Princess bucked the trend when it picked up the relatively diminutive Ocean Princess and Pacific Princess after the demise of their original owner, Renaissance Cruises. Rather clubby in character, they offer the Princess experience on a more personal scale. With just 670 passengers aboard, they carry only a fraction of the number you’d expect to find on a typical megaship. Together, they are marketed as the “Small Ships of Princess.”
Ambiance onboard has been compared to a European boutique hotel and with good reason: The Ocean Princess is clubby, sedate, and relaxing. Décor is best described as Old World with classical touches like fluted columns, Oriental-inspired carpeting, and paintings with gilded frames. Most noteworthy is the ship’s library, appointed in a traditional English manner with wood paneling, simulated fireplace and trompe loeil skylight. Other public rooms include a forward-looking observation lounge, cabaret-style main lounge, casino that’s somewhat on the small side, card room, internet center, and the rather social Club Bar for pre-dinner drinks.
Out on deck there’s a full-service spa and fitness center plus a centrally located pool and hot tub area. Activities on the Ocean Princess are mainly of the traditional cruise kind: shuffleboard, jogging, and golf driving. But these ships aren’t about a hubbub of activity, they’re more for leisurely days at sea and time spent ashore in intriguing ports of call; in fact, the Ocean Princess tends to be deployed on some of Princess Cruises’ more far-ranging and exotic itineraries, including the occasional Grand Adventure lasting a month or more.
Despite its smaller size—weighing in at only 30,000 gross tons—the Ocean Princess manages to have a respectable variety in dining venues. There’s a single-deck main dining room plus two alternative restaurants: Sabatini’s trattoria for Italian fare and Sterling Steakhouse for meat-eaters, open for dinner on alternating nights; both are rather intimate spaces, seating fewer than 100 passengers at a time. There’s also a buffet restaurant with pizzeria and barbecue for more casual dining, plus of course the customary pool grill out on deck.
Cabins continue the European touch into the passenger quarters, although with a slightly more modern tinge to the décor. Most are standard outside cabins, 73 percent with private balconies. The Ocean Princess lacks the deck of mini-suites found aboard its otherwise nearly identical sister the Pacific Princess, but on the other hand offers the ultimate in small-ship accommodations: 10 Owner’s Suites located above the bow and the stern, measuring 700 to 900 square feet.
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It’s widely known that the staterooms on the R class of ships from Renaissance, of which Tahitian Princess is one, are relatively small compared to most other ships in today’s contemporary or premium categories. Quite true, but they are well designed and have plenty of drawer and closet space, even for this 18-night voyage, as well as a nice spread of bathroom amenities.
There are about five channels with free movies (pretty current and nicely rotated during the cruise) and other channels such as Fox News, CNN, ESPN and TNT — and more when the satellite coverage permits. Room service is of course available 24/7, with the only charge being $3 for room service pizza.
With a space ratio of 45, Tahitian Princess feels comfortable in terms of its size, despite some low overheads impacting tall people like me.
About the only time there were lines was at dinner were when guests felt compelled to start lining up five to ten minutes before scheduled dining hours. And since there’s only one entrance the main dining room, it creates a line the length of the ship at times. My suggestion would be to have a drink or just wait until a few minutes after the restaurant opens so that you do not have to wait.
The libraries on the R class ships (including on the R class vessels operated by Oceania and Azamara) are among the best at sea, and so it is on Tahitian Princess. It’s there for reading and resting, and not much more (Princess has not turned it into an entertainment center).
The gym is bigger than might be expected for the number of guests on board. There are five treadmills and 17 other pieces of workout equipment. Naturally, there are charges for such classes as yoga. Forward of the spa is the rentable quiet space, which went for $175 per person for the entire cruise. It’s nowhere near what is offered on terrific Sanctuary on the bigger Princess ships and on this coldish-weather cruise, it was not a factor.
Items at the grill are made pretty much to order, and it was a great option from 11:30–6 every day. Hamburgers were even made medium rare if requested, and the fries were delicious. The pizza, which I have always felt is the best at sea on the bigger Princess ships, was not as good on Tahitian Princess; oven limitations were the best reason given. Oh well, probably saved me from putting on a few pounds.
Princess has started a new service for its most frequent repeat guests — a free a la minute breakfast served in the Italian restaurant. In the evenings, there is also a cocktail hour for these same guests. While the drinks carried their regular costs, there was a nice array of complimentary snacks that varied nightly.
Before the cruise started, it was helpful on this itinerary to receive the hard-copy shore excursion guide. For every port with they were offered,shore excursions were broken down into groups such as First-Time Visitor, Easy Tour, Active Minded, Art & History and Scenic & Nature.
The former R-class of ships from Renaissance, eight in total, are now split up between Azamara (two ships), Oceania (3) and Princess (3).
While the Oceania and Azamara ships have been extensively refurbished as they became part of their new brands and are being positioned as above premium and slightly below luxury, Princess hasn’t done that much with Tahitian Princess. The company comfortably positions Tahitian as part of its overall premium fleet.
Soon, the ship will be undergoing some refurbishment, though, including a name change to Ocean Princess. It will be interesting to see how it shapes up. One difference will continue: It’s a lower price option for those cruisers who enjoy this class of ships. — Art Sbarsky
Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring Ocean/Tahitian Princess.