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Traveling RCCL – from the view of a Princess Elite Cruiser

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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? :D 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.

Edited by friend of Eeyore

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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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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Thank you for this! I love these types of reviews comparing experiences with other lines. Great read.

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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).

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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

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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. :cool:

 

 

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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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.

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Thanks for the great review, very informative.

 

We have gone on both and like them both with a slight edge to Princess. Granted, we have only been on the smaller RCCL ships, but love the Radiance class and I think it is very similar to Princess. I have no desire to go on the huge ships although I suppose for the right price I would try it. But a Promenade deck is a must for me and I don't think the newer ships have that anyway.

 

We prefer the Princess room layouts with the closet/dressing area and we also prefer the Princess food in general.

 

I'm with you on the production shows - can live without them for sure - and I balk at having to make reservations. But I do like the dance bands and lounges on both lines, for evening entertainment.

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Thanks for sharing your review. I have no interest in RCCL except for the one ship that sails out of Baltimore to Bermuda. Very much considering doing that in a few years.

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Thanks for sharing your review. I have no interest in RCCL except for the one ship that sails out of Baltimore to Bermuda. Very much considering doing that in a few years.

 

 

 

We did the Baltimore to Bermuda cruise a few years ago, forgot the ship name but it was smaller. An outstanding cruise, my favorite on RCCL by a mile.

 

 

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Baltimore is the Grandeur of the Seas. I got off a nine-day Canada and New England today. She has her plusses and minuses.

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Rather than create a new topic I will just add to this one.

 

We are also Elite on Princess and just completed an Alaska Cruise on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas (sailing with daughter, son in law and grandson). It is a 3100 passenger with a max capacity of 3900.

 

We were sailing full.

 

1. Embarkation Procedure - Very quick on to the ship at 11 am, though rooms not available until 1. A nod to RCCL.

2. Room - while the room was laid out a bit differently. A bit longer, but narrower. The bathroom was similar size, with the shower being round with doors. Prefer Princess on this one.

3. Steward - Extremely friendly, excellent steward.

4. Dining - The buffet was laid out nicely, while it seemed that there was a good selection the first day, there was very little variance and got boring rather quickly. A major portion of it was aimed at kids with burgers and pizza. The main dining room food was of good quality, but also did not seem to have as much variety as Princess. Service in the MDR was excellent. Princess gets the edge.

5. Entertainment. I was a bit surprised after hearing how good the entertainment was on RCCL to be disappointed with the main theater. RCCL had 9 people in their band and 10 singers in dancers so they did use more people in their production shows. However, in our 7 day cruise we only had 2 production shows and I would not rank them any higher than Princess. During the 7 nights the main theater entertainment was introduction show, mostly with a comedian, production show, a movie, a magician, production show, 3 tenors, variety show. As such the entertainment in the main theater was not any better and actual seemed a bit poorer than Princess. The ice show was very nice, but there was only one of those during the cruise (offered 4 times with show assigned by muster station number). I would rank this neutral

6. Disembarkation. They offered a valet service (port of Seattle) at no cost, where bags placed in the hall were taken to the airport and delivered to the airline. Boarding passes were delivered to the room along with the airline bag tags. Worked very well. Give the nod to RCCL in this instance since we have not seen that yet on our Princess cruises.

 

In general we prefer Princess, though we will sail RCCL again when cruising with our grandson and his parents.

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6. Disembarkation. They offered a valet service (port of Seattle) at no cost, where bags placed in the hall were taken to the airport and delivered to the airline. Boarding passes were delivered to the room along with the airline bag tags. Worked very well. Give the nod to RCCL in this instance since we have not seen that yet on our Princess cruises.

 

This is a service provided by the port authority in Seattle and has nothing to do with the cruise line. It is also available on Princess, Disney, Celebrity, and virtually every other line when disembarking in Seattle!

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This is a service provided by the port authority in Seattle and has nothing to do with the cruise line. It is also available on Princess' date=' Disney, Celebrity, and virtually every other line when disembarking in Seattle![/quote']

 

Thought they might, but our Princess cruises for the last few years have tended to be international and not ending in Seattle.

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Thank you for your review! We, too, are elite on Princess and will be first-timers on RCL on an upcoming TA. I'm sure I will miss the free laundry most of all. But, we will manage.

 

 

Melissa

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Thank you for this review! We’ll be sailing Ruby Princess for NYE this year for the first time. We’ve been sailing RCCL and Celebrity since the early 90s. They sound very similar and I’m positive we’ll enjoy Princess too :)

 

 

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For me' date=' 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.[/quote']

 

Have you ever cruised with Princess during the summer months or during school breaks on 7 day cruises? I know you have said you do longer cruises which usually don’t have as many children. I can tell you that on 7 day cruises during these time frames, the kids on Princess are just the same as they are on other lines. I’ve seen plenty of kids without their parents being aware of what their kids are up to on Princess, including kids who have clearly been drinking. It’s one of the reasons that at this point, I don’t cruise over spring break!

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OP, thank you for the wonderful review. Always great to read such a well balanced review. Glad you had a great cruise!

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We are Platinum on Princess but the last several cruises have been on Oceania. Going back to Princess in January due to the good price and itinerary. Last year we did an RCCL cruise in Europe and the one thing that sticks out in my mind is that there was no shampoo or conditioner in the shower! Have other cruisers experienced the same situation? Cost-cutting I guess. I was told that this is standard and indeed those amenities were quickly provided when I asked for them. First world problem I know - a small thing but enough to put me off :(

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