This was the seventh cruise for my wife (51) and me (59). We enjoy cruising at the end of January just for a respite from winter back in the Midwest. We had previously cruised once on Royal Caribbean and five times on Carnival, all of which we enjoyed. We decided on the Royal Princess this time for three reasons: Port Everglades is close to where our daughter and son-in-law live in Boca Raton, so we were able to see them both before and after the cruise; my sister has cruised with Princess several times and highly recommended it; and we were curious to try the Royal Princess since it was a new ship and had been impressed with the publicity about its development and design. Over the past seven months, I have read all the reviews of the Royal Princess on Cruise Critic, and began to wonder if we made a mistake in booking a cruise on the Royal. Having now completed our cruise, I feel compelled to write this review and say that, in our opinion, not a single one of the features or experiences aboard the Royal which have drawn so much criticism from reviewers, was in any way an issue for us. It was, to date, the most enjoyable cruise we have taken.
Embarkation was very quick. We arrived at about 1:30 and were through security, checked-in and on board by 1:45. Our room was a mini-suite on Riviera Deck, midship. This meant we were nearest the infamous midship elevators with no stairways above deck 7. We never waited more than a minute or two for an elevator, and that very infrequently. The room itself was beautifully decorated, with two flat-screen TVs, and a full bathtub, sofa, dressing table, and loads of storage. The balcony is small, but was completely usable for us. We used it as our sunning area several times during the day if the sun was on our side of the ship. Our cabin steward, Fernando, was friendly, attentive and available.
We always choose the Traditional Dining option, and this time were assigned to the 5:30 seating in the Concerto Dining Room. We had requested a table for two, but were assigned to a table for six. However, after the first night, the four others assigned to our table must have decided to dine at other venues, so we had the table to ourselves for the remainder of the cruise. Our waiter, Adrian, and his assistant, Claudia, gave us impeccable service and were very friendly, quickly learning our preferences and serving us always with a smile. The food was fantastic, and we tried many different items and were never disappointed. We always ate breakfast in the same dining room, and the service and food were always great. We ate lunch at Alfredo's, the pizza restaurant in the Piazza, on three days, and again the food and service were great. A British pub lunch was offered twice during the cruise at the Crown Grill, and we enjoyed that as well. We never ate at the Horizon Court buffet, so have no opinion of that venue.
We enjoyed the cruise director, Ron Goodman, his deputy Ryan Adams, and all the cruise director's staff, who led many of the activities on board. We participated in trivia contests, which were held at least three times a day, and attended various game shows and other activities led by the staff, often in the Vista Lounge, or the Princess Live studio theater. Although it is a smaller venue, we never had a problem finding a seat. We attended the early performance of the main show in the Princess Theatre each evening. There were three separate live shows by the Royal Princess singers and dancers and the live band throughout the week, including Colors of the World, Sweet Soul Music and Spectacular, as well as an illusionist one night, and a very talented young singer one night. We often went right from dinner to the show, arriving several minutes before it began and never had a problem finding a seat. We liked the design of the theatre, and the lack of drink holders there was not an issue for us.
We never watched a Movies Under the Stars movie, simply because there were other things we were interested in attending at the time. The room TV offered a variety of movies, TV shows and other options, and we did watch several movies in the room. Pools on a cruise ship don't interest us, so the number and size of them were not an issue for us. We never had a problem finding a deck chair when we wanted one.
We did not go on any excursions. We had been to St. Thomas and St. Maarten before, and so just got off the ship for a short time at both islands to walk around a bit. For us the ports are secondary and we are most interested in the ship. With that said, however, there were many features of the ship that we did not utilize, such as the casino, the spa, the fitness center, or the Sanctuary.
We bought a Cafe Selects coffee card which was good for specialty coffees as well as items at Gelato, the ice cream parlor in the Piazza, and made good use of it. Each evening we closed the day by visiting Bellinis, one of the bars in the Piazza area, and enjoyed a drink as we listened to the music from some great musicians and singers performing either below or above us in the various Piazza venues. We had the same bar waiter, Mario, each evening, who gave us very attentive service. We also had the great pleasure of meeting some very friendly fellow cruisers, with whom we would meet from time to time, and had a great time with them.
Debarkation was just as quick and easy as embarkation. We chose the express walk-off option, which requires you to carry your own luggage. We met at the assigned spot at 6:20 AM, and were off the ship and through customs by 6:45. We then had the pleasure of driving directly to the hospital in Boca to visit our first grandson, who had been born while we were on the cruise.
Please be very wary about negative reviews about this ship. I know that everyone has their own opinion, but as I said before, to almost every negative point brought up in reviews, we would say "not an issue." We will definitely cruise again with Princess and are already looking at a cruise next year on the Royal's soon-to-be launched twin, the Regal Princess.