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Royal Princess Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,684 Reviews

Lovely Time on a Lovely Ship

Royal Princess Cruise Review by Togaflex

59 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Jul 2016
  • Destination: the Western Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Balcony

This is my first review. I am a first time British cruiser, 36 years old professional chap, who was, as I suspect many are, a little bemused by the number of alarmingly poor reviews on this site. It does make me wonder why some people go cruising in the first place if they hate everything. I have just come off Royal Princess for a seven night itinerary in the eastern Med and was not sure what to expect given the poor reviews this ship has had. Nonetheless I went with an open mind and wanted to make my own judgements.

The consensus is/was, according to the poorer reviews on here, that the food on Royal Princess is average to middling and not as good as other Princess vessels, the cabins are minute and the balconies so tiny as to not be worth bothering with. The lifts are so poorly placed as to make moving deck to deck a real traumatic nightmare and overall the ship is a huge seventeen deck disappointment.

I must say I think all of those things are inaccurate.

The food I found to be good throughout and occasionally very, very good indeed depending on what you order. I’ve not been on any other Princess vessels so cannot compare, mind you. The cabins are smaller when you walk in but are absolutely fine size wise and extremely comfortable and well-appointed. Everything is well-designed and I had no issue at all. The balcony was also fine and I do wonder what people are doing on their balconies if not sitting and chilling with a book and some drinks/breakfast to state so categorically that they are unacceptably small. Granted, a game of touch rugby or perhaps a spot of rounders might be a bit difficult I accept but there is most definitely room to swing even a moderately large cat to your heart’s content. The lifts are busy but never over-crowded even on this fully booked 100% occupied sailing and waiting times never exceeded a couple of minutes, even with one of the lifts out of service for maintenance. Respectfully to all concerned, if you cannot handle a couple of minutes wait for a lift at busy times pre or post dinner/tender then perhaps cruising with 4000 other people on a giant cruise ship isn’t for you.

Let me first go through the things I found very good or especially impressive by bullet points for clarity.

• Royal Princess is a magnificent ship. As mentioned above she was fully booked and 100% occupied for the seven days I was aboard and at no time ever felt busy or crowded. She is a fabulously well-designed vessel, complaints over lifts/stairs notwithstanding. I was hugely impressed the moment I boarded and this only increased as I took the week to explore her.

• We encountered some long 5-6m swells on the last sea day inbound to Barcelona and the vessel handled them superbly. There was astonishingly little movement. It was very comfortable and there was no sickness from my fellow passengers that I saw. I’ve worked on ships when I was younger, and 6m metre swells are very much in the “sit down, hold onto something” territory in my past experience even on some big ships, so to feel so little pitching and rolling (even on a beam sea at one point off Corsica) was very impressive.

• The food in the Allegro/Concerto was uniformly good – the bread was fresh, the pasta was nicely done, the steak/meats were cooked well and to order, and the sauces seasoned very well. The menu was imaginative and held enough to keep my family and I interested. There were a few dishes that were just good, but a few that were very good indeed and a real highlight. The veal ravioli with cep mushroom sauce and truffle was a delight, for example. I recall also very much enjoying a fresh gnocchi and a hulking great bit of aged New York skirt steak that melted in the mouth. The wines were decent and service save for one night was good and unproblematic.

• The Retreat adults-only area was lovely and a real tonic to the occasionally frenetic deck 16 outdoor area.

• The cabin and balcony was a lovely and restful place to have a GnT. Probably my favourite aspect of cruising and the reason I cannot wait to cruise again.

• The staff were a generally good mixed bunch. When they were bad they were still ok (the Russian/Ukrainian waiters and bar staff could do with cracking a smile and saying please or thank you now and again and some of the junior waiting staff in the upscale restaurants might find knowing the food and drinks menu better might be helpful), but when they were good they were absolutely terrific. Ariel and the rest of the guys on the Vines bar on Deck 5 were fabulous. The two charming Mexican ladies who looked after us in the Allegro were also top professionals and nice to deal with. Doooouglas my cabin steward was extremely efficient and personable as well. The cruise director and his very beautiful Australian second-in-command were charming throughout. Everyone was smart, well-turned out, very professional and approachable.

• The Horizon buffet was well done generally and had a great choice of food with plenty going on to keep you interested. I had a braised/slow cooked beef in a dark peanut curry sauce with sticky rice one night after a few drinks that will linger long in the memory. Also the beef hash and potatoes for breakfast – really delicious.

• The unlimited drinks package was excellent value and a lot of fun to explore. Recommended. The frozen margaritas are worth it on their own.

• The TV on demand thing in the cabins is very good when you want an early night or some downtime before dinner.

• Movies Under The Stars is a great idea but Watching Andy Murray Win Wimbledon Again Under The Sun With A Glass Of Wine is an even better one. A great way to watch sport, loved it.

• One thing I was worried about was that I’d heard of cruising’s reputation for the constant upselling and hassling you to buy stuff or pose for photos or souvenirs etc or hard-selling trips/excursions etc. Whilst there was a little bit of the photo thing on Royal Princess it never felt intrusive and overall I was pleasantly surprised.

• The excursions were fine – there was loads to choose from and I didn’t hear any complaints.

• All the ports of call were fabulous. Kotor and Santorini especially were just stunning.

The things I wasn’t that impressed with and thought could do with sharpening up.

• The wifi is incredibly expensive. I want to access my emails not buy a townhouse in Marbella.

• We had poor service one of the nights in the Allegro where everything that could go wrong did so in epic, rather Fawlty Towers style. To use the parlance of my home city – “They had a ‘mare”. We complained and after that the restaurant manager came over to apologise and then the head Maitre’D for the ship (charming and hugely impressive Italian chap called Genneroso, a real top pro) came over and couldn’t do enough for us after that. We were incredibly well-looked after, but the first formal night was pretty much a washout sadly.

• Whilst the food in the Horizon is decent and very good in parts, why on earth do they insist on serving cheap (not Heinz! Sacrilege!) baked beans almost raw? Who does that?

• The entertainment was a massive let-down. The Jersey Boys tribute act was marred by the fact that the singers couldn’t actually sing which is a drawback for someone making their living as a singer. The comedian chap does do a very impressive Tom Jones and Elvis impression. My advice would be to stick to that. The rest of it wasn’t funny and the Freddie Mercury and David Bowie impressions just downright karaoke. He absolutely died on stage the night we went to see him – I was cringing for the bloke, it was toe-curling to watch. Absolute rubbish. What is the point of having such a huge and well equipped theatre if you don’t put acts on that are worth watching? The string quartet in the Piazza was nice in an inoffensive way, the young lady with a guitar who popped up at times on the ship was also good, and the scatty house cover band that played in the Piazza was the decent side of average but beyond that it was poor. I’d heard glowing reports of the glittering entertainment on cruise ships and was shocked and a bit embarrassed at how bad it was in the main theatre on Royal Princess. I can only assume we had a dodgy sailing where (probably) the usual theatre entertainment were all struck down with botulism before sailing and we got unlucky with the stand-ins. A comfort for anyone reading this – I very much doubt the comedian chap or the Jersey Boys act will be invited back so you’re safe there!

• The shops are nice but not selling i-Phone lightning / android phone charge wires or plug adapters was a real miss for me. I am an idiot who leaves these things in hotel rooms with boring and expensive monotony and the shop missed out on a lot of captive dollars from me by not selling them.

• I only found out Alfredo’s is a zero surcharge restaurant after the cruise had finished. I’d certainly have visited otherwise. Need to make that clearer.

• Formal nights. We got dressed up in full dinner jacket etc and felt a bit daft, especially on the second formal night. So many people wandering round in shorts and vest tops or polo shirts and jeans trying to get into the restaurants. What’s the point? Felt like half the ship couldn’t be bothered and weren’t pushed by the crew. Either do it or don’t do it.

• Singles at 8 in the Wheelhouse Bar. I went and was the only one there. Either advertise it or drop it.

Some suggestions for the company which other cruisers of this vessel may or may not agree with:

• It would be great if there were screens in the lifts and in some of the public areas showing a moving map display like we get on the IFE on aircraft. Perhaps even an interactive one? That would be great to have.

• A better selection of draft beers would be great. The US is at the vanguard of the world now (controversial!) in craft IPAs and small(er) batch lagers and ales that make my US business trips a real joy, in stark contrast to years gone by. With that in mind and the fact that Princess are an American cruise brand, I’d love to see them make more of their burgeoning craft beer culture. It’s something worth celebrating.

• The drinks outlets are a bit samey. Crooners, Vines, Wheelhouse and Bellini’s are all much of a muchness. Royal Princess could do with a sports bar, a glitzy cocktail bar effort (Club 6 doesn’t quite get there I’m afraid) and certainly the Salty Dog gastropub will be a welcome addition at the next refit. The margaritas are super – why not make more of that into something a little more speciality themed? I recognise sports or margarita bars are more Carnival than Princess brand wise but with 4000 people on board and so many F&B outlets I do think there is scope/interest.

• The Vista Lounge seems to be a massive space that never had anyone in it every time I stopped by. Could be half the size and be more intimate, and create the room for another bar/pub/sports lounge etc.

Overall:

Royal Princess is a fabulous ship to make my cruise debut on and on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was literally one meal service and some entertaining theatre entertainment away from perfection. I take the points of past reviewers but I think there is a tendency to over-criticise and slate for slating’s sake for some and I’m someone who prefers to focus on what I enjoyed instead of what wasn’t so great. Even the most ardent and committed of miseries would, I hope, concede that there is much more to enjoy and love about cruising on Royal Princess than there is that needs work. My whole family enjoyed the cruise very much as I did and it did exactly what we wanted it to – we had a stunning family holiday that we will all remember very fondly for the rest of our lives. They say great cruise ships age well and I suspect Royal Princess’ first big refit (coming soon and apparently to include Salty Dog gastropub and some other tweaks) will iron out some of the parts that need a little bit of work and thin out the complaint reviews for the terminally miserable. I’d happily pay the same again for the same cabin on her tomorrow, without blinking. I’d recommend Princess and Royal Princess to anyone. Just go, enjoy yourself and don’t stress about a very occasional few minutes waiting for a lift.


Togaflex's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Balcony
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Very nice. Not huge but spacious enough and very comfortable. Great value for money I thought.


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