CRUISE SHIP CENTRAL
CRUISE SHIP PROFILES
PRINCESS CRUISES PAGE
CARIBBEAN PRINCESS PROFILE
CROWN PRINCESS PROFILE
DAWN PRINCESS PROFILE
EMERALD PRINCESS PROFILE
GRAND PRINCESS PROFILE
ISLAND PRINCESS PROFILE
OCEAN PRINCESS PROFILE
ROYAL PRINCESS PROFILE
RUBY PRINCESS PROFILE
SEA PRINCESS PROFILE
A conversation with Hotel General Manager Dirk Brand of Royal Princess
Richard H. Wagner
Dirk Brand is one of Princess Cruises' leading hotel managers. His credentials include having brought into service and creating the hotel departments for a number of Princess ships including Ruby Princess and most recently Royal Princess. He was also instrumental in building and developing the hotel department on Queen Mary 2. Inasmuch as the hotel department encompasses the dining, the entertainment, the accommodations and just about everything else that directly impacts the guests, he can talk about the cruise experience on Royal Princess from a unique perspective. “The ship is amazing. For me, she is the most exciting ship in the world, of course.”
Royal Princess is not only much larger than any previous Princess ship but she is based upon an entirely new design. Princess is one of the world's most successful cruise lines. It achieved that success largely using a design that premiered with Grand Princess and which it has developed over the course of eight succeeding ships. Why depart from a successful formula?
“I think it was time to progress. We are very steady as a company. I think that is very important but it is also important to innovate. It was time to build a new class, a new generation of ships to surprise our guests. Also, in the cruise industry, you cannot just not develop.”
Royal Princess is not, however, a radical departure from the Princess formula. “I think it is an evolution but a very big one, a big step. It is the biggest ship in the fleet, our flagship. Very advanced, we have a lot of modern technology in here. There are quite a few significant steps that we did.”
At the same time, “we tried and I think we did keep the same ambiance, which is very beautiful, elegant but timeless. And [we] have certain key elements in the same areas such as the Horizon Court on Deck 16 and on Decks 5, 6 and 7, the Piazza, just bigger, more elegant, more modern., When our guests come back [they will] recognize the Princess product that they like so much. So there is continuity but some surprises.”
“I had a conversation with one of our most traveled guests and he said it is amazing how personal the ship still is. [She has] the small ship feel but [the guest] has the choices of this very beautiful, modern and advanced vessel. That is what we tried to achieve. She is quite a bit larger than the Crown class vessels but the number of guests is not that much bigger, which actually gives a great [passenger space ratio].”
“People ask me if the ship is full and I say absolutely. They say, 'oh, it doesn't feel like it.' The ship has a very nice flow. The ship has a lot of nice large spaces.”
Undoubtedly, the Piazza is the most impressive of these large spaces. The Piazza on Crown Princess and her sisters are charming venues. But with the additional space devoted to the Piazza on Royal Princess, the designers opened up this area and populated it with eye-catching architectural features, producing a sophisticated but glamorous atmosphere. “It is very alive with all those outlets we have there. And there is a lot of entertainment. It has turned into the most alive entertainment piazza that we have in the fleet. People use it the whole day.”
Another venue that has evolved is the Princess Theater. On stage, it has been equipped with a “digital wall” (a back drop made up of LED screens), which not only can be used for scenery but to augment the production cast. For example, in the show “Spectacular,” the dancers are duplicated on the screens creating a throng of dancers as in a 1930s Busby Berkeley movie. In addition, the lighting inside the theater itself can be varied to “change the atmosphere and the mood. The sound system is amazing.
Above: A singer on stage in the Princess Theater performs with two live dancers and a chorus of virtual dancers projected on the digital wall.
The theater is also much larger than on previous Princess ships. “It holds nearly 1,000 people.” In addition, “we offer three [performances] of the production shows each evening. So the Princess Theater is busy but you never see people standing in line.”
Moreover, the Princess Theater is not the only entertainment option available to guests each evening. Not only is there entertainment in the Piazza but there are entertainment offerings in Princess Live, the ship's new television studio, and in the cabaret-style Vista Lounge. There is also live music in the Wheelhouse Bar and in Crooners. Recent movies play on the outdoor giant LED screen as well as on the complimentary on-demand televisions in the staterooms.
“It gives the passengers more variety, a bigger choice. It also gives them more flexibility. You don't have to make a reservation ahead. You have so many rules on your job when you are at home and you have so many rules and regulations in society, on a vacation you want to do what you want to do at the time you want to do it.”
“Royal Princess allows that very well. If I don't want to go tonight to the dining room, I can go to the buffet, order room service or go to Alfredo's Pizzeria - - all for free. I can go to the show, one of the three [performances]. If I just want to be lazy, I can call room service and sit and watch a movie in the cabin.”
The dining options have also evolved to present guests with more choices. There is a new seafood venue, the Ocean Terrace. Alfredo's Pizzeria has expanded considerably beyond the prototype that first appeared on Grand Princess in 2011 (see separate article). The ship's buffet restaurant, the Horizon Court, has been re-thought and become more spacious.
“There has been a very big evolution, maybe even a revolution, in the Horizon Court. It is a totally new concept. We have 900 seats in the Horizon Court. You will never find it crowded and you have a huge selection. We have the biggest pastry shop at sea up there. The only challenge you have is to make a choice.”
Princess's popular Chef's Table experience has found a permanent home on Royal Princess. Guests participating in that dining experience sit at a large table in the center of the Allegro Dining Room highlighted by a curtain of light. “The Chef's Table Lumiere is a unique and very spectacular feature. We get oohs and ahhhs and very good feedback. We were the ones who started the Chef's Table at sea [and] now we have brought it to the next level.” (see separate article about Princess' Chef's Table).
In the other two main dining rooms, the location that corresponds to the Chef's Table Lumiere is occupied by a large table surrounded by wine cabinets. “The other two are called 'Winemaker's Tables'. It is a different menu, a different selection combined with wines from some of the famous winemakers. The menu and the wines are inclusive. The price is less than the Chef's Table. You can also rent the room for like family parties. You can have the normal [dining room] menu or the Winemaker's menu, we are flexible.”
The evolutionary advances on Royal Princess touch just about every aspect of the guest experience from faster internet service to a larger and enhanced thermal suite in the spa to a bigger and more developed adults-only pool area. Guests can also experience new features such as the Seawalk - - a glass-floored walkway that projects out from the side of the ship 128 feet above the sea.
However, “we did not just bring the ship to a new level from a passenger point of view but also for the crew. We have amazing facilities for the crew. We brought it to the next generation. They have a beautiful large buffet [with a] huge variety for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Very big, very modern crew gym. A beautiful recreation room with a bar and their own disco. Not to forget [atop the bow], we have a beautiful large pool with jacuzzis.”
“We very much realize and appreciate how important the crew is for us. The passengers come back for the service. They love the ship, they love the facilities and the new features, the comfort and the luxury but the real difference is the crew. It is the crew that makes the difference. They come back for the crew. [They] create memories. [They] can really have an impact on a person's life.”
Cruise ship interview - - Princess Cruises - - Royal Princess - - Captain Dino Sagani