A Princess cruise is guaranteed to be a fun and memorable experience, but there are some tips that seasoned cruises know to make their voyage even better. Whether this is your first or tenth Princess cruise, you can always learn something new that’ll come in handy on your trip. Here’s a round up of my favourite Princess Cruise tips for your next adventure. And for more Princess Cruise tips, don’t miss my Regal Princess guide and whether Princess Cruises is right for you.

Princess Cruise Tips

Make reservations for the MDR

This little known hack that we found out on our recent cruise made life so much easier – especially as our New Years cruise was full of large groups and there was always a line out the door for a table. You can make same-day reservations for the main dining rooms by calling the dining line from your room. We would call in the morning when we woke up and never had an issue. When we arrived, we bypassed everyone waiting and were seated at the first open table.

Take advantage of Happy Hour

I found the prices for drinks to be well priced versus other cruise lines I’ve been on. That being said, a few drinks a day for a ten day cruise adds up fast. We took advantage of the Regal Princess’s two daily happy hours, where it’s buy one get one free + $1. We’d head to Crooners at 3pm and order two drinks even if we didn’t feel like having them right away. We’d bring our glasses of wine, pop top Grolschs, or whiskies to our room and drink them later pre or post dinner. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Happy Hour has been discontinued on a few Princess ships – but I can’t confirm.

Get up super early for a pool chair

There is little as depressing as heading up to the adults only retreat pool before 8am only to find every single chair ‘reserved’ with a towel but not a single person in sight. Although it’s annoying, I’m not going to remove someone else’s towel as I’m not looking to get into a fight. Set your alarm very early if you want to snag a seat – but please don’t be one of those people who goes back to bed and doesn’t come back up to their char until 10am.

Or consider the Sanctuary

Princess, like most cruise lines these days, has created a special adults only space for an extra fee. The Sanctuary is a serene, spa like space by the adults only pool. The Sanctuary must be reserved in advance – make this your first stop on the ship – and costs $20 per half day and $40 per full day per chair. You rent a dedicated seat. I met several passengers who opted to reserve Sanctuary for their entire cruise. If you want to be guaranteed a lounge chair and exclusive service, then this is the most important of the Princess cruise tips to follow!

Splurge on a specialty restaurant

I found the food on the Regal Princess to be pretty good for the most part, but there were outliers. The best food on our cruise was at the specialty restaurants  – by a lot. We dined at both steakhouse Cagney’s and Sabitini’s for some northern Italian fare. It does involve paying a cover charge, whereas many other free options are available – but $25 or $29 per person is a hell of a steal when you consider the quality (and quantity) of food. The service is more personal. Again, I met people who dined at one of the two specialty restaurants every night of the cruise – that was their splurge.

Go to the spa on port days

Lesser known than some of my other Princess Cruise tips – schedule your spa appointments on days when the ship will be in port for the best rates on spa treatments. Disembark late or return early, or just sit this port out.

Have a plan before disembarking

Getting off a ship with 3,000 other people can be stressful. Add in hundreds of tour operators, taxi drivers, and port staff and it can be downright maddening. It’s difficult to formulate a plan on the fly in that sort of setting. You risk wasting time trying to figure out your options – and are at risk of being overcharged by being unprepared. Have an idea of what you want to do (or what you can do) before arriving in port. It will be well worth it when you’re bypassing everyone else wandering aimlessly.

Consider a non-Princess shore excursion

Cruise lines are notorious for having exorbitant prices for shore excursions – and the quality of the experiences can be hit or miss. Do your research ahead of time to find out what you want to do and get a feel for the prices. The major advantage of a Princess shore excursion is that you’re guaranteed to make it back to the boat – if your tour is delayed, the ship will wait for you. Though most professional tours won’t have an issue getting you back in time, some passengers appreciate the peace of mind of a Princess endorsed excursion.

Get your insurance elsewhere

Just as shore trips are known to be expensive, so too is Princess’s travel insurance. While you may wish to shop around for better value insurance, don’t forgo it altogether. Every traveler should protect themselves with medical and cancellation insurance.

Order what you want

Seasoned Princess cruise goers don’t feel obligated to follow the menu. If you want a selection of appetizers instead of a main – go for it. If you can’t decide between two entrees (and are hungry enough) – order both. Missed something from last night – ask if they’ll make it for you. In my experience, the Princess servers are super friendly and will go out of their way to make guests happy. So why not ask for what you actually want – the worst thing that can happen is they say no.

Get your wine on

Take advantage of Princess’s policy allowing each passenger to bring a bottle of wine or champagne on board for free. If you’re leaving via Fort Lauderdale, stop at Total Wines on your way to the port, which has an incredible selection and great prices. For every subsequent bottle there’s a $15 corkage fee – which isn’t too steep if you’re bringing a special bottle of wine with you. If you buy wine at a port and bring it back on the ship, Princess’ policy is to charge the $15, though this isn’t always enforced.

Bring soda & water onboard

Princess is one of the only cruise lines who allow passengers to bring water and soda onboard during embarkation. This is one of the best Princess Cruise tips that’s helpful to know before embarking. If you prefer bottled water to tap (though the tap is perfectly fine) or you like a carbonated beverage during the day, then you’ll be set. You can also be strategic with your booze – if you like gin & tonics, bring tonic onboard with you and purchase a 375ml bottle from room service for less than $20.

Do the ship tour for a super unique experience

The in-depth ship tour is a special experience. Go behind the scenes and see how organized the ship has to be to function as seamlessly as it does. Hang out on the gangway with the captain. The ship tour isn’t cheap, but it gives you a perspective that you can’t gain elsewhere. A very limited number of spaces are available so sign up immediately upon boarding if you’re interested.

Consider booking your next cruise onboard

Booking your future Princess cruise while onboard is an excellent way to snag a good deal. For a small deposit, you can get up to $300 onboard credit for an upcoming cruise. If you don’t know when and where you’d like to sail next, you can still take advantage of the future cruise deposits and choose a sailing within two years.

Get social with Roll Call

Cruise Critic is the number one resource for cruising information. If you’re a regimented planner like me, you’ve probably already found yourself getting lost in the forums. But even if you don’t need to know every single minute detail of your cruise beforehand (which you will find on Cruise Critic), spend some time on the site and find your Roll Call. There’s a group created for every cruise and every cruise line where passengers connect in advance of their voyage. Often there’s a meet & greet arranged for the Roll Call members, which is a fantastic way to meet some people and where the ship’s Officers might make an appearance. Also, the Roll Call is a great spot to connect with other passengers on private tour excursions. And don’t miss reading the Cruise Critic forums for more Princess Cruise tips.

Do laundry on the ship

Aside from full service laundering and dry cleaning, laundry machines are available on each deck of rooms for passenger use. The machines cost a few dollars per load, and packets of detergent are available for sale – or better yet, bring your own. If you prefer to pack light (as I do) these machines are super beneficial. Now you don’t feel like you have to bring along everything in your closet for longer cruises.

Bring a multi-charging station

There aren’t too many outlets in your stateroom. If you have several electronics, bring along a power bar to charge multiple devices at once. On our Regal Princess cruise, we had two phones, two iPads, two laptops, and two cameras – all of which would be drained after a day. It’s never fun waiting to get a sufficient charge when you could be off exploring.

Do the math on the the beverage package

Having an all inclusive beverage plan can be tempting, but boy is it expensive. While we’ve been known to have a few drinks a day, I ran the numbers and found that forgoing the Universal Beverage Package was worth it for us. We were strategic with our drinks by stocking up at Happy Hour, buying a wine package, and taking advantage of our Elite minibar set up. In the end, we spent about half of what we would have paying as we went. Keep in mind that there’s a price maximum and a daily limit when doing your calculations. One plus is that Princess doesn’t make both stateroom guests purchase the package, so if you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t drink, you can still buy it.

Do your research on the best place to get a transportation

Disembarking can be a stressful experience and ports can be downright chaotic: thousands of people looking for their tour guides, local drivers trying to snag a fare. In my experience, the offerings closest to the boat are most expensive and if you’re looking for a taxi or shuttle, you often have to exit the port to get the best rates. If you’re heading off on your own at the port, do a bit of research in advance as to what’s the best action plan. Chances are there have been thousands of other cruise passengers that have done exactly what you plan to do.

Don’t get sick

You’re contained on a ship with nearly 5,000 passengers and crew – it’s the perfect place for germs and disease to spread. Despite the seemingly constant cleaning by staff, surfaces like elevator buttons, door handles, and stair railings are touched by hundreds of people every day. Wash your hands often – there are stations at the buffet and washrooms around all common areas – and have hand sanitizer with you just in case.

Arrange your own airport transfers

Airport transfers organized by Princess may be convenient but they are a rip off. You can often procure a much better rate by arranging on your own or opting for a taxi instead.

Explore the ship to find your secret spaces

Taking time to explore your ship is one of my favourite Princess cruise tips. Check out all of the indoor and outdoor space on each deck and you’re guaranteed to find your perfect place. The ship’s main areas can get busy so having your own little-known spot will help save your sanity.

If you want something, ask

The Princess staff are incredibly obliging to guest requests. A friendly enquiry to your room steward or visit to guest services may be all it takes to get what you want. Though the staff aren’t superheroes – be understanding if there’s nothing they can do as it’s likely out of their control.

Take the stairs

If you’re able bodied, try to take the stairs as often as possible as the elevators can be very slow at peak times. Also, why not burn off some of those calories?

Take advantage of loyalty

It pays to be loyal these days, whichever cruise line you pick. You’re automatically signed up for Princess Cruise Lines’ Capital Circle the first time you sail. There are four levels: Gold, Ruby, Platinum and Elite, and each has their own perks and privileges including discounts, complimentary internet, and priority boarding. Ensure that you’re cruises are being tracked and that you reap the benefits of your loyalty level.

Keep track of your bill as you go

Keep tabs on your stateroom bill in real time by using MedallionNet to ensure you’re staying on budget.

Bring a shawl or long sleeves – the ship is cold

If you’re always cold, like me, bring a few longer layers – even if you’re headed to the tropics. The ship can be quite cold in the common areas like restaurants, lounges and theatres, so don’t forget a few warmer items.

Let the dining staff know about food issues

If you have any allergies or intolerances, or require a special meal type like gluten free, vegan, or lactose-free, the restaurnat staff will do everything to accommodate you. Before you travel, make a note in your Princess profile or inform your travel agent so that the ship can make arrangements for you. If you aren’t able to provide this information in advance, jsut inform the Maitre D of the MDR you’ll be dining at when you board the ship.

Monitor your cruise price

While cruise prices don’t typically waiver too much, promotions giving additional amenities do pop up from time to time. If you book early and notice a deal, you might be able to take advantage of it. If you’ve only put down your deposit, you may receive the new promo deal. Even if you’re paid in full, it doesn’t hurt to call in and ask – you might be given on board credit or other benefits that weren’t part of your original rate.

Book the room you want

The most important of all my Princess Cruise tips – and what I tell all my clients – is to book the cabin that you actually want. Upgrades on cruises aren’t the norm. Leading up to your departure date, Princess may offer you an upgrade – but you never know if you’ll be on their list. Even if you do receive an upgrade, most are within the same category – ie. an obstructed balcony to unobstructed not a balcony room to a suite.