- Royal Princess takes passengers on a ten-day cruise around southern Caribbean
- It allows travellers to experience the best rum on offer on the five island stops
- But the champagne waterfall on board the cruise liner is a sight to behold
Only the shoes are missing!’ Proudly displayed in a glass case next to the Customer Services desk on Royal Princess is the outfit that Kate Middleton wore when she launched the flagship cruise liner, including her Dalmatian spot coat hanging on a stand.
‘Everything but the shoes,’ sighs Luis, the twinkly Shore Excursions Manager. ‘We have the scissors she used to cut the ribbon, the letter she wrote to us. We even have the foil and the neck of the champagne bottle, but the shoes…’
We’d come across the display while exploring on our first evening aboard as the ship sailed out of Fort Lauderdale in Florida for a ten-day Southern Caribbean cruise in search of the best rum punch.
The famous champagne waterfall being carefully poured in Royal Princess’s enormous atrium
We started with the ship’s own version at the Mermaid’s Tale bar by the pool area – seriously good – before setting off, clutching our little pocket maps. My other half Grant and I had sailed with the Princess line around Japan a couple of years before and loved it, so there were many familiar aspects to the ship. But here, we soon discovered, everything is on a much grander scale across the 19 decks.
The central atrium is huge, gleaming and glamorous and there’s a glitzy elegance to the bewildering choice of bars and restaurants.
The poolside screen for the Movies Under The Stars feature is the biggest at sea – and the central triple pool complex has fabulous dancing fountain displays.
The seawalk glass walkway, meanwhile, extends so there’s nothing but glass beneath your feet and the sea many decks below. Mesmerising once you’ve got your nerve.
And the state-of-the-art TV studio means you can watch live shows there, or on your TV in your cabin, or on catch-up.
Featured on The Cruise series on ITV earlier this year, Royal Princess is the largest cruise ship we’ve been on, carrying 3,500 passengers (never mind the 1,300 crew). How would we cope away from our compact stateroom? Would we be overwhelmed? Would we ever get to the stage where we could navigate our way round without our maps?
A waterfall near Dominica’s Titou Gorge, which is just as impressive as the champagne one
No worries. There was plenty of time to get our bearings. The first two days were spent at sea while the ship made its way right down the Caribbean to the Dutch island of Aruba just off the north coast of South America. Venezuela is almost within sight. I’d always been intrigued and wondered where Aruba was, ever since – very non-PC – the days when Miss Aruba was always the first alphabetically in the Miss World contest on TV.
Somehow we never felt crowded, not even on the first Formal Night in the atrium. It was nice to have a chance to glam up a bit and squeeze into the frock. We discovered the bulk of our companions were from the US (‘We just love your Queen and that Princess Kate. That’s a great coat!’) as Captain Craig Street, a Scot, welcomed each nation.
Everybody was on parade, officers in their whites, for another Princess tradition, the Captain’s Champagne Waterfall. Watching maitre d’hôtel Giorgio nonchalantly splashing bottle after bottle over the fragile tower of champagne coupes – what if it collapses? – fills you with wonder.
But it was less scary than watching young guys tombstoning into the pool beneath the tall, fern-festooned Annandale Falls as we did on Grenada. Or swimming through a dark cave towards the falls inside Titou Gorge on Dominica. All three just thrilling waterfall experiences, for sure. I know which one I want to repeat.
We did a lot of swimming. The sand on palm-tree-lined Eagle Beach in Aruba was so soft and pale it was almost like powder. We celebrated with a rum punch in a little bar on the dock opposite the ship.
Featured on The Cruise series on ITV earlier this year, the Royal Princess can carry 3,500 passengers
The next morning on the way back from snorkelling on nearby Bonaire – along with neighbour Curacao, it makes up the Dutch trio called the ABC islands – we drank rum punches on the catamaran. It was 11am and they were delicious.
On board we eased into a routine. Each morning I’d go to the top-deck gym before joining Grant for a swim in the Fountain pool before breakfast. We couldn’t believe it, but at 8.30am we always had it to ourselves. It was all very necessary because the food was mind-boggling.
We decided the only way to battle non-stop opportunities to fill our faces was to keep it simple during the day and not go too mad at night. Well, that was the theory. The Chef’s Table Lumiere, which started with champagne and canapes in the galley and continued via a six-course gourmet menu, had me photographing the pudding: Bitter Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel Cream and Chocolate Crunch. By contrast, on one day we ate conch fritters from a paper plate on a beach by a shack on Grand Turk – just bliss.
The Duchess of Cambridge officially cut the ribbon to officially name the Royal Princess in June 2013, shortly before the birth of Prince George
You can’t see and do everything, but we had a good go. A visit to the bridge had me walking like the Duke of Edinburgh, hands behind my back out of the way. The technology was so stunning. We loved hilarious stand-up Troy Thirdgill, and The Love Boat Disco Pool Party was a great night.
Above on the big screen were images from the original TV series – filmed on a Princess ship 40 years ago – while below, the ship’s team danced their socks off round the pools to 1970s hits such as Dancing Queen.
Something for everyone, is it the ship with everything? Well not quite. There is the question of the Royal shoes. Over to you Kate…
And the best rum punch? I think it was in Grenada. But there’s no such thing as a bad one.
Princess Cruises (0344 338 8672) offers a ten-night Southern Caribbean Medley cruise from Fort Lauderdale from £819pp, departing on March 10. It visits the Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire and Aruba, and includes return flights and full board.
A ten-night Eastern Caribbean Voyager cruise from Fort Lauderdale, departing September 28, costs from £879pp.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online