Line: Princess Cruises
Built: June 2013
Passengers: 3,600 passengers
Class: Royal class (with Regal Princess)
Routes: Winters in the Caribbean; Summer 2013 in the Mediterranean and Summer 2014 in the Baltic
Many types of cruisers, from families to couples and multigenerational groups.
Anyone looking for an intimate or off-the-beaten-path experience — Royal Princess carries almost 4,000 passengers, creating a crowd wherever it goes (and sometimes lines to board in ports, too).
- Small numbers of cabin categories make booking a breeze.
- The main atrium hosts unannounced musical acts that keep passengers engaged.
- The buffet offers seriously well-executed theme nights.
Call Royal Princess the “girl next door” of cruising — she is eminently likeable, with broad appeal to a wide variety of cruisers.
Kids are catered to, which should be no surprise considering the numbers of them that sail during school breaks. On my August Mediterranean cruise, there were more than 800 children, including numerous teens who flocked to the pool deck — swimming and dancing to Taylor Swift videos during the day and watching movies on the open-air big screen in the evening.
That said, couples and other grown-ups can find their place here as well, particularly if they stick to specialty restaurants and adults-only areas on sea days and evenings.
One of the great pleasures of this ship, compared to other mega-ships on the market, is something you experience before you board: the ease of choosing a cabin. Unlike Norwegian Breakaway, which has 26 cabin categories, and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, which has 33, Royal Princess has only five cabin categories: insides, outsides (which all have verandas), deluxe balconies (which accommodate four with a sofa bed), minisuites, and suites. And that’s it.
Fortunately, cabins are exactly what you would expect: well designed, with modern treats like Wi-Fi, hand-held shower heads, and complimentary on-demand TV with an impressive lineup of movies and already-aired network and cable TV shows.
The ship also has a concierge floor with a dedicated lounge for suite cabins, where they serve continental breakfast, snacks, and evening hors d’oeuvres.
Tip: Looking to save room in your suitcase? All cabin bathrooms come with dispensers of body wash and shampoo, as well as a “goodie bag” of extras, like bathroom spray and a loofah.
Activities and Entertainment:
Royal Princess has several kids’ lounges in addition to basketball courts, table tennis, and a minigolf course, all of which are hidden away on an upper deck.
With the pool claimed by the teens and tweens on my sailing, couples traveling without children gathered in the adults-only Retreat Pool. There, the six cabanas ($80 per day) that line the edge filled up quickly. So did the pleasantly quiet Sanctuary club, where — for $25 per day — you can claim a lounge chair with butler service, cucumber and citrus ice water, and access to a spa menu.
In the evenings, there are lots of choices — from karaoke to comedians, stage shows, and acrobats performing in the atrium (thrilling passengers at the coffee house and those on upper decks, who gather at the railings).
And, while on most nights of my sailing the dance club reportedly went to bed before midnight (as did I), the many cocktail lounges bustled before and after dinner. Of course, in the Mediterranean, shore excursions depart early, so this big, energetic ship is hopping once again well before 8 am.
Horizon Court – Who knew that the most pleasant surprise on the ship would be … the buffet? The menu changes every day, and expands upon what’s offered in the dining room. On my sailing, Italian night included burrata and mortadella. German night featured sausages, mustards, schnitzels, spaetzle, roasted pork, and sauerkraut.
Crown Grill – The steakhouse was a hit with many passengers, who seemed to enjoy the intimate, clubby atmosphere as much as the massive steaks and chops.
Sabatini’s – This Italian restaurant, which has long been the star on Princess ships, remains so on Royal Princess. Here, dinner starts with tender calamari or a savory artichoke soufflé, followed by lobster with risotto or a strip steak that surpasses even those in Crown Grill.
Alfredo’s Pizzeria – Easily the best Neopolitan pizza at sea, the pies at Alfredo’s were developed by a chef who trained in Naples.
Crab Shack – This new, Cajun-influenced concept takes over part of the Horizon buffet on several days each sailing. Although the New Orleans theme may feel out of place in Europe or the Caribbean, the menu is a seafood-lovers dream.
Tip: Stop in the specialty restaurants and ask for a coveted window table on the first day of your cruise, even if your reservation isn’t for a few days.
Insider Tip: Another escape from crowds: the Enclave area in the spa stays open until 10 pm.