: The Sanctuary sun deck is now on one deck instead of two and its pool is gone; the teen centre has moved to Deck 14, while the kids club has lost its outdoor space; the fitness centre exchanged its former Deck 14 location to one on Deck 6; and even the shore excursions desk and future cruise booking office have new locations. The multipurpose Universe Lounge is no more. The end result is that the remaining public areas can feel more crowded with the addition of the extra passengers.

Despite the refit, the ship still feels a little dated, especially in the corridors (which can be uneven in places) and cabin bathrooms. While the four-story atrium -- undoubtedly eye-catching with its lovely, tinkling waterfall, glass-fronted elevator, comfortable seating, white grand piano and profusion of greenery -- is the centrepiece of the ship, the area still has a cramped feeling, which is particularly noticeable on sea days.

Island Princess is a comfortable ship. It won't intimidate virgin cruisers like some of the newest behemoths might do, and staff throughout the ship are pleasant and willing to help with queries or requests. With plenty of onboard entertainment opportunities, a good selection of shore excursions, good food and fantastic kids' programs, the ship makes it easy for guests to have an enjoyable holiday.

During the day, anything goes, although beachwear is not allowed in the restaurants without a cover-up. On most nights, the recommended evening dress is smart casual -- an open-neck shirt and trousers for men and a dress, skirt ensemble or trouser suit for women. Cruises of five nights or longer include at least one formal dining night, while cruises of seven to 13 nights have two formal evenings.

Although Princess asks that passengers observe the dress code, particularly in the main dining rooms, we saw many people flouting the rules. Men, in particular, turned up in short sleeve, open-neck checked shirts, casual trousers and sneakers. Generally speaking, ladies were better turned-out; while less than a handful wore evening gowns, most turned up in cocktail dresses or elegant trouser suits. Staff seemed to turn a blind eye to any dress code infractions.

Editor's Note: Island Princess' theatre now hosts the line's own spinoff of NBC's "The Voice," called "The Voice of the Ocean," in which passengers who are handpicked from karaoke auditions earlier in the week compete for winning title.

Theatre

The two-level Princess Theatre on Deck 7 with ruby red seats holds 688 guests. During the day, it is the occasional venue for port lectures and culinary demonstrations; the latter is often followed by a ship's galley tour. Occasionally, afternoon movies are shown here.

There are two evening performances each night, at 8:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. These might be production shows -- such as a tribute to Motown -- that feature the Island Princess singers and dancers. While these shows are perfectly watchable, they are nothing to get too excited over; on our cruise, the singers and dancers weren't always in sync.

Guest performers make up the rest of the evening entertainment; we saw a multi-instrumentalist, comedian/musician and singer/keyboardist. Quality can range from mediocre to fantastic.

Daily Fun

Trivia games held in the Explorers Lounge, Wheelhouse Lounge or at the Lido pool are frequent and fun for those who enjoy them, while there is occasional electronic gaming in the form of Wii Sports hosted by the entertainment staff. Other daily activities come in the shape of carpet bowls, Ping-Pong competitions, Hoopla (with a bottle of bubbly as the prize) and bingo. There are also port lectures, art auctions, craft-making classes and wine tastings (with a price tag of $9.50). One afternoon on our cruise, an Italian tenor serenaded everyone for an hour with popular opera songs, and on another, passengers participated in a fashion show in the atrium (Deck 5), modelling fashion apparel, accessories and jewellery available from the boutiques onboard. Although Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.) comes into its own after dark, occasional movies, concerts and sporting events are also shown during the day.

At Night

Most of the evening entertainment onboard takes place in the various lounges. However, the atrium is the scene of regular piano sessions, while the art gallery (Deck 7) holds occasional exhibitions.

The casino and casino bar on Deck 6 are usually busy in the evenings. The casino offers roulette, slots, poker, Texas Hold 'Em and craps. Gaming lessons are held here a couple of times a week for those who want to learn how to play blackjack and roulette. While at sea, the small casino bar is open from 9 a.m. until late.

Movies Under the Star (M.U.T.S.) is Princess' name for its giant poolside movie screen. Evening movies are usually shown at 8 p.m. and/or 10 p.m. Passengers can relax on loungers with cosy tartan blankets and munch on complimentary popcorn.

After midnight, there is very little going on around Island Princess; most of the bars and lounges are deserted by then.

Island Princess Bars and Lounges

The ship has a nice selection of bars and lounges for reading, hanging out in, meeting friends or having a drink. There is no dedicated nightclub.

Passengers can buy an all-inclusive drinks package for $49 per person per day. This includes cocktails, wine, beer, sodas, lattes, cappuccinos and bottled water. A 15percent gratuity is added to the price. The package does not include beverages above $10, souvenir items, minibar items, in-room service or vending machine items.

Explorers Lounge (Deck 6): This Far East and Africa themed lounge with a 760-square-foot dance floor offers entertainment including cabaret acts, singers, magicians and comedians. On our cruise, it was at its busiest from around 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. when most acts performed but even then was never overcrowded. Karaoke Power Hour, held a couple of times per week, starts at 10 p.m. This lounge is also the only place to offer the Chocolate Cocktails menu, with concoctions like chocolate salted caramel rum shakes and chocolate bacon bourbon specials. Bar service is available from 5 p.m. to around 11:30 p.m., though the lounge is used throughout the day for activities.

Churchill Lounge (Deck 7): A bright space for smokers with lots of windows, this cigar and spirits lounge holds just 15 people.

Crooners Bar (Deck 7): This small, comfortable 1960s-era martini bar is decorated with a variety of '50s and '60s themed black-and-white prints on the walls. It is the venue for some early evening singles get-togethers. From 9 p.m. it's where to go to listen to cocktail melodies on the piano. Open from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): The Wheelhouse Bar feels like a classic, private club and is filled with nautical memorabilia including a brass ship's wheel, semaphore lamp and engine room telegraph. Walls are enhanced by nautical paintings. It's a comfortable place with plenty of leather sofas and chairs and has live music most evenings. Show off your dance moves on the 625-square-foot dance floor or just relax with a drink. Open from 3 p.m. to around midnight.

Outdoor Bars (Deck 14): Deck 14 is home to two outdoor bars. The Lido Bar serves the pool of the same name and is right next to the pizzeria. The Lotus Bar is between the pool and the spa. These poolside bars are busy when the weather is fine.

Island Princess Outside Recreation

Pools

The Lido Deck (Deck 14) houses two pools. One is the Lido Pool, which is surrounded by white metal sun loungers topped with blue-and-white striped cushions. It has three hot tubs. The other is the Lotus Pool with two hot tubs. The Lotus Pool is covered by a retractable glass dome and has a swim-against-the-current feature. Green cushioned, teak loungers are placed close together here as there isn't a great deal of space. There is a large, but very shallow ( 8-inch deep) splash pool on Deck 16, which is surrounded by rows of white metal framed loungers topped with blue-and-white striped cushions. This area is reasonably spacious so rarely feels overcrowded.

Recreation

The sports court on Deck 16 has a netted basketball court, shuffleboard, table tennis and giant checkers. A separate nine-hole mini-golf course is located on Deck 15, as well as two Ping-Pong tables.

Sun Decks

The Princess Sanctuary on Deck 15 ($40 for a full day, $20 for a half day) is a peaceful outdoor adult-only retreat with soft piped music, plenty of greenery and lots of cream and blue seating with squishy, deep cushions -- sofas, loungers and tub chairs. On-call stewards are a delight; they are on hand to take food and drink orders and bring towels if required. The menu offers a complimentary selection of smoothies and healthy light bites like fruit salad and fruit kebabs. All Sanctuary guests can borrow a pre-loaded MP3 player to listen to their music of choice.

Those passengers who love extra luxury with their leisure have the option of hiring a massage cabana for a fee of $140 for a half day or $220 for a full day. Several are sprinkled throughout the Sanctuary. Cabanas come with colonial-style roof fans, sofas, enormous tub chairs, a fridge, flat-screen TV, a bottle of wine, a bucket of beer (contains 6 bottles), soft drinks, fruit kebabs, MP3 players and face spritz mists. The use of thick, plush sun loungers is also included in the price. Passengers can take advantage of spa treatments, like alfresco massages, in their cabanas. (All Sanctuary guests are entitled to book a 15-minute back, shoulder and neck massage at one of the deck's massage chairs.)

Island Princess Services

The medical center is on Deck 4 midship and is open every day between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Passenger services is on Deck 5. A machine nearby will print out your onboard statement, so you don't have to queue up to check your bill; it's right next to a currency exchange machine. The Captain's Circle membership desk is also on Deck 5.

The photo gallery is near the casino on Deck 6. If you want a souvenir of your time onboard, it will cost you $34.99 for a package of one 8 x 10 photo and three wallet-size prints, or $44.99 for one 8 x 10 photo, two 5 x 7 photos and three wallet prints.

The Princess Fine Arts Gallery is on Deck 7 midship and opens from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Internet cafe on Deck 8 is located midship in the atrium. It's divided in two sections and is discreetly hidden from prying eyes by means of a semicircular partition. One section has eight workstations, and the other has five. Pay-as-you-go pricing costs 79 cents per minute, or you can buy packages of 100 minutes for $69 or 600 minutes for $99. There is an additional $3.95 activation fee. If you run into problems, the Internet cafe manager is available from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Deck 8 is also where to find the card room, which has a variety of board games available, and the library (open 24 hours and unmanned).

There is no designated conference room onboard; if you need one, the Hearts & Minds wedding chapel on Deck 8 is the place. Couples can get married here by the captain or renew their vows. (Don't decide on the spur of the moment; the ship needs advance warning.) Also on Deck 8 is the future cruise sales desk, open 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the shore excursions office, which is open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

There are self-service laundromats on decks 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Laundry products are available for purchase, and passengers have free use of the irons and ironing boards.

Spa

The Lotus Spa and Beauty Salon on Deck 14 aft is an Asian-inspired retreat. It offers a full range of body and facial treatments, steam and sauna facilities and a hair salon. There is a thermal suite where passengers can relax in a heated ceramic lounger after they enjoy a tropical/fog shower.

Spa services include treatments such as a seaweed massage, a detoxifying treatment that starts with a warm aromatherapy body mask and includes a foot and scalp massage (75 minutes for $195), and Oxydermy facials to fight lines and wrinkles (50 minutes for $169).

Medi-spa offerings -- including cosmetic facial treatments to help banish crow's feet and fillers that plump the lips -- are administered by a licensed spa physician. Complimentary consultations are available. Couples offerings include the popular hot stone massage (75 minutes for $320). Men meanwhile can enjoy a 55-minute pro-collagen grooming treatment with shave for $95.

As part of Princess Cruises Chocolate Journeys partnership with master chocolatier Norman Love, the spa offers chocolate-y therapies including the Chocolate Indulgence Body Treatment, where a rich chocolate mask is applied to the body, followed by a massage using warm chocolate oil (75 minutes for $195, 100 minutes for $259).

A thermal suite offers aromatic steam chambers, a sauna suite, heated stone benches and a tropical rainforest shower. A weeklong pass costs $249. Before your treatment, you can chill out in the Relaxation Room, where you can help yourself to water and herbal teas.

The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on port days, and from 6 a.m. on sea days.

Fitness

The Lotus Spa Health & Fitness Center is on Deck 6 aft and opens from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The windowless gym has six Nordic trainers, 10 running machines, several exercise cycles, treadmills, weight training equipment and free weights. If you can't function without your daily gym fix, aim to go when the gym opens or before closing time as it can get extremely busy at peak times.

Sunshine Stretch classes are offered at 7 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. These are free. On sea days, yoga and spinning classes are held in the aerobics studio for a fee of $12, while Trax suspension training costs $20 per hour.

The aerobics studio is also one of the locations for occasional free health and wellness seminars. At other times, talks on stress relief, longevity and Oriental medicine take place in the Hearts & Minds studio.

Island Princess has no jogging track. The additions of cabins on the Promenade Deck means joggers and power walkers can't go all the way around the ship on this outer deck; you can exercise here if you don't mind turning around at either end of the U-shape.

Free Dining

We found the food on Island Princess to be generally decent throughout with attentive and friendly waiting staff.

As far as special diets go -- gluten-free, kosher, vegan, etc. -- it is advisable to inform the cruise line six weeks in advance, although they say they can still cater well for special diets without advance warning.

Island Princess dining options include a choice of Traditional Dining -- the classic cruise experience that assigns passengers to set dinner times at 5:45 or 8 p.m. with the same table companions and waiting staff -- and Anytime Dining -- which offers more flexibility as passengers can have dinner anytime between 5.30 p.m. and 10 p.m. and sit with whomever they wish. Casual dining venues are available throughout the ship or you can eat in your own stateroom at any time at all, thanks to 24-hour complimentary room service.

A little map marked on the menus indicate regional dishes. On our Mediterranean cruise, these included Turkish chicken soup, Spanish gazpacho, seared diver scallops and snails glazed with shallots. Similarly, selections marked with a "V" identify veggie options, like grilled eggplant and chickpea fritters or mushroom and Emmental cheese quiche. Typically one main course meat-free dish is available every night.

Bordeaux Dining Room (Deck 5): This is one of two main dining rooms -- the other is the Provence -- featuring elegant decor in muted tones with lots of lovely wood and etched glass panels. There are a few tables for two -- though guests have to specifically ask if they want to eat a deux -- and some tables for four, but most are for six or eight. If you choose Anytime Dining, you'll eat here.

This restaurant seats 570 and is open for lunch on sea days only from noon to 1.30 p.m. Lunch menus offer items such as rollmop herrings with horseradish puree, fried tortillas stuffed with spicy beef or combos of soup, salad and sandwich.

Daily afternoon tea offers a selection of premium teas from Earl Grey to herbal -- or coffee if you prefer -- and comes with scones, pastries, finger sandwiches, soft background music and white-gloved waiters. Afternoon tea is served from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For dinner, choices might include oven-roasted prime rib with brioche potatoes or fillet of rockfish, while an "always available favourites" menu includes options like grilled salmon, beef medallions and corn-fed chicken. There are four choices on the dessert menu with the addition of "Princess favourites," which includes the Princess Love Boat Dream (rich chocolate mousse sitting on a chocolate brownie). As of 2015, Island Princess offers the Chocolate Journeys program, which allows guests to taste creations crafted by chocolatier Norman Love. One or two Chocolate Journeys desserts -- such as white chocolate cheesecake with vanilla mousseline and strawberry preserves or coconut mousse with dark chocolate cream -- are offered each night in the main dining rooms.

Open-seating dining is from 5.30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Provence Dining Room (Deck 6): This traditional dining room -- similar in style, decor and atmosphere to the Bordeaux -- is a more peaceful oasis to enjoy a leisurely breakfast than the self-service Horizon Court, particularly on sea days. Expect a standard selection of fruit juices, cereals, yoghurts, pastries, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels. For those who like to go the whole hog, there is sausage, bacon, baked beans, grilled mushrooms and eggs how you like them. On our cruise, there were no queues for tables at breakfast, though a request to eat at a table for two was met with minor irritation, even though there were several unreserved, empty tables for two dotted round the room. Breakfast is served by waiting staff from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Early dinner seating with the same menu as the Provence is at 5:45 p.m; late seating is at 8 p.m. Toward the end of the cruise, the napkin-waving, seagoing tradition of the Parade of Baked Alaska is always fun and came as a total surprise to my new-to-cruise companions.

Alfredo's Pizza (Deck 7): A side section of the Sabatini's restaurant morphs into Alfredo's Pizza at lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It serves complimentary pizzas, which are superior to those served in the grab-and-go pizzeria on Deck 14.

Bayou Cafe (Deck 7): A pub lunch is available here on sea days for no extra charge. It proves popular -- too popular when we were onboard and had a slightly chaotic feel. Menu items include fish and chips and cottage pie. Bar service is available.

Princess Pizzeria (Deck 14): The pizzeria is located right across from the Movies Under the Stars screen. It offers a choice of three freshly made pizzas -- margarita, pepperoni and a rotating special each day. Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Horizon Court (Deck 14): The stations in this pleasantly fresh area improve traffic flow, and we found fewer long lines than at other cruise ship buffets. Tables are pre-set with cutlery and napkins and waiting staff are always on hand to provide beverage service to each table, whether you order self-service selections or bar items. Breakfast offers a wide choice of both the usual suspects and some rather more unusual items; you might find mini potato and onion quiches, grilled mini steaks and cheddar biscuits with cheese sauce alongside dishes of sausages, bacon and eggs. The scrambled eggs were a daily disappointment; instead of being light and fluffy with a creamy texture, they were always an almost cold, solid mass. Breakfast is from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Choices include hot dishes such as macaroni and cheese and honey soy-glazed pork spareribs, and there is always a rather good salad bar with lots of dressings and toppings, a variety of fresh pasta dishes, Indian specialities and wrapped grab and go sandwiches for those in a hurry or who don't want to miss a moment of sunshine. An enticing range of desserts, fresh fruit and yoghurt is available, too.

Interestingly, on a couple of days during our cruise, individual shepherd's pies were on offer. When asked what they contained, the answer was, "beef of course" -- even though shepherd's pie is traditionally made with lamb.

Light snacks, including several varieties of toasted sandwiches, cakes and pastries, are available between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

A casual dinner served from 5:30 p.m. to midnight has plenty of options. Starters might be Caesar salad, antipasto and two or three soups, both hot and cold; mains could be coconut vegetable curry, red snapper or roast chicken. Desserts are as sweet and tempting as they should be with cheesecakes, compotes and create-your-own sundae choices.

Iced tea, coffee, water and lemonade are always available on a complimentary basis.

The Horizon Court also has a children's area that serves child-friendly meals, such as chicken nuggets, salads, yoghurts and ice cream.

Swirls Ice Cream Bar (Deck 14): Free ice cream in cones or tubs comes in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry flavours. If you prefer milkshakes, however, they cost $2.50. Open from10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Trident Grill (Deck 15): Glass-topped, metal-framed tables and white wrought iron chairs with pale green cushioned seats enhance this open-air restaurant where classic American grilled food is cooked and served. The menu offers hamburgers, hotdogs, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, bratwurst and fries. Open from11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Room Service: Complimentary in-cabin dining is offered 24 hours a day so passengers can dine in their pyjamas if they feel like it. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers and pastries and drinks such as iced tea, coffee and milk.

Breakfast via a door-hung card is available in your stateroom from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Choices include juices, fresh fruits, yoghurt, cold cereals, breads, pastries, preserves and one hot item -- an egg, bacon and cheese breakfast muffin, which comes with or without ketchup.

Fee Dining

Island Princess offers two restaurants that come with a reasonable supplement, Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe Steakhouse. Passengers can also indulge in the Ultimate Balcony Experience or pop along to the Crab Shack (although it is not open every evening).

La Patisserie (Deck 5): This small coffee lounge seating 40 in the atrium is particularly busy on sea day afternoons. A limited selection of complimentary cakes and pastries is available. The selection of hot and cold drinks includes a vanilla bean latte ($2.75), hot chocolate ($1.50), raspberry caramel coffee ($4) and iced coffee ($1.25). Coffee cards cost $29 and allow you 15 coffees or teas. Alcoholic beverages are also sold here. Open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Sabatini's (Deck 7); $29 for adults and children over 13, $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12: Sabatini's, an Italian-themed restaurant -- complete with Roman pillars and Italian-esque wall murals -- features seafood specialities and other Mediterranean favourites. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Waitstaff automatically serve a selection of appetizers to munch on while you decide what to choose from the menu. Menus offer a selection of hot and cold antipasti, handmade pastas and main courses such as roast Chilean sea bass, grilled cold water lobster tails and fettuccine Alfredo in a crisp Parmesan basket. Vegetarians fare better here than in the other restaurants, with options varying from hearty hot soups like lentil or mushroom and cold soups such as frosted coconut soup and iced peach Bellini soup, lots of pasta varieties, ricotta tart, baked zucchini with cheese and onion stuffing and potato gnocchi. The restaurant seats 108 and reservations are recommended, particularly on sea days.

Suite guests only can eat breakfast here from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

The Bayou Cafe Steakhouse (Deck 7); $25 for adults and children over 13, $12.50 for children ages 3 to 12: This New Orleans-style restaurant that seats 118 serves up Cajun and Creole specialities amid a background of live jazz. Dark decor manages somehow to give the space atmosphere. The menu offers appetizers such as smothered gator and crayfish bisque and is heavy on steak for the entrees section. If steak doesn't do it for you, you might prefer the seafood gumbo, sweet potato pie or jambalaya. Entrees come with a warm basket of Johnny cakes (cornmeal flatbreads). We found the food here didn't live up to our expectations and wine service was slow. Dinner is from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Crab Shack (Deck 14); $29: A cordoned-off area of the Horizon Court buffet becomes pop-up fish restaurant Crab Shack on select evenings. Finger-licking seafood comes with mallets, bibs and buckets. Dishes include spiced peel-and-eat shrimp or a mixed steamer pot filled with crab, shrimp, clams and mussels. Check the Princess Patter for open hours, as they vary.

Ultimate Balcony Dining; Champagne breakfast $45 per couple, lobster dinner $100 per couple: A meal set up and served on your verandah as part of Ultimate Balcony Dining is a special treat for honeymooners, those celebrating an anniversary or for cruisers who just want to indulge in a little luxury. Breakfast consists of a half bottle of chilled French Champagne, a warm basket overflowing with homemade pastries, cold-smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and toasted lemon brioche, fresh fruit, forest berries and quiche.

The balcony dinner includes one pre-dinner cocktail per person, 2 canapes per person, a flower bouquet, one 8 x 10 picture per couple and a half bottle of chilled Champagne. The menu could include Pacific blue crabcake baked in a puff pastry crown and marinated chevre and mesclun field greens, broiled tail of cold-water lobster, drawn lemon butter and vegetables or grilled filet of beef tenderloin, potatoes, vegetables and mushroom demi-glace. Desserts include the "extraordinary chocolate quartet mousseline."

Balcony breakfasts are served between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and balcony dinners are served between 5.30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

During the 2015 refurbishment, 121 extra cabins -- 11 suites, 53 balcony, 43 oceanview and 10 inside rooms -- were added, bringing the total to 1,107 cabins.

All cabins have satellite TV, refrigerator, hair dryer (wall-mounted and convenient for the mirror), safe, closet, phone, desk, twin beds that convert to a queen, 100 percent Egyptian cotton linens and a nightly turndown service with chocolates on the pillow. Regular cabin mattresses are "Matermoll" brand, while suites have "Sleepeezee" mattresses. Fresh fruit is available on request, as are waffle-weave cloth bathrobes. In addition, each room is equipped with a 110-volt, 60-cycle alternating current (AC) with standard U.S. plug fittings. Some cabins have Pullman beds to accommodate third and fourth passengers. All standard cabins have a little hallway off the main hallway that leads to an open-door closet and the bathroom. Decor is bland throughout, no splashes of colour -- instead a "playing it safe" palette of mushroom, beige and taupe abound throughout.

Twenty cabins -- four suites, eight balcony, eight obstructed ocean views and four inside cabins, including two triples and five quads - - are wheelchair accessible and therefore larger than standard cabins. Voice synthesizers on all elevators announce decks, while Braille buttons are located in all elevators and landings.

Bathrooms in standard cabins are small and come with a fixed head shower, the dreaded plastic shower curtain and limited storage space -- a couple of glass shelves and one under-basin shelf. Complimentary Lotus Spa toiletries include hair conditioner, body lotion and two bars of soap. Shower caps are available on request. Inside the shower, fixed containers on the wall contain shampoo and body wash.

Neither minisuites nor full suites offer concierge service.

Interior: Inside cabins are 156 to 165 square feet. These are on decks 5 and 7 through 12.

Oceanview: Outside cabins are approximately 162 to 200 square feet with picture windows. These are on decks 5 through 9.

Balcony: Veranda cabins are from 210 square feet to 235 square feet and have a 35- to 72-square-foot private balcony. Balcony cabins are on decks 7 through 12 and on deck 14. Balconies feature blue flooring, two white upright chairs with blue cushioned seats and a small white metal round drinks table.

Mini-suite: Mini-suites are approximately 280 to 300 square feet in size and are on decks 9 through 12. They have a separate sitting area with a sofa bed for lounging or sleeping a third passenger. The perks of booking a minisuite include a welcome glass of Champagne on arrival, two flat-screen televisions, a writing desk and spacious closet. The balcony with patio furniture is approximately 35 to 58 square feet and holds two loungers, two footstools, two chairs and a table. The bathroom offers a combination tub and shower with a plastic curtain. Some mini-suites also have a Pullman bed to accommodate a fourth passenger. Oceanview mini-suites have no balcony, but do have a picture window.

Suite: Vista Suites and Premium Suites are approximately 470 square feet, with Penthouse Suites coming in at around 510 square feet. Suites offer passengers extra amenities including a DVD/CD player and free access to a DVD library. All suites have a separate sitting area and coffee table, sofa bed, walk-in closet, complimentary minibar, luxury pillow-top mattresses, 100 percent Egyptian cotton bed linens, pillow menu, luxury towels and bathrobes, fresh orchids delivered daily and enhanced bathroom amenities, which include bath salts and soothing gel eye mask, cotton buds, bath mitt, emery board and a shower cap. Some suites have a hot tub. Suite balconies have loungers, plus a dining table and chairs, and are big enough to throw a (smallish) party.

Suite passengers can take advantage of complimentary laundry, professional cleaning and shoe polishing services, a private portrait sitting with an onboard photographer and a dedicated priority line at the passenger services desk. They also have unlimited use of the Lotus Spa Thermal Suite, a communal relaxation centre. All suite passengers get priority embarkation and disembarkation at tender ports, as well as private lounge facilities at the end of the cruise.

An exclusive suite breakfast is served in Sabatini's every day with a complimentary mimosa. They also have an extended room service menu with full breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, nightly delivery of deluxe canapes on request, afternoon tea service in the suite on request, complimentary cover charge for one of the speciality restaurants on embarkation evening and chef's "welcome goodies" on embarkation day. On the first formal night, suite passengers receive a complimentary flower corsage and boutonniere. An enhanced turndown service includes six chocolate-dipped strawberries or wrapped chocolates presented on a silver tray.

 
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