THE NEW PRINCESS
by Richard H. Wagner
Originally published in The Log, the official
journal of the Navy League of the United States
New York Council, Fall 2006
Driving down the FDR in mid-July, the Brooklyn skyline appeared to have changed - - there was
another large building along the waterfront. Emerging from the summer haze, the tall white shape
transformed itself into a ship with multi-story rows of balconies. It was CROWN PRINCESS at the
Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal, preparing for her third voyage to the Caribbean. She may not be the
largest cruise ship in the world but at 113,000 tons and nearly 200 feet high, this newest of the mega-
cruise ships is massive. Her owner, Princess Cruises, is betting that the new ship is just what is needed
for the line to establish a regular presence in the increasingly competitive New York cruise market.
Accordingly, the line has committed the ship to sailing out of New York, Spring through Fall, for three
In an industry that includes such venerable lines as Cunard Line and Holland America, both founded in
the 19th Century, Princess Cruises is a relative newcomer. The line traces its origins to 1965 when
Stanley B. McDonald leased a Canadian-Pacific coastal steamer named PRINCESS PAT and began
providing cruises from Los Angles to Mexico. McDonald called his company "Princess Cruises" to
reflect the name of the ship he was operating.
The PRINCESS PAT cruises proved a successful business and so McDonald leased a second ship called
ITALIA from an Italian bank. He renamed her "PRINCESS ITALIA." Under the lease, Princess
received not only the ship but her Italian crew. This was the beginning of a strong connection between
the line and Italy. Several of the line's early ships came from Italian sources and Princess’ latest ships,
including CROWN PRINCESS, were built at Italy's Fincantieri shipyard. In addition, many of the
officers and crew on the Princess ships today are Italian.
Princess Cruises achieved some success in the 1960s and early 1970s operating with one or two ships
along the Mexican Riviera and through the Panama Canal. The 1973 oil crisis, however, placed
considerable financial pressure on Princess and, in 1974, the company was acquired by a long-
established British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company, a.k.a., P&O Lines. The
P&O connection gave Princess capital to expand and to purchase ships rather than charter them. The
British connection remains as Britons make up the bulk of the officers on Princess ships today.
In 1975, however, a connection was formed that would have an even greater impact on the success of
the young cruise line, and, indeed, on the future of the entire industry. Television producer Douglas
Cramer persuaded Princess to allow him to use one of the line's ships as the setting for a weekly
television series. "The Love Boat" was phenomenally successful and is widely credited with awakening
the American public to the idea of going to sea for a vacation. Princess was not shy about advertising its
connection with the popular series and it became a major player in the industry.
P&O acquired Sitmar cruises in 1988 and merged that operation into Princess. This gave Princess
several more ships that were already in operation plus two ships then under construction. The two new
ships were futuristic-looking with a superstructure that resembled a jet airliner more than a traditional
cruise ship. Moreover, at 77,000 tons and serving 1,500 passengers, these ships reflected the industry
trend toward bigger cruise ships.
In 1998, Princess took center stage in the industry when GRAND PRINCESS entered service. She was
then the largest passenger ship in the world at 109,000 gross tons and serving 2,600 passengers. By this
time, Princess had expanded its itineraries and its ships, along with those of parent company, P&O, were
providing cruises all over the world.
At around this time, P&O began talks with Royal Caribbean Ltd. looking toward a merger. The industry
leader, Carnival Corporation, had grown much larger than either P&O or RCL both through internal
growth of its Carnival Cruise Lines and through acquisitions of lines such as Holland America, Costa,
and Cunard. A combination of P&O and RCL would create an entity as large or even larger than
Carnival did not get to be the industry leader by sitting idle while its rivals were acting. Accordingly,
Carnival made its own bid for P&O. After much debate, the P&O board of directors wished bon
voyage to RCL and P&O and Princess came under the Carnival umbrella in 2003.
Carnival's philosophy regarding the lines it has acquired is to allow them to remain distinct. Each of the
lines has its own following and appeals to its own market segment. Thus, while there has been some
integration of the Cunard Line operation into the Princess/P&O operation, the lines maintain their
identities and are managed separately from Carnival Cruise Line, Costa, Windstar, and the other Carnival
Today, Princess operates 15 ships with three more scheduled to join the fleet by 2008. The line offers
about 100 different itineraries including cruises to all seven continents and carries more than a million
passengers a year.
CROWN PRINCESS is sometimes referred to as the second ship of the CARIBBEAN PRINCESS-class
and sometimes as the fifth ship of the GRAND PRINCESS-class. Her captain, Andrew Proctor,
explained to The Log that both are correct. "[CROWN PRINCESS] has the same hull as the GRAND
PRINCESS but the additional deck makes her the same class as the CARIBBEAN PRINCESS. The
CARIBBEAN has one more passenger deck [than GRAND PRINCESS] and so does the CROWN but
the hull is the GRAND-class hull. . . . The configuration of the ship has also evolved since 1997 [- - the
year GRAND PRINCESS was built]." As a result, CROWN PRINCESS is 4,000 gross tons larger than
the lead ship of the class and can carry approximately 400 more passengers. There are also various
passenger amenities that differ from the earlier ships of the class. In addition, CROWN PRINCESS has
better lines, she does not have the appendage jutting out from her stern that gives GRAND PRINCESS
something of the look of a shopping cart.
PRINCESS is building two more of the class: one to be called EMERALD PRINCESS, will go into
service in 2007, and the other, still unnamed, will join the fleet in the Fall of 2008. "There may be
changes to the configuration and rooms, perhaps, but the next two ships will be sisters to this one."
At the time of our visit, CROWN PRINCESS had not encountered any rough seas. However, based on
his experience commanding other ships in the class, Captain Proctor had no concern. "It's a very good
sea keeping ship."
Like her sisters, CROWN PRINCESS is 951 feet long and has a beam of 118 feet. As noted earlier, she
has one more deck than the earlier ships in the class (except CARIBBEAN PRINCESS) giving her 19
decks. Her draft is 26 feet.
The ship is propelled by two fixed pitch propellers each driven by a Siemens electric motor of 19
megawatts maximum output. The motors, as well as the rest of the ship, receive electricity from six
generators driven by six diesel engines. This propulsion system gives CROWN PRINCESS a maximum
speed of the ship of 23 knots. However, the itineraries are planned so as to allow the ship to travel at 21
knots. Three bow thrusters help to maneuver the ship when docking.
CROWN PRINCESS is driven from a spacious, fully-enclosed bridge with floor-to-ceiling windows.
From two black leather chairs in the center of the room, the watch officers can view several computer
screens. "It is a paperless bridge", one of the officers told The Log. There are no paper charts, all the
navigation is done with the computers. In addition, there are computer displays showing the interior of
the ship. If a passenger is smoking near a smoke detector or if one of the chefs flames a fillet, the
officers on the bridge will know it. As an additional low tech back-up, there are observers on each of the
bridge wings watching the balconies of the passenger cabins for any sign of smoke. All of the cruise
lines have become particularly concerned about fire since a fire on STAR PRINCESS last Spring.
Situated between the officer's chairs is the ship's wheel. It can be moved up and down to adjust to the
height of the helmsman. However, the primary control for the ship are joy sticks located on the console
near the officers’ positions.
On 18 July, CROWN PRINCESS suddenly listed to her starboard side after leaving Port Canaveral,
Florida. The unexpected movement resulted in injuries to about 240 people and caused others to believe
the giant ship was about to capsize. In reality, the list was only about 15 degrees and there was no
danger to the ship.
The "tipping" incident caused a wave of debate in the media about the safety of CROWN PRINCESS
and other modern cruise ships. With their numerous decks and rows of balconies, these ships look top-
heavy. However, that is an illusion. With the engines, the fuel tanks, the water tanks, and the supplies
located in the hull, the center of gravity of these tall cruise ships is quite low. Moreover, Captain Proctor
pointed out, "they are also very long and very wide and so they are very stable."
The reason why some passengers thought the ship was turning over does have something to do with the
height of the ship, however. To someone standing near the waterline, a list of 15 degrees is not going to
seem like much. However, 19 decks above, the same list is going to seem much more pronounced
because the distance between that part of the ship and the water is going to be much less than it is when
the ship is upright. It is like a metronome, the arc is much greater at the top than it is at the base.
The immediate cause of the list was that the ship turned quickly. As anyone who has watched a
sailboat race can testify, a vessel will list toward the side it is turning to when it executes a quick turn.
When The Log visited CROWN PRINCESS, her officers pointed out that the ship is very responsive to
her helm due to the fact that she has two rudders. It would seem to follow that a small error in steering
might be magnified into a significant incident.
Other large cruise ships have experienced similar incidents when they executed a quick turn. For
example, GRAND PRINCESS "tilted" off of Galveston, Texas in February when the ship executed an
emergency turn in order to bring a passenger who had suffered a heart attack to a waiting Coast Guard
cutter for immediate medical attention. Thirteen people were injured when a rudder malfunctioned on a
Holland America ship in 1999. A Norwegian Cruise Line ship listed when she turned as a result of an
error in her autopilot. The investigation into the CROWN PRINCESS incident concluded that it resulted
from human error. In a statement, Princess said: "appropriate personnel changes have been
One of the concerns that is often expressed about the mega-cruise ships is that one will have to endure
the indignities of being with a large number of people, e.g., becoming lost in the crowd and having to
wait on long lines. Princess has come up with an interesting way to address this concern. Relying on the
fact that not everyone has the same tastes, Princess has divided the public areas in CROWN PRINCESS
into a number of relatively small venues, each designed to appeal to different tastes. Thus, rather than
have one giant theater that can accommodate the entire passenger list, the ship has a good-sized theater
but also several large lounges that feature shows of various types, and an outdoor movie theater. Along
the same lines, there is not one massive dining room but rather, three dining rooms and two specialty
dining venues as well as some casual alternatives. CROWN PRINCESS has a typical pool area, a pool
area for families with children, and a "sanctuary" where kids are prohibited. Captain Proctor
commented: "It is remarkable how much space the passengers have to go out and enjoy themselves and
not feel crowded onboard the ship. Quite often you hear people say that they don't feel crowded. There
is a lot of space."
Embarking and disembarking 3,000 people within a reasonable time is a challenge. "It takes a lot of
logistical planning." There have to be sufficient inspectors to do customs and immigration inspections
and sufficient space to move the large amounts of luggage on and off the ship. Fork lifts carrying
containers full of luggage drive in and out of the ship through doors in the hull. "We can comfortably
turn the ship around, arriving at seven in the morning, and be ready to sail by five in the evening. This
new terminal in Brooklyn is managing to accommodate us. The terminals up in midtown Manhattan,
they really couldn't cope with that."
Although most of the officers and senior managers are British or Italian, the ship is designed to appeal to
an American market. Passenger Services Director Martin Ford noted: "We have the two formal nights
per cruise, and generally people are pretty good with that. A lot of our passengers are American and
they like to be a lot more casual than Europeans would. The tux is not quite so popular. Especially, if
people work at home in an office and they wear a tie and a suit everyday, the last thing they want to do
is come on holiday and put it back on again. We're very relaxed."
Indeed, the line calls its style "Personal Choice Cruising." The object is to eliminate regimentation and,
according to Princess, give the passengers "a host of multiple dining options and locations; flexible and
varied entertainment selections; renowned customer service; and a full complement of onboard
activities." For example, two of the dining rooms are "anytime dining" while the other dining room has
traditional shipboard seating. It is up to the passenger to decide which one best suits his or her desires.
For many people, dining is a major part of a cruise. We sampled the fare in the Michelangelo restaurant
and found it excellent, particularly the pasta, as was the service by the European waiters.
CROWN PRINCESS, like all of the other Princess ships, is registered in Bermuda. Not only does this
reflect the line's British connection but it allows the captains of Princess ships to do something they
otherwise could not - - perform marriages. Contrary to popular legend, ship captains have no inherent
authority to marry people. For a line with a heritage that includes The Love Boat, this was a distinct
problem. Indeed, there is considerable demand for onboard marriages. To overcome the legal obstacle,
the Princess captains hold marriage officers' licenses from the Bermuda government, which give them
authority to perform marriages onboard a Bermuda-flagged vessel. As a result, a couple married on a
Princess ship off the coast of Alaska will receive a Bermuda marriage license. However, a passenger
cannot simply meet someone in one of the ship's bars and proceed to the marriage chapel Las Vegas
style. It takes about six weeks for the bands to be read in Hamilton, Bermuda and the paperwork
processed by the Bermuda government.
Overall, the atmosphere of CROWN PRINCESS seemed to be one of relaxed luxury. There was no
shock and awe Las Vegas glitz as in the central atrium of FREEDOM OF THE SEAS. (See The Log,
Summer 2006 at p. 9). Rather, the often sumptuous Italian Renaissance-influenced décor indicated that
the ship seeks to attract sophisticated people. At the same time, Princess' youthful approach to cruising
seems less formal than on Holland America's NOORDAM (See The Log, Spring 2006 at p. 9) or on the
Cunard Queens. She is an exciting addition to New York's cruise ship fleet.
Cruise ship article - Princess Cruises - Crown Princess