A little background, This is my 6th cruise with Princess and my 20th overall having experienced many of the main cruise lines at one point or another and I'm only 40. What can I say? I love cruising! We booked the Royal about 9-10 months before she was set to sail and couldn't wait. We had a mini-suite on Aloha deck, A519. In general, it was quiet other than some TV noise. The room is standard Princess mini-suite arrangement and the bed was comfortable for me but my husband did not care for it. The balcony is one of the worst I have experienced for size. I was very disappointed given I had a mini-suite. The furniture is too large, especially the table and not the most comfortable. No matter how we arranged it, we always had to climb over something to get to a seat and could not have the foot stools out. Our cabin steward was friendly and did a pretty good job but we missed having towel animals every night and we never did get our robes to use.
Embarkation was good for us as we had Preferred and could go on whenever. If you didn't, it seemed like a lot of waiting around. You may best want to adhere to the schedule Princess gives you as it seems like they are adhereing to it. Debarkation was relatively easy and quick. We enjoyed breakfast and sat outside on deck at the back for most of the time and then finished out in the Platinum lounge.
Entertainment was great. The comedian and illusionist were fantastic. The Princess dancers and singers were good as well. Princess Theater is ok. I miss being able to relax with space and a drink. There is no real balcony either in the theater but the different tiers were good as we could get seats that our 10-year old son could see with no issue as long as we got there 30 minutes early. Seats are tight together and legroom was not ample. If you are a larger person I can see it being very uncomfortable.
Dining. We had 1st sitting traditional in the Allegro as I still prefer not having to call or wait and not know. Food was better than the last Princess cruise I had and I felt overall was pretty good. My husband thoroughly enjoyed the Beef Tenderloin medallions off the everyday menu. We all enjoyed a Goat Cheese souffle appetizer. Pasta was good also. Waitstaff was great and attentive including ones from other stations that would help out once in awhile. One thing I haven't figured out is the exact time for 1st sitting. When we booked, it was 6pm. By time we got on board, it became 5:45pm. My parents are going in January and they are 5:30pm now for traditional 1st. Horizon Buffet is quite an experience at times. More on that later. Food was general buffet fair and there different ethnic foods but they seemed to be the same everyday. The Pastry Shop section is great and had wonderful variety!! The Horizon closes down at 11pm and seemed to include the beverage stations which was disappointing. Other cruises, the beverage stations usually stay open 24 hours. Also, beverage stations are only on one end for you to get them yourself. Servers are very attentitive to get what you need in other areas.
Kids program- My son is 10 and he enjoyed it more than he has on any other cruise even asking to go. The age separation really makes a big difference as each has their own sanctuary as I would call it with activities suited for them. He loved the air hockey, foosball table and PS3/Wii stations. You do have to pay for the time after 10pm if you leave your child and sign up for it ahead of time. You also have to sign children up the day before on any port day you plan to leave them on board.
Center atrium is very pretty and very loud/busy. There are numerous dancing and other activities that take place here so it gets very crowded.
Spa is nice and they did not push products as much as I have experienced in the past. Enclave is neat but not worth $159 for the week for me. It might be for others. Spa rooms were spacious and nice for treatments.
Cruise Staff was enjoyable and there were lots of activities. Cruise director Sam was great and friendly. She even helped my son get a bandaid for a blister during the intimate magic show for kids. All of the staff on board were very friendly, always smiled and said hello.
Overall, we had a pretty good time. Weather was fantastic including Princess Cays. 3rd time my husband has gone and 1st time actually getting to stop. We did a Kayak, Hike and Snorkel in St. Thomas that was a lot of fun and well done.
Now, I do have to comment on a few negatives unfortunately. Passenger flow is not good for a ship this size and we were not even at full capacity (4222 max). We don't take elevators often but there isn't much of a choice in the center and they didn't operate well or in any manner than makes sense. It also seemed at least one was out of service at any given time and the rumor was they de-activated the close door button and it did seem as though it didn't work. You can only go all the way front to back on Deck 7 on one side due to the Crown Grill and it can be congested. I missed having a deck that was exterior to walk around all the way. For me, I think I need to stick to ships of 80,000-100,000 and less than 3000 passengers. It was just too many people. More on the people shortly...
Pools - Not enough for the number of passsengers. One adult-only, and not heavily used; 1 regular pool, the fountains (that I only saw on once) and then what I would call the kids pool, round and shallow. Since we had great weather, these were very busy. Music plus what is playing on Movie screen can be too loud at times where you can't hold a conversation. Deck chair reserving was constant and we only got 1 chair for the 3 of us once.
Drinks - Honestly, drink servers hardly bothered you. There were no drinks of the day. I'm not a big drinker but I always enjoyed the drink of the day on my cruises and they didn't have that, at least not advertised in the Patter like on past trips so maybe they did and I didn't know it?
The clientele aka passengers. We unfortunately encountered many instances that would qualify for Cruise Critics Naughty behavior list. It seems this week attracted an older, entitled generation who deserve everything and hate kids no matter how well they behave. It unfortunately made our son and our friend's daughter feel bad enough to express issues with it to us. There were about 300 kids on board that week. Not many considering Christmas week there was going to be 900+. I stood by at the buffet one time while the kids waited in line patiently for waffles and pancakes. When it was their turn, they started getting their food. Apparently, the couple behind them didn't feel the kids deserved to have a turn and pushed my son out of the way while acting all impatient. I said to them, they are just getting their food and are almost done. The wife ignored me and the husband looked at me mortified. Seriously people, its a buffet, there will be more food. You won't miss out. Two older women were talking at the pool about too many kids and guess where they were? The kid's pool. She also loudly complained about how the dining room wouldn't prepare her and her husband escargot every night as they wanted being told by the head waiter they do not have it for every night and it is very expensive. Good for him. My husband encountered a woman at Customer Service who berated the person at the desk, claimed she didn't sign for the charges at the Spa. They produced the slip and then she changed the tune to be she was tricked into buying 2 of the products. If we arrived at the show with our children and sat down, people moved away and those that stayed gave them dirty looks of annoyance even though the kids sat still, quietly played games of hangman or I spy with us. Even as an adult, I was cut-off, shoved and otherwise at different points during the trip. We witnessed the crew being treated poorly many times also and that's just sad.
I took a long break from Princess as they were in a decline in overall quality a few years back. It was improved but I'm not sure I would sail Royal again. The balcony being one of the biggest drawbacks.
I would sail on another Princess ship again but smaller.