October 2015 - Royal Princess to Caribbean - Eastern
I would have given 2 1/2 stars, but it wasn't an option…there were some nice innovations on this new ship, and some features we did not like at all. The following outlines those things that we felt and heard other unsolicited passengers talking about as well...
The good: The Captain of Royal Princess was very informative and adept at handling the ship. On the first night of the cruise, he was also quick and calm in alerting the entire ship at 2 a.m. about an emergency…we were awakened to his voice in our stateroom speaker, and he kept us informed about the emergency until it was under control. (It was an escape valve emitting noxious fumes that needed to be responded to by workers in that department, which they were able to take care of in 2 min. time!) He also made the call to abort plans for Princess Cays the last day of the cruise because of high winds and rough seas, which everyone felt was the right thing to do given the conditions. There were wonderful shows in all categories of entertainment! Beautiful ship, nice upgrades to cabins, especially bathrooms. The Center Fountain on the Main Pool deck (16) is a very nice addition…serves as a pseudo water park in the morning, lounge chair space in the afternoon, and is used for a fountain light shows at night, and also for additional seating for Movies Under the Stars. Pools (2) are fresh water! There are tiles areas around each pool that are "spillways" where you can walk or sit in just a few inches of water to cool off. Nice fitness facilities and track with outdoor fitness stations, and an outdoor sports court that staged a variety of sports venues. Nice variety and presentation of foods in main dining rooms, and endless possibilities in the Horizon Grille and Bistro. All destinations except St Kitts had beautiful beaches and swimming/snorkeling access. All had ample taxis waiting to take you where you wanted to go at reasonable prices (Don't try walking very far in the port towns…we were warned by the lifeguards that the areas may not be the safest for foreign pedestrians). The taxi drivers also networked with the vendors on the beach who provide chairs, umbrellas, food/drink and who will contact the taxi for pick-up when you are ready to go! Many beaches had bathrooms, fresh water showers, restaurants, shopping, and other services. The water is clear, warm, and most of the beaches we used had beautiful sandy bottoms and easy walk-in access. Everyone speaks English, though they speak to each other in Creole at times.
The bad: The Royal Princess is not user-friendly in a number of ways, especially if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke! First of all, the smoking area is in the back of the ship, which is where the running/walking track, the outdoor sports court, and the only entrance to the fitness center are located. I HAD TO COVER MY FACE WITH A TOWEL just to be able to walk to the fitness center! My husband and I could only use half of the track because of the smoking…when we got near the back of the ship, we'd have to turn around and go the other way (and go against the flow of the other people--annoying for them and for us) until we got to the back on the other side…ALSO our Muster Station"C" WAS IN THE CASINO! I got very light-headed and my eyes got very irritated from the cigarette smoke lingering in the room…it was AWFUL, and I had NO CHOICE in the matter! As a safety issue, they could use some more life rings mounted in easily visible areas of the ship, as we were told in the muster drill to throw a life ring out to a passenger that fell overboard, and we only saw 2 the entire cruise…AND WE WERE LOOKING FOR THEM! The Zumba classes offered were usually done at the outdoor sports court…so again, you are at the mercy of the smokers to do your classes! Another less than optimal design issue is that when you are standing on the Space Walk, if you look back at the ship YOU ARE STARING INTO SEVERAL PASSENGERS' BALCONIES AND CABINS! And on the deck with the Lotus Spa, which is one of the most-used decks, it is situated right outside of the elevator so that you MUST pass through the spa to get to the next area of the ship, or go all the way forward or aft on another level and backtrack to get where you want to go to avoid the Lotus Spa. The Spa staff all sit out there 2 feet from where you are passing them, and I felt uncomfortable as there was a sense of pressure to book a service! Another problem was the Culinary Demo/ Kitchen Tour…it was a wonderful, funny demo and the kitchen tour was interesting…but BRING A TOWEL to cover your face as they lead you from the Princess Theater, where the demo is done, THROUGH THE SMOKE-FILLED CASINO, to the galley for the tour! On another note, if you enjoy taking the steps rather than waiting for elevators every time you want to go anywhere, they are only in the forward and aft sections of the ship…the center piazza area has stairs only on decks 5,6 and 7. (Just FYI, Deck 6 is where the Casino is located). If you enjoy the Princess Theater Shows, GET THERE EARLY!!! The Theater is beautiful but poorly designed for viewing. The only good seats are in the middle of the room where the terracing starts…the entire front area is all on the same level and is far below the floor of the stage, so if you sit close, your eyes are below the level of the stage and you can't see anything but the heads of the performer(s). Since there are limited seats in that prime center section, people get there very early to grab them! The side seats are not good for viewing as the stage is flat in front, but deep... so from the side you can't see the action in the back corner of the stage of the side you are sitting on. On to the dining rooms…The Allegro dining room (scheduled dinner seating) is modern and unremarkable, and the tables for 2 are narrow side to side and deep front to back, which is where the chairs are, so it's hard to have a conversation across so much table! And the waiter was always behind me as the tables are too close together for anyone to fit between them, so I heard his voice asking for my order but in 10 days never got to look him in the face as he had to stand behind me! Also, the lighting is very bright at dinner…not very romantic at all. The Symphony dining room (anytime dining) is very pretty as has character, and the lighting was better for a romantic dinner experience…however, the service was slower in that dining room. In spite of the slower service, we actually preferred it to the Allegro because of the ambiance and the friendliness of the wait staff. The Refuge was anything but…they should re-name it The Wind Tunnel! Our first 2 days were sea days, so we used The Refuge pool area. I was so worried that people were going to get hurt as lounge chair backs would spontaneously blow up and close from the wind while people were just sitting down at the foot end--I saw a few people get hit! I spoke with other passengers who said it was not windy at all in the mid and aft parts of the ship on those sea days, so it must be the design of the ship that it catches all the wind on that front deck pool area. There are only 2 pools that I saw for general use on Royal Princess, and they are both pretty small for the number of passengers that are on board. As for the Horizon Grille and Bistro, they have now added a hand washing station that is monitored and must be used before entering. There are only 2 sinks, so often there is a line waiting to use the sinks. The paper towels for drying hands are mounted high, so water runs down your arms if you are short (I'm 5'1") while you are pulling out your paper towels, which are rough…take hand lotion with you! Once you enter, it is huge and is very disorganized…on our 10 day cruise, I never found where they had muffins for breakfast! I got lost in there a few times trying to retrieve my omelette after ordering it and going off to get a bowl of oatmeal…The other thing that my husband and I saw that made this trip less enjoyable than many other of the cruises we've been on with Princess as well as other lines, is that the Service Staff in general didn't seem happy about being there…they did a decent job, but didn't engage or smile much. Our room steward, our Allegro Head Waiter, and a few Horizon Grille staff were an exception to that, but overall, the attitude was very indifferent towards the passengers.