Royal Princess is not merely a bigger version of previous Princess ships. Indeed, you can see at first glance that she is a significantly different design. This reflects the fact that she is a state-of-the-art modern passenger ship.
We asked Captain Dino Sagani to point out some of nautical highlights. Captain Sagani has been with Princess Cruises since 1995 and his commands have included Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess, Dawn Princess and Sea Princess. After completing his academic education, Captain Sagani was an officer in the Italian navy, in which he commanded a minesweeper during the First Gulf War.
Royal Princess has a streamlined line. This produces two benefits. The first is a more comfortable ride for the passengers. “She goes through the water quite nicely. That is why she goes through the swells more smoothly than the other ones.”
The streamlined hull also produces greater fuel efficiency. “The hull is very efficient. [Royal Princess] is designed to have the same speed as the other [Princess] vessels while using much less fuel.”
To illustrate, Royal Princess has a diesel-electric propulsion plant. Her four diesel generators produce electricity that is used to power the propulsion motors that turn the propellers and electricty for the ship's other electrical needs such as lighting and air conditioning. “With three generators running, we can achieve 20 knots - - usually the average cruise speed. Before, on the other vessels, we needed to have four generators running, so we were burning more fuel and leaving more carbon.”
Adding to the ship's fuel efficiency is such things as widespread use of LED lighting. “It takes a lot less energy. In port, we can have just one generator running. It can run all the air-conditioning and the lights. On other vessels sometimes you [need to] use two.”
Royal Princess has also been built to higher safety standards than those that applied to earlier cruise ships. This is due in large part to new International Maritime Organization regulations known as the “Safe Return to Port” rules, which govern the construction of ships whose keels were laid down after 2010. Under these regulations, “you can have a major fire or damage and the ship needs to be capable of recovering itself. Even if it is 1,000 miles away from land, you need to be capable of having one propeller running to take you back to a safe port doing at least six knots. You need to have a safe haven for the passengers. You need to provide toilets, you need to provide water, you need to provide air conditioning and you need to provide food.”
Consequently, Royal Princess has redundant systems so that if one fails, the ship can still function. “Every section of the vessel is divided into zone A and zone B. Everything that is happening in zone A you need to have redundancy in zone B. If you lose zone A, you have redundancy in zone B. Every system has this redundancy. All the equipment has this redundancy. Of course, this is much more expensive in the construction but [it results in] a much safer vessel. It is much better, not just for the captain but for everybody. It is good that all the cruise ships will have it but we were the first.”
Above: Royal Princess' hull has a sharp, tapered bow at the waterline for cutting through the waves.
Actually, the idea of having redundant systems is not new to Princess. Problems caused by the loss of electricity on other ships have led other cruise lines to retrofit additional emergency generators onto their ships. However, “since Sun Princess in 1995, we have always built ships with two emergency generators. That has been the standard for Princess Cruises. In the past we were criticized for spending too much money, but now [other lines] are spending a fortune to implement it on all of their vessels. Princess has always been very safety-oriented.”
Inasmuch as Royal Princess is such a cutting edge ship, it may be surprising to learn that she is driven by traditional propeller shafts rather than the more recent pod propulsion system. However, Captain Sagani explained that one reason Princess chose the traditional system has to do with the fact that the motors which turn the propellers in a pod system are suspended in a pod beneath the ship whereas they are inside the ship in a traditional system. If something goes wrong with the motors in an pod system, the ship often has to go into drydock to have it repaired. With a traditional system, there is greater access to the motors because they are inside the ship so more repairs can be done while the ship is in service.
“We trade worldwide. With [the size of] our vessel, there are only a few drydocks around the world which can take us.”
In addition to being the top sailor, the captain is also the chief executive officer of the entire onboard operation. What is the cruise experience that his team is trying to provide?
“Our motto is still to 'escape completely.” [The goal] is still to try and make the passengers feel at home, to be the best host.”
“I am very proud of the vessel. I think the vessel handles very well. She is very stable. And she is a very beautiful vessel. I am very happy that I have been given command of her, a big honor for me.”
Cruise ship interview - - Princess Cruises - - Royal Princess - - Captain Dino Sagani