A long parade of past passengers, hundreds of them touring the 3,560-passenger Royal Princess before its June inaugural in Europe, wore knowing smiles and meandered the ship as if they felt at home.
Ask these folks how many times they had been to sea with Princess: “Seventeen,” one says. “Nineteen,” says another. “More,” chortles a third.
Good reviews are essential from this weathered bunch, because Princess Cruises, a venerable line, markets itself as sailing up-to-date versions of traditional ships on which past passengers can expect consistency.
Princess fans need not worry. The new Italian-built Royal Princess, the largest “Love Boat” ever, feels classically Princess.
In a cruise vacation world where nearly everyone bringing out a new ship talks about amazing new gadgets and the latest wow-producing accouterments, Princess has chosen a different path.
Princess made its changes, expansions, and updates on Royal Princess — the line’s first new ship in five years (since the Ruby Princess in 2008) — without rocking the boat.
Yet to gain the attention, too, of new, younger passengers, Princess turned to the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) to serve as godmother. At a dockside naming ceremony in Southampton, UK, the significantly pregnant Duchess set a young, hip tone that garnered positive press around the world. The ship apparently made the royal grade because after a private tour, Kate reportedly asked whether she could come back and bring along her husband, Prince William. The answer, as you might expect, was an unqualified “yes.”
The new Royal Princess, the line’s third ship to carry the name, is cruising in the Mediterranean until October, then in the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale through April 2014, before returning to Europe.
While you won’t find features like rock-climbing walls, waterslides or amusement park attractions on this ship, there are some knockout new features.
All outside cabins have balconies, which brings the bonus of moderate pricing for those coveted spaces.
But the star of the show is the Piazza atrium, expanded in size and use from previous ships — where it’s become a signature feature. The Royal Princess atrium is an elegant three-deck space done up in marble, with sparkling floor-to-ceiling light fixtures, grand undulating staircases, theatrical balconies, and water fountains.
On Royal Princess, the Piazza is clearly designed as the hub of the ship, filled with dining, drinking, entertainment and schmoozing venues. It’s a place to hang out for hours, to be entertained by a piano player or a string quartet, to see and be seen.
Grab a latte ($2.50) from the expanded, 24-hour International Café — where the complimentary treats in glass cases include paninis, individual pecan pies, chocolate mousse and other temptations — and choose a Piazza-view table to people-watch, much as you might do in the piazza of a small Italian town.
The coffee shop also has a tea service where you may choose your own blend (from $2.75 per cup). Or head across the Piazza for scoops (from $2.75) from the gelato shop.
Other Piazza options include Princess standards such as the Vines wine bar, plus some new offerings: most notably Bellini’s for champagne (the Royal Bellini cocktail combines chocolate, peach and champagne, $15) and Ocean Terrace seafood bar for sushi ($4.50 for two pieces) and oysters.