Royal Princess Cruise Review by SuzanT
- Sail Date: May 2018
- Destination: British Isles & Western Europe
- Cabin Type: Balcony
I get seasick, so made sure I had patches, but I never opened the box. That ship was steady. On the first day, the captain skipped St. Peter Port due to inclement weather; there was no indication on board that we were facing high winds and waves which would make tendering there a problem, but I appreciated the captain's decision to err on the side of caution.
Only once did we have a problem finding a table in the Horizon Buffet; usually there was plenty of seating. There was a wide variety of food available. I like vegetarian fare and my husband is a carnivore. We were both happy. I appreciated all the fresh fruit options, although the cantaloupe was consistently either underripe or overripe. They try to make the buffet lines easy to navigate by creating niches for different fare, but that didn't work well for a person with no internal mapping ability: it took me days to figure out the system. I was always turning the wrong way. They are cooking for thousands of people, so the food can be slightly industrial; the scrambled eggs were always the consistency of pudding, looked inedible, and according to a family member who tried them once, were. The oatmeal contained no evidence of oats. One day we chose quiche for breakfast which was so rubbery that my sister entertained herself for five minutes by bouncing a spoon off it. Otherwise, the Horizon Buffet was acceptable. The hot dogs at the grill by the pool were fabulous. The soft-serve ice cream at the ice cream bar near the pool was not great. My husband tried the gelato on Deck 5 once and didn't buy it again.
Carlos, Victor, and Paskulis in the Allegro Dining Room did a great job for our table of ten every night. I know we were the last seating and they were tired, but it never showed. The food was good, well-prepared and attractively presented. It was never anything to rave about, about the same as a good-quality restaurant at home, but again, they are cooking for thousands. The only glitch was that the last night of the cruise, we all arrived for dinner to find our regular table already occupied and no other table for ten available. Nobody had mentioned that the stop at LeHavre changed the system from Traditional Dining to Anytime Dining. Several nearby tables were also complaining about this. Carlos apologized, but said there was nothing he could do to find a table which would accommodate all of us. As each of our tablemates arrived, the complaints increased, and I think poor Carlos realized he had a mutiny brewing. I know it upset the whole system, but he found us a table and we were able to have a final dinner together. Apparently not all strangers seated at the same table get on as well as the five couples at our table did, but we really enjoyed every person who was assigned to our table on the first night and valued the chance to have a final meal with them, so thank you, Carlos, for your help. We know it disrupted your whole system.
Port times were long enough. Generally the shuttle system worked well, although we were all pretty disappointed in the shuttle system at Le Havre, where we had to pay $32 roundtrip per couple to get from the ship to the center of town. That didn't happen any place else. The shuttles were always provided in ports where the walking distance was either too far or too dangerous due to port activity. We stood in the rain for thirty minutes waiting for a shuttle back. There was no bus shelter, and the crowd consisted of passengers from two different ships, so there were quite a number of people there. It wasn't possible to dash across the street and find shelter to wait, because there was no way to tell when the shuttle was coming back and the streets were busy. Two ladies in front of us said they'd been there over an hour, waiting. We were all soaked. It would have been equally miserable on a hot day, possibly even dangerous for someone sensitive to heat stroke. When the shuttle finally came, everyone swarmed for both the front and rear doors. The poor young woman at the front, who apparently was supposed to be collecting tickets, shouted that everyone needed to get off again and come through the front doors. Not a single wet and irritated person complied. I felt bad for her, the system wasn't her fault. When we got back to the ship there was an empty shuttle sitting there with the driver reading a book. I will not repeat here what the two ladies who had waited over an hour in a driving rain had to say about that.
We bought into the offer for The Enclave, which was a big disappointment to me. I should have known better. They closed without warning for a day and a half, which was surprising, but they said they needed to deep-clean and that had been factored into the reduced price. The Enclave is basically a giant hot tub with a couple of bubblers, a couple of water features, and some sort of contraption evidently designed to massage. It consisted of long steel pipes one could hoist oneself onto, lie back, and feel some water pressure. It was the most uncomfortable thing ever. Those racks actually hurt. I hated having to strip down in the locker room in front of strangers. The alternative is to change in a toilet cubicle, which is not fun. The sandals provided were two sizes too small. I wear a ten US, and that's not unheard of, but the standard sandal fits about a seven or eight. The hot stone benches were likewise extremely uncomfortable. There was never a problem finding one open, which told me I wasn't the only one who thought that. The hot tub wasn't particularly warm, and was full of big hairy men. One fellow was the most hirsute individual I have ever seen outside the zoological gardens. I suspect everyone left with a little bit of that guy on them. It was basically a big tub of warm skin soup and after the second time, I abandoned the whole idea. My husband liked the bubblers when he could get to one, but I loathed the entire thing. Not the fault of Princess, really, just a personal preference.
The pool on Deck 16, on the other hand, was very nice, exactly warm enough, and never crowded. The servers assigned to asking sunbathers if they wanted drinks were just attentive enough, and never pushy.
Speaking of which, I was prepared for over-the-top sales pressure, and that really didn't happen. Many of the daily activities were designed to sell you something: mini-facials, "natural" eye lifts, back help, foot help, etc., but those were easy to skip. There seemed to be lots on offer during at-sea days, but we are readers, jigsaw puzzler
workers, and card players, so we did our own thing and were perfectly happy. The library is small, but has enough reading material so that everyone can find something, and it was fun sometimes to work on puzzles people had started and abandoned.
Our cabin, D321, was large enough, contained plenty of storage, quiet, had a balcony the right size for two of us, and was cared for by TingTing, who was efficient, clean, pleasant, and always willing to answer any questions we had. Those room stewards work their fannies off for not much money, and we made sure to tip her the day we embarked and the day we left.
We chose the eight pm dining, which kept us from seeing most of the shows, except the the one show on Scotland on an at-sea day. It was very good, which a nice mixture of Scots and Celtic songs, a congenial host, three sweet and talented young Celtic dancers, and a fabulous fiddle player. Not sure I'd pick the later dining time again, though, because we think we missed some good experiences. We were thinking it would give us time to relax a little after our port time, but it turned out to be really too late. Dinner took a minimum of two hours, so that kept us from seeing shows. One night we got out a little early and caught most of a show called Encore in the Princess Theater. All I can say is, if that's the normal quality, Princess is really on to something. It was amazing. Their guest soprano was fabulous as were all their singers and dancers. Sets and lighting were amazing. I wish we'd been able to take advantage of their offerings at other times.
We took only two Princess excursions, preferring to explore the ports mostly on our own: one Princess tour as we disembarked to Windsor and then to Heathrow, and the one in Kirkwall, in the Orkneys, to the neolithic site at Skarra Brae. It was absolutely worth the money. Do it. The site was fascinating, as was the manor house nearby, and the guide was interesting.
My husband took a fly-fishing trip, booked independently before we left, when we were in Inverness/Invergordon. He booked with You Fish Scotland Dot Com and he had a great experience. The guide picked him up at the ship, fished with him (at my husband's invitation) gave him a good lunch and a "wee dram" and brought him back in plenty of time before the ship left. They caught only one fish, but the water was warmer than usual after days of no rain, and the guide said that can make the fish sluggish. Regardless, he was informative and professional, and that experience was a highlight of the trip for my hubby.
At the same port, my sister and brother-in-law and I took a tour booked independently before the trip to Brodie Castle, Culloden, Loch Ness, and Inverness, with a company called WOW Scotland. Do that, too. HIGHLY recommended. They communicated well before the trip, as did the You Fish Scotland folks. The coach was comfortable, Bill the guide was excellent, and we all agreed it was well worth the cost, which was very reasonable. Skip their lunch offering, though, and bring your own lunch from the ship. Those were the driest sandwiches on the European continent. We saw a bunch of them rewrapped and disposed of. We stopped briefly outside the cathedral in Inverness and got to see the end of a wedding. The piper piped out the newly-married couple, who stood on the steps while we all snapped their photos. The bride looked somewhat surprised to see a bus load of tourists clapping and cheering for her and her new husband, but took it all in stride. The cathedral is beautiful. Every cathedral we saw on the trip was beautiful.
The Windsor tour was great, although the time was too short to see Queen Mary's Dollhouse and to explore the charming town of Windsor, as the lines to get into the castle were long. We waited 45 minutes, which was actually not bad, according to the guide. She said that the lines had been as long as two and a half hours, probably due to the extra people wanting to see St. George's Chapel after the recent royal wedding. Windsor Castle is designed to impress, and that has been the theme for centuries: "We are a wealthy and powerful nation; take heed." I liked it.
The only port we didn't much appreciate was Le Havre, and not just because of the shuttle debacle. It wasn't very clean, with cigarette butts and dog feces everywhere, and it looks like it's struggling. 86% of Le Havre was destroyed during World War II, bombed into rubble by Germany to eliminate its function as a port city. The cathedral took a direct hit, but has been restored. We were really happy to find the cathedral so close to the center of town, as it is the place where my grandfather sold melons as a fourteen year old boy fresh off another boat from Greece, as he tried to earn enough money to get passage to America. It took him two years to earn the money. How many fourteen year old boys now would be able or willing to do that? We were touched, thinking that as he stood there in all weathers peddling fruit, he likely never thought that one day his granddaughters would stand where he stood, thinking of him and admiring his strength and spirit. That was the highlight of Le Havre for us.
So, there you go. This was long, but I appreciated reading long reviews while we were planning this trip, so I knew what to expect. Take from it what you will. We are glad we went.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
BelfastBelfast is still a very sad city. The Troubles have left their taint, which is to be expected in a city where civil war reigned for so long. The architecture was gorgeous, and we enjoyed the bus tour we took; we always like to see how other people live. Belfast is an interesting historical stop.View All 181 Belfast Cruise Port Reviews
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Cobh (Cork)Loved it. Cute city. A little bit of a walk from the ship to the center of town, but we enjoyed seeing the architecture and businesses, and seeing how people live there. We stopped at a pub for a beer and a cider, enjoyed it, stopped at a little flea market place on a side road and spent some money, and just generally had a relaxing day.View All 343 Cobh (Cork) Cruise Port Reviews
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DublinVery much enjoyed dublin. Again, we explored on our own. Figured out real quick that the "hop on hop off" buses should be called the "hop on if there's space, and if there isn't, heaven knows how long you will have to wait for the next one, which might also be full" bus. I guess that's too long to paint on the side of the bus, though.View All 283 Dublin Cruise Port Reviews
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Edinburgh (South Queensferry)It was crowded, but we loved Edinburgh. Really, really charming. We love old buildings and architecture, and the UK and Ireland are full of those. People were friendly at every stop, and we always felt safe. One word of advice: if you decide to take the train into Edinburgh from the ship, be prepared to walk up a long flight of steep steps, walk along a semi-steep trail, cross a small bridge with steps, and collapse on a bench at the train station. For the same money you can take the shuttle. We didn't want to wait. My advice, and I can't repeat it enough: wait for the shuttle.View All 178 Edinburgh (South Queensferry) Cruise Port Reviews
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Greenock (Glasgow)Giving this wonderful little town a four, even though parts of the business section were shuttered and empty. They are clearly struggling economically. We stopped at a pub and got involved in a wake. The mourners were very welcoming to us, shared their sausage rolls, and didn't mind when we joined in with them singing old Beatles songs at the top of our lungs. We helped say goodbye in fine Scots fashion to someone we never knew. It was touching.View All 222 Greenock (Glasgow) Cruise Port Reviews
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Highland Day TourWe really enjoyed this beautiful city, and especially enjoyed the tour we booked independently prior to the cruise with a company called WOW Scotland. Excellently done. We saw Brodie Castle, the battlefield at Culloden, Loch Ness, and Inverness. Worth every penny, and the cost was reasonable. Beautiful cities, Invergorden and Inverness.View All 57 Highland Day Tour Reviews
KirkwallVery charming town, fabulous Princess tour of Skarra Brae and Skaile House. Well worth the time to stop here.View All 179 Kirkwall Cruise Port Reviews
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Le HavreNot the cleanest town in France, I'm guessing, although not having been in any other French cities, I really don't know. Lots of places were closed. Had a long, uncomfortable wait in a driving rain with no shelter for a Princess shuttle. Many passenger complaints about that, especially as Princess charged us $16 each round-trip for the experience. At no other port was that the case. Nobody was happy.View All 319 Le Havre Cruise Port Reviews
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