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Royal Princess

It’s the end of February. Birds should be twittering, buds should be beginning to bud, and in general the sap should be showing some signs of rising. Instead, it’s as raw as – well, a very raw thing indeed, and to cap it all it’s been snowing today. Even the snowdrops are complaining – “in late February looking white & fluffy is our job!”. So let’s cheer ourselves up by ignoring the weather, forgetting ships that have been breaking down or worse, and think about one of this year’s coming attractions, the arrival of Royal Princess.

This is a very big deal indeed, in fact. It’s the first completely new design for Princess (and P&O – more of that later) for about 15 years. Grand Princess, the first ship of that extensive and successful class – 11 have been built, counting all the variants – was delivered as long ago as 1998. Since then Princess have largely just produced variations on the Grand Princess theme – only the two smaller Panamax ships, Coral & Island Princesses, have broken the run of Grand Princess-class ships. And although there was a size bump when the extra deck (Riviera deck) was added to later ships in the class, that has been the only increase in ship capacity in the Princess fleet through all that time. During the same period Carnival Cruise Line and Costa Cruises built several classes of bigger ships, while Royal Caribbean now have a significant number of larger ships – not counting the Oasis and Allure behemoths which are actually ‘special purpose’ ships in that they can’t cruise anywhere except out of southern Florida, nor to anywhere except a small number of ports in the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean now have a significant number of ships at around 140,000/150,000 gross tons. Even Celebrity has surpassed Princess, with their highly-rated Solstice class, and they’ve now got five of them; and of course NCL and MSC also have at least some ships at around 150,000 gross tons. So Princess has perhaps been slipping behind the leaders. And not just in size; afficianados of big ships would say that it’s not just about the number of passengers, it’s about the range of facilities that the extra size can make available. So the arrival of Royal Princess is important for the lines. Here’s a round-up of the information about her.

First, when will she arrive?. That’s easy – all being well, she’ll be handed-over to Princess by the Fincantieri shipyard in early June. Her first port of call will actually be Southampton; she’ll arrive on 7 June and will lie at the Ocean Terminal for a couple of days. Then she’s doing a couple of short (2 night) cruises on 9 and 14 June; in between them she’ll be at the Ocean Terminal doubtless entertaining the cruise departments of the UK’s travel industry. Then she departs on her maiden voyage (to Barcelona) on 16 June, from where she’ll offer her maiden season of cruises. (I suppose I ought to express a small caveat here – while Fincanteri have delivered all the recent ships on time and to spec, this is the first ship of a new class they’ve built for a while. If they are going to have problem with a new build it’s more likely to be with this one. But their record is good.)

Next, what about her facilities? The best way to provide information about that is to re-direct readers to these two pages about her on the Princess website. First, here’s the link to their Royal Princess hub page. Then here’s a link to a down-loadable pdf file which contains much the same information, just laid out differently. Both these links will provide access to deck plans.

What sort of state is she in right now? Well, I haven’t found anything bang up to date, but probably the best site is a flickr site that Princess are maintaining which shows pictures of her during construction.

And finally, what’s the relevance to UK cruisers? Well, Carnival have ordered three ships of this class. Royal Princess is the first, and the second, also for Princess, will be delivered on 2014 and will be named ‘Regal Princess’. The third, as yet unnamed (or at least the name, if already chosen, hasn’t been revealed) will be going to P&O in 2015. We can expect that bars, restaurants, etc, will be different-named and orientated, but I’m certain that the actual physical ship of which P&O will take delivery in 2015 will be the same as this forthcoming Royal Princess – hull, decks, position of facilities, etc. So what we see here is the future of P&O.

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