The 3,140-passenger Caribbean Princess, originally built in 2004, recently emerged from a multimillion dry dock looking better than ever and with a variety of new places to eat.
The most extensive part of the refurbishment was the debut of seven new dining venues, which range from casual poolside stands to the redesign of Princess’s signature Italian restaurant, Sabatini’s. Even the buffet got a "rethink": The former Horizon Court buffet was transformed into the World Fresh Marketplace, a bright modern space with a more global menu, including Chinese-style chicken congee and Southern shrimp and grits for breakfast and British scones and clotted cream for an afternoon snack. The new format, which consists of a number of stations, makes getting your food easier and quicker, thanks to shorter lines.
Two casual, for-a-fee eateries were also introduced. Planks BBQ ($12 per person) is a Southern-inspired venue that serves appetizers such as a wedge salad and a cheddar-loaded potato chowder before generous helpings of meat (pulled pork, chicken wings, ribs) are brought out with more side dishes than you could manage to finish. The food is tasty (we especially loved the chili-roasted tri-tips), but the big takeaway here is the quantity. (“How were those chipotle meatballs?” “I don’t remember…but it was so much!”) There’s a decadent chocolate cake and banana pudding for dessert, but we suspect you won't have room. Planks is also open for lunch and breakfast.
Steamers Seafood is a New England-inspired spot ($12 per person) with a nautical setting. The whole experience was designed to resemble a New England clam bake (minus the sand), but while the heaping pots of muscles and Le Creuset pans of fish are a great idea. the kitchen was still finding their footing on on our early sailing. Steamers is also open for breakfast and, at lunchtime, the space is converted into a complimentary noodle bar, where guests can mix-and-match their own bowls from a buffet of ingredients.
Princess’s traditional trattoria, Sabatini’s, has also gotten a refresh. This has always been a beloved spot for Princess cruisers, and fortunately they just made it even better. The new menu includes antipasti, such as chickpea fritters and grilled lamb skewers, and house-made pastas such as buckwheat pappardelle, accompanied by a roster of Italian wines and liqueurs, including limoncello. We would go back for the fresh breads alone, which were the best baked goods served on the ship.
There are also new complimentary poolside dining choices: Salty Dog Grill delivers hot dogs and hamburgers with tasty toppings, street food-style tacos, and chili cheese fries. Though every cruise ship seems to have a burger bar these days, the idea never gets old. Salty Dog Grill’s oozing triple smoked burger (bacon jam, barbecue onion sauce, smoked gouda) holds its own and is solid proof that food doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious. The equally popular Slice Pizzeria features fresh-baked Neapolitan pies as well as focaccia and stromboli.
Homemade ice cream sandwiches (such as snickerdoodle with cinnamon ice cream, which costs $3), specialty coffees, and complimentary soft-serve ice cream are served at Coffee and Cones. It's a convenient choice when you want a latte but don't want to have to venture downstairs for it.