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Princess Cruises: Pacific Princess

  • Princess Cruises

Pacific Princess Review

Insider Take

Best For People Who Want

A smaller ship, alternative dining options; exciting itineraries; top-flight shore excursions.

Decor

Only the observation lounge/nightclub has been significantly refurbished since Tahitian Princess left Renaissance, though the characteristic comfortably aristocratic feeling has largely retained.

Public Rooms

The area most reminiscent of a classic ship is the purser's lounge area on Deck 4, featuring a grand staircase reminiscent of the Titanic. The lounges and bars are all comfortably inviting, with the Club Bar attracting most guests. There's a Polynesian nightclub (which old Renaissance passengers will be amused to recognize as the sports bar, lightly remodeled), an Internet cafe, and a remarkably popular self-service laundry with four washers and dryers, two ironing boards, and free soap. The library has a faux fireplace, overstuffed couches, and walls lined with cherry-finished bookshelves, even though it could use a few more books published after the ship changed hands.

The Internet room, do note, has only six workstations. And if you're accustomed to broadband at home, you'll find the connection maddeningly slow. Moreover, getting help from the staff isn't likely.

Cuisine

The various dining areas offer a wide variety, the breakfast and lunch buffets being especially varied. The alternative restaurants are terrific, but there's a surcharge.

Service

The staff, from all over the globe, is helpful and attentive.

Entertainment

The 358-seat Cabaret Lounge presents shows performed by a team of singer/dancers, as well as performances by comedians and magicians. On some itineraries, there's a local folklore show. On cruises to French Polynesia cruises, such staple activities as bingo, bridge, and dance lessons are sharply curtailed because most of their potential participants are ashore. While you're docked in Raiatea, don't miss the musical extravaganza presented by several generations of locals.

The small casino has 30 slot machines and tables for blackjack and roulette. The Nightclub disco is a firm favorite of any insomniacs aboard.

Cabins

Of 308 outside cabins, 73 percent have a balcony. There are 26 inside cabins, four of them wheelchair-accessible (if available, these are some of the most spacious "bang for your buck" cabins, though they are inside and dark, they are incredibly roomy. Pleasantly furnished in Wedgwood blue fabrics and carpeting, with yellow drapes over the floor-to-ceiling windows, the staterooms are pleasant enough, but the suites are worth the extra money for the extra breathing room they provide, especially in the bathrooms. Ample closet/drawer space, a (woefully substandard) hair dryer, a personal safe, and color TV on which you can watch CNN, MSNBC, and Princess' own onboard news channels are all standard amenities. The smaller cabins have a bathroom with shower, while suites and owner's suites have bathtubs too.

In private veranda cabins, don't be shocked to find Astroturf where you might reasonably have expected teak. Inside cabins are the smallest at 158 sq. feet. Outside staterooms, from 146 to 206 sq. feet, have either portholes or big picture windows. Outside cabins with private balcony are 216 sq. feet, including a 45 sq. ft. balcony. Mini-suites with private balconies are a roomy 322 sq. feet, including a 17' x 4.5' balcony with two chairs and a table. Veteran voyagers, especially those accustomed to other lines' suites, are likely to find the bathrooms almost satirically tiny, virtually without counter space.

Two forward suites facing the front of the ship are view-less. The Category A Owner's Suites, ranging from 786 to 962 sq. feet, are all located either completely forward or aft. Forward owner's suites numbers 6002, 6003, 7004, 7005) have direct sight lines of the rope deck on the front of the vessel. And if you're in a forward cabin on Deck 6, you'd better hope you like the orchestra that performs (and rehearses!) in the Cabaret Lounge, as you're right above it, and will be hearing a lot of them!

What we like most about the ship's balconies is that they're wrought iron, and insert no glass between you and the view.

Fitness/Spa

The faintly exotic Lotus Spa, Salon, and Gym, operated, inevitably, by Steiner of London, offers a program of fitness and wellness. The fitness center, whose wall of windows makes it seem bigger than it really is, is well-equipped, with treadmills, bikes, and several weight machines. There are two steam rooms (for those who aren't hot enough in this part of the world to begin with!) and a walking/jogging track that circles the top of the ship. Instead of a 360-degree promenade, there are, on Deck 5, deck areas both port and starboard.

There's virtually never a wait for either of the two poolside Jacuzzi whirlpools, hardly surprising given how sweltering it can get in the South Pacific.

Attire

Considering that your destination is the South Pacific, you'll want to pack a hat, sandals, sun block and a bathing suit. Grass skirts and loud Hawaiian shirts are at your own discretion. Aboard cruises of 10 to 14 nights, expect two formal nights and five to 12 "smart casual" evenings. Resort casual is the rule by day.

Overview

One of the R-class small 30,000-ton former R-ships, destination focus, quiet nightlife.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Las Vegas style shows; glitzy chrome and glass megaliners; 24-hour activity; children's programs; large, busy casinos; lots of shops and organized onboard activities.

Restaurants

As is the tradition on all Princess ships (and bless them for it), there is food available 24 hours a day. On this small ship originally designed to have one main dining room, a buffet and two specialty restaurants, someone went to extraordinary trouble to make dining about as confusing as possible. That doesn't mean the food isn't good, though. The very traditional Club Dining Room offers open seating for breakfast and lunch, and two seatings for dinner, when passengers are assigned tables and tablemates, at 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. There are only a few tables for two.

One of the alternative restaurants has been kept as such, but changes its identity every other night, beginning as the traditional Princess favorite, Sabatini's Trattoria, for Italian multi-course dining, and then on the next night becoming the Sterling Steakhouse, the carnivore's delight. Both levy a fee, $15 for Sabatini's and $8 for the steakhouse. This venue stays open until 10 p.m, closes for an hour and then reopens as a bistro, and doesn't close until 4 a.m. The very casual Panorama Buffet serves up breakfast and lunch, including a pizzeria, BBQ, and an ice cream bar, and becomes the Panorama Pizzeria from 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., but serving nothing only pizza (which is to say, no salads or antipasti).

Room service is available, of course, around-the-clock. And a highly recommended late-night eating special event is the poolside Polynesian buffet.

Tipping

Regardless of which dining plan you choose, you'll be charged $10 per person per day for dining and stateroom personnel, even if you're a child. Consult the purser, at the reception desk, about raising or lowering this amount. All beverage tabs automatically include 15-percent gratuity. Tip the spa, casino, and other staff as you deem fit.




Ship Overview

Originally built in 1999 as the third of a series of eight ships for Renaissance Cruises, which ceased operations in 2001, the former R3 was acquired by Princess Cruises and launched as Pacific Princess in 2002. After refurbishment, the ship retained its original midsize ambience and boutique-hotel style.

At 30,277 tons, this ship appears positively tiny beside its megaship fleetmates. In reality, it is a medium-size ship that entered service for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. With its entry into the Princess lineup, real choice is available to Princess passengers—a true alternative for those who prefer the clubby atmosphere of a smaller boutique-style ship but with big-ship features galore.

Princess Cruises may be best known for introducing cruise travel to millions of viewers, when its flagship became the setting for The Love Boat television series in 1977. Since that heady time of small-screen stardom, the Princess fleet has grown both in the number and size of ships. Although most are large in scale, Princess vessels manage to create the illusion of intimacy through the use of color and decor in understated yet lovely public rooms graced by multimillion-dollar art collections.

Princess has also become more flexible; Personal Choice Cruising offers alternatives for open seating dining (when you wish and with whom you please) and entertainment options as diverse as those found in resorts ashore.

Lovely chapels or the wide-open decks are romantic settings for weddings at sea with the captain officiating.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • Decks 6 and 7 have two aft-facing standard cabins with balconies larger than other similar cabins
  • The pianist in the Casino Bar drowns out the clanging of slot machines
  • Many of Princess Cruises' trademark features are present even though this ship was built to another cruise line's specifications

Cons

  • Showrooms are all on one level and have low ceilings
  • There are no dedicated children's facilities
  • The solitary main dining room offers only assigned seating for dinner
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 373
  • Entered Service 1999
  • Gross Tons 30,277
  • Length 592 feet
  • Number of Cabins 334
  • Passenger Capacity 670
  • Width 84 feet
  • New

Nov 16, 2003

South Pacific-Australia

The new Pacific Princess was formerly the Renaissance R 3. We really enjoyed cruising with Renaissance a few years ago on a sister ship to the R 3, the R 6. Princess has made a good ship even better with their renovations to the former R ships. This was our 7th cruise with Princess. This was also our greatest Princess cruise to date. We felt

like we were cruising with Seabourn or Crystal, both high price luxury lines. The service was absolutely superb! The accommodations were great. Each cabin category offered spacious staterooms or suites as compared with other Princess ships or ships of other lines. This is a small ship by today’s standards with only 670 passengers yet it has most of the comforts of the larger ships with none of the disadvantages. We became acquainted with lots of the passengers during this 16-day cruise. The passengers were an international mix with lots of Australians, Kiwis, Brits, Canadians, Europeans, and a lovely group of native Hawaiians who serenaded themselves and us during sea days in the Casino Bar with melodies from the Islands. Lots of additional details about the ship, deck plans, etc. can be seen on the Princess web site. We were always met with a friendly greeting by the staff and crew. The only exception I noted was the Captain. He seemed to dread being around or talking with the passengers. Otherwise, the atmosphere was similar to an exclusive resort. The staff really seemed to enjoy their jobs and took pleasure in pleasing the guests. Add to that the idyllic setting of our ports, and this was certainly a dream cruise. The weather was great most of the time too. Sunsets were spectacular and the seas were mostly calm. Operation of this ship is shared with the partner company of Princess, P & O Cruises. At the end of this journey, P & O will operate the ship [with largely the same staff and crew] mainly to the Australian cruise market until Spring 2004 when operation will again revert back to Princess for the summer and early fall. The entertainment on this ship was fabulous. All of the Cruise Staff and Entertainers are from New Zealand or Australia. The cast presented 5 full shows and the lead singers shared two additional shows with other entertainers. One of the featured entertainers was Byrle Davis, a name I really don’t remember. She began her career singing with the Glen Miller Orchestra in World War II. Obviously she is no spring chicken but she was nevertheless fascinating. Ms. Davis sang with old-time greats including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and others. She was featured on the old TV shows, Bob Hope Comedy Hour and Your Hit Parade. That was way back in the days of live broadcasts in black and white viewed on a 12” or 14” TV screen. She related interesting antidotes about these famous stars between some of her numbers. The ship offered some enrichment lectures, had computer classes, Internet access 24/7, conducted bingo games, and did lots of other activities associated with cruising. The Lotus Spa and Fitness Center were both well equipped and well attended. The library is spacious, nicely appointed, and well stocked with reading materials. The bars and lounges are also nicely appointed and the top-deck nightclub was a place for the late-night partygoers to revel and for great views of the sea during the days. Princess advertises “Personal Choice” dining with open seating at the various dining venues. That wasn’t the case on this small ship. Only the traditional main and late dinner seating was offered in the dining room. Two alternate restaurants were offered; The Sterling Steak House Grill [$8 cover charge per person] and Sabatini’s, an Italian gourmet restaurant [$20 cover charge per person]. We found the beef entrées in The Grill to be delicious. Sabatini’s was open only on certain evenings but not many passengers felt the menu warranted spending the extra $20. Your $20 got you an elegant and very leisurely seven-course meal. The Panorama Buffet offered something to eat from 4 am to 12:30 am and room service was available 24/7. No one suffered from hunger for good food on this ship. We noted some changes in the dining room since previous cruises. There is no longer a sommelier or wine steward. The waiter now serves this function. Princess used to offer a separate pasta course. You can still have pasta nightly as an entrée but no separate course. Tureens with hot vegetables are no longer offered either. Some evenings we ordered more vegetables and received a nice variety. A tray with dessert samples is no longer brought to the table after the entrée for viewing. Salad selections in the luncheon buffet were not as varied as in the past. These changes have enabled Princess to serve more people with less wait staff. Fortunately the quality of the food and presentation remains great. The pastries on this cruise were especially nice and the home made [on board daily] ice cream was delicious. The casino offered penny and nickel slots as well as the traditional twenty-five cent and dollar slots. It appeared that the odds on the cheap slots were dismal. All of the slot machines were the same type. One could bet up to 20 lines per spin. Video poker was not offered. The tables of black jack, poker, and roulette seemed crowded together, especially when well attended. The dress code for this entire cruise was ‘smart casual’ except for three evenings when formal wear was optional. Lots of the women wore fancy outfits on those evenings but most gentlemen stuck to the ‘smart casual’ with a jacket. A few passengers decided not to dress up at all. Gratuities are now added to one’s shipboard account, $10 per day. I was concerned that this method might result in less attentive service but the opposite was true. I guess the staff felt more confident of not getting slighted with this method than the old way of the passengers handing out envelopes at the end of the cruise. The service in all departments was really super. The Cruise Director, John Clelford, encouraged additional gratuities for ‘exceptional’ service. That seemed a bit tacky. The official policy for ‘additional’ gratuities is that the recipient may retain the ‘extra’ gratuity if the passenger did not reduce the standard gratuity charged to the shipboard account. Otherwise the ‘extra’ gratuity was to be submitted to the pool. A negative aspect of the Princess departures from Papeete, Tahiti is that getting to Papeete independently by air is expensive and infrequent. The Princess air program offers non-stop charter service from Los Angles. This system is unpleasant because each passenger must move their baggage from connecting flights to the charter departure gate that is at the far end of one of the LAX terminals. The charter gate opens only three hours before flight time so there are long lines and the entire check-in and security check process to be endured again. Then one gets the typical feeling of being a sardine once aboard the aircraft. Maybe that is why the ship cabins/staterooms seem so spacious. Nevertheless, in summary, the new Pacific Princess offers luxurious cruising at main line prices. The atmosphere is refined and relaxed. The food is tasty, the entertainment and shipboard activities are plentiful and varied for a ship of such small size, the staff is always cordial and attentive, and this itinerary offered a great chance to see the South Pacific, a bit of New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia. We traveled 4,459 nautical miles during the cruise and visited 9 ports in 5 countries. If you wish to cruise on the Pacific Princess before April 2004, you must book your cruise through P & O, the partner company to Princess. I believe that Princess is offering a similar itinerary on the Pacific Princess in 2004. The French Polynesia ports are offered almost year-round on the sister Princess ship, the Tahitian Princess, which does 10-day itineraries from/to Papeete, Tahiti. Bruce Baldwin November 2003

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