Despite its smallish size, you'll find plenty of activities onboard Ocean Princess, including dancing classes, art auctions, cooking demonstrations, shopping seminars and onboard films. Though there's technically no Movies Under the Stars (the huge LED monitor found on newer ships like Crown Princess), movies are shown indoors and on a projection screen on the pool deck. On sea days, ScholarShip@Sea courses are offered, mainly in photography and computer technology; some lectures are free and others levy a charge, from $10 depending on course.
Princess' signature Ceramics@Sea program is also offered on sea days; a section of the lido deck is set up with a cart of paints and ceramics ranging from coffee mugs to picture frames. Passengers can come by at scheduled times (check your Patter), purchase a piece (prices fall in the high teens and low twenties) and paint away. Items are fired in a kiln onboard and delivered to your cabin before the cruise ends. Third time's a charm: While I've hidden my "art" -- and I use the term loosely -- from my trips on Sapphire and Regal Princess, my teal and yellow lidded box is proudly displayed on my dresser.
At night, entertainment is concentrated in three areas of the ship. The Cabaret Lounge is Ocean's main show venue; on our sailing production shows ran twice -- before first seating and then again before second seating -- and there was always pre-show dancing. Tip: Because this is more of a lounge than a traditional shipboard theater (there's no elevated seating or raised stage), you'll want to arrive early and get seats up front for a view of the performers rather than your fellow cruisers' heads.
Generally, expect Princess' usual combination of comedians, magicians and Broadway showtune medleys. Live piano music can be enjoyed every night in the Casino Bar, a cozy spot with antique-style furniture and a (faux) fireplace. The adjacent casino offers table games and slot machines.
Finally, the Tahitian Lounge is the top-of-the-ship observation lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows; though the late-night disco was never packed (we imagine that most of the older passengers and even the honeymooners turned in early), the tunes bumped into the wee hours for the few partiers. This was also the venue for game shows like Love and Marriage, which never fails to generate laughs. One rather feisty couple -- I blush to share their stories here but I will say they won -- got a lot of high fives the next day in the elevator and on tenders ashore.
Because of the intimate size of the ship, activities tend to blend together. If you sit at the bar outside the casino, you can hear the piano player, the clanging slots and the chatter of folks buying their formal portraits from the hallway studio. While painting ceramics on the lido deck, you can also watch pool volleyball or the sexy legs competition ... and you'll definitely want to look out for stray Ping-Pong balls! It's not necessarily a bad thing; I only participated in the activities that interested me most because let's face it, you can't do everything -- but I enjoyed feeling as if I got to sample more than I had.
Passengers enter the ship via the very homey lobby on Deck 4, where you'll find the purser and shore excursions desks. Just atop the main staircase are the Atrium Boutiques -- a shop selling perfume, souvenirs, duty-free liquor and various sundries (we kept them in business with our purchases of things we forgot to pack including Band-Aids and tweezers), and a fine jewelry store. Also on Deck 5, which is the main thoroughfare between the Club Restaurant and the Cabaret Lounge, is the Photo Gallery.
On Deck 9 there's an Internet cafe with eight computer stations; the cost to connect is 50 cents per minute, though your first minute is free so that you can test the waters, so to speak, of connection speed. Not fast enough? Come back later. There's also a wireless signal at the same rate in the lobby area (no in-cabin access is available). The Card Room next door with green felt covered tables is the space for hosted and casual games of bridge.
The ship has one laundry room for passenger use.
There's just one pool flanked by two whirlpools (and a busy pool bar), but deck chairs were nearly always readily available. There's live entertainment at certain times of the day.
Editor's note: The hard deck surface gets scorching hot beneath the daytime sun, and there's even a sign posted to warn passengers of this fact; walk barefoot at your own risk!
Princess' signature Lotus Spa is located on Deck 9. Aside from a Zone Diet seminar, there was nothing on offer that struck us as brand-new or inventive. Here, expect to find facials, massages, teeth whitening and body wraps; there are specials on port days. The adjacent salon offers haircuts, coloring and styling, manicures and pedicures in portable footbaths (no fancy remote-controlled chairs here).
The Lotus Spa has just five basic treatment rooms, though the one located off the salon has a gorgeous view through a floor-to-ceiling window. The staff is small, so it's common to have the same therapist for multiple treatments, and all were very friendly and helpful. I was not pressured into making a Steiner purchase (though items were recommended), nor was I rushed at any point to make room for the next guest. After my reflexology treatment, my therapist patiently answered my questions about the parts of the feet that correspond to different areas of my body -- and where she worked out the most tension. Because of the personal attention the experience felt closer to that of a small town spa than most facilities at sea.
One nice modern touch is a partially covered private spa deck, forward, with teak padded loungers and a therapy pool. Only passengers who've paid for this special privilege have access; you can purchase day passes for $15, or book the entire cruise for $100, and come and go as you please throughout that time period. Anyone who is receiving a treatment, however, can utilize the adjacent steam and shower room. If extreme privacy is what you crave, it's worth it; we never saw more than one or two people lounging here.
The Fitness Center connected to the Lotus Spa is also small by today's standards, but sufficient for the number of passengers onboard, well equipped with weights, treadmills, elliptical machines and an open area for exercise classes; some are free and others (like Pilates and yoga) levy a $10 charge. For al fresco fun, there's a jogging track (13 times around equals one nautical mile), a golf cage, a well-frequented Ping-Pong table and shuffleboard courts.
There are no dedicated children's facilities onboard Ocean Princess. If there are 20 or more kids on a given sailing, a special counselor will be assigned to run youth programs (this happens most often during the holiday season: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's). This was not the case on our cruise, though the few kids we did see onboard were well behaved, enjoying the pool by day and shuffleboard by night. If your kids are content to play board games after a busy day in port, this ship may work; however, we wouldn't recommend this ship for families accustomed to the extensive facilities onboard today's mega ships.