Princess Cruises Ocean Princess Review
The smallest ship in the Princess fleet has big ideas on where to sail.
Editor’s note: Ocean Princess ended its tour of duty with the Princess fleet in March 2016 and was acquired by Oceania Cruises. Following a 35-day, $40-million renovation in Marseilles, Ocean Princess was scheduled to be renamed Sirena, joining its Renaissance Class sisters Insignia, Regatta and Nautica. Sirena’s first cruise departs Barcelona on April 27, 2016.
Of the mainstream cruise lines, perhaps no other ship attains a greater variety of passport stamps in a given year than Ocean Princess.
With short and long itineraries across Asia, around Africa, and canvassing the South Pacific, Ocean Princess travels the globe, touching virtually every continent every year. It’s also a smaller vessel, with a more limited range of amenities and activities than other Princess cruise ships. We went for a spin to see if the quieter, more intimate experience offered by Ocean Princess was our cup of tea.
About Our Cruise
Ocean Princess was built in 1999, serving as one of the eight original “R-class” ships for Renaissance Cruises, a line that went under with the tourism implosion that followed the 9-11 attacks. The 672-passenger ship was acquired by Princess in 2002 (along with an identical sister, Pacific Princess). Originally called R Four, the vessel was renamed Tahitian Princess; then, in 2009, she was renamed Ocean Princess.
The balance of the Princess fleet is comprised of ships that carry three or four times the passengers of Ocean Princess and Pacific Princess—these two vessels are true outliers (the line calls them the Small Ships of Princess). While not really an expedition-sized ship, Ocean Princess is put to work on a diverse range of itineraries, reaching ports that see few calls (and usually from the more upscale lines).
The interior décor of Ocean Princess retains much of the aristocratic air Renaissance Cruises conceived for its ships—lots of dark woods, faux bookcases and fireplaces, and wrought iron railings for the staircases. There are Oriental-style carpets in the hallways and lobby, and lush murals in unexpected areas of the ship. Overall, the décor is less neutral than the usual Princess canvass, though it’s certainly not edgy. Common areas offer the backdrop of an English country club—a style some might feel recalls classic ocean liners of a half-century back. Overall, we were happy to bid adieu to Princess’ usual (and tired) coral-and-teal color scheme.
Our cabin, an Oceanview unit, was typically compact, with a bathroom and shower that was tighter than usual; but it was also less bland than the usual Princess styling. The upbeat service we experienced was comfortably casual; after a few days, waiters and bartenders got to know us and our preferences. Similarly, it was easy to get to know fellow passengers, which included a fairly large contingent of British guests. Senior staff was mostly invisible during our cruise.
Haves and Have Nots
For a smaller ship, the range of dining options was okay. In addition to the main dining room and buffet, there were two specialty restaurants—Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini’s, an Italian venue. They weren’t both open at the same time, instead alternating days of operation, which we found to be a logical arrangement (obtaining reservations for each posed no problem on our cruise). On the other hand, for the Club Restaurant, the ship’s main dining room, there was no flexible seating option available—guests could only get tables for the early or late seatings. We prefer being able to select a different dining time each evening, based on the day’s activities. Food was unexceptional, but about on par with what we’ve experienced on most other Princess ships.
We didn’t expect showroom entertainment to be on as large a scale as other Princess ships, and though there was nothing on stage we haven’t seen and heard before we weren’t disappointed. Guest enrichment programs were concentrated on sea days, with such offerings as morning and afternoon trivia sessions, Zumba workouts in the Tahitian Lounge, Bingo, and slot tournaments in the casino. While the gym was small it was adequate for the number of guests. On the other hand the pool was, well—dinky.
Overall, we find Princess Cruises does a decent job keeping its fleet clean and polished, with regular dry docks every three years. But Ocean Princess felt its age (1999), and general wear and tear seemed a bit more obvious than it should have been. While replacing the elegant Regency styling would probably be anathema to some (and it is charming), we think a wholesale makeover of the ship is overdue—something that might breathe new life into a vessel that feels dated.
The key draw for a cruise aboard Ocean Princess is the truly far-reaching itineraries this ship travels. No continent, excepting Antarctica, if off-limits for this globe-hopper, and the roster of exotic ports is like catnip for anyone seeking to jet-propel their entry to the Travelers’ Century Club. It’s not a good match for those who seek round-the-clock diversions and entertainment, much less families, instead catering to experienced cruisers who have a determined sense of wanderlust.
That said, Ocean Princess still has its limitations. It’s a middle-aged ship, and we were disappointed that an October 2012 dry dock had not spiffed up the ship more obviously. With consecutive sea days common on most voyages, the constraints of a smaller ship can become apparent. Although dining and a few other aspects will strike a familiar chord for those who are previous Princess passengers, Ocean Princess otherwise offers a very different cruise than the fleet’s newer and larger ships provide.
Would we sail on Ocean Princess again? Perhaps. As a way to visit faraway ports well off the beaten track, we certainly would not rule out this ship. Prices vary widely, but cruises on Ocean Princess usually cost a good bit less than luxury lines plying the most eclectic itineraries. But we’d keep our expectations tempered and bring a good selection of books for the sea days. On the other hand, for a more conventional Mediterranean or Caribbean itinerary, we’d opt for a newer ship of this size, or for a larger one with a greater array of diversions.
Get Our Newsletter
Real advice from real experts. Sign up for our newsletter
Thanks for signing up!