Balmy waters, interesting cultures, days in the sun, exciting music, and plenty of history await families who cruise to the Caribbean
Whether you are a die-hard cruiser or considering one for the first time, we’re here to say that a Princess Cruise to the Caribbean should definitely be on your family’s must-do list. Princess Cruises has found the right balance of activities for kids, engaging excursions, delicious food, and comfortable cabins. Their Caribbean cruise will take you to interesting countries like Honduras and Belize where you can experience the local culture. Here’s the full scoop on what you can expect when you sail with Princess Cruises.
Cabins on Sky Princess
There are a variety of cabin choices available for passengers on Princess Cruises. But while an Interior cabin may seem the best, inexpensive option, we recommend families with three or more people consider at least a Balcony cabin. The extra space and storage will help families feel more relaxed while getting ready and provide additional seating. The third and fourth beds in a Balcony cabin are in the ceiling. Your room steward will take them down every night and put them back up every morning. These beds work great for children who are a little older. You’ll also have a front-row seat whenever the ship enters and leaves port.
For those able to splurge, a mini-suite or suite provides even more space with a separate sitting area, a sofa bed (which works well with younger children), additional berth beds in the ceiling, and a balcony. Suites also come with a complimentary mini-bar for parents, priority reservations for excursions, priority boarding and disembarkment, two televisions, a bathroom with a tub, and complimentary laundry services, which comes in handy for families on longer cruises.
Tip: Unpack your suitcases and stay awhile! Princess ships, especially newer ones, have plenty of storage and closet space. This includes the bathroom, where there are built-in shelves with railings. And no need to bring soap, shampoo, or lotion—all are provided in the rooms.
Staying Connected with Princess MedallionClass®
Keeping connected with family members onboard Princess Cruises is easy with Princess MedallionClass. A small, wearable device, the Medallion allows passengers to have a touch-free boarding experience, unlock their cabin door hands-free, and order food or drinks to wherever they are on the ship (there is the ability to restrict ordering privileges for children), and message each other through the phone app. The best feature for parents is that the Medallion lets you find cabinmates anywhere on the ship. So while parents are relaxing by the pool, they can see exactly where the kids are when they grab an ice cream or head to watch the acrobats in the piazza.
Tip: While you might be tempted to have kids leave their phones at home, bringing them onboard means that children can also see where their parents are. Remember to have everyone turn off their cell service when they board, switch to airplane mode, and click the ship’s Wi-Fi to avoid extra charges.
Camp Discovery Kids’ Clubs
Princess Cruises don’t have the water slides you see on other ships. But there is still plenty for children to do both day and night to get a little time away from their parents. Ages 3 to 17 have youth programs broken up by age, and participation is included in the price of the cruise. On the Sky Princess, the breakdown was:
- The Treehouse – ages 3 to 7
- The Lodge – ages 8 to 12
- The Beach House – ages 13 to 17
With separate rooms to gather in, the kids’ programs are open all day while at sea (with breaks for lunch and dinner) and for select hours while at port. When parents want a little alone time at night, evening babysitting is offered in the youth areas until 1 am for children 3 to 12 for an additional charge. For the teenagers, The Beach House is open for them to watch movies, make mocktails, or hang out until 1 am with no extra charge.
In addition to hanging out at the clubs, the youth programs also host fun family fairs and dance parties around the ship for the entire family.
Don’t be surprised if your child wants to spend every minute at Camp Discovery. Our 14-year-old tends to be shy but was in the teen club every day and night and made friends from different parts of the United States and several different countries. The programming was varied and kept her entertained enough as a teen that we never heard the dreaded “bored” word.
Tip: All children must be registered to attend the onboard kids’ clubs. Go to your account on the Princess website to register your child before you leave for your vacation. But if you forget, don’t worry. There’s an open house on the afternoon of embarkment so the family can meet the counselors. Registration is also available at that time.
Princess Cruises Shore Excursions
A great thing about taking a cruise is visiting different locations. Every ship has a list of excursions you can take to explore the local areas at each port. While you can stay on the ship when it docks, it’s more fun and helps pass the time to get off and get a lay of the land. Excursions allow families to do that with a guide they can trust.
We took excursions in Cozumel, Roatán, and Belize City for this trip. When booking excursions, be sure to check carefully because some of them have age and endurance limits. Our goal as a family was to have some educational element in each of the visits, and they didn’t disappoint:
- In Cozumel, Mexico, we took a small group visit to a reef restoration program. After a quick boat ride from the dock, we went into a classroom where we learned how the reefs of Mexico were deteriorating and how restoring them helps bring back aquatic wildlife to help the ecosystem. Afterward, we walked the rocky beach area, where we learned about mangroves and how they protect the shores during storms. Our guide helped us plant some mangrove seeds, and then it was off to snorkel to see some of the reefs the program has worked on. With this excursion, not only are you helping the reefs by learning, but the cruise lines that offer the trip also donate a portion of the cost of the tour directly to the restoration group.
- While in Roatán, Honduras, we took a 15-min boat ride to an animal sanctuary island. There we got a guided tour of the historic center that told of the indigenous people who originally lived in Honduras, along with a look at the animals on the island. None of the animals could be released back into the wild, so it was a unique way to get to see some of the animals of Honduras. The tour included a traditional Honduras lunch and a pool, bar, and beach area to relax for a few hours until we returned to the ship.
- Heading to the Mayan ruins located 70 miles from Belize City, Belize was an adventure! A 2-hour bus ride took us to the Xunantucnich site where ancient Mayans lived and ruled. Located only a few miles from the Guatemalan border, the site has several pyramids that archaeologists have excavated and continue to find artifacts. The guides on this tour gave us a lot of history on the cultures of the Belizean people, including the history of Mayans, the foods of the land, and the Belize connection to England. After a walking tour of the site and climbing one of the pyramids, we went to a local restaurant to enjoy a traditional meal of chicken, rice, and beans and a cold Coca-Cola made with cane sugar.
For families, we suggest deciding as a family what excursions to take. It’s a great way to ensure the children are more excited about going. The teen in our group was the only child of any age in two of our excursions. But since she had selected those trips, there were never any complaints about boredom or not having anyone to talk to during the excursions.
Tip: Book your excursions with the cruise line, and do it as soon they’re available. The best tours sell out before embarkation. And if you book with the ship and the excursion comes back late, they’ll hold the ship for you. If you book on your own and it’s late coming back, the cruise will leave you behind!
Dining and Beverages to Enjoy Onboard Princess Cruises
The main thing most people talk about when the word ‘cruise’ is mentioned is the food. Princess ships have multiple places to eat and snack 24 hours a day. There are also numerous bars to get drinks for adults and little ones. And on the Sky Princess, the food did not disappoint.
All of the Princess ships have a buffet, pizza, ice cream, snack areas, and main dining rooms (MDR) that are included in the price of the cruise. There are also specialty restaurants that have additional costs. For the MDRs, passengers can either make reservations for specific times each day or walk up and be seated where available. MDRs are great for people who enjoy the way cruising used to be and can be seated with those they don’t know. Make a reservation if you’re looking for a private table in an MDR.
Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and snacks and located on the Lido Deck/16, the World Fresh Marketplace buffet has something to eat for everyone in the family. Menus follow holidays and the menus of ports visited on the trip but also have traditional menu items. Passengers can also head to the International Cafe, located on the Plaza Deck/5, 24 hours a day for quick bites of sandwiches and snacks all day.
Specialty restaurants vary by ship. The Sky Princess offers the French-inspired Bistro Sur La Mer, Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, and the Crown Grill steakhouse. Our group enjoyed a meal in each of these restaurants, and the service and food quality were excellent. If you want to eat in a specialty restaurant and catch a show, try to do them on different days or eat as soon as the specialty restaurant opens. Service is high-end and can take 2 hours or more, depending on your group size.
Beverage Packages on Princess Cruises
Onboard Princess Cruises, juice at breakfast, brewed coffee, non-bottled water, and iced tea are complimentary.
For other drinks, passengers can purchase drinks as they go or get one of Princess’s four drink packages. The Plus drink package covers water, specialty coffee, juice, tea, soda, smoothies, and non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks that cost up to $15. The Premier drink package covers all of those items up to $20. The Zero Alcohol package covers specialty coffee drinks, tea, smoothies, sodas, energy drinks, water, and mocktails, while the Classic Soda Package includes sodas, juice, mocktails, and smoothies. Drink packages cannot be shared and only apply to the person who purchases them
Tip: Passengers can book a standard fare or a Princess Plus fare. The standard fare includes the room’s cost, while the Princess Plus fare includes the room, the Plus drink package, wi-fi, and crew appreciation. While you can book a drink package at any time leading up to the cruise, if you’re going to get a package that includes alcohol, you’ll see a significant discount when booking a Princess Plus fare than if you booked a standard fare and the Plus drink package at a later time.
Fun Family Activities on Princess Cruises
There’s no need to worry about how families can spend time together on a Princess Cruise. The Sky Princess offered trivia nights, pool games, pickleball, basketball, and a miniature golf putting green.
There are also Movies Under The Stars around the main pool where the large screen is located. While the ship shows movies during the day, Movies Under the Stars means the loungers get padded covers and popcorn for everyone. Movies shown around the pool are rated PG-13 and under. And don’t worry if you miss the movie of the night. The movie is available on your stateroom television the day afterward.
Top-rated shows also take place at night in the Princess Theater. From Broadway-type shows to comedians to jugglers, there’s a little bit of everything during two shows a night.
Tip: Look at the JourneyView portion of the app within a few days of sailing. All activities are listed, including show days. This will make it easier to plan your days and ensure you don’t miss anything. Shows happen every night but often aren’t repeated. You’ll also receive a printed overview of the next day each night in your cabin.
Adult-Only Locations to Relax
Even on a family vacation, adults need a little alone time. And sometimes the areas around the main pools can get noisy and crowded. Not to worry—there are several places onboard a Princess Cruise to get some quiet time.
On the Sky Princess, there was an adult-only pool and bar located towards the front of the ship on the Sun Deck/17. Called The Retreat Pool, there are no reservations required, and it is free to enter. The area also has an adults-only bar, along with loungers and chairs that surround the pool. You’ll hear a little of the music coming from the main pool area, but not enough to distract or irritate.
The Sky Deck/18 is home to The Sanctuary. A private area with padded loungers, cabanas, and hot tubs, use of The Sanctuary’s loungers is $40 per day or $20 for a half day. Cabanas cost extra. Included are beverages and light snacks delivered by stewards who walk around and attend to your every need. On the Sky Princess, The Sanctuary is the only location, excluding the bridge, where you can get a view over the ship’s bow.
Those in need of even more relaxation can head to the Lotus Spa®. Specialists provide massages, hair services, pedicures/manicures, facials, and other body treatments. If you don’t schedule a treatment in the Lotus Spa, consider booking time at The Enclave. Located inside the spa, The Enclave is a thermal spa area with multiple saunas, heated tile beds, a hydro-therapy pool, and different temperature refreshing showers. Passes to The Enclave can be purchased by the day or for the entire cruise.
Tip: Schedule your boarding time as early as possible to experience The Sanctuary and The Enclave. The only way to reserve space is when you’re on board, and those spots fill quickly. Most Princess repeat cruisers head directly to each location once they’re on the ship to try to get a reservation.
Editor’s note: This trip was paid for by Princess Cruises, but opinions belong to the writer.