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
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”
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
Company: Princess Cruises
Ship: Caribbean Princess
Size: 112,894 tons
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
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
Cost: Inside cabins start at $549; Oceanview
cabins, $649; Balcony cabins, $799.
Commission: Ranges from 10 to 16 percent.