The spa, for example, is on a main deck, not a top deck as on many ships.
Said Rai Caluori, executive vice president of fleet operations: “Most spa patrons have their eyes closed most of the time, so they don’t need ocean views.” By placing the spa in the vertical middle of the ship, weight distribution on the prototype build has been further optimized, leading to fuel savings.
Just months ago, shipyard Fincantieri debuted a future ship concept (Project Mille) that moved the space down multiple decks to re-align weight as one of several features to make a ship more efficient.
Among the features aboard is the Piazza, which spans three decks connected by a winding, marble staircase. In addition to admiring the architecture, passengers can stroll along the promenades, which house most of the ship’s main dining, (revenue generating) lounging and shopping venues, along with entertainment areas.
Despite being the biggest Princess Cruises ship yet, the Royal Princess will require some 15 percent less propulsion power to drive to sail at 22 knots, as compared to the 2008-built Ruby Princess – the final build in the previous class of Princess ships, according to Princess executives.
Princess has furthermore conceived a format that pairs several of the Royal Princess restaurants with adjacent bars and lounges – in hopes that guests aboard pair dining and entertainment.
“We think couples and small groups can make an evening of dining and socializing at these paired venues,” said Franz Rom, senior vice president of fleet operations.
“Guests can relax, people watch and enjoy the nearby entertainment in the Piazza. It creates a small atmosphere aboard a big ship.”
There are several other examples of the “ship within a ship” concept. The familiar Sanctuary, which serves as a retreat from the bustle, features new private cabanas. The for-fee cabanas also are available at the nearby adults-only Retreat pool area. And for the first time, Princess is offering suite passengers exclusive use of a lounge where they can work or enlist the aid of a concierge to make dining, spa and shore excursion reservations.
But Princess said these and other supplements are not just revenue-driven.
Jan Swartz, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service, said, “We offer a full range of dining and entertainment options that don’t carry an additional charge, but for passengers who want to enhance their cruise experience, we offer a number of premium options.”
Added Rom: “This is not like some cruise lines that set aside areas for high-paying passengers. It is a matter of offering preferred service, not class distinction.”
One such option is an upgraded version of the line’s popular Chef’s Table program. The “Chef’s Table Lumiere” costs $115, including wine and food. Guests start their meal with hors d’oeuvres served in a galley and then are escorted to a table in the dining bathed in a “curtain of light,” where they are served a specially prepared dinner.
“We think the dinner is perfect for special occasions, and we wouldn’t be surprised if some meals end with a marriage proposal,” said Peter Tobler, vice president of food and beverage operations.
The Royal Princess has several other new programs geared to food and wine enthusiasts. One offers tastings of Super Tuscan wines paired with samples from Sabatini’s, which Princess hailed as “a great bargain” for $40. Another program offers dinners for up to 12 guests held in the wine cellar of one of the main dining rooms. Also targeted to gourmets is the new Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar, which features sushi, caviar and popular shellfish.
Princess continues to tweak the formula for the free vs. fee dining balance. What the line calls a “nominal” fee is charged for dining at Sabatini’s, Crown Grill, and the new Fondues and Crab Shack. And while one cruise staple, ice cream, is available free at Swirl’s, there is a charge for its upscale cousin, Gelato’s. But there is no charge for another cruise staple, pizza, either at the Prego Pizzeria or at the more refined Alfredo’s , which also serves other Italian specialties. Princess is confident its new dedicated Pastry Shop, which charges for beverages, but not food, will be a big hit with dessert fanciers.
Other restaurant options include the Allegro dining room, which offers traditional early and late seatings; the Symphony and Concerto dining rooms, which offer any time seating; and Horizon Bistro and Horizon Court buffets, which include new themed stations offering Asian, Mediterranean and other regional specialties. The Trident Grill converts to a barbecue venue at night, and the Outrigger Bar offers Mexican food and a margarita bar patterned after those on Miami’s South Beach.
Unlike some of its competitors, Princess has eschewed big-name entertainment and productions of Broadway musicals. In addition to the Piazza entertainment, which includes pianists and a string quartet, there is a variety of music in the bars and lounges, there are original productions and shows such as an Abba tribute held in the well-designed Princess Theater, which holds 925 people. The line’s trademark “Movies Under the Stars” are shown on the biggest screen in the fleet, and there are daily shows during which colored fountains “perform” to the accompaniment of recorded music.
The Royal Princess room inventory includes a new category of deluxe balconies, and all the outside rooms have balconies. There are 342 inside rooms and 40 suites.
For its inaugural season, Royal Princess will sail in the Mediterranean through September, and after an 18-day transatlantic crossing it will offer seven-day eastern Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale through April. It will return to Europe next spring, offering northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia, and Iceland and British Isles itineraries. It then will return to North America for a short series of Canada/New England sailings before resuming its Caribbean schedule.
Reporting by Joel Fishman; Editing by Cruise Industry News editorial staff.