One of the newest ships

When some think of cruises, a picture of cheesy, matching family T-shirts comes to mind. Perhaps you think of long lines at the buffet and loop-de-loop water slides that never seem to end on the lido deck. For some, this image isn’t relaxing, but not all ships are created equal.

The lovely Discovery Princess, the second newest cruise ship among Princess Cruises’ fleet, is one of the most elegant I’ve voyaged on — and I’ve been on 10+ cruises (read: best cruises I reviewed). So, you can say I’ve become quite the cruise critic over the years.

While each cruise ship has something unique to offer, I can honestly say my experience setting sail on the Discovery Princess was my favorite cruise yet.

RELATED: Princess unveils its new Sun Princess ship

As part of the itinerary’s Pacific Wine Country Tour for an April 2024 sailing, I embarked from the Los Angeles port in San Pedro, CA and then traveled to San Diego; San Francisco; Astoria, OR; and Victoria and Vancouver, Canada. The best part was experiencing Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley on one of Princess Cruises’ excursions, but more on that later.

To assemble an in-depth review of my experience, I divided this piece into a few sections: who it’s good for, activities and entertainment, food and drink options, excursions and special features. Consider this your all-in-one guide. After all, I did plenty of research myself — a discovery, if you will — via YouTube videos, Discovery Princess Facebook groups and by way of the easy-to-use Princess app. Not to mention, since I’ve cruised on other lines, including Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean, you’ll find some comparison notes as well.

Even better, this cruise vacation was with my high school best friend, Veronica, who has never been aboard a cruise ship. It was such a unique experience seeing all that Discovery Princess had to offer with her first-time perspective, which is infused within this review as well.

Who it’s good for

Views from The Sanctuary, Discovery Princess' adults-only retreat.
Views from The Sanctuary, Discovery Princess’ adults-only retreat.Veronica Abramson

The Piazza, Discovery Princess' epicenter where you'll find live music, entertainment, on-the-go dining venues and more.
The Piazza, Discovery Princess’ epicenter where you’ll find live music, entertainment, on-the-go dining venues and more.Veronica Abramson


The Enclave, the boutique, resort-style hideaway at Lotus Spa.
The Enclave, the boutique, resort-style hideaway at Lotus Spa.Veronica Abramson

Pictured: one of the two saunas found at The Enclave, part of Lotus Spa.Veronica Abramson


Most cruise lines are designed for whatever you’d like your vacation to be, whether it’s solo travel, couples traveling, a best friend cruise (I’m representing this demographic here) and family trips. Aboard Discovery Princess, I even saw a 20+ family reunion. The possibilities are endless, and some sailings may yield older or younger demographics depending on the itinerary, length of the cruise and other factors.

Veronica and I are both in our early 20s, and we found the Discovery Princess to cater to an older crowd, as we saw many middle- and senior-aged couples. However, we scouted a handful of young adult couples, just not nearly as many as you’d find on more “family-friendly” cruise lines, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

However, this isn’t a dealbreaker in the slightest. A cruise is what you make of it, and we enjoyed trying top-of-the-line specialty restaurants, heading to Broadway-production-style shows, booking excursions for each port we docked at and relaxing in the Lotus Spa, the latter being a true R&R highlight. Pro tip: pick up a Miami Vice or your favorite cocktail at one of Discovery’s bars before heading to The Enclave, the spa’s modern, state-of-the-art relaxation centers with a jet pool, two different sauna rooms and heated lounge chairs. You definitely won’t be sorry.

Because Discovery Princess was my first trip with Princess Cruises, I can’t speak if the slightly older clientele is characteristic of the cruise line at large or this specific itinerary. Granted, it was a wine-centric itinerary at the end of April, so I wasn’t expecting to see many passengers younger than 21-years-old on each deck. Additionally, we didn’t sail in peak summertime months when school’s out and more family vacations may take place.

While I certainly remember way more families aboard other cruise lines, that’s not to say Princess isn’t family-friendly. There’s a variety of entertainment options, which you’ll find on the stateroom patter (otherwise known as a printed itinerary) each evening, placed at the foot of your bed by a stateroom attendant. Or, you can follow along on the Princess app.

Activities and entertainment

One of the highlights from the Discovery Princess ship is, without question, the activities and entertainment that I’d say is world-class. I grew up going to theaters, Broadway shows and local productions and it was clear as day that the variety of shows featured well-versed actors, performers, dancers, singers and a legitimate crew to put together the lighting, choreography and the entire setup from start to finish.

If heading to shows isn’t entirely your thing, that’s OK, too; Discovery Princess had a multitude of game shows, comedians, dance and deck parties (sometimes, dance parties on the deck), trivia and more. Below, I ran through some of the activities and entertainment options Veronica and I experienced during our April 2024 sailing:

Production Shows at Princess Theater

Princess Theater
The immaculate Princess Theater aboard Discovery Princess. Victoria Giardina

One of the most memorable experiences aboard Discovery Princess was heading to the Production Shows during the eight-day cruise. Show times and type may vary depending on the sailing, though you can expect two Production-level shows. These mimic the vibe exuded on Broadway.

Aboard Discovery, I went to the “Spotlight Bar” show, where the full cast sang radio, sing-along hits in front of a bar scene. The group dances and individual ballads were nothing short of phenomenal. As much as I loved watching the first Production-level show, I adored the “Rock Opera” show, a fusion of 80s rock with opera-style performances. Think: “The Greatest Showman” meets Cyndi Lauper. The costumes, set and overall segue from song to song was unparalleled; I didn’t want it to end.

Additionally, Princess Cruises has two show times for its Production-level shows: one at 7:30 p.m. and another at 9:30 p.m. This works out well, that way you have options to work around your dinner reservations or late-night activities, like the after-hours comedian or DJ.

Aside from Production Shows at Princess Theater, there were two to three other shows performed by soloists Willis White and Nick Petris who paid homage to music icons Lionel Richie and Michael Bublé, respectively. Both were excellent and entertaining. Princess Theater also hosted a magician one night, though we didn’t attend.

Game Shows at Princess Live!

Another sit-back-and-relax moment aboard Discovery was the schedule of game shows from the first to last evening on the cruise. Sometimes, game shows can be corny, but the Princess crew truly knew how to entertain.

Veronica and I attended a few, including “Top, Middle or Bottom” where passengers took turns selecting Jeopardy-style tiles and either passing through to the next column (a checkmark), receiving one of three X-es (a firecracker symbol) or a trivia question (a question mark). It was a pretty suspenseful guessing game and one that kept us pretty entertained.

Another game show we attended one evening was called “Majority Rules,” where we’d answer somewhat controversial questions like, “Who’s the best female singer?” or “What’s the greatest film of all time?” As the name suggests, the majority rules, and each “team” tallies up their points to crown the ultimate victor.

The vibe of the game shows was the perfect after-dinner activity. Many cruisers sat in armchairs with a drink in hand, just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. The best part? Most game shows were hosted by the cruise director. Kristoff, if you’re reading this, we love you.

Comedy Shows at Vista Lounge (nicknamed “Laugh Lounge”)

Laugh Lounge
The Vista Lounge, turned into the “Laugh Lounge” during evening comedy hour. Victoria Giardina

For fans of stand-up comedy, Discovery hosted quite a few comedy shows, divided among three comedians on my particular sailing. These shows were hosted at Vista Lounge, a sophisticated and snazzy venue space, though the backdrop transforms into a brick-style background with a neon “Laugh Lounge” sign in cursive, apropos of the crew’s production team.

Some comedians starred on Comedy Central and popular Late Night shows and had us laughing to no end. Whether it’s your first cruise or you’re a four-times-a-year cruiser, the banter and jokes made about cruising pet peeves is witty, relatable and entertaining.

Most of all, I loved the variety of comedians aboard Discovery. On a previous Carnival cruise, there was only one comedian who, although was great at improv comedy and picking on audience members, didn’t inspire me to see all seven of his shows. The comedians aboard Discovery were proof that live entertainment on this ship is purely unforgettable.

The Dance Competition

Slightly hidden on the itinerary, the Princess Dance Competition allows passengers and crew members to be selected at random in the cruise’s version of “Dancing with the Stars.” Spoiler alert: this was one of my favorite moments from the cruise. I ended up participating, dancing with a crew member from the buffet team and ended up *winning* the whole competition. And yes, I ended up doing a split. There’s something I didn’t think I’d do on a cruise ship…

Other activities and entertainment

Discovery Princess Casino
Views from the Vegas-style Princess Casino, open during sea days and when sailing. Victoria Giardina

From regular perusing of the daily itinerary, there are additional activities to enjoy. Discovery ensured that there were enough options to choose from on both sea days and days at port. On some other cruise lines, there was next to nothing to do in the afternoons, so this was a nice touch.

Below, find a sampling of events and activities you may expect to experience aboard Discovery Princess:

  • “Deal or No Deal” show: Similar to Bingo, which was also offered aboard Discovery, game cards for Deal or No Deal were being sold. As an audience member, you have quite a few chances to win the ultimate prize, following along as the show goes on.
  • Casino: Many cruisers enjoy spending time at the casino, whether it be individual slot machines or Blackjack and Roulette tables. I enjoyed spending some time at the Casino, but keep in mind this is only open during times at sea due to port laws and regulations.
  • Fitness classes: Discovery offers a gym-grade fitness center with professional equipment and even pilates, barre, yoga and HIIT classes you can sign up for.
  • Line dancing: On Discovery, there’s a ton of line dancing happening in The Piazza, the main epicenter of the ship. This exists on other cruises I’ve sailed on as well, but this sailing took it to the next level.
  • Afternoon tea: During sea days, Discovery hosted an afternoon tea at 3:00 p.m. in one of the three main dining rooms. Complete with finger sandwiches, teas and handhelds, passengers loved the experience. We skipped it on our cruise only because one of our excursions in Victoria, Canada was having high tea at a mansion.
  • Cocktail experiences: Around 4:45 p.m. or so, Discovery hosted cocktail experiences every few days. This sip-and-learn activity is hosted at one of the main bars and a bartender will walk you through crafting tips, different flavor pairings and, of course, mixing drinks right in front of you.

Food and drink options

An incredible, standout feature aboard Discovery Princess was its wealth of well-varied food and beverage options. If you’ve been on a cruise before, you know you’ll never go hungry, but this ship’s prized dining room service, quality and flair was a step above other cruises I’ve been on.

Main Dining Room

Discovery Princess has three main dining rooms: Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, all named after locations in Alaska, one of the ship’s most-traveled-to destinations. Each passenger or passenger group will be assigned one of the three main dining rooms to eat at each evening with different times as well. Wonderfully, there was much flexibility at each dining room if you preferred to dine a bit earlier or later than your scheduled time.

Compared to other ships, the food in the main dining rooms was much better and closely on par with the multitude of specialty dining options you’ll find on board. You’ll find at least one formal night (aka, lobster night for seafood fans) where nearly everyone is decked out in cocktail attire to take professional photos and enjoy a delicious menu. Production-level shows are usually this night as well.

Breakfast in the main dining room was also an enjoyable experience, where you can enjoy fresh juices, pastries, fruits and main courses. The menu was smaller than other cruises I’ve been on, but this wasn’t a dealbreaker.

The World Fresh Marketplace

World Fresh Marketplace
The pasta station found within World Fresh Marketplace, the Discovery Princess buffet. Victoria Giardina

The World Fresh Marketplace, otherwise known as the buffet, didn’t have a miles-long line like some other cruises I’ve sailed on. The options were diverse, delicious and perfect for a quick bite. Veronica and I loved the taco bar and pasta station, as well as the fresh fruit counter. Not to mention, the service is one of the best; waitstaff circles around tables to offer you fresh water, juice or soda on trays, making it extra convenient for your overall dining experience.

International Café

Located on Deck 5 next to The Piazza, International Café is a complimentary, luxury-leaning, grab-and-go counter where you’ll find fresh pastries (note: the almond croissants, heated up, are to die for), desserts and handcrafted sandwiches. This is also where you can grab lattes, cappuccinos and other beverages.

Veronica and I dined here nearly every morning before an early excursion because it’s delicious, in a great location and, overall, a quick venue. The service was top-notch and well-loved by passengers; plenty of people aboard grabbed a coffee and sat at one of the tables along The Piazza to enjoy live pianists, vocalists and other entertainment throughout the day and into the evening.

What’s more, the International Café is complimentary. On other cruise lines, each specialty coffee and pastry was an extra charge. This is a testament to Princess Cruises’ affinity for quality-first dining experiences.

Ocean Terrace Sushi Bar

Ocean Terrace Sushi Bar, an incredibly fresh dining locale aboard Discovery Princess.
Ocean Terrace Sushi Bar, an incredibly fresh dining locale aboard Discovery Princess. Victoria Giardina

The love I have for Ocean Terrace Sushi Bar is tenfold. Before dinner on some evenings, Veronica and I would head to this modern counter — located right above and overlooking The Piazza — to enjoy fresh crab, shrimp and spicy tuna rolls that are handmade right in front of our eyes. The quality was some of the best I’ve had. It’s a casual yet spectacular setting. Additional charges may apply depending on what you order.

Gigi’s Pizzeria by Alfredo

Gigi's Pizza by Alfredo
The fresh pizza served at Gigi’s Pizza by Alfredo. Victoria Giardina

Also one deck above The Piazza, Gigi’s Pizzeria by Alfredo is another sit-down locale where you can enjoy live music surrounding you. This was the first food venue Veronica and I dined at for lunch on embarkation day and we loved the fresh Margherita and veggie pizzas, as well as the salads.

Uniquely, the pizza options are certified authentic Neapolitan pizza, much like its gelato on board (which is located on the same deck as The Piazza, and one of the only cruise ships to boast gelato that’s certified by the Italian government). Pretty iconic, to say the least.

360: An Extraordinary Experience

360: An Extraordinary Experience
A snapshot from 360: An Extraordinary Experience, where we “took a trip to Italy.” Victoria Giardina

If you ask me about the most memorable experience aboard Discovery Princess of them all, it was what’s called 360. This isn’t just any specialty dining venue. For an additional charge per person (about $150 or so), the dining staff will take you through “a journey through tastes, sights, sounds, textures and scents,” per the cruise line.

This seven-course journey is both filling and fantastically put together. Without giving too much away, the meals are inspired by the Mediterranean and, according to the hostess Magdalena, “you won’t find this food anywhere else on board — even at the specialty dining venues.”

This 360 Experience is reserved for 13-year-olds and older, though my group had nobody younger than 21-years-old. For some, the idea of not knowing what you’ll be eating can be somewhat terrifying but rest assured, the team takes any dietary restrictions into account. For instance, Veronica has a shellfish allergy an they made an equally delicious substitute. If you take anything away from this review, book 360.

The Catch by Rudi

The Catch by Rudi
My meal at The Catch by Rudi, which has to be the most eye-catching presentation ever. Victoria Giardina

Veronica and I enjoyed The Catch by Rudi, Discovery’s seafood specialty restaurant. Everything from the service to the presentation was extravagant and this was my favorite specialty restaurant on the ship. It’s a pure celebration of all things ocean.

Typical of other specialty restaurants you’ll find, you’ll choose one appetizer, one main course and one dessert. The cocktails at The Catch by Rudi were some of our favorites. My dish, called the Triple S Platter because it contained salmon, scallops and shrimp, was mouthwatering. There was even a hanging prawn on my plate when our waitress brought it out!

Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria

You can take the girl out of New Jersey, but you can’t take New Jersey out of the girl. From someone who comes from a family making their own sauce each Sunday, Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria was a much-needed dining option in my books. Here, you’ll actually find a five-course meal: an appetizer, a soup or salad, a pasta, an entree and a dessert. In short, come hungry.

The food and cocktails here were incredible and we loved the on-the-house rice balls the waitstaff presented to each table. It was so delicious that we ordered room service from Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria one evening as we watched Discovery sail away from one of our ports. It was heaven.

Sometimes, you just want a comfort meal, like lasagna or lemon chicken. Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria 100% satisfied that craving for both of us, and we enjoyed every minute of our time here.

Crown Grill

Ah, we’ve landed at Discovery’s steakhouse. Ranked one of the best cruise ship steakhouses, per Princess Cruises website, Crown Grill features premium aged beef and fresh seafood items. Its open kitchen design and elegant setting make it a lovely choice. Not to mention, you can have a tasting of all of the sides.

Above all else, you’ll want to experience Crown Grill’s ribeye steak and filet mignon if you’re a lover of chops. The glazes, sauces, whipped butter and specialty salts (yes, you read that correctly) made the experience very upscale.

Shore excursions
Views from the Discovery Princess at Astoria, Oregon. Veronica Abramson

Whether you take excursions is entirely based on personal preference. On the Pacific Wine Country Tour aboard Discovery Princess, Veronica and I embarked on the following crew-organized options:

  • San Diego, CA: City Drive & La Jolla Highlights
  • San Francisco, CA: Sonoma Wine Country
  • Astoria, Oregon: Willamette Valley Wine Country
  • Victoria, Canada: High Tea at Pendray Mansion & City Highlights

From experiencing some of the best wine in the Pacific to learning the ins and outs of popular locations like San Francisco and Vancouver Island, we felt each tour was well-organized and worth the added cost. Among all the excursions on this particular voyage, we enjoyed Sonoma Wine Country the most because, after all, who doesn’t want to travel to Napa?

Booking excursions is simple to do so on the Princess app. Or, you can opt to check in regularly with the Shore Excursions desk on Deck 5 near The Piazza to ask any questions you may have. Veronica and I decided to swap our previously booked biking excursion in Oregon to experience more of wine country and the crew staff was able to reprint new tickets as the tour wasn’t fully booked.

If you aren’t able to book your first-choice excursion, I wouldn’t worried. While there aren’t guarantees, Princess will hold you on an organized waitlist. In fact, Veronica and I were on a waitlist for Sonoma Wine Country and luckily joined the tour.

Additionally, every excursion through Princess guarantees your arrival back on the ship as it departs. You’ve likely heard of “cruise horror stories” where certain cruise lines will leave you if you’re not back by the arranged on-board time. Even if an excursion is running a bit late (like mine in Oregon), rest assured the ship will not depart without you. If you opt to journey at a port on your own and you’re late, that may be a different story.

Special features

Without a doubt, Discovery Princess had a catalog of special features that I remember even after my cruise. Below, find them listed:

  • MedallionClass: Instead of a stateroom card that serves as your ID and cabin entry, Discovery operates via a Medallion that’s a bit larger than a quarter and inscribed with your name. Whether you use the included lanyard or opt to buy a Medallion accessory, like a clip, this makes it so much easier to charge extras to your ship account (called your Folio). The Medallion serves as a tracker as well, so the service tends to operate quicker than other ships because of facial recognition, made possible by the photo you took on embarkation day or that you’ve uploaded to your Princess app profile. You can even enter your stateroom hands-free!
  • The Enclave at Lotus Spa: For about $165 per person, you can enjoy unlimited access to The Enclave, the private resort-style room at the Lotus Spa where you’ll find a jet pool, saunas and heated beds. You’ll also have access to the Relaxation Room, a wonderful sanctuary for reading, meditating and enjoying ice water with cucumber or lemon. This made the trip feel a bit more higher-end than what may be offered on some older ships.
  • Larger than usual staterooms: Veronica and I were at a balcony cabin which tends to be larger than interior staterooms. However, when I first entered our balcony cabin, I was blown away by how much space we had. Other cruise lines had extremely small bathrooms, showers and walking space near the beds. The ship’s design — featuring smaller staircase landings and hallways — allows the individual rooms to be a hair larger than most other ships.
  • Smooth embarkation and disembarkation process: Largely in part by the MedallionClass experience, Veronica and I were able to disembark within 30 minutes. I’ve experienced hours upon hours of wait times at other cruise ports and was impressed by the swiftness to enter and leave the ship. Plus, Princess accommodates your preferred time on most occasions, especially if you have a flight booked.
  • Ship size: You won’t feel like you’re at a shopping mall on Discovery. The ship occupies 3,660 guests instead of 8,000 or so I’ve experienced on other ships. This is the ideal size in my opinion and, considering a quite manageable passenger count, there was *so* much to do. You’re receiving the complete cruise experience sans the chaos, which we both appreciated.

The bottom line

Discovery Princess
Victoria Giardina

Everything from the dining experiences to activities and overall service on the Discovery Princess made our voyage extremely memorable. Each step of the way, I felt as if I was on a luxury vacation, even though some experiences — like specialty dining and the Lotus Spa — were additional costs. The Production Shows, endless entertainment and accommodations deserve awards of their own, and I would surely set sail on another Princess Cruise again. Veronica, first-time cruiser, would, too!

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