Princess Cruises Travel Guide

Good Service: The warm-hearted Italian, British, and Filipino service crew have a gift for making passengers feel welcome. Q Private Verandas: Some of these ships have balconies in as many as 75% of the cabins.

Average Food: The ships' cuisine is perfectly fine if you're not a foodie, but if you are, you'll find that it's pretty banquet hall-esque. O Small Gyms: For such large vessels, the gyms are surprisingly small and can even feel cramped.

Overview.

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The company strives, successfully, to please a wide variety of passengers. It offers more choices in terms of accommodations, dining, and entertainment than nearly any other line.

EXPERIENCE

If you were to put Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Holland America in a big bowl and mix.

Them all together, you'd come up with Princess Cruises' megaships. The Coral Princess, Grand Princess, Crown Princess, and other big Princess ships are less glitzy and frenzied than the ships of, say, Carnival and Royal Caribbean; not quite as cutting-edge as Celebrity's Solstice and Millennium; but more exciting, youthful, and entertaining than Holland America's near-megas. The Princess fleet appeals to a wider cross-section of cruisers by offering loads of choices and activities, plus touches of big-ship glamour, along with plenty of the private balconies, quiet nooks, and calm spaces that characterize smaller, more intimate-size vessels. Aboard Princess, you get a lot of bang for your buck, attractively packaged and well executed.

ROUTES

Like other lines that offer a world cruise, you can get to a lot of different destinations on these ships. Most popular for this line are Alaska and the Caribbean, but Princess also does well by Europe (both the Baltic and the Mediterranean), the Panama Canal, California, Hawaii, and Mexico. Other routes are available in Asia; around Australis, New Zealand and the rest of the South Pacific; in South America; and along the coast or Canada.

PASSENGERS

Typical Princess passengers are experienced cruisers between about 50 and 65. They know what they want and are prepared to pay for it. But the line also is popular with families, including multigeneration families, thanks to its solid children's programs and a-little-something-for-everyone vibe. On holidays and summer weeks the number of children on board can really soar.

DINING

In general, Princess serves meals that are good, if hardly gourmet. But you've got to give it points for at least trying to be flexible: About a decade ago, Princess implemented a new fleet-wide dining option known as Anytime Dining. Basically, this plan allows passengers to sign up for the traditional first or second seating for dinner, or for a come-as-you-please restaurant-style dining option. The latter allows you to eat dinner any time between 5:30pm and midnight, though you must be seated by 10pm Passengers who choose the restaurant-style option may request a cozy table for two or bring along a half-dozen shipmates, depending on their mood that evening. It's also possible to eat all your meals in the Horizon Court cafe on all Princess ships.

If you don't go to the main dining room, though, you may miss one of Princess's best features: its pastas. The newest ships also have several alternative-dining restaurant options, including a steakhouse, and it's our experience that meals at these restaurants are well worth the price of admission.

Specialty restaurants on board include Sabatinis's, the line's Italian restaurant, which serves (among other options) creamy burrata, fried calamari, and an artichoke souffle as appetizers and roasted rack of veal and lobster trio as entrees. There's also the very popular Crowne Grille, a steakhouse with quality chops, rib-eyes, and seafood classics.

ACTIVITIES

Princess passengers can expect enough onboard activity to keep them going from morning to night if they've a mind to, and enough hideaways to let them do absolutely nothing if that's their thing. The line doesn't go out of its way to make passengers feel that they're spoilsports if they don't participate in the amateur-night tomfoolery or learn to fold napkins. These activities are usually there, along with the inevitable bingo, shuffleboard, and the rest, but they're low-key. Internet access is provided on all the ships for 750 per minute. Various packages that bring the cost down are also available for instance, $55 for 100 minutes, $75 for 150 minutes, and $100 for 250 minutes.

Specifically in Alaska, the line has naturalists and park rangers onboard to offer commentary. It also brings on local entertainers, celebrities, and historians to enhance passengers' Alaska experience; for instance, Iditarod winner Libby Riddles sometimes speaks to passengers on ships.

CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS

Supervised activities are held year-round for ages 3 to 17, clustered in three groups: Princess Pelicans for ages 3 to 7, Shockwaves for ages 8 to 12, and Remix for ages 13 to 17. For more than a decade now Princess has sought to broaden its appeal and distance itself from its old image as a staid, adults-only line, and all the ships are now well equipped for children and clearly intend to cater to families. Each ship has a spacious children's playroom and a sizable area of fenced-in outside deck for kids only, with a shallow pool and tricycles. Teen centers have computers, video games, and a sound system Wisely, these areas are placed as far away as possible from the adult passengers.

ENTERTAINMENT

From glittering Vegas-style shows to New York cabaret-singer performances to a rocking disco, this line provides a terrific blend of musical styles, and you'll always find a cozy spot where soft piano or jazz is being performed (there are even strolling musicians on board most ships). You'll also find entertainers such as hypnotists, puppeteers, and comedians, plus karaoke for you audience-participation types. In the afternoons, there are always a couple of sessions of that ubiquitous cruise favorite, the Newlywed and Not-So-Newlywed Game. Each of the ships also has a wine bar selling caviar by the ounce and vintage wine, champagne, and iced vodka by the glass. The Princess casinos are sprawling and exciting places, too, and are bound to lure gamblers with their lights and action.

For years, Princess has had a connectionto Hollywood this is the Love Boat line, after all. It's the only line we know of where you can watch yesterday's and today's television shows on your in-room TV Also shown are A& E, Biography, E! Entertainment TY Nickelodeon, Discovery Channel, BBC, and National Geographic productions. Like several other lines, Princess also shows recently released movies.

SERVICE

Throughout the fleet, the service in all areas dining room, lounge, cabin maintenance, and so on is of consistently high quality. An area in which Princess particularly shines is the efficiency of its shore-excursion staff. Getting 2,600-plus people off a ship and onto motor coaches, trains, and helicopters all staples of any Alaska cruise program isn't as easy as this company makes it look. And a real benefit of the Princess shore-excursions program is that passengers are sent the options about 120 days before the sailing and can book their choices on an advanced-reservations basis before the trip (tickets are issued on board), either by mail or on the Internet at www.princess. Com. The program improves your chances of getting your first choice of tours before they sell out; it also allows cruisers enough time to compare the cruise line-sponsored options and their prices and those of independent operators (sometimes they'll offer a lower rate). All of the Princess Alaskan ships have laundry and dry-cleaning services, plus their own self-service laundromats.

On Princess ships, an $11. 50 per-person per-day service charge ($12 for passengers in suites and minisuites) is automatically added to your bill. If you want to raise or lower that amount, you can do so at the passenger services desk.

CRUISETOURS & ADD-ON PROGRAMS

Although its ships serve every corner of the globe, nowhere is the Princess presence more visible than in Alaska. Through its affiliate, Princess Tours, the company owns wilderness lodges, motor coaches, and railcars in the 49th state, making it one of the major players in the Alaska cruise market, alongside Holland America and, increasingly, Royal Caribbean Cruise's two brands, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean International. Princess also operates spectacular wilderness lodges, including the River Princess Wilderness Lodge at Cooper Landing near Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

In 2004, Princess became the first line to use the rather nondescript Whittier as the northern terminus for its Gulf cruises instead of the more commonly used Seward, and it has done so ever since. Whittier's primary advantage over Seward is that it's about 60 miles closer to Anchorage. Passengers bound for rail tours of Denali National Park are able to board their trains right on the pier instead of taking a bus to Anchorage and then embarking on their rail carriages. The inauguration of the service was yet another effort by a cruise line to gain a competitive edge over its Alaska rivals. Princess Cruises is now a member of the same group that owns Holland America and Carnival, both of them highly visible in the Alaska cruise market. That gives the parent, Miami-based Carnival Corp. Control of no fewer than 15 ships in Alaska.

Princess has an array of land packages in Alaska in conjunction with its Gulf of Alaska and Inside Passage voyages. Virtually every part of the state is covered from the Kenai Peninsula to the Interior to the Far North. The land portions come in 3- to 8-night segments, all combinable with a 7-or 10-night cruise. Four types of land itineraries are offered in conjunction with Princess's five wilderness lodges.

FLEET

Princess's diverse fleet ranges in size from 672 passengers to 3,600 passengers. The ships generally are pretty but not stunning, bright but not gaudy, spacious but not overwhelmingly so, and decorated in a comfortable, restrained style that's a combination of classic and modern. They're a great choice when you want a step up from Carnival and Norwegian but aren't interested in (or can't afford) the luxury of Regent Seven Seas.

Royal Princess – Regal Princess Princess's newest megaships, these two vessels take everything that made the line's previous ships so popular and roll them into a larger package.

THE SHIPS IN GENERAL

When Royal and Regal Princess were introduced in 2013 and 2014 respectively, they officially became the line's largest ships, with a capacity for 3,600 passengers apiece. They also ushered in a brand-new class of vessels for the line, officially heralding the retirement of the Grand Class design that most Princess ships from 1998 to 2010 were based on.

Inside, not much has changed it's just been made better. Guests will find a larger pool deck, complete with some pretty cool glass catwalks (known as the SeaWalk) that cantilever out over the sea below. There's an expanded version of the Piazza Atrium concept that was first introduced aboard Crown Princess back in 2006, and that means more seating and better views. In fact, everything that makes Princess great is here, from the Movies Under the Stars poolside screenings to the clubby Crooner's Bar to the relaxing, adults-only Sanctuary. These ships are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and that's okay.

If there is a downside to these ships, it's the lack of a midships staircase, which means you can find yourself walking well out of your way just to get around their 1,083-foot length. Some areas tend to bottleneck with passengers, and overall the ship's layout doesn't feel as free-flowing as the Grand Class or the spectacularly lovely Coral and Island Princess designs.

Cabins If you've sailed aboard Princess's other megaships, be prepared to keep your expectations in check: While both Royal and Regal Princess offer some of the same cabin categories, there are changes. Minisuites traditionally located on the Dolphin Deck are now scattered throughout the ship, and balcony sizes have taken a hit compared with counterparts. Ditto for overall stateroom size: Many categories just feel smaller.

Inside staterooms are roughly the same as always, at 166 square feet. All are done in a style that should be very familiar to past Princess guests: white walls, dark wood trim Balconies come in four sizes; standard ones are smaller than what you'll find on most Grand Class ships, and deluxe balconies aren't much bigger for what can be a hefty. Sadly, bathrooms at these levels still come with showers with that oh-so-clingy shower curtain. Ugh.

Minisuites are also smaller than their Grand-class counterparts, but like those, these are a smart choice if you're looking for more space but don't want to spend the amount of money needed for a full suite. There are 40 suites huge spaces, all with their own private balconies and perks like priority embarkation and disembarkation, priority shore excursion reservations, and use of the exclusive Disembarkation Lounge at the end of the cruise and the Elite Lounge (stocked with hors d'oeuvres and more) during the sailing.

A total of 36 cabins are designated as wheelchair accessible.

Public areas & activities Public rooms are attractive, largely adhering to the style that Princess developed for past vessels while ratcheting up the quality of materials used in certain areas. You can expect lots of recessed lighting accenting a palette of mostly earth tones, with a smattering of polished woods and glittering brass and marble here and there. The Piazza-style atrium is the place to be for roving entertainment acts and Princess's famous Champagne Waterfall usually set up on the first formal night of the cruise. You can still enjoy coffee and pastries in the International Cafe, wine in Vines, and gelato on the lowest level.

On deck 6 you have to walk through the Princess Casino to reach the Princess Theatre, a three-story affair hosting evening performances. A secondary venue, the Vista Lounge at the stern of the ship, is the go-to spot for dancing, trivia tournaments, and comedy acts. The very British Wheelhouse Bar returns to these ships, every bit as clubby as ever. The Crooner Bar is a favorite for a predinner cocktail or a nightcap.

The biggest changes were saved for the pools and spas. The pool decks are substantial improvements overall, with better design and layout. The Fountain Pool amidships is bordered by the glass-enclosed Skywalk, and features an attractive fountain show that changes colors at night. There are only two hot tubs, however, and things can get competitive.

Down on Deck 5, the expanded Lotus Spa features a new addition called The Enclave, a centrally located area with a hydrotherapy pool, heated tiled ceramic loungers, waterbeds, hot and dry saunas, and aromatic showers infused with relaxing scents. Day and full-cruise passes are available for purchase. Unusually, the Fitness Center is separated from the spa on these ships. On its perch on the starboard side of Deck 17, you'll find plenty of exercise equipment of all kinds, and yoga, Pilates and spinning classes.

Dining Passengers have more options than on Princess predecessors, with 16 different venues onboard, including the main Symphony and Concerto dining rooms (which are for dine-when-you-like passengers), and Allegro (which caters to those who took the traditional, fixed-seating arrangement). The Horizon Court, which wraps around the entire aft portion of Lido Deck 16, offers buffet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (its new outdoor seating is a nice touch). There are also plenty of additional-fee dining venues onboard, ranging from the Gelateria to the new Chef's Table Lumiere, which focuses on giving small groups a highly personalized culinary experience (it's $95 per person, but that includes wine). The Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar is a new addition that serves up raw seafood a la carte including caviar, which will set you back a pretty penny if you indulge. There are also old favorites onboard, such as The Crown Grill, Princess Cruises' signature steakhouse, and Sabatini's, which specializes in cooked-to-order Italian fare. We recommend the ravioli.

Grand Princess – Golden Princess – Star Princess – Caribbean Princess – Crown Princess – Emerald Princess – Ruby Princess Princess's signature vessels (known as the Grand class) were so ahead of their time when they debuted in 1998 that the design of even newcomers such as Crown and Emerald Princess isn't significantly changed.

They look like nothing else at sea, with their 18 decks soaring up to space-age discos. Though the vessels give an impression of immensity from the outside, inside they're very easy to navigate and are surprisingly intimate. Public areas never feel as crowded as you'd think they'd be with almost 4,000 people aboard. The dimly lit Explorer's Lounge and traditional Wheelhouse Bar recall a grander era of sea travel, and in the elegant three-story atriums, classical string quartets perform on formal nights and during embarkation.

Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, and Ruby Princess are slightly larger versions of the original ships, with a similar layout but one extra deck, plus a cafe serving Caribbean dishes, an international restaurant, a wine and seafood bar, a piazza-style atrium, and a steak and seafood restaurant. Ruby Princess, the latest of the series, offers a British pub lunch on sea days (no extra charge) and a range of cheeses to go with the wine and seafood snacks available in Vines.

Cabins Though staterooms on these vessels are divided into some 35 categories, there are actually fewer than 10 configurations. For the most part, the category differences reflect location, such as midships versus aft. Cabins are pleasing to the eye, decorated in light hues and earth tones, and storage is adequate, with more closet shelves than drawer space. Cabin balconies are tiered so that they get more sunlight, but this also means your neighbors above can look down at you. At 324 square feet, including the balcony, the 180 mmisuites on each vessel are ultracomfortable, with a roomy sitting area with a full-size pullout couch, a large bathroom with full tub and shower, and generous closet and drawer space. Grand Suites feature all the above amenities plus a bathroom with a large whirlpool tub and multidirectional shower.

Be aware that lifeboats partially or completely obstruct views from most cabins on Emerald Deck. Each ship has 28 wheelchair-accessible cabins.

Public areas & activities Because of the ships' smart layout, passengers are dispersed among six dining venues, expansive outdoor deck space, multiple sports facilities, four pools, and nine hot tubs, rather than concentrated into one or two main areas. Even sailing with a full load of passengers, you might wonder where everyone is. Which is not to say you'll be bored. Three main entertainment venues include a well-equipped two-story theater for big Vegas-style musical revues, a smaller lounge for acts like hypnotists and singers, and the travel-themed Explorer's Lounge, where bands, standup comics, and karaoke belters perform amid Middle Eastern tiles and works of African and Asian art. There's also the old-world Wheelhouse Bar, offering laid-back pre- and post-dinner dancing and jazz in an elegant setting. Finally, Skywalkers is a multilevel disco/observation lounge, sequestered 150 feet above the ship's stern like a high-tech tree house. It's positioned away from any cabins, so the noise won't keep anyone up. Even if you're not a dancer, you'll want to check out the view at sunset.

For kids, the Fun Zone has tons of games, toys, computers, and an outdoor, fenced-in play area equipped with a fleet of tricycles and mini basketball setup. A kiddie pool is located nearby. In addition to the teen center on every ship, Grand and Golden have a teens-only sunbathing area with a hot tub, as well as a truly amazing arcade. If you're inspired by all those youngsters to start your own.

Family, each ship has an attractive chapel where the captain himself performs six or seven legal weddings on almost every cruise. Princess is one of the few lines where that's allowed, thanks to the laws of Bermuda, where all Princess cruise ships are registered.

Each ship has 1.75 acres of open deck space, so it's not hard to find a quiet place to soak up the sun. On Grand, Golden, and Star, our favorite spot on a hot, humid day is portside aft on the deck overlooking the swimming pool, where the tail fin vent blows cool air. In 2006, Princess introduced a space called the Sanctuary, which is now installed on all Grand-class ships. Three-quarters canopied and dotted with lounge chairs, trees, and private cabanas, it's a perfect chill-out area, staffed with serenity stewards who make sure things stay quiet. Light meals, massages, and beverages are available. Admission carries a $10 fee for half-day use, a measure intended to limit use to those who really want some peace and quiet.

The ships each have four great swimming pools. On Grand, Golden, and Star, one has a retractable roof for inclement weather. A 300-square-foot outdoor LED movie screen is set up for watching films under the stars (and kids' movies during the day). You can reserve deck chairs for evening screenings, and, yes, there's popcorn(for free) and Raisinettes (for a price).

Spa, gym, and beauty-parlor facilities are located in a large, almost separate part of each ship, surrounding the lap pool set among tiered, amphitheater-style wooden benches. As is the case fleetwide with Princess, the gym is surprisingly small, although there's an unusually large aerobics floor.

Dining Three pleasant, one-story main dining rooms are laid out on slightly tiered levels. By way of some strategically placed waist-high dividers, they feel private, although the ceilings are on the low side. The 24-hour Horizon Court buffet serves breakfast and lunch. With stations serving stir-fry, beef, turkey, pork, and lots of fruit, salads, cheeses, and more, lines are kept to a minimum and you're hardly aware of the space's enormity. This restaurant turns into a sit-down bistro from 11pm to 4am, with the same dinner menu each night. If you like the idea of a New York strip sirloin at midnight, this is the place to go.

Alternative restaurants include Sabatini's (seep. 191 for more on that) and Sterling Steakhouse and on Caribbean, Crown, Star, Emerald, and Ruby, the International Cafe serves food 24 hours a day, including fresh-baked cookies around the clock (some items are at an extra charge). Ruby, Crown, and Emerald also serve a no-charge pub-style lunch on sea days with fare like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and cottage pie.

Diamond Princess – Sapphire Princess Diamond and Sapphire are two of the best megaships ever, with beautiful proportions, airy outdoor spaces, and intimate public areas.

Built in Nagasaki, Japan, Diamond and Sapphire are Princess's best ships ever, with a design that's more graceful than the line's Grand-class ships, while still embodying the ideal of big-ship offerings with a small-ship feel. Inside, the nearly identical vessels have comfortable cabins, woodsy lounges with hints of seagoing history, understated central atrium lobbies, relaxing indoor/outdoor pool areas, and large Asian-inspired spas.

Outside, in the stern, four decks descend in curved, horseshoelike tiers, creating a multilevel resort area with two pools, two hot tubs, two bars, and magnificent views of the ship's wake. One of our favorite things about these ships is that the Promenade Deck wraps around the bow, just below the open top deck, affording a view straight out to where you're going. The only thing that keeps these vessels from a five-star rating is their relative dearth of dining options: Even though there are eight restaurants onboard, five of them have the same basic menu. Diamond underwent a massive makeover in 2014 intended to make her appeal more to the Japanese market on her voyages around the Pacific. Additions include an 8,800-square-foot onsen bathing experience and Japanese-style motifs throughout the ship.

Cabins Though cabins on Diamond and Sapphire are a bit bigger than those on the Grand- and Coral-class ships, they still stick close to the Princess look,  with upholstery and walls done in easy-on-the-eyes earth tones and off-whites, all trimmed in butterscotch wood. Standard inside and outside cabins are comfortable and stylish, and more than 70% of outside cabins have verandas. Balconies are tiered, ensuring direct sunlight for those on Decks 8 and 9 (where most of the popular minisuites are located), but also allowing folks standing on the balconies above to look right down on you. Minisuites provide substantially more space without jumping into the cost stratosphere. They're ideal for families with children. The 16 full suites have curtained-off sitting and sleeping areas, very large balconies, a walk-in closet, and separate whirlpool tubs and showers in the bathroom Suite guests are also on the receiving end of numerous perks highlighted in the Service section, above.

Twenty-seven cabins on each ship are wheelchair accessible.

Public areas & activities Most public rooms on these ships are on Decks 6 and 7. Toward the bow, the two-deck Princess Theater is the main show space, with tiers of upholstered theater seats (with little cocktail tables that fold out of their armrests, airline-style) and a pair of opera boxes on either side of the stage. Just outside the entrance is Churchill's, a veddy British cigar bar with TVs for sports. You'll also find a multipurpose entertainment lounge called Club Fusion, used principally for games (think bingo and talent shows) and evening music. A spiral staircase in the back of the room leads to one of our favorite spaces: the Wake View Bar, a classy nook full of dark wood, leather chairs, and paintings depicting turn-of-the-20th-century tobacconists. Six portholes overlook the namesake wake.

At midships are two of Princess's signature lounge spaces: the English-adventurer-themed Explorer's Lounge, a secondary show lounge for comedians, impressionists, and other small-scale entertainment; and the elegant Wheelhouse Bar, where a jazz combo plays in the evenings. There's dancing here, but the boogie-happy crowd is more likely to be up in the top-deck disco the highest point on the ship, where a balcony overlooks the stern. Explorer's jungle theme carries into the.

Casinos, with their tree-trank pillars and leafy ceilings. Next door, the three-story atrium is admirably restrained, with lots of creamy marble and wood, and musicians performing throughout the day. Opening off the space is the relaxing library and the charmingly old-fashioned writing room, along with several shops, a coffee bar, and Crooners, a Rat Pack-themed bar serving 56 different martini recipes. On Deck 7, the Internet Cafe is notable not only for being large and stylish, but also for being an actual cafe: A bar toward the back dispenses gourmet coffee (for an extra charge), along with free croissants and sweet rolls.

For kids, Diamond ‘ s and Sapphire ‘ s Fun Zones are divided into four sizable rooms, separating young ones by age. Tots get a climbing maze, toys, and a cushiony amphitheater for watching movies. Teens get a sort of Austin Powers-esque room, looking much like a bar for adults, sans the booze. There are two pools at midships: a lively main pool in the sun and a secondary Conservatory space with a large pool, two hot tubs, and a retractable roof for bad weather. Another, adults-only resistance pool for swimming laps in place is set in a cleft just outside the large, well-appointed spa. That spot has a Zen ambiance with a suite of steam rooms and stone lounging chairs for use before or after treatments. Next door, the gym is one of the few sour notes on board it's way too small for the number of people onboard.

Dining Passengers opting for traditional dining take their meals in the 518-seat International Dining Room, with its simple but elegant wood-panel walls and classical paintings, or in the smaller Vivaldi Restaurant, where the decor recalls 18th-century Europe. Passengers on the anytime dining program can eat in any of four smaller themed venues, all with the same menus except for one specialty dish apiece.

Coral Princess – Island Princess Beautiful, spacious, and yet somehow intimate, Coral and Island are lovely inside and out, with a nice range of entertainment options and top-drawer onboard learning experiences.

Coral Princess and Island Princess are two of the loveliest cruise vessels afloat, further refining Princess's vision of big ships with an intimate feel. Outside, there are balconies on some 83% of outside cabins, but their tiered design is a vast improvement over the typical wall-of-balconies look, contributing to a flowing profile. Up top, the ships' futuristic (but purely decorative) jet-engine funnels give the impression that the boats could fly right out of the water and into orbit.

Understated interiors are both classic and modern, with Internet centers and Times Square-style news tickers right around the corner from stately lounges. Our favorite spaces: the clubby Wheelhouse Bar before dinner, the New Orleans-themed Bayou Restaurant for jazz until around midnight, the peaceful solarium, and the Universe Lounge for everything from cooking classes and lectures to full-blown theatrical productions. Island Princess was extensively refitted in 2015 to add more balcony cabins which unfortunately did away with the wraparound promenade deck.

Cabins Inside and standard outside cabins are serviceable if smallish at 160 and 168 square feet, respectively. Most private balconies are set up in descending tiers a positive for soaking up the sun, a negative for total privacy. Minisuites provide substantially more space without a big increase in cost, and they have large balconies and sizable sitting areas. Storage space in both cabins and minisuites is more than adequate, with a large shelved closet and open-sided clothes rack facing a small dressing alcove by the bathroom door. Sixteen full suites have very large balconies, stocked minibars, whirlpool tubs, and walk-in closets. Suite guests get additional perks highlighted in the Service section (see p. 192 ).

Twenty cabins on each ship are wheelchair accessible.

Public areas & activities Layout is one of the areas where these vessels really shine, with decks and public spaces arranged so it's always easy to find your way around. Most of the noteworthy indoor spots are on Decks 6 and 7, starting with the large Princess Theater in the bow. Unlike the ornately decorated, two- and three-deck theaters on many new ships, this is a classic, sloping, one-level space, with a good view of the stage from wherever you sit. Farther aft, the Explorer's Lounge is a smaller-scale show lounge for comedians, karaoke, game shows, and dancing. In the stern, the Universe Lounge is an innovative multipurpose space, hosting cooking demonstrations, lectures, and performances on three interconnected stages that can revolve, rise, and otherwise move around the venue.

Standout bars and lounges include the maritime-themed Wheelhouse Bar, Churchill's cigar lounge, and Crooners, a piano bar with a Rat Pack vibe. One level down, the ship's library and card room are both large and comfortable, though the layout with entrances both from the atrium and from the midships elevators means that people often use the rooms as a passageway, adding more bustle than you'd prefer in a library. Themed casinos (London on Coral, Paris on Island) and a wedding chapel round out the offerings for grownups.

At the stern on Deck 12 sits the kids' Fun Zone, Pelican's Playhouse, and Off Limits teen center. The pottery studio is hidden away nearby. The ships' main pool areas are spacious but surprisingly plain, with a pool and three large hot tubs surrounded by sunning areas. A steel-drum duo performs on a tiny stage at one end during the day. Moving toward the stern, the solarium is a much more interesting spot, decorated with a tranquil Balinese motif. Both ships also offer Princess's Movies Under the Stars outdoor screenings and adults-only Sanctuary relaxation areas.

Fitness facilities include a disappointingly small (though reasonably equipped) gym, plus a separate aerobics room Up on the top decks, there's a basketball/volleyball court, a computerized golf simulator, and a 9-hole miniature golf course. In the stern on Deck 14, Lotus Spa offers massage and beauty services, plus a thermal suite with various heat treatments and a lovely salon overlooking the.

Dining The Provence and Bordeaux dining rooms are dedicated to traditional fixed-seating and.

Anytime dining, respectively. There are two specialty restaurants aboard: Sabatini's ($20 per person, see p. 191 ) and the Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse ($15 per person), for New Orleans favorites like seafood gumbo, fried catfish, grilled jumbo prawns, and jambalaya, while a jazz trio provides accompaniment. The 24-hour Horizon Court buffet tends to get chaotic due to the circular layout of the food stations and no clear path for navigating them Overlooking the main pool, the Grill serves burgers, hot dogs, and the like in the afternoon, while some excellent pizza and ice cream are available one deck down at the solarium At the bottom of the atrium, La Patisserie is a good spot to watch the waves roll by while you snack on free cookies and coffee as your ship squeezes through the Panama Canal, with literally only a couple feet to spare.

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