New York Times - Ships and Shipping

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

GRAND PRINCESS To Scandinavia, Part One

Peter Knego embarks on a seven night voyage to four northern Europe ports from Southampton aboard Princess Cruises recently refurbished GRAND PRINCESS.

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A banner day in London.

Fowl play in Hyde Park.
After our typical, lag-inducing flights from JFK and LAX, respectively, my traveling companion, Rob Di Stefano, and I spent a bleary-but-pleasant afternoon roaming through Soho and the Hyde Park-adjacent quarter of London before adjourning for the eve at the Grosvenor Hotel.
Saturday, August 25, 2012

MV GRAND PRINCESS at Mayflower Terminal, Southampton.
When we arrived in Southampton, it was easy to spot the 1998-built, 2,590 passenger, 109,000 gross ton GRAND PRINCESS towering over the famed Mayflower Terminal. This would be my first time stepping aboard the recently refurbished ship since her 1998 debut, when she was the world’s largest.

GRAND PRINCESS Builder’s plate. Aside from the Mitsubishi-built DIAMOND and SAPPHIRE PRINCESS, the other nine GRAND/CROWN Class shps were built by the Monfalcone, Italy-based Fincantieri shipyard (formerly Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico).
In the years since, GRAND PRINCESS has been joined by two identical twins (GOLDEN and STAR) and several modified sisters, from the Japanese-built DIAMOND and SAPPHIRE to the one-off CARIBBEAN and the “CROWN Class trio” (CROWN, EMERALD and RUBY). Further, sister Carnival Corp-owned line P&O has their own pair of CROWN Class ships in the VENTURA and AZURA, making the GRAND blueprint one of the most successful in the history of cruising.

GRAND PRINCESS Piazza facing fwd from Deck 7.
In early 2011, GRAND PRINCESS underwent a massive, 28-day transformation at Freeport’s Grand Bahama Shipyard. In the process, the iconic Skywalker’s Disco was removed from its perch atop the ship’s stern and several public spaces were replaced with new venues or completely remodeled. Since then, the ship has been based at Southampton but will be returning to U.S. waters later this year and reposition to the West Coast in 2013. The first thing embarking passengers will likely see is the completely rebuilt, three deck Piazza (formerly called the Atrium), which brims with new venues.

Andreas Pitsch.
Shortly after boarding the ship, we were met by hotel manager Andreas Pitsch, who supervises one of the friendliest, most efficient and hard-working teams afloat. I’ve had the pleasure of sailing with the Austrian-based officer aboard SAPPHIRE PRINCESS and Disney Cruise Line’s DISNEY WONDER. Andreas had arranged with the housekeeping department for me to photograph a wide range of cabins and suites before official embarkation began.

GRAND PRINCESS Grand Suite sitting area.
At the top end of the accommodation tier, the Grand Suites are located on midships Deck 11 and measure approximately 700 square feet with separate bedrooms, huge marble bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and separate showers, an oak-paneled balcony with another Jacuzzi, a spacious sitting area and a walk-in closet.

GRAND PRINCESS new suite 303, facng starboard.
All of the accommodation categories will be featured in an upcoming Decked! but it was interesting to note the seven new Window Suites that were carved out of a portion of the Casino on Deck 6, featuring a completely different decorative style from the rest of the GRAND PRINCESS’ staterooms.
GRAND PRINCESS starboard Horizon Court, facing forward.
In Horizon Court, the buffet style eatery on Deck 14 with astounding views, we laid the cameras to rest for a moment or two and indulged in a lunch that would include a mountainous salad, fresh fish, and pasta.

Making Pizza.
As if that were not enough, we headed promptly to Prego’s Pizza by the Neptune’s Reef pool for a slice of Margherita that ranks among the best available at sea.

GRAND PRINCESS Neptune’s Reef, facing port.
The Neptune’s Reef Pool is an open-air area with a large LCD screen surrounded by sunning terraces that make it an ideal spot for Princess’ Movies Under The Stars programming.

GRAND PRINCESS Conservatory, facing aft.
The GRAND PRINCESS has no less than four full-sized pools, which also includes the Calypso Reef Pool on midships Deck 14, which is just aft of Neptune’s Reef and surrounded the Magrodome-like Conservatory.

Terrace pool pivot.
And way back at the stern on Deck 12 level, overlooking the ship’s wake, there is the first of two adults-only pools, the aptly named Terrace Pool. When Skywalkers was located directly overhead, the Terrace Pool spent much of its time in the shadows but now it basks in the sun, or, in the case of sailing day, a splash of rain.

Sports Court.
One spot that did not exist prior to the removal of Skywalkers was the open-air Sports Court atop the ship and just aft of the funnel on the Deck 17 level.

GRAND PRINCESS Sanctuary cabana.
Up on forward Deck 16, under the sheltered canvas dome at the base of the radio mast overlooking the bow, there is an adults-only Sanctuary which is available for a small fee on either a half or full day basis.

GRAND PRINCESS Sanctuary water.
The Sanctuary features cushioned lounge chairs, soothing music, cabanas for private massages and refreshments.


Leaves leaves.
Back inside the ship, we made the rounds of the new venues, stopping first at Leaves, a wonderful new nook that seems to have taken some inspiration from resident Princess interior designer Teresa Anderson’s outfitting of sister line Cunard’s QUEEN VICTORIA and QUEEN ELIZABETH. This space, which would be right at home on either of those ships, has clubby, dark paneling and an impressive selection of books and games as well as up to 500 blends of tea leaves and an on-duty tea sommellier to prepare them.

GRAND PRINCESS Crooners Bar, facing forward.
Overlooking the Piazza from the starboard side of Deck 7, Crooners Lounge and Bar has been revamped with new furnishing and soft fittings.

GRAND PRINCESS totally random carpet shot.

GRAND PRINCESS Alfredo’s Pizza.
On the Deck 5 level of the Piazza. in place of the old Library, Alfredo’s Pizzeria is named for Alfredo Marzi, Princess’ executive chef. An open kitchen enables guests to watch as their favorite pizza is created.

With the removal of Skywalker’s, GRAND PRINCESS was fitted with One5, named for Deck 15, where the new nightclub is located. One5 also serves as a concierge lounge serving up afternoon refreshments and hors d’oeuvres for the ship’s Suite passengers.

SS KENYA in the Wheelhouse.
Many familiar and popular spaces, such as the Wheelhouse Bar on midships Deck 7, have remained untouched. I love the P&O memorabilia in this room, especially the beautiful builder’s model of British India Line’s KENYA of 1952, a classic colonial liner with gorgeous lines.
Source: Maritime Matters.

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