Hits and Misses on the Royal Princess
Hits and misses are usually my opinion of what I did and didn’t like on a cruise, but this time I have some input from one of my sisters as well. As usual these are a matter of opinion and not everyone who sails that ship will agree since different people like different things.
The ship itself is quite nice. It’s easy to get around, classy, and tastefully decorated with a variety of options for things to do. Staff and crew were always polite and helpful.
The gym is open 24 hours a day. They post open hours of 6am-10pm, but that is the time it is staffed. The door is always unlocked and passengers can use the equipment any time of day or night.
The spa has a nice thermal suite called the Enclave. We often take the spa tour on boarding day to determine if that ship’s spa is worthy of paying the extra for the thermal package, and on Royal Princess we decided it was. There is a dry sauna and a couple of steam rooms, a pool with several water features including a rack to sit on and enjoy the jets, heated ceramic benches, and a couple little waterbeds.
Royal Princess has a well-designed theater with no view blocking poles holding up a balcony and most of the seats in the theater are good seats where you have a nice view of the stage.
The showers in the gym and spa locker rooms have rain shower heads.
Medalions are used instead of key cards. They have all the functions of a key card like opening the cabin door and charging onboard purchases, but they have additional useful features and some just for fun things. They are also waterproof, which would come in quite useful on an itinerary with beaches or snorkeling opportunities.
The food was good and the staff is quite accommodating for special diets. Besides the standard of ordering dinner on the previous night so the meals can be adjusted to fit people’s individual dietary needs, our waiter brought us off-menu deserts on nights where nothing from the menu fit our needs. Specialty foods are a bit harder to find on the breakfast buffet, but gluten free items are available if you ask where to find them.
Inside smoking is mostly confined to a fully-enclosed cigar lounge which keeps the smoke contained.
The outside smoking area is at the back end of the ship where people don’t inadvertently walk through it.
At the past guest party besides having a little stage show, they gave out drink certificates good for any bar anytime during the cruise.
They had good photographers who allowed the line of people exiting the ship to move freely by staying out of the way of people disembarking. They were there and available for anyone who wanted photos, but didn’t stuff up the line trying to stop people who didn’t want their photo taken.
Gluten free desserts were always available at the little cafe in the piazza and at the late night buffet.
There was always a variety of daily activities in the piazza.
The ship had a skywalk which was a little walkway with a glass floor. It curved out from the side of the ship so the sea was visible through the floor.
Royal Princess has self serve guest laundries, which are always a good thing to have on cruise ships.
After showing a boarding time of 1:00pm for over a year from when we booked until a couple weeks before the cruise, they sent an email saying they had staggered boarding by decks and we were to get on at 2:30, which was the very last time slot on the list. The ship was scheduled to sail at 4 which means all aboard would be 3:00 so we would barely get on the ship in time for the muster drill. 1pm was already a pretty late start time for boarding. In those days you could get on most ships in time to have lunch onboard. It was just the email they sent about boarding that was a miss though. The actual boarding process was quick and efficient, done first come first served, and we were onboard by 11:30am. This was before Covid. There’s a lot of hoops to jump through before you even get to the dock now.
You can pre-book excursions online before cruises, but apparently with Princess that doesn’t mean you can actually take that excursion. We booked one that was cancelled just before the cruise with no notification whatsoever from Princess. I only knew they cancelled it because I received a refund notice from PayPal, whom I had used to pay for it. Upon calling Princess they said they list all excursions a port has to offer and then cancel the ones that aren’t actually available for that sailing. If that is actually true and not just what one random person answering the phone said it seems like a way to make some very unhappy guests when they could instead just list excursions that are actually available for that cruise so people only book ones they can actually take.
The outside promenade deck does not go all the way around the ship. There’s really not much in the way of an outside promenade deck at all – just a small bit something like a big balcony at each end on each side. So there’s no promenade deck to walk or jog around for those who enjoy doing so (and that’s always quite a lot of people.) Also nowhere where people can position themselves for the exact view they want because the top decks have obstructions.
There’s no dry place to put your things in the gym and spa showers, no washclothes in gym or spa locker rooms, and no hairdryer in the gym locker room. It takes nearly a whole shower to get hot water in gym locker room which makes it hard to enjoy the rainshower. There are no private dressing rooms in gym or spa locker rooms, and some people take up lockers for the entire trip instead of just while they are at the gym even though there are nowhere near enough lockers for every passenger. There’s no indicator on the taps in the locker room showers for which direction to go for hot or cold and since it takes so long for the water to get warm until you’ve used it you have no way to know.
As is often the case on cruise ships, the inside areas of the ship were on the chilly side.
Some features of the medallion are useful yet creepy – like the find your shipmates feature which is useful if you want to locate someone, but creepy in that it shows you are being tracked wherever you go on the ship.
Instead of having separate shampoo and conditioner in the showers they had one bottle of a combined shampoo/conditioner, which is just not usable for most women, especially if their hair has any length to it.
There are no oceanview cabins. None at all on the entire ship. So cabin options are inside, balcony, or suite. Balcony cabins and suites do of course have a view of the ocean, but at a higher price than a room with just a window.
There are no unobstructed forward facing viewpoints anywhere on the ship.
The directional signs for the rooms in the hallways on either side of the elevator bays/stairwells had microscopic numbers so small that we had to actually walk into the hallway to see whether they were odd or even. The deck numbers were not all that large or obvious either so it could have used better signage.
The casino smelled of smoke, and smoking may actually be allowed in there at times.
Water was often too cold in the spa thermal suite (enclave) pool – and the rack in the pool was situated about 5 inches too high to really get properly submersed when sitting on it. Of the 4 fancy showers in the thermal suite area, only one was consistently warm. The spa was not on the same deck or even the same end of the ship as the gym that also had issues with getting any hot water in the showers there. So hot water seemed to be an issue in several areas of this ship – though not in our cabin where the shower consistently had hot water right away.
Overall we found quite a lot to like about the Royal Princess. It had more hits than misses and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise.
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