Summary: This was the first cruise on a Royal-class ship for my wife and myself. It was our 9th Princess cruise overall and a bit of a disappointment following the spectacular Panama Canal cruse we had on the Coral Princess last November.
Positives: For the most part, service from the crew was excellent. Waiters in the dining room, restaurants and bars/lounges were very pleasant and attentive. Robert and Franco at Sabatini's were outstanding. Attendants at the Buffet could not do enough to assist. Our cabin steward, Donna, was excellent. Kory Minor, the piano player and entertainer at Crooner's, was tremendous. We had one run-in with a chauvinistic cook at the Trident Grill who was insulting to my wife. I reported this to the Front Desk, but heard nothing in reply. Otherwise, the crew was outstanding.
The Ultimate Balcony Dinner is an incredible experience. This was the second time we have done it and it will now be a staple of our Princess cruises. We did it on Monday night while we were anchored off Cabo. Not sure how well this would work if the ship were underway, might be too windy. (Our first Balcony Dinner was done the night we were anchored in the Panama Canal last November.) Our waiters were attentive and timely without being intrusive. The food was all excellent (menu attached). The setting is so romantic! By all means, try this activity. It is easily worth the $100 price.
We also loved the Super Tuscon Lunch at Sabatini's. Multiple courses all served with wonderful (and high-end) Italian Super Tuscon wines (menu attached)
Our Mini-suite was smaller than mini-suites on other Princess ships, but that did not bother us at all. The new design is better than the old one, with the removal of the large desk and TV counter between the bed and sitting areas.
Negatives: Although advertised as a “non-smoking” environment, there are many locations on the ship where the smell of smoke was irritating at best and unbearable at worst. Biggest problem area was the Casino on Deck Six, with its open ceiling to the shops on Deck Seven. Clothing and other items in the shops reeked of smoke. Also, poorly designed ventilation in the Allegro Dining Room on Deck six Aft drew in smoke from an outside smoking area. By the end of the seven night cruise, my wife's eyes were bloodshot and her throat sore and raspy. Due to this condition, we canceled a reservation to sail the Royal Princess to Alaska later this year and re-booked to the Golden Princess in 2020.
The passenger population would overwhelm ship's resources on occasions. For example, the ship has 12 main passenger elevators, the same number as on much smaller ships. In comparison, the much smaller Coral Princess (2,000 passengers vs. 3,500-plus on the Royal) has the same 12 main elevators. This led to congestion and excessive waits during peak periods, such as show times and start of dinner hours. Also, crowds would build up outside of venues before the start of activities since there was insufficient room to handle the volume of people.
Ocean Medallion has tremendous potential to be a great tool for future passengers. The functions which currently work are wonderful. But they do not work often enough. OceanCompass repeatedly crashed while trying to find my wife. I found it very frustrating to be wasting my precious vacation time attempting to debug this system. It could not even correctly locate me at times! OceanNow had limited menus. And it surprised me by charging for cocktails even though we had full beverage packages (Sip & Sail). I brought this to the attention of the Front Desk and they said I would find it in my Cruise Passage contract that drinks ordered through OceanNow would be charged. That is not acceptable. This system reminded me (a retired IT manager) of systems rushed into production before they were ready or properly tested in order to meet a management-directed schedule deadline. System quality should be the only criteria for determining system implementation.