Emerald City

Princess’ newbuild is a home away from home

By: Ana Figueroa

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Emerald Princess sails the Mediterranean
and Greek Islands this summer.
Here’s the story of a lovely lady.

Who is destined for some very happy days.

The “lady” in this case is Emerald Princess, the newest addition to the Princess Cruises fleet. Her May 13 naming ceremony on a sunny day in the port of Athens coincided with Mother’s Day. It also featured a pair of iconic television mothers and daughters as the ship’s godmothers: Florence Henderson and Susan Olsen (“The Brady Bunch”) and Marion Ross and Erin Moran (“Happy Days”). With the “Love Boat” captain (and Princess spokesperson) Gavin MacLeod acting as master of ceremonies, the event was a baby boomer’s dream. And, judging by passenger response to the 1970’s stars, cruising at least on Princess is now the domain of forty-somethings.

The naming ceremony marked the start of what will be a true “European summer” for Princess and indeed the entire cruise industry. Cruise lines are deploying ships to the Continent in record-breaking numbers. Emerald Princess entered service from the port of Rome, Civitavecchia. She’ll spend the summer sailing Mediterranean and Greek Isle cruises that will take passengers to a different wonder of the ancient world nearly every day. On such port-intensive journeys, the elegant ship makes a welcoming home away from home.

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The Piazza Atrium is
a central gathering spot.
Sister ship to the Crown Princess, the 113,000-ton, 3,070-passenger Emerald incorporates and builds upon the features that made Crown Princess such a hit. Foremost among them is a piazza-style atrium that serves as the ship’s focal point. It’s designed to feel like an open-air cafe, with comfortable tables and chairs clustered around a central courtyard next to a sweeping spiral staircase. Guests gather there at all hours of the day and night, to meet friends, enjoy an aperitif or sample the vintages at Vines wine and seafood bar. There’s also entertainment during the day, ranging from chamber music to street performers. But it’s never so obtrusive that guests can’t find a quiet place in the corner to relax or read a guidebook to prepare for the next day’s adventures.

The atrium also housed my favorite space aboard the ship, the International Cafe. It’s an authentic coffee house (complete with Wi-Fi), serving specialty coffee drinks, morning pastries, afternoon panini and salads, gelato and freshly baked cookies. In the afternoon, waitresses walk around with glasses of cold milk as an accompaniment for the cookies. It’s a true slice of home, especially comforting during such an exotic itinerary. In fact, I found myself foregoing numerous chances to stop at some real Mediterranean cafes on shore. The option back on the ship was perfectly cozy, and besides, the waiters already knew how I liked my lattes.

Emerald Princess features the two alternative dining venues that have proven so popular on its other vessels: Crown Grill and Sabatini’s. The latter is connected to the Adagio Lounge, an intimate setting for desserts and after-dinner drinks. And there’s a lovely outdoor area outside the Lounge for enjoying cocktails al fresco.

Princess has also introduced some new dining programs on the Emerald that will eventually be rolled out fleetwide. These include new dining room menus, enhanced buffet service and room service pizza featuring a “delivery-style” cardboard container that keeps its contents piping hot. The option to kick back and enjoy some pizza in the room is a much-appreciated bonus after a long, hot day of sightseeing in the Mediterranean sun.

Also new onboard Emerald Princess is the “Chef’s Table,” a specially prepared culinary experience for a maximum of 10 guests ($75 charge per person). The evening includes a visit to the ship’s galley for champagne and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a multi-course tasting menu (including wines) served in the dining room, highlighted by the chance to mingle with the chef.

As for other features, Emerald Princess offers an adults-only relaxation area called the Sanctuary, a “Movies Under the Stars” poolside screen, Lotus Spa and fitness center, teen and children’s areas, as well as a wedding chapel. Princess is the only major North American cruise line whose captains can actually perform marriage ceremonies at sea. On our cruise, more than one guest asked Gavin MacLeod if he would do the honors.


Emerald Princess will operate 12-day Mediterranean and 12-day Greek Isles cruises this summer from Venice, Barcelona and Rome. Highlights include Florence, Pisa, Athens, Mykonos and Katakolon. In September, the ship repositions to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for a season of Caribbean cruises.