Having just returned from a hard-hat tour of Royal Princess at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, I’ve concluded that there are at least six types of people who would enjoy a Royal Princess cruise. Which defines you?
- Movie Lover. The new Royal Princess will feature Princess Cruises’ largest-ever “Movies Under The Stars.” Movies at the signature poolside theater are offered free of charge. Settle in to a comfortable chaise lounge, complete with pillow, blanket and free popcorn. Or relax in the ship’s large whirlpool spas above the pools, with great sightlines to enjoy movies while soaking. Also, Royal Princess will offer complimentary, in-stateroom on-demand movies, including new releases. Only one drawback: According to focus groups, Princess execs have discovered that the average time spent watching a movie in the stateroom is, drum roll, 11 minutes. Good night! Fortunately, there’s a pause button on the remote on Royal Princess’ new interactive televisions so that you can resume watching your movie the next night, for 11 more minutes.
- Piazza Person. Few travel experiences can top sitting in a piazza, watching the world pass while sipping on a cappuccino or a glass of chianti or digging at a delicious dome of gelato. I know, because I spent such a day on the Italian coast. What made my experience highly unusual, however, was that my piazza was floating. I was not in Venice. I was on a ship, the Emerald Princess. Royal Princess will feature a piazza that is 50 percent larger than on Emerald, with lots of added features, the Bellini Bar, for Italian-inspired cocktails; Gelato, featuring the largest gelato menu at sea; Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar; and more.
- Fitness Fanatic. The fitness center on Royal Princess has been expanded (larger than on other Princess ships) and relocated from its forward location, but still with great sea views. One deck up is Sports Central, which features Center Court (think basketball, table tennis, putting green). Royal Princess will also bring back skeet shooting but without real bullets or the environmental impact, thanks to a Swedish company that developed a laser shooting system that projects targets. There also will be a wrap-around-the-ship, two-lane jogging course (six times around makes a mile).
- Lounge Chair Lizard. Royal Princess features lots of places to lounge, including the areas adjacent to the two deep-tank pools, one for adults only, and the signature top-deck relaxation area known as The Sanctuary. New for Royal Princess: The Sanctuary will feature new private cabanas that will go for $80 for half-day usage and $130 for the full day. Additionally, there are six private cabanas in The Retreat, the adults-only area, that will go for $50 for a half day and $80 for the full day. The cabanas feature refrigerators and flat-panel televisions with wireless headphones.
- Sea-Going Gourmand. Of course Royal Princess will boast a Sabatini’s, the signature Tuscan-inspired specialty restaurant that has become so popular on Princess vessels (new on Royal Princess is that Sabatini’s will be open for lunch). Brand new, however, is Chef’s Table Lumiere, which can accommodate up to 12 for around $90 per person (prices were not yet firmly established during our visit) for an experience that includes a pre-dinner cocktail, a tour through the galley at the height of dining room service, dinner with wine, a commemorative photograph with the executive chef and a copy of the Princess Cruises cookbook. The highlight of the evening is a dining experience at a table that will be enveloped by a curtain of light. In addition, Royal Princess will feature the popular Wine Makers Dinner, at $40 per person. Plus, there are new dining options in the expanded Horizon Court and in the atrium. I’ll be reporting more on these dining venues when I visit the finished Royal Princess in June.
- Hopeless Romantic. “Love, exciting and new.” New for Princess: On Royal Princess, the ship’s horns will blasts the first few lines from the theme song of “The Love Boat,” the popular show that aired for a decade, from 1977 to 1987. So you’re off to a good start. Go ahead, dance on the deck during sail-away. Once under way, you’ll find lots of opportunities for romance, including plenty of tables for two for romantic evenings during dining and even a chapel, should you and your significant other want to exchange – or renew – vows.
Stay tuned. There’s more coming about Royal Princess when we go on board in June.