Not withstanding the issues described below, we had a very good cruise on the Regal Princess leaving Barcelona on 1 July in the midst of the taxi strike and arriving in Venice on 12 July. This is our sixth cruise and third with Princess. Overall, we would say that everything about the trip was excellent except for the Princess Rome excursion and the docking in Venice. Food quality needs some improvement, but was generally better than our previous cruise experiences.
Weather: The weather in the Med is brutally hot in July. Even the fit 20 & 30 year olds were panting in Rome, Istanbul, Kusadasi, and Athens. I wish we had scheduled this trip for September or October.
Mobility Challenged: I do not recommend this trip for the mobility challenged. Excursions in a wheelchair are out of the question. Lots and lots of walking with much of it on cobblestones or slick marble streets.
Itinerary: We did a similar cruise on RCI in 2011 and had no issues with that itinerary, but the Regal’s itinerary is stretched too tight with the ship frequently arriving late into port or not being ready for disembarkation until well after “advertised” times. This repeatedly reduced time ashore and put us behind mobs from other cruise ships in port, e.g., Rome, Istanbul, Kusadasi, Athens, and Venice.
Embarkation in Barcelona: The port facility in Barcelona is absolutely the best we have encountered. It is well laid out, efficiently operated, and boarding was customer friendly. However, Princess did little to facilitate passengers getting to the ship when taxi drivers went on strike in Barcelona. In fact, it was a dismal sight seeing sweating families, many of them seniors and children, dragging their suitcases in the heat, well over a mile from the end of the Barcelona metro.
Disembarkation in Venice: Definitely the Pits – Worst we have experienced. We docked in mid-afternoon in Venice at one of the furthest berths in the port, already filled with six cruise ships. The ONLY transfer information provided by Princess was that passengers who signed up for the Princess water taxi ride ($20pp) would be met outside the terminal and that the tram (people mover) that connects to other public transportation. What they did not say is that the tram is “outside” the port terminal and is ¾ mile from the ship. No shuttle bus was provided.
The Ship: We really liked the ship. There was plenty of space for the 3,500 passengers and we never felt crowded. The appointments are well executed with a luxurious feel. The atrium does cause some quirkiness in stairways and access to the mid-ship facilities as has been noted in other reviews. We only experienced elevator delays when everyone was trying to board or exit the ship at the same time. We also really like that there are laundromats on each deck and used it twice. Hint: don’t wait until the sea days to do laundry.
Wait Staff: Although the newness of the wait staff showed a few times, they were always friendly and attentive. Only on the last night in Venice did we notice a drop off in wait staff performance, possibly because many were on “shore leave” or performing baggage duties.
Food Quality: Generally we found the food to be good and nicely presented. However, the Regal Princess badly needs a professional “saucier” to sample their soups and sauces and to recommend changes. EVERYTHING was bland. The exception to this observation was an outstanding meal in the Crown Grill.
Chef’s Table: We have done the Chef’s Table on a previous Princess cruise and the first thing we did upon boarding in Barcelona was to book a Chef’s Table sitting. The Regal’s Chef’s Table is in a beautiful alcove in the Allegro dining room. After a brief tour of the galley; meeting the Chef, the Maitre de, and key kitchen staff, we sampled canapes and were then guided into the dining area. Hospitality and food presentation were truly outstanding, but we were let down with the blandness of the cuisine. At $115 per person, the dining experience was a big let down and the food was not as good as the Crown Grill at a quarter of the price.
Excursions: We do not like ship excursions as they are expensive and we feel like cattle being herded around and Princess did nothing to improve our assessment. Because we had an incentive excursion credit, we booked the Princess train from Civitavecchia to Rome. Big mistake. The AC in the two Princess rail cars was broken, so we were taken by bus to the port terminal building and literally dumped off, waiting for repair of the AC. The two Princess excursion guides disappeared. So now you have 90 passengers stranded in the terminal building for almost a hour with no information and with most having tour guides waiting for them in Rome. In all, we lost 1½ hours of OUR time in Rome without a word of apology from Princess.
Recommendations: (1) If you want to do a sampling of the Mediterranean, do this itinerary in the spring or fall, not in the summer. (2) Do not book ship excursions. Go to Cruise Critic and find folks to share a private tour. (3) Don’t do the Chef’s Table unless you read that the food has improved. (4) There is a baggage service in terminal gate end of Building 103 that will take your baggage to your Venice hotel for a small fee.
Cabin was comfortable and appropriately sized. I liked the slightly larger bathroom.