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
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.
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
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
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.