The tradition continues.  Amid the customary maritime pomp, circumstance and cruise line executives, the soon-to-be-built ship, the Royal Princess, was ceremoniously blessed, an incredibly huge crane lowered the keel into place and champagne was poured.  It’s been a good year for Fincantieri shipyards in Monfalcone, Italy.

If the name Royal Princess sounds familiar, you’re not imagining it.  This ship will be the third “Royal Princess” ship in the Princess fleet.  The first Royal Princess set sail 1984 and was inaugurated by Diana, Princess of Wales.  In 2005, the ship was moved over to sister company P&O Cruises and renamed MS Artemis. The second Royal Princess was originally built in 2001 to be the last of the Renaissance Cruises ships, the R-8.   When Renaissance went bankrupt the ship was purchased by Swan Hellenic and renamed the MS Minerva II but in 2007 she joined the Princess fleet as the Royal Princess.  Earlier this year, she became the MS Adonia when she once again changed ownership and joined the P&O Cruises fleet.

The 3,600-passenger, 141,000-ton ship will remain in the building dock until its float-out next summer.

“It’s always very exciting to mark this step in a ship’s construction, when several of the pre-built sections come together to form a new addition to our fleet, especially with a prototype design,” said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises who traveled to Italy for the ceremony. He explained that Royal Princess’ evolutionary design will include some exciting new elements and expanded spaces, while maintaining the classic profile and popular features passengers have come to associate with Princess.

“The keel laying in the building dock marks a fundamental step in the construction of Royal Princess, an innovative prototype ship for one of the most prestigious brands of Carnival Corporation, the world cruise leader, for which Fincantieri has built many vessels in the past,” said Giuseppe Bono, Fincantieri CEO. “We are particularly proud and strongly believe that Fincantieri will build the most beautiful ship in the world.”

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Royal Princess Skywalk
Royal Princess Skywalk 126′ above the sea. Photo credit: Princess Cruises

One of the most dramatic new design elements of Royal Princess is an over-water SeaWalk – a glass-bottomed enclosed walkway extending more than 20 feet beyond the edge of the vessel and a vertigo-inducing 126 feet above the water. On the ship’s opposite side, an over-water SeaView bar will also extend over the waves to provide cocktails and unbeatable vistas.

Royal Princess pool area. Photo credit: Princess Cruises

On her top decks, Royal Princess will feature a new adults-only pool surrounded by seven plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water. Two additional pools will flank a tropical island that will offer pool seating by day, and by night will become an outdoor dance club, complete with a dazzling water and light show. Princess’ signature adults-only haven, The Sanctuary, will be expanded both in size and amenities. The popular poolside theater, Movies Under the Stars, will play a starring role mid-ship with an expanded size and high-definition viewing.

Royal Princess Movies Under the Stars
Royal Princess Movies Under the Stars. Photo credit: Princess Cruises

Royal Princess will feature an expanded version of the company’s signature Piazza – the ship’s central atrium incorporating a myriad of dining, entertainment and retail experiences. And each of the vessel’s outside cabins will include a balcony, meaning 80 percent of all staterooms will offer this popular feature.

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