This was our tenth cruise on Princess. In the last few years we have also cruised one time each on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We had been to St. Thomas and St. Martin several times, so this cruise was booked to get away from winter cold and to try out the new ship.
We arrived at the Port Everglades cruise terminal around 12:30 p.m. Because of the number of times we’ve sailed on Princess, we enjoyed the perk of separate security and check-in areas. We simply walked up to an x-ray machine and ran our bags through, walked straight to a check-in agent and picked up our cruise cards, and walked straight onto the ship—no line or wait anywhere. As always on Princess but not the other lines we’ve been on, our cabin was ready for us when we boarded. It was spotlessly clean. We had booked a premium balcony cabin, but Princess upgraded us at no charge to a mini-suite.
The ship is spectacular. Upon boarding through the Piazza, it was immediately obvious that the space was way larger than on the other Princess ships. The décor is softer and a bit more sophisticated than on the older ships. Turquoise has been next to banished as part of the color scheme.
The mini-suite seemed to us to be the same size as on the previous generation ships, and the bed was extremely comfortable. But Royal Princess has added a light-blocking curtain that can be closed between the sitting and sleeping areas, allowing someone to easily nap during the day if they wish. There are two wall-mounted 42” interactive TVs—one in the sitting area and one in the sleeping area. The bathroom has a larger rectangular sink, and the bathtub seemed more spacious. Contrasted to some other posted opinions, we thought the toilet paper holder’s placement was ideal. The only minor negative about the cabin was that the balcony was a bit smaller than many on the older generation ships, but no smaller than those on some “luxury” ships. We thought Princess’ error was in putting too much furniture on the balcony. Keep in mind, however, that there are some cabins on the Royal with larger balconies if that is one’s major concern.
Cruisers familiar with the previous generation of Princess ships will feel right at home on Royal Princess since the general layout is quite similar. The vastly enlarged Piazza has now become a true entertainment/dance hub, including much more seating and a much larger dance floor than on the older ships. There are also more and larger restaurants/bars around the Piazza. Access to the theater is significantly improved, especially when entering the lower level from deck six.
Princess really hit it out of the park with the improvements in the Horizon buffet. On deck 16, the buffet consumes all of the space from the center elevators to the very tail of the ship, with a much more spacious layout of the food stations. Where finding a table at rush time on the older ships is a chore, there were always tables available on the Royal. The Horizon Terrace, a bar and huge open-on-three-sides eating area across the rear of the ship, was one of our favorite spots. As on all Princess ships, we appreciated the service in the buffet—napkins, silverware, and glasses on the tables and drinks brought by servers.
As with other Princess ships, we really like all the tables and chairs on the Lido deck since they are ideal for playing games or downing a hamburger or pizza. This stands in sharp contrast to one of the other cruise lines we’ve been on where there were five four-person tables by the on-deck hamburger stand, and that was it. There is a plentiful supply of loungers on several decks, and there is plenty of space to easily access them. While you will find only one pool area on the Lido deck, keep in mind that there is an adult-only pool on the Sun deck.
As some other reviewers have pointed out, only portions of the Promenade deck are open to passengers, likely a compromise to make more space available inside the ship. But there is access to areas of the Promenade deck from the Piazza and toward the rear of the ship, and we enjoyed some time in the comfortable chairs and loungers there. For those who wish they could use the Promenade deck for walking, the track at the top of the Royal Princess is much longer than that of older Princess ships (1/7 mile).
Explorers Lounge has been replaced by the Princess Live television studio. Princess Live hosts the recording of the daily Wake show with a live audience. It is also the venue for many of the audience participation games and other activities traditionally held in Explorers Lounge. The cruise director, Samantha, was among the best we’ve had. The Beatle Maniacs show was the best we’ve seen on a cruise ship—ever. The band Steele was excellent and performed numerous times in multiple venues. There was also an excellent pianist and other good performers. The stage shows were also good.
Without exception, crew members were happy, personable, prompt, and always helpful. As one server told us, “Princess is good to us, so that makes it easy for us to be good to passengers.” We never encountered a single instance of less-than-expected service. A couple of the buffet servers even remembered us and our drink preferences after serving us one time.
For the first time, we used EZ Check for disembarkation. This meant that airline luggage tags and boarding passes were delivered to our stateroom the night before disembarkation. We simply airline-tagged our bags and put them in the corridor as usual. They were picked up, taken to the airport and checked on our flight. This eliminated our having to find them upon exit from the ship, take them through customs, take them to the airport, and check them. When we arrived at our home airport, they were on the carousel waiting for us. This is really a great service for a nominal fee.
Would we do another cruise on the Royal? Absolutely!