The Princess is royalty on water
You don the Marc Jacobs linen suit, check your Tag Heuer watch, then saunter down the gangway swinging a bottle of Dom Perignon in your Louis Vuitton leather tote. You needn't have bothered. The crew extend a hand as you step aboard and promptly thrust a glass of bubbles your way. Quick as that, the champagne cruise begins.
Of course, the boat you have boarded is a Princess. The prestige cruisers keep company with the cache of aforesaid luxury brands in the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group. Only this Princess is a first, the latest 52-footer from the thoroughly British yard with an aft galley to make it doubly ideal for the champagne cruise.
Tied to Rose Bay Marina, the 52 makes an impression before we even turn the keys. It's a big boat, as high and deep as the 56-foot Princess sister ship berthed alongside, with the same beam and accommodation plan, but a different saloon layout and, get this, a $400,000 cheaper sticker.
Launched at the 2013 London boat show in January, the high-volume 52 flaunts the benefits of resin infusion. Because the hull gains integral strength from its form there's less need for framework. This leads to a bigger interior, with three cabins and two bathrooms with a striking amount of room for a boat in this class. Yet the 52 isn't a handful to command thanks to the twin 715hp Caterpillar engines having an optional Xenta joystick docking system. Controlling the gearboxes and an upgraded bow thruster from a joystick, Xenta has plenty of grunt to shift a high-volume boat like this 52 in strong crosswinds.
Amid the other options were teak decks, an AV system with two flat-screen televisions, Bose with separate indoor and outdoor zones, and Raymarine electronics at upper and lower helms. There was a hydraulic swim platform with 400kg capacity for snappy tender dispatch, while upgraded anchoring gear will ensure you remain in situ at night. But thanks to the inclusion of a washer-dryer, the wardrobe shouldn't run low.
In keeping with the European way of boating, the 52 has an extended open-air flying bridge with abundant lounges and a long lunch table. The centrepiece of the integrated amenities centre was a lava-rock electric barbecue. Seafood extra. The cockpit is modest by comparison, with a U-shaped lounge and small table atop the separate aft crew quarters used more for storage on this import.
With big saloon doors and abundant deep windows, the saloon is especially light-filled.
The aft galley and wet bar are positioned to serve, with an upgraded icemaker, separate drinks fridge, and dishwasher to assist with the dinner-party cleanup. Fine china, a David Mellor cutlery kit, Princess glasses and tumblers, embossed fluffy towels, even neat blue socks for the fenders are part of the package.
Two steps up is a forward dinette with lounge that converts to a casual coffee table. The elevated seating area enjoys stirring views and, with the helm alongside, you can cruise and muse with your crew. Upgraded tropical-strength airconditioning and side-opening windows add to the amenity, while a demister ensures clear vision on those dewy autumn mornings.
Not that you'll be in a hurry to leave the full-beam owners' stateroom with king bed back flanked by panorama windows and opening portlights. There's a sofa, dressing table, wardrobe and shelves finished in fittingly sparkly high-gloss cherrywood, while the en suite has shades of a bathroom in an upmarket London hotel. Guests have a choice between a stateroom with island bed in the bow or a starboard cabin with twin adult-length singles. There's access to the communal en suite across the companionway and another nice big shower.
At 20.2 knots, a wonderfully smooth cruise sees the twin 715hp Caterpillar engines consume 166 litres per hour for a range of about 260 nautical miles from 90 per cent of the 2364-litre tank. Thus, the 52 hasn't especially long cruising legs, but what it does offer is a five-star luxury boating experience.
Cruising buffs worth their salt will fit a desalinator, a tender and perhaps Foxtel. The demonstrator was selling for $1,689,000 in time for summer with a bottle of Dom in the fridge.
Grant Torrens International Marine, Rose Bay Marina, phone 9302 5800.