I have thought a lot about my experience on board the Royal Princess, let it digest and settle in for a couple of weeks before penning a review. I will say that, compared to how I felt getting off the boat, my negative impressions have not mellowed with time, although my acute irritation has tamped down somewhat. To sum up the experience: beautiful ship and if it had been my first Princess cruise, I would never have considered returning to the line.
This is a BEAUTIFUL ship, to look at. No plastic brassy Sopranos-esque splendor this. Woods and granites and polished steels, as well as wide open spaces and broad areas make the ship a joy to be in. Automatic doors and wider entryways everywhere are wonderful. It feels like a luxury resort hotel on the water, which is really what all cruise ships should be in my opinion.
The public spaces are bigger and grander than I have seen on Princess ships. Despite almost 4000 passengers, there really wasnt any problem with getting a place to be or a place to sit wherever you wanted to go. That was a wonderful new experience, especially during busy times where there were a lot of people out and about.
The new Ocean seafood bar is a great, if pricy, experience. Ossetra caviar set up in the perfectly traditional way with plenty of fixings (egg, onion, crme fraiche, the whole schmear) is a joyous experience and we thoroughly enjoyed the splurge. Note-- -get a vodka martini straight up, NOT a shot, if you like vodka with your caviar. The pour is bigger and more cost effective. The sushi here was also wonderful, with unusual offerings like tuna poke for the Hawaii-philes amongst us. They do not do rolls, however, which is a bit of a lack, but if you charm the staff they will work with you regardless of the official offerings. This was one of two areas where the staff and service simply shined.
The boutiques are better stocked and have broader breadth. A particularly nice addition, to me, was the cosmetics boutique dedicated just to fragrance, cosmetics, and body products. The prices were really good, too. Bravo!
Horizon Court is vastly better and improved. From the space and layout to the variety and quality of the food-- A++++.
I read someone else describe this as a teething situation. Yes, this ships staff is collectively a cranky fussy baby that does not know what to do with itself. Without cataloguing in a super boring way the serious and ongoing shortcomings: dining room service is slow, incompetent and belligerent about its incompetence (no I DID bring you the right bottle of wine, oh really, cause I can read my account number on the previous bottle which is not this); bar service is hit or miss at best never even a waiter to be found in the casino and only three times over 13 days in the aft smoking section; room service is an unmitigated mess--- deliveries an hour early, consistently missing items (like milk for cereal), fruit orders are an absolute shuffle (heres your bowl of kiwi, wait, I ordered everything BUT kiwi) and on and on and on. More than once I was brought the wrong drink, and once told "just drink that its close enough." The ship is new and the staff has no experience with each other, and boy does it show. The best example of this was standing, for a full five minutes, trying to get a simple Diet Coke, listening to the lone bartender argue with a server at the bar about how the server had taken an order, with the server arguing back that he had done it correctly to start with. Aside from our STELLAR cabin steward, the service got a D- grade consistently.
The staff are pretty clear, universally, that they are there for their own reasons and purposes. Providing service or experience is definitely not high on the list. I got particularly sick of the entertainment staff strutting and shoving around the ship--- even crowding and shoving in line at the buffet--- as if they owned it.
Its too big, period. Everything and everywhere is a hike. This becomes really tiresome after a while and its just wearing to walk a football field to get anywhere.
Dining choices and especially the wine list have taken a serious turn towards the uninspired and mediocre. When coupled with the "service" the Dining Rooms really left me cold, which was sad since on our other cruises I loved the Dining Room experience nightly.
The fountain show is lame. Perhaps a better pool would have been a better call.
Its a profit maximizing situation, only, for Princess and thats how theyre treating it. It starts to stack up in an annoying way. They are charging separately for soda in a mixed drink. They actually have fewer and less nice amenities throughout when compared to other ships--- laundry room is top loader and old washers and dryers; no game room/area; the pools (see below); the library is several shelves with a single conference table; steam rooms and spa amenities are co-ed and costs $49.00 per day; etc. etc. The idea was clearly to cram as many people as possible onto this pretty tub with the minimum amenities they could get away with.
Two pools for 4000 people. Yes two. No aft pool area which was awesome on other ships. No indoor pool. Basically, if you want to wade into Manhattan rush hour type crowds the pools are great, otherwise the pools are unusable. I found this situation unforgivable.
Our cabin, while beautiful, was ridiculously badly insulated, poorly installed and the tradeoffs Princess made, bluntly, suck. Our balcony on a mini-suite was a joke--- teeny tiny. Compared to the Island Princess where it was basically another room on our mini-suite, the Royal Princess balcony frankly just made me mad. Two chairs crammed in and no room to move. There were ottomans underneath the deck chairs that one could not get out without taking the whole mess inside, and nowhere for them to be. The balcony was basically useless and unusable. I could not find a comfortable way to sit, ever, and every time I tried my legs fell asleep. The suites were also balcony-deficient. The noise in the cabin was outrageous and was a lot like being inside a boiler room--- crashes, bangs, shudders, groans. A TV fell off the wall at one point. Ugh.
For a laugh--- whoever designed the bathrooms clearly never poops. Toilet paper was IMPOSSIBLE to get to or use and everyone I spoke to had toilet paper sitting in a roll on their counter for this reason. While this is just dumb, it gives you an idea of how they treated the ship and comfort of the passengers--- i.e., not at all.
All in all, we had a great trip because of the itinerary in the Mediterranean and the wonderful people we met. The Royal Princess itself was not something that made the trip better, and I will never sail it again.