This was a standard itinerary to Princess Cays, St. Thomas and St Maarten. Most people on this board have been there, done that, so I thought I would write more about the ship itself.
The Piazza is AMAZING. Princess has put a lot of money into the place and it shows. It is also money well spent in the sense the area was always busy with people watching, listening, participating, eating, drinking, reading, talking and strolling. It is the best laid out central atrium I have seen on any main cruise line. BUT as soon as you try to go back to your cabin you see the most glaring design flaws on this ship. There are 6 elevators but they are not linked together. To call the next elevator to go up from the Piazza you need to push 4 buttons. This makes the elevators very slow and inefficient. OK, no big deal, we are in our mid-50's and fully mobile, we can just take the stairs right? WRONG. The mid-ship stairs for passengers stop at deck 7. The actual stairways still exist but are crew only, so to go up from the piazza using stairs we need to go aft, up and forward to get to our midships cabin on deck 9. Or wait a very long time for an elevator after pushing 4 buttons and hoping for the best.
Princess Theatre has had a major overhaul to make it less effective. There are no small tables in the armrest to put your drink on. There are two less aisles so it is basically impossible for them to serve you a drink anyway unless you are close to the two remaining aisles. I am sure both of these decisions were made to try and add more seats, but it is too small for the larger ship. Popular events were full 30 minutes prior to the start time. By the end of day 4 the crowds were noticeable smaller, but I think that was because people had given up on even trying to get into the theatre rather than passengers not wanting to attend.
The Wheelhouse Bar has been reduced in size by about 90% to make room for a larger Crown Grill and Princess Live. This means that instead of having the normal 3 stages (Theater, Vista and Wheelhouse) there are only really 2 stages on the Royal.
Princess Live is a mixed bag. The seats are uncomfortable and there is no drink service at all but having a full television studio does allow for a wide variety activities such as trivia, educational content and some limited performances. It is very nice to be able to watch the show the next day if it was something that interested you but you were unable to attend.
The Horizon Court is much improved but could still do better. By physically breaking up the space with walls the traffic flow is much better than the Grand Class ships, but it does force you to line up and wander more than with the Solstice Class where the space is much more open.
In room entertainment is a big step up for Princess. They have movies on demand now, but you cannot order room service or check your shipboard account. The navigation features have also been removed. Wireless connectivity worked fine for us, but I did hear a lot of complaints about people using phones to browse the internet.
There is a limited intranet that struck me as another missed opportunity. Royal.princess.com . No internet connection required. You cannot access the intranet on the television, just via a laptop or tablet. The content is rudimentary, in the sense that you cannot check what is playing on MUTS or what is happening in the Piazza. The level of detail matches the Patter when Princess could have made this a much more feature rich portal for effectively zero additional cost.
The 3 main dining rooms are Princess standard, including the difficulties in getting to the aft MDR. The galley blocks access to the Allegro dining room from the Piazza.
Alfredo's is a very nice addition. Princess is well known for great pizza and to have a pizza spot in the Piazza, with no additional charge for eating there, is great. We went on an at sea day and service was slow, but we were not in a rush so no big deal.
The balcony rooms are standard Princess. Less living space than Celebrity but more storage room. The shower is noticeable larger and that was a nice discovery but the balcony is at least 2 feet narrower than the Grand Class ships. Compared to a C Deck cabin on Grand or Star they are about half the size. Barely room for 2 chairs and the smaller table. We normally eat breakfast on the balcony and that was very difficult given the smaller size of the table and the lack of space.
On Deck 8 most of the cabins are obstructed by lifeboats. Even on Deck 9 the lifeboats restrict the view from the balcony even though they are not officially "obstructed".
The Promenade Deck is broken up into 3 small sections on each side of the ship. It is not possible to "promenade" but the smaller sections do allow for more shelter and shade. We liked sitting outside when the balcony was in full sun but I can certainly see how this layout works for some people and not others.
Overall she is a beautiful ship, but Princess fumbled the opportunity to also make her as passenger friendly as the Solstice class.