Travel Market Report editor Dori Saltzman was onboard Discovery Princess this week for its inaugural sailing. Below are her thoughts on the ship.
I’m onboard Discovery Princess for its inaugural voyage, a one-week cruise along the Mexican Riviera out of Los Angeles. It’s my third Princess cruise since I returned to cruising this past August. After my most recent sailing, onboard Caribbean Princess, it’s been wonderful getting back to the modern amenities of the line’s Royal-class ships. Something as simple as bed-side USB chargers can make a big difference for this on-the-go editor.
Discovery Princess is the last of Princess’ flagship Royal Class, a class I fell in love with after sailing onboard Sky Princess shortly before COVID-19 shut down the industry. I’ve since been on Regal Princess and Majestic Princess as well.
Discovery Princess is a near carbon copy of Sky Princess and a total copy of Enchanted Princess, with the sole exception that Discovery has an all new show that, sadly, wasn’t available on our sailing.
A highlight of any Princess Cruise, the Piazza is even more impressive on the three newest Royal-class ships, which sees Good Spirits moved into the area. And, on Majestic and Discovery, sees the Salty Dog Gastropub get its own spot, right where Vines Wine Bar used to be. It’s a great people watching spot and for anyone who enjoys ballroom dancing, it’s the place to be most evenings.
My only gripe is the hours for the gastropub are too narrow. It’s only open for dinner, but would make a great lunch and late afternoon spot. Similarly, the star drinks at Good Spirits at Seas are only available during “show” times, which is frustrating if you’ve seen the bartenders demo the drinks before and you know which are your favorites.
With the addition of the Salty Dog Gastropub, Princess brings the specialty dining offering onboard its Royal Class ships to five: Crown Grill, Sabatini’s, Bistro Sur La Mer, Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar and Salty Dog Gastropub. And, while, yes, they do cost extra, the prices are entirely affordable – just $29 per person for multi-course meals at Crown Grill, Sabatini’s and Bistro Sur La Me! And $12 at Salty Dog Gastropub. The sushi at the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar is a la carte, starting at $3.25 for one of six rolls and going up to $18 for one of the nine chef's specials.
Of the five, I’ll choose Sabatini’s every time. The food is fantastic, and for $29 you get an appetizer, soup or salad, pasta, entrée and dessert. If you’ve never had a Sabatini’s tiramisu (or tiramisu martini), you’re missing out!
Of course, you don’t have to do specialty dining to get great food onboard Discovery. The main dining room and buffet choices are excellent. I’m also a big fan of the room service menu (about half of which cost extra), as well as the free sandwiches and quiches at International Café.
And I can’t forget about Alfredo’s, which on both Enchanted Princess and Discovery Princess, has been renamed Gigi’s (after an executive at the Fincantieri shipyard). Regardless of the name, it offers the same great pizza menu at no extra charge. Want to eat there on a sea day? Get there before opening time (usually 11:30 a.m.) or aim to eat after 1:30/2 p.m.
Though I’m not much of a cruise pool person, I love that there are several pools to choose from on Discovery Princess. You’ll find two pools mid-ship on Deck 16, a third aft on Deck 16 and one in the Retreat on Deck 17. There are also a number of hot tubs, on Decks 16 and 17.
I’m a bit more partial to piano tunes, so Crooners has always been more of my jam, but jazz lovers can’t stop raving about the Take 5 jazz lounge. The music is always great and the cocktails are some of the best on the ship. (They were designed by the same mixologist who did the Good Spirits drinks.) The music usually gets started in the early evening, around 6:30-6:45, but the crowd picks up as the hours grow later.
Let me first say, I love, love, love the OceanMedallion concept on all of Princess’ ships. I love that I can pop my Medallion into a wristband and wear it wherever I go without having to worry about a keycard. I use the app to have Diet Cokes delivered to me wherever I am on the ship. I love being able to chat with cruise friends onboard or track my husband down if I can’t find him.
I also love the new MedallionPay on land option that lets you pay for items and meals at select stores, restaurants, museums and more in ports that Princess visits just with a tap of your Medallion. Not only does that mean you don’t need to carry your credit card into port with you, but you also get 7% cashback as onboard credit for every MedallionPay purchase you make. Participating vendors are still somewhat limited, but more are expected to come onboard. (If you’re a chocolate lover, be sure to check out Cacao Magico in Puerto Vallarta, where you can select from dozens of chocolates and pay with your Princess medallion.)
With all that said, the system remains buggy and, on this, the first sailing of Discovery Princess, it was more so than usual. Throughout the sailing, we were never able to make dinner reservations – not at any of the specialty restaurants and not at the main dining rooms. The JourneyView functionality, which is supposed to show you the day’s (and full week’s) schedule never loaded. We were given paper copies of the schedule every day, but for those of us who like favoriting activities to build a personal calendar, the paper schedule just doesn’t cut it.
There also continues to be some training issues with crew using the system. Rather than scanning my Medallion I was asked to provide my cabin number. And I found a Gastropub charge on my folio one morning, despite having not been to the Gastropub yet. That’s something that shouldn’t happen with MedallionPay!
Considering that I’m used to new ship designs building on the ship before, it’s somewhat disappointing to come onboard Discovery Princess and find a near carbon copy of earlier ships. It’s also surprising to see some of the same things cruisers have been complaining about forever not addressed.
Why, for instance, is there still a shower curtain in a standard room and not a glass door? Why has the line not added some extra shelving in the bathroom or in the main cabin? Seeing how other cruise lines are learning to make the most of every bit of space in cabins, leaves me scratching my head that Princess hasn’t done the same.
I’ve also been surprised to discover my room steward only services my cabin once per day. (Found out on the last sea day, from someone else, that I can request twice a day or use my TV to "order" turndown service.)
Put aside the few disappointments, however, and Discovery Princess lives up to the expectations of a Princess Royal Class cruise ship devotee.