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Cruise Ship Information

Island Princess is a cruise ship for the Princess Cruises line. She is the sister ship to Coral Princess and together they are the only Panamax ships in Princess's fleet together with their R Class vessels. She was constructed at Chantiers de l'Atlantique, France.

Atmosphere on board

After an intense three-day pre-cruise land tour in Alaska that included a plane, a train and a handful of motorcoaches, Island Princess looked like eye candy when we first spied her at the cruise terminal in Whittier.

Here was our refuge, our refueling station. We had cruised with Princess once before -- on Coral Princess, Island Princess's sister ship (her twin sister, as it turns out). The two ships are identical -- right down to the restaurants, the entertainment venues, the layout and decor. Immediately, we felt at home.

That's not to say Island Princess doesn't deliver some pleasant surprises. The public space is sleek, and even though she launched in 2003, there's no hint of wear and tear. Service was very good, particularly in the dining room. And the entertainment was top rate. But the thing that really stood out during our seven-night cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage was the quality of life onboard. Island Princess does a remarkable job of creating a quintessential Alaska experience that's highlighted by a lecture series featuring a state naturalist, National Park Service "ranger talks" and a presentation by the first woman to win the Iditarod. There's even a Princess travel guide and map that allow passengers to detect their navigational positions while referencing tales, points of interest and photos of the route.

And what's not to love about the private Alaskan Balcony Brunch, which includes Alaskan king crab quiche, smoked Copper River salmon, fresh fruit, homemade pastries and chilled champagne? Or waiters distributing hot toddies on deck? Or, of all things, a reindeer chili and rockfish chowder cook-off? And where better to enjoy Baked Alaska than in Alaska?

Family with Kids/Teens

Island Princess offers three programs for children, preschoolers through teens. Island Princess Pelicans, for 3- to 7-year-olds, is a colorful, indoor/outdoor center where kids can make necklaces and stuffed animals, color their own T-shirts and play in a fenced-in, outdoor area with a mini-basketball hoop and tricycles. Parents may accompany their children.

Staffers are not permitted to change diapers, so parents are given pagers in case a child needs changing or needs a parent for some other reason. Note: Parents whose children are not potty-trained are unable to leave the ship on port days without their children.

Shockwaves offers activities -- including dodgeball, Guitar Hero, science projects, pizza dinners and foosball -- for children, ages 8 to 12.

Admission to the programs is complimentary through 10 p.m. From 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., there is a $6-per-hour, per-child, charge. In-cabin baby-sitting is not offered.

In Remix, teens (ages 13 to 17) can hang out in a cool space to listen to music, play Playstation, drink mocktails and take hip-hop dance lessons.

Past Passenger Programs

The Internet Cafe & Library is home to about 20 computer stations and a decent selection of books. Games like Yahtzee, Jenga, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and checkers can also be borrowed there. The library has very limited hours, about two a day. There is a drop-box for retuning books on loan. Interestingly, there are only three seats in the library that aren't associated with computer terminals. Fortunately, there is plenty of seating just out front in the Piazza.

Internet charges are 75 cents per minute, and packages are available that get you more minutes at a reduced price: 100 minutes for $55, 150 minutes for $75, 250 minutes for $100 and 500 minutes for $175. Laptop owners can use their minutes on their own computers and/or at one of the computer stations. Buy a package on embarkation day to receive bonus minutes. Don't expect anything close to land-based speed. The Internet Cafe is very crowded, especially during sea days and before dinner. The ship also charges 50 cents per printed page. You can also save money if you purchase your Internet minutes online through the Island Princess Web site before you cruise.

Wi-Fi is available. Signals are strongest in public spaces and are quite weak in cabins, unless you leave your door open.

Onboard shopping can be found on Decks 6 and 7. Shops include the Vines Shop for wine, chocolates, and wine-themed gifts and accessories; Limelight, for duty-free purchases; Essence for cosmetics and perfume; Calypso Cove for souvenirs and logowear; and Facets for fine jewelry and watches. Patient and helpful staff are ready to assist all customers.

Smoking is limited to designated areas -- parts of lounges, casinos and the open decks -- and is prohibited in passenger cabins.

Fitness And Spa

There are five pools on Coral Island Princess, which help to give this massive vessel a small-ship feel. The Calypso Pool (conveniently located near Horizon Court's buffets) has a 300-square-foot movie screen with day and night programming. The sound system is loud to the point where you can't easily have a conversation. And parents beware: Movies and shows are shown throughout the day -- some family-friendly, some not, like the PG-13-rated "The Dark Knight" or "Baby Mama."

Neptune Reef pool is located in front of the pizzeria and is as deep as Calypso (more than five feet). Hence, it's also not ideal for families with preschool-age children.

Pirate's Pool (located on Deck 16, just below the basketball court) is the best bet for kids. It's just deeper than four feet, has bench seating around it for parents (as well as a bar for drinks) and is located next to a 10-inch deep toddler pool with a dolphin-shaped mini-slide. Hot tubs are located near each one of the pools.

There are two adults-only pools. The Terrace Pool is the quietest, and it's fairly shaded, depending on the time of day, because of its location beneath the suspended Skywalker's Nightclub. It has stadium-style benches and loungers. The Spa Pool sits a deck below the Sanctuary, in the middle of the U-shaped Lotus Spa and Health Club.

The adult-sonly Sanctuary is a heavenly place to nap. The mostly shaded area has potted trees and big, wrought-aluminum lounge chairs with padding as thick as a mattress. "Serenity Stewards" deliver plush towels, herbal energy drinks, smoothies and MP3 players with BOSE noise-canceling headphones (preloaded with 1,000 songs, grouped by themes that range from jazz to gentle wave sounds). Be sure to use the headphones, but realize they are in limited supply. The entry fee to Sanctuary is $10 for half-day use, $20 for full-day.

Lotus Spa treatments range from oxygen-lifting facials and hot-stone massages to acupuncture and teeth-whitening. Couples' massages are popular, but treatments are not limited to the romantic; there is a mother/daughter "Paradise" massage and father/son "Chill-Out" massage, offered as part of the spa's Generation Y Spa program. Manicures, pedicures and facials are also available for kids.

The fitness center offers fee-free stretching and aerobics classes, as well as $12-per-class yoga and Pilates. The spacious floor area for classes doubles as a place to use exercise balls and mats. Free weights, Cybex equipment and more than 20 treadmills are also available.

Other recreational options include a half-court for basketball, Ping-Pong, a cyber-golf simulator and paddle tennis. Wii tennis, bowling and other Wii sports are available for play in Explorer's Lounge. The ship also has a putting green that can be used for mini-golf for a few players.

Food & Dining

There are three dining rooms on Coral Island Princess; all have ceilings with twinkling lights and tasteful, Island Princess-themed artwork. The Palm is for traditional, fixed-seating dining (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Coral and Island are for passengers who have elected "Anytime Dining," which allows you to eat when and with whomever you'd like (between 5:30 and 10 p.m.). Reservations are available, but they aren't required. During peak times, passengers may encounter waits of no more than five to ten minutes on our sailing.Coral is also open for waiter-service breakfast and lunch.

Night rotating menu options include appetizers, soups, mains and desserts. Additionally, there are signature pastas and always-available choices like salmon and Caesar salad. Healthy Lotus Spa selections -- like seared sea bass -- are low in fat and sodium.

Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe (which look identical and flow right in to one another) are open nearly all day long: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Horizon section serves as the ship's lido buffet restaurant and offers uninspiring breakfast buffets, laid out in tight quarters. Lunch choices vary a bit more and may include some unusual dishes like fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Two soups are featured daily.

Cafe Caribe offers lots of variety, featuring a different themed buffet each night -- like Bavarian Bierfest (beer is extra), Rijstafel (rice table) and Island Princess island seafood.

The International Cafe in the Piazza is a great alternative for small meals and is open 24 hours. In addition to gourmet coffees and espresso drinks, breakfast offerings include fresh-baked pastries, donuts and muffins. Grilled paninis, Greek salad and a chicken and cashew Waldorf salad were just a few of the delicious afternoon choices. And the cookies! The fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (not to mention the heavenly scent of them baking) are well worth an afternoon stop at the cafe each day.

Most cafe items are fee-free, with the exception of chocolate-covered strawberries and evening tapas (ranging from $1 to $5). The "Queen of Steam" or "Jack of Java" punch cards are a great deal, giving you 15 espresso drinks of your choice for $29.95. Note that service can be quite slow during peak times of the day.

On Deck 5, Vines is a wine bar offering an extensive menu with more than 30 wines by the glass, as well as wine flights. It serves up fresh bites that include sushi, seafood and tapas. An assortment of meats and cheeses also will tempt your palate. There's both bar seating and cluster seating.

Sabatini's is Island Princess' signature Italian alternative restaurant ($25 per adult). Passengers can order any appetizer (calamari, wild mushroom tart, soft shell grab, cheese plate), main course (striped bass, lobster, duck with fava beans, signature pasta) and dessert (cheese cart, tarts, creme brulee).

Crown Grill, another alternative restaurant, is styled after popular steakhouses. There is both table and booth seating with some tables offering window-side views. The menu is comprehensive, and patrons can choose from a variety of steaks, side dishes, seafood specialties and more. Servers take care and time explaining the varying cuts of beef and was patient with our questions. The steaks were tender, cooked the way they were ordered, and the side dishes were hearty enough to share family-style. The ambience of the restaurant was also very enjoyable. The noise level was low, and we didn't feel rushed. The cover charge is $25 per passenger.

For total foodies, the Chef's Table is an elegant meal option that also allows diners a behind-the-scenes look at how dishes are created and served. The event begins with pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the galley. The ship's executive chef joins the group to explain the special menu for the night, and then participants are escorted to an intimate table in the dining room for the main course, including wine pairing suggestions to complement the dinner. The $95-per-person fee includes a copy of a Island Princess cookbook.

An delightful English pub lunch menu -- think fish and chips, shepherd's pie -- is available on sea days at the Crown Grill (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); there's no extra charge for the food.

Poolside eateries include Trident Grill (burgers, hot dogs and fries) and Prego Pizzeria.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. The menu includes a variety of sandwiches (turkey, tuna, veggie), salads and hot dishes like soup, burgers and hot dogs. For something indulgent, you can order desserts -- caramel flan, chocolate fudge cake and chocolate chip cookies. Also, in addition to this room service menu, passengers can also enjoy limited items from the day's main dining room menu in their cabins, but these selections vary. There is a $3 delivery charge for pizza delivered to the cabin, as well as a charge for beverages, including alcohol.

Island Princess' unique twist on room service is its Ultimate Balcony Dining option for passengers in balcony cabins and suites. The custom multi-course meal comes with a bottle of Champagne, stellar service and special touches. It's priced at $32 per couple for breakfast and $100 per couple for dinner.

Entertainment

Coral Island Princess has more excellent entertainment choices than you can squeeze into a week.

Each venue has a different type of offering. Crooners (overlooking the Piazza) features a pianist and music trivia contests. Explorer's Lounge is primarily an events lounge for everything from art auctions to Wii sports tournaments, plus magicians and comedic shows. The Piazza offers a variety of demonstrations, musical performances and circus-lite acts throughout the day.

Club Fusion is part nightclub, part game show venue and is, indeed, entertaining for the hilarious Marriage Game. On our sailing, a couple who had been married for 53 years gave a couple of newlyweds a run for their money when answering questions about their spouses, such as "if your husband was a car, what kind would he be" and "when was the last time you had relations?"

Island Princess' trademark Skywalker Nightclub (located in the rear-spoiler-looking aft end of the ship) hosts 70's-, 80's- and 90's-inspired dance nights and, thankfully, a few nights with a variety of current music. The disco has security and checks ID's upon entering. For more low-key dancing, try the Wheelhouse Bar, which often hosts combos playing soft rock and standards.

The Island Princess Theater is the ship's main venue for production shows and comedy acts. During our sailing, there were three production shows with a talented cast of singers and dancers. They offered a variety of music and selections that would appeal to a broad mix of ages. Other performances may include PG-rated comedian and magicians.

Churchill Lounge, hidden away near the lower level of Island Princess Theater, is the place to smoke cigars and watch sports.

Movies Under the Stars, in the Calypso Pool area, is an idyllic place to watch, well, movies under the stars. It also showcases concerts by musicians like Beyonce and Josh Groban, as well as sporting events like the Super Bowl. In the evenings, burgundy slipcovers with built-in mini-pillows are slipped over each poolside lounger. Small, wool blankets are passed out, and the smell of popcorn from an old-fashioned cart floats across the pool deck. Staff members take drink orders and deliver complimentary popcorn so you don't have to move. Even non-TV junkies could wile away hours there.

The casino features 11 gaming tables (including one dice, one American roulette and a table to accommodate wheelchairs) as well as more than 150 slot machines.

Daytime entertainment offerings are numerous, ranging from Photoshop and scrapbooking workshops and ballroom-dance classes to ceramic-painting and bridge.

The efficiently run shore excursion department offered easy-to-read registration forms. Each tour was well-described, and the offerings included everything from sedate bus tours to active kayaking and hiking explorations.

Fellow Passengers

Fellow passengers run the gamut from families with children to retirees. The average age on a non-school-break sailing is 51, while school-break and summer sailings skew younger, as they attract more families. During winter holiday sailing, many families will bring children ages 10 and older, so the children's programs are likely to be packed with tweens and teens.

Tipping

The official Island Princess tipping policy is that each passenger is automatically charged for gratuities that are shared among stateroom stewards, wait staff, buffet stewards, galley staff, laundry staff and others. As of August 2010, this charge was $11 per person, per day for suites and mini-suites; it was $10.50 for other staterooms. This charge includes children and is automatically added to your shipboard account. Executive sales VP Dean Brown explained to the Cruise Compare Website that the recently expanded automatic gratuity program "gives guests one less thing to worry about at the end of their cruise." 

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