East Caribbean on the Royal Princess – December 15-22, 2013
This cruise was number three of a back to back to back adventure that began November 26, 2013 on the Coral Princess, then moved to the Crown Princess on December 7, 2013. After an overnight hotel stay in Fort Lauderdale, we embarked the Royal Princess on December 15, 2013. We stayed at the Hyatt Place hotel on 10th street (a mile or less from the pier) the night of December 14th. The hotel was nice and included a nice breakfast. The staff was very helpful. We booked under the “no cancellation” rate and got a GREAT deal.
Following a short taxi ride from hotel to ship, we moved along quickly through the preferred check-in to the elite lounge. We were able to board the ship around 11:40 am, went to our stateroom to drop off carry-ons, and then on the Alfredo's Pizzeria for lunch.
After lunch we started our tour of the ship. The first thing you notice about the Royal Princess is she is a BEAUTIFUL ship. Everything is new and sparkles. The interior decoration is done is a white/champagne/gold with lots and lots of sparkle – understated luxury :). It reminded me of walking into a very high class jewelry/diamond store. It is simply beautiful.
The Piazza is the show piece of the ship, as it was designed to be. It's much larger than piazzas on other ships. It's very bright and sparkly and looks great. The negatives about the area are, 1) It's very hard to get service here for specialty coffees in day or drinks at night because the area is large and serviced by only a few staff; 2) Since this ship has lost so0 many venues, the Piazza was the main dance location for the ship. It was always crowded because it was the only dancing/music venue at the time. The floor in the Piazza is marble (not wood) and is very hard on a dancers' legs and feet PLUS the Piazza is used for many different things (such as martini demonstrations) that leave wet or sticky residue behind. The dancing on the Royal was a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT.
The Passenger Services and Shore Excursion areas are located on Deck 5 adjacent to the Piazza and are spacious and beautiful. The Passenger Services staff was some of the best I've seen on Princess ships.
Some other nice changes were found in the stateroom. One big improvement is in the shower. It's actually large enough to take a shower in!!!! It's probably 50% larger than the showers on most Princess ships and includes a little ledge/shelf for setting things. The room is about the same size as expected but the entrance appears a little large because they “cut the corner” off the bathroom and made the entrance/closet area more open. The desk area is very modern. Gone is the big wooden tower thing in the corner. There is a nice size flat screen mounted directly on the wall. All of this makes the desk area appear a little larger. Everything is new and crisp and clean. We had a very good cabin steward, Nop, who made our stay very pleasant.
Alfredo's Pizzeria. If you are not familiar with Alfredo's, it's Sicilian/Brick Oven style pizza – more “gourmet” than the pizza on Lido Deck. Alfredo's has expanded their menu and now includes appetizers and dessert as well as the 5 or so pizzas on their menu. The “Royal Princess” is very good. Alfredo's is now on 3 or 4 of the Princess ships and will probably continue to expand. The pizza is very good, as is the service, and there is no charge for the food, only beverages (soft drinks, wine, beer).
The Horizon buffet is HUGE!! It has been divided into two areas – Horizon Bistro (smaller plates) and Horizon Court (more entree type foods). It is very light and modern and very attractive. The negatives are 1) it's soooo big and complex that it takes a while (a couple of days) to figure it out. There are no signs or any type of guidance, and 2) there are several areas where passengers are bottle-necked and the lines stand still with little flow. The food was very good and there was a lot of variety.
The Dining Rooms, like the Piazza are beautiful, very nicely done. We had assigned early seating in the Concerto (that's the Di Vinci on most ships). We had an excellent waiter (Josephine) and assistance waiter (Eguardo). The food was very good. Some nights the service was a little slow. This dining room had four head waiters – the most I've ever seen on a Princess ship for one single dining room – so they are probably still trying to work out some dining problems.
A very nice International Cafe is located on Deck 5 but it took about 15 minutes to get a specialty coffee there. There is also a Gelato stand near the International Cafe. Gelato was available from lunchtime on for a fee.
Other things on Deck 5 included Vines (wine bar), Celebrations (a small gift shop), Sabatini's Princess' Italian specialty (for fee) restaurant, and a very small Internet Cafe. The Crown Grill is located on Deck 7 and a new seafood bar, Ocean Terrace Seafood, is also located on Deck 7. Since this was only a 7 day cruise, we didn't sample any of the specialty restaurants.
The Theater has slightly more seats at the cost of comfort. The new seats are very narrow. My husbands shoulder's were wider than the seat! There were no pull out drink tables so people who ordered drinks had to hold them
in their lap, so to speak. The technology in the theater was state of the art, great sounds, lots of digital displays, etc. The section of seats you enter from the 6th floor are not elevated so their view was somewhat limited. The 6th floor entrance is very much scaled down compared to other Princess ships. All in all I would say Princess cut corners a little on the theater to save a little money.
The Vista Lounge is located all the way at the back of the ship on Deck 7 (on some ships this area is also called Club Fusion or Universe Lounge). It is a good size room set up more theater style than club style. The dance floor is much smaller than in similar areas on other ships, part of the dance floor being taken up by the bandstand. This room was used most of the time as a second theater.
Explorer's Lounge, a popular venue on almost all other Princess ships doesn't exist – there isn't one.
The Wheelhouse Lounge has been reduced to a small piano bar that opens to the hall and the Crown Grill restaurant. There is no dance floor at all in the Wheelhouse. The Wheelhouse was almost empty every time we walked by.
Princess Live is a new venue designed to hold demonstrations, the Wake Show, and various game shows. It was used nightly but not a lot. Seating in here was really tight.
The Crooners Bar on this ship is larger than on other ships. It was never packed like I've seen it on other ships. One reason was probably because entertainment here didn't usually start before 10 pm. If you're expecting dueling pianos, you won't find them. There's only one piano here although the deck plans showed two.
If you are a fan of Skywalkers, you will be sad. Skywalkers doesn't exist on Royal Princess. There's no wonderful lounge to go to and read or have fantastic views. Skywalkers has been replaced with a small disco type lounge on deck 6 next to the casino that is named “Club 6”.
The Lido pool area features only ONE average size pool, the elevated “fountain” area (where nightly water and light shows occur around 5-6 pm), and one small kiddie pool. There is only one other pool – an adult's only “Retreat” pool (forward on deck 17 near “The Sanctuary”). There is no Terrace Pool, Lotus Spa Pool, and only one regular Lido Pool. Needless to say, the area around the one Lido Pool stayed crowded all day. You didn't stand a chance getting a lounge chair. The new Skywalk and Skybar are also located near the main pool on Lido deck. Once you walk over them, the novelty has worn off. I don't think Princess got the bang for the buck they were hoping with these.
Fitness Center is located on Deck 17 at the rear of the ship (starboard side). It's very nice and very state of the art but very busy on sea days.
If you want some walking or jogging space you have to go all the way up on deck 18 using the aft elevators. Royal Princess has NO PROMENADE. There are a couple of sitting areas outside Crooners and opposite Crooners but no walk around promenade that most people expect. This is a big negative in my book.
Here's a quick of what we liked and didn't like on Royal Princess:
The ship is beautiful.
The Piazza is beautiful.
The staterooms are nice.
The showers are fantastic.
Alfredo's Pizzeria is a nice addition.
The Passenger Service and Shore Excursion area is spacious, beautiful, and well staffed.
The Horizon buffet was spacious, bright, and had a variety of very good food.
The music onboard was good – the band Orphea, pianist Krzysztof Jankowski, and music director/orchestra leader Gordon Hough did a good job providing dance music in less than desirable circumstances.
The ship was crowded. So many venues have been taken away but an additional 500 passengers were added. There is no way to disperse the crowds. Everyone is headed to the same place. The elevators were full – you frequently had to wait for two or three elevators to find one you could squeeze into. With the middle bank of elevators, stairs are not an option – there are none. The halls were full of people, it was difficult getting from one end of the ship to the other.
Because there are so few venues, it's difficult to get a seat – by the pool, in the theater, around the Piazza, etc.
The lack of “outdoor” space – the loss of pools and sitting areas are those pools and the loss of the promenade – a big loss.
My husband and I do social ballroom dancing and the dancing was very, very poor on this ship. We had about 15 dancing couples who would strongly agree with this. The only place we danced was in the Piazza on a marble floor that was wet, sticky, and crowded with people coming and going.
I hope Princess will make some changes in this basic model before the Regal Princess is completed and rectify some of these very big negatives. Although this ship is beautiful, it is not for us. We won't sail on her again unless big changes are made, if that's even possible.