Emerald Princess Entertainment
The Piazza is a marvelous destination. Located on Deck 3 -- and the first deck of the three-story atrium -- it serves as an impromptu performance venue, demo area and, during down times, adjunct to the International Cafe. We loved it. On one sea day, for instance, there was a chocolate demo from the pastry chef, followed by a mime, followed by magic tricks and then a "physical comedy" act. On another day, the young members of Princess' Fun Zone program had a "street fair" there. On the second formal evening, people thronged all three levels to watch the fabled "champagne pour," a Princess tradition.
Beyond that, the ship has so many entertainment options that my head literally was spinning as I tried to figure out which to choose. Each lounge has a different personality. Crooners, on the promenade, is right in the heart of the action, overlooking the Piazza, and features a vocalist (on particularly boisterous evenings the joint may erupt into a passenger singalong). Known for its martinis, Crooners serves 52 different types! Explorer's Lounge is primarily an events' venue for everything from art auctions to guest lectures. At night, it often served as a secondary movie theater.
Club Fusion was also busy during the day -- with Ballroom Blitz, line dancing, bingo and Jeopardy -- and into the evening with other varied activities, from trivia to "Princess Pop Star," a take-off on American Idol, to Bee At Sea, a spelling-themed competition. This venue also hosts Captain's Circle meetings for frequent Princess cruisers.
The Speakeasy, tucked into Gatsby's Casino, is the only place to smoke a stogie. The Wheelhouse Bar, a Princess tradition, has nautical character, but lacks the intimacy I've associated with smaller versions on other ships. And Adagio, tucked into a light-filled corner on Deck 16, is an elegant, Ritz Carlton-esque venue with a cabaret singer/pianist. Late night action is to be found, natch (albeit in more limited fashion on my Med sailing), in Princess' trademark Skywalker's (this version has a nice balcony off the end); it's a kids and then teen disco early in the evening and adults only later on.
The Princess Theater is the ship's main show venue, and it also showed movies from time to time when not featuring production shows and comedy acts.
During the daytime, beyond the aforementioned entertainment, Princess is definitely committed to its ScholarShip@Sea program. Some are more light-hearted -- I had a blast bringing out my "inner artist" at Ceramics at Sea (it's tucked into an alcove by the Neptune's Reef pool); you pay only for the plate or frame or whatever you choose -- the paint is supplied and staffers fire it for you to take home. Other facets of the overall program include culinary arts demonstrations (wine tastings, ice carving and the like), an extensive array of Computers@Sea classes and a guest lecture series.
Movies Under the Stars, in the Calypso Pool area, is a major attraction and is on all day (with family fare), as well as into the night (with action flicks and such). Occasionally the line will program special events (like the Super Bowl). Also keep an eye out for boutique kiosks in this area, which will allow you to shop for items without cutting into your tanning time.
Emerald Princess Public Rooms
The impressive atrium of the Emerald Princess with its sweeping tiered staircase is the focal point of the ship and it succeeds in being grand but not too over the top. This is the venue for gentle daytime entertainment, from engaging street theatre entertainers to relaxing classical interludes from string quartets and the ship's pianists. With the patisserie serving up tempting pastries, it is a popular spot for an afternoon treat.
Despite the fact that Emerald Princess accommodates the most passengers in the fleet, it is still possible to find intimate and quiet nooks and crannies, such as the library (books are sparsely stocked but there are fantastically comfy leather chairs, facing out windows, with listening stations).
There's a 24-hour Internet center. Rates are 75 cents per minute and packages are available for heavy users (100 minutes for $55 or 55 cents per minute; 150 minutes for $75 or 50 cents per minute; and 250 minutes for $100 or 40 cents per minute). As well, wireless is available throughout the ship's public spaces, but not yet in cabins.
One nifty Princess feature is its wedding chapel, which hosts marriage ceremonies and vow renewals.
Emerald Princess Spa & Fitness
Emerald Princess has plenty to offer fans of pampering with its Asian-style Lotus Spa, which spans two decks and offers a mouth-watering array of treatments. They range from an "Aromapure" Seaweed Massage (costing $195) and "Aromastone" Therapy ($195) to revitalising hair and scalp treatments and Botox.
One of the more novel attractions on deck is The Sanctuary - a cordoned-off adult-only retreat with cream awnings that give the appearance of a tented-style shaded haven. For $15 for half a day (open from 8 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and 1 - 5:30 p.m.), guests can relax on sumptuous sofas or padded chaise lounges and enjoy massages (extra natch) in special outdoor cabanas while "serenity stewards" bob about dispensing chilled face towels, Evian water atomizers -- and for an extra charge of, "healthy" drinks and light meals, and even MP3 players for rental ($10), loaded with "relaxing" music. Be sure to book ahead for this facility on sea days, which is when it tends to be most popular and soon gets fully booked.
Like most ships, Emerald Princess has its own fully equipped gym, plus a sports court where enthusiasts can practise their basketball and paddle tennis skills. They can also pound the decks on the ship's jogging track, swim a few lengths in the lap pool or perfect their swing on the golf simulators before striding the greens of the Princess Links nine-hole mini-golf course.
At the end of the day, this is a big ship with the facilities to match -- but there are a lot of passengers to entertain and on sea days the decks can get pretty crowded (it can prove fairly difficult to find sunbeds close to the pool, which is fairly essential if you're trying to supervise children).