ABOARD THE ROYAL PRINCESS-Today is finally the day for me to explore this beautiful new ship! No more jet lag, no necessary naps in the afternoon. I’m ready to walk every deck, scour the Princess Patter for activities to enjoy, and indulge in some serious food.
Before I could put my plan in action, though, I got lost. I found myself in a staircase in the aft of the ship, when I needed to be in the forward, and there was no walkthrough on that deck. A tall chef garbed in his gleaming white uniform complete with a chef’s hat suddenly appeared and asked if I needed help. I told him that I needed to go to the Princess Theater. That’s when Princess’ legendary customer service suddenly became evident.
He said, “Follow me,” and suddenly I was behind the scenes. The Executive Chef was kind enough to escort me all the way to the Princess Theater, giving me a private galley tour along the way! It was surreal to walk behind him, as everyone heralded our arrival by saying “Good morning, chef,” as they saw him pass by. I tried to catch glimpses of the kitchen activity, all the while pinching myself that this was happening.
Exiting out of the galley and into a main dining room, I shook his hand and thanked him wholeheartedly. He smiled and said, “It’s nice to sometimes show off!”
Ironically, I was headed to the Princess Theater to begin the Ultimate Ship Tour, a behind-the-scenes look throughout the ship. A cruise industry first, Princess offers the exclusive tour on sea days, but only once or twice a sailing, and only for 12 people. The cost is over $100, but offers more than three hours of unique glimpses and themed souvenirs along the way, as well as some seriously fun photo ops.
The highlight was a tour of the bridge and meeting Captain Dino Sagani, a charismatic and surprisingly young captain who truly seemed to enjoy talking about the intricacies of his new ship. What a thrill to be on the bridge, eating refreshments, and posing for pictures.
Among the myriad of stops was a visit to the brand new Chef’s Table Lumiere. Located in a main dining room, the Chef’s Table Lumiere is an alcove of indulgence for the lucky 12 people who get to dine there during special nights. A massive $25,000 table has a striking display of Murano glass rising from the center. What makes this Chef’s Table unique, though, from other Princess Chef’s Table experiences, is the curtain of light that wraps around the diners. Strings of LED lights are situated in between two layers of reflective fringe, creating a private atmosphere that effectively creates a cocoon around the table, except for the entranceway through which the specially-prepared meals are served.
After the extensive tour, I was ready for a meal, so I headed to the Pub Lunch at Wheelhouse Bar. Though selectively offered on other Princess ships, the Royal Princess offers the casual lunch on every sea day and a limited menu on port days, too. It was a fun and relaxed atmosphere, and the fish and chips were great.
It was time to finally visit the Piazza, the social hub of the Royal Princess. The soaring atrium is the place to be, whether you’re taking a dance class, ordering ice cream, or just want to relax to live music. Unlike many cruise ship lobbies, which are only occupied during evening activities, the Piazza was packed with people all day long.
The spiral staircases reaching towards the upper decks twisted around glass artwork, while fountains flowed underneath. The atmosphere is at once both elegant and relaxed.
I was surprised at the locations that were located right off of the Piazza. Dining options such as Gelato, Sabatini’s, International Café and several bars were to be expected. But the Photo and Video Gallery prominently looking over the Piazza was interesting, because it’s typically hidden away in a back corner. The Lotus Spa also is located right off the Piazza behind Guest Services, instead of on a lower deck tucked away. A store called Celebrations, serving up only specialty chocolates and fresh flower arrangements, also had top billing, as well as a jewelry boutique with ocean views.
I ordered a sundae at Gelato. The surprisingly large treat with three scoops of ice cream and endless toppings, was just $2.75, or one punch on a coffee card. Sitting outside the ice cream shop in the Piazza, listening to a string quartet and people watching as I would at any outdoor café, I savored the charms of the Royal Princess. Sometimes the best activity onboard a ship is no activity at all.
Photos and Videos by Kimberly Button