The elegant and low-key Princess Cruises appeals to family cruise vacation planners with its interesting itineraries (especially to Alaska), flexible dining options, and kid-friendly programming such as outdoor movies. The cruise line has taken standard cruising and turned it into an educational and enriching experience for the entire family with programs like Discovery At Sea, which includes workshops and shore excursions for children and adults based on popular Discovery and Animal Planet shows.
The line, for many, is the go-to name in Alaska itineraries, because in addition to ships, Princess owns land accommodations, coach tours, and a sightseeing train that focus on getting up close to the Alaska wilderness. For 2015, there are 106 Alaska cruises planned, featuring their seven-day “Voyage of the Glaciers” or “Inside Passage” routes. Most can be combined with their wilderness lodges, domed train, and land visits to Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park; options are available for a variety of budgets and interests.
Here are some of the family-friendly highlights and updates offered by Princess, which comprises 18 ships as of 2015.
Princess Cruises Offers Youth and Teen Programs
Princess Cruises offers a customized teen and youth program, Princess Kids, which provides young passengers with special activities according to three main age groups with age-appropriate scheduling:
- 3 to 7 years – This age group gets involved in learning activities, pajama parties, movie nights and a Fun Fair, in between playtime with games, crafts, tricycles and indoor and outdoor play spaces.
- 8 to 12 years – Schoolage kids led by the ship’s counselors can use the TV lounge, DJ booth, games, and arts n’ crafts tables. The independent minded ones enjoy their own pizza, ice cream parties or kids-only dinners. Make sure they partake of the Discovery Fun Lab where science and nature are the focus.
- 13 to 17 years – Onboard teens can mix music tracks, hang out or dance; a nearby lounge is packed with games to practice for the video game tournaments, and comfy seating. Activities specially designed for their age group include sports competitions, late-night movies, hip hop dance classes and formal dinners. The Curiosity Lab by Discovery offers environmental learning and games based on Discovery’s most popular TV series.
Some of the ships have dedicated facilities for the programs, however, the smaller ships within the fleet do not, and only offer youth programming if there are 20 or more participants. Most of the fleet offers spacious rooms, teen lounges and pools, with newer ships promising the most.
The fleet-wide Teen Spa program offers an age-appropriate selection of spa services including facials, body polish, manicures, and pedicures.
In designing activities for younger passengers, Princess has gone beyond the usual fun and games (although there’s plenty of that too!) and carefully prepared a full range educational programs like star-gazing and shark-themed events with Discovery at Sea. Youth staff members on Princess ships use programs from California Science Center and the National Park Service’s Junior Rangers to engage kids in learning about animals and their habitats.
The quality of care provided by the Princess crew has been well-received by parents. As FTF cruise expert Louisa Frey noted, “The staff went above and beyond in many ways; we loved seeing the stewards decorate cabin doors of those celebrating a birthday or anniversary.”
This wouldn’t be our first choice for parents traveling with babies. Princess does not offer private babysitting, but there is late night group babysitting available on most ships; inquire ahead.
Activities for Adults & Lovers on Princess Cruises
As you can see from this video of an Alaska cruise, adults looking for active programs have a lot to enjoy. There is the expected array of fitness and sports related activities including golf, swimming, and aerobics. Princess Cruises also offers a full line of spa services.
For those who enjoy the nightlife, there are no shortage of stage performances, theme parties and karaoke events any given night of the week. All ships on the fleet feature casinos, and many offer gaming classes for those looking to brush up on their black jack skills.
In addition to this somewhat standard lineup of onboard entertainment, Princess runs Art Connoisseur Cruises on select ships, which includes exhibitions, lectures, meet-and-greets, as well as classes with some big names in the modern art world as a part of its Scholarship at Sea program. The line’s new partnership with Broadway superstar Stephen Schwartz promises outstanding new musical entertainment on several ships, including a “Magic To Do” magic show on Crown Princess, over the next year.
And for lovers? They don’t call Princess Cruises The Love Boat for nothing. This line caught the attention of couples back in 1977, when Pacific Princess was cast in a starring role on a new TV show called “The Love Boat.” The popular weekly series, which introduced millions of viewers to the concept of a sea-going vacation, has been widely credited with fueling the dramatic expansion of the cruise industry. The lines continues to enhance its amenities for couples and honeymooners, with initiatives like its Chocolate themed cruises and special events.
Fun & Dining for the Whole Family Aboard Princess
One of the most raved-about family activities offered by Princess Cruises is Movies Under the Stars. Families can grab a blanket, a tub of popcorn and watch a new release on a cinema-sized LCD screen out on the open-air deck, perfect for those nights when you want to spend some low-key quality time together as a family. Most ships on the fleet feature an atrium where families can grab a seat one of the cafes and enjoy a street-style inspired juggling or acrobatics performance. A new Culinary Academy cooking class is designed for the whole family to learn together, as are many of the scheduled events in the fleetwide ScholarShip@Sea program.
Of course, there’s a wide selection of casual dining options including buffet, a grab n’ go food court, and 24-hour complimentary room service. Going along with an industry trend, they offer Anytime Dining allowing passengers flexibility between the hours of 5:30pm and 10pm on most of their fleet, and is recommended for families with children.
Traditional Dining is offered on all ships, with a set time and table mates should passengers prefer the classic cruising experience. One of our favorite options for foodie families is the Jr. Chef@Sea program, which introduce kids enrolled in the children’s program to cooking.
The fleet also has a selection of specialty restaurants serving Italian — Sabatini’s is highly regarded — Cajun, Steak, and seafood cuisine, which are available for a cover charge, should passengers want the option of enjoying a special night out.
Princess says they can accommodate most special dietary requests but in some cases they may need to be notified as much as 65 days prior to departure of your cruise.
Innovation in Royal & Regal Princess Ships to roll out over Fleet
Princess Cruises launched the 3,600-passenger Royal Princess in 2013, the year they began sailing to Japan. Last year brought the Regal Princess, which was christened by the origjnal cast of “The Love Boat” to commemorate the line’s 50th anniversary. Some of the highlights of this latest class of ships (a third Royal Class ship is due in 2017) include an over-water SeaWalk, a new Princess Live! TV studio; and a special Chef’s Table Lumiere dining space that surrounds diners in a curtain of light.
Guests love the impressive, expanded Piazza and Atrium with their wide new selection of cafes, restaurants, and lounges, Pop-up entertainments keeps kids engaged while adults relax with a cappucino. Adults have an adults-only upper deck pool, and the beautiful Lotus Spa with its own inner hideaway with hammam, The Enclave.
For families, there’s a kids-only dining area where youngsters can eat together while still in close proximity, a really expanded youth center with dedicated outdoor areas, including a new teen lounge, and a special Toddlers fun area just for kids under 3.
For more details and booking information check out the Princess Cruises website.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.