Some of the low-key features that make Royal Princess an outstanding ship
The al fresco seating on deck 7 - outside Crooner's on the Atrium
My five days aboard Royal Princess, the first new ship from Princess in five years, were more than enough to give me a taste of what's in store for its future cruisers. I see Royal Princess as the ship where Princess Cruise Line has truly hit its stride; with great food options, non-stop entertainment and comfortable enclaves in beautiful surroundings. But because most articles about new ships solely focus on the "wow" aspects, which we have already told you about; the Sea Walk, the Pastry Kitchen, Movies under the Stars and the Cabanas in the Retreat and the Sanctuary, right now I want to look at some of the "hidden gems" about Royal Princess.
The "Best Little Things" about Royal Princess
Having taken all kinds of cruises, and I have very high regard for Princess as a premium but value-based "destination-focused" cruise line. If you take a Princess cruise in Europe or Asia, you will find a vast array of tour options perfectly planned down to the minute. This is a cruise line that will make sure you see the best sights in any region.
But sometimes you also want a cruise where you can just relax, rejuvenate and forget your worries. Royal Princess definitely delivers in that department. Let's look at some of the "best little reasons" why Royal Princess is a great cruise ship.
1. The Stateroom Television
Let your body go into a low gear and just idle along with the flow. By the second or third day you are getting regular naps, eating delicious food whenever you want, and finding fun, engaging entertainment with no effort at all. With Royal Princess, this carefree cruise style starts with the perfectly designed stateroom, including the best television system at sea.
Every Royal Princess stateroom comes with a 37-inch flat screen television. The picture is clear, the sound is more than loud enough and it is placed directly in front of the king-sized bed - not off to the side at an uncomfortable angle.
But it is the best at sea because of the fully interactive and always FREE programming. You have your choice of dozens of just released, brand new epic movies that would cost you $5.99 apiece to rent at home for just one day from your pre-paid local cable company. But on Royal Princess they are all available - on demand - and at no cost!
There are also entire seasons of quality television shows, including premium channel series like "Homeland" and "Dexter." Or you can watch your favorite news channel in real time, or even a special Royal Princess "Morning Show" taped on board daily in the ship's own television studio ("Princess, Live!") that features interviews with the entertainers and staff-members on board.
I even have to mention the remote control, which with only eight buttons to do everything is the easiest and most intuitive I have ever seen. Select a subject, pick your show, start, pause or stop it and resume it the next day right where you left off. The hardest thing about the remote will be keeping track of it, because it is so small.
2. The International Cafe
The only thing that makes great TV even better is the perfect snacks. In addition to complimentary 24-hour room service Royal Princess also has the International Café on deck five; another excellent 24-hour location for no-cost, hot food. There is no complicated menu system; everything is freshly made and on display. There are Panini and Cuban-style sandwiches ready to grill; delicious salads, fruit plates, desserts, hot coffee or cocoa and freshly baked cookies. Just point at what you want and you can enjoy it in the beautiful atrium or return to your room for movie time munching.
3. The Thermal Spa
The Lotus Spa on Royal Princess offers everything from haircuts to pedicures, facials and massages, teeth whitening, acupuncture and even "non-surgical facelifts." But the best deal by far is the Thermal Suite. If you have not yet caught on to these, investigate on the first day of your cruise. Access to these facilities is capacity controlled and I was told every spot fills up on the first day.
The Thermal Spa features a very large Thelassotherapy pool (a large hot tub with plenty of strong, muscle-soothing water jets), wet and dry saunas to help you sweat out the toxins, aromatherapy steam baths and rain showers (Eucalyptus, lavender and others) and heated ceramic lounge chairs where you allow the heat to penetrate every fiber in your body. The Thermal Suite can be used whenever you want with no time limits (when open). The cost is a mere $149 per person per cruise (about $21 per day).
4. Alfredo's Pizzeria & Other Food Choices
24-hour pizza is available on most ships, but you have to go outside and wait to be served a reheated slice of whatever happens to be ready. But Alfredo's Pizzeria offers free and fresh pizza with open seating, anytime dining right on the Atrium. The baked to order artisan pizza is thin crusted, hand-tossed Neapolitan-style with a wide variety of toppings. Each pie is delivered fresh to your table and one is large enough for two people but you feel free to order two or even more if you want.The Pub Lunch is a delightful treat. You can eat true British-style food like Bangers and Mash (I don't even know what that is), fish and chips, Steak and Kidney Pie and other treats in the Wheelhouse Pub. At the opposite end of the scale, vegetarians have a great selection of freshly grilled hot vegetables for every meal available in the Horizon Court. These slices of eggplant, carrots, potatoes, etc. are thick sliced a grilled individually. You can get "free" ice cream (not gelato or Haagen Dazs) by the pool at a little place called "Swirls."
5. Al Fresco Seating on Deck Seven Promenade
Something that has not been advertised at all, but is an especially cool "find" is the outdoor seating area on the promenade deck just outside of Crooner's Bar, the Atrium piano bar on deck seven. This outdoor seating area is right outside of the Atrium and easy to reach through two sets of double doors. The space does not even have a name, but it is true al fresco seating with tables and chairs right over the water on deck number seven.
Finally, smokers have the ultimate getaway in Churchill's. The room is small and singularly devoted to this one activity, so it doesn't need much except very comfy chairs and a few bay windows. The room is so well insulated, ventilated and situated that if you are a non-smoker I doubt you will even notice it. There are two very heavy doors to separate it from the main public areas, and the smell of smoke is completely undetectable.
Even with a few little things where (like on any ship) some people said something could have been done better, when you examine the Royal Princess experience in its entirety the good things about the ship far outweigh anything that might detract.