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Nosleepatall

Mistake to book Royal?

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This will be our first cruise, going to Alaska next summer on the Royal Princess northbound out of Vancouver.  The itinerary and schedule of the Royal northbound trip out of Vancouver works really well for our family group (taking young adults who need to be back at work!) but now I'm second-guessing myself as so many reviewers say the Royal is just TOO BIG for Alaska and no outdoor space.  The Coral, which seems to be the popular choice, only sails midweek which necessitates really ten workdays off when you factor in arriving from east coast and heading home afterwards.  The Royal docks early Saturday morning which means we can have Sat/Sunday into Monday morning to spend time in the Anchorage area before flying home and without burning more vacation days; to do the same on the midweek itinerary means leave home latest Tuesday and return earliest Friday night.   I think the "kids" will enjoy all the "amenities" on the Royal but that's secondary to the destination.  Also concerned about the 3600 passenger size - will we feel overwhelmed?  My husband and I have never been on a cruise ship and I don't want to be herded.  If we weren't taking the entire family plus SO's, we would have chosen a smaller ship (eg Azamara) or even gone independent on the ferries/flying but with ten people, the logistics for that are too hard.  We also wanted to do the one-way inside passage vs. a roundtrip out of Seattle or Vancouver, but I'm wondering now if the RT out of Vancouver might be better if we could do a smaller ship.

 

We are limiting it to HAL and Princess because they seem to have the lock on Glacier Bay and we like the itineraries of both.  (I know NCL has a Glacier Bay pass as well but I really don't love the short times in port.)  Had also decided we really wanted a one-way inside passage northbound but at this point thinking maybe the tradeoff of a roundtrip for a smaller ship might be worth it.

 

There are HAL cruises which run on the weekend but they are approx. $1000 more per cabin and that is money I think we could really use on shore excursions.  Not sure why so much more?  Also the bulk of our group is 20-something...they are not ragers and like nice robes, room service and decent food as much as the next person but also like to have someplace to go at 10pm (as do we).  HAL seems to shut down at night (per reviews)?

 

My biggest concern, over the potential crowding, is the lack of deck space to spend time together outdoors on the Royal.  We do have 5 adjoining balcony cabins (I know they're teeny) and we are close to Lido deck so I'm sure we'll bundle up and meet up there frequently. 

 

If it means the difference between enjoying the cruise or feeling as if we spent a fortune for a subpar experience, then I'll make the change.  Any opinions?  I realize this is a bit of a challenge because 2019 will be the Royal's first time in Alaska but I have read comments such as "...it's a big mistake to send Royal to Alaska..."  Yikes.

 

Spots on other ships are filling up fast but I think we could still make a change (our deposit is refundable until February).  Any and all opinions are welcomed! 

 

Thanks!

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Hello,  I will tell you what we did on our cruise last July.  We too had kids traveling with us so we had to book weekend cruise.  We sailed roundtrip out of Seattle;  The Ruby left on Sat and the Emerald left on Sunday.  We chose Emerald.  Both ships have itineraries that go into Glacier Bay; so you would have to pick one that fits your schedule.  Ruby and Emerald are sister ships carrying around 2500 pax.  Never felt crowded at all on the Emerald.  Since you are gone most of the day;  we did not spend a lot of time on ship; nor did we spend much time outdoors on the ship.  Too cold to hang out outside; but this is one option.  I have not sailed Royal; so can not answer about the ship being too large for Alaska.  My friend just returned from sailing NCL Bliss to Alaska; and this ship is way larger than Royal.  He said he never felt crowded or herded.  Hope this helps

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We love the Royal. Never felt crowded. The Horizon Court is a great casual buffet place to eat with a variety of things to appeal to everybody. The omelets made to order for breakfast are delicious. 

The kids menu in the dining room is excellent, and even adults love the Volcano, which is a super banana split. I get at least one every cruise. 

Princess has a little more going on than HAL, though both lines are excellent. 

Enjoy Alaska, it’s memorable. 

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We just disembarked the Royal last week. It was our first time on her, as we had resisted sailing these larger Princess ships like they were the plague. So, I was prejudiced against the ship due to size, but booked due to the itinerary and timing. We were delighted with her, and leave on Dec 1 to board her sister the Regal - got over the size thing really fast - having booked at the last moment. I think you will really appreciate all the amenities on the ship, and despite the passenger count and the cold weather (snow storms, storms) that kept the passengers inside a good deal of the time, the ship never felt crowded to us. 

 

Honestly what we did miss was the connection to the sea, that the walk around Promenade decks give us. Coral is a great ship and we would sail her in a heartbeat, but given your timing issues, if they were ours we would now happily book the Royal. Since you all have balconies, you will be able to enjoy some outside viewing. In addition, if weather permits, there are options above Lido for viewing while at sea. Check the deck plans and think creatively...jogging track, etc.   The port times, the inclusion of Glacier Bay, and the fact that you will have some time in Anchorage are great advantages. So, be confident in your choice of the Royal for this family cruise.

 

One piece of unsolicited advice, ok, two actually. First, when in port get out of town. They are overwhelmed with tourists, and the real scenery and great stuff is out in the "wilderness" enjoying nature and adventure. Second, don't worry about being joined at the hip as a family all the time. Let the "kids" do their own thing in port and onboard, while still planning some things to do together as a group - such as some meals, maybe some games, etc. 

 

Bon Voyage. 

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I've been on two HAL ships in Alaska. I think one way northbound is the absolute best itinerary. That way your viewing excitement will build and become amazing by the end. Those who need to return to work can do so but you can continue to explore via land. Had a blast on HAL doing the pub crawl with a whole lot of fun people. If your ship offers something like this the young people will love it. As for HAL prices being higher, you will find many fluctuations in price between now and the sailing. If you are restricting yourselves to balcony cabins then you will pay a lot on any line. To get all five cabins next to one another, and close to the Lido, I think you will be very pleased. FWIW, we greatly prefer the food on Princess to HAL.

 

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We had the almost identical dilemma except we didn’t need to set sail on a weekend. We booked royal but then switched to coral after getting advice on these boards (here is a link to that thread)

 

 

Maybe the suggestion to sail out of Seattle might suit you as the other poster suggested? I look forward to sailing on the royal one day but all things considered I think there are better ships for Alaska which is, after all, all about the views (and hence the outside space being important) during the four scenic cruising days (only three in port). 

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We have been on the Royal several times, but not to Alaska. (Her first visit to Alaska will sail March 23, 2019.

She is a big ship, but in Alaska there will probably be several ships in each port, so a few more on the Royal will not be a big deal.

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I dislike the size of these big ships and the balcony is a joke on the Royal. Your inclination towards a smaller ship like Azamara would be my first choise. The buffet on the Royal is large and made it hard to view all the choices before going back to get what I liked. If all else works for you, price, itinerary, dates then just go knowing all the little pitfalls and enjoy in spite of them.

 If you have anytime dining anticipate long lines and wait time. Consider club class for anytime or fixed seating for balcony. With impatient kids the wait could be irritating. 

Edited by cruzsnooze
typo

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I have also pondered your same questions having never cruised to Alaska before, however, we have been on Regal and loved the ship!  It never felt crowded, now we were in the Caribbean so very different location but with everyone looking for deckspace on sea days we never had a problem.

 

We also love the Royal itinerary and long hours in ports and Glacier Bay is a must.  We are booked on the southbound -whittier to vancouver trip. 

 

I totally agree that for us first timers it is more about the destination than the ship.   However, that said, we choose the Royal over HAL, because we like Princess (food, sevice, etc.. has always been excellent) and we really like the Regal Princess.

 

Plus, the dates and prices on the Royal work better for us - we have 4 people in a room (yes, I know some people think we're crazy but we've done it for years = more cruises).

 

You need to do what works best for you and your family.  Remember to take everything you read on this board with a grain of salt, it is just each person's opinion, and what doesn't work for them might be just right for you.

 

We are just so excited to finally be able to cruise Alaska!!

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You didn't make a mistake.  We've been to Alaska 5 times already and are going a 6th time next year on the Royal.  There will be plenty of room outside to enjoy the glaciers, and I do think your family will love the inside areas.  The buffet is awesome with a lot more choices than other classes of ships.  There is on demand TV with a good choice of movies.  Alfredo's is wonderful.  Sure, I also like the wraparound Promenade deck and larger balconies on the other Princess ships.  But there's so many other great things on the Royal that I would not hesitate cruising on her anywhere.

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Thanks to everyone who has replied!  I definitely suffer from over-planning syndrome and my family at this point knows that plans are always subject to tweaking up until the deposit goes hard.

 

Sounds like I should just relax and focus on scheduling the rest of the trip and if we miss having a promenade deck or feel a bit crowded, then lesson learned, but the rest of the ship will be enjoyable (and I did not mention it in original post, but food and drink is somewhat important to us and from most accounts the dining on Royal is reliably decent and varied options).   I'm sure the big issue will be the wine/bar bill at the end of the week:)

 

Alaska definitely has a steep learning curve.  I wish I had started researching this trip more than 10 months in advance (and that we had about three weeks more to explore).

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2 hours ago, Nosleepatall said:

asThanks to everyone who has replied!  I definitely suffer from over-planning syndrome and my family at this point knows that plans are always subject to tweaking up until the deposit goes hard.

 

Sounds like I should just relax and focus on scheduling the rest of the trip and if we miss having a promenade deck or feel a bit crowded, then lesson learned, but the rest of the ship will be enjoyable (and I did not mention it in original post, but food and drink is somewhat important to us and from most accounts the dining on Royal is reliably decent and varied options).   I'm sure the big issue will be the wine/bar bill at the end of the week:)

 

Alaska definitely has a steep learning curve.  I wish I had started researching this trip more than 10 months in advance (and that we had about three weeks more to explore).

Foodies should be happy on the Royal. Check as soon as you board to see if the Super Tuscan Wine Dinner will be offered during your sailing, at Sabatini's. We did that and enjoyed it very much. Also, Chef's Table Luminiere, as soon as you board, and or Winemaker's Dinner. The buffet area on the Royal was great, we are not usually buffet creatures, but there was tremendous variety and we found the quality to be quite high. There is also Alfredo's with the expanded menu. I think you made a great choice for a family of foodies. 

 

As far as research, there are a ton of threads regarding what to do in Alaska, but with the new format I have no idea how easy it is to search anymore. I frankly have not tried. So, join your roll call. I will offer a suggestion or two - the flightseeing and salmon roast at Taku Glacier out of Juneau, offered by Princess, is exceptional. We have done it several times, it has been a true highlight. Our adult kids loved it too, as they did the Ketchikan based flightseeing and Crab Feast at George Inlet. If you fly in Juneau, you might want  a less expensive way to include the Crab Feast at George Inlet (foodies unite, the Dungeness is the best ever there), and you can take a bus ride, they combine this with more options than just flight seeing. Again offered by Princess. You will not go wrong with either of these excursions, unless the flights are cancelled due to weather. (In Juneau, do your own brewery tour in case of really lousy weather, as our kids did.) And you are saying - but WHALEWATCHING - Whittier, they offer a long cruise where you are likely to see whales, seals, more glaciers, you name it. You might see whales close to the entrance of Glacier Bay (or not, but probably some adorable sea otters). Take binoculars with excellent optics for each person, and if you are thinking of upgrading the photography equipment, do it before you go. You won't be sorry. Layers, rainwear, warm gloves, scarf or hat ...you might not need the gloves or scarf, but if you do, you will be glad you packed them. 

 

Bon Voyage,  our family cruises to Alaska have been some of the best trips. 

Edited by ggprincess2004

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As much as I like Princess, I agree that sending the Royal to Alaska is a big mistake.  The Golden, Coral and Island all offer one-way itineraries out of or to Vancouver.  One of them would be my choice.

We just disembarked the Royal from the repositioning cruise from Quebec to Port Everglades.  Cold and uncomfortable, for sure.

It was our first experience on one of the 'big' ships.  The ship was very stable in high seas but the engineering staff refused to regulate the temperature to something comfortable in the public areas (Horizon Court, Piazza, etc).  When I told one of the blue coated managers of the uncomfortable temperature in the HC and how difficult this would be for Alaskan itineraries his comment was, "I don't care, I will be gone by then". 

All in all, when we go to Alaska again, it will most likely be on HAL or a ship other than the Royal.

The Royal has no enclosed pool area (the pool is just in the open) and it will be cold to frigid to use the pool or hot tub or sit for a MUTS movie.

 

I should also add that we wound up using the buffet more that usual because the MDR/ATD offerings were unappealing to totally repulsive.  Who adds a sauce to a lobster tail?  And I agree that the expanded Alfredo's was a great alternative.

Edited by thinfool

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The Royal is a great ship.  We have been on her twice on a Med medley and the Southern Caribbean.  Never felt crowded in the least.

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If it fits your schedule, then the Royal is not a bad choice.

 

On Glacier Bay day there will be crowding in the relative few public areas you can be outside to view the glaciers.

 

And when in ports, well, the towns will be more crowded.

 

Although in warm climates the Royal will not seem crowded, in a cool climate few people will be outside on sea days, so some areas will be crowded inside.

 

If you are booking Princess excursions, do so early as more passengers could mean the excursions you want will sell out faster.

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I just booked the Royal for Alaska myself.  Having sailed on Royal and Regal many times and then sailing the Crown, I found I missed many things the Royal and Regal have that the others do not.  I have never felt crowded on either.  The buffet is absolutely huge.  There are outdoor areas on deck 7 although not full walk around, and all over decks 16, 17, 18.  Plenty of out door space if you choose it.  Balconies that are adjoining can have the doors opened outside so you may all hang outside on your balconies together.  Just ask the cabin steward.  I chose Marina deck for the Alaska cruise to get the visual from the height and aft to stay back of the lifeboats.  Just my opinion!  There are several cabins with huge balconies if you know where to find them!  I wanted the glass this time so didn't pick any of those!  Also if you are sailing with younger folks, HAL is not the place to be.  Heard that the sidewalks roll up by 10 PM and everything shuts down; not on Princess.  

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I loved my Royal balcony so much we never missed 'public' viewing places

 

Loved hiking Mt Roberts. Short walk to tram station

Edited by Ombud

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I have really enjoyed the Royal (and her sister Regal) in Europe; but that was because these were  colder weather cruises not needing much time outdoors, we went to ports that wouldn't be overwhelmed with a large ship, and it was port intensive. We tended to spend our evenings in the room resting. Alaskan ports do get a bit overwhelmed when too many large ships are in town, and Royal/Regal are very large. When all are on board, they are crowded. Very crowded. Royal has a dearth of outdoor space, IMO not nearly enough when many passengers want to be outdoors. I might book Alaska because it's cold and people will go indoors. I would NEVER book any ship in this class for the Caribbean. That being said, many people don't mind be shoulder to shoulder with other guests, constantly searching for  seats and elbowing your way into the buffet. They enjoy and book these ships for warm weather relaxation cruises such as Caribbean. The Royal is a beautiful ship. It depends on what you want.

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