My First Cruise on Princess: Six Cool Touches

August 26, 2013 | By | 32 Comments

I fell for cruising long before I joined the Cruise Critic staff. My first cruise was a Western Caribbean itinerary onboard Carnival Sensation, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Over the years, I had sailed a number of lines, including every major U.S. mainstream line — except Princess.
It wasn’t intentional avoidance. Somehow, it just never worked out, until last week, when I took an Alaskan cruise on the Golden Princess. As always in cruising, it’s the little touches that give a line its identity. Here are six small things I noticed on Princess that made a big impression:
1. Movies Under The Stars
Having a big-screen on the Lido Deck has become par for the course these days, but Princess has been doing it for so long, it’s perfected it. The variety on the screen is vast: newer movies  (“Oz: The Great and Powerful,” “Skyfall” and “The Croods”) as well as concerts (Pink and Lionel Ritchie, for example). Fluffy blankets are available — and necessary on our cold-weather cruise — and the staff pops up fresh popcorn. Plus, the already comfy cushioned loungers are enrobed in special MUTS covers with small pillows attached – which means no uncomfortable neck craning.
2. Expressions of Celebration
Cruising for a special occasion? Princess will make it one you never forget. Walk down any cabin hall, and you can quickly identify those celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and honeymoons. That’s because the cruise staff hangs balloons that read “Congratulations” and large door magnets that read “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary” for all the ship to see. How could a celebrant NOT feel special?
3. Singing Waiters
OK, singing waiters aren’t exclusive to Princess, but it’s something I’ve never loved; honestly, watching it makes me a bit uncomfortable. But on Princess, I found I enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t feel forced; rather, a few select waiters have decided to do it on their own. My favorite? Edgar, whom I met in Sabatini’s, the ship’s alternative Italian restaurant, who dished out fresh-ground pepper and Parmesan cheese with songs that included lyrics such as, “Yummy, yummy, yummy, yummy yum” (think the Italian classic “Funiculi Funicula” song) and “Here comes the pepper” (“La Cucaracha”). Trust me, it worked, and it made requesting your seasonings a fun experience.
4. Safety
Muster drills vary greatly from one line — and one ship — to the next. Many lines have tried to streamline the process, even bringing in videos to assist the staff in showing how to stay safe in case of emergency. Princess is the only mainstream line I’ve sailed recently that still requires passengers to bring a life jacket to the drill. And we had to practice putting on the jacket, which is something I haven’t done since my first cruise. I like the concept; I paid attention and felt confident I could do what needed to done, if an emergency happened. Yes, it took a little longer than other drills, but it was well organized and clearly aimed at keeping everyone safe. While all lines make safety a priority, I liked the old-school tactile approach.
 5. Excursions
Princess has a reputation for great excursions, and after trying out three of the line’s offerings in Alaska, I get it. I loved the options I tried: snorkeling in Ketchikan; glacier viewing, whale watching and a salmon meal in Juneau; and kayaking in Skagway. I tend to be leery of large-group excursions mostly because I like to move at my own speed and ask lots of questions. On this trip, the smallest group was eight; the largest was about 40. In all cases, I felt as if the tours and guides provided personal attention. We were on a schedule but never felt rushed, with the guides providing fascinating information while smoothly moving along the group. Best of all, the activities fit my interests — active and informative. I spoke with a number of other passengers who selected other excursions through the ship, and they raved about their experiences.
6. Hot Tubs and Pools
While being in the water on a cold-weather cruise isn’t a priority, passengers on Golden Princess have plenty of options as the ship offers nine hot tubs and four pools. I couldn’t believe I found myself swimming in a heated pool as we cruised to Juneau. It was an excellent experience (well, getting out into the 60 degree air wasn’t excellent, but the water temp was perfect and made for an enjoyable 30-minute dip). Sitting in a hot tub while cruising through Tracy Arm was also unforgettable.  We found a number of passengers had the same idea, though none of the pools or hot tubs ever was overcrowded on our trip.


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    32 Responses to “My First Cruise on Princess: Six Cool Touches”

    1. Kim
      August 27th, 2013 @ 8:58 am

      My husband and I went on the Crown Princess for our honeymoon. It was my 2nd time on a Princess ship and I love them.

      We are trying out the Oasis of the Seas in March. :)

    2. Paul Croteau
      August 27th, 2013 @ 9:01 am

      I like the idea of mandatory wearing of life jackets. Norwegian doesn’t do that and it took them 2 days of constant haranguing to get them to bring a child-size life jacket for my grandson. Even though they are not required for the drills, I ALWAYS put mine on in the cabin and make sure it’s adjusted properly. And even though she fusses about it, I make my wife do the same. After many years in the Navy, I learned that in an emergency you often don’t have time to do everything.

    3. Lynda Bass
      August 27th, 2013 @ 9:06 am

      More a question than comment – have you done the Alaska cruise on any other line & if so, which one do you recommend? Planning ahead for 2016 – our 40th anniversary.

    4. ruth rosenthal
      August 27th, 2013 @ 9:29 am

      Have only cruised on one Princess ship and one Celebrity, so can’t really comment on this, except to say that Oceania Cruises also requires you to take your life jacket to the safety drill (and yes, they demonstrate its use). So many people joke about the drill, and want to get out of it, but as recent accidents point out, it is an important part of the pre-cruise ritual (or maybe during-cruise ritual for some lines/itineraries, as it’s only required with 24 hours).

      But back to the review: yes, movies under the stars is nice on a nice evening – I agree! I have done that, but had to take a little blanket….

    5. Rob Davis
      August 27th, 2013 @ 9:40 am

      Nothing special here…at least, nothing to make me want to cruise Princess over any other line.

    6. Jean Duncan
      August 27th, 2013 @ 9:50 am

      All the things you mention ARE reasons why we love Princess cruiseline!! We’ve only been on 1 cruise; with our first being on the Ruby Princess to Eastern Caribbean. We have since booked 2 subsequent cruises aboard Princess; one to West Caribbean and one to Southern Caribbean. While we have briefly thought about other lines, we really are looking forward to cruise #2 where we will not be the newbies and will know what to expect. After that, we’ll consider another line, but I have the feeling that we’ll reconsider and stay with the tried and true!!

    7. Sandy
      August 27th, 2013 @ 10:06 am

      This makes me want to consider Princess Cruise lines, something for next year. Thanks for the information, it does help when considering a cruise line, other than the itinerary .

    8. Barbara Adair
      August 27th, 2013 @ 11:18 am

      So glad you decided to try Princess!! We’re preparing for our 20th cruise on Princess and have never been disappointed. Service is great no matter at what loyalty level you sail. You’ll always feel welcome and pampered!

    9. Rodney
      August 27th, 2013 @ 11:33 am

      This is why we enjoy Princess so much! We too have tried other lines but no one beats Princess!! We are sailing our 5th this October and it is a Trans-Atlantic from Southampton, England to Ft. Lauderdale and I have no doubt they will meet every need we have! Great review on a great cruise line!!

    10. Betty
      August 27th, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

      Perfect timing….we are doing our first Princess cruise in November, so it was great to get this information now! This will be our 17th cruise…..

    11. Anne
      August 27th, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

      We will be cruising on the Caribbean Princess for our 45th Anniversary (well 8 days later actually) during Spring Break in 2014 with the whole Family. Your review made me confident that we will have a wonderful experience. This will be our 19th Cruise with the majority taken on Royal Caribbean Ships.

    12. carolyn
      August 27th, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

      We have been cruising for years and had tried many other cruise lines in the beginning. We are now Platinum with Princess and just always find they go that extra step to make our cruise perfect. Last month we did the U.K. cruise and I celebrated my birthday on board. Yes I got my balloons and my name in lights on our door and my birthday cake at the table. Great line we love them:)

    13. Donna
      August 27th, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

      I loved these special touches from Princess but the FOOD on Celebrity trumps all of these.

    14. Mitch Krasnoff
      August 27th, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

      It’s funny, out of all the cruise lines I’ve been on, I thought Princess was the worse. They were unorganized when it came to tendering, little or no activities around the pool and the food was so so. The nightly entertainment was great. OVERALL, I think Celebrity is the best quality for the money

    15. Kathie Osswald
      August 27th, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

      The 1st cruise my husband & I ever took was Princess, I LOVE being spoiled. Over 10 years we took 12 Princess cruises & 4 Carnival (enjoyable also!), though I lost my husband in Nov last year & not ready for another cruise yet, when I am, it will definetly be Princess

    16. Thadd Felton
      August 27th, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

      I have been in contact with rep from Princess and I’m “thinking” about going to the Eastern Caribbean in Jan/Feb. 2014. My “problem” finding someone to go with. No luck yet and the rate for a single person is around $1500.00. If I can’t find someone, I’ll go by
      myself and hopefully I’ll have a good time.

    17. laura jones
      August 27th, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

      Princess is my favorite line so far. we did 5 in a row I think, the only drawback is that we got to know the menus options and what day they would be offered. The limit the number of children on board and their wait staff is very professional! I LOVE the Santuary. They seem to have more pools per ship than any other line I have been on.

    18. Lee Maguire
      August 27th, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

      We love Princess! We have cruised 6 times with Princess and have another booked for November of this year. We find the staff to be very friendly and the entertainment to be awesome! We have also sailed with Norwegian (we really like them too), Royal Caribbean (not bad) and Holland America (would not recommend them – ship was dirty, service was awful). We would sail with Princess ANY day!!

    19. Millie
      August 27th, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

      We are approaching the Elite status of Princess. We have nothing but great times to remember. We have been on the others & have a lower status but the Princess experience is the best….Didn’t feel special on the 20th Anniversary on the Celebrity…25th on Princess was amazing…30th was more than you could believe…special every night.

    20. Dennis Slater
      August 28th, 2013 @ 1:51 am

      We are Princess people. We are closing in fast on Elite status. We obviously like Princess. NCL is nothing but a floating row of restaurants. On cold weather cruises the ship’s designs put everyone inside where there is no room because all the room is taken up by the restaurants.

      Alaska tip: Princess and Holland offer inland trips (cruisetours) to places like White Horse and Dawson then on to Denali. They are the best way to see the Yukon and Alaska.

    21. Sue Harmon
      August 28th, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

      We love Princess! Have sailed 11 times with them — with several cruises around 30 days each so quite a few days at sea, so we really appreciate the daily activities — lectures, movies, games, etc. The evening entertainment is very good, too . Food is good and the dining room staff was great! Sailed last year on a neighborhood group tour on Celebrity, and the food was really good, bthe service was not. It makes a difference. We noticed this time that when we first entered our cabin that the room steward saw us and greeted us by name,. He went out of the way to make us feel welcome…what an exceptional experience.

    22. Rod
      August 28th, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

      Been on Princess once (Star Princess). I have been on 6 Cruises, RCI, Carnival & Celebrity. My wife and I love Cruising, and Princess nearly put us off, we had been on a couple of Cruises before and were really excited about trying a big ship, the ships layout was awful, our waiter was terrible and guest services had my wife in tears, the only redeeming factor was the Cabin Steward who tried to comfort my wife after her trip to guest services.
      I am glad other people enjoy Princess Cruises, but we won’t be back.
      We did Alaska on Celebrity Infinity and it was by far the best Cruise we have ever done.

    23. Alison Burt
      August 28th, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

      I have only been on 2 cruises, both on Princess, but they have made me a little obsessive. I feel now because I loved the line so much I cannot even try another. I travel alone and I have been so well cared for by the staff, they really looked after me.
      I have been on a small ship and a large one, and the feeling of caring was the same, anyone who does not enjoy Princess has a problem.

    24. Bruce Monte
      August 28th, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

      It’s funny how opinions vary. I’m guessing that if one’s first experience is a good one, then that will be the preferred line with which to cruise.
      Our recent (May) experience on the Sapphire seems to contradict several of the areas praised by the author.
      Firstly, Movies under the stars presented some films not appropriate for pre-teens during the day.
      Secondly, the procedures for getting passengers to the various venues for the safety drill were chaotic at best. Wheelchair bound, my wife and I had to wait over 10 minutes, standing in everyones way in front of the elevator/stairwell while car after car either appeared full of capable walkers too lazy to proceed AS DIRECTED, by stairwell, to their assembly point. Princess appears to care less about requiring passengers to actually follow procedure.
      In ADDITION, the accommodation for handicapped passengers who would like to see the shows is atrocious and humiliating to those who are unable to descend/climb stairs. Unlike the other cruise lines we have sailed, the Sapphire has ONLY stadium seating in the theater. Handicapped are presented with ONE choice. And that is SIX spots in the last row of the theater. Thanks for the thought, Princess. Could you at least provide binoculars. BTW, that area is gotten to by pushing a wheelchair up a 40 degree ramp for 20′, then making a 90 degree turn and continuing another 20′—right after eating dinner!
      And, as to the food, since Princess chooses to keep the dining rooms closed on port days (not so on other lines) we had the choice of pizza, a hamburger, or schlocking trays on the buffet lines to have food slopped on a plate so that I could return again after getting my wife’s plate first. Nothing like eating together.
      Is this what I paid for when I booked? No!!

    25. Anne
      August 28th, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

      One of the things I particularly noticed on my recent Princess Alaska Trip was that the staff seemed happy. We had standard seating for dinner with the same staff each night. By the end of the trip there were even hugs!
      I have been on many Princess cruises and had one bad experience many years ago. I have cruised on Celebrity, Crystal, etc. and have not found that they had the ‘character’ of Princess or the pleasantness of staff. We had a passenger choir on the last trip on the Sapphire Princess and it was great fun. Good voices, too and a great way to meet people. I keep a pretty close eye on the passenger ship industry and am pleased to see that Princess doesn’t disembark ill passengers at some obscure passenger clinic in Mexico and in this day of Norwalk type viruses, relax their cleanliness standards. Princess, I’ll stick with you!

    26. Michael Carter
      August 28th, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

      My wife and I are Elite Captain’s Circle members, so we have cruised on Princess many times. We take 1 or 2 cruises on Princess every year. We return every year because of the quality of the service. We find their shore tours well organized, very enjoyable, always dependable, and with good tour guides. We love their Anytime Dining option and always choose this option.

      We tried Royal Caribbean two years ago, and we will never return to it. In fact, we cancelled a second RC cruise that we had already booked.

      We took all our children and grandchildren on a family cruise. There were a total of 17 of us. We had nothing but problems ranging from minor to major starting during the embarkation process and running through disembarkation day. My impression of Royal Caribbean’s idea of customer service is “You’ll do everything the way we tell you to do it, and we do not want to be bothered with any specific requests.

      Because we were so familiar with Princess’ approach to the safety drill, we could not believe RC’s approach. They basically treated it as a joke and a party, and gave no real instructions or idea of what would happen in a real situation. I hate to think what would have happened had their been a real disaster on that ship.

    27. ALAN
      August 28th, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

      Like Colleen we had been on many cruises but had never tried Princess until taking a 31 day cruise from Singapore to Rome on the Ocean Princess earlier this year. Loved the small ship atmosphere, the sincerity of the crew and the feeling of belonging which was promoted in a subtle caring manner. Captain Carlo Servillo was visible every day keeping an eye on the pulse of the ship, taking the time to say hello whenever he ran into passengers or crew. Small touches and no short cuts whether for safety or in service made this a stand out experience.

    28. Keren Baxter
      August 28th, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

      You missed the main reason why Princess is the only way to cruise: Alan and Alana. This incredible duo teaches dance, runs a choir, provides easy-listening music every evening, runs quizzes and produces very plummy melodramas. We are just coming to the end of a 105 day World Cruise on Sea Princess, and they have been the highlight of our time. They will have to be on any future cruise that we book.

    29. Chris
      August 28th, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

      Our first cruise was in June of 2003…on the Grand…our honeymoon. We fell instantly in love. We are taking our 5th on the newest ship..ROYAL PRINCESS. The way the staff treats their passengers is unmatchable to another line. We took a cruise on Royal Caribbean…never ever again. It was awful.We love Movies Under The Stars.the excursions are fabulous & the ships immaculate . We are Princess Cruisers for life!!

    30. AudalSomerset
      August 30th, 2013 @ 10:10 am

      We love Princess and have just reached elite status, they are the one cruise line we have been on that have not dropped standards with food . 25 cruises now p&o (ok) but food standards dropped. MSC (disorganised ) Cunard qm2 (hated it) food dull and tasteless, waiters offhand. 2nd Princess within a few weeks coming up, can’t wait

    31. Carolyn
      September 3rd, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

      Hubby & I just finished our 4th cruise on the Diamond Princess – Alaska. Wonderful time. Captain got us real close to the glaciers. Saw some fabulous calving. We were blessed with the best ever weather. Staff was attentive, as usual. Movies under the stars was fun, but COLD. But the best ever cruise on Princess was last fall when we took the transatlantic voyage (19 days!) on the Ruby Princess, even though we had some restrictions due to some people picking up a stomach bug in Morocco. They did a great job of containing the bug. I don’t think anyone who didn’t go on the excursion to Marrakesh got sick. Wonderful, long, restful days at sea. There was always plenty to do if you wanted. Only disappointment – no dance classes. (There were dance classes on the Alaska cruise, but not at a convenient time for us.) We’ve also done Panama on the Coral Princess (our 1st) and Eastern Caribbean on the Caribbean Princess. We’ve done the Mexican Riviera on NCL (okay) and Alaska, the 1st time, on Celebrity Infinity (entertainment was excellent), and also Eastern Caribbean, the 2nd time, on Celebrity Summit(great wait staff). Looking forward to our next one on Princess – wherever it goes.

    32. SteveKin MD
      September 16th, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

      I went on Ruby the second week of her maiden voyage and encountered the worst service I have ever had on a cruise at that time, until last year on Carnival. I did however give them a second chance, and went on Ruby the next year and had a great time. I am book on the Crown this December and can’t wait to be back on Princess. Many try to duplicate Movies Under The Stars, and no one has even come close

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