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Cruise Ship Review
Princess Cruises

Sea Princess

by John Mills

Sea Princess Western Caribbean Inaugural Christmas Cruise
December 19, 1998

Sea Princess

Introduction

Princess Cruises has 'done it again' with the introduction of the Sea Princess, triplet to the highly acclaimed Sun Princess and Dawn Princess. Inaugural festivities began in Fort Lauderdale on December 16, 1998. Present to help launch the third in a series of Grand Class ships were celebrity musical and acting threesomes, including The Pointer Sisters, The Shirelles, "My Three Sons" siblings Robbie, Chip and Ernie, Salt-N-Pepa and '50s faves Jerry Mathers (The Beaver) along with his brother Wally (Tony Dow) and pal Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) who talked about life after "Leave It To Beaver."

Rising 14 stories above the ocean and measuring 856 feet in length, the Sea Princess is the third 77,000-ton, $300 million superliner in Princess Cruises' Grand Class fleet. Like her sisters Sun Princess and Dawn Princess, she offers her 1,950 passengers a large number of cabins with private balconies (400+), two state-of-the-art showrooms, two main restaurants, a 24-hour cafe, an oceanview fitness center, sports deck and 19 staterooms to accommodate disabled passengers.

I had the pleasure of sailing on the December 19, 1998 maiden voyage of the Sea Princess from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to the Western Caribbean. I traveled with my friend, Carol Carlson who had been on four previous cruises. This was my twenty-first cruise.

Arrival and Embarkation

Our flight arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 10:50 am and we were met at the gate by a Princess Representative. As passengers began to arrive, the Princess Representatives (who were very prevalent in the airport) asked everyone to congregate in a specific area. At approximately 12:00 noon, the bus arrived, we boarded and were on our way to the terminal. Note: if you had put your Sea Princess luggage tags on the luggage when you checked in for your flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Princess took your luggage off the carousel and transported it to the terminal -- you did not see it again until you were onboard the ship.

After a short ride to the terminal, we saw the Sea Princess in the distance. Princess personnel were in abundance as we stepped from the bus and made our way into the embarkation room. Check-in was by cabin numbers and you went to the appropriate line. If another line had no passengers, the clerks would call someone from another line over to their line. All in all, it went very smoothly and we were on the ship at 12:45. Suites and mini-suites had a separate check-in line.

Once onboard, we were met by ship's staff who directed us to our stateroom. We were not escorted but found that this was no problem. There was staff at every elevator, stairwell and hallway on the ship to ensure that you could find your way around. We easily found our way to D337.

Stateroom

Outside CabinWe were in a Category F, outside obstructed view stateroom. This meant that one of the lifeboats was hanging outside the window. Plenty of light was able to come into the room. The beds could be configured together as one or as two twins. There was ample drawer and closet space. Bathrobes were provided for use in the room. There was a small refrigerator, television and hair dryer in the room and all in all was a very comfortable room.

The bathroom was a typical cruise ship bathroom (small), but the shower itself was larger than on other ships I have been on. There was plenty of shelf space to store personal items on. One thing I would like to see in this room would be some hooks on the wall to hang clothes on while dressing.

Public Rooms

Grand PlazaBoarding the Sea Princess on Plaza Deck, you enter the Grand Plaza, the four-story hub of much activity for the week. The general ship layout is the same as that of the Sun Princess and the Dawn Princess. The décor and colors on the Sea Princess are more vivid than those of her two predecessors. Overall, she is a very elegant and sophisticated vessel. The Grand Plaza is accented in glass, brass and marble with a floating staircase sweeping from the Plaza Deck to the Emerald Deck and two glass elevators going up the four stories.

On Plaza Deck is the Purser's Desk and Shore Excursion Desk. There is ample space to lounge in one of the comfortable chairs and sofas provided, and sip a drink from the bar conveniently located on this deck. Plaza Deck also has one of the two Dining Rooms on the ship - the Neapolitan Dining Room. The Neapolitan is very pleasingly appointed with tables in groupings, several raised slightly on platforms. Padded waist-high dividers helped to dampen the noise. Wait staff were extremely efficient and friendly. Service herein was excellent. Dining was a pleasure and the noise level was not near as bad as the dining room on the Century. Conversations could be held with ease, whereas on the Century, you could hardly hear the person next to you.

Passenger staterooms are located forward on Plaza Deck.

Up one level from the Plaza Deck to the Emerald Deck you find the Princess Shops, including the logo shop which had a great selection of Sea Princess and Princess Cruises logo wear. This shop also sold casual wear for men and women as well as necessities like toiletries. Across the Atrium from this shop was the jewelry store and formal-wear boutique. The second dining room, the Sicilian Dining Room, a virtual twin to the Neapolitan Dining Room, is located on this deck. Passenger staterooms are located forward on this deck as well.

 

Up another level you find yourself on the Promenade Deck (yes, this ship has a wraparound Promenade Deck), where most of the ship's nightlife takes place. Located on this level you find the Atrium Lounge where you can sit and have a drink while listening to piano melodies.

Wheelhouse BarHeading forward from the Atrium Lounge, you find the nautically-themed Wheelhouse Bar (where a live combo plays). Décor in the Wheelhouse is geared to ship memorabilia, including a large ship model and paintings. The quaint atmosphere in this room is enhanced by the comfortable leather sofas and high back upholstered wing chairs. Past the Wheelhouse forward, you find the Princess Theatre.

This is one of the best theatres afloat, providing excellent entertainment in a room with no bad sightlines. It is decorated in deep red tones with large paintings on the wall. One nice feature is that no waiters were trying to sell drinks during shows in this lounge. Chairs are comfortable, each successive row elevated behind the other.

Heading aft from the Grand Plaza and Atrium Lounge, you find Rocky's Disco. Unlike some ships that have the disco in a room that doubles as a lounge at other times during the cruise, this is a true disco, designed for that purpose only. Neon lighting supplements the dark purples and grays in this happening spot. The DJ provided fantastic music during the evenings, from disco on to today's popular hits.

Passing the Disco, you find the Library, which is a great place to sit in a comfortable chair and read a book or listen to music on the self-contained headsets. The Card Room is opposite the Library and has numerous tables at which to sit and play cards or board games, all the while looking out onto the Promenade and outlying ocean vista.

Vista LoungeContinuing down the main hallway, you find the photo shop and gallery and the Vista Lounge. The Vista Lounge is where additional entertainment for the evenings takes place. It is laid off in small seating groups of a settee, small table and several chairs. During shows here, waiters dispense drinks as requested.

The Sea Princess divides the evening entertainment between both the Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge. For example, one evening, Neapolitan Dining Room guests would be asked to attend the show in the Princess Theatre while the guests dining in the Sicilian Dining Room would be asked to attend the show in the Vista Lounge. The next night, it would be switched. On one occasion, tickets were even handed out for the appropriate shows.

No passenger cabins are located on the Promenade Deck, which by the way, is true to its name, with a traditional wrap-around Promenade that saw many people happily strolling along, arm in arm.

Lago'sThe top level of the Grand Plaza takes you to Dolphin Deck and finds Lago's Pizzeria. This spot, decorated in wrought iron tables and chairs, some with upholstered settees, was open from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and from 11:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m. This became a popular spot during the week and the pizza was excellent. Located opposite Lago's is the Grand Casino, a large area with an abundance of slots (from $.25 machines to $5.00 machines) and the traditional gaming tables. A striking feature in the casino is the spiral staircase (going down to the Promenade Deck) with a roulette wheel and stained-glass ceiling.

Passenger staterooms are located forward and aft on this deck.

The next three levels, Caribe Deck, Baja Deck, and Aloha Deck contain only passenger staterooms.

Sea Princess Main PoolUp to the next level, Riviera Deck finds the Riviera Pool and Bar, the Children's Center, the Teen Center, the Beauty Parlor, Business Center, Princess Links and Oasis Spa and Health Center. The Business Center provided most computing needs, including PC's (hooked up to the Internet for a charge of $7.50 for fifteen minutes) and a fax.

Lido Deck contains the Horizon Court 24-hour restaurant, Grill and ample deck chairs for lounging in the sun. The Horizon Court provides buffets for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Buffets are closed in the evenings and the forward area is used as the Bistro. The Bistro provides an alternative sit down restaurant, with fare different from that in the Dining Rooms. In the evenings, music and dancing is provided in the center are of the Horizon Court. One nice feature of the Horizon Court on this class of ships is the fact that it provides a very relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Buffet lines are set aside and can be closed off, and the room has various elevations and great views of the outside world around. This provides for a much better setting than some ships' buffet areas that resemble a cafeteria. This is a very pleasant room on the Sea Princess.

The Grill offers hamburger and hot dog fare with french fries on the open deck. Deck chairs are located on Lido Deck overlooking the pool, down the sides of the ship and around the back to the Oasis Bar, overlooking the Oasis Pool.

Sun Deck contains ample space for deck chairs and a wading pool forward and a paddle tennis court aft.

Dining

Both Dining Rooms served early seating at 6:00 p.m. and late seating at 8:45 p.m. Food was up to par with my past experiences on Princess and I have viewed that food as excellent. The Maitre d' and Head Waiter came to the table every evening to chat and try to get you to eat the pasta they were preparing. Flexibility was one of the key words on this cruise. If something did not suit you, the Princess staff was happy to accommodate you, whether it meant bringing you more of a favorite dish or preparing something special, it was no problem. Our waiter, David and busboy, Constantine were the best. David has just been promoted to a Head Waiter on the Grand Princess and will be leaving the ship soon.

Not only in the Dining Room, but throughout the ship, I found the staff to be interested in pleasing the passengers and they went out of their way to do so. One thing to note was that the late seating was at 8:45 p.m., and the evening shows usually began at 10:50 p.m. Most tables were finished and out of the dining room by 10:40 or so, but our table never made it to the evening show on time.

Entertainment

Evening entertainment varied from the production shows like 'Glamour' and 'Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance' to comedians, magicians and ventriloquists. The production shows were done with flair, with great enthusiasm shown in the dancing and singing by the entertainers.

The Week Onboard

Saturday, December 19, 1998

Excitement rose as the time drew nigh for the departure of the Sea Princess on its maiden voyage. A countdown was held over the loudspeaker system, the ship's whistle blew, and we were off. Cruising past the condos leaving Port Everglades, we saw send-off signs and had the typical horn-blowing, light-flipping send-off. Princess had set off fireworks earlier in the week, so there were none at this particular time. Attire for the evening was casual.

Sunday, December 20, 1998

Princess Cays is an absolutely lovely and tranquil spot. We arrived slightly behind schedule and tendering began late. Tickets were handed out and you were called to tender over. Open call tendering was opened at about 1:00 p.m. at which point tickets were no longer needed to go ashore. Princess Cays is a great spot and Princess has it done first rate. Stone walkways mark paths between the shops, bars, hammocks and beach chairs. You can lounge on a hammock, beach chair, rent a jet ski or float. Princess also serves a beach barbecue.

This was the first formal night with the Captains Cocktail party held in the Grand Plaza.

Monday, December 21, 1998

At Sea. Aaahh ... this is the life.
The weather was warm, the sun shining. Attire for the evening was casual.

Tuesday, December 22, 1998

Ocho Rios, Jamaica is not one of my favorite places. We took a shopping tour which left at noon. We slept late, ate a leisurely breakfast, then went ashore to meet our tour. It was a nice tour, with the highlight for me being the Wassi Art Pottery Factory. Coming back ashore, I ran into Ray, my assistant cabin steward from this past summer's journey into Scandinavia/Russia (on the Royal Princess). He has now been promoted to a cabin steward. The Westerdam was also in port. This evening's attire was casual.

Wednesday, - December 23, 1998

In Georgetown, Grand Cayman, I took advantage of the opportunity with everyone off the ship and enjoyed having the ship virtually to myself. This was a busy day on the island with the Imagination, Westerdam and the Veendam also in port. Tendering here went quite smoothly. This evening's attire was casual.

Thursday, - December 24, 1998

In Cozumel, Mexico, we got off the ship and went shopping at the local shops and vendors. It was a very hot day, but Santa Claus greeted us as we got off the ship. This evening's attire was semi-formal. Since this was Christmas Eve, at midnight there was an inter-denominational service and a Catholic Mass.

Friday - December 25, 1998

Christmas Carols in the AtriumOn Christmas morning the pastry chefs had prepared a chocolate village and nativity scene that was on display in the Grand Atrium. At 10:00 am, there was a service of Christmas carols and Scripture as well as a Mass. Santa arrived shortly before noon and before each seating, crew gathered in the Grand Atrium to sing carols. Throughout the day, a festive mood prevailed with wait staff running around in shorts and Santa hats. This evening's attire was casual.

Saturday - December 26, 1998

We were up early to get breakfast and prepare for early debarkation.

Debarkation

We had an early flight home (11:10 am), so I was somewhat concerned about the debarkation process. We had arranged our own airfare, but had given the flight information to Princess upon embarkation. Princess had us off the ship and at the airport in good time. We were checking at the Delta curbside counter at 9:15 am. The whole process was efficient and quite organized, overall going very smoothly.

Some Notes

To those planning to sail on the Sea Princess, note:

  1. There are self-service laundry facilities on board
  2. Hägen-Daz ice cream bar is available at a charge
  3. There were hair dryers and refrigerators in the rooms
  4. The art auctions are run by Princess and are much less obtrusive than on other ships
  5. The dining options are varied. I enjoy skipping the dining room one evening to eat elsewhere and the Bistro did an excellent job
  6. The pizza is excellent
  7. The deck around the pool and immediately above the pool, and around the Oasis pool gets crowded. My favorite place to relax in the sun was forward up by the splash pool on Sun Deck. This area did not get nearly as crowded as the other areas.
  8. There were abundant tables around the pool and the deck above on which to eat lunch.
  9. I carried my own liquor and sodas on board and consumed them in the room with no problem and no questions asked.

Ending

In short, the Sea Princess is absolutely beautiful, her color schemes vivid and her décor warm and inviting. She is a complete joy on which to sail and it was thrilling to see everything so fresh and new. At first, some of the crew seemed nervous, but by the second day, they were into the routine of their jobs. Passengers were very upbeat throughout the week. It was a fantastic cruise!

Click HERE for complete information on Sea Princess Public Rooms, Staterooms, Design Team and MORE PHOTOS!

Photos by the author.

Line

John Mills is a Senior Programmer/Analyst in Gaithersburg, Maryland and has contributed frequently to the SeaLetter. John is a Princess Fan, a true cruiseaholic, and can be reached for questions or comment at: cruiseaholic@hotmail.com.


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