Wow, Wow, Wow! Where do I begin? Maybe with this statement ..... after 30 cruises under our belt, this ship is hands down the most beautiful ship we have ever cruised on! I apologize up front for the use of so many superlatives but she deserves every single one of them. I also apologize to those who may not want to read comparisons of other cruise lines, but comparisons help with a point of reference sometimes!
This was a 7 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale. As we have done this itinerary many times I am only going to speak on everything pertaining to the ship.
We drove from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale and parked the car at Park ‘n Go right at the port for half the price of the port parking garage. A complimentary shuttle took us right to the ship immediately we stepped out of our car, and we did not even have to handle our own bags!
The embarkation took about 15 minutes as we are Platinum members with Princess and have preferred boarding. Although I will say that RCCL has a much smoother and faster embarkation where we are usually aboard within 5-8 minutes of arriving at the desk to turn in our signed boarding passes.
As we stepped aboard into the Piazza we were blown away by the beauty and attention to detail. The entire ship is beautiful and elegant!
We went immediately to our cabin, which on this go around was an inside cabin. It was finely furnished with creams and greens and felt so restful with ample packing space. The back wall behind the beds were draped with what looked like Roman blinds to make it look like there was a window there and now for the BEST thing about the cabin ..... the unbelievably comfortable pillow top bed covered in the finest of bed linens - the best nights’ sleep we have ever had on ANY cruise!
We then did our own private tour of the ship. At the rear of the ship is the most spectacular area you have ever seen. First you get to the Retreat pool and bar with private cabanas and then through to The Sanctuary where for a half day and $20 you can book your own private cabana and be waited on hand and foot - nobody under 18 goes to these areas!! This is clearly not your water slide, rock climbing clientele, nooo nothing kitsch here, just the opposite pure serenity - you can even have a massage in your own private cabana, you get MP3 players with pre-recorded music and can enjoy smoothies and healthy food offerings and drinks. Walking around with my Pina Colada in hand I KNEW I was on vacation!!
Next thing to ooh and aah about - the food! It was awesome and the selection was more than you could ever dream of on a cruise. The Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro were open virtually 24 hours, with a Pastry shop that had an enormous selection of desserts, pastries and puddings everyday. The layout of the Horizon Court is terrific too, so you never have to stand in lines that do not move .... it’s very well thought out. But most of all the selection was off the charts, from 6 soups and chili each day, to salad bars that wanted for nothing, plus vegetarian stations, a Mediterranean station - make your own Gyro), Asian Station, Italian station, sandwiches and the makings of your own, antipasto, 4 different roasts with all the veggies and starches, a Taco bar, cheese platters, a fruit station and fresh bread station like no other I have ever seen, sushi, quiches, lots of seafood cooked in various ways and our favorite ... curries!! Also coffee, tea and hot chocolate stations where you can help yourself 24/7. Iced teas and lemonade are always available as are fruit juices at breakfast time. Loved being able to get V8 juice!!! Then just outside on the pool deck is the Trident Grill with the all-American favorites - Burgers, Hot Dogs and fries - also the Pizza Bar and Swirls for the ice cream lovers.
Down on deck 7 in the Atrium is also the International Cafe ..... with desserts, steak pies, panini’s and a shrimp (jumbo) salad to leave home for, plus much, much more .... all with no charge. You only pay for any specialty coffees you have there. Our friends bought the Coffee Card and said it was worth it’s weight in gold as they had latte’s and cuppacino’s every day. On this same deck is “Alfredo’s” which is a pizzeria and pasta restaurant - also free. We had wonderful antipastos, pizza and calzones there. Princess is well known for their wonderful pizza’s and Italian food and they deserve the honor.
There is also the Ocean Bar where you can have the likes of a Seafood Margarita or various types of Oyster shooters. Then also at Vines you order wine flights which are paired up with various Tapas ..... delish!! I must interject here - to have the time to eat at every venue on this ship, one needs more than 7 days for sure .......
The staff were excellent - especially the Cruise Staff! We are HUGE Trivia players - play a minimum of 4 games a day and this team is hilarious and so full of energy. We will go as far as to say they were the BEST cruise staff team we have EVER had on the high seas. They were from South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand - so smart and witty!! The cruise director Sam was OK, a bit of a disappointment though. She is definitely outshone by her amazing team.
The dining room staff could not do enough for one - we asked for Escargot every evening and they said “no problem” another lady at our table was disappointed the first evening at dinner that there was not Coconut Ice Cream on the menu - no problem ..... we had Coconut Ice Cream EVERY other night made only for our table, plus all the other desserts on offer.
We loved the Movies under the Stars. We watched “Captain Phillips” on plush chaises with throw rugs over us and were waited on hand and foot. First they came around with popcorn. Yum! Within the 2 and a half hour period we were being entertained under the stars with the breeze keeping us cool on a balmy tropical night on deck we were also offered Pizza, then bowls of Ice Cream and finally plates of cookies with a glass of milk. Sheesh, how can you top that!!
Another thing I would like to mention is the comfort of the seating in all the lounges and bars. Recently we were on a Carnival cruise and could not find a comfy chair ANYWHERE on the ship to sit and read our books. On the Royal Princess it was just the opposite ..... all the seating was so comfy you never wanted to get up and leave!!
Then came the disembarkation, we woke up at 6am, took our hand luggage with us and went up to the Horizon Court for breakfast ..... had to have another bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon and red onion .... Mmmm! We took the elevator down to deck 5 thinking we would go to the lounge set aside for the platinum members, wrong!! As we got off the elevator they said we could walk off immediately (it was now 7:20 am) which we did .... unbelievable, no muss, no fuss!
Obviously I could go on and on - but I will spare you my ramblings........ to end with this - we generally cruise different ships to “try” them all out ... but this is the first time that I have left a ship thinking -”I have to book another cruise on her which will hopefully be longer than 7 days!!” MAGNIFIQUE!!!!!!