The Royal Order aboard the Caribbean Princess

The Royal Order of the Grand Princesses enjoying high tea
The Royal Order of the Grand Princesses enjoying high tea

Perhaps you’ve seen us because we’re quite the sight onboard – a large group of ladies in flamboyant hats by day and sparkling tiaras by night.   We sail together as “The Royal Order of the Grand Princesses,” the ultimate group of girlfriends getting away from husbands, families and routines, for an escape filled with companionship, pampering and fun.

And we do all this while playing the part of princesses.  During the course of our dozen cruises together over many years, our group of girlfriends have embraced the belief that, “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is not!”  So in the spirit of fun, we don bling, feathers, hats, gloves, gowns, tiaras and scepters, and we flaunt our princess roles to the hilt wherever we go.

We’ll never forget the first time we showed up for high tea as the Royal Order: dressed in our hats, pearls, feather boas and white gloves. The head waiter approached and inquired if we were perhaps lost. He thought we were looking for a wedding. We quickly explained that we had arrived for high tea. He replied that formal attire was not required, to which one of us laughed and said, “Pish posh! High tea is a grand occasion for us.”  At that, he summoned the waiters who proceeded to personally escort us by arm to our table. We were greeted by waves, curtsies and cheers from the other passengers.

Not for a minute could we get away with such exalted get-ups or behavior in our everyday lives. But once a year we two sisters – Carol and Mickey – and our extended family of girlfriends, leave our families and responsibilities at home to just let go and find our inner princesses aboard a Princess cruise ship.

The Royal Order of the Grand Princesses was formed when we took a cruise with just one of our girlfriends. We kept saying how special we felt so we started to call ourselves princesses. The next year, our group expanded and we brought token props–tiaras, goblets and scepters–to add to the fun. One year, we had 29 princesses on board because when our friends found out about this, they wanted to join as well.

We have three rules and only three rules: 1) No one is joined at the hip; 2) No whining; and 3) There will never, ever be any more rules.

Our group has an interesting assortment of backgrounds, personalities and accomplishments. With ages ranging from 40 to 82 years, our friends hail from six states and includes retired teachers, college professors, a TV host, corporate trainer, social worker, executive assistant, humorist, dentist, attorney, nurse, dietician and counselor.

Other passengers seem to enjoy guessing who we are. We especially loved it when a couple visited our table one night and asked if we were a reunion of former Miss Americas!

The activities we plan for our group are fun-filled and include door prizes – and much to the surprise of the passengers and staff, we often provide these to all who gathered at the activity. Some passengers think we’re on-board performance act. Carol has been approached at the airport after a trip, with guests wondering why she wasn’t on the cruise ship anymore. Another time someone tried to give her a gratuity, which was immediately declined.

And special theme nights created by our group – whether Roaring Twenties or Kentucky Derby or Pink Flamingo Night — meant table decorations, costumes and favors for everyone including the wait staff.

One of my funniest experiences cruising as a “princess” occurred on about the third night of the trip when our waiter pulled me aside and said, “I think we understand now…this is a joke, right?  You ladies are such fun but we didn’t know what to think the first night you appeared at dinner.  Now that we know, it’s such fun and all the other waiters are jealous that we have your tables.” The waiter even gave me his wife’s address in Gdansk, Poland and asked me to send her some photographs so she could see for herself what he had been emailing her about all week.

It is a performance, but we do it for us – our cruises truly allow us to escape completely. The Royal Order of the Grand Princesses takes an annual Princess cruise to live out a part of ourselves that we can’t express on land. It’s silly and fun and also our favorite way to celebrate friendship with a great group of girlfriends.

Carol resides in Lexington, Kentucky and she’s enjoyed 17 Princess cruises. Her sister, Mickey, lives in Birmingham, Alabama and has been on 10 Princess cruises.  The Royal Order of the Grand Princesses is currently aboard Caribbean Princess on their ninth cruise together.