The short review:
Ten of us on the brand new Royal Princess. Grandparents taking a son and daughter, their spouses, and their two children each to the Med. Two 13 year olds, and two 15 year olds. First visit for seven of the eight others to Europe, so we chose a new ship for old sites.
The kids and their parents enjoyed the cruise and the excursions, the ship was just so-so but the staff were excellent.
Bottom line: Would we go back to Princess Cruises? Absolutely.
Would we go back to Royal Princess? No way.
The long review:
We arrived in Barcelona from Toronto just in time for a transfer to the ship. My wife and I had booked a penthouse for ourselves, two balcony rooms, and two inside rooms directly across from the balcony rooms for the rest of the family. That way, the parents and their children (three boys, one girl) could be together but maintain their privacy when required. Our room, being larger, was intended to be the headquarters for the family, as needed.
For my wife and I, who are used to Vista Suites on Princess ships, the penthouse suite that we book was disappointing. It was not as large or well laid out as we expected, there was very little sitting room, and the balcony was an absolutely total disaster. We are used to large balconies with large tables, and cushioned chairs and lounge chairs. Instead, we got a balcony that was no more than 4 feet wide, with four chairs and two small tables. The chairs were teakwood,and when wet or if something wet was placed on them, they stained the material of whatever we put out to dry. It was impossible to navigate around the balcony, and fortunately in our case we had two doors out to the balcony so that at least four people could reasonably access the chairs on which they would sit. There was no way you could stretch out your legs.
The balconies on the smaller balcony rooms were the same width but only half as long, so they were even worse. They had aluminum furniture, which was equally as uncomfortable as the furniture on our penthouse balcony.
We had a king bed, which was reasonably comfortable. The linens were excellent, and were changed about every three days. The towels were changed as often as we requested. The bathroom had a very deep bathtub and separate stall shower; and was divided into two rooms with a basin and toilet in one room, and the tub shower and another basin in the other room.
Our room steward was one of the very best we have had in 35 cruises.
The dining room staff were also excellent. The food, on the other hand, was acceptable but not extraordinarily good. Except, that is, for the Crown Grill, which was excellent.
The entertainment was not bad as far as the production shows were concerned, but they need better singers. The invited acts were entertaining; and the piano duet of Worbey and Farrell were very entertaining and funny so much so that I bought their DVD.
The ship's itinerary was quite good. However, we did not take excursions in each port; and in fact, in Rome and Ephesus, we took tours that were sold by a British company, Cruising Excursions. Here is a link to their website: http://www.cruisingexcursions.com/. Their offerings are good, and their prices quite reasonable. Their guides were very knowledgeable.
We found that the organization for the excursions that we did take with Princess was no better or worse than on any other ship, and that a half-hour wait to be called to our bus or tender was not uncommon.
We went to look at the spa, which was no more than a dungeon down on the third deck. In a word, it was terrible. It looked pretty, but it was too warm, it smelled of chlorine, and had no nice ceramic beds with a view out the windows to watch the passing scene as there are found on most other ships (but not the Grand Princess). The price they wanted for access to the special pool was outrageous, the prices for services were high, and the staff was pushy. We did not avail ourselves of any of their services.
We noted a number of grammatical and factual errors in the Princess Patter that we received every day, and especially in the fact sheets that we received for the upcoming ports of call. In fact, one day as we were approaching Athens, they told us about the relative time to GMT for Alaska. I found some of their grammatical errors, and non sequiturs, to be quite amusing.
We had breakfast most days in Sabatini's, and the service was good and friendly. We were allowed to take various family members with us, and the grandchildren particularly enjoyed themselves with the Sabatini's breakfast menu. The cafeteria on the Lido deck did not offer a wide variety of food at any time of day, and except for the bakery shop, the offering of food was so-so. But once again, the grandkids enjoyed the baked goods, the soft ice cream, and the popcorn with the movies.
Forget the so-called sushi that is offered. The rice was not sushi rice, prepared the right way, in the preparation was poor. It is that kind of offering that gives sushi a bad name.
As for the ports of call, they were what we expected, as my wife and I had been to all of them before, sometimes three or four times. There are so many choices of excursions, and the ports of call are so well known, that there is no point in remarking on our personal experiences.
Our experiences with the staff on board the ship were, for the most part, excellent. The ship itself is grandly decorated, but the rooms are pokey.
The bottom line is this: Would we recommend Princess Cruises? Absolutely. Would we recommend Royal Princess? No.