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ceilidh1

Royal Princess West Coast Debut - March 23rd-30th REVIEW

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Posted (edited)

Just returned home from our spring break trip and wanted to share my thoughts and impressions on this cruise.

 

SPOILER ALERT: If you are a Princess cheerleader and refuse to acknowledge that they are anything less than perfect, you may wish to skip this review. While I love Princess, I do not pretend that they can do no wrong and I will call them out when they make mistakes. I had posted about a few of the issues we had while on the ship and I received some negative/snarky comments implying that I must be the one in the wrong...if you are one of these people then please just don't read my review!

 

Background: On this cruise was myself, DD (11) and DS (7). This was cruise number 27 for us - 24 of which have been on Princess (did I mention that we love Princess?) This trip was week 2 of our spring break (we are from Vancouver), with the first week being a land vacation in Las Vegas and Disneyland. We had sailed this itinerary before (Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta) and wanted to do this trip solely for the ship. Having never sailed on this class of ship we were very excited about it coming to the West Coast and booked the trip as soon as bookings opened up!

 

Embarkation: We had received several notifications that boarding would be delayed due to the ship coming from South America and needing to be completely cleared by US immigration. This threw me a little as we needed to be out of our Anaheim hotel by 11am and there isn't a whole lot to do in San Pedro. We have done Long Beach numerous times, as well as Iowa, so we weren't sure what to do if there was a long wait. I decided to play it by ear and, if it was longer than several hours, to take the kids to eat at the San Pedro Brewing Company nearby. We had a private car booked through Prime Time and it arrived right at 11am and got us to the port at 11:40am. We were able to drop our bags and headed in to the check in area. At this time, there were roughly 300 people already inside and they were handing out boarding group 4 cards. I asked if they had an ETA on boarding time but the rep said that she hadn't been told. We checked in - very efficient and fast - and received our cruise cards and medallions. The medallions were a bonus as this was originally meant to be a medallion cruise but then we were informed that it wouoldn't be. Turns out they were ahead of schedule and this sailing was the first full medallion (I believe segments of the 49 days prior to us had some limited medallion usage too). We were given priority boarding cards as we are elite and directed to the elite seating area. This area was already full, which didn't matter to us. We sat in the general seating area and hooked up to the port wifi. The kids were happy on their devices for the time being so I figured we would wait it out. The elite area had tea, coffee, water, and pastries but I didn't see anything provided (not even water) for the general seating area. I did wander over to the elite area to get some water and the rep policing the entrance checked to make sure I was, indeed, elite. I noticed that the coffee and pastries were being packed away - as someone that used to work shoreside for Princess I knew exactly what this meant.....we were getting ready to board!!!!! Sure enough, a few minutes later, an announcement came explaining how the boarding process would work. It always makes me smile that whenever they announce "Please stay seated" at least 60% of the room immediately stands up! LOL. Anyways, since we were group 1 we were called first to board - the process took a few minutes longer than normal as they were running both medallion and cruise cards side by side, so we needed to scan the medallion and get a picture taken, then scan the cruise card and get a picture taken. No big deal - we were still on the ship and sitting in Alfredos by 12:20pm! Not bad considering we thought we wouldn't even be boarding until 3pm!!!

Edited by ceilidh1
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Cabin: We have sailed in every type of cabin from inside to suite. We had never sailed an obstructed balcony (not sure if other classes even have these) so decided to give it a try on Royal. To be honest, we spend very little time in the room even when we have a balcony and I am guilty of never really researching rooms prior to booking. The cabin we had was E626 - not sure how we came about getting that particular one, maybe it was the first that came up for triple occupancy....again, I really don't care about the room too much. The balcony was much smaller/narrower than I am used to on other Princess ships - just wide enough for two chairs and the small round table. The lifeboat obstructing it was definitely an obstruction - though if you stood on the balcony you could see over without an issue. In port they did lower the lifeboats so there was no obstruction then!

 

The cabin itself was toward the aft of the ship, close to the aft elevators. It was very quiet and we had no door slammers in our area - yay! The wall mounted tv was wonderful - the on demand movies were great (though a little glitchy at times, freezing and restarting - but we were in the middle of the ocean so can't really complain about that). The beds were comfortable enough - not convinced they were the new Princess beds (I have definitely slept in better on Star). No barrel chair - we didn't request one as we had no need for it. The downside to the room (and this would only be an issue if you had a third person as we did) was the pullman bed. Unlike other triples/quads we have had, this bed did not pull down over the other beds but pulled down from the ceiling directly in front of the balcony. When down, the bed was just below eye level, which made half of the room completely unusable - you couldn't access the balcony, the minibar/refrigerator, the desk, or any of the storage and drawers in the desk areas. For this reason, I wouldn't recommend this room if you were sailing with three people. DS did bang his head on the bed twice - that's how low it was!

 

The bathroom was the standard but had the best shower we have experienced on Princess. Now, if only they would get rid of those awful shower curtains. I did post about the upgraded amenity kit having changed (at least sine we last sailed on Star in August). The kit we received on this ship had conditioner, a nail file, 3 cotton balls, 3 cotton buds, and a lip balm. I asked our room steward about it and she said that this was how it was now. I was sad not to get the shampoo, eye mask, and linen spray as I do use those. A tube of lotion did appear the next day, but was not part of the amenity kit.

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Got to put the kids to bed....more coming. Stay tuned....

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Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.  Looking forward to reading more.....🙂🙂🙂

 

Bob

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18 minutes ago, MsSoCalCruiser said:

Do you have a photo of the bunk when it was lowered?

 

Bunk.png

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18 minutes ago, MsSoCalCruiser said:

Do you have a photo of the bunk when it was lowered?

 

Bunk2.png

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This was the lifeboat obstructing our balcony (this was in port - usually you could see ocean rather than a building behind it - lol)

balcony.png

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41 minutes ago, MsSoCalCruiser said:

Thank you for your review.  I’m looking forward to reading more 

 

Ditto.

Tony

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The Ship: Royal Princess is a very beautiful ship but, for some reason, I was unable to make any sense of the layout and constantly got lost or turned around. One of the reasons I love Princess is that their ships are basically all the same type of layout so, by the end of day one, I feel like I know where everything is. I never felt this on Royal. It felt like Princess had taken all of their well loved areas, thrown them in the air, and just let them land wherever.....lol - bit of an exaggeration, but I did have a hard time on this ship.

 

I missed the promenade on deck 7, I really missed Skywalkers, and I hated the way Wheelhouse is now just a small seating area outside of Crown Grill. If there was an Explorers on this ship, I never found it! The fact they have Alfredos is a huge win - one of my favorite places to eat. Princess Live was a nice addition, though way too small for the popular events they program in there. The new Club 6 seemed nice - the elite drinks/happy hour was held there but I never attended this. I did go to the "Junior Disco" with my kids there - party animal, right? The theatre was beautiful, but again not big enough for this size of ship - people would get there so early to get good seats...

 

The pools were tiny - one small, round, shallow pool and then a slightly larger, deep pool. Both were very cold - the kids swam a couple of times but it was too cold for me (and I never saw many adults in the pools). The hot tubs were luke warm at best. Not sure how the adult pool at the front of the ship was as I never ventured there. The kids liked the exercise equipment on the the top decks, as well as the table tennis and shuffleboard. There was also golf and the usual sports court. The fitness centre was pretty impressive (I constantly had to walk through there to find my way to the kids club - did I mention I got lost a few times?)

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Thank you very much for starting this detailed review of your cruise. We sail on April 20th so this really builds the anticipation while we wait for our turn!

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Muster: Not really much to say about this. Our muster station was Crown Grill. No life vests needed. Safety video. They scanned both cruise card and medallion. It was short and painless.

 

Sailaway: Call me sad, but sailaway is my favorite time on the ship. I LOVE the hype and excitement, and who can resist a good old Cupid Shuffle???? Since this was the West Coast debut, we were promised something special so we took up our positions on deck 16 and got ready to party. It started off great - the DJ played some great music (well, my kids didn't think so, but I did!), a helicopter was circling overhead and the pilot was waving down (were we being filmed?), Stanley was wandering the deck posing for pictures, and the Iowa had a band that played Love Boat!!!! Yes, it was pretty special. The fireboat came out (as it always does in San Pedro) and put on the usual water display and the ship sounded the Love Boat horns as it pulled out of port. What was missing (unless this happened much later) were the cruise staff and the dancing....I didn't see anyone from the cruise staff out during sailaway, which I have never experienced before.

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Thank you for taking the time to do this review. I am looking forward to reading more. 

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1 hour ago, ceilidh1 said:

The kit we received on this ship had conditioner, a nail file, 3 cotton balls, 3 cotton buds, and a lip balm. I asked our room steward about it and she said that this was how it was now. I was sad not to get the shampoo, eye mask, and linen spray as I do use those. A tube of lotion did appear the next day, but was not part of the amenity kit.

So they don't give you shampoo now, only conditioner?

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Bars: Brace yourselves for the first "niggle" in this review. On the whole the bartenders did a great job but there simply weren't enough of them. It felt to me that there were the same number of bartenders on this class of ship as on smaller classes of ship. The majority of bars had only one bartender - two if you were lucky. Since most passengers had the sip n sail package and were ordering cocktails, this made service very, very slow. The bar staff looked overworked and I definitely waited longer for drinks on this ship than on any other I have sailed. I must stress that this is not the fault of the bartenders - there just weren't enough of them. The only bar that seemed to consistently have two bartenders and rarely seemed busy was at the Wheelhouse. On the flip side, the bar outside Princess Live was always busy with one overworked bartender....

 

Dining: We had early dining, which was at 5:30pm. While this is a little early, it was preferable to late dining which was at 7:45pm. Unfortunately, so many things were programmed around 6pm that we only made our assigned dining twice in the 7 days. This wasn't a huge deal for us but wanted to mention it in case this helps others in planning their dining times. Our dining room was Allegro on deck 6 aft and we had a table for 4 (which is what we had requested). Once again, there did not appear to be enough staff for this size of ship. The twice we went for dinner here, there was no drink waiter/assistant waiter so we simply ordered drinks at the same time as we ordered our food. Our waiter was fine - didn't make an effort to recommend any particular dishes or explain anything on the menu (again, it felt that they were overworked) but everything we ordered was correct and tasted great. We ate lunch in the dining room once (it was in Concerto) and felt the same - only one waiter and very rushed. We were not given any bread or asked if we wanted water, and they also said that they couldn't give us a kids menu at lunch (we didn't want to order from it, but the kids like to play the games while they wait for their food). We had afternoon tea once, which was wonderful as always. We were lucky to be among the first ones in and shared a table with some ladies we had met from our rollcall. Other people were seated with us a little later and didn't get any tea or goodies for some time - I felt really bad for them as they were waiting for so long! We ate at Alfredos three times - I really love that place. The pizza is outstanding and, for the first time, I tried the veal pasta. WOW!! Highly recommend it! Service here was great and was the one place where it felt like they had enough staff!

 

Buffet: The buffet is HUGE! If you thought I got lost on the ship, you should have seen me trying to find my way around the buffet! There were so many different sections and stations, but none of them were logical so I would see something but then forget where it was. Then I would end up on the other side of the buffet and not be able to find where I was sitting. I felt like I needed to leave a trail of breadcrumbs! The food was very good, very varied - sometimes it followed a theme, other times it just seemed to be thrown in randomly! I loved that there was a small coffee bar there to purchase good coffee and teas, though it was painfully slow as only one person was ever working there. I must mention something odd that came up on three separate occasions from three different staff members - I drink Chai Tea and always order these at International Cafe (and now the coffee bar in Horizon Court). Three of the times I ordered I was asked "Do you want coffee in it?" I was totally thrown - does Chai Tea EVER have coffee in it? Anyone? I also liked that there were sinks outside the buffet in addition to hand sanitizing stations. For the first two days there was a staff member encouraging everyone to wash their hands but after that I never saw anyone and the sinks didn't appear to get used very much.

 

Crown Grill: We ate one dinner at Crown Grill. The service started out really bad but got better - I asked for a kids menu for DS as he would never be able to eat a whole steak. It took them 20 minutes to track down a kids menu and during the 20 minutes we just sat there - no drinks, no water, no bread, no eye contact. I was beginning to think I had made a big mistake. However, once the menu arrived and we were able to order some drinks things got better. Again, I was surprised that the waiter didn't go through the menu or make any recommendations - do they not do this any more? I ordered the rib eye and DD ordered the New York Strip. I have to say, both steaks were excellent and we really enjoyed the meal. The loaded baked potato, spinach, mushrooms, and asparagus sides were also outstanding. For dessert we had the chefs selection - which was a sampler of each of the desserts. Surprisingly, neither one of us was keen on the Smores dessert, but the chocolate lava cake was to die for!

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9 minutes ago, Ken the cruiser said:

So they don't give you shampoo now, only conditioner?

This was all that was in our kit (forgot the shower cap). They do have the shampoo/conditioner in the bottles in the shower but that stuff is horrible for my hair.

kit.png

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3 hours ago, ceilidh1 said:

 If there was an Explorers on this ship, I never found it!

 

Princess Live! replaced Explorers Lounge on the Royal class ships.

 

It seats about the same number of people as Explorers did, but in a much smaller area.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for your good review;  a couple of observations; you mentioned there were no staff members dancing at the sail away party;  maybe you were at the wrong pool area.  I made this mistake last month.  Was standing over the pool area; only to find out the party was at the other pool area about 50 feet away.  I have been asked if I want my chai tea hot or cold; but never been asked if I wanted coffee in it.  Keep it coming

Edited by AF-1

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1 hour ago, AF-1 said:

Thank you for your good review;  a couple of observations; you mentioned there were no staff members dancing at the sail away party;  maybe you were at the wrong pool area.  I made this mistake last month.  Was standing over the pool area; only to find out the party was at the other pool area about 50 feet away.  I have been asked if I want my chai tea hot or cold; but never been asked if I wanted coffee in it.  Keep it coming

There is only one pool area on Royal - deck 16 mid ship. We were on 17 smack in the middle so could easily see both pools. The DJ was in that area so I imagine that’s where the dancing would be too? 

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11 hours ago, ceilidh1 said:

I must mention something odd that came up on three separate occasions from three different staff members - I drink Chai Tea and always order these at International Cafe (and now the coffee bar in Horizon Court). Three of the times I ordered I was asked "Do you want coffee in it?" I was totally thrown - does Chai Tea EVER have coffee in it? Anyone?

Asking if you want coffee in it isn't exactly correct as It's called a "Dirty Chai", basically Chai tea or Chai tea latte with a shot of espresso. It's pretty common to see at coffee places and it's actually really good, think seasonal spiced coffee drinks with far less sugar. It's possible they had a lot of people ordering this on the previous cruises or they're just trying to upsell a shot of espresso in the drink? 

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12 minutes ago, Felix331 said:

Asking if you want coffee in it isn't exactly correct as It's called a "Dirty Chai", basically Chai tea or Chai tea latte with a shot of espresso. It's pretty common to see at coffee places and it's actually really good, think seasonal spiced coffee drinks with far less sugar. It's possible they had a lot of people ordering this on the previous cruises or they're just trying to upsell a shot of espresso in the drink? 

Wow - thanks for this! I had no idea such a thing even existed. Maybe I should give it a try - though I may be bouncing off the walls!

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Entertainment: Before I list some of the entertainment I enjoyed, I wanted to mention that there were several times over the course of the week where I just wondered "What were they thinking when they scheduled these things?" I am referring to the fact that they would have two really popular things running at the same time quite frequently, forcing people to choose one and miss the other. DD (who is much smarter than I am) suggested that maybe they did this because they knew there was not enough space for everyone to attend so by scheduling popular things at the same time they were splitting the crowds....hmmm.....

 

Our pre-cruise email and the patter on the first day listed Secret Silk as the production show. Someone on the cruise prior to ours had posted on our rollcall that there was a rumour this show had been cancelled due to passenger complaints. Not sure if this was the case, but the show never appeared and there was no explanation or mention as to why. Not a huge deal for us - I've seen it before and thought it was ok. They did run Colours of the World (also seen this before) which was nicely done and Encore (I didn't see this but heard good feedback from other passengers - my 9-5 job is working for an opera company so I had no desire to listen to opera while on vacation...lol).

 

AJ Jamal was the comedian on this sailing and ran 2 shows on 2 nights in the theatre. We went to the early show on both nights and really enjoyed him - nothing inappropriate in the early shows, not sure about the later ones. There was also a magician, Michael Misko, in the theatre on two nights. I caught him on one night and was quite impressed with the magic, though some of the banter wasn't exactly family friendly...

 

The Voice of the Ocean is one of my favorite features on Princess and I never miss it! We attended the audition and submitted our votes (the singer we voted for made it through) - there was some impressive singing talent and the finalists deserved to be there! The final show is held in the theatre and on all previous sailings it has been an evening event with a packed house. This time, it was at 4:00pm - and coincided with the final jackpot bingo so there were lots of empty seats! Our favorite finalist didn't show up (maybe she was playing Bingo) but the other 5 did a great job. Michael Misko as a judge was hilarious and kept the audience laughing - as did Matt O the cruise director. The other two judges were mildly amusing. Very enjoyable!

 

Game Shows, etc - we attended a few trivia sessions, hosted by Matt O - he was always so full of energy and so entertaining. I really enjoyed everything he hosted! We attended a few events in the atrium - a balancing act thing that was ok, the marriage vows renewal, the wooden horse racing, and the cruise band. Everything we saw was well done and enjoyable - no complaints on the entertainment front.

 

MUTS: We sat out to watch Bohemian Rhapsody, Hotel Transylvania 3, and Instant Family. It did get a little windy on the top decks but was still fun. My only gripe is that when they have the ads or concerts playing during the day, the volume is SO loud but for some reason, the movies at night seem way too quiet!

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