While the news on Princess Cruises this year has primarily focused on Ocean Medallion, there are other changes going on too.
On the pricing side, the brand recently came out with a special offer of $99 for third and fourth guests on Ocean Medallion Caribbean cruises on Regal and Royal from NOV 2017 through APR 2018. Though not touted as such, it's the latest example of family-friendly initiatives by a line not known for catering to that market, as compared to, say, Royal Caribbean.
The pricing promo comes on the heels of the creation of 83 interconnecting cabins on CaribbeanPrincess, which join 110 interconnecting cabins on both Royal Princess and Regal Princess. Connecting cabins are a big deal in the family market -- if anything, it's surprising it took Princess this long.
VP North American Sales John Chernesky says the brand has been family-friendly in recent years, but, "I just don't think we've ever talked much about our family offerings."
Now there are more reasons to do so. The Caribbean Princess will be doing summer Caribbean sailings in 2018, a prime family offering.
Plus, there's the upcoming expansion. "We have two new-builds coming out in a couple of years," he says. The word is these ships will feature many family-friendly features.
Chernesky relates his own family's Princess experiences: "Ever since our boys were old enough to go into the kids centre seven years ago, we've gone on cruises and they've had a great time. And even though our ships don't have some of the bells and whistles that others do for kids, there are still great kids programs, great family activities."
As one example, Chernesky recalls a few years back when he was in the company's entertainment department, and Princess developed its Junior Chef at Sea program.
"Essentially, we said, 'Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could get one of the chefs to teach the kids how to cook or do something in the galley? It wasn't just about dumping the kids off and forgetting about them; it was about engaging as a family, not as individual kids. I think it was an important distinction."
Princess' investment in families, he says, has continued with the newly launched Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center, created in partnership with the licensing arm of Discovery Communications.
On the Caribbean Princess, all youth programs have been revamped as part of the tie-in with Discovery, including destination-themed programs focusing on the culture, nature, and customs of the region being visited.
Family dining on Caribbean Princess and other recently renovated ships really stands out, if only for the number of places that are free or inexpensive. And there are lots of little changes, like a PB & J station in the Horizon Court and the addition of family-oriented dining areas as part of a major revamp of meal options.
One factor behind the changes is Ocean Medallion, which is expected to be very useful to parents trying to keep track of or stay in touch with their kids onboard. It seems like Princess is creating some synergies for the family market.
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years.