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This was our second Princess cruise (both on this ship) and there were many terrific aspects and some frustrating ones, too. The bottom line is that we had a wonderful time and would recommend this ship/trip if you are good with a mid-priced large ship, like buffets, and have some patience for some glitches, not to mention the goofy elevator set-up. We spent a few days in London on our own ahead of the cruise. We were surprised to get an email from Princess while we were in London informing us that they had an outbreak of the norovirus and therefore would be delaying boarding times for the ship while they sanitized and cleaned the ship. (Tip: make sure you have given Princess a valid email address and check it often before your embarkation date.) It was a bit disconcerting but Princess also sent a fact sheet putting the risk for getting sick into perspective (basically it said you have a much greater risk off a cruise ship than on) and we were glad that the cruiseline was being transparent and taking extra steps to protect us. During the cruise itself there were extra sanitizing procedures and a more assertive effort to make sure passengers followed preventative measures. You should know that we ate at the buffets more than any other food venue and neither of us got sick at all. So we took a private car to the Southampton port for embarkation and were a bit surprised to see a long line assembled outside of the terminal, which we assume had to do with the delayed embarkation times. Once the line got going things were very organized and civilized -- we could actually wait in seating areas for our turn to get in line for check-in. Tip: There are restrooms way at the other end of the embarkation hall, so look for them and use them right away if you can to make your wait more comfortable. Since we had just been on this very ship about 10 months earlier, we already pretty much knew the ship so we didn't need to orient ourselves. Our mini suite was basically clean and in good shape, with just a few minor spots here and there, which I addressed with notes to our cabin steward. We didn't see a lot of our steward throughout the cruise, but a nice touch was that he actually thanked me for leaving him notes to help him take care of any issues. The small issues were things like a sticky spot on the coffee table, a couple of residual stains on the laundered bed linens, the tub drain piece sitting on the edge of the tub (that issue apparently was because the drain is slow when the tub drain is assembled properly). The mini suite has a ton of storage with a large open closet and floor-to-ceiling closed closet of shelves. The bed and pillows were comfy. There are two flat screen TV's -- one opposite the bed and the other in the living room area, which you can "close" with a curtain. The living room area has a full-sized sofa, coffee table, desk with storage, and end table with storage. The bathroom has a nice tub and shower with a large counter and mounted shelves for storage. The balcony is on the smaller side and had a small table, two chairs and two little ottomans -- if you want to actually sit with the ottomans out it is a bit tight, but we did sit out there when weather permitted and it was nice. As for dining, this has been the only cruise ship in our experience where the buffet was the best place to eat on the ship (except for the wonderful pizza at Alfredo's and cafe items at the 24 hour International Cafe). My husband actually missed being able to just pop over to the fresh, varied, well-prepared offerings at the buffets after we returned home! Of course what this means is that most of the other sit-down restaurants on the ship were just OK. So my tip to you is to save the money that you might spend on specialty restaurants and save the time you might spend on the included traditional dining rooms. Having said that I must admit that the special British pub food they did in the bar area of the steakhouse a day or two was quite good. A lot of people talk about the elevator situation on this ship and for good reason. We knew about it before taking our first voyage on the Royal Princess so we were primed to put up with it. Here's the deal ... There is not always a staircase where there are elevator banks so if you are inclined to not wait for an elevator because you only want to go up or down one or two decks, you either have to walk to another part of the ship or just wait for an elevator because stairs are only available in some places. And then there is the goofy elevator system. When you walk up to the elevator banks and press up or down you have to run around and press the up or down buttons next to various elevators -- they don't all light up when you press one. Considering this is a large ship with so many people moving about you can expect to experience delays and crowded elevators at peak moving times. I'm hoping there was a reason it was all designed this way as it does not make obvious sense to me. In general the service we experienced on this voyage was very good but not excellent. Staff were usually quite pleasant but we didn't feel like service was at a level it could be -- if everyone could pay a little more attention to detail this ship could be excellent. For example, one of the "signature" activities is Movies Under the Stars. We went out to watch a movie and they didn't come and bring blankets for quite a while (I had to go hunting for pool towels to use until they showed up) and there was no popcorn (cookies did come by at one point but this activity is billed with freshly popped popcorn and that's half the reason I see a movie) -- in fact I didn't see popcorn at any time they were doing Movies Under the Stars and sometimes I didn't see the chairs set up with the special seat covers for it either. While it was cooler outside so there were not a lot of people watching movies outside, in my opinion if you are going to offer this activity then really do it fully. Another time we went to see a movie at an indoor venue and nobody ever came to take a drink order! We saw staff cleaning up glasses from the previous entertainment but not once did anyone come to see if we or anyone else wanted to order something. This was not only disappointing but surprising as I thought cruise ships made money by selling beverages -- we would have bought some! Excursions were well done and varied. We usually don't do a lot of onboard entertainment but this time we saw a moderately funny comedian and an illusionist that was a bit disappointing. We loved that in the on demand TV offerings were a number of episodes of Animal Planet's "Cats 101!!!!" We appreciated the televised port/destination guide talks which we made sure to watch before each stop. The most frustrating part of this cruise (and the one we took before it) was the spa. We got the hard sell when booking massages the first night and discovered after we were already in the midst of our appointments that the person who gave us the info on the "first night deal" told us the wrong information -- in sum we got shorter massages for the money than was promised. I went back another day to get a pedicure and the pedicurist was upset because the front desk never told her about my appointment, so that kind of ruined the mood as she complained about being put in that position. Also, you cannot book use of the facility (there are all kinds of nice spa environments) by the day -- you have to book a pass for the whole cruise, which is expensive for what it is. My hubby and I love spas and we would have used this one more if it weren't for the management problems and no opportunity to book day passes. Disembarkation was really organized and civilized. We got our gathering place and time assignments ahead of time, of course, and had breakfast and then strolled to our meeting place. At no time did it feel like a "cattle call" -- we were in small groups and there was enough seating in the lounge area we were assigned. In fact, we were allowed to disembark earlier than was assigned. For such a big ship we felt that this was one of the better disembarkations, even compared to some smaller ships we had been on. All in all, though, we had a terrific time. You will, too, if you understand the pros and cons of this ship and have a bit of patience.

Great cabin, disappointing spa, delicious buffet, good service, goofy elevators

Royal Princess Cruise Review by Ontheveranda

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
This was our second Princess cruise (both on this ship) and there were many terrific aspects and some frustrating ones, too. The bottom line is that we had a wonderful time and would recommend this ship/trip if you are good with a mid-priced large ship, like buffets, and have some patience for some glitches, not to mention the goofy elevator set-up.

We spent a few days in London on our own ahead of the cruise. We were surprised to get an email from Princess while we were in London informing us that they had an outbreak of the norovirus and therefore would be delaying boarding times for the ship while they sanitized and cleaned the ship. (Tip: make sure you have given Princess a valid email address and check it often before your embarkation date.) It was a bit disconcerting but Princess also sent a fact sheet putting the risk for getting sick into perspective (basically it said you have a much greater risk off a cruise ship than on) and we were glad that the cruiseline was being transparent and taking extra steps to protect us. During the cruise itself there were extra sanitizing procedures and a more assertive effort to make sure passengers followed preventative measures. You should know that we ate at the buffets more than any other food venue and neither of us got sick at all.

So we took a private car to the Southampton port for embarkation and were a bit surprised to see a long line assembled outside of the terminal, which we assume had to do with the delayed embarkation times. Once the line got going things were very organized and civilized -- we could actually wait in seating areas for our turn to get in line for check-in. Tip: There are restrooms way at the other end of the embarkation hall, so look for them and use them right away if you can to make your wait more comfortable.

Since we had just been on this very ship about 10 months earlier, we already pretty much knew the ship so we didn't need to orient ourselves. Our mini suite was basically clean and in good shape, with just a few minor spots here and there, which I addressed with notes to our cabin steward. We didn't see a lot of our steward throughout the cruise, but a nice touch was that he actually thanked me for leaving him notes to help him take care of any issues. The small issues were things like a sticky spot on the coffee table, a couple of residual stains on the laundered bed linens, the tub drain piece sitting on the edge of the tub (that issue apparently was because the drain is slow when the tub drain is assembled properly). The mini suite has a ton of storage with a large open closet and floor-to-ceiling closed closet of shelves. The bed and pillows were comfy. There are two flat screen TV's -- one opposite the bed and the other in the living room area, which you can "close" with a curtain. The living room area has a full-sized sofa, coffee table, desk with storage, and end table with storage. The bathroom has a nice tub and shower with a large counter and mounted shelves for storage. The balcony is on the smaller side and had a small table, two chairs and two little ottomans -- if you want to actually sit with the ottomans out it is a bit tight, but we did sit out there when weather permitted and it was nice.

As for dining, this has been the only cruise ship in our experience where the buffet was the best place to eat on the ship (except for the wonderful pizza at Alfredo's and cafe items at the 24 hour International Cafe). My husband actually missed being able to just pop over to the fresh, varied, well-prepared offerings at the buffets after we returned home! Of course what this means is that most of the other sit-down restaurants on the ship were just OK. So my tip to you is to save the money that you might spend on specialty restaurants and save the time you might spend on the included traditional dining rooms. Having said that I must admit that the special British pub food they did in the bar area of the steakhouse a day or two was quite good.

A lot of people talk about the elevator situation on this ship and for good reason. We knew about it before taking our first voyage on the Royal Princess so we were primed to put up with it. Here's the deal ... There is not always a staircase where there are elevator banks so if you are inclined to not wait for an elevator because you only want to go up or down one or two decks, you either have to walk to another part of the ship or just wait for an elevator because stairs are only available in some places. And then there is the goofy elevator system. When you walk up to the elevator banks and press up or down you have to run around and press the up or down buttons next to various elevators -- they don't all light up when you press one. Considering this is a large ship with so many people moving about you can expect to experience delays and crowded elevators at peak moving times. I'm hoping there was a reason it was all designed this way as it does not make obvious sense to me.

In general the service we experienced on this voyage was very good but not excellent. Staff were usually quite pleasant but we didn't feel like service was at a level it could be -- if everyone could pay a little more attention to detail this ship could be excellent. For example, one of the "signature" activities is Movies Under the Stars. We went out to watch a movie and they didn't come and bring blankets for quite a while (I had to go hunting for pool towels to use until they showed up) and there was no popcorn (cookies did come by at one point but this activity is billed with freshly popped popcorn and that's half the reason I see a movie) -- in fact I didn't see popcorn at any time they were doing Movies Under the Stars and sometimes I didn't see the chairs set up with the special seat covers for it either. While it was cooler outside so there were not a lot of people watching movies outside, in my opinion if you are going to offer this activity then really do it fully. Another time we went to see a movie at an indoor venue and nobody ever came to take a drink order! We saw staff cleaning up glasses from the previous entertainment but not once did anyone come to see if we or anyone else wanted to order something. This was not only disappointing but surprising as I thought cruise ships made money by selling beverages -- we would have bought some!

Excursions were well done and varied. We usually don't do a lot of onboard entertainment but this time we saw a moderately funny comedian and an illusionist that was a bit disappointing. We loved that in the on demand TV offerings were a number of episodes of Animal Planet's "Cats 101!!!!" We appreciated the televised port/destination guide talks which we made sure to watch before each stop.

The most frustrating part of this cruise (and the one we took before it) was the spa. We got the hard sell when booking massages the first night and discovered after we were already in the midst of our appointments that the person who gave us the info on the "first night deal" told us the wrong information -- in sum we got shorter massages for the money than was promised. I went back another day to get a pedicure and the pedicurist was upset because the front desk never told her about my appointment, so that kind of ruined the mood as she complained about being put in that position. Also, you cannot book use of the facility (there are all kinds of nice spa environments) by the day -- you have to book a pass for the whole cruise, which is expensive for what it is. My hubby and I love spas and we would have used this one more if it weren't for the management problems and no opportunity to book day passes.

Disembarkation was really organized and civilized. We got our gathering place and time assignments ahead of time, of course, and had breakfast and then strolled to our meeting place. At no time did it feel like a "cattle call" -- we were in small groups and there was enough seating in the lounge area we were assigned. In fact, we were allowed to disembark earlier than was assigned. For such a big ship we felt that this was one of the better disembarkations, even compared to some smaller ships we had been on.

All in all, though, we had a terrific time. You will, too, if you understand the pros and cons of this ship and have a bit of patience.
Ontheveranda’s Full Rating Summary
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin MB
As we often do, we booked a "guarantee" cabin in the mini-suite category so we did not choose our particular cabin, taking our chances with what Princess would assign. And, as before, we got a great cabin!

I mentioned a lot of this in my general review, but the mini-suite we had featured quite a bit of storage including an open closet, a floor-to-ceiling closed closet with shelving, an end table with drawers, two nightstands with drawers, a desk with drawers and a bit of shelving, and a handy little shelf with a mirror above it in the front hallway which was great for keeping my clutch or anything you'd want to grab on your way out the door.

The bathroom had a full tub and shower. The storage in the bathroom was also good, with a number of open shelves and a fairly large countertop. The only issue in the bathroom was that the tub drained slowly. We noticed when we arrived that the tub drain apparatus was off and on the edge of the tub. I think my husband put it back on. After we told the cabin steward that the tub drained slowly they had maintenance check it out and apparently the "fix" is to keep the drain fixture off, which was a bit disappointing since the tub should be able to drain with all of the hardware correctly in place.

The bedroom was separated from the living room by a curtain, which we never closed. But, if you are traveling with someone and you think you'd want some sound privacy, know that the curtain won't do it. There was a large flat screen TV in both the bedroom and living room and occasionally we had both TV's on at once, but since there is no real division between the areas, that wasn't something we wanted to do a lot. The bed was comfy and so were the pillows. We had a bit of an issue once in a while with the white bed linens having small stains on them (clearly the linens had been laundered but the stains were still there) and I wrote notes to our steward any time I discovered these and he replaced the linens.

The living room had a full sofa, coffee table, end table and desk. I really liked propping myself up on the sofa when it was chilly outside and watching the sea go by through the veranda sliding glass door (I asked our steward for an extra blanket to use as a sofa throw -- a move I highly recommend).

The veranda, as many have noted, is on the small side but it was sufficient to sit out there with two chairs, a table and two ottomans. It did take a bit of maneuvering to use the ottomans but it could be done. Even when it was a bit colder than some might like, I put on my rain jacket and took my blanket out there ... I just love having that private space to enjoy being on the water.

On the whole our cabin was clean, with a few glitches. There was some sticky stuff on the coffee table when we arrived (a note to our steward took care of that) and then there were a few stains on the linens, plus a little yellowing of the floor tile near the tub. Our steward later told me he actually appreciated me writing the notes for stuff for him to take care of!

We really enjoyed the in-cabin TV selections, particularly the Animal Planet episodes of "Cats 101" and the cruise port destination expert's recorded talks.

This mini-suite was literally larger than the hotel room we had in London prior to our cruise!
Marina Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Mighty Carrickfergus Castle
    Our all-day excursion included several stops. We had a photo stop at Glen Antrim, which looks like all of the photos you see of sheep grazing on bright green hills -- lovely. Next we went to the small town of Cushendall for scones and tea, an Irish soda bread lesson (hands-on), and a hearty lunch. Cushendall is a very small town with not a lot going on, but we had a great time at the restaurant and enjoyed strolling the town to the beach. After that it was off to Carrickfergus Castle where we got a tour from one of the castle guides. It's worth seeing at least one castle to get an idea of what life was like in those days (castle stories are brutal, fyi). We stopped in another cute town for a photo op, but I forget the name. Then it was off to return to the ship. I can tell you pretty much every passenger on the bus took a nap along the ride back as it was a really full day!
    View All 1 Mighty Carrickfergus Castle Reviews
  • Cobh (Cork)
    We did not take an excursion here but did take the train (right at the dock) to Cork. My advice is to just stick around Cobh, which is a cute little harbor town that you can walk through from the ship.
    View All 353 Cobh (Cork) Cruise Port Reviews
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  • City Tour
    The ship docked in (South) Queensferry, which is less than an hour's drive from Edinburgh, so we took a half day Edinburgh city tour and then spent a few hours back in Queensferry. The Edinburgh city tour was a fantastic way to get an overview of a city we'd actually like to return to. The tour took us past quite a number of important sites with great little stories and history for perspective while giving us a good look at the city as it is now. We had a stop in front of the National Museum of Scotland for several hours so we took that opportunity to go and have brunch at the museum's restaurant at the top of the building. This gave us a nice food stop plus wonderful city views. The museum itself had kind of a natural history bent to it -- we enjoyed it but went through it quickly. Edinburgh seems to be quite an artsy city (their theater "Fringe Festival" was going on while we were there) with lots of old, elegant architecture -- the Edinburgh Castle looms above it.

    With half of the day left we walked through South Queensferry and had lunch at the Inchcolm Inn (at the end of town) which was both charming and delicious. Even though it was raining we stopped for ice cream on the way back to the ship (good idea).

    You need to tender into South Queensferry and where our ship anchored provided stunning views from shore of the ship underneath one of the bridges.
    View All 37 City Tour Reviews
  • Greenock (Glasgow)
    Since the ship docks quite a distance from the city of Glasgow, we took the ship's excursion which basically involved a narrated drive to the city center and then time on our own exploring Glasgow, meeting the bus in the city later in the afternoon. We were happy we took the excursion transportation as we learned some things along the way. Glasgow was an OK city for us -- we walked around the shopping district, visited an unimpressive Gallery of Modern Art (although the iconic statue of the Duke of Wellington on a horse with a traffic cone on his head was a great sight), had a so-so lunch at the old restaurant The Rogano, and stopped at a cool paper store to buy some neat greeting cards.
    View All 230 Greenock (Glasgow) Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Highland Day Tour
    This excursion included a lovely narrated drive through the Highlands with stops at the Falls of Shin and the cute little town of Dornoch. Not only are the Highlands beautiful, but it was interesting to see how different the landscape was from other parts of Scotland and certainly from other countries in the area. In fact, there is a particular cow that you see in the area that I don't think you'll see anywhere else -- it's even on some of the local art!
    View All 57 Highland Day Tour Reviews
  • D-Day Beaches
    This was a packed day, but worth it. The drive from LeHavre to the Normandy beaches is over two hours each way, and we had a great tour guide who provided all kinds of historical context to what we were about to see.

    We visited two of the D-Day beaches, the American Cemetary at Colleville, and Arromanches. Even if you have seen movies, photos, etc. the perspective you get from actually being there is meaningful. If you aren't aware of the importance of Arromanches, it is a beach town where the unimaginable engineering and logistical feat of the Allies literally building an artificial harbor in 10 days happened. The successful design and construction of this harbor allowed for Allied supplies, trucks, tanks, etc. to reach land and actually make the invasion successful. Lunch was at a so-so restaurant in Arromanches, but we didn't care. Another feature of this excursion was in driving between locations we got to see some picturesque Normandy villages as well.

    It was worth arriving at the ship completely exhausted and a bit sunburned -- our only complaint was we wish this stop had not been at the end of our cruise since it was a really big day and hard to get into packing up for the end of the cruise that night!
    View All 65 D-Day Beaches Reviews
  • Liverpool
    When we first looked at our itinerary, this was the stop I was least interested in, and then our stop in Dublin got canceled due to weather and we ended up spending an overnight stop in Liverpool. The bottom line is that this turned out to be a wonderful cruise port -- one of my favorites!

    Fantastic museums and cafes were a nice stroll from the ship. We really liked the Tate Museum there as well as the Museum of Liverpool. The Museum of Liverpool, of course, has a number of Beatles artifacts but the most surprising one was the actual stage from the St. Peter's Church Hall where John Lennonn and Paul McCartney met for the very first time. The Albert's Dock area has a number of shops and restaurants and we ended up at Vinea, which was a terrific stop for a cheese plate and some beer (they also of course feature wine). The second day we walked a bit further to a huge shopping center and visited the Cavern area where the Beatles played before they became internationally famous.

    The people of Liverpool were welcoming and friendly and we were sad to leave. In fact, we made sure to buy a Superlambanana kitchen magnet (the Superlambanana is a symbol for Liverpool and statues of it are around the museum area) -- it is currently on our fridge as I write this!
    View All 112 Liverpool Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Liverpool Cruise Port Review
  • St. Peter Port (Guernsey)
    This port requires a tender and on our day the water was REALLY rough. This is a cute town on an island which didn't require much time to walk around. As this was our first stop we took this opportunity to buy some sparkling water for our cabin.
    View All 271 St. Peter Port (Guernsey) Cruise Port Reviews
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