Royal Princess Cruise Review by TrnrMom: Maybe not for Princess Elite cruisers?
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Maybe not for Princess Elite cruisers?
Destination: Baltic Sea
Embarkation - we didn't have issues getting to the new dock, but we didn't leave the hotel until about 1:30 PM. The cabbie was happy about the lack of traffic, as the trip can take a half hour to get there for him, but the return could be even worse. The opposite side of the roadway was indeed very congested with those trying to get out of the docks and into Copenhagen. The direction was very well sign posted and there was traffic control helping speed vehicles along. There were few taxis and vehicles there as we pulled up to Terminal one of Oceankaj. There are three identical five pointed roofed low terminal buildings, and all three were full - Celebrity's infinity and Hal's Eurodam were also in town.
The helpful lady directed our taxi to the curb, and grabbed our bags. An extra tag was procured, as we were short one, and as I paid the taxi by credit card, the luggage was being loaded into the trolleys...there was a small credit card charge of about 5dkk making the total More bill not quite 200dkk.
Check in went quickly for those of us with elite cards. We had a brief hang up at souvenir photos which both of us grimaced through. We ended up filling out the health form in Portuguese but muddled through due to our familiarity with the form. There was a one person wait at the preferred checking counter. We were in and out to the gangway in a matter of minutes. The gangway is at ground level - there's are no stairs or ramps, except for a short one up to the ship, where security waits to take your picture. Then it was off to the elevators - we were on deck 14 after all, and our cabin.
The mini suite was as long as we remembered, but some dimensions seemed smaller than the other Princess ships - the closet area, the aisle by the bed. However, getting rid of the old style TVs makes for more room at the desk area. It was great to see lots of hangers, and drawers. For the first time, I did not use every nook and cranny. The flat screen TVs are nice, but there is not enough soundproofing in the walls - you will hear your neighbor's TV. We also heard more thumps and bumps from above. Fortunately our neighbors aren't up late much, just early, as we are frequently on this itinerary.
The balcony is indeed narrower with barely enough room for the furniture. The TV controls are a hassle that we didn't ever quite figured out, and this is a definite minus. There are also curtains by the extra long sofa that allow us to close off the sleeping area if we wish; as the cruise progressed, we did do this to black out the room more.
Bathroom area - the sink is bigger, and the shelf area is bigger. Soap and shampoo are on the wall....one minus - the heat control on the shower was stuck at hot. The hairdryer is in a drawer on the desk, but it is one of those with crummy buttons that you have to hold down. It is faster and bigger however.
Turn around day must really be rough on the staff as many items weren't in the room yet and our steward was a little slow to appear. He was quick to fulfill our requests for champagne, wine glasses, robes, etc.
The elevators do seem slower than the Coral - a surprising deficiency or perhaps a reflection of the large number of passengers. The atrium is larger & glitzier, and there are interior stairs, but as complained about on Cruise Critic - nothing that goes all the way up. However, the atrium amenities and shops extend further so it really doesn't seem that far to walk to the stairs. Of course this is before we've spent days walking on cobble stones. When returning from a cruise excursion there is no staff about....no welcome aboard, no CD staff, not even comment cards out for feedback. This is so unlike the Coral, that it is noticeable.
The whole atmosphere of the ship is bright - lighter decor and brighter lights everywhere. The buffet is truly an upgrade, but the sea walk is just bizarre. The interior pool seems strangely smaller. The ship however doesn't seem crowded at least on day one - guess everyone is in their cabin or in the atrium for sailaway as there are few people on top.
MUTS area seemed smaller, and on this itinerary, we rarely saw anyone bundled up to watch. Same with the pools - only a few hardy shows as we neared or left Copenhagen where there were record temperatures.
The buffet seemed uncrowded the night before since we ate late, but was crowded at breakfasts, moderately filled at lunch and bustling again at dinner. The atrium was busy at night since all the entertainment was there. The food in the buffet was a notch above most buffets.
What seems lacking is the liveliness of other Princess ships. The Sail Away was rather quiet with just a DJ up top with no staff other than the waiters offering drinks...perhaps all the action was in huge atrium, but we didn't get down there for while.
Other impressions: It is hard to find the promenade deck. The only walking is up top....and the promenade deck is uncovered and incomplete as mentioned before. The photography departments takes a whole side of the ship, but the photo display area seems crowded. with kiosk like display areas. The music was great - the jazz quartet and the classical string quartet was top notch. We also enjoyed the dance band. The one show we went to was just ok. The theater seats are very close together - it was interesting to have muster in there - there was no room to place the life jackets and no room to maneuver.
SAs long time Princess cruisers, we felt service was also a bit off...we waited 15 minutes after being seated at Sabatini's, which seemed a bit understaffed...our waitress had 5 tables and no assistant, as opposed to the other sections which just had 3 tables busy, at a time. The Passenger Services desk seemed harried, with the elite line often being ignored.
Princess seems to be marketing to hordes of tour groups who stick together, and do everything in crowds that take over everything. I've never seen the jewelry store so crammed but the casino wasn't as crowded as one would expect. There were lots of Cantonese speaking Chinese Canadians, German, Spanish and Italian as well as Aussie accents on this cruise. We also met two lovely Japanese ladies at breakfast one morning. We met two lovely Aussie couples and one from New Zealand whose company we enjoyed immensely.
Reflecting on this cruise now that we are home - it was an enjoyable itinerary, and good cruise. Nothing was really bad, but just a bit off compared to other cruises we've been on, particularly the last cruise on the Coral where service was outstanding. The crowds were a bit of a hassle, but if you hadn't experienced differently, you wouldn't notice....perhaps, that is Princess' new marketing strategy. It is one that veteran cruises might need to take into consideration when booking in the future. I doubt that we will cruise either the Royal or Regal again.
Captain Dino Sagani in command
Staff Captain Mario Tani, 2nd in Command, Head of Deck Department
Senior First Officer, Tom Schofield, Bridge Manager, Statutory Safety Officer
Hotel General Manager: Martin Bristow
Cruise Director: Sam Hawker-Thomas
Executive Chef: Donald McDonald
Maitre d'Hotel: Pasquale Marino Less
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Cabin review: R225
As others have already commented, the rooms are slightly smaller on the Royal, and the balcony barely holds the furniture. We did have plenty of hangers, and plenty of drawers to put everything away for a change. The hair dryer is in the drawer, and there are two flat screen TVs. Main issue - lack of sound proofing in the walls - we could hear our neighbor's TV in the morning and evenings. Fortunately, they didn't stay up too late nor get up too early. We did have an issue with the shower hot/cold control being stuck in very hot....DH had to take a dry towel to it and wrestle it cooler - not sure if maintenance ever checked it.
Port and Shore Excursions
We booked an all day tour as part of a St. Petersburg tour package through Vika of SPB tours. Our driver was waiting on time, and we were whisked to the Olympic Stadium in Berlin where we were met by Heather, our guide for the day. We were in good hands - although a lengthy tour, there wasn't a boring moment. Our needs were anticipated, and we were given history, background and current events while standing where history was made. We saw all the highlights of Berlin, and also gained some insight into every day life and costs in the city. It was one of the best tours we have taken and highly recommend it, if you are up for a twelve hour day.
We thoroughly enjoyed our precruise days in Copenhagen - in retrospect I would recommend 3 days. We only had two partial days and one whole day. We were able to do almost everything we wanted in town, but missed going out of the city to Roskilde and other sites. The city is flat and it is possible to get around on foot and also to DIY. We did go on a canal tour, and a walking tour to get the "lay of the land".
The 4* is due to the nightmare that is Oceankaj terminal when three ships are docked. There is only one access road with a single lane in each direction. There are not enough taxis leaving, and even if you catch the bus (assuming minimal luggage), the bus may get stuck in departing traffic. I spoke to the Royal's hotel general manager and he had a staffer look into a shuttle bus into town for those staying afterwards. It was too late to do for our cruise, but Princess was considering it. I understand that the port authority and transportation authorities are aware of the problem, and that by the time this is posted, things may have improved.
Bottom line - a lovely accessible city that I would return to. Somewhat pricey but honest friendly residents. Beware of the pickpockets in/near the train stations, and even in stores. My wallet was snatched in a Tiger store but later returned to my hotel, sans cash by a good Samaritan. Though a bit poorer and definitely more stressed, I was impressed by this good deed.
Fantastic two days with Maria of SPB Tours. St. Petersburg is not a city where you can go it alone, so an independent tour is highly recommended. Although we were three hours late arriving, which threw off the scheduling, we saw everything we had been promised on SPB's Deluxe Flat Rate Tour, and also had a subway ride as a bonus. Maria was excellent in reorganizing the schedule, shepherding us through crowded palaces, while giving us the background & history of the site, yet we never felt rushed as she always let us know what time was available and what was coming up next. We always knew where the bathrooms were and when the shopping and meals would be coming up. The only minus to the two days were the meals were not what we were used to. Perhaps, they were considered good quality, but the dishes were watery and salty, and barely enough for the group. We had hoped for piroshki and blini and other typical Russian dishes.
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