Eastern Caribbean Cruise: December 8-15, 2013.
Ports: Round trip from Fort Lauderdale, with Princess Cays, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
Cabin: Dolphin deck, midship, category BA, extended angled balcony
Pre-cruise hotel: Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach for 1 night. Great ocean view. Will stay here again!
This was only my second Princess cruise, and perhaps that helped me from having any bias either way going into the cruise. Even though I'd followed Dave's infamously helpful Cruise Critic "Everything Royal thread", NOTHING can compare to the first steps into the piazza of the Royal Princess. It was absolutely stunning to experience this in person. The ship was tastefully decorated for Christmas, in lovely golds and greens. I heard others call it beautifully understated decorations, and that did sum it up. It enhanced, but did not overshadow, the natural beauty of the Royal Princess.
Cabin: There were two of us in the cabin, and we had plenty of storage. Yes, large suitcases DO fit under the bed. Bathroom was adequate. PLENTY of hot water for shower at any time. Water pressure was not an issue. Liked the square sink! No comment on the dispensers in the shower….I alway bring my own. AC worked great. Quiet cabin - never heard the neighbors. Thanks to the "Everything" thread, I knew which midship staterooms had larger, extended balconies. So it was with great joy that I stumbled across an available one about 3 months after booking. A quick call to Princess, and it was ours. Yes, the Princess rep helpfully suggested, and quickly marked it, DO NOT UPGRADE. So I can't comment on the standard balcony, but if you get the opportunity to sail with an extended angled balcony, you will be very pleased. It was also very quiet on the balcony at night watching the moon glade dance along the foam spray of the waves. During the day, from midship, looking around the curve of the ship's structure, the views were stunning. The architecture of the ship just enhanced the view. Oh, kudos to our awesome Stateroom Attendant, Mary Anne !
Fun: This close to Christmas, we just had to decorate a little bit! We put two mini stockings on magnetic hangers and decorated the stateroom door. Someone put candy in the stockings for us! Fun! We laughed when we could spot our balcony embellished with gel snowman stickers, when we looked down from the glass floor of the sea view bar. Snowmen in the Caribbean? Why not!
Entertainment: Where to start? I was very pleased with all the options in the Patter, and especially pleased with the availability! Multiple time offerings to fit anyone's dining plans. My favorites included Carlos Oscar (comedian), the Beatlemaniacs (in both the Princess Theater and Piazza), piano man, etc. I can't name them all, but I loved all the different entertainment in the piazza, day or night. I seldom found myself in my cabin. There was so much to do on the ship.
Public Rooms: We were part of a large group, so we had events in many of the venues. While the Vista lounge was comfortable and great for most shipboard entertainment purposes like live Comedy, or Thursday night Football, it wasn't the best for mingling in a large group event. I must say Princess took very good care of our group, with DJ's, karaoke, dance instructors, bar servers, etc. for our many group activities! Oh, I loved MUTS for Monday night football, and had the opportunity one evening to watch a movie up there. The wonderful staff brought around a four-course meal: Popcorn, pizza, ice cream, and then peanut butter cookies and milk. Wishing you had hot tea instead of milk…just think it and it appeared. Oh my gosh, literally. Such pampering!
Food: I didn't get to experience Crown Grill or Sabatinis. Our group had a dedicated tables and time in the Concerto Dining room. I'd give the dinner meals an A overall. Great taste, beautiful presentation. Only had lunch one time in the dining room, but urge you to try if you cruise the Royal. Someone at our table for lunch ordered the Chef's Salad, and the presentation was a work of art. Ate at Horizon for most lunches. Definitely lots of variety. OK, but I am just not a big meal eater for lunch. I usually made a sandwich with the day's carved meat. Had my first chance to try Alfredo's. Oh my goodness. If you haven't had the pleasure of trying Alfredo's, put it on your list. International Cafe …. I've been home 3 weeks and I STILL miss the IC. It was my morning tradition …order my coffee, choose one (or 2!) pastries, and then savor the coffee and breakfast at one of the nearby tables overlooking that beautiful aqua ocean. Such a special way to start the day. They have a great breakfast sandwich that they will heat up for you. Throughout the day the display case offerings change. I found with my cafe selects card, I could also get their specialty hot tea, as well as the unlimited brewed coffee. All in all, the IC wins hands down for my favorite dining venue for the week, and Alfredo's a close second. But remember I ran out of time to try any specialty dining.
Service: Absolutely wonderful. Every employee I encountered had a smile on their face. Great Princess Hospitality.
Pools. I am a shade seeker. If you don't mind moving as the sun traverses the sky, then Yes - you CAN find the shade. I started at the starboard rail up on the sun deck under the slatted pergola coverings, and considerate fellow passengers helped me move my lounger to face the ocean. Serene, beautiful view. Around lunch time as the sun was overhead, I vacated that chair to find one in the shade of the superstructure. We had beautiful sunny, hot days, but yes, I found available chairs on sea days, and I found shade.
Issues: NONE. This lovely ship far exceeded my expectations. I was as midship as you can be, and I found that the response time for the elevators on my sailing were good! Then of course, I don't insist on having stairs in the middle of a hotel, why would the lack of one on the Royal bother me?! This is just my experience, folks…so please don't shoot the messenger.
Verdict: A great week on a Lovely Ship. I would cruise the Royal Princess again.