(5:30 p.m. EST) -- The under-construction Royal Princess, Princess Cruises' largest-ever new-build, will feature a dramatically expanded version of the line's signature gold-and-marble atrium, the line announced today. It also revealed that the 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger ship, the first of two in a new class, will debut in June 2013 with a series of Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and Venice.
On Royal Princess, the marble-swathed Piazza -- a central hub for dining, lounging and entertainment found on a half-dozen Princess ships -- will balloon by some 50 percent compared with the next largest version, according to a statement from the line. Royal's three-deck space will debut a number of new venues, including a gelateria (extra charge); an Italian-themed cocktail bar called Bellini's; a gift shop; and a seafood bar, Ocean Terrace, serving sushi, ceviche and caviar (also extra charge).
Other venues in Royal Princess' Piazza, done up in golds and whites and punctuated by a pair of marble spiral staircases, will return in expanded form. These include the International Cafe, with its (for-fee) specialty coffees and (gratis) pastries, panini and salads; Crooner's lounge, which will feature a new dueling-glass-piano show; and Vines, a wine and tapas bar (wine for fee, tapas free). Alfredo's, a fee-free, stone-oven pizzeria introduced after Grand Princess' 2011 refurbishment, makes an encore here, though with expanded seating. Finally, Sabatini's, Princess' hallmark Italian restaurant, will be found in an adjacent "Mini-Piazza."
Other previously announced new-to-Royal Princess features include the SkyWalk, a cantilevered, glass-enclosed walkway that extends 28 feet beyond the ship's edge and 128 feet over the water; an adults-only pool; and Princess' first private cabanas. Expanded versions of the adults-only Sanctuary and Movie Under the Stars, both Princess staples, will be back.
Itinerary-wise, Royal Princess will debut with a pair of three-night "preview cruises," round trip from Southampton, departing on June 10 and 13. The mini-cruises will visit Guernsey's St. Peter Port, a Channel Island port that's been increasingly on cruise line radars.
The ship's official maiden voyage will be a seven-night cruise from Southampton to Barcelona departing June 16. The sailing will visit Vigo, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Malaga. On June 23, Royal will kick off its season of 12-day Mediterranean cruises between Barcelona and Venice. The cruises will run through September 27 and visit Toulon, France; Livorno, Civitavecchia and Naples, Italy; Mykonos and Athens, Greece; and Istanbul and Kusadasi, Turkey. Cruises from Barcelona will end with an overnight stay in Venice.
The cruise-ship-turned-snowbird will then transit the Atlantic on October 9 en route to its Fort Lauderdale homeport. The 18-night transatlantic cruise will visit Messina (Sicily), Naples (for Capri and Pompeii), Civitavecchia (for Rome), Cannes (for Monte Carlo), Barcelona and Funchal (Madeira Island). Princess has yet to announce the ex-Florida Caribbean deployment.
For more on what's planned for Royal Princess, check out our slideshow.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor