Contributors John and Sandra Nowlan offer a Discovery Princess review after returning from their recent Mexico voyage. They especially appreciated the advanced technology and high-end cuisine.
It was a sweet, nostalgic sound. Just as Discovery Princess pulled away from its moorings in Los Angeles, heading south to Mexico, the ship’s horns blasted the familiar theme from “The Love Boat.”
The popular 70s and 80s comedy featured the Pacific Princess cruise ship and gave a huge boost to cruising in general and the Princess brand in particular.
Discovery: The newest Princess ship
Discovery Princess, launched in 2022, is the newest and last of six Royal Class ships in the fleet.
On our voyage, it held 3500 passengers, ranging from kids to seniors, but rarely seemed crowded. Its advanced technology and culinary excellence, especially its specialty restaurants, make it stand out among the premium cruise lines.
Upon boarding, every Princess guest is issued a medallion, about the size of a quarter, usually worn on a neck lanyard. It’s unique in the cruise industry and very useful.
Without touching anything it unlocks your stateroom door and is recognized instantly by computers in all bars, restaurants, shops and the casino. With it and the Princess app you can order food or drinks or reach a fellow guest from anywhere on the ship.
The app also includes daily programs, ship deck plans and account updates. Happily, for many guests, a daily printed program is left in all staterooms each evening.
The main theatre, holding 1,000 guests, is also state of the art with impressive LED curtain backgrounds, amazing lighting effects and imaginative sets for the large ensemble of singers, dancers and musicians. The theatre was also ideal for single acts (like a clever magician) or enrichment lectures.
Exploring our stateroom
Our accommodation was a standard balcony room. It was well designed and felt spacious but the balcony and bathroom were smaller than on many cruise ships.
Someone quipped that a person could sit on the toilet, wash his/her hands in the sink and have a foot shower, all at the same time.
The room had great lighting and temperature control, good wi-fi, a giant TV with many channels and movies as well as twice daily cleanup.
Activities and enrichment
There’s no library aboard but Princess provides so many activity choices on both port and sea days that we always kept busy.
We took advantage of tours in all three ports—Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta—and were impressed by the efficiency of Princess staff.
Not so impressive was one hired tour guide in Cabo who barely said a word about the landmarks on our bus tour. In Mazatlan, our bus broke down while driving through the Sierra Madre mountains but, in this case, the guide was very helpful in keeping us informed and getting a replacement.
In spite of challenges the tours were interesting, particularly a visit to a glass blowing factory and a brick maker who used a mixture of mud and manure to form brinks in molds. Workers go barefoot to avoid soiling their shoes.
Discovery Princess still has many excellent ‘meals included’ options like the huge World Fresh Market Buffet and the three main dining rooms – Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. But we wanted to explore a few of the ‘extra cost’ specialty restaurants that are unique to Princess
Dining experiences aboard Discovery Princess
The 360 Dining Experience
The 360 Dining Experience (priced at $149 per person) is the most stunning example of the line’s high technology coupled with high-end cuisine.
Truly a unique adventure, 360 is an interactive, immersive and multi-sensory geography and culinary masterpiece. Twenty guests are seated in a circle surrounded by LED walls and animated projections on tables and plates. The 90-minute celebration of the senses takes visitors by sight, sound and smell to Greece, Italy, Spain and France.
The host, three chefs and ten servers offer a seven-course gourmet meal of regional dishes from each Mediterranean country while Brooke Shields narrates a video story about real farmers and fishers.
Excellent wines are poured including a Spanish grenache with bottles aged for an additional six months underwater. The 360 Dining Experience is so popular that Princess now offers it twice each evening.
On YouTube: Get a sneak peak of the 360 Dining Experience on Discovery Princess
The Chef’s Table
Not as tech-savvy but in some ways serving even more elegant cuisine are two other small dining venues that showcase the Princess culinary commitment. The Chef’s Table Lumiere (priced at $95 per person) includes a private tour of the stainless steel galley followed by a grand, six course feast presided over by the Executive Chef.
Twelve lucky guests enjoy Salmon Gravlax, Foie Gras, Seafood Bisque with Brandy Cream, a choice of Salmon Fillet or Veal Oscar and Lemon Mousse for dessert. The Executive Chef describes each course and helps pour Veuve Clicquot Champagne into Lemon Sorbet as a mid-meal palate cleanser.
The Caymus Winemaker’s Dinner
More exclusive still is the Caymus Winemaker’s Dinner (priced at $140 per person), another muti-course extravaganza using fine wines from California’s renowned Caymus Vineyards.
In a private room just ten guests enjoy outstanding Napa Valley vintages that pair perfectly with Beef Carpaccio, Marinated Oyster Mushrooms, Black Truffle Risotto, a choice of Prime Beef Tenderloin or King Salmon with Giant Prawns and Chocolate Raspberry Cream Mousse. Just six of us were able to savor this treat because, we were told, the four other guests who had booked the meal had overindulged in tequila during our Mexican stop in Mazatlan! Their loss.
Other specialty dining venues
Three other specialty, extra cost, restaurants we enjoyed were in larger dining rooms and attracted a large following. The Crown Grill ($39), with its open kitchen, is rated as one of the best steakhouses at sea. Sabatini’s ($35) is a Princess favorite on many of its ships and offers great Italian dishes like Lobster Tortellini, Ossobuco Milanese and Veal Tenderloin in Marsala Wine.
On our final night we booked a meal at the French restaurant, Bistro sur la Mer ($39) on Deck 7. With a menu planned by a three star Michelin chef, it offered Escargot, Braised Veal Shanks and Seared Duck Breast. Quenelles (egg shaped dumplings made from red snapper and scallop) in a lobster sauce were probably the best main dish of the entire cruise.
Unfortunately, Bistro sur la Mer is being phased out, to be replaced by The Catch by Rudi, Chef Rudi Sodamin’s seafood restaurant. With his reputation as a Master Chef, Rudi’s fresh, healthy and sustainable seafood should be a huge hit. Its placement on Deck 7 just above the atrium could be a deterrent. At Bistro sur la Mer we found it was quite noisy with music and loud talking coming from the two lower decks.
Guests on Discovery Princess will be well-served and well-fed if they stick with the complimentary restaurants. But the quality and variety of the extra-cost specialty restaurants make a splurge well worthwhile.
New Princess ship on the horizon
Early in 2024 the Sun Princess will be launched in Italy. It will be bigger with even more restaurant choices to enhance the reputation of Princess for innovative, high-quality cuisine.
All photo credits: John and Sandra Nowlan, unless otherwise noted
Disclosure: The Nowlans were guests of Princess Cruises but any opinions expressed in this post are their own.
- Also on MoreTimeToTravel: Read the Nowlan’s review of Celebrity Beyond
- Learn more about the ship at Princess Cruises: Discovery Princess