We recently returned from the Maiden Voyage of the Royal Princess.
Princess really hyped this ship up, and as such we were excited to sail, even to the point of getting up early to watch the Princess Kate christen the ship. Perhaps all of this hype caused us all to have greater expectations, and as such, we perhaps had a more negative experience when that hype was not met with the experience on board.
Embarkation was okay, except that it felt weird having to walk outside along the deck before entering the ship, especially since it was wet and still drizzling rain. Nothing like getting wet before getting on-board. Welcoming champagne while boarding? None. Actually, nothing at all, which felt very strange considering it was a maiden voyage.
We had a double outside cabin (category BB) and were immediately struck by the size of the balcony. It is barely comfortable for two people sitting and very narrow. Perhaps we were spoiled on the Equinox last year, when we would have friends over on our balcony to sip some wine upon our returns from the ports before getting ready for supper and the evening. Due to the weather, the balcony was not much of an issue on this trip, but if I was travelling to warmer climes where I would want to sit outside more frequently, particularly enjoying the company of friends, I would not want to cruise on this ship.
The rest of the room was adequate, although you had to be careful when opening the bathroom door if the other person was getting clothes from the closet or going into the safe, lest you whack them unconscious. We gave up on the toilet paper roll dispenser, and simply took the spare roll and left it on the vanity, since the dispenser is a joke to try to use.
The TV in the room, however, was another source of frustration. There is no way to check your room charges on the screen, forcing you to use your laptop or smartphone to access the Princess intranet. Convenient for some (and yes, I had a netbook so I could do it), but a horrible and inconvenient policy. There were many glitches that I suspect that they will fix, such as the weather forecast never being correct (one day it showed a temperature of 54 with a forecast high of 114...huh?). Not sure if it is a glitch or policy, but there was also no information on upcoming ports or on available excursions. Just TV shows and movies.
Speaking of the technology, the internet service was horrible. Even connection to the main Princess gateway was a challenge at times. Yes, I know that satellite internet on ships is very slow, but this one was glacial, the worst I have experienced. I heard many complaints of overcharges due to logouts not being registered, etc. For those of us who depend to be connected occasionally for business or other matters, not a good situation.
On to the main rooms. We thought the piazza was very nice and pleasant, and we would often pick up something from the bakery and sit down and enjoy the violinists in the afternoon. Some people complain about the monochrome aspects of the colors, but overall we thought it was a pleasant place.
Most of the other common areas were fine, such as the theatre, etc. with one caveat. Very often it seemed that the air conditioning was either set too warm or not functioning, and it was stifling at times.
The food overall was quite good. I found one of my steaks, I think it was the prime rib, oddly dry (despite medium rare), but other than that the food was fine. We always go with our eyes wide open that you are getting good banquet food, and not visiting a gourmet restaurant. The menu appears a touch quirky the first few nights, but the Italian night menu was excellent as were some of the other nights. Service was good, even if it did not appear that our servers had a great knowledge of the menu items.
We ate in the main Allegro dining room at late sitting, and it is indeed odd that you have to either take the elevator directly down or else go to another floor and then take the stairs to the dining room. Kind of weird, but not the end of the world. We had a table centrally located near the entrance, and the shaking of the table was unbearable the first night. Glass, dishes, flowers, US...one long continuous massage which got very irritating. Not wanting to take a chance that it would be like that every night, we had our table changed to another location further in and beside a window, which was better with regards to the vibrations, and outstanding the night that a team of dolphins decided to play in the wake next to our window after sailing away from Malaga.
We decided against any specialty restaurants this time only due to the length of the cruise, although we did eat at the Horizon twice for lunch. It's a buffet and decent, but not very exciting. We also ate a few times at Alfredo's; very good authentic Italian pizza that was well prepared and not cheap on the toppings. Enjoyed that a lot.
The casino was fine except for the configuration of the smoking section, which is simply on the opposite side of the row of tables. Due to this, there were many nights I had to cut short my time on the craps table or not play altogether (saved myself some money perhaps???) because of a smoker right next to the table and having to inhale the smoke. Perhaps I am super-sensitive, but to me it just did not make sense. It definitely took away from enjoying the casino for me.
Most nights were cool so we did not try the movies under the stars, and since the cruise was a short one, we did other things on nights when it was warmer. I guess a cool thing to do, although frankly I do not go on a cruise to watch movies or tv of any kind.
The pool area was adequate for the weather, and there seemed to be ample chairs. Our steward did tell us to take the pool towels that she left for us in the room, though, since she said they run out on the pool deck often, something we have seen on previous cruises with others as well.
Not to compare to other lines, but one thing we appreciated when we sailed on the Equinox last year was the greeting when coming back after visiting the ports, with lemonade, water and damp towels waiting at the gangway upon your return. On this cruise, absolutely nothing. I am assuming that is a Princess procedure, but it would be a nice touch.
The onboard entertainment was quite good. The Atomic band which played on the pool deck and in other venues was very good, and the 4 girl strings playing in the late PM in the piazza was relaxing after a long day in port. We saw the Beatles impersonation band which was not too bad, and the magician from Venice was very good, although it was disappointing that he only gave one 30-minute show (which he repeated at least once). You would think that they would have somebody do more than one show and when they did, that they would not simply repeat the same illusions as the first one.
The embarkation procedure was probably the absolute best that we have experienced. Very organized, very smooth, and very quick. Good job there.
I am afraid that this review may appear to negative. It is not meant to be, and our attitude is that we make the best out of every situation so we still enjoyed ourselves a lot. Overall, the ship is quite beautiful and comfortable, the food was good, the room was decent. But considering the amount of hype that this ship had, there were far too many deficiencies to fulfill the promises of the cruise. Perhaps, too, since this was my first Princess cruise, I seemed to miss some of the things I was used to, which may not be fair.
Would I sail on the Royal again? I can only say perhaps. Definitely not, if it was an itinerary where I expected to be on the balcony a lot, due to its size. But I would consider it for others.
I would make one more point, as related to the hype. There is no question that we paid a premium to go on the Maiden Voyage. Or as some people I met called it, the Maiden Glitches Voyage. For that, you would think that Princess would have reciprocated to show how much they VALUE their customers. But overall, there did not appear to anything special to give that WOW factor on this cruise. Yes, they handed up Union Jacks upon our leaving Southampton, but other than that, nothing. I had read many posts claiming that in the past, they received some token or gift of appreciation to commemorate the maiden voyage, but there was nothing on this cruise. To be honest, I don't really care to receive something that will collect dust on the bookshelf, but I think it speaks volumes as to the attitude of the company and how much they value their customers who went out of their way to book the maiden voyage. That they appeared to take an attitude of indifference to that was disappointing, especially in the current economic state of cruising.