Widely credited with having introduced millions of Americans to the concept of a modern cruise holiday, Princess Cruises is still innovating to this day with the launch of the latest member of its fleet, Sky Princess.
Longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower and taller than Tower Bridge, the 3,660-guest vessel took a staggering three-million man hours to construct, but it was certainly worth the effort because the new vessel is a thing of beauty.
Everything on board Princess Cruises’ latest ship is either upgraded, enhanced or a brand new innovation entirely, just take its F&B offering by way of example: there’s a new menu at the Crown Grill, the ship’s popular speciality outlet; the adjacent Crown Grill Bar, meanwhile, has opened up its space to drive more traffic.
Alfredo’s pizzeria on deck seven (voted best pizza at sea by no less a publication than USA Today) now offers alfresco dining, while the Ocean Terrace Sushi Bar has developed an American/Asian fusion menu.
Up on deck 16 the World Fresh Marketplace has had a “dramatic reimagining” and now features two pop-up restaurants in the evening, Planks & Steamers.
And it doesn’t stop at dining: new entertainment options abound too, with a Vegas-style casino and fresh theatrical productions including Rock Opera, starring Brian Justin Crum from America’s Got Talent, and 5 Skies – a VR-designed world where a gamer is on an epic quest to find the Sky Princess, accompanied by spectacular digital effects and acrobatics.
The sky’s the limit
And so firstly to the Sky Suites, the jewel in the crown of this Princess, if you will. These two suites measure 700sq ft and each accommodate up to five guests, but it is the fact that they have the largest balcony at sea that really impresses: at over 1,000sq ft, it boasts an amazing, uninterrupted 270-degree view.
The new Princess Cruises suites have been designed for entertaining, with services including a suite manager who presumably will cater for your every whim, plus you can organise private acoustic music, or a DJ if that’s more to your taste, and for those of a romantic inclination, star-gazing sessions are also on offer thanks to the availability of a high-powered telescope.
Then there’s a mixologist and masseur on call, as well as a photographer to record an indelible memory of what promises to be a most unforgettable experience.
Designed for innovation
Sky Princess’ slogan is “Designed for innovation” and this is no idle boast as it’s Princess Cruises’ first Ocean Medallion-enabled new build. Hi-tech doesn’t even begin to cover it. The Medallion is connected to 7,000 servers on the ship, plus 4,000 digital displays and is synchronised to the Cloud.
Arranging shore excursions, booking speciality dining and reminding servers of allergy requirements are all covered, too. When I arrive at the bar and the server not only knows my name, but also how I like my favourite drink then I begin to appreciate the benefits.
One of its most helpful features is the way it automatically unlocks your cabin door as you approach. What seems slightly gimmicky at first actually turns out to be really useful when you’re carrying bags and want to avoid the hassle of scrabbling in your pocket or handbag to find your room key.
Ordering food from anywhere in the ship is another interesting application – OceanNow means no more frantically trying to track down a waiter when you’re poolside and craving an ice-cold Piña Colada.
More left-field applications include Ocean Casino, allowing guests to place a bet on games including poker, bingo and roulette from anywhere on board, plus Ocean Tagalong, which enables passengers to create a personal digital companion who comes to life and interacts with them.
Food for thought
Food is at the heart of any good cruise and Sky Princess doesn’t disappoint, with an appetising range of speciality and casual eatery options, as well as the main dining rooms, Soleil and Estrella, which offer flexible sittings right up until 9.30pm.
The Crown Grill serves up steaks cooked to perfection in refined surroundings; dishes at Sabatini’s include that Italian staple, pasta and much more besides; and Bistro Sur La Mer’s impressive pedigree (Michelin-starred chef Emmanuel Renaut is the mastermind behind the menu) is evident in the French flair with which dishes are served here.
French flair is the order of the day at Bistro Sur La Mer Purely in the interests of research, I’ve also sampled some of the casual outlets, such as Slice (try the Pepperoni, it’s delish), the Salty Dog (they cook the burger to your liking, which is a revelation) and Alfredo’s, where I can vouch for the appealing nature of the Antipasto Magro plate of mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, grilled peppers and courgettes.
Meanwhile, World Fresh Marketplace provides a plethora of tasty tidbits, including Caesar Salad you can mix yourself, classic English roast beef with horseradish and a New York-style Reuben’s sandwich.
Let me entertain you
After dinner guests have a choice of entertainment that includes live music, card games, movies and that ever-so-slightly-tipsy crowd pleaser, karaoke.
In the theatre, brand new production Rock Opera lives up to its billing with visually stunning Steampunk-inspired costumes and a soundtrack that blends opera with numbers from Jesus Christ Superstar and Simon & Garfunkel. Oh, and America’s Got Talent finalist Brian Justin Crum sings his socks off.
Then there’s musical experience Take 5, which showcases the best of jazz while an expert mixologist prepares a themed cocktail to go along with the music; the Princess Live programme featuring four game shows where audience participation is actively encouraged; and a collaboration with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Inspired Silliness that celebrates the wacky, innovative early creations of the renowned puppeteer.
Also worth a mention is the Phantom Bridge escape room, launching early December, an immersive interactive experience that blends physical sets and puzzles to provide guests with 700 different possible outcomes and – for those who favour more gentle pastimes – Movies under the Stars, where a 300 square-foot LED screen offers incredible definition.
For even greater relaxation, book a treatment at the beautifully-appointed Lotus Spa, or bliss out in the tranquil space that is the Sanctuary nestled away at the top of the ship on deck 18, or simply enjoy lounging outside by the pool and enjoying the views.
All in all, Princess Cruises’ new ship offers a wealth of entertainment, experiences and spectacle for guests to enjoy and remember long after they disembark.
For more information and for bookings, visit princess.com.