My husband and I just returned from the Thanksgiving cruise on the Royal. It was our fourth cruise on Princess and ninth cruise overall. We’re in our early 30s and traveled with my husband’s dad who is in his 60s. We stayed the night before the cruise at the Hyatt Place. We’ve stayed there three times now and it works great—free breakfast and right next door is a grocery store where we buy soda and wine to bring on board.
We all three had the best time on this cruise. I’d read many of the reviews of the ship in advance and was a little worried—but I have to say I really can’t figure out why anyone wouldn’t enjoy this ship. We have another cruise booked next month on the Caribbean Princess, and I’m worried it will be a letdown after being on Royal!
There are several improvements from other Princess ships that we loved. The buffet is designed so that a line never forms because there are multiple stations. Drink service in the buffet area is much improved, and we never once had trouble finding a table. Alfredo’s is a wonderful addition. We loved having on-demand movies and TV shows in the state room. I read lots of complaints about the lack of promenade deck, but there is a deck on level 7 (it just doesn’t go all the way around). This deck turned out to be one of my favorite places, because they had nice cushioned chairs there and it was always quiet. A great place to read. The Seawalk is incredible and the fountain shows are very nice—not quite the Bellagio but nice :) And the fountain area is not a waste of space—during the day they place sun loungers there and at night it’s cleared and used for a dance floor or stage.
All of the things we’ve enjoyed about Princess in the past were there too—great entertainment and activities, excellent service and food, the International Café, the best pizza at Prego’s, and Movies Under the Stars.
There were a few negatives as with any cruise. It’s true that the lack of a central staircase causes the midship elevators to be jammed. My best advice is don’t take those elevators! We never waited more than a minute or two, because we always used the aft or forward ones. It helps to have a forward or aft stateroom. As we anticipated, the stateroom balcony was small but there was still enough room to sit and enjoy a champagne breakfast. With Princess, staterooms are very small—my father-in-law had a deluxe balcony which is the size of a normal room on other cruise lines. If larger staterooms are very important to you, spring for a mini-suite or try Holland America which has bigger rooms.
I agree with others that Princess Live is definitely a downgrade from the Explorer’s Lounge. The spa facilities were gorgeous (I bought the week pass to the Enclave) but the spa management had some issues—the electronic locker keys NEVER worked and they were always out of towels and water. If you buy an Enclave pass, go first thing in the morning—I was literally the only one there for the first half hour and no more than five people were ever there the first 90 minutes.
The stops on this cruise were great; we’d been to all three before. Try Bernard’s Tours in St. Maarten and the Princess champagne sail and snorkel to St. John in St. Thomas. Both were great fun.
I’ve posted some pictures from the cruise at www.goingplaceswithcamille.wordpress.com if you’d like to see them.