ROYAL Revelations

Peter Knego reflects upon several days spent aboard Princess Cruises’ brand new 141,000 gross ton ROYAL PRINCESS during the ship’s inaugural festivities at Southampton, including a gala christening by HRH The Duchess Of Cambridge.

Princess Cruises

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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Royal signage.

As our coach neared Ocean Terminal, it was nice to see a series of custom-made yellow street signs for the ROYAL PRINCESS upcoming christening. The powers that be at Princess have always done a spectacular job in promoting their newbuilds but in this instance, Princess was upping the ante with its largest ever ship and the first in an entirely new platform for parent company Carnival Corp.

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First glance at Southampton.

Long before we reached Ocean Terminal, the megalithic ROYAL PRINCESS came into view. Only three months prior, she was engulfed in a sea of giant cranes and scaffolding at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone shipyard. Nineteen stories tall, she is crowned with a long, domed funnel that gives her a somewhat racy profile.

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Blue and white at Ocean Terminal.

An elegant realm of royal blue and pristine white awaited at Ocean Terminal. Clearly, these were the official colors of the christening event to come.

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SeaWalk
overhead.

Once through security and across the gangway, I stepped onto the starboard outcrop of Deck 7 and instinctively looked up. Projecting out some 28 feet from the side of the ship and nine decks overhead, the SeaWalk is the ROYAL PRINCESS instant “wow” feature and the heir apparent to the vertiginous Skywalker’s pods perched atop the sterns of three of Princess’ Grand Class ships.

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Orbiting the Piazza.

The top level of the Piazza was directly inside. This expanded, multi-function atrium is another significant evolution in Princess’ ship design and will be explored in depth in an upcoming Decked! feature.

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Deluxe Outside D507, facing starboard.

With only two decks to go to reach my stateroom, my instinct was to climb the midships stairwell but I soon discovered that there was no such thing. A short elevator ride brought me to my handsome Deluxe Outside Stateroom D507 on the starboard side of Deck 9. There are 702 Deluxe Outsides and they are slightly larger than Standard Balcony staterooms but smaller than Mini-Suites, offering enhanced bathroom amenities, waffle bathrobes and upgraded duvets.

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Cabin 507 balcony, facing starboard.

The balcony was standard size and quite adequate for my needs, especially in the cool, frequently wet Southampton climes.

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507 wc.
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Cabin 507 shower.

The bathroom featured a large shower compartment and a massage shower head.

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En suite dispensers (bath gel and shampoo/conditioner).

My bathroom had dispensers for shower gel and shampoo. Less glamorous than the mini-plastic bottles of yore but far more friendly to the environment.

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The Sanctuary, facing starboard.

ROYAL PRINCESS was already filled with fellow media, travel industry VIPs and a gaggle of visitors, so I decided to postpone my interior documentation and focus on the upper exterior decks. I began on forward Deck 17 with the adults-only Sanctuary, which is 20 percent larger than its Grand Class equivalents. It also features four private Sanctuary Cabanas and two Lotus Spa Cabanas for spa treatments for an additional fee.

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Retreat Pool, facing aft. Note six part mural of sea life by Wyland.

Aft of the Sanctuary, there is the adults-only Retreat Pool which also features its own assortment of Retreat Cabanas, which can be rented for an extra fee. At night, this area will becomes a “Chill Lounge” with a relaxed ambiance featuring drinks and music.

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ROYAL PRINCESS, facing aft from Deck 18.

Technically on Deck 19 as it is two levels above Deck 17, there is the Deck 18 observation platform, the forward portion of which is sheltered by glass windscreens. An open terrace aft provides spectacular views of the midships pool area.

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Seaview Bar, facing forward.

On the port side of midships Deck 16, serving the pool area, the SeaView Bar juts out from the side of the ship like the SeaWalk on the starboard side. In lieu of the gaping mouth of SeaWalk, there is 30-seat bar traversed by a walkway with 1.1 inch thick glass panels that look directly down upon the sea 128 feet below.

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SeaWalk to naming pavilion.

On the starboard side of Deck 16, the SeaWalk juts out beyond the ROYAL PRINCESS’ balconied superstructure.

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Historic tug CALSHOT at Southampton.

While exploring the ROYAL PRINCESS’ outer decks, it was hard to not swoon over the preserved steam tug CALSHOT in the adjacent berth.

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OCEANA, nee OCEAN PRINCESS, passes.

Late that afternoon, the former OCEAN PRINCESS, now P&O’s OCEANA, sailed past and sounded her horn for ROYAL PRINCESS. In return, she was heralded with the newer ship’s “Love Boat Theme” salutation.

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Gym, facing aft.

I laid my cameras to rest for a quick workout in the Gym, which is way up on aft/starboard Deck 17. This is another evolution from the Grand Class ships, whose gyms are located atop the forward portion of the ship overlooking the bow.

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Sabatini’s, facing forward.

Our assigned dinner was in Sabatini’s, the reservations-required, extra tariff Italian restaurant on the Deck 5 level of the Piazza. In the Piazza and elsewhere, the ROYAL PRINCESS has aligned several complementary venues that were scattered in different parts of the prior ships. For instance, Sabatini’s is in the forward portion of the Piazza on Deck Five, directly adjacent to Vines, the ROYAL PRINCESS wine bar.

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Sabatini’s setting.

The Tuscan-inspired Sabatini’s seats 120 guests and features settings with custom chargers, elegant stemware and pressed napkins.

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Sabatini’s appetizers.

We had a special fixed menu that night, beginning with a tray of delicious Italian appetizers.

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Sabatini’s Burratta Alla Panna Con Carpaccio Di Pomodori.

It would be hard to beat my first course, a pungent, hand-formed cow’s milk cheese with a creamy lava center on tomato carpaccio with a balsamic glaze. Princess does Italian cuisine like no other cruise line…

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Nocterminal.
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Lit witch.

Even after our long, deluxe dinner, there was still a halo of light over Southampton. I took advantage of the near-Solstice timing and ventured out to get some photos of the glowing mass that hovered over Ocean Terminal.

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Under the SeaWalk.
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SeaWalk and funnel lit.
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ROYAL PRINCESS, facing aft from Deck 19 nocturnal.

Back aboard, with the hue of indigo still in the sky, I could not resist taking a few deck views before finally calling it a night.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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International Cafe, facing port.

A 141,000-ton day lay ahead!  My goal was to cover all the interior spaces, working my way up from Deck Five, shooting between clusters of the several thousand visitors that would be touring the ship throughout the day. But the first stop had to be the International Cafe at the base of the Piazza on Deck Five.

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International Brekky!

The International Cafe it the “go to” for those “on the go”. Here, one can order up a potent coffee beverage (charges apply) and select from a number of quick bites.

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International Cafe morning parfaits.

For breakfast, selections include hot muffins with eggs, bacon and cheese (and there are even meatless options), yogurt/granola parfaits and some truly fabulous freshly baked muffins and croissants.

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Lotus Spa Enclave, facing starboard.

As mentioned before, the Lotus Spa has been relocated from the “crown” of the ship down to Deck Five, relinquishing the panoramic views for passenger accommodation. What’s also new is the Enclave, a thermal suite with Princess‘ first-ever hydro-therapy pool, a Hammam (a Turkish-style steam room), Caldarium (an herbal steam room) and a Laconium (a dry heat sauna). More on that and the other interior spaces in the upcoming Decked! feature soon.

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Piazza, facing aft from Deck 7.

This would be my first opportunity to enjoy the scale and opulence of the expanded Piazza, which was only partially fitted out and filled with scaffolding and construction materials during my March visit. It is truly amazing that the entire thing could be completed in the time it would take to remodel a private kitchen on land.

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Horizon Court, facing forward.
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A salad on my Horizon.

Remarkably, I had covered most of the ship in time for a quick bite in Horizon Court, the expanded buffet venue that seats 1,118 guests on Deck 16. The forward portion, the Horizon Grill, is like a Wintergarden with its ash-toned furnishings and the aft portion, the Horizon Court, features dark wood and autumnal hues.

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Gala night celebration in the Piazza.
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Champagne falling.

On the eve of the christening, it was a gala affair in the Piazza. Its brass, glass and beige tones were a perfect backdrop for a colorful champagne waterfall and a virtual sea of black tuxedos and elegant gowns.

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Allegro Restaurant, facing aft.

Dinner was assigned in Allegro, the 618-seat dining room on aft Deck 6. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, it is a striking room festooned with Deco-style Murano glass chandeliers and Gatsby-esque crimson and gold carpeting. This space was designed by Giacomo Mortola, whose has been creating ship interiors since Sitmar’s lamented FAIRSKY of 1984.

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Gala night setting in Allegro.

Each table was beautifully set with special royal blue Gala Night menus.

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Dessert trio.
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Post Petits.

Another fabulous dinner concluded with a trio of rich Princess desserts, which were then followed with even more irresistible petits fours.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

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Raincheck?

With the weather still unstable, it was no surprise to find a note from the Princess team advising that the christening might be “relocated” to a virtual viewing in the dry comfort of Princess Live!

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Princess Live!, facing starboard.

Princess Live! is another first for Princess, a television studio with seats for 300 guests that is used for the taping of the daily “Wake Show”, various demonstrations and live performances. It is located on Deck 7 between the Piazza and the Wheelhouse Bar.

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Press Conference in Princess Live!

Fortunately, during the morning press conference with Princess execs and Captain Draper, it was announced that the christening would take place alongside the ship, after all. We were advised to bundle up as it was a bit windy and chilly but the rain was mostly finished.

During the conference, I asked if there would be any alterations or new features to ROYAL PRINCESS currently-under-construction twin, the REGAL PRINCESS, which is due in 2014. For now, she will be exactly the same, although there may be some variations in color schemes and soft fittings.

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Royal Renderings.

After enjoying my morning cappuccino, I stopped by the Photo Gallery on the port side of the Piazza on Deck 6 to admire some wonderful sketches of the royal Godmother by the children of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH), which the Duchess supports through her charity work.

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Royal angles.

Out in the stands off her starboard bow, there was time to study the massive, angular features of the ROYAL PRINCESS.

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Bottle.

The giant magnum of Moet et Chandon dangled above, its garland of blue and white ribbons blowing in the breeze not unlike the tresses of Princess’ “sea witch” logo. A Leica zoom lens revealed that it’s neck had been scored to guarantee a clean break.

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CNN reporting.

Directly below us, some rather familiar broadcast media primped and preened, hoping for some great views of the soon-to-arrive Duchess.

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The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth.

The Pipers of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards and The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth provided an exciting soundtrack to the ceremonies.

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Duchess in the plumage.

The Duchess arrived in a polished limousine, a modern day “carriage”, if you will. Attended by a lady in a periwinkle blue outfit (her lady-in-waiting, perhaps?), she was mostly obscured from view by colorful hats and fascinators until she stepped onto the stage.

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Royal line up.

Eight months pregnant, HRH The Duchess Of Cambridge, still fondly referred to as Kate, looked resplendent in a Dalmatian-patterned overcoat. Seated next to her were Princess CEO Alan Buckelew, his wife and Right Reverend Tim Daikin (The Bishop of Winchester), who would bless the ship.

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West End Girl, Kerry Ellis.

Grammy-nominated Natasha Beddingfield sang “Unwritten” as the wind billowed through her blond locks and West End Sensation Kerry Ellis performed “Into The Flow”, backed by the extraordinary Mass Ensemble, a band that utilizes gargantuan instruments.

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Captain and Duchess take the podium.

After a welcome from Alan Buckelew and the Reverend’s traditional blessing, Captain Tony Draper led the Duchess to the naming stage where she was presented with a pair of scissors by Izzie and Charlie Rowbotham, who lost their brother George to a brain tumor at 21 months. Their family was helped through the tragedy by EAST, the Duchess’ charity.

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Moment of impact. Photo and copyright Lisa Royall 2013.

With a quick “I name this ship Royal Princess. May God bless her and all who sail in her,” and a snip, the bottle smashed into the bow right above the “P” in PRINCESS.

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Deluge in white and blue.

It did, indeed, rain that day — in torrents of blue and white confetti.

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Descending the throne.

Gracefully, the Duchess descended the platform, returning to her limousine, only to pay a short afternoon visit to “her” ship. I heard the horn blow during lunch and later confirmed it was the Duchess giving it a “try”.

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Bough over bow.

The bottle neck and garland were ultimately lowered and will be placed in an exhibit at the Princess Cruises offices in Santa Clarita, California, along with the scissors and pillow used to present them to the Duchess.

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From bollard to PRINCESS.

I was pleasantly surprised to get access to the end of the pier for a shot of the ship.

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Union-Castle House

After lunch, I went ashore for a quick look at the Union-Castle House near the entrance to Ocean Terminal. This was once headquarters to the great Southampton-based shipping line that linked the U.K. with South and East Africa.

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Princess Cruises Executive Chef Alfredo Marzi at Alfredo’s.

Upon my return, I bumped into Princess Executive Chef Alfredo Marzi, for whom the new eatery Alfredo’s is named. He was on his way up to Horizon Court but made a quick detour so I could photograph him in front of his new “baby”.

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Pre-fountain.

Another new feature exclusive to ROYAL PRINCESS is the Dancing Fountains installation on Deck 16. At night, it turns the pool area into a festive attraction.

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Fountain in blue and gold.
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Crimson flow.

The fountains spray in a number of patterns and in a full spectrum of colors to varying musical backdrops.

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CD in the afterglow.

Cruise Director Ron Goodman was literally glowing after the wet and wonderful display.  But wait, there’s more…

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Southampton spectacle!

A fabulous flurry of fireworks followed, lighting up Southampton in a display that had been rained out the night prior.

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Shooting stars.
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Fire in the sky.

It was a magnificent day, all the better because there was still some more time ahead to enjoy the ROYAL PRINCESS.

Friday, June 14, 2013

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Alfredo’s, facing forward.

I slept in, skipped breakfast and bee-lined it to Alfredo’s for a three course lunch (by the way, this fabulous eatery is free-of-charge).

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Alfredo’s Minestrone.

It began with a succulent and piping hot minestrone and an insalata mista.

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Alfredo’s Margherita.

With some 200 cruises under my belt, I have not found any pizza at sea to rival that of Princess. In Alfredo’s, they are cooked to order and well worth the short wait.

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Isthmus of SeaWalk.

When ROYAL PRINCESS departed, she was carrying her first fare-paying guests on a two night cruise to St. Peter Port on Guernsey, an island in the English Channel.

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Testing the SeaWalk.

As the ship made her way down the Solent, it was great to see green water beneath the SeaWalk and even more fun to watch as guests gingerly stepped onto the glass panels, making sure every bolt had been secured.

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ROYAL PRINCESS Symphony Dining Room, facing aft.

Dinner for the next two nights would be in the Symphony Dining Room on midships Deck 5. Identical to the Concerto (directly above on Deck 6), it seats 600 and was designed by Princess VP of Design, Teresa Anderson. Symphony and Concerto are Anytime dining rooms (guests dine when and with whom the please) versus the Traditional two seating dining in Allegro.

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“Colors” debut in the Princess Theater.

After dinner, I headed off to the Princess Theater for the debut of “Colors”, an international-themed show enhanced with state-of-the-art digital backdrops.

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ROYAL Laundry tokens.

And before going to bed, with a fortnight of travel still ahead, I decided to give the Laundromat down the passage on Deck 9 a test run. With a swipe of my ID card, it produced tokens for detergent ($1.00) and the washer and dryer ($2.00 each). Fabulously convenient!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

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Guernsey sighting.

I peeked out the window to see the rocky, green isles of Guernsey just in time to hear the announcement that due to heavy swells and high winds, we would not be able to tender ashore. Ah well, maybe another time.

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Feet first!

I took the opportunity to explore the ship some more and even did another SeaWalk trek, this time over a boiling sea.

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Michael Mondavi hosts.

That afternoon, we enjoyed a very special treat in Sabatini’s, a Super Tuscan wine tasting featuring Sabatini’s “bites” hosted by famed winemaker Michael Mondavi, who led us through an increasingly fine procession of reds and explained the properties of each in terms that even I could fully understand.

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Dulcet of duck.

Among the Sabatini bites were a divine mushroom lasagne and a delightful smoked duck.

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THAT’s the one, dear!

The “star” wine was a $140.00 bottle of Ornellaia from western Tuscany but all of the wines were impressive and several quite reasonably priced. These wine tastings will be offered on the ROYAL PRINCESS for a $40 cover that includes a glass of Proseco, the five Sabatini’s bites and some very handy info for wine connoisseurs.

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John and Mary Maxtone-Graham.

I was greatly looking forward to the legendary John Maxtone-Graham’s “Royal Princess” presentation at 6:00 PM but arrived at Princess Live! to learn it had been rescheduled at 2:00 PM due to the missed call at Guernsey. Fortunately, the extraordinary speaker and masterful author of “The Only Way To Cross” and dozens of other ocean liner and cruise ship tomes was spotted in the Piazza along with his lovely wife Mary, enjoying a hula hoop performance.

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Desserting the Symphony.

Princess must have the richest desserts at sea and tonight’s were no exception.

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Bellinis brewing.
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Plastered in the Piazza.

I joined fellow revelers at Bellini’s, another new fixture exclusive to ROYAL PRINCESS on the forward Deck 6 balcony of the Piazza. I somehow resisted trying one for myself with a long day of travel to follow but did enjoy watching them get created and consumed. The pink ones shown are the Classic Bellinis and are priced at a very reasonable $7.95, considering the fresh ingredients and all the work it takes to make them.

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Agnetha and Frida incarnate.

Couldn’t resist ending the evening on a Swedish note with “Arrival”, the Abba tribute show in the Princess Theater.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

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All-too-soon!

How on earth did five days fly by so quickly? There was so much to see and do on the ROYAL PRINCESS, it seemed as though I barely scratched the surface. This dynamic ship promises to bring Princess to even greater heights and will be fully explored in an upcoming Decked! feature.

Very Special Thanks: Julie Benson, Karen Candy, Martin Cox, Peter Newall, Lisa Royall

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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