30 May, 2018  |  Feature

Get ready to see Princess Cruises like you’ve (probably) never seen it before. The line’s newest and largest ship, Majestic Princess, is heading to Australia and New Zealand in less than four months. In fact, “Maj”, as we’re nicknaming her, will be the first international ship to arrive for the 2018-19 summer season, starting with Darwin on 8 September.

Here’s a few reasons why we couldn’t wait any longer.

1. Maj will be the youngest Princess ever seen Down Under.

We love Princess Cruises but they took their sweet time granting us a newbuild. The best on offer was Emerald Princess, built in 2005, while others in the local fleet are relics from the last century (OK, 1990s, but still!). Majestic launched last year, so you can finally experience Princess while it’s fresh and crispy — without flying overseas.

Majestic Princess Seawalk

2. The ship will morph from Asian to Aussie.

Not many Westerners have sailed on Majestic, which was originally designed for Chinese passengers, so we’re keen to see what will be changed for the Australian market, such as different food and drinks, different shows and the re-introduction of a happy hour (which doesn’t exist at the moment). Stay tuned for our investigation.

Majestic Princess La Mer

3. Dining is shining with Michelin stars

Ever wondered what’s all the fuss about Michelin-starred restaurants? Soon you can find out at two of Majestic’s specialty restaurants: La Mer and Harmony. La Mer brings the flavours of France to a Parisian-style bistro with a menu developed by Emmanuel Renaut, executive chef of Flocons de Sel, in the French Alps, which has been awarded three Michelin stars. Harmony was created in partnership with Chef Richard Chen, formerly of Wynn Las Vegas’ Wing Lei, the first Chinese restaurant in North America to be awarded a Michelin star. (Mind you, we’re just as keen to try the Lobster Grill and Dim Sum Bar but last night it was closed unexpectedly. Apparently they ran out of lobster.)

Majestic Princess Hollywood Pool Club

4. The design is fresh but familiar

Maj is a gorgeous one-year-old sister to Royal Princess and Regal Princess, but not many Australians have experienced those ships so the novelty factor will be high. However, we have seen a lot of refurbishments on our older, local ships so you will recognise the new versions on Majestic. The decor of the cabins is not particularly modern but there are two USB ports beside the bed to charge devices, an Australian power point (as well as US and European outlets) and a wall-mounted, flat-screen television loaded with on-demand movies and TV series, news channels (Fox, BBC and CNBC), a webcam, ship information and your account.

Majestic Princess gym

5. New-to-Australia features add a cool touch

The Hollywood Pool Club looks like a great place for a party. It’s equipped with a bar, cabanas, lounges and games. Then there’s Watercolor Fantasy, a dancing fountain of lights and music for delightful shows at night. Princess Live Studio offers the opportunity to sit in the audience and watch the televised morning show presented by the cruise director and other crew. An outdoor gym has been installed on an upper deck, and the SeaWalk is a fun, glass-bottomed bridge off the side of the ship. Private karaoke suites are also set up for singing sessions with your friends or family, but we’re told this area will be converted into a bar for the AU/NZ season. Gong Cha (bubble tea) is another unique venue but it will be removed too.

Majestic Princess

6. Fantastic Journey is…fantastic

We had our doubts about the line’s big claims about its high-tech new show, Fantastic Journey, but it really is dazzling. The special effects are impressive. One of the singers performs with illuminated drones, which is mesmerising. The extraordinary costumes would not look out of place on Lady Gaga. Add in some great music, dancing and aerialists and you have one of the best pop musicals at sea.

7. Old favourites are back

Princess purists won’t be completely bamboozled by new stuff. You can still watch Movies Under The Stars, enjoy coffee and free cakes at the 24-hour International Cafe, get to know the waiters in the main dining room, load up your plate in the buffet and people-watch in the Piazza. Getting rarer on ships these days, a small library is stocked with 2,000 books. Majestic also has the popular Crown Grill steakhouse, Alfredo’s pizzeria, Vines wine bar and free soft-serve icecream at the poolside Swirls kiosk.

Majestic Princess

Majestic Princess will debut in Darwin (8 September 2018) before sailing along the east coast to Brisbane (13 September) and Sydney (15 September). The ship then crosses the ditch to explore the fiordlands and visit Dunedin (1 October), Akaroa (2 October), Wellington (3 October), Tauranga (5 October), Auckland (6 October) and Bay of Islands (7 October). Other maiden calls include Melbourne (12 October), Hobart (14 October) and Napier (21 October). Australian and New Zealand itineraries are offered through to the end of March 2019.    – source Cruisecritic