25 Tips for Cruising on Princess that Everyone Should Know

After two weeks onboard the Island Princess we were surprised to still be discovering things that we probably should have known from the beginning. We were not alone. We frequently heard “I wish I knew that before today.” So I asked officers, crew, and other passengers for their best tips for cruising with Princess.

These are not secrets, all of this information is readily available onboard a Princess Cruise.

The Island Princess cruise ship docked at the port of Puntarenas in Costa Rica

Tips for Cruising: Things to Do Before You Go

1. Excursions, spa treatments, and specialty dinner reservations can be booked in advance. With no penalty for cancelation (within 48 hours), many popular time slots “sell out” before embarkation.

A factory in Sarchi Costa Rica that makes Oxcarts

2. Read the pre-boarding options as not all of them are available after you board.

3. Fly to your embarkation port at least a day in advance to allow for delays. The ship will not wait for you.

4. Verify that your medical insurance covers travel outside your home country.

5. Bring a small first aid kit with over-the-counter medication for headache, sore throat, fever, and diarrhea. If you take Rx medication, bring a paper copy of the prescription.

6. Owners of stock in Carnival Cruise Lines (parent company) receive benefits including onboard credits.

Tips for Cruising: Dining and Drinking

1. All passengers opt for either a specific dinner seating or “Anytime Dining.” There are plenty of alternates onboard including: a casual buffet; specialty restaurants, coffee shops, etc (extra fee); pizza, burgers, pastry, or ice cream bars near the pools; balcony dining (extra fee); afternoon tea service; room service; or, snacks at one of the bars.

2. At meals you can order more than one of anything, even extra vegetables, a second lobster tail, or one of each desert (although, your clothes still need to fit).

A plate of extra vegetables on Princess Cruises

3. Anytime Diners can make daily dinner reservation thus allowing you to be seated first at your requested time, rather than waiting in the queue.

4. Most beverages on board have an additional fee. Several discount cards are available as follows:

  • Coffee Card: 15 specialty coffees, plus unlimited filter coffee and hot chocolate. Hubby and I shared our card.
  • Soda and More Card: unlimited soft drinks, mocktails, juices, and hot chocolate.
  • Wine Card: Saves money on bottled wines.
  • All Inclusive Beverage Package:  Any Soda, bottled water, cocktails, spirits, wines, beers, specialty coffee, and tea up to $10 each. We saw many families purchase only one and share the waters, sodas, and coffee.
  • Bottled  Water Card: Available only prior to embarkation.

5. Unfinished bottles of wine can be saved for you in the restaurant or brought back to your cabin.

6. The specialty restaurants frequently serve lunch for no extra charge. On the Island Princess this included Italian Pizza or a British Pub lunch.

One of the best tips for cruising for Pizza lovers is the free lunch time meals in the specialty restaurant on a Princess Cruise ship

More Tips for Cruising

1. Everything you need to know is in the daily Princess Patter.

2. If you want additional advice on ports, the ship bartenders are like hidden concierges. They learn the best and the worst while talking to passengers everyday. Also, many crew members go ashore multiple times to the same ports.

3. Beach towels are available at the pools and can be taken ashore at ports.

4. The rules state that unattended poolside lounge chairs will have towels removed after 30 minutes. In practice, we never saw this happen.  While it seems rude to set up and leave a lounger, on sunny sea days it may be the only way to have an afternoon seat around the pool.

Relaxing out the outdoor pool on the Island Princess

5. The dry sauna and large showers at the Spa are available free to all passengers.

6. The limited spots in the “Sanctuary,” a posh, adults-only lounge (extra fee) book up early for the entire cruise.

7. Some Princess Cruise ships offer Movies Under the Stars each night on a huge screen. Padding, removable pillows, and blankets convert the lounge chairs. Popcorn is provided.

One of the pools on the Island Princess cruise ship

8. Each ship has decks offering outdoor access to the bow and stern. On the Island Princess, decks 10 and 11 were optimal for watching the ship enter the Panama Canal, while deck 8 at the stern was the perfect spot as we left Cabo San Lucas. To access these outdoor decks, we passed through an unlabelled doors at the end of the hallway.

9. Onboard internet is charged on a per-minute basis. Speed is effected by number of users. Early in the morning or late at night will give the fastest speeds.

10. Onboard text messages to other passengers is free using the free Princess onboard at Sea site.  Bring your mobile device and also access daily schedules, your account, and the ships itinerary.

11. Onboard laundry uses tokens obtained by swiping your passenger card.

12. It is possible to alter your daily gratuity amount – simply ask at the main desk.

13. I think the best deal onboard is the future cruise deposit. If unused in two years, your money is refunded. Importantly, the deposit must be in the currency of the country of your residency, and you must enroll while onboard.

Are any of these tips for cruising new to you? Do you have any cruising tips to add?

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25 Tips for Cruising on Princess Cruise Ships

This post also linked at Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.30.17 pm The Weekly Postcard, Weekend Wanderlust, Travel Photo Thursday, and Photo Friday.

Disclaimer: In addition to VIP treatment onboard the Island Princess we were provided with many complimentary extras. The opinions and observations expressed here are strictly my own. The tips and benefits listed above are all subject to change. Be sure to read the current rules before you sail. 

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  1. says

    I can see how people who have never cruised are not aware of certain important details. One time on a cruise, we were assigned to seat with two other couples during dinner. They didn’t now they were able to order more than one of everything. They got the hint when they saw my husband and I doing it.

  2. says

    I’d go bananas if people were hogging lounges – I can’t stand that. If you aren’t sitting on it, what do you need it for??? So selfish.
    Good tips on the discount cards – I had no idea.

    • says

      There are so many rude people out there. It does surprise me that Princess doesn’t enforce their own rules, but it is quite common. We found the same issue on NCL and MSC in the past.

  3. says

    What a great post! I’ve always wanted to take a cruise, but I had no idea about these things! My great-aunt is a huge Princess Cruise fan, and I wonder if she knows all these things.

    Great work! 😀

  4. says

    Good tips Rhonda for someone like me who has never cruised I wouldn’t have a clue, although I did go on a 2 day one to Denmark and back heheh!

    Have a cruisetastic day 🙂

  5. says

    I have only been on one cruise- that was a Holland America cruise going from Santiago Chile to Rio de Janeiro Brazil. 16 great days and what a feast every night!
    Plus great entertainment!
    NO rules whatsoever at that time- 2008- we were even allowed to bring wine on board for taking to the dining room if we wished and the corkage fee was only $10.
    The only thing I would do differently would be having a room with a view. Interior rooms were a bit claustrophobic!

  6. says

    These are some great tips! We were supposed to go on a cruise this October, but we’ve had to cancel it as we got engaged and I wanted our wedding in the fall. However, my mom still really wants to do a cruise soon so this will come in helpful! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  7. says

    I’m a bit surprised they charge extra for beverages and that because people can pre-book things, others may not be able to partake while on board. i worked for years in the resort community. Their on site stores overcharge by a lot but there are always places you can go off the grounds to buy things. Not so on boats, I guess. You’re pretty much stuck and have to pay the going rate.

    • says

      I should clarify, if you don’t pre-order you don’t get the special deal. Anyone can get bottled water onboard the ship (we drink and filled our bottles with the tap water). And while things are more expensive onboard, the ships do stop in ports, so you can get most things off the ship if you want.

      • Lady kendal jaggar says

        I brought the drinks package ans I also paid for wine at the table for fine wines .. I can say that princess was best for this aa I often travel with cunard and just 6 bottles of my fave pouilly fume was 350 dollars plus tax where as princess 788 dollars allowed me 14days hassel free unlimited ans my poulliy fume was only 24.14 dollar on board . Per bottle no hassle perfect cruising no stress .chef table was beautiful and wine tasting perfect trips out and the spa was great I used the wonderful deposit system to book asia on new majestic next year . Love cruising

  8. says

    Great advice, Rhonda. Many these tips are kind of common to all cruise lines from all I’ve noticed. Once you’ve done a cruise you learn the ins and outs of cruising and next time around you know what to do. I am not a great fan of cruises however. I profoundly dislike the idea of going where other people want to take me and follow their rules. I like to make my own itinerary, which obviously is not possible on a cruise.

    • says

      I debated whether to call it tips for cruising or for Princess. For us we learned new things each time, and even after 8 cruises I was still surprised by a few of these that I learned from talking to officiers.

  9. says

    You are very correct Rhonda. We have learned a great deal after cruising 10 times, 11 times January 28th 2017 on the Carnival Vista. One thing that I really learned form my first cruise was to watch what you eat. I gained 10 lbs on my first cruise and my slacks wouldn’t fit when I got home so I learned from that. You just have to watch and you can still enjoy the cruise. I stayed away from the all desserts. It was hard but it helped and I still enjoyed the many foods. Great ideas Rhonda.
    See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

  10. says

    I’m not a cruiser so I was interested to read your whole post. There is so much more to it than what I would have thought. An excellent resource for anyone thinking of taking a cruise.

    • says

      Thanks Jan. Actually there is plenty to do onboard a cruise ship. Boredom is never the issue. For me the major downside is the limited amount of time off the ship. It’s a trade off.

  11. says

    These are wonderful cruise tips. I only cruised once–on the Queen Mary 2 in her inaugural year, 12 years ago. I am way overdo! Hopefully we can plan one soon. I’d like to cruise to Alaska. I linked up tonight. Hope to join in more frequently!

  12. says

    You sound like a real cruise expert! Great tips. The part of the on board internet charged on a per-minute basis doesn’t sound very attractive. Also that the speed is effected by number of users. I wonder if they couldn’t offer internet for free as a incentive for their guests like even buses in the US do. #wkendtravelinspiration

    • says

      I sound like an expert because I asked the experts onboard and took notes. As for internet, they do use it as an incentive for frequent travelers. The more you cruise with the same line, the more bonuses they give you. It’s a great way for a good company to build loyalty.

  13. says

    We have never been on a cruise. We did however get invited to the culinary immersion experience on board that Golden Princess, which gave us a glimpse of life on board. Great tips that we may use one day.

    • says

      We had a culinary experience on a Holland America ship and got a tour of it as well. Yes, it gives an idea, but life onboard is actually much more fun than it just appears on a tour.

  14. Kellie says

    I love to cruise!

    We recently cruised Princess for the third time and were allowed one bottle of wine per passenger to bring onboard! You can consume it in your stateroom to avoid corkage. Room service will open it for you and bring wine glasses. We tip them for that.

    As for the lounge chairs, if all are “reserved” with a towel, I simply move them and sit. Haven’t had a problem, as the people are usually not even at the pool.

    Regarding the drink cards, it should be noted that they are per person and not to be shared. Sure, you can try to scam the system and maybe succeed, but it’s important to know that you may have a problem if caught. We found that the card was to our advantage, as we enjoyed daily specialty coffees, bottled waters and cocktails. You also get a discount on wine with the card.

    • says

      We love cruising too. Thanks for the additional tips. As for the drink cards, they each have different rules. The coffee card can be shared as it is for a specific number of coffees. In fact, we always ordered both my specialty drink and hubby’s free filter coffee at the same time. It was the bar tender who suggested we share. We didn’t have an alcohol card, but we certainly saw many couples ordering one alcoholic and one alcoholic drink at the same time.

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