(1 p.m. EST) -- Here at Cruise Shipping Miami, the annual blockbuster industry conference that draws cruising's every cog and wheel, the announcements have been relentless. The latest: Princess Cruises today revealed the dining options -- including for-fee buffet eats -- on its newest ship, the 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Royal Princess, launching June 2013.
The choices include:
Changes to the buffet. Royal Princess' Horizon Court buffet will have a new action-station layout with options food "venues" including a taqueria, rotissseie, a sandwich shop and a Japanese hibachi grill. The line is also debuting a pair of for-fee options in the buffet complex. These include a "crab shack" and a fondue area. Princess will levy what it called a "nominal" fee for the melted cheese and chocolate, and fried seafood. "It's not really done for revenue purposes -- it's done for controlling demand," said Rai Caluori, Princess' executive vice president of fleet operations. A third new venue, a dedicated pastry shop (gratis), will be situated next to the main buffet area.
Royal Princess' buffet venue will also have double the number of seats -- to 900 indoor and 350 outdoor -- found on its newest ships, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess, and offer a greater variety of table-styles, including two-tops and "counter-height" bistro-style dining tables.
At night the Horizon Buffet will become the ... Horizon Bistro, offering nightly themed dining. Diners might find a Brazilian-style churasscaria one night, a British pub the next. There will be no added fee for the bistro dinners.
Changes to the main dining room. "Chef's Table Lumiere" is a new approach to Princess' pioneering "Chef's Table" concept, during which an executive chef cooks dinner and explains technique to an exclusive group of passengers (for a $95 fee, including wine). Royal Princess' version adds a "curtain of light," Princess said in a statement, which surrounds the diners and creates a private, softly lit space in the center of the bustling main dining room. Additionally, new private dining spaces inspired by wine cellars will be integrated in the main dining room. Costs of these spaces have not been revealed.
Changes to the alternative restaurants. We knew that Crown Grill ($25 per person), Princess' signature steak and chops house, and Sabatini's ($20 per person), its Northern Italian restaurant, would be found on Royal. This time though, each is paired with a complementary lounge. The Wheelhouse Pub, a popular Princess lounge featuring an ersatz British vibe and unobtrusive piano music, will be coupled with the Crown Grill; Sabatini's will be grouped with Vines, the ship's wine bar, together in one convenient area.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor