Unveiled in June 2013, Royal Princess was the first of a new class of ship for Princess Cruises and enjoyed a high-profile launch in Southampton when it was christened by a heavily pregnant Duchess of Cambridge on her last solo outing before giving birth to Prince George.
Royal Princess arrived with an enhanced range of the line’s popular amenities along with a few novel additions, notably its glass-bottomed SeaWalk walkway jutting off the edge of the ship’s pool deck, plush poolside cabanas and a TV studio. The 3,560-passenger newcomer also boasted more nightlife action which, at the time, was hailed as the widest variety the line had ever offered.
Where to eat
Special venues and experiences, along with fresh twists on Princess favourites, summarise the dining selection on Royal Princess. It may not have as many options as some rival ships, but there’s is a decent choice and the quality is good. As the line is credited for creating the first Chef’s Table experience at sea, Royal Princess takes the concept a step further with Chef’s Table Lumiere, where diners have their own special table in the Concerto dining room surrounded by a so-called “curtain of light” of LED shards.
There are also wine-cellar themed private areas in the Symphony and Allegra dining rooms for those wanting a little more exclusivity and privacy. The main three dining rooms are divided between fixed time seating and more flexible anytime dining, with some featured dishes designed by Australian award-winning celebrity chef Curtis Stone who has partnered with Princess. Aficionados will be pleased to see the line’s signature favourites still lead the way and are located close to some of the bars making it easy to stroll in after pre-dinner tipples and enjoy an evening nightcap.
Steak-lovers looking for an impressive selection of prime cuts should take a seat in the American-style Crown Grill, while those after Mediterranean fare should try Sabatini’s Italian trattoria and its tempting range of antipasti dishes. The expanded Horizon Court buffet also has more seating than on older Princess vessels, with a good amount on the open deck for those wanting al fresco dining, and includes a couple of evening dining choices, the Crab Shack for a $29pp cover charge.
Where to sleep
With nearly 1,100 balcony cabins, Royal Princess maintains the tradition of offering a high number of accommodations in this category, though there have been criticisms on some cruising forums from customers about the smaller size of cabins and balconies when compared with the line’s older ships. But overall, cabins are attractive and contemporary with a number of updated features inspired by suggestions by passengers, such as better-spaced plug points and enhanced lighting, along with bigger TV screens with on-demand programming. There are 50 additional adjoining staterooms to cater for family groups and a new cabin category – deluxe balcony – offering more space and including a sofa-bed and upgraded amenities. Mini-suites come with a privacy curtain between the bed and sitting area, while suite guests also have the use of a dedicated concierge lounge.
What to do
Passengers will find more ways to be entertained on Royal Princess thanks to its varied line-up. One of the main features that debuted was the water and light show on the pool deck and a central stage area where live bands play during evening parties, while another novel feature is the Princess Live! TV studio where guests can enjoy live talk shows, demonstrations and performances. The main Princess Theater was the largest in the fleet when Royal Princess launched, with clear sightlines from each seat and more modern lighting that paved the way for a new generation of production shows. However, the venue to let off steam, and energy is Club 6, a dance club where a resident DJ keeps the music flowing. Old favourite Crooners is a popular draw with its resident entertainers, though Bellini’s is a tempting diversion with its bubbly concoctions, along with the classic Movies Under the Stars screen, which at Royal Princess’s launch was the largest yet in the Princess fleet. A full range of pampering is offered in the Lotus Spa and thermal suite, and there’s plenty to occupy sports fans with the gym, jogging track and sports court.
What I loved
- Chef’s Table as Princess offers one of the best such experiences afloat with the novelty of pre-dinner cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the galley before sitting down for a personalised feast. At $115, it’s not cheap, but it’s certainly memorable.
- The Sanctuary VIP deck area with its plush loungers, al fresco massages and attentive services of Serenity Stewards who provide drinks, snacks and even MP3 players loaded with relaxing music, though this all comes at a cost of $20 for half a day.
- The pool deck fountains that dance to four different engaging music and light shows, shooting plumes of water into the air.
If you’re staying in a balcony cabin, and especially if you’re cruising through the stunning scenery of the Norwegian fjords or Alaska, it’s worth paying extra for the “Ultimate Balcony Dining” package, where meals are served course by course, costing $100 per couple.