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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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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.