Princess Cruises this week appeared to respond to concerns from loyal passengers that the line might be about to change course.
Princess, one of Australia’s most popular cruise lines and a frequent award winner, traditionally offers a premium, laidback experience quite different to the frenetic waterslide-led family activities aboard Carnival’s fun ships and Royal Caribbean’s iconic big vessels.
So when the line announced last week the newest and biggest vessel in the fleet, The Sun Princess, would have a Park 19 activity zone, three floors at the top of the ship devoted to young cruisers, some fans worried that life aboard their favourite fleet was about to change.
Comments from Cruise Passenger reader Demetrius Craig summed up the feeling. “What a shame,” he wrote on Facebook. “We do not need another RCI or Carnival”
But this week Sun Princess design team member Richard Parker reassured trade partners on a webinar that roller coasters and theme parks were not in the Princess ‘DNA’.
“Here at Princess Cruises the reality is we’re not going to do a roller coast, we’re not going to do a theme park, we’re not going to do waterslides, that just isn’t us, it’s not our DNA.”
Mr Parker said the line searched for a middle ground to in designing their new space Park 19.
“So we looked at it and said what could we do that would really appeal to our past guests to see this as an evolution and to draw in future guests.
“It’s not a rollercoaster or a theme park but it’s more of a park setting. We have some activities in here that we feel will also be enjoyed by the entire family and also enjoyed by the entire family together. As opposed to the kid doing something and the parents or grandparents waiting for them, what we want to do is have everyone enjoy this experience together.”
Part of the new additions to the space is the Sea Breeze Rollglider, which Mr Parker talked through.
“What we will do is have our guests put on a harness, we clip them onto a motorised vehicle basically, that is on the track. You reach above you and off you go, flying around Park 19. You can accelerate, you can break, so you can control your own experience in that sense.
“It’s akin to a zipline experience, but also a hang gliding experience. Depending on whether you like heights or not, we feel this is a lot more of a relaxing experience. You get to enjoy the views and vistas and get the wind in your hair as you sail around Park 19.”
Mr Parker says there’s also a brand new high ropes course.
“We also have a ropes course, it’s the first ropes course we have done, it’s actually two decks high. The lower course is a little bit easier and a little more straightforward, but if you like to challenge yourself you can go to the higher course which has more challenging obstacles.”
The rest of the space is fitted out with a jogging track, quiet and shady areas, hammocks and more. Guests can also head up a deck to the infinite horizon tilt wall, where you can look down on the ocean from 19 decks above.
Also new is the Splash Zone area. “We have this new area, the SplashZone area. If you’re sailing in warm climates like the Caribbean, this will have activities for kids of all ages. In the centre we’ll actually have a beautiful water sculpture.
“Or in a cooler climate you can come up here with a coffee and enjoy the views and water sculpture. Either side of here we have what we call the coastal climb, it’s not a rock wall, you don’t need a harness.
“You climb up through different obstacles and fun difficult things before getting to the lookout at deck 21, the higher deck on the ship that guests can access. Then you can even take a dry slide down back to deck 19, or you can also take the stairs or elevator back down.”
If you want a little taste, you can enjoy a virtual Sea Breeze of experience, and see what it will look like when you’re up on Park 19.
You can access that 360 degree experience here.
To take care of the little ones, the Sun Princess will have three kids clubs. There will be Firefly Park for very young kids from six months to 3 years of age, as well as group activities like arts and crafts and theme nights for those older than three years.
There’s also Neon Grove which is a tween club and tucked away privately on the ship. Young guests can expect lots of activities and games, as well as movie nights, dancing and more.
The Underground is for teens and is described as being more sophisticated. Foosball, air hockey and more are joined by a series of curated events and activities.