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Princess Cruises


Company Overview
Back in 1975, Princess Cruises was a small, Los Angeles-based cruise line with a single star in its lineup, the 640-passenger, 20,000-gross ton Pacific Princess sailing cruises to the Mexican Riviera. The company's fortunes changed overnight, as in all good stories about princesses, when a group of Hollywood television producers selected the ship to star in a new series that became one of the biggest hits in television history. The "Love Boat" was the vehicle that eventually transported tiny Princess Cruises into one of the cruise industry's Big Four cruise lines. So closely was the Princess Cruises name aligned with the slogan "The Love Boat" that the company kept the phrase as its official motto nearly until the end of the 20th century.

But Princess Cruises never rested on its television spotlight laurels. Today's fleet is comprised of fifteen elegant vessels, each of them magnitudes larger than the original Pacific Princess. The company still does regular cruises to the Mexican Riviera, but you'll also find its ships sailing in the Caribbean, Asia, Panama Canal, Alaska, Europe, and even Tahiti. The line has a loyal following because of the consistency of its cruise product, and the loyalty of Princess' regulars has been rewarded with a variety of ships and itineraries.

Always an innovative company, Princess manages to stay at the frontline of cruise quality and customer service. Examples of the line's innovation include the first Cajun and Creole restaurants at sea (on Coral and Island Princess), and the ScholarShip@Sea Program (on Coral, Island, Diamond and Sapphire Princesses), offering an enviable range of educational and hobby-oriented classes.

The British parent company of Princess Cruises, P&O (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company), began nearly 200 years ago as one of the great British shipping companies. As the jumbo jet gradually made liner crossings a thing of the past, the company turned to cruising, and operated both Princess Cruises and a number of European divisions until its 2003 merger with Carnival Corporation, which created the world's largest cruise company.

The most "seasoned" ships in the current Princess fleet are the 70,000-ton 1,590-passenger Regal Princess (1991) and the 77,000-ton, 1,950-passenger sister ships Sun Princess (1995), Dawn Princess (1997) and Sea Princess (1998), the last of which re-joined the fleet in April 2005 after two years as P&O's Adonia. The Royal Princess (1984) was transferred to P&O Cruises the following month.

The fleet also comprises four Grand-class ships, the 109,000-ton, 2,600-passenger Grand Princess (1998), Golden Princess (2001), Star Princess (2002) and the 113,000-tons 3,100-passenger Caribbean Princess. Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, two 116,000-ton, 2,670-passenger sister ships, entered the fleet in 2004, sailing to Alaska and Mexico. They represents the larger "Grand-class" sister ships with a myriad entertainment options and plenty of affordable balconies. A second 113,000-ton ship, similar to Caribbean Princess, named Crown Princess was delivered in June 2006. A third 3,100-passenger vessel, Emerald Princess, is scheduled to join the fleet in 2007, a sister ship in Fall 2008.

In August, 2002 Princess acquired two 684-passenger former Renaissance vessels, renaming them (new) Pacific Princess and the Tahitian Princess. The latter sails year-round from Tahiti on 10-day sailings, while Pacific Princess sails half the year from Sydney for P&O Cruises Australia and half for Princess elsewhere in the Pacific.

In 2003 Princess added the 92,000-ton sister ships Island and Coral Princess.

All in all, you can board a Princess ship confident that you'll enjoy a pleasurable mainstream cruise on which the tried and true and innovative co-exist happily. Princess's smaller ships may be somewhat dated, but only as old as 1991 for the Regal Princess, so not SO dated. These older ships make up for their size with exotic itineraries. Princess's megaships may be some of the biggest at sea � too big to squeeze through the Panama Canal! � but they are full of surprises from reach out and touch the stars discos high above the stern to out-of-the-way hiding places you may not find until the last day of your cruise.

The Princess Experience:
Princess Cruises is one of those companies with a reputation for reliability and consistency. When you board a Princess ship, you know almost exactly what to expect. At the same time, it seems to have something of a crystal ball. With Royal Princess, it became the first mid-price cruise line to offer a large number of cabins with private balconies.

Princess was also the first line to offer 24-hour buffet food service, though it was practically a secret at the time. One can go anytime for a snack or a meal, including at dinnertime if one does not feel like dressing up for the dining room. At the time, the idea seemed revolutionary in cruise circles. Today, it is the norm.

Megaliners aren't everyone's vessels of choice, but Princess approaches the concept differently. First of all, they carry fewer passengers, so they are simply less crowded. Rather than one gigantic dining room, two or three smaller restaurants with etched glass partitions provide a more intimate dining experience. They divide the crowd between two main show lounges, one with Broadway-style revues, the other cabaret, and then switch them, all according to the dining schedule.

Public rooms are small and intimate. Caviar and champagne bars give the passenger a feel for the lap of luxury, as well as the multi-million dollar art collection and the most gorgeous libraries at sea, complete with plush leather chairs and earphones for audio tapes.

Princess is known for the innovative aspects of its shore excursions, most notably its Alaska cruise-tours where cruises are combined with shore tour programs. The land portion features gleaming, two-level railcars with glass domes and company-owned lodges in Kenai Peninsula, Denali Park, and Mt. McKinley. When taking an Alaska cruise-tour, however, be very sure to confirm what's included. In most cases, food and sightseeing are added costs.

There are expanded wireless "hotspots" for Internet access on ships throughout the fleet; including availability in the atrium areas of all 14 vessels. Passengers with their own laptops can purchase Internet access for 35 cents per minute ($10.50 for 30 minutes) at the front desk. Those whose computers lack a wireless network card may purchase a 'Windows XP' compatible card. Shipboard Internet Cafes feature between eight and 26 terminals, depending on the vessel. Sun Princess, Dawn Princess and Regal Princess have all recently opened Internet centers, most open 24 hours and easily accessed. Selected vessels' libraries also provide computer stations with direct links to the Internet.

The line's new Movies Under the Stars program, featuring a King Kong-sized LED screen above the main pool, having debuted on the Caribbean Princess, is now featured on all Caribbean itineraries. The line is set to begin offering headphones to those who wish to watch, as the audio has been prompting complaints from many passengers with cabins on the decks below.

Personal Choices:
The laudable "Personal Choices" dining program offers increased choice in cruising style. On ships with two or more dining rooms, you may opt either for traditional assigned two-seating or open restaurant-style single seating in the other dining room.

Fellow Passengers:
Princess' youngish "average" passengers, fifty-somethings, seem to prefer the line's one-week Caribbean and Mexico cruises, while the Alaska cruises seem to attract more and more families. Babyboomers and their teenagers are occasionally glimpsed on summertime European cruises. On the Panama Canal, Asia, Africa and South America voyages, passengers are generally over 65. If you're not yet eligible for Social Security, you're especially likely to feel out-of-place aboard Regal and Royal Princess. At the other end of the spectrum, Tahitian Princess, a favorite of newlyweds, has come to be seen as the line's "couples" ship.

Shore Excursions:
Nobody in this price range gives you more variety than Princess. In Alaska, Princess's offers pre- and post-cruise land excursions, including accommodation in Princess' private lodges and separate sightseeing tours at every stop. In the Caribbean, in addition to the usual snorkeling and sailing; the intensive "Under the Waves" scuba training course enables participants to become certified divers in only a week. Or there are golf specials and helicopter excursions.

Taking The Kids:
The recently expanded Princess Kids program features complimentary in-port activities and special educational opportunities, some created in conjunction with the California Science Center and the National Wildlife Federation. Grand, Golden, Star and Caribbean Princess have the most extensive children's activities, while Coral and Island each has a private disco/coffee club for teenagers. The Junior Ranger program runs throughout the Alaska season, and there is also a Save our Seas environmental program.

Princess' Youth Centers offer a full schedule of activities from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with two-hour breaks for lunch and dinner, on sea days. During port days the program runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and again from 7 to 10 p.m. Parents are given pagers so they may be contacted by the Youth Counselors. Princess divides kids into one of three groups, Pelicans (ages 3-7), Princess Pirateers (ages 8-12), and teens (13-17), for whom the Off Limits centers were specially designed, with a jukebox, arcade, dance floor with disco lights, and diner-like booths.

At night, teen centers convert to discos open from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Group babysitting for children 3 to 12 is available from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a fee, but no in-cabin babysitting is on offer.

Children's menus are available both in the dining room and the 24-hour restaurant. One night each cruise, there's a gala pizza party at which kids dine with the youth staff and new friends, allowing parents to dine with other adults for a change. Personal Choice Dining is recommended for families who want to dine together in the main dining room before evening youth activities kick off at 7 p.m.

(Do note that Tahitian Princess and Pacific Princesses have no dedicated children's facilities, and youth counselors board only when there are 20 or more children on the passenger list.)

Past Passenger Program:
The Captain's Circle quarterly newsletter includes discount coupons, and subscribers are regularly advised of special promotions. The four annual winners of the line's Photo/Essay Contest win free cruises. On every cruise, there's an on-board cocktail party, shipboard raffle for logo prizes; and onboard recognition for most-traveled passenger. For more information call 1-800-PRINCESS.

Tipping:
Aboard all ships a charge of $10 per person (including children) per day is added automatically to your stateroom account for dining and stateroom personnel. This applies whether you choose traditional or personal choice dining. The amount may be increased or lowered at the Purser's Reception desk during the cruise. A 15% gratuity is automatically added to all Princess beverage tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

 

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