For many of us, a Caribbean cruise in the heart of winter is an annual rite of passage, a chance to escape freezing temperatures up North and to relax and play in the tropics. This year is no different; my husband and I traveled to Fort Lauderdale, where tomorrow we'll board Caribbean Princess. On our seven-night sailing, we'll visit St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Kitts and Martinique, before debarking midway through our voyage in Barbados and heading back to the great frozen north.
This trip has an added bit of spice for a couple of reasons. We last cruised on Caribbean Princess 15 years ago, during the ship's inaugural season, and are curious about the impact of time on this darling vessel. Also, Caribbean Princess is the first ship in Princess Cruises fleet to fully activate the line's innovative new MedallionClass experience. (Note: In addition to Caribbean Princess, Regal Princess and Royal Princess are also fully activated with the MedallionClass technology, and Crown Princess and Sky Princess will be activated July 24 and October 15, 2019, respectively).
The big question for me is this: How will OceanMedallion enhance our cruise experience without forcing us to work too hard on the technology?
As you may have read on Cruise Critic, MedallionClass aims to streamline, personalize and customize the cruise holiday experience for all passengers on the ship, a very ambitious undertaking. A network of sensors works with the OceanMedallion, a quarter-sized device that transmits information, and delivers enhanced personal services and customization, including cutting check-in time to 10 seconds, allowing you to easily find family members while roaming all over your ship, unlocking cabin doors as you approach and even ordering food and drinks wherever you are on the vessel.
Curious about the OceanMedallion? Want to dig your toes into the Caribbean sand? Come along with us as we share our day-by-day vacation on Caribbean Princess.
Day 1: Getting Onboard
As is our tradition, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale the afternoon before our voyage. (We don't take chances with day-of-cruise flights out of our airport in the Northeast!) There were so many fellow cruise passengers at the Embassy Suites (five ships were departing Saturday), the hotel felt like an ad hoc cruise ship. The vibe was buzzy and festive.
Vacation time is precious to us, and we don't want to waste any of it feeling hassled or standing in line. The good news? No hassle, no lines to board Caribbean Princess. Arriving at Port Everglades' Terminal 2 at about 11 a.m., with our OceanMedallions attached to lanyards we wore around our necks, check-in took about 10 seconds, once we got past security.
This is a big part of the OceanMedallion's promise, and it delivered. Partly that's because we preregistered for the cruise a month ago, from home, and that information was transferred onto the OceanMedallion, which was then delivered to our home. We were already wearing our OceanMedallion, tucked into a lanyard provided free of charge, when we entered Terminal 2. There was no line; the terminal check-in area was outfitted with state-of-the-art readers that process the info, including our passport info and security photo, and all of that made check-in go lightning fast.
That left the rest of the morning to enjoy Caribbean Princess, drop our carry-ons in our cabin, grab a swimsuit and a book, and wander to the pool area to enjoy that first wonderful splash in the sun. It's not just that we're more relaxed on this first hour of our first day, it seems like there's just a chill vibe around the ship. Vacation has begun.
Of course, the one sign anyone needs in order to understand that your cruise has actually begun is that wonderful moment at sail-away when the live band comes out to the multitiered pool deck. The late-afternoon breeze feels gentle and soft like baby powder as Caribbean Princess ambles out of the harbor and into the Atlantic. And onboard, we're all dancing; the entertainment crew is leading passengers in an impromptu rendition of "YMCA" by the pool, and up one deck, others are breaking out their own dance moves.
MedallionClass Discovery: You know how, once you've checked in for your cruise and you have your precious keycard (in this case, the OceanMedallion serves that role) in your hand, your only concern is getting onboard as quickly possible? Try to remember to slow down a bit as you move through the cheerfully refurbished Terminal 2, a gorgeous space between check-in and boarding that is designed like a cartoon aquarium. As you wander through, one of the more whimsical touches of the OceanMedallion is to let you create a sea creature anytime before you arrive. It's an avatar, dubbed an OceanTagalong, and when the creature you designed pops up on the screen with your name and a welcome, it's endearing. I've never seen so many people just stop and smile.
Day 2: Settling In
A sea day is a special gift you only get on a cruise vacation. It's a wonderfully long day, punctuated only by however many activities in which you choose to participate. Feel like sleeping in and having breakfast in bed? Yes! Inspired to take a workshop in creating watercolors, book a massage in the spa or play bridge by the pool? Why not? Indeed, a great majority of our fellow passengers headed to poolside deck chairs, Caribbean's Princess' serene adults-only Sanctuary and the spa.
For our part, after a longer lie-in than usual, we headed up to Skywalkers, the ship's top-deck observation lounge by day and disco by night, to meet with fellow Cruise Critic members. There are about 60 of us who participated on the Cruise Critic "roll call" leading up to the cruise, sharing advice and asking for tips. It was good to put faces to names. Aside from the fun of talking about your trip with other like-minded travelers beforehand, what we love about Cruise Critic groups onboard is that you've got ready-made friends. It makes ships feel extra cozy.
Our group was comprised of a wide span of ages and travel styles, from a family with young kids to folks who take this same cruise on the same ship every year just to flee winter. On this trip, most of us were eager to share questions and insights on using the OceanMedallion. Crew members from Caribbean Princess were on hand to answer questions, which was incredibly helpful. So far, we agree that our favorite features have been the ease of embarkation and how the OceanMedallion unlocks your cabin door just as you get to it.
After lunch, activities included art auctions with sparkling wine, a steel drum band in the Piazza, Snowball Jackpot Bingo, an introduction to acupuncture, St. Kitts' port talk, a trivia contest and afternoon tea, complete with scones and crust-free sandwiches. On the other hand, if you just want to go sit outside on your private veranda or on the lovely, wide promenade and attempt to read a novel while all around you birds are soaring and waves are glittering under a perfect blue sky, well, that's a great kind of fun, too.
In the evening, we got a little bit dolled up for Caribbean Princess' formal night. It's really just an excuse to feel good, wear your best duds and watch the incredible Champagne Waterfall. Hosted by Captain Marco Fortezze, the Champagne Waterfall is the cornerstone of the official Welcome Aboard Party. Held in the three-deck Piazza, the waterfall consists of 540 Champagne glasses, painstakingly built by hand into a 15-layer pyramid (stop by at around 5:30 p.m. to see the crew creating the tower). Passengers can volunteer to fill a glass from the top as the bubbly trickles to the bottom or you can watch from the Piazza balconies on Decks 6 and 7.
MedallionClass Discovery: Onboard, there are two primary ways to access MedallionClass digital experiences -- on portals around the ship or via your smart device. Since I'm pretty much always carrying my cellphone, I downloaded the MedallionClass app (available through iTunes, GooglePlay and Android). It contains features like OceanNow, where I was able to order food from the International Cafe to sup on along with a glass of pinot noir in Vines, the ship's wine bar. Using OceanCompass, I could check out the onboard location of my husband and our traveling pals who'd opted in (and it was awesome for providing directions around the ship, particularly helpful the first few days). But you don't need a phone. The Medallion itself offered the same amenities and service; you just need to be near a portal, one of the huge digital screens that are all over the ship. And you only need the Medallion, as well, to get on and off Caribbean Princess, for payment, and to unlock your cabin door.
Day 3: Feeling at Home
As we travel from Port Everglades in a southeasterly direction toward St. Thomas, our first port of call, we're gifted with another beautiful day on the Caribbean. If yesterday was all about settling in to our ship and getting reacquainted with Caribbean Princess, it now feels like home and we know our way around.
There's this great old tip from Cruise Critic members on how to manage your own sea day schedule -- you take a yellow highlighter and run it through every event you want to check out, and carry the daily Princess Patter along with you. What's a fun discovery on this cruise is that you can access your schedule via your own OceanMedallion. You can't miss the portals in elevator lobbies, at OceanFront, where there's an OceanMedallion boutique and info center, and even on the pool deck.
No more highlighter, no more Patter (though, of course, it's still delivered to cabins every evening).
Those of us who always carry a smart device around anyway (for me it's more a camera than a phone in the first place), you can also access all your information via the MedallionClass application. You can download it for free (it's available on Android, iTunes and GooglePlay) before you leave home or while onboard. Here's a rundown of the features contained within the MedallionClass app and how they work.
• OceanCompass: This is your digital map onboard, helping you find public venues and your own cabin (if necessary) and, the best feature of all, it helps you locate and chat with your traveling pals and family via its ShipMates function (they'll need to opt in). I found that invaluable; on a spur of the moment impulse to dine at the British pub lunch, I was able to easily find my husband, wandering around, and invite him to join me. It made the ship feel just that much more intimate. One night after dinner, we learned from ShipMates that our traveling pals were drinking wine at Vines; we loved that we could easily join them. ShipMates is amazing, too, for families and groups traveling together because it helps you stay connected.
• PlayOcean: One of the more whimsical aspects of the OceanMedallion is the creation of your own avatar, or OceanTagalong, which you can do from home, at the terminal and onboard. Before our cruise, we thought this "personal digital companion" was more geared to kids and yet we had a blast. You create an ocean character with many different possibilities for color, shape, fins, wings and other features, and it'll pop up at Port Everglades' Terminal 2, as you embark, and on portals by the elevators. You can play interactive games at portals and on Movies Under the Stars. Also fun: Interactive, digital scavenger hunts around the ship.
• OceanNow: If PlayOcean is perhaps more geared to the kid in all of us, OceanNow is perfectly suited to any passenger who wants the superb, intuitive service you get on a small ship with all the amenities, entertainment and activities that are the hallmarks of a bigger vessel. OceanNow lets you order food and drink from anywhere you happen to be (you can also select retail items, like sunscreen), whether it's your own stateroom, from a cushy Movies Under the Stars chaise lounge or from a ringside seat in the Piazza.
• OceanCasino: Feel like gambling but want to sit by the pool? No need to make a choice since this feature, available through MedallionClass, allows passengers to play casino games – as long as the casino is open – just about anywhere onboard.
• OceanView: What if you could carry the programming on your stateroom television with you around the ship? Via OceanView, you can access fabulous travel series like “Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin” and “The Voyager with Josh Garcia” – they’ll inspire you to plan your next vacation.
• OceanReady: Before your cruise, download OceanReady to create your OceanMedallion account.
It's our second sea day. Our itinerary becomes much more port-intensive starting tomorrow, so we're taking full advantage of the chance to chill out for another day. The weather's gorgeous and the pair of main pools, one with the Movies Under the Stars screen and the other with a bandstand for live music, are lively. What's great is that they're never too lively at the same time -- so there's always a pool where you can be entertained -- and another where you can enjoy the quiet.
Speaking of serenity, one of the great Princess innovations -- and it's first-rate here on Caribbean Princess, too -- is its adult-only Sanctuary, located on Deck 16 forward. It's essentially a tucked-away area of the sun deck, with a canopy, the most comfortable plush chaises (more than a few folks on my visit were taking alfresco naps) and food and beverage service. You can book it for four-hour stints in the morning or afternoon (or all day, if you prefer) for a varying fee. For that, you get a reserved lounger in the sun or shade and all the peace and quiet you crave. Nonalcoholic beverages are provided, and crew offer bar service, too. Hungry? You won't have to leave to nosh; there's a delicious Sanctuary-only menu featuring fare for the those inclined to be healthy (we loved the grilled shrimp skewers with white beans, chili garlic edamame and citrus and kiwi carpaccio, among others). And yes, you can also order off the pool grill menu; there's a $3 service fee so you don't have to leave the glorious confines of the Sanctuary, and it's worth every penny. A note: While there's no dedicated Sanctuary pool, one of Caribbean Princess' most delightfully out-of-the-way swimming pools is located just a few steps from the Sanctuary; it's tucked into a nook by the Lotus Spa and is typically uncrowded.
Speaking of food, look for the once-a-cruise (always on a sea day) Princess pub lunch. It's divine. It was held in the Crown Grill during our sailing and featured familiar treats like steak and kidney pie, ploughman's lunch (cheeses, fruits and bread) and fish and chips, and, for dessert, the most decadent and buttery bread pudding. There's no charge and it's popular, so plan accordingly.
MedallionClass Discovery: The cornerstone of what transforms MedallionClass cruising into something special is the MedallionNet Wi-Fi. It serves as a platform for all of the OceanMedallion innovations, it's also superfast and efficient. And for those of us who do like to keep in touch, via Instagram or streaming Netflix, it's absolutely magnificent. You'll never look at Wi-Fi at sea in the same way again. For the best deals on MedallionNet, book yours before you leave home.
Day 4: St. Thomas
St. Thomas, a cornerstone port in the Eastern Caribbean, is incredibly popular, so it was no surprise to learn that many fellow passengers were anticipating a return visit. The good news is that the island offers so many possibilities for tropical fun that there's no need to repeat a visit (or, if you have your favorite traditions there, repeating them is fun, too).
There's the call of duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie, a trip up to Paradise Point by tram to photograph cruise ships at dock and a trek over to the beautifully restored Magens Bay. Also, nearby St. John, a gorgeous mountainous island that's part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is even more easily accessible than before as Princess offers transfer-only tours that go from ship to island (without having to take a 40-minute taxi ride to the Red Hook ferry terminal).
For us, Princess' shore excursion menu offered some tough choices. Check out the new zipline park, take advantage of a late sail-away by embarking on a sunset catamaran cruise or embrace our inner pirate with a trip down the U.S. Virgin Islands' historic past? In the end, we cobbled together a day on the island visiting some of our favorite spots, starting with a quick swim and sunbath at Magens Bay. St. Thomas' best-known beach, it's located on the northeast coast of the island. We set off early and got there ahead of the crowds, which the 0.75-mile-long beach, seemed to have no trouble absorbing. Despite damage to Magens Bay during 2017's Hurricane Irma, aside from patchy bald spots of flora and fauna on the surrounding edges, it's as gorgeous as I remembered.
Another beach option, particularly if your ship docks at Crown Bay (as ours did), is a quick "ferry" ride (it's more like a motorboat) over to nearby Water Island, the fourth Virgin Island after St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. There aren't as many services on the island, but it's got a beautiful beach that tends to be a bit quieter than Magens Bay.
At lunchtime, we headed back into town. If Charlotte Amalie is best-known for shopping (and there's designer fashion and gorgeous antiques and collectibles, in addition to duty-free fare), we love its restaurants. Cafe Amici, an old favorite, is tucked away into one of the town's atmospheric alleys. The outdoor eatery is known for its pastas, pizzas and calzones; don't miss out on the triple rum punch, either. Work it all off with a trek around town -- the area around the 99 steps (there are actually 103, and yes, we counted) is historic and full of atmosphere. We're not huge shoppers but always love to visit A.H. Riise, a fourth generation-owned retail establishment. It's a little bit like a small department store filled with all sorts of interesting boutiques. We love the maps and prints at the Waterfront Trading Co., the whimsically colored tropical fashions at Fresh Produce and the excellent selection of hard-to-find Caribbean rums in its duty-free spirits shop.
Back onboard, it was nice to simply chill out on our balcony and watch the sun set over the bustling harbor. Leaving after dark, Captain Fortezze and his pilot had their work cut out for them as Caribbean Princess threaded a needle through small yachts and sailboats, most anchored, some still moving.
We didn't want to be inside on this beautiful evening in the tropics and headed up to perhaps our favorite of all of Princess' innovations: Movies Under the Stars. We tucked into a pair of cushioned chaise lounges that were within view of the stars (the soft blankets provided by wait staff were a gorgeous touch) and, via our OceanNow app, ordered burgers and chili cheese-loaded fries from the nearby Salty Dog Grill, washed down with beers. The flick? "Mission: Impossible -- Fallout." Great night.
MedallionClass Discovery: What we loved about the OceanMedallion's OceanNow feature is that you can order food and drink and, due to the technology, servers can bring it right to you, wherever you are. While you will pay for cocktails and the like, I loved that I was able to order a glass of water while watching a movie on the sun deck and requested a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie from the International Cafe to go with a delicious pinot noir at Vines. Neither order cost a cent.
Day 5: St. Kitts
Like St. Thomas and neighboring St. John, St. Kitts is a two-island destination, as neighboring Nevis is a 10-minute ferry ride away. You can tour either island via Princess Cruises shore excursions, but it's tough to do both in one day.
Fun fact: St. Kitts is one of the best islands in the Caribbean if you're interested in food and drink. Dishes have cross-cultural influences that range from European to African to Indian (with a little bit of its one-time ruler, England, thrown in). It's also a lush, volcanic island with an agricultural bent, so there's local flavor, too. On our half-day tour to the Fairview Great House, just outside of the main city of Basseterre, the highlight was a cooking demo that focused on local favorites, such as jerk pork, West Indian steamed fish, red beans and rice, and bread and butter pudding that we all got to dig into after we watched its preparation. Did I mention the delicious, copious pours of rum punch made with Brinley Gold, the local distillery?
Located just a bit up a mountainside with sea views sprawling beneath you, we only spent a few hours at Fairview but I could've stayed all day. Before lunch, we toured the historic, refurbished mansion and wandered around its botanical gardens. It wasn't until after our cooking demonstration and lunch that we discovered a wonderful pool with bar that welcomed us to stay and lounge; next time we'll bring swimsuits and cab it back to the ship.
Back onboard, we were intrigued that some passengers have created their own version of a "sea day" to take advantage of the quiet that a ship in port has. I loved how one woman staked out her own private nook on Deck 14, with St. Kitts' Mount Liamuiga, a volcano that rises almost 3,800 feet, and the Atlantic Ocean as particularly gorgeous backdrops. Or how a devoted quartet of pickleballers (this is a modified version of tennis using smaller rackets and wiffle-like balls) got in a fast-paced game on the tennis court on the ship's sports deck. At our favorite alfresco spot just aft of the World Fresh Marketplace, the ship's beautifully redesigned buffet venue, and adjoining the Outriggers Bar, we had our choice of tables with views overlooking St. Kitts' Port Zante.
And because we love the discounts on spa treatments that are often available when a ship is in port, we both booked massages at the Lotus Spa.
If one thing you love about cruising is access to entertainment and activities you don't have at home, one thing that's struck me about Caribbean Princess at this point in our voyage is how musical it is, particularly in the evenings. At any given time, you can find torch songs at Crooners, hootchy-kootchy dancing or blues at the Wheelhouse, steel drum in the Piazza and even Rat Pack (and more contemporary late-night tunes) at Skywalker's Nightclub.
MedallionClass Discovery: On Deck 7, at a spot called OceanFront (just before Club Fusion), you may notice that some pretty nifty wearable jewelry is almost always attracting a crowd. This isn't the usual duty-free boutique; instead it's a pop-up shop selling accessories created just for the OceanMedallion. We loved the silver bracelet; you pop your medallion out of the lanyard and into the hub of the bracelet. More accessories are being added, including clips, pendants, sports bands and a wide range of inserts for lanyards.
Day 6: Antigua
It's midmorning, and as we were headed off to try out Antigua's relatively new jungle zipline, passengers, who'd already wandered ashore independently, were headed back onboard Caribbean Princess. "How was your morning ashore?" I asked, and grump, grump, grump was the answer.
Antigua's port town of St. John's has all the usual tourist shopping as other islands, and it can get pretty packed when there are more than a couple of ships in town. So here's a tip: The island is at its best outside of town. Our favorite areas, after many visits, include the one-time Royal Navy headquarters of Nelson's Dockyards, now beautifully restored, along with Shirley Heights and English Harbour. Now, it's home to marinas, which during the winter house an eye-watering collection of private yachts and sailboats. Antigua is also well-known for its variety of beaches; its claim that there are 365 different spits of sand, one for every day of the year, has not been proven, but you get the point. And Antigua's relatively new zipline adventure, located in its lush rainforest, has a dozen ziplines, a trio of aerial bridges and a suspension bridge (plus, after your adventure, there's a wonderful bar that specializes in rum punch and a fun gift shop).
Eventually, we came back onboard in midafternoon figuring we'd grab a snack from the deli/salad case at the International Cafe, and we made a new discovery: Afternoon tea is a great late lunch option. In another of its venerable traditions, Princess Cruises still offers a daily afternoon tea from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in one of its restaurants. You can expand your beverage choices beyond tea, snack on crust-free sandwiches, dabble in pastries and savor absolutely scrumptious scones. With cream (whipped not clotted, but no matter, still delicious). And it's leisurely and relaxed.
Speaking of the culinary scene, one huge difference in our cruise on Caribbean Princess this time, as opposed to our first, is that there's a wider variety of dining options, particularly at dinner time. One of the best-kept secrets onboard is that Vines doesn't just offer wine; in the late afternoon and evening, it's got a sushi chef and a small menu that's just right for a light supper. We've always loved Princess Cruises main dining restaurants (two are open seating at dinner and one is set-table, set-time dining -- both were very popular on our trip) for their nifty balance of indulgent treats (lobster, steak) and comfort dishes (Alfredo's cheesy fettuccine on the "always available" menu is a standout). But there's so much more: Sabatini's, Princess' elegant Italian restaurant has a new, more contemporary decor and a fresh menu. It's designed by Los Angeles chef Angelo Auriana, whose cuisine is Northern Italian-inspired. At Sabatini's, he's making inroads with pasta, especially; it's freshly made onsite every day (we loved the mint-speckled tortellini with lamb and the pasta with prawns, clams and artichoke pesto.
Two new, more casual dining concepts are being tested in the evenings, both tucked away into nooks on the aft side of the World Fresh Marketplace (the ship's newly redesigned buffet venue, which also is a popular, low-key dining option for all meals). There's a $12 per person fee to eat at Steamers Seafood, which brings a touch of New England onto Caribbean Princess. The menu is simple: a couple of starters (Caesar salad or clam chowder), a surprisingly classic dish of mussels in broth with shrimp and andouille sausage, and an option to have clams with sausage and scallops. We added king crab legs and a grilled lobster tail for another $10; it was delicious, and though we already had more food than we could finish, we had no regrets. Not a fan of steamers? There's a Princess Platter, with broiled fish, scallops, shrimp and crab. And don't miss the Key lime pie in a jar for dessert. Reservations are suggested but not required.
Across the way is another alternative boutique eatery; Planks BBQ serves coleslaw, chili and fries in addition to four different meats. Its cover charge is also $12.
Tonight, I also discovered another aspect of Caribbean Princess' wonderful range of music options: sunset-timed concerts that play on screen on Movies Under the Stars. Temporarily forgetting all about dinner, I joined a great group of enthusiastic Carole King fans. Occasionally, if we all burst into accompanying songs for so many Carole King classics that the outdoor arena took on the air of a sing-along, well so be it.
MedallionClass Discovery: Slot machines and table games in the casino on Caribbean Princess are already outfitted with OceanMedallion readers. You can also play Ocean Casino games on portals on Deck 7, aft (just outside of Club Fusion), on the pool deck and in Churchill Lounge. In addition, the Ocean Casino app on your smart device lets you wager real money on games, including slots, poker, bingo, roulette, keno and lottery, from anywhere onboard.
Day 7: We Relive the Fun
You know how, when you've boarded your cruise ship and you're unpacking your suitcases and stowing them under the bed a week seems like forever? And then the next thing you know … you're hauling them back out again and heading home. The week flew as it always does when you're having fun.
We had sailed on the ship during her inaugural season -- 15 years ago -- and we were curious about whether Caribbean Princess had aged well. No need to worry; Princess has kept the ship up to date and not just via decoration. The line knows what it does well; it knows that favorite hallmarks, such as The Sanctuary, Movies Under the Stars, its classic Crown Grill (my favorite steakhouse at sea), the International Cafe for 24/7 dining and the Piazza for nonstop entertainment (and people-watching), give its cruises a special distinction.
There are new developments, too. Beyond dining concepts, which we've already shared, we love Princess' wellness focus. The line, convinced that a great night's sleep is a critical part of a good vacation, has developed supercomfortable mattresses and bedding, so comfortable that after a cruise on Majestic Princess a few years ago, we bought them for every bed in our house.
And in keeping with Princess Cruises position as a world traveler -- we love the line just as much for our easygoing cruises in the Caribbean as well as more destination-intensive voyages in Asia, Alaska and the Mediterranean -- the company has ramped up its storytelling about the ports we visit. It emphasizes that, sure, shopping and beaches can be fun, but recreation, culture, the culinary arts and other aspects that help us grow through travel are key, too. One delightful discovery on this voyage came through our in-cabin television: I adored watching Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin, which takes you beneath the surface in ports of call; you can watch it on ABC Saturday morning or catch it via the line's OceanView app, too.
As curious as we were to experience Princess Cruises MedallionClass, the line's newest and quite likely most forward-thinking innovation, I wondered if thinking about technology would be distracting on vacation. In fact, what was magical about what the OceanMedallion can do to enhance your vacation actually felt nothing at all like technology. I loved accessorizing it (and full confession: My medallion, which I wore in a bracelet, was so comfortable and unobtrusive I forgot to take it off after departing). The MedallionClass experience did create efficiencies that contributed to a more relaxing cruise; I loved being able to find my friends around the ship, having the butler-like service of your door unlocking as you approached it and ordering food and drink from all over the ship. There was no need to fumble with de-magnetized keycards or carry around a Princess Patter so you didn't miss out on special activities and events.
Ultimately, what I learned by the end of our voyage was that the MedallionClass transformation on Princess Cruises can certainly enhance your cruise, but what will make it memorable is the same quality that always has counted the most. It's about a great crew. Up on the sun deck watching Carole King's "Tapestry" performance, I was just about to order a glass of wine via OceanMedallion when a crew member was already there to take my order. If our cabin steward spotted me making my way to our cabin with arms full from a day in port, he simply went to the door, unlocked it and held it open for me. At the Crown Grill, the maitre d' remembered that we'd loved a particular table on an earlier visit and made sure we sat there a second time. And I loved the way crew members smiled and said hello each time we passed in a hallway.
Small touches, to be sure, but touches that make cruising a particularly special way to travel.
And in the end, what was so delightful about the MedallionClass experience was the many elements that really made our large ship, with all the options we’ve come to enjoy, the restaurants, entertainment venues, variety of pools, and a big spa, feel as cozy, intimate and personal as many smaller ships on which we've cruised. It was the best of all cruise worlds.
Carolyn Spencer Brown, Cruise Critic’s Chief Content Strategist, is an award-winning editor and writer who’s been covering the cruise industry for 22 years. Prior to joining Cruise Critic, she was a staff writer for The Washington Post, and has been a cruise contributor to Conde Nast Traveler, Town and Country Magazine, and The Times of London.
Curious to learn more about MedallionClass cruising on Princess Cruises? Check out Cruise Critic's latest feature and video releases: :
Interested in experiencing MedallionClass cruising on Princess? Currently, Caribbean Princess, Royal Princess, Crown Princess and Regal Princess are offering OceanMedallion. Sky Princess, the line’s newest vessel, was MedallionClass equipped upon its debut in October 2019. In 2020, additions will include Ruby Princess (January 27), Grand Princess (March 29), Enchanted Princess (June 15), Emerald Princess (August 16), Coral Princess (October 16) and Island Princess (December 20).