The Royal is a beautiful ship, and we had a marvelous time on her Maiden TA voyage from Venice to Fort Lauderdale. It was our first cruise in the Mediterranean and first TA, so we really didn't know what to expect, but The Royal met and surpassed our expectations. First, despite the many negative reviews, we thoroughly enjoyed the ship. The service was exceptional and the food was wonderful. The entertainment was very enjoyable with lots of variety from the production shows to comedians to bands/musicians to local entertainment in certain ports.
The highlight of the ship is the large and beautiful piazza where something was always going on--it was entertainment central for the ship with plenty of seating, bars and food options. We particularly enjoyed Alfredo's where the food, pasta and desserts were delicious and free as well as the 24 hour International Café--again variety and quality of the food were wonderful. We had a mid-ship minisuite under the Seaview Bar and loved the extra space of the stateroom and balcony. Our balcony was one of the larger angled balconies, and we enjoyed breakfast each morning and a special balcony dinner one evening. Privacy is not an issue on the port side under the Seaview Bar, especially if you are booked on a lower deck as we were (Baja). There were curtains that allowed the stateroom to be separated into bedroom and seating area, which we very much enjoyed. Storage space was more than adequate, and we loved the well equipped bathroom with tub/shower combo. The on demand television system was wonderful with a large selection of movies, TV shows and the usual lectures and daily wake show. We enjoyed the opportunity to watch first run movies in our cabin especially on port days when we returned exhausted from a long day of touring. The spa is large and luxurious, and I like the new location on Deck 5. I had very good treatments, and there was no pressure to buy additional products and services. The gym was on Deck 16 and had plenty of equipment and great views. I also enjoyed the walking track on Deck 17--again great views and outside exercise stations. There is a large court space where Zumba was held most mornings and also used for basketball, pickleball and other court games. Cruise staff had many activities planned for the sea days, and we enjoyed trivia, Pop Choir, lectures and lounging by the pools. There are three pools with lots of loungers in both sun and shade--we enjoyed the adult only retreat pool. We did not take advantage of the Sanctuary (fee based) or the Retreat Pool cabanas (fee based). The Movies Under the Stars was in operation day and night, and we enjoyed the fountain shows on special nights. There were very few children on our cruise so space in the pools and hot tubs was not an issue. The newly designed Horizon Court/Bistro buffet area was a huge improvement with good flow and a great variety of food. We usually ate in the dining room but we had lunch and snacks in Horizon Court. We also ate at the Crab Shack, which is a special area in Horizon Court offered on certain nights. The food was delicious although the hush puppies need some work. Princess continues to have the best pizza at sea which we enjoyed several days for lunch, and also the Trident grill offers freshly made burgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches. At night the grill also offers chili, barbecue beef and pork as part of the Smokehouse. The food was very good. The soft serve ice cream (free), Pastry Shop (free) and Gelato Shop (fee based) meant that snacks and desserts were always available. Afternoon Tea in the dining room was also excellent with delicious scones and other treats. Cruise staff were competent, friendly and professional, and we had some of the best service on the Royal that we've had on any of our cruises.
Ports were interesting and varied, and we took mostly private excursions arranged through our roll call--all were excellent. The one Princess tour that I took in Barcelona was well organized and convenient-don't miss seeing La Sagrada Familia, which was the main reason I chose this particular tour. We were blessed with beautiful weather and calm seas on the Atlantic crossing and would definitely recommend this itinerary and the beautiful Royal.
She is very spacious and it rarely felt crowded. We enjoyed the new feature of free intranet service accessed via cell phones and tablets to keep up with activities, locations and stateroom accounts conveniently and on-demand. I did miss the promenade deck for that "close to the sea" viewing and walking, but most of the other "negatives" were not an issue for us. The elevators were crowded during port days when people are coming and going at the same time, but most of the time they worked fine even without the central staircase. I didn't find it a problem to walk forward or aft when I wanted to take the stairs. The self-service laundry rooms on most passenger decks were very convenient and worked well with the new token machines--much easier to swipe your cruise card than carry quarters. The Library is very small and there is no card room. The aft dining room was the meeting place for cards and games--we didn't participate in those so I don't know how well that venue worked.