Emerald Princess entered service in 2007 as one of the largest ships in Princess Cruises' fleet. As far as modern mega-ships go -- with a passenger capacity of more than 3,000 -- Emerald Princess maintains the high level of service it was celebrated for when it first launched. But it doesn't boast the features so frequently offered by the ultramodern mega-ships -- there are no climbing walls or water slides and the only zipline you're likely to encounter is on one of the ship's more energetic shore excursions. But what the ship does really well is balance modern needs, without over-the-top gimmicks, with rich and well-constructed excursions, allowing passengers to make the best of both the ship and the destination.
The ambiance of the ship is relaxed. Perhaps because passengers focus their energy on exploring the destination, evenings seem to be less about glitzy affairs and more about relaxed dinners. Although the ship's glamorous Skywalkers Nightclub -- with fabulous floor-to-ceiling glass windows providing never-ending ocean views -- offers the perfect opportunity for cocktails and dancing into the early hours.
Updates to the ship's specialty dining options -- Sabatini's is replaced with SHARE by Curtis Stone and The Salty Dog Gastropub has been introduced in the Wheelhouse Bar -- give the ship a fresh gourmet edge. SHARE feels like the kind of ingredient-led restaurant you'd find in the culinary centers of New York City or London's Borough Market. Foodies and those with an appetite for current dining trends will especially enjoy the sharing-style concept of the restaurants.
The ship's updated entertainment program is a little more hit and miss. We loved "Voice of the Ocean" and so did our fellow passengers who were whopping and cheering along as contestants battled it out onstage. The atmosphere during the live final is goose bump-inducing -- fully charged, but also family orientated.
While "Magic to Do" also had the Princess Theater packed, we felt it lacked a clear narrative, therefore making it difficult to follow. The vocal performances did however have star quality and conveyed the feeling of watching of a Broadway show.
The central Piazza remains a passenger favorite. Recreating a theatrical Italian-style piazza, the vibe lies somewhere between a bustling shopping plaza and an outdoor square. This is something Emerald Princess does really well, bringing passengers together in a mixed-use space. Kids -- and adults for that matter -- are entertained by various performers in the Piazza, plus there's Vines, the ship's wine bar, to one side and the International Cafe to the other, which creates a buzzy but overall relaxed atmosphere.
Movies Under The Stars is another win for the ship. The concept is simple: Install a large open-air movie screen above the Calypso pool showing a program of new release and classic movies day and night. Crew dish out the popcorn and thick cozy blankets are available for when it gets cool. What's not to love?
If you're looking for a cruise with a solid entertainment program, but without gimmicky rides and slides, and one that has a more relaxed dining vibe, you'll enjoy this ship.