Review of Princess Cruises’ Emerald Princess Reveals a Gem of Ship

The Piazza is the center of entertainment and fun, especially on sea days and every evening,
The Piazza is the center of entertainment and fun, especially on sea days and every evening,

One of four sister ships, the Emerald Princess cruises on her own merit.

First Impressions
Step onboard the Emerald Princess and at first glance, you’ll immediately be awed by the ship’s understated style and elegance. The Emerald Princess is graced with the same glam and glitz as her three sister ships. The jewel of this ship is the marble-floored Piazza-style atrium with its grand, spiral staircase and towering glass elevators. Here you’ll find guests mingling about, enjoying the adjacent coffee bar, wine bar and “street” entertainers.

A quick walk-through outside reveals four fresh water pools, a huge outdoor movie screen (Movies Under the Stars) and wrap-around walking track. There are activities to lure you outdoors during the day and well into the evening.

The well-designed layout means better passenger flow, fewer traffic jams entering and leaving dining rooms and smaller, intimate meeting rooms and lounges.

Cruise Maven Loves

  • The adults-only Sanctuary; a quiet retreat high above the ship, with snacks and beverages included in the $10 fee.
  • You can dance the night away at Skywalkers lounge. Nearly 200 feet above the sea, the view is amazing.
  • Warm cookies and milk in the evening at Movies Under the Stars. Yum!
  • The Ultimate Balcony Dining experience for breakfast or dinner. The name says it all.
  • The self-service Launderette. It’s so nice to come home with a suitcase full of clean, neatly folded clothes.

There are the usual suspects of cabin categories; suite, mini-suite, balcony, oceanview and interior. Of the 1,557 cabins, over half (881) have balconies. If budget allows, go for one of the 207 suites, from 461 to 687 sq. ft.

Princess offers extra amenities and perks for suites than other premium cruise lines. There’s a complimentary mini-bar set-up, free laundry and a private lounge, to name a few. One of the best perks is the exclusive breakfast at Sabatini’s, far away from the other 2,900 passengers.

The standard balcony stateroom includes a mini-bar and comfortable seating on the balcony.
The standard balcony stateroom includes a mini-bar and comfortable seating on the balcony.

While the mini-suites (323 sq. ft.) don’t offer the same amenities as the suites, you’re not left out in the cold. You still have two TVs, welcome aboard champagne and a bathtub/shower combination.

If a suite or mini-suite is not in your budget, the interior cabins are a roomy 160 sq. ft. and include a refrigerator, flat panel TV and bathroom amenities.

Oceanview staterooms vary in size from 158 to 181 sq. ft. Some oceanview staterooms have obstructed views, so be careful with your choice to avoid an embarkation day surprise.

Over half of the staterooms have a balcony, so there are plenty to choose from in a wide range of prices. An impressive 233 to 285 sq. ft. makes this the ideal in-between choice of staterooms.

Kids programs
Kids from 3 to 17 years will find plenty to do onboard the Emerald Princess. Divided into three groups, ages 3-7 and 8-12 years plus teens from 13-17, each with their own supervised meeting place.

Kids even have special dinners (with counselors) while teens can attend their own formal night event. Late night group sitting is available for ages 3-12 from 10pm to 1am at $5/hour per child. Children under 3 may participate in Youth Center activities if accompanied by a parent.

Bottom line
This isn’t the original Love Boat, but a cruise aboard the Emerald Princess has something that almost everyone would love. Onboard activities span the range from poolside fun and games to art history and computer classes. There’s a wedding chapel with a webcam so friends and family back home can watch the ceremony.

Foodies will love the specialty dining option aptly named “The Chef’s Table” with seating right in the galley. Perfect for families, couples and solo travelers who want a premium cruise experience and the bells and whistles found only on super-sized ships.

Cruise Maven’s Insider Tips

  • You don’t have to race to the Princess Theater for the production shows to get a good seat. The theater has a clear sight-line without support poles to block your view.
  • Want to see areas of the ship that are usually off-limits? Sign up early for the Behind the Scenes Tour to see the engine room, medical center, laundry area and even visit the bridge and meet the captain. Space is limited to this twice-a-cruise event.
  • Note that the Sanctuary is reserved in two shifts: 8am-12:30pm and 1pm-5pm or later. Plan ahead and book early, especially for sea days.

Just so you don’t think I’m partial to this ship, I’ll add that some people don’t like the traffic flow from the theater, the smaller-sized public rooms or the fact that the Sanctuary pool (only) is open to the non-paying guest. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to make everyone happy on every cruise ship out there on the seas. It’s a beautiful ship with excellent service, the hot food is served hot and the coffee is just the right strength. What’s not to like?

Fast facts
Sailing since:  May 2007, refurbished 2009
Size: 113,560
Number of passengers/crew:  3,080/1,142
Number of accessible cabins:  25
Number of Dining options:  11 (7 free)
Itineraries: Winter and spring of 2015, the Emerald Princess sails the Caribbean from Houston. When the ship returns from Europe in the fall of 2015, Ft. Lauderdale will be the new homeport for the Emerald Princess.

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