I recently came back from my first Princess Cruise, and I have to say that Princess totally won me over and has become “my” favorite cruise line. I’ve been fortunate enough to have sailed 26 times on different cruise lines, and while Disney Cruise Line will always hold a special place in my heart, (I’ve sailed with them 19 times) I think Princess was just a step above for the way that “I” like to vacation. Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t still LOVE Disney & Norwegian Cruise Lines…I absolutely do, and I will certainly sail on them in the future (look for blog posts in the near future for reasons that I love them!). The Norwegian Bliss still holds the honor as being the most beautiful ship I’ve ever been on, and The Disney Magic is still, well, magical. There is nothing like walking on a Disney ship during embarkation and being announced by a crew member while people clap to your arrival. I also cannot wait for my first cruise experiences with Celebrity, Holland America and Hurtigruten.
I had “finished” my training as a Travel Agent with Princess Cruises about two years ago. I put the word finished in quotation marks. Because, as a travel agent, I’m never really through with training…there are new ships, new destinations, new programs (I CANNOT wait until I sail an Ocean Medallion cruise–I’ll be writing about that soon), drydocks, etc. There is always something to learn, and I actually set aside about 3/4 of a day each Wednesday just to keep my training up to date. I knew Princess before I set foot on one of their ships. I knew their programs, what their rooms looked like, how the ships were laid out and where they sailed. But no matter how much training you do, setting foot on a ship and actually experiencing it is no match to ALL the research that is available.
Here are a few of the reasons why I fell in love with Princess. Some are just facts about Princess Cruises and how they operate, and others are from my personal experiences while onboard the lovely Island Princess. (I sailed a 15 night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco through the Panama Canal on Nov. 20, 2018.)
- The Vibe of the ship. I truly enjoyed the “vibe” of the ship. There wasn’t a “huge” party going on all of the time, but there was PLENTY of entertainment in the guest areas. There were concerts on the outdoor movie screen each evening–everyone from Annie Lennox to Billy Joel & Michael Buble. I especially enjoyed Sting live in concert. There was so much entertainment everywhere, but none of it was “in your face” and unavoidable as other ships can be. I loved the shows each evening in the theatre. There was some incredible talent on that stage! Guests were polite, I even had the elevator held for me several times. (I don’t believe that’s ever happened to me on a cruise before!). I liked the fact that they held formal nights, and that some people truly dressed (please don’t think you’ll feel out of place if you don’t have a tuxedo or an evening gown–you absolutely won’t!) Formal Nights were a great time for people watching, and on the first Formal Night, Princess did a Champagne Waterfall…I had seen those on television and in the movies, but never in person! I liked that there were a lot of places to relax in quiet.
- The food. I loved every meal I had on board. I hate going to buffets. I actually enjoyed the food AND the atmosphere at the buffet on the Princess ship. It was never hurried, and the food quality was as good as the main dining rooms! There was always an empty table available. I had some of the best meals at sea I’ve ever had on the Island Princess. (OK, I’m going to have to say that I LOVE the chicken tenders on the Disney ships, and the best steak I’ve ever experienced was on Norwegian Cruise Line, but overall, I liked the food on Princess better). You cannot miss Chef Curtis Stone’s creations, or Chocolate Journeys by Norman Love. Trust me on that. Or, the oatmeal raisin cookies in the buffet. (the lemon cookies & chocolate chunk cookies are a VERY close second!)
- The crew. The crew was fantastic. Incredible service, friendly, efficient. Our stateroom host has been with Princess for 23 years. One of the pastry chefs was getting ready to retire after 42 years (pictured below in a cooking demonstration). Princess has sailed a long time (this year is their 50th year cruising in the state of Alaska), seems like they tend to keep their employees. I spoke with a lot of crew that had over 25 years in service with Princess. Princess must treat them right, and they definitely treat their guests right!
- The itineraries. Princess Cruises sails to over 380 destinations with itineraries that visit all 7 continents. You’ll never be bored with the same old “Eastern or Western” Caribbean here. Want to sail around the continent of Australia? Princess does. How about Japan? Yes, Princess goes there too. Alaska, Northern Europe, Caribbean, Asia, The Mediterranean, New England, South America (AND Antarctica)…the list just goes on. And on. Pictured below are two volcanoes & Lake Nicaragua. I went to Nicaragua on Princess! <shock!!> And, I LOVED that country. Amazingly, they don’t presently sail to Cuba.
- Discovery at Sea. On a Princess cruise, captivating Discovery™ hit series come alive as unforgettable experiences. You can explore coral reefs teeming with life on a snorkeling adventure in the Caribbean, let centuries-old ceremonies at Edinburgh Castle in Europe transport you through time; or experience life aboard Alaska’s Deadliest Catch crab boats. Every cruise offers immersive activities the whole family can share: from Discovery and Animal Planet shore excursions, to onboard activities featuring favorites like MythBusters and Shark Week to guided Stargazing on deck. With Princess, you don’t just see the world, you get to Discover its wonders. Have you ever watched Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet? Pete Nelson and his crew built a one-of-a-kind treehouse at Princess Cruises’ Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge. The build was highlighted on the finale episode in Denali State Park, Alaska. The treehouse, now open to visitors, is constructed for mountain high relaxation with spectacular views of Denali. Experience it only on a cruisetour with Princess Cruises.
- Bringing the Destinations on Board. Princess Cruises “brings” the destinations onboard during your cruise with “Festivals of the World. Experience grand traditions and colorful cultures with Princess Cruises’ Festivals of the World celebrations and cruise ship activities! Depending on where you sail, you might experience: Rio’s Carnival, Carnaval de Panama, Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras, Klondike Festival, Mexican Fiesta, Carnevale De Venezia, King Kamehameha Festival, Marariki Festival, Midsommarfest, or a celtic Festival. Princess does this in a variety of ways…with live performances, music and dance lessons, local foods and more that will give you a deeper connection to the places you visit. Depending on your itinerary, cruise activity options may include: Meeting Alaskan lumberjacks, hula dancing and ukulele lessons in Hawaii, steel drum lessons in the Caribbean, Brazilian samba dancers in South America.
- The gift shops. I usually try to stay out of gift shops on ships. I don’t purchase alcohol to have to carry home. I don’t wear jewelry, so no need to look. I don’t need another watch. I can buy rum cakes locally (I live in South Florida). I usually pack everything I need, so there is usually no need of sundries. But, even though Princess had all of the above, they also had branded Princess merchandise that featured the destinations that we visited on this particular itinerary. I asked the manager of the retail shops, and she said that every Princess cruise & every ship has similar destination T-shirts. The price of these shirts? $12.99…OR two for $20.00. I got a T-shirt from every destination we visited, right on the ship. AND, I used my onboard credit that I got at the time of booking to pay for the shirts.
- Nickel & Diming. I didn’t feel like that Princess was out to get every last nickel that I had brought with me while on the ship. If I wanted to order a drink, pricing was very similar to a local bar (think more like $8 instead of around $12). There was, of course, plenty of opportunities to purchase items, or to make your cruise even better, but it certainly didn’t feel as if you had to spend the extra money or you wouldn’t have gotten a great vacation. Also, for the people that want pictures: We bought a package that included ALL of our pictures (printed & digital) for $249.00. We came home with over 160 8X10 photographs & a thumb drive (shaped like a cruise ship) with digital copies of each one. My mom was certainly happy about all of the professional photographs we came home with! Also, with their “Movies at Sea” each evening, complimentary freshly-popped popcorn is readily available.
- Chocolate Journeys. Norman Love’s chocolate dessert selections on the menu were so good, they warranted an entire blog entry about them. If you see a “Chocolate Journey” selection on the menu, get it. You won’t be disappointed. (of course, the pre-requisite of that is that you have to actually like chocolate!). Here is a link to my earlier entry, so that you can read what I thought about Chocolate Journeys! https://kennethisclearedfortakeoff.com/2018/12/15/chocolate-journeys/
- The Cookies. I had toured the Caribbean Princess cruise ship about 10 days before my Island Princess cruise, and I discovered their Oatmeal Raisin cookies then. I LOVED them. I honestly thought they were some of the best that I’ve ever had. At the buffet, (and at other locations) they almost always had Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chunk (I shared that recipe in the Chocolate Journeys blog post) and Lemon cookies. They also had Peanut Butter cookies, but kept them separate from the other desserts, mindful of peanut allergies. All you had to do is ask for a Peanut Butter cookie and they would get it for you. The Oatmeal Raisin cookies were so good, I never even tried the Chocolate Chip cookies. The other cookies were amazing. The Lemon cookies were super-awesome with hot tea. But, those Oatmeal Raisin….
- Princess EZ Air. Usually when purchasing air to go with your cruise direct from the cruise line, it’s more expensive AND you are at the cruise line’s mercy with scheduling. They will get you to the ship on time, but you may not find out your schedule until it’s too late to change. You may have 1, 2 or more stops before your destination. I like to KNOW what my flight details are at the time of purchase, and know which airline I’ll be flying (there are some I’ll never fly again unless I absolutely have to) and know that I’m getting it at the cheapest price available. With Princess EZ Air, you can choose your own flights out of a long list (depending of course on time & airports!) of choices that will get you there before your ship departs. Also, you can fly in a few days early or stay a few days later before/after your cruise without having to purchase your hotel with Princess. And, the price was nice. I paid $139.00 to fly from San Francisco to Orlando after my cruise, on a non-stop flight on United Airlines. I chose the time, the flight number, schedule & airline from a long list of choices. Also, I didn’t have to pay for the flight until final payment was due on the cruise. I will be checking air with Princess every time I need air–but, I will also check direct with airlines as well…just to make sure!
- Captain’s Circle. Captain’s Circle is Princess Cruises’ loyalty program for past passengers. Passengers qualify for the levels based on the number of cruises sailed, or either days cruised (whichever is higher). I’ll be writing a future entry about this, as there is a lot of information about the Captain’s Circle. Needless to say, I liked this, since it made this list. More info to follow in the coming weeks! Pictured below is me with the cruise director and one of his staff doing the photo-bomb. I was at one of the Captain’s Cocktail parties for members of the Captain’s Circle.
- Afternoon Tea. Practically every afternoon at 3:00 Princess hosted a complimentary tea in one of the main dining rooms. White-gloved servers came around with hot tea, sandwiches, cookies & desserts. The scones with raspberry jam & cream are not to be missed.
- The Love Boat. I first heard about cruising while I was a kid, watching The Love Boat every Saturday night. It may have been one of the things that instilled in me my love for travel. I like the fact that Princess Cruises honors their past with a few touches here and there. None of them are too “in your face”, but I did enjoy the Love Boat “Easter Eggs” that were placed here and there. (Your Embarkation photo is a big Easter Egg–see mine at the top!). Also, there always seemed to be an episode of The Love Boat airing on one of the channels on the television in the stateroom. And, I LOVED the safety spiel that was playing in the room on Embarkation day. I wish I had recorded the entire video!
A bit of history of The Love Boat, taken from the Princess Cruises’ website: “It all began in the mid-70s when television producer Douglas S. Cramer, who had created the popular television series Love American Style, decided to transplant his popular comedy vignette series from its studio setting to the environs of a modern cruise ship. The resulting television show, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1997, has been widely credited with introducing millions of viewers to the concept of a contemporary cruise vacation, and the dramatic expansion of the industry to its current size. So popular was the show, in fact, that it was revived in 1998 as Love Boat: The Next Wave with a new cast and characters.Originally, in searching out a location for the movie pilot of what was to become his Love Boat television series, Cramer found the ideal setting on a Princess Cruises ship. After the 1977 pilot show, which was shot aboard the line’s original Sun Princess in Mexico, Cramer teamed up with top television producer Aaron Spelling and The Love Boat went on to enjoy phenomenal success, continuing for 10 seasons until 1987 as one of the highest-rated prime-time television shows in the country. Princess soon became a household name as the star of the popular series, and continues to be known as the “Love Boat” line today. With Pacific Princess and Island Princess the original floating stars of the show, The Love Boat was filmed aboard many of Princess’ ships in destinations around the globe. Occasional Love Boat television specials have been filmed since the show stopped production, and “Captain Stubing” (actor Gavin MacLeod) serves as the company spokesman. In 1997, all six original Love Boat cast members — Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing), Fred Grandy (Gopher), Ted Lange (Isaac), Bernie Kopell (Doc), Lauren Tewes (Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki) — reunited for the first time in more than a decade to christen Dawn Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In 1998 the Love Boat popularity was revived with a new version of the show introduced by Spelling Television. Love Boat: The Next Wave, which ran for two seasons on the UPN network, was also set aboard a Princess ship, the line’s new Sun Princess. A new cast of characters served as the Sun Princess staff — including Robert Urich as Captain Jim Kennedy — and following the original show’s format, a series of guest stars joined the cast each week as guests. The original Love Boat series is currently in worldwide syndication, having been translated into more than 29 different languages, and is viewed by millions of fans in more than 93 countries.”
So, there are just a few of the reasons that I love Princess Cruises. I’ll be doing entries in the future as to why I love Disney Cruises (again, I have taken 19 Disney cruises!) and why I love Norwegian Cruise Line (hint: Freestyle!!).
I guess you are wondering if there was anything that I didn’t like on my Island Princess cruise. Yes. I didn’t like their soft-serve ice cream. At all. One cone was more than enough for me. (their hand-scooped ice cream, on the other hand, was fantastic!) Their “Guest Favorite” Potato Soup was NOT a favorite of mine. (Hint: Skip the potato soup! There are plenty of MUCH better choices, lol!) I also didn’t like that we didn’t get any towel animals in our stateroom. Was this just our room host? I’m not sure. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t miss the animals until about the 6th or the 7th day of the cruise…but I did (eventually!) miss them.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this entry and will “Come Back New” one day with Princess. Oh yeah…please remember that I am a travel agent…call me to book your next Princess Cruise (or any other cruise)!