Regal Princess, a big step back
We did the 17 days transatlantic tour on the new Regal Princess leaving Venice on October 17, 2014. We had a mini suite on the Riviera Deck. After the huge advertisement made by Prin-cess for the apparently most beautiful ship, we were very interested to build our own opinion. Here is our report:
When you judge a new ship which according to the advertisement is the best ship which Prin-cess has ever built, you compare it automatically with the older ships, the Ruby class of ships and the Coral/Island class of ships. Generally it can be said that the Regal Princess is a big step back in comparison to those older ships. In detail:
Cabins (Mini Suites)
The new mini suites have a much smaller â€“ about 50 %! - balcony than the minisuites of the older ships. The distance between the wall which separates the bed from the wardrobe is also much smaller. You have to pay attention when you get up in the night in particular older peo-ple. The bathrobes are no more of â€œTerryclothâ€ but of a much worse quality. It positively must be noticedthat Princess offers now a wide variety of new movie films without any costs in all staterooms. A plus is the bigger water basin. We would assess the minisuites of the Regal Princess with three stars versus four stars of the Ruby Class ships.
Generally it can be said that the ratio of the size of the public rooms to the quantity of the passengers is considerably smaller than of the old ships.
About the staircase in the middle of the ship much has already been written. It is true the lack of stairs in the upper part is a catastrophe and you ask yourself how apparently experienced ship planners can make such a great mistake. It does not throw a competent light on the man-agement of Princess Lines. As we could not take the steps from the Riviera Deck to the Hori-zon Court, we always had to use the lift. First thing when you arrive at the lifts in the middle of the ship is running around â€“ when no other waiting passengers have already done so - and to push four times the buttons because the lifts run independently. On average we had to wait during the normal business hours 90 seconds for a ride. One lift out of six was often out of service or reserved. If you have to use the lift 12 times per day which is quite normal, you have to wait 18 minutes per day in front of the lifts. In 17 days that adds up to 306 minutes which is more than 5 hours waiting time. Then you have to add the lift travel time because the lifts stop on nearly all floors due to the fact that the stop order only expires for the lift you have pushed. The other stop orders remain. If in an office building employees would have to wait such a long time during normal labor hours, the employer would be in great trouble. The next problem is that the lifts in the middle are very often overcrowded. This is a wonderful environment for passengers who have a cold to pass their symptoms to other fellow passen-gers. A gold mine for the doctors on board!
The Wheelhouse Bar has shrunk to about one fourth of the size of the older ships. It is not a separate room any more. Room for a band or dancing does not exist anymore. The library does not disserve its name; it has shrunk to the size of a lavatory. The Explorer Lounge has been rationalized away in favor of a TV Studio.
The Atrium of the ship is really beautiful and a plus. The Elite and Platinum lounge is now in the Vista Lounge. It is a big room at the end of the ship which is used as a second theatre; it has nearly no windows and is extremely inpersonal. It is not comparable with the beautiful lounge on the 19th floor of the Ruby class ships.
The Princess Theatre in the front of the ship is too small for the number of passengers. For the great shows (two per evening) not all the passengers found seats which means that they missed the shows. At the end of the cruise they performed three shows per evening to elimi-nate this problem. The Atrium is quite large and beautiful.
There are enough lounges for sunbathing. However, the cabanas in the adult part of the sun deck were never used. Nobody was prepared to pay the $ 40.00 pro cabana per day. One of the new gadgets is the fountain on deck 16 midship which can be operated in many colors and designs in combination with music. The only problem is that this fountain can be hardly oper-ated on sea due to the wind. So at the end it is a waste of space, space which could be used for other purposes. Most passengers would be happy if Princess would built in an indoor pool like on the Coral/Island ships.
The three main restaurants are nicer equipped than the older ships. We ate in the Allegro Res-taurant which is reserved for fixed dinners. It is on deck 6 at the end of the ship. Here you feel and hear the engines of the ship quite well and sometimes we had the feeling that the drive shafts which connect the engines with the shipâ€™s propellers are running untrue. We also ate twice in the Crown Grill. We liked the design of the Crown Grill resp. of the Bayou CafÃ©s in the older ships better than on the Regal. If you have a table near the kitchen and the piano player any decent discussions among the guests are impossible. One of the benches of the ta-ble next to the hostess desk was defective. Nevertheless it was offered to guests but not to the officers of the ship which also eat in the Crown Grill. The quality of the food in the Crown Grill is not better than the dinners in the main restaurant. The portions, however, are bigger. If you want to eat in the Crown Grill insist to be seated next to the windows where the noise is much lower. A definite advantage in comparison to the older ships is the newly laid out Hori-zon Court and Bistro on the 16th deck. However, if you order a freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast it takes the waiter at least ten minutes because the Horizon court has not the ap-propriate machine to squeeze oranges (or other fruits).
Jogging around the complete ship like you can do on the Promenade Deck of the Ruby Class ships is no longer possible. There is a much smaller jogging track on deck 18. A negative point is also that the passengers have no possibility to see the front of the ship when in sea. On the Ruby class of ships you could see the front from the fitness center resp. from front verandas on the Coral/Island ships.
In spite of the beautiful atrium and remodeled Horizon Court we would assess the public rooms with three stars versus four stars of the Ruby Class ships.
Quality of food
Food was good like on the Ruby Class ships. The variety of pastry was greater, which is really a positive point. We would assess the quality of the food with four stars.
The big shows were really fantastic also the bands and singers. Some of the comedians were under average. However, Mark Preston from the former Lettermen and Linda Gentille were absolutely great. We would assess the entertainment with four and a half stars versus four stars of the Ruby Class ships.
The service and the quality of Princess Staff was always excellent. Here no difference can be found between the Regal Princess and the older ships.
What we also found is that Princess is now starting to charge money for any perks for example all transfers from the landing position to the center of the city. Before passengers returned to the ship they received cold fruit punch. This has been deleted. If you bought previously a cof-fee card on the first day of the cruise you received a second coffee card without extra charge. The live musician at the English afternoon tea has been taken away.
We like the older Princess ships and we think that Princess is a fine cruise line which we rec-ommended until now to our friends. But we will never book again the Regal Princess class of ships because they are a big step back. If the management of Princess continues this way, the Company will lose its good reputation and the passengers will change to other cruise lines. The small gap between Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises has with the appearance of the new ships been widened in favor for Celebrity Cruises.
Overall we would assess the complete rating of the Regal Princess with only 3.5 stars in par-ticular due to the very small balconies, the missing staircase in the upper middle of the ship and the smaller resp. missing public rooms. You get the feeling that the Princess management tried to squeeze in this ship the most possible cabins. Our opinion that the new ship is a great step back was shared by many fellow passengers. This ship and the Royal Princess may be a financial success but only with the â€œolderâ€ ships you have still the â€œoldâ€ Princess feeling. But CEO Jan Swartz, you know that the competitors do not sleep and passengers must be newly conquered in every sailing. We will not sail again with this class of ships.
The captain (Dino Sagani) regularly forced all clients to listen to his irrelevant babbling by transmitting in each state room his loud status reports. It is true that most other cruises don't force paying customers to listen to obscure super-star wannabes, but on the Royal Princess they do things differently! We had the chance to experience the prison-like treatment of having our afternoon sleep rudely interrupted by the captain's many fascinating announcements â€“ we found out the speed of the boat in three measurement units and we were also regularly informed of the depth of the sea! We complained that normal cruises donâ€™t transmit such loud announcement in the staterooms, but the cruise staff quickly dismissed our lack of enthusiasm and our reluctance to embrace the hyperactive vacationing approach. So once you had your tenth supersized extra-strong coffee you're ready to relax on this cruise.
The drills performed on the ship were also a nice occasion to witness frustrated staff yell orders to some disobedient paying customers. Luckily no client was beaten for their lack of immediate compliance with the orders of parking-guard equivalents.
The food was tasty and nicely presented, but some itemsquickly finished so we had to be there when the restaurants opened.
Otherwise, the ship is beautiful and the entertainment diverse and of adequate quality.
Royal Princess Inaugural Caribbean Cruise Oct.29- Nov. 3, 2013
There is nothing like the excitement of arriving at a cruise port on sailing day, and looking for that first glimpse of your ship through the shuttle bus window. "There she is," we all exclaimed on the bus, "she is so big!"
We arrived on the morning of October 29 at approximately 10 a.m. There were no line-ups, and surprisingly, we were processed through security, registration desk and up into the waiting lounge in less than half an hour. After about an hour's wait, our Platinum status allowed us to be one of the first to board the Royal Princess, and first impressions were she was lovely! The magnificent atrium area, called the Piazza, was beautiful, classy, and the columns of light on either side of the stairways were breathtaking.
There was a very good band playing to welcome passengers with some Caribbean music. They were called "Steele" and
The first order of business as usual was lunch! We made our way up to Deck 16 to the Horizon Court Bistro where tantalizing reats awaited. My first discovery, situated between the two halves of the buffet area was called The Pastry Shop. Oh my, the heavenly smells that emanated from there! I had to walk through and goggle at the all the delectable treats, even though I could not eat most of them. I was pleasantly surprised though to discover that each day, at least one gluten-free dessert was offered, and they were always delicious!
After a lovely first lunch we embarked on a "Treasure Hunt". At boarding, we were given cards featuring many of the shops and specialty areas on the ship, and were encouraged to find these places, collect a stamp at each one, then drop the card into a box for a raffle prize draw at sailaway. I thought it was a great way to discover the ship, find our way around, meet the staff, and encourage people to attend the sailaway party.
One of our first stops on the treasure hunt was The Sanctuary, located on Deck 17 forward. First you come to the Retreat Pool, a fairly large rectangular pool surrounded by lounge chairs and tented cabanas.The pool and regular chairs were free to use, but the cabanas had to be rented at $50 for a half day or $80 for a full day.
Then, into the private entrance of The Sanctuary,where things got even more expensive. Beautiful cushioned lounge chairs could be rented, as well as tented cabanas and what looked like mini apartments,complete with comfortable couches, lounges, flat screen TVs, and mini bar, all tastefully decorated, comfortable and very private. There were also smaller rooms available for massage treatments and total relaxation.
People were lined up to book their time in TheSanctuary, but were told they had to come every morning around 8:30 to book for that day. Beautiful as it was, we never did go back as it was totally out of our price range.
After touring the ship and collecting our treasure hunt stamps, we made our way to our cabin on Baha Deck 11, midship.This proved to be a fortunate location because we were in close walking distance to the main midship elevators. Unfortunately, there were no staircases located midship, only forward and aft, so even if you wanted to walk up or down a floor or two, you always had to wait for the elevator. This was the first of many design flaws we were to find on the ship.
Our cabin was ready by the time we got there at 1:30; nicely decorated, comfortable if a bit small, but it had plenty of storage space with a large open double closet and many drawers situated in the bedside tables and desk.
Ours was a balcony cabin and the balcony was tiny, barely fitting the two chairs and tiny table.
The bathroom was even smaller. As someone later pointed out, if you were to take the shower out of the bathroom, the remaining space was no bigger than an airline toilet. I often kept the door open while in the bathroom because not only did it make me feel claustrophobic, but I kept banging my elbow on the door while standing at the counter. Come to think of it, another reason for keeping the door open was the fact that there was no exhaust fan in the tiny room, so it very quickly steamed up if the shower was on. Oh, and I mustn't forget design flaw #2: the toilet roll holder. Every single person I talked to over the course of the two weeks we spent on the ship said the same thing; "what's with the placement of the toilet roll holder?" If you were seated, the toilet roll with its annoying metal flap cover was situated behind you and under the sink counter, so that you almost needed to be a contortionist to reach it, and being cheap thin paper, it often ripped off in little bits several times before you got enough to use. Speaking of cheap and thin, the towels fell into that category as well. I thought for a beautiful big new ship like the Royal Princess, we would have luxurious "royal" towels, but the towels and facecloths were thin, and had the texture of fine sandpaper.
After unpacking and settling in, the inevitable muster drill was called around 3:15 p.m. Our muster station was in a main thoroughfare area outside Princess Live! television studio on Deck 7. We had to drag our life jackets down the stairs far far down the hall, and line up in very cramped quarters for the demonstrations and announcements. At least it was air conditioned...one step above being lined up on a hot deck outdoors.
This was followed by the Sailaway party on Lido deck 16 by the main pool. Another very good band called "The Volume" were playing by the pool, and all the entertainment staff were in attendance, encouraging people to dance and also giving out raffle prizes from the treasure hunt. Sadly, I didn't win anything. At this point, we found our friends who were traveling with us on this cruise and we celebrated sailaway with a couple of drinks and a heartfelt "Cheers".
When it was time to actually depart, the Royal Princess's horn announced her departure with a tooting rendition of "The Love Boat Theme". We were on our way!
Following the sailaway, where we had filmed our departure from the upper pool deck, we were coming down the outside stairs back to the pool deck, when I missed the last step and fell down the stairs. Nobody's fault but mine, I just didn't see the last step. I fell heavily on my bad hip, and smacked my shin bone on the bottom step, never dropping the two plastic glasses I was carrying! Back in the cabin I had to ice the injury for awhile, the swelling and bruising was extensive.
By 6:30 I was recovered enough to go to dinner.We had chosen "Anytime Dining", so were directed to the Symphony Dining Room. It was spacious, beautiful, and I loved the entrance decor of what resembled silver and gold Christmas balls.
Our waiter that first night was James "007", who was very funny and gave us great friendly service. Our first meal consisted of grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans for me, and leek & cheese tart, shrimp cocktail and mushroom soup for James, all was very good. Dessert was a delicious creme brule, and flourless (gluten-free) chocolate cake.
A very good dinner was followed by a very good Welcome Aboard show in the Princess Theatre. It was extremely packed by 8:30 when we got there, and we were lucky to get seats, because it was soon full.
The Princess singers and dancers were fabulous; energetic, talented, and they put on a good show. Our cruise director Sam Hawker-Thompson introduced herself and her entertainment staff, and she and they proved to be personable and funny. The headlining comedian of the week, Carlos Oscar, did a short act that had me in tears, I was laughing so hard. We looked forward to seeing more of him later in the week.
Despite the fact it had been a very long and busy day, we still had time and energy for one more bit of entertainment before bedtime - Trivia in the Princess Live! TV studio. This theatre is a new endeavour for Princess, and was the focus spot for karaoke, interactive trivia, game shows, and daily live television broadcasts of the Wake Show hosted by the cruise director Sam and her sidekick Deputy Dan.
All in all, a very successful first day, toilet roll holder aside, and we were off to bed looking forward to Day 2 in Princess Cays...