Royal Princess is the first of Princess’ Royal class, which also includes the Regal Princess, Majestic Princess, the soon to launch Sky Princess, and coming in 2020 the Enchanted Princess. Sister line P&O’s Britiannia also has a lot of similarities to this class of Princess ship. Royal Princess launched in 2013, christened by the Duchess of Cambridge (Princess Kate). Regal launched in 2014, followed by Majestic in 2017, and Sky is due to launch in October 2019.
This is currently Princess’ newest and largest class of cruise ships. Royal Princess holds 3560 guests in 1780 cabins and 1346 crew. The ship is 1083 feet long and 217 feet high topping out at deck 19 with no deck 13. Like floors in hotels, cruise ships often skip 13 when numbering their decks.
The Lido deck has a pool and hot tubs in the outside area, and a buffet inside. There are additional hot tubs on the deck above running along the sides of the Lido’s pool area.
Other than the medical center on deck 4, passenger areas are on deck 5 and above with the lower decks reserved for the crew. Unlike most ships, the 3 lowest decks with passenger access are all public areas with no low-deck cabins in an area where oceanview cabins usually reside. There are no cabins on the lifeboat deck either where obstructed view cabins are often found. In fact this ship has no ocean view cabins at all. All of the passenger staterooms either have balconies or are inside cabins. This is the first cruise ship I’ve ever seen that had no oceanview cabins.
The sea walk featured on decks 16 and 17 curves out beyond the rest of the outer edge of the ship. Glass panels in the floor of the sea walk on deck 16 allow viewing straight down through the floor to the lifeboats and the sea. The lower level is fun to walk on for the floor views, and the upper level is one of the best places on the ship for scenic views.
Royal Princess has a basketball court, ping pong, and mini golf on the sports deck. It also has a walking and jogging track, which circles around about half the distance of the ship and has some fitness stations along the way.
It was a bit disappointing that there are just 4 small sections of the outside promenade deck open to passengers. Promenade decks often circle the entire ship, providing a place to walk or jog. Usually they have some shade and shelter from upper decks while tracks on a top deck are open to wind and weather. Luckily the gym was open 24 hours making treadmills an option even for those who like to work out early or late. It had official open hours when it was staffed, but the equipment was available for use anytime.
Royal Princess had some nice unobstructed views off the stern on several decks, but no unobstructed forward views. One of the back decks was the smoking area. Having smoking at the back means the ship sails out of the smoke when underway, and people are unlikely to inadvertently walk through that area on the way to anywhere else. So that’s a good place for it to be.
Indoor smoking was allowed in the cigar lounge, which was fully enclosed and did not leach smoke into other areas of the ship. That’s a nice feature princess ships have. It gives the smokers a place to go without subjecting the rest of the passengers to their smoke. I don’t think smoking was actually allowed in the casino, but it smelled like smoke in there. Perhaps it was allowed in prior years since the smell never goes away without a complete gut job. Possibly people brought the smoke smell into the casino on their clothes, but since we didn’t notice it anywhere else on the ship it’s more likely that the smell was embedded into the room itself. Whatever the reason we tended to walk through the adjacent nightclub rather than the casino when passing through that deck.
We went to a cooking demonstration one day that was sort of a cross between a cooking show and a comedy show. It was pretty entertaining. The chef said he could make 100 different kinds of potatoes. The show was followed by a short galley tour. All along the edges of the counters in the galley there was a long line of plates of potatoes, each with a label of what kind they were, all different. I’ve been on a few galley tours before, but none of the others ever had all those different types of potatoes on display.
Royal Princess is a fairly large ship and even though it is 6 years old everything still looked new. Artwork in the hallways to passenger cabins consisted of pictures donated by passengers on former cruises. Most were idyllic vacation scenes, with a notation of who took the photo and which ship they were sailing on at the time. These attractive pictures were quite nice to look at while walking down the hallways. I thought it would have been nice if they had also included where the photo was taken. When looking at one of the photos and thinking I’d like to go there, it would have been nice to know where there was. A few places were obvious to everyone – like the moai of Easter Island. Some other places were recognizable to people who have been to that spot and remember the view, like the one of a monkey on the Rock of Gibraltar. I recognized it easily, but my sisters did not as they have never been there.
The ship had a nice thermal suite in the spa, called the Enclave. It had a pool, heated ceramic benches, some little heated waterbed things which I had never seen before, a sauna, steam rooms, and a variety of fancy showers in the enclave area. We always take the spa tour on boarding day to see if the ship’s thermal area is worthy of purchasing the thermal package, which allows you to use that area all through the cruise. We decided this one was indeed worthy, and enjoyed our time there.
Though it does cost extra, if the ship has a nice thermal suite it’s one of the best deals at the spa since you can use it every day rather than a one time event like a massage or facial. There were no private dressing areas in the locker room, but the showers there were equipped with rain showers just like the ones at the gym. The gym and spa were on different decks at opposite ends of the ship rather than in the same area with a shared locker room like on most ships. The gym locker room did not have private dressing areas either, though the gym itself was quite nice with plenty of treadmills. In the times I used it there were always treadmills available for anyone who came in wanting one, which is not always the case on some ships. There were self-serve passenger laundries on nearly every deck with guest cabins, so that’s a plus. Princess always has them so if I ever take a long cruise on Princess I won’t have to wash clothes in the bathroom sink like I have done on most of the long cruises we’ve taken on other lines.
The ship had lots of bars on various decks, and several eateries around the central piazza area in addition to the main food venues at the lido buffet, dining rooms, and premium restaurants. It had two pizza places with one in the piazza and one on the Lido. Other Piazza areas included a café with desserts, sandwiches, quiche, and specialty coffee and tea, a gelato place, and bars. The café there usually had a couple gluten free desert options and the food was free, but the specialty drinks cost extra so we brought free tea down from the Lido if we wanted to get a snack there. The crew was quite friendly and helpful in all areas of the ship. Being terrible with names and faces myself, I have no idea how the crew on cruise ships remembers all the guests and then learns a whole new batch the next week. It’s not just that they associate you with the cabin you’re in or the table you sit at in the dining room either because your steward or dining room staff will recognize you on sight anywhere on the ship and always have a friendly hello.
Royal Princess is one of the first few ships to add medallion class after the initial two ships who introduced it. So far the medallions are unique to Princess. The medallion is a like a wearable waterproof key-card, but so much more. It came in a plastic case on a lanyard, but they do sell optional bracelets and necklaces to put them on. With the simple plastic wristband priced at $12, and metal bracelets or neck chains upwards of $40-$50, not surprisingly most people just stuck with the lanyards. On a warm weather cruise destination with beaches and snorkeling options I’d imagine they would have more sales of the plastic wristbands since they’d be quite useful there, eliminating the usual cruise port dilemma of what to do with the key card (or in this case medallion) while you go into the water.
Besides opening the stateroom door and using the medallion to pay for onboard purchases like the traditional key-card, these could also be used to sign into interactive screens around the ship for things like wayfinding, game playing, or searching for your cabin mates. While useful when you want to find someone, the search feature is also somewhat creepy in that it makes it obvious you are being tracked everywhere you go onboard. The cabin door was supposed to unlock as you approach wearing your medallion, but we all had to touch ours to the screen outside the cabin to make our door unlock. We talked to a guy who said he had to touch his to the screen, but his wife’s would unlock it before she even got close so apparently some medallions worked better at that feature than others.
The medallions are also quite useful at check-in time. People have the option to be ocean ready before the cruise even starts. They can do their check-in process at home and if they live in the USA and complete it early enough they get the medallion mailed to them so they don’t even have to wait in line for it at the port. Ocean ready people have a separate check-in from the rest, which was promoted as having quicker access to the ship. We did not want to scan our passports and send the info over the internet so we did not do the ocean ready thing. I can’t verify how fast their boarding process actually went, but since that takes a good portion of the people elsewhere the regular check-in was a breeze.
Royal Princess has quite a nice theater. There is no balcony overhanging the lower level seats, which means no view-blocking poles holding up said balcony. The upper seats are raised far enough above the seats in front of them to provide a good view. The lower ones don’t have as much of a rise, but other than the ones way out to the side of the stage, most still have a good view. As is common in so many places, the speakers were turned up a bit too loud, making some sounds a bit hard on the ears. Especially when seated in those not-so-good seats out to the side at the front because they are next to some speakers.
The ship has an outdoor movie screen with nightly movies under the stars. There’s something playing on that screen throughout the day as well. The entertainment staff provides a variety of activities throughout the day and evening in various places around the ship. The Princess Patter paper placed in cabins each night has a full schedule of the next day’s events and there was always a long list of things to do. These events are also posted on an interactive screen in the elevator bays and can be seen on smart phones for anyone who downloaded the Princess app, which also has a chat feature for contacting your shipmates. We had just 2 sea days on this cruise so there wasn’t a lot of time for onboard activities. Most days were spent visiting ports, but we still found time to participate in a few things besides hanging out in the enclave at the spa which is where we spent most of our spare time onboard.
Décor on the Royal Princes was kind of a modern understated subtle elegance. Everything looked nice, but none of the fancy ornate décor found on some older cruise ships. Princess does not have a bunch of ugly statues placed around the ship that seem to be required décor on some lines. Pictures in areas other than hallways to guest rooms tended to look more like paintings than photos, and each stairway had artwork unique of that found on other stairways, which makes it easier to know whether you are near the front, center, or back of the ship when you go up or down the stairs.
Overall Royal Princess is quite a nice ship, and we had an enjoyable cruise. The Piazza area at the center of the ship is a hub of activity with shops, eateries, and bars all around it and a variety of activities happening there all day and throughout the evening. There are all sorts of activities all around the ship so there’s always something to do. The cruise director hosted several fitness classes in a row in the piazza and looked quite energetic and like he was having a good time leading the class any time we walked by there so teaching all those classes must really have kept him fit. He did seem like rather a high-energy outgoing guy whatever he was doing, which is a type of personality that makes a good cruise director.