With an overall length of only 135 meters, Excellence Princess is actually one of the larger vessels floating on the European river network these days. Built in 2014, 186 passengers travel in luxurious outside cabins and junior suites in a highly familiar atmosphere, pampered with outstanding cuisine and first class service. I enjoyed a full week of Swiss hospitality on the Rhine River and I would most definitely go back onboard anytime.
We will start with my outside cabin on the main deck. There are all in all 81 exterior staterooms measuring between 13 and 16 square meters and 12 junior suites with approximately 20 square meters living space on the upper deck.
Cabins on the main deck (the lowest one) feature 13 square meters and two large picture windows close to the water line, which unfortunately cannot be opened. But which allow lots of daylight to brighten up the elegant decor. The slightly larger staterooms and junior suites on the upper decks are all equipped with a french balcony with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors.
The most comfortable bed can either be married into a king-size or separated into two single beds, each with its own night stand. The pillows were huge and pretty firm. I learned that guests could ask for a smaller one if they had problems sleeping with it, yet I had no difficulties at all.
A bottle of water and most delicate homemade pralinés are waiting on arrival day as a welcome gift inside the stateroom. The following days, the water is available for purchase at 3,50€ per bottle which is much cheaper than in the restaurant (5,40€}.
The interior is crafted in high quality fabrics and woods and creates a luxurious yet very comfortable atmosphere to feel right at home in. There is ample storage space with a very large closet in the entrance area offering more than usual space for clothes than most of the state-of-the-art ocean liners. Even larger suitcases can be stored underneath the bed (if you hold it up while sliding the baggage under).
Lots of attention to detail and high quality finishes clearly bespeak that one is traveling onboard a Swiss led ship. WiFi reception is very good and vouchers can be obtained from the front desk for about 35€ per week. If you have a free roaming contract with your mobile provider, the reception in the cabins on the lower deck can vary strongly.
Maid service is done twice a day with turn-down service in the evenings accompanied by Swiss chocolate and the ship´s program for the next day, as well as a piece of good night reading lecture chosen randomly by the staff. A neat detail that I have not seen before.
Even the smaller outside cabins are equipped with a cute little vanity desk and a large mirror, as well as a flat-screen TV broadcasting satellite programs. The air-conditioning is modern, yet cannot be turned off at all (in all standard outside cabins). Three power outlets guarantee that your mobile devices will always stay fully charged and you will also find a mini bar and a safe deposit box along.
The Excellence Princess is a notable quiet ship when cruising. Yet if you are traveling in an exterior cabin on the lower deck, be aware of the fact that most of the stateroom lies underneath the water line. Therefore, sounds from other ship´s propellers or the own bow thrusters are well transported inside over the ship´s hull. Ear plugs could be a good idea, particularly if your itinerary features many locks that need to be passed at night.
A highlight of the cabin was the spacious and contemporary bathroom with a large sink and an elegant glass shower cabin.
A nice tough was the individually controllable night-light underneath the sink that offered just enough luminosity during the night to find the way to the toilet. The second switch controls the regular bright lighting.
Each bathroom is equipped with a modern and high quality hairdryer that is located underneath the sink. The large mirror adds to a spacious feeling and an additional traversable one is handy when taking a closer look. Not an ordinary loo at all, is it?
Body care products are provided by Rituals, including shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion as well as hand soap.
Elegantly decorated hallways just like in a luxury hotel. By the way, the staterooms are very much soundproofed from another, yet conversations in the hallways on the other hand can be heard quite well inside. Deck 1 is also the passage for the crew to reach their accommodations at the stern of the ship, yet it was mostly guests that enjoyed long chit chats in front of my door.
Excellence Princess features a small onboard fitness center with integrated Finnish sauna on the lower deck. A bike…
… as well as a treadmill are available for cardiovascular training. There are a small amount of free weights, but nothing you could actually really work with when regularly going to the gym.
To be frank, I did not go one single time during my seven nights cruise. Predominantly, because I was so busy running around during the day that I had such an extensive training while sightseeing. And a week without a workout should definitely be part of a true vacation, right?
While having an infrared sauna truly is a treat to warm up in the evenings, the one aboard Excellence Princess was quite small. It may host four, maximum 5 people sitting straight.
To access the staterooms and the wellness area on the lower deck, one must take the rather steep stairs down/up to the lower deck. But there is an elevator available for those being handicapped in walking/climbing stairs.
The ship´s atrium is designed in an elegant and spacious environment with the front desk prominently located in the center.
One thing that I really had to get used to was the fact that your key card was not used to sign out/in when leaving and returning back to the ship. Upon leaving the ship, each guest had to obtain a shore pass from guest services containing the cabin number as well as the ship´s telephone number. I forgot it twice, luckily there was no spontaneous change in the itinerary. Excellence Princess would have sailed without me.
The main dining room, Panorama Restaurant, is located just down the stairs of the lobby. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in one seating. While breakfast and lunch were conducted in a semi-buffet/à la carte style, dinner featured each night a five course menu with a wide array of dishes to choose from. I will have an entire post about the onboard catering later on, but let me assure you that it had been a most excellent experience in fine dining!
The Sky Lounge is the panorama lounge onboard and social gathering point.
Floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows guarantee impeccable views of the outside and lots of cosy seating invites for a relaxing afternoon.
This was the place where the welcome reception was held by the captain and his staff. Each female passenger was then handed a red rose which I found to be quite a nice touch.
I actually did not spend that much time here as I was mostly on deck to take photos while the ship was cruising. Or I withdrew to write to my quiet secret hideaway which I will tell you later about. But when I spent some time in the Sky Lounge, I simply leaned back to enjoy the view.
Something quite typical in the European culture is the afternoon coffee and cake that most people are always looking forward to. This was served daily at 4pm with different kinds of cakes and cookies to choose from. In the evenings, the lounge was used for port talks, quizzes and live piano music.
One thing that I really would like to underline was the excellent wine list that was available. One of the most wonderful cuvées that I was able to try was the 2011 Enira by Domaine Bessa Valley from Romania. Amazing wine! The bars of Excellence Princess were in general well stocked with all the big brands and also some fine surprises.
Just outside the lounge and right at the bow of the ship: The outdoor terrace protected by glass windbreaks. One of my favorite spots to watch the landscape pass by.
A set of public toilets (male/female) is situated right between guest services and the stairs towards the upper deck.
Corridors on the upper decks are just as noble as the rest of the interiors.
Speciality restaurant in the evening, private retreat during the day: The Steak House.
Excellence Princess was the first ship in the fleet to be equipped with an additional restaurant with cover charge.
During the day, the early bird and the late rise breakfast are served here on a self-service base. There is a coffee maker and a wide selection of teas accessible throughout the day, served along with cookies and a bowl of fresh fruits.
I spent most of my early evenings here as this space was barely visited by other people. It was the perfect environment apart from my cabin to concentrate and write. Mobile reception was just perfect and I could use my roaming contract to go online with my laptop.
Reservations for the grill can be placed at least one day in advance at the front desk. The surcharge for the restaurant is 15€ per person and dinners are never cancelled, even if there is only one person dining a night.
I will have my dining experience covered in the upcoming culinary blog post about gastronomy aboard Excellence Princess.
The balcony accessible from the grill is a great spot for landscape photography on windy days. The button for the electric sliding door is hidden well behind one of the large planters to the side of the exit.
The sun deck extends almost over the entire length of the ship and is held in a contemporary style. It reminds almost of a yacht, doesn´t it?
The rear part of the deck is reserved for sun loungers and retractable canopies that provide shelter on sunny days for those who prefer to sit in the shadow.
The forward section is equipped with elegant lounge seating and is a popular meeting point during the day.
Smoking aboard Excellence Princess is allowed on the outside decks only. But apparently, there is no further restriction about where exactly.
As beautiful as the seating area is, on windy days it can get quite uncomfortable up here.
But on calm days, the front seats offer literally the best seat in the house for panoramic vistas and sunset romance.
The area around the sun loungers can well be used for walking and from time to time you will be able to play miniature golf.
Sun beds feature an adjustable screen and side tables are perfect to lay down personal items or drinks served from the bar.
At the stern of the ship, there even is a little heated whirlpool that operates throughout the day until the early evening (until around 7:30pm).
I loved heading up here after dinner with a glass of red wine and watching the sunset. While the bubble function was deactivated at that time, the pool was still comfortably warm. The only thing that blurred this perfect moment was that the crew´s resting area was right next to it. A better privacy screen in between would be very helpful for them to enjoy their well-deserved breaks and each guest to enjoy his bath without having the feeling to be permanently watched.
And that was already it! I had a most wonderful time aboard Excellence Princess. She offered just the perfect mixture of luxury and feeling right at home that together with the most relaxing way of travel, this river cruise was by far an excellent one. Swiss made.