We had the opportunity to take a seven night cruise to the Eastern Caribbean onboard the Royal Princess in April 2014. The Royal Princess is currently one of the top 10 largest cruise ships in the world at 142,000 gross tons and can carry up to 3,600 passengers.
The layout of the cruise ship is similar to other Princess ships so it didn’t take long to find my way around without getting “lost”. The decor of the ship is beautiful and I loved all the open areas around and near the atrium.
There are 14 different places where you can get something to eat on the Royal Princess and most of them are included in your cruise fare. The three main dining rooms are Symphony, Concerto, and Allegro. The Symphony and Concerto are for passengers who have Anytime Dining and are open from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. You can call and make reservations for a specific time if you would like. If you do arrive at one of these restaurants during prime hours (7 p.m. – 8 p.m.), you may have to wait for a table although they do have pagers they will give you until your table is ready. If you arrive before 6, you should no problem being seated right away.
They also ask if you would like a table for 2 (or however large or small your party is) or if you would like to be seated with others. If you do ask for a table for 2 or 4, the tables weren’t as close together as other cruise lines have them so you have a bit more privacy.
The Allegro Dining Room is for passengers who have traditional dining (5:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.) and this dining room has by far the nicest decor out of all three. Princess makes all of their food from scratch onboard and the menus in the dining rooms have a nice variety.
One of the things that impressed me the most was the size of the buffet (Horizon Court/Bistro), it was huge. I actually heard someone complain that it was too big, I guess you just can’t make some people happy. In the middle of the buffet was the Pastry Shop which always had delicious freshly made desserts.
The service provided by the staff at the buffet was outstanding. One of the great things about Princess Cruises is that the staff sets the silverware on the tables and gets your drinks for you. I normally never had to wait more than 5 seconds after sitting down before I was asked what I wanted to drink.
There are 2 specialty restaurants on the Royal Princess and both have a $25 per person surcharge for dining at them. The first is Sabatini’s and is an Italian themed eatery with an emphasis on premium seafood. The second is the Crown Grill which I dined at one night on the cruise. The Crown Grill is the steakhouse onboard and it fills up quickly, so you will want to make reservations if you want to eat there one night. The service at the Crown Grill was absolutely fantastic and my filet mignon was cooked to perfection (medium rare). It was well worth the $25 surcharge.
Another one of the complimentary restaurants onboard is Alfredo’s Pizzeria. Open for lunch and dinner, Alfredo’s offers Italian favorites such as Neapolitan-style pizza, raviolis, calzones, and more. I enjoyed Alfredo’s so much, I ate there several times on my cruise. The International Cafe is open 24/7 so there is always somewhere to grab a bite to eat on the Royal Princess. In the mornings they offer fresh donuts and bakery goods. In the afternoon and evenings they have salads, sandwiches, and grilled to order paninis.
Rounding out the “included in your cruise fare” places to eat are the Trident Grill and Prego Pizzeria which are located on the Lido Deck by the main pools. The Trident Grill offers burgers, hot dogs, and french fries while Prego’s has the best pizza at sea. It was great having several choices to grab lunch from on sea days when I didn’t want to leave the pool area.
The Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar and Gelato both have minimal surcharges. However, if you have the Cafe Selects coffee card, you can use your punches for Gelato.
The Royal Princess has tons of entertainment options onboard. The larger shows are held in the undersized, yet nicely layed-out Princess Theater. The two biggest complaints about the theater are the lack of seats for the amount of passengers that the ship can hold and there are no tables to set drinks on. For all of the production type shows, they do run 3 different showtimes that help make up for the size of the theater. For shows that only have 2 showtimes like the Welcome Aboard Show and the Illusionist, you will need to arrive early if you want to get a seat.
The entertainment was a notch above other cruise ships that I have been on. The comedian Steve White was hilarious and everyone really seemed to enjoy Master Illusionist David Cats. Kory Simon always had a large crowd when he performed in Crooners and he handed out sheet music so everyone could sing along with him.
There are 3 pools on Royal Princess, two are in the main pool area with Movies Under The Stars and the other is the adults only Retreat Pool.
The main pool area also has 4 hot tubs and the two pools are connected by an area with very shallow water (2-4 inches). In between the pools is where they had the Princess WaterColor Fantasy, a fountain, light, and sound show. There were 4 different shows that were put on and near the end of the cruise they did all four of them in a row. The shows are only 5 minutes long but everyone loved them and most had their video cameras out recording them.
The MUTS screen is the largest at sea and they showed a great selection of movies during the cruise. They even showed some that were not out on DVD yet like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. During the day, popular movies like Pirates of the Caribbean were shown. During the movies, the staff walked around with popcorn, pizza, ice cream, and cookies and milk.
The adults only Retreat Pool was a quiet area to relax. There are 2 hot tubs by the pool and cabanas that you could rent for 1/2 or a full day. ($40/$80). I never saw anyone under the age of 21 in this area and with the relaxing music that they had playing, it really was a great area to get away.
Like just about every cruise ship, the chairs by the main pools and retreat pools filled up quickly on sea days. However, if you wanted to find a lounger in the sun or shade, there were always many available on the lido deck, just not in the pool area.
I had an aft, port side balcony cabin on deck 12 (Aloha). The cabin had a huge “walk-in” closet (compared to most cruise ship’s closets) so there was plenty of room to hang all of my clothes. The bathroom seemed a bit smaller than usual but only because the shower was larger. It was a nice trade-off having a larger shower but would make it difficult if you were to try and change clothes while in the bathroom.
The bed was really comfortable and the 42″ TV hanging on the wall facing the bed made it easy to watch a show or movie. They had a great selection of movies and shows to watch. The balcony seemed a bit smaller than average but it was adequate. There was a mini-fridge and our cabin steward always kept the ice bucket filled.
There were two power outlets by the desk and a 3rd in the bathroom. If you have many electronics to charge like I do, you will still want to bring a power strip.
Here is a video of my cabin and balcony:
The sports deck had a decent sized basketball court, 3 ping pong tables, 1 foosball table, a golf green to practice putting, shuffleboard, and a shooting simulator. The basketball court was also used for Zumba and activities for the teenagers onboard. There were several basketballs always out so you could shoot around or play in a pickup game at anytime.
The huge atrium on the Royal Princess quickly became one of my favorite spots on the ship. It is a great place to grab a coffee, bite to eat, or just sit and people watch. Since the atrium is so large, Princess had a lot of activities in this area and it seemed like there was always something going on there.
This area was used for everything from the champagne waterfall, to a juggler, to the Princess Pop Choir, to live music and dancing. It is the social hub of the cruise ship and many of the ship’s shops, bars, and lounges are in this area.
The casino is also just off of the Piazza and offers just what you would expect on a cruise ship. There are a variety of slots, and table games such as poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, 3 card poker etc. Many of the slots are also labeled “No Smoking”. There is a staircase in the middle of the casino that really opens up the area to the next deck.
The Seawalk and Seaview Bar are located on the Lido Deck and give you the opportunity to “walk on water”. I loved these two areas of the ship and the views from both of them. It was also fun to see passengers who were afraid to walk on the glass over the water trying to convince themselves that it was ok. It was so relaxing to grab a drink at night at the Seaview Bar with the walk lit up.
Princess Live is a TV studio where the Wake Show was filmed as well the place where game shows and culinary demonstrations took place. There is seating for around 150-200 passengers and there was a crowd out the door for many of the game shows. It was really popular during our cruise so plan on arriving early for events at night.
The service of the staff exceeded my expectations on the Royal Princess, and my expectations were high going in as I had just taken a cruise on the Ruby Princess a month earlier. In the day and age where cruise lines are building mega ships that have more gimmicks than a theme park, Princess Cruises found the perfect balance with the Royal Princess.
The only complaint that I had on the Royal Princess is that I had to get off after 7 relaxing and refreshing days at sea.