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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Princess Cruises Names New Cruise Ship Celebrating Women of NASA and LTD Took an Inaugural Voyage On Board Sky Princess

Princess has finally debuted a new ship with a tribute to the pioneering women of the U.S. Space Program, that will be used in North America for the Winter: The Sky Princess. LTD was on board for its inaugural transatlantic cruise. At first glance, the Sky Princess appears to be nearly identical to recent vessels launched by the line. It has the same central Piazza lined with cafes, bars, shops and restaurants, and the Crown Grill, Lotus Spa and Princess Theater are all right there where you expect to find them.


You will find several new elements on the new Sky Princess that are innovative, as well as quite a few adjustments to the basic Princess ship design that make it much better. For many Princess regulars this might be the best Princess ship to date. Here are some highlights to expect if you book a cruise on Sky Princess.






Cabins


Perhaps the most noticeable additions to Sky Princess are the two grand Sky Suites that are overlooking the main pool area on the top of the ship.  Measuring more than 1,800 square feet each, these are the biggest suites ever on a Princess ship, which has never offered big suites. Additionally, they are the first cabins in Princess that can accommodate more than four people -- with two bedrooms, a living room and a pullout sofa, they can fit about five passengers. However, more than half the square footage of the Sky Suites is occupied by giant wraparound balconies, leaving just under 1,000 square feet for the interior.







Courtesy Princess Cruises


Is this what passengers are looking for? During our cruise it was rare to see anyone on the Sky Suite balcony - only once did we see a single passenger there to watch Sunday afternoon football with a bucket of beer.  But, what the sky suites DO offer is an awesome home-theater experience. From lounge chairs on their elevated balconies, passengers have a direct view across the pool deck to the  massive Movies Under the Stars LED screen, which plays films most of the day and night. Not only is this the best seat in the house, but (for an extra charge, yet to be set) you can pick the movie that will play on the giant screen. In other words, if you’re staying in one of these suites, you can subject the entire vessel to your movie preferences!



The Sky Suites also come with the highest price tag ever for a Princess cabin, with fares for seven-night sailings starting around $7,000 per person!

Some will notice that Sky Princess is bulkier at the front of the ship than earlier Royal Class vessels. The line has added a partial deck to make room for not just the giant Sky Suites, but also 52 more cabins.

We viewed several cabins including rear balcony, mini suites, deluxe balconies etc. Princess devotees won't see many differences in the details. With the idea of healthy travel we were pleased to interview the occupants of a handicapped balcony room. If you plan to book a handicap accessible room we recommend booking at least 6 months in advance. Don't anticipate that you can get an accessible room at the last minute. These get reserved early and if the trip is cancelled by a passenger the accessible rooms go back into the pool for the general population. One does not need to provide any proof of handicap status - just sign an declaration that one passenger is handicapped. We hope this not an abused amenity! The handicapped balcony cabin was spacious enough for prosthetics, wheelchairs or other assistive devices and even had a ramp to access the balcony. We wouldn't say the balcony was any larger - such as to easily maneuver a wheelchair but large enough for access. The bathroom definitely provided enough room for handicapped passengers and the medallion access pad was placed low enough to recognize a passenger in a wheelchair.

Obviously Princess sees revenue in suites.  On the Sky Princess there are 38 new balcony cabins around the ship and six ocean-view cabins around the adults-only Retreat area on Deck 17.



With all of the new cabins and suites...the Sky Princess sounds crowded doesn't it? 


At a typical double occupancy of two passengers per cabin, there are potentially an additional 108 passengers on a vessel designed for 3,660 people. That’s a 3% jump compared to previous Royal class liners. We didn’t feel the extra passengers, even on our many at sea days because of the layout. Princess ships have many private areas. We continually remarked that the ship didn’t seem crowded. Of course there are those persons that just love a smaller ship and find anything over 800 passengers as crowded. We prefer a larger ship because there are more things to do and so many more quiet spaces!

We chose our usual inside cabin C731 which had very few changes. It was quiet and comfortable with enough storage and space for us!




Your sleep will be amazing in a quiet inside cabin because there is only as much light as you want, any time of day. Plus they are usually quieter than balconies where everyone is in and out of their balcony doors constantly throughout the day. The last thing that we like about inside cabins is the price. Would you rather take three cruises per year and see more locations or spend the same amount of money on one cruise and have a balcony or suite? That is your decision financially.

RxTip: Bring Clips and Hooks!





Make the most of storage in your cabin by incorporating hooks to hold important paperwork like itineraries, tickets or even accessories like hats, scarves, jackets etc.  There are many options and here are our favorites!  Support our blog buy clicking below to learn more at Amazon! Thank you so much!!!!



Food




Princess is going through a transition of menus. Still present are the Curtis Love chocolate journeys on various nights which we always look for! “Princess favorites” is undergoing a transformation with previous favorites like grilled salmon disappearing and a former specialty items like French onion soup making an appearance nightly. The regular offerings of specialty sorbet and ice cream are down to two new offerings per night rather than three.  As you may have seen on other Princess ships, Crown Grill Selects are offered every night, but in our opinion, we would rather go to the Crown Grill for an additional $10 per person.


Alfredo’s has expanded their menu to include more offerings other than pizza which are delicious - such as antipasto, tiramisu and ravioli. The rumor is that Princess is considering making this a specialty restaurant. There was constantly a line at meal time rivaling the line for the pub lunch.


Bellini’s is noticeably absent, replaced by Good Spirits which was busy and great offerings. Two mixologists tend the bar every night.



Sabatini’s in same location but redecorated. The menu has changed at 17 is over the last several years and in our opinion for the better. The Food offered at 17 years is excellent and we loved the quietness and Service and Luxury provided at this restaurant. For an up charge of $25 per person it is worth it for a special night out of Dining in our opinion.

La Mer is the newest addition to the specialty restaurants on board princess cruise ships this is the first time we have seen this specially seafood restaurant on board a princess cruise. It overlooks the Piazza and has the feeling of a French bistro. In our opinion yet is not isolated enough or quiet enough for us to pay $29 extra per person to have a meal.





Conscious Travel


Princess is striving to reduce their carbon footprint and this theme repeats itself throughout the ship and here are some examples:

1. For a number of years since the launch of the Royal, stateroom amenities have been transitioning from individual soaps and bottles just like California has outlawed individual bottles at hotels. Princess continues its refillable soap and shampoo bottles in the shower and now has the same at your sink.


2.  Since the Medallion entry-way has been added to every cabin, no longer will you have the nightly barrage advertisements left at your door for art auctions, shopping guides, spa advertisements etc. Although they occasionally make it into the Patter as an insert.


3.  The Patter is smaller with less information and during our meeting with the crew it became clear that Princess is transitioning away from the paper patter to the ocean medallion app. Unfortunately information is being removed from the patter before being moved to the app such as descriptions about the entertainment which was a common complaint among passengers.


For example, the MacDonald brothers, a duo from Scotland who were of Xfactor fame in England had no description what so ever. We wondered if they would be serving us burgers and fries! BTW they were outstanding and might have drawn a larger crowd of advertised accordingly!

4.  Straws: For a few years princess has been transitioning from straws but still has them available upon request for cold drinks and they are still plastic.

5.  Photo studio: now you can look at your photos taken throughout the cruise on computer screens rather than the continuously printed and displayed photos over the course of your cruise. Gone is the fun of searching for your personal photographs amongst the thousands that are cumulative during your cruise for the fun of looking at other person‘s photos. Now are the days of seeing only your photos and finding your photos with the press of a medallion.

6.  Concierge lounge: Now the club class is not just preferred dining and a few additional benefits, there is a concierge lounge with food and beverages (non alcoholic) on deck 14.


7.  Noticeably at the buffet the melamine dinnerware are gone to be replaced by porcelain plates and mugs even for use around the pools. However plastic glasses are still used! We love the porcelain dinnerware but we have to wonder how long this will last (yes we saw some breakage)!



Medallion 


The Sky Princess is the first ship completely designed to be a Medallion Class Vessel.  Overall we loved the Ocean Medallion app but it definitely needs more work.

Boarding and disembarking were speedy with the medallion compared to the standard card scan.

Getting into your stateroom was speedy and easy with the medallion.  The detector realizes you are approaching and unlocks the door for you.

We loved the Ocean Compass to find fellow passengers but this app needs some help. Search fellow passengers by name to allow for location and messaging. You can allow your location to be available with anyone who you connect with (or not). We used this often as we made many connections through the Cruise Critic roll call group.

We constantly had to reconnect to wifi and login to every Ocean app. At first we thought this was because we were going ashore and out of the Princess wifi environment, but unfortunately this inconvenience continued on our 7 days straight at sea. This aggravation makes one lose interest in the new technology.


Another part of the Ocean Medallion apps that we liked was the Ocean NOW section where you could order a drink from anywhere on the ship to be brought to you. Different bars offer different libations and once you’ve found your favorite, you can get it. Plus on our cruise the first drink you ordered was free!

RxTip:


Save money and buy an Ocean Medallion holder on Amazon before you leave.  The cruise line provides a lanyard type holder prior to embarkation but these break easily.  We like the option of clips, bands or watch adapters for convenience with our active vacations.  Please click the ads below to support our blog and see what we used.  Thank you so much!



Fitness 



The fitness room on the Sky Princess is one of the best that we have ever seen at sea. Features that are impressive on the Sky Princess are the large number of aerobic machines, and the large number of weight training options that are available throughout the entire gym.






The most notable improvement was the addition of the conditioning room, which includes kettle bells, ropes, Corebag and many other things to improve your overall toning.





The outdoor walking track is unchanged with a basketball court with possibility of tennis or pickle ball. However the fitness equipment along the track is gone.




The pools are very similar with an adults only regular-sized pool at the front of the ship - not in the Sanctuary.

Infinity pool Located on deck 16 over the after the ship is a nice addition with a few chaise lounges with in the water. These were not use very much on our transatlantic voyage since the weather was generally too cold for sunbathing.







RxTip:  Find Your Cruise Critic Roll Call
Find roll calls by cruise line, cruise ship, or sailing date to connect with other Cruise Critic members on the same cruise.  Not only will you meet people, enjoy meeting the officers of the ship, touring cabins, finding shore excursions and get great advice.

Entertainment


There were fewer production shows (2 for 14 days) but the ones performed were new to the princess fleet and at the time of publication only performed on the Sky Princess. They were unique compared to usual.
Rock Opera is one-of-a-kind production featuring incredible costumes inspired by avant-garde fashion with a musical soundtrack spanning classic rock, opera and musical theater, sung in English, Spanish, Latin and even sign language
The new show 5 Skies incorporated a new state of the art projection ability that is present on no other cruise ship and acrobatic routines that we have never seen on Princess before. 5-SKIES was created by director and choreographer Danny Teeson, Music Producer Nelson Kole, scenic designer John Iacovelli and costume designer Jackson Lowell. 





A brand-new puppet show is pure fun called Jim Henson's Inspired Silliness. From the brilliant mind of legendary puppeteer Jim Henson, brought to life by The Jim Henson Company and director John Tartaglia, this original production for all ages.

The live shows with individual performers were outstanding and included some performers we have met in the past, and new ones that were just as exciting!



Gone is the Crooners bar which was replaced by La Mer. Enter “Take Five” located at the site of the former Club Fusion. Its layout is similar to Club Fusion but at the opposite end of the room is space for a jazz trio. On our cruise this consisted of members of the Princess Orchestra - drummer, guitarist and bassist. We believe it would be better to utilize this room for bigger acts to fill it nightly- much like the Crooner’s bar has done in the past. It is a great locale away from the noise of the Piazza and better sound.



Music plays nightly in the Piazza with lots of dancing (and line dancing!). The Wheelhouse bar outside the Crown Grill has piano or musicians every evening and the Vista Lounge turns into a dancing venue after 11 PM. Princess Live! is an open venue now and on most evenings musicians will play on stage there.

Just a random note


This may be just something specific to the Sky Princess, but it was noticeable to us that up-selling was significantly less on this cruise then on previous cruises. No question, it is still there, such as the constant request to attend the platinum photo studio, but overall promotions seemed to be less than usual.

Bottom Line:



The Sky Princess will be familiar to avid followers. It is new and clean. There are some new venues and restaurants but nothing overwhelmingly new. For fitness fanatics like us, the additional movement studio and increased number of machines is perfect. Of course the Sky Suites are a new attraction, but not for most passengers.

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