Right away we were impressed by the size and beauty of the new Royal Princess ship. (We sailed on the last Royal in 2009.) This ship was inaugurated in June 2013 and our voyage was her first visit to the Baltic Sea. She dwarfs many of the other Princess ships with her impressive 19 decks and 3,500 passengers. We were looking forward to exploring all the features we had read about on this new ship, including the new Sea Walk that extends out over the water for fabulous views as well as the larger and more spacious Atrium. We had heard complaints about the lack of a mid-ship staircase as well as small balcony size. There were no lines the day we boarded, which was a port day (Berlin) for most of the passengers, so the public areas were quite empty and we got a good look at the well appointed decor. The next evening they would be packed with people trying to get a view of the captain and the champagne fountain, a Princess favorite. Meanwhile, we enjoyed finding our way around this enormous ship. We learned quickly that we did not miss the mid ship staircase at all. With our cabin on the 16th floor forward and most activities on 5, 6, & 7 aft, we would not be using the staircases much. If anything, we wished for more elevators. It seemed each one would be full and then stop at every floor. The Horizon Food Court and Bistro were on our same Lido (Deck 16) aft so no need for stairs there either. Also, once you are in the Atrium, they have stairs between the main 3 floors and we used those often.
The Piazza and Atrium are really the center of activity on the ship. They had line dance classes in the afternoon (on Sea Days) and a band you could dance to each evening. Sometimes there was a string quartet playing or a specialty act; it was rarely quiet. The two floors above were opened up to reveal popular spots like Alfredo’s pizza dining, Crooners, and Bellini’s as well as the Photo Gallery and the Facets gift shop. New in the Photo Gallery on the Royal is facial recognition! Enter your name on the touchscreen monitor and behold your photos from the entire voyage appear! This is the greatest thing and you now avoid “the big search” of looking for your photos among the thousands of other guest photos on the myriad of gallery walls. The walls of photos are still there of course for those that like to hold the photo in your hands. Wonderful feature!
The new Sea Walk itself extends out for a few feet on both sides of the ship and is a little less than anticipated. On one side you really just look down (way down) to see the Promenade deck below. It seemed to be a bit of a novelty and we did not see many people pausing there. In fact, most seemed to avoid it once they had checked out the view.
Our dining and service experiences were excellent on the ship. The first evening we ate in Alfredo’s, where they serve specialty pizzas and antipasto salads. The food is free and they have a nice selection of wines, which made for a lovely first night meal. We ate dinner mainly in the Symphony dining room and had excellent waiters and staff each time. We also ate at the Crown Grille steakhouse on my birthday and had a perfectly cooked steak and lobster dinner ($25 pp). The Horizon Court on Deck 16 included a Bistro section as well as a full buffet. They had a great selection of food all through the day and we never lacked for choices. The first day we did not even realize how far the buffet extended because we stopped first in the Bistro, finding yummy things there to eat. I also have to mention that the soft serve ice cream stand out by the pool was a big hit, especially at then end of a long day of touring. Our other favorite spot was the International Café on Deck 5 in the Atrium. They have specialty coffees, desserts, salads, and the best chocolate croissants ever. Early in the morning you can get them still warm and fresh out of the oven, a real delight. I must say the food on this voyage was the best of any cruise we have been on. We really enjoyed ourselves.
All of the ports on this cruise were new to us and we enjoyed all of them. We explored Tallinn, Stockholm, and Aarhus on our own. We used ALLA Tours for the 2 days in St. Petersburg and were very happy with them. We used Princess for tours in Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Oslo. As others have described, Copenhagen was a traffic nightmare for anyone getting off the ship. Our tour was cut short due to the loss of time sitting in traffic, but after registering our complaint with the shore excursion desk, the tower was removed from our bill. We were happy not to be debarking there.
Our stateroom was a mini-suite with balcony, full couch, and bathtub! The extra space is so luxurious and the rooms are elegantly decorated in beige tones. We had two flat screen TVs with on demand movies and port talks along with the usual Sea news channels. There was a heavy curtain that we used to partition the room when one wanted to nap while the other read. As rumored the balcony was small, with just enough room for two chairs and a table. We were happy with it though, and utilized it several times in spite of the cool temps in the Baltic. (Request an extra blanket or two from your steward).
Debarkation was easy as well. We walked off with our luggage about 9:00 am with no lines or problems. Our overall impression of Royal Princess was quite positive. However, I yearn for a ship the size of the previous Royal with the luxurious feel of the new Royal. Unfortunately, I believe we would have to find another cruise line right now for that. In spite of size, I would give Royal Princess an A+ for an overall excellent experience.
The extra space of a mini-suite is so luxurious with a full size couch and the elegantly decorated beige toned rooms. We had two flat screen TVs with on demand movies and port talks along with the usual At Sea news channels. We able to hear some of the TV noise from the next cabin, but it was otherwise a very quiet room. There was a heavy curtain that we used to partition the room when one wanted to nap while the other person read or watched TV. As rumored the balcony was small, with just enough room for two chairs and a table. We were happy with it though, and we utilized it several times in spite of the cool temps in the Baltic. (Request an extra blanket or two from your steward). The forward and high deck location of this cabin means a lot of walking and using the elevators. It is close to the forward elevators, but they were often crowded. Expect it to take a while if you forget to take your camera or wine package card to dinner.