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CRUISE NEWS: New Princess ship gets royal treatment

SOUTHAMPTON, U.K. -- Comfortable and classy -- not the freshest of words these days. But add "modern" and "prototype" and the description is especially fitting for the new Royal Princess, now sailing in the Mediterranean after making her first public appearance at Southampton's Ocean Cruise Terminal.

Making her last public appearance at the launch before a very different royal baby arrives was Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. With a single cutting of the ribbon, the ship's godmother sent a giant bottle of champagne across her hull to make the naming official.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (right) stands with Captain Tony Draper on the podium during a ceremony to officially name Princess Cruises's new ship Royal Princess in Southampton, England, on June 13. As the ship's godmother, the duchess officially smashed to the traditional bottle over the hull in  what is expected to her final solo engagement before the birth of her and Prince William's child.

POSTMEDIA AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (right) stands with Captain Tony Draper on the podium during a ceremony to officially name Princess Cruises's new ship Royal Princess in Southampton, England, on June 13. As the ship's godmother, the duchess officially smashed to the traditional bottle over the hull in what is expected to her final solo engagement before the birth of her and Prince William's child.

President and CEO of Princess Cruises Alan Buckelew (L) escorts Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge as she walks down the gangplank of the Royal Princess.

POSTMEDIA GETTY IMAGES

President and CEO of Princess Cruises Alan Buckelew (L) escorts Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge as she walks down the gangplank of the Royal Princess.

It seems like kismet that the most modern of the Royals -- Kate, as she's affectionately known by Brits -- would be the godmother. In 1984, the woman who would have been her mother-in-law, the late Princess Diana, christened the original Royal Princess.

This newest ship for Princess Cruises is its biggest, carrying about 3,600 passengers. But even with her size and new features, regular Princess cruisers will feel right at home.

The glass-bottomed SeaWalk extends over the water on the top deck, allowing you to look straight down to the ocean.

The Piazza atrium is the social hub of the Royal Princess, and you can bet the words "I'll meet you in the Piazza" will become part of cruiser's lexicon.

The atrium is three stories high with winding marble staircases and sparkling lights that beckon passengers day and night. Food, entertainment and drink are readily available, accompanied by performers that can range from a soothing solo pianist to a Beatles tribute band (one performed at last week's gala).

Bellini's is a cocktail bar, and Ocean Terrace a seafood bar. Like homemade gelato, they are both new to Princess ships. There's also International Cafe for lighter fare; Vines, a wine and tapas bar; Alfredo's serving stone-oven pizzas; and the familiar Sabatini's Italian restaurant. The Horizon Court buffet has an all new look, and I like the idea of extending it to the outside stern.

The pool area has a core used for sunbathing during the day and a combination water show with music and live performance at night. One deck up is the Sanctuary, the adult area with cabanas available at different fees based on the services.

If you're seeking your 15 minutes of fame, Princess Live is a TV studio -- the first at seas -- with a live morning show, an interactive culinary show and game shows.

On the top deck you'll find Center Court, the multi-sports zone, with activities like basketball, tennis, or bocce available. Review the ship's layout at Princess.com/learn/ships/rp.

Royal Princess's new features are impressive, but the best thing is the ship does not overwhelm.

After returning from Europe this fall, Royal Princess will be sailing in the Caribbean this winter.

-- Postmedia News

Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil Reimer may be contacted directly at portsandbows

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 E2

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