My (DH) and I were first time cruisers on the Princess Cruise Line, but have sailed on Royal Caribbean twice, Celebrity, Holland America and Carnival (Europe) lines. Our sail date was Dec. 15, 2013, seven day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean on the Royal Princess. We booked a Mini-Suite through an Internet Travel Agency and selected our Mini-Suite on Deck 11, which is called the Baja Deck and the Mini-Suite was located midship-aft on the portside. I changed from a Mini-Suite starboard midship side due to the fact that all of the midship rooms are located by the “Seawalk” and have zero privacy.
We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in Fort Lauderdale associated with the Marriott chain, but it had no visible signs of the Marriott Brand and our taxi driver was unaware when I asked him to take us to the Marriott Renaissance. We were disappointed with our “deluxe” corner room and the view of a rooftop parking lot. The room was old, shower curtain’s bottom perimeter was filthy and overall the hotel is outdated. The best part about the hotel is its location being directly across from Port Everglades. We walked to Outback for dinner, which is across from the Embassy Suites and prior to dinner we tried to take a free “Trolley/Shuttle” to the Mall, but the driver said that due to a Boat Parade the Trolley/Shuttle he could no longer cross the bridge (hmm). The free Trolley/Shuttle is located on the side entrance across the side street from the Renaissance, but the “free” service normally ends at 6pm.
We signed up for the Renaissance’s Port Van Shuttle to Pier 2, which is where the Royal Princess was docked starboard side and port side facing the water. The shuttle cost $6 per person, which in relation to the distance being across the street is pricey, but due to Pier 2 being full of traffic, a taxi meter would have cost more. The Renaissance’s Shuttle had multiple stops, RC Allure being first because it was the fastest and the Royal Princess being the last because it was the slowest.
We arrived around 11:45am and a Princess Port Attendant told me that we could not board with priority, despite having booked a Mini-Suite. We waited in a very long line that was being halted until at least 1pm. Since I took care of our accommodations, my DH was not aware that Mini-Suites had priority. After 20 minutes, I asked another Port Attendant and they apologized and immediately allowed us to surpass the line and board. We finally boarded, dropped off our carry-on bags in our Mini-Suite and ate in the Horizon Court for lunch by 12:30pm. All luggage arrived shortly thereafter and our Muster Station E was in the Live Theater.
Nice size and arrangement of the room. The bathroom had a tub, no metal case around the toilet paper and access to the roll was not a problem. However, we were HIGHLY disappointed with the small size of the balcony, I love sitting on the balcony for breakfast and at night, but the lack of space did not allow for us to sit forward, we could only sit at an angle. Our room was high enough to not have an obstructed view with the lifeboats, but I agree they should be recessed because looking over the rail; little water is seen, only orange life and tender boats. My only other complaint about the room is the creaking all night of the walls and ceiling and how thin the walls are as we heard our neighbor in the cabin to our right moaning all night. The Capitan was sailing at a very high speed while sailing toward St. Thomas and that night was the worst creaking and kept us up, along with the ship rocking. We had to remove the hangers as they banged together all night. We moved the table from in front of the sofa to have an unobstructed access to our balcony. We would recommend rooms without a sofa, as two chairs and a small table would have been sufficient allowing for expansion of the small balcony.
Horrible, too small and way too slow. The capacity stated 18 people, but barely eight of us fit and if we had a scooter on the elevator, then only four people could fit. Passengers were rude when you crammed your way onto an elevator that finally stopped on your floor and/or finally stopped without bursting at the seams with people.
The shipped moved time forward by one hour Tuesday 2am or as described in the Patter Daily Newsletter as Monday night. I thought it was unnecessary and made me really tired the entire cruise, along with throwing my medication schedule off. Time changed back Friday night (2am Saturday).
There is a required biweekly Crew Drill that took place our week on the 4th day (St. Thomas), which started at 9:45am. The Captain announced the morning of the Drill for the entire ship and some decks and staterooms would be heavily impacted. The sirens/alarms/horns were extremely loud and repetitive. Thank God we had an excursion, but for those who planned to sleep in, so such luck. Please note that the required Crew Drill will take place again during the cruise week after Christmas and every other week then on.
Our water was being “tested” and turned a brownish color and was unappealing. When I’m on vacation I would appreciate all test be done the morning of embarkation while the ship is in transition.
The weather was GORGEOUS in all ports including Fort Lauderdale. Sunshine, warm to hot and no rain. Part of our first night sailing, a little rain fell and MUTS was emptied. Otherwise, warm and sunny days, which is just what we needed being from the Northeast. Since we had been to all Ports in the past, except Princess Cay, we only booked an Excursion to St. John through the ship. We ran late and did not complete all activities, but a fractional onboard credit was granted upon request. We took a noon tender to Princess Cay and found chaises and dragged them under a palm tree. We took the Port Boat Taxi over to Phillipsburg in St. Martin for an all-day pass of $7 per person and we shopped, connected to wifi and sat at a bar and on the beach.
Too small, too much smoke and not generous. There were two non-smoking nights (formal nights), but the smell still lingered and on the right side of the Casino, the entryway is facing a cigar bar. I feel sorry for the workers who have to endure the smell and be exposed to cigarette smoke toxins. I really don’t understand the “Smoking Section” of a Casino or any other place. A Smoking Section still makes the whole Casino fill with smoke. There were only a few smokers, but they ruined the entire Casino with their toxic smoke. There also seemed to be more people in the Casino on non-smoking nights and I had to avoid many slot machines and a roulette table due to their proximity to the “Smoking Section.” Another pain was having to utilize your stateroom card to “Cash-Out” on any slot machine and the constant request from the table dealers to swipe your card prior to playing. I often declined as I was having bad luck whenever they swiped by card.
I tried to book a hot stone for multiple days and at the same time, but they were booked. Again, another example of the ship not being able to accommodate the capacity.
We were assigned a table for two as requested, but that was all that was granted. I waited forty-five minutes to speak with “Rouland” the head Maître d' about our request for a table by a window and traditional dining at 6pm, but to no avail. We arrived at 5:30 in the Concerto Dining Room and asked that our request be honored. After a nasty verbal dialogue, we were accommodated with a window, but still no late dining. We were celebrating my birthday during this cruise and I requested a yellow cake, but they brought me chocolate. My DH also had to call about our stateroom door being decorated, which we were told they had no such request (untrue) because I saw the word “birthday” written on the Maître d's dining list and the birthday was clearly noted under My Princess tab on their website. Finally, after we returned from dinner after 8pm, our door was decorated. However, it was Too Late, as the day was over.
The Head waiter Peter from Bulgaria rarely spoke and I made a request from our very helpful and kind waitresses Katarina and Zoryana that he speak to us as he spoke to all other guests around us. The food was hit or miss for me, but my DH enjoyed most meals. I don’t eat pork or beef and never had a problem finding other choices on other cruise ships, but on this ship, it was very slim pickings, especially for breakfast in the Horizon Court, which only had turkey sausages one morning, along with many food items being cold (eggs, pancakes…) I caught the waffles being placed hot off the grill. There may have been other venues that served none pork/beef breakfast meats, but I should not have had to search for such a common item, or order a special dietary menu prior to sailing.
We usually went directly to the Horizon Court after dinner so that I could find something to eat, which I did and my husband thought the food tasted better than most meals served in the Dining Room. I did enjoy three out of four meals served in the dining room, but I really enjoyed all meals I selected in the Horizon Court. The Court is the best designed on any ship in our opinion. I must highly recommend the hazelnut ice cream on the dining room menu, as it’s the best tasting I’ve ever had in the entire world!
The ship’s lido deck only served ice cream for free, but my DH can only eat non-dairy products and enjoys the yogurt served on other cruise lines. We both missed that option and a strawberry flavor. For a charge, there is Gelato, but I’m not a fan.
Room service was great for lunch, but they could never bring me COLD milk for breakfast with my cereal, so I stopped ordering breakfast.
I thought the pizza on the lido deck was fair, a bit too greasy for me and the fries were good from the grill. Frozen Drinks were not authentic and others drinks were comparable.
This is the only cruise where I lost weight after sailing.
We went to two shows: Colors of the World and the Motown Shows, both were good. We had to get to the theater extra early to find a seat and to also find a non-obstructed seat because some rows are not tiered. Latin night was ok and the Club 6 was ok. I loved the Band Steel when they played Caribbean Music by the pools. Pools were small and always full. My DH tried the shooting range and enjoyed the experience. Football was shown on Monday night only on the MUTS screen and not in your stateroom. I enjoyed the free On-Demand movies in our Mini-Suite and having two televisions came in handy. I enjoyed the water fountain dancing music and light show (Bellagio don’t worry), but the deck became flooded during most shows making the floor slippery. My DH and I had to help a lady get up who fell really hard because the deck was so slippery when wet. The Seawalk is in a bad location and should have been placed on a lower deck (closer to the water) in the front or back of the ship, along with being slippery most of the time. We must note that most shows for any event are not timed appropriately to effectively coincide with dining times.
We were in the first group, with the ship handling our luggage, to disembark. We were delayed by 35 minutes and knew there would be a delay as our ship was still sailing close to 6am. The Customs’ line took another 40 minutes, but no problems with Customs, taxis or at the airport.
Would I cruise again with Princess? No. I would reconsider ONLY if Princess COMPLETELY redesign this flawed and future ships, honor my request in advance of sailing, served more variety of breakfast meats and most importantly, take notes from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Management on how to schedule and manage venues, elevators, dining , embarkation, balconies, pier drop-off and 3800 plus passengers effectively.