Let me begin by stating, my partner and I love to cruise and pick Princess exclusively. When we cruise, we are on vacation, period. We relax, go with the flow, and enjoy the time away from work. Short of death, nothing is going to "ruin” our cruise. This is a term most CC readers hear used on ships throughout their cruises and my partner and I believe that is just people that are never happy.
Embarkation: We booked a S4 Suite and check in was smooth as silk. We were told to proceed to the suite area and look for a uniformed representative to "whisk” us onboard as we have seen many times before. Unfortunately what we experienced was nothing more than a large room filled with a mass gaggle of Elites (E) and Preferred (P) passengers, and one haggard Princess employee who was valiantly trying to appease their demands. This made the embarkation process painful yet humorous due to the amount of Princess Elite and Preferred passengers all trying to be the first passengers to board the ship. Boarding was delayed due to clearance issues from the earlier 5 day cruise. Once the door was opened for boarding the Es and Ps went crazy. They swarmed the door but an older man with a New York accent took control and started the process of boarding, scolding them and demanding they listen to him and follow his directions.
The Elites went crazy because "Blue Cards” (Princess first timers) were boarding ahead of them. It was quite entertaining. My partner and I just laughed and wondered when it would all end, after all, it is vacation, right? After 6 cruises with Princess, we wondered, would we ever act like that as Elite, doubtful. Once aboard, our vacation could begin.
Suite and Concierge Lounge: S4 suite is arranged like the former PH suites on Grand Class ships, however, it is much smaller. The balcony is narrow and has only a two top table with forward facing chairs and two easy chairs; unfortunately there are no sun loungers in the S4 Suites on Royal. The marble bath is stunning. Glass shower stall with shower head and a hand held wand. A separate non-Jacuzzi bathtub and dual sinks. The bath is split into two rooms, with the commode and sink in one room and the shower, tub and sink in another room, quite convenient for a couple. The suite has a queen size bed with 2 nightstands, 2 place sofa, 2 leather chairs, a coffee table and a desk. Standard dry bar and 3 closets and underbed suitcase storage. Our cabin steward David, was by far the best steward we’ve ever experienced at sea. He is like a ninja steward. We would leave the cabin for 20 minutes and return to a refreshed cabin with new towels and a refreshed bed. The best part a suite on the Royal Princess is the private Concierge Lounge. This lounge became the great check-in equalizer. As stated in the brochure and on-line, it is only for full suite accommodations S2, S4 and S5 on Royal. Imaging the joy my partner and I felt as black card after black card tried the door for entry, only to have the light turn red. In fact, one Elite tried to piggy back in, but the Concierge scolded them. So sorry, your Elite status means nothing here, unless you have paid for a suite. The two Concierges are some of the finest staffers I’ve experienced on Princess and you can see they have been selected for their professionalism, dedication and discretion, well done Rosbert and Monika. While the lounge provides light snacks, all varieties of espresso based drinks with the coolest machine ever, juices, and a nice library, it is really a nice place to relax. Plus as suite guests you get a made to order breakfast at Sabatini’s.
Food/Dining: We did anytime dining. As suite guests you get a free pass to either Sabatini’s or Crown Grill on the first night. We chose the Crown Grill and our traveling companions all enjoyed it. I would compare it to the Palm for food quality but the service was lacking as it is on every first night with Princess. We dined one other night at the Crown Grill and service was much better. The main dining room was ok when we ate there; our anytime dining waiter was so bad the first night we just laughed because we were on vacation. The second night, he greeted us with "oh, you came back” which made us burst out laughing. I let Monica, the Concierge, know and we were changed to a different waiter for all MDR dining after that. The highlight of the dining was "Lumiere” the $115 private Chef’s Table experience. This multi-course extravaganza starts in the kitchen and ends in the crystal curtained dining room. It was so intimate and delicious. I tried sweetbreads for the first time. I guess it was all the champagne that lowered my inhibitions. Breakfast itself was wonderful at Sabatini’s every day. A coffee, mimosa and made to order poached eggs. My partner and I looked at the buffet on day one and it is nicely organized but we never went, we don’t like the crowds who push and shove and act like it is a competition to get as much food as possible. I do like the fact that the plates are smaller on this updated buffet.
Ship Likes: Overall Look/Design, Retreat Pool for Adults Only, Expanded Sanctuary, Expanded Piazza, Seafood Bar/Bellini Bar, Concierge Lounge.
Ship Dislikes: Balcony Depth, Suite Size, No Sommelier for Wine (Budget Cuts), Less Expansive Wine List, Whiney Passengers.
Overall Royal Princess is a lovely ship. There is a tradeoff for suite guests to consider. Give up the room/balcony size for the new Concierge Lounge (only Royal and the new Regal have one) or keep the bigger suite and balcony on Grand Class ships. Our next cruise is on Ruby and I may just do a Mini-Suite since there isn’t a lounge.