This trip was one of those last-minute things, booking our cruise on November 1 for the December 18 sailing. Big props for our Princess agent who we have worked with for three of our five Princess/Cunard cruises.
Travel to Port of Embarkation
Our sailing was on Sunday, December 18, our original plan was to depart BWI to FLL on Saturday morning on Southwest, but a snow/ice storm was forecast for Saturday so we moved our departure from BWI to Friday night, now giving us a full day in the Ft. Lauderdale area. As it turned out weather was a major issue for travel throughout the country, we learned that many flights were cancelled, delayed and a few diverted, including the 30 plus passengers from Canada missing the sailing and were flown to meet the ship in Nassau. I still don’t understand why people fly to the embarkation port the day of the sailing instead the day before.
We stayed at the Renaissance Cruise Port, just across the street from Pier 2 which is the prime docking space for Princess Cruises. Princess also uses other Piers in the back end of the port when sister ships are docked. Our boarding time was 12:30 and we walked from the Renaissance to the pier which was a 5 – 10-minute walk, no taxi, no shuttle.
Now Platinum, we were able to enjoy the Priority Line for Check In, huge difference. We breezed in 5 – 10 minutes. Much of these Princess Pier employees are retirees and all in great spirits, easy to work with and very patient. Once on board we were met by several Regal staff and directed us to our cabin quickly which was ready and our bags were waiting for us. The big problem on embarkation is the back up on the elevators. Not sure what the solution is but you have 3500 boarding the ship trying to get to their cabin and take a tour at the same time gets to be cumbersome.
The Regal Princess was put in service in 2014 and the newest ship in the fleet, decorated for the holidays and it was beautiful. There are some weird things how the ship is designed. In the front of the ship stair case, you can walk up to the 7th deck but it seems to have a dead end, if you are dining in the Allegro Dining room, in the aft on the Deck 6, you can’t reach there by walking through the deck. It seems you need to make a “connection” to get there. Deck 17 Sun Deck Retreat, is in the front of Mid ship. Limited to adults only it is a great way to escape the loud music, loud big screen
We opted for the anytime sitting, this way we are not on a set time or table, and can meet and talk with a variety of different people from different locations. We dined in either Symphony Dining Room (Deck 5) or Concerto Dining Room (Deck 6) The menus are the same in the three dining rooms. They did have issues with long lines at both dining rooms. You can make a reservation for these “anytime” dining rooms, but they only accept 30% of the occupancy. Best time to go is before 6:00, like an early bird thing, or after 7:30, these times are a lot less crazy in fact sometimes not even a line. Breakfast and lunch was served in the Concerto and that dining room was available on Embarkation day as well.
Allegro Dining Room (Deck 6): Allegro is typically the ship's only option for traditional set dining at dinner. We had breakfast there on Disembarkation day but not the other meals. More civilized then the Buffet on that last morning.
International Cafe (Deck 5): Free and a quick option. Salads, sandwiches, very nice deserts and cookies displayed on the counter. Small offerings available, and they did not change the choices often, we noticed they changed it just twice for the whole cruise then serving the same available on the first day. Special coffees, lattes, available for a fee.
Alfredo's Pizzeria (Deck 6): Found this late in our cruise, wish we tried this earlier. Great authentic, thin crust Neapolitan pizzas. Not a place to just grab a slice, but the pizzas are made from scratch individual pizzas, there are seven different pizzas listed on the menu as well as offers two types of antipasto, minestrone soup, and several other main dishes.
There is no charge.
Crown Grill (Deck 7); $25 per person
There are few restaurants you can dine with a cover charge. We had dinner at the Crown Grill. Great choices of beef and seafood entrees, side dishes were served “family style” ike Ruth’s Chris’ or Mortons. Try the Bone in Rib eye, the steak was amazing, quite possibly one of the top 10 steaks I have ever has.
Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro (Deck 16): We are not big fans of the buffets because it is always nuts, but we did eat there three times. We had breakfast twice because we had early excursion meeting times and the dining rooms were not open yet, and we happened to walk through and it was seafood day. (Bonus). The bistro is very ice, has less of a selection, but still many to choose from. This was quieter then the Court. The Court has the same choices but many more options. The Horizon Court and Bistro was clean and the staff was great and quick. But the buffet is always nuts and people wandering around, sometimes rudeness and elbows get in the way.
Swirls Ice Cream Bar (Deck 16): What is wrong with a cone or cup of vanilla or chocolate soft serve ice cream with choices of different toppings. Nice treat
Prego Pizzeria (Deck 16): The pizza on Deck 16 was just ok. Surprised that it was not consistent as it was on the Emerald or Caribbean Princess. This was just mediocre, but convenient.
Trident Grill (Deck 16): Burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, grilled chicken and French fries. Quick, tasty, but they precook the burgers and then put them on the grill to heat them. You did not have an option to ask for the burger to be rare or medium rare, they all were medium or beyond.
We played bingo twice, mainly for the end of cruise jackpot. But was quite boring. And we visited the Casino a few times. The casino has several table games, Black Jack (6 decks!), 3 Card Poker, roulette, and craps. They had two or three sea days that was no-smoking in the casino I really do wish they make this all the time. I know people still smoke on board, although less and less, but wish it was not inside. Pretty annoying.
Service on board was great throughout the ship. Did not have a bad issue or situation.
At the start of the cruise we were very disappointed with the entertainment. The house dancers and singers were great and the band on stage and throughout the ship amazing. The did have an 18 piece orchestra in the Piazza one night and it was a great show. The “Guest” singers were not very good, in fact consistently inconsistent. We thought of skipping the last shows toward the end of the cruise but did see “Bravo” which saved the week. There was a comedian, I cannot recall his name. He was ok on the first night but was told not very good on the second show. The Cruise Director was ok. We really did not see much of her or the staff. She emceed the shows but she was not very exciting. Not a dig on her but it seems the Cruise Directors have become more and more of social traffic cops pointing people where to go.
Port & Shore Excursions
Nassau- Five ships in port makes it very crowded, We did not book any excursion so we just walked through the port area, visited the straw market.
St. Thomas- Four ships in port, but that did not seem too crowded. Took up the tram above the port and then took a boat to St. John to snorkel at Trunk Bay.
Antigua- Four ships in port including a ship from Germany. We took a boat to snorkel and went though a huge rain storm with big winds and 20 feet swells. Made it more exciting.
Dominica- One ship in port. Our excursion was a full day going up in the mountains of the rain forest. Trafalgar Falls, Emerald Pool and Champagne reef. Great day.
Grenada- Two ships in town The different German ship was in port with us. Snorkeled in two locations. When you go to two locations the time in the water is very limited. .
Aruba- Five ships in port. More snorkeling. Aruba was beautiful but with the all the made the three different locations were very crowded and very rushed.
Negatives, if any. Princess, owned by Carnival, tries to suck every penny out of you. Drink cards, wine packages, soft drink plans, coffee and even Gelato packages. Constant hard sell of EFFY, Jewelry, Spa treatments, Art Auction etc. We did try to do a couple of treatments at the Spa but i cancelled them when the prices were much higher then expected and their constant hard sell of their product has become annoying.
Three days after we confirmed our cruise we received an email with an "Upsale" Offer. Moving from Balcony to Mini Suite for additional $367 each. Bigger cabin, and additional 90 sq ft, bathtub instead shower stall and free gratuities. Huge difference. We moved to front of Mid ship. Great location, very convenient Room was clean and very comfortable. plenty of space to store luggage. Balconies were small but still big enough to sit and read or just sit and watch the sea. ,
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