Built in 1998 as what is now called a mid-sized ship, the initial appearance is quite appealing. The exterior of the ship has the traditional overall white paint job, 887 feet in length and 77,000 gross tons. The Sea Princess accommodates 1,990 passengers with over 400 balcony staterooms offered. Entering the ship on Deck 5 was impressive with the sweeping curved stairway and central atrium with 4 glass elevators. The confusion starts here as the elevators mid ship only service some decks. Sorting out the access to accommodations and decks posed a challenge initially even to a seasoned cruiser. After a few days it would be a simple transit.
PUBLIC AREAS: All were tastefully decorated and extremely well-kept. The color scheme ranged from gold and beige to bronze and darker beige — certainly subdued. Shops, internet café and library were easy to find and quite appealing. It was the largest library (and smallest internet café) I’ve seen aboard most modern cruise ships. The Razmatazz bar and disco was properly shiny with chrome and a small Plexiglas dance floor. Outdoor bars were colorful and appealing. The Vista Show Lounge was comparatively small with a very steep slope of chairs and table arrangements. However, throughout the ship serious attention to accessibility is apparent. Cleanliness of all areas of the ship was very noticeable. Hand washing stations are located everywhere and especially notable in the well-equipped children's' and teen facilities. The huge spa and fitness areas were beautifully decorated and quite well-equipped. The casino was comparatively small for the number of passengers. Staff throughout the ship were extremely friendly and helpful.
DINING: The large and airy Traviata dining room offers traditional seating with the Rigoletto dining room directly below it set up for the "anytime" concept. Both restaurants had large picture windows for ocean viewing. Heavy velvet drapes, however, seemed to be closed most of the time(??) The salmon was expertly prepared and all menu items were beautiful in presentation and of highest quality, fresh ingredients. The Horizon Court buffet, open 24 hours a day, offered several serving stations to cut down on congestion and long lines. Hand washing was emphasized everywhere. The Riviera Grill was quite small with only about 8 bar stools and a couple of tables. Their Sterling Steakhouse is actually a section of the Horizon Court corded off in the evening for fine dining option. They do not offer a Sabattini's Italian restaurant on this ship.
STATEROOMS: All were tastefully decorated and well-appointed. The Sea Princess has the most complex way to reach many of the cabins via hallways that twist and turn on both starboard and port sides. Many hallways dead end and the access to elevators remains a complete mystery at this time. The interior staterooms were particularly small and confining. The obstructed view cabins were very obstructed by the life boats and tenders. The minimum category ocean-view cabins were long and narrow with either a square window or slanted large picture window. Balcony cabins in the BC category were equipped with balconies so narrow a normal sized passenger would have difficulty sitting in the deck chair facing forward! Return passengers should inquire about reasonably priced upgrades to at least the mini-suite category to find balcony staterooms comparable to the newer vessels offerings.
OBSERVATIONS: Embarkation procedures in San Francisco seemed efficient, if not a bit drafty in the warehouse-like reception area. Arrival of new passengers overlapped with folks disembarking — quite a crowd on the sidewalks outside! It was almost impossible to pass through the throngs. Folks were testy leaving and arriving due to the congestion of taxis, cars and busses double and triple parked either discharging or picking up folks. The Amtrak service from Sacramento to Pier 39 was efficient and a great way to get to the cruise pier.