I am writing as a first-time Princess Cruiser, 4th total cruise (all others RCCL), and my cruising partner was my best girlfriend. I am 41, married with kids, but this was a girls trip all the way. I was really nervous and was trying to find some way to change our ship even within 45 days of our cruise after reading the reviews. I am happy to report it was a wonderful trip, and a beautiful ship. Does it have things that can be improved on? absolutely. Was it perfect? no, no ship is "perfect". Would I sail on it again? WITHOUT A DOUBT!!!
Stayed at Renaissance. It was fine. Very close to port. Also close to shopping so picking up a few extra things was easy. $6 transfer to pier.
We arrived at the port at about 1, which was 1 hour before our "boarding time". What we didn't know was that there is no "boarding times" for the regular people, meaning that though our deck was "supposed" to board no earlier than 2, that they really do that for crowd control, so really we could have arrived earlier. But it was fine. There were some lines, but they moved quickly. Within 45 minutes we were on the ship. It took about as long to get through the traffic in the port as it did to get on the ship. We stopped of course for the embarkation pics…love the experience. And when you are driving up to the ship, IT. IS. BIG.
Upon boarding we headed off immediately to the spa. Being 41 and mom of a 6 and 5 year old, traveling with my friend who is a mom of a 7 and 5 year old, we wanted to make the best use of our relaxation. So we booked the Enclave for the week. I was thinking our weekly cost would be $159, but it was $199. Still was worth it. That whirlpool is insane!!! Had no trouble booking this. Also booked a treatment for each of us for the next day. Then off to the room.
We had a mini suite, originally scheduled on the Caribe deck forward, but a few weeks before the cruise, were upgraded to midship on deck 12, Aloha (414). It was one of the extended balconies which is underneath the sea walk. But no worries. If someone on the sea walk WANTED to watch what was going on in your balcony or stateroom, it would be highly difficult, if not impossible. you would literally have to LIE DOWN on the sea walk and use binoculars. Our room's balcony was on the port? (left) side and was wider at the forward and narrower at the aft so that the wind did not blow into the balcony when we were in progress. It was a lovely size. That being said, we didn't spend a lot of time out there.
We loved the two TV set up. We could lay there in our beds in the morning, watching a movie, or as we were getting ready in the afternoon, have the sitting room TV on. It was great to be able to "pause" the movie we were watching and come back to where we left off.
The fridge was adequate. Storage was fine. Plenty of room for two diva girls with extra clothes in the closet. That wasn't an issue at all. If you don't fill the hangers, though, they can clang when the boat is moving. Just FYI. It interrupted our nap! The hairdryer sucked. If you have long hair, bring yours from home. The other tip I have that I found here on CruiseCritic was to bring an over-the-door shoe holder. I bought one on amazon.com for $12.99. we put it on the outside of the bathroom door and used it to store our sunscreen, lotion, body spray, hairbrushes, anything we didn't want in the bathroom. Though there was a good amount of storage room in the bathroom. We also had the bath/shower combo, and though I never used the bath, it was a good size. I couldn't figure out however how to keep the shower head from "drifting down". It would never stay at the angle I wanted it at. The toilet paper roll placement issue was apparently not an issue in our mini-suite. And the suitcases fit under the bed just fine. The beds were comfy.
We watched mainly movies in our room, but there are some shows that were taped at Princess Live! were also available. Some of those were quite amusing (Yes/No being one I can remember).
You can access royal.princess.go or royal.princess.com which will give you access to your stateroom charges as well as the itinerary etc. My friend carried her iPhone with her, but we usually used the Princess Patter folded up in our handbag.
So this is a really beautiful space. Lots of places to people watch. I loved the international Cafe with the paninis. I could have eaten that every day. Lots of cheese. We went to the wine bar once, Vines, and I had a wine flight, which was nice, but not anything extraordinary. We did bring on 8 bottles of wine and paid the $15 corking fee for 6 bottles which I think was worth it, but I would have brought 2 less because we traveled home with 2. We just got tired of wine after awhile!
There is a lot of dancing and piano playing in the Piazza. We didn't spend a lot of time other than people watching as we were there for girls time and the people there were mostly older couples. The Casino is off of the Piazza and we spent some time there, but enjoyed the non-smoking days of the cruise in the casino more. Our favorite table game was Let It Ride, but we didn't win at it. I won NOTHING at the slots.
We spent a lot of time in the photo gallery. Our favorite photographer was Scott, mainly because we loved listening to his voice. I think it was Maria though who took our favorite pictures. There are soooooo many pics to look through if you do any of the sittings. Why do they not offer a CD of all of your pics for like $299 or something? those dang pics are expensive.
For dinner, we dined at Traditional dining in Allegro at 5:45, and it was wonderful. We had a table for 2 (did not specify prior to the cruise what we wanted, just got that) and Alvin and Jay were our waiter and assistant waiter. They were wonderful, and took excellent care of us. Always had a diet coke ready for us prior to our arrival. (as a side note, we purchased the coke package, and it was worth it. Formal dinners we dressed up but not too formal and felt like we were appropriately dressed.
For lunch we almost always went by the horizon Court and Bistro. Both were fine. I would walk the length of both before making choices. There was always a table available.
For breakfast we rarely made it out of the room before 10, so we usually got room service and then would head to the International Cafe if we were on the ship.
The poolside pizza was awesome. I could always find room for another slice. The burgers were ok.
This was a really big negative on this ship. That being said, my friend and I are not sun-worshippers and there was really only one day (a sea day) that we wanted to be poolside. The pools are small. VERY small. You will not be swimming laps. You will be treading water in one area. We did not visit the adults only area. The second day was a little cooler and windier and that day we had no trouble finding a chair. The prime retail chairs poolside and the ones with the view that were in the shade were always occupied, but you will likely find most chairs reserved by 10AM. There was some weird smell too (sewage) occasionally on deck 17 starboard but not constant.
Used the gym three times, I think. Ellipticals always and there seemed to be plenty of equipment, even on the sea days. Need more cold water there, tho…why was the water fountain warm? There were tons of classes, spinning, yoga, zumba, but we just went for ellipticals when we felt like it. Our friends went to spin classes and zumba and loved it.
The food at Princess Cays was fine. I didn't have the burger but the hot dogs were good. I am always leery of eating potato salad when it's been outside. Snorkeling was not much in the Cays but at least trained us enough so we would be a little more knowledgeable for our next port. We reserved a clamshell and I would recommend doing this before you get on board as they are gone once you are on the cruise.
Snorkeled at St. Thomas, but wish we had saved more time for shopping. It was a fabulous snorkel trip on the Castaway Girl. We saw a group of humpback whales, one of which fully breached the surface. Experience of a lifetime. Also saw sea turtles, manta rays, and plenty of gorgeous fish. That crew was awesome.
In St. Maarten we just did some shopping here. You can't take more than $800 declared back. The deals were better in St. Thomas but still better than US due to duty free/no tax. The guavaberry rum frozen cooler is pretty tasty and will make it easier to do Karaoke once you're back on board (LOL).
Where is the princess and ship themed merchandise???? There was hardly any there! I like to collect ornaments and I found NONE on the ship. There is a jewelry store, but IMHO if you are in the ports we were in your money is better spent in port, and a fragrance store as well, but prices also seemed better in port. We are not the art-people type so we didn't get into that much.
On the first night we went to the Princess Theatre, and I think it was the comedian (Robbie Prince?) and he was great. One other night we went and it wasn't very interesting (colors of the world?). It is a small venue so you may want to get there a little earlier to get seats. I was disappointed that there was no Beatles show.
We were the Karaoke queens during our cruise. And by we, I mean my friend. I was just there for the laughs (hahahaha). Seriously, she is really talented, but even I had a good time and I got a good response from the crowd, and I'm not very good. It was fun and the staff Robbie and Christopher made it fun and easy to participate. Even for those of us that were a little shy. We also played Passenger Feud and won a bottle of champagne. We met two other girls on a "girls-only" trip during Karaoke who we ended up hanging out with a bit and hopefully will continue our friendships long past the cruise. Kelly and Melissa also did a really good job at getting people up to do some line dancing. good for laughs! There were martini, margarita demonstrations but we didn't get too into that.
Watched Hunger Games: Catching Fire at MUTS. That was a great set up.
While the majority of the cruisers there were probably late 40s-early 50s and couples, we did not feel out of place as a 30's/40's best friend couple. There were a number of family, even some with babies. We had a blast talking to the grandmother of 2 brothers that always cruised together. I won't divulge her age at her request but she could easily have passed for 15-20 years younger. It was by no means a "floating retirement home" as I had seen in previous reviews. For what I am looking for in a cruise (relaxation and enjoying my cruise partner), Princess seems like a good cruise line.
We were one of the later groups, so we went up and had breakfast at the bistro and then sat out by the pools playing cards. Once we arrived at our meeting area, it was a matter of minutes until our group was called for disembarkation. A sad, sad moment. But pretty painless overall.
We were located at midship, and would have loved a set of stairs. But that didn't ruin the vacation. In fact, for dining at Allegro, it was a lot easier to walk to aft staircases and go on those elevators or stairs to access dining room. It wasn't too difficult to walk forward either.
This was a great trip. I loved the Royal. I would absolutely choose another trip on her. In fact, there is a 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Royal calling my name now. If I choose a different route, I would definitely consider Princess a top choice for cruise line. I hope after reading this review those of you who have been frightened by some of the earlier reviews will relax. We had a great time.