I firmly believe that every cruise is what you make it, which is not to say that every cruise is created equal. My husband and I just completed a seven day Caribbean Cruise on the Royal Princess, and I am more impressed than I expected to be but with some caveats.
Embarkation: arrived around 12:30. In our room by 12;50. Easy!
Atrium: The atrium is obviously the central feature of this ship. It is absolutely beautiful. It follows the general design of other Princess ships, but with more space, more glitter and more choices. There is more seating and much of the entertainment happens here. Ray Coussins played here, there was jazz music, Latin music, line dancing and fruit carving are just a few of the many offerings here.
Room: We had a mini-suite, which we found to be slightly smaller, but better designed than on other Princess ships. We had plenty of storage. Two TV’s were flat screens on the wall. It had a desk/vanity area without the rounded TV/storage area that butts into the room on the other Princess ships. A curtain could be used to divide the room in the case that one of you were a night owl/early bird who wanted to disturb the other as little as possible. And you do NOT have to be a contortionist to reach the toilet paper. . It is not at the most convenient location, but really! Some posters have made this non-issue into a reason to avoid the entire ship!
Unfortunately, the balcony is very narrow. We book a mini-suite, in part because of my husband’s claustrophobia, but also because we enjoy stretching out in our bathing suits without the scrutiny of the entire ship. Unfortunately two people cannot stretch out on these balconies. The interesting thing is that footstools and reclining chairs are provided for both when it had to be obvious to Princess that they could not be used simultaneously. It is my only serious complaint about this ship. We participated in a Cabin Crawl, which allowed us to visit several other cabins. If booking an interior, opt for the sideways interior, which has more room and a comfortable layout. If booking a mini-suite, consider the deluxe balcony for less money, but not much less room. If we sail Royal/Regal, I would definitely consider this choice over mini-suite. Owners suite is lovely, but again smaller than OS on some other Princess ships. However, Royal has added the special feature of a Concierge Lounge. They will make reservations, provide light snacks and a dedicated staff member to answer questions and give general information.
Food: Food is always a subjective item on any cruise. In fact, even my husband and I disagree about some of the food. I am not a big fan of the Horizon Court/Bistro, although the selection on the Royal was outstanding and the seating was great. You could be in the Court, the Bistro or aft open seating. Recommend that you do a walkthrough on your first visit to Horizon before choosing seating or food. I consider Horizon to be “cafeteria food”, but my husband loves that he can have so many choices, a little of this and a little of that. Certainly the fruit is fresh and food is warm to hot. And I did enjoy building my own burrito! We only did MDR once and we were pleased with the choices and quality of food. We LOVED Alfredo’s. I repeat, we LOVED Alfredo’s!! International Café was great for a light, quick meal., as well as coffee and dessert. We did the Winemaker’s Dinner, which I HIGHLY recommend. Well worth the extra cost! We have done Sabatini’s and Crown Grill on previous cruises, but not on this cruise, so I cannot comment. We had pizza at Prego’s, burgers at the Trident Grill and found them to be satisfactory. Each venue offers different food and different levels of cuisine. Do not expect first class dining at Horizon Court and if you pay an extra fee, you should expect something better than the MDR. We also did Royal Tea, which was very nice, but I think I actually prefer Afternoon Tea as done on other Princess ships.
Excursions: My general rule is to use Princess for ports I have not visited before and look for deals in places I am familiar with. In this case we visited Princess Cays, St. Thomas and St. Marteen.. We have been to Princess Cays before, but this time I wanted to take out a kayak. I have kayaked and canoed for years, but never in the ocean. I loved it. Obviously it is harder than on a river or lake, but it was glorious. There are lifeguards on jet skis monitoring those on the water (fortunately I did not need their assistance), but it makes you feel very safe and aware that help is available if you should run into trouble. In St. Thomas we took a tour to scenic spots and a tram to a viewing area above the port. Personally, I felt this was a waste of money, since the main purpose was to steer you through gift shops. If I were to redo this port, I would walk across to the tram, ride it up for the great views and do some shopping near the ship. Our excursion in St. Martin/Marteen was absolutely worth it. We had a bus ride through Dutch St. Martin, a cruise from Dutch St. Martin to French St. Marteen which was enormously entertaining and scenic. Some shopping and bus back to the ship completed the excursion.
Promenade: I have very mixed feelings about this. I am a walker. I did walk on deck 17 and that was fine in terms of getting my exercise in. However, it can be very windy and, at times the soot was a problem. I also like to be close to the water and I could do that on the “Promenade” deck. But I could not do both on the same deck. Well, okay. But there is something very romantic and very “cruisey” about dressing up, having dinner and then “promenading” that was definitely missing here. And that makes me a little sad.
Gym: Lots of choices. Visited three times and was not busy. Staff is very willing to advise, explain. At times the location of the Fitness Center became a thoroughfare for those who couldn’t figure out how to get to the Teen Center or other aft areas, but this was not often enough to be a distraction.
Lotus Spa: Had a manicure/pedicure as I always do. Great service. My nails looked great. A little pricey, yes, but it is my one cruise splurge just for me! Did a walk-through of Enclave and was sorry I had not signed up for this. It looked so luxurious!
Princess Theater: Loved, loved the Beatlemaniacs. Hope they return for future cruises. Also saw Colors of the World. Very lovely show with beautiful costumes and music. Arrived 20 minutes before each show and had no problem finding seats. However, as others have mentioned, there are no tables for drinks (so drink before or after) and no far side aisles.
Casino: A bit tight, but easy to maneuver. Never had problems with smoking (confined to one side away from staircase). Let’s face it, a casino’s purpose is to generate income, so don’t expect many wins (but, of course, hope springs eternal)!
Crooners, Bellini’s, Wheelhouse Bar, Seaview Bar: Got great service at each.
Seawalk: I realize that I may be in a minority, but I loved this feature. I have no fear of heights and no interest in looking at others on their balcony (in fact tiered balconies on Grand Class are more intrusive than this is) I was fascinated by this ability to be suspended above the ocean, above the lower levels of the ship. I think I walked across at least half a dozen times at various times of the day or evening. But, I admit, I may be in the minority here.
Pools: I am not a pool person, but enjoyed sitting out in the sun. There were only a few people in the pool when I was there, but admittedly, I did not spend much time there.
Water shows: Very entertaining, but I agree that this could be reduced in size and still be a very entertaining venue. Also needs to be utilized more during the day.
We traveled without children, so I cannot comment except to say that a peak through the windows of teen and children centers indicated well-designed and multi-use venues.
Only did a walk-through of Sanctuary and Retreat. Again, I am not a big pool person. Four of the six cabanas were being used when I went through.
The Art: Oh my goodness, the art. Not the art of the Auction, but the art throughout the ship. Photos by previous Princess passengers. Works by Wyland. Art on every stair landing; outside each venue, in unexpected nooks and crannies. Just wonderful!
Elevators: Beyond embarkation and post muster, I never had an elevator problem. I think that in seven days, I twice had to let an elevator go by because it was full. Sometimes the co-ordination was a bit off, but nothing beyond what I have experienced on other cruise ships including other Princess and other non-Princess ships (not mentioning any names here, Celebrity).
Finally, a cruise is what you make it and I thank Dave, Roxanne, John, Tommy, Stacey, Gary, Bob, Jackie and Paul for everything you added to this cruise.
I could go on and on and on. Would I sail Royal again? Yes! Is it my favorite ship? No, but maybe, I haven’t found my favorite yet. I’ll just have to keep on crusin’!