Regal Princess Cruise Review by AWHW
- Sail Date: April 2017
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Balcony
The weather was still chilly and windy, yet the ride was smooth all the way to Oslo. We arrived on May Day and everything was closed but we benefitted actually from witnessing a large demonstration which looks more like a carnival, with music bands joining the parade.
Next port was Warnemunde, for Rostock and Berlin. A frequent commuter train brings you to Rostock costing 2.10 Euro one way, while joining the ships transfer with a guided walk is something like USD99. It was stupid to go to Berlin which is too far, and the ship charges far too much. The port of Warnemunde is interesting, with a good riverside stroll, as if it was German Riviera.
The ship’s food was adequate, I had no illusion about Princess food. Service attitude of staff generally improved much from my past experiences with Princess and dinner is served in the traditional manner though in an ‘express way’ (reheated food anyway and service flow was hurried and really fast). I can often finish a 4-course meal with tea in 35 minutes, certainly no fine dining and no ‘slow food’, rather it is eat and run. Horizon Court buffet was adequate but Princess retains its undesirable practice of not providing a tray so that one struggles with a plate and a soup bowl in both hands, and has to return for bread and salad. The good thing is that the dinner buffet lasts till 11pm so that you can return for something if you are not well-fed at the proper restaurant, and this is often the case as restaurant portions are sometimes small.
The only alternative 24-hr eatery is the International Café, which serves desserts and snacks but you have to pay for tea and coffee. The tea is however all funny fusion sort, which to me is no tea. I would much prefer that they change to Horizon Bistro for 24 hours.
Regal Princess is the new generation flag ship of the cruise line and it is well furnished. It is just like another Princess ship, with an older generation passenger mix. The main theatre has good sightline but the production shows are among the worst of the trade. It was like old fashioned 1960s MGM musical without the stars. Little light effects and no acrobatic stuns like on other cruise lines. After one viewing I decided that the shows would be totally forgettable. If you do only with singing and dancing, you have got to have at least good singers and dancers. Show production cost was obviously low compared with that of competitors.
Tallinn is an ideal port for cruise ships because you can cover most of it in 3 hours and the town is walk-able from the cruise terminal. For St Petersburg, if you have a visa or hold a visa-waver passport, you can be on your own ashore. Bus 158 departs half-hourly from the terminal building to a metro station, where Nevsky Prospekt is two stops away. The bus fare is 40 ruple or roughly US$0.70 and I saw people simply pay the conductor $1. Otherwise there is no taxi or other transportation. If you have no visa, you have to join an excursion which is always over-charging. Here you have to go through formal immigration clearance even on an excursion.
We have less time for Helsinki but it was sufficient, as sights are concentrated. A shuttle bus runs to town at EUR10 return but actually there is a city tram stop near the pier. The ship does not give public transportation details, except those related to them.
Now with some 60-days to my Princess experience, I do see improvement in service. Restaurant staffers are polite and efficient, and my room steward has always been able to turn down during my dinner. Once on Costa Diadema I never had one turndown for the whole 7 nights as the steward’s preferred schedule for my room did not match mine. One observation is that there are still not enough small tables for Anytime Dining, but they do try to accommodate you in another restaurant if full. I always arrive early, and thus I enjoy a same table throughout the trip. Restaurant and room staff complement is mainly male. The food is adequate and restaurant service is in the traditional ‘correct manner’, food well presented if not always well-cooked. But overall dining service is, or has to be, quick, thus losing in any sense of fine dining, and in this Holland America is much better. Also Princess used to serve lobster in one formal dinner but now it is lobster and prawn: not adding prawn but serves less lobster, an example of cost cutting in food. A good point is that the buffet dinner opens till 11pm, so if you are still hungry you can return for a snack. Food choice is not bad in the buffet. But old timer of Princess will recall that the buffet used to be almost 24 hours. The only 24 hour eatery now is the International Café at lobby piazza and it serves good snacks free but charges for any drink. Overall on F&B, HAL offers better slow service and NCL better choices (though food is cooked less well). Princess does have member benefit for some free internet, and it offers recognition to members only in embarkation priority but no more.
As I cruise practically once every month I always paid onboard deposits for future cruises, as I did on my recent cruises with HAL and NCL. I pondered upon whether to do the same with Princess, here the deposit is only USD100 and is fully refundable within 2 years. I did it finally but less readily than with HAL and NCL (theirs are non-refundable). Princess is not bad but in this highly competitive trade several cruise lines suit me better.
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