The 800-passenger-capacity Princess Theater is the ship's main show venue, and it also hosts movies from time to time when not featuring production shows and comedy acts. Seats are plush with spaces to hold drinks (there's waiter service before the shows start).
The theater's main productions (both new to the ship as of 2016) are "Voice of the Ocean" and "Magic To Do." "Voice of the Ocean," a take on the popular TV show, "The Voice," offers passengers the chance to take part in auditions early in the cruise, before competing against other shortlisted passengers in a live final in the Princess Theater. The final takes place on the last night of the cruise and features three judges (usually a mix of the ship's professional performers and the entertainment director) who critique performances in front of the live audience. The show is popular with passengers who get behind each performance, clapping and cheering them along. Our tip is to arrive to the theater early to grab the best seats.
"Magic To Do" is the line's Broadway-style production developed by award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz. The concept of the show is intriguing. It includes a musical compilation of Schwartz's work -- featuring songs such as "Magic To Do" from "Pippin"; "Popular" from "Wicked"; and "It'll Be Me" from "Houdini"; plus there's a song created exclusively for the show, "A Little Magic." All are mixed in with a series of magic tricks. Although we struggled to follow the narrative, do check it out for the strong vocal and orchestral performances.
The Piazza is the hub of the ship and a marvelous destination. Located on Deck 5, the bottom deck of the three-story atrium, it serves as an impromptu performance venue and demo area. And, on one of the formal nights people thronged all three levels to watch the fabled "Champagne pour," a Princess tradition.
Beyond the Piazza the ship has an overwhelming number of entertainment options, plus a variety of lounges, each with a different personality. Take time to read over the daily Princess Patter, which features activities such as the fun Princess Pyramid Game Show in the Explorers Lounge, a Trivia Challenge and afternoon movies ("Bridge of Spies" and "The Revenant" were showing on our sailing). There are also ballroom dance classes, Ping-Pong tournaments and Wii Sports challenges, among others, for those seeking more energetic activity.
Evening entertainment is as varied as the daytime offerings, with an emphasis on live music, featuring vocal performances and musical melodies.
You'll also find dancing to live music, with the Rhumba Duo in the Wheelhouse Bar, and karaoke and shows such as Marriage Match in Club Fusion. A DJ plays until late in the Skywalkers Nightclub.
Movies Under the Stars, Deck 15, draws crowds with two showings in the evenings (usually 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.) screening a mix of classic and newly released cinematic blockbusters.
Gatsby's Casino, Deck 6, has an assortment of slots and game tables. On sea days, cashiers open at 10 a.m. During port days, the full casino opens 30 minutes after sailing.
Vines Wine and Seafood Bar (Deck 5): Vines is a popular meeting spot for pre-dinner drinks and is the ship's dedicated wine bar. Wine lovers can order single glasses or tailored flights -- such as the "Trio of White Grapes" and "Norman Love Confections," which is paired with Norman Love chocolates as part of Princess' Chocolate Journeys package. Made-to-order sushi and tapas are complimentary with any wine purchase.
Speakeasy Cigar Lounge (Deck 6): The ship's smoking lounge is tucked into Gatsby's Casino within a separate room; it offers a comprehensive selection of 15 cigar varieties, ranging from $8.50 to $21.
Crooners Lounge and Bar (Deck 7): Right in the heart of the action, Crooners overlooks the Piazza. It features a vocalist, and specializes in martinis, serving 52 different types.
Club Fusion (Deck 7): The lounge-style Club Fusion, on Deck 7 (it's not a nightclub, despite the name), is busy during the day -- with Ballroom Blitz, line dancing, bingo and Jeopardy -- and into the evening. This venue also hosts Captain's Circle meetings for frequent Princess cruisers.
Explorers Lounge (Deck 7): Many of the ship's day and evening activities take place here. The 250-seat bar features comfy lounge seats and tables, centered around a level stage area.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): The ship's pub offers a nautical theme with live singers and pianists performing nightly.
Outrigger Bar (Deck 15): Offering some of the best views onboard, Outrigger is an often undiscovered oasis located at the back of the ship. Grab a bar stool and stare into the ocean over a chilled drink.
Calypso Bar and Mermaid's Tail (Deck 15): The ship's two lively poolside bars are a hive of activity on sea days when they can become overcrowded, particularly around the Calypso Bar.
Tradewinds Bar (Deck 16): An outdoor bar catering for those who want a drink as they lounge on the sun deck.
Adagio Bar (Deck 16): Located in a light-filled space next to SHARE, Adagio Bar is an elegant, Ritz Carlton-esque venue with a cabaret singer and pianist. Adagio Bar opens from 4 p.m.
Skywalkers Nightclub (Deck 18): Buy-one-get-one-free happy hour takes place daily from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. There is a live DJ (DJ TJ on our sailing), a dance floor that can feel cozy on busy nights and plenty of large booths and high stool seating. (Minimum age of entry is 18.)
Emerald Princess is home to four pools; all are surrounded by nautical-themed blue and white loungers. Two hot tubs are located by each of the ship's three main pools.
Two pools -- Calypso Reef & Pool and Neptune's Reef & Pool -- are located on the Lido Deck, and are where most of the action takes place. The areas can be especially lively when the Movies Under the Stars screen is showing a big football game (that's soccer to North Americans) by the Calypso Pool. If you're looking to rest and read a book in peace, these areas are probably not for you.
The Terrace pool (Deck 14) is far more peaceful and relaxed. In fact, many passengers don't even discover it until later in their cruise.
The adult-only Lotus Spa pool, located within the Lotus Spa, offers a more private poolside refuge. Located on Deck 16 it features padded loungers and two hot tubs. Many passengers tend to use this pool before or after a gym session or spa treatment.
Kids also have a paddling pool, located adjacent to the Youth Center at the back of the ship on Deck 17.
Though Emerald Princess doesn't compete with mega-ships' recreational offerings, it does have a Ping-Pong table, a nine-hole mini-golf course, a lawn area used for bowls (similar to bowling, but outdoors), a croquet area and a court that can be used for basketball, tennis, volleyball and badminton.
The ship's sun decks are centered around Decks 15 and 16, and offer ample space for families and individuals to lounge by the pools. There's also a sun deck area by the Terrace pool on Deck 14 and near The Sanctuary, Deck 17.
The Sanctuary -- one of the ship's adult-only spaces -- can be used for $20 for half- and $40 for full-day use. Open from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., passengers can relax on sumptuous sofas or padded chaise lounges and enjoy massages (for an extra fee) in special outdoor cabanas while "serenity stewards" bob about dispensing chilled face towels, Evian water and healthy drinks, such as citrus water. Passengers can borrow MP3 players (there's a $10 deposit, which is refundable providing they're returned in the same condition they were loaned out.), which come loaded with relaxing music. Be sure to book ahead for this facility on sea days, which is when it tends to be most popular and books up quickly.
The passenger services and loyalty desks are located within the atrium on Deck 6, while a destination expert mans the Tour Desk on Deck 7 (usually 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.). The Shore Excursions Desk is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The ship's art gallery is located on Deck 5, the Library on Deck 7, the photography and video Gallery is also on Deck 7 and a conference room can be found on Deck 6 by the Princess Theater.
There are four boutiques on the ship, located on decks 6 and 7. Calypso Cove sells guidebooks, snacks, liquor, local souvenirs, toiletries and Princess logowear, while the upscale Meridian Bay features designer handbags, sunglasses and jewelry. Essence focuses on perfumes and luxury watches, and Facets is all about jewelry.
Self-service laundry rooms are handily located in each deck's cabin corridors, and feature access to an iron and ironing board and token-operated washing machines. Detergent and washing powder can be purchased by a simple swipe of your keycard. Dry cleaning services are also available for an additional fee.
One quirky Princess feature is its wedding chapel, which hosts marriage ceremonies and vow renewals. The chapel can also be used for conferences and other events.
The ship's 24-hour internet cafe is located on Deck 5. A variety of packages are available for use in the cafe or on individual tablets, smartphones and laptops. Wi-Fi packages start from $73 for one hour. Special packages are also offered, such as the Frequent Buyer package, which offers 40 minutes free when passengers purchase a second Wi-Fi plan.
We found Princess' own free app, Princess@Sea useful for keeping up to date with ship events and activities. It also helped us find our way with a handy map containing a deck plan. To access the app, passengers are advised to turn their smartphone to airplane mode, connect to the ship's Wi-Fi (Emerald Princess) and open a web browser. The app also lets passengers check their onboard account and access restaurant opening times and menus.
Emerald Princess has plenty to offer fans of pampering with its Asian-style Lotus Spa, which spans two decks (16 and 17) and offers a full-range of treatments. They range from a Thai Herbal Poultice massage (75 minutes for $195) and Elemis Hot Stone Massage (75 minutes for $195) to revitalizing hair and scalp treatments and facials. Also on offer are teeth whitening, 50-minute acupuncture sessions and more intensive treatments, such as the Ionithermie Cellulite Reduction Program.
Hair treatments ranging from express blow drys to hair coloring are available in the salon. There are also several grooming treatments for men, including an Elemis Express Shave and facials. Couples looking to indulge in treatments together may opt for the 50- or 70-minute couples massage.
The Thermal Suite, with its heated ceramic loungers, tropical rainforest shower, aromatic and steam rooms, is another indulgence, but costs extra to use.
The Lotus Spa & Beauty Salon is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. After our treatment, the spa therapist offered helpful advice on skincare, but on the downside this was followed with an attempt at upselling the luxury Elemis products used in the treatment.
Emerald Princess' gym received all brand-new equipment during its 2016 refit, including more than 40 cardio machines with TV and USB connections, medicine balls, free weights and weight machines.
Lotus Health & Fitness is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., although the treadmills aren't accessible until 8 a.m. because cabins are situated beneath them. Access to treadmills is permitted until 8 p.m. For those who prefer to run outside, there's a jogging track, albeit short (it takes 16 laps to reach a mile), which circles the ship's nine-hole putting course Princess Links on Deck 19.
Complimentary stretching, core strength and ab strengthening workouts are available, and, for a small per-class fee, passengers can sign up for body sculpting boot camp, yoga, Pilates, TRX and cycling classes.
Emerald Princess is well-equipped to serve children of different ages and on our cruise there were certainly many of them to keep occupied. There are three kids' clubs on Deck 17 for children between the ages of three and 17.
Children must be six months old in order to sail. There is no private in-cabin babysitting, but group babysitting is available for a fee of $5 per hour, per child for children 3 and older.
Some additional services are available, including diaper and baby food in-cabin delivery service, although Princess advises passengers to purchases diapers before their cruise. Passengers should notify the line in advance of traveling if they need cribs. The ship's restaurants are child-friendly, with kids' menus in the main dining rooms, and highchairs are available.
Youngsters have their own "Chill Out" splash pool on Deck 17. They must be potty-trained and under the supervision of a parent to use it. And it goes without saying that more generic attractions, such as Movies Under The Stars, hold an instant appeal for kids, too -- but beware of what's being shown, as sometime the language is more suited to an adult audience than to young viewers. The two main pools on the Lido Deck are popular with children, but they're deep, so kids need to be reasonably good swimmers.
Princess Pelicans serves kids ages 3 to 7 and offers a range of age-appropriate activities, such as kids-only dance parties, movies and cartoons, ice cream and pizza parties, pajama parties, theme nights, a family fun fair and art projects.
Shockwaves is for kids ages 8 to 12 and features activities such as kids-only dinners, dance parties, movies, video games, scavenger hunts, karaoke and talent shows, sports tournaments, Jr.CHEF@Sea cooking classes through the Princess Culinary Academy and theme nights.
Remix, with a hip and edgier vibe, offers a place for 13- to 17-year-olds to hangout, listen to music and play on game consoles. There's also a selection of card games, board games, Ping-Pong tables and jukeboxes. Teens also have a separate Jacuzzi and sunbathing area. They can even mix their own dance tracks and take hip-hop dance lessons.