Caribbean Princess Review
- Pro: Varied selection of dining venues, daytime activities and evening entertainment
- Con: Not a lot of active pursuits available onboard
- Bottom Line: Port-intensive itineraries and regionally themed activities offer an immersive experience
Caribbean Princess Overview
Caribbean Princess underwent a multimillion dollar refurbishment in 2017, getting a lovely makeover that included a bright new paint job and logo on the hull, but also saw several spaces added or redesigned giving the ship a noticeably fresh, modern feel. The World Fresh Marketplace, for instance, replaced the old one-line-for-everything buffet, with a series of standalone stations practically eliminating a long wait for food. Two casual for-fee eateries at the back of the ship are also a nice addition to the ship's dining options, with the meat lover's paradise of Planks BBQ a passenger favorite in the making. (The menu at the new Steamers Seafood needs a bit of tweaking, but with its quiet, aft location, seaside feel and affordable cover charge, the venue has the potential to be another winner.) And Sabatini's, the line's signature Italian restaurant, swapped out the tired, cliched decor and replaced it with contemporary furnishings and an entirely new menu.
But the enjoyment of a Caribbean Princess cruise comes less from the ship's physical attributes and more from the overall vibe and the passengers who sail it. Caribbean Princess maintains a laid-back ambiance, allowing for laugh-out-loud fun that gets passengers on their feet doing the hand jive, slapping their heels with country/western line dances, competing in paper plane competitions and guessing which silly law is real or not. Yet some of its best attractions are more cultured; trivia is standing-room-only and full of die-hard players, art lectures are well attended and the best stage show by far is full of operatic arias.
On top of that, the crew on Caribbean Princess works hard to make the cruise experience as much about the destination as the ship. People who live in the towns the ship visits give destination talks, and performing groups and arts and crafts sessions onboard showcase regional music and dance.
Lest you think Caribbean Princess is all about indoor pursuits, the ship has an impressive five pools and lots of sun deck space, so there's plenty of opportunity for just soaking up some rays and cat napping the day away.
With all that said, there are times it feels like Princess is trying too hard with Caribbean Princess. Crown Grill, which was untouched during the refurb, remains the best restaurant onboard, while the new menu at Sabatini's and the upgraded offerings at the Salty Dog Grill, which replaced the old poolside grill, might be just a tad too gourmet, leaving those who appreciate simplicity in dining a little out of the loop.
Caribbean Princess Fellow Passengers
Caribbean Princess draws mostly North American passengers, regardless of whether it's sailing in the Caribbean or the British Isles. (The Manchester-born hotel director told us this is because the Brits would rather head to the warm weather of the Med than stay in their own colder climate.) With that said, our British Isles sailing did have a small contingent of Brits, Australians and Brazilians. The mix is fairly similar on Caribbean cruises.
Age-wise, the ship trends toward boomers and older during the school season; our mid-May sailing had less than a dozen kids on it, but crew members all expected loads of children once school let out. Along with kids come younger couples during the summer months and during holidays. The rest of the year, the average age seems to be close to 65, with a smattering of younger couples.
Caribbean Princess Dress Code
The dress code onboard Caribbean Princess is "smart casual" during the day and most evenings, though depending on the length of your cruise there will be one or two formal nights as well. Most evenings you'll see men in trousers or dark jeans and collared shirts and women in dark jeans, nice slacks or skirts with blouses or simple dresses. On formal night, most cruisers go all-out; you'll see plenty of men in suits and even tuxedos and women in ball gowns and cocktail dresses. (You'll also see a fair number who don't dress up at all, but they go to the buffet for dinner.)
Caribbean Princess Gratuity
Princess Cruises charges a gratuity of $13.50 per person, per day for most passengers; $14.50 per person, per day for those in mini-suites; and $15.50 per person, per day for suite passengers (including children). The charges are automatically added to your shipboard account on a daily basis and are shared among several crew members including wait staff, room stewards, buffet crew and housekeeping staff in public areas. You can go to the Passenger Services desk to adjust your tips if you feel that's necessary. A 15 percent gratuity is added to all bar charges, dining room wine accounts and for spa services.