The explosion of confetti blocked my view of the ceremony for a wee while...a cumulus cloud of white and blue. "I name you: The Royal Princess," declared the ship's Godmother, the Duchess of Cambridge. The cord was cut, releasing the blue ribbon festooned bottle of Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne which smashed on the side of the vessel's hull. The Duchess' Dalmatian print dress, a small flurry of black and white dots, added to the festive deluge. So it was dots, spots and ticker tape all around as we all cheered the naming of the 3,600 passenger Royal Princess.
Festivities began outside of the ship when the Royal Marine Band played in tandem with guests filling up the seats of the outdoor theatre. The ceremony officially started with the Pipers of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards playing before Her Royal Highness made the entrance for her last solo appearance before maternity leave. Natasha Bedingfield sang performing Unwritten, the references to rain drops in the song's lyrics mirroring the weather in Southampton. But neither wind nor rain could dampen the spirits of the assembled crowd. There was an instrumental number by Mass Ensemble before they were joined by singer, Kerry Ellis in a rendition of Into the Flow. Captain Tony Draper then escorted Her Royal Highness to the platform to cut the cord.
After the naming ceremony, Her Royal Highness had a short tour of the ship visiting the bridge, the Sea Walk, the Atrium, the Princess Live! Television Studio and was also introduced to select members of the crew.
Cruise line Princess Cruises, made famous by the 1980's television series The Love Boat, has now unveiled the 17th ship of its fleet. A distinctive feature of the Royal Princess is the Atrium which is styled as an Italian style Piazza. There are three decks of bars and eateries around this open space which has crème, brown and gold accent colours.
When appearing in a checked pattern, the brown and gold squares reminded me of a Louis Vuitton handbag! The Vines on the first floor of the Atrium has an impressive wine list of at least thirty wines that can be ordered by the glass. I tried the Simi, a California Russian River Valley Chardonnay that was to die for.
The Lotus Spa is touted to be one of the largest spas at sea. There are 18 treatment rooms, a space called The Enclave which contains water beds, heated stone beds and a hydro-therapy pool. In this area there is also a Hammam, Caldarium and Laconium (dry heat sauna). I tried out the Hot Stone Massage and I was blown away by the strength of my therapist's hands which melted my tensions away. The Lotus Spa has a full service salon as well when guests want to get dolled up for a special evening. And because the spa has been moved from the top deck of the ship to Deck 5, there is more room on Deck 17 for the Sanctuary space. This area, so popular with adult guests, now includes two Lotus Spa Cabanas for outdoor massage treatments.
Speciality restaurants are all the rage on cruise ship and this one is no different. The Crown Grill is my favourite by a mile. The Wheelhouse Bar flows into the open plan restaurant giving a breezy, sophisticated air to the space. I ordered the Chilean Sea Bass and Brioche-breaded King Prawns which was succulent and flavourful. Alfredo's next to the Atrium is a great spot for pizza. I had a delicious vegetarian option while my colleague convinced the chef to rustle her up a simple, authentic Marinara pizza.
Sabatini's offers quality Italian food for a $25 cover charge and hungry passengers can order pastas, steaks and herb breaded sea bass. There is a wine tower in the middle of the restaurant holding a million bucks worth of Super Tuscan Wines and keeping them at the perfect temperature and humidity. These wines are grown, fermented and bottled by the Mondavi family of the Napa Valley in California and Frescobaldi family from Tuscany. I tried a few and personally recommend the La Sierra Nuove Dell Ornellaia. Reasonably priced at $39.00
This is a great ship for first timers and for those who are experienced sailors, too. And, let's not forget, it does have the Royal Seal of Approval.
*All photos supplied by Princess Cruises