A cruise ship christened by the Duchess of Cambridge must surely be fit for a future queen? Emma Wilson joins the Royal Princess on her maiden season to find out...
If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for me. And the Royal Princess, the latest addition to the Princess cruise fleet, is no exception.
Christened by the Duchess of Cambridge back in June, this sleek, upmarket vessel has earned itself almost as many column inches as the country’s future queen.
Keen to find out what all the fuss was about, my husband and I eagerly joined the ship on her maiden season through the Mediterranean.
There are echoes of the Duchess throughout the ship – from the huge portrait of her hanging near reception, to sumptuous finishing touches fit for a member of the Windsor family.
Many describe cruise ships as floating hotels, but Royal Princess is more than that: it’s a huge floating holiday complex, catering for 3,600 passengers.
The ship is very calm, and very spacious. In fact, I got lost several times while trying to find a bar, or a restaurant!
My husband and I are both keen travellers and enjoy being independent, so we were both a little reserved about going on a cruise. Would it be full of old people? Would we feel trapped? Would we get bored?
But we were put at ease as soon as we saw our room.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, a balcony, and enough space for my ‘cruise wardrobe’ (which consisted of most of the maternity range at several high street shops), we were more than happy with our place to unwind after a hard day’s cruising.
We didn’t have to worry about the age issue either.
Yes, there were some older passengers, but families and younger couples were the staple on the Royal Princess.
It wasn’t noisy, either. The children were really well-behaved, and while they could happily splash around in a top deck swimming pool, we could escape to an exclusive adults-only area. The Retreat is the perfect place to laze in the sun while sipping a cocktail or two, and the pool area – The Sanctuary – is great for a leisurely dip.
Thanks to a good selection of port excursions, we had plenty to keep us occupied throughout the journey. We would dock for the whole day, giving us a chance to do lots of sightseeing. Naples was our first port of call in Italy, and an air-conditioned minibus whisked us from the dock to Sorrento, about an hour’s drive away. The Amalfi Coast looked stunning as we climbed the hills and whizzed past olive and lemon trees.
There was a lot to cram in on excursion days, as we wanted to see as much as we could. Trips usually lasted around eight hours, but it was worth it, especially in Rome.
We had our own personal tour guide (and private air-conditioned coach), and the group we were in consisted of 15 people, so it was a great size to sightsee at a relaxed pace.
The royal treatment continued from ship to port, as we queue-jumped at the Colosseum, avoided the long lines at the Vatican Museum, and got our own rosary beads for our tour around St Peter’s Basilica.
Our tour guides were great fun, too.
Nicole at Pompeii wanted to show us all “the dead bodies”, while Marco in Rome poured scorn on the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator: “At no point did the gladiators fight against many soldiers – they fought one-on-one.” So, consider yourself told, Ridley Scott.
After each day trip, we were exhausted. However, it was easy to forget our achy feet and sunburnt skin as we relaxed in the on-board spa – the dark, quiet and soothing Lotus.
We had access to The Enclave at the spa, which is available to guests for a supplement. A huge hydrotherapy pool fills the room, with a sauna and steam room hidden behind vast, dark marble walls.
The quality of food had also been a concern, but we needn’t have worried. Upon docking in every port, fresh food is delivered to the ship.
The onboard steak house, Crown Grill, was very impressive. Huge hunks of beef were on display, showing us exactly what we were about to devour.
The Winemaker’s Dinner, held in the Symphony dining room, was another treat. We were tucked away in a private dining room, surrounded by hundreds of bottles of expensive wine.
Hosted by Diletta Frescobaldi, part of the famous Italian winemaking family, we were treated to a seven-course meal, paired with some of the Frescobaldi Super Tuscan wines.
As well as the main dining rooms, Symphony and Concerto, there are plenty of other restaurants to choose from on the ship, making it a lot easier to avoid eating the same thing every night.
Sabatini’s is a great Italian, where I gorged on lobster and tiramisu, while Alfredo’s is perfect for a quick Neapolitan pizza and a few glasses of wine. The chef was trained in Naples, and was very keen to stress that he followed traditional recipes.
There are also plenty of bars dotted around the Atrium. Our favourite bar was Vines, with its brilliant wine list and endless canapés.
Entertainment is also offered on the ground floor of the Atrium.
We saw gymnasts defy gravity, heard orchestras perform and even took part in some salsa dancing.
When we first looked at our itinerary for the trip, I thought we’d be a frazzled, claustrophobic mess when we docked at our final port, Barcelona. That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I was stress-free, relaxed and not very enthusiastic about leaving the ship.
Every member of staff went out of their way to really make our trip special.
Despite our sea legs and the extra pounds we’d put on, it was an unforgettable experience.
It is pricey, yes, but, if you’re going to be sailing around the Med, sipping fine wines and eating fabulous food, it’s definitely worth it.
Emma Wilson was a guest of Princess Cruises.
The Royal Princess will be visiting Scandinavia and Russia for an 11-night trip from May 12 to 23, 2014, from £1,245 per person (based on two adults sharing an inside stateroom).
The fare includes all accommodation, all main meals and onboard entertainment, and return flights from a London airport.
The Regal Princess will operate a 12-night Med cruise from July 13 to 25, 2014 from £1,839 per person. Visit www.princess.com or call 0843 373 0333.