Princess Cruise Line has some pretty cool cruise technology called Ocean Medallion. I will admit I was very skeptical when I first heard about this new technology. I have been on many cruises and experienced the iffy internet so I wondered how using a technology that relies a lot on WiFi could possibly work. That being said Princess did have some bumps along the way when they first rolled it out but based on my recent cruise I think they have sorted through most of those now. Of course I was also sailing on a brand new ship which was the first to be built from the group up with the technology in place.
What Does Ocean Medallion Do?
This fun technology starts even before you leave home. Once have booked your cruise you are prompted to download the Medallion App (note that previously you were required to download multiple apps but I happy to say they have consolidated it to one). In the app you can do your online check in and upload both a security photo along with another photo if you would like something different to be your profile photo (this is the one that will show up your room door and other places). Once you have completed the online check in you are able to confirm the order for your Medallion. Princess will ship these to you free of charge with the basic lanyard. You also have the option to add on other accessories if you would like to have other ways to wear your Medallion. I chose to stick with the free option. The Medallion itself is very nice. They are about the size of a quarter and will have your name and sail date printed on them along with being color coded for the level your are in the Captain's Circle program (side note Captain's Circle is the loyalty program for Princess and there are a few different colors based on how many times you have sailed with Princess).
When you arrive at the port have your medallion out and you can take the quick line for guests with medallions. This was the fastest check in process I have ever had! Now the fun stuff begins!
Once onbaord your Medallion will unlock your door as you get to your room so no more having to get your room key out to tap it or anything. Just walk up to your room wearing your medallion and your photo will appear and your room is unlocked. There are games in the app both Casino games and games just for fun along with some videos you can watch. You can also create an OceanTagalong which like your onboad avatar for playing games and interacting with the large screens around the ship. All the of fun games and videos are free but if you choose the Casino games those are played just like you were in the casino.
There is also OceanCompass which not only helps you find your way around the ship but it will also help you find other guests that are using the medallion. I tried this out a few times on my cruise and it was kind of fun to see where someone else was on the ship. You do have to both agree to being tracked before this will work those so you cannot just stalk some random guest. I can see this being really handy for parents or large groups traveling together.
The daily schedule of events is listed and you can choose to bookmark certain things you want to attend. You can also reserve things like dining and shore excursion from the app. Last but not least, what I think is really the best feature is being able to order things from your app and they will be delivered to wherever your with your Medallion (within reason of course). If you are too far from something the option to choose that location to order from won't show up. I first used this from my room to get robes delivered. It was so easy and so quick. Then we tried it out up in the buffet area to get a couple slices of pizza delivered to our table from Slice the pizza counter out by the pool. It was quick and so much easier than standing in line outside to get them. You can order drinks from the nearest bar (TIP - as of now they are offering your first drink free when you order from the app. Not sure how long that will last but if they are still offering it you will see that pop-up when you go to order). When you order anything from the app you can track the progress in the app so you will it go from processing to delivering. It will even tell you the name of the person delivering your order and might ask you to hold up your medallion to help the server find you. The server will know your name and photo so they will call your name and will make sure you match the photo too.
I didn't have any problems using this fun technology during my cruise and I really do think it improves the experience a lot! The one thing I am really surprised about is that Disney Cruise Line didn't do this first.
Last week I was able to sail on a short cruise for the new Sky Princess. I had just 3 nights to explore this wonderful ship. Our cruise made a stop at Princess's private beach in the Bahamas called Princess Cays. I am going to write a few blogs about this cruise but this one is just a general review. I am also going to write a blog about the Medallion Experience which is exclusive to Princess Cruises and great innovation. I am also going to write a comparison of this cruise and the 3 night cruise I did on Norwegian's newest ship.
The Sky Princess is the first vessel built from the ground up with the Princess MedallionClass experience. I was very excited to try out this new technology. I will explain it all in the blog I write just about Medallion but basically it makes check in and boarding faster and makes things onboard super convenient.
I had been on a Princess Cruise earlier this year in Alaska so I have experienced one of their older but recently refreshed ships so I had an idea what to expect. Princess is a premium cruise line and you can easily tell that as soon as you board. I love the beautiful Piazza with its swirling spiral staircases and glass sculptures. The Piazza is at the center of the ship and really is a hub of activity. On the lovely marble tiled floor in the center there was lots of live entertainment going on throughout the cruise. The 3 decks that open up to the Piazza are lined with shops, bars, lounges, and even a couple dining options are open to the piazza..
The rest of the ship is just as lovely with a feel of luxury throughout.
You will find the usual things for a large cruise ships and if you have sailed Princess you will most likely find your favorites are on this new ship as well.
There are many dining options both complimentary and specialty ones with an extra charge. I really love that they have a pizza restaurant, Alfredo's, that is complimentary. While I do enjoy Slice which offers pizza slices on the pool deck it is really nice to also have an indoor option where you are seated and can order a pizza off a menu. By the way Princess was voted Best Pizza at Sea! On this short cruise we obviously couldn't try everything but I would never cruise Princess without getting something from the Chocolate Journeys which is exclusive to Princess and created by Norman Love. Honestly I could be happy eating just pizza and chocolate I think. Oh wait I forgot one other thing to add to that and that's ice cream. There is a soft serve counter on the pool deck that is complimentary along with a gelato shop in the piazza that has a small charge. All of the food we ate was great and the servers we had were also great.
Beside what was offered in the Pizza there is also a main theater that offers nightly shows some of which are rather big productions. Princess is also known for being the first to offer Movies Under the Stars and the Sky Princess of course has that big screen. There is also a new twist to the big screen on this ship that I will mention when I talk about the staterooms. There are also a few lounges throughout offering live entertainment. We really enjoyed the new Take Five which is a fun Jazz themed lounge.
You have the typical options for staterooms - inside, window, balcony, and suites. Sky Princess is currently the ship offering the largest balconies at sea with the Sky Suites. These suites have wrap around balconies that face both the ocean and the main pool area with prime viewing of the big screen. A perk to the Sky Suites is that you could choose which movies are played during your cruise. You can even host a really fun catered viewing party on your balcony. I was not lucky enough to have one of these suites on this cruise but the stateroom I did have was very nice. The rooms are decorated with light neutral colors and offer plenty of storage space. Of course it wouldn't be a Princess Cruise without being able to water The Love Boat episodes on demand in your stateroom. There are other on demand options as well at no extra charge.
There are a couple pools to choose from, one of which is adult only and sort of secluded which is a very nice touch. There are a lot of hot tubs scattered around on 2 of the top decks so you should be able to find one that isn't too crowded. The Sanctuary is also Princess favorite where you can reserve either a very comfy lounge chair or cabana for the day or entire cruise if you would like. We really enjoyed our time in the Sanctuary on our last cruise but with just 3 days to see everything we only did a walk through instead.
The Spa oboard is located way down on Deck 5 all the way forward, which I thought was odd. I am used to spas being up top and connected to the fitness center but that is not the case on this ship. The Thermal Suite, called The Enclave, is the largest for Princess. It has heated lounges, a few saunas, aromatherapy showers, and a hydrotherapy pool. I opted for buying a pass to The Enclave for this cruise instead of the Sanctuary. Now that i have done both I am not sure which I like better. I think I will write a blog just about both of these experiences since I like them so much.
There are also kids clubs which were very nice offering lots of fun stuff and separated the kids into 3 different rooms based on age. The Teen Lounge is somewhere I would like to hang out with lots of comfy leather sofas and chairs and plenty of large windows to get a nice view. There is also a sports deck with things like basketball, mini-golf, and new to Princess an Escape room.
Last but not least, Princess Cays. I love a private stop and Princess Cays did not disappoint. The beach was nice and the path ways mostly paved for easier walking. There were plenty of lounge chairs both in an out of the sun. There were 2 buffets sections for lunch one on either side of the island. The food was your typical beach bbq lunch on a cruise line private stop. There are also some shops offering Bahamian items and other souvenirs. There are also plenty of excursion options. We rented a Hobie cat for an hour an really enjoyed sailing around the clear waters across the front of the beach. There was plenty of space to sail which made it more fun. The one drawback to Princess Cays is it requires a tender to get in and back to the ship. Many of the cruise line private stops require tender so it wasn't a big deal.
I recently got to cruise onboard Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship the Norwegian Encore as part of a travel agent preview cruise. It was just a 3 night cruise with a stop at Norwegian's private island Great Stirrup Cay. Three days really wasn't enough time to see all this amazing ship has to offer so it is a good thing the regular cruises on this ship are usually 7 nights. The Encore is 1,094 feet long and 20 decks high. She can accommodate around 4,000 guests. The Encore is part of the Breakaway Plus class of ships in the Norwegian fleet. The Bliss is sister ship to the Encore and they are almost twins but you can easily tell them apart by the design on the front of the ship. The Bliss was designed with Alaska in mind so it has a Wyland design that includes whales and other sea life. The Encore is a little more abstract and brightly colored with it's hull designed by Eduardo Arranz-Bravo. Most of the ship inside is very similar to the Bliss with a few slight changes like La Cucina is replaced with Onda by Scarpetta for the Italian specialty restaurant. Both still have the Go-Karts and laser tag on the top deck. The Encore has a new feature called Galaxy Pavilion which features a bunch of virtual reality games you can play. The Galaxy Pavilion took over the spot where Spice H2O is on the Bliss and personally I preferred having an outdoor area that was adult only instead of the Galaxy Pavilion so I think they made a bad choice on that one. I did enjoy the go-karts and laser tag was fun too. The big production onboard Encore is Kinky Boots along with another original show called Choir of Man. Norwegian is known for excellent shows and you do want to be sure to plan ahead and reserve your seating for the big shows as they tend to be full in advance.
Kelly Clarkson is Godmother to the Encore and I think it is really great how Norwegian designed part of the kids club using her book River Rose as inspiration. One new design onboard that had a lot of people talking was the main chandelier. On the Bliss it is a glittering chandelier full of sparkling crystals. On the Encore I thought the chandelier was still wrapped in bubble wrap since it was still so new but I asked and found out that nope that was the actual chandelier and they are calling it "art" but I was not alone in thinking it was ugly.
If you are looking to splurge and want to feel like you almost have your own private ship inside the ship then the Haven is where you should book your room. The rooms in the Haven are simply amazing! The Haven also has it's own lounge, pool, restaurant, sun deck and more. While I am talking about spoiling yourself I also need to mention the new section of Norwegian's private island called Silver Cove. This is like a private beach on a private island. Our cruise was the first to stop at Great Stirrup Cay after Silver Cove opened. We got to tour the Villas and see the amazing private beach that comes with the Villas. I am not sure I totally understand why anyone needs a bedroom in a villa on a private beach when all I would want to do is be on the beach but these Villas have full bedrooms and bathrooms.
I think Encore is a great name for this ship as I can see many guests wanting to sail on her again and again.
PS - Stay tuned for new sections on the website dedicated cruise line private islands and my stateroom reviews.
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