This was our first experience of Princess Cruises and we were very impressed; we have been on 6 P&O cruises previously so our loyalty points gave us an upgrade to ‘Platinum’ status which gave us a great bonus of 250 minutes each free wifi while on board.
The itinerary after Barcelona where we joined the ship was Toulon, Livorno; Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi, Athens and ending in Venice, only 2 sea days on a 12 night cruise.
The Regal Princess is obviously very new and it has been very well designed with lots of space for sunbeds, a varied selection of bars inside the ship and we never felt as though we were sharing the ship with over 3,800 others.
The passengers came from 69 different countries, 1,100 from the USA, 500 from the UK and Australia and lots from China and Japan. This was probably why the buffet selections for breakfast and lunch were so varied; you could even have belly pork for breakfast if you wanted it! The design of the buffet stations was excellent so we never felt as though we were in a line like a works canteen that is the case on some P&O ships.
The buffet was split into the main restaurant and a bistro area that was usually quieter; the food was excellent and very well presented. One criticism would be that there was no pressure for passengers to use the hand wash when entering the restaurant, come to think of it we never saw any member of staff carrying the mobile sanitisers, even when we returned to the ship. There were washbasins at each entry to the buffet buy very few people seemed to use them. We wonder what the response would have been had there been an outbreak of norovirus!
Despite the ship being brand new the system for signing for drinks etc. was the same as on older ships with every drink having to be signed for on a paper form even though we had the premium drinks package. Surely Princess could have designed a more modern system, Celebrity can do it. There was also a disappointing lack of information about where the ship was at any given point when we were at sea; yes the Captain updated us every morning but there was no in-cabin TV channel which gave the sort of detail we are used to about speed of the ship, depth of the sea, etc.
One of the niggles was the size of our balcony; it was probably the smallest balcony we have ever had on a cruise ship. Fortunately we were on Deck 9 which meant that there was no overhang but even so there was very little room for us to enjoy the sun on our balcony without having to sit uncomfortably.
We did not make much use of the main pool area but it was very spacious and never looked too crowded. There were movies on the big screen at night and some music concerts during the day. We spent a lot of time at The Retreat pool which is adults only. The pool area is free but if you want a cabana or use the spa area with very comfortable beds at the front of the ship you have to pay extra. We cannot see the sense of paying for a bed when it is under cover as the spa area is but it seemed quite busy.
Another niggle is that you cannot get to the front of the ship (unless you go inside the spa). The only way you can experience a view of sailing into port from the front is on the webcam in your cabin. There is a promenade deck (7) but again you cannot do a circuit of the ship as it is split into sections. There are areas for comfortable chairs on this deck that hardly anyone used, and sunbeds at the back on each side, one area was where people could smoke.
The other smoking area was at the back of the ship above the main bar; this contained the effect of the smoke much better than most other ships we have been on but there was a small pool very close to this area that was spoilt by the presence of lots of smokers nearby.
The food in the main restaurant was outstandingly good; we did not use the speciality restaurants at all as we were so impressed by the food and service. We were on ‘any time’ dining and we were allocated the same table every night which we shared with our friends. On the first night we were not so impressed with the Head Waiter (Pedro from Portugal); his attitude was awful and very patronising. We saw him several times during the cruise and he always looked arrogant and completely disinterested in the passengers. This contrasted with the excellent service we received from the second night onwards from our waiters and head Waiter (Joel, Rhandy and Lachezar – think I’ve got the names right).
The staff in the bars were also very impressive, particularly Crooners Bar; too many staff to mention but they worked very well as a team and could not have been more efficient and friendly.
The entertainment we saw was very good, production shows were excellent and the Beatlemaniacs tribute band was very polished. A special mention for George Evans, part of the Rick Kilburn Quartet; if you saw the ITV documentary about Royal Princess in the UK recently you will be familiar with George. He was a real professional and we really enjoyed his many performances in the main atrium and other venues, don’t think he had a day off during the cruise.
We enjoyed the overall lack of announcements over the tannoy system; you got the information you needed but there were no constant prompts about bingo etc.
Overall we were very impressed with Princess and the Regal; we will certainly cruise with Princess again although we still have Celebrity (narrowly) as our favourite cruise line.
Apart from the very small balcony the cabin was fine, shower area was bigger than most other ships we have been on.