June 2016 - Regal Princess to Europe - Northern Europe
The ship is very large and beautiful and the staff was plentiful and friendly. but the time in port at most of the stops was way too short. For example in Stockholm, we arrived at 7:00 am and had to be back on the ship at 1:30 pm, and it was frustrating because the Hop on Hop Off boat didn't start until 8:00 am and most places didn't open until 10:00 am. We thought it was very poor planning on the part of Princess to always arrive so early in the morning before the attractions were open. We thought the ship should have arrived later in the day and they should have let the people have more time in port. Tallin and Helsinki were also very short days. It's way too stressful to try and navigate around an unfamiliar place and have to worry about getting left behind. (Note: On port days, they started their non-stop announcements at 6:30 am, and most were about "better be back on time or we will leave you") Princess offered no suggestions or travel tips to those going ashorte unless you bought one of their shore excursions. Their shore excursions were very pricey, and we found the exact same tours for half the price on our own.
We experienced long waits for elevators most of the time. It was very crowded.
The food was the biggest disappointment. In the Horizon Court Buffet there were never enough seats so you had to stand around waiting for someone to finish eating, then stand around waiting for them to clean the table before you could start getting your food. They selection was lacking too. We couldn't find any salad that didn't have dressing on it. The quality of the food was average, except for the desserts, which were terrible. They made them look pretty, but they didn't taste good or have the right texture. We couldn't cut the crust of the apple strudel with a knife! We have cruised several times before and we thought it was worse than on previous cruises. We eventually discovered the Symphony and Concerto Dining rooms which were quieter and offered table service. The serving staff in the dining rooms were excellent and friendly. On port days we opted for the limited room service menu because that was the only way you had enough time to eat before leaving the ship to go ashore.
We also found the ship activities and entertainment lacking. There was a huge emphasis on selling high end products. They listed "activities" in the Princess Patter (the daily schedule) that were really only sales presentations. They sold expensive jewelry, high end artwork, Russian dolls, clothing and services such as Spa Treatments, Acupuncture treatments and Thermage Facial rejuvenation.
Additionally, there were Princess photographers stationed all over the ship to take glamour shots of the guests, which were conveniently available for sale in the huge photography section. I have never seen so much blatant commercialism. They set up "sales" tables all around the public areas of the ship to display all the stuff they want you to buy. It blocked the walkways.
On the plus side of the activities, they did have Zumba and exercise classes and a nice fitness center, but it was always full to the brim with people waiting. There wasn't much to do for senior citizens in the way of activities.
There were two production performances which were pretty good, and a magic show, (which we did not see) and one cooking demonstration which was okay. The highlight of the entertainments was the String Quartet was excellent and gave about 10 performances during the cruise.
Lastly, the cruise director was really annoying. She was phony and overly perky. The assistant cruise directors were not much better. It will be a long time before we consider Princess again, if ever.