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Cruise Ship Review

Caribbean Princess - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

It seems that every cruise line has embarked on a renovation program to add the popular features of its newest ships to its aging ones, and Princess is no different. While five-year-old Caribbean Princess is certainly not an old ship, it recently underwent a major refurbishment to add features that have become passenger favorites on her younger siblings: Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess.

Of the changes, the most notable -- and most appreciated -- is the transformation of the ship's former atrium into the new three-deck-high, street-cafe-style Piazza, which is home to the International Cafe (a bakery-cum-deli), Vines Wine & Seafood Bar, the Internet Cafe & Library, and an entertainment area.

We spent hours sitting in the comfortable, patio-style seating areas, sipping coffee, reading, playing board games and watching occasional performers, ranging from a Cirque-type cube-spinner to a BMX biker who performed balancing tricks.

A martini-making show drew one of the cruise's largest crowds, as a trio of bartenders educated and entertained passengers (martini shake dance, anyone?), showing them the art of making a martini. Audience members eagerly volunteered to sample the goods, and you could hear a collective gasp as five types of martinis were stacked in their shakers and then poured -- all at once -- in to a pyramid of glasses. And, all this took place around noon, a time when you'd expect most passengers to be spending a sunny sea day by the pool.

Also new in the Piazza is Vines Wine Bar, the place to try more than 30 wines by the glass while snacking on artisan cheeses.

Higher up on the ship, the new, adults-only Sanctuary is a shaded Zen-like retreat, complete with extra-cushy lounge chairs and waiters who deliver Bose headphones with pre-programmed tunes and spa menu items.

Ultimately, the most impressive thing about Caribbean Princess was that the more-than-3,000-passenger ship managed to never feel overcrowded.

Downsides? Despite the spruced-up public areas, the ship is beginning to show its age in places. For example, the lifeboats could use fresh coats of paint, and pool bar signage and standard balcony furnishings look worn. But, these are minor quibbles.

Dining

There are three dining rooms on Caribbean Princess; all have ceilings with twinkling lights and tasteful, Caribbean-themed artwork. The Palm is for traditional, fixed-seating dining (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Coral and Island are for passengers who have elected "Anytime Dining," which allows you to eat when and with whomever you'd like (between 5:30 and 10 p.m.). Coral is also open for waiter-service breakfast and lunch.

Healthy Lotus Spa selections -- like seared sea bass -- are low in fat and sodium. Reservations are available, but are not required. We encountered waits of no more than five to ten minutes on our sailing.

Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe (which look identical and flow right in to one another) offer 24-hour dining. The Horizon section serves as the ship's lido buffet restaurant and offers uninspiring breakfast buffets, laid out in tight quarters. The area was made even more crowded by people waiting for omelets. Instead of having passengers receive a numbered stand so that a waiter could deliver the omelets once finished, diners had to wait in line. Lunch choices varied a bit more and included some unusual dishes like fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches.

Cafe Caribe offered lots of variety, featuring a different themed buffet each night -- from Bavarian Bierfest and a Rijstafel rice table to (Caribbean) island seafood.

The International Cafe (in the new Piazza, open 6 a.m. to midnight) is a great alternative for small meals. In addition to gourmet coffees and espresso drinks, breakfast offerings included fresh-baked pastries, donuts and muffins. Grilled paninis, Greek salad and a chicken and cashew Waldorf salad were just a few of the delicious afternoon choices. And the cookies! The fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (not to mention the heavenly scent of them baking) are well worth an afternoon stop at the cafe each day.

Most cafe items are free, with the exception of chocolate-covered strawberries and evening tapas (ranging from $1 to $5). The "Queen of Steam" or "Jack of Java" punch cards are a great deal, giving you 15 espresso drinks of your choice for $24. Note that service can be quite slow during peak times of the day.

Our favorite restaurant -- for food, as well as service -- was Sabatini's, Princess' Italian alternative restaurant ($20 per person). Passengers order only a main course (think jumbo sea scallops, lobster tail and veal). Everything else comes around automatically, and diners sample what they wish, from delicious deviled crab cakes and calamari to pizzas and numerous other antipasti.

Crown Grill, Princess' popular alternative restaurant, specializing in steaks and seafood ($25 per person), was added during dry-dock. However, it was not yet completed by the time of our sailing. The restaurant is located on Deck 6 on Caribbean Princess, behind the Passenger Service Desk (as opposed to the main thoroughfare on the Promenade Deck, as it is on Ruby, Crown, and Emerald). Cruise Critic editors who've sampled Crown Grill on the fleet's newest ships adored the two-pronged emphasis on seafood and steaks and loved the cozy, steak-house-like ambience.

The English pub lunch menu, that's newly available in the Wheelhouse Bar on the aforementioned Crown, Ruby and Emerald, is also featured on Caribbean Princess, with one difference: because the Wheelhouse on this older ship does not have access to a kitchen, the pub menu is served on sea days at the Crown Grill (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); there's no extra charge.

Poolside eateries include Trident Grill (burgers, hot dogs and fries) and Prego Pizzeria. Our sons could have made a meal (if we let them) out of the big bowls of ice cream and oodles of toppings that are available at Scoops Ice Cream ($3 per custom-made sundae).

Public Rooms

The Internet Cafe & Library is home to about 20 computer stations and a decent selection of books. Games like Yahtzee, Jenga, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and checkers can also be borrowed here. Interestingly, there are only three seats in the library that aren't associated with computer terminals. Fortunately, there is plenty of seating just out front in the Piazza.

Internet charges are 75 cents per minute, and packages are available that get you more minutes at a reduced price: 100 minutes for $55, 150 minutes for $75, 250 minutes for $100 and 500 minutes for $175. Laptop owners can use their minutes on their own computers and/or at one of the computer stations. Buy a package on embarkation day to receive bonus minutes.

Wi-Fi is available. Signals are strongest in public spaces but are quite weak in cabins, unless you leave your door open.

Two shops were added during the ship's refurbishment: Vines Shop (which sells bottles of wine, plus books and gadgets related to wines and cooking) and Limelight, which offers Bijoux jewelry items.

Cabins

Suites range in size from 1,279 square feet (Grand Suite) to between 461 and 689 square feet (mid-size suites) -- all with separate living and sleeping quarters and spacious balconies.

Suites also feature two TV's, DVD/CD players (and free access to the DVD library), warm-wood furniture, sizeable closets and upgraded furnishings (especially on the balconies, where you'll find teak wood tables and chairs with cushions, as opposed to the lightweight, plastic-with-mesh covering that are on all other balconies). Extra perks include complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning services, complimentary Web access in the Internet Cafe and a one-time free mini-bar setup.

In addition to the above suites, seven new window suites (333 to 360 square feet, no balconies) were added during dry dock. These suites are wider and more square-shaped than the mini-suites (18 feet wide by 22 feet long, as opposed to 9 feet wide and 38 feet long) and include cushioned settees near the windows. Window suite guests receive the same perks as the full suite guests mentioned above. The only exception is that there is one TV per room instead of two, and of course, there are no balcony furnishings.

Mini-suites have sleeping areas and living areas, separated by archways that have Velcro strips across the top. Request curtains from your stateroom attendants to separate the two areas. The living area side has a sofa (which pulls out to a full-size bed with an uncomfortably thin mattress) and a cleverly designed, curved cabinet system that straddles the two sides of the room, offering two 26-inch, flat-screen TV's (one facing each side), plus several shelves for storage.

The TV's offer live satellite reception of CNN, ESPN International, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network and Boomerang (where coverage permits). There is also a movie channel, featuring a wide selection of first-run movies and a special version of the Discovery Channel. Sporting events -- like the NBA Finals and the Super Bowl -- are also shown. In-cabin televisions are not interactive, so you can't book shore excursions or pre-order wine from them.

Mini-suite closets were impressively roomy. The bathrooms have a tub/shower combination, white tile floor, a nice long vanity and built-in shelves on the side for extra storage, making it easy for two people to utilize and store their necessities in the bathroom. Note: Mini-suites E730 and E731 (in the curved, aft section of the ship) have balconies that are about 25 square feet bigger than standard mini-suite balconies.

Standard balcony (233 to 285 square feet), outside (158 to 182 square feet)and inside (163 square feet) cabins are cozy when it comes to size, but they're well-equipped and laid out. Some have seating areas. Bathrooms are fairly compact, featuring showers with no tubs.

All cabins are equipped with mini-fridges that you can fill with your own juices and snacks. Bathrooms across categories are stocked with toiletries from the Lotus Spa collection (shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and lotion).

Bathrobes, slippers, bedrails and two types of cribs are available upon request. Mattresses were upgraded in all staterooms in November 2007.

Note: Verandahs on the ship's Dolphin Deck jut out of the superstructure and have no roofs -- which offers them little privacy. Those on the Caribe Deck have balconies that are half-covered. The rest are typical verandahs.

There are 27 staterooms for guests with disabilities. The staterooms range from oceanviews to mini-suites with balconies. One of the new window suites is also available. ADA features include showers with fixed stools, grab rails and hand-held showerheads, plus ramp access to balconies and door widths of 35.5 inches.

Entertainment

In addition to the aforementioned new Piazza (with its variety of demonstrations and musical performances throughout the day), there are more excellent entertainment choices than you can squeeze in to a week.

Each venue has a different type of offering. Crooners (overlooking the Piazza) features a pianist and music trivia contests. Explorer's Lounge is primarily an events lounge for everything from art auctions to Wii sports tournaments, plus magician and comedian shows. Comedian Ron Pearson (who has guest-starred on "That 70's Show," "George Lopez" and "The Drew Carey Show") drew standing-room-only crowds for his comedy and juggling routines.

Club Fusion is part nightclub, part game show venue, and was, indeed, entertaining for the hilarious Marriage Game. On our sailing, a couple who had been married for 53 years gave a couple of newlyweds a run for their money when answering questions about their spouses, such as "if your husband was a car, what kind would he be" and "when was the last time you had relations?"

Princess' trademark Skywalker Nightclub (located in the rear-spoiler-looking, aft end of the ship) hosted 70's-, 80's- and 90's-inspired dance nights, and, thankfully, a few nights with a variety of current music.

The Princess Theater is the ship's main venue for production shows and comedy acts. Don't miss the International Crew Talent Show and the Monty Python-ish "If I Was Not Upon the Sea" routine, where staff as varied as buffet stewards and office workers belted out tunes like Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" and were equally as good as the ship's regular theater singers.

Churchill Lounge, hidden away near the lower level of Princess Theater, is the place to smoke cigars and watch sports. The Wheelhouse Bar is the place for dancing to Latin music (frequently performed by the Tito Cruz Quartet), although it was rarely crowded on our sailing.

Movies Under the Stars, in the Calypso Pool area, is an idyllic place to watch, well, movies under the stars. It also showcases concerts by musicians, like Beyonce and Josh Groban, and sporting events, like the Super Bowl, which we watched on the first night of our sailing.

In the evenings, burgundy slipcovers with built-in mini-pillows are slipped over each poolside lounger. Small, wool blankets are passed out, and the smell of popcorn from an old-fashioned cart floats across the pool deck. Staff members take drink orders and deliver complimentary popcorn so you don't have to move. Even non-TV junkies could wile away hours here.

Note: The sound system was loud to the point where we couldn't easily have a conversation, whether we were watching the Super Bowl at night or trying to talk to our sons by the pool during the day. The focus at this pool is clearly the watching of the screen.

Also, parents beware: Movies and shows are shown throughout the day -- some family-friendly, some not, like PG-13-rated "Baby Mama" or "Evan Almighty."

The casino features 11 gaming tables (including one dice, one American roulette and a table to accommodate wheelchairs) as well as more than 150 slot machines. The "No Smoking Night" was much-appreciated by nonsmokers, as evidenced by the packed casino.

Daytime entertainment offerings were numerous, from Photoshop and scrapbooking workshops and ballroom-dance classes to ceramic-painting and bridge.

The efficiently run shore excursion department offered easy-to-read-and-register forms. Each tour was well-described, and the offerings included everything from sedate bus tours to active kayaking and hiking explorations.

Fitness and Recreation

There are five pools on Caribbean Princess, which help to give this massive vessel a small-ship feel. The Calypso Pool (conveniently located near Horizon Court's buffets) has the 300-square-foot movie screen with day and night programming and, due to the noise, is best utilized for watching the screen.

Neptune Reef pool is located in front of the pizzeria and is equally as deep as Calypso (more than five feet). Hence, it's also not ideal for families with pre-school-age children.

Pirate's Pool (located on Deck 16, just below the basketball court) is the best bet for kids. It's just deeper than four feet, has bench seating around it for parents (as well as a bar for drinks) and is located next to a 10-inch deep toddler pool with a dolphin-shaped mini-slide. Hot tubs are located near each one of the pools.

There are two adults-only pools. The Terrace Pool is the quietest and is fairly shaded, depending on the time of day, because of its location beneath the suspended Skywalker's Nightclub. It has stadium-style benches and loungers. The Spa Pool sits a deck below the Sanctuary, in the middle of the U-shaped Lotus Spa and Health Club.

The new Sanctuary is a heavenly place to nap. The mostly shaded area has potted trees and big, wrought-aluminum lounge chairs with padding as thick as a mattress. "Serenity Stewards" deliver plush towels, herbal energy drinks, smoothies and MP3 players with BOSE noise-canceling headphones (preloaded with 1,000 songs, grouped by themes that range from jazz to gentle wave sounds). Be sure to use the headphones ($10 for half-day use, $20 for full-day) if a movie is playing at Calypso Pool; otherwise, the Sanctuary is not so serene.

Lotus Spa treatments range from oxygen-lifting facials and hot-stone massages to acupuncture and teeth-whitening. Couples' massages are popular, but treatments are not limited to the romantic; there is a mother/daughter "Paradise" massage and father/son "Chill-Out" massage, offered as part of the spa's Generation Y Spa program. Manicures, pedicures and facials are also available for kids.

The fitness center offers complimentary stretching and aerobics classes, as well as $12-per-class yoga and Pilates. The spacious floor area for classes doubles as a place to use exercise balls and mats. Free weights, Cybex equipment and more than 20 treadmills are also available.

Other recreational options include a half-court for basketball, ping-pong, a cyber-golf simulator and paddle tennis. Wii tennis, bowling and other Wii sports were available for play in Explorer's Lounge. The ship no longer offers mini-golf.

Family

Princess offers three programs for children, preschoolers through teens. Princess Pelicans, for 3- to 7-year-olds, is a colorful, indoor/outdoor center where kids can make necklaces and stuffed animals, color their own t-shirts and play in a fenced-in, outdoor area with a mini-basketball hoop and tricycles. Parents may accompany their children.

Staffers are not permitted to change diapers, so parents are given pagers in case a child needs changing or needs a parent for some other reason. Note: Parents whose children are not potty-trained are unable to leave the ship on port days without their children.

We were impressed by the strict pick-up policy. Unlike other programs we've encountered that have an open entranceway, these doors (with a peek-through window) are locked so that people cannot wander in, and there is no way children can wander out, thanks to high-placed door handles. Parents must present photo ID's at pick-up. The staff sticks to this policy too, whether they recognize you or not.

Shockwaves offers activities -- including dodgeball, Guitar Hero, science projects, pizza dinners and foosball -- for children, ages 8 to 12.

Admission to the programs is complimentary through 10 p.m. From 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., there is a $5-per-hour, per-child, charge. In-cabin babysitting is not permitted.

In Remix, teens (ages 13 to 17) can hang out in a cool space to listen to music, use Playstation, drink mocktails and take hip-hop dance lessons.

Fellow Passengers

Fellow passengers run the gamut from families with young children (albeit only 38 were younger than 12 on our sailing) to retirees. The average age on our non-school-break, February sailing was 51. School-break and summer sailings tend to attract more families.

Dress Code

Two formal nights are scheduled on seven night itineraries. While people dressed appropriately, the "formal" dress was surprisingly informal, with very few men in tuxes and women in cocktail dresses or just pants with casual blouses.

Gratuity

Princess adds a hotel charge of $10.50 per person, per day ($11 per person, per day for all mini-suite and suite guests) to passenger accounts each night. The charges are shared among stateroom stewards and wait-staff. Tip casino dealers and Lotus Spa personnel separately if you're so inclined.

--by Christine Koubek. In addition to her stories for Cruise Critic, Washington D.C.-based Koubek has also written for Modern Bride, Frommer's Budget Travel, the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald and the Washington Post.It seems that every cruise line has embarked on a renovation program to add the popular features of its newest ships to its aging ones, and Princess is no different. While Caribbean Princess, which debuted in 2004, is certainly not an old ship, it underwent a major refurbishment in early 2009 to add features that have become passenger favorites on her younger fleetmates: Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess.

Of the changes, the most notable -- and most appreciated -- is the transformation of the ship's former atrium into the new three-deck-high, street-cafe-style Piazza, which is home to the International Cafe (a combination bakery, deli and coffee shop), Vines Wine & Seafood Bar, the Internet Cafe & Library, and an entertainment area.

We spent hours sitting in the comfortable, patio-style seating areas, sipping coffee, reading, playing board games and watching occasional performers, ranging from a Cirque-type cube-spinner to a BMX biker who performed balancing tricks.

A martini-making show drew one of the cruise's largest crowds, as a trio of bartenders educated and entertained passengers (martini shake dance, anyone?), showing them the art of making a martini. Audience members eagerly volunteered to sample the goods, and you could hear a collective gasp as five types of martinis were stacked in their shakers and then poured -- all at once -- in to a pyramid of glasses. And, all this took place around noon, a time when you'd expect most passengers to be spending a sunny sea day by the pool.

Also new in the Piazza is Vines Wine Bar, the place to try more than 30 wines by the glass while snacking on artisan cheeses, sushi and tapas.

Higher up on the ship, the new, adults-only Sanctuary is a shaded Zen-like retreat, complete with extra-cushy lounge chairs and waiters who deliver Bose headphones with pre-programmed tunes and spa menu items.

Ultimately, the most impressive thing about Caribbean Princess was that the more-than-3,000-passenger ship managed to never feel overcrowded.

Downsides? Despite the spruced-up public areas, the ship is beginning to show its age in places. For example, the lifeboats could use fresh coats of paint, and pool bar signage and standard balcony furnishings look worn. But, these are minor quibbles.

Gratuity

Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $11.50 per person (including children), per day, for passengers staying in standard accommodations and $12 for passengers staying in mini-suite and suites. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard, including wine at dinner. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.The 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess boasts charm, elegance and a comfortable vibe. No matter your vacation interest -- romance, culture, exploring culinary interests, relaxing and rejuvenating, gambling or creating family memories -- you'll find something aboard to suit you.

What's especially nice about Caribbean Princess is its blend of indoor and outdoor amenities. Outdoors, the ship features four pools, multiple hot tubs, an adults-only private sun deck (fee applies), a jogging track, half-court basketball court, putting green and 900 balcony cabins. At night, under the stars, patrons can wrap themselves in snuggly blankets to watch movies on a huge 300-square-foot screen while munching fee-free popcorn.

Indoors, lounges and bars offer live entertainment, and on most nights The Princess Theater features three show times to accommodate everyone's schedule. The liveliest spot onboard is the Piazza. Strolling performers entertain while passengers indulge in light fare from the 24-hour International Cafe or sample wines and tapas at Vines. Entertainment options vary, but during our sailing, a magician, sword-swallower and an acoustic guitarist performed.

The dining rooms are reminiscent of an old-world cruising experience -- a maitre d' who greets everyone at the entrance, intricate designs on millwork, white-gloved and courteous servers, and a sommelier that does rounds in the dining room and recommends wonderful selections. Dining options abound; choose from at least 10 entree selections nightly, or opt to eat in either of two specialty restaurants (Sabatini's Italian or Crown Grill steakhouse), two buffets, a cafe serving sandwiches and salads, a pool-side grill or a pizzeria.

While Caribbean Princess was in dry dock in November 2011, the ship had some minor and major renovations. A sampling of these includes an upgrade of the Art Gallery and Art Gallery Locker, retiling of pools, marble replacement, polishing of some public areas, refurbishment of interior hardwood floors in several lounges and glass replacement in some public areas.

With more than 3,000 passengers onboard, Caribbean Princess still maintains an open and uncrowded feel. The friendly and competent staff keep things moving in the restaurants and buffets.

Dining

There are three dining rooms on Caribbean Princess; all have ceilings with twinkling lights and tasteful, Caribbean-themed artwork. The Palm is for traditional, fixed-seating dining (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Coral and Island are for passengers who have elected "Anytime Dining," which allows you to eat when and with whomever you'd like (between 5:30 and 10 p.m.). Reservations are available, but they aren't required. During peak times, passengers may encounter waits of no more than five to ten minutes on our sailing.Coral is also open for waiter-service breakfast and lunch.

Night rotating menu options include appetizers, soups, mains and desserts. Additionally, there are signature pastas and always-available choices like salmon and Caesar salad. Healthy Lotus Spa selections -- like seared sea bass -- are low in fat and sodium.

Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe (which look identical and flow right in to one another) are open nearly all day long: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Horizon section serves as the ship's lido buffet restaurant and offers uninspiring breakfast buffets, laid out in tight quarters. Lunch choices vary a bit more and may include some unusual dishes like fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Two soups are featured daily.

Cafe Caribe offers lots of variety, featuring a different themed buffet each night -- like Bavarian Bierfest (beer is extra), Rijstafel (rice table) and Caribbean island seafood.

The International Cafe in the Piazza is a great alternative for small meals and is open 24 hours. In addition to gourmet coffees and espresso drinks, breakfast offerings include fresh-baked pastries, donuts and muffins. Grilled paninis, Greek salad and a chicken and cashew Waldorf salad were just a few of the delicious afternoon choices. And the cookies! The fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (not to mention the heavenly scent of them baking) are well worth an afternoon stop at the cafe each day.

Most cafe items are fee-free, with the exception of chocolate-covered strawberries and evening tapas (ranging from $1 to $5). The "Queen of Steam" or "Jack of Java" punch cards are a great deal, giving you 15 espresso drinks of your choice for $29.95. Note that service can be quite slow during peak times of the day.

On Deck 5, Vines is a wine bar offering an extensive menu with more than 30 wines by the glass, as well as wine flights. It serves up fresh bites that include sushi, seafood and tapas. An assortment of meats and cheeses also will tempt your palate. There's both bar seating and cluster seating.

Sabatini's is Princess' signature Italian alternative restaurant ($25 per adult). Passengers can order any appetizer (calamari, wild mushroom tart, soft shell grab, cheese plate), main course (striped bass, lobster, duck with fava beans, signature pasta) and dessert (cheese cart, tarts, creme brulee).

Crown Grill, another alternative restaurant, is styled after popular steakhouses. There is both table and booth seating with some tables offering window-side views. The menu is comprehensive, and patrons can choose from a variety of steaks, side dishes, seafood specialties and more. Servers take care and time explaining the varying cuts of beef and was patient with our questions. The steaks were tender, cooked the way they were ordered, and the side dishes were hearty enough to share family-style. The ambience of the restaurant was also very enjoyable. The noise level was low, and we didn't feel rushed. The cover charge is $25 per passenger.

For total foodies, the Chef's Table is an elegant meal option that also allows diners a behind-the-scenes look at how dishes are created and served. The event begins with pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the galley. The ship's executive chef joins the group to explain the special menu for the night, and then participants are escorted to an intimate table in the dining room for the main course, including wine pairing suggestions to complement the dinner. The $95-per-person fee includes a copy of a Princess cookbook.

An English pub lunch menu -- think fish and chips -- is available on sea days at the Crown Grill (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); there's no extra charge. The offering is popular.

Poolside eateries include Trident Grill (burgers, hot dogs and fries) and Prego Pizzeria.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. The menu includes a variety of sandwiches (turkey, tuna, veggie), salads and hot dishes like soup, burgers and hot dogs. For something indulgent, you can order desserts -- caramel flan, chocolate fudge cake and chocolate chip cookies. Also, in addition to this room service menu, passengers can also enjoy limited items from the day's main dining room menu in their cabins, but these selections vary. There is a $3 delivery charge for pizza delivered to the cabin, as well as a charge for beverages, including alcohol.

Princess' unique twist on room service is its Ultimate Balcony Dining option for passengers in balcony cabins and suites. The custom multi-course meal comes with a bottle of Champagne, stellar service and special touches. It's priced at $32 per couple for breakfast and $100 per couple for dinner.

Public Rooms

The Internet Cafe & Library is home to about 20 computer stations and a decent selection of books. Games like Yahtzee, Jenga, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and checkers can also be borrowed there. The library has very limited hours, about two a day. There is a drop-box for retuning books on loan. Interestingly, there are only three seats in the library that aren't associated with computer terminals. Fortunately, there is plenty of seating just out front in the Piazza.

Internet charges are 75 cents per minute, and packages are available that get you more minutes at a reduced price: 100 minutes for $55, 150 minutes for $75, 250 minutes for $100 and 500 minutes for $175. Laptop owners can use their minutes on their own computers and/or at one of the computer stations. Buy a package on embarkation day to receive bonus minutes. Don't expect anything close to land-based speed. The Internet Cafe is very crowded, especially during sea days and before dinner. The ship also charges 50 cents per printed page. You can also save money if you purchase your Internet minutes online through the Princess Web site before you cruise.

Wi-Fi is available. Signals are strongest in public spaces and are quite weak in cabins, unless you leave your door open.

Onboard shopping can be found on Decks 6 and 7. Shops include the Vines Shop for wine, chocolates, and wine-themed gifts and accessories; Limelight, for duty-free purchases; Essence for cosmetics and perfume; Calypso Cove for souvenirs and logowear; and Facets for fine jewelry and watches. Patient and helpful staff are ready to assist all customers.

Smoking is limited to designated areas -- parts of lounges, casinos and the open decks -- and is prohibited in passenger cabins.

Cabins

Standard balcony (233 to 285 square feet), outside (158 to 182 square feet) and inside (163 square feet) cabins are cozy when it comes to size, but they're well-equipped and laid out. Some have seating areas. Bathrooms are fairly compact, featuring showers with no tubs.

All cabins are equipped with mini-fridges that you can fill with your own juices and snacks. Bathrooms across categories are stocked with toiletries from the Lotus Spa collection (shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and lotion).

Bath robes, slippers, bedrails and two types of cribs are available upon request.

TV's offer live satellite reception of CNN, ESPN International, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network and Boomerang (where coverage permits). There are also several movie channels, featuring a wide selection of first-run movies and two family stations, as well as a special version of the Discovery Channel. Sporting events -- like the NBA Finals and the Super Bowl -- are also shown. In-cabin televisions are not interactive, so you can't book shore excursions or pre-order wine from them. However, one of the channels shows a running schedule of movies so passengers can plan accordingly.

Mini-suites are in essence up-sized balcony cabins. They have sleeping areas and living areas, separated by archways that have Velcro strips across the top. Request curtains from your cabin steward to separate the two areas. The living area side has a sofa (which pulls out to a full-size bed with an uncomfortably thin mattress) and a cleverly designed, curved cabinet system that straddles the two sides of the room, offering two 26-inch, flat-screen TV's (one facing each side), plus several shelves for storage.

Mini-suite closets are impressively roomy. The bathrooms have a tub/shower combination, white tile floor, a nice long vanity and built-in shelves on the side for extra storage, making it easy for two people to utilize and store their necessities in the bathroom. Note: Mini-suites E730 and E731 (in the curved, aft section of the ship) have balconies that are about 25 square feet bigger than standard mini-suite balconies.

True Suites range in size from 1,279 square feet (Grand Suite) to between 461 and 689 square feet (mid-size suites), all with separate living and sleeping quarters, and spacious balconies.

Suites also feature two TV's, DVD/CD players (and free access to the DVD library), warm-wood furniture, sizeable closets and upgraded furnishings (especially on the balconies, where you'll find teak wood tables and chairs with cushions, as opposed to the lightweight, plastic-with-mesh coverings that are on all other balconies). Extra perks include complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning services, complimentary Web access in the Internet Cafe and a one-time free mini-bar setup.

In addition to the above suites, seven window suites (333 to 360 square feet, no balconies) are wider and more square-shaped than the mini-suites (18 feet wide by 22 feet long, as opposed to 9 feet wide and 38 feet long) and include cushioned couches near the windows. Window suite passengers receive the same perks as the full-suite cruisers mentioned above. The only exception is that there is one TV per cabin instead of two.

There are 27 cabins for passengers with disabilities. The cabins range from oceanviews to mini-suites with balconies. One of the new window suites is also available. ADA features include showers with fixed stools; grab rails and handheld showerheads, plus ramp access to balconies and door widths of 35.5 inches.

Entertainment

Caribbean Princess has more excellent entertainment choices than you can squeeze into a week.

Each venue has a different type of offering. Crooners (overlooking the Piazza) features a pianist and music trivia contests. Explorer's Lounge is primarily an events lounge for everything from art auctions to Wii sports tournaments, plus magicians and comedic shows. The Piazza offers a variety of demonstrations, musical performances and circus-lite acts throughout the day.

Club Fusion is part nightclub, part game show venue and is, indeed, entertaining for the hilarious Marriage Game. On our sailing, a couple who had been married for 53 years gave a couple of newlyweds a run for their money when answering questions about their spouses, such as "if your husband was a car, what kind would he be" and "when was the last time you had relations?"

Princess' trademark Skywalker Nightclub (located in the rear-spoiler-looking aft end of the ship) hosts 70's-, 80's- and 90's-inspired dance nights and, thankfully, a few nights with a variety of current music. The disco has security and checks ID's upon entering..

The Princess Theater is the ship's main venue for production shows and comedy acts. During our sailing, there were three production shows with a talented cast of singers and dancers. They offered a variety of music and selections that would appeal to a broad mix of ages. Other performances may include PG-rated comedian and magicians.

Churchill Lounge, hidden away near the lower level of Princess Theater, is the place to smoke cigars and watch sports.

Movies Under the Stars, in the Calypso Pool area, is an idyllic place to watch, well, movies under the stars. It also showcases concerts by musicians like Beyonce and Josh Groban, as well as sporting events like the Super Bowl. In the evenings, burgundy slipcovers with built-in mini-pillows are slipped over each poolside lounger. Small, wool blankets are passed out, and the smell of popcorn from an old-fashioned cart floats across the pool deck. Staff members take drink orders and deliver complimentary popcorn so you don't have to move. Even non-TV junkies could wile away hours there.

The casino features 11 gaming tables (including one dice, one American roulette and a table to accommodate wheelchairs) as well as more than 150 slot machines. The "No Smoking Night" was much-appreciated by nonsmokers, as evidenced by the packed casino.

Daytime entertainment offerings are numerous, ranging from Photoshop and scrapbooking workshops and ballroom-dance classes to ceramic-painting and bridge.

The efficiently run shore excursion department offered easy-to-read registration forms. Each tour was well-described, and the offerings included everything from sedate bus tours to active kayaking and hiking explorations.

Fitness and Recreation

There are five pools on Caribbean Princess, which help to give this massive vessel a small-ship feel. The Calypso Pool (conveniently located near Horizon Court's buffets) has a 300-square-foot movie screen with day and night programming. The sound system is loud to the point where you can't easily have a conversation. And parents beware: Movies and shows are shown throughout the day -- some family-friendly, some not, like the PG-13-rated "The Dark Knight" or "Baby Mama."

Neptune Reef pool is located in front of the pizzeria and is as deep as Calypso (more than five feet). Hence, it's also not ideal for families with preschool-age children.

Pirate's Pool (located on Deck 16, just below the basketball court) is the best bet for kids. It's just deeper than four feet, has bench seating around it for parents (as well as a bar for drinks) and is located next to a 10-inch deep toddler pool with a dolphin-shaped mini-slide. Hot tubs are located near each one of the pools.

There are two adults-only pools. The Terrace Pool is the quietest, and it's fairly shaded, depending on the time of day, because of its location beneath the suspended Skywalker's Nightclub. It has stadium-style benches and loungers. The Spa Pool sits a deck below the Sanctuary, in the middle of the U-shaped Lotus Spa and Health Club.

The adult-sonly Sanctuary is a heavenly place to nap. The mostly shaded area has potted trees and big, wrought-aluminum lounge chairs with padding as thick as a mattress. "Serenity Stewards" deliver plush towels, herbal energy drinks, smoothies and MP3 players with BOSE noise-canceling headphones (preloaded with 1,000 songs, grouped by themes that range from jazz to gentle wave sounds). Be sure to use the headphones, but realize they are in limited supply. The entry fee to Sanctuary is $10 for half-day use, $20 for full-day.

Lotus Spa treatments range from oxygen-lifting facials and hot-stone massages to acupuncture and teeth-whitening. Couples' massages are popular, but treatments are not limited to the romantic; there is a mother/daughter "Paradise" massage and father/son "Chill-Out" massage, offered as part of the spa's Generation Y Spa program. Manicures, pedicures and facials are also available for kids.

The fitness center offers fee-free stretching and aerobics classes, as well as $12-per-class yoga and Pilates. The spacious floor area for classes doubles as a place to use exercise balls and mats. Free weights, Cybex equipment and more than 20 treadmills are also available.

Other recreational options include a half-court for basketball, Ping-Pong, a cyber-golf simulator and paddle tennis. Wii tennis, bowling and other Wii sports are available for play in Explorer's Lounge. The ship also has a putting green that can be used for mini-golf for a few players.

Family

Princess offers three programs for children, preschoolers through teens. Princess Pelicans, for 3- to 7-year-olds, is a colorful, indoor/outdoor center where kids can make necklaces and stuffed animals, color their own T-shirts and play in a fenced-in, outdoor area with a mini-basketball hoop and tricycles. Parents may accompany their children.

Staffers are not permitted to change diapers, so parents are given pagers in case a child needs changing or needs a parent for some other reason. Note: Parents whose children are not potty-trained are unable to leave the ship on port days without their children.

Shockwaves offers activities -- including dodgeball, Guitar Hero, science projects, pizza dinners and foosball -- for children, ages 8 to 12.

Admission to the programs is complimentary through 10 p.m. From 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., there is a $6-per-hour, per-child, charge. In-cabin baby-sitting is not offered.

In Remix, teens (ages 13 to 17) can hang out in a cool space to listen to music, play Playstation, drink mocktails and take hip-hop dance lessons.

Fellow Passengers

Fellow passengers run the gamut from families with children to retirees. The average age on a non-school-break sailing is 51, while school-break and summer sailings skew younger, as they attract more families. During winter holiday sailing, many families will bring children ages 10 and older, so the children's programs are likely to be packed with tweens and teens.

Dress Code

Two formal nights are scheduled on seven-night itineraries. On other evenings, the requested dress code is cruise casual, which means pants for gents and slacks or dresses for ladies. While the dress code is adhered to in the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants, casual dress is fine for dining at the buffet.

Gratuity

Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $11.50 per person (including children), per day, for passengers staying in standard accommodations and $12 for passengers staying in mini-suites and suites. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard, including wine at dinner. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.

Dining

There are three dining rooms on Caribbean Princess; all have ceilings with twinkling lights and tasteful, Caribbean-themed artwork. The Palm is for traditional, fixed-seating dining (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Coral and Island are for passengers who have elected "Anytime Dining," which allows you to eat when and with whomever you'd like (between 5:30 and 10 p.m.). Reservations are available, but they aren't required. During peak times, passengers may encounter waits of no more than five to ten minutes on our sailing.Coral is also open for waiter-service breakfast and lunch.

Night rotating menu options include appetizers, soups, mains and desserts. Additionally, there are signature pastas and always-available choices like salmon and Caesar salad. Healthy Lotus Spa selections -- like seared sea bass -- are low in fat and sodium.

Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe (which look identical and flow right in to one another) are open nearly all day long: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Horizon section serves as the ship's lido buffet restaurant and offers uninspiring breakfast buffets, laid out in tight quarters. Lunch choices vary a bit more and may include some unusual dishes like fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Two soups are featured daily.

Cafe Caribe offers lots of variety, featuring a different themed buffet each night -- like Bavarian Bierfest (beer is extra), Rijstafel (rice table) and Caribbean island seafood.

The International Cafe in the Piazza is a great alternative for small meals and is open 24 hours. In addition to gourmet coffees and espresso drinks, breakfast offerings include fresh-baked pastries, donuts and muffins. Grilled paninis, Greek salad and a chicken and cashew Waldorf salad were just a few of the delicious afternoon choices. And the cookies! The fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (not to mention the heavenly scent of them baking) are well worth an afternoon stop at the cafe each day.

Most cafe items are fee-free, with the exception of chocolate-covered strawberries and evening tapas (ranging from $1 to $5). The "Queen of Steam" or "Jack of Java" punch cards are a great deal, giving you 15 espresso drinks of your choice for $29.95. Note that service can be quite slow during peak times of the day.

On Deck 5, Vines is a wine bar offering an extensive menu with more than 30 wines by the glass, as well as wine flights. It serves up fresh bites that include sushi, seafood and tapas. An assortment of meats and cheeses also will tempt your palate. There's both bar seating and cluster seating.

Sabatini's is Princess' signature Italian alternative restaurant ($25 per adult). Passengers can order any appetizer (calamari, wild mushroom tart, soft shell grab, cheese plate), main course (striped bass, lobster, duck with fava beans, signature pasta) and dessert (cheese cart, tarts, creme brulee).

Crown Grill, another alternative restaurant, is styled after popular steakhouses. There is both table and booth seating with some tables offering window-side views. The menu is comprehensive, and patrons can choose from a variety of steaks, side dishes, seafood specialties and more. Servers take care and time explaining the varying cuts of beef and was patient with our questions. The steaks were tender, cooked the way they were ordered, and the side dishes were hearty enough to share family-style. The ambience of the restaurant was also very enjoyable. The noise level was low, and we didn't feel rushed. The cover charge is $25 per passenger.

For total foodies, the Chef's Table is an elegant meal option that also allows diners a behind-the-scenes look at how dishes are created and served. The event begins with pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the galley. The ship's executive chef joins the group to explain the special menu for the night, and then participants are escorted to an intimate table in the dining room for the main course, including wine pairing suggestions to complement the dinner. The $95-per-person fee includes a copy of a Princess cookbook.

An delightful English pub lunch menu -- think fish and chips, shepherd's pie -- is available on sea days at the Crown Grill (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); there's no extra charge for the food.

Poolside eateries include Trident Grill (burgers, hot dogs and fries) and Prego Pizzeria.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. The menu includes a variety of sandwiches (turkey, tuna, veggie), salads and hot dishes like soup, burgers and hot dogs. For something indulgent, you can order desserts -- caramel flan, chocolate fudge cake and chocolate chip cookies. Also, in addition to this room service menu, passengers can also enjoy limited items from the day's main dining room menu in their cabins, but these selections vary. There is a $3 delivery charge for pizza delivered to the cabin, as well as a charge for beverages, including alcohol.

Princess' unique twist on room service is its Ultimate Balcony Dining option for passengers in balcony cabins and suites. The custom multi-course meal comes with a bottle of Champagne, stellar service and special touches. It's priced at $32 per couple for breakfast and $100 per couple for dinner.

Cabins

Standard balcony (187 square feet with 84-square-foot [Caribe Deck] or 44-square-foot [other decks] balcony), outside (158 to 182 square feet) and inside (163 square feet) cabins are cozy when it comes to size, but they're well-equipped and laid out. Some have seating areas. Bathrooms are fairly compact, featuring showers with no tubs.

All cabins are equipped with mini-fridges that you can fill with your own juices and snacks. Bathrooms across categories are stocked with toiletries from the Lotus Spa collection (shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and lotion).

Bath robes, slippers, bedrails and two types of cribs are available upon request.

TV's offer live satellite reception of CNN, ESPN International, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network and Boomerang (where coverage permits). There are also several movie channels, featuring a wide selection of first-run movies and two family stations, as well as a special version of the Discovery Channel. Sporting events -- like the NBA Finals and the Super Bowl -- are also shown. In-cabin televisions are not interactive, so you can't book shore excursions or pre-order wine from them. However, one of the channels shows a running schedule of movies so passengers can plan accordingly.

Mini-suites (266 square feet with 57-square-foot balcony) are in essence up-sized balcony cabins. They have sleeping areas and living areas, separated by archways that have Velcro strips across the top. Request curtains from your cabin steward to separate the two areas. The living area side has a sofa (which pulls out to a full-size bed with an uncomfortably thin mattress) and a cleverly designed, curved cabinet system that straddles the two sides of the room, offering two 26-inch, flat-screen TV's (one facing each side), plus several shelves for storage.

Mini-suite closets are impressively roomy. The bathrooms have a tub/shower combination, white tile floor, a nice long vanity and built-in shelves on the side for extra storage, making it easy for two people to utilize and store their necessities in the bathroom. Note: Mini-suites E730 and E731 (in the curved, aft section of the ship) have balconies that are about 25 square feet bigger than standard mini-suite balconies.

True Suites range in size from 1,279 square feet (Grand Suite) to between 461 and 689 square feet (mid-size suites), all with separate living and sleeping quarters, and spacious balconies.

Suites also feature two TV's, DVD/CD players (and free access to the DVD library), warm-wood furniture, sizeable closets and upgraded furnishings (especially on the balconies, where you'll find teak wood tables and chairs with cushions, as opposed to the lightweight, plastic-with-mesh coverings that are on all other balconies). Extra perks include complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning services, complimentary Web access in the Internet Cafe and a one-time free mini-bar setup.

In addition to the above suites, seven window suites (333 to 360 square feet, no balconies) are wider and more square-shaped than the mini-suites (18 feet wide by 22 feet long, as opposed to 9 feet wide and 38 feet long) and include cushioned couches near the windows. Window suite passengers receive the same perks as the full-suite cruisers mentioned above. The only exception is that there is one TV per cabin instead of two.

There are 27 cabins for passengers with disabilities. The cabins range from oceanviews to mini-suites with balconies. One of the new window suites is also available. ADA features include showers with fixed stools; grab rails and handheld showerheads, plus ramp access to balconies and door widths of 35.5 inches.

Entertainment

Caribbean Princess has more excellent entertainment choices than you can squeeze into a week.

Each venue has a different type of offering. Crooners (overlooking the Piazza) features a pianist and music trivia contests. Explorer's Lounge is primarily an events lounge for everything from art auctions to Wii sports tournaments, plus magicians and comedic shows. The Piazza offers a variety of demonstrations, musical performances and circus-lite acts throughout the day.

Club Fusion is part nightclub, part game show venue and is, indeed, entertaining for the hilarious Marriage Game. On our sailing, a couple who had been married for 53 years gave a couple of newlyweds a run for their money when answering questions about their spouses, such as "if your husband was a car, what kind would he be" and "when was the last time you had relations?"

Princess' trademark Skywalker Nightclub (located in the rear-spoiler-looking aft end of the ship) hosts 70's-, 80's- and 90's-inspired dance nights and, thankfully, a few nights with a variety of current music. The disco has security and checks ID's upon entering. For more low-key dancing, try the Wheelhouse Bar, which often hosts combos playing soft rock and standards.

The Princess Theater is the ship's main venue for production shows and comedy acts. During our sailing, there were three production shows with a talented cast of singers and dancers. They offered a variety of music and selections that would appeal to a broad mix of ages. Other performances may include PG-rated comedian and magicians.

Churchill Lounge, hidden away near the lower level of Princess Theater, is the place to smoke cigars and watch sports.

Movies Under the Stars, in the Calypso Pool area, is an idyllic place to watch, well, movies under the stars. It also showcases concerts by musicians like Beyonce and Josh Groban, as well as sporting events like the Super Bowl. In the evenings, burgundy slipcovers with built-in mini-pillows are slipped over each poolside lounger. Small, wool blankets are passed out, and the smell of popcorn from an old-fashioned cart floats across the pool deck. Staff members take drink orders and deliver complimentary popcorn so you don't have to move. Even non-TV junkies could wile away hours there.

The casino features 11 gaming tables (including one dice, one American roulette and a table to accommodate wheelchairs) as well as more than 150 slot machines.

Daytime entertainment offerings are numerous, ranging from Photoshop and scrapbooking workshops and ballroom-dance classes to ceramic-painting and bridge.

The efficiently run shore excursion department offered easy-to-read registration forms. Each tour was well-described, and the offerings included everything from sedate bus tours to active kayaking and hiking explorations.

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