A Former R Ship Becomes a Princess

Princess Cruises has taken a former R-class ship from the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises and made it its own.

By: Harry Basch

Princess Cruises has taken a former R-class ship from the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises and made it its own.

The 30,277-ton, 680-passenger vessel doesn’t look like the line’s super-large newbuilds, and the décor is still a bit darker than the usual light-filled, airy interiors.

But there’s no mistaking that the Tahitian Princess is a Princess ship. Despite the surroundings of lush green volcanic islands, guest dance groups undulating on the deck and warm blue waters perfect for snorkeling or scuba, Captain’s Circle members need not fear. This is still a Princess cruise in every way.

There is the morning wake-up call of the cruise director rattling off the activities of the day including bingo, art auctions, familiar game shows such as Newlyweds and the hilarious Liars Club and gaming in the casino.

All of which can be found in the familiar and sometimes confusing Princess Patter, the daily activities sheet (try to find the dining room hours).

The razzle-dazzle of the production shows may be trimmed a bit to fit the smaller showroom, but the entertainment quality and perfection remain.

Additional solo performers and visiting island dance groups round out the program.

Princess has begun a series of educational and entertaining classes. For example, in the pottery class you can design and create your own plate, cup or picture frame. Computer@Sea offers instruction on the basics of computing as well as photo editing, Microsoft Word and Excel. Culinary demonstrations by Chef Claude Palloure get the passengers involved with the cooking.

You still have the captain’s cocktail parties and two formal nights for those ready to dress up. The remaining nights are smart casual, meaning jacket and tie are not required for the gentlemen. And the shops with all manner of gift items are open when at sea and in the evenings, even in port.

Though this is a smaller ship, Princess still provides a variety of dining venues. The main dining room has two dinner seatings with a large traditional menu that changes daily, and also serves open-seating breakfast and lunch.

Buffet breakfast and lunch are served in the Panorama Grill with outdoor and inside seating. At night the Grill serves a light casual-salad-and-pizza menu.

Additional dining is available on alternate nights at the Sterling Steak House ($10 surcharge) with thick cuts of prime rib of beef, porterhouse, filet mignon and New York sirloin steaks grilled to order.

And on other nights, Sabatini’s Trattoria ($20 surcharge) will fill you up with an 18-course dinner including hot and cold appetizers (batter-fried oysters, crab cakes and shrimp), soup, three kinds of pasta and your choice of sea bass on risotto, grilled langoustines, sea scallops, lobster tail with champagne butter, tiger prawns, rosemary spring chicken or a shallot-crusted veal chop. Plan to spend two or three hours at the table and eat very little that day.

Late evening dining from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. can be found in The Bistro with a full menu of appetizers, soup and entrees of pasta, salmon, chicken and steak. All in all, there is 24-hour dining available on the ship, including room service.

The Tahitian Princess has a newly decorated, attractive Observation Lounge/Night Club and a casino bar with a lounge filled with couches and large upholstered armchairs.

Overall, the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, as befits a cruise in the laid-back South Sea Islands.

To keep yourself trim after all of that eating and drinking, head for the fitness center with treadmills, bench presses and weights along with an extensive program of classes in body aerobics, body conditioning, Yoga ($10), kickboxing ($10) and Pilates ($10).

The Lotus Spa has a full beauty salon plus spa treatments where you can be rubbed, pounded or wrapped at prices that range from $99 for a one-hour Oxygen Lifting Facial to $250 for an Ocean Seaweed Wrap with scalp and foot massage plus a one-hour, full-body massage.

Cabins feature a TV, safe and hair dryer. Amenities include shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and, on request, bathrobes, shower cap and bowl of fruit. (Agents, remember to request these at time of booking.)

Top of the line are the 10 Owner’s Suites ranging in size from 786 to 962 square feet including balcony. The larger suites are on the aft end. These offer a separate bedroom, dining table, TV, CD player and one-and-a-half bathrooms with a whirlpool tub. The large veranda has a table with four chairs and two loungers.

A large number of Penthouse Suites take up most of Deck 8, measuring 322 square feet each, including the balcony.

Other cabins are balcony stateroom (216 square feet), oceanview cabins (165 square feet and no balcony) and inside cabins (160 square feet).

Throughout the ship, Princess has maintained its quality standard of housekeeping and personal service.

Harry Basch is the cruise columnist for the Los Angeles Times.