With crowds of people and nowhere to escape, a traditional cruise ship can feel far from serene on the open waters.

Unless you cruise like royalty.

Cruise ships are evolving to cater to a more sophisticated and discerning niche of travel. Instead of a Golden Corral buffet on waves, you can find healthy dining, wellness treatments and true serenity at sea.

Spa Travel Gal recently explored Princess Cruise line to uncover the luxurious and glamorous side of the cruise scene — where you can truly find zen and come home completely renewed.

In fact, that’s Princess Cruise’s hashtag — #comebacknew — and this floating paradise truly lives up to its social promises.

Ruby Princess Ship

Ruby Princess – Photo Credit: Princess Cruises

Cruise ships like Ruby Princess take all of the stress and hassle out of planning a vacation. No need to plan your itinerary and restaurants before you depart. Just listen to your body and mind on each individual day and follow your desires. Whether it’s something you want to learn or correct, you can find a long list of offerings to help.

For me, it was a tear in my shoulder. When I set off on Princess Cruise, I had been struggling with an injured shoulder for the past year. Two different surgeons were trying to schedule my surgery, and I was struggling daily with the pain and limitations.

On a whim, I decided to try the Thai Poultice Massage and acupuncture from the cruise ship’s Australian-Chinese medicine doctor. I figured it might help relieve some pain, and if not, at least I would experience a relaxing afternoon.

The Lotus Spa – Photo Credit: Princess Cruise

The poultice was packed with herbs, such as lemongrass, patchouli and Tamarind, and when the therapist applied it, it felt magical. Maybe it was.

I was shocked when I left feeling 99.9 percent improved.

After the two treatments combined, I no longer need surgery, and my shoulder was all but new. I never expected to heal my complicated and lengthy medical issue on a cruise ship. But the experience made me truly step back and rewrite my definition of a cruise experience — specifically, the level of service and expertise through Princess.

Obviously, the company makes no promises that it can help you stave off surgery, and neither do I. But it was a dramatic reminder of what a real vacation should feel like: It should leave you feeling better than before you left. Not only should you feel relaxed and rejuvenated while on vacation, but that effect should follow you when you return to the grind. I literally came back new with a fresh outlook on life.

Culinary Cruise - Photo Credit: Ava Roxanne Stritt

Culinary Cruise – Photo Credit: Ava Roxanne Stritt

I also listened to the on-board chef’s food tips and will incorporate them into my daily food choices back home, for a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. You can regularly brush elbows (and spatulas) with celebrity chefs on Princess’ culinary cruises . Mine had two – Ted Hopson, Executive Chef/Owner at The Bellwether in Studio City, CA,  and Chef Joel Miller, Executive Chef at The Wallace that held cooking demonstrations plus questions and answer sessions on board along with Jill Whelan.

Another celebrity on board was Jill Whelan herself (aka the Captain’s Daughter on The Love Boat). She is truly the most hospitable brand ambassador I have ever encountered. The entire crew on this ship were a step above others I have experienced.

Beyond acupuncture, massage and food, zen was around every corner on Princess.

Bridge Tour - Photo Credit: Ava Roxanne Stritt

Bridge Tour – Photo Credit: Ava Roxanne Stritt

For perspective, I visited “The Bridge” for a nearly 180-degree view. I felt honored to sit in the captain’s chair, complete with the captain’s hat, and learn more about technology at sea. The bridge also felt a world away and so serene.

Princess Cruise 2016 041A

Sign up for various excursions — from scuba diving to wine tasting — for a rush of adventure and to learn and grow more. My discovery that the perfect Sauvignon Blanc came from Buttonwood Winery in Solvang and not New Zealand was very enlightening.  Prepare to be enlightened around every corner on a Princess Cruise.

For some solitude, my room came stocked with luxury bedding on a bed designed by a board-certified sleep expert. I slept like a princess (without the pea) in my cozy Karen Neuburger loungewear I always pack for comfort in a bed fit for any princess. Mornings I threw on my Princess Robe and slippers for morning coffee on the my spacious balcony to watch the sun rise.

Princess Cruise Slippers - Photo Credit: Ava Roxanne Stritt

You can also find quiet time by getting up early for a fitness class or workout in the gym, before the rest of the guests get rolling. Even that simple sip of coffee on your balcony while watching the sun rise is a peaceful way to launch your day. I made sure to have my Under Armour Aviator Sunglasses close on hand to protect my eyes from the rays reflecting off the mirror-like water because all I wanted to do was gaze off my spacious balcony when I awoke each morning non-stop.

No picture can capture the beauty.

The Sanctuary - Photo Credit: Ava Roxanne Stritt

The Sanctuary – Photo Credit: Ava Roxanne Stritt

For adult-only time, I headed to the Sanctuary, a sophisticated top deck getaway with lounge furniture, relaxing tunes, healthy food and drinks (from smoothies to spa waters) and even an open-air massage in a private cabana, if the desire strikes. It’s like an outdoor spa lounge with some major upgrades. It is just one step up from an adult-only pool that oozes with solitude.

That’s just how Princess does everything: one step up from the rest. One step up, so you can wind down.

This article was authored by me and previously published on Travelocity –

Why look like a tourist when you can travel like a pro? We’ve partnered with vacation expert Ava Roxanne Stritt from the blog Spa Travel Gal as she offers travel tips!

Ava Roxanne Stritt is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad offering tips and inspiration to fellow travel enthusiasts. To join the Travelocity Gnomads community visit www.travelocitygnomads.com