Like other Princess Cruises ships, Royal Princess embraces many traditional components cruisers love and, through partnerships and technology, adds extras appealing to first-time cruisers.
Although Royal Princess debuted in 2013, it went into dry dock for an extensive renovation in December 2018. Many features were added or upgraded during the three months that the ship was out of service, including its beds and the beautiful Lotus Spa.
Having been the first of the Royal Class vessels, the Royal Princess deck plan served as the blueprint for the rest of the ships in its class. Public spaces are grouped together on decks 5, 6, 7 and 16 to 19, whereas cabins take the rest of the decks. The only exception is Deck 16 (Lido), which is home to a few cabins along with the pool and a number of dining options. This layout packs together all the fun and keeps the vast majority of rooms away from noise at night. Staterooms on decks 8 (Emerald) and 15 (Marina) are possibly the Royal Princess only cabins to avoid if you want the guarantee of a good night’s sleep, as they’re subject to noise from the common areas right above or below.
The only thing some might not love about the Royal’s deck plan is the location of the spa: right off the busy Piazza on Deck 5, which means it gets little natural light. However, we found the space beautiful and relaxing, with a huge treatment menu and a large thermal suite.
Royal Princess is a large cruise ship with a maximum capacity of 3,560 passengers, but crowds are usually not an issue here. You may find some lines and waits at peak dining times – and finding a lounger around the main pool may be a frustrating experience on sunny sea days – but the open-plan spaces, multiple elevators, and ample seating make for good passenger flow. If you’re wondering just how big Royal Princess is, the answer is 1,083 feet long (exactly the length of 3 American football fields) and 260 feet tall.
First-time cruisers trying to decide between Royal Princess and some of Royal Caribbean’s ships for their Alaska, Hawaii or Riviera Maya trips may find it hard to pick one due to their similarities in terms of ports of call. However, the experience aboard each of them is actually pretty different: while Royal Princess offers a mellow, more traditional experience, Royal Caribbean is all about the wow factor when it comes to family fun, with high-tech amenities and stunning Broadway shows.
For a full comparison between the two cruise lines, read Princess Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean International.
A Royal Princess review is not complete without a mention of its laid-back, mellow-but-fun atmosphere onboard. Although there are plenty of opportunities to let your hair down, this is more of a classic cruising experience, with activities that range from a full afternoon tea to lively craft cocktail presentations. Bingo, trivia and game shows dominate the daily program and hosts special destination-themed events, like Puppies (or Parrots) in the Piazza, depending on the itinerary. Evening entertainment aboard the Royal Princess is mostly production shows and music events; you can also watch a recent release at Movies Under the Stars.
That’s not to say that Royal Princess is stuck in time. The modern and high-tech OceanMedallion, a personalization technology, is meant to make your cruise more convenient and service more intuitive. OceanMedallion, a small disk replacing the keycard, is used to open cabin doors automatically, embark and disembark, register food and drink preferences and many more, particularly when paired with several apps.
Unfortunately, on our Royal Princess Alaska sailing, OceanMedallion didn't live up to the hype. Spotty Wi-Fi hindered ordering drinks using the app in most locations or finding our cabinmate using OceanCompass. Similarly, bartenders or waiters rarely consulted iPads; most interactions used our room number, like always. The MedallionNet internet, billed as strong enough to stream, was inadequate to download email. The hotel director told us the system works better outside Alaska, but at least passengers on our sailing seemed to enjoy wearing the Medallions, even if they eschewed pulling out their phones.
Royal Princess shines in its partnerships and programming, even if these lack major signage and branding within the daily Princess Patter. Chocolatier Norman Love's Chocolate Journey desserts stand out from the menu. The North to Alaska enrichment lectures, such as a talk by Libby Riddles, the first female Iditarod winner, were excellent. The Princess Luxury Bed by sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus is one of the comfiest we've experienced at sea. Animal Planet- and Discovery Channel-branded shore excursions were passenger favorites.
A nice choice for people who love a traditional cruise's comforts and rituals, Royal Princess is big enough, with an impressive array of restaurants, to appeal to first-time cruisers. It's not trendy, but it's hard to be bored here -- that's enough for most Royal Princess passengers.
For the most up-to-date testing, masking, and vaccination requirements aboard Royal Princess, please refer to Princess Cruises. You can also use Cruise Critic’s guide to health requirements on the world’s major cruise lines as we know them.
· Meals in the main dining rooms, buffet, both pizza restaurants and at select other eateries
· Room service (except select items)
· All theater shows and Movies Under the Stars
· Most daily activities, unless otherwise noted
· Kids programs
· Use of the gym, but not most classes
· Daily gratuities (amounts vary based on cabin type)
· Automatic beverage and spa tips (15 percent for both)
· All drinks beyond water, tea (including iced tea), coffee and select juices in the buffet
· Use of The Enclave Thermal Suite
· Entrance to The Sanctuary adults-only sun deck
· Spa treatments
· Shore excursions
· Special activities, such as bingo and wine or beer tastings
· Photos and artwork
Princess passengers are typically people who seek casual elegance and shy away from overt trendiness. On Alaskan sailings, you'll find more first-time cruisers who have chosen the ship for the destination, while on warm-weather sailings, you'll find more repeat passengers. Americans dominate, on both routes; expect more people from around the entire country in Alaska and a more local audience when the ship sails from a U.S. homeport.
Many families choose Princess; multigenerational groups (grandparents, adult children, grandkids) enjoy the dining and entertainment options and the line's solid family programs, particularly during the summer and holidays. During the Alaska season, the average age is mid- to late 50s; on warm-weather itineraries, the average age skews higher into the 60s (except during school holidays).
Daytime: Casual, with shorts, T-shirts, jeans and leggings most common inside the ship. Bathing suits and cover-ups are the main outfits on the pool deck.
Evening: Smart-casual most nights leans toward casual than smart; many wear the same attire during the day and at dinner. Women wear capris, nice jeans/pants; men wear khakis or nice jeans. Two formal nights on most cruises are laid-back -- few jackets, ties and beaded dresses. Men wear a dress shirt and nice pants; women wear maxi or cocktail dresses.
Not permitted: No swimwear, casual jeans (defined as ones that are frayed or with holes), tank tops, ball caps or shorts are allowed in the restaurants at dinnertime.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Code: Princess.
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