Cruising in comfort on the Golden Princess
TALK about making a grand entrance.
And why not? When you are the biggest lady in the place, you deserve to be heralded in with fanfare. You are a headturner, a showstopper. Sensational ceremony is your style.
So it was when Golden Princess sailed into Port Phillip Bay recently to be welcomed by helicopters towing two giant golden curtains, each measuring 20,000 square feet, bearing the words Melbourne Welcomes Golden Princess.
The massive curtains flapped and waved against a clear blue sky and escorted the grand lady across the bay until, in a grand theatrical gesture, they were drawn apart to usher the majestic ship into its new home port.
Guests on board the 2600-passenger mega liner were up on decks before dawn to watch the spectacle and to be part of cruise history.
Fortunately Melbourne turned on a warm and clear spring morning as the largest ship yet to be based in Victoria strutted her stuff and approached the wharf with grace and grandeur.
That the captain and crew manoeuvre this colossal ship - 290 metres long, almost equal to the height of Melbourne's Eureka Tower - from the bridge with the tiniest of levers is as astonishing as the surfeit of technology on board.
We enjoyed two nights sailing from Sydney to Melbourne, privileged to be part of this historic event.
Golden Princess's inaugural Melbourne deployment is expected to result in 40,000 guests cruising on her between now and March, sailing return trips to the South Pacific, New Zealand and Tasmania.
The facilities and activities on board are designed for comfortable elegance and are as irresistible as the ports of call and shore excursions.
Four swimming pools will keep families happy but an escape from the buzz in child-free The Sanctuary will give you five-star service with light food and fresh juices ferried to your sun lounge or private cabana.
Then there is the fragrant and tranquil Lotus Spa with so many up-to-the-minute treatments and therapies you'll want to visit every day.
The all-important wining and dining on board could overwhelm with more than a dozen dining choices, more bars than we could count and a stunning suspended Skywalkers Nightclub at the aft of the ship reached dizzily by a moving walkway above the decks.
Princess's partnership with celebrity chef Curtis Stone presents Crafted by Curtis menu items in the main dining room (the pork belly and chicken and leek pie are signature dishes already).
An anytime dining approach in the Bernini Dining Room means you turn up any time you want; you set the pace.
Speciality restaurants (a small fee applies) offer fine-dining experiences: Italian at the ritzy Sabatini's, premium aged-beef and seafood in the classy Crown Grill.
If you're feeling in the mood for dinner a deux, a steward will come to your stateroom with gourmet offerings from the room service menu and serve it on your private balcony. (More than 50% of Golden Princess's state rooms have private balconies.)
All over the ship Golden Princess does grand and majestic on a spectacular scale: a piazza is inspired by the elegant squares of Europe, the art gallery brims with prestigious art works, lounge areas are plush and welcoming, duty free shops are full of designer labels, cosmetics and perfumes.
Industry figures show that more than one million Australians took a cruise in 2014. Its popularity is unquestionable.
The writer was a guest of Princess Cruises.
IF YOU GO:
Golden Princess fares start from $1699 per person twin share for a 13-night cruise to New Zealand departing January 23, 2016.
For more information and bookings see a licensed travel agent, phone 13 24 88 or visit princess.com.