Background: Experienced cruiser, this was my 18th and I'm only 40 years old. Been on most of the major lines, Carnival, RCCL, Celebrity, Cunard, Norweigian. I'm a platinum member with Princess.
We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Dania Beach which offers free shuttle to Port. Rooms were typical. Very busy hotel. No restriction on number of people for each shuttle time; Called people to board by ship and that worked well.
We were very excited for this cruise despite the initial member reviews. However, somethings are very true that others posted.
Embarkation: Easy for us because we were Preferred and could bypass everyone (who gave us dirty looks). Otherwise, stick to the time that Princess emails to you. You will sit around and wait from what I saw. Able to head to buffet and room right away.
Cabin: We had a mini-suite, A519; Typical princess minisuite inside; Poor sized balcony outside especially for category; Furniture too big and uncomfortable; More
no point having footstool, no room to have it out. I use my balcony a lot and so this was a big disappointment for me. Room Steward was very friendly first day and rarely seen rest of cruise and did an ok job but not the best.
Food in Main Dining Room - Allegro - Good, decent fair. Very good waitstaff. Only had 1 night where I didn't find much that excited me. Horizon buffet - typical fair; seemed repetitive all week except for Pastry Shop section. That was awesome.
Ports: Good; been to all before. We did the kayak, hike and snorkel tour on St. Thomas. Was great and a lot of fun. Good for all experience levels.
Children's clubs: About 300 kids on the ship. My son is 10 years old and this was his 3rd cruise; First time he actually asked to go to the kids club because he liked the space and activities. They had foosball tables, air hockey, PS3/Wii, movies, crafts etc.. You have to sign kids up for after 10pm or for port days (first time i've encountered that) and you also were charged after 10pm (1st for that too).
Entertainment: Standard shows. Comedian and Illusionist were both excellent. Illusionist did a separate, intimate show for kids that they really enjoyed. Princess Theater is ok but not great. Chairs are narrow and uncomfortable; no more balcony and no more enjoying a drink before or during. They use the atrium for a lot of dancing and other small shows which makes it very loud and very busy/congested.
Pools: Not enough for a ship this size. 1 Main Pool, 1 kid-sized Pool and 1 Adult only. When the weather is as good as ours was that week, it makes for a very crowded and loud area as there is food all around it also. Could not get a lounge chair near the pool. Had to deposit stuff at eating table instead.
Disembarkation was very relaxed and quite easy. We were scheduled in the Navy 3, 8:45am group and cleared customs by 9:20.
The things I was most disappointed in were the balconies, people flow on the ship, lack of promenade deck. I felt very closed in on this ship. I do not like to take elevators but at times were forced to because of ship design and it was typically an unpleasant experience. This ship had too many people for me and its design emphasized it. Also, my other major issue was the clientele aka passengers on this cruise. Our week seemed to attract a large entitled, older crowd. I have never encountered so much behavior that would make the Cruise Critic Naughty list as I did on this cruise. My son is very well-behaved and did not deserve some of the treatment he encountered such as being shoved out of the way by a couple who didn't want to wait their turn as he got a couple of waffles while I was standing nearby. He patiently waited his turn and the adults should be able to also! Its a buffet people there will be more food. We would show up for a show in the Princess theater only to have people move away or constantly give us dirty looks. All he did was sit down and wait for the show. He wasn't running around, screaming, climbing things. We also witnessed people trying to get out of paying for things they obviously signed for, complaining when they couldn't have escargot every night just because they wanted it, treating crew rudely, complaining loudly about too many kids and guess where they were? the kids pool! Seriously? Honestly, it was a sad display. The crew, I give kudos to as they continued to keep a smile on their face and greet you but I'm sure it was hard at times!
Overall, I would not sail Royal again. I will sail Princess again but on their smaller, and likely older ships. Less