Portsmouth, England based Princess Yachts International is a popular, much-awarded and respected brand in Europe. They’ve been in business for more than 50 years and their 23 different models start at 39 feet and top out with a 131-foot fibreglass tri-deck megayacht. Founded by David King, he only recently stepped down as chairman, though he remains on the board of directors and works in the design side of the business. In 2015, Vancouver’s Freedom Marine was the first yacht broker to bring Princess yachts to the West Coast of North America: a 48-foot sedan and the 52-foot flybridge model reviewed here.
Princess is a very large builder and employs some 2,000 workers. It is owned by LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton), a massive French conglomerate. LVMH also owns another builder, the well-known Feadship brand of megayachts. The company’s relationship with Louis Vuitton means that Princess has access to LVMH’s stable of design and styling affiliates.
Design The Princess 52 is sleek yet beefy, with side decks that tower six feet above the dock. The hull design incorporates a sharp and deeper than normal deep-vee forward section that flattens out aft for planing efficiency.
All the molding for the 52 is done with foam coring and resin infusion, which maximizes strength and minimizes weight. Princess Yachts has been a leader in infusion technology for many years.
While walking through the 52, three words kept coming to mind: attention to detail. Everywhere we looked, the finishing was absolutely flawless. Despite being a production yacht, the 52’s fit and finish resembled more of a spare-no-expense custom yacht.
On Deck Unlike most swim platforms that tend to bounce up and down, the electro-hydraulic swim platform on the 52 was rock solid. The test boat was fitted with an optional crew quarters, instead of a trunk-style transom locker, with a single berth, an electric toilet, washbasin and table. For owners without crew, this would make a great “fort” for the kids or double as a day head/changing area.
Port and starboard transom gates mean that one doesn’t have to skirt around the dinghy if docked on the portside, for example, to access a single starboard transom gate.
Stairways lead up to the compact, teak-soled cockpit. The flybridge overhang covers most of the cockpit and offers protection from the elements. The main socializing space in the cockpit is a forward-facing U-shaped settee fronted by a teak table that can be lowered to provide an outside berth. Staircases to either side provide safe access to the side deck walkways. Another staircase leads from the cockpit to the flybridge.
Up forward on the main deck is a large sunpad area with adjustable backrests. In the bow, we especially liked the dedicated fender storage (in stainless racks) in the chain locker.
Flybridge The flybridge is massive, with a wraparound aft seating area, teak table and an L-shaped settee that converts to a sunpad adjacent to the twin helm seats. Overall, there’s enough seating for a dozen or so friends and family. A stylish solid hardtop covers most of the flybridge. We liked the unique top-loading fridge built into the molded forward console. A wet bar aft of the helm includes a sink and optional barbecue.
Saloon Three heavy sliding glass doors and a separate, hinged, half-width door to starboard separate the cockpit from the saloon. The saloon floors are a mix of beige wool carpets and hardwood that contrast well with the glossy African walnut cabinetry, white leather upholstery, brown wall accents and vinyl and cloth coverings on the contoured ceiling. The décor is contemporary—nothing off the wall—but elegant, comfortable and extremely well executed.
The hinged cockpit door opens up the aft galley to the saloon, which has raised countertops and can serve as a mini bar. We were impressed by the galley, which essentially surrounds the chef. It serves both the saloon and the cockpit. Its solid surface Avonite countertops have the look and feel of granite. There’s a surprising amount of storage in large under-counter drawers. The only downside to the galley is that it is a half step down from the adjacent cabin sole, which makes for a potential tripping hazard. We’re not sure why the floor is lower as there is at least seven feet of headroom in that portion of the saloon.
Across from the galley is a sideboard for glasses, plates and bottles and a second refrigerator.
A plush U-shaped sofa highlights the raised forward portion of the saloon and it is fronted by a unique folding-leaf table that can be lowered (coffee table) and raised (dining table) electronically and also slides athwartship to make more room for getting in and out. Two stools, stowed ingeniously in the forward stateroom, can be used for additional seating at either the saloon or cockpit tables. To starboard is an inviting two-seater sofa and behind it is the requisite pop-up flat screen TV. Great expanses of glass, broken up by thick mullions, combine with low sills to bring in tons of light.
The raised helm area has seating for two in comfortable leather bucket seats. The entire dash area is finished in an anti-glare matte fabric and is largely flush, which is a nice change from the traditional raised console and offers unobstructed visibility forward. The port side of the dash contains deep storage compartments hidden by smoked glass lids. In addition, there’s a massive drawer under the helm seats. There never seems to be enough storage for odds and ends in the saloon, but Princess has provided plenty.
The single multifunction screen is positioned in front of the companion seat. This way, the helmsperson can drive while the companion can be the navigator. There’s also a shallow, recessed tray with a clear, hinged Plexiglas lid where a folded chart can be displayed. Directly ahead of the steering wheel are the two recessed Boning digital engine displays, analog tachometers and rudder angle indicator. To the right are the helm and thruster controls and one of the saloon’s two electric windows. Outside the helmsperson’s window, a well-positioned cleat is within reach, which makes for easier line handling. All in all, the layout is very well thought out, clean and elegant.
Accommodation A stairway leads below to a central foyer and three staterooms. As a nod to the attention to detail, the handrail is wrapped in leather and exquisitely hand stitched. The wool carpets all snap in—a brilliant idea—and can be easily removed for access to the machinery under the sole.
The aft master is full beam with plenty of headroom. Enormous rectangular hull windows bring in ample light. A sofa to one side and a dresser to the other flank the centreline queen berth. There’s abundant storage throughout. Circular ports in the hull windows allow for fresh air.
The ensuite is roomy, with tile flooring, a separate shower compartment (larger than most), vessel sink and electric quietflush toilet with soft-close lid. The second head, which serves the guest cabins (and doubles as the day head), is pretty well the same size as the ensuite.
The forward stateroom features a walkaround double bed, large oval opening ports and an overhead hatch (it is big enough to serve as an escape hatch). Again there’s good storage and a door to the guest head.
The main features of the starboard (third) guest cabin are the two single beds with a narrow (but adequate) space between them. With the press of a switch, the two berths slide together to make a double.
Engine and Systems The test boat was fitted with twin Man R6 800 horsepower diesels connected to straight drives and five-blade props. Alternate power is twin 670 or 725 horsepower Volvos or twin 715 hp Cat diesels. The engine room (accessed via a hatch in the cockpit) is roomy and tidy, with “crouching headroom” and all wiring is well labeled and hidden behind chases. The 52 comes with a single tool kit, about the size of a regular toolbox, that contains all the tools to service any of the ship’s equipment.
Steering is electro-hydraulic and the engine and shift controls are electric. The test boat was fitted with electric bow and stern thrusters. Yachts built for the North American market have additional standard equipment, which includes a 120-volt AC electrical system (in addition to the standard 24 volt DC system), a larger generator (13.5 kW), air conditioning and a black water system. In addition, all the appliances and any equipment that might need to be replaced by a third party are sourced in North America and shipped to England for installation. This eliminates any concerns about having to go afar to find replacement parts.
The freshwater capacity is a bit small for extended cruising (608 litres/161 US gallons), though a watermaker can certainly be added.
Underway Before we got underway, broker (and captain) Peter Priebe noted that his grandmother brought the first new Princess yacht to B.C. in 1999; a 72 motor yacht. He then smiled as he opened the engine hatch and pointed out that the yacht’s generator had been running the entire time we were aboard. We hadn’t noticed. With its exhaust and cooling water discharging below the waterline and with its excellent overall generator and engine room soundproofing, the generator was virtually soundless. As a further testament, during our trials interior noise levels never exceeded 72 dBA, which is impressively quiet.
The test boat was fitted with a Side-Power thruster control. It not only allows the thruster’s speeds to be controlled, it has a “hold” feature, which gently presses the yacht against the dock so that lines can be handled by a singlehanded operator.
I was immediately impressed by the smooth acceleration from the 1,600 horses. There was plenty of get-up-and-go, minimal bow rise and the transition onto the plane was almost unnoticeable.
A comfortable displacement speed of just under 10 knots (at 1,200 rpm) burned a combined 15.9 US gallons per hour. A fast cruise at planing speed was 24 knots (2,000 rpm) and 59 US gph. Wide-open throttle was at 2,350 with a top speed of 30 knots. These numbers aren’t bad given the weight, horsepower and speed of the 52.
The yacht leaned nicely into turns and there was no slipping or cavitation. The helm was responsive and the turning radius was a tight two-and-a-half boat lengths. There was no slamming when crossing large wakes—thanks to the hull’s sharp and deep entry. The overall feeling was of absolute comfort at all speeds.
Concluding Remarks As noted earlier, “attention to detail” were the words that kept running through our heads from the moment we stepped aboard. This is certainly one of the key features of the 52. The finishing was flawlessly executed, the styling contemporary but luxurious, incorporating highest quality material and hardware throughout. Performance underway was outstanding and, of course, the lines of the 52 are very sweet. Price for the test boat, as equipped was CDN$2.18 million. However, at press time, this Princess 52 had just found a lucky buyer.