All eyes were on Kate Middleton as she stepped out on her last solo engagement before her maternity leave began – christening Princess Cruises' brand new ship.
But as the flashbulbs popped and the Kate effect saw her Dalmatian print Hobbs coat sell out within five minutes, there was another royal vying for the world's attention. The Royal Princess.
The newest addition to the Princess Cruises fleet, the Royal Princess can hold 3,560 passengers, has 1,780 staterooms and boasts some of the finest dining and entertainment – not to mention pampering spa treatments - at sea today.
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HELLO! Online were invited to try out the brand new, luxury cruise liner during its two-night maiden voyage to Guernsey – and, from the minute you walk up the royal blue carpet to embark you're treated like royalty by the friendly, helpful staff. Get a photo taken before you board – you can buy it later as a souvenir to mark the start of your holiday – and then head inside to explore your home for the next few days.
You're immediately struck by the dazzling Piazza, with its sweeping staircases, chandeliers and elegant yet Las Vegas-esque feel. It's the central, social hub of the ship – one minute you could be chilling out listening to classic piano music, the next taking part in a zumba class (a full programme of events is delivered to your cabin daily)- and is set at the bottom of a three-storey atrium that plays host to restaurants, shops, bars – including our favourite, Crooners bar, which overlooks the piazza from deck seven and serves an incredible 75 styles of martini. There's even an art gallery to look around.
But don't get carried away with trying to find your way around immediately. The party atmosphere aboard kicks off before the ship has even set sail - and the top deck is the place to be.
Pro dancers lead routines to well-known tunes such as YMCA and the Macarena while holidaymakers sip cocktails and reserve their sun loungers at the set sail party, which saw excitable cruisers taking a dip in the pool before we'd even set sail from Southampton.
It's immediately apparent that it would take some doing to get bored on the Royal Princess. Fitness your thing? In our short time on board we shot some hoops on the basketball course, hit the state-of-the-art gym and played ping pong. We could have tried out the jogging track, done a Body Sculpt Bootcamp or Chi Ball Yoga.
For those who prefer a spot of pampering, head to the Lotus Spa. It promises to 'replenish mind, body and spirit' and has a wide variety of treatments on offer including Swedish Massages, Elemis Deep Tissue Muscle Massages, Fire and Ice Manicure and Pedicures, Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facials and even teeth whitening. If anything, the gentle rocking of the ship provides an even more relaxing massage experience!
There are so many lunch and dining options on offer on the ship, which stores 18,000 bottles of wine and champagne in its cellars, that we can't possibly list them – click here for further details – but we loved the pizza at Alfredo's and the sophisticated menu on offer at fancy Italian restaurant Sabatini's.
Needless to say, the day certainly doesn't end once the sun goes down. The Princess Theatre stages entertainment shows every night. Shows include Sweet Soul Music, a rhythm and blues spectacular, to What the World Needs Now, which celebrates the Sixties. We caught Colours of the World, a song and dance journey through a few of the destinations visited by Princess ships, which featured tango dancing from Buenos Aires, an all-singing all-dancing Bollywood segment and a laid-back reggae Caribbean number.
Have a flutter at the casino, check out a live band, comedian or illusionist in the Vista Lounge, take part in a murder mystery evening, or, for night owls, dance the night away at nightclub Club 6, where the DJ is more than happy to take requests and the cocktails are to die for. Keep an eye out for the snazzy glow in the dark menus, too.
If you’d prefer a quieter evening's entertainment, head to the pool deck and catch a film. The Movies Under the Stars screen is the largest of any cruise ship in operation in the world. Popcorn, cookies and milk – and cosy fleece blankets to snuggle up under - are provided free of charge while you watch a newly-released movie or a Hollywood classic.
The buzz surrounding the new ship was palpable onboard, and rightly so. There are some nice touches - for example, the stateroom corridor walls are adorned with 1000 photographs of destinations visited by the cruise company – taken by and submitted by Princess Cruises passengers themselves.
There are unique features, too - such as, for those with a head for heights, The SeaWalk, a top-deck, glass-bottomed walkway that extends 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship.
It may have been the Royal Princess' maiden voyage, but it was also this HELLO! Online's writer's first ever cruise. Where do we sign up for more?
Click here for more details about Royal Princess. Cruise on the Royal Princess (0843 373 0333) from Venice to Barcelona for 12 nights, September 15-27, from £1,565 per person (based on two adults sharing an inside stateroom). Price includes accommodation, meals and onboard entertainment, but excludes flights.
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