Greetings from Princess Cruise Lines’ newest ship, the 3,560-passenger ! I’m here in Southampton, England attending the inaugural celebrations, for which the ship received worldwide attention because its genius PR team pulled off an amazing coup. Somehow they managed to commission one of the world’s most intriguing people to be the ship’s Godmother. The Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) gives very few interviews, doesn’t make a lot of public appearance and she’s about to give birth to the child in line for the throne—making her participation as Godmother equals unbelievable press.
The ship is obviously huge: It’s 1,083-feet long, 217-feet high and has 19 decks. But instead of giving you a standard ship review (when you can frankly find more qualified reviews on cruise specialist sites like CruiseCritic.com), I thought I would share with you 20 reasons to sail on Royal Princess.
1. Dramatic atrium
The moment you step onboard the dramatic atrium will make your jaw drop. Just like the other Princess atriums, it’s the social hub of the ship with a mixture of restaurants, bars, guest services, shops and live entertainment. But this one is 50% larger than the ones on other Princess ships and it includes new features like Bellini’s Italian cocktail bar, Ocean Terrace seafood bar and a gelateria.
2. The SeaWalk
Without a doubt Royal Princess’ most distinguishing design element is an over-water SeaWalk. It’s a glass-bottomed, enclosed walkway located on the ship’s starboard-side top-deck—128 feet above the sea. It extends more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel so it has dramatic views. FYI: The SeaWalk glass is 1.1 inches (28mm)-thick which is more than four times thicker than the average car windshield glass. More pics on The SeaWalk.
There’s a total of 1,780 staterooms, 1,438 of which come with a balcony. Having a balcony on a cruise makes a huge difference. First of all, you can get fresh air whenever you want; secondly, it allows for a lot more light to come into the room; third, you won’t ever feel claustrophobic; and finally the views are epic. Waking up and opening the curtains to see where you are or sitting outside and enjoying the sunset is remarkable. FYI: There are 40 suites (all with balconies), 342 inside cabins and 36 wheelchair-accessible staterooms (29 of them have a balcony).
I didn’t sleep much on the flight over the pond so it was so wonderful to jump in a comfortable bed with the perfect size pillows (in length and width). The comforter was also perfect as it wasn’t too heavy or light so I slept like a baby. The sheets did feel a bit starchy but I think that’s just because everything is so new—I’m one of the first, if not the first, person to sleep my bed so I’m guessing they will get even softer with time.
5. On-demand stateroom programming
Of course, you don’t take a cruise to hangout in your stateroom all day but it sure is nice to have a large flat-screen TV with an extensive array of on-demand movies and other programming options. The entire library of hundreds of movies, as well as classic and contemporary television show episodes, are offered for free. The system also offers live details of the ship’s location, a webcam and a live from the ship’s television studio Princess Live!
6. Princess Live!
This is a unique concept: The ship has a live television studio that is set up and produced like a late-night and early-morning talk show. Guests can be a part of the studio audience or watch the featured programming throughout the day (from 8 am until midnight) in their stateroom. The Cruise Director is the host and does a nice job interviewing guests. When I turned it on he was interviewing the executive chef and VP of Operations, but I read their will be a variety of daily demonstrations and performers. The studio holds almost 300 guests and the space is designed to give passengers a more intimate opportunity to meet the ship’s entertainers, play games and enjoy refreshments in the dedicated café.
7. Largest outdoor movie screen at sea
Back in 2004, Princess introduced outdoor movies at sea(called “Movies Under the Stars”) where passengers can sit on lounge chairs and watch a flick and eat free popcorn. Royal Princess stepped “Movies Under the Stars” up a notch by making the screen 30-percent larger than the screens on their other ships, making it the largest at sea.
8. Lotus Spa
I was quite surprised that the ship’s Lotus Spa is nicer than most spas I’ve been to on land. Shocking I know, but they did a fabulous job on the interiors including the Enclave, a thermal suite. The only thing they need to work on is the men’s locker room. There, they don’t have all the toiletry amenities out (like deodorants, combs, razors, shaving cream) and while my masseuse was excellent, I could hear the performers rehearsing for the show above. I think it was an isolated incident since none of my colleagues heard the noise, but just ask to make sure that you don’t get stuck in the room directly under the stage during rehearsals. FYI: The bathrobes are huge—I guess they need to fit some mighty heavy cruise passengers.
9. Horizon Court buffet
The Horizon Court buffet, which is probably Princess’ most popular casual dining option, was given a completely new layout. There are now “action stations” that offer choices such as Asian cuisine, Mediterranean dishes, a pasta corner and salad-tossing stations.
Did you know: 170,000 pounds (more than 4 truckloads) of fresh fruits and vegetables are consumed each cruise?
10. Horizon Bistro Pastry Shop
Next door to the buffet is the Horizon Court pastry shop where they serve all kinds of fresh-baked treats. Pastries and pancakes for breakfast and cookies, desserts and chocolate fondue fountain during the day and evening. As an added bonus you can watch the pastry chefs in action as they demonstrate their skills in chocolate work and cake decorating.
11. Largest gelato menu at sea
You gotta love a ship that has the largest variety of creamy Italian-inspired gelato and ice cream creations at sea. There is a menu of eight delicious flavors prepared by the ship’s pastry chef, more than 20 toppings and sauces and specialty items such as sundaes, waffle cones and sweet crepes. There is an extra charge of $2.75 but if you get the coffee card ($30) you can mix and match 15 coffees or gelatos.
12. Fitness center/aerobics studio
After all that food you are going to no doubt consume you will need to hit the gym. Fortunately, Royal Princess has a state-of-the-art gym with spectacular ocean views. No matter their fitness level, passengers can use the latest in exercise equipment like treadmills, recumbent bicycles, elliptical machines and strength equipment, as well as a small selection of free weights. Most equipment features personal TV screens, and some even offer an interactive, virtual experience.
Cruise tip: Instead of taking the elevators on the ship work off the food by only taking the stairs (except when carrying heavy bags).
13. Art & architecture mobile tour
Royal Princess offers a new self-guided tour that enables passengers to explore the ship’s extensive art collection using their smart phone or tablet. There are 30 stops on the tour and after scanning the QR code, you will learn interesting facts about the artist and their work. As a side note, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of photos taken of locations all over the world by former passengers while on a Princess Cruises. These make the super-long hallways interesting.
14. Youth center
Kids might hate the art tour but they are sure to love the youth center. There’s a fun room for kids under 3 and there are a couple other rooms filled with computers, video, board and arcade games that kids and teenagers will love. There’s even a ping-pong table in one of the kids’ dedicated outdoor areas.
Although it’s not free, it’s nice that each stateroom floor has its own laundry room so passengers don’t have to bring a ton of clothes with them. Loads costs $2 each for the washer and dryer. If you don’t have your own laundry soap there’s a vending machine that sells it for $1.50-a-load, so my laundry tip is to bring your own detergent from home.
16. Fountain pool/plunge pool
Up on the Lido Deck (16) there are two freshwater pools with an island area between them. During the day, passengers can relax in a variety of seating options, including circular loungers, garden-style furniture, bar-height tables and stools and chaise lounges. At night, the pool area transforms with architectural lighting effects to set the mood. The island area then becomes a stage with an interactive sound and light show featuring dancing fountains. There are 85 water jets and streams of water shoot 33 feet into the night sky.
17. Private Cabanas
Princess is now offering private cabanas which start at $45 per day. The cabanas are elegant and located in the Sanctuary and at the Retreat Pool.
The Princess Theater has four new production shows, including “Colors of the World,” an experiential journey through the destinations visited by Princess ships; “Spectacular!” a colorful music extravaganza; “Sweet Soul Music,” a tribute to rhythm and blues; and “What the World Needs Now,” billed as an elegant show celebrating the music and style of the ‘60s.
19. Mobile cruise information
Instead of reading the nightly paper newsletter left on the bed, passengers can log on to the [email protected], a new mobile-friendly internet site that enables passengers to easily access daily updates about entertainment, onboard specials, weather and port news. You can also review your onboard folio just to make sure you aren’t going broke.
20. Touchscreen photo-finder
The Royal Princess photo gallery features digital kiosks that use facial recognition technology to help passengers find all of their photographs. Passengers can save favorites and customize prints.
I seriously could have gone on and named twenty more reasons to sail on Royal Princess, but time and space just don’t allow for it. But the bottom line here is there are tons of things to do, see and eat while sailing on Royal Princess. When you factor in the shore excursions you seriously won’t have time to do it all—so if I were you, I would plan for a longer vacation!
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