Embarkation – When our taxi arrived at the road that leads to the terminal in Red Hook, the line of personal vehicles and taxis was incredibly long, so we got out and walked most of the way. No biggie. Once we handed off our luggage to a porter, in took about twenty-five minutes from the time we entered the terminal until we boarded. Although we would have been able to use the check-in line for Elite passengers, the regular line was shorter and was moving faster, so we went that route. Interestingly, they don’t take your photo to embed on your cruise card until you’ve enter the ship’s Piazza. This caused a bit of a backup in the gangway, but, again, no biggie. Overall, it was a pretty easy embarkation.
Cabin – Originally, I had booked an inside room, but, as an anniversary surprise for my wife, I upgraded to a balcony…category BE, cabin C136 to be exact. She didn’t find out until after we boarded, when she tried to open the door of an inside room, which was directly across from the balcony room that was actually ours. When the key card didn’t work on the inside room, I turned around and said, “Let’s try this one”, and opened the balcony room. She was happy. The room itself was fairly spacious, with plenty of storage space, a big open closet, and a flat screen television. I’ve read some negative comments about the size of the REGAL’s balconies, but, to be honest, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. We could both sit out on the balcony, or stand and look out…that means it pretty much did what it was supposed to do. On the other hand, the size of the bathroom was a bit shocking. It was probably the smallest bathroom on a ship we’ve ever had. Still, it served its purpose, so the size was no big deal. However, I imagine someone with substantial girth might have a problem. One thing my wife loved was the small step molded into the shower stall; it made shaving her legs a lot easier than normal.
The Ship – Without a doubt, REGAL PRINCESS is one of the most beautiful ships in which we've ever sailed. The attention to detail, aesthetically that is, is remarkable. The passenger flow is very good; we never waited in a long line for anything; and there are so many places for people to spread out that it never felt crowded. That is, except for the Princess Theater. For some reason, most people seemed to gravitate to the 10:15pm show, so it was always packed. One night we went to an earlier show and it was much better.
And now for the same old complaints that people talk about over and over again: the lack of a wraparound promenade, a forward-facing view, and a central staircase. As far as the lack of a wraparound promenade, it wasn’t really an issue for us. We have no problem walking front to back and back to front on the same side of the ship. In fact, we avoided the aft area of the starboard side of the promenade as it’s a designated smoking area. However, the fact that they closed off a forward third of what little promenade the ship does have was rather annoying. The wide, open deck in front of the first set of lifeboats was never open; it would have certainly taken some of the sting out of not having a wraparound promenade if people would have been able to walk the entire length of what is there. Having no forward-facing view (or at least not without having to pay for The Sanctuary to get it) is also a little annoying. But I knew about these going in, so I have no one to blame but myself if they were a bone of contention. The lack of a central staircase was never a problem for us…our cabin was just off the forward staircase, so we always just walked to the forward elevator bank and staircase and used them. I can see how some folks would find it inconvenient.
The Piazza: in a word, wonderful. So many choices for dining, drinking, shopping, entertainment, etc. There was almost always something going on….Zumba, live music, dancing, games, acrobatics, demonstrations and the like. Rarely did it feel crowded. One thing we really liked was the fact that the guest services desk is located out of the way, off the Piazza. Same for the shore excursions desk.
Dining – Well, let’s just say we didn’t go hungry. We had Anytime Dining and, out of ten nights, we went to the Concerto Dining Room five nights, the Symphony Dining Room one night, and then one night each at Sabatini’s, the Crown Grill, and the Horizon Court. We also had one night doing the Ultimate Balcony Dining. During the day, we ate at the Horizon Court and Bistro, Alfredo’s, Prego Pizza, Trident Grill, and the International Café.
Concerto and Symphony Dining Rooms – The Concerto Dining Room opens for ATD at 7:45 p.m. to 10 p.m., while the Symphony Dining Room is open for ADT between 5:00 p.m. and 9 p.m. For the most part, the food and service was very, very good. Food that was supposed to be hot, was always hot, and there was a fairly good selection. A few dishes that stand out are the Beef Stroganoff, all the soups, and the Fettuccini Alfredo. My wife enjoyed the fish dishes very much. Out of all of our meals in the ATD rooms, only one meal was a clunker. The last night, American night, I had to send my turkey back because the middle was raw. No problem, it happens. And I made no spectacle of myself when I discovered it. I simply said, to our waiter’s assistant, in a low voice, “I’m going to need a different plate because my turkey isn’t cooked through.” He took it away, brought me another, it was fine, and that was that.
Sabatini’s – I was a little skeptical about going. We went to Sabatini’s on SAPPHIRE PRINCESS a few years ago, and were less than impressed. This time, however, everything was wonderful. For appetizers, my wife had the Sformato di Carciofi Gratinati al Castelrosso (artichoke soufflé), and I had the Burrata alla Panna con Carpaccio di Pomodori (cow’s milk cheese with creamy lava center on tomato carpaccio). Both were excellent. We each had the salad, and then she had the Tris d’Aragosta (lobster three ways) and me the Lombata di Vitello al Forno (roasted veal rack). I also had an appetizer portion of the manicotti. For dessert, it was the Crema al Caffe (espresso crème brulee) and the Torta Profumata ai Limoni di Sorrento (citrus tart). Everything was perfect; an excellent meal.
Crown Grill – Here’s where things went a bit astray. Although we've been on many Princess cruises, we had not yet been to the steakhouse. I guess we expected something a little more intimate, quiet, and elegant. This was a chaotic mess. Two large groups of loud, obnoxious people (including one guy at the head of one of the tables, who let everyone know how much he knows about cruising); staff practically running throughout the place; people walking past our window outside looking in at us…it was just ridiculous. Perhaps it was our fault for having an incorrect perception of what it was supposed to be like. On top of that, the food, while good, wasn’t really anything to write home about. I guess the final straw was when it took nearly an hour for us to get our dessert. When the waiter finally brought it out, he said, “Sorry, I forgot to tell you that it takes a while.” In other words, he forgot to put the order in. I’m sure some will find this hard to believe, but, we've had a much better experience at the steakhouse on Carnival’s ships.
Horizon Court/Horizon Bistro – Wow, what a huge array of food; and, for the most part, everything we had was pretty darn good. At breakfast, I really liked how they had the same staples every day, but they would also change up several items daily. Lunch was different every day, and it was good. The one dinner we had at the Horizon Court was good, but we decided we’d rather be waited on in one of the main dining rooms. One cool thing is the pastry shop, located in the middle of the Horizon Bistro. Such a huge selection of cookies, jellos, pies, cakes, etc.; they also offered several sugar-free desserts. There’s also a coffee bar in the pastry shop where folks can get the same foo-foo coffees that are available at the International Café in the Piazza on Deck Five. For the first few days we didn’t know about it, and would go down to the International Café before heading up to the Horizon Court for breakfast. I think a lot of people didn’t know about it.
Ultimate Balcony Dining – Fantastic. Here’s how it works: once you receive the card in your room confirming you have the UBD, you call ROOM SERVICE to set everything up, NOT DINING. During the call, they will set up the day, time, and menu. You have a choice of a few entrees, and whatever cocktails you’d like (one each is included). You also get a half bottle of champagne, flowers, and a photographer comes to your room and takes a few pics (which are also included). My wife had the Surf and Turf, and I had the Steak Diane. We set everything up for 7 p.m. on 10/30.
At 7 p.m., there was a knock on the door and it was our waiter, his assistant, and two other men who were wheeling carts around in the hallway. Our waiter introduced everyone, brought in a folding table and set it up on the balcony. Everything was very professional, not at all intrusive, and they really made us feel special. Once the table was set up, we sat down and the photographer took the photos. From that point on, the waiter and his assistant were in and out (he had set our cabin door so it would not lock behind them)…it was just like we were in the dining room. They kept filling our water and champagne glasses, all the while bringing course after course. We had a plate of canapés, an appetizer of blue crab quiche, a huge salad, and our entrees. Not being a seafood lover, I only picked at the quiche. Everything else was very good. My steak was ten times better than the one I had at the Crown Grill. Then came the dessert. I can’t tell you what it was (some sort of chocolate mousse thing) but it was wonderful, and the presentation looked amazing. Altogether, the entire meal took about two hours, and was worth every penny of the $100 price tag. The waiter and his assistant did such a good job, I gave them each an extra $20…..well worth it.
Alfredo’s – A great alternative to the Horizon Court/Bistro or even the main dining rooms, Alfredo’s offers more than just gourmet pizza. They also have calzones, salads, Italian meat pies, and a few desserts. During peak times, there was a little bit of a wait (maybe five minutes), but no big deal, and certainly worth the wait. While I do like the pizza by the pool at Prego Pizza, the pizza at Alfredo’s is a step above. Super fresh, hot, and tasty. The calzone I had one day was very good.
Prego Pizza and Trident Grill – As mentioned above, the pizza is pretty good…but it is a little inconsistent. At times the crust was perfect, other times it was flimsy and not very good. Still, the flavor was there, and it was leaps and bounds better than some of the pizza I’ve had on other ships (including QUEEN MARY 2…think tasteless cardboard). We went to the Trident Grill twice and weren’t really blown away. The giant hot dogs were good, but the burgers were just okay. They also offer grilled chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, brats and knockwurst. The fries were good.
The International Café – What a cool place. Depending on the time of day, they would offer pastries, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. It’s also where you can get foo-foo coffees and teas. Service was spot on. Unlike Starbucks – which can take days for someone to make a latte – these folks were slamming out orders at lightning speed. The place is extremely popular, and it gets quite busy….but we never had to wait more than just a few minutes. It was pretty amazing. And now a few words about the Coffee Card. Basically, you pay $29 for a punch card that entitles you to 15 specialty foo-foo coffees, unlimited premium regular coffee, tea, etc. However, you can also use it to get ice cream at Gelato’s, which is located just on the other side of the Piazza. One punch gets you three scoops of ice cream or a sundae or whatever. If you have Elite status, and don’t want the complimentary bar set up in your cabin, you can trade in the bar set up for two coffee cards. All you have to do is call room service and they will come to your cabin, take away the booze, and bring you the coffee cards. Painless. This is what we did, and it was well worth it.
Entertainment – A mixed bag. The production shows were okay…Bravo and Fiera being the best. I really liked the creepy sets, costumes and lighting of Fiera, but the tune selection was whacked-out. The selection in Bravo was better, but they need to get rid of a few of the performers; especially this one guy who sang Queen’s, “Somebody to Love”…absolutely no soul or mojo whatsoever. In contrast, Colin, the piano player/singer in Crooners, was outstanding. A killer player and vocalist, he had Crooners packed nearly every night. Great song selection, too. Being a musician myself, I will say that I was thrilled to see so many live bands all over the ship. In the Piazza, Crooners, the Wheelhouse Bar, the Princess Theater, out on deck, etc., and they rotated around the ship.
Princess Live! Yeah, I’ve read all the complaints about how they've eliminated the Explorers Lounge, and that they should get rid of PL and replace it with one, but, to be honest, the only difference is the décor. IMO, PL is simply too sterile and cold, décor-wise, when compared to the rest of the ship. And the seats are the most uncomfortable things I think I’ve ever sat in. I think that, had they softened up the room with the décor of the EL, people would like it a lot better. Some of the activities (trivia games, the marriage game, etc.) were all well-attended, but, for things like the morning show, the audience was sparse. We went to a trivia game about flags of the world – which interested my wife since she’s VP of production for the National Flag Company – and one of the marriage games. Both were fun.
The Water Fantasy shows, between the two pools on Deck 16 (Lido Deck), were pretty cool. They only last for about ten minutes, and they don’t do a show every night. When they do, the music is themed to a particular movie or artist. One night it was James Bond, another night it was Michael Jackson. They were all well-attended.
Movies Under the Stars – It is what it is. Either you like the thing going nearly twenty-four hours a day, or you don’t. I personally would have liked a lull here and there, but that’s just me. I will say that I was a bit taken aback by some of what they showed. The Devil Wears Prada…really? The Princess Bride….really? And as much as I love Rob Thomas, and The Killers, I’m not sure full concerts of each were the way to go for the average Princess passenger. People seemed to be just tolerating them. They did show Phil Collins and Paul McCartney concerts, and it was pretty obvious by people’s singing that those were smart choices. And they did show some fairly current movies, too…Ant Man, Tomorrowland, Lady in Gold, and the new Terminator flick.
In-Room Television – I guess this can be classified as entertainment. Lots of free movies, TV shows, Princess related videos, etc. As geeky as it sounds, one of the highlights for us was being able to watch nearly endless episodes of, “The Love Boat”. What terrific fun. I do think it’s odd that you can’t order room service, check your on board account, order shore excursions, etc. from your television.
Princess@sea app – I loved it. Basically, it’s an app you download to your mobile device or Ipad. It gives you the ability to message other passengers, check the daily program, tag events you’d like to attend, check your on board account, and connect to the ship’s internet. I used it on my Ipad to get on-line (didn’t go to the internet café), and it worked flawlessly.
Service – Other than the aforementioned issue in the Crown Grill, which wasn’t a deal-breaker, service throughout the ship was exceptional. Nearly everyone had a smile on their face. From dining staff to the guys painting around the ship, we were ALWAYS greeted in a friendly manner, and whenever we were leaving dinner, a show, or whatever, they thanked us for coming. I know it’s part of their job, but, after listening to some people whine and moan about the dumbest things, I don’t know how they do it. For us, the best part about the service was how they treated us like human beings…they joked, poked fun (at us and themselves), and they didn’t treat us like they had to tip-toe around us.
Fellow Passengers – Pretty much normal, everyday people. For the most part, the crowd was a little older than us (we’re both 51); probably averaging 60s and 70’s. Understandably, there wasn’t many children, and the children who were there were all well-behaved. Not once did I see or hear kids running around without an adult, or being obnoxious. That was reserved for some of the grownups.
St. Thomas, Antigua & Aruba – Although we had been to St Thomas 14 times, we had never taken the skyride to the top to see the remarkable view of Charlotte Amalie and the surrounding islands. While it’s only about a five minute walk from the dock at Havensight, REGAL PRINCESS docked at Crown Bay, on the other side of downtown, so we had to take a taxi. The process of getting a taxi was pretty flawless; very organized. You simply walk to the curb, there is one person asking where you want to go, and then they tell you which taxi to get it. Done. The Skyride is $21 per person, roundtrip. You can walk back down if you want, but, why would you want to do that? The views are amazing.
This was our first time in Antigua, and, to be honest, we couldn’t care less if we never go back. We were off the ship, maybe, 20 minutes before we had had enough of people (namely taxi cab drivers) tugging on us, following us around, getting in our face, etc. I’m not exaggerating when I say we had to shrug off at least 25 cab drivers, all asking the same thing. And when we told them no thank you, three of them actually followed us around, and just kept harassing us. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is how they make their living. But, after such an organized and hassle-free experience in St. Thomas, it just hit us the wrong way. I finally looked at my wife and said, “Well, I’ve had enough.” She agreed, and we went right back on board. It’s really a shame; I’m sure it’s a beautiful island, but it was just too much of a hassle to find out.
This was our second time in Aruba. This time, we bought a Princess excursion to snorkel on the wreck of the German cargo ship Antilla, which was scuttled by her crew in 1940. Absolutely fantastic. The wreck sits on her side in 55 ft. of water, and you can see everything crystal clear. Folks can find out about the ship at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Antilla_(1939). For $49 per person, it’s a bargain.
Overall Impression – REGAL PRINCESS is a fantastic ship, but not perfect. However, whatever shortcomings she has, the positives certainly makes up for them. She delivers a solid cruising experience, and offers an almost endless array of dining and entertainment options. She’s big…I mean REALLY big. So big that her size just might turn some people off. But, for us, we enjoyed all she had to offer…or at least all we wanted to enjoy. Read Less