A few things deserve a mention in the interest of both sides of the story
An entertainer on Royal Princess
In yesterday's article we discussed the "hidden gems" of Royal Princess, the tiny items that won't be discussed enough, but that make it a truly special ship. Today, we are doing exactly the opposite; we are mentioning the few things about the ship that will give you pause. They are not serious enough to make or break a cruise at all, but they do deserve a mention in the interest of fair play for both sides of the story.
"These Stairs Don't Go Up."
One of the oldest and in my opinion stupidest "cruise jokes" goes like this; a passenger asks a crewmember "do these stairs go up?" - End of joke - no punch line. It is supposed to be a funny statement on its own because stairs don't go anywhere, they lead people to different places - and supposedly if you see the stairs going "up" then the answer is obvious.
But not always. On the new Royal Princess I actually heard a staff member say in all seriousness to a passenger "these stairs don't go up." What could possibly precipitate such an assault on this time-honored cruise ship joke? It is an actual design choice made on Royal Princess you are bound to notice, and to hear much more about as time goes on.
There are three elevator banks, like most ships; forward, midships and aft. Like most ships, the elevators are fully accompanied by staircases, for those times when you only need to go a deck or two and waiting for an elevator is too time-consuming.
But for some reason, with the mid-ship bank of elevators they chose to only provide stairs for decks five, six and seven - corresponding to the decks of the atrium. To reach decks eight through 17, one must use an elevator. Making this even sillier, the Atrium itself already has stairs on the same decks.
Now if this is the worst design feature on this beautiful ship there isn't much to complain about, but it becomes pretty obvious when you have a midships stateroom and you just want to go down from deck eight to the deck seven atrium level - you still have to wait for an elevator, and they get very, very slow. Why? Because there are no stairs.
Yes, I heard the famous cruise joke turned on its ear. Someone on the top deck of the atrium wanted to go to their stateroom on deck eight, but while there are stairs that lead up towards deck eight they dead-end with a fire door marked "crew only." That was the exact spot where I heard an officer tell a guest "these stairs don't go up."
Being the nosy type, I peeked and I saw a full staircase for the crew leading from deck three all the way to deck 17 - but not available to the public - except during fire drills.
The Lotus Spa for Couples
Inside the Lotus Spa area is something called the "Spa Couples Villa" where you can "get a room" for 160 minutes that comes with two massage tables (and two massage therapists to provide each a 75-minute treatment of choice). When the massage is over the couple gets the room alone for the balance of the time. It has a couch, television, large bathtub, steam room and a toilet. During those extra minutes of privacy you can do whatever you want (use your imagination). The price is just $589. Now, if that is too high you can get 135 minutes for $473, or 110 minutes for $449.
Extra Spa Treatments
Other features of the Lotus Spa include acupuncture services for the treatment of everything from aches and pain to sleeplessness, tension and sea sickness. These are usually booked solid each day of the cruise
Another special treatment "only available on Royal princess" is the Royal Experience; where you get two massage therapists at the same time, one working your midsection while the other gives you a facial, then when the facial is done that therapist starts working on your lower limbs while the first moves up to massage your head, neck and shoulders. This comes with a secret aromatherapy blend of three "essentials oils."
Another exclusive Royal Treatment is the "Coconut Thai Poultice" where hot coconut oil is rolled into the skin with a special roller apparatus and allowed to sink into the skin, making it smooth, rich and smell good enough to eat. The cost for this is $155 for 75 minutes.
MediSpa Treatments - the Ultimate Makeover
The ultimate spa service available onboard Royal Princess is what you have probably seen advertised in your home town as the "non-surgical facelift." Dr Claire Rank, of Monterey, Mexico, practicing within the Lotus Spa, offers a combination of two therapies that together she says will make you look significantly younger for anywhere from four to 12 months, depending on what treatment you receive and your personal body's reaction to the treatment.
The two options are (1) a relaxer - a medically safe chemical that will make your skin so pliable that it will not wrinkle, something like steaming your clothes, I suppose. She demonstrated it to me by bobbing her eyebrows and pointing out that, unlike in my case, no wrinkles appear in her forehead when she lifts her brows. That is because her skin is too relaxed up there to "bunch up" and cause wrinkles. Yes, apparently she not owns the company, but she is also a customer.
The other treatment is "filler" which is another hypo-allergenic substance that (she said) fills out certain areas in the face to reduce some of the visible signs of aging. In my case she recommended treating what she called the "marionette" lines that lead from the corners of the mouth to the chin. In many people she says the "smile lines" (from the top of each nostril to the corresponding corner of the mouth) are the most common targets. Apparently I don't smile enough to have a problem there.
This is the same procedure you see advertised in your local area as "non-surgical facelift." Dr. Claire said the "recovery" is minimal, the traces of the filler procedure are only noticeable for about three or four days, while the relaxer does not require any recovery time at all. The cost? My treatment could have been done for $2000. The total time needed is only about 30 minutes, half of that time filling out forms. Then a numbing cream is applied and the procedure itself only takes about 15 minutes.
Special Cabana Experiences
The latest trend on cruise ships is private cabanas on the top "sun decks" of the cruise ship. These private cabanas are like tents with opaque flaps furnished like living rooms on the inside. On Celebrity's newest ships, for example, you can rent a cabana up on the lawn deck for a day and get drinks, special picnic basket meals, spa services and video games and Internet access on iPads for a few hundred dollars per day.
But on Royal Princess while $3000 is enough to pay for a 10-day cruise, it is also the price to rent a top notch cabana and spa experience for four adults in the private, adults-only Serenity Area high atop deck 17 forward for a 12 hour period. In this private cabana are some very comfy lounge chairs, a large screen television, artisan picnic baskets, and a "mini-bar" filled with select wines, fruits and cheeses.
The $3000 price tag is for the "Royal Indulgence" where up to four people can have as much massage (either Swedish, deep tissue, or bamboo rolling) as they want. If you only want to have the same option for three persons for 5.5 hours you can pay half the price ($1500) for the optional periods 8:00 to 1:30 or 2:00 to 7:30. You can also add facials and the "Thai Herbal or Thai Coconut Poultices" as described above, or the Elemis hot stone or "face and body sensation" experiences.
The massage services last 50 minutes apiece, while the rest of the cabana time includes butler and beverage service including caviar and a bottle of Dom Perignon.
Other Items of Note
While the deck 17 Sea View and Sea Walk are very cool - you walk through a glass tunnel where you can look down to the sea water some 180 feet below. But be careful, these two glass floors are outdoors, and if they get even a little bit humid they can be very slippery.
Like every new design cruise ship, Royal Princess has a few things that make you go "huh?" Nevertheless, none of these things will ruin or even affect a cruise for you as long as you use common sense. This is a beautiful ship with plenty of outstanding options many other ships do not have; plenty of public laundry facilities, 24-hour hot food service, a top-notch Thermal Suite and movies under the stars. Also, prices for Caribbean cruises starting next November already appear to be very reasonable.