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  1. We were in E501 on the Royal for Christmas 2018. There is a lifeboat just beyond and below the (narrow) balcony. The lifeboat only (partly) obstructs the view down, to the promenade on Deck 7. You'll be able to enjoy the view beyond the ship. Cabin E501 is a triple. In the evenings the cabin attendant will bring the bunk bed down from the ceiling. It's inside the ceiling so you won't know it's there during the day. As other posters have stated, you can go to the balcony when the bunk bed is down by crouching underneath it. The balcony door is not locked. When selecting a triple cabin on the Royal, we considered an inside cabin until we saw that the third, bunk bed isn't flush to the wall during the day. The balcony cabin bunk bed, as stated above, is flush to the ceiling during the day. The cabin attendant introduces a key into a keyhole on the ceiling to bring the bunk bed down. Regarding E501 and E503's location, they are only 2-3 doors down from the central staircase. Very convenient. On Deck 7 right below the cabins there's the hallway between the atrium area and Princess Live. Thus, no noise from below. Hope you enjoy your Alaskan cruise on the Royal!
  2. Mazatlan - Maria's Happy Horses We were onboard the Emerald Princess last week and went horseback riding with Maria's Happy Horses on Stone Island. Sophie, who's French and is fluent in English and Spanish, picked us up at the tourist pier's entrance. We paid $35 each. Everything was arranged online via the company's website and email. Another family group and us took a taxi, ferry and taxi with Sophie to the beach restaurant from where we mounted our horses for a fun ride near the beach. Riders of all abilities were encouraged to ride as fast or as leisurely as they wished. A free drink was included and there was time to order lunch, if you wanted (can pay in pesos or dollars). We dipped our toes in the water but did not swim as it was very windy and a bit too cool for us. The horses looked very well: happy as advertised. Sophie took us back to the tourist pier's entrance, from which one takes the shuttle to the ship. You can certainly arranged this tour on your own, but because we were traveling with kids, going with Sophie made it seamless. We were very happy with Maria's Happy Horses! Puerto Vallarta - El Tuito We had OCB from Princess so took the El Tuito ship excursion. It was a fun day and we would recommend this tour. We visited a garden (not the PV Botanical Garden because, we were told, the owners don't want the big tour vehicles take several parking spaces as these are limited) with a variety of local plants; saw petroglyphs; had lunch at a beatiful hacienda (tables were inside a running river under a canopy of trees, very picturesque, and the food was delicious -- yes, there were towels to dry off feet after lunch, as there was tequila); visited a woodcarving studio and the town of El Tuito (a typical mountain town); had pastries (from a very busy roadside bakery), beer and water on the ride back; and took a fast boat from Tomatlan to the ship's pier in Puerto Vallarta. Thus, lots of different things to do, a great guide, and met great fellow passengers. There were a dozen passengers on our tour vehicle (safari-style, big wheels, off road Mercedes Benz -- with seatbelts). After a beach day in Cabo and riding horses in Mazatlan, we wanted to go inland and this tour was an excellent choice to do that.
  3. Bostonjet, We'll be on the Emerald Princess on the same itinerary in two week so your thoughtful and fair review is most timely. I had been on the fence about SHARE despite loving Curtis Stone's fish stew -- only times I have asked for seconds on a cruise ship. After looking at your photos, we'll give it a try. Your positive outlook is contagious!
  4. We were on the Royal last week. We booked a triple cabin the week after final payment. As this was a Christmas cruise, there was only one such cabin in the obstructed balcony category: E501, which connects with another triple cabin, E503. Yes, we could hear the neighbors and their family members/friends, particularly before dinner. We too would turn up the tv to drone out the commotion next door. Fortunately, they went to bed early.* I would not chose a cabin with a connecting door were we to sail on a Royal-class Princess ship in the future, but it didn't ruin our cruise. * Two years ago we were upgraded to a deluxe obstructed balcony on the same ship. Cabin E422 turned out to be right above the piano at Crooner's. THAT was awful compared to the occasional noise from our connecting cabin neighbors this time around.
  5. We were on the Royal Princess last week. Because the card and its cruise sticker were not delivered to our cabin per the new policy, I tried to get the sticker for the Princess Passport from the Captain's Circle/Future Cruise hostess. The line was always very long so I tried Passenger Services. The agent went to the office behind the counter and gave me the sticker -- it took two minutes.
  6. Tracie, I have followed your blogs/threads in the past. You bring a smile on a very cold day! We'll be on the Royal in 24 days so thanks for the dining room times.
  7. OP, thank you for informing all of us about the new policy. In our school district, the 2019-2020 academic schedule is not issued until April. I put the 10% deposit on the Christmas 2019 Hawaii itinerary last month to take advantage of the 3 for free deal -- gratuities on a 15-night cruise add up. I planned to wait for the school schedule before transferring the booking to my TA because I don't know if the dates will match. Because our booking was within the 60-day window, I was able to transfer it and get TA OBC. It may be that we'll have to cancel the booking, via our TA. But if the dates work, I'll have the Cruise Critic members to thank for TA OBC.
  8. We were on a port side deluxe obstructed balcony cabin on the Royal Princess two years ago. This was not a guaranteed cabin but one that I chose because of the large balcony. I forgot to check what was on the deck below before booking the cabin. We were on the Emerald deck (deck 8) right above the piano in Crooners. It was miserable every night. It was as if the piano was INSIDE our cabin. I had to make sure I put the kids to sleep between sets or had to wait until the next set was over. If you are sensitive to noise and are booking a guaranteed deluxe obstructed balcony on the Royal (or her sister ships), you might get lucky or not.
  9. We did the Black Sea itinerary in 2013 on the Pacific Princess (same ship as the Azamara vessels, different line). Because these are unusual itineraries, they always are pricier than Med cruises but well worth it. We walked around Nessebar, and took the bus tour to Bucharest (nothing to do in Constanta save going to the beach). It was a long ride but We had a very interesting visit of Ceacescu's palace with an "old school" official guide who counted the members of our group several times during the tour. It made us feel like extras on a spy movie. We took a private tour in Odessa, a lovely city. We did the "Rocky arms raised" pose upon getting to the top of the Potemkin steps -- that was fun! Crimea is out, which is very sad, but we're thinking about this cruise bc it goes to Georgia and a couple of new ports for us. As others have said, the sail through Istanbul is fascinating: the historical buildings, the bridges, the very fancy homes and motorboats. We had an overnight stay in Istanbul on our way to the Black Sea (not an option in the 2020 cruise), but having lunch outside (deck 9 buffet aft) as we sailed under the bridges and past Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace was memorable. A special itinerary on the AZ Journey: a fantastic combination.
  10. Pacific Princess 12-day Rome to Athens Black Sea cruise in 2013. Great cruise, new friends, and enjoyed adventures such as hunting for knitting wool (not for me!) in the tiny streets around the Grand Bazaar. Every fall I wear the gorgeous scarfs I bought in Odessa and Istanbul. We visited Yalta, Crimea, and explored palaces from the czarist times. As Americans we can't visit Crimea these days so I treasure my memories of Yalta and of the rest of that memorable cruise. Thank you Princess!
  11. OP, I second JF's recommendation to consult Renmar's awesome obstructed view cabins' site. We have stayed in both 6046 and 6049, and love the virtually unobstructed view (no tender blocking the window nor crew members working on the tenders) and mid-ship location (very little motion and no noise from other decks). The only negative is that, because these cabins are smaller than the interior cabins (we have stayed in 7053 and liked it), they don't have a sofa so the only places to sit are on the beds or on the sole desk chair. If you plan to order room service breakfast, eating it on the small table in front of the little sofa in the interior cabin is more comfortable than eating it in bed or someone getting to sit on the chair in cabins 6046 and 6049. Hope this helps you make the decision that best suits you. We love the Pacific Princess (our next cruise is the Xmas cruise in December) and its sister ships. :D
  12. For all of the reasons set forth above -- in particular unpacking and packing only once, and waking up to a new port without having to deal with rental cars, buses or trains -- and a special Princess specific reason: the gingerbread house contest on Holiday cruises! Once we discovered the amusingly competitive world of gingerbread house building, celebrating Xmas on board a Princess ship became our family tradition. We haven't won but not for trying: the icing nozzles and sprinkles go into the suitcase before my swimsuits. Some day we'll win. Until then, gingerbread soufflé on Dec 25th -- only available on that day -- will console us until the next year.
  13. We took the Reykjavik and Akureyri tours with FAB three years ago. Couldn't be happier. The guides at both locations were knowledgable and friendly. The buses were small (16 passengers at most) so we went to more places than the ship's tours did, and for a much more reasonable price. In Akureyri we had time to go to the Myvatn nature baths (not as commercial as the Blue Lagoon), which was a lot of fun. We liked our cruise stops in Iceland with FAB so much we returned last year on a land-based vacation.
  14. OP, I slept in the balcony the first night of our Caribbean cruise on the Royal Princess. I chose the cabin, an Emerald Deck obstructed view balcony, because of the extended balcony but did not check what was underneath. Our cabin was right above the Crooners piano. It felt and heard like the pianist was inside our cabin. Because this was a Christmas cruise, we were told we could not be relocated as the ship was full. So I dragged my mattress to the balcony. Plenty of room there. I could not hear the infernal piano noise (yay!) but it was a very windy night. When I woke up, I was covered in salt. I dragged the mattress back into the cabin the next morning. For the rest of the cruise I found out the exact times of the sets at Crooners and timed going to sleep to between sets or after the last one. Not fun.:mad:
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