The Discovery Princess, the newest Royal-class ship in the Princess fleet, is bound for Mexico this winter. Joe Kessel offers a taste of life on board
Je start of any cruise ship always sparks excitement, but as the Discovery Princess departs Los Angeles on her maiden voyage, the buzz on the upper deck is unparalleled. The horn sounds The ship of love theme music – the hit 1970s TV series was set aboard a Princess ship – and the assembled crowd whistled, waved and booed. Their energy speaks volumes. These passengers are more than happy to be back after the pandemic put the cruise on hold temporarily – indeed, the trip sold out months in advance.
The Discovery Princess was the last Royal-class ship to join the Princess fleet, setting sail in March this year. Carrying 3,660 guests, she is a sister ship to the Enchanted and the second generation Sky Princess, but with subtle differences. The decor has been lifted and lightened, including the carpets – this is most evident in my bright balcony cabin. The swimming pools are also different. They’ve been upgraded and expanded, with two full-sized pools amidships, an adult-only one forward, and an infinity pool aft, where I spend many happy hours mesmerized by the ship’s wake.
I am with my husband Marc and our seven night trip to the Mexican Riviera coincides with our wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to her, I mention this to a crew member who sends flowers to our cabin for a small fee. There will be more surprises on the day.
Discoveries on board
Meanwhile, we’re challenging ourselves to explore as much of Discovery as possible in the first 24 hours. Marc visits the gymnasium while I run the outdoor jogging track and we meet for a round of mini-golf.
Next, we face the Discovery’s 16-story glass walkway. It’s scary – especially if you’re walking against the current of the ship – but then I spot movement under my feet. “Dolphins,” I squeal, pointing excitedly. We are struck by the sight of several pods following the ship.
Lunch is an experience. Apparently our movements can be tracked by the crew via our wearable technology Medallion discs. With that in mind, we order Greek salads on our cabin TV, then walk around to see if we can be found. “That will never happen,” my husband says when we finally settle down at a table in the glistening three-tier Piazza. Moments later, a server approaches carrying a tray with our lunch. Eureka!
We spend the afternoon lounging by the pool and taking part in a line dancing class on the sports field. It’s a welcome and enjoyable workout. The reward is dinner in one of the ship’s three main dining rooms, all named after towns in Alaska. Ours is called Ketchikan and each of the three dishes is cooked to perfection – shrimp cocktail followed by bacon wrapped meatloaf and apple pie. Home cooking with a gourmet touch.
The food is so tasty that you don’t have to shell out at specialty restaurants. That said, we love the filet mignon at the Crown Grill Steakhouse or the sole piccata (cooked with white wine, capers and butter) served at the Italian Sabatini. Both are top notch.
A Mexican Wave
Along the route are a trio of Mexican ports. The first is Cabo San Lucas, a resort town located at the southern end of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. A water taxi takes us from the marina to the famous Lover’s Beach, a cove lined with spectacular rock formations. Beyond these rocks is Cabo’s iconic El Arco, a natural rock arch flanked by two oceans: the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific. A few hours later, we cruise past this arch on a sunset sailboat tour. It feels like the end of the earth as we watch the sun set behind it.
The next day we hike to a perched lighthouse in Mazatlan and the next day we dock in Puerto Vallarta. Here we booked a day boat trip which proves our greatest adventure. We anchor in secluded coves and trek through the jungle to a waterfall, passing trees whose fruits are used to make maracas. Then we can use our medallions to buy delicious chocolate at a store in Puerto Vallarta, as Princess recently introduced its contactless technology to 80 stores in different ports.
The personal touch
Hotel General Manager Jasper Wolthius explains what sets Discovery apart and why bookings for the ship’s Alaska season this summer have been so strong. “It’s the crew that makes the difference. They always strive to give every passenger a personal experience and the Medallion helps them do just that.
So it’s no surprise when, for our wedding anniversary, it’s the crew that makes it special. They set up an “Ultimate Balcony Breakfast” on our balcony – including champagne, smoked salmon bagels and fruit platters. It’s £35 per couple and well worth it for single champers! They decorate our bed love boat style and a “Happy Birthday” greeting flashes on the gate outside our cabin. It’s wonderfully personal.
The pillows in the bed are so good (they’re designed by sleep scientists) that I want one for the house. Upon hearing that they are available for purchase, I try to earn some money to cover the cost at Princesses New Agree or disagree Discovery exclusive game show. Some guests may perform on stage; the others play the audience bingo-style game. There’s a $1,000 prize up for grabs, but no one wins this time.
No matter! Just being on Discovery is like hitting the jackpot.
To book: Through September, Discovery is sailing Alaskan cruises from Seattle in the United States, returning to the California coast and Mexico for winter 2022. A seven-night trip to the Mexican Riviera in a balcony cabin on The Discovery Princess costs £699 pp, departing Los Angeles on November 26, 2022. princess.com