Cruises have long been a top family travel choice for us, with trips at sea starting when my youngest was only 2. This past summer, we boarded the Caribbean Princess for a five-night Western Caribbean itinerary round trip from Fort Lauderdale. Princess Cruises’ 3,080-passenger ship provided plenty of family-friendly features to keep our 12- and 15-year-olds, as well as my husband and I, entertained and happy throughout the cruise.
When deciding on a cruise for the family, itinerary and ship should be the top considerations. Caribbean Princess is currently sailing through April 2015 on a series of four and five-night Getaway cruises (with seven-night itineraries available from January to April 2015 as well) to the Eastern and Western Caribbean round trip from Fort Lauderdale.
The shorter getaway options are a good choice if you have never cruised before and want to try it for the first time. Our five-night itinerary included port stops in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Princess offers a variety of excursions to get you exploring the region, with top family picks including a pirate ship cruise in Grand Cayman and the dolphin swim in Cozumel.
The days at sea, however, turned out to be the most relaxing for us as we enjoyed all the Caribbean Princess had to offer. With the ship having five pools, plus two splash pools, there was always a lounge chair and space to relax, so often a luxury on other ships. Although it’s a large vessel, Caribbean Princess has numerous areas to cozy up and make your own fun in addition to the pools. Movies Under the Stars features a gigantic pool-side screen where you can watch films on a lounge chair with popcorn and blanket provided. The Lotus Spa and Fitness Center offers an extensive array of treatments, and my oldest daughter and I enjoyed continuing our vacation tradition of the mother-daughter couples massage. The Sanctuary, near the spa, is an adults-only area for when kids are in camp and you want some quiet time.
Youth Centers, for ages 3 to 12, divide the youngest passengers into two age groups for supervised activities virtually all day and into the night, with breaks for lunch and dinner.
Evening group kidsitting is also available from 10 pm to 1 am (except for midnight on the last night) for parents who want to keep the fun going until late. Activities include pizza parties, games, crafts and more. A Teen Lounge caters to ages 13 to 17 with their own space filled with foosball tables, Wii games, and the latest movies and music.
Highlights of the week for the kids included my 12-year-old participating in a Jr. CHEF@Sea program, where she (and a small group of other kids accompanied by their parents) got to go “behind the scenes” in the shipboard galley and learn how to decorate a cake. The delicious end results were hand delivered to our stateroom, and each kid received an official photo with the pastry chefs.
Another top pick for the week was the Family Fun Fair, where the main piazza was transformed into a place for games, cookie decorating, face painting, crafts, and a visit by Pelican Pete — the program’s mascot — for the entire family to enjoy together. Trivia also became a daily activity for us.
Three main dining rooms; a buffet restaurant; pizza, burgers, and ice cream by the pool; as well as 24-hour room service is just the start of the food offerings. Be sure to purchase the kids drink package that allows them to get unlimited sodas, virgin cocktails (such as pina coladas), and milk shakes throughout the cruise for a single price. Enjoy dinner at least one or two nights at Sabatini’s for a special Italian culinary experience or at the Crown Grill for steak and seafood; both of these restaurants have a per person additional charge.
In the evening, the Princess Theater plays host to a variety of shows, talented vocalists entertain in the Piano Lounge and Crooners Bar, and a live band plays dance favorites at the Wheelhouse Bar.
When it was time to end our days, our mini-suite stateroom with balcony was very comfortable for four. The balcony was just the place to say good night to the day or welcome the morning in happy anticipation of the new day’s possibilities.
Stacey Zable is an award-winning veteran travel writer and family travel expert who has written about destinations, resorts, and cruise lines around the world. Her favorite trips are those that she shares with her husband and two daughters. Send travel questions and comments to Stacey at info@