On 14th June, I boarded Princess Cruises‘ Royal Princess in Southampton for a cruise to the Baltics, which included visits to Copenhagen, Stockholm, St Petersburg and Tallinn, to name just a few places.
Royal Princess would be my home for the next 14 nights, and having never sailed with Princess Cruises before, I was eager to explore the remarkable ship and to see if Princess’ tagline ‘Come Back New,’ was indeed true.
I arrived at Southampton’s Ocean Terminal shortly after 11am, joined by Anthony and Christian from Cruisemarsh. Living in Southampton certainly has its perks, especially when you can walk to Ocean Terminal in less than 10 minutes! Check in was quick and simple at this time of day and there was no waiting around for letters to be called. We were quickly onboard the ship, where my first sight was the breathtaking Piazza. Even though I had never sailed with Princess Cruises before, somehow I felt as if I was home.
The Piazza is the heart of the ship and always seems to be buzzing with life, whether it’s a variety act performing down below, a live band or during the famous champagne waterfall party. The grandeur of the area is simply superb and even after spending 12-nights onboard, I still couldn’t believe how beautiful the Piazza looked.
Our inside stateroom, that the three of us would be sharing, was a very good size and we didn’t feel like we were getting in each others way. The general layout was fantastic and if you’ve ever been onboard P&O’s Azura, Ventura or any of Princess’ Grand-class ships, then you’ll be familiar with the layout found onboard Royal Princess. I feel the layout of these cabins are the best in the entire cruise industry.
The large open wardrobe really makes the room feel spacious. The cabin had plenty of storage space, even for three people. The large flatscreen TV on the wall was very impressive and features the usual news channels and TV stations. There is also a great selection of movies available to watch and all are free of charge, even some of the latest films not yet released on DVD. If you run out of movies to watch (which I’m certainly sure you won’t) then you’ll be glad to know that all nine…yes, nine seasons of ‘The Love Boat’ are available at your demand! ‘The Love Boat’ was filmed onboard Princess Cruises’ Pacific Princess back in the 70’s and after only watching one episode you will see just how much cruising has changed!
I love how easy it is to find things in the buffet, as the area is split into three different sections. The Horizon Bistro, serves fresh sandwiches and crisp salads, as well as cold dishes, while the main Horizon Court is where you’ll find all the hot options. The Pastry Shop is a dedicated area for tempting desserts, and my gosh they all looked delicious! Casual high stools surround The Pastry Shop and the area is a great pitstop for when you can’t resist one or two (possibly three in my case) cookies and a coffee. Although having three sections made it easy to find things, after a few days onboard, it did become slightly annoying having to keep walking between the three areas.
Hygiene is excellent in the buffet. Staff are on hand in the entrance to guide guests to the convenient wash basins or hand sanitizers in order to help reduce the risk of norovirus. There are also plenty of waiters happy to take drink orders or to even just fetch you a glass of complimentary water, juice or hot drink. For the staff, it’s all about being the best ‘Consummate Host’ to the guests and it’s something that Princess really takes pride in delivering.
Talking of food – there’s plenty of it onboard Royal Princess! The food is to die for!! For the main evening meal, we were on any time dining, which meant we could dine at any time that suited us. This was particularly useful if we wanted to catch a show or watch our ship sail away from one of the fantastic ports. The main dining rooms onboard Royal Princess are the Symphony, Concerto and Allegro. The Allegro dining room is for guests on fixed dining times, where as the Symphony is the main anytime dining restaurant. The Concerto is for guests on first seating, as well as anytime guests from 7:45pm.
The restaurants were very elegant, stylish and comfortable and the service was great too. The food served was simply outstanding every single night and probably the best tasting dishes I’ve ever had on a cruise. I was always spoiled for choice, and even the fussiest of eaters would find something to enjoy. During the cruise, I probably ate my own body weight in Caesar Salad and the chocolate Love Boat Dream dessert – they were that good! Oh and don’t even get me started on the Chocolate Journeys desserts – they were out of this world! In partnership with master chocolatier Norman Love, these beautifully decorated desserts are a chocoholics dream, and complimentary too!
It’s not just the main dining rooms and buffet, where you can enjoy great food. Alfredo’s is a delicious Italian restaurant and wine bar, with no cover charge to dine there. Open throughout the day, Alfredo’s is the perfect place for a quality meal, whether that’s at lunch or as an intimate evening meal. I had the Pizza Royal Princess and that was delicious!
For more upscale Italian dishes, Sabatini’s is a great place to dine, however a nominal cover charge of $25 applies.
The International Cafe, is a delicious bistro open 24 hours a day serving delicious sandwiches and salads, as well as tempting desserts. The IC, as it is often referred to onboard, is always a hive of activity, even at 2am. It’s a great place to relax with a cake and a specialty coffee.
On the pool deck, the Trident Grill and Prego Pizzeria offer freshly grilled burgers, hot dogs and stone-baked pizza. It’s a great place to grab a snack during the day, while you’re sunbathing on the sun decks. My mouth is watering, just thinking about the pepperoni pizza!
Extending over the side of the ship, the glass-floored Seawalk is 128ft above the surface of the sea, or in our case when we walked over it for the first time, the hard concrete of the quayside! Admittedly, when we were sailing out at sea, the view was amazing and it was so fascinating standing so high and just peering down over the side of the ship as we raced along at 20 knots.
The pool deck on Royal Princess is fantastic. Two main pools surround a raised island, which is home to fabulous water fountain shows. During the day the space is used by sun-seekers when the fountains are turned off (or so you hope!). It’s also a great spot for relaxing wrapped up under a blanket with a bag of popcorn watching the Movies Under The Stars on the gigantic LED screen.
The Sanctuary is the perfect place to relax, unwind and escape the action-packed surroundings of the ship. Inside this exclusive adults-only area, you’ll find comfortable sun-loungers, private cabanas with televisions and drinks, as well as a private treatment area for the ultimate relaxation session. Just outside the Sanctuary is the Retreat Pool. This is the adult-only pool onboard and is surrounded by six cabanas. These cost $50 for half a day, but there are plenty of ordinary sun-loungers surrounding the pool as well. I personally preferred the main pools, as there was more atmosphere and you could watch the movie screen. If you want peace and quiet however, then the Retreat Pool is the perfect place to unwind on a day at sea.
Talking about relaxation, the Lotus Spa situated on deck 5 offers a vast amount of beauty treatments. From the hair salon to soothing massages and acupuncture sessions, the spa is the perfect place to ‘Come Back New!’ My favourite part of the Spa is The Enclave. In the centre of this huge room is a large warm bubbling pool surrounded by heated loungers and two water beds which practically give you the sensation of weightlessness.
The Princess Theatre onboard Royal Princess is really impressive. I was blown away by the technical innovations found within the venue and of course the incredibly talented singers and dancers. You truly feel immersed in every single performance. My favourite show from our time onboard was ‘Colours of the World’. It featured a great diverse range of songs, and my gosh those singers could sing, especially during ‘Por Ti Volare’ and Alicia Key’s ‘New York’. We did have an ABBA tribute act perform during our cruise, which quite frankly annoyed me rather than entertained me, with their fake Swedish accents, and the repeated use of ‘boat’ and ‘Princess Royal’. To be honest, we didn’t watch that many shows in the theatre, mainly down to the sheer amount of great entertainment elsewhere onboard. It was always hard to decide what to see, whether it was a production show in the Princess Theatre, a gameshow in Princess Live! or a comedian in the Vista Lounge, not forgetting the talented musicians throughout the lounges.
My favourite venue onboard the ship by far was Princess Live!. In fact, we were in there pretty much every night, and we were quickly nicknamed ‘the three musketeers’ by the entertainment staff. They would always say hi to us when they saw us around the ship, especially the lovely Anna and TJ. They even gave us some Princess Cruises goodies as a way of thanking us for supporting them. In Princess Live!, you’ll find lots of fun trivia challenges and hilarious gameshows, including ‘Hollywould You?’, and their takes on ‘Blankety Blank’, and ‘Would I Lie To You?’ The venue is pretty much a real life TV studio, featuring a total of five cameras. I do think the layout could have been slightly better though, as it was frustrating when people would come in late, ducking under or blocking the live cameras, trying to find a seat, and distracting the camera operators.
The Vista Lounge is a great, intimate show lounge perfect for watching musicians, comedians or variety acts. We were lucky enough to have comedian David Copperfield perform for us. He was brilliant and had the whole audience chuckling away, with his classic witty jokes.
During the cruise, we spent a lot of the nights in Club 6, the nightclub onboard. Princess have a BOGO hour between 11pm and midnight. The drinks onboard are very reasonably priced anyway, so with the offer they are extremely good value for money. $7.19 for an Absolut Rasberry and lemonade, and that’s including the 15% service charge. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that most of the bartenders in Club 6 remembered what we liked to drink each night and just asked “Usual?”. You decide!
The Wheelhouse Bar is perfect for lounging during the daytime and socialising with a pre-dinner drink, whilst listening to the melodies of a live musician. Also situated within the bar is the Crown Grill, another specialty restaurant onboard. Serving juicy steaks and lobster, this premium seafood and grill house is the perfect venue to celebrate a special occasion. During the day, the restaurant is popular with the British pub lunch. This complimentary lunch offers delicious British pub grub, such as fish and chips with mushy peas.
Well, as you can see, there is sooo much to do onboard Royal Princess. It was a fantastic cruise and I loved the ship. I can certainly say 100% that I have ‘Come Back New’ and I can’t wait for my next encounter with Princess Cruises. In fact, I loved the Princess Cruises brand so much, that I booked a cruise onboard for the Emerald Princess in April 2016! The cruise seriously made me wonder, why I had never tried the brand sooner, and I honestly don’t know the answer. Many people ask if Princess is similar to P&O – well, yes in some aspects, but the actual overall value for money is unbelievable! Admittedly, cruises with Princess are slightly higher priced than those with P&O, but once you compare how much is included with Princess, it’s quite frankly amazing. If you have never cruised with Princess before, or looking to take your first cruise, then I can truly recommend the Princess Cruises brand and of course the beautiful Royal Princess.