On Royal Princess, cabins have gotten a makeover from the Grand Class ships, and we're not necessarily sure it's a move in the right direction. The biggest change: Princess has eliminated the Dolphin Deck's dedicated mini-suites (with the famously controversial -- but large -- jutting-out balconies). Now cabins of all categories are scattered through stateroom decks. Other changes include a noticeable reduction in the size of balconies (from standards to mini-suites), and all categories, save for suites, are smaller than those found on the Grand Class vessels.
There are improvements, however. Royal Princess' cabins offer a number of updated features inspired by suggestions from the line's passengers. Among them are more contemporary decor, larger showers and hand-held showerheads. Sinks are square to provide more vanity space, mirrors feature built-in vanity lighting, and beds have pillow-top mattresses and upholstered headboards. Bigger television screens offer Princess' first interactive system, and energy-efficient lighting with card readers helps conserve electricity.
Some amenities have also been added to make traveling with technology easier. Electrical sockets have been spaced farther apart to accommodate multiple plugs, and cabins now offer sockets to fit American appliances, as well as European (but not British) plugs.
The 1,780 cabins fall into five different grades: 36 Suites, which are made up of Owner's Suites (14), Penthouse Suites (14) and Premium Suites (8), of which one is accessible; 314 Mini Suites (6 are accessible); 358 Deluxe Balcony (none accessible); 730 Standard Balcony cabins (22 accessible); and 342 Inside cabins (7 accessible).
Fifty adjoining cabins are available for large families needing more than one cabin, which is the most on any Princess vessel.
Inside cabins come in at 161 square feet, which is fairly standard for Princess. The accessible cabins are a generous 240 square feet. Each inside cabin has either two twin beds or one queen and all the usual amenities, such as a flat-screen television, small desk, in-room safe, direct dial telephone, a small armchair and a small fridge. Bathrooms are shower-only. Basic toiletries (shampoo and shower gel) are located in the shower.
Standard balcony cabins are 222 square feet (181-square-foot cabins with 41-square-foot balconies), which is significantly smaller than what's found on Grand Princess (214 square feet inside, 257 total with balcony). They include all the features of an inside cabin, plus quite spacious closets. Private verandahs are each outfitted with two mesh chairs and a cocktail table.
A new stateroom category, the Deluxe Balcony cabin is only deluxe if you compare it with the standard balconies. These new cabins are pleasant but small. They come in at 233 square feet (192 square feet inside, 41-square-foot balcony) and include some of the upgrades found in a Mini-Suite stateroom, including enhanced bathroom amenities (lotion in addition to the pumps of shower gel and shampoo), waffle bathrobes (you must request them, however) and upgraded duvets, but the only real difference is a couple of extra feet in each stateroom for a loveseat. They each have a decent-sized space for hanging clothes, but the shower-only bathroom, along with those found in the lower-category cabins, is ridiculously cramped for a modern cruise ship -- and it's got the dreaded clingy shower curtain. Its balcony layout is identical to that of the standard verandah staterooms.
Mini-Suite cabins measure 299 square feet each (258 square feet inside, 41-square-foot balcony) and have been redesigned to be smaller than those on the Grand Class ships. The decor is more contemporary, though. One big improvement: A curtain, which can be drawn closed, has been added to separate living and sleeping areas. Mini-suites get the same general stateroom amenities, as well as decorative central lighting fixtures, marble-topped counters and two flat-screen TV's instead of one. The biggest disappointment with mini-suites? They get the same tiny, narrow balconies as standard staterooms, with the same furnishings.
There are three styles of suite accommodations on Royal Princess. Owners Suites are the largest and range in size from 576 square feet to 705 square feet. Each features separate living and sleeping rooms, a refrigerator, an extra-wide balcony with upgraded furnishings, a bath with separate shower and tub, and a powder room. These are corner cabins, so balconies wrap around two sides of the ship.
Penthouse suites (440 square feet, with balcony) also feature separate sleeping and living spaces, a full bath and a powder room. The plus is that these are located adjacent to the new-to-Princess Concierge Lounge. The minus? Despite attractive wooden balcony furnishings, the verandahs aren't very big.
Premium suites (554 square feet, with balcony) are located all the way forward, though, oddly, there is no view out of the front of the ship -- just to the side. The Premium suites are the exact same layout as Penthouse suites, and they enjoy the same features with slightly larger balconies and indoor space.
Each suite, regardless of category, features a 42-inch television, a bathroom with two sinks, a separate bath and shower with both hand-held and fixed sprays, marble floors and countertops, special toiletries and accent lighting. Suite passengers also are entitled to a number of extras, including complimentary laundry and cleaning services, suite-only breakfast at Sabatini's and an extended in-cabin dining menu, as well as access to the Concierge Lounge.
A first for Royal Princess is the Concierge Lounge on Deck 14, beside the Wedding Chapel. It caters exclusively to suite passengers (which could be tricky if they all come at once -- it seats only 24 people) and serves a selection of hot and cold snacks and beverages that include wine (for a fee). There is limited space and no views, but it's a nice place to relax, read a magazine and have an aperitif before dinner.
The nice touch is that you can avoid traipsing down to Guest Services and having to deal with the endless lines there. A dedicated staffmember deals with queries on shore excursions, accounts, specialty dining and spa reservations.