I am an energetic solo world traveler who has cruised since 1980. I’ve cruised 44 times on Princess, of a total of 55 cruises. Princess has changed drastically since my first cruise with them in 1980, but they offer a large number of ports for the money. The main reasons I cruise with Princess anymore are number and variety of ports and the actual ride on a ship. This cruise was a 25 night back-to-back combination of two cruises in the Mediterranean and Adriatic regions coupled with a westbound transatlantic crossing.
I flew to Rome to embark the cruise, arriving a day early to enjoy a full-day private VIP tour of all the “must see” sights of Rome. It was worth every dollar, and gave me many unforgettable memories. The airport and cruise port for Rome, as well as Rome itself, are hours apart, so plan extra time and get there a day early to avoid stress and rushing. You might as well see this legendary part of the world properly if you are cruising from Rome.
I stayed at Portrait Roma in Rome, a luxury boutique property of the family Ferragamo. Worth the cost, with flawless professional service, location, amenities, and a heavenly bed. I wish they had a cruise line! They could certainly teach Princess some valuable lessons in customer service and appreciation.
My Italian travel agent had arranged for a private limo to take me from the hotel to the ship, and it was a smooth, professional journey. The cruise line offers bus transfers from Rome and the airport to the ship.
The “Royal Princess” is a very large ship with the usual amenities on board. It is not a “glitz barge” like Carnival’s ships, nor a floating theme-park loaded with outdoor activities like RCI. The central atrium and piazza are very lovely and attractive. There are traditional dining rooms, small cafes, lots of bars, lounges, a large theater, a live TV studio, wedding chapel, boutiques, casino, open decks with pools and hot tubs, jogging track, fitness center, a very large spa, a large lido buffet restaurant, art gallery, passenger services center, a shop for gifts and flowers, specialty coffee, a delightful small international café for some of the best food on the ship, a medical center, small children’s play areas, a tiny library, photo gallery, and most anything else found on today’s large cruise ships. Most of the cabins have balconies, and there are no “ocean view with window” cabins on this ship. There is also no promenade deck, sorely missed by many. The ship is white, and used to look elegant until somebody at Princess added a jagged, weird blue paint job on the bow. It looks like a shark had bitten into the bow. Being fairly new still, the ship is holding up as well as can be expected with very heavy use, but some of the furniture looks very tired, as do the carpets, and there is a lot of dull brown color everywhere. Some of the décor is very dated. There are a few confusing regions of the ship as far as getting to the dining rooms. Ventilation was badly lacking on this long cruise – the corridors were always hot and stuffy and humid and sometimes smelled of stack exhaust and toilets. A strong tobacco odor from the smokers in the casino would filter throughout the ship at varying strengths, and the same from a cigar lounge room. Repeated pleas for years to Princess to put doors on the casino have fallen on deaf ears, obviously. Perhaps they are not aware of lung cancer from second-hand smoke. Most of the ship inside and out is nonsmoking, but the areas allowing smoking are polluting the rest of the ship.
There are elevators, but they are far too small and few for the demand, and run very slowly. A central staircase was added last year, which helps with the foot traffic. Laundromats are available on most decks, a bit pricey but convenient – tokens are charged to the room account and for sale in the laundry rooms, along with laundry products. Bring your own dryer sheets and detergent and save money. I brought magnetic hooks and plastic hangers with me for quick-dry garments, and hung clothes in my cabin , thus saving money by avoiding dryer use. You can hang things on a tiny clothesline in the shower, but it is moldy. Walls are metal in cabins, and those magnetic hooks are terrific. They are allowed in checked baggage. Demand exceeded supply for the Laundromats most of the trip. Traffic flow was congested everywhere on my cruise – steward service carts blocked the narrow corridors most of the day and into the evening, and there were a lot of mobility-challenged guests using scooters, walkers, and wheel chairs. Ongoing maintenance was very evident throughout the cruise, with a lot of sanding and painting and fixing all over the ship. The fumes from the strong marine-grade paint sometimes made use of the balcony impossible, and clouds of sanded varnish also caused problems. A lot of soot came out of the stack and was blown around on the open decks.
Activities on the cruise made me question what Princess considers an “activity”. The median age on this cruise was probably 70+, if not higher. Is a “Mr. Sexy Legs” contest appropriate or valued by this age group? Perhaps the very young cruise director and staff aren’t in tune with what mature adults enjoy doing. This sort of contest might be good on a party animal ship of Carnival, but hardly on the more sedate Princess line. Approximately 35% of the advertised “activities” each day in the “Princess Patter” bulletin involved “seminars”, sales and obvious infomercials for services and products for sale on the ship. I don’t consider these to be activities. Some activities, like making paper boats out of “scrap heaps” might entertain pre-teens at a day camp. There were various kinds of dance lessons, but the noise level of the constantly over-amplified music in the piazza drowned out the instructor and hurt everyone’s ears. Repeated requests by a lot of the guests to turn down the music all over the ship were ignored. It seemed impossible, unless paying for space in the adults-only Sanctuary, to find a quiet place on this noise-saturated ship. Even empty venues had music blasting, and that music sounded like it was selected by crazed teens. There were various get-togethers for special interest groups – I enjoyed one for “aviators”, as I’m a licensed pilot. Groups met for rosary, Bible study, bridge, board games, knitting. The fitness crowd enjoyed the fitness center, which was overcrowded most of the time and had some voyeuristic guys taking up space. Foodies were in heaven, despite the poor quality food, and they seemed to eat 24/7. Shoppers could shop, but the merchandise in the boutiques never seemed to change, with little variety, and some of the merchandise was very expensive. There was a handy tiny section of medical items and sundries everybody seems to forget when they leave home. “Junk food” was there, as well. Musical entertainment was heard throughout the ship night and day, but of amateur quality other than the fabulous Belarus classical female string quartet.
Service on this cruise was of mixed quality. My stateroom steward was the best I’ve ever had in 55 cruises. Very courteous, professional, caring, good sense of humor, spoke very good English (he was from Serbia), and always very glad to be of service. He never forgot anything and the cabin looked perfect with his twice a day attention. My dining room waiter from Thailand was also very good – a quiet gentleman with a heavy accent, but very kind and caring with professional quality service from long experience. The staff in the clothing boutique and perfume shop were also wonderful, and were friends from prior cruises – very welcoming and fun to visit with. I speak enough Spanish to order food, and most of the staff at the delightful International Café were Spanish-speakers. We had a great time with them helping me learn more words, and they were happy to speak their native language. My food was definitely served by them with love!
Another happy group were the room service stewards and stewardesses. They were always very polite and cheerful, even at dawn, and delivered what I asked for in an attractive way and right on time.
Unfortunately, the guest services agents do not get good reviews when it came to service. They did not speak enough English to properly understand guests’ problems and resolve them. They had sad, rather frozen expressions as they struggled to understand English. They were great, however, with Spanish, French, Portuguese, and the Balkan and Asian languages – this made the non-English speaking guests very happy. Perhaps it was the lack of good communication which made many of these young people seem defensive and even somewhat hostile at times. Nothing really got resolved without days, if not weeks, of repeated interactions, talking to supervisors with their empty platitudes, and a great deal of frustration and wasted time on my part. The spa staff were also very unenthusiastic and robotic, except for one mature lady I’d met on another cruise, and who was as lovely and cheerful as I remembered from a prior cruise.
I did not book any shore excursions through the cruise line and thus cannot comment on them. I heard complaints about bad guides, careless driving, and days far too long without food or comfort stops from some of the guests, however. I enjoyed all of the ports, with each having something unique and marvelous to enjoy. Some ports were repeats for me, which allowed a chance to see what I had missed the first time. If I had seen it all before, I stayed on the ship and enjoyed the sense of being on a private yacht. Great itinerary, but a lot of back to back port days and very few sea days until the much-anticipated transatlantic westbound crossing. I love ocean sailing and never have enough sea days.
My :"deluxe balcony" cabin was adequate as far as space for one person. The balcony was a bit smaller than usual, but still had room for two chairs and a small table. Divider walls gave complete privacy, and there was a roof (the deck above) over the entire balcony, very welcome for shade and rain protection. The furniture had not been cleaned when I boarded, however, and was sticky with salt residue. The balcony door could barely open when I got to the cabin, and it took a week to get somebody to fix it. A pile of metal shavings and other debris remained outside the door the entire cruise.
I had the two twin beds combined to make a king bed. Despite the advertising about some sleep doctor creating a fabulous sleep experience, the mattress was worn out, with hollows, and far too soft to offer adequate support. Two feather and two foam pillows were on the bed, but both were very tired and the feathers were noisy. The linens have improved since last year, but I saw holes, some darned and others not, and old stains on some of the bed linens. There is a nice duvet instead of a blanket, and a fabric runner at the end of the bed, and two small throw pillows against the sleeping pillows. These pillows were not very sanitary in my opinion, and I removed them. There is good storage space beneath the bed, but only if you have the right size suitcase – mine was far too big to slide under the bed, and I had to put my two huge cases in the closet space. There was a small love-seat size sleeper sofa in the cabin but it was greasy with body soil. The bottom cushions were so broken down that they hung over the edge of the seat, and when I tried to sit on the sofa, I slid off and fell to the floor. This piece of furniture looked like something a student would leave at the curb for the dumpster crews at the end of a college semester, and it was never properly repaired or replaced. Somebody stuffed mattress pad material under the cushions, but it did nothing for comfort or solidity or safety. Guest services seemed totally incapable of understanding why I was upset about paying for a deluxe cabin which included the use of a piece of furniture that was unsafe, dirty, and never fixed. Total waste of money on my part to have this piece of junk in the cabin. The furniture was OK – two small nightstands with two drawers each, adequate lighting, vanity/desk with a mirror, and a cabinet containing a useful small mini-fridge. Shelf space on top of the fridge cabinet. Large flat-screen TV opposite the bed, but very hard to see from elsewhere in the room. Tired, spotted, stained mixed-brown carpeting. Steward offered to shampoo it for me, but from past experience the carpet stays wet for a week and smells like wet dog, and caused an allergy reaction when I had it shampooed on another cruise, so I declined the extra cleaning. Not much color in the cabin, just neutral vanilla type colors with a lot of brown, and light colored furniture which looked like thrift shop items. Nail polish on desk, dents and chips in the wood, stains. The desk chair was plastic, and sticky to sit on. There were some modern-art pictures on the walls. Adequate open closet near the bathroom, shelf space taken by three life jackets. Plenty of good wood hangers, and the steward can get more hangers if you need them. There was a small shelved cabinet next to the closet, containing a safe, but very small shelves. There was one drawer in the fridge cabinet, above the fridge space, but it was taken up by a hair dryer, and also very warm from the heat venting from the fridge below. Room key card goes in a slot to activate the power for lights, TV, etc. The climate control system in the room worked well most of the time, except when it was very hot outside. It was hard to get really cold water in the sink, something to do with the water purification system being affected by the ocean water temperature, or so I was told. Bathroom was the small, typical plastic modular cube. Hand-held shower, fabric shower curtain with some mold at the bottom. Dispensers of shampoo/conditioner and shower gel in the shower. Typical (and for once well-behaved) vacuum toilet. Large square sink with good space around it and three small glass shelves above the sink area. Large mirror with good lighting. Fairly good ventilation in the bathroom. The shower handles were broken at embarkation, and remained so until the second to last day of the cruise. It took weeks to get a qualified plumber to fix them. The cabin was very quiet at night as far as sound coming through the walls, but the door let in corridor noise. Loud passengers returning in high spirits to their cabins late at night definitely woke me up a few times. Crew who were cheerful could be heard shouting to each other day and night, and the room service people were almost too cheerful, as you could hear them loudly greeting guests when they delivered orders to rooms early in the morning. “Good” noise, perhaps, but noise nevertheless. The balcony wall was all glass, with great views. Sheer curtains and drapes kept out the light when necessary. Unfortunately, upon entering the cabin, I noted the sheers curtains lacked hooks and were hanging off the track badly. I always wipe things down with sanitizer cleaning wipes when I cruise, and it was obvious that deep cleaning had not been done in the cabin for a long time – the wipes were brown with dirt and dust.
I opted for traditional dining on this cruise, the earliest possible time, and with a table for one. I need this for medical reasons, and enjoyed having a quiet corner table next to a huge window. There is traditional dining, anytime dining, specialty dining, lido buffet dining, room service dining, café dining of various types, bars, snack bars, gelato and ice cream bars, a seafood café. Nobody goes hungry on this ship. You can get food literally 24/7. The café food was very good most of the time for deserts and salads and quiche and sandwiches. They did have some very odd puddings and squishy type deserts, however. I did not experiment with the other dining venues, other than getting some hot protein food from the lido buffet in the morning. Unfortunately, the hot items were usually cool or cold, stale, and dry. Fruit flies infested the trays of pastries. It was hard to find a decent small spoon for cereal or deserts anywhere on the ship without a dedicated search – the spoons were all huge tablespoons or serving spoons. Silverware was often sticky or worn down to the base metal. Plates were often wet. I had lunch from room service or the International Café, and ate breakfast and lunch in my cabin.
The lido buffet area was very crowded and noisy. Food items were often either not labeled, or labeled improperly, with no nut warnings noted. The food in the Concerto dining room, where I had my seating, had a few decent appetizers and entrees, but the food was typical of a small-town diner or truck stop. Those who don’t like “exotic” or “fancy” cruise food were comforted by the likes of fried pork belly, spaghetti, fried chicken, ice cream and other home-cooking comfort-type foods. There were some extremely odd appetizers, soups, salads and entrees obviously crafted from leftovers. Lots of things with fruit and nuts. What meat I saw looked like burnt leather. The fish was undercooked and greasy. Items listed as “prawns” were instead small to medium regular shrimp. Everything from French toast to dinner items seemed to be soaked in grease. Pastries were reduced in size from last year, and dry and stale. The menu repeated about every 10 days in the dining room. I asked where the cooks were from, and was told India. Nothing wrong with that – and I love Indian food. However, Indian cooking technique doesn’t translate well with American or some international foods, and I remember having Greek spanikopita which were identical to Indian fried samosas. Everything was saturated with so much pepper and salt it burned my throat and tongue. Waiters offered even more pepper, and never remembered that I did not use it. Béarnaise sauce was served cold at one meal, and an unpleasant argumentative head waiter got right in my face and insisted it had to be cold “because of the butter”. I was forced to tell him to be quiet, go away and never talk to me again, which he ignored. This completely ruined several dinners. A chicken pot pie was served with the chicken half-raw and totally inedible, and there was no crust except on the top, which a waiter removed. What should have been a really good three-bean, cheese and polenta mini-casserole dish was ruined by partially cooked beans, which in turn partially ruined my GI tract for a day. I was made ill several times by the poor quality and bad preparation of the food. The lettuce on this trip was not edible, and covered with rust much of the time. Some of the soups were good, other than being full of too much seasoning. What was deemed almost sinful by many loyal Princess cruisers was the dreadfully prepared fettuccini Alfredo. The first time I had this “signature Princess dish”, the noodles were hard and there was no sauce. When the waiter brought the requested sauce, it was a small dish of lukewarm water with nonfat milk stirred in. A second dish was just as bad. The second time I ordered this dish the noodles were slightly softer, but only a teaspoon of sauce was beneath the noodles. It was the same watery, disgusting mess. The last time I tried the noodles, the sauce was a bit thicker, but had no flavor and I did not eat the item. Even the maitre’d was horrified. The deserts were the same every night – ice cream, cheese cake, a few bizarre combinations of fruit, nuts, and some unidentifiable things. The “Loveboat Dream” chocolate mousse desert mercifully remained delicious and unspoiled, thankfully. Some of the sugarless items were OK but tasted artificial. There were elaborate chocolate “creations” at times, but so full of nuts they were not edible by many guests. The same boring, tired old Baked Alaska parade took place with great noise and dreadful timing when guests were trying to get their meal finished and go to the shows. The baked Alaska itself was a melted, soggy mess. I’ve seen better food served at a day camp for kids or a charity soup kitchen. Food was rarely hot or cold when it should have been, and vegetables were served raw or barely cooked, no matter what they were. Mashed potatoes seemed made from a dry mix, and were the consistency of watery paste. Same dry, stale basket of rolls and bread sticks nightly. There was a food item from all the food groups available each night, with basics like salmon, chicken, baked potatoes for those who wished them. Food was just poorly prepared, bizarre, unimaginative cuisine night after night. There were vegetarian options, but some were extremely weird. The nightly pasta offerings were OK, but the same watery red sauce prevailed, and the pasta wasn’t always cooked long enough. One of my favorite pasta dishes was served missing the tiny bits of broccoli and kalamata olives and capers which added the right flavor. This puzzled the maitre’d when I showed him the menu listing the ingredients versus what appeared in my dish. I don’t know where they got the cooks for this trip, or who supervised the preparation and recipes, but it was a total disaster, and I lost five pounds in a month from lack of decent food. Passengers were seen shopping for nonperishable food at the shore-side markets and bringing big bags of food back with them. I ate all my emergency travel foods on this trip, like protein bars and crackers and cheese. There was pizza available on the ship, but it looked dried out and burned. A lot of attention seemed focused on giving Americans hamburgers and fries, as if that is all Americans eat. Wrong! I don’t cook at all, and when I cruise, I like to have food I don’t get at home, have others fix my meals, and serve me. I just wish the food had been decent for the long 25 day cruise. The food was often so bad it was a health hazard.
The dining rooms were visually attractive, with many different table sizes. There was background music, but it was often too loud and made conversation difficult. Flowers were on each table. The table linens were nice but often had visible holes or darned tears in them. The silverware felt very sticky at times, and sometimes was so worn it was just gray base metal. On some nights, a special dish was prepared by the maitre’d, and often the overuse of garlic was nauseatingly obvious – the entire dining room was full of a very strong garlic odor which seemed to last forever. I would like to see a very early dining seating available at 5:00 PM, but the earliest was 5:30 PM. People lined up quite early to get into the dining room, and were greeted by a nice hostess at the door. Some nights the Purell machine worked, and others it did not – and it was not always used by the diners. Menus definitely need a fresh cover, as they were very soiled and tired.
Entertainment on this cruise definitely offered something for everyone. There were movies on an enormous screen outdoors, but they were not always current or age-relevant. Cabin TV offered music, news, movies, recorded broadcasts of on-board lectures, port information, lectures, etc. Movies were offered in the two-level Princess theater. The usual cruise-type production shows seem not to have changed in several years. Seeing them once was more than enough, considering the average quality of the performers. There is far too much use of blinding spotlights aimed into the audience, strobe lighting, fake smoke, etc. and the lighting did not properly highlight the entertainers – sometimes they were in the dark. The sound level was at a dangerous high, totally unnecessary with the good acoustics in the theater. There were verbal altercations and some pushing and shoving because people reserved seats, stood blocking views for others, or there just weren’t enough seats. I saw very elderly people pushed out of the way, and somebody pushed me, just to get to seats, and old folks sitting on the floor or stairs. I’ve never been on such a loud, rude, noise-polluted ship in 37 years of cruising. Just because the passenger contingent was “senior” on this cruise does not mean everybody was deaf! I don’t care for comedians and magicians, and did not attend these performances. The featured vocalists were not that great, often singing off-key. The pianist who often played in the piazza was terrible – sounded like a child just playing with the piano keys, and no real melody. The computerized piano had a dreadful tinny, fake sound as well. There was a young man singing and playing a guitar around the ship, and his choice of music, plus his style, would have been better suited to some small-town roadhouse on a lonely Saturday night after he failed to qualify for some “new voice talent” show.
The best group on the ship were the four lovely women from Belarus who played as a string quartet, offering both classical and popular music. They did very well in their own few performances in a proper venue, but sadly were disrespected enough by Princess to be located most of the time in a seating area of one of the big bar lounges. Between the noisy talkers at the bar and the open restaurant behind it, and the thick stream of people going from the theater and elsewhere in the ship close to where the quartet were sitting, the delicate sound of the string instruments was nearly impossible to hear. These women were true professionals, however, and played serenely on no matter what rude behavior was swirling around them. Whatever else went on late into the night in other forms of entertainment, I did not participate in it, preferring the quiet of my cabin and a good book. Live music was available in the piazza for those who enjoyed various types of dancing, and I would have enjoyed that if I had someone to dance with. Princess should consider having gentlemen hosts as other lines do so solo travelers wishing to dance aren’t stuck sitting alone on the sidelines. For those with the durability to party on into the wee hours, there was a DJ at the disco, and some nights the casino stayed open all night. I don’t know if the fashion show event qualifies as entertainment, but have repeated it here - the boutiques on the ship recruited passengers as models, and produced two very entertaining and fun fashion shows in the piazza, complete with a blue carpet runway and stage lighting. It was great fun as a participant, and the large passenger audience loved it. I do wish Princess had retained their famous “Pop Choir”, which used to be a beloved highlight of the transatlantic crossing. Two themed “festivals” took place on this long cruise – an Oktoberfest and a Venetian Carnival, with colorful decorations, food, dances. Depending on one’s personal idea of what constitutes entertainment, there was something going on nearly 24 hours a day, all listed in the daily “Princess Patter” bulletin.
Disembarkation is one of the few strong points with Princess. It is organized by departure time after guests fill out a form indicating what they need. Bags are color-coded and departure times have matching colors. There are meeting places throughout the ship for guests to gather in a timely and comfortable manner while waiting for clearance to leave. Elite and Suite guests have their own private departure lounge. In all my cruising with Princess, departures have actually run ahead of scheduled times in the bulletin. Guests must vacate their cabins by 8 AM, and simply planning ahead for the departure morning avoids stress and gets the huge passenger crowd off the ship safely and in good time. Princess offers city tours, booked as a shore excursion, for those with late flights. and also has transfer service from the ship to various airports. On this cruise, however, my color group somehow was allowed off the ship before the matching baggage was delivered to the baggage shed, and there were three groups within the main color group. This produced absolute total chaos, with almost no room to walk between the piles of luggage once they were delivered. Unhelpful staff shouted at people to get back and wait for the bags, there were surly porters, and lots of very big passengers shoving and pushing smaller people like me in an effort to get their bags. I was repeatedly shoved, pushed, and stepped on (making me thankful to be wearing steel-toed heavy hiking boots).
In conclusion, while I really enjoyed all the ports and the transatlantic crossing, the hot, dry, gorgeous Mediterranean sunshine and very calm seas, as well as being at sea (I’m a small-boat sailor), there were too many unfortunate and often preventable negatives which made this one of the most unpleasant Princess cruises I have ever taken. Sanitation and hygiene are critical. Safe, good food is critical. Respect for the guest and ability to communicate are critical. Proper cabin maintenance is critical, especially when that costly space is your home for 25 days and nights. In all these areas, there were a lot of deficiencies which lowered the quality of the cruise to a floating Motel 6. I wondered at times if I were on a Carnival cruise – was this ship perhaps a new Carnival ship called the “Carnival Princess”? The crew were robotic zombies at times, and could have cared less about the guests. There was little, if any, sense of authority when it came to unruly passenger situations being addressed, controlled and stopped. What good does the captain do if he is just a disembodied voice from the bridge now and again, and ignores complaints filtering to him from guest services about people being yelled at by crew, physically assaulted by fellow passengers, being sickened by lousy food, not getting badly needed repairs in cabins done. The captain needs to do more than just show up at cocktail parties and host champagne waterfalls. This once-loyal Princess cruiser will definitely be looking at other options with cruise lines who appreciate my business and treat me with respect, and who offer a clean, safe, well-maintained product for my hard-earned money. I urge all prospective Princess cruisers to read the reviews before wasting their money. Read Less