Princess Cruises’ new ship was launched to much fanfare, following her inaugural by the Duchess of Cambridge. Royal Princess has just arrived in the U.S. from Europe, and I had the pleasure of enjoying a short maiden U.S. voyage.
As far as hardware goes, Royal Princess is a gorgeous ship: tastefully decorated and showing some elegance and class for a large vessel, and quality in the detailing. Perhaps the biggest design evolution for the line is creating more venues adjacent to the large Piazza or atrium area, the largest of any Princess cruise ship. Cocktail bars like Crooners, Bellini’s and Vines, the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar, Alfredo’s (the signature pizzeria), a gelato bar, an International Café, the ever-popular Sabatini's Italian dining extravaganza, the stunning Lotus spa, the casino and the shopping -- all are within steps of each other on three decks comprising or adjacent to the Piazza.
Princess Cruises has been advancing the concept of a central piazza, as typical of Italian cities, where people gather and have a good time. At various times entertainment is scheduled here, too. On either end of the Piazza one finds other delights, including the Wheelhouse Bar and Crown Grill steakhouse, two theaters at either end of the ship, and Princess Live!, a new TV studio-like venue from which interactive shows and guest lectures are broadcast. As a smaller venue with a capacity for about 300 guests, it also serves as a more intimate space conducive to sleight-of-hand magicians and other performers.
Atop Royal Princess is the beautiful and private Sanctuary area for adults, with gorgeous cabanas (extra fee, of course) and with their own flat screen TVs and adults only pool. The Sanctuary is stunning. Another highlight on the ship is a fountain with water and light show, and The SeaWalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that cantilevers beyond the edge of the ship, with views through its glass bottom walkway 125 feet below. Here, too, is the largest at sea high-definition TV screen for viewing movies outdoors, or providing other visual delights during the cruise.
There’s also exciting developments when it comes to software, not least of which is a new and exciting mobile website which provides the daily program of the events and activities, the cruise itinerary, a list with hours and directions for all venues onboard, the ability to review one’s shipboard account, and more. No need to carry the Princess Patter (daily newsletter) with you to keep up with what’s next – you can access it all on your smart phone.
Princess Cruises has also introduced a new in-room video system. Completely redesigned for ease of use, there is a small remote with just a few buttons so that it's easy and intuitive to use it to access movies, TV shows and other on-screen programming, including broadcasts from the Princess Live! studio.
When it comes to culinary delights, Princess Cruises makes everything fresh onboard, including the burgers and ice cream. That makes a difference in the quality of the food. The Horizon Court Lido dining area onboard is greatly expanded. This is good to see because there’s nothing more disappointing than having to wait in line for a buffet meal. There are multiple food areas and seating areas here – so many that it’s easy to get a bit dis-oriented. The choices in cuisine were varied and tasty. On alternative evenings, the Horizon Court will also feature two new additional alternative dining venues for a small fee: the Crab Shack and Fondue’s.
There were raves all around for the new Lotus Spa onboard, now relocated just steps away from the Piazza, and like the Sanctuary, the Spa provides respite, relaxation and more away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the ship.
Overall, for a large mega-ship, Royal Princess is a stunning presentation.