Stepping on board the new 3,560-passenger Royal Princess, devoted fans of the “Love Boat” line will breathe a sigh of relief.
In designing its first new ship in five years (since Ruby Princess), Princess Cruises knew better than to mess with a good thing.
This 141,000-ton, Italian-built ship—which has its American debut from Fort Lauderdale in late-October—is the largest and most contemporary ship in the Princess fleet. But it doesn’t stray from providing the classic-style cruising experience the line is known for.
Such is the welcome-back feeling on board, that cabin hallways on Royal Princess are decorated with 1,000 photos submitted by past Princess passengers.
There was no giving in to the trend of waterparks and other amusement-park-at-sea attractions here.
Top-producing agents on board for the ship’s naming festivities in Southampton, UK, in June, said that’s a very good thing.
“I’m on this brand-new Royal Princess and it’s clearly a Princess ship,” says Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia CruiseShipCenters.
“They want the guests to be able to go from the other ships onto this ship and still find continuity,” adds Bill Smith, v.p. of cruise sales for Virtuoso. “That to me is ‘wow.’”
the ‘wow’ factor
The “wow” factor comes in the form of the SeaWalk and SeaView Bar, spaces on an upper deck that cantilever 28 ft. off the ship with glass floors so that you can see views of the sea some 128 ft. below (acrophobes, steer clear).
But the ship’s most stellar feature is its Piazza atrium. Princess has put much focus on its atriums of late, making them centers for dining, drinking, entertainment and people-watching (it has even expanded them on older ships during dry docks).
On Royal Princess, the Piazza is an elegant, theatrical 3-deck space where the floors are marble, the lights sparkle, water burbles in fountains and one feels like royalty walking the grand undulating staircases or watching the crowd from the balconies.
Guests can hang out in the Piazza listening to live music, snack on sushi at the new seafood venue Ocean Terrace, eat
the excellent, complimentary Neapolitan-style pizza at the expanded Alfredo’s, people-watch as they sip a latte at the 24-hour International Cafe or sample the tasty treats at the largest gelato shop at sea. It’s not unlike being in the piazza of a small Italian town, in fact.
“They continue to evolve the Piazza. It’s an even larger space to do more things. They’ve really done a good job with that. It’s quite grand,” points out Eichhorst.
To be clear, a lot of what’s new is fee-based—from the gelato to the sushi to the signature champagne drinks at the new Bellini’s bar. So agents should prepare clients for the fact that they will be tantalized by extras. And a lot of these extras—including spa treatments, poolside cabana rentals, a reservation at the chef’s table are, in fact, ideal for your well-heeled clients, although they are not commissionable.
“I think Princess’ objective is to keep the price point attractive and make it easier for a client that way. Consider who the audience is, consider the price point, and sell it that way,” advises Smith.
One thing passengers won’t find in the atrium is the reception and shore excursion desks. They’ve been moved to an adjacent mini atrium.
Right next door, in prime Deck 5 real estate, is the ship’s expanded Lotus Spa. Moving the spa from the traditional position on a top deck to the center of action was a bold move, but also means a prime marketing opportunity—you literally can’t avoid walking by.
With the extra space come enhancements including The Enclave, a new for-a-fee relaxation area with a hydrotherapy pool, specialized steam and sauna rooms, a hammam, and a pair of twin waterbeds. The spa also has new couples’ villas with whirlpools. In fact, recommend to your spa aficionados a massage for two that starts at $449 for 110 minutes. Or, up to four people can share a package that combines spa treatments with such treats as caviar and champagne (from $1,500).
The ship’s oceanview fitness area is separate on an upper deck. It’s next door to the expansive children’s facilities, which include age-appropriate indoor spaces plus an outdoor playground with tricycles for little ones and an outdoor lounging area with wading pool for teens.
Adults (18+) will find expanded outdoor areas just for them, too, whether lounging for free by the lovely Retreat Pool or paying a fee to relax in the plush sunning area, The Sanctuary.
In both places, those looking for privacy can book curtained cabanas (a first for Princess, but popular on some other lines) that come with lots of goodies, including a personal TV with noise-reducing wireless headphones, cushy sofas, luxurious robe and slippers, a welcome cocktail, and healthy snacks including nuts, and dried and fresh fruit (in The Sanctuary cabanas). Cabana rental is from $50 for a half-day at The Retreat, and from $80 at The Sanctuary. Those booking a cabana can also pamper themselves with a gourmet picnic featuring a bottle of wine paired with antipasti, artisan sandwiches, pizza and fresh-baked desserts (from $40). For big spenders, the two high-ceiling Royal Villas in The Sanctuary are some of the most extravagant open-air spaces at sea.
The main pool is outfitted with an impressive fountain that does double duty as a fun water spray area during the day and the water feature in nighttime water-and-light shows—some of which also make use of the ship’s largest-in-the-fleet Movies Under the Stars screen.
staterooms with views
A key selling feature will no doubt be the fact that all the Royal Princess’ outside cabins come with balconies—including in a moderate price range. And there are 1,438 outside cabins to choose from. The ship has also introduced a new cabin category, Deluxe Balcony, which brings a little more space than standard balcony cabins and some of the amenities found in mini-suites, including an upgraded duvet and comfy waffle robes.
Most balconies on this ship are smaller than on other Princess ships—a move the line explains was made so the larger ship wouldn’t be too top heavy.
The staterooms, meanwhile, have a new and pleasing contemporary decor and a bunch of subtle updates including larger showers with handheld showerheads, square bathroom sinks (providing more storage space), upholstered headboards and pillow-top mattresses. The cabins have also been outfitted with larger flat-screen TVs for a new on-demand system the line created in-house—with a bunch of TV shows and movies to watch, all free (it’s already a customer favorite).
There are five basic types of cabins your clients can choose from: Inside, Standard Balcony, Deluxe Balcony, Mini-suite and Suites (the largest 705 sq. ft. with a wraparound balcony). Additionally, there are 50 adjoining cabins that are available for families. Those seeking accessible accommodations can choose from any category except Deluxe Balcony—with 36 total accessible cabins.
An eco-friendly feature: Cabin lighting is activated when you place your keycard in a reader at the door.
Princess was the first to introduce a chef’s table at sea, and on Royal Princess the experience gets a home at Chef’s Table Lumiere ($115, perfect for your culinary high-brows), a cleverly illuminated space in the center of one of the main dining rooms (a curtain of light makes the space private). The ever-changing menu is based on the chef’s daily whim and is paired with wine ($115 pp).
Guests looking for a special night out can also dine (for $25 pp) at the Crown Grill steakhouse or Sabatini’s, newly connected to pre-dinner bars—the Wheelhouse Bar and Vines, respectively.
The Royal Princess debuts a reconfigured Horizon Court buffet with more action stations including a hibachi grill and taco bar, and a new first-of-its-kind Pastry Shop dessert area, where treats include fruit dipped in chocolate and yummy cupcakes, among other sweets.
At the largest-in-the-fleet Princess Theater, the line has debuted its four new streamlined 30-minute music and dance shows—which make creative use of state-of-the-art technology including LED screens. The ship also debuted a first-of-its-kind TV studio, Princess Live!, the hub for interactive game shows, comedy shows and cooking demos and a daily cruise director-hosted TV show, “The Wake Show,” broadcast ship-wide (expect lots of laughs).
The line continues to have a large number of live performers, including in the Piazza—we counted five pianists alone listed in the daily line-up. The water-and-light shows on deck attracted a sizeable crowd—despite the fact temperatures were cool in Southampton (these will no doubt be a hit when the ships sail to the Caribbean).
Agents on board during the christening ceremonies said Royal Princess was well suited for couples ages 55+ seeking a relaxed atmosphere, rather than the frenetic pace of most new ships.
Bragging rights also count, says Blaine Lambert, COO of Cruise Experts in Vancouver.
“Princess already appeals to a wide range of people. But with the way they have configured the venues, and even having Kate as godmother, this is going to appeal to younger people who want a little more excitement,” he says.
The Royal Princess summers in the Mediterranean and winters in the Caribbean, cruising from Fort Lauderdale (late-October to April). Seven-night cruises from $699 inside; from $999 for a balcony cabin.
Passengers: 3,560 Decks: 19 Cabins: 1,780 Length: 1,083 ft. Service speed: 22 knots Tonnage: 141,000
The Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) serves as godmother of the Royal Princess. This is the third ship, in fact, with the “Royal Princess” name. Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, christened the first Royal Princess ship in 1984.