Caribbean Princess of Princess Cruise Lines is newly refurbished in 2019 and ready to introduce MedallionClass service for families. With the Ocean Medallion, families are able to have a more personalized and relaxed experience on board. Children will love the Reef Family Splash zone, Kids Club and Discovery-At-Sea programming on board. Adults will love the four specialty restaurants, Lotus Spa and adults-only Sanctuary. For families who want to stay connected to home, Caribbean Princess offers high-speed wifi that rivals most locations on land.
Caribbean Princess Review: What Works Well for Families
My family has sailed on Disney Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean, so when we had the opportunity to complete a Caribbean Princess review of the newly refurnished ship, I was thrilled. My joy was based on a few things. First, I was excited to see the new OceanMedallion technology in action. I first learned about it more than two years at the Consumer Electronics Show and had been eagerly following along with its launch.
Secondly, Princess has boasted about their new MedallionNet Wi-Fi as the best at sea. Finally, Princess is known as the best cruise line in several categories of cruising, from “Best Cruise Ship for Families” to “Best Shore Excursions.” I was interested in seeing if all the praise was deserved.
OceanMedallion & MedallionClass on Princess Cruises
Caribbean Princess is one of the first ships to be outfitted with the MedallionClass service, featuring the OceanMedallion. OceanMedallion replaces the cruise cards that traditionally managed your experience with a simple wearable device and a few apps. It’s a game changer for the cruising families and made a big difference in how my family enjoyed the ship.
Using the OceanMedallion and OceanReady App, I was able to enter all of our pre-boarding information from pictures of our travel documents, our security pictures and even payment cards. OceanMedallions are then shipped to your home in advance. At the port, you simply take out your OceanMedallions and are ready to walk on the ship within 10 minutes.
OceanMedallion worked as promised and gave my family a personalized vacation. Walking up to our cabin, OceanMedallion would recognize us and unlock the door as we approached. My son celebrated a birthday while on board and the OceanMedallion even recognized his special day.
The OceanNow app allowed us to order room service, food, drinks and even services (like hangers) on-demand from anywhere on board. As a mom, my absolute favorite feature is finding your ShipMates. Being able to log on to my phone or use one of the shipboard displays to know exactly where my family was saved time and stress. I could just look up my son and see if he’d finished lunch and went back to the cabin or had detoured to the pool instead.
Along with the MedallionClass of service, Princess has rolled out their MedallionNet Wi-Fi with the Best WiFi at Sea. Not only is it the best at sea; Princess has boasted that it’s “as good or even better than typical land-based hotel Wi-Fi.”
My verdict is that Princess lives up to every boast. The Wi-Fi on the Caribbean Princess was seamless. At sea and in port, the Wi-Fi was strong for all four of my registered devices. I was able to FaceTime my parents, participate in FaceBook messenger conversations, check email on my computer and even participate in a web conference while at sea. If you have someone who can’t ever be away from their devices, then they need to take a Princess Cruise.
All About the Food aka Why You Will Gain Weight on a Princess Cruise
In a word, the food on the Caribbean Princess was AMAZING. Food & Wine Magazine awarded Princess “Best Cruise for Food Lovers” and they totally live up to this standard. In addition to the cruise traditional dining experience, Princess also offers Anytime Dining. Anytime Dining is open between 5:30 – 10:00 each night and you walk in with your seating request. The nice thing is that you have the traditional dining options with the flexibility of choosing when to have dinner and who you sit with. One night your family of four might sit at a table for eight. Another night you can choose to have a table for two.
Caribbean Princess also has four specialty restaurants that are open for dinner. Two, Crown Grill and Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, are more upscale and have a cover charge of $25-29 per adult and $12.50 – $14.50 per child 3- 12. The other two, Steamers and Planks BBQ, are more casual. They have a flat rate of $12 per person for all ages. Even with the additional charges, all four were places that I’d happily go back to. Families were welcomed at all and they would even serve the kids menu if your children requested it.
Meat lovers will enjoy Crown Grill, the traditional steakhouse, and Planks BBQ, where you have your choice of four “planks” of meat. Steamers is a casual seafood restaurant with your choice of steamed baskets. Our favorite was Sabatini’s with its fresh made pasta and dessert trios. We went back more than once just to experience everything on the menu.
For casual food to go, you have more than a few options. You can grab pizza from Slice or hot dogs, burgers, street tacos and fries from The Salty Dog Grill. After either of these you can have ice cream for dessert from Coffee and Cones.
If these aren’t enough options, consider the causal buffet in the World Fresh Market, room service in your cabin or even afternoon tea in the dining room. I can honestly say there was nothing on the Caribbean Princess that I wouldn’t love to eat again.
TravelingMom Tip: If you have a super picky eater or someone who needs a late night snack and doesn’t want room service, Princess has cereal carts available in the World Fresh Market 24 hours a day. The carts have a variety of cereals and milks ready at all times.
Lotus Spa, Lotus Fitness Studio & The Sanctuary
No luxury cruise experience would be complete without at least a little pampering. On the Caribbean Princess, there are a few options. You can choose the traditional route of the Lotus Spa. My husband and I were both lucky enough to experience two treatments. My first was a Fire & Ice manicure. After a week of activity and swimming, my nails still looked fabulous. My second treatment was a Thai massage. Princess lived up to all the expectations of “Best Spa at Sea” in my experiences.
The Lotus Spa also offers a true relaxation space in the Enclave at The Lotus Spa. The Enclave offers heated stone beds, herbal sauna & steam rooms and sensory showers. Even if you choose not to participate in a spa treatment, you can book time in the Enclave.
The Sanctuary is an adults-only relaxation area located on the bow of the ship. What makes the Sanctuary unique from other adult only areas is its focus on relaxation. It’s staffed with spa attendants who bring out light food and drinks, and furnished with upgraded cabanas and plush seating areas. My favorite part is the glass-enclosed deck area. Even on windy sea days, the Sanctuary offers fabulous views of the ocean.
If you’re more inclined to find a good workout relaxing, Caribbean Princess also offers a full gym with free weights, machines and variety of classes over the course of a voyage.
Hanging out in The Treehouse & The Lodge with Discovery & Princess Cruise Line Kids Clubs
Princess offers three kids clubs. The Treehouse is for ages 3 – 7, the Lodge is ages 8 – 12 and the Beach House is ages 13 – 17. Each club has their own personality and featured activities but they all tend to focus on the same theme for the week. Through a partnership with Discovery Communications, Princess brings the same opportunities for adventure and exploration on board. What makes this partnership unique is that kids can participate in Animal Planet or Mythbusters themed challenges through Discovery at Sea.
Our voyage was celebrating Shark Week, so during one sea day the entire Pizazza was transformed into a Shark Week adventure. It was a Shark Week takeover with fun learning stations as well as just some games and of course, a Baby Shark Dance party. Kids who were enrolled in Kids Club were taken along to participate. Another night we participated in a guided Discover at Sea stargazing experience narrated by an astrophysicist, Hakeem Oluseyi.
My son’s favorite moment of the week came when he participated in the Jr Chef at Sea Program. The kids are taken into one of the actually galley’s and watch a demonstration as the executive pastry chef decorates a cake. Each kid then gets a station with all the supplies that they need to do their own. The chef comes along and assists as needed but each kid completes it. After decorating, each child receives a picture with the chef and a certificate of participation. The cakes are later delivered to either your stateroom or dining room table to share with the family.
TravelingMom Tip: Take advantage of special moments like Breakfast with Stanley, the Princess mascot. Stanley hosts a special breakfast during one of the sea days where he celebrates birthdays, takes pictures and just enjoys the kids on-board. There is an additional fee for the breakfast but I thought it was worth it.
The New Reef Family Splash Zone
Along with Kids’ Clubs, another one of our favorite places to hang out is newly introduced Reef Family Splash Zone. The Reef Splash Zone is located at the back of the ship and is a great place for everyone in the family to hang out. One side of the Reef is a Whale Splashpad. The splashpad offers water cannons and a shallow pool for younger children.
On the other side of the Reef is a more tween and teen friendly space and the home to oversized games and plenty of casual seating areas. In the middle of this space are two hot tubs, a small pool and a bar serving cocktails and mocktails for everyone. What makes this space tween friendly are the Instagram-ready murals on either side. But the showstopper for this area is really the view from the back of the boat. Even guests without children will want to spend time on the sundeck because of the view.
TravelingMom Tip: Don’t forget to try some of the fun mocktails with your kids. Princess has a full menu of fun decorated drinks like a Princess Tea Party for even the youngest cruisers.
Balcony Stateroom on the Caribbean Princess
The only thing that I couldn’t love about our time on the Caribbean Princess was the stateroom. Because we loved hanging out on the ship, we rarely spent time in the room. Still, we loved the balcony view and the location near the midship. I loved how the room was divided with a private dressing area near the bathroom. We all especially loved our room steward.
Overall, it worked for our family of four now (kids 7 and 11). As my children get older and taller, I can see the space being more than a bit cramped. The layout for our room was a queen size bed with a rollaway bed and bunkbed that was lowered from the ceiling for bed each evening. I slept under the bunkbed and didn’t hit my head waking up; however, I could see it happening. Potentially the rollaway bed could have moved out each day, but when we did come back from the pool or an excursion tired, I doubt we’d have wanted to
One thing that Princess has done very well is creating plenty of storage space in the closet area. Along with the space under the bed for storing luggage and shelves in the bathroom, Princess has done a pretty good job of making sure that you don’t have to feel like you’re overwhelmed with stuff.
TravelingMom Tip: A tip I picked up from another cruiser was bringing fewer clothes and doing laundry onboard. This cruiser actually bought a travel size package of laundry detergent and does a load of clothes early in the day on port days. She says that she can pack for a full 8 day voyage in a carry-on using this method.
Excursions and Ports of Call
Our Caribbean Princess cruise sailed out of Fort Lauderdale on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary visiting Princess Cays, St. Thomas US Virgin Islands and St. Maarten. The Caribbean Princess also sails from Fort Lauderdale with both Western Caribbean and Panama Canal with Costa Rica itineraries. During the fall, it also re-positions to New York and completes a Classic Canada and New England tour.
Our family found excursions that fit both our thrill-seeker son (extreme ziplining) and our more reserved (a tour of a pirate museum) at each port. Because there are so many multi-generational family travelers, there are tours accessible for all members of the family to enjoy. The excursions that are more challenging or have age limitations are clearly marked.
As part of the Discovery at Sea partnership, several different excursions are Discovery Recommended, Discovery Exclusive or Animal Planet Recommended. All of these excursions are both educational and entertaining and give guests a memorable experience grounded in science.
A Final Princess Cruise Review: Does it Work for Families?
So did I think all the Caribbean Princess reviews were accurate and fully deserved? Yes. In fact, my family enjoyed it so much that we took advantage of the onboard booking cruise deals and put down a deposit for our next one. The only thing we might do differently is upgrade to a mini-suite or Club Class stateroom for more space. We’re most certainly looking forward to another Caribbean cruise and spending time on another of the Princess ships.