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CruiseReportPrincess Cruises Royal Princess5A cruise review of Princess Cruises Royal Princess in Caribbean
by John & Sandra Nowlan
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  Royal Princess
Princess Gets Royal Treatment
March 2014
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
The Royal Princess atrium was the most stunning we’ve ever seen on a cruise ship, matching in imagination the expanse of gleaming marble and light in the lobby of our luxury Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood hotel, the Westin Diplomat.

View from Westin Diplomat

After enjoying the hotel and the Florida coast for two days (we always try to arrive early for a cruise) we boarded the Royal Princess, the newest, largest and most glamorous in the Princess fleet. Launched in Britain last year by Kate Middleton, the Dutchess of Cambridge, the 3500-passenger ship is loaded with innovations designed to keep loyal Princess guests happy while attracting a new generation of cruisers who demand good value along with sophistication and elegance.

That elegance is first evident in the eye-popping Royal Princess atrium, the central hub of the 140,000 ton ship. Covering three decks and 50% larger than on any other Princess vessel, the atrium has a modern art-deco look and features shining brass and marble along with fixtures in tasteful shades of brown and gold. The atrium’s lowest level, Deck 5, seems to have constant live music and entertainment (jugglers or dancers) while the higher decks that circle the lobby contain a variety of restaurants, bars and shops.

Live music and dancing in The Atrium

Our room, a standard balcony cabin decorated in warm, neutral colors, was a bit smaller than on some ships but still had a walk-in closet, great lighting and a comfortable bed. The giant, 42-inch high definition TV seemed to dominate one wall but provided many TV channels (but no CNN) and the best array of on-demand, first-run movies and features we’ve ever seen on a cruise ship.

With a seventeen-deck ship so full of pleasurable attractions and activities, time spent in one’s cabin would be minimal. Like almost everyone else (or so it seemed), once we boarded and found our room, we headed to the Horizon Court buffet on Deck 16 for some lunch. It was nicely laid out with separated food stations and an excellent number of tasty choices but was much too crowded for comfort. However, once we sailed and eating times were spread out over several hours, we found the buffet to be just as delicious but much less hectic. Most days we took our buffet plates to the open-air Horizon Terrace on the back deck where there were always several free tables and plenty of waiters for iced tea, bar service or coffee refills (the java was excellent).

Alfredo's for great pizza

Princess was an innovator for “Anytime Dining” in the evening and its three main restaurants – Symphony, Concerto and Allegro – offer a choice of traditional fixed times or total flexibility. All the dining rooms make great use of space and feature, appropriately, music-themed murals throughout. The food and the service were consistently good with a wide variety of choices each evening including Atlantic lobster several times. For a break one day we ate at Alfredo’s where the chefs turned out thin crust, made-to-order, hand-tossed pizzas. USA Today recently rated it the best pizza at sea. We agree.

We tried two extra cost ($25) specialty restaurants and both were excellent. Sabatini’s featured authentic Italian dishes while the Crown Grill, next to the popular Wheelhouse Bar on Deck 7, offered well-aged, tender steaks and premium seafood.


But the most elegant dining of all on the Royal Princess took place at the Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private enclave within the Allegro dining room. After champagne and appetizers in the sparkling clean, stainless steel galley, we joined 10 other lucky guests at a mahogany table inlaid with mother of pearl with a large Murano glass sculpture in the middle. A glass curtain wrapped around the whole serving area for total privacy as the Executive Chef and Maitre D’ described and presented an opulent, multi-course dinner highlighted by the Roast Lobster Tail and Pancetta Wrapped Noisettes of Lamb. Each course was accompanied by excellent wines. Each diner had his or her own waiter who brought in dishes with domed plate covers and, on cue, revealed them with a flourish. It was the most extravagant dinner we’ve ever had and, as agreed by all our fellow diners, well worth the extra $115 each.

The filet is a work of art

The week long Caribbean cruise visited the islands of St. Thomas and St. Maarten but the real star of the voyage was the ship itself and its people-pleasing features. The Seawalk is a unique glass-bottomed walkway that juts out 28 feet from the side of the ship. With trepidation, guests can stare down into the waves 128 feet below. The same top deck features Movies Under The Stars on a giant, high definition screen (currently the largest at sea) and, on many evenings, a dazzling Watercolor Fantasy with dancing fountains brilliantly lit and choreographed to lively music. The large Princess Theatre has perfect sight lines for its complex and highly entertaining production shows as well as guests acts like the Beatle Maniacs and David Cats, a talented Illusionist..

Royal Princess docked in St. Maarten

The Royal Princess also has its own multi-camera TV studio, Princess Live, the first of its kind at sea. Here, the daily Cruise Director’s report and popular cruise game shows like Liars' Club and The Marriage Game, as well as culinary demonstrations, are taped before a live audience and broadcast to all staterooms.

Elaborate production shows

The ship has a large sports deck where we enjoyed Zumba fitness classes each day. However, several guests who like to use stairs for exercise were annoyed there was no staircase in the center of the ship, just elevators.

The Royal Princess welcomes kids with dedicated clubs and activities. But for adults only, there’s a separate pool area on Deck 17 called The Retreat, and at extra cost, a luxurious haven with ultra-comfortable loungers called The Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary

Martin Bristow, the Hotel General Manager on the Royal Princess, told us his line has a strong, loyal following with all age groups (average is 55-60) so, even with numerous innovations, passengers had to know they were on a Princess ship. “We don’t have water slides or climbing walls,” he said. “We want this ship to be very fresh and contemporary, but we don’t want it to be completely different.”

Frequent guests like Saul and Marsha Karsh of New York and Palm Beach County, Florida, agreed. Now on their 11th cruise with Princess, they love the new look. “This ship is especially good,” they told us. “Even though it holds a lot of people, there’s plenty of room. We’ll definitely be back.”

A very special afternoon tea service

Richard and Karen Pord of Fort McMurray, Alberta, were even bigger fans. “Personally, I can’t afford a resort of the caliber I get on a Princess ship,” Richard Pord said as he enjoyed his 10th cruise. “It’s great value, even with a few drinks on my bill. The quality of the food is terrific and the presentation is often like a work of art.” With a smile, he added that there are downsides. “There are too many choices on the menu. And they won’t let me stay onboard once we return to home port!”

John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Nova Scotia

The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, on the beach in Hollywood, Florida, is a good choice for pre-cruise accommodation and fine dining:




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