When Emerald Princess debuted in 2007, it was one of the largest ships in Princess' fleet, and it was rightly celebrated for delivering far higher levels of cuisine, service and amenities than you would expect on a modern mega-ship catering to more than 3,000 passengers.
There was, and still is, an Italian-style Piazza, where people flock day and night to enjoy "street theater" that includes everything from stilt walkers to comedians, chef and bartender demos, and a pianist singing Broadway tunes. The Piazza is flanked by the International Cafe (with its excellent coffees and scrumptious pastries, quiche and chocolate fondue) and Vines, the ship's wine, sushi and tapas bar (with the only good wine list onboard). The ship also offers Movies Under the Stars and The Sanctuary, the top deck's adult-only outdoor spa and sun deck area. Princess was the first to offer these onboard attractions, and both have been widely copied by other lines.
While the ship may not offer all the nonstop action or modern innovations of today's newest ships, what Emerald Princess does best is get passengers to engage in its varied destinations through a wide selection of terrific shore excursions. The ship's itineraries in the Caribbean, the Baltic and the Mediterranean are all first-rate. Our 11-night cruise in the Baltic was utterly masterful in terms of highlighting the assets of each port of call. On some large ships, shore excursions feel like cattle calls. Not so here.
In some ways, Emerald Princess might be better appreciated on Caribbean itineraries, where it spends half the year -- and when passengers have lots more time to enjoy the onboard ambience -- than on the Mediterranean and Baltic cruises. That's simply because the days in port are so intense that onboard activities, which offer some genuinely fun diversions, get the short shrift. Many passengers are worn out by evening and favor buffet dining over long, languid dinners at specialty restaurants like Crown Grill or Sabatini's. They also prefer early bedtimes to late night carousing at Skywalkers Nightclub, the top-ship disco.
Wherever you cruise on Emerald Princess, what's clear is that this offering from Princess epitomizes much of what the line has done best over the years. For first-time cruisers especially, Emerald Princess delivers the goods.