Couple in mid 50’s on their 9th cruise – 6 with RCI (Platinum) and 3 with Princess (now Ruby). This cruise sailed out of Southampton, UK visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern France. We spent two days in London prior to the cruise and 3 days in Paris after the cruise. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the fact that our family was also on this cruise. We have sailed the Regal Princess (sister ship) so we knew what the ship would be like and what to expect. Stayed at the London Marriott Kensington in London and the Hotel Cambon in Paris – both hotels were excellent and in great locations.
We arrived early afternoon to the terminal after a stop at Stonehenge on the way from London. Stonehenge is a bit overrated and is more impressive viewed from the highway than from close up. We suggest that folks skip this stop and visit Salisbury instead. From the time we arrived at the port to the time we got on the ship was about 45 minutes – this was reasonable given the volume of people in the terminal.
The Royal Princess is in great shape and was as nice as expected. We really don’t have any complaints or concerns about the ship other than our dining room was on deck 6 (Allegro) and there was no way to go directly to it from one side of the ship to the other while on deck 6. You have to go up or down a deck to make it to the back of the ship and then take the stairs or elevator to get to the dining room itself. Otherwise, the ship is gorgeous, the facilities excellent, and there is always something to do. For those that like to stay in their room and watch TV, the selection of free movies was exceptional and of course there are episodes of the Love Boat as well.
We had an interior state room for 3 people (our adult son came with us). While the room was quite small, storage space was great, and our son's bed came from the ceiling. Our cabin steward was exceptional and made our room up at least twice per day. We knew we were cutting corners on the room to save money and the room was better than expected. The shower had a curtain (vs a door) but was big enough that you didn’t need to be a Cirque De Soleil performer to move around in it. Water pressure was also very good.
The MDR food was fine (not spectacular) and the portions on the small side (which is good for those of us trying to avoid gaining weight). The lobster night was a disappointment in that the lobster was overcooked and dry. The desserts were often a highlight and the wait staff (James and Arun) were superb! The buffet was extremely repetitive day-to-day for breakfast and lunch and nothing to write home about in terms of quality or selection. This was the first cruise we have ever been on where we never had to search for an open table. This may be due to a packed itinerary or the fact that we ate at different times from the masses – not sure. Also, the International Cafe on deck 5 often had better food options.
This is where the Royal Princess needs to up their game. The entertainment we did see was generally subpar compared to other ships (both RCI and other Princess ships). The comedian was horrible, and the production vocalists were weak. The band and dancers were good but of the four primary vocalists, only one sounded professional. A Beatles cover band was on board and they were excellent playing concerts in the theater one night and then one night in the Piazza. They literally had standing room only both in the Theater (2 shows) and in the Piazza. As a special guest one night, Pete Best (original Beatles drummer before Ringo) was interviewed live by the Cruise Director. It was very interesting and a really nice surprise (no he did not perform with the Beatles cover band!) There was one performer who is worth mentioning individually – Cory the piano player. He performed both a theater stage show as well as nightly in the lounge. He is by far the worst entertainer we have seen on a cruise ship in 9 trips. His show is basically him talking about himself, occasionally playing a song but interrupting every song to attempt to make a joke (he made the Foundation’s Build Me Up Buttercup into a song about passing gas). It appeared to us that perhaps this was Cory’s shtick because he had a weak singing voice and this was one way to cover it up.
Finally, we cannot say enough good things about the Cruise Director Matt O’Brien. This was Matt’s first cruise this year on the Royal and he was spectacular! He brought high energy and humor we have not seen on a Princess ship to date. Hopefully we see him again on a future cruise!
Unfortunately, Princess lost one of our bags between our room and the retrieval area. Other folks were missing bags from the same group as well. Other than the lost bag, getting off the ship was easy and we were whisked back to London on a Princess transport. As of this writing (a week later), the bag has not been returned.
This was a port-heavy trip (9 ports in 11 days) with stops in Guernsey, Belfast, Dublin, Cork/Cobb, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Invergordon, Glasgow, and Le Havre. Some of these cities are quite far from the port the ship docks in so some drive time is required. For example, Le Havre is about 3 hours outside Paris so if you choose a Paris excursion, you spend 6 hours on a bus for 4 hours in the city. In a couple sentences, here is our opinion of the stops:
Guernsey – Princess excursion to the Little Chapel – very nice and the countryside is beautiful.
Dublin – we needed to buy shuttle tickets into the city and saw Trinity College and the Book of Kells via a Viator independent tour. Also drank a pint in an Old Town Pub. Dublin was somewhat dirty.
Belfast --- HoHo bus tour – nothing special about Belfast other than the HoHo narrator made it sound like the revolution was still going on there.
Cork/Cobb – visited Blarney Castle on a very nice day through Princess tours – we enjoyed the visit. The time at the castle was too limited though for those wanting to kiss the Blarney Stone and those folks were late getting back to the bus having spent their entire visit in line. Time on station was often limited and in this particular port it was an issue.
Liverpool – took the Fab4 Taxi Tour (3 hour version) and it was outstanding! Steve our guide was very knowledgeable and took us to many places including childhood homes and key locations within the city. He dropped us off at the end where we asked (the Beatles Story Museum) and the museum tour was also excellent. If you are a Beatles fan, you do not want to miss either of these.
Edinburgh – took a train and bus to St. Andrews for a walking tour of the Old Course. Highly recommended and we had a great time for only 10 pounds per person which includes a “free” logo ball and scorecard. Warning though – that stairway from the port to the Dalmeny train station is about 200 steps going up at a very steep angle – you need to be in good shape!
Glasgow – this stop was really Greenock and Glasgow is an hour away by shuttle – we simply stayed on the boat here.
Invergordon – we took the Princess tour to Loch Ness and the Ulquart Castle and it was great. No, we did not see Nessie.
Le Havre (northern France) – we took the Princess full day tour to the Normandy landing beaches and the tour was outstanding. A lot of driving (2 hours each way) but worth every moment. Our tour guide was excellent! Also, the lunch provided turned out to be very nice -- others have written on this forum about the lunch being an issue, but we enjoyed it.
All in all, this was a typical port-heavy cruise with mostly good and some bad, The ship was nice, the food OK and basically what we expected. We will continue to consider Princess as an option in future vacations. Also worth mentioning we purchased a number of Viator-managed excursions and they performed flawlessly.
We had an interior state room for 3 people (our son went with us). While the room was quite small, storage space was great, and the extra bed came from the ceiling. Our cabin steward was exceptional and made our room up at least twice per day. We knew we were cutting corners on the room to save money and the room was better than expected. The shower had a curtain (vs a door) but was big enough that you didn’t need to be a Cirque De Soleil performer to move around in it. Water pressure was also very good.