Why has Princess decided to move the ship after sailing out of Papeete year-round for years? The reason, says Princess spokeswoman Julie Benson, is that Alaska is booming -- not just for first-timers but also for second-, third- and fourth-timers. And those who've been there and sailed the traditional itineraries -- you know, the Ketchikan-Juneau-Skagway run from Seattle or Vancouver -- are looking for a more unique experience. And off-the-beaten-track cruising is, Benson says, what this ship (and its nearly identical sisters Pacific and Royal Princess, too) is all about.
As such, Tahitian Princess' 2008 Alaska season will offer a "connoisseur" itinerary, a full two weeks with eight ports of call. In addition to the tried-and-true Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Victoria, the ship will also visit lesser known places such as Kodiak, Seward and Valdez. It's the first time that the latter three have been included on a full season's worth of port calls. The season runs approximately June through September.
The ship, too, is distinctive. The former R-series vessel is more of a boutique hotel than mainstream liner, measuring just 30,277 tons and carrying only 680 passengers. It's intimate and elegant -- when you board the ship, a grand staircase reminiscent of the Titanic with wrought-iron railings is a dramatic focal point of the lobby -- but offers the same range of dining options and onboard activities you'd find on a larger, more modern ship such as Sapphire or Crown Princess.
For the rest of the year, Tahitian Princess will be based at its traditional homeport in Papeete, and will return to vaunted ports like Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora and Moorea during 10-night itineraries.
Eagle-eyed readers may wonder how it's possible that the ship can move out of French Polynesia at all. That's because when Princess began Tahitian Princess sailings way back in 2002 they were bound by a government agreement to base the ship there full time (this came about because Renaissance Cruises, which had launched the vessel, had used financing from the French government to build it in the first place and then had signed a 10-year agreement to keep it in the region).
The agreement, which required that Princess keep Tahitian Princess there for five full years, has now expired and, says Benson, we actually sailed more voyages than the agreement called for. But, she adds, "We love Tahiti and so do our customers, but we want to offer them something else."
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor