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PRINCESS CRUISES
CARIBBEAN
PRINCESS
An Introduction to
Caribbean Princess

By

Richard H. Wagner
(an earlier version of this article was published by Inside Cruise).
Caribbean Princess towers over the pier like a
large white building.  At 112,894 gross tons, she is
a large ship capable of accommodating more than
3,000 passengers.  Entering service in 2004,
Caribbean Princess is similar to P&O Cruises’
Ventura, and is one of Princess Cruises’ popular
Grand-class mega-cruise ships.

While Caribbean Princess offers an American
style cruising experience, it is not like an
American theme park.  There is no neon or
whimsical, pop-art style sculptures in the public
areas.  Rather, the public rooms are done in a
contemporary-style with light wood paneling and
marble dominating.  Indeed, some public areas
such as The Wheelhouse Bar are even more
restrained and resemble a gentleman’s club with
dark paneling, over-stuffed leather chairs and
nautical paintings depicting early P&O ships.
(P&O was Princess Cruises’ parent company until
2003.  Both companies are now part of Carnival
Corporation).

The lifestyle is more casual than on the line’s
traditional British affiliates, Cunard and P&O.  
Yet somewhat more formal than American
competitor Royal Caribbean.  Typically, there are
only two formal nights on a nine-night cruise and
for these most men wear a jacket and tie rather
than a dinner suit.  The remainder of the time, the
attire is a loose version of business casual.  People
are on the ship to relax.

Caribbean Princess offers both traditional dining
and a more flexible dining program known as
“Anytime Dining”.   One of the three nearly
identical dining rooms is devoted to traditional
dining where each guest has a reserved table and
is assigned to one of the two seatings.  Guests on
Anytime Dining can use either of the other two
dining rooms and can arrive for dinner when they
wish.  However, just as with restaurants ashore,
guests may have to wait a short time for a table at
popular hours.

There are several alternative dining venues on
Caribbean Princess.  The line has a long Italian
connection extending back to its early days when
its fleet consisted of chartered Italian ships.  
Today, this connection is most evident in the line’s
extra-tariff specialty restaurant Sabatini’s, named
after the 200 year-old establishment in Florence.  
Here, dinners are presented with a sampling menu
of Italian dishes prior to the main course and
desert.  The room has murals of the Italian country
side and fragrant aromas drift out from the open
kitchen.

The other specialty restaurant is the Crown Grill,
which replaced an earlier beef-centric alternative,
the Sterling Steakhouse.  While the Sterling
recalled the establishments frequented by the
cattle barons of the American West, the Crown
Grill has more of the atmosphere of a
sophisticated New York steakhouse.  In addition
to premium beef dishes cooked individually as
ordered, the Crown offers lobster, salmon and
other seafood dishes.

As seen by the rise of celebrity chefs such as
Gordon Ramsay and all of the television programs
devoted to cooking, people have become
interested both in who is preparing dinner and how
it is done.  In line with this, Caribbean Princess
offers “The Chef’s Table.”  Once or twice during
a cruise, small groups of ten guests are taken
behind the scenes into the ship’s main galley for a
tour conducted by the ship’s executive chef and
the maitre d’ hotel.   There, they see not only how
the food is prepared but also what happens
between the time a guest places an order and
when the meal reaches the table.  Both the chef
and the maitre d’ give insights into the process and
dishes.

But, this is not just a tour.  In a relatively quiet
corner of the galley, the guests are welcomed by
glasses of French champagne.  The chef then
brings a series of specially-prepared appetizers
including fois gras terrine, tuna carpaccio and
caviar on strips of potato.  Following this, the
guests adjourn to the adjacent dining room for a
multi-course gourmet meal paired with wine.  
Periodically, the chef and the maitre d’ comment
on the dishes.  At the end of the evening, each
guest receive a beautifully bound book of recipes
used on the Princess ships.

There are always several entertainment options to
choose from in the evening.  Instead of having one
great theater designed to house all of the guests,
Caribbean Princess has a large theater plus two
large lounges, each of which has a different type
of entertainment.  There are also smaller bars and
nightclubs.  “The philosophy on Princess has
always been that we keep the space quite intimate
and we use the space to create more options, more
variety, and more choice,” explains Peter van der
Schee of Princess UK.  Since different people
have different tastes and interests, the guests
spread out throughout the ship, which makes the
ship feel less crowded.

One popular feature is the 28 square meter screen
mounted on the open deck.  On a tropical evening,
guests can lie on deck chairs by the pool or sit in
one of the hot tubs and enjoy a recent movie or
sporting event.  Unobtrusive deck stewards come
by with popcorn and blankets.
      
As the name suggests, Caribbean Princess sails
mainly in the Caribbean.  In 2008, however, she
took over the itineraries that were previously done
by her sister ship, Crown Princess.  Accordingly,
Caribbean Princess spends the Spring and Summer
months based in New York sailing to the Eastern
Caribbean, Bermuda and Canada/New England.  
In the winter, she is based in San Juan, Puerto
Rico and cruises various Caribbean itineraries.
While Caribbean Princess has its own UK
following, her new itineraries are expected to
bring her even more UK guests.  When Crown
Princess was sailing from San Juan, she would
typically have 500 UK guests per voyage who flew
in to take a pair of back-to-back cruises making
for a two-week holiday.

James Deering, Passenger Services Director on
Caribbean Princess, sees three reasons why
Princess’ ships are attractive to UK passengers.
First, “I think the style of the ship probably
appeals better to the British market than some
others.”  As noted earlier, the ships are more
restrained than some of the other American lines
yet not as restrained as some of the traditional
British lines.

Second, “Princess does have a British pedigree - -
quite a long one through P&O - - there is a certain
same blood.  Also, a great percentage of our senior
management still are Brits or British Empire so if
they are not from the UK they are still from
Australia or Canada or New Zealand and I think
that makes things a bit easier.”

Third, “we have Princess UK, a huge office which
certainly helps sell the Princess cruises. Some of
the cruise lines do not have much of a presence
outside the U.S. so it is rather difficult if you live
in the UK to buy those cruises.”

While Caribbean Princess has her own substantial
following as is, Caribbean Princess underwent an
extensive re-fit in January 2009 designed to give
her all of the features offered in the subsequent
ships of her class and more.  This included: the
addition of The Sanctuary, an adults-only spa and
relaxation area on the open decks; a re-designed
atrium that includes the International Café coffee
and pastries venue, a sushi bar, as well as space in
which entertainers perform throughout the day.  
There was also replacement of carpeting, re-
painting and wallpapering.  Thus, in addition to
having all of the features of the newest Princess
ships, Caribbean Princess, as Mr. Deering put it,
has “a really nice new feel and look about her.”
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