The latest addition to the P&O fleet has been toned down for the Mediterranean, as Grace Hammond reports.
Although Princess Cruises has never been a favourite among UK cruise fans, that could be about to change with the launch of the £600m Royal Princess.
This mighty 141,000-tonne “superliner” for 3,600 passengers got off to a flying start by getting the Duchess of Cambridge to be her “godmother”, by naming the ship in a spectacular ceremony at Southampton, before a maiden voyage to Venice earlier this month.
Mike Pickup of Major Travel says: “The choice of the Duchess of Cambridge as godmother is an inspired move, as it adds a youthful element to cruising.”
Designing and building the ship took three long years and steady nerves among cruise chiefs as fears of recession and gloom swirled around the global economy. Two more of these massive ships from mother company Carnival arrive in 2014. Regal Princess is a sister ship to Royal Princess, while Carolina joins the P&O fleet.
Before long, there could be a sharp rise in the total of 100,000 Britons who currently take Princess cruises each year. Although it’s geared to the US market, with a “can do” approach among the crew and a degree of informality on board which Americans appreciate, the new ship has the “wow” factor, while toning down the brashness of some US cruise ships.
There are elegant corners on this all-dollar ship where passengers have no idea they are travelling with thousands of others: including the massive Lotus Spa on deck five which has private “couples villas”.
Plenty costs extra on Royal Princess, including an ice cream at Gelato’s, so a cheaper cabin may be balanced with more to spend.
However, those on board do no’t have to pay extra to enjoy films in the spectacular open air cinema on deck 17 for “movies under the stars”. At this level, you find amazing sea walks on either side of the ship; pathways of reinforced glass which enable passengers to look down nearly 130 feet to the waves below.
Although Royal Princess began her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK passengers will usually fly to the ship as it will operate Mediterranean fly-cruises in summer and visit the Caribbean, out of the US, in winter.
When Princess Cruises proudly previewed their new ship to industry figures at Southampton, the response was mostly enthusiastic.
Martin Tanner at Jetline Cruises said: “I suspect it’s better than a four-star cruise ship, better than P&O, with service to match the elevated levels of Cunard.”
But while the designers take a bow for Royal Princess, its early prices might be lower than the company planned.
Tanner says: “In the Caribbean, you can get seven-night voyages from Fort Lauderdale to the eastern Caribbean from £1,160, including return flights.”