ABOARD THE ROYAL PRINCESS-Early in the morning, the Royal Princess set sail from Venice. Though it was 7 a.m., guests packed the balconies to watch the picturesque exit out of the fabled city. As the songs of Andrea Bocelli were broadcast on the open decks, visions of small canals, sinking waterfront homes and leaning towers could be seen. Twenty minutes into the sailing, the Royal Princess passed St. Mark’s Square, and I could see it all from my balcony.
The sailing out of Venice was a spectacle to see. Once out in the open water, though, every guest onboard turned their attention to making the most of this day at sea. There will be two sea days in a row, before a packed itinerary of port calls, so today was the day for Royal Princess to shine.
I decided to start the day with a spa treatment, trying to erase the aches and pains of flying. While the spacious Lotus Spa offers plenty of treatment rooms, I wanted to try something different. The Royal Princess offers Couples Cabana Massages in The Sanctuary, the adults only retreat area available for a fee ($15 per half day for a lounge chair and Bose speakers). Situated among the shaded and quiet loungers are enclosed cabanas dedicated to indulgent spa treatments.
After checking in at the Lotus Spa, I waited in the tranquil Relaxation Room until my masseuse came. Wrapped in a robe and sandal slippers, we went into the lobby to catch an elevator up to the 16thdeck. The attendant showed us into a private cabana, which at once looked more like a small cottage than a traditional pool cabana.
On one side was a couch, chairs and spacious table with a large flat screen TV. Slatted blinds offered glimpses of the ocean and allowed the roar of the waves to come through. On the opposite side of the partition were two massage tables.
The Couples Cabana Package included a 75 minute massage, as well as 30 minutes of relaxation time. During the relaxation time, a picnic basket was to be delivered to the cabana so you could enjoy a meal post-massage. I read about the picnic style lunches and a bottle of wine included with the package, but we didn’t experience any of that. Instead, we were shown a menu of healthy options, including banana oat muffins, grilled tomato gazpacho, sesame tuna salad, and even hot dogs and pizza. We were told that we could order whatever we wanted, but the mocktails on the menu were an additional charge. We pre-ordered the food before the massage and it was delivered in the middle of the treatment on standard trays and plates, nothing picnic-like.
The massage itself was great. There was a choice between three different treatments or a hybrid of two, including traditional hands-on massage, hot stone therapy and bamboo. About half way into it, I realized that a cabana massage might not be for everyone, especially those wanting the ultimate in relaxation.
Since the treatments are outside and in a public space, noise can be an issue. Country music lyrics could be heard from the personal speaker systems found throughout The Sanctuary, as well as any conversations taking place nearby. When the captain made his daily announcement and started talking about the day’s itinerary, we heard it all. When fighter jets flew over the ship in a training exercise off the coast of Croatia, it was a little hard to relax with the roar taking place overhead.
After the massage, we settled into our meal that had been delivered, but all too soon the 30 minutes was up. The attendants brought our food and belongings out to a covered table in The Sanctuary so we could finish up. While I would highly recommend the treatment, I felt that it was a bit rushed and there were several aspects of the promised treatment that the attendants weren’t familiar with or just didn’t include, such as a choice of music played during the massage.
A quick tour of the upper decks later in the afternoon showed just how popular the pools are. Every surface was packed with sunbathers in the harsh Mediterranean sun. Even the adults-only pool was a raucous spot.
Dinner tonight was in Sabatini’s, Princess Cruise Lines’ specialty Italian restaurant. It’s an additional $25 fee, but, wow! The restaurant wasn’t very crowded, but it didn’t matter. The food was superb, with massive portions of expertly prepared cuisine.
With so much to explore on the new Royal Princess, it is overwhelming to try to take it all in. Thank goodness another day at sea will finally allow me to start exploring the rest of the ship.
Photos by Kimberly Button