That's because during the 24-day refit, which will take place at Freeport's Grand Bahama Shipyard from April 11 to May 4, workers will slice off the ship's distinctive "shopping trolley" handle (pictured), dramatically altering its profile. Below decks, Princess is gutting the atrium to make way for the line's now-signature "Piazza," a multi-purpose venue that didn't exist when the ship debuted in 1998. The ship will also gain new restaurants, suites, lounges and a combination tea room/library.
Here are the details on the multi-million dollar refurbishment, which the line is calling its biggest ever:
The entire Deck 18 (the ship's distinctive shopping cart handle), which currently houses Skywalkers Nightclub, will be removed. A new nightclub, One5 (a clue to its location) will be fitted on Deck 15 in the area currently used as a conference room. The reason for such dramatic surgery? To improve the operational performance of the ship and increase its fuel efficiency. The new lounge will resemble a chic urban nightclub, with a backlit bar and modern decor.
The atrium will be refashioned into Princess' signature "Piazza," with an International Cafe serving coffees, pastries and sandwiches; and a Vines wine bar, a popular feature on the larger and newer Princess ships. Vines will serve over 30 wines by the glass as well as tapas and sushi. Passengers will also be able to buy wine at a wine shop here.
Alfredo's, an open-kitchen pizzeria is also being added. It's named after Princess' master executive chef, Alfredo Marzi.
The current Promenade Lounge and Bar on Deck 7 will become Crooners, the popular, 1950's-style martini bar featured on the line's newer ships.
The Limelight shop on Deck 7 will become a dual purpose tea lounge and library, serving custom-blended specialty teas in association with the Mighty Leaf Tea Company. A "tea sommelier" -- which sounds very grand -- will help passengers blend their teas. The current library will be absorbed into the changes to the atrium on Deck 5.
The Crown Grill, a classic steakhouse, will replace the current Sterling Steakhouse. It will also have an open kitchen, serving fresh beef and seafood, including lobsters, which are kept live onboard.
Also part of the renovation will be the addition of 10 new suites; a remodeled casino, boutiques, an art gallery; and enhancements to the Horizon Court, Lotus Spa, and wedding chapel. Because Grand Princess cruises out of Southampton during summer, British passengers will be among the first to experience the vessel, post-op. The ship will arrive in Southampton on May 21 and sail the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands and the Norwegian coast all summer.
Interested in other cruise ship refurbs on tap for 2011 and beyond? Check out our newly updated chart.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
--Top photo appears courtesy of CruiseTimeAgain2
--Rendering appears courtesy of Princess Cruises