My husband and I were on the Royal Princess the week of March 30, 2014. This was our 7th cruise – 6 with Princess and 1 with Royal Caribbean. We live where the winters can be long, cold, and snowy so as a reward for “surviving” another one, we have been cruising the Caribbean every year in March or April. Our goal is to relax and enjoy the ship and some sunny weather.
Excellent. We took the hotel shuttle (Embassy Suites) and left for the port at 11:15am. There were no lines and we immediately went through security and the check-in procedures. After 20 minutes or so waiting in a designated area, we were released to board the ship and were in our cabin around 12:15pm. I must say, it was the easiest, least stressful embarkation we ever experienced!
It was a mid-ship mini-suite on the Baja deck under the Seaview bar. We thought it was a decent size and liked the simplicity of the décor and the longer desk area with the refrigerator. After hearing the complaints about the small balconies, I specifically chose this cabin so that we would have one of the bigger, angled balconies. It seemed to be the same size as the Caribe deck balconies on other ships, although it was fully covered. Balcony furniture was stiff and uncomfortable so we used the pillows from the couch to help with that.
The bathroom was ok. I tried to see what the big deal was about the toilet paper holder. I don’t think I ever would have noticed it’s placement if it hadn’t been mentioned over and over again in other reviews. It was a non- issue for us, but could have been tough for some people because the toilet is kind of angled in the opposite direction. I was a little perplexed as to the position of the grab bar in the bathtub/shower. Instead of being placed horizontal or slightly slanted in the center of the wall so it could be grabbed easily, it was positioned vertically, close to the shampoo and soap dispensers. I found it very awkward to use it to steady myself.
We both found the bed and linens comfortable.
We didn’t have any problems hearing noise from other cabins until Thursday. We could distinctly hear the television in the neighboring cabin. It was loud enough to understand the dialog of the characters on the tv. But, after that one night, we didn’t hear it for the remainder of the cruise.
The tv was very nice. It was great to be able to choose a movie or tv show on demand. We also enjoyed being able to watch some of the shows we missed in the Princess Live studio from the comfort of our cabin.
A bit crowded the first day, but after that we never had too long of a wait. My husband was a little frustrated with having to walk forward or back just to go up or down one or two flights mid-ship, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. After a while we made a game of it and figured the extra exercise wasn’t going to hurt us. I agree with everyone who commented on the timing being off. It wasn’t fun being in a tightly packed elevator that stopped at almost every floor just to open to no one waiting.
We ate all of our breakfasts in the Horizon Court and lunches either there, or at the pool grill. We found the food selection and service in the Horizon Court good, and we loved the layout once we got accustomed to it. It was nice and spacious and never felt overcrowded. We never had a problem finding a table right away. The food at the pool grill was good, just as we remember from other ships – pizza on one side and grill items on the other.
We ate at several venues for dinner. This was our first time experiencing Alfredo’s. The food and service were excellent. I would highly recommend the Hawaiian pizza. We noticed that it was never crowded. It seemed that passengers weren’t aware that it was an included venue. It’s located in the center of the ship I believe on deck 6 and kind of blends in with the other shops and things surrounding the piazza.
The Crown Grill was just ok. We each had a steak dinner and lobster cake appetizer. Everything was prepared well, but it wasn’t much different from our neighborhood steak house and ultimately we didn’t feel it was worth the $50 cover charge plus the tip we left. We also thought it was odd that it was right next to the Wheelhouse Bar. Our table for two was at the dividing line between the restaurant and the bar so it was a little disconcerting to be eating so close to people who were just gathered to have a few drinks. The windows were covered too, so there was no view to enjoy. I doubt if we sail the Royal again that we would bother eating there.
We had anytime dining but only ate in dining rooms twice. The food was alright, but we weren’t very impressed with the service we had. There were so many other dining options that we decided not to waste our time with long dinners in the dining room.
We like to spend our days sunbathing, swimming, and people watching so we sat up on deck 17 overlooking the main pool area every day. We sat out early in the morning so we never had problems finding loungers in nice spots. We did not like all of the glass partitions and glass above the railings in that area, preferring the openness of the same area on the grand class ships. By mid morning/afternoon, we noticed quite a few people frustrated because they couldn’t find any empty loungers even remotely near the pools. However, I don’t think this is unique to this ship.
We have no idea what the designers were thinking when they thought 1 normal pool and 1 small pool the size of a glorified hot tub would be adequate for the MUTS area. Hopefully the addition of another small pool aft on the Regal will help to alleviate the congestion in this area. The first sea day the main pool was so cold that there were only a few people brave enough to go in it. By the remaining sea days it had warmed up, but was always very crowded. We found ourselves avoiding using that pool and instead walked over to use the retreat pool when we wanted to cool off. The retreat area is very nice, but was windy and a little too quiet for us. I loved that it had stairs leading in and out of the pool as well as the normal steps.
As for MUTS, we have always enjoyed it. However, I think it's time for Princess to update and change up some of the viewing schedule. The same music videos were repeated and they were videos that we had seen many times on other cruises.
There seemed to be more tables available for eating outside, and the seating areas with couches were a really nice addition.
Here is where we always feel Princess falls a little short for our tastes and should look to some of the entertainment offered by other cruise lines for inspiration. We had hoped that with a new ship, there would be more new, fun entertainment options, but really it was much of the same stuff we’ve seen on past cruises, right down to the exact same joke told by the cruise director while introducing the comedian. For us, the closest they came to something fun and different was the Pub Show. It was a must see – very energetic and entertaining. The singers, dancers, and cruise directors staff did a wonderful job. We went to the Princess theater to see the comedian and Beatlemaniacs - both very good shows, but didn't stay long for any production shows because they’re short and never seem to change much from ship to ship. We sat for more than a 1/2 hour in the piazza watching people dance while waiting to see the juggler. He was very good - too bad his entire performance was only about 10 minutes!
We did enjoy some of the game shows – the Marriage game is always good for a laugh, and we had looked forward to the Quest game as it was lots of fun on our Royal Caribbean cruise. But, it was scheduled at the same time as the 2nd show for the comedian so only a handful of people showed up. We ended up leaving when we saw there wasn’t even 15 people in the room. Very disappointing, we thought for sure it would be packed.
I wouldn’t say we were bored, there was always something going on even if it wasn’t to our taste, but there was nothing exciting enough to compel us to stay out later so we found ourselves back in our cabin fairly early each night (10ish) to watch movies on the tv. It was nice, but we can do that at home.
I will say though, that it was convenient to be able to carry our phones around to access the Patter.
PIAZZA AND OTHER VENUES:
As others have stated, the Piazza is gorgeous. You can’t help but be wowed by the beauty and elegance and there always seemed to be a band playing and people dancing. It looked fun, and I told my husband if we continue to cruise with Princess we better take some dance lessons so we have more to do in the evenings.
The shops were basically the same as what we’ve seen on other ships. We liked that the photo area was convenient rather than being in the crowded corridors like on other ships.
Princess Live - All of the seats are in rows and there are no tables. They held trivia, game shows, and a few other things there. It was difficult to form teams and get to know people when you couldn’t really gather together, and you had to try to write answers on paper on your lap. Many people were left standing or left out entirely from popular games like the Marriage game because the room just wasn’t big enough. We really found ourselves missing the Explorers lounge where you can sit comfortably at a table with other people and have someplace to place your drink while writing your answers.
Vista Lounge – Another what were they thinking moment. I thought other people were exaggerating when they wrote about how cramped the seating areas are. Nope. It was virtually impossible to leave your seat if you were unfortunate enough to have one in the middle of the seating areas. There is absolutely no space to walk between the couch, table and chairs once people are seated. One guy was ready to throw himself on the laps of the people sitting on the couch and have them pass him down to his seat, lol.
Princess Theater – very pretty, I doubt if there is a bad seat viewing wise in there. But, no aisles on the sides so it was inconvenient to get to seats in the center or end of a row without making everyone in the row have to stand up. We missed the little tables that pull out of the chair arms too. We rectified it by not ordering drinks and making sure that we got there early enough to get the very end seats by the aisles so we could make a quick escape if we had to.
Casino – Looked bright and clean. We only went for about a ½ hour one of the smoke-free evenings as gambling isn’t really our thing. We never noticed any smoke or smells coming from this area while passing by.
Lotus Spa – We didn’t use the amenities at the Lotus Spa, although I did have acupuncture as soon as we boarded to try to combat seasickness. It seemed to work for me, although I thought it was pricey.
Gym – My husband used the gym every morning and said it was fine – he never had to wait for anything. He didn’t seem to notice people using it as a walkway as others have mentioned in their reviews. But, he was always there before 7am.
Quick and painless – the best we have experienced. We met with our group in the Casino at 7:15am. At 7:20 someone was there right on time to escort us off the ship. We found our bags immediately and stood in a fairly long, but fast line to go through customs. We were the only people in line for a taxi so we were at the airport before 8:15am.
We don’t recall encountering any rude passengers and I’d say the majority of the crew we saw were friendly and pleasant. Our room steward met all of our needs and always had a smile when we saw him. The weather was good for most of the cruise with the exception of a little rain in St. Thomas. We were disappointed to miss our scheduled catamaran excursion to St. John because the ship was late getting to St. Thomas due to a few power outages. But stuff happens, and we figure we’ll get to do it on another cruise.
I’m happy I had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people at our Cruise Critic meet and greet. It was fun to put a face to the people I was chatting with for months. I wish there had been more hours to the day to spend time with some of them.
Overall we had a nice cruise that met our objectives – to see the new ship, relax and enjoy the sun and good weather of the Caribbean. Although we liked the ship, I’m not sure if we would choose it over one of the grand class ships if the itinerary were the same. We found ourselves missing some of the things from those ships more than we enjoyed some of the new things offered on the Royal Princess. Like many others, I wish we could have the best of both in one ship. It may be time for us to visit some of the other cruise lines so when we return to Princess, it feels new again.