The new Royal Princess, currently under construction in the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy, will make its debut in June of 2013. As the first new ship from Princess since 2008, and one of a very small number of new cruise ships worldwide scheduled to come online in the next few years, it is very interesting to watch this ship shape up.
Princess is an interesting cruise line – under the ownership of Carnival Corp., like many other popular lines, the ships straddle the line between the premium and mainstream categories by appealing to an older and more prosperous clientele, yet the actual vessels are generally large and carry a high number of passengers. For example, the newest Princess ship in service now, Ruby Princess, is 113,000 gross tons and has a berth capacity of 3,080 passengers. This is very similar to the Carnival Splendor which at 113,000 gross tons has a berth capacity of 3,006 passengers.
Still, Princess has a much more elegant and upscale atmosphere than Carnival, and the ships include several touches to give them much more of a premium feel when compared to Carnival. The décor is understated yet rich in texture and color. The staterooms are roomy and utile, many with bathtubs and plenty of storage space. The dining rooms replicated rather than having one big room so they are made smaller and hold fewer guests for a much more intimate feel.
Conceptually, it is still easy to regard Princess as a cut above Carnival ships, even if they do have size and guest capacity in common. Surprisingly, while roominess (passenger space ratio) is often associated with premium ships, such as with Holland America or Celebrity ships, Princess is about to come out with two new ships that have a surprisingly lower passenger space ratio that normally indicates an overly crowded ship, but these new ships appear to be quintessentially elegant in décor, and I expect they will deliver a premium cruise experience. The two ships will come in at 141,000-tons and a berth capacity of 3,600 passengers.
The first of these new ships, Royal Princess, had some of its more tantalizing aspects revealed last March as we outlined in this article Sneak Peak at the New Royal Princess. The lovely new features include the SeaView Bar on the top deck cantilevered over the side of the ship so one can look straight down through the glass floor to see the ocean a dozen decks below.
New Features of Royal Princess Just Revealed
Now, almost a year later we are finally getting another sneak peak, this time at the heart of the ship, the atrium section on decks five, six and seven.
All of the new Princess ships have put a renewed focus on the atrium area as the hub of the ship. In fact, Princess just upgraded the Sapphire Princess, built in 2004, to have all of the atrium amenities found in the newer Ruby-class ships, such as the Gelateria, the Vines wine bar, Alfredo's Italian restaurant and the International Café for European coffees and pastry.
But the new Royal Princess will boast an atrium that takes a giant leap beyond the current fleet at sea. It will be 50% bigger than any previous ships, with several expanded and additional drinking and dining venues included.
Royal Princess Atrium Deck Five
International Café: Starting off on the ground floor we will find the International Café, but on Royal Princess it will be expanded with more food and drink selections including fresh-baked pastries, panini sandwiches, salads, fresh-baked cookies and special coffees. There will also be an expanded seating area centered on a distinctive lighting feature.
Vines: this wine bar will now also offer tapas and sushi pre-dinner (at a small a la carte price), as well as pouring up to 30 different wines by the glass to help passengers select favorite bottles of wine for the meals onboard. The ship will keep the wine ready (chilled if requested) for the guests and bring it to their table, anyplace on the ship, whenever they want a glass.
Gelato: Close by will be "Gelato," the gelateria, which will also serve designer sundaes, sweet crespelle (Italian crepes), creamy fruit smoothies, frosty shakes, and upon request, the gelato will come in homemade waffle ice cream cones.
The Bar Piazza and Tea Tower: This will offer an array of alcoholic and other beverages that includes "anything you can think of" according to Princess. This includes hot tea from a twin tea tower of artisan-crafted varieties and infusions for over 300 possible custom creations.
Celebrations: A new gift shop for Princess will be located nearby; "Celebrations" will offer special gifts for special occasions, or just for those seeking "a well-deserved indulgence" such as premium chocolates, freshly cut real flower arrangements and other gift items.
For the first time, the bottom deck of the atrium will include a "Mini-piazza" separate from the main atrium. It will include a very distinct water fountain and sculpture to adorn the shore excursions and passenger services desks. This mini-piazza will also offer the entrance to "Sabatini's."
Sabatini's: This is a very popular Tuscan-inspired Italian dining spot on most Princess ships, but on Royal Princess Sabatini's will offer an a la carte menu in addition to the set menu of seemingly unending courses as found on current Princess ships.
Bellini's: Starting on deck six we have the first of the special venues set on platforms near the middle of the atrium that have the illusion of floating in mid-air. The deck six platform contains Bellini's – an open air cocktail lounge with an Italian motif and a view of the atrium below.
Alfredo's Restaurant: Deck six also offers a very special treat, the new Alfredo's Restaurant. Originally just a place to get a slice of pizza, the new Alfredo's will have a dedicated seating area and an expanded menu of traditional Italian food favorites.
Deck six will also have the Photo and Video gallery.
Ocean Terrace: I predict deck seven will be my favorite place. It starts with the Ocean Terrace seafood bar featuring sushi, sashimi, ceviche and caviar. This restaurant will be above Bellini's and also appear to be "floating" over the atrium.
Crooners Martini Bar: with a classic 1960s-style "Rat Pack" atmosphere, the expanded Crooners Bar will feature two transparent glass baby grand pianos set back to back for a dueling pianos presentation. This is an especially fun style of entertainment, one that will certainly wake up the older "tickling the ivories" style of piano virtuosity I have seen on other Princess ships. The bar will offer 75 different martini recipes and a bird's eye view of the atrium below.
More to Come
So far that is all we know about Royal Princess, but from what we have seen with the extended pool area with real palm trees and Movies under the Stars with free popcorn, the glass-floored SeaWalk and the SeaView Bar, she appears to be a very elegant ship. No doubt the many already loyal Princess fans will find her delightful.