Picture the Caribbean, and you may think palm trees, luscious beaches, and a fireball in the sky.
Alas, despite the namesake, Caribbean Princess sailed into Liverpool on a British Isles cruise amidst a torrential rainstorm.
The terminal bustled with mostly American tourists, dressed in their finest waterproof ponchos, all partaking in a favourite British pastime: moaning about the weather.
While they reluctantly ventured to seek out famous Beatles attractions, I boarded the ship to get a taste of Princess Cruises.
This 112,894 gross tonne ship, launched in 2004, feels her age. The ship is immaculate, and the upkeep is impressive, but the décor now looks tired and dated. While modern ships incorporate design tricks to feel light and airy, Caribbean Princess suffers from an enclosed feeling. The perception of low ceilings together with the copious use of browns date the vessel.
The American take on Italian style culminates in the three-deck-high atrium, the heart of the ship decked in marble, tan woods, and glass. It is one of the airiest places aboard, and one of the busiest thanks to groups of tourists abandoning all hope of venturing into Liverpool in the dry.
No Italian Piazza would be complete without a café and small boutiques, and the atrium is no different. It also boasts a counter with many delicious looking treats.
The Sun Deck is home to pools, loungers, the Lotus Spa, and fitness room. Head to the rear of the Riviera Deck to find my favourite adults-only Terrace Pool complete with a framed view out to sea.
Decks 6 and 7 is home to the double-height theatre which hosts a variety of performances, from Broadway-style shows to performers and entertainers.
Entertainment spills out into Club Fusion, which occasionally hosts game shows.
A large screen mounted above the Sun Deck is central to Princess’ Movies Under The Stars offering, although dry, warm weather would make this proposition more attractive!
Daytime activities scheduled throughout voyages includes lectures, tutorials, and arts and crafts classes.
The casino is surprisingly small for an American cruise line. Oddly, the art gallery doubles up as a corridor while the photo gallery occupies a relatively massive amount of floor space.
Kids clubs ensure children aged three or more are happy throughout the day. Clubs cater for three age groups – three- to seven-year-olds (Pelicans), eight- to 12-year-olds (Shockwaves), and 13- to 17-year-olds (Remix).
Gadget lovers beware, expect slow and expensive Internet access.
Bars and comfortable lounges scatter liberally around the ship. My favourite space is Skywalkers Nightclub, perched at the top rear of the ship in a capsule-like structure. Access is through a long ramp equipped with a travelator. The venue is a quiet place to relax in comfort by day, transforming into a bustling nightclub in the evening.
The ship boasts limited dining options, with the main dining rooms supplemented by the Horizon Court buffet and its extension Café Caribe, speciality steakhouse Crown Grill, speciality Italian restaurant Sabatini’s, poolside spots Trident Grill and Prego Pizzeria, and room service.
I enjoyed a satisfying three-course lunch, starting with Fettuccine Alfredo, reportedly an all-time favourite with passengers. Strands of pasta were coated in a creamy sauce and topped with specks of Parmesan. Melt-in-the-mouth Chateaubriand of Beef Tenderloin followed, served with ‘market fresh’ vegetables and Berny Potato Croquettes. Dessert was the most disappointing, especially given Princess Cruises’ relationship with chocolatier Norman Love. A simple chocolate-hazelnut soufflé was available instead of an intricate artwork-like chocolate dessert Princess Cruises often showcases.
Why choose Caribbean Princess?
This 3,100 passenger ship is an ideal introduction to Princess Cruises – and to cruising for that matter – although it lacks the stand-out facilities and décor found on the cruise line’s latest flagship vessels.
Active or adventurous holidaymakers may consider the lack of facilities and dining options frustrating at times, but those looking to relax on holiday will feel right at home. On port-intensive itineraries, all travellers should be happy on this ship.
Caribbean Princess Updates
In March 2017, Caribbean Princess received a makeover. The cruise line installed new beds, a raft of new dining venues, new carpeting, new interconnecting cabins ideal for larger families, and rebranded kids clubs in partnership with Discovery.
In March 2018, Carnival Corporation’s Ocean Medallion concept will roll out onto this ship. The technology pebble will replace plastic cruise cards and will enable passengers to tailor their cruise holiday using the smart device. You can read more about the innovation here.
Would you consider sailing on a British Isles cruise? An easily overlooked option for Brits, it can be a pleasant alternative to driving around the country. Let me know if it is something you would consider in the comments below.
Disclosure: Princess Cruises hosted me aboard Caribbean Princess for an afternoon. I paid for my transport to and from Liverpool, plus overnight accommodation. All opinions are my own.