We have just returned from the first Preview sailing on the Royal Princess. Considering the ship was only about 50% full the check-in and boarding seemed rather chaotic.
We went straight to our Deluxe balcony cabin and first impressions were not that great. The decor was dull and beige and rather old-fashioned, I expected something much nicer. We have sailed on several Princess ships and the cabin looked pretty similar to the older ships. However the minute balcony was a bit of a shock and we struggled to turn the metal and plastic chairs to face the sea, really they only fitted on the balcony when facing each other. We were on deck 15 and the overhang above us was awful and would block any sun. The bathroom only had a shower and an awfully positioned toilet roll holder which meant we just used the spare roll which we popped on the counter by the sink.
We were shocked by the complete disorganisation of events onboard. Some information stated that there were two smart casual nights whilst other things said a smart casual and a Formal night. The evening entertainments were altered, we turned up at one venue and asked what was on and no-one had any idea as the time and event and been changed.
The Princess Live was horrible, very dark and dingy with incredibly uncomfortable seats. It also does not seat that many people and the view was not good. It seemed a shame to lose a bar with a stage to a venue that you can’t relax in for an evening.
The theatre looked smaller to me than the one on the Grand. However I think it has far more seats as the rows are much closer together. The waiters were struggling to take orders and give out drinks to anyone who wasn’t sat at the end of a row and once you had your drink there was nowhere to put it as the side tables have gone. Beware if sitting further back near the end of the row as the high hand-rails will seriously block your view of the stage. The seats themselves were comfortable but taller passengers may find the lack of legroom an issue.
The Atrium was a lovely space, light and airy with the tempting cafe full of delicious pastry treats to hand. However the entertainment seemed a bit hit and miss, one minute we were listening to a classical quartet and the next I had a strapping Russian gymnast stripping off his shirt 6 inches from my seat! I thought it was quite entertaining but many of the older passengers did not look amused as it didn’t really fit in with the calm, dignified surroundings.
The Vista lounge was a lovely venue with plenty of seating and areas suitable for larger groups to sit together.
The main dining rooms also looked very traditional; there was nothing to show that you were on an all new ship. However the staff were good and I felt the service was much better than I had received when using Anytime Dining on Princess before. The food was all delicious but only one small potato with a main course?
We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch. I felt that the breakfast selection was rather poor. The layout was a bit difficult but I couldn’t find a waffle station or an egg station which I expected. I don’t know if they were there and I missed them or if they just weren’t available.
At lunch there was a larger selection but there seemed to be a huge emphasis on Asian cuisine and on the second day I actually struggled to find anything I wanted. This wasn’t helped by the fact that all of the signs are above the warmers and at only 5ft tall I struggled to read them, it would be impossibility for children or anyone in a wheelchair. The salad selection was very poor and none of the dressings even had labels. The desserts were through in the Bistro area which also had a good selection of sandwiches. I could imagine this will be difficult when the ship is full and people are having to walk around a lot to find what they want. There were so many staff that they were falling over themselves to help (I think they were bored!). However even if you asked for lemonade or water it seemed to take an age for them to get it, I would far rather just help myself. I liked the decor of the Bistro better as it was light and bright but it was also very cold so we stayed on the buffet tables. I noticed that the tables were all in sixes and eights which will make it hard to find a table when the ship is full and people spread out. I did notice a lot more tables for two in the main dining rooms which I thought was a good idea as many people don’t want to share.
The pool areas looked lovely although I don’t think I like the cabanas, especially if people shut the curtains as it will ruin the beautiful vista of the pool from the other chairs. The Skywalk was OK but only fun once, I wouldn't want a cabin underneath as there is no privacy. We didn’t get to see the fountain show as it was shown on the formal night and it was so cold that my formal dress was not conducive to standing on the top deck.
Overall I thought that the Royal Princess was a nice cruise ship but it wasn’t as special as I had hope. We had already booked another cruise on the ship for next year but I am seriously considering cancelling it. The Deluxe Balcony cabin felt small and the balcony was tiny and I am not happy to spend two weeks in that sort of accommodation.