Royal Elegance

On her first birthday, the Caribbean Princess is still a standout on the seas

By: Maryann Hammers

I couldn’t miss the Caribbean Princess. Looming in her dock in Fort Lauderdale, the ship was queen of all she surveyed, regally waving her blue-and-white flag.

By definition, a cruise is meant to offer a getaway from stressors. This cruise on the Caribbean Princess lived up to expectations in everything from accommodations, amenities, meals and especially, service.

One of the newest and largest ships in her fleet, the Caribbean Princess celebrated her first birthday in April 2005. From the outside, her sprightly white hull with azure-trimmed balconies looked satisfyingly nautical. Inside, the vessel was just as enjoyable, with several pools, restaurants, bars and a pleasant (albeit always crowded) Asian-style spa. The spacious glass-walled gym offered absolutely no excuse for not working out.

More than half of the ship’s 1,557 cabins offer private balconies, and an additional 224 have ocean views. Staterooms are standard cruise-ship size (i.e., small starting at 158 square feet) but are smartly decorated in sky blue and creamy colors, nicely complementing the sea’s hue. I was pleasantly surprised at the expansive closets offering plenty of hanging space. Robes, slippers and fragrant bath amenities made the accommodations seem like a four-star hotel.

The Caribbean Princess boasts some innovative features, such as the poolside Movies Under the Stars. Viewers can recline on lounge chairs, cuddle up in cozy blankets on cool evenings, munch on complimentary popcorn and enjoy a grand ocean view, in addition to watching whatever is showing on the 300-square-foot Times Square-style LED screen. Cruisers need not wait until sundown to watch the show, either. As I headed to the gym one sunny afternoon, I was tempted to plop myself down and watch Tom Hanks in “Big” instead.

The ship features Anytime Dining, which allows passengers to eat when and where they wish. Choices include several dining rooms, buffets, as well as an upscale Italian eatery ($20 charge) and a fancy steakhouse ($15 charge).

If you like, you can be served on your own private balcony. One morning, I treated myself to the Ultimate Balcony Breakfast a multi-course extravaganza complete with champagne. (Price: $25. A four-course balcony dinner is also offered for $50 per person.)

The Skywalker Bar on Deck 19, one of the hippest and most beautiful nightclubs I’ve ever seen on land or sea, quickly became my favorite after-dinner hangout. With its glass walls offering moonlit views of the ship’s foamy wake, cozy seating arrangements, and lights casting crayon-colored hues over the dance floor, the bar was both surreal and sophisticated.

I’ve always believed that the true measure of a resort, whether on land or sea, lies not in a long list of features and benefits, but in service and efficiency. The Caribbean Princess excels in this category. Even though the 3,110-passenger ship was 100-percent occupied during my cruise, it never felt overly crowded. Disembarking and embarking was easy, smooth and fast. More importantly, I was repeatedly wowed at above-and-beyond thoughtful touches, such as the fresh-fruit bowl (with extra portions of grapes, bananas and oranges when it was obvious those were my favorites), attentive waiters in dining rooms and restaurants and the always-smiling Milbert, my cabin steward.

Most impressive of all was the highly visible, affable Captain Giuseppe Romano, who joined Princess in 1976 and has been at the helm of the Caribbean Princess since its inaugural launch. He seemed to be everywhere smiling, shaking hands, greeting passengers and excelling in his role of genial host. Captain Romano not only runs a tight ship, he set the tone for what was an all-around pleasant journey.


Company: Princess Cruises
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Size: 112,894 tons
Capacity: 3,110
Year Built: 2004
Plugging In: Cabins have 110-volt electrical outlets (standard U.S. plugs). There’s a 24-hour Internet cafe, as well as Wi-Fi access.
Hits: Inventive programs, such as Movies Under the Stars. Weddings at sea, Princess is the only line on which captains can officiate. Well-wishers can watch at home via “Wed Cam.”
Misses: Aggressive sales pitch for the spa’s take-home “detox” program, touted as a cure for everything from weight loss to stress, cellulite and tight muscles. The high-pressure sales approach has a snake-oil feel to it, and might make passengers a bit uncomfortable. Most spa appointments on sea days were taken before the cruise began, thanks to online booking.
Itinerary: The Caribbean Princess is in the Caribbean year-round, offering alternating seven-day Eastern (calls at Princess Cays, St. Thomas and St. Maarten) and Western (calls at Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Ocho Rios or Montego Bay) itineraries. The itineraries can be combined for a 14-day Eastern/Western cruise.
Cost: Inside cabins start at $549; Oceanview cabins, $649; Balcony cabins, $799.
Commission: Ranges from 10 to 16 percent.