Traveling RCCL – from the view of a Princess Elite Cruiser

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#1
Lansing Area, Michigan
1,098 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
Traveling RCCL – from the view of a Princess Elite Cruiser

Anthem – June 28 - July 7

We have 21 or so cruises on Princess, and have booked two more with them, but when the In-Laws say they want to take you on a cruise, how can you refuse? We chose the Anthem to Bermuda, St. Maarten, San Juan, and Labadee (their “private island” on Haiti), a 9 day cruise. This was the In-Laws first cruise as Diamond on RCCL.


TL : DR version – Traveling RCCL was nice, and I’d do it again given the chance, but I’m glad to be back on the Pacific Princess at Christmas.


I’m going to do a review that compares different parts of the ship to my opinions on Princess. Again, this is from a Princess cruiser, so if you’re a RCCL cheerleader, take it with a grain of salt.

THE SHIP:
The Anthem is a large ship, around 4500 passengers I believe. If you look at my cruise history, you see that almost half of our cruises are on the Renaissance line ships (600-700 passengers) – the Royal (Royal 2), the Ocean, and the Pacific. We prefer the smaller ships – currently the Pacific and the Coral (haven’t cruised the Island since the refit). This ship was HUGE to me. Too big, really. However, I never really felt crowded, except in the buffet or during disembarkation or embarkation. Overall, tie with Princess.


THE BUFFET:
People claim that RCCL’s buffet set up is better. I’m not sure I agree. Because of the layout, I actually only ate there 3 times, I think, because I could never find what I wanted. My normal breakfast includes a fried or poached egg on cruiseships, and I never found one. The omelet line was ridiculous, and not well cooked for the time and effort it took (even though there were 3 lines). You had to go to this counter and that counter, and another counter to get a rounded breakfast, and stand through a line at each. I’d rather stand in the one line at Princess, and go through everything. The one time I tried lunch was just as bad. After that, I stuck with the Solarium restaurant or pizza for breakfast and lunch (one time at 270 also – that was a nice quick breakfast. Never got there for lunch, but the whole part about going to the other end of the ship was a lot, for me). Overall, point to Princess.


DINING ROOM:
We ate with the In-Laws every night. We had MTD (Anytime), but reservations for 5:30. After the first night, we had the same table and waiters reserved, and sat down between 5 and 5:30. That worked for us. Good service and an EXCELLENT head waiter – Alan. I have recent (diagnosed a year ago) fruit allergies that I’m still working through, and Alan and our waiter Hormuz took good care of me. I got the next night’s menu each night, and they worked through any changes for the allergies. With fruit allergies, it usually isn’t an issue, but mango, kiwi, and banana tend to crop up everywhere. I dislike RCCL’s practice of putting ALL the silverware on the table before the meal, and only sending in a soup spoon or steak knife when needed. I much rather Princess’s practice of putting out just what is needed for each course. Until my fruit allergies, I didn’t have many interactions with Head Waiters, but Alan was one of the most personable ones I’ve met. Overall though, tie with Princess.


FOOD:
Food is subjective. We’ve had cruises with really bad food, and cruises with excellent food. For this particular cruise: Chocolate molten cake the first night (don’t know what they called it) was excellent. The one they actually called the lava cake later in the cruise was not. Meat, in general was well cooked. We had a problem with the Chops steak (extra cost) the first time it was made, but they comped it. Next time it was great (although they couldn’t produce a bernaise sauce that night – I honestly think their hollandaise sauce had gone bad). I ordered escargot one night, and thought that it was not as good as Princess – but it is available every night. Lobster on the second formal night was just as bland as on Princess. Their version of Baked Alaska wasn’t any good – there was less than a centimeter of meringue on it. In general though, the food was good. Overall, tie, with a slight lean towards Princess.


BARS:
My In-Laws were Diamond, but we probably did the LEAST drinking I’ve ever done on a cruise. The only two drinks I paid for were a 2 for 1 margarita, and a caipirinha. The caipirinha was excellent. The margarita tasted like bad lemonade. Long Islands made by Toni in the Bolero bar were excellent – we tipped her extra at the end. However, drinks were expensive – the margarita and caipirinha were both $15ish with the tip. I brought on a bottle of dessert wine (which they did not charge for opening in the dining room). We paid around $20 in Vancouver, I think, where we bought it. They wanted $46 on ship (and because it’s a desert wine, this was for a 375mL). Overall, points to Princess – both because of the bad margarita and the cost.


Other drinks:
We had the Coke package, which allowed us the gun service at the bars, and use of the Freestyle Coke machines (in 3 places on the ship). These Coke machines allowed me to get my Fanta, which on Princess I have to get from cans (and I think I won’t be able to get with a sip and sail package, which makes me mad). Coffee all over the ship, but specialty coffee in at least 2 places, which I paid for twice. Good enough, but I’m not much of a coffee drinker. Lemonade (generally too weak), tea, and infused water were available in the buffets (and orange juice at breakfast). Milk choices were skim or whole – Princess usually has lowfat available. Overall, even with the lack of lowfat milk and weak lemonade, I’m giving the points to RCCL, because of the freestyle machines.


ROOMS:
RCCL doesn’t have the closets that I’m used to on Princess. However, they have so much more in the way of storage – shelves and drawers – that we actually didn’t even need them all. A stateroom is a stateroom in general. We had a balcony, and the chair and stool (two each) were adequate. Shower is a little bigger. Our stateroom attendant Alison was great. He got what we asked for, except for ice, and we didn’t ask after the first time, so it was probably our fault for not following up. He did miss the last 2 days – the substitute indicated an hand injury. I hope he came out okay – he was apparently medically on leave for the two days. 4 towel animals over 9 nights, and only borrowed 1 pair of sunglasses for them. My Eeyore that travels with me also got posed a few times. We’ve gotten travel animals on Princess before, and they seem much the same, but we don’t get them every cruise on Princess. Overall, points to RCCL, because of storage.


SOLARIUM/SANCTUARY:
We were doors down from the lower entrance to the Solarium, which was wonderful. I spent a great deal of my time in there. I love the round loungers they have. However, it was full of chair hogs – many times, towels were down for hours, and no one ever came. Especially with the few (maybe 10) round loungers. This area is 16 and up, but they should have made it 18 and up, or higher (more on that later). Because this one is free, and Princess charges, I’ll have to give points to RCCL, even with the issues.


CHAIR HOGS / TOWELS:
RCCL charges for towels – you have to check them out, and if you don’t return them, they charge you $25 a towel. I think that’s ridiculous, and I never checked one out. I sun-dried, or in Bermuda, we took our own (because we knew in advance). However, almost everyone else had checked them out, and they were all over the place on loungers. Supposedly the staff will remove them after ½ hour, but I saw no evidence of it. The one time I tried, the guy said he’d “check the pool” – even though no one had been in them for 3 hours. However, soon a guy nearby came, and he said that the towel on the lounger was part of his group, and that I could use it, that they probably wouldn’t be back. That same group took the same lounger and did the same thing the following day, so I just moved it myself. When he came back I said something, and he said I was fine. I’d much rather RCCL not charge for them, and make a better practice of removing them, plus other belongings. Overall, points to Princess (because I’ve never seen it this bad).


CHILDREN / TEENS:
I mostly stayed in the Solarium, so I didn’t encounter children, but the teens on this cruise were ridiculous. RCCL did not do a good job of policing them, and there were often teens that were under 16 in the solarium. In addition, on at least two nights, the teens came in and took over the hot tubs in the Solarium, including using Bluetooth speakers to blast their music, not paying any attention to adults who were trying to relax. I said something to the attendant who was cleaning, and he at least got them to turn it down, but it was still playing, and they took over 3 out of 4 hot tubs (and were starting in on the 4th). That, plus there were clearly kids under 16 there, and they were exceeding the max usage. There should have been some oversight over it. I think there may have been a hot tub party listed, but not every night, and don’t take the adult pool to do it, IMO. Points to Princess, because I’ve not seen it as bad as this before, even though I cruise on holidays and summer (and have been on bigger ships).


ACTIVITIES:
I’m going to have to give this one a tie, because I simply didn’t do much. I did do the NorthStar (an observation pod that rises up from the pool deck) and the bumper cars, but those were just gravy to me – I would’ve been fine without them. The in-laws did the iFly, and enjoyed it. I did one scrapbooking session, and it was much cheaper than Princess for the kit ($5 for a kit that is half the size of Princess’s kit, but costs $20, as I recall). I bought two kits, and they were fine with that. I did a little punching there, but I scrapbook at home, so didn’t stay long. Usually I play trivia, but I didn’t attend one session. Again, tie.


SHOWS:
We went to 2 out of 3 of the shows. They were okay, but overall just as bad as Princess, in my opinion. We didn’t go to the comedian or magician. We missed the Rock musical, because we had it scheduled on a night it was cancelled due to high seas, and were packing (and a little ill) during the re-do time. (We’ve seen it on land, too, so we were fine.) The Gift and Spectra’s Cabaret were both a little strange. The Gift was supposedly based on a story, but really it was a story forced around the songs, IMO. The songs were current (or more recent, at least) songs. Spectra’s Cabaret had no theme. It had a “host”, “Spectra”, who would introduce the songs/performances, but it seemed a little forced too. Good musicians, okay singers, in general. We don’t enjoy the Production Shows on Princess much, either. They both seem like high-school musicals, IMO. And I’ve seen better done by high schools. Overall, tie – though Princess gets a little edge, because their comedians are timed a little better – we don’t stay up for late-night shows.


EXCURSIONS:
We did not take any ship excursions, but I’m going to have to give the points to Princess. RCCL seems to discriminate against people of size. I’m large, and my husband is large, but we are both active. We hike, snorkel, etc. Many of RCCL’s excursions had a weight limit that I would meet, but not my husband. While I understand it for things like the iFly and the Northstar because of safety concerns, it doesn’t make any sense to have a weight restriction on a bus to the beach. One of the excursions was exactly that, with a weight restriction. Most of the snorkeling excursions had a weight limit. Again, points to Princess.


PRIVATE ISLAND:
We stopped at Labadee. It was severely overcrowded, but we were on a big boat. They have a large artisan market area, much bigger than Princess Cay. Many activities to do, but all overpriced (except maybe the blow-up swim toy area, but it was mostly kids, so I didn’t even try). Lunch was good. Perhaps more choices, but overall about the same. They did have a “fruit cake”, and I’m glad I asked, because it was banana-based. They need to mark things a little better. Overall, tie.


Other stops:
No points to either, since it’s subjective on what you choose to do. We rented a small boat in Bermuda (a Boston Whaler?). It was fairly easy to use, though we had a couple bad moments when we couldn’t get it to restart, and again when we ran out of gas in the middle of the big bay, with a storm approaching. I found I couldn’t get back in via the ladder, so it’s good we didn’t stop to snorkel at the wreck. We did stop at a beach and at a sandbar area, where we fed bread to the fish – they loved that. Mostly just saw little fish, or white fish. In St. Maartan we just walked around town – it was too hot to do much. In San Juan we walked to El Morro. Again, it was too hot. I had 3 asthma attacks just due to heat, and it took 3 days to recover fully (inhaler at night, okay during the day).

OVERALL:
6 points tie
5 points to Princess
3 points to RCCL


Would I cruise RCCL again? Yes, though on a smaller ship more quickly. I don’t need the bells and whistles of the iFly, NorthStar, etc. I’d love to try them off-season, though it’ll have to wait until I retire. The life of a teacher – vacationing when the kids are off.
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Cathy

The Crown Princess at Grand Turk
Upcoming Cruises: Pacific Princess Christmas 2018 & 2019
Our Cruise Pictures: click herePast Cruises: Crown Princess 7/11/06 (Yes, we tilted!) - Grand Princess 2/17/07 (Western Caribbean) - Royal Princess 7/19/07 (Mediterranean) - Crown Princess 3/22/08 (On the Crown - no tilt!) - Coral Princess 12/23/08 (Panama Canal) - Island Princess 8/3/09 (Alaska) - Royal Princess 12/19/09 (Down the Amazon - Emerald Princess 8-8-2010 (Caribbean) - Crown Princess 4-16-2011 (Caribbean) - Star Princess 12-24-11 (Cape Horn - Penguins!) - Crown Princess 2-18-12 (Caribbean) - Golden Princess 6-23-12 (Alaska, with family) - Emerald Princess 12-27-12 (Caribbean) - Ocean Princess 7-15-13 (Baltics & St. Petersburg) - Caribbean Princess 12-28-13 (Western Caribbean) - Coral Princess 12-23-14 (Partial Panama) - Pacific Princess 7-13-15 & 7-20-15 (Alaska North and South) - Ocean Princess 12-20-15 (Caribbean Connoiseur) - Coral Princess 12-28-16 (Partial Panama) - Pacific Princess 7-29-17 (Iceland and Norway) - Anthem of the Seas 6-28-18 (first RCCL cruise)
#2
Lihue HI & Calimesa CA
6,196 Posts
Joined May 2013
Nice review...thanks.


BTW: have any medical personnel mentioned that there is frequently a sensitivity to latex when you have a banana allergy? You want to be extra careful with allergies when you have asthma, too.
#3
michigan
1,484 Posts
Joined May 2007
Excellent review! I have also been thinking about straying from Princess just to mix it up and see what else is out there. We have only cruised Princess so I am a bit hesitant, lol. Thank you!
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CROWN PRINCESS X2 2/2018, ROYAL PRINCESS 2/2017, EMERALD PRINCESS 3/2016 X 2, CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 2/2015 X 2, ROYAL PRINCESS 3/2014, CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 3/2013, CROWN PRINCESS 3/2012, SAPPHIRE PRINCESS 2/2011, ISLAND PRINCESS 3/2010, EMERALD PRINCESS 3/2009, GRAND PRINCESS 3/2008, CROWN PRINCESS 3/2007, CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 3/2006
#4
Lansing Area, Michigan
1,098 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
Originally posted by JF - retired RRT
Nice review...thanks.


BTW: have any medical personnel mentioned that there is frequently a sensitivity to latex when you have a banana allergy? You want to be extra careful with allergies when you have asthma, too.
Thanks, yeah. Officially allergic to Avacado, but no reaction, so I have the okay to eat it (thank goodness). Officially not allergic to poison ivy, but am sensitive to it. Also highly reactive (need several steroid doses to get rid of it) to poison ivy.
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Cathy

The Crown Princess at Grand Turk
Upcoming Cruises: Pacific Princess Christmas 2018 & 2019
Our Cruise Pictures: click herePast Cruises: Crown Princess 7/11/06 (Yes, we tilted!) - Grand Princess 2/17/07 (Western Caribbean) - Royal Princess 7/19/07 (Mediterranean) - Crown Princess 3/22/08 (On the Crown - no tilt!) - Coral Princess 12/23/08 (Panama Canal) - Island Princess 8/3/09 (Alaska) - Royal Princess 12/19/09 (Down the Amazon - Emerald Princess 8-8-2010 (Caribbean) - Crown Princess 4-16-2011 (Caribbean) - Star Princess 12-24-11 (Cape Horn - Penguins!) - Crown Princess 2-18-12 (Caribbean) - Golden Princess 6-23-12 (Alaska, with family) - Emerald Princess 12-27-12 (Caribbean) - Ocean Princess 7-15-13 (Baltics & St. Petersburg) - Caribbean Princess 12-28-13 (Western Caribbean) - Coral Princess 12-23-14 (Partial Panama) - Pacific Princess 7-13-15 & 7-20-15 (Alaska North and South) - Ocean Princess 12-20-15 (Caribbean Connoiseur) - Coral Princess 12-28-16 (Partial Panama) - Pacific Princess 7-29-17 (Iceland and Norway) - Anthem of the Seas 6-28-18 (first RCCL cruise)
#5
S. Carolina
533 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
Love this! We are one night from Diamond on RCCL and sailed on Princess for the first time recently. We felt the buffet on Princess was strange because it’s so compacted. I really think that one must be more of a “what you’re used to” thing. We also really liked how the towels weren’t so policed on Princess. We will gladly sail on either Princess or Royal going forward. We will sail on Carnival, too but find the other two more enjoyable.
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Mariner of the Seas 09/24/06 | Majesty of the Seas 06/08/07 | Rhapsody of the Seas 09/05/08 | Enchantment of the Seas 09/14/09 | Navigator of the Seas 09/17/10 | Adventure of the Seas 03/06/11 | Navigator of the Seas 11/26/11 | Freedom of the Seas 09/15/13 | Explorer of the Seas 11/29/14 | Carnival Sunshine 09/11/15 | Carnival Dream 09/18/16 | Oasis of the Seas 04/02/17 | Star Princess 05/26/18
#8
Coastal North Carolina
7,427 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
Originally posted by moki'smommy
Nice review. My biggest problem on RCCL--too many unsupervised minors.


Couldn’t agree more! Although we didn’t have problems like OP when we cruised on the Oasis, there were way too many kids for us.


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
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Sunsetbeachgal. Princess Elite Member, HAL *** Mariner
From the Sunny North Carolina Coast

Next: British Isles, Royal Princess June, 2018

Completed: Regal Princess, Feb 2017, Oasis of the Seas, Nov., 2016, Regal Princess Repo. Oct. 2016, Scenic Cruises Rhine River, June, 2016, Coral Princess Carib., Jan, 2016, HAL Eurodam, N. Europe, June, 2015, Regal Princess Carib., Jan. 2015, HAL Prinsendam, No. Europe, Sept. 2014, Freedom of the Seas, W. Carib, March, 2014, HAL Eurodam, W. Carib. Nov., 2013, Royal Princess Grand Med., July, 2013, Emerald Princess, Carib., Jan. 2013, Sapphire Princess, California Coastal, Oct. 2012, Enchantment of the Seas-Bermuda, Aug. 2012, Freedom of the Seas-Carib., May, 2012, Star Princess, S. Carib. Mar., 2011, Ocean Princess-Greek Isles/Med-Sept., 2010, Crown Princess-W. Carib. March, 2010, Island Princess-Panama Canal, Nov. 2009, Emerald Princess S. Carib., Jan. 2009, Coral Princess-Alaska Cruisetour-June, 2008, Emerald Princess-S. Carib.- Jan., 2008, Mariner of the Seas-E. Carib.-January, 2007, Golden Princess-Med/Greek Isles-October, 2006, Star Princess-W. Carib.-January, 2006, Golden Princess-W. Europe/British Isles-June, 2005, HAL Zuiderdam-E. Carib.-Dec. 2003, HAL Volendam-W. Carib.-Dec. 2002. Silversea-Silver Whisper-Med.-May, 2002, Grand Princess-W. Carib.-Oct. 2001, Sea Princess-W. Carib.-Feb, 2000, Carnival Destiny-Canada/N.E.-June, 2000, HAL Maasdam-Baltic/Russia-July, 2000, Grand Princess-Grand Med.-June, 1999 and others...celebrating 35 years of cruising!
#9
Victoria, BC
5,408 Posts
Joined Jul 2008
i had to google TL DR (too long didn't read)... well, i did read and i thought it was very balanced.
i have quite a few princess cruises and i've done one royal caribbean with 3 generations of family.
royal was okay. i'd go again with family. they loved the flowrider and the kids program was wonderful.
i was on an older smaller ship (explorer) and i thought the buffet was better than princess. they had a kids section which was perfect and a vegetarian section (i'm not a vegetarian but liked the idea).
the staff was outstanding.
i don't like the idea of getting a set time to see a show.
i agree that it was okay and i wouldn't rule it out but princess is still my first choice when i go on my own.
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#10
13,600 Posts
Joined Apr 2013
For me, it is less the number of kids than the lack of any supervision. Too many parents think they don't need to be aware of what their tweens/teens are doing when they board a cruise ship. And I do realize that it is only a small number of kids causing problems.....but those give the rest a bad name.

Sorry, but the kids need to be under parental supervision or in the programming. Roaming the ship in gangs is rarely and event with a positive outcome. Yes, we've seen a few ill behaved kids on Princess, but overall the parents seem to be a lot more aware of where their kids are and what they are doing.
#11
13,838 Posts
Joined Apr 2001
That is exactly how we feel. We'll cruise the smaller RCI ships for the destinations but I'm staying clear of the behemoths. I'm glad we tried them but I like the fewer kids and more intimate vibe on the smaller ships. The Radiance Class are similar to the Island & Coral and just the right size for us. Great review, thanks!
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43 Completed Cruises so far - Princess Elite, RCI Diamond, Celebrity Elite, Cunard Platinum, Azamara Discoverer
Upcoming Cruises:
Left for 2018: Azamara Quest
& Emerald Princess
2019: Ruby Princess, Royal Princess & Jewel OTS
2020: Royal Princess, Celebrity Summit & 2 more TBD
#15
170 Posts
Joined Jan 2016
Thank you for the comparison-style review. I have been cruising almost exclusively on Princess for the past decade or two, and have not been on RCI in many years. I am going to print your review out for my wife's edification (and to help persuade her to try RCI).
#17
Lansing Area, Michigan
1,098 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
My hubby informs me that we have not seen the rock show on land - what I was thinking of is a different show. Still, I don't think watching it would change my opinion of production shows. I've seen some good ones, but most aren't worth it.
-Cathy
#18
SacTown
16 Posts
Joined Jun 2014
I think timing can help with the out of control minors. MIL and I took a cruise over New Years. MOST kids have to be back in school. And I realize as a teacher you do too. I think your observation that after retirement, you'll have the flexibility to cruise when the younger ones are in school. Or more of them are. You'll always have people who homeschool, have year round school schedules, or live in non-USA countries and are on different schedules all together! It's dialed down, not OFF. Unless you're on an Adults Only Cruise....but those have DIFFERENT issues.


I think having to pay to be in the Sanctuary helps keep the riffraff out. But it would very much be nice to have a "quiet car" for those who want to just chill out. I mean, if the train can do it..... Heck.... even our jury waiting room is split into "quiet room" and "not so much" spaces. It does require staff to enforce it though.

Thanks for the review/thoughts!
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2002: Alaska; Celebrity; Summit; Seward -> Vancouver
2014: Alaska; Princess; Star Princess; San Francisco RT
2015-16 Eastern Caribbean; Holland America; Zuiderdam; Ft. Lauderdale RT
2018: Hawaii; Princess: Grand Princess; San Francisco RT


#20
Shelby Township, MI/ Winter Haven, FL
1,290 Posts
Joined Jan 2003
Thanks for your review. We, too, are Princess elite but have been on RCCL, recently on Harmony.


RCCL seemed more casual to me, e.g. shorts in dining room at dinner. Takes away from the dining experience for me.
That being said we are taking a three generation cruise next April (19 of us) and have chosen RCCL. More activities for the kids...we have 4 teenagers.


Would gladly cruise on either line.