Thanksgiving on the Sky Princess in the Western Caribbean

You may wonder if cruising is fully back. Based on our recent cruise on Sky Princess, we can respond with a resounding “Yes!” Not only was the ship at 100 percent capacity (3,741 guests), but also many of those guests had booked “back-to-back” cruises.

Since our cruise spanned the Thanksgiving holiday, Princess, and all of us who love cruising, no doubt have a lot for which to be thankful.

Holiday cruises have become something of a tradition for us. Our small family is scattered around the country, and going on a cruise is our chosen way to celebrate. And let’s be honest: Dispensing with the cooking and clean-up isn’t a bad thing.

It’s been many years since we last cruised on Princess, so we were looking forward to experiencing what had changed. One change we encountered immediately at check-in: The Ocean Medallion.

First introduced in January, 2017, it made headlines as an innovative, “first-of-its-kind” wearable technology powered by the One Cruise Experience Access Network (OCEAN). Guests are issued their own medallion, which is worn around the neck on a lanyard (you can also purchase wrist bands and other accessories as well if you prefer).

Taking the place of the traditional keycard, we became immediate fans. More on that later.

You’ll also want to download the Princess app before your cruise as well. It will help speed up your check-in and provide lots of useful features once you’re onboard.

Launched in late 2019, Sky Princess is a Royal-class ship that still has that showroom-new feel. When you first walk on to a new ship, there’s usually an “ah” moment when you enter. That’s the case with Sky Princess, which sports a beautifully-designed and appointed multi-level central atrium with its winding staircases.

Ours was a balcony stateroom, mid-ship, and as we approached the door, a sensor on the LCD panel outside turned green and displayed my photo. Presto! The ship’s computer read my medallion and automatically opened the door. We’re liking this more and more.

The room, although probably comparable to most balcony rooms, seemed more spacious. Storage was more than adequate with a side closet space for our clothes. Somewhat surprisingly, the bath featured a curtain instead of a shower door, which seemed unusual for a newer ship. On the plus side, there were extra USB and electric outlets, which are always appreciated. One final note — the bed: Very comfy.

We’ll spend the next seven days on a Caribbean circuit that will take us to Cozumel, Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya. With several sea days sprinkled in, we’ll have time to explore things to see and do, as well as, of course, visit many of the all-important dining venues.

But first, it’s sailaway time. How do we know? The ship’s horns are playing the theme from “The Love Boat,” the iconic 70s sitcom filmed onboard various Princess ships that ran for 10 seasons and is credited with introducing millions of people to cruise vacations. You can even watch reruns on demand on your stateroom TV. And you do know that once you hear the theme music, it will be in your head all day, right?

For this voyage we have the equivalent of the “Plus Package,” which includes most drinks, WiFi, gratuities and some specialty dining, courtesy of Princess, which also included our shore excursions and access to The Sanctuary — an adults-only retreat on deck 18.

Let’s hit some highlights from our week on Sky Princess:

–Food and Service. Those two go usually together, and we found both for the most part to range from above average to excellent. The best food and service we had was in the specialty restaurants — Sabitini’s (Italian, additional $25 per person), Crown Grill (steak and seafood, $29 pp) and Bistro Sur La Mer (French, $29 pp). While the food at Sur La Mer was wonderful, it has an unfortunate location adjacent to the central atrium, making it noisy and very brightly lit.

For main dining, we were at Estrella’s on deck 6, and for casual, all-day food, the World Fresh Marketplace buffet on Lido deck. The food at both was average. One venue you don’t want to miss is Alfredo’s Pizzeria on deck 7 by the atrium. It’s included with your fare, and offers exceptional pizza and other Italian specialties. There are numerous food options throughout the ship, including ice cream, pizza and room service, so your next meal or snack is never far away. For you anglophiles who fancy scones and Earl Grey, most days also feature an Afternoon Tea service.

And while not required, I would strongly suggest you make reservations at the main dining rooms. While all the venues were crowded on our cruise, you can avoid a longer wait by getting your name on the list.


7 Night – Sky Princess Western Caribbean With Mexico – depart Fort Lauderdale – Sky Princess


 

— Entertainment. Sky Princess has many options from which to choose here, ranging from game shows and demonstrations at Princess Live! to elaborately-staged productions in the main theater, like “Rock Opera” and “5-Skies,” showcasing dazzling special effects and on-stage acrobatics. Our cruise also featured an at-sea version of the popular game show, “Deal or No Deal.”

We got a pleasant surprise when we discovered one of the musicians playing on the ship was Wilson Jean-Baptiste, whose steel pan music we have enjoyed frequently in various South Florida venues.

Our personal favorite throughout the cruise was the jazz club on deck 6: Take Five. With its dark vibe and plush seating, it’s like enjoying jazz at a posh, big-city night spot, with an attentive wait staff that keeps the martinis coming. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind before a show or afterwards.

— Speaking of relaxing, our other favorite spot was The Sanctuary, the adults-only retreat on Deck 18. You’ll need to reserve your place in advance, and spots can fill up quickly. Grab a lounger and enjoy a drink or order light snacks while you watch the waves go by or dive into your favorite book.

— Our shore excursions were definitely a mixed bag. At Cozumel, we made a return visit to Tulum with an added trip to a cenote — a water-filled sinkhole that exists by the hundreds in this part of the Yucatan. Guests had the option of making a 30-foot plunge off a cliff, or drop from a zipline. Or simply wade into the water. We chose the latter. It was both cold and invigorating.

This was the first time we visited the island of Roatan in Honduras, and here we chose going to the Gumbalimba Park nature preserve, where the main attraction is interacting with the mischievous Capuchin monkeys. The guides strongly suggest you leave most of your personal effects in one of the rental lockers ($5) so the monkeys won’t be tempted, but we found as long as you have a secure purse or backpack, you’ll be fine.

While the park is beautiful, tours were jammed up, no doubt a reflection of the multiple cruise ships in port. On those busy days you need to be extra patient as they process tour groups in and out.

We were looking forward to our next excursion — cave tubing in Belize — but ended up disappointed. First, owing to the shallow waters around Belize, we had to take an almost 30-minute tender ride. Similar to Roatan, there were multiple cruise ships in port, and once ashore, we were herded into a shopping area to wait for our buses. As the wait stretched on, several of us needed restrooms. We learned by asking that a water pipe had broken, and there was only one usable facility — and the line for it was longer than the line for the buses.

After 45 minutes of not moving, and no updates from our guides, we asked a worker about the delay. The buses were running late, we were told. At that point, we decided to abandon ship and head back to Sky Princess. It’s clear Belize and the cruise lines need to work on how to handle large numbers of visitors.

One aspect of the cruise that Pam particularly enjoyed were the two formal nights. And I have to admit I did as well. It’s nice to include a little glitz and glam and enjoy those photo ops around the ship. For you shoppers, you’ll find all the brand names in the ship’s high-end stores.

While we didn’t have a child with us, we’ve heard good things about their programs for kids and teens, including Camp Discovery. Since this was a holiday cruise, there were a larger number of families with kids onboard.

Speaking of holidays, Sky Princess acknowledged Thanksgiving with a traditional display and as an added touch, gave guests a chance to write down what they are thankful for. They made the responses available for everyone to read. The menu in the main dining room included turkey and all the usual trimmings.

Overall, we enjoyed our time on Sky Princess. The ship is large but easy to get around; our fellow guests were friendly and a good age mix and there was enough to see and do to make the days fly by. Our one suggestion is either ban smoking in the casino or wall it off. Otherwise, we tried to avoid walking through that area whenever possible.

That aside, there’s more to love about “The Love Boat” than ever before.

PHOTOS by Gerry Barker

  • The main swimming pool (cover photo)
  • Gerry and his new friend on Roatan
  • Pam braves the chilly waters of the cenote
  • The Sanctuary is an all-adults retreat
  • Take Five offers up great jazz and drinks
  • The ship’s atrium
  • Happy Thanksgiving to all

Many thanks to Princess Cruises and thanks to the All Things Cruise team as well!


Ed. Notes: See sailings here 7 Night – Sky Princess Western Caribbean With Mexico – depart Fort Lauderdale – Sky Princess

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