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Princess Regal - Photo Review (11-16-14) + BVE

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Summary:

My wife and I are recently back from a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the newest Princess cruise ship, Regal. Ports were Princess Cays, St. Thomas and Saint Maarten with three… (count ‘em)… 3 days at sea. Of course, this cruise was less about the itinerary and more about the opportunity to explore the latest member of the Princess fleet.

 

This review will be a photo heavy, somewhat detailed (read rambling) and too long. That said, we will be weighing in on such popular Cruise Critic forum topics as the food quality, the new ship’s controversial layout, and the infamous aft-facing cabin soot issue. We’ll also provide our assessment of Princess’s unique Bon Voyage Experience - (BVE) since we had some family members join us for pre-sailing fun and give you our take on using the EZ-Check baggage option when disembarking.

 

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Back Story:

So let’s get it all out there. We’re from New York. In our 50s. Have taken a total of about a dozen cruises - on Royal, Princess and Celebrity. We drink, dine and gamble. But generally don’t take in the stage shows or ship sponsored shore excursions. We’ve travelled with head colds, gotten norovirus once and continue to make nervous jokes about getting dengue fever until, of course, that day we succumb. We don’t talk about Ebola. We once smuggled a pint of vodka on board in a Poland Spring 6-pack just to see if we still “had it”. We did. And we both really, really hate muster.

 

As a cruising couple, we are pretty ”loyal to Royal” as they say. But it’s funny how quickly allegiances can change when the all-mighty dollar is involved. You see, we sailed on Ruby on a fluke in January (attractive itinerary) and later learned that the sailing qualified us for a special Princess promotion in which our ENTIRE fare for that Ruby cruise could be applied to a future 2014 Princess cruise. Wow! You don’t see deals like that too often - and we couldn’t leave that much money lying on the table. So, despite our recent pact to stop cruising other lines and just stick to Royal, we soon found ourselves focusing in on the newest Princess fleet member, Regal, as our next vacation option.

 

With our travel agent’s help, we discovered a decent Regal fare for the week in between the pricey US inaugural sailings and the cray-cray expensive Thanksgiving week run. So we applied our generous Ruby sailing cruise credit, received a generous allowance of ship board credits from both Princess and our TA, upgraded to an aft-facing Owner’s Suite (booyah!) and once again took the Princess plunge. Sorry Royal.

 

As insurance against any climate change sponsored freak storms in the Northeast, we flew to Ft. Lauderdale a day early on Jet Blue and spent a fun day with my wife’s sister’s family. This included an afternoon picking up some last minute toiletries - like the OFF! Deep Woods mosquito repellent we never ended up using. And with our shameful smuggling careers now deeply in our past, we stopped off at the local Total Wines liquor emporium to purchase our one-bottle-of-wine-each carry-on allotment.

 

Day One – The Bon Voyage Experience

 

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To thank our Ft. Lauderdale family members for taking us in for the night, we decided to surprise them with a Bon Voyage Experience (BVE). This is a Princess program that allows non-sailing “guests” to tour the ship while it’s in port. Participants get a free embarkment photo, lunch and free run of the ship until 3pm at which time they need to vacate the premises.

 

 

So a few weeks before our cruise, we called up the BVE department and arranged for my wife’s sister and her husband to come aboard with us. It cost 40$ a piece. The guests have to have all the necessary paperwork they’d need as if they were actually boarding for the cruise (eg Passport) and leave a credit card number with the front desk in case they start drinking up a storm or take advantage of the spa, etc. So there’s some work involved, but our two guests were really excited about getting an opportunity to tour the ship for the afternoon.

 

We were instructed to show up early at the pier because Bon Voyage Experience participants are among the very first to board. We had called Princess ahead of time to make sure we, as sailing passengers, we would be connected to our BVE family members - so we could all board together (ie first!) except for a wedding party (they always manage to sneak on earlier! Dang!)

 

So after a small breakfast of danish and coffee at their home, (we knew we would be gorging ourselves later) we packed up my brother-in-law’s CRV with our luggage and headed to Port Everglades for a 10:15am arrival.

 

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It’s a crazy port scene at that time of day since the ship is still in the act of disembarking passengers from the prior cruise and most of the security/porters/gate agents assumed we were there to pick people up… not to unload, park and board. But we eventually found some porters who assured us our luggage would be taken onboard (and not to FLL) and then made our way to the embarkment area outside the pier terminal - where a line of eager new cruisers had already begun forming.

 

Minutia, but if you take part of the BVE (Bon Voyage Experience) you’re better off following the instructions you get from the Princess agent when you sign-up and ignore the directions you get from the pier side handlers at embarkment. My brother-in-law, who had separated from us to park the car, was instructed to join the regular passenger line (even after identifying himself as a BVE participant). We eventually pulled him out of the line and onto our separate cue for Suite / BVE guests. This way we could all stay together - and no other Princess reps we encountered afterward questioned this at all.

 

We filled out the new health forms and assured them, without birth certificates, that we hadn’t come from Kenya and then waited til about 11am when the terminal was finally opened for security and cruise card registration.

 

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Embarkment went reasonably smoothly… though it’s strange getting in first and facing an empty terminal. Some of the counter folk were still getting up to speed. But our BVE companions were given special stickers to wear and then we were directed to a special waiting area where a BE host met us and took us through the drill. It took another half hour to gather to gather a few other BVE members and then it a few photos before the backdrop and onto the ship to scan in with our new cruise cards.

 

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Overall, the BVE boarding process was fine, but I would definitely do my homework about the details and know what you’re SUPPOSED to be doing and what to look for, because the port side assistants seem a bit clueless about the process. And we found ourselves doing a lot of hurry-up and waiting. Making sure we were there early, but essentially waiting ‘til 11:30am to actually board.

 

More review later…

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Nice start. :) My dd did the BVE from NY on the Royal. It was great but she never had a BVE tag given to her. Looking forward to more..

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Can't wait to see the rest of your post and your photos.....don't worry about unpacking.....FINISH THIS POST! ....and with the photos too please! LOL....

 

We are so excited as we will start our very same trip early Jan. So of course everything we read and see right now only adds to our excitement.

 

Thanks again....looking forward to seeing the rest of your story. :)

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Thank You for all the info (so far) especially about your BVE experience.

Like you we plan to treat our Florida hosts , my parents , to this program .

So far sounds very good. Looking forward to reading more.

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We were on the same cruise, so looking forward to your review. I've had a houseful of company for Thanksgiving, so haven't gotten my review done yet. Your review will bring back memories of a wonderful cruise.

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We did the BVE in NY aboard the Royal Princess before the repo. It was a great experience to see the new ship (well, I guess not so new anymore) and have a wonderful lunch. Plus our $39 for the BVE was applied towards our upcoming Mediterranean cruise. :)

 

Looking forward to the rest of your review & pictures :D:D:D

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thanks for the review look forward to seeing next post , did I read correctly that you are allowed to carry one bottle of wine on board ?

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thanks for the review look forward to seeing next post , did I read correctly that you are allowed to carry one bottle of wine on board ?
Taken from Princess Cruises FAQ section

"As provided in the Passage Contract, guests agree not to bring alcoholic beverages of any kind

onboard for consumption, except one bottle of wine or champagne per adult of drinking age

(no larger than 750 ml) per voyage, which will not be subject to a corkage fee if consumed in the stateroom.

We usually pour ourselves a glass in our cabin and drink it where we choose.

We have never had a problem. It goes on to say

"Additional wine or champagne bottles are welcome, but will incur a $15 corkage fee each, irrespective of

where they are intended to be consumed. "

Edited by richstowe

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Day One – More BVE and Exploring the Ship

 

- Thanks for your kind words and readership. I hope these pictures and stories will get you psyched for your own upcoming adventure on Regal. We all enjoy reading others antics before we embark so this is just returning the favor… -

 

Just a few more notes on the Bon Voyage Experience (BVE). We thought we might be getting a guided tour once we boarded, but instead, our host handed us a colorful tour guide pamphlet and told us to use it as a self guided orientation of the ship. The pamphlet actually came in handy during the rest of the voyage – because, despite all its splendor, Regal is almost maze-like when it comes from getting to point A to point B.

 

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The Self-Guided Ship Tour Pamphlet

 

One of the suggested activities in the tour guide was to check out the various staterooms. It was like a cabin crawl for the BVE attendees! Staterooms of all categories were open for viewing on Deck 14 and 16. Funny enough, the cabins that really struck my eye were the new side-ways oriented inside cabins Sure, the cabin door opens right into the bedroom - I guess you need to knock first or set up a sock on the door knob system! – but they seem much more spacious as inside cabins, especially with the bathrooms tucked away behind the headboards of the bed. . I think these make for a much smarter lay out and though my wife will never let me, this is where I’d be happy cruising in the future.

 

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The Side-Facing Interior Staterooms (Shots taken from hall doorway)

 

We rushed along the halls like kids in a candy store, sticking our heads in and checking out the various room categories. For this particular sailing, we splurged on an aft-facing Owner’s Suite – pictures to come – but let me just say, I think I would have been happier with a “regular” full suite. (Heck even the mini-suite’s had better lay outs than our Owners Suite, in my opinion). But more on this later. Suffice to say, all the cabins looked great though we did hear the complaints about balcony size.

 

Probably the most stunning feature of the ship, aside from the The Sea Walk, is the Piazza at the ship’s center. Not only is this a grand space, duly appointed and easy to navigate, it’s also a much bigger entertainment resource than I thought possible. While most ships relegate a piano player or string quartet to their Centrum spaces, Regal uses the space for everything from party bands and Flamenco dancing to food demonstrations and circus acts! Three levels of virtually non-stop entertainment at night.

 

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The Piazza on Regal Princess

 

While the Piazza impressed, the outside promenade disappointed. I’m a fan of the full circumference promenade deck. If anything, it gives me comfort that they’ll be plenty of room for panicking, pushing and shoving as we load the lifeboats when the ship goes down. But this ain’t gonna happen on Regal. Inexplicably, the deck is obscenely wide at some spots (we actually saw people using them like their private balcony space at sail aways) and then claustrophobically narrow at others (where the lifeboats are… I can’t imagine what chaos would ensue if they actually had to load these things with passengers from such a confined space). So it’s a big boo from all of us on the promenade design. In the end, it seemed to be the space the ships smokers gravitated to. So thanks for ruining this wonderful outside resource!

 

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The odd Promenade Deck - nice furniture anyway.

 

We had a laundry room right down the hall from our cabin, so I couldn’t resist poking my head in and taking a few shots. See! There are ironing boards! And there are soap vending machines that take quarters (lots of them!) My wife insisted she was going to do a load of laundry on this cruise (I don’t know why since part of the suite amenities is free laundry service) … but she never got around to doing it. She actually ended up giving our cabin steward a small box of detergent she’d brought on for that purpose. One side note; on the last night of the cruise - one of our casino table mates, who was pretty tanked up with that ole “we’re leaving tomorrow and I don’t want to go” level of inebriation, reported that his wife had done laundry and some of her undergarments were missing when she went to put the clothes into the dryer! He reported it to security and everything… but they were of no real help. Just saying…

 

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The Laundry Room

 

 

Okay, so 3pm came and our BVE guests begrudgingly went down a few levels to the disembarkment gangway, grabbed their souvenir picture (actually grabbed a couple, since the table wasn’t manned!!), a couple of cookies from Horizon Court and were ding-donged off of the ship. Later, they reported enjoying their few hours on board, loved the lunch with a free drink, and a chance to check out the incredible pastry bar. But they just hated having to leave, knowing we had a full week of ship life ahead of us. We felt guilty too. (But not for too long!) But yes, there is that awkwardness to it all.

 

While our BVE family members disembarked, we got back to our cabin and prepared for the dreaded muster… which in our case was being held in the aft Vista Lounge (one of my favorite theaters on the ship). They held several functions here, most cumbersomely the art auctions, but the Captain’s Welcome Back, the Chiefs game, Bingo, and an odd show called Ye Olde Pub starring the cruise director and his administrative staff all made good use of the space! Anyway, muster was its usual chore, but we had some fun afterwards as my wife auditioned for a muster leader role, (in hopes of securing employment on the ship) and I made off putting comments about hoping we don’t get dengue fever!

 

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Muster in the Vista Lounge

 

More review later - including shots of our cabin, plus Patters, dining room menus and Elite - Club 6 drink list and soot!

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Spoiler Alert

 

This is the Princess Patter from our Day 1.

Don't read if you want to keep the activities, entertainment and what's playing on MUTS a surprise.

 

Patter_1.jpg

 

Patter_2.jpg

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A really fun read! I am so impressed with those of you that can cobble together a review that entertains like this one!!

 

Cheers, Denise

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Great review. Can't wait to read the next installment! Get to it, my sweet DH!!!!

 

Yes...get going!!

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Was the Princess@SeaMessenger app finally working? WE're sailing in a couple of weeks on Regal and hope it works by then.

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OP it looks like there are a lot of people waiting for more of your excellent review....count me in!

 

Norris

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My DW and I were on this cruise so I am interested to see your take on it. We had a great time and I am already counting down the days to our next cruise.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Cruise Critic Forums mobile app

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