For exercise! For exercise! For exercise! This revue is for exercise only. Had this been a real review, I would have named names, quoted chapter and verse, and cited sources accordingly. Since it isn't, I can feel free to wing it as necessary, give guesstimates, probe the fuzzy fringes of my memory for real and imagined events, and pretty much make it up as I go along.000
Just kidding! I'll do my best to tell it like it was and any bias that creeps in is purely intentional.
DW had her heart set on this cruise as sort of a retirement/anniversary present to ourselves and we counted down the days before bookings opened up. Once booked we had to suffer through the year and a half wait till finally we were on our way to Barcelona to board the Royal Princess.
We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Hotel Continental in a balcony room overlooking the Rambla. The place was chuck full of Royal cruisers and we really liked the hotel from the shocking pink room décor to the all-day-long buffet with free wine and beer. We opted for a taxi to the ship; 12.50 euros which included a supplement for our large amount of luggage. There was a duty free shop in the terminal after security so we purchased two liters of our favorite spirits and carried the on openly.
We booked a deluxe balcony (D716) because having a place to sit and relax in our stateroom is important to us. The addition of this class of cabin has been long overdue. On other ships, one had to book a mini suite or higher to get any comfortable seating in the stateroom itself. We were in the aft near the aft elevators and we never had a problem getting an elevator. There was a nasty odor in our hallway for the entire cruise. It smelled like a bad case of halitosis. Thank goodness it didn't permeate into our cabin. Our cabin was adequate in size with a couple of "small" exceptions. While the shower stall was larger than on previous ships, the bathroom itself was very small with little storage area. We knew what to expect as far as balcony size was concerned and while it was smaller than on other ships, it was adequate for our needs. The television was large and clear and the selection of movies was very good. Live TV was OK but we did miss TNT and there weren't many other choices available. There was a section for TV shows (series) but all that was available was The Wake Show. Finally, about a week prior to the end of the cruise, other shows appeared as if by magic (Bones, CSI, etc.). Another significant omission: NO LOVE BOAT!!!. Yeah, it may be campy and dated but we always enjoy the old episodes and we missed them on the Royal.
We opted for fixed late seating and had a table for two for the entire cruise. Our wait staff, Hermino (HW), Gabriel (W) and Tranquilino (AW) was superb throughout and made our dining experience exceptional. We did the Chef's Table and the Winemaker's dinner on the first 12 day leg which I reviewed on the "Live From" thread. Suffice it to say that the Chef's Table was a colossal (and expensive) disappointment while the Winemaker's dinner was a pleasant surprise. I understand that Chef Alfredo Marzi joined the ship for the transatlantic leg and it appeared that things were different at the Chef's Table on that leg. We saw them cooking at tableside which they did not do on our leg. The Horizon Court on the Royal was a pleasant surprise with a great layout, lots of varied dishes to choose from, and better quality than most buffets we have experienced. I do wish they had silverware wrapped in napkins available on the line as I always felt a little guilty taking same from the pre-set tables. Alfredo's was a real hit as far as were concerned. The pizza was fresh and delicious every time. We didn't try Sabatini's, The Crown Grill or any of the other pay options as there was plenty of good choices available at other venues. The International Café was a favorite haunt for us. LOVE those almond croissants! The Piazza was crowded every morning on sea days and there were never enough servers available to take orders or keep tables cleared. The quality of the food in the Main Dining Room was a bit of a disappointment, especially at lunchtime. We found the food on our most recent cruises on the Grand and the Emerald to be better prepared and more flavorful than that on the Royal.
There's been an awful lot of ship-bashing going on regarding the Royal and I was determined to keep an open mind until I could experience it myself.
Having done so, I have to agree that there are a few issues with this ship; some important and some trivial. Here's my take on the top ten in no particular order:
10. Elevators - buttons on only one side of car, one push of up or down button brings all mid-ship elevators but fore and aft banks, one must push a button on each side. Hand rails already critically loose in several elevators; don't see them lasting long.
9. Toilet paper holder placement - I had to see it for my self. Who designed that particular feature? As an aside, opening the bathroom door when the closet door is open results in a nasty gouge to the bathroom door.
8. No center stairs from deck 7 upward - I don't understand it and I don't like it.
7. Upper aisles in theater accessible only from center aisle - inconvenient and in my opinion, unsafe. Lack of tables/drink holders wasn't well thought out.
6. Only two pools for such a large ship - Caribbean cruises will suffer most from this poor design choice. The fountain is a complete waste of valuable deck space which could have been better used for another or larger pool.
5. Rotting door jambs in public restrooms - the jambs are not sealed at the bottom and water from overflows and mopping wicks up under the finish which causes the wood to discolor and rot. I was amazed at the amount of damage and rot which has occurred in such a short time.
4. Deck 17 smoking area - shared with the kiddies playground; you know, the one that looks as if junior can climb over the rail! As strong as the wind is up there, I'm sure a lot of smoke and ash is swept down to stern balconies.
3. Very tight seating in Vista Lounge - the tables are immobile, mounted to the deck and it's nearly impossible to get past others already seated to use center seating areas.
2. Fixed mounted TVs - seems as if some sort of swivel mount would have been preferable.
1. No Promenade Deck - in my opinion, this is the single most egregious design fault. That long-time cruise staple, the leisurely promenade stroll is no more on the Royal. Of course one can go up to deck 18 and try to stroll the running track or walking track or whatever they're calling it nowadays but dealing with high winds, frenetic runners and dedicated power walkers is not my idea of a relaxing stroll.
I have to admit that there was probably no way for this cruise to live up to our lofty expectations although it would have been nice if it did. Frankly we expected a lot more from this Grand Mediterranean/Inaugural Transatlantic. There were really no special touches, no special name performers, nothing really special at all. Now that we have experienced the Royal in person, we've been asking ourselves if we would sail on her again and the answer is an unqualified MAYBE. If the itinerary is special, and of course if the price is right then we would have no reservations about sailing on her again.