Sail Date: September 11, 2015
Reviewed: 1 year ago
Traveled As: Couple
Room Type: Balcony
Our cruise was more than Copenhagen to New York, actually we got on board at Berlin's Warnemunde port and did four Baltic ports before Copenhagen, two nights in St Petersburg as well. We began by flying into Berlin and using the Princess Hotel and transfer package, two nights at the Westin Grand Berlin. 25 days total.
We just voyaged on the new Regal, for over three weeks, September 2015. At about this same time last year we sailed on the Regal's sister, the Royal Princess, and in January of this year we sailed on the Coral Princess. The truth is, it is very difficult to rate cruise ships since they keep changing as the industry evolves and matures. There is no such thing as a best cruise line or best cruise ship only the ship and cruise that is best for you. We have sailed a lot with Princess (we only cruise on Princess, Regent and HAL) but prior to our first voyage last year on the Regal the last was in 2010, much had changed within the industry by 2014, so much it isn't practical to compare cruises that took place more than a few years ago with today's experiences. So:
We found much improvement in the Princess overall cruise product during this sailing on the Regal, over that we encountered on our previous two Princess cruises during the last year. This was a good cruise but not exceptional. We are beginning to appreciate some aspects of a cruise on the larger vessels a little more, previously we only used the smaller ships. Regal/Royal are the largest we have been on, the Regal is almost a new ship, it is delightful to enjoy a cruise on a vessel that has little wear and tear on it. We had a mini-suite and were satisfied with the size of the room which still has a curtain divider making for a bedroom with a TV and separate area with a large sofa, desk, coffee table, refrigerator, two seats and TV. The balcony size is not as large as we would like though, we would prefer a balcony at least another foot deep. Much better though than the commensurate level cabins on HAL even though HAL has a larger balcony.
OUTSTANDING---One feature about this ship that is real intriguing is the over-the-water SeaWalks (one port and one starboard about midship). They are on deck level 17, 128 feet above the sea, and extend 30 feet beyond the vessels hull. They are enclosed extended half-moon walkways with glass-floors, the crew keeps the glass impeccably clean, so much so that one looking down at the sea far below, and rushing by, gives even those used to heights pause before stepping out onto the glass.
VERY GOOD: The specialty restaurants were exquisite, particularly Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. We also booked the "Crab Shack" almost every time we had the opportunity (Do yourself a favor and don't miss that if you love shell fish). A pleasant surprise was the high end "Alfredo's Pizzeria" which was a no extra charge restaurant laid out like a fine dining Italian restaurant and located in a central portion of the ship's huge three deck level atrium complex. Be advised to keep track of what is going on in other eatery venues too, since some of them have specials that you will only know about by reading the daily "Princess Patter". For instance, one Sunday morning I noticed that the Crown Grill/Wheel House Bar was having a "Traditional British Pub Lunch" at no extra charge except for drinks, it was outstanding, it was from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM we got there about 12:15 and joined a small line, when we left the line was over a 100 feet long.
During we kept seeing references to the "Chef's Table" as a specialty restaurant on the ship. But there was no such facility. I called and found out that was a special arrangement only offered occasionally where they really do it up big. As they advertise; "An extraordinary treat for both gastronomes and gourmet novices. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes galley tour with Champagne and hors d'oeuvres, followed by an extravagant multi-course dinner created and hosted by the executive chef." This pitch is not an overstatement, it is truly an eating experience. They even forget to mention the variety of wines served with each course and that you end up in a special section (They drape a huge circular curtain over everybody after seated). in the MDR for the main course and desert. Only ten guests allowed each time, very-very good. My wife loved it. Trouble was I didn't ask the price. Found out when we received the final bill getting off the ship. $230. But it was still great.
--Ships captain was great in most aspects of the voyage, a minor feature of which, that really delights me, is how he liberally used during sail-away's (sail-away's are one of my favorite enjoyments of each cruise) the multi-tone horn system on the Regal. I might add, this was much appreciated by many of those on shore waving us fair-well. It has been our experience to find, as a general rule, the Princess captains more outgoing an informative and easy to comprehend than captains with the other two lines we use, HAL and Regent, who often times offer only a dearth of information about what is going on. That does not mean however we haven't had a bummer for a captain on Princess in the past or real good captains on both HAL and Regent. The following describes an event as to why I like this captain:
"Yesterday about 10:00 AM the captain came on and gave us the run down of the storm, changed course and the increased swell coming up, other than that he was very optimistic that we would get into Newfoundland on time with decent weather there.
However, two hours later he came on again just as the ship was making a 180 degree turn. Turns out a lady passenger was in very bad shape and had to get emergency medical attention as soon as possible. We had been sailing for about 13 hours since leaving Ireland and were pretty far out in the Atlantic. The Irish Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter and a electronic navigation heavy aircraft to guide it. We had to turn back because the range of the medivac helicopter wasn't the long. After about 5 hours sailing we made contact. They lifted the lady off the aft deck in a gurney, which took about 30 minutes with the helicopter in hover about 50 feet over the deck as the ship moved along at 20 knots. Apparently they prefer to hover the copter over a moving vessel like this instead of bringing the ship to a halt.
The weather was very favorable at the time of the emergency and the sea was all but flat, thank goodness. Anyway, I was really impressed with the entire operation, Irish Coast Guard, the emergency crew on board our ship and the captain's handling of the vessel, as well as him keeping us informed.
We all hope for the best for the lady and many a prayer was said for her as well as for all those directly involved in such a dicey and dangerous rescue at sea.
As a consequence we lost about 10 hours, so the captain is laying the whip to her, hoping that we can sustain at least 20 knots until the sea gets too rough for that."
--For almost the first week of the voyage we noticed no smoking, to the point we wondered if a new rule had been created making this ship a totally non-smoking one. As it turned out there is a limited amount of smoking in the Casino and within a fenced off portion of the Terrace Pool, Deck 17, and in a tiny enclosed lounge called "Churchill's" dedicated for smokers only. There might even be a short section of deck on the starboard side of deck 7 which allows smoking but I never saw any smokers there. It appears smokers shun this Princess ship or refrain from lighting up on it. That is good.
--I use the hot tubs everyday, there are six good ones, four around the fountain pool and two at the Retreat Pool. Unlike our sad experience on the Coral Princess in January there were always towels everywhere all the time, and I mean all the time, no exceptions, good going. In the retreat area you didn't have situations where the kids of guests were using the hot tubs to learn how to swim.
--It appears to us the buffet area (Horizon Court) has improved in quality of food as well as service over that provided on the Coral in January and to some extent over that on the Royal. Of course, like all buffets there is crowding at times but 3 out of every 4 of our visits to the buffet there has been ample seating room and waiters to take care of you. Wife says though she misses the custom made omlets of the past, now all you get is a pretty much generic omlet, take it or leave it. Also, the crew must bring you a juice drink after you locate a table, this is okay but the problem is that the glasses they serve you the juice in are half the size of what they used to be. What is next, orange juice in a shot glass? And whatever happened to the fresh squeezed orange juice, or was that on HAL? One thing that impresses me is that their smoked salmon has been excellent, it is cut into thin filets for lox instead of the thick slabs found on Regent and HAL.
--Some of the musicians playing at various times throughout the ship were outstanding, for instance, in particular, four young lady violinists from the Ukrainian playing on the main floor of the grand atrium. Not to mention a lady's excellent grand piano work in the same general location.
GOOD--As previously mentioned, we sailed on the Royal a year ago and the Coral in January. The main dining room experience on the Royal was tolerable but definitely needed some improvement. The Coral MDR however was a complete debacle, although we enjoyed the ship and cruise. The Coral experience was so bad we stayed away from the MDR on the Regal (by using specialty restaurants, the buffet and Alfredo's) until about a week into the cruise. Maybe because we expected the worst we were pleasantly surprised when we finally did go there. On the Coral the MDR was beset with a myriad of problems due to both understaffed kitchen and service personnel. Food quality was significantly better on the Regal and the waiter staff didn't appear to be so harried and disorganized. Now, if they can only get their passenger wine bottle inventory under control. Tip: Order a bottle and take it with you after, this practice is okay with them and most do it now, for obvious reasons, don't put yourself through a lot of grief before dinner while they run around for 30 minutes frantically trying to find your bottle, sometimes blaming their guests for part of the reason it is lost, or usually, in the end, blaming some low level employee, like a waiter, for a failure of their system.
--Shore excursions were all well organized and good, at least all those we took, which involved every port. The best one though was St. John's, Newfoundland; every once in a while you really hit a home run by visiting an interesting port. This was one of them. People who live in this area are really nice, probably one of the cleanest cities in North America too, even their vehicles are all in good shape, like new. You should see how well taken care of their homes are. Since it was a rather historic occasion due the Regal being the largest ship ever there, they had a celebration of sorts about the time we left, all the vessels in the port blew their horns for about 5 minutes straight. Then when we departed it seemed half the 100,000 who live there turned out to see the big ship leave. In the pictures I took of the hills around the picturesque but very narrow channel as we exited, people look like swarming ants. They even had a muzzle loader salute for us as we passed by.
--The before dinner Exclusive Elite Lounge for elite and platinum guests where hors d'oeuvres and half priced cocktails are available is much appreciated.
--After we began to get some sea days to do it on, Princess provided a good variety of enrichment lectures by Phil DeMeulenaerre and destination lecture Peter Coyle. DeMeulenaerre did an outstanding presentation and research on the Panama Canal in a two part lecture, covering both historical and contemporary events there. Princess has always done a pretty good job in my opinion of providing for good lectures, this often is one of my favorite aspects of the voyage.
--We used Princess Air, Princess transfers and Princess hotel accommodations at the beginning of the cruise. Were well satisfied with each. No problems, that is, going to Europe, however, on our return at New York we had the Princess transfer from the ship to the airport which didn't work out as well, as they took us all to one terminal, the wrong terminal, for the airline we were traveling on. However, that wasn't much of a problem, what was a problem was our flight didn't leave until after 5:00 PM and they kick you off the ship at a little after 8:00 AM. Meaning a long wait at the airport, but what they never informed us was that they had come up with a New York City tour for four hours in conjunction with the transfer, which would have been ideal but we were not informed of its availability. Princess has a problem in that regard, they do not disperse information regarding options very well, ie. dining, travel, excursions, captain circle perks, etc.
--Princess Stateroom large flat screen TVs on the Regal are great. I certainly appreciate receiving BBC, MSNBC and CNBC instead of being relegated to watching radicalized FOX right wing TV. In addition, their selection of free movies is excellent, first time I have ever watched cabin TV movies.
--The ships main desk personnel and its shore excursion personnel were very knowledgeable and due their hard work and attention handled most awkward situations professionally.
POOR---We don't attend the theatre productions very much anymore in order to see the comics, jugglers, and dance entertainment groups. One thing I do not care for is the crowded theatre in the evenings where some of the rows have close to 30 seats in them; many people come early and grab the isle seats compelling those coming later to squish by the knees of as many as 13 people to get to a open seat, furthermore, these people are reluctant to stand when someone walks by and there is not much more than a few inches between their knees and the seat in front. If one chooses to order a cocktail while seated like that, forget it. I miss the theatre layouts from before, although there is one advantage with the Regal's in that there are no ceiling posts to block views.
--Apparently the company now relies on passengers to glean info regarding the daily progress of the vessel from their cabin TV's. It is true that technology has allowed for this but what ever happened to the navigation charts posted throughout the ship and updated regularly? There were none to be found anywhere on the ship during this voyage and the info on the TV is not all that informative. Maybe most passengers don't care where they are or what surrounds them, position wise, channel wise, country wise, etc. Not me though, I miss the old days?
--Not certain why Princess has significantly reduced the number of hand sanitizer stations once found abundantly throughout the ship. Are they going back to the era of mass epidemics or do they know something we don't about sanitizing? Certainly hope it is not another cost saving ploy.
--The very tiny library on the Regal is a joke. It is quite obvious that they didn't intend to use the Regal on long world excursion style voyages, hence the lack of a decent library.
--The internet system on the Regal is very good and one of the fastest we have experienced on ships, additionally, we get the signal on my laptop almost anywhere on the vessel. Pricey, but we have some internet perks due to our "elite" status so that helps. But their Internet cafe is very small. Something like the library, not designed for long voyages or many people attempting to use it, like when trying to get airline boarding passes printed 24 hours before disembarkation, however I had no problem printing our boarding passes. Tip: Take your own lap top, except for printing, you won't need to use the internet cafe.
--Trying to use the elevators during disembarkation can be pretty stressful as they are not adequate. Thankfully, our stateroom was close to the forward elevator tower where they do have a public staircase, so we used that, if you don't mind walking down many deck levels that is. If we had been at the midship elevators there is no public staircase option there at all.
UGLY--Princess just can't seem to get a handle on developing a functional system under which they can locate passenger wine bottles stored between meals. Not only do they have a huge problem between the different meal venues in that regard they consistently lose bottles within a given restaurant. It didn't use to be that way on Princess. Last year on the Royal they seemed to have came up with a solution half way through our voyage, after undergoing considerable hassles, it involved a paste-on-sticker of sorts where the passenger received a receipt and it worked good. Three months later we were on the Coral and the lost wine situation was worse than ever, on the Regal they lost our bottle both times when we have tried to hold it over. They did not learn a thing from the experience gleaned by their own sister ship, the Royal. It is not just us either, we have witnessed similar wine debacles taking place at tables near us on this cruise.
--I am not at all satisfied with the emergency procedures, facilities for such and the drills etc, or the lack thereof, needed to cope with a disaster at sea involving a vessel of this size. The complexities of such give me the chills when I contemplate the potential of a catastrophic accident at sea involving fire, collision or other seagoing eventualities, particularly if the vessel experiences a rapid list to one side or the other. It doesn't appear to me that Carnival Corp learned much from their Costa Concordia sinking.
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|Cabin / Stateroom||We had a mini-suite and were satisfied with the size of the room which still has a curtain divider making for a bedroom with a TV and separate area with a large sofa, desk, coffee table, refrigerator, two seats and TV. The balcony size is not as large as we would like though, we would prefer a balcony at least another foot deep. Much better though than the commensurate level cabins on HAL even though HAL has a larger balcony.|
|Embarkation and Disembarkation|
|Destinations and Excursions|
|Service and Staff|
|Food and Dining|
Be advised to keep track of what is going on in other eatery venues, since some of them have specials that you will only know about by reading the daily "Princess Patter". Order a bottle of wine and take it with you after, this practice is okay with them, having them hold it often is a mistake.