I arrived back yesterday after a Greek-islands cruise aboard the Royal Princess.
I'll begin by saying that I'm 25, I work for a travel company, I traveled with family, and I've cruised with Celebrity, Carnival, P&O ... Read More
I arrived back yesterday after a Greek-islands cruise aboard the Royal Princess.
I'll begin by saying that I'm 25, I work for a travel company, I traveled with family, and I've cruised with Celebrity, Carnival, P&O and now Princess.
Embarkation was in Athens, in a not-so-classy white tent right by the ship's side. Thankfully the process was quick (we arrived a bit early) and we got on-board fine. The size of the ship is certainly impressive from the outset right until the end. We had numerous taxi drivers, guides etc comment on how big the ship was, and from below you can almost believe it's the biggest ship in the world.
It's not, but the Cruise Director might have you think it is...
My first opinion was that the ship is traditional in style. It's low on thrills, catering to an older, more demure clientele. We saw some younger people around my age but generally there were few families and many 60+ adults. This was not necessarily a bad thing, as it meant the boat was quite peaceful. Its certainly not a party boat, but it's also not a whisper-quiet cruise liner either.
Facilities and layout
The main plaza area indoors (aka the atrium) is a 3-floor wonder, with elegant spiral stairs and lots of restaurants, and it proved to be the hub of the ship thanks to some fab impromptu and planned musical events. Cue lots of dancing octogenarians and a few kids running around. The theatre was another excellent space - with no obstructed seats and lots of space. The casino was good albeit smokey, and the shops were nice - typical cruise fare with a few brands etc.
Personally, I think the top decks could do with some modernization however. For a ship of this modernity, I'd expect to see a few more cutting-edge touches. The two pools were good but a third would have been handy as I saw 30+ people in the pools on sea day. The running track was good, and the sports court a nice addition but the putting green pathetic and there was nothing much else to keep people occupied during the day expect for a big TV screen and food. Carnival's Vista has some fab additions including their sky ride rollercoaster, high ropes course and 18 hole mini golf - all of which could have easily been added with minimal redesign. I did like the SkyWalk though, although it wasn't overly useful for views, but was a fun novelty nonetheless.
For me, the Retreat Pool was the best place on the ship - with an adults-only vibe and a more peaceful position. The Sanctuary is also here - an exclusive pay-per-use area of the ship with plush loungers and nice water, essentially. We booked here for the sea day and it was a welcome retreat, albeit without any breeze. $20 for half a day per person wasn't too bad.
Now onto food. There aren't too many options for those not wanting to pay cover charges. Lunch was manly restricted to the Horizon Court Buffet, the main restaurant and the pizza/burger joints by the pool. All were good, although the buffets especially stood out - the variety of choice and quality rivaled Celebrity. We didn't encounter queues too often either, and the staff were happy to get you drinks (including water and ice tea which s complimentary). In the evening, the main dining room was the place to be. These not-so-grand rooms lack the elegance of many other ship's rooms, with low ceilings and dark colors. However the food was generally very good, with a nice changing variety.
It would have been nice to see location-themed cuisine though, and the waiters occasionally wore costumes themed to a destination which had no relation to our cruise... for example in Montenegro (Kotor) we had an Italian night... Service was good and on anytime dining, we had to wait not longer than 5-10 mins at worst. Another gripe for me was the lack of food after 10pm or so. The main buffet would completely close except for hot drinks and there were no other free offerings I knew of.
This one was a tricky topic for me. I thought the main piazza entertainment was great. The atrium space was perfect for people watching, and live music would regularly bring huge crowds to watch people of all ages dance on the central floor. One must-see is the orchestra night, where the ship's Music Director brings most all of the ships musicians together. It was so special even a few galley and spa staff attended during our show!
The theatre, for me, was a wasted opportunity. We were onboard a week, yet we had a comedian repeated twice and just two shows from the cast of 17 singers/ dancers that perform the 'Broadway-style' shows. We had an incredible Freddie Mercury performer called Mercury Rising that was the definite highlight, but it just makes you realise how disappointing the stage shows were when one man can outperform all 17 of them. Don't get me wrong, the stage shows weren't bad, but there just wasn't any creativity. The singers were generally good, but they had to perform bizarre themed scenes that had no story. Their 'Spectacular' show was simply about ten or fifteen different scenes, each relating to the next in no clear manner. Lose a few dancers and add a few singers, bring in a story or something different (think Celebrity's Cirque du Soleil-style shows or Carnival's dramatic theatrical performances) and you will have my vote. For now, I feel the theatre could have benefited from better direction.
Elsewhere entertainment was low key, with the 'Live' tv studio proving good for a few minutes to kill time (karaoke, chat shows etc) and a few lounges with piano men.
The cabin was good. Not great, but not bad. It felt a bit dated despite the refurb. One plug socket for the whole cabin was really a pretty poor show. The balcony was decent size, the tv huge, and the bathroom average. It was overall reasonable but not impressive. We were at the rear of the ship and felt quite a bit of movement - one night when docking it actually felt similar to an earthquake.
The standard staff were generally amazing. They were very friendly, smiley and helpful. We found that Carnival's staff last year seemed a bit downcast and overworked - these were the opposite. I know they no doubt work just as hard but they always had a smile, were polite and lovely to speak to.
The entertainment staff didn't impress me much. Ron Goodman, the cruise director, was pretty awful. Last year we had Matt Mitcham on the Carnival Vista - a charismatic guy that had everyone wanting to be friends with him. He'd show up to every event, create impromptu dance routines, tell jokes before a show and just create a fun environment.
For me, Ron was the opposite, He's been in the game for decades and his style hasn't changed at all. He began each appearance with a speech telling us how fantastic Princess was, how spectacular that evening's entertainments would be and how we're all a big family. It was the same every time. And his deputy (yes, he had a deputy CD) was just as weak - a nice guy but not cut out to be the figurehead for entertainment onboard a 3500-passenger ship.
What made me more curious was the fact that Ron and cohort would rarely be seen except for the evening show. I don't know what they were doing - where I should have known - he should have been in the public eye throughout the day, making sure everyone was having a good time.
The cruise had a few duff ports (Khios was a waste of time, Katakolon was pretty low-key) but we loved Mykonos, Kotor and Rhodes town (all repeat visits but well worth another visit). As a family, we had a good time in all, and we actually think Princess may well rival Celebrity. They had the little touches - cold towels when waiting for the tender etc - and had a lovely, classy ship. Food was up to standards in general, and facilities were all good. I think for someone of my age, a showy ship like a Royal Caribbean or Carnival vessel may be preferred, as there wasn't much to do onboard for me, but it was certainly an impressive ship nonetheless, and the older passengers certainly seemed happy. Entertainment wasn't very strong in all honesty, perhaps weaker than P&O even, but it didn't dampen the cruise. I'd happily cruise Princess again.
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