Princess Cruises: The World is Its (Cruising) Oyster

Just take a look at the numbers: Princess Cruises, with a worldwide fleet of 17 modern ships, sails to all seven continents, offering 115 itineraries, encompassing 350 ports around the world and ranging from seven to 102 days. During the coming 2010-2011 season, the line will introduce 17 new ports of call. Small wonder that, for the sixth year in a row, Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award stays in the hands of Princess Cruises for Best Cruise Line for Itineraries.

“Bringing passengers to fascinating destinations around the world has long been one of our hallmarks, and we are committed to enabling our passengers to explore fascinating destinations around the globe,” says Jan Swartz, the cruise line’s executive v.p. “So it’s wonderful to see that travel agents—who account for more than 90 percent of our bookings in all corners of the globe—continue to think of Princess first when asked to pick their favorite line for itineraries.”

Helping agents to navigate the cruise line’s worldwide movements and ship news, Princess Cruises works to reciprocate with what Swartz describes as “an amazing array” of sales building and educational tools. She points, for instance, to the Princess Academy, a travel agent education program that provides some of the most comprehensive training for agents in the cruise industry, with more than 70 courses covering topics from an introduction to Antarctica cruising to onboard product refresher courses.

The number of Princess itineraries, of course, has increased steadily as the fleet has grown from a single ship cruising to Mexico in 1965, to today’s seagoing passenger vessels fanning out all over the globe. In total, eight ships will sail to Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti & the South Pacific, India and South America. And for world travelers, Pacific Princess offers a new 107-day World Cruise route between Fort Lauderdale and Rome, a journey that features travel through Western Australia and around the southernmost tip of Africa, with two days in Cape Town before continuing up the West African coast. New ports to explore will include Maputo, the capital of Mozambique; Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates; Manila in the Philippines, and the charming Chinese seaport of Xiamen. This World Cruise departs on Jan. 19, 2011, with segments of 19 to 33 days available for shorter-term cruising.

Swartz points out that the 2010 season underscores how Princess Cruises uses its more than two decades of experience in Europe to design the widest array of cruise choices—96 departures visiting 130 European destinations including 11 added ports of call—for its passengers. “We innovate our itineraries every year by introducing different combinations of marquis and emerging ports, and we offer both our returning favorite itineraries plus new routes that enable passengers to explore the region either on our larger ships or smaller vessels.” For example, Ruby Princess returns on the Grand Mediterranean itinerary and Greek Isles routes, while the more intimate Ocean Princess features a selection of Mediterranean, North Cape, Iceland and Greenland routes, and debuts five 7-dayInterlude voyages to Norway, Scandinavia, the British Isles and the Mediterranean. Interludes will also offer a variety of new ports of call in the Greek Islands, at medieval villages and beach resorts.

Before the April to December season in Europe opens, Princess will be well along in its 2010-2011 cruise schedule to tropical getaways in the Caribbean, Panama Canal and Mexican Riviera. In the Caribbean, for instance, six Princess ships will visit more than 25 ports, with 14 itinerary choices. The 135 departures include a variety of vacation options exploring the eastern, western and southern Caribbean, while along the Mexican Riviera, 37 departures are scheduled from either Los Angeles or San Francisco. And of course, come summer Princess bases four ships in Alaska, where its trademark itinerary is the Voyage of the Glaciers, which goes 500 miles farther north than most Alaska itineraries. New this year on the cruise will be two glacier-viewing “experiences,” Glacier Bay and College Fjord northbound, and Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier southbound.

In all corners of the globe, many members of the Princess fleet—which Swartz describes as “designed to offer big ship choice, with a small ship feel”—are even better equipped for their cruising task. The latest vessel to acquire a dressing up for the coming season is the Coral Princess, sailing this winter season on the 15-night Panama Canal cruises between Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles, before moving on next summer to Alaska. During dry dock, Coral received a full exterior and interior makeover, as well as the addition of the two major features that are now signature to the line: a giant “Movies Under the Stars” poolside screen and The Sanctuary, the adults-only retreat featuring comfy lounge chairs and the services of dedicated Serenity Stewards. Other Princesses that have enjoyed similar makeovers include the Gold, Dawn and Sea.