All text and photographs (unless stated otherwise) © Paul Timmerman
Princess has its origins on the West Coast of America. In 1964 Stanley Mc Donald chartered the Princess Patricia from Canadian Pacific, a small coastal vessel with capacity to carry appr. 400 pax. Because of the name of the ship, Mc Donald decided to name his cruise operation Princess Cruises. Normally Princess Patricia operated in Alaska, but Mc Donald relocated her to Los Angeles to cruise to the Mexican Riviera. In the summer of 1965 and 1966 she was chartered again from Canadian Pacific to sail for Princess Cruises, but of course Mc Donald wanted a vessel he could operate all year. He found the Italia of 12.218 GRT in 1967. A year later, Mc Donald succeeded in chartering a second ship, Carla-C from Costa Line. She was renamed Princess Carla for Princess-service. Princess Carla received Princess Cruises new logo on her funnel, a woman with hair flowing like ocean waves. This logo is still in use today on the funnel of all Princess ships.
With two ships Mc Donald now had a year-round operation, sailing from Los Angeles to Mexico and in Alaskan waters. Alaska has since been Princess's most important cruise area.
Suddenly, in 1968, a firm called Base Cascade Corp. took over Princess Cruises from Mc Donald. However, two years later, he repurchased his company.
In 1972, Island Venture, a cruise vessel sailing for Flagship Cruises was chartered and later purchased. She was renamed Island Princess. Two years before, Costa had ended the charter agreement concerning the Princess Carla with Princess, reducing the Princess fleet to just the Princess Italia. This ship was at the time owned by an Italian bank. Mc Donald tried to purchase the vessel, but couldn't reach an agreement.
In 1973, Princess experienced fianancial problems because of the sky high fuel costs it had to pay. Being a single ship company, Princess Cruises was very vulnerable indeed. Then, fortunately, one of Princess competitors, British P&O Cruises wanted to join forces with Princess in order to have a stronger position on the West American coast and be able to compete more agressively with Boris Vlasov´s Sitmar cruises.
P&O took over Princess in 1974 but until 1980 Mc Donald stayed at the helm of the company. Immediately, the 1972 built Spirit of London was added to the fleet. Sitmar responded in 1984 when they introduced the 46.000 GRT Fairsky. Three more newbuildings were ordered, but these never sailed for Sitmar, as this firm was taken over by P&O Princess in 1988. Mr. Vlasov had passed away in 1987, and the following year his company was for sale. His newbuildings all became Princess vessels. In the years before, Princess had become probably the best known cruise company in the world because of the television series "Love Boat" which continued for almost a decade (1977-1986). Filmed mostly aboard the Pacific Princess, it contributed immensely to popularize cruising among the public.
After the take over of Sitmar, the three newbuildings ordered by Vlasov were incorporated in the Princess fleet. First in 1989, Star Princess was delivered by Chantiers l´Atlantique in St. Nazaire, France. Her intended name was Fair Majesty. Then, in 1990 and 1991, two more newbuildings were taken into service, the Crown Princess and the Regal Princess. Designed by Italian designer Renzo Piano they looked liked dolphins as the area above the bridge was rounded, having an oval shape resembling (with a bit of imagination) a dolphin. In sharp contrast with their modern profile were the straight stacks of both vessels, looking "old fashioned" (consisting of several exhaust pipes). So the ships were highly modern forward, but at the stern had a totally different look, like a more classic vessel. Both ships were constructed by Fincantieri and marked the start of a new era for the yard. In fact Fincantieri would become one of the most important yards for building cruise ships, and many large cruise vessels have been turned out to this day.
Regal Princess was christened in New York by former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, while actress Sophia Loren christened Crown Princess, also in New York.
Crown/ Regal Princess
Sitmar´s 1984 built Fairsky was renamed Sky Princess at first, and later in 2000, Pacific Sky as she shifted to Australian waters. Pacific Sky is the last major passenger vessel which has steam powered propulsion. Diesel and later diesel electric propulsion being more common in these days.
Older vessels like Fair Princess and Dawn Princess (former Cunarders designed for transatlantic liner service) were soon sold off, being too old and not up to Princess standards.
In 1984 Princess had ordered a newbuilding, the Royal Princess (see ship description). Apart from the P&O and Sitmar vessels, this was Princess' first own newbuilding. Many in the cruise industry consider her to be one of the finest looking cruise vessels in service today. She follows the AOC concept, meaning All Outside Cabins.
Between 1995 and 2000, a series of sister ships followed (all built by Fincantieri), the Sun, Dawn, Sea and Ocean Princess, measuring 77.400 GRT . Sun Princess shortly held the record of being the largest cruise ship in the world. Ocean and Sea Princess have recently been shifted to P&O Cruises and have been renamed Oceana and Adonia.
Sun, Dawn, Sea and Ocean Princess
In 1997 the 109.000GRT Grand Princess was introduced, again at the time the largest cruise ship in the world, surpassing Carnival's Destiny class in size. Two years later however, RCCL's Voyager of the Seas measuring 137.276 GRT easily outclassed her in size. Grand Princess´ most notable design feature was a lounge called Skywalkers, elevated high above the stern, compared by many to a spoiler on a sports car.... An enclosed walkway takes you to this spectacularly situated lounge.
With the introduction of the Golden Princess, every newbuilding that has followed has about the same external appearance, and in this way at last a "Princess" look was introduced on the high seas. Carnival had their winged funnel as a trademark and RCCL of course their Viking Crown Lounge wrapped around the funnel of their ships. Before, the Princess fleet had been quite heterogeneous, comprising vessels from Princess itself, P&O and Sitmar.
Princess has sold their her first two ships, known by so many as the stars of the Love Boat TV series. Both are still in service, sailing as Pacific for Pullmantur and Discovery for Discovery Cruises.
The 1990 built Crown Princess became the A´Rosa Blu, for a newly formed company called A`Rosa Cruises catering for the fast growing German cruise market. P&O sees the same growth potential here as its home market, the UK. Plans were that Regal Princess would follow her in 2004. However, after the take over from P&O Princess by Carnival Corp. it has been decided to merge A´Rosa in P&O´s other German subsidiary, Aida Cruises. So A´Rosa Blu became Aida Blu (until 2007 when she paased on to Ocean Village Cruises and was renamed Ocean Village Two). Instead, Regal Princess went to P&O Cruises Australia in 2007 as their Pacific Dawn.
In 1999 Princess astonished the cruise industry with a vey ambitious newbuilding scheme, totalling five(!) ships, a Grand Princess class vessel, two 88.000 tonners built by Chantiers de l´Atlantique and two ships built by a yard that normally does not built cruise ships, Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy industries. The latter newbuildings will be larger versions of Grand Princess, measuring 113.000 GRT. They were sheduled to enter service in 2003 ( Diamond Princess) followed by Sapphire Princess in 2004. During construction, a serious fire broke out on board of Diamond Princess. By switching both vessels, they could both be taken into service in 2004, almost as planned. Also delivered in the spring of 2004 was a third new vessel for Princess, the 116.00GRT Caribbean Princess, which was built in Italy at the Fincantieri shipyard. Three vessels in just four months meant a speed record in growth for Princess Cruises. Sister vessels to Caribbean Princess followed in 2006 (Crown Princess), 2007 (Emerald Princess) and the last one comes on line in 2008 (Ruby Princess).
As told in the company histories of Carnival and RCCL, P&O Princess offered itself for sale in 2002. RCCL was interested immediately and an agreement was reached quickly. At the last possible moment, Carnival Corp. made P&O Princess shareholders a competing offer and shareholders decided to choose for Carnival´s offer. P&O Princess has now been merged into the group of Carnival subsidiaries, together called the World´s leading Cruise Lines.
Sea Princess was transferred to P&O Cruises in 2003 and became their Adonia. This lasted for two years before she returned to Princess and reverted back to her former name. She switched places with the Royal Princess (1984, 44588GRT) which became P&O's Artemis.
Princess operates three former Renaissance Cruises vessels (company went bankrupt in 2001), Pacific Princess (ex R Three) and Tahitian Princess (ex R Four) were acquired right away and Royal Princess (ex R Eight) in 2007 (in between she had been in service as Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises which ended operations in 2007).
Princess Cruises vessels currently in operation
Caribbean Princess, 2004/ 3000/ 120000
Coral Princess, 2002/ 1950/ 88000
Crown Princess, 2006/ 3114/ 113000
Dawn Princess, 1997/ 1950/ 77441
Diamond Princess, 2004/ 2670/ 113000
Emerald Princess, 2007/ 3114/ 113000
Golden Princess, 2001/ 2600/ 108806
Grand Princess, 1998/ 2600/ 108806
Island Princess, 2003/ 1950/ 88000
Ocean Princess, 1999/ 702/ 30277
Pacific Princess, 1999/ 702/ 30277
Ruby Princess, 2008/ 3110/ 113650
Sapphire Princess, 2004/ 2670/ 113000
Sea Princess, 1998/ 2000/ 77500
Star Princess, 2002/ 2600/ 108806
Sun Princess, 1996/ 2020/ 77440