Researched and Written By

Researched and Written By Aaron Saunders

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Focus On...Crown Princess

Crown Princess is arguably one of the most successful ships ever built by Princess Cruises.  Constructed in 2006 at the Fincantieri shipyards near Venice, Italy, she is an evolution of the design that started back in 1998 with the launch of Grand Princess.

Crown Princess, seen here in Akureyri, Iceland.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Each subsequent ship in the Grand Class has seen its own subtle and not-so-subtle changes.  Golden Princess, built in 2001, boasted a new, elegant atrium design. 

Built in 2003 and 2004 at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard in Japan, Diamond and Sapphire Princess saw the repositioning of Skywalkers Nightclub from its elevated perch down to the uppermost deck, and a reconfigured aft pool.  

 Movies Under the Stars became an instant hit for Princess.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Also in 2004, Princess returned to Italian builder Fincantieri to construct Caribbean Princess,  which saw a return to the original Grand Class design, but with an additional deck of balcony staterooms and a new feature: a gigantic LED screen suspended above the midship pool called Movies Under the Stars.  Unique to Princess at the time, this innovation has been widely adopted by many other lines since then.

 Pull up a chair and relax in The Sanctuary, Crown Princess'
fee-based premium relaxation area.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

While each of these ships has a popular following in its own right, it was in 2006 with the launch of the Crown Princess that Princess Cruises really struck gold.  Crown Princess boasted an external profile that could best be described as Caribbean Princess meets Sapphire Princess.  

 Skywalkers was once again moved down, and an attractive new Aft Terrace was developed.  Movies Under the Stars was refined and enhanced, and another Caribbean Princess feature, the open-air relaxation lounge known as The Sanctuary, was added.  A small fee is required to use this area, which is well worth it.

The beautiful Piazza-style atrium set the standard for all future
Princess ships.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

 Elegant design, soft lighting and central location helped transform
the Piazza atrium aboard Crown Princess.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

But the real changes were saved for the Crown’s interior design.  She sported an amazing new atrium space, known as the Piazza.  Decorated in marble and elegant woods, this area became an incredibly popular spot for passengers, thanks to its comfortable seating, live and varied entertainment, and the plethora of public rooms that surrounds it.  

 Feeling peckish, or just need that latte?  Head on over
to the International Cafe.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

The International Café serves up specialty coffees and light snacks throughout the day and night.  During the afternoon, waiters come around the area, offering passengers an assortment of cookies with milk.  Service is remarkably attentive for a ship this size, and crew members make a special effort to get to know guests.  

 Enjoy wine, cheese and sushi at Vines.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Also adjacent to the Piazza is Vines, Princess’ new wine and sushi concept.  It’s also oddly under-utilized, though on a recent Crown Princess cruise it was gaining in popularity.  A wide selection of wines by the glass and bottle are offered, and can be paired with some excellent sushi or sashimi – some of the best we’ve had onboard a ship.  Not to your liking?  Why not sample the Spanish-style Tapas?  
After two Crown Princess voyages, this is still one of my favorite areas aboard for its central Piazza location, cozy atmosphere, and fantastic service.  Did I mention it's not crowded?

Wrapping around the ship, Crown Princess's promenade deck
is the perfect place to take in the sea air.
Photo © Aaron Saunders 

One deck up are the ship’s boutiques, and while bottlenecks do occur here, they seem to flow better than on other vessels, and can be avoided by simply ascending or descending the Piazza stairs.  

 Great location, atmosphere and Martini's;
it's tough to beat Crooner's.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Ascending another deck is the popular Crooner’s bar.  With one half bordering the beautiful atrium, this is a tremendous place to enjoy a nightcap and listen to the live pianist.  The only downside?  It’s not nearly large enough for how popular it can be, particularly when a show empties out.  But the atmosphere is one of our favorites aboard any ship, and the Martini list is fantastic.

 The Crown Grill specialty restaurant.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

The Italian-themed Sabatini's.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Other new areas include the Crown Grill specialty steakhouse, and Sabatini’s Italian restaurant all the way aft and high atop Deck 16.  The Crown Grill serves, as you might imagine, all manner of steak and seafood, while Sabatini’s is a multi-course delight that is served best if you haven’t had lunch – believe us, it’s a lot of food!  

 Adagio's has the perfect atmosphere: cozy, clubby 
and with the drinks to back it up.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

It's tough to not fall instantly in love with this great nightspot.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Adjacent to Sabatini’s is another lounge that instantly won us over: Adagio’s.  It’s high and aft location ensures that most people never find it, which seems to be how the passengers and crew like it.  Done in dark woods with plenty of curved walls and large windows, the martini menu here is highly customized (try the one with champagne over shaved ice!) , and the selection of fine spirits is the best on the ship. 

A pianist serenades whomever happens to be in the room, and the big, plush couches and comfortable chairs ensure you won’t want to get up for some time.  Even just writing this makes me wish I was back there right now, drink in hand, looking out at the ocean.  Bright and airy during the day, Adagio’s is best experienced at night.

 Additional seating outside the safari-themed Explorer's Lounge.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Other hallmarks that have made this class of ship such a success are also present.  Rather than having one large, imposing dining room, Princess opted to have three smaller ones, two of which provide the line’s Anytime Dining concept, and one located in its own section near the stern providing a more traditional, fixed-seating dining alternative.

 Club Fusion, all the way aft on Deck 7, sports a Western feel.
 Photo © Aaron Saunders

While the dine-when-you-want concept is hit or miss on many mainstream lines, Princess has it down to a fine science.  Even when requesting a private table for two, wait times were never much beyond ten minutes.  Should you encounter a wait for a desired table, you’ll be give a pager that functions in the atrium, allowing you to enjoy the pre-dinner entertainment or have a drink.

 Get here early: The Princess Theatre fills up quickly.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

The only area that truly represents a problem on Crown Princess and the entire Grand-class is her main theatre, the aptly-named Princess Theatre.  Located all the way forward, this theatre is one of the only public rooms that hasn’t seen any major evolution; it is identical right down to the fabric on the chairs.  It also only has seating for about a third of the ship, which means guests start queuing for a 7pm show at 6:15pm.  It’s an odd miss for a ship that has so many excellent design choices.  

 The Library aboard Crown Princess.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Together with her sisters Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess, and near-sisters, Crown Princess offers an excellent cruise vacation for those who like their ships big, but without losing the intimate feel of a smaller vessel.

For more information about Crown Princess and the entire Princess Cruises fleet, be sure to visit the Princess Cruises website.


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