By Sara Macefield and Carolyn Spencer Brown
Emerald Princess Overview
Emerald Princess, which debuted in April 2007, follows the highly evolutionary Crown Princess, whose launch took place in March of 2006. (A third ship in the class, Ruby Princess, launched in 2009.) All three ships are virtually identical in layout and design, so if you have sailed on Crown Princess ... well, you won't have any trouble finding your way around Emerald or Ruby. (The layout for all three is based on the Grand-class ship design, though slightly larger.)
But for those who haven't traveled on Princess' Grand-class ships -- or for travelers for whom an Emerald Princess voyage is a first cruise with the line -- the ship will surprise, and in most cases, delight you with far higher levels of cuisine, service and amenities than you would expect on a modern, mega-ship catering to over 3,000 passengers. There's the Italian-styled piazza, around which are centered the International Cafe (with its excellent coffees and scrumptious pastries, quiche and chocolate fondue); across the way is Vines, the ship's wine and sushi bar (it's got the only really good wine list onboard).
There's the occasional "street theater" in the three-deck high piazza. Offerings range from stilt walkers to comedians, and from chef and bartender demos to a pianist singing Broadway tunes. People flock to this part of the ship, day and night. Another neat Crown feature that made the transition is The Sanctuary, the top deck's adult-only outdoor spa area. And Skywalkers Nightclub, Princess' distinctive top-ship disco, is as pared down from older versions (as it was on Crown) -- which means the pool below it is much sunnier and cheerier.
In some ways this ship is better suited for Caribbean itineraries, where it spends half the year -- and when you have lots more time to enjoy the onboard ambience -- than on the Mediterranean cruise on which I sailed. That's simply because the days in port are so intense that onboard activities, which run day to night and offer some genuinely fun diversions, get the short shrift. Most passengers are simply worn out by evening, and prefer buffet dining at the Cafe Caribe over long, languid dinners at Crown Grill or Sabatini's, and early bedtimes to late night carousing at Skywalkers.
Wherever you cruise on Emerald Princess, what's clear is that this latest offering from Princess epitomizes much of what the line does best. The experience onboard is sophisticated to a point -- but also wholesome and down to earth.
Emerald Princess Fellow Passengers
Fellow passengers come in a wide range of ages, both couples and families -- particularly during school holidays. The mix is split, with the majority being Americans (about 70 percent), followed by Britons (about 15 percent) and other cruisers from as far away as Australia and Japan. You'll likely find that many have traveled with Princess in the past. In fact, on one recent voyage, we were informed that 500 of the folks onboard would be doing back-to-back sailings.
Emerald Princess Dress Code
It's all pretty relaxed most evenings. There is one formal night on each one-week cruise and around two formal nights of cruises of 12 to 14 nights. Most men were in suits and a number were wearing black tie while the ladies opted for long or short evening dresses on these nights -- but if you didn't, it wasn't a big deal. There were no raised eyebrows!
Emerald Princess Gratuity
Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $11.50 per person (including children), per day, for passengers staying in standard accommodations and $12 for passengers staying in mini-suite and suites. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard, including wine at dinner. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.
Well we were on a cruise we were really looking forward to. We were aware of the of flight times, but the cruise was one we really looked forward to.
We arrived at Fort Lauderdale terminal at approximately 11.30 a.m. Checking in was a breeze, ...continue
This was our 7th cruise with Princess and our third on this class of ship. We started our journey with our pre-cruise night at the Hampton Inn airport north with no complaints whatsoever. They are one of the few hotels left that supply shuttles both ...continue
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Three years ago we went on a Mediterranean cruise for our 40th anniversary. On that Princess cruise we met a couple from England who was also celebrating their 40th anniversary. We were seated together in the dining room. We had such a wonderful ...continue