Royal Princess Entertainment
Two absolutely new innovations in entertainment have debuted with Royal Princess. Princess Live!, located just aft of the Piazza on Deck 7, is the first television studio at sea. Three rows of tiered seats (with seating for 280 passengers) are flanked by a stage -- on which the cruise director hosts "The Wake Show," his daily David Letterman-esque talk show -- and a control booth. Princess Live! also is the site for game shows, Q&A sessions with ship's officers and staff, cooking demos, art house films, enrichment programs, and murder mystery and trivia games. Acoustic and smaller-scale performances by the ship's musicians and comedians also take place there. The great thing about this space is you can come in and out as you please and watch or participate at your leisure (if the shows allow participation).
Outdoors, in the Fountain Pool sun deck area, a raised stage between two pools is all-new to Princess and has various uses. During the day, it's an extra space for sun loungers or a place to try out dance moves with the ship's social staff. At night, the dancing fountain, an array of colored lights, water sprays and music, offers a marvelous and festive show (reminiscent, perhaps, of the water fountain at Las Vegas' Bellagio).
The Atrium (Piazza), another primary entertainment venue, has been expanded on Royal Princess and houses more cafes and lounges than ever before. It hosts everything from Cirque d' Soleil-style acrobatics to a morning Zumba class, and it's active throughout the day and evening.
In total, Royal Princess has 14 bars and pubs and one club (Club 6), many of them located around the central Piazza on Decks 5, 6 and 7. Watering holes include Vines, its wine bar; the new Bellini's, the best spot for people-watching; Crooners, a martini bar that hosts sing-alongs and a new dueling piano show; and the Ocean Seafood Bar, where you can sample tapas-sized portions of sushi, sashimi, ceviche and caviar, along with your drink. Other lounges around the ship include the ersatz British pub called the Wheelhouse and a Princess Live!-adjacent bar. Great outdoor venues for an alfresco drink include the SeaView Bar on Deck 16, which extends over the waves and offers dramatic views 16 floors down, and the lovely Outrigger Bar, located aft on the same deck, serving 12 specialty margaritas. The Retreat Pool also has its own bar.
Club 6 is Royal Princess' dance club, located on Deck 6 near the Atrium. Oddly, it doesn't have the look or feel of a disco and doesn't really work as one. With one small bar area and a tiny dance floor that would be uncomfortably crowded with more than 30 people, Club 6 seems more like a bar with loud music than a disco.
Churchill's cigar lounge is another poorly designed space: unwelcoming, too bright and devoid of atmosphere, character and ventilation, it's designed to put off even the hardiest smoker.
The Princess Theater is the largest of any ship in the fleet, seating 925 and offering uninterrupted sightlines from every vantage point. It employs new technology to enhance its shows, such as high-definition screens. Four new productions are debuting there: "Colors of the World," "Spectacular!," "Sweet Soul Music" and "What the World Needs Now."
Vista Lounge, at the aft of the ship, offers an alternative performance venue to the Princess Theater, hosting live bands, comedians and illusionists, plus themed parties and special events.
The Princess Casino has a selection of slots and table games, including blackjack, Texas Hold'em and roulette. Its main feature is a stunning spiral staircase, which leads up to Deck 7 and the onboard boutiques; an adjacent bar allows gamblers to grab drinks between games.
Royal Princess features the largest version of Princess' signature Movies Under the Stars poolside theater. The big screen shows a variety of movies and concerts, day and night. Filmgoers will be able to grab fleece blankets, fee-free fresh-popped popcorn, and cookies and milk.
If you don't fancy any of this and just want to hole up in your cabin, there's some good news for you: Princess has launched video on demand on Royal Princess, a new initiative for Princess that will ultimately roll out to the rest of the fleet. It's a fantastic in-cabin service with a ton of good choices (including music, flicks and TV series), and get this: none of them require an extra fee.
Royal Princess has an array of enrichment activities, which might include wine-tasting and food demos (in Princess Live!), ceramics classes, onboard lectures and singing in a choir. Of special note is a new wine-tasting at Sabatini's; the super Tuscan-themed event, costing $45 per person, includes a chance to sample five different Italian wines that are accompanied by tasting sizes of delicious food pairings.
Also new on Royal Princess is a self-guided Art & Architecture Tour, which takes passengers behind the scenes of the onboard art collection using their own tablet or smart phone. The 32-stop tour allows you to take in the 4,000-piece collection at your own pace.
Royal Princess Public Rooms
The Internet Cafe -- located on Deck 5, near the Symphony Dining Room -- is open 24/7 and has 15 computer stations. Wi-Fi is also available throughout the ship. Internet charges start at 75 cents per minute, and there is a wide range of packages available, starting at $72.95 for 120 minutes.
The Reception Desk and Shore Excursions Desk are both located on Deck 5 in the "mini-Piazza," adjacent to the main Piazza.
The postage stamp-sized Library and Writing Room is a huge disappointment on a ship with Princess' traditional values; there's barely enough room to turn around, bookcases are locked except at certain times, and the selection is pretty small. It's tucked behind the Wheelhouse Bar on Deck 7.
The Wedding Chapel on Deck 14 doubles as a conference center; the flick of a switch reveals stained glass windows or a whiteboard.
Self-service laundry units are located toward the aft of the ship on each deck.
The massive Photo and Video Gallery is located on Deck 6 and features touch-screens and facial-recognition software for your photos, along with a tremendous range of photographic equipment for sale.
Royal Princess has given over a sizeable chunk of real estate to shopping, centered principally on the Piazza on Deck 7. This includes the Fine Arts Gallery, which also hosts art auctions; Essence, for brand-name cosmetics; Meridian Bay, for duty-free fashion and gifts; Facets, for fine jewelry; Limelight, for daily promotional events, such as jewelry sales; and Calypso Cove, for sundries and branded items. (A Calypso Cabana is also located on the Pool Deck to save you making a journey down to the shops for sunscreen.) None of the shops were particularly distinctive or appealing, though Facets appeared to be doing a good business.
The Medical Facility is located on Deck 4.
Royal Princess Spa & Fitness
The main pool deck, Deck 16 mid-ship, features two freshwater swimming pools, which are pretty small, considering the size of the ship. In the middle is an "island" surrounded by faux palm trees and dotted with loungers. There are two hot tubs in the main pool area and two in The Retreat. There is a number of different styles of seating options, including circular loungers, garden-style furniture, bar-height tables and stools, and chaise lounges. At night, the pool area transforms for the Water & Light Show, and the island area becomes a stage with an interactive sound and light show featuring dancing fountains. With a sophisticated lighting and sound system, and a computerized fountain featuring 85 water jets, streams of water shoot 33 feet into the air. The downside: There's a lot of acreage given over to the water feature -- at the expense of sun loungers -- and we feel this area could get awfully crowded on sunny days and warm nights.
The ship features a new double-lane jogging track with separate paths for runners and walkers. The track area is decorated with art, picturing iconic global travel destinations, giving passengers the opportunity to "run around the world."
We're torn on whether the SeaWalk -- a glass-floored walkway cantilevered over the side of the ship on Deck 16, with vertigo-inducing views to the ocean below -- is a significant addition to the ship or a gimmick (particularly if your mini-suite is directly below it).
Spa-goers searching for pampering on Royal Princess no longer have to trek to a top corner of the ship -- the standard area for cruise ship spas -- because Princess has put its Lotus Spa on Deck 5, just off The Piazza.
Mimicking a move by Royal Caribbean, which took a similar approach with the spas on Oasis and Allure of the Seas, Princess has opted for space over sunlight. The 10,000-square-foot Lotus Spa, the biggest in the fleet, offers more treatment rooms than any other Princess spa, as well as an enhanced thermal suite called The Enclave.
An unavoidable drawback associated with its new, easy-access location is that the Lotus Spa receives less natural light in its facility than many other cruise ship spas, but we didn't miss it; the facility is absolutely beautiful and serene. One exception is the beauty salon, with its barber shop for men, which is flooded with light.
What Lotus lacks in light, it more than makes up for in treatment options. The spa covers all the bases with a full-service salon, teeth-whitening stations, a barber shop, plush mani-pedi areas, the aforementioned relaxation room (for a spot of herbal tea, pre-massage) and 18 treatment rooms (some with windows). And that's not to mention the amenities in The Enclave.
The Enclave offers the largest thermal suite in the Princess fleet, complete with a hydrotherapy pool and accompanying rain shower. Inside the suite, with its spaceship-like lighting, passengers can try out heated tile loungers or waterbeds, as well as sensory showers with mood lighting and therapeutic aromas. Three named rooms offer a variety of heat-based experiences: The Hammam, a Turkish-style bath, featuring a marble slab for mud or salt treatments; the Caldarium, a ceramic chamber infused with herbal aromas; and the Laconium, a dry sauna. Day passes to The Enclave are $39 per person, per day, and full-voyage pass rates start at $219 for individuals, depending on the length of the cruise.
The Scrub & Shine Bar, located near the Lotus Spa's reception desk, offers sugar and salt scrubs mixed with herbs, created individually for each passenger by a "mixologist." Passengers can get recommendations for the perfect scrubs to complement their treatments, and the blends are applied before spa treatments or a trip to The Enclave. The scrubs are also available for purchase, separate from the spa menu, based on ingredients selected.
Prices for basic treatments, such as facials and manicures, at The Lotus Spa are cruise-standard. For example, a manicure is your cheapest treatment option, and those start at $50. On the downside, we found that massages and more exotic treatments were overpriced. The cheapest -- a 75-minute Swedish massage -- came in at a hefty $165 (not including tip) and was marred by an overly aggressive product pitch from our therapist.
Aimed at cruising twosomes, two new Couples Villas within the spa provide side-by-side massages, followed by an hour's relaxation in a whirlpool bath or sitting area with ocean views. Packages range from $449 (50-minute treatment) to $589 (facial and massage, 100 minutes) per couple.
The spa extends it outreach to Royal Princess' Sanctuary, a for-fee sun deck for adults only ($15 for a half day or $25 for a full day, per person).
Couples can also opt for alfresco massage packages in the Sanctuary. Four new Sanctuary Cabanas offer amenities like a personal television with noise-reducing wireless headphones; sofas, robes and slippers; a welcome cocktail; snacks, including fresh fruit and nuts; and a fully stocked mini-bar with soft drinks, beer and wine. Sanctuary Cabanas start at $80 for a half day. Couples cabana massages start at $320 for an 80-minute treatment.
There are also two new Lotus Spa Cabanas, which are larger, more enclosed areas, set in an exclusive area at the bow of the ship's top deck. They feature a comfortable resting area with a television and plush chairs, a treatment area with two massage tables and beautiful ocean views looking out over the front of the ship. A variety of customized packages is available for the Lotus Spa Cabanas, ranging from $320 to $3,000, but it's also possible to book treatments individually or as a couple from the Lotus Spa menu. The top-of-the-line package is a "Royal Indulgence" package for four people ($3,000). This exclusive experience provides the ultimate in pampering with all-day massages and gourmet food and drinks. The price tag includes unlimited spa treatments, caviar, a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne and butler service. Access to a special menu of healthy snacks and salads is free, but juice "mocktails" cost extra. "Princess Pleasure" is the half-day option, which again is for four people and comes in at $1,500.
Among the usual sweaty suspects, Royal Princess features a few fun twists for fitness and leisure; a portable batting cage and a new take on the at-sea jogging track, with a circuit program offering outdoor exercise stations, are a couple of the more unconventional offerings in the multisport area on Decks 18 and 19, known as Princess Sports Central. Royal Princess' laser shooting range is a simulated laser with moving targets displayed on a screen -- an arcade-like offering that compliments the Shockwaves (ages 8 to 12) and Remix (ages 13 to 17) game lounges' Xbox Kinect gaming systems.
Princess Sports Central also features a golf driving facility, multiuse court (basketball, volleyball, tennis) and table tennis. On the upper deck, a Lawn Court offers an artificial grassy area for bocce, croquet and lawn bowling, as well as a putting green.
Below the sports area, on Deck 17, passengers will find the fitness center with the expected array of equipment, including treadmills, elliptical machines and free weights. Additionally, at the back of the gym, a private aerobics studio offers fitness classes that include TRX suspension bodyweight training, body sculpt boot camp sessions, spinning classes and an aromatherapy yoga class. Class prices range from $12 to $20, personal training sessions cost $85, and the body sculpt boot camp (BSBC) costs $120 for which you get four classes, a free body composition analysis and the BSBC program to take home with you.
On our sailing, fitness instructors offered a complimentary Zumba class in the atrium that was great fun.