Even though I prefer smaller ships, this was a decent cruise for me.
17 Night Spanish Passage (Ft. Lauderdale To Barcelona)
Sail Date: September 10, 2014
Ship: Royal Princess
Cabin Type: Suite
Traveled As: Couple
Reviewed: 4 years ago
For the budget minded, I recommend cruises like this one. Even though I prefer smaller ships, this was a decent cruise for me and I'm certainly not ruling similar ones out in the future.VERY GOOD:
----This was the largest ship we have sailed on, the 11th largest ship in the world; we recently passed the 1.5 year point of being on the sea in cruise ships. Only one year old and still the entire ship is like brand new, sure nice to have a stateroom that is not worn with stains here and there, for a change. Best balcony we have had, mostly due to the portion of it that looks and faces forward as well as to the side. The balcony size itself is 30% larger than the norm for an equivalent mini-suite stateroom, albeit they gave us one of the better balcony cabins.
---This is the first ship we have been on where the heating system/air conditioning has worked almost perfect throughout the entire vessel. It always seems that on most ships the theatre is either too hot or too cold. For the morning lecture in the theatre it almost always is very cool, I can't understand why somebody doesn't turn up the heat before morning events begin. But on this ship they do it right. Also on other ships you continually hear people complaining of stateroom temperatures, we have never really had a problem like that, but our cabin on this ship has been perfect. Also, on this ship the cabins are very quiet, about the best we have ever experienced, and for 3 days the captain ran at over 24 MPH in relatively choppy seas, that's about the fastest we ever have sailed and the ship handled it without much motion.
---Meals were slightly above par for a ship operated by one of the top 11 big mainline mass market cruise lines, in fact, I would say the meals were slightly better on average than those we experience on Regent Seven Seas Cruise's ships, a high end so called luxury line. After a rough start for us getting a table for two in the main dining rooms, second night out, anytime dining for us the rest of the voyage proved excellent and without hardly any wait ever we always got a table for two. The specialty extra charge restaurant, Gelato, was very good.
The buffet area on the Lido deck (The word Lido means, open air swimming pool, almost all ships have their main buffet restaurant on the deck where their largest outdoor pool is), called the "Horizon Court/Bistro" also was above par, food quality wise. If you want to go there without all the hustle bustle and difficulty finding a seat, then go at off hours, like early in the morning or after the noon rush. Having suggested that things are a little cramped on the Lido, in fairness one must recognize that outdoor temperatures have been slightly cool on this voyage so that the outdoor tables have been rarely used. If warmer temperatures should occur, things could be entirely different from an available seat standpoint, as, by my estimation, the outdoor seating would add well over 30% to the overall capacity. Also, the Horizon does a late afternoon conversion so that the tables are all set with cloth tablecloth, fine wine glasses, good silverware, etc which makes for a more quiet dining experience.
Of the three lines we cruise on Holland America (HAL) has Princess and Regent beat for making sandwiches or omelettes because they do it while you wait. I'm a sucker for tuna melts and can only get a good one on HAL. Princess annoyingly toasts bread, bagels, English muffins, etc, in advance then stacks dozens of them on heated trays, where they dry out and taste not so good. HAL and Regent prepare toast and these other items while you wait. Princess some times overdoes the military chow line mass feed concept.
We usually utilize the main dining rooms for dinner instead of the Horizon but prefer the Horizon over the dining rooms for breakfast and lunch.
One night we had one of the best meals ever on a voyage. It cost extra but not a lot. They call these meals "Crab Shack" and it is mostly shellfish. They only have them a few times per segment. We had King crab and shrimp mixture, you had to crack it yourself, lots of it. It wasn't crowded and we had a big table all to ourselves. Kind of messy but with all the good appetizers and stuff we were really full when we left. Good job Princess.
---Shore excursions were all pretty good with knowledgeable guides. Exception, motor coaches were filled to 90% of capacity most of the time, the saturation point has obviously went up in recent years. Princess, like HAL currently does, used to keep their loads to around 50-60%. Muster station shore excursion personnel did excellent control, most of the time, and manipulated the masses even though herd instincts motivated guests to cheat, push and rush for the coaches, typical of queues on most all cruises. All in all, I was rather surprised that Princess was able to handle the ports on this voyage when providing quality shore excursions as well, considering the massive size of this vessel and the number of passengers.
---Crew was very friendly in almost all aspects of the ship and voyage, not saying though they were always so knowledgeable pursuant to the subject matter they were suppose to be intimate with.
--Hot tubs on the main pool deck (4 of them) were excellent. Well maintained, water consistently just the right temperature. Wish there were more of them since during good sea conditions there was a lot of demand. The huge, huge, outdoor theatre screen makes taking a hot tub on this ship another experience indeed.
---Great was the ship's multi pitch horn system on the Royal Princess, never heard anything like it, from deep base all the way up to a high pitch, sounding off with a prescribed melody. Princess gets an A plus for this feature. It was a lot of fun when the Royal and a sister, the Ruby crossed paths at the harbor entrance and engaged in a horn duel (When we were leaving Iceland). One of my favorite times on every cruise is the sailaway, this Captain had no compunction using the horns and at most ports we were the final cruise ship of the season and sometimes the largest that had ever visited the port, these were super sailaways. We were getting tired of Regent with their "castrated canary" sounding fog horns, which they rarely use, obviously due embarrassment.
---I do appreciate the excellent large flat T.V.s (2) in our stateroom and the selection of live news and other shows. I particularly like the MSNBC and BBC. For too long with HAL and Regent we were relegated to the extreme right wing TV news source called "FOX News".
---We like attending a protestant church service on Sundays. This is the first of our voyages with Princess where they have really done a good job of putting on a quality service.
---The Royal Princess has an excellent fitness center. 17 deck levels up with plenty of cardio exercise machines and beautiful vistas of the sea from each one. I never was in the gym when it was overcrowded and always found an elliptical to work out on.
---Princess has now completely adopted the business model of all the large mainstream cruise lines, we are witnessing what is either going to be the success or the degradation of this trend. This concept leans toward building more and more very large vessels. The Royal Princess is 3.5 times the size of the Titanic and can hold 4610 passengers. A ship's officer reportedly said we were only carrying 3500 this voyage though. In order to fill a three quarter of a billion dollar investment like this ship cost, the lines have adopted a policy of getting passengers on board for a very low initial fee. Then charging extra for just about everything except the basic stateroom and food served in the main dining rooms and the buffet areas, also there are pizzerias and hamburger grills with no extra charge. The ships function more or less like large floating resorts, with all sorts of premium type restaurants and other meal venues where additional payments are required, not to mention all the boutiques and other retail outlets trying to sell you something. By cutting down the size of, quality of, and service within, the main dining rooms and buffet area, guests are more or less forcibly channeled into the nickel and dime game. Talk about a negative resulting from new age industrial tourism.
-----One of the things I like best about cruising is the theme lecturers they usually have on board. This cruise was billed "Iceland & British Isles Explorer" as advertised in their brochure titled "Your History in the Making". Whoever arranged for the speakers certanly didn't coordinate with their brochure staff. I really wasn't enamored by the lectures this time as they had nothing to do with geography or local history. One was a gal from Britain who is an expert on Google. She talked for 10 minutes then went into a question and answer mode where she carried on one on one conversations with folk in the front row. The theatre reportedly seats approximately 1000. No matter how many times people asked her to repeat the question she just kept on talking to the person in front of her, people began getting up and leaving. Another was a stock broker who had a good delivery and was interesting, but once again, we were on a cruise of the British Isles, Iceland, Norway and the Canadian Maritimes, not Wall Street.
Of course, like all lines, port lecturers usually make the pertinent excursion pitches sometime before arriving in said port. On this voyage they had an exceptionally good lecturer, Loie Lennon, who did provide a modicum of area historicity when she made her presentations, but she was not an historian. Now, if I were to do the scheduling of speakers on this cruise I would have selected at least two others who specialize in pertinent history, geography, or a marine naturalist. I would also have kept the stock broker.
----A minor complaint of ours was that room service procedures and standards are too complicated for the staff to understand and assimilate. For instance, our refrigerator had a normal size ice bucket, which is good. In order to fill it we had to contact "room service" not the room steward. (They won't let you fill it yourself, which we would gladly do.) They brought a huge 2 gallon size bucket filled with ice. We explained all we needed was the little ice bucket to be filled. We talked to the room steward but he couldn't do anything about it. So, every afternoon they would bring this huge load of ice, we would take a little out of it to fill our bucket then they would have to throw the rest away. (Maybe this procedure was on purpose in order to eliminate repeat calls for ice, strange though.)
---In my opinion the limited waiter services during breakfast and lunch, not dinner, in the Horizon could be put to much greater efficiency if items like Ketchup, orange juice, Tabasco sauce, etc were placed where guests could use them directly without having to wait on a waiter. Also, silverware could be wrapped in a napkin, like they do now, but laid out where one could take them individually without expecting a place setting. More than once I wanted to go out to the open air tables and stay out of everybody's hair, but couldn't find silverware, Ketchup, orange juice, etc.
---The theatre is great, in that the stadium seating angle is decent and steep enough so you can see over most heads in front of you; also there are no posts to block views. But even with three shows, it is too packed and not large enough. The rows are just barely wide enough for one to walk through when people are already in their seats, unfortunately, only one end of the row offers access and egress on many rows and the first who take seats sit next to the isle meaning they should stand again when someone wants to get by. But few stand, and their knees and feet get trampled on. Lots of ugly stares, moans and harsh feelings result.
----The library and internet room are separate which is good but they are very small rooms. A 450 passenger Regent Cruise line ship has twice as much space for both these functions. It is obvious the Royal Princess is not designed for exploration type voyaging but meant to sail in warm climes more or less functioning as an ocean going resort.
---I do miss the morning newspaper Princess used to put together for its guests. The ship location info on the TV is a joke. What happened to the days where we got continuous water depth, vessel speed, lat. and long., wind across the bow conditions, marine navigation charts posted around the ship showing sailing and route detail, etc? Having said that, the captain on this voyage is good and gives an excellent 24 hour run down, if you have the opportunity to catch his noon report that is. Being on the Royal is not much different than having a nice hotel room in a small city though. They don't treat the voyage like actually being on a ship at sea hardly at all.
--- I'm really not enamored by the looks of most of these new huge new ships. They appear to be floating huge condominium complexes and manifest a doubtful sea worthy appearance. The Royal Princess may be slightly superior in this regard over some of them but I notice they are careful not to take many pictures of it from above where its short stubby bow would be prominently portrayed.
The Cunard line is a sister line to Princess and they have the Queen Mary ll, which is slightly larger than the Royal Princess in terms of gross tonnage but carries about 1500 less passengers, which is represented by its greatly superior space to passenger ratio compared to that of the Royal. Now, even though the QM ll has a lot of condominium unit looking cabin balconies it is much more streamlined looking than the average ponderous vessel now coming out. Plus, it has a beautiful looking rakish bow that makes it look like it belongs on the sea. Of course the QM ll is the only true ocean liner sailing today, it has a top cruising speed that exceeds 30 MPH and can move in reverse faster than most ships can go forward. She is the way I think ships should look.
---I do not agree with the life boat drill procedures and arrangements or lack thereof, for both passengers and crew. Leaves too much up to conjecture on the part of the passengers and precise coordination among crew members in the event of a real emergency. Just hope and pray an emergency doesn't involve a large list to port or starboard or an onboard fire. I would think Carnival Corp. would have gone to great lengths to improve emergency drills, facilities and procedure in light of their dismal failure on their Concordia, operated by COSTA, sister line to Princess.
----The marine architect who designed the Royal must have flunked out in the passenger flow portions of his/her studies. There were three groups of elevator shaft alleys. The forward and aft alleys had four elevators each with wide public staircases, while the midship alley had 6 elevators and no public staircase. After returning from shore excursions it was virtually impossible to get on an elevator on the gangway decks. Persons with walking difficulty and boarding mid-ship had an endless wait and even though they decided to climb the stairway, this option didn't exist for them as there was no stairway at mid-ship. Particularly in the mid-ship area the elevators were continually over packed with guests most any time of day and many guests waited for extended periods of time to get into one. Since there were no alternative stairs, midship, other than walking to the forward or aft elevator & stairway alleys, consider too the ship is over 1000 feet long, there is no option but to stand and wait. This was particularly exasperating if one accidentally got off on a deck directly above or below the intended deck, since there was not a set of nearby stairs to walk up or down on. Doubling of the elevator capacity is necessary.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
Try and not use the midship elevators whenever possible as there is no alternative stair case there, instead favor either the fore or aft staircase and elevators.