Cruises

Princess Cruises Ocean Princess Review

The smallest ship in the Princess fleet has big ideas on where to sail.

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Kids Programs

Ocean Princess is not designed for children. There is no dedicated kids program, facility or staff. However, a Princess call center representative said that if at least 20 children are booked on a particular cruise, activities will be organized. To our knowledge there was no one under age 20 or so aboard our sailing.

Ocean Princess had just four dedicated bars sprinkled around the ship. Bar service could also be ordered at the pool area, or inside the theater. A 15-percent service charge was added to all drink orders. The minimum age for drinking was 21.

Martinis were priced $7.95 and included the traditional “007 Classic,” plus Key Lime Pie, Cosmopolitan and Passionada. The list of signature margaritas were all $7.95, as were other mixed drinks such as the Moscow Mule, Raspberry Collins, Caipirinha, Lynchberg Lemonade and the Ultimate Mai Tai. Simpler rum, tequila and whiskey concoctions (made with house brands) such as Bahama Mana, Pina Colada, Manhattan and Tequila Sunrise were $5.50. House spirits were $5, while call brands started at $5.50 for Canadian Club bourbon, Dewar’s White Label scotch, Beefeater gin and Absolut vodka. Bombay Sapphire gin, Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch and Grey Goose vodka were $6.95.

Wines available by the glass included Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, Simi chardonnay, Rosemont shiraz, and Kenwood Jack London cabernet sauvignon, at prices ranging $7.25-$10.50. Korbel brut reserve was available in 187ml bottles for $7.25 and Nicolas Feuillatte brut reserve by the glass for $13. An expanded wine list was available at both the Crown Grill and Sabatini's dining rooms. The beer selection included the usual domestic favorites for $4.25, plus Bass, Dos Equis, Blue Moon and Beck’s for $4.95, and Grolsch swing-top and Guinness for $5.95.

Lotus Spa & Gym

The ship’s spa facilities on Deck 9 forward are operated by Steiner Leisure, the dominant player in spa services for the cruise industry. Prices are in line with Steiner services on other ships, and somewhat higher than at most quality resorts. But there were discounts on port days, and other specials and packages offer discounts for one-off treatments that were not on the regular menu.

The list of services was a bit shorter than we find on most ships, but they included a variety of massages, starting at $149 for the 50-minute aroma stone massage (most massages were offered as 75-minute treatments only). Facials started at $119 for the 50-minute La Therapie Hydralift. Also available were acupuncture and salon services for men and women. There was a Thalassotherapy pool and relaxation area—a private outdoor deck forward of the spa, which had communal loungers and a saltwater hot tub. A one-week pass to use the facilities was $99 per person, or $149 for a couple.

The Fitness Center offered a decent variety of weight and cardio equipment using newly installed Precor equipment. The facility wasn’t large, though the amount of equipment seemed adequate for the number of passengers. Changing rooms offered lockers, and there were separate steam rooms for men and women.

Fitness classes were available. Daily stretching and abs workout sessions were free, while Pilates, Yoga, and Spinning classes were $12 each ($30 for three); the Body Sculpt Boot Camp was $69 for two sessions or $120 for all four. Personal training was $85 for a 60-minute session; a package of three sessions was $209. Also on offer were body composition analysis ($35, or $50/couple) and nutritional consultation ($85 for one or two). There were also the usual free seminars—Detox for Health and Weight Loss, Secrets to a Flatter Stomach—which culminated in pricey product pitches.

Editor’s note: Ocean Princess ended its tour of duty with the Princess fleet in March 2016 and was acquired by Oceania Cruises. Following a 35-day, $40-million renovation in Marseilles, Ocean Princess was scheduled to be renamed Sirena, joining its Renaissance Class sisters Insignia, Regatta and Nautica. Sirena’s first cruise departs Barcelona on April 27, 2016.

Of the mainstream cruise lines, perhaps no other ship attains a greater variety of passport stamps in a given year than Ocean Princess.

With short and long itineraries across Asia, around Africa, and canvassing the South Pacific, Ocean Princess travels the globe, touching virtually every continent every year. It’s also a smaller vessel, with a more limited range of amenities and activities than other Princess cruise ships. We went for a spin to see if the quieter, more intimate experience offered by Ocean Princess was our cup of tea.

For a ship carrying fewer than 700 passengers, the range of dining options was pretty decent. There was the Club Restaurant, the main dining room, offering two seatings nightly, at 6 and 8:15 p.m. (no flexible seating option was available). Breakfast was available here daily, and lunch was offered on embarkation day and sea days.

In addition to the Panorama Buffet, serving breakfast and lunch daily (and dinner on port days), there were two specialty restaurants with a surcharge for dinner: Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini’s. Located on opposite sides of Deck 10 aft, these venues alternated the nights they were open. With just a few dozen seats at each, we were a little concerned about getting a reservation, but securing a table turned out to be no problem. The cover charge for the steakhouse was $20 per person, the Italian Sabatini’s was $25—both were worth it. Also offered at Sterling Steakhouse on one sea day was a British-style pub lunch; there was no surcharge for this meal.

With just 338 cabins, Ocean Princess offers a diverse range of accommodations, with décor that will be new (if slightly outdated) to anyone familiar with cabin design on other Princess ships. Sixty-eight percent of the accommodations have balconies—a good quantity for an older ship—but only four units are designated as wheelchair accessible.

Interior cabins, 26 in all, are fairly consistent in size, and located on decks 7 and 8 (plus one on Deck 4)—none of these have windows of any kind. There are 80 Oceanview cabins (what we stayed in), and these range in size, configuration and view. For this category in particular it’s worth examining deck plans carefully to avoid unpleasant surprises. Half the accommodations on the ship are Balcony cabins, which are 216 square feet including the balcony. For a little more real estate, consider one of Princess’ Mini-Suites, 322 square feet and located on Deck 8 (the highest cabin area). Suites on Ocean Princess are all corner units on decks 6 through 8 and encompass a generous 786 square feet or more (including the balcony). Perhaps next time.

Our Cabin: Oceanview

For our cruise we stayed in what appeared to be a fairly typical Oceanview cabin, at least based on collateral material from Princess, measuring about 163 square feet. The size seemed okay—other Oceanview units on Ocean Princess range 146 to 206 square feet, and some have obstructed views. The floor plan of the cabin was conventional, and not too snug except for the bathroom (more on this in a moment). There was a big mirror facing the bed that helped open up the space, and another large mirror over the desk.

The beds could be configured as two twins, or as a single queen, sharing a single padded headboard. We found the mattress and bedding sufficiently comfortable for sleeping. There were two small nightstands with lamps for each side of the beds; the lighting was not quite adequate for reading in bed. The main cabin lighting was controlled by a switch at the entrance and by a switch in the middle of the headboard.

Our cabin had a small wood desk with a stool. Next to it was a mini fridge—empty except for an ice bucket, which was filled by our cabin attendant on request (on the desk was a small collection of sodas and bottled water that could be purchased). At the desk were two NEMA (North American) style electrical outlets, for 110V, 60-cycle AC power, along with two Schuko (European 230V) outlets.

Above the mini fridge was a safe—too small for even a small-sized laptop. Above this was the TV, a 22-inch ViewSonic—a bit small for viewing from the far side of the bed, but adequate from the couch. The couch was 50 inches wide—just big enough for two. The coffee table was large enough only for a couple drinks or maybe a single plate of food. The window for our cabin measured 31 by 35 inches in size, and there were sheers plus a curtain that could be pulled closed to block out the light.

Though storage space was not as generous as we find on most Princess ships, a couple that packs sensibly will find sufficient closet and drawer space. The main closet was 35 inches wide, with 18 wood hangers on a rod. Next to it was an additional space, 17 inches wide, with another clothes rod (but no additional hangers); this space was open for the top half, with four drawers below for storing loose items. Additional storage was found in the small drawers on either side of the desk, in a cubbyhole between the safe and the TV, and there was space to store luggage under the beds. We also found the “shelf” under the window to be handy.

The cabin bathroom was tightly configured. The shower stall—41 inches by 24 at its widest and deepest points—was so small there was barely any room to turn around. The awkward space was made worse by a flimsy shower curtain that clung to our legs like a bad dog. There was little shelving around the sink, so our toiletries were jammed into the small cabinet shelves next to the mirror. There was no makeup mirror, and the hairdryer was mounted above the toilet; inside the shower was a retractable laundry line. There was a bottle each of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, branded to Princess’ Lotus Spa. These were thin products, nothing we felt like pocketing at the end of the cruise.

Pool

There is just one pool on Ocean Princess and it is decidedly petite—more like a plunge pool, really. At five-and-a-half feet deep it was, at least, good for a quick dip when the sun sweltered. There were a few dozen loungers around the pool, some shaded by Deck 10; our cruise may have been an anomaly, but we were able to find loungers on sea days pretty easily. There were two elevated whirlpool tubs flanking the pool. Showers for rinsing were available poolside but they weren’t enclosed, allowing the wind to carry the spray.

Live music was played on a small stage on sea days, and drink service by waiters was available from the Pool Bar. One corner of the pool deck was dedicated to smokers, and ashtrays were set out on the tables.

About Our Cruise

Ocean Princess was built in 1999, serving as one of the eight original “R-class” ships for Renaissance Cruises, a line that went under with the tourism implosion that followed the 9-11 attacks. The 672-passenger ship was acquired by Princess in 2002 (along with an identical sister, Pacific Princess). Originally called R Four, the vessel was renamed Tahitian Princess; then, in 2009, she was renamed Ocean Princess.

The balance of the Princess fleet is comprised of ships that carry three or four times the passengers of Ocean Princess and Pacific Princess—these two vessels are true outliers (the line calls them the Small Ships of Princess). While not really an expedition-sized ship, Ocean Princess is put to work on a diverse range of itineraries, reaching ports that see few calls (and usually from the more upscale lines).

The interior décor of Ocean Princess retains much of the aristocratic air Renaissance Cruises conceived for its ships—lots of dark woods, faux bookcases and fireplaces, and wrought iron railings for the staircases. There are Oriental-style carpets in the hallways and lobby, and lush murals in unexpected areas of the ship. Overall, the décor is less neutral than the usual Princess canvass, though it’s certainly not edgy. Common areas offer the backdrop of an English country club—a style some might feel recalls classic ocean liners of a half-century back. Overall, we were happy to bid adieu to Princess’ usual (and tired) coral-and-teal color scheme.

The upbeat service we experienced was comfortably casual.

Our cabin, an Oceanview unit, was typically compact, with a bathroom and shower that was tighter than usual; but it was also less bland than the usual Princess styling. The upbeat service we experienced was comfortably casual; after a few days, waiters and bartenders got to know us and our preferences. Similarly, it was easy to get to know fellow passengers, which included a fairly large contingent of British guests. Senior staff was mostly invisible during our cruise.

Club Restaurant

Encompassing a single deck—Deck 5 aft—the 338-seat Club Restaurant served as the main dining room aboard Ocean Princess. There was a limited number of two-tops, but otherwise shared tables dominated and there was no flexible seating plan allowing us to dine anytime. Whatever dining booking you made prior to embarkation was what you got. While meals were a bit uneven in quality, our waiter team was on the ball and engaging—together they were a cheerful yin and yang and welcomed us warmly each night.

For dinner each evening there would be a nightly selection of three appetizers, four soup/salad choices, a pasta that could be served in an appetizer or entrée portion, and a selection of six entrées, one of which was always vegetarian. In addition there was a roster of “always available” items that included shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, fettuccini Alfredo, grilled salmon and spice rubbed tri-tip roast. Every dinner started with basket of nicely varied breads.

Among the starters, some of the items we particularly liked were the red snapper mojito, a ceviche with mango and avocado served in a martini glass; a soufflé that was rich and satisfying without being overwhelming; and an appetizer portion of the ever-popular fettuccini Alfredo (the entrée size is served in a Parmesan basket). The salads we tried seemed a bit uninspired, and the gnocchi one night was starchy and unappetizing. Entrées we enjoyed included orange roughy that was lovely, delicately seasoned; chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms and root vegetable was satisfying; and prime rib arrived exactly as ordered (medium rare)—if only the half ear of corn hadn’t been steamed beyond recognition. But desserts were disappointing—panna cotta was stiff and flavorless, a cheese plate was uninspired with supermarket wedges, chocolate soufflé was a nothing—only a warm apple crumble was worth a second bite.

Breakfasts were inconsistent. One morning the frittata with mushrooms was delightful, with good Italian sausage on the side; the next, eggs ordered over-medium were hard through and through. Something called James Beard’s French toast was more akin to a donut, fried hard with a corn flake coating. Lunches were better and featured a couple pastas of the day (tagliarini primavera was surprisingly hearty). A meal of Portuguese sardines and deviled eggs followed by potato and pea samosas was a tasty change of pace.

Afternoon tea was served here, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. daily. There was a nice selection of cakes, pastries and small sandwiches.

Club Bar

Serving as both the coffee bar as well as the lounge for the main dining room, the Club Bar opened early to catch the java junkies, with espresso drinks as well as fresh-brewed coffee. Prices ranged $1.25 to $1.75 for brewed coffee (regular and large), $2.50-$3.50 for cappuccino or café latte and $2.75-$3.75 for mocha, white chocolate latte or caramel latte. Iced blended drinks were also available ($2.50-$3.75). The Princess coffee card was a good deal: $29 for 15 drinks and unlimited brewed coffees (it could be shared by two passengers).

The location wasn’t used much during the day, but when the restaurant wasn’t open it was a good spot for reading or informal card play against the faux cabinets and fireplace. Leading up the evening’s first seating, the Club Bar would fill and the ship’s full bar menu was available.

Retail

There were two shops onboard that packed a lot of merchandize into a pair of small boutiques next to the atrium on Deck 5. Facets carried jewelry and watches from Citizen, Guess, Fossil, Effy, Swarovski, etc. Next door at Calypso Cove there was an assortment of Princess logo merchandize, sundries such as sun block, toiletries and snacks, a few paperbacks, and a collection of liquor and tobacco, fragrances and cosmetics. There was a small selection of casual attire for men and women from Tommy Bahama and Puma.

There was a crew of photographers that snapped away on the ship, revealing their masterworks at the Photography and Video Gallery, on Deck 5 forward. In addition to photos, there was a limited array of consumer cameras here, plus camera cases, memory cards, photo books, etc.

Haves and Have Nots

For a smaller ship, the range of dining options was okay. In addition to the main dining room and buffet, there were two specialty restaurants—Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini’s, an Italian venue. They weren’t both open at the same time, instead alternating days of operation, which we found to be a logical arrangement (obtaining reservations for each posed no problem on our cruise). On the other hand, for the Club Restaurant, the ship’s main dining room, there was no flexible seating option available—guests could only get tables for the early or late seatings. We prefer being able to select a different dining time each evening, based on the day’s activities. Food was unexceptional, but about on par with what we’ve experienced on most other Princess ships.

While the gym was small it was adequate for the number of guests. On the other hand the pool was, well—dinky.

We didn’t expect showroom entertainment to be on as large a scale as other Princess ships, and though there was nothing on stage we haven’t seen and heard before we weren’t disappointed. Guest enrichment programs were concentrated on sea days, with such offerings as morning and afternoon trivia sessions, Zumba workouts in the Tahitian Lounge, Bingo, and slot tournaments in the casino. While the gym was small it was adequate for the number of guests. On the other hand the pool was, well—dinky.

Overall, we find Princess Cruises does a decent job keeping its fleet clean and polished, with regular dry docks every three years. But Ocean Princess felt its age (1999), and general wear and tear seemed a bit more obvious than it should have been. While replacing the elegant Regency styling would probably be anathema to some (and it is charming), we think a wholesale makeover of the ship is overdue—something that might breathe new life into a vessel that feels dated.

Service

The crew was just fine, offering upbeat service that was comfortably casual. Owing to the size of the ship it wasn’t hard, after a few days, for waiters and bartenders to get to know us and our preferences, especially in the main dining room, where we were looked after by a charming duo. Our cabin steward was efficient, but a little over-bearing and needy when it came to our attention.

Cabin Amenities

Our cabin had a 22-inch ViewSonic TV. In addition to the usual ship channels there were four news stations, a channel devoted to TV shows and three channels for movie programming, one of which was for family oriented fare. The TV shows and movies shown on our cruise were highlighted in a printed guide and there were three or four different movies on each channel repeated through the day—a decent selection overall.

We also had a phone, a small safe, a mini fridge, cans of soda and bottled water, bottles of Princess branded shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and two pool towels stocked under the sink (replaced on request by cabin attendant). Waffle-weave cloth bathrobes were available on request. Fresh fruit was delivered on request—we asked for banana and pear, one was overripe, the other too crunchy.

Tahitian Lounge

After the Cabaret Lounge this was the ship’s secondary entertainment venue, though scheduled activities were all over the map. There’s a hardwood dance floor, and at night a DJ would materialize to transform the space into the Studio 54 Nightclub. The lack of attendees wasn’t the only thing that kept us from mistaking it for the storied New York disco. In fact, the Princess Patter referred to an hour of recorded music each afternoon dedicated to particular artists. We came by and heard a collection of Earth Wind and Fire’s least greatest hits. (Ship-wide, the only consistency we found to recorded music offered as a backdrop seemed to be total disregard for who was in what venue when.)

The Tahitian Room is also, of course, a bar, serving the ship’s full drink menu. On sea days, afternoon rays were a pleasure to soak in while reading, though scheduled activities would shift the focus every hour or two: Morning and afternoon trivia sessions, ballroom dance class, and Zumba sessions were among the diversions held here.

Only drawback: The starboard corner of the lounge, next to the entrance, was one of the ship’s dedicated smoking areas. We didn’t like having to pass through a haze in order to enter, and the smoke sometimes filtered through most of the space.

Panorama Buffet

Located on Deck 9 aft, the buffet restaurant on Ocean Princess offered a smaller lunch selection than we’re used to on most cruise ships. And although some decent food was offered, we didn’t care for the layout—cold and hot items were interspersed, desserts were located in two or three different areas. Indoor seating was on either side of the deck, while additional tables were on the outside deck—a great perch when the weather was right.

We took most of our breakfasts at the buffet, and the spread was satisfying. We found a good array of fruits—whole, sliced and poached—cold meats and fish, packaged cereal, muesli and oatmeal, yogurt; the range of pastries and baked goods was always pleasing. The omelet station had a small list of ingredients (cheese, onion, tomato, bell pepper, mushroom, ham), and there was an omelet of the day; eggs could also be cooked to order.

Lunch had a few intriguing items, but the limitations of a small selection began to emerge. Cold items included such fare as eggs “upside down” with Thousand Island dressing, roast turkey, a salad bar plus a rotating selection pre-made salads such as cucumber and dill salad, salmon salad, and Indian garbanzo bean salad. Among the hot items we saw were fried calamari, cheese and spinach quiche, a Mexican chili beef wrap (we might call it a burrito), breaded fish sticks, stir fried bok choy, Bangalore-style tilapia.

There were always two soups—such as chicken broth with spinach and rice, or Manhattan clam chowder—and several pre-made sandwiches like ham and cucumber, turkey and spinach with remoulade, garden frittata, etc. Pizzas were available by the slice—always Margherita and pepperoni, plus a slice of the day, such as prosciutto fungi. Most of the desserts we tried here were fine (better than at the Club Restaurant), including tasty little fruit tarts, cupcakes, pineapple upside-down cake, fruit crumbles, and more.

Panorama Buffet offered light afternoon snacks every day from 3 to 5 p.m., but dinner was available only on port days, with a spread that was similar to what was served at lunch.

Other Recreation

Recreational opportunities were limited, but the Cruise Director staff did their best. A jogging track circled the pool on Deck 10—thirteen laps equaled a mile. On Deck 11, we found a shuffleboard court and a golf practice cage.

Other options included Ping Pong (a table was set up on Deck 9 near the pool), Zumba (on two of our sea days only), and Pool Volleyball on one day.

Other Cabins

We did not stay in the rest of these cabins, but we have summaries here provided by Princess Cruises. Note that photos below have been provided by the cruise line and not our reviewer.

Interior
The Interior stateroom is approximately 158 square feet and richly appointed with fine amenities. Some also have pullman beds to accommodate 3rd and 4th passengers.

Oceanview (Obstructed)
The Obstructed Oceanview stateroom is approximately 146 to 165 square feet and features the same fine amenities as our Oceanview stateroom, but either the view from the picture window is obstructed or the stateroom features a porthole instead of a picture window.

Premium Oceanview
The Premium Oceanview stateroom is approximately 206 square feet and features a picture window for memorable views. The Premium Oceanview stateroom is richly appointed with fine amenities.

Obstructed Balcony Stateroom
The spacious approximately 216-square-foot Obstructed Balcony stateroom is appointed with the same fine amenities as our Balcony stateroom but features outstanding views from either a forward-facing or rear-facing 36-square foot balcony.

Balcony
The spacious approximately 216-square-foot Balcony stateroom is appointed with fine amenities and outstanding views from an approximately 36-square-foot private balcony.

Mini-Suite with Balcony
The luxurious Mini-Suite offers approximately 322 square feet of comfort and a separate seating area with a sofa or double sofabed for sleeping a third or fourth passenger. The spacious balcony is approximately 55 square feet and the bathroom offers a combination tub and shower.

Suite with Balcony
Premium accommodations and luxurious appointments are the signature of our expansive approximately 750 to 932-square-foot Suites. Suite staterooms include a spacious cabin and large approximately 288-square-foot balcony, along with special suite-only benefits. Suites include a separate seating area with a sofa or sofabed, walk-in closet, full bathroom and deluxe amenities.

Sterling Steakhouse

Open four nights (out of seven) on our cruise, Sterling Steakhouse sits on Deck 10 aft, with generously spaced tables lining windows that offer a floor-to-ceiling view. While neither the food nor service was quite on par with the best steak house at home, the meal was solid, the wood-paneled ambience intimate and quiet. The $20 up-charge seemed reasonable.

We started with the seared Pacific scallops, a trio of bivalves interspersed with wafers of crispy bacon—they sat atop sautéed mushrooms and a potato confit. The dish tasted as good as it looked. The Grill Salad was a cornucopia of flavors—mesclun greens, marinated bell pepper, asparagus spears, slices of avocado, diced radish and croutons, tossed in a bold vinaigrette.

Steaks on the menu included an 8- or 10-ounce filet mignon, a 12-ounce New York strip, 14-ounce rib eye, a 16-ounce Kansas City strip, and the bone-in 22-ounce Porterhouse. But instead we ordered the lamb rack—three double chops with a breaded rosemary and mustard crust. The chops were cooked exactly to order (medium-rare), and served with sautéed mushrooms, asparagus and potatoes. We also tried the pan roasted sea bass which was served with a leek and mushroom ragout; the kitchen threw on a pair of unadvertised grilled tiger prawns, which we didn’t mind—in fact, this dish was possibly our favorite entrée for the entire cruise.

For dessert we tried the caramel cheesecake parfait, with a coconut Madeleine and candied pineapple on the side—it was another winner.

Once each cruise Sterling Steakhouse is home to a British pub-style lunch. There’s no surcharge for the meal (other than for drinks), and it offers a change of pace. We tried the fried prawns and chips which were heavily breaded, and the chicken curry, an Indian stew served atop rice. Other offerings on the short menu were fish and chips, a Scotch egg and salad, and sherry trifle—the latter was very thick and heavy.

Pool Bar

Located on the opposite end of the pool from the Trident Grill, this bar had the ship’s full drink menu. Waiters served the loungers around the pool.

Decks

Ocean Princess had a couple inviting open-air spaces to enjoy, and our favorite was Deck 5. Effectively, this was the Promenade Deck, but it didn’t circle the ship; it was just a wide corridor on either side of this deck, lined with loungers. It was little used, so it was a good place for enjoying the sun and sea air, or diving into a book.

Deck 10 overlooked the pool, and there were loungers here as well. This was also home to the jogging track. A forward staircase was the only access for Deck 11, a small area above the Tahitian Lounge that was also home to the Shuffleboard Court and a golf practice net. Although there were plenty of loungers here, this deck was little visited during our cruise.

Ship Communications

The ship’s daily newsletter, Princess Patter, arrived in our room each evening, revealing the schedule of activities and promotions for the following day. We found the schedule to be hard to navigate and stay on top of, despite a reduced number of activities onboard. In fact, the newsletter actually filled space by announcing what movies would play on cabin TVs and thinly conceived “events” like Enjoy the Recorded Hits of the Earth, Wind and Fire played in the Tahitian Lounge!

Each day at noon, the captain gave the ship’s positioning and a weather forecast, but little else. There was not a lot of interaction between guests and the senior officers.

Conclusion

The key draw for a cruise aboard Ocean Princess is the truly far-reaching itineraries this ship travels. No continent, excepting Antarctica, if off-limits for this globe-hopper, and the roster of exotic ports is like catnip for anyone seeking to jet-propel their entry to the Travelers’ Century Club. It’s not a good match for those who seek round-the-clock diversions and entertainment, much less families, instead catering to experienced cruisers who have a determined sense of wanderlust.

Ocean Princess offers a very different cruise than the Princess fleet’s newer and larger ships provide.

That said, Ocean Princess still has its limitations. It’s a middle-aged ship, and we were disappointed that an October 2012 dry dock had not spiffed up the ship more obviously. With consecutive sea days common on most voyages, the constraints of a smaller ship can become apparent. Although dining and a few other aspects will strike a familiar chord for those who are previous Princess passengers, Ocean Princess otherwise offers a very different cruise than the fleet’s newer and larger ships provide.

Would we sail on Ocean Princess again? Perhaps. As a way to visit faraway ports well off the beaten track, we certainly would not rule out this ship. Prices vary widely, but cruises on Ocean Princess usually cost a good bit less than luxury lines plying the most eclectic itineraries. But we’d keep our expectations tempered and bring a good selection of books for the sea days. On the other hand, for a more conventional Mediterranean or Caribbean itinerary, we’d opt for a newer ship of this size, or for a larger one with a greater array of diversions.

Shows & Entertainment

The 350-seat Cabaret Lounge serves as the showroom on Ocean Princess, and it’s a fairly simple, one-deck affair—quite a bit smaller than the Princess fleet’s other theaters. There’s a stage, fronted by a round hardwood dance floor, so it’s suited for light dance band performances and cabaret acts. A few movies were shown here as well, but the presentation was subpar.

There were two stage shows, the first a Motown review that featured two singers, a cast of six dancers, and live musicians. They were all good performers, but there was nothing here we haven’t seen and heard quite a few times before; the stage set was more streamlined than a Podunk high school’s. The other show was a decent review of dance in all its variety—tap, Indian, etc. but featured a recorded track rather than live musical backing. On our cruise there were several acts brought aboard for one-off shows—a singer backed by the ship’s four-piece band, another singing duo also backed by the band, a comedian, and a singing and tap-dancing couple. None of these acts were bad, but they weren’t barn burners, either.

A few other events took place in the Tahitian Lounge, including beginner dance lessons (swing, ballroom, salsa), twice-daily trivia sessions, and the ship’s band played here most nights starting at 9:30 p.m. There were also port lectures under Princess’ Scholarship@Sea program—one preceding each port. These were recorded and re-broadcast on the cabin TVs later in the day. X-Box was set up in the Casino on sea days.

Casino Bar

Though located within the casino (and open only when the casino was operating), this bar also serviced the adjacent lounge, a drawing room-style area with an ersatz fireplace and piano. Entertainment included a vocal-piano due, and a guitarist. This was also a kind of overflow area for the Club Bar just prior to the evenings seatings at the Club Restaurant.

Sabatini’s

Open on the three nights that Sterling Steakhouse was closed, Sabatini’s is a Princess staple, found on all but three ships in the fleet. Our meals here have been hit-and-miss on other ships, but our experience here on Ocean Princess was fine, heightened by the floor-to-ceiling windows offering wonderful views and the relaxed ambience, due in large part to generously spaced tables. The menu, of course, is Italian, with a good range of appetizers and desserts, and a minimum of pasta dishes.

Our meal began with a basket of bread, including focaccia, and a bottle of olive oil and vinegar. The oil was perhaps our only complaint—it wasn’t as flavorful as it could be, perhaps tainted by the bottle being refilled repeatedly (and never fully emptied out). There was also a modest plate of antipasti—prosciutto, crostini and olives. We ordered the mixed green salad, a modest dish but graced with sheets of pecorino cheese. Fried calamari was okay—tender, but not as hot and crispy as we like—served with a lemon-garlic dip. However, an appetizer-sized portion of linguini with clams was just perfect. It was as good (maybe even better) than what mom used to fix.

For entrée we opted for the branzino (striped bass) baked in an herbed salt crust, a portion large enough for two, according to the menu. The whole fish was brought to the table on a platter in its baked salt crust and filleted for us. Divided between two and snuggled up to a few veggies, it was a modest portion, but the fish was succulent. Other entrée options included grilled scampi, chicken with polenta, a 10-ounce strip steak with rosemary and garlic, and duck with pancetta and fava beans.

The desserts we had were outstanding, starting with the citrus tart, which was redolent with lemon and orange. The Sinfonia di Sapori was truly a decadent symphony of flavors—a Napoleon of almond, hazelnut and pecan with praline mousse and caramel pecan brittle. We wolfed that down in no time and only narrowly avoided licking the plate.

Internet Facilities

Located on Deck 9 next to the spa, the Internet Café has 8 PCs available for guests to check email or websites. The basic rate for internet access—using the café’s computers or our own laptop anywhere on the ship—was a stiff .79 per minute, plus a $3.95 activation fee. Packages reduced the per-minute rates—100 minutes for $69 (.69/min), 200 minutes for $99 (.49/min), etc. There was an embarkation special that awarded a 40-minute bonus to those who signed up for packages on the first day of the cruise (extended to the second day as well). A bargain “last day” package was also available for the last full day of the cruise: 15 minutes for $8.99.

Although computers could be accessed anytime, the station was staffed several hours in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Casino

Reserved for guests age 21 or older, the casino on Deck 6 is fairly perfunctory. There were 30 slot machines along with tables for Poker, Blackjack and a Roulette wheel. A Blackjack tournament was held one afternoon; Bingo sessions were conducted (in the Cabaret Lounge), but on only two days of our cruise.

The casino is a designated smoking area on Ocean Princess, one of only two indoors. However, on five nights of our seven-night cruise the Princess Patter newsletter announced the casino would be non-smoking after 6 p.m.

Trident Grill

Located near the pool, the Trident Grill offered a limited selection of lunch items—cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, grilled chicken breast, hot dogs, beef knockwurst with sauerkraut, bratwurst and French fries. Basic fixings were available, along with a topping of the day—we tried the grill when guacamole and salsa was offered. All-in-all, a good burger and the fries were fresh.

Dress Codes

Overall, guests dressed fairly casually on our cruise. Princess Cruises recommends sports wear and casual attire by day, with swimwear discouraged from public rooms and lounges. During the evening, Smart Casual attire was recommended—skirts/dresses, slacks and sweaters for ladies; pants and open-necked shirts for men.

Some nights are designated as Formal (two nights of our seven-night cruise), and suggested attire was evening gown, cocktail dress or elegant pant suit for women; tux, dark suit or dinner jacket and slacks for men.

Pool and beach attire, shorts, baseball caps, and casual jeans were not permitted in the dining room at any time; shoes were required.

In-Room Dining

Room service meals were available 24 hours, with no charge for delivery. The breakfast menu was continental (cold) except for an English muffin with egg, bacon and cheese, served hot in a foil wrapper. The balance of the menu was cold package cereals, yogurt, fruit, bread roll, croissant or Danish (with preserves), along with juices, coffee and tea. Breakfast was available any time from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., and we used the door tag (set out the night prior) to order our meal. It was delivered right at the appointed hour, and there were no surprises.

The all-day menu included three salads (mixed garden greens, Caesar with chicken strips and Chef’s), soup of the day, a half-dozen sandwiches ranging from vegetarian to club house, hot dog, hamburgers, croquet monsieur, lasagna and a Moroccan vegetable crock pot with pita. Desserts included flan, chocolate fudge cake and a chocolate chip cookie. We ordered the beef chili with black beans and tortilla chips, which was topped with melted cheddar cheese and reasonably tasty (a few more chips would have been nice), along with the tuna salad sandwich, which was served on toasted white bread.

Other room service options incurred a surcharge. Twelve-inch pizzas were available 11:30 a.m.to 2:30 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. (pepperoni, cheese or the daily special), for a $3 delivery charge. Hors d’oeuvres could be ordered with 6 hours’ notice: vegetable sticks with blue cheese dip for six, assorted canapés, chilled shrimp on ice with cocktail sauce, guacamole with chips, and chocolate dipped strawberries were available, at prices ranging $6-$14. Another option was a champagne breakfast ($32 per couple), which included a half-bottle of chilled French champagne, pastries, cold smoked salmon, fruit, and quiche. The lobster balcony dinner ($100 per couple) required 24-hour notice and includes a cocktail, a half-bottle of champagne, canapés, flower bouquet, an 8x10 photo and a four-course dinner including surf and/or turf. Given the limited counter space in our cabin, most of these didn’t make much sense to us.

Other Venues

One of the ship’s most charming spaces is the Library on Deck 10. The room isn’t an afterthought, as is often the case on newer ships—it’s a dedicated and inviting area with a domed, trompe l’oeil ceiling depicting an Amazonian rain forest, along with an ersatz fireplace, comfy sofas and leather wing-back chairs. The book collection isn’t extensive, but it’s at least as good as the libraries on larger Princess ships. A jigsaw puzzle or two was always out, in some stage of completion. Next to the Internet Café on Deck 9, the Card Room had four card tables set up for informal play—no activities were scheduled for this venue during our cruise.

The Lobby was another appealing space, where the Passenger Services and Shore Excursion desks were found. A staircase framed with wrought iron and potted plants lead up to Deck 5, where the Future Cruise sales desk was located.

Laundry Facilities

There was one self-serve, coin-operated laundry facility, located on Deck 7, midship, and it was usually busy (especially on the last sea day).

General Health & Safety

A Muster Drill held just before embarkation. We were asked to attend with our life jackets in hand, and key cards were scanned as we entered the meeting area. We found the drill to be more detailed than on much larger ships, and we didn’t mind.

Hand sanitizers were present at all restaurant entrances and their use was encouraged.

Clinics

A medical center was located on Deck 4 midship. It was staffed 9 to 11 .m. and 5 to 6 p.m. daily.

Smoking Policy

Indoor areas, including cabins and balconies, were designated as non-smoking on Ocean Princess. Exceptions were a corner of the Tahitian Lounge on the starboard side (next to the bar’s entrance) and the casino. However, the casino was designated as non-smoking on five nights out of our seven-night cruise. Outside, smoking was permitted in a designated area on the pool deck.

General Policies

For information on Princess Cruises’ tipping and service charge policy, see here.

For information on Princess Cruises’ alcohol policy, see here.

For information on Princess Cruises’ loyalty program, see here.

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