Further to my earlier threads asking for any questions I could answer on my visit to the Royal Princess here is my review of the day and answers to some of the points raised.
Please let me state at the outset that the review is naturally just my own views based on what my wife and I have grown to like in our 30 years of cruising including many on Princess.
Having planned to write a very long review (it probably still will be) I have seen others including the excellent review from Black Velvet who was on the 2 night preview cruise and was in a better position to write a detailed report than me. My views also happen to concur with most of his anyway!
My visit was yesterday with a friend who, with his wife, is also an experienced cruiser. It was very well organised and started early, well before the scheduled time as we were onboard by 1020 after a very easy parking of the car and shuttle bus to the Terminal. Full marks to Princess for their organisation.
We left the ship some four hours later and decided against having the Dining Room lunch to allow more time for touring the ship – the Horizon Court was open so we had a light lunch there.
OK, here goes with my comments and I will then focus on some of the questions I was able to answer for you. Walking onboard into the magnificent piazza atrium really does have the WOW factor. I challenge anyone to deny that it is a spectacular location and visually stunning – more on that later.
To balance my many critical comments later I would like to add some other positive feedback here. The theatre is magnificent with great views from every seat. The Vista Lounge is a very typical Princess second entertainment venue and a nice room. Although we could only peep into Sabatini’s it looked a delightful alternative dining venue. Crooners and Bellini’s lovely rooms. Alfredo’s looked tempting!
Unfortunately I now have to focus on the areas in which I was hugely disappointed and can only agree with many of the points Black Velvet made.
The Promenade deck is a disaster with limited access and, as we all know, no full wrap round. In all honesty it is fairly useless and while it clearly will not be a big issue to everyone it would be to us and a MAJOR disappointment.
The cabins…….I was really surprised to find them, like for like, a touch smaller than most on the other Princess other ships. Without exception all of the many people we spoke to on our tour were disappointed with the size and particularly the very disappointingly small size of the balconies. And this is 2013 – there is still the shower curtains in most bathrooms – there are far superior alternatives available than the “bum” curtains as another poster so eloquently described them!!
It is hard to fathom why there should be a new build with all the razzmatazz when the reality is that guests will be getting less than usual in respect of their cabins. Even in the mini suites, the balconies are amazingly small. Having cruised on so many Princess ships with lovely balconies I am certainly disappointed at such a backward step on this much lauded new ship.
We only saw a limited number of cabins but they included an owner’s suite M723 (changed from M721 on earlier deck plans). That was the only cabin we saw with a large balcony and it wraps round but apart from a tiny few square feet is totally uncovered. A nice cabin but without giving the impression of too much space as it is almost divided into two separate rooms plus the bathroom. Obviously very nice though!
The Seawalk – a novel attraction BUT, like many others, I was absolutely amazed at how close and intrusive it is to many of the balcony cabins. As Black Velvet said in his review the balconies facing it are the most overlooked I have ever seen, many being just a few feet away.
I accept what others have said that generally speaking people will not deliberately stare into the balconies but trust me they are so INCREDIBLY close I would find it totally unacceptable. Balconies should be private (ish) space – these are most definitely not. It was interesting that although most of the cabins we saw were on Marina deck we were not allowed into the mini suites that look into the Seawalk from that deck or any others below it.
We all know that on the Grand class ships balconies are overlooked to varying degrees but this is a different form of overlooking “from the outside” and I find it bizarre such a feature can have been created that is so intrusive. I also again accept that, like the hopeless Promenade Deck, this will not be an issue to everyone but you will be paying a lot of money for those balconies (about the 5th and 6th highest priced cabins) and I just cannot understand the mindset in their design.
Back to the magnificent atrium – there are, of course, several revenue earning food venues there but all are delightfully created and blend in well. Princess boasts that the Piazza is 50% bigger than other ships but there are a lot more passengers. I still think it is inevitably going to be very busy due to the number of people onboard and difficult to get seats.
I therefore found it most surprising that one whole side of one level in the atrium was taken up by the vast photo gallery – surely that could have been located elsewhere to leave another bar/seating area in the atrium?
Midships stairs – as is well documented the stairs do not go above deck 7 but you actually walk up one flight to find the stairs end and there are no signs before you start the climb. Odd! The safety aspect will, of course, have been fully checked but even on this short stay I found it most annoying having to walk forward or aft to get down one or two flights of stairs (the lifts were very busy amidships and they clearly will be massively overworked).
The restaurants – as I said we did not eat in the main dining rooms but did tour the Concerto and Symphony rooms. I was very disappointed to see the large amount of banquette/bench seating which I find very uncomfortable. 5 star dining? Not really when you have not got an individual seat. Again, this may not bother anyone else.
Dancing – or not! Very few places to dance and, as per other threads, this seems to be disappearing as an option. Even the Wheelhouse Bar is just an extension to the Crown Grill rather than a room in its own right so, other than on the ground floor of the atrium (and the disco), there are not many options.
Outside decks – a lot of nooks and crannies but the two pools plus the plunge pool are not really enough for the number of people – shame the Terrace pool is not on this ship. The “island feature” in between the Lido deck swimming pool and plunge pool has an attractive water feature and, I understand, is lit up at night. Very attractive but it does take up a lot of space.
Before I move on to the answers to questions here is a brief summary – atrium magnificent……the Theatre, Vista Lounge, Sabatini’s, Crooners, Bellini’s and several other public rooms excellent. (Sanctuary/Spa/Children’s areas not our scene so not able to pass a relevant comment.)
Bad points – Seawalk and the views of the balconies…………..promenade deck………….no mid ship stairs above deck 7…………cabins reduced in size and VERY poor balcony size……………the amount of bench seating in the restaurant………………photo gallery taking valuable space in the atrium – sorry, just very disappointing.
I know that people who design such massive moving objects as 141,000 tonne ships are far cleverer than me. How they can come up with some of the designs here does defeat me though!
And finally, just to stress we are huge Princess fans and are on a Far East cruise on Diamond Princess in a few months time. It is not that the Royal Princess is a horrible ship – far from it as there are lots of lovely features and it is gleaming and new. It is just that there are so many design features which I believe a very significant number on people will be hugely disappointed with.
I know when people post rather critical reviews like this some responses are often along the lines of “you don’t have to book on the ship” – point taken! I am just doing what I said I would, give my honest assessment and answer some questions. We love Princess and will stick to their many other lovely ships. Others will have a great cruise while making their own minds up! So please don’t shoot the messenger!!!
Your questions (many of which have already been answered on the site by other posters).
Electric sockets – I did not see any UK sockets in the cabins unless anyone can correct me. As others have said there is a disappointing lack of sockets in the cabins. There are pictures posted on another thread which was very helpful.
Seawalk and looking over the balconies – covered above
Promenade deck – covered above
Midships stairs – covered above.
Seafood bar and Gelato’s. Yes, they are chargeable. Here are some sample prices that people asked for: Caviar $70 per oz, crab cocktail $6, smoked salmon and gravadlax from $4.50 to $15. There are a few items such as various salads that are complimentary with a beverage purchase……….and in Gelato, any 3 scoops $2.75 or 1 punch of a coffee card, same price for ice cream sundaes, alcoholic sundaes are $6.50 or 2 punches on the coffee card.
Drinks in Bellini’s (a lovely bar overlooking the atrium but only a very few seats) – most Bellini’s $7.95 with the Royal Bellini being $15.
Draught beer – not available in many bars, those that have only bottles/cans are generally $4.95. All drinks obviously plus the 15%.
Smoking in the casino – not sure about this one so can anyone help?? In the Patter for those staying onboard yesterday it said, “…..indoor areas aboard Royal Princess are non-smoking”. However a member of staff did say they will have smoking nights in the casino – so the answer is I am not sure!! (Churchill’s Lounge is there for inside smoking of course).
Outside smoking – Promenade Deck starboard aft, and Horizon Terrace starboard aft. Will the Emerald deck cabins above notice the smoke – I guess so but am not an expert.
Swimming pools – no sign of wheelchair access to the pools but it was raining so did not study in detail – can anyone else advise??
Other cabins – I was asked questions about various cabins but we only had a limited number to look at so can only comment in general terms as above – to summarise, they are all visually like the standard Princess cabins but a little smaller. There were specific questions about deluxe balconies (quite compact as described by many others) and the mini suites (those we saw had very disappointing balconies)
Aft cabin balconies – it was difficult to get a clear view but I got the impression most of them are uncovered (like the owner’s suite referred to above). Can anyone assist?