Just completed a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the new Royal Princess. Overall it was a wonderful experience. This was my 12th cruise and I found myself comparing the Royal to several other Princess and Carnival ships. But to summarize it overall--loved it!
We stayed at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper the day before the cruise and got wonderful service there.
We watched the cruise ships leaving the night before ours was scheduled. Front desk help was fantastic!
Morning of embarkation to Royal was chaotic. Comparing to other cruises it was not the typical Princess embarkation, even for "Preferred" guests. We arrived about 11:50 am and did not get on board until about an hour later. There were several passengers who were fairly unruly and difficult to be around, and the staff did not seem to have it together. This may have been because it was the first full length cruise in the US for this ship. Maybe it came into a different terminal to board and did not have the resources it needed to board 3600 passengers. But it was not up to par.
Our cabin was B734--a rear facing suite- and it was an outstanding home away from home. The room layout, furnishings and monstrous deck were beyond expectations. Our room steward, Albert, was top of the notch awesome.
We were advised at checkin that due to bad weather near Princess Cays we would be stopping at Grand Turk instead. That was welcomed news. Our other stops were St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Because of the revised schedule our port call at St. Maarten was a day earlier than originally planned, so several of the excursions had to be cancelled due to other ships being at port the same day and already booked.
I would heartily encourage anyone with an adventurous spirit to try the Zip Line at St. Thomas. It is a new excursion and is absolutely fantastic! The worst part was the ride up the mountain to the site--our driver seemed to enjoy scaring the heck out of us, and the vehicle that got us the last uphill trek to the platforms was very uncomfortable (from someone with an old back injury). But once there-the guides were fantastic and friendly, and seemed to really want us to have a great time--which we DID! We zipped down six segments, changing platforms each time. We had two swinging bridges to walk across. Beautiful views! Double backup protection on the zip line itself. We even had a rainbow on the mountain before we took off. Totally wonderful excursion!
Back on board the ship--my only big concern was they had too few elevators for 3600 passengers. They were always full. I believe they need one elevator dedicated to passengers with wheelchairs because they had a very hard time getting elevators. At least the rest of us could walk the stairs if we were in a rush--but the poor wheelchair passengers had to wait and wait and wait for an elevator that was not jammed full to get where they were going.
The food was very good. The Concierge Office was a huge help. My friends renewed their wedding vows while on board, and the photography department did a great job with pictures and video of the event. Captain Tony was so nice to do the ceremony, and seeing him about the ship made me glad it was under his command. He was down to earth, friendly, and just a genuine great Captain.
My only other disappointment with this ship is the lounges are located around the atrium area or high traffic area--so it didn't have a lounge where you could enjoy quiet piano music and a drink and conversation like the Ruby Princess, or Emerald. It would have been so nice.
Disembarking went much better than getting on. We were in the walk-off group and had absolutely no problems. We were off in about 20 minutes and it seemed very smooth. All in all this cruise was a fantastic experience with just those couple glitches.
Bus tour of St. Maarten--enjoyable replacement tour for America's Cup. Would have preferred the America's Cup excursion but this was good. Interesting to see French and Dutch sides of islands. Traffic was horrendous returning to the ship.
Outstanding!!!! See info above. This was one of the best excursions I have ever been on with the exception of the America's Cup sailboat races.