My husband and I have been on approximately 25 cruises. This was our third on Princess. We traveled with another couple. All of us are from Central Florida. Instead of driving the four hours to Port Everglades, we stayed at the Marriott Renaissance in Boca Raton the night before the cruise. This is a lovely boutique hotel close to great restaurants, shopping and I-95. We did this so we could get onboard early to book The Sanctuary for the week.
And this is where the bad start comes in:
The couple we traveled with were Elite passengers so we were able to wait in the Elite lounge at the port until boarding commenced. It was very easy. We were in the first group to board. We went straight to Deck 17 to book the Sanctuary. There was one group of six and one other couple ahead of us. We all waited in the hot sun for 20 minutes until someone came out to take our reservations. When our turn came, we were told there was only ONE lounger left to reserve for the week. The “policy” is to book only 16 lounges for the week ($30 per day per person), with the remaining 42 lounges to be booked daily ($40 per day, per person). Despite our protestations, no explanation could be given as to why only one was left when there were only 8 people ahead of us. We later were told that the others were reserved by back-to-back cruisers.
Now the good:
The ship is beautiful. The public areas are spacious, with lots of live entertainment going on for most of the day/evening. We were mid-ship, very close to the elevators. The lack of stairs was annoying, but the wait for elevators was not bad. Getting around the ship was pretty easy, and the staff were prominent everywhere and ready to assist with directions and general information.
We had one of the angled mini-suites. Our room was very comfortable and absolutely immaculate. Our attendant, Roselle, was top-notch. Unlike other ships we’ve been on, where the mini-fridge is just a cooler, the one on Royal actually kept things cold. Our larger-than-most balcony was still pretty small, though.
We had dinner at Sabatini’s the first night and found the food and service to be excellent. We attended the Winemakers Dinner another night. The food was excellent, but only two mediocre wines were served. It was not worth the $40 per person price, and it certainly was not the “wine pairing” as advertised. Next time, we’ll do the Chef’s Dinner instead as we have in the past. Our dinners in the Allegro dining room, late seating, were very good. The dining room is beautiful, we had a quiet table, and our servers were adequate though not exceptional. Most days we had lunch in the Horizon Court. It is a great improvement in variety, quality and service over the other Princess ships we’ve been on. We had lunch at Alfredo’s once (excellent) and very late night snacks at International Café (also excellent). We ate dinner in the Crown Grill the last night. The food was just okay, the room was way too noisy, the service was poor, and there were very few tables that were not adjacent to service stations. The location is mid-ship, with no ocean views like there are on the other Princess ships. We never got to eat at Ocean Terrace, and that was probably a mistake on our part.
Evening entertainment was very good. We actually enjoyed the Production shows for a change. The pianist was excellent. The Beatlemania show was good, but did not meet our expectations considering the high praise it got on the Cruise Critic boards. The Casino is very nice. It’s quite large, with lots of slots and tables. We especially enjoyed Vines and went there most nights for cocktails and/or wine before dinner. We ordered a bottle (or two) of wine each night to share, and our excellent server, Cesar, would hold any leftovers for us for the next day. There is also nearby music to enjoy while “sipping.”
We did not get off the ship for Princess Cay. Been there, done that, live in Florida so the beach is not a novelty. We enjoyed St. Thomas and did most of our duty-free shopping there as the allowance is twice that of the other port or ship purchases. We really love St. Maarten. We tried, and SUCCEEDED, in finding Capi, the taxi driver who took us around on our last trip there. He drove us to Grand Case, on the French side, and we had a nice lunch at one of the LOLO restuarants (locally owned, locally operated). Unfortunately, Talk of the Town, our favorite, was closed.
Departure: Quick and easy.